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  • Writer's pictureH.R. Owen

Episode One Hundred and Eleven

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Please note, there is also a translation of the second letter in this episode available here.


Monstrous Agonies E111S03 Transcript


H.R. Owen

Hello, friends, Hero here – at the end of Season Three and the end of Monstrous Agonies. I am resisting the urge to get mushy and sentimental, not least because this episode is quite long enough already.


Instead, here’s a quick run-down of the upcoming schedule. I’ll be putting up the blooper reel next week, on the 14th, and the Q&A will air the week after, on the 21st. Depending on how many questions we get, that will likely be in two parts with the second half going up on Thursday 28th.


So be sure to get your questions in! You can get in touch by email, through the website or via social media – check the show-notes for more information. I’ll be recording with Sophie B. and hopefully soon, so please try and get your questions in by this Saturday, September 9th.

I’ll be keeping the social media pages updated with information about future plans and projects, so keep an eye on those for any more news. And finally, thank you. All of you. I really couldn’t have done this without you. Have a good week, and enjoy the episode.

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]


H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode One Hundred and Eleven.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through a voice saying “-being in the garden-”, a voice saying “-a super attitude-”, pop music, garbled speech, more pop music and a voice saying “-isolated showers-”before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]


The Presenter

-not, in fact, a clan of dueling wizards, but a wealthy American family known for their roles in reality television. My apologies for the confusion.

It’s time now for our advice segment. Before I go on, this feels as good a time as any to thank everyone who has been in touch in the wake of the events that unfolded during last week’s segment.


The response has been wonderful. I’m particularly pleased to see how many of you have been inspired to begin the long, difficult process of disentangling your lives from the corporation in question. Even more encouraging are those letters which cite last week’s incident as motivation for getting stuck in with your local community.


There is no better inoculation against the kind of rhetoric spouted by our recent station guest. An hour spent actively building community or in sincere creative self-expression is worth weeks – years, even – of sitting perfecltly still, piously not buying all the right things.

Finally, I’m not sure if this is related to the events last week, but I seem to have three letters on my desk this evening rather than our more usual two. They all appear to be legitimate selections for the advice segment, picked out by Station and presumably meeting the usual standards.


Uh, Station, who is doing fine, by the way. I know some of you were asking after it. It hasn’t communicated quite so directly as last week, but the atmosphere in the studio feels… buoyant. The coffee’s certainly better than it was!


Anyway. There’s nothing for it, I suppose, but to crack on and see what Station has in store for us. Tonight’s first letter is from a listener feeling conflicted about a new pastime.


The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

You had a segment last year about roleplaying games in the community. Almost exactly a year ago, actually. It was great stuff, I’ve met loads of people since then who’ve got into gaming because of it.

The guy you talked to, Rowan, he’s a mate of mine, actually – we met at a SLARP weekend a few years ago. Proud to say I’ve set my ringtone to a clip of him saying, [in a Scottish accent] “Do I look like a dainty sexy lady to you?!” [laughs]

Anyway, when he was on he mentioned that some liminal roleplaying games can be a bit controversial and I wanted to pick your brains about that. I’ve been playing a few recently that have been getting people really het up.


I’m a werewolf, of the old school. Literally – my pack can trace its heritage back to the 4th century. If people think of the classic, traditional English werewolf, they’re probably thinking of us.


Not that we care much. We have new members joining all the time, from all sorts of backgrounds. I’m just saying it because, maybe it’s that arrogance of growing up in a tradition, but I’ve never felt I had to debate what was right and proper werewolf behaviour. I mean, I’m about as proper a werewolf as it’s possible to get! [laughs]

But lately, I’ve been getting stick – so to speak – for my interest in a certain type of roleplaying game. Specifically, obedience classes. Agility courses. That kind of thing. Think Crufts, but with much bigger tunnels.

You pair up with a handler to take part. I met mine online, a really sweet sapio lad called Simon. I really like him, which is important. Like any game, you want to be sure you’re playing with someone who’s trying to have the same kind of fun you are.


And yeah, most of the teams in these games tend to have a lycanthrope on the end of the lead. But that’s not a surprise, any more than its a surprise you don’t see many werewolves getting stuck in with strategy games. We’re just not built like that! We like to run around and do what feels good in the moment.


And maybe it was that arrogance again, but I’ve never had to consider whether I was behaving like a werewolf “should”. So I didn’t realise that by playing these games, I was stepping into a maelstrom of controversy.


Seems like everyone and their nan’s has an opinion. It’s debasing, it’s demeaning, it’s an insult to our traditions and our culture, it’s perpetuating harmful stereotypes, all that stuff.

I see where they’re coming from. I used to get dog biscuits put in my locker at school. Trust me, I know the stereotypes. But this isn’t something someone’s doing to me. I’m doing it because I like it.

And then you get the people who are up in arms because they think it’s a sex thing. Like you couldn’t possibly just want to run around for a bit, play fetch, jump through a hula hoop and get a scritch on the nose and a tummy rub for your troubles.


I mean, obviously, it can be a sex thing. Quite a fun sex thing, really. I like it when Simon says I’m a good boy. [laughs, then splutters] But that side of things is kept to specific games, and very clearly advertised as such!


I don’t want to let my community down. I don’t want to give bigots and lycanphobes fuel to attack us with. But I’m enjoying myself. It’s as simple as that, really. So. Am I being selfish? Should I just give it up, pack it in, and go back to pretending to be an accountant?

The Presenter (as themselves)

We often talk on this segment about responsibility, asking what, exactly, we owe to one another as members of various communities, whether that’s being of one genus, being night-folk, or simply being inhabitants of the same time and place.


The people who object to these kinds of roleplaying games clearly feel you and your fellow players are not living up to your responsibilities as werewolves, or even as people who share the world with werewolves.

But what are those responsibilities, exactly? And is it fair of these people to expect you to take them on?

There are always going to be people who look at you and only see your genus. They will interpret your actions as emblematic of the genus as a whole, foisting on you the responsibility for representing your genus at all times, and in all walks of your life.


But that isn’t your job. You don’t have to represent anyone except yourself, especially not during your personal leisure time.


It’s true that the association of werewolves and lycanthropes with domestic dogs has been used as a tool of violence and oppression. If Simon were to go about his daily life outside these games calling lycanthropes to heel or doling out unsolicited tummy rubs, that would obviously be appalling.

But he’s not. He’s playing a game, and you’re playing with him. Even when those games are sexual in nature, provided everyone taking part is fully informed and fully consenting, other people’s opinions are simply irrelevant.


Bigots don’t need us to give them fuel. They don’t hate us because of what we do. They hate us because of who we are. Even if we all behaved impeccably, and never rocked the boat or stepped out of line, they would hate us.


So you may as well be a good boy, and enjoy yourself.


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


The Presenter

Brought to you by HauntedSwords.com – firmly back under old management, and back to what we’re good at. HauntedSwords.com – they’re exactly what you think they are. Proud members of the Nightfolk Network.

[End background music]


The Presenter

Our second letter comes from a listener struggling to communicate.


The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

I was woken lateward of a slep I verraily supposed was my endly fine. I hedde dyed nat, as I had hoped, abedde, all apeace in grace and merci, but in a flusshing and a fray, quelled by sudden violence in my prime.


I yet recall the fight that did me. The gnasten teeth, the neves, the blous, the scorchen touch of blade upon my ribs- Then… nought. Not pece. Not even stillness. Nought at alle.


Until it com that things were other-what. I ken not how. I wakened, full much as sudden as I had seien aslepe. I cannot descrien what it was, to gan from nought, not mirk nor throsing but nought at alle, and then to waken to flare and flame. To unbe, and then a-sudden, be.


Would that I could explic this alteration. I ken not the causer nor the cause. Though I had no knouing of the cause of my fore-life neither. Perhaps it be not for the common man to thinken on suche thinges.


This world is micel unlike the world I have forleven. Mor quick, mor clamorous, mor overgorged with folk. The food, the clothes, even the weder is micclie mislikened. Yet al these thinges, I could take in stride. I never was a dullard, and it will take more than a Chillie Heatewave Dorito to yet unman me.


Save only that I cannot sprecen well. I speke and it is ununderstondabel. Wordes, her and yonder, find their way through the confucion, and I have ilerned cromes and floks enough that, with gestures and micel toleraunce, I can make myself comprehensibil.


Happili, I had ilerned to rede in my forelife, and the letters are not so unlike. I sound them out tentifully, and the meaning comes in drops and glenes. But it is overslou for conversation. I cannot sprecen with ani-bodi. I-I cannot maken of ani-bodi a frend.

And it is not only the wordes. I cannot not apprehend the social graces of this worlde. I was considered most manerlie in my time, and dalyid with the gentilest of folk. But my havour is all out of time. I am now straunge at best, and doun-right cherlous at the worst.


I have afounde some few compacient folk who will sit with pacience and redle on my speche. And per-hap this is unthankful. But not a one of those folk has made attendement to leornen my ways! My speche. That burden, heuy and chargeous as it is, they leave all to me.


I have never shied from labour. I am here, and I am trying. I am full fast oboutward that I shall nat be alone. I will lernen these manners and these wordes. But is some litel like attendement not owed to me?


I have this letter awryten not for your discrecion and wisdom only, but your grete age. You, I trust, will me understond. And your speche is slou and clere, I can more readily folow you.


So, I ask your counsel. Are there folk in this new place who will mete me where I am, itwix two worlds, and strecche oute their handes to reache me?


The Presenter (as themselves)

My dear listener. I assure you, the answer is yes. Yes, wholeheartedly, yes! There are people in this world who will reach out to you and put in the work you need to become real, trusted friends.


The National Liminal Advocacy Agency is a dedicated charity to help liminal people interact with the sapio world. They’ll be able to assist on the practical side of finding your feet here. Your local library will be able to help you get in touch with them.


The library will also be able to assist with the emotional side of things. Ask them for information about support groups for liminal folk in your area.


Unless you live somewhere very remote, the chances are good that there’ll be at least a few long-lived individuals who will find your manner of speech no more challenging than slipping into a language they’re a little rusty at.


You could also seek out the company of scholars and students interested in the time period you lived in. I’m sure they’d love to hear from you. Try searching the staff and PhD candidates of nearby universities, or attending historical re-enactment groups.

I am sorry that the burden of bridging this communication gap has fallen so squarely on your shoulders. The more people you meet, the more chance you have of finding those people willing to take on some of that burden.


Stick with it, and take care of yourself. You’re not asking too much simply to be accepted as you are.

Besides, if you do happen to spend your time with academics and historical re-enactors, I think you’ll soon find plenty of them struggle with social cues and communication, too.

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

The Presenter

You’re listening to the Nightfolk Network – the voice of liminal Britain.

[End of background music]


The Presenter

Well. Nothing out of the ordinary from either of those. So, we come to letter number three. This comes from a listener concerned about a coworker, I think? It’s a bit, uh, fuzzy. Um. Here goes!


The Presenter (as Third Letter Writer)

So, I have this... colleague. We’ve known each other since long before we shared a workplace, and our relationship has taken many forms over the years. We know each other very, very well.


But we haven’t always seen eye to eye. They can be stubborn, and rude, and they have an arrogant streak like you wouldn’t believe. They accuse me of egotism, as if they don’t have quite as high an opinion of themselves! [scoffs]

But this isn’t about that. Or, well, it is in a way, I suppose. You see, ever since we started working together, we’ve become... friends? Friendly. Friendlier, anyway. It’s been nice. It’s made me remember why we... Well. Why we used to be close.


For a long time, you see, we weren’t. We didn’t speak. And then we did and it did not go well. Things came to a head and it was rather unpleasant on all sides, though I’m sure I was only giving as good as I got. But I never stopped caring for them.

We were never nemeses, it was never as formal as that, but they were... They are my opposite number. Whatever that looks like, whatever that means. They balance me out. They... [trails off with a sigh]


And, at the time of writing, they are being the most insufferable, block-headed dolt! I joined their workplace as an extra pair of hands to help with a very specific and sustained issue that has only just been resolved.


In the time since the issue began, I have seen them work through illness, exhaustion and intolerable levels of stress, under threat for their safety and the safety of those around them, with such flagrant disregard for their own well-being that I am frankly astonished they haven’t keeled over live on air!

They have this absurd idea of themselves as the centre of this great web of connectivity, the conduit through which our community is built, quite disregarding the fact that a web functions because when one strand breaks – or, say, takes holiday – the others are there to take the strain.


How do I encourage them – kindly, gently, and with great care for their clearly delicate feelings – to get down off their high horse, admit they’re exhausted, and give themselves the care they deserve?

[There is a long pause. The Presenter tries to speak, but doesn’t know what to say. Quietly, the station door opens and closes.]

The Presenter

[sighs] You’re not supposed to be in here when I’m broadcasting.

Mab

I know. [pause] It’s a real letter. Station chose it for you to answer. You’re obliged to respond.

The Presenter

This isn’t fair.

Mab

[laughing] Darling, please. When have I ever played fair? Go on. Answer it. What would you say to this person?


The Presenter

[sighs. Then, reluctant] I’d say they were probably right. That their friend is… That they, probably- [clears throat] Perhaps… Might…

Mab

Answer it!


The Presenter

I’d tell them it sounds as if their friend has tangled their sense of self-worth up with their job, and they ought to take a step back and get some distance. I’d say that… That their friend is probably… [sighs] They’re tired. The last few years… But they’ve been difficult for everyone, that’s why this work is so important-


Mab

And only you can do it? [beat] Like I said, arrogant. What we’ve built here – not you, but we, all of us – it isn’t going to fall apart because you hand things over to your understudy and spend a month or two falling asleep in the sunshine and cuddling on the chaise longue.


The Presenter

I don’t have a chaise longue.


Mab

No. You don’t. And you can’t cuddle by yourself, either.

The Presenter

I… I don’t…


Mab

What would you tell your listeners, darling?


The Presenter

[like they’d rather chew glass] It is an act of kindness to let others take care of you.


Mab

My God! What a concept!

[The Presenter makes a frustrated noise. A pause.]


The Presenter

Alright. Fine. I’ll… I’ll go.


[Mab squeals delightedly]


Mab

Oh, you will?! Can we go to Germany, first? It’s been an age since I was in Berlin.

The Presenter

I thought I was supposed to be resting!

Mab

Berlin can be restful!

The Presenter

Not the way you do it.


Mab

And we don’t have to go right away. We should start with the cuddling. [laughs. Then, suddenly uncertain] Y-you are agreeing to that part too, aren’t you?

The Presenter

Yes, Mab, I’m agreeing to that too.


[Mab squeals again, and there is the rustle of clothes and a noise of surprise from the Presenter as Mab throws herself at them, covering them in kisses. They kiss back, trying to speak around the onslaught]


The Presenter

[laughing and muffled] We’re still on the air!

Mab

[between smooches] I don’t care! Let them listen!

The Presenter

Absolutely not! Here, hold on- Get-

[With a rustle of fabric and giggles from Mab, they manage to get their face free and get back to the microphone]


The Presenter

Um, listeners, uh. Uh, well, I appear to be [laughing] taking an impromptu leave of absence! Um. [clears throat and tuts] Oh, stop it! [Mab giggles] Uh. I’ll just, um.

[They clear their throat and start typing while they talk] I can leave this on for you while we sort things out with the understudy. She’s been rather vocal recently about needing more notice before she steps in to cover me. Uh.I-I don’t really know what to say.


Mab

You don’t have to say anything.


The Presenter

I feel like I ought to... Uh. Thank you for listening. Look after yourselves, and each other. And, um. I’ll see you later, I suppose.


Mab

Ooh, eloquent!


The Presenter

Shut up! Listeners, I’ll leave you with this.

[They double click the mouse and hit Enter. A new recording cuts in.]

The Presenter

Next tonight, we're talking déjà vu. With time existing at once as a closed loop, a rich tapestry, and a depthless void, it can be easy to lose track of one's place…

[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through classical music, a voice saying “-gender-”, a voice saying “-has gone-”, a voice saying “-submerged in water-” and pop music before fading out.


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


H.R. Owen

Episode One Hundred and Eleven of Monstrous Agonies was written by H.R. Owen and performed by H.R. Owen and Elizabeth Plant.


Tonight's first letter was from a suggestion by Atalan and the second came from Dylan. Thanks, friends.

If you’ve enjoyed Monstrous Agonies, please consider making a pledge at patreon.com/monstrousagonies or a one-off donation at ko-fi.com/hrowen. 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]


--END TRANSCRIPT--


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