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Episode Eighty Seven

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Monstrous Agonies E87S03 Transcript

H.R. Owen

Hello friends, Hero here. It's time again for me to take a week off from Monstrous Agonies to concentrate on important Hero business, like watching TV with my eyes closed and taking improbably long bubble baths. That means no episode next week, Thursday February 16th, but we'll be back as usual on Thursday February 23rd. In the meantime, have a lovely week, look after yourselves, and enjoy the episode.

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Eighty Seven.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through pop music, a voice saying “-the queen of the night-”, a voice saying “-he shouldnae a been driving-”, a voice saying “-sure I sold it-” and unintelligible, overlapping speech before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-slotting neatly into the gap of sky between two snow-topped mountains.

You're listening to the UK's only dedicated radio service for the creature community. Time now for our advice segment, where I answer your questions on liminal living. Up first tonight, a listener trying to navigate tricky traditions.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

Before I start, I just want to draw a line, OK? I'm not here to discuss the ethics or morality of my people's traditions. There's a time and a place for that kind of conversation, but it's with people who are actually, you know. From our culture. Not just any old stranger who feels like they want to weigh in. I know that sounds a bit pre-emptive but I-I just want to be clear.

I was raised really traditionally, actually a lot more traditionally than my cousins whose parents stayed in Ireland. I think it was a way for my dad to feel connected to his heritage while he living away. And it-it helped me, too. We moved around a lot, and it was nice to feel like I was part of the community, even if there wasn't anyone from our genus living nearby.

And as an adult I still love those traditions. I love the food, and the music, and the clothes – even though everyone thinks I'm some kind of cosplayer or historical re-enactor! [laughs]

And I love the travelling. There's always new places to go, new things to see. New people to meet. Which is kind of it, right? People.

My dad had a thrall in every town. He'd rock up somewhere, find the prettiest girl in a five mile radius, and that was that. They'd have a few weeks together, maybe a month or two. And then we'd be off again, leaving her pining for her lost love for the rest of her life.

That's not me bigging my dad up, by the way. That's what we do. One touch, and you're ours, forever. You'll spend your whole life yearning for that charming stranger who stole your heart away. Like I said, I'm not here to talk ethics.

But when I imagine my perfect life, I don't see what my dad had. I see people – people who love me – but it's something... steady. Something stable. Something like... like... home.

I was born on the road, and I'll die on the road. Travelling... It's not just in my blood, it's in my nature. And I know myself well enough to know that I... get bored. I get so bored, stuck in the same place with the same people all the time, I- I can't do it! I, I just can't.

Even if I found someone, or some people, I wanted to be with, I don't want to rule out the possibility of, you know. Meeting someone different. Is there any way I can avoid dying of boredom [laughs] and also look after the people who love me? Or am I just going to have to accept that I'm going to leave a trail of broken hearts behind me, just like my dad.

The Presenter (as themselves)

I don't want to dismiss your emotional struggle here, listener. It's clearly an important issue for you and I want to take it seriously, as it deserves. But I can't help feeling you're getting rather tangled up in something that actually has a very simple answer.

Long-time listeners may even be able to guess at what that answer is. It is, after all, at the heart of a great deal of the advice I give on this programme. Listener, you need to communicate. It is as simple, and as difficult, as that.

More and more people are moving away from monogamy as their romantic default. I recommend you explore different models of polyamory, and consider what kind of situation most appeals to you. After all, you can't tell people what you want if you don't know.

For example, you might want to have a central person, or group of people, who make up the emotional core of your romantic world, with an agreement that, while you'll return to them regularly, you will also have more casual encounters while travelling.

Alternatively, you might prefer to have several committed relationships, scattered geographically, and move between them as you choose.

You haven't mentioned any biological imperative to enthral others. But physical touch is vitally important to many people's mental health, and while touch is not obligatory in developing intimate relationships, it certainly often helps.

I don't think it would be helpful or sustainable for you to swear off touching your prospective lovers until you're ready to commit to them for the rest of their lives.

Besides, people change. You may make that commitment only to grow apart over time, as any couple might. In that case, you need to understand that it is better for you to set the relationship down and move on rather than staying in a situation that is making everyone involved unhappy.

However, your nature does mean you need to take extra caution in order to conduct these relationships responsibly. Before enthralling someone, you need to be absolutely clear about the risks involved, so that they can make a fully informed decision about what it is they're consenting to.

You also need to ensure they have a solid support network to take care of them while you're away – or if the relationship breaks down.

Loving you is dangerous. Loving anyone is dangerous. You're no worse than anyone else just because your risks are a little more tangible. But you do owe it to the people you get involved with to make sure they know what those tangible risks are, and to do what you can to mitigate them.

Take the time to discern exactly what it is you want. Communicate that desire clearly, and be honest about what you can offer and what you can't. From there, you can build relationships grounded on mutual respect and responsibility – as all good relationships should be.

[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]

The Presenter

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[End background music]

The Presenter

Our second letter tonight is from a listener under pressure about their appearance.

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

I've never been as loosey-goosey with my presentation as some people in my genus. We're somatically non-stable, and while we're not absolute generalists, we've got a pretty broad range of options when it comes to shifting. Organic, inorganic, animate, inanimate – it's all fair game.

The only things we can't really manage are sort of, um. I don't really know what to call them. Sort of, not really quite there sort of things, like vapours and Thursday and sunshine, things like that.

But what people don't seem to understand is that, just because you can look like a, I don't know, a giant weasel or a vacuum cleaner or something, doesn't mean you necessarily want to.

It can be terribly uncomfortable to be in the wrong sort of shape for how you're feeling. If I wake up in the morning and I'm in a pincers-and-chitin sort of mood, it's going to feel absolutely rotten to spend my day wearing arms and legs and body hair.

But try telling that to my manager. She's insisting that I take a form she considers [mocking voice] “professional” when I'm working in the office, and has even started making noises about me changing my shape for video calls if I'm working from home!

She's sapio, and I'll give you three guesses what she considers to be a [mocking voice] “professional” number of limbs. It's a very sapio-dominated workplace, actually, even though the company we're part of claims to be so-o-o creature-friendly. [sarcastic laugh]

But technically, there's no reason I can't look the way she wants me to. It's not a form I'm opposed to in itself, though it is rather lacking in pizazz. But that's not the problem, the problem is-! [breaks off, upset]

Well the problem is, it's actually dreadfully uncomfortable to spend the whole day looking in the mirror and seeing something that- that- [beat] Well just not you! [huffs] Do I have a leg to stand on here? Or, preferably several?

The Presenter (as themselves)

My dear listener, you have as many legs to stand on as you could possibly desire. Your manager is not just out of line – she's quite staggeringly in the wrong, very possibly to an actionable degree.

An employer can dictate a dress code to its employees, setting expectations around standards of professionalism as well as accounting for health and safety on the job. But your body is not an outfit to be altered for the whims of a small-minded sapio bigot!

Somatic instability is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act. As such, this behaviour isn't just morally repugnant – it's illegal, and you don't have to put up with it.

As a first step, I recommend talking to your manager directly, if you feel able. If that doesn't feel possible, talk to your HR department – or better yet, your union rep – to get support to solve the matter informally.

Hopefully, that will be the end of it. But if she persists, you can always escalate. Again, your trade union representative will be able to help, or you can speak to Citizen's Advice for further guidance.

Above all, I want you to understand that you don't owe it to anyone to change your presentation to make them more comfortable. You aren't rocking the boat or making a fuss over nothing – and if anyone tries to suggest you are, you have the full weight of the law to back you up.

[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]

The Presenter (as Previous Letter Writer)

-not like anyone will notice. It's not like [static] will suddenly disappear and leave a big hole where it ought to be. It just won't ever have been. We'll just be living in a universe where [static] never existed to begin with.

But [sighs] like I said, I'm not good at that big picture stuff. It feels like there should be a catch somewhe-

[The voice cuts off abruptly]

The Presenter

Wh- What the hell was that? Uh,my apologies, listeners, I-I seem to have clicked the wrong, uh... [typing noises] Wha-? How-? [beat, then sighs] Oh. [calling] Mab! Come here!

[The studio door opens and closes]


I thought I wasn't allowed in when you're broadcasting.

The Presenter

You're not. Which, given that I am very rarely not broadcasting, begs the question – when did you get the chance to sneak in here and start listening to old recordings?


Oh you wound me! You can't possibly mean to suggest I did anything so untoward as-

The Presenter

It was in the Recently Played tab. The one I select my jingles from.


[gasps] No! Not your jingles!

The Presenter



Oh, very well. It was a few weeks ago, when you nipped out for your bicentennial loo break. I wanted to see if there was anything I could get from the recording. I've done what I can with the letter itself – took me long enough to find it, by the way, navigating the archives in this place is an absolute nightmare and your blasted handwriting doesn't make things any easier...

The Presenter

Why were you down there to begin with? What could you possibly want with an old letter?


Well it's not, is it? Any old letter, I mean. It's the first time we got a mention of You-Know-Who.

The Presenter

[with vitriol] Lizo Mzimba...


No! Honestly, darling, I really don't understand this feud between the two of you – he is a perfectly nice boy...

The Presenter

[darkly] He knows what he did.


Oh, whatever! I mean the CEO. Ever since that irritating Antipodean dropped in for a visit last year, I've been wondering about them. You said they wiped something out of the universe to make this mystery man immortal – only you don't know what it was because every time you got to that part of the letter, it was replaced with static.

The Presenter

Reading it, it-it was like... Like the concept just didn't exist any more...


All terribly dramatic, I'm sure. But this is the thing. I know bargaining magic. There's nobody on this plane or any other who knows bargaining magic like I do. I’ve been making deals since before any of these little posers picked up Baby’s First Spellbook. So when I say something isn’t quite right about this supposed deal that’s been struck, what I actually mean is something is tremendously wrong. [beat] I didn't mean for you to find out. You get so grumpy when you're worried.

The Presenter

Of course I'm worried! They threatened you, and Station, and the Network-


And you? How far down the list do we go before your name gets a mention?

The Presenter

We haven't heard from them for months. Their letters can't get through your wards – for all we know, they've chalked the whole thing up to a bad job and are concentrating on “growing the Apocacorp family” in some other direction, not ours.


And that's good enough for you, is it?

The Presenter

It has to be. [beat] Don't touch my computer again.


Oh, am I dismissed?

The Presenter

My apologies for the interruption, listeners. [in the background, Mab tuts and sighs, and leaves, letting the door slam behind her] Up next on the Nightfolk Network, we're talking tech. Accessibility is the watch word for creature-friendly tech, and with developments like slime-resistant keyboards, shriek-recognition and non-corporeal gesture tracking...

[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through rock music, a voice saying “-dance with me-”, Irish trad music, and a voice saying “-you have to be of an age-” before fading out.

Title music: slow, bluesy jazz. It plays throughout the closing credits.]

H.R. Owen

Episode Eighty Seven of Monstrous Agonies was written by H.R. Owen and performed by H.R. Owen and Elizabeth Plant.

Tonight's first letter was submitted by Ruben, the second letter was from Stance, and this week's advert came from loudandqueer. Thanks, friends.

Hello and welcome to our latest supporter on Patreon, Sue! Join them at, or make a one-off donation at You can also help us grow our audience by sharing with your friends and familiars, and following us on Tumblr, @MonstrousAgonies, and on Twitter, @Monstrous_Pod.

This podcast is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. The theme tune is Dakota by Unheard Music Concepts.

Thanks for listening, and remember - the real monsters are the friends we made on the way.

[Fade to silence]


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