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Episode Ninety One

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Monstrous Agonies E91S03 Transcript

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Ninety One.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through pop music, a voice saying “-sorry?-”, a voice saying “-we're just not getting paid enough-” and a voice saying “-what God is saying to us-” before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-a sky the colour of grief and gratitude.

Up next on the Nightfolk Network, it's time for our advice segment where I answer listeners' questions on liminal living.

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

The Presenter

131.3FM – community owned, community run.

[End of background music]

The Presenter

First tonight, a listener wishing to share their expertise.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

I have been accused – both in the way of good-natured teasing from my friends and some rather less good-natured accusations made by those who love me less – of having a tendency towards arrogance.

How true those accusations are, I shall leave to your own perspicacity. All I shall say in my defence is that I am not sure it is, in fact, arrogance when one really is more knowledgable than others about the matter at hand.

I hail from a genus that enjoys advanced longevity, and over the long years of my life I have come to develop a profound appreciation for, and subsequently profound knowledge of, all matters relating to apparel, particularly garments worn before the advent of large scale manufacturing.

For many people, the primary concern around advanced longevity is the fear of losing loved ones. And certainly I have been obliged to say farewell to any number of friends and lovers over the years. I'm certainly not dismissing that concern.

Yet I cannot help but feel the loss of my favourite garments quite as keenly – if not more so, in some cases. I still dream of an exquisite silk brocade doublet I once owned, [sighing] oh the colours...!

The reality is, people are an infinitely renewable resource. There's new people popping up all over the place. I met someone new just last week – barely three days old, bless him! [laughs]

But in the meantime, silk brocade doublets in that particular shade of green that so perfectly accentuates the colour of my eyes grow increasingly rare as the years go on, especially as the techniques and skills needed to create such garments are lost to us, crushed beneath the twin boots of progress and profit.

With this in mind, I'm sure you can imagine my consternation when I see people mistreating their garments – especially when those garments are vintage or, heaven forbid, genuine antiques.

These people get the idea that they might like to dabble in the world of historical fashion, only to throw their delicate gowns into the washing machine, or inflict their misguided attempts at repair on some poor garment desperately in need of some properly educated TLC.

Perhaps I am conceited. Perhaps I ought to leave these people to their mistakes and let them treat these items in whatever disastrous manner they desire. But I don't want to!

I have the knowledge and the skill to be able to help these people. I've forgotten more about garment care and construction than these people could learn in their entire measly lifetime. How can I get my message out there – and how can I make people listen to it?

The Presenter (as themselves)

To your first question, listener, about how to share your knowledge, any number of suggestions spring to mind. It really depends on what kind of audience you hope to reach, and what other skills you have that might be brought to bear.

Writing a book about your experiences would be the obvious answer, but that does not mean it is the easiest.

Quite apart from needing exemplary written communication skills, it will also require a good deal of planning and organisation, as well as the motivation to keep working at a project long-term.

You will also have to do your own research on the vagaries of non-fiction publishing to discern whether it's an appropriate choice for you.

On the other hand, if you are seeking the widest possible audience, you might consider taking to the Internet.

I am not really the person to consult when it comes to the idiosyncrasies of social media – despite our station manager's efforts to educate me on the subject. But its use as a tool for connecting people with similar interests can hardly be doubted.

I don't know if there is much of a community online for people interested in historical clothing and sewing techniques. It seems a rather niche topic to me. But it's certainly worth exploring and seeing if there's a particular platform or style of content that appeals to you – a video blog, perhaps or a... a... words... b-blog... Um. [clears throat]

To your second question, I have a rather more concise answer. How can you make people listen to you? You can't. Trust me, there is no amount of good advice you can put into the world in any format that will stop people behaving badly – or making honest mistakes.

I'm afraid all you can do on that front is reframe your expectations, and learn how to take a step back from the issue when it becomes too infuriating. Furthermore, you may well find your audience is more receptive to encouragement than rebuke.

[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 asks how to handle an uncomfortable truth.

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

Do you know what I like about you? You understand the need for all sorts of people in the world. Open-minded, I like that! You wouldn't jump down a fella's throat just for living up to his nature, would you? Would you?

Because it is my nature. Folk like me, we don't have personalities. We have themes, spheres of influence, associated concepts. [laughs] We have roles in this great story, and we cannot escape them any more than you can escape yours.

Every story has its heroes and its villains, its lovers and its mothers, its teachers and its priests. A story needs its rulers, and it needs its rebels.

At the core of my being, before anything else, I am a boundary-crosser, a rules-breaker, a usurper and a disruptor and an invoker of chaos. I bring low the lofty, raise up the wretched, and turn the world all topsy turvy!

And I speak the truth. Not always... [laughs] Not as a matter of course, in fact – I far prefer to twist my words round and round until they lead you all a merry dance! [laughs] But if chaos is one realm of mine, my other crown is witness. Truth-speaker, unbound by the laws of [mocking] polite society.

Also being really good at sex. You should definitely tell everybody that really, really clearly – I am, above all, the embodiment of Being Really Good at Sex. And having really great hair. Obviously. [laughs]

With all this in mind, I don't see that anyone can really hold me to blame for the current situation. I was just doing what I'm made to do. I'll skip the details. It has been a rather convoluted affair. Suffice to say, it started with a rich man who wanted taking down a peg or two.

It ended with three divorces, a pregnant goat, the miraculous discovery of a long-lost painting by Artemisia Gentileschi, and the unfortunate but, I maintain, unavoidable destruction of a rather large chunk of Salisbury. All in good fun, right? Right.

E-e-e-except. [sighs] Someone got caught in the fray. Not unusual, that's what fray's do, isn't it – catch people! [laughs] But this person... got something they didn't... [sighs] deserve.

Usually I don't concern myself with “deserves”. I'm not justice. I'm morally ambiguous! But I am supposed to disrupt the social order and in this particular case I... don't think I did. [sighs]

They were already hurting and all I did was hurt them some more. I don't see what's so transgressive about that. I don't see that that's any different than what happens every single day.

I've never regretted anything I've done before and honestly, I'm not sure I regret doing it now – it was brilliant fun! [laughs] But I am witness. And I must bear witness. I cannot help but see that this was... [sighs] not correct.

I speak truth to power, and I am the power here. So what do I do with this truth?

The Presenter (as themselves)

I'm not sure how useful an answer I can give you, listener. If you were sorry for your actions, I might suggest apologising to the person you hurt. But I am unable to lend countenance to false apologies, or those borne of a desire to comfort the offender rather than the offended.

You are not sorry for your actions. You are not even sorry for the hurt those actions caused. The matter, as you see it, isn't that somebody suffered as a result of your behaviour. It's that the suffering you caused was not sufficiently distinct from the suffering they might experience as matter of course.

I don't think you can apologise because I don't think you're capable of taking responsibility for yourself. I don't say that to shame you – you are a creature of concept, beholden to quite different laws and expectations.

Indeed, that is one of your primary functions – to operate outside the bounds of social norms. In order to reconcile yourself with this mistake, I think you need to return to the concepts that govern you – to your ultimate role in the story of the world.

You do not disrupt for disruption's sake. You do so to shake people out of their complacency.

In your chaotic aspect, you force people to question why the world is as it is and whether it might be possible to be otherwise. Meanwhile, in your witness aspect, you force people to see what it is more comfortable for them to ignore, and ask questions that challenge their assumptions about the world simply by being asked.

So, then: what questions does your current witness ask of you? What assumptions of yours does it challenge? Are you as morally ambiguous as you think, or is there perhaps room for a little justice in your sense of self?

I can't answer these for you, listener. This is a matter for personal reflection and self-exploration. And I make no promise it won't be a rather uncomfortable process. But you of all people should know that sometimes a little discomfort is exactly what we need.

Next, we're talking invocation and evocation. While good etiquette holds that it is never the polite thing to do to summon a creature into your presence without prior agreement, sometimes it is necessary. In that case, how does one maintain a level of respect...

[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through pop music, a voice saying “-though they had seen what I did-”, classical music and a voice saying “-the barons and free-holders-” before fading out.

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

H.R. Owen

Episode Ninety One of Monstrous Agonies was written and performed by H.R. Owen.

Tonight's first letter was submitted by Soapdaboop, the second letter was from an anonymous submission, and this week's advert came from That One Queer Kid Hiding In Your Closet. Thanks, friends.

Hello and welcome to our latest supporter on Patreon, Rage McMuffin! 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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