Jul 06, 2022 8:38 PM
ozytopians classify fiction after interworld contact
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Firstplanet

Nihil obstat! Firstplanet in general has such nice, non-horrifying books that don't involve lighting people on fire as a behavior-modification strategy, or murdering intellectually disabled people, or claiming that everyone is lying to you for nine entire levels. 

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A zany mostly-comedy about a man who has an important and high-responsibility desk job, doing management and internal-admin work for some kind of law enforcement slash social services department (on the Surface, obviously). He spends most of the book being inconvenienced by and trying to track down the perpetrator of a series of pranks and minor but irritating sabotage committed in the office, mostly against his computer admin systems. The man is working long hours, sometimes falling asleep at his desk, and increasingly stressed that he's neglecting his partner and their child, and that he never has time or energy left during evenings and weekends to visit the Underworld; he grumbles to his wife that since he was promoted to his highly senior role, he doesn't really feel comfortable joining any of his subordinates for pub nights or other entertainments in the upper Underworld. (The narrative seems to consider this a sign of an unhealthy work culture.) The denouement is when one of the interns, originally a suspect for the pranks and sabotage, investigates on her own and finds out that the perpetrator is actually the manager's Chaotic alternate personality; his 'naps' at his desk were in fact episodes with that part in charge, with which he didn't have memory continuity. The manager sees a therapist (who works in the upper Underworld rather than on the Surface, which seems to be considered normal) and is finally able to acknowledge to himself and others that he's hated his work ever since he was promoted to management, and that his secret Chaotic personality was trying to force him to see this. He decides to go back to his original front-line role as a law-enforcement-office-slash-social-worker. 

 

A coming-of-age story about a young woman graduating from standard high-school-equivalent education – at fourteen, which is apparently a young but not shockingly young age for this – leaving her affluent small-town family home, and going through several rounds of realizations about which of her parents' traditions and values aren't ones that fit her best as a person. The first realization is around her parents' strong desire that she continue straight to studying and obtaining an advanced degree in one of the subjects they consider prestigious, where away from home, she finally has the space to notice that it's their desire and not her own. (She was initially studying physics, and switches to accounting, and then switches from that to a practical program in early childhood education.) There are, like, six of these types of realization, as she slowly peels apart the components of herself and her personality that were shaped to be convenient to others. The narrative treats this as an admirable and critical step in growing up. 

 

A fantasy novel about some very sad and very gay boys, who have different types of magic (the setting has about a dozen different kinds of magic, some inherited, some learned, some spontaneous or resulting from being blessed or cursed by gods or demigods or nature spirits) and different horribly traumatic family backstories which they are slowly healing from. There are also about eight different kinds of possible soulbond involved in the magic system interactions. The sad gay boys are soulbonded to each other early on, of course, with one of the handful of soulbond-varieties which are romantic in nature. This in copious angst, since one of their fathers is bigoted against the style of magic caused by a god cursing you and hates his son's partner for that reason, and the other boy's mother had a bad experience with her abusive partner and now hates men in full generality and can't bear that her son is romantically involved with one. Over the course of the story, which involves a lot of messy and frequently-handwaved geopolitical shenanigans as backdrop, the soulbond-tangle grows to include: 1) a sentient bird from an oppressed species of birds, rescued from slavery by the protagonists, 2) a jewel which somehow contains the immortal spirit of an ancient wizard and gives its bearer wizard powers, 3) the King's heir for some reason, 4) a nature spirit bound to a particular river, who can manifest in the form of a beautiful woman, and ends up in a confusing romantic-platonic-blend relationship where she bears half-river-spirit children for both of the boys, and 5) a sentient book which works by copying itself into the mind of anyone who reads it, this process forming a bond with said person. (Transitively, the soulbond-polycule now involves several dozen other people who were previously soulbonded to said book.) Interestingly, none of the individuals in the novel are themselves multiple; the Law and Chaos aspects seem to instead be taken up by different people. The book is heavily focused on trauma recovery, and might be one of the most intensely hurt/comfort-trope-laden books Nela has ever encountered. It has a bittersweet but overall happy ending, involving several eventual family reconciliations. 

 

A fantasy adventure book, aimed at children age 8-12 according to the summary, about a young girl growing up in an urban-fantasy version of Bicameral – it has the Surface and Underworld, but it also has, like, werewolf-esque shapeshifters and several fantasy races of people who live underground and humans with magical abilities to manipulate a particular aspect of the world (metals, gases, heat-as-a-concept, and bodies of water are mentioned). The young girl finds an ancient artifact which gives her the ability to copy over the mind and memories of her alternate-world selves, and eventually to exchange messages with them. Some of the many alternate versions of her live, for example in a world with martial-arts-and-meditation themed magic, a sci-fi world with a thriving moon colony and fledging colonies on the other planets in their solar system, and an alternate evolutionary history where intelligent life evolved from dolphin-like creatures in the oceans. With their combined knowledge and powers, the girl is able to fend off a dangerous political coup in her own world, and advise the other hers on their own worlds' problems. The girl keeps all of this secret for almost all of the book, but eventually her older sister finds out and insists on telling her mother, and her family is worried but supportive. Given how complicated the plot and magic systems are, the book is remarkably accessible (there are frequent diagrams or pictures, and footnotes or cutouts in the page to remind the reader about key facts), and would probably appeal to intellectually disabled adults as well as actual children. 

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The author of that piece of interactive fiction has put some deep thought and extensive work into creating an alternative version. In this one, it's still possible to take some of the same actions from the abusive paths, with some of the same responses; but the narrative has been reshaped so that, instead of forming fully viable narrative paths with their own endings, those actions are woven into the rest of the game as mistakes you can make that hurt the statue and damage their trust in you, and which you cannot repeat because the statue loses trust in you much faster. If you try your very best to do as many upsetting things as possible, the statue will stop talking to you and eventually hide where you can't find them again for the rest of that playthrough. It's possible to make quite a few mistakes all in the same playthrough if you apologize and promise to do better and successfully maintain a record of good behaviour for longer and longer each time, but if you keep backsliding, the statue gets fed up eventually and disappears all the same. The possible paths are now 'ignore', 'befriend', 'sexy befriend', and 'upset the statue until they disappear'. The author requests that, if possible, the original version be made available through whatever channels are appropriate for rejected works, in addition to publishing this one if it's acceptable.

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Nela gives an imprimatur to the new statue-related interactive fiction and thanks the author for accommodating them! The author doesn't need to worry, they'll make the original interactive fiction story available in the no-nihil-obstat catalog. 

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Bicameral

The zany mostly-comedy is given a nihil obstat because... okay if people's alternate personalities were doing pranks and minor sabotage in order to keep them from making bad life choices that would probably be a good thing? Like, if the alternate personalities weren't hurting people or anything. Sometimes people make very bad life choices. Anyway, Nela thinks, it's not very likely that people are going to read this book and suddenly decide that they need to have an alternate personality that they don't share memories with.*

Imprimatur for the book about learning to stop shaping your personality to be pleasing to others! Very important lesson for people to learn. Nela recommends it particularly for teenagers.

Very sad very gay boys book almost gets an imprimatur for its depiction of trauma recovery, but Nela eventually decides that it should have a nihil obstat on the grounds that in several places the trauma recovery is depicted less accurately in order to make the book more of a hurt/comfort epic. (It is published and instantly becomes the most wildly popular piece of alien fiction. There are conventions and themed rock bands and cosplay and fan films and fourteen different competing podcast adaptations and three different plain-language versions. They are somewhat confused by the implications of "very gay," and write a lot of fanfiction in which the gay boys have sex with women and/or biomedically transition.)

Nela feels weird and complicated about recommending the urban fantasy book for intellectually disabled adults, but since no one else writes fiction for intellectually disabled adults she signs off on it. It gets a nihil obstat because there is nothing particularly objectionable in it. 

*Five years later, Nela would consider this to be one of the worst mispredictions of her life. 

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A historical fantasy novel set at the start of the Sakadian Empire (a short appendix explains to the off world reader that this was one of the largest empires in Wolffyverse history, due to being the first empire to combine cavalry tactics and glasses to devastating effect.) It follows the perspective of the second in command of the conquering Emperor. Said second in command is a) very in love with the Emperor, b) very traumatised by his past that is slowly revealed through the course of the novel C) very sad about all the murdering and conquering he is doing but d) has elaborately justified it. He dies tragically defending the Emperor from an assassination attempt. There are multiple horses, and they are treated with the same depth as the human characters.

A geologist is transported to a fantasy world, and tries to kickstart the industrial revolution! This is the first in a longer series. This volume focuses on our protagonist getting her bearings, and getting the trust of a) another member of her world that she convinces that resources are really important to improving technology b) an enslaved wizard she rescues. The wizard's emotional arc is about trusting that he has agency, and learning that he could use his explosion powers for good. (A note is sent that while they're pretty sure this first book is unobjectionable, they're not sure about later ones? The third book does give some detail about how to find galena, which you could technically poison yourself with? They're not sure how this interacts with the suicide instruction laws.)

A wandering knight without a cause meets a doctor shunned by her community because he care for the living as well as the dead makes her dirty. Over the course of wandering the world and solving crimes, getting trapped in isolated places, being horrified at each other's trauma, getting injured defending the other and then tending their wounds, they fall in love. The knight errant is part of a religion that is a source of great comfort and, like, half her issues. (There is a ten page appendix desperately trying to explain the religion for the off world or foreign reader. It has the strained quality of trying to fit too much abstract idea in too little space.) (There is a 15 page appendix explaining to the off world reader the tropes and genre conventions that are used and subverted.)

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Wolffyverse

The first book is denied a nihil obstat due to the elaborate justifications in favor of conquering and murdering people, which the text is not sufficiently against and which is not counterpointed to some other viewpoint. Also, the second-in-command here is very clearly glamorized and Nela does not approve of this. 

The geologist in the fantasy world book is given a nihil obstat, and Nela writes back that you are allowed to describe how to find galena, as long as you don't explain how to poison yourself with it afterward. There are lots of things in the world that you could theoretically poison yourself with and they're not denying people knowledge of all of them. At some point, you can just drink bleach. 

The knight errant story receives a nihil obstat. Nela puzzles over this religion appendix for three hours and is not sure whether its deity is the logos or not. Finally, she decides that probably the logos has shown itself to all offworlders so she should err on the side of believing that their religions reflect the logos, but decides that it doesn't get an imprimatur because the book itself is not clearly devotional in nature. 

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Portal fantasy about a ten year old who previously lived with not-too-close aunts and uncles and upon portalizing has no immediate prospects for getting home. After a while roughing it (in conveniently-not-too-rough circumstances but still sleeping outdoors and such) he decides to attempt to integrate into the culture and locate a new family. The concept that a formal system might be required for this is thought about in passing but the project is in practice DIY; he integrates by degrees into the foreign culture, tries lots of strategies for making friends, and eventually winds up bouncing between a family of dimensionaliens* who make notmaple products and a lady who lives in the woods and helps him improve his roughing-it skills in case this ever comes up again. If they like this one there are sequels!

A restaurant that can use abstract concepts as ingredients serves as the centerpiece of this short story collection by twelve different authors; characters go on ingredient-collecting expeditions, or finally save up enough to reserve a seat at the restaurant and then experience indecision about how to use their limited opportunity when there are so many things to try, or apply for a job in the kitchen, or occupy themselves with updating the restaurant's decor, or are food critic secret shoppers, or are waiters having romantic drama, or are an epistolary told in menu and notes-for-the-kitchen-about-substitutions format, etcetera.

Time travel is invented but can only go at least a hundred million years partly due to technical limitations and partly due to technobabble about how that's long enough for all the "noise" introduced by a traveler to "smooth out". Characters go back in time and meet dinosaurs and discover an ancient dinosaur civilization. At the end they take some dinosaurs who were helpful to them and are coming off poorly in their dinosaur political situation back to the present with them.

A musical where all of the characters are crows, having crow interpersonal drama and speculating about humans and ultimately resolving the central plot point of whether the main crow can hack it as a household assistance animal. It's intended for small children and accordingly makes a lot of jokes about bird poop.

A series about an SRO facility for adolescents who are not yet prepared to strike out completely on their own suddenly responsible for absolutely everything, but need to definitely not be living under the same roof as their families at least for a while - except this one is an interdimensional/planetary one, with a colorful panoply of aliens and sliders and magical beings of all descriptions. Some interstitial narration is from the point of view of the residence coordinator, a harried half-human half-spirit-of-the-building who coordinates with her-mom-the-building to run things, but each book in the series focuses on an individual resident of the facility, sometimes encountering protagonists or side characters of past or future installments. The same author has also done a series of shorter works about a similarly-premised emergency vacation resort (and that series has a moderate amount of sex in it), and a bunch of one-offs on the same theme (bookstore, restaurant, karaoke joint, game shop, gymnasium/sports facility, etc.), as well as her completely unrelated debut novel in which someone trying to catalogue each of the fictional magic systems invented in all fiction ever via multidimensional analysis gains the power to wield some of those powers by pinpointing their location in the perfected multidimensional grid, but the SRO one is the one that took off. Somebody has sent along an earnest attempt at mapping the dependencies if you want to understand the references and influences but it seems perhaps an insurmountable task.

*Green distinguishes between "space aliens" and "sliders" but the still-at-home-where-they-came-from kind of slider doesn't have a graceful English translation.

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The portal fantasy about ten-year-olds is excellent! It's very clever how it depicts a child arranging for their own adoption, as children do, in a portal-fantasy context. Nela considers giving it an imprimatur, because portal fantasy tends to depict children doing things like saving the world that children should not do instead of things like arranging for their own adoption that children should do, but decides that the point of an imprimatur is not to be moralistic. 

The abstract-concept-ingredients book gets a nihil obstat and becomes a widely popular sharedworld among the artsier sorts of Ozytopians. The Greens may or may not appreciate the percentage of the work that is blatantly moralistic stories about making food out of various aspects of the Teaching. 

Dinosaur civilization book gets a nihil obstat. 

The bird poop musical is given a nihil obstat and becomes widely popular among seven-year-old boys, a demographic whose desire to hear jokes about bird poop is constant across worlds. 

The SRO book gets an imprimatur for the way it ends up using its premise to explore ordinary problems of growing up through the lens of various alien species! Nela is enchanted by the various subtle metaphors here. (The subtle metaphors may or may not have been intended by the Greens.)

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A working group has been put together to assemble a collection of some the Union's most significant or impressive works. These are some of the selections they've made for fiction. (The form of the submission is a box containing paper books, naturally.) Excepting the book of lies, all are certified for accuracy*.

A fantasy novel in which everyone has a physical 'soul' which records their memories, instincts, and parts of their personality. Moreover, it is possible to 'eat' the soul of a recently dead person and gain some of their memories and instincts. Since these souls decay shortly after a person's death, it is customary for them to be eaten, that a part of the deceased may live on. Furthermore, this is transitive, and individuals can contain memories or traces of people from hundreds or thousands of years ago, although transmission is lossy. The story who follows a young monk and his life in a monastery (equal parts academic and spiritual). One day, returning from an errand, he discovers that the entire monastery has been slaughtered by an errant monster. Alarmed, he hastily eats as many of the souls of the dead that he can before they expire, almost one hundred in total. This is many more than most people ever consume, and for the rest of the story he is afflicted by mysterious visions and intuitions. He is able to mostly think clearly, but often does so in weird, sideways paths. In the aftermath of the massacre, he travels to the nearest military outpost to report the attack, only to discover that they too have been overrun. He soon realizes that a great surge of monsters has penetrated civilization's defensive lines and is now heading inwards, towards populated areas. He sets off for the nearby city to warn them. Along the way, the intuition borne of the souls he consumed helps him narrowly avert disaster several times, and he comes to trust it. After reaching the city, he helps organize its defense, and distinguishes himself through his insight and valor. After the crisis is resolved, he is recognized as an exceptionally wise and resourceful leader, and accepts a position on the city's ruling council.

A memoir written by a woman who grew up as a member of one of the last isolated primitive tribes of the great river forest. When she is a young woman, a group of Hadarite missionaries arrive, bearing gifts. Once they learn the language, they tell stories of faraway lands, vast cities, great wealth, and an incredible amount of knowledge about the natural world. Most of her tribe is skeptical, but she, ever curious, listens to them with rapt attention. After a year, they depart. She chooses to accompany them to the city, leaving her old life and family behind. Over the next several years, she attends a school, and learns a great number of things—the knowledge of more than a thousand years of civilization—very, very quickly. The book describes in detail her thoughts and inner experience, and what it was like for her life and view of the world change so much so quickly. She seems to have found it both overwhelming and exhilarating. During her time in the city, she also comes to grips with an entirely foreign culture, and the book recounts various stories of misunderstandings or confusions on her part or on the part of others, not used to people with her background. These events are not only humorous, but also offer a deep look into both cultures, and the unstated assumptions and beliefs that underlie them. (This book is popular in the Union for its rare perspective on Hadarite culture, and the curators expect that, for similar reasons, it will be useful to help other worlds understand that culture.) The increased comfort and security available to her in her new life is also a significant change, although she seems to find this less important than what she's learning. After studying for several years, she returns home to visit. After so long, and dressed in foreign clothing, they do not recognize her at first. When they do, they welcome her back, and ask her about her travels. She struggles to recount the most magnificent things she's seen or learned, but finds it difficult to communicate why they mean so much to her when her audience lacks the background knowledge to understand. In her time away, she has grown accustomed to Hadarite culture, and must make an effort to remember what it was like to be so different, to know so little. Realizing that she cannot go back to the life she once had, she departs for good. It is a bittersweet farewell. She returns to the city, begins a career as a biologist, and (as described by the afterword) eventually makes several significant discoveries and is acclaimed as one of the greatest minds of her era.

This book isn't fiction, precisely, but it's definitely not nonfiction either. The most common religion on Olam, called Hadar, is centrally about truth. A fringe sect (allegedly) believes that the best way to learn truth is to be exposed to lies—the trickier the better—examine them, and learn from them how to overcome illusions. This book, written by a member of that sect, is one of the most acclaimed examples of what are known as 'books of lies'. Not everything is a lie, of course, or else you would be able to reverse them and consistently discover what the author really thinks. Instead, the book is a careful mixture of truths and falsehoods, some more obvious than others. It combines various arguments about philosophy, psychology, sociology, and history into a strangely persuasive theory of everything. This book is clearly labeled as not-reliably-true, and the included advice recommends reading this carefully, treating it as a challenge to discern which parts of it are true and which are false, and avoiding drawing any strong conclusions from the text, even if you're pretty sure you've got it right. The curators have included an 'answer sheet', containing the priesthood's best judgments about which parts are true and where the deceptions lie (although it is strongly cautioned that they could have missed something). It is strongly recommended not to distribute these answers, except to a small group of sanity-checkers who will be in a position to notice if your extra-dimensional civilization has a special vulnerability to any of the deceptions contained herein. If used in accordance with the provided instructions, the curators expect this book to be much more valuable as a learning exercise than it is dangerous.

(There are other books of lies, designed to be deceptive taking into account that you expect to be deceived, those are much more dangerous and the curators thought it best not to send any to other worlds just yet.)

A book of post-post-apocalyptic speculative fiction (set on Olam) in which, in the aftermath of an improbably dangerous plague that killed most of the population, the survivors rebuild civilization. It follows seven characters from all around the world, of various ages, genders, and social roles, over a period of several decades. In this period, substantial recovery and reconstruction takes place, and isolated lands come back into contact with one another. Many decades of separation—and varying consequences of and reactions to the plague and its aftermath—cause the already distinct cultures of these various lands to diverge further. When characters from these separate populations meet, they are struck by the differences between them, and seek to understand each other and draw together despite those differences. (There is never any doubt that the Union will be put back together.) The book focuses most on its examination of the cultural and economic consequences of the plague, and contains several appendixes detailing the timeline of events, how the economic and cultural conditions changed over time, and why they changed in those ways. The plot is rather straightforward structurally, but contemplative. There is a strange sense that so much has changed, and so much time has passed, yet the world and its people are the same as they ever were.

*'Accuracy' in this context seems to be related to how safe it is to draw conclusions about the world from a work. In the case of fiction, it mainly has to do if the work's implicit or explicit models of psychology, sociology, economics, biology, etc. are accurate.

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Nela likes Olam. It makes sense. 

The book about souls gets an imprimatur for its accurate explanation of the prophet experience through an innovative use of metaphor. It's often difficult for non-prophets to understand prophets, and Nela is glad it's using a fantasy element to explain their experiences!

The memoir gets an imprimatur for teaching perspective-taking and helping people understand the experiences of immigrants, who are so often a marginalized group. It will also, of course, get an imprimatur for understanding alien cultures, if they end up doing this. 

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THE BOOK OF LIES IS SO COOL HOW COME THE TEACHINGSPHERE NEVER THOUGHT OF THIS

The Book of Lies becomes an instant bestseller. Book clubs throughout the Teachingsphere spring up to work through it. Hundreds of ethicist monks drop what they are working on to make their own versions. Curricula are developed to use this in schools (although in this case they give the answers to the students, because it's wrong for schools to ultimately mislead people). They request all of the non-dangerous Books of Lies immediately and will be happy to share the Teachingsphere's versions once they are ready.

The post-post-apocalyptic book gets an imprimatur for teaching perspective-taking and providing an accurate view on the effects of a plague on society. 

The Teachingsphere begins a program of imports from Olam. 

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A story in which a mad genius has finally gotten fed up and vowed to push out the moon's orbit to realign "months" and "year-parts". The protagonist is an unrealistically-competent-crime-investigator who winds up responsible for auditing the mad genius' calculations to confirm that this won't kill everybody, and also has to prevent multiple assassination plots by concerned states and individuals. Many of the technical audits are depicted in detail, though all mentions of the mass of the moon or the energy required to change its orbit have been replaced with phrases like "It's really big" or "That's a lot of energy, Bob!". In the end, the mad genius flees the country after being told that her plan will not be allowed because it will kill lots of people and upset the international order; The protagonist tracks her down to a remote desert and tries to arrest her, but she declares that no law will stop her from fulfilling her vow and escapes into space to try to enact her plan from Forlorn Sister, outside of any state's jurisdiction.

The first chapter of a serial fiction detailing life on a recently-colonized alien planet; It is presented as a collection of colony summary statistics, reports from the colony's governing officers, and a small number of letters from colonists to their families back home. An author's note explains that the nature of the wormhole allowing access to the colony limits communication to infrequent size-limited transmissions, and that the work will simply be a collection of those transmissions; A second note explains that the author has agreed to release the existing installments to the wider interdemensional community on an accelerated catch-up schedule, but that she's not going to dump the whole thing on them all at once.

A tragedy-of-sorts about a Very Wise Person living in an ancient despotism; She derives from first-principles a number of economic and social reforms that would make the country richer and better for its people. She works her way up through the bureaucracy and about halfway through the book presents her ideas to the Despot, who is impressed and elevates her to be one of his ministers. Three days later someone poisons her food and she dies. The rest of the book is blank.

A fantasy story about an empire which betrays its gods - Not in the sense of blaspheming or going against the old ways, but in the sense that they decide to lock the gods up in metaphorical boxes and stop them from governing human affairs. There is a bloody civil war, and a number of terrible divine curses, but the story ends on an bittersweet-optimistic note as the survivors rebuild and plan for a future free of divine intervention.

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A story in which a mad genius has finally gotten fed up and vowed to push out the moon's orbit to realign "months" and "year-parts". The protagonist is an unrealistically-competent-crime-investigator who winds up responsible for auditing the mad genius' calculations to confirm that this won't kill everybody, and also has to prevent multiple assassination plots by concerned states and individuals. Many of the technical audits are depicted in detail, though all mentions of the mass of the moon or the energy required to change its orbit have been replaced with phrases like "It's really big" or "That's a lot of energy, Bob!". In the end, the mad genius flees the country after being told that her plan will not be allowed because it will kill lots of people and upset the international order; The protagonist tracks her down to a remote desert and tries to arrest her, but she declares that no law will stop her from fulfilling her vow and escapes into space to try to enact her plan from Forlorn Sister, outside of any state's jurisdiction.

...Nela is kind of delighted by the implication that Listeners could in theory realign the moon, and therefore are worried that they need to prevent Ozytopians from committing this crime. She sends back a note clarifying the technological level of the Teachingsphere, with particular reference to the fact that they needn't worry about any sort of terrorism involving extraterrestrial bodies. The Teachingsphere has in fact never been to space. 

The book manages to avoid being a secret textbook due to the censorship of all the technical audits, and therefore receives a nihil obstat. It is popular among the kind of people who enjoy their books to also be puzzles.

The first chapter of a serial fiction detailing life on a recently-colonized alien planet; It is presented as a collection of colony summary statistics, reports from the colony's governing officers, and a small number of letters from colonists to their families back home. An author's note explains that the nature of the wormhole allowing access to the colony limits communication to infrequent size-limited transmissions, and that the work will simply be a collection of those transmissions; A second note explains that the author has agreed to release the existing installments to the wider interdemensional community on an accelerated catch-up schedule, but that she's not going to dump the whole thing on them all at once.

Cool! This book receives an imprimatur because puzzling out what is actually going on is a good exercise of the brain muscles; it is classified in the same category as particularly good logic puzzles. 

A tragedy-of-sorts about a Very Wise Person living in an ancient despotism; She derives from first-principles a number of economic and social reforms that would make the country richer and better for its people. She works her way up through the bureaucracy and about halfway through the book presents her ideas to the Despot, who is impressed and elevates her to be one of his ministers. Three days later someone poisons her food and she dies. The rest of the book is blank.

This book receives an imprimatur for combating the just world fallacy and the idea that things happen for narratively satisfying reasons-- so difficult to do in fiction-- and for educating the population about economic and social reforms. 

A fantasy story about an empire which betrays its gods - Not in the sense of blaspheming or going against the old ways, but in the sense that they decide to lock the gods up in metaphorical boxes and stop them from governing human affairs. There is a bloody civil war, and a number of terrible divine curses, but the story ends on an bittersweet-optimistic note as the survivors rebuild and plan for a future free of divine intervention.

This book does not receive an imprimatur, because "polytheism is stupid and low-status and even if gods existed we would have to murder them for their bad behavior" is hardly the kind of message the Teachingsphere needs more of. Honestly, to Nela's mind, it probably needs less of it, to make integrating immigrants easier. Nevertheless, it receives a nihil obstat and is very popular among the kind of people who enjoy the idea of murdering gods. 

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A series of novels where planets, entire, come over all magic suddenly at a certain point in their geologic time; Green is on the cusp of this transformation itself but has been being visited by people from a magically mature civilization for centuries. The focus is on a romance between one of the magic aliens - she's mostly human, for reasons, but has the alien powers - and a non-magical Green; they're cute, at first, but the relationship turns darker as the alien's political pressures overshadow their underlying feelings for each other.

A shared world collection of stories and fanart about an alternate dimension populated by fairies, who can be sorcerers, and also have individual powers depending on what kind of fairy they are to make it easier for authors to remain setting-compliant (just make up a new kind of fairy and say it's rare or lives far away from all the previously mentioned Fairyland locations). Knowing their names, or feeding them, confers the ability to force them to do as you say; they do this amongst themselves, but it works slightly differently for mortals. As a quirk, Fairyland doesn't have animals in it except for things like coral and sponges, but it has lots of plants, many made up, and cool geographic features like floating islands.

An olden-times story (Green authors usually don't like research nearly enough to pick a time or tech level more specific than "preliterate", "literate", "preindustrial", "industrial", "electrical", "internet", especially when it's fantasy anyway) about a woman who is faceblind and doesn't know it, marrying the foreign governor appointed to her region after its conquest. They can't really talk to each other, but he can read minds, which allows him to ultimately sort out why she is so confused about whether she has been raped by his brothers who don't exist and are actually him in different outfits. There are more in this world if they like it - different ethnic groups have different magics pop up in their populations, the main character of this one has a brother who is magically good at aiming ranged weapons.

A story about a woman who finds an isolated pocket of magic: a door that leads to a short featureless hallway there isn't actually space for. She is deeply disappointed by the uselessness of this magic, but fucks around with it some anyway, and discovers that it will "help" if she makes modifications to it. Ultimately she creates a society of tiny winged people in a dollhouse city and then leaves, so that someone else can discover not-so-disappointing magic one day, and goes looking for another pocket of magic to turn into something cool.

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All four books are issued a nihil obstat due to not containing any objectionable material or anything that they feel is particularly likely to help; the one about being raped about his brothers that don't exist may be denied a nihil obstat, depending on how accurate its depiction is of the trauma of believing yourself to be raped. The last one is appreciated by a lot of Ozytopians, but the other ones don't acquire a huge audience. 

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A novel about a young girl who has to come to terms with the years long horrific crime spree she engaged in while being raised by a small gang who committed similarly depraved acts. The novel starts after she has been separated from her 'family' and largely doesn't onscreen any gruesome acts. She starts off reveling in her violent activities but as she makes friends she begins to find ways to relate to people that aren't gruesome torture based. For much of this process she avoiding thinking about her past, feeling empathy for her new friends but not her past victims. In the climax of the novel she slips up and torturously near murders a new friend's brother after he upsets her friend. Realizing what she did, and how she can't deny how her past led to her present, she breaks down realizing that her previous victims were no different from the people she's grown to love and care for. She runs away from her new home, only to realize that she can't avoid her problems - returning to try to be better.

At the end of the novel a section provides discussion questions for grade school teachers to go over with their students.

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This book receives an imprimatur for its excellent study of how people should work to improve after they do very bad things! Is this intended for people in first-school (six through eight), second-school (nine through eleven), or third-school (twelve through fifteen)?

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Second-school and third-school - there are three different sets of questions for students of different ages. Most Faylien children in first-school have not started their intense reading phase yet and so fewer books exist aimed at them. 

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Excellent! This does seem appropriate for second-school and third-school children. Some Verbal class teachers teach it and some works from Green, Malachitin, Olam, and First planet as a comparative interdimensional literature class.

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This secretly-textbooks novel series for intellectually disabled people is clearly written for adults but covers basic math and science concepts that non-intellectually-disabled persons tend to learn as children. The protagonist is a new crewmember on a starship, whose tasks are mostly unskilled labor; the other starship crew members are happy to break down complicated concepts for him as much as necessary and the narration never implies that it's odd that nobody treats him differently for his disabilities. He bonds with a young, highly intelligent science officer over their shared love of tactile stimulation toys. 

 

This novel is about a young woman who gets introduced to a secret magic system when a side-effect of the magic system results in her being dead but still awake inside her body; when she is graverobbed by a nefarious cult, the fact that she is unbeknownst to them still stapled to her body results in their ritual going horribly awry and herself alive again and in possession of all the cult's magical power, which as it turns out is sourced from a prehistoric bug ghost. The main plot involves her recovering from the trauma of having been trapped immobile in a grave for a month while fending off surviving cultists and mastering her new powers; sub-plots include her exploring her gender identity as she realizes that the prehistoric bug was a boy one and how her loved ones deal with ongoing grief in the wake of her not being dead anymore. 

 

This song-cycle/epic poem is about a young man who has decided that this other young man is his True Love and that it is their destiny to be together, and his efforts to win the affections of his beloved as all around him literally everyone else explains that the guy isn't interested and he's behaving in an extremely unhealthy way. The cycle ends with the protagonist attempting to abduct his would-be love interest and the reluctant object of his affections killing him in self-defense. As he lies dying he begs his beloved to grant him one kiss before he dies, which said beloved refuses; the last line of the last song is of the beloved's retreating feet and ankles as he walks away. 

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The Maggieverse is really good at sending books that the Ozytopians like!

The secretly-textbooks novel gets an imprimatur for teaching math and science.

Nela is confused by the concept of a "gender identity". Is that like being hard? But still, it's a very interesting trauma-recovery book and it gets an imprimatur. Lots of people find it easier to read about fantasy trauma-recovery, because it's less likely to trigger them; things that actually happen are harder for a lot of people to deal with, and you can still learn the skills. 

The song-cycle gets an imprimatur for its exploration of what it's like to believe that someone is your soulmate when they actually don't want to date you. Nela sends a note to the Maggieversers to ask if it already comes with discussion questions, or if the author would like to write some, or give Nela permission to write some; she thinks that a lot of readers would benefit from taking the opportunity to experience some introspection. 

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They don't have a single standard set of discussion questions but they can send a file of collected public-domain discussion questions produced by various educators. Nela is welcome to develop her own. 

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Nela does, with great attention to which details you might notice in your own thought processes when trying to figure out whether someone you are in love with returns your affections or is convinceable to do so. 

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There are three works so far from Iie*a, home of the neotenous, monogendered, largely aquatic race which have mostly by accident come to be referred to as the Joeys.

One is a song, apparently for children, about a young Joey who is implanted with a lover (executive-function-boosting symbiote, the more or less literal backbone of their society) and immediately sets out to adventure, leaving his dozen or so fathers behind, because he's desperate to do something interesting, not just make art and have fun as is approved of by society. Unfortunately, he is not very well suited to adventure; fortunately(?), he's self-deluded enough that he manages to convince himself at every turn that whatever disaster has just ensued is what he wanted. He loses his possessions fairly early, but reasons that he wanted to experience the world on his own merits. He makes several friends and drives them away with his terrible luck and inability to own up to mistakes, but convinces himself that they were the cause of whatever disaster latest befell him. Eventually, he falls in battle against a shark he had convinced himself was threatening a nearby village, which is actually a farmer's beloved pet; he goes to his grave convinced that he is a hero dying before his time, and when the spirits of the deeps show him his life and ask his regrets before letting him drift out of reality, he cheerfully claims none. The spirits state that he is the only man who has ever died happy, and that on balance, more people should lie to themselves if they want to enjoy life.

The second is a book centered around the internecine drama of a family of Joeys that really shouldn't be raising a child together. Some of the fathers aren't even speaking to each other, though they present a unified front to the outside world. As their fry grows, the fathers' relationships break down further, and the kid grows up faster than he should; he ends up climactically yelling at them for a while and going off to live on his own until he's old enough to get his lover. (This is seen as incredibly impressive; apparently the executive dysfunction treated by the implantation of a lover is normally so crippling that a Joey without one should not expect to be able to get out of bed most days without the help of his fathers.)

The last is a lightly annotated collection of poems by a fry afflicted by a terminal illness which meant he would not live long enough to be implanted with a lover, and chose to spend his brief existence writing about what life meant to him. It's stylistically shaky, not as polished as one might expect from a professional, but it's certainly more than might be expected of a six-to-ten-year-old equivalent. His tone shifts almost schizophrenically between bitter sarcasm and raw fear-anger-suffering and appreciating small joys in life, not only between individual poems but between stanzas or lines within the same poem. One of the better-regarded poems swings wildly between apologizing to his fathers for bringing them pain and railing against them for not smashing his eggsac with a rock when they realized the suffering he would experience. The poems deteriorate stylistically as his health declines, until his final poem, which he transcribed through a Morse code equivalent after seizures had taken his speech and motor function: i am filled with words i cannot say i fear the end no end my pain is not your pain beloved fathers love me let me leave you

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...the children's song about how great lying to yourself is is denied a nihil obstat. Obviously. Nela cannot imagine anyone wanting to read something so blasphemous but she supposes that they'll make it available in case someone wants to read blasphemous literature. It will be next to the Flowers-for-Algernon-alike on the Perhaps You Are Interested In The Horrifying Things Aliens Believe section of the catalog. 

The family drama gets a nihil obstat because it doesn't seem to approve of this situation, but Nela finds it not particularly uplifting. Novels from other worlds have a very odd tendency to begin as soon as the interesting plot starts: surely the part you care about is how the Joey survives on his own without a lover? She supposes that there could be some stuff about identifying a toxic family dynamic but to Nela's mind this is not thoroughly explored.

The terminal illness poetry makes Nela cry. She considers giving it an imprimatur for its sheer honesty, but eventually decides against; however, it does become wildly popular among people who love tragedies, and starts a brief fad for death poetry among the terminally ill.  

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