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Episode Seventy Seven

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Monstrous Agonies E77S03 Transcript

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Seventy Seven.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through a voice saying “-I understand the context-”, pop music and a voice saying “-to limit ourselves-” before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-really puts the “jam” in “anti-jamming technology”.

Up next, it's time for our advice segment. Our first letter tonight is from a listener finding it hard to leave their comfort zone.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

Forgive me, if my words don’t quite have the most natural flow to them; I have had to re-learn language recently, upon finding myself amidst the living once more. Listening to your programme has been of great help in that endeavour and it has also brought me a great deal of solace during these lonely days my Creator’s abandoned abode.

You often talk about positivity towards all sorts of different bodies and not needing to adhere to the “sapio normative” standards the world may have for its occupants. Of accepting those who may have been called monstrous in the past.

I wholeheartedly share this sentiment, and have tried to my best ability to practice this acceptance and positivity towards myself as well; to convince myself I am not any lesser just because I look different from those I see from my windows or on the pages of magazines and books my Creator left behind.

But here is my problem, the root of my agonies if you will; the first thing I saw in my renewed existence was my Creator gazing down upon me with abject horror in his eyes. Utter disgust and fear. The sight lives in my memory as vivid as if it happened only yesterday.

Even the person who brought me to life - who must’ve worked months and years to achieve this ungodly feat - if even he runs for his life upon seeing my terrible form, how can I expect anyone else to react any differently? How can I muster the courage to leave my hiding and let myself be perceived by others?

I don’t know who I am. I don’t know who I was before. My hands remember things my mind does not. The skin on my face has a recollection of warmth like sunlight, yet I have never been outside.

I am an amalgamation, yet less than the sum of my parts. I am whole only on technicality; every body part is in its correct place yet they do not belong to me. These hands were someone else’s. These legs used to walk upon ground I have never seen. These eyes have beheld sights I shall never remember.

How can I find acceptance from others, or from my own self? Furthermore, how can I be true to myself, if I do not know who it is I am? How to fit together the pile of disparate puzzle pieces that make up this wretched creature who now with shaking, borrowed hands scribbles down these words to you, the dear kind voice within the radio waves?

The Presenter (as themselves)

Thank you so much for writing in, listener. You are very welcome here, and I hope you can find some comfort in this connection.

You have a lot on your plate here, with your internal anxieties around identity and self-acceptance exacerbating your external anxieties around community and other people's acceptance. I can't fix all of those in a single radio segment. But I have absolute confidence in your ability to work through these issues in your own time.

Under ordinary circumstances, I would recommend working on your self-esteem by taking stock of the things you like about yourself, or the qualities you're proud of. But in your case, you don't really know yourself well enough to answer that yet. So I'm afraid you're going to have to start with rather a big step.

I want you to leave the house. Start small, just stepping outside your front door. It won't be easy, and you will have to be kind and patient with yourself to build up your confidence. Once you're able to stay outside long enough for your initial panic to wear off, you can start working on your emotional stamina.

There will be good days and bad days, good experiences and bad ones. You will feel the sun on your face, and see the plants that grow near your house, and hear the sounds of birds, and of children playing.

And you might see people staring at you, or feel their gaze on you, or hear their whispers and their comments. I wish I could promise you a kinder world. But we cannot write a script for the universe and expect it to follow. All we can do is work on our own actions and reactions.

Make time to process your experiences. Give yourself space, and find things that can bring you joy in the face of those difficult days, whether that's reading a new book, taking a bubble bath, or dancing to music on the radio. You need to experiment and find what works for you.

Eventually, you'll make it to the end of your street. And by then, you will have learnt a great deal about yourself. You will have learnt that you are stubborn, or determined, or both. That you are kind and patient with people who are struggling. That you are hopeful and imaginative, you can set a goal and stick to it because you can evision a world where things are better. You will have learnt that you are resilient and brave and able to ask for help when you needed it. That seems like a great deal to be proud of.

From there, you can work on the more practical side of things, gaining new experiences in your body that are all your own. You will find your people, I am sure of it, and they in turn will teach you all sorts of things to love about yourself that you never dreamed of before.

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

The Presenter

In association with Cassandra's Emporium. We know what you will need. And we will have it by the time you find us. We are expecting you. Cassandra's Emporium. Deals you won't believe.

[End background music]

The Presenter

Before I get to our second letter, if I may make an aside, please, listeners, take heed of the plight of our first writer this evening. Creating life is not something to be undertaken lightly. Between this and the abandonment brought on by gastrointestinal distress earlier this year, I am started to despair of the state of our scientific community. Do better.

Now though, a listener struggling with writer's block.

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

I’ve spent most of my life writing fanfiction. I started when I was twelve and so far, I show no signs of stopping! [laughs]

I write at this cute little coffee shop round the corner from my flat. The owners like having me there. Which, uh, makes sense – working on my stories makes me really happy, and, since my mood affects the environment I'm in, most people like being around me when I'm writing.

Apparently, the light gets all golden and glow-y and the air smells like cinnamon. I mean, I wouldn’t really know, since I’m, you know, [intense voice] in the zone [normal voice] when it happens. [laughs] But, they say I’m good for business and they always let me stay for hours, even when I only buy the one cup of cocoa. One of the waitstaff has even learned to make a little kitty head out of whipped cream for me, so now I have the cutest cocoas in town!

Mostly though, I admit, I'm there for the free WiFi. [laughs] I need it my research. I'll happily invent plots and characters, but I'm damned if I'm not going to get the exact period-appropriate brand of soap for that one throw-away line that nobody else is going to notice. [laughs]

I have been called a perfectionist, but I just like my stories to be as good as I can get them. I have my notebook full of notes, and my laptop full of ideas, and I never publish unfinished stories, ever. It’s my number one golden rule. I always write it all out beforehand, every chapter neatly edited, every plot point accounted for.

Except... [laughs] You must have known that was coming. I had a relatively simple idea for this short little story, right? Just a fluffy little one-shot. I didn't have my laptop with me – I was at my grandma’s house – so I wrote a couple thousand words on my phone. Then I got tired and I wasn’t sure my notes app would save it all, so I posted it.

I just- I thought I’d be able to get home, get my laptop, write a conclusion, maybe a-a very, very short second chapter if I felt like it... [sighs] I thought I was more or less done. I should have been done! But then I- [sighs] I did get home. And I did get my laptop and I did open a new word document and I did start writing a, a second chapter.

I’m currently on chapter forty eight of this, uh, tiny little baby one-shot. [laughs] It’s bad. It's really bad. I keep getting new ideas. And my followers on AO3 all keep writing such sweet comments! So I keep writing, by the seat of my pants. But as stressful as it's been, it hasn’t been a, a complete disaster? I think?

At least until now. I’ve hit a plot hole and I don’t know how to fix it. It’s been two weeks now, and I’m freaking out! I can’t let my readers down! But whenever I reach for my laptop, I get overwhelmed with dread and anxiety.

I’ve been bringing down the mood in the coffee shop. The lights dim and flicker when I come in. There’s a nasty draught coming in from the door. People get stressed out just sitting near me, and there’s this one guy that keeps staring at me. He knows it’s me who’s doing it, I just know it.

The owners haven’t kicked me out yet, but the other day one of them came over and asked if she could help with whatever it was. She seemed to be under the impression I’d lost my job or a close relative.

I was too embarrassed to tell her I was upset about my fanfiction. I just left. I don’t know if I can ever go back, at least not until I’ve figured out this blasted plot. But I, I really do need the WiFi! [laughs] What can I do? Please, I’m desperate!

The Presenter (as themselves)

I am aware that sometimes my advice on this programme treads old ground. I spend a great deal of time in this segment exhorting you all to communicate your needs, listen to your feelings, eat the people who upset you, and be kind to yourselves. Tonight, I will be revisiting one of my most frequently mentioned topics.

Listener, get thee to a library. Your local library will not only have WiFi, but you don't even have to pay the cost of a cup of cocoa to use it. You will have access to any number of reference books and fiction to inspire you, and the staff will be on hand to offer any assistance they can.

Some people prefer not to work in a library because they find the atmosphere less stimulating than a busy coffee shop. But this is a just a matter of timing.

A public library at ten o'clock on a Wednesday morning is a very different place than when their after-school homework club is in full swing, or their weekly knit-and-natter group, or their Saturday morning story-time. Have a look at their schedule, and try out a few different time slots to discover the best fit for you.

In the meantime, you need to find the joy in your writing habits again. This is where the coffee shop comes in. The library is a perfectly good solution for your WiFi needs, but you clearly love working in the coffee shop and I see no reason to stop.

Instead, set your time there aside for play. Leave the story for library. In the coffee shop, spend your time doing writing exercises that catch your fancy, or experimenting with new forms. Spend a morning writing haiku, another on sonnets. You don't have to share any of this work with the rest of the world – it's just for you. Let yourself play.

As important as this story is to you, it is something you're ostensibly doing for fun. Your readers can wait. What's important is that you enjoy the process, and remember why you fell in love with your craft in the first place.

The time is two o'clock on Thursday morning. Up next, a birthday celebration for one of the creature community's most famous members. Daniel Michael DeVito Jr., better known as Danny...

[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through pop music, a voice saying “-was how slick the marketing was-”, opera music and a voice speaking Irish before fading out.

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

H.R. Owen

Episode Seventy Seven of Monstrous Agonies was written and performed by H.R. Owen.

Tonight's first letter was submitted by Jenni, the second letter is by Bug and inspired by a Tumblr post by Susiephone, and this week's advert was by Mythic-menagerie. Thanks, friends.

If you're enjoying the programme, please consider supporting us with a monthly pledge at or 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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