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I understand the subjunctive now; it's easy and I'll tell you about it. The problem is that we have been taught to think of it almost literally backwards

For the last couple of weeks I've been studying the uses of the subjunctive intensively for a couple of weeks, wading through inane comments like "it's just something only natives know for sure; to everyone else it is invisible magic" (a very unfortunately common and reductive opinion I've seen around), scouring forums to study how people use it, reading guides and books and the whole thing. Not much seemed to be working; the whole thing still seemed arbitrary, impossible to predict, and totally random.
But last night I had a breakthrough, and damn near everything fell into place. I read a few things; I read a great write up on how in spirit English uses the "idea" of the subjunctive mood in various auxiliary verbs from "I think..." to "could", etc, and how it often parallels things in Spanish. I then read through a whole chain of spanishdict questions and answers on the topic, and someone made a comment talking to a new learner who used the indicative in the context of questioning whether or not she had popped a ball when she should have used the subjunctive. His comment was "if you're uncertain that the ball was popped...then why is your next sentence TELLING ME that the ball was popped?"
I frowned. "Why would that say that?" I asked myself. "It wasn't as if she was literally telling him that the ball was popped from her perspective, instead she was just...she was...just..."
Finally it all hit me; the subjunctive mood makes NO SENSE... on its own. The fatal flaw -- one that comes down to a critical misunderstanding between how english's and Spanish's primary moods operate -- isn't that I didn't understand the subjunctive per se
It was that I had no real idea what the hell the indicative mood really was, nor how well-learned Spanish people interpret it to their ears.
How could I? Nobody had explained it well to me. EVERYONE only talks about the subjunctive but never the indicative. Because it's obvious, right? It's the same in English as it is in Spanish, right? Let's barely even touch on it when discussing the subjunctive, how could they be related? It's like English, the subjunctive is just a weird thing dangling from under it.
No it's not. Guys, the indicative mood is far stronger than english's. It isn't about an implication of rules, it isn't about an implication of concrete reality. It is ABOUT reality, truths, and our perceptions of that truth, directly. There is no implication, it's the outright direct meaning. ANY time we use the indicative, we communicate that what we are saying is a FACT to our perception, and everyone else will hear us like that's what we're saying even if the sentence would imply otherwise; it doesn't act subordinate to the sentence context, so if you use it in the wrong context they crash into each other.
This is the key. The subjunctive isn't about being emotional, it isn't about possibilities, it isn't about hypotheticals per se.
It is about NOT being the indicative, and literally the only real "rule" to the subjunctive is "do I want to give my sentences a strong meaning of truth, factual declaration, and concrete reality here? Or would that focus hurt my sentence?" The subjunctive is a mood of avoidance. It's used to AVOID the implications of the indicative. It can only properly be understood by contrast to spanish's usage of the indicative mood, and once you properly grasp that it's the easiest thing in the world to see.
I was up till 5 am checking all the examples I could find, reading Spanish forums online and all their usages. I couldn't find one that didn't make sense to me anymore, not a single damn one. All those weird irregularities? Sensible. The reasons for why it seems to spread over so many theoretical topics? Sensible. I had done it, I'd cracked the meaning behind things. And regardless of what some people on forums had claimed, it's absolutely not magic or something you can only get by speaking for 10+ years. What it is is simply misexplained by means of being talked about in a vacuum.
And with it came a LOT of sudden, cascading realizations about Spanish and how it truly differs from English. I will explain all of this below to help my fellow English-to-spanish people.



First off: "Nice catch", you probably think, "but it's so abstract. How does realizing the implications of the indicative mood help me?"
Allow me to demonstrate. First off, it must be said that the indicative is way simpler than the subjunctive in terms of its scope. In fact the entire reason why the subjunctive seems to cover so many things in theory is just that it is nothing more and nothing less than a reflection of everything the indicative is not, so covers more topics on paper (even if it's used far less frequently in reality) Like I said, literally all of it makes sense when you just flip things around and denote subjunctive as "that thing that gets called when the STRONG indicative mood would ruin things with its overwhelming presence." We can interrogate sentences in Spanish, piece by piece, and I'll show you exactly how it lines up.
Let's take the classical example. "Estoy feliz que estés aqui!" Let's NOT ask ourselves why the subjunctive is here...instead, let's ask ourselves why the indicative ISN'T here.
Indicative comes off as -- again, not merely implies like equivalent statements in English but outright states a purpose of -- declaring facts, discussing concrete reality of the here and now, our declarative plans, etc.
Can you see why this would be "wrong"? It is in fact not wrong, at all -- it's just incongruous in context. If you said "estas aqui" with the mood that declares facts...well, at best you just announced to them that they are here, carrying the meaning of you wanting to let them know this fact. Rather bizarre under most circumstances, seeing as how they damn well know that they are already here and don't need us to declare this for them! So, normally we won't do it unless in context we really do want to declare this to them for some reason.
"Es posible que él es aqui"Let's apply the same process! "Why wouldn't the indicative be good here?" Well let's look at the first half. "Es posible que..." alright so what we say next is possible! And next we say "es aquí". As in, we used the declarative, factual, concrete reality mood. In other words if we used "es" here, we would be outright saying that we firmly believe -- that it is a fact to us -- that this man is here
Well if we firmly believed that already, then why the hell did we lead with "it's possible?" This is just an incongruous statement! Therefore, we don't use it like this (unless we really do want to make such an incongruous statement).
Talking about an object that doesn't or may exist? Well when you refer to it with the indicative, you DIRECTLY STATE that to you that object might as well be reality. Poetic, but also rather delusional. Therefore, we don't use the indicative.
Making conditional plans, like "we will go to the mall once grandma arrives?" If you use the indicative on the latter half, you directly state that her arriving is your reality...even if she hasn't arrived yet. See what I said above about being delusional.
And so on and so on. Whenever you are confused about why a subjunctive is used, the proper question is not "why is it here". The proper question is "why is the indicative not here?" It's a subtle difference -- but an important one.
What we have to understand is that Spanish is not a neutral-statement language. It is binary. You ARE asserting reality. Or you are not; those are the only options, and to speak in the indicative is to presume to be asserting your interpretation of facts for others to hear. It is not a subtle effect or theory, this is how the spanish-trained brain will unconsciously view your sentences and why it will tell them that 'something' is off about what you said. You indicated to them that you wish to discuss something factual that is in fact not, and their / our-future-brains aren't really sure how to interpret that. In fact, if you aren't already thinking of the indicative in this manner or interpreting sentences with that subtext, it's time to start; that's how the spanish speaking mind will interpret its usage, and if we want to learn this language well we need to interpret it as that as well.


Those are the examples off the top of my head. I will now explain why, in terms of the structure of english and spanish, this idea is so hard to get across to native english speakers.


This entire effect is a direct contrast to English, which is why it's alien to use until properly explain, and why to native Spanish speakers our confusion is foreign. To both of you -- english-to-spanish students and people who speak spanish first, i will note the following lingual truth that most people don't realize by virtue of not thinking about it: english is a flexible, and often neutral language. Let me repeat that; english is NEUTRAL by default. We DON'T communicate this kind of meaning with our basic sentences, ever. English is like a buffet rather than a binary. Its base forms are almost always implicationless by design specifically so that we can choose to insert auxiliary words to enchant it with such meanings as English speakers please. This is likely also why most of its true subjunctive mood has faded into niche forms; English genuinely has no real need of it with so many ways of putting a sentence together. Spanish, by and large, has 2, and you will not escape from them nor their implications. (Well and imperative, but I'm not talking about it because both of our languages share that one nearly identically in concept). A statement is a statement, indicative is your reality and your attempts to declare facts for others to hear and discuss, and subjunctive is the only way to indicate that what you speak of isn't that. That's it. That's all there is to it.
Also, I'll tell all spanish-first readers who happen to read this the same thing i told my Spanish friends irl: you have no idea how confusing the subjunctive is when you are coming from a place where the "primary" prose can imply anything due to a) that being what we think of thanks to English b) most people not going out of their way to firmly correct this misconception. It would be damn near useless and indeed extremely random to perceive in usage if not for its reflections on the indicative, which is different from what we think at first. THIS is why your English speaking friends who are trying to learn Spanish struggle so hard with the concept, while you just know it. (And on the flip, why none of my Spanish-first friends realized the neutrality underlining English until i directly pointed it out to them. A lot of us aren't aware of the underlying mechanics; this is fine going from Spanish to English since English is flexible as hell, but not so much the other way around, unfortunately for us.)


Now, after all of this, can I make a request to the general community: can we PLEASE not presume that the subjunctive is magic and that the indicative is so obvious? That kind of common notion is at least in part why a lot of English-to-spanish students wrestle with the concept. For some reason we're often taught (I sure was) that the indicative in Spanish is synonymous with English and to not think more on it in comparison to its bizarre cousin, when in reality the differences between English normal prose and Spanish's indicative are both easy enough to explain and also EXACTLY why the subjunctive exists. Trying to explain how and where to use the subjunctive is like trying to put a car together with a wrench and a few bolts; good luck figuring it out easily with so much essential context missing. Maybe my teachers just didn't think about it? Do people in general not just realize this crucial difference between English's loose neutral structure and Spanish's much stricter and meaning-laden structure? Who knows.
And no, realizing this doesn't mean we don't have to practice. I'll forget use cases, not be able to realize when I needed to switch moods until hindsight, etc. I recommend "demystifying the subjunctive" for a book, it helped me out immensely. But at least now we understand it. Learning, as Spanishdude on YouTube says, is just an act of giving context to things we already know, and now we can do that without being lost. It IS a simple and easy to grasp concept at its heart, it's just not usually explained well and requires explaining what precisely is the difference between how english approaches delivering information and how Spanish does. Former is neutral, latter always communicates a meaning. The indicative in particular always imparts a sense of speaking of concrete reality no matter what sentence it happened to be in, and the subjunctive is nothing more than its replacement for when the indicative's strong statements on reality simply don't work with the matters being discussed. Of the two, the indicative is both more strict and also more narrow, and thus the clause of 'use indicative until its determinate attitude of only being used to address factual reality shits the sentence up' reigns best for the quickest and easiest way to conceptually grasp the subjunctive.
It is all about the indicative; always has been.
Anyway that's all I got. I'm finally going to bed, work will suck tomorrow but oh well, I'm too happy to care. After that I'll...maybe finally learn some decent vocabulary. I'm a heavily grammar based learner, so this was actually one of the first stops on my way through my new language, so I've still got a lot of learning to do. Still, now that i get this, I am much more confident of the rest of the way onward.

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Couple of more fun tidbits, if anyone is still reading. I also realized the English conditional is WAY wider than Spanish's, and that this is in part because in English it has come close to replacing separated subjunctive grammar in a lot of cases. If you ever notice how often we through "can" and "could" around, it is in part because of this.
I also realized that in a theoretical sense, the "true" purpose of future tense in Spanish is to discuss plans for the future, not to indicate that it will happen. Technically a small detail and probably obvious to most, but for some reason I needed this realization to realize why the subjunctive isn't triggered by its speculation; merely declaring plans is a concrete thing, after all. For some reason in English I get the subtle sense of trying to will over the future when I use it. Might be a slight language difference in intent, or maybe I'm just presumptuous about the future in English.
Finally, just a piece of trivia I liked; I realized "to think" and "creer / pensar" aren't really good translations for each other in implication. You ever wondered why it doesn't trigger the subjunctive in a positive usage? This helps to reinforce one last bit; for such things when it comes to certainty vs uncertainty, it's likely just a concept being used slightly differently in Spanish. While they mean literally the same thing, their connotations are nearly inverted. Spanish uses it to affirm that you believe something to be true (hence why it's also translated as to believe), while English uses it to instead imply subjectivity and impart doubt to a clause. It would absolutely be a subjunctive trigger in Spanish if it were transplanted directly since our usage of it in spirit is completely synonymous with Spanish's own usual triggers, but well it isn't. My Spanish speaking colleagues thought that one was interesting in particular for some reason, maybe they didn't really know how i had meant it this whole time?
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Passed OSCP - My Experience

Originally, I was leaning against doing an obligatory post-OSCP Reddit post because I didn’t want to come across as another “look at me - I passed OSCP!!” cringeworthy OSCP Oscar speech, but I decided to go ahead and do one because my experience was perhaps a little unique and answers the much-asked question “can I do OSCP without experience?”.
A quick background to add context…
I’m 31 years old and my employment history is a mixture of sales, graphics, and media-related job roles. I felt discontented for a long time earning (barely) living wage in job roles I had little passion for. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I decided to quit my latest sales job in November last year (2019) to pursue a career in cybersecurity/infosec. I didn’t know what ‘TCP’ or ‘UDP’ was, and I’d never heard of ‘Kali’ or how to run a VM, but I was convinced that this would be the career path for me.
Anyway, I went through Security+ and C|EH from November to March and, just as I was going to start applying for Security Analyst type job roles, our friendly neighbourhood Coronavirus came along and shut down the economy. Even though I had no intention of doing OSCP for another year or two, I thought it was a better option than twiddling my thumbs for a few months, so I decided to sign up for PWK labs and have a crack at it.
Fast-forwarding to yesterday, after a few brutal months and an incredible experience, I finally got the OSCP “you have successfully completed” email.
Apologies in advance for the essay but I just want to go through my journey for those of you that might be in a similar position to the one I was in - limited/zero IT experience and feeling intimidated by the dreaded OSCP mountain.
My journey…
In the weeks leading up to the wait to start my 60 days PWK material and labs, I went through The Cyber Mentor’s Practical Ethical Hacking Udemy course and then went on a Hack the Box rampage, so, by the time my lab time started, I felt like I was in a pretty decent position.
Unfortunately, because I was a naïve idiot, I tackled the labs straight away and went through the PWK PDF casually on the side. This was a big mistake and something I would definitely change in hindsight because it cost me 5 easy points on the exam (I thought I could smash through the PDF exercises during the last week of labs but this didn’t prove to be enough time).
In 60 days I ended up rooting around 40 machines - I didn’t bother going for the networks because it didn’t apply to the exam and, although valuable real-world experience, I didn’t want to get distracted and flood my brain with even more information when it wasn’t going to be relevant for my mission.
One big thing that I did get right was note-taking. I can’t express enough how valuable it is to take detailed notes and build your own cheat sheet library. After every machine I rooted, I did a walkthrough on OneNote and added any new tools/commands to my cheat sheet library. This not only saves precious time in the exam, but it helps you build your own knowledge instead of relying on other people’s cheat sheets without really understanding what you’re doing.
After my 60 days had finished, I spent 1 month on TJ Null’s OSCP Hack the Box list and IppSec’s video walkthroughs. I also can’t stress enough how valuable this learning methodology is. My only regret is that I rushed through it. I’d already booked my exam 30 days after lab time, so I ended up jumping through walkthroughs when I got stuck on boxes instead of exhausting all options. This was another naïve idiot mistake on my behalf and something I would do differently in hindsight. There’s a difference between “trying harder” and “trying harder, but in a smart way”. I was putting 10+ hours in every day but I wasn’t always being efficient with my time. I’d definitely recommend seeking hints and tips on boxes but only after you’ve exhausted all options first, something which I didn’t always do.
Anyway, my first exam attempt came around towards the end of July. Was I ready? No, but I had delusional confidence in myself that has paid off for me more often than not, so I was hoping it would pay off for me again.
My first exam was brutal. I sat in my chair for a total of 23 hours and 15 minutes, with only 3 short 5-minute breaks to get food to snack on. My VPN was shut down after 24 hours and I had a total of 65 points, which I’d been stuck on for the last 8 hours of my exam. I got the BO, root on one of the 20-point machines, root on the 10-point machine, and user on the other 20-point machine. I just couldn’t get root on that last machine.
I was pretty devastated because I’d put my heart and soul into Sec+, C|EH, and OSCP for 7 straight months and I wanted it bad. But my delusional confidence wasn’t enough.
After listening to depressing Taylor Swift songs for a few days (joke), I decided to book another exam in, 4 weeks after my first attempt.
This time around, I decided to go through Tib3rius’s Linux and Windows Privilege Escalation courses (they were great) and go back over some of the HTB machines. I honestly felt at this point that there wasn’t much more study material that I could go through.
2nd exam came up and it was an almost minute-for-minute repeat of the first exam. BO done, 20 point rooted, 10 point rooted, but could only get user on the other 20 point. 65 points again. This time I ended up listening to Taylor Swift + Lana Del Rey.
I was pretty adamant that I could do this and that I was very close, so I sent Off-Sec an email explaining my situation and they were kind enough to allow me another exam attempt without waiting 8 weeks - I booked another exam in 2 weeks after my second attempt.
This time, my preparation was entirely mental. In both my prior exams, I was sat on my chair for over 23 hours because I was flapping around aimlessly like a headless chicken, desperately firing off exploits that I knew wouldn’t work on the other 20-point machine. So, I went into the 3rd exam determined to go at a slow and steady pace, and not let the 24-hour timeframe pressure me into a wild goose chase.
Miraculously, it seemed to work. After 14 hours, I’d done the BO, rooted both 20-point machines, rooted the 10-point machine, and got user on the 25-point machine. 85-ish points in total.
The point of this story is to get across to people that you need to try simpler, not harder. I perhaps failed my first exam because I’d not gone through Tib3rius’s Priv Esc courses, but I failed on my 2nd 100% due to mentality. There was no skill-level difference between my 2nd exam and 3rd exam.
I’ll finish off with my recommended learning methodology and exam tips (for people with limited/zero IT experience):
. The Cyber Mentor Practical Ethical Hacking Udemy course (usually on offer at $14.99-ish)
. Tib3rius’s Linux and Windows Privilege Escalation course (usually on offer at $12.99 each)
. Try Hack Me OSCP Learning Path (I would recommend doing this before HTB - it is $10 for 30 days)
. PWK labs (I personally don’t feel more than 60 days are required - unless you work full-time)
. TJ Null’s OSCP Hack the Box list ($10 for retired HTB machines - very worth it)
. You should be ready for the exam
Exam tips:
. Become proficient with Nmap but use an enumeration tool like nmapAutomator for the exam
. You will need to understand what bash and Python scripts are doing (you don’t need to be able to write them from scratch)
. Don’t be tempted to use a fancy BO methodology for the exam, stick with PWK’s methodology - it works (some of the others don’t)
. Play around with various reverse shell payloads - sometimes a bash one-liner won’t work so you need to go with Python. Sometimes Bash, Python, and netcat won’t work, so you need to understand what alternatives you can use in that scenario
. Get into the habit of reading service manuals. In all 3 of my exams, I came up against machines that had services I’d never even heard of. Fortunately, I’d got into the habit reading service manuals, otherwise, I would have skipped over the services and got lost down a rabbit hole
. Get into the habit of exploiting conventional services in unconventional ways. Just because an SUID binary isn’t on Gtfobins, it doesn’t mean that you can’t exploit the SUID binary in an unconventional way. Again, get into the habit of reading manuals to understand what services do
. Become familiar with Burp Suite. Many exploits won’t work in the way you might expect them to, but they will work if you run them through Burp. Or, at the very least, you’ll be able to understand why they’re not working. This issue came up in my last exam and I would have been completely lost if it weren’t for Burp
. Take breaks if you get frustrated - this is said over and over again by people on this subreddit and it’s an absolute must. The 20 point machine that I couldn’t root after 8 hours on my 2nd exam was on my 3rd exam (thanks Off-Sec - I know you tried to fu*k me with that), but I was able to root it within 1 hour on my 3rd exam, simply because my mindset was different at the time.
. Trust your gut - by doing PWK and HTB machines, you should develop a gut feeling of when you are in a rabbit hole and when you’re on the right track. I ended up rooting over 100 machines before the exam (albeit with plenty of hints and tips) and it helped me develop a good gut feeling. I can’t explain why but there were times in my last exam where I knew I was in the right area even though I wasn’t able to enumerate the specific service version. This feeling simply came from experience. I’m sure many of you watch IppSec’s videos and wonder “how the hell does he know to do X or Y?”. I used to wonder this all the time but after going through dozens of machines, I finally got it. It comes down to experience. Try to do as many machines as you can before the exam to build that gut feeling, and trust it in the exam.
. Embrace failure - this is perhaps the most important thing that I can say. OSCP is a difficult journey and many people fail multiple times before passing. And you know what? That’s okay. It’s okay to fail. It’s how you react to failure that counts. I’m not particularly smart but I embrace failure and I know deep down that I will keep trying until I pass. I was prepared to take the OSCP exam 1000 times if I had to, I was never going to let the exam beat me. I suggest you approach it with the same mentality and not let silly pride prevent you from having a go at it.
One last thing! Join a solid Discord community. This journey has been amazing since day one and a big reason behind that is the amazing online community. I was very active in an HTB community and ended up talking to several people who were going through OSCP at the same time as me. This was honestly such a massive help to me because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing when I first started!
Sorry for the massive rant - I just see so many people on here treating OSCP like an unsurmountable mountain. It’s not. You can do it!
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Completing the 2020 Bingo Challenge: Short Story Edition

Completing the 2020 Bingo Challenge: Short Story Edition
Completing the 2020 Bingo Challenge: Short Story Edition
One of the rules of the Fantasy Bingo Reading Challenge is that you can read an anthology or collection for any of the squares. I’ve always been a fan of short fiction, so I’ve occasionally used this rule to complete my Bingo Card (I used three collections outside of the Five Short Stories square last year, for example). When planning my card for the 2020 Bingo, I noticed that several of the squares fit quite well for some of the collections and anthologies I had (a Star Trek anthology for Exploration, books with colors or numbers in their names, etc.). “What if…” I wondered, “…I can do it for every square?”
Thus, my project is born: Complete my Bingo card using only books of short stories, following all the other rules of Bingo. I did not repeat a single author from one square to another, and I even made sure not to repeat editors, either.
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
A brief aside before we start, some terms I use that some may not be familiar to some:
  • Anthology: A book of short stories by multiple authors, usually assembled by an editor whose name is attached to the book (i.e. The Book of Dragons edited by Jonathan Strahan)
  • Collection: A book of short stories by a single author (i.e. Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor)
  • Short Story Cycle: A book of short stories that has its own narrative (i.e. Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood). Some similarities with “interlinked collection,” “mosaic novel,” and “fix-up novel” (The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury being a famous example of the latter).
  • Reprint and Original: Many anthologies/collections reprint stories published previously (reprint) vs. originally written for the book in question (original). Some collections will mix it up (such as a reprint collection with one original story to encourage readers who have read the others to pick up the new book).
Why? What did I hope to accomplish by doing this particular short fiction challenge? Some of my friends will complain about the Five Short Stories square (especially the hard mode requirement to read a book), and I wanted to spite them a little bit and also demonstrate that there’s a lot of different and interesting books out there to read in that format!
Planning: The hardest thing about this was the original planning, as several books I thought would be an easy match for the square didn’t work because another anthology I planned to use already included that author, so I had to dig a bit deeper to find something that didn’t repeat any authors. Also, in past Bingo Challenges, my cards are usually quite fluid as I shift books around throughout the year. Because of all the authors I was juggling, I couldn’t easily do that (though it was vastly easier to do with collections instead of anthologies, for obvious reasons).
Numbers: For this card, I officially read 32 books for the 25 squares: One of those books was quite short, so I read an additional three to meet the length requirement. For the original Five Short Stories square, I decided to be obnoxious and read five collections. These 32 books included 1 short novel (included in one of the collections), 8 novellas, 106 novelettes, 498 short stories, and 3 poems for a total of at least 2,739,975 words (the rough equivalent of reading the first nine novels of The Wheel of Time). I read 189 different authors. In addition to the 32 books above, I read 15 “pre-Bingo” books—books I felt I needed to read to be able to read the anthology or collection I actually used for my Bingo Card. Fifteen of the 32 books were ones I already owned. Nine books I checked out from the library. Five books I bought specific for Bingo, and three books were free (gifts or free online).
1. Novel Translated from Its Original Language:
There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (reprint collection)
  • Reason: I couldn’t read my first choice so I looked through my TBR list to find another SF/F collection I thought would be a translation. It also won the 2010 World Fantasy Award for Best Collection.
  • Favorite Story: “My Love” as I really liked how the characters grew apart and then back together again.
  • Recommended: Only if you like short depressing literary fiction that mostly hinge on dreams and ghosts.
  • Hard Mode: Yes, Pretrushevskaya is a woman.
  • Other Options: I really wanted to read Xia Jia’s A Summer Beyond Your Reach, but she had a story in another anthology I read. I also considered one of Ken Liu’s Chinese SF/F anthologies (Invisible Planets or Broken Stars). I read Jurado & Lara’s Spanish Women of Wonder last year. Etgar Keret’s Fly Already, Kenji Miyazawa’s Once and Forever, or Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge also looked promising.
2. Setting Featuring Snow, Ice, or Cold:
Frozen Fairy Tales edited by Kate Wolford (original anthology)
  • Reason: I literally searched snow and anthology and this was one of the early options.
  • Favorite Story: tie between “The Stolen Heart” by Christina Ruth Johnson and “Death in Winter” by Lissa Sloan; the first just felt great, and the second has this haunting feel I loved.
  • Recommended: Yes; a good selection of fairy tale-inspired stories. Read during the summer, though, it felt really cold.
  • Hard Mode: Yes, every story is in a snowy or cold setting.
  • Other Options: I’m kind of mad that I didn’t come across Snowpocalypse: Tales of the End of the World (edited by Clint Collins and Scott Woodward) until after I read my original choice. I like silly titles.
3. Optimistic Spec Fic:
Ingathering: The Complete People Stories by Zenna Henderson (short story cycle, 1 original to this book)
  • Reason: I’ve had a copy of this book for a couple years, and I needed an excuse to read it. It’s actually an omnibus of Henderson’s two People collections plus some previously uncollected stories. I’ve read the first People collection (Pilgrimage) several times people).
  • Favorite Story: I’ll say “Ararat” here, but the first six stories (the original Pilgrimage collection) are amazingly wonderful and heartwarming.
  • Recommended: Yes, absolutely. Zenna Henderson deserves more attention.
  • Hard Mode: Yes. <3
  • Other Options: If Henderson’s book hadn’t worked out, I considered Heiroglyph (edited by Ed Finn & Kathryn Cramer) and Salena Ulibarri’s two Glass and Gardens anthologies (Solarpunk Summers and Solarpunk Winters), but that would’ve required juggling my card.
4. Novel Featuring Necromancy:
The Book of the Dead edited by Jared Shurin (original anthology)
  • Reason: I asked Jared Shurin (pornokitsch) if he knew of any anthologies with a necromantic theme, and he rattled off five or six options before remembering that he himself had edited an anthology about mummies. I don’t know how you forget something like that.
  • Favorite Story: tie between “Old Souls” by David Thomas Moore and “Three Memories of Death” by Will Hill (non-SF/F)
  • Recommended: Yes, but it’s out of print! Several of the stories were reprinted in Paula Guran’s The Mammoth Book of the Mummy, including “Three Memories of Death.”
  • Hard Mode: No, through several do have mummies as protagonists.
  • Other Options: I was considering Brian McNaughton’s The Throne of Bones since the description seemed rather death-magicky. At this point, the Paula Guran anthology above would probably be a good choice.
5. Ace/Aro Spec Fic:
Life Within Parole, Volume 1 by RoAnna Sylver (collection, mix of reprint and original)
  • Reason: A friend found this on Claudie Arseneault’s asexual recommendations website, which was good, but I felt I needed to read her novel Chameleon Moon first to understand the collection. I’m glad I did.
  • Favorite Story: Reluctantly “Phoenix Down” as it felt the most self-contained.
  • Recommended: Only if you loved Chameleon Moon, which I only recommend if you like a sample of the writing. It’s amazingly diverse in representation, but my frustrations with the novel related more towards its pacing and worldbuilding. Plus I don’t like superheroes.
  • Hard Mode: Yes, half the stories have an asexual or aromantic protagaonist.
  • Other Options: My original choice was Common Bonds: An Aromantic Speculative Anthology edited by Claudie Arseneault, C.T. Callahan, B.R. Sanders, and RoAnna Sylver, a Kickstarter-funded book. However, due to the pandemic, the publication was pushed back, and I didn't want to wait any longer. I also seriously considered Chuck Tingle’s Not Pounded in the Butt.
6. Novel Featuring a Ghost:
Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M. R. James (collection, mix of reprint and original)
  • Reason: I just searched ghost anthology, and this was a top result. I have actually never heard of M. R. James before this year, but I gather he’s a huge influence since he’s written so many ghost stories.
  • Favorite Story: “The Mezzotint” as it was the one that creeped me out the most.
  • Recommended: Yes, but only if you realize that it’s got an older style to them (since this book came out in 1904), and that most of these stories won’t creep you out in the year 2020.
  • Hard Mode: No, the ghosts are either antagonists or obstacles.
  • Other Options: I actually don’t know, I stopped searching after I found the book. M. R. James does have 3 more collections of ghost stories, though (all of 4 of which have been gathered in Collected Ghost Stories by M. R. James).
7. Novel Featuring Exploration:
No Limits edited by Peter David (original anthology)
  • Reason: I read the first few Star Trek: New Frontier novels back in the late 1990s, but never finished it, so I got all the books for a personal readthrough. Star Trek is by definition perfect for the exploration square, so I read the books. However, I was reading them in publication order, so I had to read the first 14 books before I could get to the anthology!
  • Favorite Story: “Waiting for G’Doh, or, How I Learned to Stop Moving” is a rather funny story about the security officer Zak Kebron at the beginning of his career.
  • Recommended: Yes, but only if you’ve read at least the first six Star Trek: New Frontier novels (all the stories are set before the first book, but most of the characters aren’t really established until you’ve read the first four).
  • Hard Mode: Maybe, nearly all the stories feature exploration, but the plots are often about backstories for the main characters of the series.
  • Other Options: I considered James Alan Gardner’s Gravity Wells (his novel Expendable is a perfect exploration book, so I was hoping the collection would work). Past anthologies that would probably work is Federations edited by John Joseph Adams, Galactic Empires edited by Neil Clarke, and maybe Alastair Reynolds’s Deep Navigation or Galactic North.
8. Climate Fiction:
Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction edited by Manjana Milkoreit, Meredith Martinez, & Joey Eschrich (original anthology)
  • Reason: A friend recommended to me as this theme was getting difficult for me to find, as all my other options included stories by authors I had to read for other squares. This book was produced from a short story contest run by the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at Arizona State University and judged in part by Kim Stanley Robinson.
  • Favorite Story: “On Darwin Tides” by Shauna O’Meara, which follows a “sea gypsy” in Malaysia as she struggles in this new dystopian future.
  • Recommended: Only if the topic appeals to you—because it was a contest, the stories are mostly from amateur writers and the quality mostly shows. It’s free online, though, and there’s a second book, Everything Change II, which I’ve been told is better.
  • Hard Mode: No, most of them are apocalyptic or post-apocalypse.
  • Other Options: My original choice was Drowned Worlds edited by Jonathan Strahan, but there’s also Loosed upon the World: The Saga Anthology of Climate Fiction edited by John Joseph Adams, and I imagine a lot of solarpunk-themed books could work for this, too.
9. Novel with a Color in the Title:
The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers (original collection)
  • Reason: I already had it (it’s available on Project Gutenberg)
  • Favorite Story: “In the Court of the Dragon” which felt like one of the creepier stories to me.
  • Recommended: Honestly, no. Only half the stories are SF/F, the other half are all stories about bohemian artists in Paris. This book is known for the stories involving “The King in Yellow” play, but they didn’t really work for me.
  • Hard Mode: Yes.
  • Other Options: I considered using Judith Tarr’s Nine White Horses, the anthology Blackguards, Jack Vance’s Wild Thyme, Green Magic, Walter Jon Williams’s The Green Leopard Plague and Other Stories, Black Feathers edited by Ellen Datlow, or How Long ‘til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin.
10. Any Fantasy Book Club Book of the Month OR Fantasy Readalong Book:
Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker (reprint collection, 1 original to this book)
  • Reason: The Goodreads Book of the Month club picked it for June this year. I did own or read all the other options that were available at the time.
  • Favorite Story: tie between “And Then There Were (N-One)” and “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind”
  • Recommended: Yes! There’s only one story I would rate less than 4 stars in this book.
  • Hard Mode: Yes, I actually led the discussion for the book in June.
  • Other Options: We don’t read very many collections or anthologies for the Fantasy book clubs, so my only choices were Fritz Leiber’s Sword and Deviltry (Classics club, November 2017), Mahvesh Murad & Jared Shurin’s anthology The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories (RAB, May 2018), and we currently have Daniel M. Lavery’s The Merry Spinster for FIF (September 2020). There’s also the Dresden Files read-along which did two of Butcher’s collections, and the Uncanny Magazine Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction/Fantasy read-along (those would’ve been rereads for me, though).
11. Self-Published Novel:
In the Stars I'll Find You & Other Tales of Futures Fantastic by Bradley P. Beaulieu (mostly reprint collection)
  • Reason: I already owned this, it was basically the oldest self-published collection I had.
  • Favorite Story: tie between “Flashed Forward” and “No Viviremos Como Presos” – both dealing with a lot of emotions.
  • Recommended: Yes, the only other stories by Beaulieu I’ve read were 2 co-written novellas, and I felt this collection was better. I haven’t read his novels so I can’t compare.
  • Hard Mode: Yes, at the time of this post, it has 18 ratings on Goodreads.
  • Other Options: There are hundreds of options, but I could’ve read Lawrence M. Schoen’s recent collection The Rule of Three and Other Stories (his other collection, Buffalito Bundle, has stories featuring The Amazing Conroy and are lots of fun.)
12. Novel with Chapter Epigraphs:
Not the End of the World by Kate Atkinson (short story cycle)
  • Reason: This was another difficult square, as I knew a short story cycle had the best chance of having epigraphs before every story. I finally found this book by Kate Atkinson. (Ironically, I realized later that my Politics choice also had epigraphs.)
  • Favorite Story: “The Cat Lover,” I guess.
  • Recommended: No, unless you like literary magical realism where stories just kind of end.
  • Hard Mode: No, all of the epigraphs are quotes from Latin or Shakespeare.
  • Other Options: Apparently, Retief! by Keith Laumer would’ve worked from my options. It really is a difficult thing because in a collection some authors might have an epigraph for a story, but not all or most of them.
13. Novel Published in 2020:
Shadows & Tall Trees 8 edited by Michael Kelly (original anthology)
  • Reason: I picked this off Locus Magazine’s forthcoming books list and bought it.
  • Favorite Story: tie between “The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell” by Brian Evenson and “Child of Shower and Gleam” by Rebecca Campbell – the first is creepy as hell, and the second is strange and lovely.
  • Recommended: Yes, if you’re comfortable with weird or darker fantasy stories.
  • Hard Mode: No, Michael Kelly has edited several anthologies before.
  • Other Options: I had planned to use The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu, but I needed Liu for another square. I also considered A Phoenix First Must Burn edited by Patrice Caldwell, and I had three anthologies from Joshua Palmatier I could’ve used (Apocalyptic, Galactic Stew, and My Battery is Low and It is Getting Dark) but I needed another Palmatier anthology for another square. Any of the various “Best Science Fiction or Fantasy of the Year” type anthologies that came out in 2020 would’ve been appropriate as well (Jonathan Strahan, Neil Clarke, Rich Horton, Paula Guran, Ellen Datlow, Bogi Takács, and Jared Shurin all edit “Year’s Best” or “Best of Year”-style anthologies).
14. Novel Set in a School or University:
Sideways Stories from Wayside School; Wayside School is Falling Down; Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger; and Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom by Louis Sachar (short story cycles)
  • Reason: Strangely, one of the first books I thought of for this square. Plus, the most recent book had come out. I decided to read all four as each book is really short (only about 20,000 words per book). Only the first one or two was a reread.
  • Favorite Story: None, they’re all funny and good.
  • Recommended: Yes, absolutely. Maybe better for kids, but I smiled a lot while reading these.
  • Hard Mode: Yes.
  • Other Options: Witch High edited by Denise Little would’ve been good, but included a story by Esther M. Friesner whom I needed for another square. A Kickstarter-funded anthology, Schoolbooks & Sorcery edited by Michael M. Jones, would’ve worked, but it’s not out yet.
15. Book About Books:
Ex Libris: Stories of Librarians, Libraries, and Lore edited by Paula Guran (reprint anthology)
  • Reason: This was another difficult square because did you know that searching “book anthology” does not narrow things down at all?? I finally hit upon just searching “library anthology” which did the trick, but this one anthology predetermined at least 3 other squares because of its authors (I couldn’t use Ken Liu, Xia Jia, Amal El-Mohtar, and others because they were all in here).
  • Favorite Story: tie between “In the House of the Seven Librarians” by Ellen Klages and “Summer Reading” by Ken Liu. Klages’s story about “feral librarians raising a child” is just wonderful, and Liu’s is very, very sweet.
  • Recommended: Yes, absolutely. This also contains Scott Lynch’s excellent “In the Stacks” and I will never not say no to Kage Baker.
  • Hard Mode: No, libraries are an integral part of most of the stories.
  • Other Options: *gestures wildly* I don’t know!
16. A Book That Made You Laugh:
Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories by Alex Shvartsman (mostly reprint collection)
  • Reason: Alex Shvartsman edits an annual humorous SF/F anthology series called Unidentified Funny Objects (the 8th volume is out this fall), but even though I have them all, they all shared authors with other squares until I remember that I had two collections from Shvartsman, and this was one of them.
  • Favorite Story: “Things We Leave Behind” is a semiautobiographical story about books. Absolutely lovely.
  • Recommended: Yes, but I understand most won’t share his sense of humor. He also tends to write very short stories, so don’t read these for immersion.
  • Hard Mode: Yes.
  • Other Options: Books making you laugh is so subjective, so any author you like probably has something that could work (you only need one story to make you laugh after all). John Scalzi has a couple collections that could work, Connie Willis has a great sense of humor.
17. Five Short Stories:
  • Reason: To be obnoxious I decided to read five collections for this square (instead of just five short stories). I decided to read 5 that I already owned by women/non-binary people. I picked semi-randomly (Hand and McHugh), by older ones I owned (Wurts), and by a couple new ones I was excited about (Datt Sharma and Slatter).
Not for Use in Navigation: Thirteen Stories by Iona Datt Sharma (reprint collection)
  • Favorite Story: “Quarter Days” is a full third of this book, and it’s an interesting post-WWI setting with magic.
  • Recommended: Yes, they have an interesting outlook, and one of the stories has an Indian wedding in space.
Saffron and Brimstone: Strange Stories by Elizabeth Hand (reprint collection, 1 original)
  • Favorite Story: “The Least Trumps” should appeal to the booklover in every single one of us.
  • Recommended: These are definitely interesting stories, but I’d only recommend for “The Least Trumps” and “Cleopatra Brimstone.” She’s got a poetic style here that didn't always work for me.
After the Apocalypse by Maureen F. McHugh (reprint collection, 2 original)
  • Favorite Story: “Special Economics” which follows a Chinese girl trapped into working at a factory.
  • Recommended: Yes, though it’s also one of the few themed collections (versus themed anthologies) that I’ve seen, with every story dealing with apocalypse in some way.
Sourdough and Other Stories by Angela Slatter (mostly original collection/short story cycle)
  • Favorite Story: “Gallowberries” which features Patience from the Tor.com novella Of Sorrow and Such as a young woman.
  • Recommended: Yes, absolutely. Every story is in the same setting, and they all interconnect with each other. I can’t wait to read more from Slatter (I already have The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings).
That Ways Lies Camelot by Janny Wurts (mostly reprint collection)
  • Favorite Story: tie between “Wayfinder” and “That Way Lies Camelot” – both are great stories, the first a coming of age, and the other is bittersweet.
  • Recommended: Yes, definitely. In addition to the above, “Dreambridge” is also awesome. I wasn’t as fond of the three ElfQuest stories, but it was interesting to read Wurts’s 4 Fleet stories as I never realized she ever wrote anything close to straight science fiction.

  • Hard Mode: … Yes?
  • Other Options: This is the most open-ended square for this particular Bingo Card, especially since at the time of this post, I own 121 unread anthologies and collections.
18. Big Dumb Object:
Alien Artifacts edited by Joshua Palmatier & Patricia Bray (original anthology)
  • Reason: This was one of the books that made me realize I could do an all-short-story card. I thought the anthology’s theme would perfectly encapsulate the square.
  • Favorite Story: “Me and Alice” by Angela Penrose – a kid finds a strange artifact while digging at a site.
  • Recommended: Yes, though a few stories weren’t to my taste.
  • Hard Mode: No, while the classical BDO is present in several stories, most would fall in the wider definition being used for Bingo.
  • Other Options: I’m at a loss here, as I never looked for more after I found this.
19. Feminist Novel:
Skin Folk by Nalo Hopkinson (collection, mix of reprint and original)
  • Reason: I owned this already from a Humble Bundle.
  • Favorite Story: “And the Lillies-Them A-Blow” – a woman is inspired to reconsider her life.
  • Recommended: Yes.
  • Hard Mode: Yes, Hopkinson is a Jamaican-born Canadian.
  • Other Options: I had a few other books from the same Humble Bundle called Women of SFF. Most of them would’ve worked.
20. Novel by a Canadian Author:
The Very Best of Charles de Lint by Charles de Lint (reprint collection)
  • Reason: It appears I picked this up in 2014 for some reason (I’ve never read de Lint before this year). But he’s Canadian!
  • Favorite Story: There are honestly too many to say, but I’ll say “In the Pines” for now.
  • Recommended: Yes, yes, yes. I basically added everything he’s written to my TBR.
  • Hard Mode: Maybe, it was originally published in 2010 with Tachyon Publications, but in 2014 it was reprinted by de Lint’s Triskell Press (which is the copy I have), which would count.
  • Other Options: A friend sent me an anthology edited by Dominik Parisien called Clockwork Canada: Steampunk Fiction, though I would’ve had to juggle square to get it to work. Nalo Hopkinson is Canadian, so Skin Folk would’ve worked, too. Jo Walton has a collection called Starlings.
21. Novel with a Number in the Title:
Nine White Horses: Nine Tales of Horses and Magic by Judith Tarr (reprint collection)
  • Reason: At the time, the only collection I had with a number that I could use.
  • Favorite Story: “Classical Horses” – an absolutely lovely story that mixes real life and fantasy, and appeals to my Classics nerd background.
  • Recommended: Yes! Tarr is a wonderful writer.
  • Hard Mode: Yes.
  • Other Options: I could’ve used The Golem of Deneb Seven and Other Stories by Alex Shvartsman, Nine Hundred Grandmothers by R. A. Lafferty, and The Rule of Three and Other Stories by Lawrence M. Schoen.
22. Romantic Fantasy/Paranormal Romance:
Once Upon a Kiss: 17 Romantic Faerie Tales published by Anthea Sharp (original anthology)
  • Reason: My original first choice was a bust when I realized quickly that the stories involved love, but were not romance stories. This was an emergency backup as I was nearing the end of reading for this Bingo Challenge.
  • Favorite Story: “The Bakers Grimm” by Hailey Edwards, which is a sweet little story about baking under pressure.
  • Recommended: No. 99% of the stories are direct appeals to try to get you to buy their books. Many of the stories don’t even really feel like short stories. I had a friend who only read urban fantasy who was adamant that she hated reading short stories and I couldn’t figure out why. Now I do. Many of these read more like vignettes than proper short stories.
  • Hard Mode: No, the HEA Club hasn’t done any anthologies or collections for me to participate in.
  • Other Options: My backup would’ve been to find some paranormal romance series and look for a collection or anthology in that world, but it would’ve involved more prep reading.
23. Novel with a Magical Pet:
No True Way: All-New Tales of Valdemar edited by Mercedes Lackey (original anthology)
  • Reason: Valdemar is an easy setting to choose for this square, and even though I had stopped reading the yearly anthologies (they’re up to 13 or 14 now), I decided to grab the 8th anthology from the library.
  • Favorite Story: “A Dream Reborn” by Dylan Birtolo, a beggar girl with a gift grows a conscience.
  • Recommended: Only if you’re a Valdemar fan and you literally can’t get enough of the world (I’d recommend sticking with the novels up until the Collegium Chronicles).
  • Hard Mode: Yes, Companions can usually speak telepathically with their Heralds and a select few others.
  • Other Options: I’m sure there’s a themed anthology perfect for this, but I honestly don’t know offhand if there is one, since this was an easy choice for me.
24. Graphic Novel (at least 1 volume) OR Audiobook/Audiodrama:
Eerie Archives, Volume 1 edited by Archie Goodwin (original comic book anthology)
  • Reason: I searched “comics anthology” into my library’s digital catalog. This showed up.
  • Favorite Story: No real favorite, but I guess “Flame Fiend” by Eando Binder, about a man desperate to avoid fire.
  • Recommended: Yes, if you’re interested in 1960s horror comics anthology magazines. Each story is about 6-10 pages long, but many felt like cheesy horror to my modern eyes.
  • Hard Mode: Maybe, each story is standalone, but this book contained the first 5 issues of Eerie comics. I’m going with No because Eerie is a running series.
  • Other Options: I considered The Escapist (inspired from Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay), a Mouse Guard comics anthology, and Thrilling Adventure Hour before finding Eerie. I also though the Eisner Awards were a good source of finding potential comics anthologies, since that's a category.
25. Novel Featuring Politics:
Retief! by Keith Laumer (reprint collection)
  • Reason: I knew the main character was a problem-solving diplomat, so this was an easy pick.
  • Favorite Story: “Diplomat-at-Arms” which is a great story of following an experienced old man on a mission, and “Cultural Exchange,” a really funny bureaucratic tale (and this one is free on Project Gutenberg).
  • Recommended: Yes, with reservations. They’re all stories from the 1960s, they’re bureaucratic galactic pulp fiction where Retief always knows better than his bumbling superiors and women only show up in secretarial or minor support roles. The stories also feel a bit repetitive as a whole, so if you read these, space it out.
  • Hard Mode: No, several of the stories feature royalty.
  • Other Options: I felt like this was a nebulous category, but offhand, I’d suggest Do Not Go Quietly: An Anthology of Victory in Defiance edited by Jason Sizemore & Lesley Conner and Resist: Tales from a Future Worth Fighting Against edited by Gary Whitta, Christie Yant, and Hugh Howey for two explicitly political anthologies, and maybe something like Harry Turtledove’s interlinked collection Agent of Byzantium for an alternate history take on a Byzantine special agent.
Favorites
  • Favorite collections: The Very Best of Charles de Lint by Charles de Lint, Ingathering: The Complete People Stories by Zenna Henderson, Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker, Sourdough and Other Stories by Angela Slatter, and Nine White Horses by Judith Tarr
  • Favorite anthologies: Ex Libris edited by Paula Guran and The Book of the Dead edited by Jared Shurin
  • Favorite overall short stories: In addition to my favorite stories in the books above, I’d also give a special place to The Very Best of Charles de Lint (“In the Pines,” “In the House of My Enemy,” “A Wish Named Arnold,” “Mr. Truepenny's Book Emporium and Gallery,” “Pixel Pixies,” “The Badger in the Bag,” “Timeskip,” “Into the Green,” “Birds,” and “Pal o' Mine”) and to Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea (“And Then There Were (N-One),” “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind,” “Our Lady of the Open Road,” “Wind Will Rove,” and “A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide”).
  • An Aside: My father died suddenly in the middle of my reading for this challenge. The books I read from Zenna Henderson and Charles de Lint really helped me during this time, with de Lint’s book making me cry multiple times (in a good way).
The End
Sometime last year after touting one short story or another to my friends, I said, “Oh, I don’t think I read *that* much short fiction,” and they all looked at me funny for some reason.
Oh. Never mind. I get it now.
All joking aside, I’ve read SF/F magazines off and on growing up, and I always enjoyed the occasional Year’s Best Science Fiction anthology from Gardner Dozois, and Robert Silverberg’s Legends anthologies were rather formative to my growth as a fantasy reader (that’s where I read George R.R. Martin and Robin Hobb for the first time). Some of my favorite writers have done amazing short stories (in fact, I think I like Alastair Reynolds better at the short length than the novel; witness my love for his story “Zima Blue”!). Even if you don’t read more than the usual five short stories for the Bingo Challenge, please consider branching out! I hope I’ve shown with my own card how much variety is out there.
If you’re not sure where to start, your favorite author may have some short stories of their own, either in an anthology or one of their own collections. Mary Robinette Kowal is one of my favorites, and I loved her collection Word Puppets. If they’re prolific enough, they may have a “Best of” book, like The Best of Connie Willis or The Very Best of Kate Elliott. Trying one of the Year’s Best anthologies I mention under #13, Published in 2020, is also a fun way to explore short fiction.
And even though I didn’t read any for my Bingo Challenge, there are tons of SF/F magazines out there to read from on a daily, weekly, monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly schedule. My personal recommendation is for Asimov’s SF, FIYAH, and Fantasy & Science Fiction for subscription-only options, and places like Clarkesworld, Uncanny, Fireside, and Tor.com for free online stories. There are also some great magazines/sites like Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Daily Science Fiction.
Looking at award lists is a fun way to get started, as most of the major awards also have short fiction categories. Find out where they were published and try out a magazine issue or an anthology.
I’ll end this with the following:
  • an interview by our own tctippens with Jonathan Strahan over at the Fantasy Inn Podcast where they discuss not only his new anthology The Book of Dragons, but reading short fiction in general.
  • Editor Jared Shurin ( pornokitsch ) just came out with The Best of British Fantasy 2019 this past June: check it out!
  • One of my favorite short story writers is John Wiswell, and I’d like to link two of his wonderful stories: "Tank!" follows a sentient tank attending its first SF convention, and "Open House on Haunted Hill" is a very sweet story about a haunted house trying to get sold to a new family. Both stories are quite short and you can read each in just a few minutes.
  • And finally… this is what the internet should be: Naomi Kritzer's "Cat Pictures Please"
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Choose Your Own Adventure - Part 2

Part 1

What if it wasn’t about anything related to the text? What if it was similar to the riddles that brought me to those pages? What if the mystery behind them was related to their page numbers, or hell the page numbers in general?
Once at home I went to work. I told myself once more that I needed to get the full picture. So I went to write down all the page numbers in the book, one after another.
When I was done, I took a step back and stared at the result. Yet, there was nothing that stood out to me right away. I haphazardly picked one of the secret pages. Page 427 was in front of page 811. Then I continued.
811, 812, 813, 814, 815, 816, 817, 818, 818, 820, 821, and right after was yet another secret page.
This one was page 528.
And after that, the regular page numbers continued.
822, 823, 824, 825, 826, 827, 828, 829, 830, 831, 832, 833, 834, 835, 836, 837, 838, 839, 840, 841, 842, 843, followed by another one, page 143.
This list of ongoing numbers made me suddenly wonder. My thoughts drifted right back to what had gotten me to do this, the secret pages.
What if they weren’t placed randomly?
Yet, as I checked their distribution, it felt almost too random. I checked the number of regular pages before and after, put them in sequence, but there was no correlation.
Then I got another idea. I added up all the pages before and after, but this also made no sense. Half the results were too big and exceeded the total number of pages in the book, by far.
Then, starting at number 111 to 137, which I’d just added together, I got yet another idea. What if I only added together their last digits?
The result I came up with was 648. Which was exactly the secret page that followed afterward!
My eyes grew wide. I’d had it, hadn’t I? The hint I’d been looking for! I was going livid.
Right away I went to the next one and calculated all the preceding numbers, only to come up with an entirely different result than the page number of the secret page following. Cursing I got up.
It had been another goddamn coincidence. I laughed, but this time in abject misery, mocking my stupidity. How’d it be so damned easy, you idiot? There was no way. None of this was easy. None of it!
But as I stared at the result I’d come up with just now, I noticed something. The result of my calculation was 702. The page number was 351. Wait. Wait. Wait. That’s half of 702! Maybe it really was nothing but a coincidence and I was just grasping at straws, but what else was I to do?
The next result I came up with was 176. If I multiplied it by three, it gave me the page number of the secret page that followed it, 528. The number 715, divided by 5, gave me the page number 143 that followed it.
I continued adding, dividing, and multiplying and it all checked out. All the page numbers of the secret pages resulted from calculations of the last two digits of their preceding pages.
What does it mean though? Does it even mean anything? The exhilaration I’d felt ebbed away, and I sat there, staring at all my calculations wondering if there was any meaning to it. Yet, there had to be, right? This couldn’t have been designed as yet another red herring. This was too damned complex. No, there had to be a reason for this.
What if there was an order? If I went through all the calculations I quickly noticed that the result was never divided by the same number. The highest number that a result was divided by was 26, the highest a result was multiplied by was 27. It was exactly 53 different calculations.
With that, I started ordering them, one by one, starting backward from the highest division, to the highest multiplication. Then I put the topic of each page behind the numbers in the resulting list.
I’d hoped for something. I’d hoped to find it starting with the page about the universe, followed by constellations and stars up to the evolution of apes, plants, and other animals. Yet, it was all mixed-up nonsense. There was no order to it at all! Even when I ordered them in other ways, trying to find any sort of correlation, it was always the same. Nothing, but nonsense.
My hands started shaking as anger flooded through me. I crumbled up the stupid, ordered lists and threw them across the room. Then I cursed in sheer and utter rage. This was freaking stupid. This was insane! This was nothing at all, just pure fucking nonsense. I picked up a random object on my table and hurled it against the wall where it shattered into pieces. Then I threw aside a chair I found standing in my way and kicked over the small couch table, creating general chaos in my living room.
I was stopped from going any further when my neighbors banged against the wall, screaming to knock it off and threatening to call the cops.
That made me stop. The anger went away. I stared in shock at my living room. What the hell was happening to me? Why’d I done that? Why’d I destroyed my things at 1 am in the freaking morning?
Then I slowly smoothed out the lists I’d created and put them on one of the few free spots remaining on my living room wall. Who knows, I might need it later.
I laughed as I looked from them to the rest of the wall which was now entirely covered. Even worse were the stacks of notes that had accumulated in front of them. I was proud all right, but I also knew that this thing was absolutely insane.
Once more, I couldn’t help but wonder what I was doing.
Shaking my head, I turned around and made my way to the bedroom. Yet, as my fingers rested on the light switch, I turned around one last time. I stared at the mad lines, the mad paths who were connecting here and there. There was nothing but lines upon lines. Here and there, if I looked hard and long enough, I could almost make out shapes.
I froze. What if it was a visual puzzle? What if there was a hint hidden in the shapes of the paths?
For days I sat down, drew points and lines and connections, warping them into surreal shapes. This was crazy, wasn’t it? How’d it be visual? There’s probably not a damn thing to be got from this. This was stupid. Yet, I couldn’t stop. Each day, I spent my entire afternoon, my evening, and even half the night, drawing. And eventually, it all came to nothing. There was nothing but mad lines and not a clear shape in sight.
I didn’t give up though, wasn’t discouraged. I was beyond that, far beyond that. What if there was something else? Maybe there was a hidden code between these pages?
When I was at work, I’d completely forgotten about my former vow not to talk about the book or do anything related to it. Instead, I read up on cryptography. Going through article after article. I read up on Caesar Code and Binary Code, on the Polybius Cipher and Hex Code. I went mad with it. Before long I spent more time reading up on things than doing any of my work. Eventually, I even brought pages filled with numbers with me, cross-checking them for hits of any and all codes.
I heard co-workers whispering behind my back, asking me what I was doing and I told them, I just hadn’t closed the weird articles after break time.
They knew it wasn’t the truth. They’d heard me mumble, saw the little notebook I was writing in, noticed the endless lists of numbers I brought with me each day.
My superior eventually came up to me. He asked me what I was doing with all those weird pages. I told him it was nothing but a little puzzle.
“Well, Todd,” he started in a condescending voice. “You’re not here to do any of those ‘little puzzles’, you’re here to do your damn job. Where are the calculations for this month? I’ve been waiting for them all day.”
“Oh, I guess, I’m almost done with them, I just need another hour or-“
My voice trailed off when he picked up one of the pages I’d been looking at mere minutes ago. Suddenly, when I saw him holding it, I felt nervous.
“What even is this? It’s just random numbers.”
He saw my face, saw the way my eyes grew wide when he’d picked it up. The hint of a smile washed over his face as he crumbled it up.
He opened his mouth for another remark, but before he could I jumped up from my chair and ripped the page from his hand. He cringed back a step in shock at my reaction.
“The hell’s wrong with you?” he screamed at me, but I didn’t listen. Instead, I carefully smoothed out the paper and made sure he hadn’t torn it apart.
By now half the office had gotten up to watch the weird exchange. Only now did I realize what I’d done and how everyone was staring at me.
Suddenly I felt very watched and almost sunk back into my chair.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to,” I mumbled but broke up under the pressure of all those eyes.
“Get back to work and finish those damned calculations! If I see you tinkering with any of this shit again, you can clean out your desk!”
With that, he stormed off. I heard people whispering all around me, some laughing, others speaking in a more reserved tone.
Yep, I thought, it’s official. I’m the office nutjob.
Right away, I forced myself to close all the Wikipedia articles I had still open and put away all my notes. And then, grudgingly, annoyed and half-mad at the distraction it represented, I went back to work. Somehow though, it felt meaningless, calculating all these stupid orders and filling out this customer database. What the hell was I even doing? What if it really was a code? What if it was actually a mixture, a double-code? My mind went wild with ideas. Five minutes later, I found myself holding one of my notes again. I couldn’t even remember taking it out.
Pushing it back, cursing, and not a little afraid, I forced myself to work calculations until the day was over. At the moment my shift ended, I jumped off my chair and rushed for the door. People stared at me, looked after me, their faces a mixture of amusement and worry.
I didn’t care. I had work to do. The important kind of work!
I’d just tried to find another connection between the page numbers of the secret pages when my doorbell rang. I ignored it, but it just kept ringing. When it finally stopped, I sighed in relief. Just leave me alone, I cursed, I’ve got work to do.
Then, mere moments later, my phone vibrated on the other end of the room. Dammit, I’d forgotten to mute it again. I waited for it to stop, but it started up right away. Cursing I went over to see who it was and noticed the name instantly.
It was my friend Andrew. Annoyed, I answered it.
“Yo, Todd, you home?” I heard his voice from the phone next to my ear and more distant, muffled from the front door.
My first reaction was one of annoyance. Then I pushed the thought away. What the hell was wrong with me? This was Andrew. He was my best friend, the only one of our old group who still lived in the same city. Right away, I thought about how long I’d last seen him. Surprised I realized that it must’ve been weeks. One glance at the mad mess in my living room told me why.
“Yeah, sure hold on,” I said over the phone and made my way to the front door.
Andrew smiled at me brightly and held up to six-packs.
“Haven’t seen you in forever, how about we have a few! I got quite the story for you, my man!”
I smiled at him. “Sure, come on in.”
We made our way inside and Andrew had barely set foot into my living room when he stopped. His eyes grew wide as he stared at the wall and the stacks of paper all over the place.
“Holy shit man. I was wondering why I haven’t heard from you. The hell’s all that? You working on some sort of project?”
“Kind of,” I mumbled a little embarrassed.
I quickly picked up the papers on the couch and put them aside to make room for him to sit.
“Sorry about the mess.”
“Nah man, it’s all right. So, the thing I was about to tell you, you remember Thomas, right?”
Thomas, I thought. Did I know a Thomas? Then I remembered him. Of course, I remembered him, he’d been part of our group. I rubbed my temples for a second before I nodded.
“He’s getting married and you won’t believe who the lucky girl is!”
With that, Andrew told me the entire story of how our friend Thomas had been dating Susan, Andrew’s cousin for the past three months, and the two of them had decided to get married. I listened, nodded here and there, even laughed a few times absentmindedly, but my eyes wandered to my notes again and again.
For a moment I spaced out entirely, thinking about an idea that had popped into my mind just before he’d arrived. What if there was something about number sequences? I must’ve sat there for an entire minute, simply holding my beer and staring off at nothing when Andrew waved his hand in front of my face.
“Yo, dude, you listening?”
“What? Oh, sorry, no, I think I spaced out for a moment.”
“All right, man, I got to ask, what’s all this? What sort of crazy thing are you working on? Haven’t seen you this into something in years.”
I smiled at him awkwardly and then sighed and pointed at the book.
“It’s one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books,” I started.
With that, the flood gates broke open, and I told him all about it.
He listened, at first curiously, but after a while, his face changed. There was visible concern, as I rambled on about secret pages, strange objects, and cryptography.
“Todd, hold on, hold on, what the hell are you even talking about?”
I stared at him.
“The book. You know those secret pages must’ve some sort of meaning. At first, I thought there was a simple order to them, but it was too chaotic. If you add up all their page numbers though, you get 20670, and if you divided this up by-“
“All right, man, stop,” he cut me off. “So you’re adding up all those numbers, I get that, but for what?”
I began explaining again, I tried, but he couldn’t follow me.
“Yeah, I don’t get it, man. Just, what the fuck?”
“All right, look,” I said and walked over to the wall covered in lines and numbers and started once more.
I told him about the different adventure paths, the references, the secret pages, and when and how they appeared.
His face was blank as I rambled on and on and on.
“Yo, dude, you might want to take a bit of a break, this sounds, well, a bit crazy.”
For a moment I was quiet, then a short, nervous laugh escaped me.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
He stepped up next to me, staring at the wall.
“Shit man, you did all this? Just for a damned book?”
Before I could answer, he reached out and was about to take one of the pages off the wall. My hand shot forward instinctively, batting his aside.
“Don’t touch it!” I called out before I realized what I’d done.
Andrew stumbled back a few steps, shocked. “Shit man, sorry, I didn’t mean to-“
And then it happened. I didn’t even listen to his words anymore as he bumped against some of the stacks of notes I’d placed neatly in front of the wall. They toppled over one another, the pages scattering all over the floor and intermixing.
My eyes grew wide. Oh god, no, freaking god no. Anger rose in me. It had taken me so goddamn long to sort them all out, to order them. There was a freaking method to it all and now he’d destroyed it. He’d destroyed the work of entire fucking days!
“What the fuck are you doing?” I screamed at him.
He cringed back, only now realizing what had happened.
“Hey, didn’t mean to,” he said and began picking up random pages.
I ripped them from his hand and pushed him back. “No, don’t fucking touch them. Those two don’t belong together you idiot! Are you freaking insane?!”
With an empty face, he watched as I gathered up some of the pages, stared at them, and began sorting them as best as I could.
“You know, Todd, that’s what I should ask you.”
“What the hell do you mean?” I snapped at him. “You destroyed the work of days! Days! This is-“
“This is what, man?” he cut me off once more. “It’s nonsense. It’s a freaking children’s book, nothing else.”
That did the trick. I got up and stepped up right in front of him.
“Nonsense? You’ve got no FUCKING idea, how far I’ve come! You’ve got no clue what’ve done already! And here you are telling me this is NONSENSE?”
His face had grown hard. For a second he was about to say something, but then he simply shook his head and laughed. Without another word, he picked up his things, the beer, and left.
If he said any words in parting, I didn’t hear them. I was already busy re-ordering my notes.
It was hours later, when I was done sorting them all out, that I realized what I’d done and how I’d acted.
For the first time, I grew truly scared.
That hadn’t been normal. That wasn’t me. Why’d I gone crazy like this?
I took first one step back from the wall, then another before I went to pick up my phone. When I tried to call Andrew, he didn’t pick up. Instead, the call went straight to voice mail. Then I saw how late it was, long past three in the morning.
I wrote him a quick message, apologized for my behavior, and told him he was right. I should take a break from this entire thing.
That’s what I did right away. I picked up my laptop, made my way to the bedroom, and this time I turned off the light without looking over my shoulder.
I lay down on my bed and started browsing YouTube and told myself to just enjoy it and take a break.
Yet, even as I watched video after video, the little voice in the back of my head spoke up again. It told me I should go on, told me to go back to the living room.
You almost had it, Todd, you almost had it. Just one more hint and you’re done with it. Then you can let it go and you can-
“Shut up, goddamnit!” I screamed at myself to quiet the subconscious voice in the back of my head.
“I freaking know,” I said quieter. “God, I freaking know.”
I sat in bed, the video that was playing already forgotten. As video, after video played, I was on my phone, checking stars and numbers before I eventually drifted off to sleep.
The next morning I didn’t even get to make myself a coffee. I was mad, pissed off and I wanted to finally make progress. For a while, I tinkered about the various codes I’d read about. What if there was a code, but what but if it concerned the entire book and not just the secret pages? What if it was related to the adventure after all? Maybe you could scramble up page numbers and-
I stopped and rubbed my temples. Calm down, don’t go crazy. Calm down and take a step back. You don’t even know if there are any damned codes hidden in the book. You did well deciphering all the different adventure paths and the connections between them. You did well discovering all the secret pages. But what if there’s something you haven’t discovered yet?
That was the question that told me what I had to do. Something I hadn’t dared to do so far.
I had to go through the entire book.
I had to make my way through it not following the adventure, but going page by page and look out for anything new. There might be chapters I hadn’t discovered yet, hadn’t read yet.
With newfound energy and a new plan, I started right away.
My phone rang shortly after noon, but this time, I didn’t even bother with it. I just ignored it. After all, I had more important things to do.
This time I didn’t just write down chapters, choices, and connections. This time I wrote down every single thing that came up. I took note of every single object that was mentioned then added the page number, the corresponding path, and any reference I knew about it.
It was a momentous task. I spent the entire day doing it and barely made it through the first 130 pages.
The next day, Sunday, I didn’t even finish another hundred. The further I came, the more objects I noticed, the more combinations, and references. At times, I even had to go back, to cross-check things, and to change notes accordingly.
It was the most enduring task I’d ever attempted, concerning this damned book and probably my entire life.
It took me weeks. I finished stacks upon stacks of notes. I went to the office supply store multiple times a week buying stacks of papers I ended up filling by the day.
Work during this time was barely an afterthought. I was barely functioning at all. I was typing in numbers and names almost on autopilot. By now I didn’t even get stares anymore. I was entirely ignored, a shell of a man, a ghost that stumbled to his cubicle in the morning and rushed back home in the evening.
Days went by, then weeks, as I slaved away over the book’s many pages. Until one day, when I was finally done. I can’t even say how many weeks I’d been at it.
There were stacks of hundreds of papers, maybe even more. Notes, references, objects, names, words, anything basically.
I’d just created a table of how often each and every single object appeared and in which setting when I noticed a new hint. I stared at it with a giant grin on my face.
The Ruby Orb had been the very first object I’d added to the table.
It appeared in all paths:
  1. Fantasy - 31 times
  2. Space - 3 times
  3. Stone Age - 2 times
  4. Ocean and Pirates - 11 times
  5. Desert Ruins - 29 times
  6. Mountains - 17 times
  7. City-State - 7 times
  8. Ancient Rome - 5 times
  9. Jungle Tribes - 13 times
  10. Small Village - 19 times
  11. Underwater Civilization - 23 times
As I wrote those numbers down, there was something about them. Somehow I knew those numbers. I went over them, staring at them for a while before it hit me.
I cross-checked it online, and I was right. They were all prime numbers! Yes, I thought, I’d found something new!
I quickly rechecked another object, the Desert Orb, and realized it was the same here, too. This one’s appearances made up a simpler sequence. It only appeared once in the city-state, twice in fantasy, and finally 11 times in the desert ruins.
I couldn’t help but grin. I did it for another object, this one the Ebony Stick. It too appeared in all paths and its number was increased by two, starting at 4 and going up to 26.
That’s when I knew what I had to do. I had to go through all the objects, all the hundreds of objects in the damned book, and check how often they appeared. There was a correlation, another part of the puzzle. I was exhilarated, in a state of glee and unbound excitement.
These number sequences, maybe they were the key to figuring out what the secret pages meant, or maybe the page numbers in general. I started laughing. I could feel it, I was so damn close.
I slept when necessary, ate when necessary, right there on the living room floor. It was only once that I thought about work, only in passing, and the idea that I should go never even came to my mind.
My phone was at the other and of the room. I ignored it entirely during that time. It wasn’t important. This right here, that’s what was important.
I was done by the end of the week. It was long past midnight on Saturday when I’d finally deciphered the number sequences of all 311 objects in the book.
When I was done with my work, I looked at the tables of objects in a state of awe. I spread them out in front of me and marveled at the dozen or so pages. For a moment I was about to dive into them when I realized how tired I was.
For the first time since the beginning of the week, I picked up my phone. It was off, must’ve been for days. I connected it to the charger and turned it on. I was bombarded with a plethora of notifications. For almost a minute the damned thing started ringing and vibrating.
There were a few messages from Andrew, asking how I was doing and if I’d stopped with my damned obsession yet. I laughed and closed the chat.
I’d also received countless emails. Most of them were from work and only now did I remember that I hadn’t shown up for an entire week. They started normal enough, reminding me to call if I was sick, became reproachful after a day or two, and finally angry. The last one told me this was the last straw. I should come in on Monday for a talk and be prepared to clean out my desk.
It was strange how little I felt about it, how little it mattered in the grander scale of things. I almost laughed again as I threw the phone aside and laid down to catch some sleep.
When I woke up, I went right back to work. I tinkered with the number sequences, looked at each one of them, added them up, multiplied, and divided them.
It was the Crown of Ice that finally made me look up. When I added all its appearances together, I came to a total of 1000. This damned thing, I thought, it was by far the most common object in the damned book.
I started to read up on it in my notes. It was said in the Manuscript of the Seven Seas, that the Crown of Ice was found in the Crypt of the Dragon. The Crypt of the Dragon was located in the desert ruins.
I went back to it, page 1544, and read the part again. There were three choices. One sent me to leave without the crown and sent me back to a desert tribe. Destroying the crown ended in painful death while the third option was wearing it.
All right, wearing the crown opened a secret passage that sent me to the location of the Magic Water and from there back on my way through the desert.
Dammit, I thought I had something! I was about to go back to the list. Maybe the number thousand was another coincidence.
Then something made me look up. The crown appeared in the desert ruins a total of 53 times. I thought about it. The desert ruins one was by far the shortest path. How long was it in total again?
I stepped up to my living room wall and counted the chapters. When I followed them, there was only a single path that was longer than 50. It came to a total length of 78 chapters before it started from the beginning.
Chapter 53 described what you found if you opened a chest hidden in the Ancient Pyramid.
I read the entire chapter again. It was titled ‘The Treasure Chest.’ There was a total of 289 gold coins in the chest. When I went back to the list of objects, I noticed that the gold coin was mentioned a total of 289 times. The same was true for the sparkling diamonds. There were a total of 33 in the chest and the object itself came up 33 times in the book.
I almost laughed when I noticed that it was true for the third object in the chest as well.
I got an empty page and like a child, I wrote the words Chest, Pyramid, and Treasure in huge letters at the top of it before I went and added all the two dozen objects in the chest.
While I did it, I wondered if there was something like this for every other object in the book. What if every object’s number of appearances was mentioned somewhere in the book? Not just in this chest, but just somewhere.
And then, on a whim, I asked myself another question. What if certain objects didn’t? What if there were just a few or maybe just one whose number was mentioned nowhere? Maybe those were the important ones!
For the entirety of Sunday, I followed through with this idea. I calculated, I added objects to yet more lists, I followed through paths and loops, studied my notes, and slowly, the number of objects remaining got smaller and smaller.
Eventually, just as I’d hoped, there was a single object whose total number of appearances was mentioned nowhere. It was a small, red die. One that was mentioned here and there, only in passing when people played a game of dice in bars or the streets.
There had to be something to this damned thing, I knew it! After this entire week, no after all these entire months, I finally had something, I’d finally narrowed it all down to a single object.
A shiver went down my spine when I realized that this might be it. This might be the solution that I’d been searching for all this time!
I went back to my notes about the red die and all its appearances. Here a few kids were playing with it in the streets, there was someone holding it in their hand, and here it rolled onto the floor when a fight broke out.
Finally, I found what I’d been looking for. There was only a single instance in the entire book where you could interact with it. It was in a bar in space where you could join a futuristic game of dice.
When the game was done, you could pocket the red die.
The short chapter that followed it was mundane and almost unimportant. But when I read it, I noticed something else, not in the text, but the choices below. Weren’t they the same as in the chapter before?
I went back to the preceding page and reread it. Yes, the same two choices, sending you to the same two pages. Almost as if picking up the die didn’t matter at all. Making it appear as nothing but a red herring.
And I grinned. I grinned wider than I had ever before.
There had to be a hint here, no, there had to be a way of finishing this entire damn thing.
I wrote down the entire paragraph and went back to work, studying it. I checked everything that was mentioned in it: the page number, the chapter title, colors, words, anything I could think of. Until late in the morning hours, I pondered over this one, single paragraph.
I could barely keep my eyes open when I stumbled upon it. It was silly, but I exploded with joy and was suddenly wide awake again.
The number of words in each sentence was eight. The number of sentences was eight as well. There were eight sentences here, with eight words each. This was no coincidence. This was it, the total number of words was 64, the square number of eight. There was too much here for it to be a coincidence.
I rushed back to the buck, almost stumbled over my feet, and threw open page 64. Like a crazed, starved animal I poured over the words on the page, almost pressing my face against it. The chapters, there had to be something here, the solution had to be right in front of me.
Yet when I was done reading it, I was dumbfounded. The entire page comprised a single chapter, a chapter I knew damn well. And I realized that I knew the number 64 damn well, too.
I was at the beginning of the fantasy setting. I read once more that I was a young farmer, standing in front of a burned down far, the bodies of his dead parents next to him and that I was about to set out on a grand adventure.
For the next three hours, I analyzed every single word in the paragraph, every single one and I found as many hints as I could search for. I went back to the die paragraph and slowly I came to another conclusion and then another. The number of certain letters corresponded with the number of other objects in the space path. If you put certain letters from certain words together you ended up with yet another number. I followed every single one of them, but each one ended at another mundane position in the book. I slaved away over those as well, reached and analyzed them and I found more hints, more connections, more clues. And the longer and the more deeply I analyzed them, the more I could find, if only I wanted to. There was almost an endless number of nonsensical clues and hints if you wanted so. They were all leading me on, leading me around in a circle, on and on and on and on.
And I sat there, over the damned book, over hundreds, if not thousands of pages of notes. I sat in front of an entire wall covered in information and I laughed. For long, terrible minutes I couldn’t stop laughing.
This was all crazy. This was all entirely and utterly crazy.
And finally, it clicked. At this singular moment it finally and ultimately clicked.
There was no solution. The book had no solution. It finally made sense.
I’d slaved away for weeks, no for months, and all I’d done was to walk in circles, continue from one hint to another, only to be sent back to the beginning. The entire damned book was a loop, a loop of loops with secret loops that sent you to more secret loops.
And then, for the first time in months, I closed the book and put it away.
After that, I slowly went and took down all the mad pages from my wall, stacked up all the notes, and put them together in a box in an almost apathetic state.
I was done.
All of this had been utterly meaningless, a fundamental waste of time.
That night, I didn’t sleep. I lay in bed, contemplating a lot of things. My life, my work, the book, and why I’d been so taken by it. Yet, as with the book, there was no solution. There was nothing to it all.
The next day, with the book in my backpack, I made my way back to the store.
It felt as heavy as the world, an endless number of possibilities all resting on my back.
I knew I had to return it, I had to get rid of it before it might throw me into another crazy fit.
When I entered the store, the old man looked up.
“Can I help you with,” he started but broke up, a surprised look on his face.
“Well hello there, young man. Haven’t seen you in quite a while.”
I only nodded, took down my backpack, heaved out the book, and brought it to a rest in front of him.
“I’d like to return this.”
The old man probed me for a moment.
“We’ve got a no-money-back policy,” he said and pointed at a small, almost illegible sign behind himself.
“Yeah, that’s fine, I just want to get rid of it. I’m done with it.”
“So, you got your reward then?”
I couldn’t help but laugh a little. “Guess so.”
“What was it?” the old man asked curiously.
“It’s meaningless, there’s no end to it. It just goes on forever.”
“Oh,” he mouthed with an expression of surprise.
“You ever tried it yourself, old man?”
“Did once, when I was younger, but I got nowhere. Was too damned hard for me.”
“There’s one thing I’m wondering about. Who the hell wrote a thing like this? I mean, it’s freaking insane. How’d’you ever write something like this?”
“Well, to tell you the truth, there’s something I didn’t tell you when you first came in. I originally bought the book from a street merchant, half a century ago. He told me a few things, and I learned a few more over the years from other people.”
“Like what?”
“There’s nothing but rumors of course. The merchant told me it was written by the Devil himself. Then someone told me it was supposedly written by Machiavelli back in the day, to confuse a man who’d wronged him and drive him mad. There was also a guy who was convinced it was the work of aliens. The most plausible thing I heard is that there’s no single author, but that it was written over the course of centuries, with each new writer adding to it and extending it, making it better and ever more complicated.”
“Heh, sounds about-“ I started, but the old man raised a hand and pushed his head forward, towards me.
“There’s one more. Someone else told me it was written by no other than God himself as a big, giant joke about our earthly existence itself.”
I laughed, but it was a weak laugh. Nothing but a giant joke, that fit it damn well, didn’t it?
And as I stepped out of the store and stared at the city surrounding me, watching the urban bustle, I began thinking.
People were hurrying past me, on their way to work, cars and buses rushed down the streets. As I watched it all, this ever-repeating bustle of civilization, I realized that it was all another never-ending loop. On and on and on we all went, doing the same thing over and over and over again.
And as I walked on I started laughing. Maybe that was all right and maybe it didn’t matter. Who knows, maybe the book was true.
Maybe all of this, all of life, all of existence, just like the damned book, was nothing but God’s big, giant joke.
submitted by RehnWriter to TheCrypticCompendium [link] [comments]

Composition Challenge #25: September 14, 2020 – Sonata Form, Part 1: Exposition

Greetings, /musictheory! Welcome to our composition challenge. This is a space to put theory into practice by writing your own original music. An archive of all composition challenges, past and present, can be found in the wiki.
This challenge thread will be stickied from September 14 through October 5.

Rules

The emphasis here is on skill acquisition. In order to build a knowledge base that will enable you to engage with the larger corpus of music theory and analysis, observe the following:
  1. Submissions must include standard notation. If you don't know how to read or write with standard notation, consult a music theory textbook or websites such as https://www.musictheory.net/ or http://teoria.com/.
  2. Satisfy all items on the challenge prompt. There is always room to write in excess of the prompt, but you should solve the compositional problems given in the challenge.
  3. Post submissions as replies to this thread.
  4. There is no deadline to submit and we encourage you to explore these prompts whenever you feel like it. However, know that challenge threads will be un-stickied and will receive less attention after the first Monday of the next month.

Challenge

Compose a two-part sonata form exposition for piano. (The next challenge will involve crafting a development section and recapitulation, so don't worry about the rest of the form just yet.)
  • Use the formal scheme P TR MC S C. (See theory section for details.)
  • If P is in the major mode, S should be in the dominant key.
  • If P is in the minor mode, S should be in the relative major key or the minor dominant key.
  • Use periods and/or sentences as the basis of your P and S themes.
  • Use a linear intervallic pattern (LIP) somewhere in your exposition.

Theory

Sonata Theory

This challenge uses terminology and concepts from James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy's landmark treatise, Elements of Sonata Theory: Norms, Types, and Deformations in the Late-Eighteenth-Century Sonata. You will construct a Type-3 sonata, as this is what most sources mean when they say "sonata form." This is your Exposition/Development/Recapitulation model, where a tonal and rhetorical problem is set up in the exposition and eventually worked out by the time the recapitulation rolls around.
This is what a two-part exposition looks like. You will be composing one of these. Observe the tonal plan and arrangement of items. And here is a zoomed out vie of a Type-3 Sonata Form. (Both diagrams are from page 17 of Hepokoski & Darcy's book.)
Abbreviation Definition
P Primary Theme The first theme and the beginning of sonata space; sets the feel for the movement.
TR Transition Facilitates the modulation from the home key to the new key in the exposition. Recomposed in the recapitulation so that it doesn't modulate. Builds energy.
MC Medial Caesura A cadence followed by a rest that separates TR from S.
S Secondary Theme Structurally and sometimes rhetorically opposes P.
EEC Essential Expositional Closure The cadential goal of an exposition. The first cadence after S in the expo.
ESC Essential Structural Closure The cadential goal of a recapitulation and of the whole movement. The first cadence after S in the recap.
C Closing Zone Postcadential material that follows S and concludes a rotation of sonata space. May be as little as a small codetta, may include a genuine closing theme, may have several modules.
Thematic areas may contain more than one "theme," but for this exercise try to focus on producing one really good P theme and one really good S theme.
Videos:

Sentences & Periods

Linear Intervallic Patterns & Sequences

Linear intervallic patterns are voice-leading patterns that prolong a harmony and possibly bridge the space between two structural chords. Sequences are built upon LIPs, but not all LIPs are sequences.

Examples

  • The primary theme and transition of Mozart's C major piano sonata, K.545, contains a sequence/LIP. Analysis. Note that P is a sentence ending on a half-cadence (with the continuation prolonged by its merger with TR). These things don't have to be long; the total path from P to the MC only takes 12 measures in this sonata.
  • Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 19, Op.49, No.1, I. / Score – P is a modulating period (with a sentential antecedent!), where the consequent also acts as the TR. There is no MC here (rather, it is filled in — called "caesura fill"). The S theme is a parallel period beginning at m.16; the consequent begins at m.21 and goes to m.25, but then consequent repeats (what Janet Schmalfeldt calls the "one more time" technique), so the resolution happens at the downbeat of m.29. The C zone is just 4 measures with a pickup, from mm.30-33 (derived from the beginning of S). Also, if you're following the video, the score is Heinrich Schenker's edition, which inexplicably has the measure numbers at the end of the measure, making it look like the measure numbers are one bar off from where they should be.
  • Marianne von Martinez – Piano Sonata No. 3 in E Major / Score — Kind of a cool thing going on here. Here is the exposition analyzed. First off, notice that there are two themes in the S group: one is a sentence (S1), the other is a period (S2). S2 elides with the beginning of the Closing Zone, and C itself is basically the material of P and TR transposed into the dominant key. It's a little unusual but not unheard of. This movement is actually a Type-2 Sonata Form (the so-called "binary" sonata form), but since we're only looking at the exposition, that doesn't matter so much for us right now. However, the fact that the C zone is so P/TR-based plays into the rotational nature of the Type-2.
  • Joseph Haydn – Keyboard Sonata in E minor, Hob.XVI:34/ Score – Here's one in the minor mode. Here is the exposition analyzed. The P theme is a parallel period with a modulation. I'm not really sure what the TR is supposed to be doing here, since it's basically just hanging out in the new key the entire time. It's interesting to note that in the recapitulation, P and TR are chopped up and put back together as the presentation and continuation of a sentence respectively. (And I'm sure there are other interpretations.) I have the theme type for S identified as a "phrase group," which John David White in The Analysis of Music defines as such: "A group of three or more phrases linked together without the two-part feeling of a period can be termed a phrase-group. Phrase-group is also the appropriate label for a pair of consecutive phrases in which the first is a repetition of the second or in which, for whatever reason, the antecedent-consequent relationship is absent (46)." In this case, we are dealing with the last option.

Notation Resources

You can find links to a variety of notation programs in the wiki.
submitted by Xenoceratops to musictheory [link] [comments]

What to do when players won't learn the rules to play?

Currently playing through LMoP with a group of four. We are nearing the climax and I've already invested in the next module to play with them.
My problem is that these players (who REALLY enjoy roleplaying) have a barely passable understanding of the game, and rely on me as DM for pretty much every mechanic. This extends to the group asking for my advice in some situations because the literally don't know what to do.
It gets very grating when I have to remind them multiple times how to use proficiency and ability modifiers (and also that the mod is the SMALL number and not the 18 in that ability). Or how a core class ability works.
I've given up trying to use hit dice on short rests (we now recover 1/2 lost HP). Ditto with getting the Wizard or other caster to pick what spells to memorize out of their list (Wizard wants all the spells and says he just has his book to hand all day), the Cleric just has a static list because he doesn't want to choose from spells he doesn't know.
I am the only one with a copy of the PHB - I should add.
At this point, they won't want to spend any money, and won't spend the time looking online for free resources. Between kids and jobs, it is rare that we can all sit down and catch up, and using DnD as our hobby ensures we can all commit to seeing each other and having fun.
That last sentence is the most important one. Time is a rare resource, but we all love sitting down and doing RPG stuff.
So I've considered options and pontificated for a long time over what to do. I'm putting those options down in writing now to see how you guys weigh them, or suggest anything else.
Note: I'm a huge advocate of 'talk to the players about your pain' but the fact is - they like DnD because I make it easy for them (because I know the rules). If they were faced with spending the time to learn the rules, or give up playing - it could go either way.
Second note: From the moment I started experiencing this glorious game in 2018, I've been hoovering up different systems and seeing how rules might interact with rules from other systems. I'm fine with putting in a bit of extra effort if it elevates the game experience for my friends. That's why I love to DM after all.
So, options:
In some ways, it's annoying that DnD is so finely balanced - because all of the little complexities are co-dependent. I can't introduce anything like DW's 'moves' without also gutting combat entirely.
I know there's a strong argument to just play a simpler system - but I'm suffering from the Sunken Cost Fallacy and I don't want to give up on my precious shiny DiA module.
submitted by swrde to DMAcademy [link] [comments]

I decided to completely rewrite the long form piece on my transition and detransition. I kind of feel like it barely scratches the surface, but it's almost 2,500 characters long, so I can't add to it without taking anything out. Feedback much appreciated.

I was born in 1983, and as I sit writing this, I am 36 years old. I am female. I have always been female, but for nearly a decade, starting in my mid-teens, I was in denial of this fact, and I took drastic measures to conceal it, including testosterone injections commencing shortly after my 18th birthday, a double mastectomy shortly after my 20th birthday, and cumulating in a second surgery on my chest, which was supposed to correct the poor aesthetic outcome of the first surgery, but instead was so badly botched that it threw me into a crisis which fortunately led to my detransitioning, although this word did not exist at that time, and I was, for all intents and purposes, in uncharted territory.
In retrospect, I am glad that I experienced this wake up call when I did, and did not remain on testosterone any longer, because, unbeknownst to me at the time, the testosterone had caused me to develop vaginal and uterine atrophy, which led to a pelvic organ prolapse, which I will be dealing with for the rest of my life. If I had remained on testosterone longer, and my pelvic organ prolapse had been diagnosed while I was still under the care of gender doctors, I think it is very likely that I would have ended up having a hysterectomy. Today, as the mother of a toddler age son, I am very grateful that I did not lose my fertility. At the time though, it was impossible for me to imagine any kind of future for myself, all I knew was that I could not follow the transgender path any longer.
I had been indoctrinated by the nascent transgender ideology into believing that transition was the only effective treatment for gender dysphoria, and that those who could not transition, or who "failed" at transition, inevitably committed suicide. Simultaneously I had been made to understand that it was unacceptable for trans people who had been harmed by botched surgeries or the side effects of hormone treatments to talk openly about their experiences, or to express regret, because this would supposedly result in other trans people being denied these "lifesaving treatments". I, who had once loudly advocated for "trans rights", and against "gatekeeping", and the requirement to wait until turning 18 to begin medical transition, now found myself voiceless. It seemed that my only option was to disappear.
In the aftermath of my botched second chest surgery, I became addicted, first to prescription painkillers, and then to heroin. Eventually I came to two realizations, firstly, that I needed to stop harming my body, whether through transition, through drugs, or whatever, because I would probably be alive a long time, wether I liked it or not, and the unhealthier I made myself, seeking to avoid suffering, the more I would actually have to suffer. Secondly, that I needed to take accountability for my actions, because my self-destructive behavior was not merely self destructive, but rather the direct and indirect cause of harm to others, often through the glamorization of self-destructive behavior, which seemed to come naturally to me.
When I got clean, I was fortunate to get support from other recovering addicts who shared their experience, strength and hope with me, and showed me by example that another way of life was possible, even for those, like myself, who had plumbed the depths of depravity. The first step was getting honest with myself, and I did. I became aware of the myriad ways in which my unwillingness to accept reality, and my struggle to manipulate reality, which I had once regarded as necessary, and even as heroic, had resulted in my descent to ever increasing levels of hopelessness and despair.
For me it became clear that my unwillingness to accept reality, my attempt to escape into fantasy, and my willingness to harm myself and others to maintain an illusion of control, had begun in childhood, and that my identification as male, my involvement in extremist antifa and anarchist groups, and my drug use had all been different ways of acting out this same dysfunctional approach.
This awareness, and the belief that another way of life was possible, restored me to sanity. I had been relieved of a colossal burden, the belief that I had to control everyone and everything in order to survive, but life for me as a detransitioned woman was not always easy. Not only did I have ongoing health problems as a result of the harm that medical transition had done to my body, but my deep voice and lack of breasts caused me to stick out from other females, resulting in me sometimes being mistaken for a transwoman. The difference was that, unlike when I was attempting to "live as male", I did not inflate these experiences and allow them to occupy every waking moment of my life. I found that it was possible to practice self acceptance, even while still experiencing regret.
Despite my desire to find a man, fall in love, and start a family of my own, I discovered that the changes I had made to my body had rendered me unattractive to most men, and that those few men who were attracted to me often had pedophile tendencies or other paraphilias, such as an amputation fetish. For this reason, I remained single, and largely celibate.
I was also still struggling with some of the problems which had perhaps contributed to my belief that transition would help me, such as my undiagnosed autism spectrum disorder. It is possible that even if I had not transitioned, that I would have been unable to find a husband, because of my poor social skills, but I will never know. One thing I have come to understand is that I have no control over the past, and that it is pointless to speculate over "alternative timelines" which do not exist.
Freed from the self obsession which had dominated my life in my trans days, I was able to pursue things outside myself which were infinitely more interesting, such as teaching myself German, reading lots of books, including medieval literature, and especially Icelandic sagas, developing an appreciation of obscure baroque era composers, and learning to identify all of the flowering plants native to the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area while photographing them in their natural habitats.
Several years ago, I noticed that the transgender ideology was no longer a fringe phenomenon, as it had been when I first encountered it, and in retrospect still was when I escaped it. Not only was it becoming omnipresent in the mainstream media, but many people who I had previously told of my traumatic experience with transition, who had reacted sympathetically at the time, were now being reeducated to think that it was bigoted to bring the "triumphal narrative" of transition into question, the way I did by simply talking about my own experiences. Some tried to pressure me into identifying as "non-binary", others suggested that I attend a "transgender support group" when the subject of my chronic health problems came up. I felt support being quietly withdrawn. I was on the defensive. I felt put on the spot when people would ask for my pronouns, or otherwise go out of their way to imply that they assumed I must somehow be transgender. I did not know how to deal with this. I thought that I had more or less successfully managed to leave this chapter of my life in the past, but now it seemed to have caught up with me.
It was for this reason, in part, that I made the decision to leave the US, where I had been born, raised, and had all my experiences with transition and detransition, behind, and to remain here in Austria, after visiting in the summer of 2015, because I believed the transgender ideology to be a uniquely American phenomenon, and I naively assumed that things here were different. Unfortunately, I was wrong. The transgender ideology may be largely a US invention, but it has been exported and adopted worldwide.
Over the past few years symbols of the transgender ideology began to appear on the streets of Vienna, first as graffiti, then as signs in store windows. When I was pregnant with my son and attempting to find breast milk donors for him online, I discovered that many women active in the "alternative" mother scene online in Germany and Austria were raising their toddler age children as transgender, and that any other mothers who dared to question the wisdom of this were swept away in a flood of politically correct criticism. I was appalled.
At the same time, I learned that many people who prided themselves on being supportive of "trans rights", including the insistence that young children should be allowed to determine their own "gender" and then be placed on a medical pathway before puberty if their chosen "gender" happened to clash with their "assigned sex", were in reality so ignorant of the primitive state of transgender medicine that they actually believed the doctors would be able to change the children´s sexes. They did not understand that "sex change" is a trans medical industry propagated myth, and that the children would actually be subjected to cosmetic procedures, which could go very wrong, and even best-case scenario would be left infertile and dependent on lifelong medication.
Multiple people who I interacted with while pregnant, including some who worked in social services or in doctors’ offices, believed that I was a transwoman, despite the fact that they knew I was pregnant. How could this be? I realized that the apparent adoption of science and reason as guiding principles by current societies was extremely fragile and superficial. Under the surface teemed a bottomless sea of medieval superstition. Most people were not engaging in scientific thinking, but merely passively accepting as truth whatever claims were made by credible seeming authorities, and these messages were rapidly being corrupted by ideology.
Last winter I stumbled upon a word that I had never seen before online, and that word was "detransitioner". For the first time, I saw other women, younger than myself, who had been through something like what I had been through, and were talking about it publicly, at a panel in Great Britain. I reached out to some of them online, and soon after I made a twitter account and posted a few videos on YouTube, talking about my story.
After all of those years, I was thrilled to no longer be alone with my experience, but quickly I realized that these people, who had found the courage to speak about their experiences, were only the tip of the iceberg. Over the past couple of years, while I had been preoccupied with trying to get pregnant, being pregnant, crying over not being able to breastfeed, and caring for a baby, the number of young people, particularly girls, who were medically transitioning had skyrocketed, resulting in a building tsunami of regret, which trans activists were doing their best to suppress, terrified that thousands of voices sharing stories which called the triumphal narrative of transition into question would result in the rollback of institutional changes which had been rapidly enacted by night and fog.
I became familiar with the concept of "Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria", and although it seemed to be a useful way of explaining how perhaps the majority of teenage girls who are currently transitioning were caught up in the transgender drag net, I was dismayed to see "ROGD teens" contrasted with young children whose gender non-conformity began before puberty, with the implication that this later cohort was "truly trans" and should be put on a medical pathway.
When I declared myself to be a "gay male" at the age of 16, changed my name, and socially transitioned, around the turn of the millennium, I did not know any other young people who were on this path. For this reason, which excludes social contagion as a trigger of my trans identification, as well as the fact that I was gender non-conforming as a child, and already experienced persistent thoughts, sometimes expressed verbally, which would easily fall into the category of "gender dysphoria", prior to puberty, I don´t think my experience could be accurately described as "Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria", despite some superficial biographical similarities with many apparent "ROGD cases", such as having been sexually harassed starting at puberty.
I think it´s very likely that if I had been born 20 years later, that I would have been diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria as a child and placed on puberty blockers, which would have prevented my reproductive organs and brain from ever maturing, and would have never had the opportunity for a "rethink" that I, and many ROGD cases, who also, like myself, never took puberty blockers and did not start cross sex hormones until our puberties were largely completed, have had.
I also wonder to what extent the apparent onset of "ROGD" in adolescence could be explained by the fact that most detransitioners who were apparent "ROGD cases", although significantly younger than myself, are old enough to have first come in contact with transgender ideology as teenagers. I think it is entirely possible that many, if not most, of them would have also become "trans" in childhood, if they had been exposed to the trans ideology at that point. With the ongoing trend to introduce this ideology to children at younger and younger ages, I wonder if the average age at which minors identify as trans will sink drastically to reflect this. Even if my hypothesis proves to be incorrect, I do not see professionals who speak out against medical transition for dysphoric teens, but seek to burnish their "moderate" credentials by simultaneously supporting medical transition for dysphoric children, as allies.
I am neither a radical feminist, nor a "traditionalist", nor do I believe that anyone is "truly trans". My opponent is not trans identified people, but the trans medical industry, and all of it´s enablers, most of whom are not themselves "trans". I object to the medicalization of "gender identity" on ethical grounds. It has been suggested to me that I stick to talking about my own direct experiences, and while I acknowledge the utility of this approach in the context of a support group, I did not decide to start talking openly about my experience with transition and detransition primarily as an aid to processing, but rather to effect change. I reserve the right to form my own opinions, and express them as I see fit, speculating and making generalizations when necessary. This uncompromising approach has unfortunately already resulted in my voice being censored on reddit and other platforms, but after everything I have been through, I can not stand to be dishonest.
submitted by DetransLaura to detrans [link] [comments]

Day 14: It's in the cards (Tarot and other Cartomancy) PART 1

I've devoted a day to tarot because, like meditation, it can be a great tool for anyone on any path, as well as non-witches.
To keep this from being it's own book, I'm going to skip the history of tarot (which is interesting but easy to look up) and I'm not going to go in depth about any specific style. When I say the word tarot here, I mean specifically divination using a tarot deck with a total of 78 cards, including 22 major arcana (or "trump cards") and 56 minor arcana consisting of 4 suits (much like a deck of playing cards.)
It is, however, perfectly fine to "misuse" the word tarot to mean any form of cartomancy that involves the use of "spreads." It's not going to offend anyone (except pedants) and it can be useful to add the word "tarot" to an inquiry or search, especially when looking for a deck online.
There are three major variations of tarot deck- Rider-Waite, Tarot de Marseille, and Thoth. Most of the tarot decks available are based on the imagery of these three. There are differences, but generally they could be used interchangeably, so I'm not going to get too in depth about it. When you buy a deck, it can be helpful to know which style it is so you can be aware of how the creators meant them to be used. (You can usually find out online in stores or the official webpage, but you can also search for the differences and find out what style your deck matches. There are also versions that are unique to the deck/creator.
As I said, tarot is for everyone. There is very low risk of cultural appropriation. (Decks are often themed and some decks can be considered cultural appropriation.) There are a surprising number of myths that are nothing more than gatekeeping bs. I'm going to get into it, but the first thing to know is that you do not need anything but a tarot deck to begin doing tarot. I've make a deck from a pack of index cards, it doesn't have to be an expensive deck or anything fancy.
Which brings me to a strange myth I keep seeing lately in reference to tarot as well as other practices. Outside of specific religions, there is nothing in magic that MUST be given as a gift to "work." The best theory I've found to explain this floating garbage is that it was started as basically a "gift with membership" or "foot in the door" technique by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. There's no basis in it. Divination is about your ability to interpret symbols in context. It doesn't really matter where they came from.
Another myth is that you can't let other people touch your cards. You might not want to LET people touch them, and that's okay. It's a good idea to have boundaries about your tools and possessions. But someone touching the cards won't break them, you don't need to burn them, and if you don't mind any energy that does affect them (like love, awe, or open-minded curiosity) you don't need to cleanse them. You might choose to cleanse them after they are touched if you don't like the energy that comes from the person or anytime you feel like you need to. Just like with anything that isn't yours, please do not just touch or grab someones tarot cards without asking. It is rude.
Tarot does not require the use of elaborate spreads. They are one option of many. It's okay to use them like a "magic 8 ball" and ask yes or no questions and pull one card. You might get an answer that means "ask again later," or that indicate you should do a more elaborate spread, but you'll often get a yes or no.
Because divination, carotmancy, and tarot are about interpreting specific symbols in a specific context- there aren't TRULY any beginner (or "beginner friendly") decks. It really doesn't matter if you have a single word, a detailed image, an emoji-style simple symbol, a color, or a paragraph- you still have to interpret it. You cannot get around doing the work. If you find yourself connecting to a deck that is considered "advanced," you will still be able to read with it. If you need to look up meanings every time you use it or write down your own meanings or you realize you've gone way off from any "usual" meanings, that's okay. If it works- it doesn't matter what "level" other people have assigned to it.
There is no "One True Way" to shuffle, full, place, or read the cards of any deck. You do not even have to use all of the cards for a reading. It is okay to use only major or minor arcana if you want.
I'll mention some quirks that can happen with decks in part 2.
There are other common styles and decks designed for cartomancy.
Lenormand cartomancy (often referred to as "Lenormand tarot") was named after a famous cartomancer from the 1800s who published several works related to cartomancy. The cards and system bearing her name were created after her death. This system uses 36 cards with images of animals, objects and people. It doesn't work very well for single card spreads or less linear spreads. Each card gives context to the next.
Kipper cartomancy (also referred to as Kipper tarot) also uses 36 cards and creates very linear readings, and the imagery is not really meant to be interpreted as much as the reading is meant to basically be complete ideas. This deck is best for interpersonal affairs since the cards depict mainly people and actions.
Oracle cards are other decks of varying styles with any number of cards. There is no standard oracle deck. Some have a lot of text, some have only a card title, some are only images. Like tarot decks. you can find an oracle deck that works for you. You can use tarot spreads with oracle cards without (extra) difficulty. You can do "yes/no" single card pulls with them. If you do not want to worry about 78 cards or you want a deck personalized to you and your needs without the baggage of generally accepted meanings, an oracle deck might work better than tarot for you.
Playing cards are also a valid option. They can usually be obtained easily and inexpensively. The suits and numbers can correlate with tarot minor arcana or you might find regional meanings for playing card cartomancy. Playing cards are great for use in spells as well.
If you do not own a tarot (or other cartomancy) deck but are interested in buying one, here is what I think you should consider:
My first tarot deck ever was a very small "Tarot Nova" deck. It came in a very small box (about the size of a post-it note.) It was perfect for my needs which were mostly hanging out with the other witches and their pendulums at school. It was portable and very inexpensive at the book store checkout line in a rotating display of tiny novelty kits. I have so far lost all of my tarot cards to small children, complications from homelessness, and moving frequently as a younger adult. Now I am in a position where I don't have to think about those things. My next deck will represent my values of simplicity, intuition, and quality. My needs now are different from when I was 16 or 25. Your needs are different from 5 years ago and will be different again in 5 years. It's okay if your deck changes too.
I am just going to touch on some common quirks that you might encounter.
I really thought I'd be able to trim tarot down to a one day event, but even without talking about the history of tarot or even how-to tarot, I can't. So tomorrow will be cartomancy, continued. I'll talk about where the answers come from, what to do if your spread isn't giving you answers, and non-divination ways to use cards in witchcraft.
So today, your optional assignment is to think of a deck you would like, then look to see if a version of it exists. It might help you find a deck you like, or just demonstrate how many options are out there.
Then tell me
  1. Do you already use tarot or other cards for divination? What are some things you've noticed or learned about your personal relationship with your cards?
  2. What do you currently think you'd like to look for in a deck, if you plan to get one? (Remember that there are no wrong answers. If your main concern is that it be free- that's okay. If you just want something beautiful- that's okay. If you have a 12 point checklist, it might be a little restrictive but I'll assume you put thought into it, so that's okay too.) Or do you think you'll pass until/unless cards come into your life? Or do you think you'll pass on card divination altogether?
  3. How are your other practices going? Are you meditating regularly, adding herbs to your BoS, are you still using your BoS? How are you feeling right now? Even if you don't want to comment and check in with me, check in with yourself and make a note of where you are in this moment.
We've been going through a lot of information very quickly, thank you all so much for sticking with me so far. If you've fallen behind, don't stress. Catch up when you can. See you tomorrow!




All information presented is copyrighted material, you may not reproduce any part in any way except as permitted by US Copyright law. For info about reproduction permission, DM me.
My current goal is to turn this into a book, and perhaps repeat this type of "course" in the future. I truly believe there is no cost of admission to witchcraft and I will never ask you to buy anything (from me or otherwise.)
If you would like and are comfortably able to leave a tip, I do have CashApp, Venmo, and Paypal. (Starving artist is a lifestyle choice, but not-starving artist is great too. And no, I'm not actually starving, but I am looking at paying some money to get this project turned into a book and I've got my eye on this tarot deck...)
submitted by Alarming-Biscotti to 30daywitch [link] [comments]

Neo-Atheists, Atheists, militant Atheism and everything in between: Caged by Abrahamic Monotheism

Neo-Atheists, Atheists, militant Atheism and everything in between: Caged by Abrahamic Monotheism
Nupur J Sharma | 7 September, 2020
Before we proceed further, there are two things that ought to be stated outright. Firstly, the purpose of this article is not to encourage desecration of the Quran or any other Islamic scriptures or doctrine. The sole purpose is to provide an understanding of the core matter at hand, in light of the online battle between ex-Muslims and Hindus. And secondly, most obviously, the author does not believe that all Muslims are Jihadis or terrorists. Now that we are done with formalities, let us jump straight to the matter.
Steven Weinberg, the great American physicist and a Nobel laureate, once remarked, “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil, but for good people to do evil – that takes religion” and since then, this quote has almost been weaponised by Atheists around the world to condemn religion as an outdated concept that is using violence to maintain its relevance in a world that has outgrown the need or the desire for its tenets.
The New Atheism movement started in the mid-2000s with the ‘four horsemen for Atheism’ – Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris – gaining immense popularity. The core tenet of New Atheism is that religion was created in an attempt to explain how the world works at a time when science had hardly made the leaps that it has today. Thus, at a time when science has progressed, religion’s validity has expired, so to speak. There are several other claims that New Atheists make which we will examine in the course of this article, however, the central theme remains constant – Religion, any religion, has outlived its validity.
The New Atheism movement, however, ushered in another remarkable trend. It essentially espoused that being an Atheist was not sufficient. Atheists must ‘scientifically’ counter the theists and expose their dogmatic ways wherever they are found.
What started off as an attempt to infuse scientific discourse and composed debate on the question of Religion, soon became a free-for-all with the influx of several ex-Muslims, like Armin Navabi, Harris Sultan and others, who simply assumed that the function of Atheism was ‘desecration’ without the consideration that criticism for every religion would have to differ based on the genesis, nature and context of that specific religion itself.
Armin Navabi, Iranian Ex-Muslim who is now an Atheist first tore up and spat on the Quran. Following the support he got from Hindus, he proceeded to willfully desecrate the Hindu faith. The underlying reason for doing this, per Armin, was that all faiths should be desecrated equally, however, that is not where this saga began.
It has already been established that the saga of desecrating the Hindu faith started with another ex-Muslim, Abdullah Sameer, shielding the Muslim community after the Sweden and Norway riots, getting called out by Robert Spencer and then, proceeding to draw a false equivalence between Hindus (who were calling him out online) and Muslims (who were burning the world).
Soon, after the spat between Robert Spencer and Abdullah Sameer, Sameer started posting offensive images of Hindu Goddess Kali. Along with him, several other ex-Muslims like Harris Sultan and Armin Navabi started talking about how Hindus are just as bad as Muslims because they were calling them out on Twitter. On the 3rd of September, Armin took things a step further and shared the same image of Maa Kali.
Only a couple of hours before posting this distorted picture which showed Goddess Kali in a sexual epithet, Armin was retweeting and talking about the #DesecrateTheQuran hashtag.
Given how this spat started, one can easily assume that this entire episode was orchestrated to falsely equate Hindus and Muslims post the Sweden and Norway riots by the Muslims. However, for the purpose of this article, I will not be delving into that aspect. What needs to be analysed, however, is the surmise that gives rise to the notion that desecration of all faiths, in equal measure, is a desirable outcome of Atheism.
It is in this spirit, that Harris Sultan, while speaking to ‘Hindu Atheist’ Kushal Mehra question OpIndia for covering Armin’s desecration of the Quran but being silent or even outraged, by his desecration of the Hindu faith.
At the heart of it, is the supposition that all religions are equal and thus, all religions should be desecrated equally and it is this ill-informed position that needs to be challenged.
Dissecting the ‘All religions are equal’ claim The notion does not really stem from Atheism itself but the notions of religious pluralism that assumes that not only do all religions claim that their truth is the ‘only truth’ that exists, but that all religions are based on the principles of Universal Truths and thus, these are the two tenets that need to be dealt with if religions are to co-exist peacefully.
Religious Pluralism essentially says that firstly, all religions must acknowledge that certain truths exist in other religions as well, thereby declaring that it is not only their own religion that is the ‘only truth’. Further, it says that all religions must acknowledge that every religion teaches basic universal truths that have been taught since before the advent of religion itself.
When one delves into the principles of religious pluralism as a construct that can enable religions co-existing without sectarian violence, it becomes important to ensure that all religions are brought down to the same surface level and hence, the claim that all religions are the same takes a beastly proportion where cultural context is often lost.
For the purpose of this article, we will focus on Islam, Christianity and Hinduism since the question we eventually want to answer is- why is it permissible to desecrate Islam and not desecrate Hinduism?
At the very outset, it suffices to say that no other religion in the world, at this point of time in history, lays out a doctrine for the torture, subjugation, conversion and humiliation of all the people who refuse to believe in their faith, other than Islam.
This question of whether all religions are equal and whether Islam is inherently a religion of peace was discussed at length in an interview with Jihad Watch Director Robert Spencer. He said in the interview that Islam as a religion indoctrinates its adherents to slay the Kafirs where they see them. They lay out the doctrine for religious warfare and strict rules as to what is to be done with the ‘spoils of war’.
No other religion in the world has left behind a trail of mangled bodies, blood and gore in its wake as much as Islam and what is worse is that this carnage was sanctified in their religion, in fact, it is one of the necessities of their religion. Moral relativists and apologists of Islam often say that Islam is a religion of peace and it is its adherents who have distorted the peaceful version of Islam.
They also say that the Quran is a peaceful text that essentially takes people closer to universal truths, just as other religions do, but it is the Hadith that twists the meaning of the Quran and ebbs people to commit violence in its name. None of these claims hold scrutiny, according to Spencer, since there exists no version of Islam that does not lay out a doctrine for the subjugation of Kafirs. In the interview, Spencer quoted verses of the Quran that themselves asked Muslims to slay the Kafirs and strike their neck.
As Mr Spencer talks about the verses of the Quran that ordain its followers to slay Kafirs and Polytheists, one has to wonder how can a religion that is at odds with Polytheism be equal and aspires for the same goals as that of a Polytheistic religion? When Islam is at odds with Polytheism and the religious texts explicitly mention the subjugation of any Polytheist faith, how accurate is it to say that all religions are exactly the same since neither Christianity (which is also an Abrahamic religion) or Hinduism (which is a polytheistic religion) say anything that remotely resembles Islam.
We can further classify this argument between Abrahamic faiths and Polytheistic faiths. In the conversation with Robert Spencer, it was clear why Islam took over 500 years to find footing in India and countries like Europe fell to the onslaught of Islam far quicker than India. The Quran presents itself as completion and correction of Christianity, said Spencer, which also gives us a window into just how vast the difference between the Hindu faith and Islam/Christianity really is.
Hence, to essentially say that all religions are equal and aspire towards the same universal truths is a fallacious statement that is made by the people who either harbour malice, or ignorance.
What the desecration of the image of Maa Kali meant for Hindus A familiar grouse that was expressed by the Neo-Atheists is why Hindus were celebrating the desecration of the Quran while they felt outraged when Armin Navabi desecrated the Hindu faith by sexualising Maa Kali. The underlying issue with this question that seems to baffle the Ex-Muslim Atheists is that they, almost militantly, follow the tenet that all religions are the same, a question, that we have debunked earlier in this article.
When we have concluded, with adequate proof, that all religions are indeed not the same, one has to then understand the cultural context to truly understand why Hindus were celebratory, or even supportive, when ex-Muslim Atheists desecrated Islam and went after the same Atheists when they sexualised Kali.
From what I understand, the backlash against Armin Navabi first started with him sharing the sexualised images of Maa Kali and was exacerbated with his follow-up tweet that essentially told Hindus to put Maa Kali in a Burkha if her sexualisation was offending them.
What Armin did was to reduce the divine, with no provocation whatsoever, to a basal, human upheaval of hormones. To ask Hindus whether they would want to masturbate to a deity they consider their mother or even say that he “simps for Kali” which essentially means that he would put the deity on a pedestal to get sexual favours in return. This tirade did not come from a place of understanding but from a place of militancy of thought that had no cultural context whatsoever.
When they ask “how is the desecration of the Quran different from the desecration of Maa Kali”, the simple fact remains that the ex-Muslims grew up in a household that deeply believed in the tenets of Islam, as per their own confessions. Their draw towards Atheism or even anti-theism comes from being told that if they do not follow exactly what the Quran says, they will go to hell.
Or that apostates deserve death and if they do not follow the tenets of the Quran, they too, like apostates would deserve death. From being told that women don’t deserve respect or can even be beaten up because the religion accords a sub-human position to women. It is a faith that is largely considered the root of violence and militancy across the world, a faith that has claimed countless lives in order to stay relevant in the modern age.
Hence, since their anti-theism or atheism comes from their experience of religion growing up in a household that followed Islam, they understand what they are desecrating, to begin with. They know, that when they tear the Islamic scripture, what is the extent of the ideology and what those pages say, in very specific terms.
However, for most monotheists, barring a few who can be debated on their ideas of universal truths and not just anti-theism, the idea of Hinduism is too abstract to even understand what the religion’s basic tenets are. This was, in fact, admitted by Navabi himself in a podcast he did a year ago. How then is it acceptable to critique a religion one doesn’t understand simply because it is a religion and the anti-theist believes in the desecration of all religions, even though they are by no way equal.
Further, what the western anti-theists and atheists, a significant chunk of them being ex-Muslims, don’t understand is that there is a cultural context to the outrage of Hindus. For thousands of years, Hindus have been subjugated by the Islamist invaders who have raped Hindu women, beheaded our kings, murdered our children all for the ultimate goal of the establishment of the Caliphate. There are countless tales of how the Islamic invaders murdered Hindus and kept their wives, mothers and daughters as slaves – the spoils of war.
The barbarity was so perverse, that Hindu women often chose to jump into the fire and give up their lives after Hindus were defeated in war, lest they were taken slaves by Islamic invaders. You might wonder why they didn’t simply slit their wrists instead of stepping into the burning fire – well – they did not want their corpse to be desecrated by the followers of Islam who had laid siege on their land.
The brutality is not just limited to Islamic invaders. In the modern political landscape of India, Hindus were humiliated during the partition as well. One recalls how the Khilafat movement claimed the lives of countless Hindus during the Moplah massacres by Islamists and even the Direct Action Day, spearheaded by Jinnah. After the countless deaths of Hindus, our own, MK Gandhi, asked Hindus to simply lay down their lives if the Islamists chose to claim it.
During partition, Hindus were mutilated and their women raped. At the altar of ‘secularism’, which the Atheists love to espouse, India decided to not conduct a full exchange of population, a suggestion that was made by various luminaries at the time including Dr B.R. Ambedkar, and thus, began another cycle of subjugation in modern India. This year itself, we saw riots by sections of the Muslim community and aided by the Left against the Hindus.
The saga of brutality continues to this day not just in India, but also, against the minority Hindus of Pakistan and when India decided that the minority Hindus could take refuge in India, their natural home post-partition, the Islamists ran riots yet again. They stabbed a Hindu over 50 times simply because he was Hindu and chopped off the arms and legs of another before burning him alive.
Since the Atheists and anti-theists love to ally with the Left, the obvious question that will be thrown after reading this article is – what about the Muslims who died? Let me preempt that question and say that in every war, both sides suffer losses, but war is defined by those who start the war, and Hindus, have never started one.
With centuries of subjugation behind them, when Armin says that Hindus must put their Goddess in a Hijab if they are offended by the cheap sexualisation, he triggers an all-too-familiar sentiment – convert or die, worse, be raped.
For centuries, whether they were Islamic invaders, or the Muslims post-partition of Pakistan and Bangladesh, the domestic Muslims who still employ this tactic or even the Muslims of Pakistan who till date subjugate Hindus, this trope has been used to humiliate Hindu women and their faith. For centuries, these were the options given to Hindu women by Islamist barbarians – wear a Burkha, convert to Islam or be raped or killed.
This is exactly the sentiment that was invoked by Armin – He essentially said that he will reduce our Goddess to an object of cheap titillation, a disrobed woman, humiliated because he can. And if Hindus did not want him to cheapen their mother, they should make her wear a Hijab.
While it is unclear that this was the intent or not, however, it is clear that internalised misogyny, Hinduphobia, hate for Idolatory and the unbridled urge for the subjugation of Kafirs is so strong, that even after leaving the faith, the barbarism towards polytheists remains.
Hindus saw what Armin did as not just the humiliation of their deity, but also Iconoclasm that the community is far too familiar with. For the Hindu, there is absolutely no difference between their Idols being desecrated by the Islamic hoards and being buried in the steps of a mosque, their Ram Temple being demolished by invaders to build a Mosque and then deny them their rights and what Armin did. Essentially, it was an outsider, an Islamist, perhaps, who desecrated their faith and presented the remains as an offering at the foot of Abrahamism.
One simple account of the hatred Muslims had for idolators comes from a poetic account of what Ahmad Shah did at Sidhpur, available in Mirat-i-Sikandari, the history of Gujarat, written by Sikandar ibn-i-Muhammad alias Manjhu ibn-i-Akbar in the first quarter of the sixteenth century. He marched on Saiyidpur,— writes the historian, on Jamad-ul-Awwal in AH 818 (July/August, AD 1415) in order to destroy the temples which housed idols of gold and silver.
As quoted by Sita Ram Goel in his book, ‘Hindu Temples’, the poetic account is as below:
He marched under divine inspiration, For the destruction of temples at Saiyidpur, Which was a home of the infidels, And the native place of accursed fire-worshippers.— There they dwelt, day and night, The thread-wearing idolaters.— It had always remained a place for idols and idol-worshippers, It had received no injury whatsoever from any quarter. It was a populous place, well-known in the world, This native place of the accursed infidels. Its foundations were laid firmly in stone, It was decorated with designs as if drawn from high heaven. It had doors made of sandal and ud.— It was studded with rings of gold, Its floors were laid with marble, Which shone like mirrors. Ud was burnt in it like fuel, Candles of camphor in large numbers were lighted in it. It had arches in every comer, And every arch had golden chandeliers hanging in it. There were idols of silver set up inside, Which put to shame the idols of China and Khotan. Such was this famous ancient temple, It was famous all over the world. By the effort of Ahmad, it was freed from the idols, The hearts of idol-worshippers were shattered with grief. He got mosques constructed, and mimbars placed in them, From where the Law of Muhammad came into force. In place of idols, idol-makers and idol-worshippers, Imams and callers to prayers and khatibs were appointed. Ahmads good grace rendered such help, That an idol-house became an abode of Allah. When the Sultan was free from Saiyidpur, he marched on Dhar in AH 819 (AD 1416-17).
One has to understand that for a Hindu, what Islamic invaders did to their temples and their idols is no different from what Armin Navani or any of the other ex-Muslim Atheists did to the image of Maa Kali. In both cases, the iconoclasm was exactly the same. In both cases, the followers of Abrahamic religion (yes, Atheist is also an Abrahamic, Monotheistic religion, which I will explain later in the article), desecrated the idol that they sacred. An idol and a faith that did absolutely nothing to deserve the kind of humiliation that it received except the fact that it chose to exist and fought, fiercely, the attempts to convert.
The urge to desecrate Hindu idols comes from the basic contradiction between Hinduism and other monotheistic religions. The icons of Hinduism are expressionist while the monotheistic religions are mostly suppressionist. While Islam and Christianity are political ideologies, Hinduism is that which depends on its adherent’s experience and spirituality. While all you need to understand and even criticise Islam and Christianity is a study of their text, what you need to criticise Hinduism is experiencing and ultimately, working up to understanding its scriptures.
While Christianity and Islam focus on a binary value system, Hinduism has multitudes of value systems that can even be at odds with each other. That Islam and Christianity both function on the basic premise that any human emotion is to be suppressed, Hinduism believes that it is to be celebrated and expressed, and it is this expressionism and the lack of binary value systems that Abrahamics find so difficult to rationalise.
The binary model simply does not work with Hinduism and thus, the frustrations of a suppressive culture is often expressed by desecrating symbols of an expressionist, spiritual religion.
Essentially, when Hindus say that Abrahamics do not understand Hinduism enough to criticise it, they mean that until they have gone through the experience of being Hindu, there is no text that they can read and claim proficiency in the religion, unlike Islam and Christianity. To top it all, other than the painful ignorance of Hinduism itself, the Atheists and anti-theists who have denounced Islam do not understand the cultural context of the Hindu communities struggle with Iconoclasm and thus, have not the faintest idea of the scars that have been inflicted time and again.
For a Hindu, an Atheist is only deepening the scars left by the religion they claim to have denounced. For a Hindu, what the Atheist does is no different from what the adherents of Islam did to his idols and temples. And this cultural context cannot be ignored simply by repeating the “all religions are equal” trope, because they are certainly not.
Why Hindus endorse desecration of Islam but not of Hinduism 20-year-old Yazidi girl Israa, who had been rescued from ISIS, burnt her hijab as she was surrounded by the Kurdish forces in 2019. The image, that powerful image, became one of the symbols of resistance against the Islamic forces.
Israa is helped by female Kurdish fighters after being released from IS fighters (Image source: metro.uk) In her interview, she had said that she felt suffocated the first time she was asked to wear it and she wished she could burn the ISIS terrorists just like she burnt her hijab.
Why did Israa feel suffocated with the Hijab and why was burning that Hijab such a powerful sentiment for her? For that matter, why is burning the image of Adolf Hitler such a powerful image for Jews? Why does a Yazidi celebrate when symbols of her oppression are destroyed?
Because the hijab symbolises and is a manifestation of her oppression. Her scars. It symbolises the very people who took away her dignity, her faith, her family, her community, her temple, her everything. It is a symbol of those who pushed her and her family to darkness. It is a symbol of those who she wishes to destroy, not because she hates Muslims, but because the staunchest followers of Islam destroyed her life and desecrated on everything she and her ancestors held dear.
Given the history of Hindus and their subjugation by Islamists, the sentiment mirrors that of Yazidis. When symbols of oppression are destroyed, Hindus are bound to support that as an act of defiance. It becomes even more pronounced when that destruction of oppressive symbols comes from those who claim to have left the faith of Islam.
It is essentially seen as a validation of vindication of their pain. The reason why Armin got support and coverage when he desecrated the Quran is for the very reason that a Yazidi woman would burn her Hijab or be jubilant when someone else does. It was a destruction of the symbol of centuries of oppression. It was an act of defiance, the same defiance felt by Hindus. It validated the angst felt by Hindus.
Now, imagine claiming that the destruction of the Hijab by a Yazidi is the same as the destruction of the symbols of Yazidism. While Islamists consider Yazidis as devil worshippers, would it be fair to assume if a Yazidi is happy about the destruction of the Quran or even that of the Hijab, she has to mandatorily be accepting of the destruction of her faith when has done nothing to receive that ire?
This analogy is exactly what is needed to understand why Hindus supported the desecration of the Quran by Armin and not the desecration of Maa Kali. Hindus saw their vindication in an ex-Muslim recognising that Islam is a religion that has the potential to subjugate non-believers because that premise has been responsible for their own humiliation for centuries.
On top of that, it helped them reinforce that what the Left has been telling them to almost gaslight them, about Islam being a religion of peace is not true – and this came not just from Hindus, who were the victims, but also people who used to be Muslims and have since left the faith.
Then came the inexplicable desecration of Maa Kali and it jolted Hindus from their stupor. They wondered why an Atheist ex-Muslim would desecrate their faith when they had done nothing to deserve that ire. Armin tore the Quran because his experiences taught him that he did not want to endorse the ideology in the Book. What was his experience with Hinduism that drove him to desecrate Hinduism? Nothing except the notion that all religions are equal.
Hindus would endorse the desecration of the faith that subjugated them and reject the desecration of their own faith that has been subjugated by the oppressor.
Interestingly, Atheists seem to not have the bandwidth to grasp the fact that by desecrating Hinduism, they have only cut the branch that they were sitting on.
Their aim in desecrating Islam was that its tenets are inconsistent with the modern age values that the world espouses. However, one of the tenets is to slay polytheistic religions and as a result of that, idols are desecrated. Essentially, the Atheists ex-Muslims seem to have done exactly what their erstwhile religion ordained them to do, it was only cloaked with Atheism and not Islamism.
The ire of Hindus was expected, and necessary because for far too long, their faith has been desecrated for no fault of theirs, simply because the Abrahamics cannot accept polytheistic faiths. Saying ‘enough is enough’ is important.
The shaming of Hindus when they voiced their disgust We have already established why Hindus were disgusted and outraged at the conduct of Atheists against Hinduism and the depiction of Maa Kali, however, what was more unpalatable is the response of the Atheists, ex-Muslims and Hindus to that outage. Outright, Hindus were labelled “just as bad as Jihadis” for protesting against the blatant disrespect for their faith, for no good reason.
What is essentially wrong with this assertion is that first, the ex-Muslim atheists and Liberal Hindus were trying, rather hard, to draw a false equivalence between Hindus and Muslims. That is almost the same as drawing an equivalence between Jews and Nazis when a Jew criticises the desecration of its faith by ex-Nazis. Or saying that a Yazidi is “as bad” as an ISIS terrorist because they differentiate between the burning of the Hijab and the ruination of her faith by the very people who enslaved her.
What the Atheists and Liberal Hindus essentially wanted was to submit to the whims of those who clearly have no idea of the cultural context of Hindus or worse, know and don’t care. Personally, I believe it is the second because I have seen several videos where these ex-Muslims discuss Hinduism and I find it hard to believe that they would have no idea of the cultural context.
Essentially, the Atheists ex-Muslims and Liberal Hindus wanted Hindus to submit to the desecration of their faith, quietly, demurely, or they threatened to label them just as bad the very people who raped, subjugated, murdered and forcefully converted them to Islam. The manipulation in this tactic is staggering.
Essentially, this is akin to telling a victim that she must not voice her opposition to what the perpetrator did against her or she will become just as bad as the perpetrator himself and because the victim harbours such visceral hate for everything that her perpetrator stands for, she would somehow be brainwashed and gaslighted into silence.
The debauchery of this argument was further exposed when some of the Hindus started telling their fellow Hindus that Hinduism is a tolerant religion and hence, any and all desecration must not be responded to aggressively. What they wanted to tell Hindus is that they should accept the desecration of their faith to display how tolerant they and that if they don’t, even their words of protest would be right compared to those who were murdering and burning down entire cities because they were offended.
Perhaps the overtly erudite Ex-Muslims and Hindu Atheists and liberal Hindus need to pay attention and read Karl Popper. He says:
“Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.—In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant“.
Popper’s Paradox of Tolerance is an apt description of what Abrahamics and Liberal Hindus want pious Hindus to follow. Essentially, these elements want Hindus to be tolerant to a level where the intolerant reign over the tolerant and the tolerant espoused by Hindus dies along with them. Certainly, one can see how that is a principle that has never been one that can be followed without the complete annihilation of the community that wishes to be tolerant to the level of their own destruction.
It is essential to understand here that Islam took over 500 years to find footing in India because of the deep faith that Hindus held. Despite the barbarity heaped upon them, they refused to submit to the rule of Islam and held on to their faith despite all odds. When the Liberal Hindu and ex-Muslim Atheists want Hindus to inexplicably let go of that faith in the name of tolerance, what they do is create a situation where they leave the faith open to the onslaught of Abrahamics – the intolerant.
Does the last standing major pagan religion in the world deserve to be annihilated on the basis of hollow principles like tolerance? This is a question that Hindus need to ask themselves without consideration for what Abrahamics believe they should do. But under no circumstances should Hindus be played by moral pleas of tolerance and in no manner, should they be manipulated to believe that their words can be deemed just as violent as rampaging mobs burning the world down.
Freedom of Speech – The hypocrisy of it all Neo-Atheism and especially, those by Ex-Muslims and Ex-Christians are essentially based on two concepts that they consider the axiomatic truths – Universal value system and binary value system, as discussed before, that draws heavily from the Enlightenment philosophy. Essentially, this means that Atheists believe that there are certain universal value systems that are to be accepted without any question. Individual rights, the dominance of man over nature, freedom of expression, overt reliance on logic and essentially, rejecting everything that is not “real”. The binary logic sees everything in black and white and is a concept of absolutism.
Essentially, Atheism gives no room for any deviation from what it believes to be the ultimate truth and/or the ultimate value that is to be espoused. When ex-Muslims criticise Islam for its dogmatic practises, they must essentially declare that all religions are to be treated the exact same way since their binary logic does not allow them to understand a construct where a religion like Hinduism can have multitudes of value systems.
When they talk about freedom of expression, they must be absolutists because any limitation means that they are being thoroughly non-binary. For Atheists, they must desecrate Hinduism if they desecrate Islam because since one religion is problematic, all religions must be equally problematic. If one religion has Jihadis who burn the world down, the other must also have the same kind of adherents even though there is no empirical evidence to prove the hypothesis.
The beliefs of Liberalism and Atheism come from the enlightenment age which had no scope for the understanding of Hinduism since it was aimed at overthrowing the dogmatic Church. Thus, Hinduism and its criticism thereof simply remains a product of the Abrahamic lens that is donned by Liberals and Atheists without really the consideration that none of these principles applies in totality to Sanatan Dharma.
In that sense of absolutism, freedom of speech and expression is also meant to be absolute according to most liberals and atheists, however, just as any absolute ideology, this too suffers from its inherent hypocrisies.
Every culture has its natural limits to freedom of expression that draws from the cultural context of that particular society. For example, one would not go to Israel and name their child Adolf Hitler because there is a contextual limit to FoE that comes into play. Similarly, one would not use the “N-word” in the USA because attached to it are tales of suppression and one has to give due importance to the cultural and societal context before being an absolutist as far as FoE is concerned.
This was proved remarkably well when in a podcast by Kushal Mehra, who calls himself a Hindu Atheist, three ex-Muslims refused to use the “N-word” even when the subject came up. The ex-Muslims on that podcast included Harris Sultan who is now equating Hindus to Jihadis because they would not roll over and accept the desecration of their harmless faith.
If Harris Sultan was indeed an absolutist when it came to freedom of speech, he should have ideally had no problem with using the N-word rather openly. He did not because Sultan seems to be more clued in and respectful of the cultural context of the country he lives in and more importantly, the culture he has adopted as his own.
Extending the same rationale, one has to question the Atheists that if they would not demand absolute FoE to use the “N-word” because of the history of subjugation attached to that word or would not expect a Jew to ‘tolerate’ anyone ‘hailing Hitler’, why would they then expect unbridled and unrestricted freedom of expression when talking about Hinduism?
If these ex-Muslims would not call Jews ‘just as bad as the Nazis’ for voicing their exception to their faith being desecrated in the same manner as Hitler did, why would they say that Hindus are as bad as the Jihadis when Hindus were voicing their exception to their faith being desecrated in the exact same manner as the Jihadis did?
To take this a step further, their wails of ‘freedom of expression’ became a loud shriek and words such as ‘Mujahindus’, drawing an equivalence with Mujahideen, were thrown about. Atheists posture as the arbiters of morality but here they are, conflating people trolling a person on social media with cast distance between them with actual terrorists. Speech is now violence we are to believe. And such people pretend to be FoE absolutists.
Abhijit Iyer Mitra calls Hindus opposing the sexualising of Maa Kali ‘Mujahindus’. The amusing aspect of this is the fact that Abhijit Iyer-Mitra himself does not hesitate to abuse the parents of individuals he disagrees with. Coming from him, it is especially difficult to accept such an argument. The other argument, presented by Kushal Mehra is that people in India do not understand how neo-atheists in the West operate.
I humbly disagree with that assertion. We understand perfectly how neo-atheists operate in the West. Neo-atheists in western countries are overwhelmingly oriented towards the Left and suffer from delusions of their own. In the current context, just because they get a kick out of abusing our Gods, it does not mean that a deliberate provocation ought to go unchallenged.
There also seems to be an insinuation that Hindus ought to be fearful of the mockery neo-atheists are capable of. With due regards, there is absolutely no reason for us to be fearful of them. Instead, they are the ones who ought to be careful with regards to the manner in which they use their speech. One does not know when cancel culture strikes them down. Also, Abhijit Iyer-Mitra and Kushal Mehra are good friends of mine but I am extremely disappointed with their ideological stance on the current debate revolving around atheism and freedom of expression.
The hypocrisy of Harris Sultan is particularly astounding. He was recently threatened by a Muslim for his criticism of Islam. The offended Muslim had actually threatened to hurt Sultan’s family and had made it clear that he was aware of the atheist’s address. Hindus have done no such thing. Harris Sultan has personal knowledge of the fact that Hindus and radical Muslims are not the same. Even so, even he peddles the delusion of equivalence between the two.
Why it is perfectly okay for Hindus to endorse desecration of Quran and oppose abuse of Hindu Gods At the very outset, it ought to be mentioned that the foremost loyalties of Hindus ought to lie with their Gods and Goddesses and not to concepts such as freedom of expression and other such things. It is perfectly permissible, even rational, for Hindus to not tolerate the abuse of the Devis and Devtas. There is no decree that FoE ought to be the foremost priority of Hindus.
Atheists might value FoE above all else, and we have already established that they are not the FoE absolutists they pretend to be, but Hindus are under no compulsion to prioritise FoE over their Gods and Goddesses. It is also perfectly rational for people to have one set of rules for the out-group and completely different for the in-group, there is nothing wrong with that.
Atheists do not have the authority to decide what is permissible and what is not. For them, insulting someone’s mother is crossing the line. We share the same sentiment. The only problem here is that we consider our Goddesses to be our mothers as well. Therefore, their insult towards our Goddesses invokes the same emotions in us that an insult to their mother evokes in them. They have no business dictating the relationship we share with our Gods and Goddesses.
It also ought to be mentioned that neo-atheism is intrinsically Abrahamic in its approach. It arises out of the enlightenment worldview that was ingrained in Abrahamic philosophy. It is no surprise then that modern atheism has a distinctly protestant approach to it. Furthermore, it also ought to be mentioned that the fervour with which modern atheists approach politics is the same as a devotee approaches religion.
Neo-atheists have merely substituted religion with the political ideology of their choice. Instead of proselytising on behalf of a religion, they proselytise to convert their people into their favoured political ideology. Instead of Gods and Goddesses, they want people to believe in absolute FoE, the rules of which they wish to dictate as the evidence clearly by the current saga, and the precepts of liberalism** ... continued in comments**
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