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  • Writer's pictureH.R. Owen

Episode Seventy Six

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Monstrous Agonies E76S03 Transcript

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Seventy Six.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through pop music, a voice saying “-failure by the music-”, Irish trad music, a voice saying “-Russian orders-”, a voice saying “-whether there'll be an election-” and more pop music before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-a murder of crows, an arson of otters, an identity theft of blue whales.

The time is 1.45 on Thursday morning. If you've just tuned in, you're right on time for our advice segment. Our first letter this evening comes from a listener juggling opposing identities.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

I didn't exactly have a wonderful home life as a teenager. In my late teens, I met my pack, and I was young and stupid [laughs] so it just seemed like the obvious choice to get myself turned and go running off with them.

You'll probably think me foolish, but I've never regretted it for a moment. My pack has become my family, and even though none of us are the punk kids we used to be, our bond has only grown stronger.

Our territory overlaps with the residences of certain other night folk that have classically not been entirely popular amongst my genus. We've remained cordial on the day to day, but there's one specific family, an old baron and his fledglings, that the pack particularly don't get along with.

We weren't the nicest to them, but they made no effort to show us anything other than contempt! So our clashes were practically routine. [sighs] Not too long ago, we were in one of our spats, and things got particularly nasty – words turned into yelling, yelling turned to fighting, and, well. I got bitten.

I'd been under the impression that my current condition would render me immune. I don't know why I thought that way, it's not like the flu prevents chicken pox, now is it? And sure enough, I'm now one of the Baron's fledglings.

I've gotten the chance to know the old fella, and he's honestly not a terrible guy? He's definitely old fashioned, but actually getting to sit down and talk to him and the people he's sired has given me more perspective on him as a person, not just a foe.

He's been incredibly apologetic about the whole ordeal, and the coven's made my transition into full nocturnal life quite comfortable. They've shown incredible kindness to me, and insisted that bygones be bygones – at least for me, if not the rest of the pack.

The problem is, though, I miss my pack. I desperately want to reunite with them, but I also feel reluctant to leave the Baron's coven behind. Now that I'm kind of involved in both, it feels wrong, to pick a side and pretend to hate the other.

I don't know how to go about untangling this web I've woven myself into. Should I try and get them to get along? What side should I choose if I-I can't? Please, any advice is more than welcome.

The Presenter (as themselves)

I absolutely do not think you need to pick a side here, listener. Nor do you need to keep your dual identity secret. You have every right to remain a part of your pack and a part of the Baron's family, and you must not give credence to any suggestion to the contrary.

Feuds like the one you've described here are depressingly common among certain genuses, and they all tend to follow the same basic pattern. Some ancestor in the misty past did something to offend somebody else. The offended party retaliated, opinions differed on the appropriateness of such retaliation, and the rest is history.

There's nothing to be gained, no way to win – it doesn't even have the heady passion of nemesisitude. It's just a brutal, unending slog of swapped blows with no end in sight and no joy in the fight.

But whatever their genus, people generally like to go along with the crowd. If you offer them an expectation of how to treat you, they'll usually meet it.

If you come back to your pack cringing and cowering, drawing attention to the idea that you might not belong any more, well. People will pay attention to the idea.

Don't give them the opportunity. Don't even entertain the possibility. Instead, live your life as nothing more or less than what you are – a member of the pack, and a member of the Baron's family.

If the opportunity arises to put an end to the feud, or improve relations between the two parties, you might be well-placed to make an attempt.

But the more important thing is that you know, with absolute certainty, that you belong. You are one and the other, and both at the same time. There's nothing wrong with that, and nobody can take that away from you. Keep your chin up, know your worth, and if anybody objects, bite them good and hard.

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

The Presenter

The most difficult part of transformation shouldn't be the paperwork. Whether you've recently metamorphosed or are considering a change in genus, Deed Trolls can help you dot the Is and cross the Ts in updating your legal records. Change your name, gender, and genus with Deed Trolls: paperwork, but expert.

[End background music]

The Presenter

Tonight's second letter is from a listener fighting unwanted thoughts.

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

When I was growing up, parasitism was a fiction – something only seen in, in murder mysteries, sci-fi, and lesser Resident Evil games. Even in more mature media, I would see people with parasites solely portrayed as in need of medical attention. It was something to be cured.

Even after I reached adulthood and began venturing into creature spaces, most didn't include, or even mention parasitical beings. There didn't appear to be any at all.

Then I joined a small online community connected, of all things, to a microfiction Twitter. [laughs softly] That ended up being my first introduction to symbioses. Here were people talking about being hosts, or parasites finding their own ways to communicate. And it was all treated as, as completely normal.

I reacted to my new exposure to the symbiosis community with surprise, confusion, and... [sighs] I'm not proud to admit. A bit of rejection. However, I quickly came to accept the idea. Nobody was really getting hurt, and after all, I believe passionately in the existence of souls. Why should souls be restricted to entities able to exist independently of others?

And yet my thoughts sometimes drift away from that acceptance. “Couldn't this all be fixed with a visit to the doctor?” I wonder. “How can anyone just accept having a life-force-eating parasite?” “Surely you don't want to be a host?” “How do we even know you have a memetic parasite, you could just be making it up!”

These thoughts aren't helpful. They may even border on the hateful. And I don't want to have them. How can I close my mind to intrusive dismissive thoughts, and open my heart to this marginalised community?

The Presenter (as themselves)

You are doing yourself a disservice here, listener. You are consciously unlearning the prejudices taught to you by an unjust society, and refusing to let your mistrust of parasitic lifeforms go unchallenged. That is no mean feat.

If you imagine your brain as a muscle, yours – like many others – has been trained since birth to move in a particular way by the dominant, sapio-centric society in which you live. You are now trying to train it to move differently, and with some success. But that muscle memory is still there.

When you think something hurtful about parasitical lifeforms, it's because you've been trained to think these things your entire life. You can't undo that training in one fell swoop. But you can – and do – recognise those thoughts as unhelpful or harmful, and choose not to act on them.

Thoughts in themselves do not carry any moral weight. We cannot hurt each other simply by thinking it. At least, most of us can't. If you do have this particular ability, please adapt my advice as necessary. But, generally speaking, even our darkest, most unpleasant thoughts cannot effect the world unless we let them.

You don't need to berate yourself for having thoughts that are contrary to your actual morals. In fact, doing so lends those thoughts far more weight than they deserve. Instead, learn to cultivate an attitude of disinterested acknowledgement.

When a thought surfaces that shocks or alarms you, simply acknowledge its presence, and its unhelpfulness, and let it go. The fact you disagree with it is enough.

You don't need to scour your mind clean in order to be a good person. Spend that energy where it matters – in the real world, treating marginalised people with respect, solidarity and kindness.

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

The Presenter

The Nightfolk Network on 131.3 FM. Don't touch that dial.

[End background music]

The Presenter

Now, where exactly is the line between appreciation and appropriation? Our film correspondent Robin Bean discusses how creature culture has been adopted and co-opted by sapio film-makers, from Tod Browning to Guillermo del Toro...

[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through rock music, a voice saying “-welcome back-”, a voice saying “-local food banks-”, dance music, a voice saying “-somebody took a potshot-” and classical music before fading out.

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

H.R. Owen

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

Tonight's first letter was sent by Kettlebird, the second letter came from Exal, and this week's advert was by Jan Caltrop. Thanks, friends.

Hello and welcome to our latest supporter on Patreon, James. 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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