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Episode Thirty Seven

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Monstrous Agonies E37S02 Transcript

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Thirty Seven.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through classical music, a voice saying “-we're not a car company-”, a voice saying “-pushing the boundaries-”, a voice saying “-words of wisdom-”, pop music and static before fading out as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-face to face with the bird-eyed consequences of their actions.

It's time now for our advice segment, where I answer listener's questions about liminal living. Usually I have two letters per segment, but tonight, I appear to have three. I don't know why. I hope it doesn't put us too badly over time.

They all appeared together in the usual way, but this first is drawing my attention. Or rather, it isn't. I feel no compulsion whatsoever to answer it, which is unusual. But I assume it's been selected for a reason. Let's find out, shall we?

Good morning! I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing on behalf of my organisation to explore avenues of interest as we endeavour to expand our offer to include broadcast media.

We are always seeking new ways to support our siblings in the creature community, and have become aware of the important role that media plays in the well-being and self-actualisation of-- [laughs] Of “those individuals who enjoy marginalised identities”. Very good. [laughs]

I have attached a comprehensive financial overview of our offer, and look forwards to hearing from you soon. Yours sincerely, et cetera, et cetera.

[laughing] I-- I'm sorry, you're... You're trying to buy... a radio station? Well, I suggest your first course of action is to find a radio station that is, in fact, for sale.

Hold on, there's a logo on the letterhead... Ah. Yes. Our old friends. Well, on the off-chance that there is someone from your organisation listening to the programme right now, I can tell you without hesitation that the Nightfolk Network is not for sale. It never will be, and even if it were, it would not be available to the likes of you.

Putting that silliness firmly behind us, our first real letter this evening comes from a listener who asks what to do about some unfortunate nomenclature.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

I don't mind being from a minority genus. I quite like it, actually – I've never had a problem standing out from the crowd. I don't think there are any other individuals in my genus in the country, not since my mother moved back home to the Gobi.

And, I know it isn't considered polite any more but I actually don't mind when people ask what genus I am. As long as they're polite about it. It's not like I don't know I'm not exactly the usual fare round these parts. The problem comes once they've asked. Because then, I have to answer.

The first part's alright – Mongolian. That's just true, I am Mongolian. And the last part, “worm”, well, that sort of goes without saying. I am pretty undeniably a worm! I wouldn't even mind the middle bit so much if wasn't for how it makes the rest of it all sound. I read a book there recently about a guy whose middle name was 'Death', he seemed to get along fine.

But you put it all together and it's not the easiest thing to introduce yourself as, especially when it comes to dating apps. “Hi, I'm Byamba, fancy going out for dinner sometime? Oh, you're a gargoyle? That's so cool! I'm a Mongolian Death Worm. Oh, you're washing your lichen that night, are you? Every night? All month...” [sighs]

The genus has a name in Mongolian, but not a lot of people speak Mongolian round here. Besides I've tried using it and people just ask what it means, which puts me back at square one.

I don't want to lie about who I am. And I have no shame at all about being from this genus. I just wish we weren't lumbered with this ridiculous name. How can I be honest about who and what I am without giving people the wrong idea?

The Presenter (as themselves)

I think there are two possible approaches here, listener. The first is to try and work on your own reaction to the situation. If someone is more concerned with how your genus sounds than with getting to know you as an individual, you may well find that they aren't the sort of person you want to be building a relationship with in any case.

It's funny you mention the change in attitude around asking a person's genus. The reason that question has, in recent years, become taboo is because often it is asked as a way of compartmentalising another person, putting them in a box and making all sorts of assumptions about their personality, their habits, their politics and ultimately, their worth.

There is no reason announcing yourself as a proud Mongolian Death Worm should make a difference in how people relate to you. If it does, that's their problem. It's not your responsibility to alter the way you speak about your identity in order to make it more palatable to others.

Having said that, it is your identity. If you personally find it cumbersome, difficult, or distasteful to use those words to describe yourself – don't. Come up with something new, something that expresses what you want to say about yourself when it comes to questions of your genus. It may make you a little less Googleable, but that is no bad thing.

Whatever you decide to do, please understand that it really is your decision. You're not beholden to anyone else, either in your genus or out of it, to modify the way you talk about yourself to make them more comfortable. It's your identity, and you get to decide what that means.

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

The Presenter

This is an urgent appeal. Every year, hundreds of practitioners imbue their household objects with vitality, transforming ordinary cutlery, crockery and furniture into sentient beings. And every year, hundreds of these vulnerable lifeforms are abandoned in charity shops and antique stores by irresponsible owners. Open your heart. Open your home. Adopt today, from the De Beaumont Sanctuary for Sentient Homeware.

[End background music]

The Presenter

Our second letter this evening asks how to push back against unhelpful comments.

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

I was born with a condition where my scales grow much faster than they should. My genus isn't one that usually sheds much. If you bang up against something, you might lose a few scales, but generally if you're shedding it's a bad sign. Probably an infection or something like that.

I shed constantly. I wake up in the morning and my bed is littered with scales. I can't scratch without scales coming off. And it's not even, like it is in regularly shedding genuses. My whole body is a patchwork of dull and shiny, a mix of places where I'm either shedding, have just finished shedding, or am about to shed. And... [sighs] I get these flare-ups where it's really painful, usually when I'm stressed, so [laughs] that doesn't help.

It's uncomfortable, and messy, and annoying – honestly, more than anything else it's just a pain in the neck, washing my sheets every few days and trying to keep on top of things. I mean, I'm pretty well used to it by now. I have topical treatments I can use when it gets bad and mostly I just sort of get on with things.

But, like anything you're putting up with for a long time, sometimes I just want a really good whinge. I want to stomp my feet and say, “It's not fair! This sucks! It is really, really rubbish that this is happening to me!”

But every time I try and get my feelings off my chest, I'm hit with this wave of incredibly well-intentioned, incredibly irritating positivity. I get two words in, and my friends barrel in saying, “No, no, don't be so negative! You're beautiful! All skin is beautiful!”

And I'm like, sorry, did I miss something? Because I know I'm gorgeous. I'm tall and strong and my horns have this lovely little curly bit at the end that I'm really proud of. I love my eyes, my hips, my teeth. And I don't think my scales are ugly. They're just really rubbish at their job.

I'm sick and tired of people telling me how I'm supposed to feel. It's like I can't even complain about it – even when it hurts, even when my skin is raw from the rub of dry scales and I'm aching all over. I'm expected to put a smile on my face and say, “Oh, how I love my beautiful body!” How do I push back against this kind of tone-deaf positivity?

The Presenter (as themselves)

I'm very glad to hear there are so many things about your body that you can enjoy and take pride in. It's a shame your friends can't seem to hear that pride, or appreciate that you don't need to find every part of yourself “beautiful” in order to see your body's worth.

Your friends are trying to resist sapio-centric narratives around diverse integuments. That's admirable, as far as it goes. But you expressing your personal frustrations about your own medical condition is not one of those narratives.

They clearly want to support you. But they need to learn how best to do that. And, as is so often the case, the easiest way to get what you need is to ask for it.

The next time you want to vent, tell them, “I'm feeling really frustrated right now and I'd like to get it off my chest.” If they try to respond with the language you've talked about in your letter, you can thank them for the sentiment and let them know that actually, all you need for the moment is some sympathy.

Some people will be less able to meet this need than others. For some, it's easier to parrot the “correct” phrases than to actually listen and engage with the real person in front of them. If that's the case, I'm afraid there's nothing to be done but to draw a line under it, and accept that those are not friends with which to trust your emotions in this matter.

However, with some clear communication, I trust you'll find those friends able to give you space to feel what you're feeling, and a sympathetic, non-judgmental ear to listen.

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

The Presenter

131.3 FM – the voice of liminal Britain.

[End background music]

The Presenter

That's all for our advice segment tonight. Next – it's time for our monthly book club. This month, a bittersweet coming of age novel about a werewolf family fighting to find their place in a sapio world. Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones tells the story of...

[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through cello music, pop music, a voice saying “-I don't wish to be helped-”, a voice saying “-the power of dreams-” and static before fading out.

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

H.R. Owen

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

Tonight's second letter was based on a prompt by Esther, and this week's advert was from Dahlia. Thanks, friends! See the show-notes for how you can submit your own letters, suggestions and adverts.

Very warm welcome to our latest supporter on Patreon, Paige. Join them at You can also support the show by sharing with your friends and familiars, or by 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. A pause. Then;

ED’S recorder clicks on.]


[clears throat] This is routine update log number six for Dr. Edison Tucker concerning my research into the town of Jerusalem, Oregon and the existence of the supernatural, paranormal, mythological, and etcetera, etcetera, blah blah blah. Anyway. Since arriving, I’ve definitely encountered some stuff that could be classified under “weird-ass”. The other day I found what looked like claw marks in the vegetable patch wiring, and nobody in town will talk to me about the picnic area near Lincoln’s Farm. Although that could be because everybody thinks I’m one of those monster hunting idiots. Which I’m not, okay! I am an experienced professional who takes my work extremely seriously, and I am going to prove this if it’s the last thing I ever-

[LUCY’S voice comes screeching from the kitchen.]


Eugh! Dr. Tucker! What have I told you about keeping samples in the fridge?!


Although to be honest, I think the biggest mystery on my hands is how I’m gonna survive living with Lucille Kensington, stuck-up extraordinaire. So if you guys don’t hear from me again? It wasn’t something in the woods that got me. [Beat] Probably.


Where the Stars Fell. Streaming now wherever podcasts are found.


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