Jul 06, 2022 10:10 PM
Treeple discuss alien fiction
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Tree's internet is filled with internet fora for discussion on a wide variety of topics, many of them quite niche. This one was originally a fan forum for discussing one specific fantasy series, but shifted over time to a general fiction-discussion forum with miscellaneous random subfora for other topics. It's pretty small -- about fifty active members, with more people who pop in occasionally, but basically everyone who posts regularly has been there for a couple years, and everyone seems to know each other. Right now, the "fiction" subforum of the board is basically exclusively discussing the ALIENS. Everyone is excited to see the ALIEN FICTION BY ALIENS. 

Presumably most of the aliens aren't going to randomly drop by this tiny internet forum even if they knew it existed (although one of the mods has optimistically retitled the "New Member Introduction Thread" to "New Member Introduction Thread [aliens welcome!]"), but assuming the aliens are making it easy to find the fiction they're sending over this tiny internet forum is perfectly happy to go take a look. There are other groups working on making it actually usefully filterable but this forum mostly just cares about ALIENS.

 

Total: 11
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A realistic mystery novel for adults involving the murder of one member of a company's internal policies board. A witness claims to have seen someone dressed as a certain employee and sharing her fur color standing over the body. The main investigation dives into seeking out other people who might dress similarly and who have similar fur colors, as well as the exact internal policies of the company and whether or not the employees would have a reason to protest against them, and whether or not anyone would have a personal grudge against the particular victim. In the end, the case is cracked when the witness is revealed to have an undiagnosed form of colorblindness that widens the suspect pool, allowing them to find the actual killer. The killer is revealed to have been attempting to have a civil discussion about a certain company policy, but constant insulting needling from the victim led to them snapping and escalating to murder. Their sentence is partly decided on with input from the deceased's family, and in the end a short jail sentence and therapy for those violent urges are the final conclusion. Interestingly enough, at no point is someone deliberately framing the first suspect suggested as a hypothesis.

There is also a version of the above novel that's intended for younger readers. Several of the suspects are removed from the plot to shorten the book, although the main forensics and investigation methods are still described in detail. The main plot difference lies in the ending, where the murder is framed more as a fight gone wrong, and much more detail is given on the need to control those impulses, as well as methods for doing so.

A nonrealistic fantasy culture-clash novel for all ages about two species, both somewhat distinct from grayliens, where one group is obligate carnivores and the other herbivores. The book focuses on a herbivore ambassador to the carnivore city, and alternates between surreal illustrations that the herbivore is telepathically transmitting back home, narrative from the perspective of the ambassador's host as they try to be a good host, and various records of the minutes of the council meetings on each side. The herbivores are generally presented as overly paranoid and hypervigilant, with the ambassador constantly distorting the actual events as something horrifying, although there are also some hints that the carnivore host is being overly positive about some things themself, and the two slowly get to understand each other better and better. The climax involves the herbivores nearly declaring war on the carnivore city when they believe their ambassador has been murdered, and the carnivores preparing for war due to an unintentional insult, but by now the host and ambassador have become fast friends/romantic interests (it's not entirely clear and could go either way) and manage to stop the war from erupting. The last scene is the herbivore ambassador carefully trying a meat dish, a callback to a previous discussion about the two species having an omnivorous common ancestor.

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An epic poem about an ancient king, presented in the original with extensive annotations. Full translations are going to be legitimately tricky; it's long, it's gorgeous, and the poetic form is pretty strict and doesn't adapt well to the rhythms of other languages, but the writer keeps doing this thing where the rhyme scheme and meter highlight underlying thematic connections between different lines—anyway. The plot begins with an introductory section where the king is going around doing atrocities in a very badass ancient-legendary-figure sort of way, right up until a random peasant girl lights him on fire with her magic powers and he immediately falls madly in love and drops everything to beg her to marry him, then spends the next two-thirds of the poem gradually lightening up on the atrocities front, partly because he has now realized that peasants are people and partly because his wife keeps arguing with him and occasionally threatening to light him on fire again, which he always responds to with a confused mix of fear, adoration, and occasionally anger. The queen's power to set fire to her husband is depicted very obviously and straightforwardly, discussed in the text and the dialogue; the king's reciprocal power to have his wife executed is left completely to subtext and implication, only barely hinted at by means such as using epithets for her that emphasize her fearlessness whenever he gets angry. Accompanying notes explain that the poem is an allegory for real historical events, with the queen standing in for the entire Phoenix archetype, which did appear during that approximate historical era and did have those approximate powers and did have approximately that effect on ancient kings' tendency to oppress people although the exact mechanism was obviously very different.

Extremely well-researched historical fiction detailing the life of a high priestess of the River Kingdom who, by contrast to most high priestesses of the River Kingdom, did actual politics instead of spending all her time managing the movement of water. One gets the impression that the author wishes they could spend all their time managing the movement of water; lovingly detailed descriptions of River Kingdom plumbing and water management take up a solid third of the book, intermingled with plenty of inner monologue from the high priestess and lots of interactions with very well-fleshed-out side characters. An appendix carefully distinguishes side characters for whom there is historical evidence (and what that evidence covered) from side characters the author made up (and the census data and contemporary sources from which they extrapolated those characters' likely traits). An additional appendix tries to explain the context of the Ondine archetype so the aliens can properly appreciate it, but the author admits that they're not very good at explaining this sort of thing and recommends some other reference material to interested reader.

Porn about masochists with access to magical healing is its own entire genre but here is a widely acclaimed example, in which a [sadist who lives by themself in a castle they designed and built using magic] (this is a two-word phrase in the author's native language) gets an unexpected visitor and falls in love with them despite being sort of shaky on this whole 'human interaction' concept. Neither of them has much of a clue how to pursue a healthy relationship, but they are both highly motivated to figure it out, and they make it to the end of the book having successfully reinvented most of the basics from scratch and settling into a life together full of art and luxury and wholesome, loving, extremely gory sex. The climactic scene involves the introverted-sadist-architect breaking into tears about how much they love their partner and needing to be wrapped in blankets and snuggled until they calm down. The two of them are the only characters in the entire book, unless you count the introverted-sadist-architect's house as a third character, which you very well might given how much screentime it gets. The back of the book has a collection of author-approved fanart of the castle, added so the aliens can get a sense of the architectural styles involved that words alone would have trouble conveying.

A duology of very long fantasy novels, which turn out to be collectively about 40% appendix by pagecount. The appendices cover worldbuilding, conlangs, and a set of six different detailed maps of the world, each from the perspective of one of the major nations involved in the plot, all of which have subtle disagreements with each other on matters such as which landmarks are important, what they are called, and who owns them. The plot consists of a ragtag yet lovable ensemble cast, thrown together by circumstances beyond their control which accidentally leave them the only people in the world capable of saving it from a cataclysmic threat, having breakdowns about how they're not ready for this and then going ahead and doing their best anyway. In the end, they pull it off by the skin of their teeth and with rather more casualties than any of them are comfortable with. The second volume has a long denouement consisting mostly of our heroes leaning on each other and their friends and loved ones to help them cope with all their realistically-described trauma once the crisis is over; the last chapter concludes when they're all psychologically stable again and leading healthy, thriving lives, and the epilogue shows a bittersweet scene of the six of them holding a private memorial ceremony together ten years later, after which they are going to attend a massive celebration being held in their honour on the anniversary of their success.

A work of interactive fiction, in which the player's character appears wandering in a starlit desert with no memory of where they came from or how they got here. After finding and exploring a nearby ruin, you eventually stumble upon a talking statue of a beautiful winged person, and although the statue is very shy at first, eventually you can coax enough information out of them to realize that they're some sort of powerful magical being who has been horribly abused by people using them for personal gain. You, too, can horribly abuse them and use them for personal gain; or you can use them for personal gain in less gratuitously awful ways that they still pretty clearly find traumatizing; or you can try to befriend them; or you can try to befriend them but in a sex way; or you can ignore them and try to figure out a way to escape the mysterious magical ruins by yourself. The descriptions of the statue's reactions to trauma are uncompromisingly realistic; the descriptions of the statue's reactions to genuine friendship and love are heartbreakingly sweet. The story has multiple possible endings, depending on your relationship with the statue and on whether you choose to escape the mysterious ruin or not, plus the implicit non-ending of simply never deciding to take an ending option; it is only possible to remove the statue from the ruins by force or with maximum trust levels, and if you do it by force the statue crumbles to dust as soon as they cross the outer wall.

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There were some issues with format conversation, but the translators did the best they could manage with the lack of smell!

Unfortunately, efforts to connect the mind-network to human internet is an ongoing and really complicated project. A lot of people are incredibly disappointed by this.

 

A tale for young workers about a new mushroom farmer who is very unhappy with her* job and desperately wants to change it and become an explorer, but feels like she must stay in her current job for the good of her hive! The story details her becoming less happy and satisfied, until she eventually makes new friends in her fiction-reading group who encourage her to tell the hive-manager that she’s unhappy and wants to switch jobs. She does this, and becomes much happier, and finds a new valuable type of fungus for the colony, that is eventually used to make a new kind of antibacterial. It is clearly written with a moral lesson to tell people about your problems and not just tough them out.

 

A very complicated political novel with around 600,000 words, featuring nine diplomats from three different hives navigating a tension-filled debate about the morality of executions, while also trying to make the most advantageous trade deals, with several backroom discussions between every combination of hives at different points, embarrassing interpersonal drama, and a tremendous amount of dramatic irony.

 

A rules and lore book for a tabletop RPG, featuring several books of additional content based on other series, and a wide variety of different powersets. Nearly three hundred different personality traits are listed in the original alone, all with various mechanical benefits and downsides. 

An collection including seven novels, three books of short stories, four series about the most popular alternate universes, a collection of poetry, half a dozen epistolary books, and an annotated book of music scores. An additional eight powersets, 412 character traits, and new faction-loyalty and relationship mechanics for the RPG above are included, all inspired by this series. The base series is about a worker, named Halru, who is taken as a war-prisoner by a rival hive as slave labor and is forced to care for their grubs. Two of her limbs are cut off, and she generally has a terrible time doing awful labor under threat of death. Her best friend, Terilu, sets off on an extremely dangerous and ill-advised quest to rescue her, which at various points includes having a riddling contest with a dragon to gain fire breathing, bargaining with a Fairy Queen to gain wings, fighting a variety of creatures, secretly training under five separate rival hives to become a master of all five styles of spearfighting, and generally becoming a really powerful and dangerous warrior. She then rescues her best friend, and they return home, only to find themselves dealing with complex social dynamics now that Halru is maimed, which means that she is lower status in Semi-Generic!Fantasy!Past world. They cuddle a lot, talk about their feelings, play around with various power dynamics, and become lifepartners.

An included note says that while slavery and treating maimed people worse is something that happened in the past, they definitely don’t do it in the modern era, because that’s horrendously unethical.

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Civ-builder-in-space video game with more focus on urban planning and making your farms aesthetically arranged than on warring with your neighbors, though there is some of that if you piss them off enough or turn the difficulty way up. The mainline win condition is uploading your population, whereupon you get to civ build with all the cheats on as long as you want, but it is also possible to officially win the game by creating a stable federation of all the political units on the planet, uplifting a cute alien species, or sending out multiple successful colonization missions to additional celestial bodies.

A book for small children about a little girl, aged six, who has outgrown her previous aesthetic of all-sunflowers-all-the-time upon discovering that she doesn't like to eat sunflower seeds and honestly doesn't like yellow as much as she once did, but isn't sure what theme to get her next wave of possessions and personalization-objects in. She changes her desktop background and borrows clothes and stares at office supplies in the store. Then she visits a farm and a cow licks her hair and she is enchanted and decides to get things in cow print... except, at the end of the book, when she is getting a sheet of stickers, she passes over the cow ones and grabs a sheet with Jupiter and Saturn images, winking at the reader about the likely longevity of the cow print phase. (Cow print in this case is roan with white mottled markings.)

A coming of age book where a kid from a House of Truth family decides after much waffling not to become a member themselves. While this is doctrinally fine - the House of Truth doesn't expect everyone to live by their rules and there is no official expectation that it run in families instead of using lateral transmission - it does make some people unsettled, wondering what he's keeping from them or plans to in the future, whether something about his upbringing soured him on the idea, etcetera. It doesn't really have an ending so much as a section after which there are not more pages.

A comedic musical about a scientist who is studying how it can be that they are in a musical, since the fact that people sometimes burst into coordinated song and dance does not have any obvious grounding in the otherwise solid laws of physics nor a clear sociological cause. There is a "flashback" scene where they speculate about prehistoric people doing numbers about domesticating dogs and inventing fire, and a series of frustrating dead ends when they try to harness the phenomenon for various practical purposes by setting up rhymes and such.

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Grayliens:

1.

@starlight-touches-turbulent-seas

Just to check, does this one contain instructions for how to commit crimes I could theoretically be doing or instructing other people in how to do? I probably wouldn't actually be in trouble as long as I stopped right away but filling out the whole 'I promise I'm definitely not trying to do terrorism I just ran across this information by accident' form is such a pain.

@treatyentreated

I think it should be fine. The main thing it does contain is instructions on avoiding getting caught but I think I remember you mentioning at some point that they don't care about that?

@starlight-touches-turbulent-seas

Yeah, I mean, it's not like most of that would really apply here, the place is covered in cameras.

Most of the forum seems to think this one is okay. The general consensus is that it's fairly predictable although a couple people do say that they liked it anyway because being able to guess the plot twists before they happen makes them feel smart. Starlight is curious whether "fight gone wrong due to high emotions" is intended to be typical for Graylien murders or whether that's just what made the most sense for the plot. 

The people who finished the children's version as well mostly seem to think that the children's version is just worse and that you might as well just give your kid the regular version instead. There's some brief discussion about whether the part at the end about needing to restrain violent impulses would be useful for people who have those, which some people do; most people seem to think it wouldn't be but they're not totally sure.

From there the discussion devolves into whether or not it would be cool to have fur. There are a couple of people who think it would but most of the forum seems to think that as nonhuman physical traits go fur isn't particularly desirable compared to extra arms or a prehensile tail or wings or just being a robot.

2.

The forum seems to think this one has an interesting premise but disagrees substantially on what they think of its execution. This person thinks it's a really interesting portrayal of values dissonance in fiction. This person wants to know if the obligate carnivores are eating sentient creatures and thinks that obviously if they are the herbivores have a responsibility to stop them. This person thinks that the herbivore eating meat doesn't really make sense and ruined the fundamental message of the book; here is their 2000-word post on what they think the fundamental message of the book is. This person thinks that obviously no one involved is doing anything wrong since it's not like animals are people. This person thinks that the herbivore ambassador is grievously harming their people by conveying descriptions that make things sound worse than they are, which could cause their species to believe things that are false, which is terrible. This person thinks that the herbivore ambassador is probably doing the best job they can given the circumstances and it's the responsibility of their species to adjust for the fact that most people are not perfectly objective when they describe things. This person thinks that that would be right except that the herbivore ambassador didn't explicitly say that they're failing to be perfectly objective in describing things so actually it's their fault again. This person thinks the carnivore ambassador is their precious child who has never done anything wrong in their life; here is their fanart of the carnivore ambassador. This person didn't really care about the plot but thought the minutes of the city council meeting were really cool and wants to know if the Greyliens have any more fiction like that, or if anyone knows of any other books that use something like that to convey information; a few people have non-Greylien recommendations.

Partway through the thread people start arguing about the ethics of farming livestock; this goes on for a few hours before a moderator shoos that thread to the "Life Arguments Megathread" in the "Arguing (not about fiction)" subforum. 

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Grapeverse:

1.

Grapes have MAGIC!!!!! The Treeple had known this was the case but it feels a little realer, seeing it treated as just a background fact that's obviously true about the world. Everyone wants magic. More than one of the non-fiction-discussion threads are debating how likely it is that it'll be possible to get Treeple with Grapeverse magic in the next generation.

Treeple are really confused by why the King decided that he wants to bring home someone who tried to light him on fire to be part of his grouphouse. Most people generally prefer not to live with violent people, and also if you are a king and decide to bring people who want to hurt you home, that's kind of asking for one of them to just kill you? It's very sweet how the protagonist is able to get the king to stop doing atrocities without killing him, obviously that's better than having to kill him, but people mostly seem to think that obviously if that happened in real life the protagonist would just kill him and replace him with someone who wanted to do fewer atrocities. 

The discussion thread ends up getting sidetracked into whether being able to set people on fire would be net-positive or net-negative for the murder rate. Most people seem to think it would be net-negative on the general principle that making it easier to kill people would result in more people being dead; one person is staunchly defending the position that actually this gives people more intermediate options between 'doing nothing' and 'killing someone' but most of the thread seems to think that assuming your king isn't randomly bringing you home getting set on fire nonlethally once isn't all that likely to change his policies. Maybe it would work as sort of a warning shot to indicate that if he doesn't change his policies you're going to assassinate him? Giving into threats is obviously bad but lots of people do so anyway. This person thinks that using it as a threat would just get you executed and/or exiled and/or imprisoned depending on the resources and constraints of your society and that all of those things are going to make it pretty hard to assassinate the King. 

2.

@petarka

Sorry I couldn't finish responding to this because it's just so good I got distracted bouncing about it!

bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce

@camini!

its true i can hear pem from all the way over in my bedroom

The Treeple are so excited about this one. This one ends up straight-up splitting into multiple threads, one that's just discussing all of the historical content and one that's talking about everyone's favorite side characters, in addition to the regular all-purpose thread for the book. Treeple want to know if Grapeverse has more books like it. Also, here's someone's ?fanfic? take on how the high priestess in question would have interacted with this one historical figure the author really likes and thinks the high priestess is similar to.

3.

This one is really confusing. The first couple people who read it mostly end up putting it down partway through, although one of them is completionist enough to finish it. The completionist ends up bugging an allosexual to try it and tell them if it makes more sense to them; the allosexual reports back that they are also really confused! This does not seem at all like their understanding of how relationships work! The handful of people who actually finished the book have theories, most of which are very confused and a little insulting.

4.

@wingeddragonfly

:(

:( :( :( :(:(

this is SO SAD you didn't tell me it was going to be sad!!!!

@focusedunselectively

I mean I literally did say that. You might have skipped my post because of all the spoilers but I did in fact say that it was sad.

( :( )

(have you gotten to the part where -- I don't know how to explain it without giving it away, what's the last thing you've read?)

@wingeddragonfly

well yeah but I didn't realize HOW SAD.

the last part i read was [click to reveal spoiler]

@focusedunselectively

Gosh!

I am excited for you to get a little farther. :)

@wingeddragonfly

...........oh no.

Oh no this one is so sad. In a good way, say most of them! It's just really sad. Takes on the second one are split between 'eh, I felt the first one had more of a plot' to 'oh no this one is EVEN SADDER.' 

The thing it's doing with the maps is really neat. Here's a pinned post cataloguing all the differences between the maps, with the most notable ones highlighted, but really it's better if you look through them yourself.

5.

This one is okay. It is recognizably a game but just feels a little off from what people are used to, which isn't really surprising given that the Grapes are aliens, but it's hard to pinpoint what exactly is off about it. Treeple on their first playthrough mostly either go for 'regular non-aggressively-horrible exploitation' or 'friendship (no sex).' This person wants to know if allosexual people are actually attracted to statues or if that's part of the conceit of the game. This person wants to have wings. This person thinks that obviously wings would be great but that's not really relevant to the game, now, is it. This person is stuck and isn't sure if this is the kind of game where looking up what to do next when you're stuck is totally reasonable and valid or the kind of game where it's kind of cheating and might ruin your experience.

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Aliat:

1. 

@reliability

relatable content right here

@wingeddragonfly

ow. relatable

@petarka

You all know you can stop doing things that make you miserable, right?

@starlight-touches-turbulent-seas

I mean, sometimes you're ethically obligated to do things that make you miserable, and that's kind of what this book is about? The entire reason she (?) doesn't want to change is that she thinks she has to do her current job for the sake of her hive, and the resolution is that she's wrong about that, not that it doesn't matter. I reject the idea that my ethical obligations stop at the point where they make me unhappy.

This message should not be taken as an endorsement of illegal activity, I think it applies just as well to things like your career.

@petarka

Okay, but, like, we all know that Reliability feels stuck in rir linguistics specialization and would rather be doing physics and that's clearly not something where re's got an altruistic motive to stick with it and I really think re should switch! Look, I'm just saying, wingfly switched and we agrees it was obviously the right decision. 

Also, even for professions where it might actually matter, the difference usually isn't hugely significant, it's not like we have a shortage of, I don't know, doctors or firefighting drone operators or something, most of the fields where you're likely to make a particularly substantial marginal difference are research type things and it matters a lot if you like what you're doing. For everyone else, no one's going to die because you noticed that any math past linear algebra makes you miserable. 

...Uh, just to be clear, the part about people dying isn't a personal attack on Starlight.

@evertrue

<speaking in my capacity as a moderator>

Take it to the "telling people they're making stupid decisions" thread please, unless it's relevant to the story.

</endmodvoice>

also, mood

Treeple mostly think the problem here is not that she didn't want to tell people about her problems, the problem here was that she was trying to force herself to do something that made her miserable and that she was clearly not even suited for! Most people are better at doing things they like; lots of people think they can avoid this problem by being a Better Person and this is the sort of thing that predictably ends poorly. This one is popular mostly by virtue of being relatable to a large fraction of the forum's userbase.

2.

600,000 words is kind of a lot! Several people skip that one to mostly focus on the shorter ones. The people who do read this one mostly like it, it's very much the sort of thing that's traditionally regarded as Interesting Writing. Some of them will try to sell it as being worth the length, and more people do pick it up after that.

3. 

Treeple mostly kind of feel like at the point where you're specifying hundreds of different personality traits you should stop trying to make the personality traits be a game mechanic and just keep them as a roleplay thing. Maybe the antpeople have a different culture around roleplaying such that that doesn't work, or something? Someone says they'll host a few sessions in a voice call if enough other people are interested but most of the rest of the forum doesn't think it sounds appealing enough to actually block out time in their schedules for it.

4.

The different component parts of this have wildly varying reception! The novels mostly seem fine, say the people who weren't put off by there being seven of them. (More people are willing to give those a try than give the 600,000 word book a try, if you decide after reading one of them that you don't want to read the rest you've at least gotten a complete story out of them.) One person says ce's been having a lot of trouble with how much of the fiction was huge books and the short stories are much easier for cem, but this doesn't really seem to be typical. People mostly bounce off the poetry unless the translation is really good; Treeple are pretty particular about their poetry. The epistolary books are interesting! Lots of people like that sort of formatting thing if it's done well. Most people don't even bother to pick up the music score but if there are any recordings some of them might give it a listen.

They're pretty understanding about the slavery thing. Most past societies are horrifying in at least some respects; the present has more resources, more options, more levers it can pull if it wants to do right by people.

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Green:

1.

This is mostly not the sort of thing that anyone on this particular forum is going to get incredibly into but if the farms are pretty enough and it can be played from a phone then some people who have to commute for their job will play it on public transit and so on, and one of them does comment a couple weeks later that it's surprisingly addicting. The endings are neat although Treeple are sort of dubious about the globally unified federation one especially when the primary alternative involves uploading.

2.

This one is ... cute? They guess? Maybe if any of them were kids they would appreciate it more. The youngest person on this particular forum is 15. People are sort of torn over whether it's offensive to imply that young children's preferences are inherently transient; on Tree they're sometimes transient but definitely not always so, which is sort of a hard situation because lots of kids are bothered by the assumption their preferences are transient but obviously if they actually are then it's a reasonable assumption to make.

3.

This one is interesting! Treeple like the implicit discussion of ethics in the text; it's somewhat more subtle about it than a lot of the fiction they've been reading, from Tree or from miscellaneous other worlds, which most people seem to at the very least think is interesting. The assumed familial dynamics are pretty different from the dynamics that would be assumed on Tree, and it's interesting to see how that actually plays out. Someone draws up a comparison between the House of Truth and the Treeple who've taken the Pledge of Honesty (mostly they have impressively little in common given how superficially similar they are). A couple people take advantage of the lack of an ending to write fanfic of it but most people seem to lean towards thinking it would be better if it at least made vague gestures in the direction of having some sort of ending.

4. 

This one is fun! Most Treeple aren't all that into this sort of explicit lampshading of tropes most of the time but this is a pretty good execution of it (the precise quote that makes it into someone's comment is "at least this is interesting about it rather than being stupid about it"). Stories about scientists studying magical phenomena are always a popular genre, and one that's often hard to write in a satisfying way, so this one is really hitting the mark there. Also, the singers are really impressively good -- not that Tree doesn't have passable singers itself, but these ones are clearly better than a typical professional singer on Tree.

 

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A working group has been put together to curate 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 people have physical 'souls' which record their memories, instincts, and parts of their personalities. Moreover, it is possible to 'eat' the soul of a dead person and gain some of their memories and instincts. Since this is transitive, and most souls are eaten after death, some small part of most people lives on for hundreds or thousands of years after their death, although transmission is lossy. The story who follows a young monk and his life in a monastery (which is 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 impulses. 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. Soon learning that a large group of monsters have penetrated civilization's defensive lines and are now heading inwards, towards populated areas, he sets off for the nearby large 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. 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 fast. 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. 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, in comparison, is rather straightforward and unsurprising.

*'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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A Basillian coalition has assembled and distributed a collection of novels to share with aliens! It also includes a note, which clarifies the following:

 

-that each of these works has been chosen for both being popular and being a central example of a popular genre,

 

-that derivative fiction and alternate timelines are welcome,

 

-that if the aliens would like a copy of the setting bible for the shared settings they'd be happy to send one over, 

 

-that they appreciate comments of all sorts

A fantasy novel about an extremely convoluted civil war. It begins with the government, framed as the good guys, in an ongoing conflict with a group trying to overthrow them. The protagonists are not initially particularly affiliated with the government but all have personal issues with the group trying to overthrow them, and are talking about how to best oppose that group, with "joining the military/law enforcement" only one option being considered. They discover a ~vigilante group trying to oppose the anti-government side somewhat extra-legally, and join up with them. As the story goes on, more and more groups, defined primarily by which group they hate, emerge, as does more and more information about the motives and aims of the various groups. Eventually the protagonists conclude that while the original bad guys are not potential allies, their aims are morally better than the aims of the government and the group they joined up with. They create their own secret group, which primarily infiltrates the other groups and recruits from their membership. They then manage to assassinate, or persuade other groups to assassinate, and otherwise pull strings such that the leaders of most of the other groups are dead, and their agents are in control of most of the groups, at which point they reveal themselves, and restructure the government to align with their aims. The people they are at the end of the story would be morally abhorrent to the people they were at the beginning of the story, but the government they instantiate aligns with their aims at the time of creating their secret group.

 

This story takes place in a world with a very complicated magical system. The magic system has several different forms of magic, many of which have sub-forms. They are culturally and legal classed into "dark" and "light", with use of "dark" magic being seen as Evil and socially unacceptable. While a large portion of magic types classed as "dark" are harmful or exceedingly dangerous, many others have been classed as such due to a variety of cultural and legal influences. The protagonist begins as a young mage apprentice, learning from a Wise Older Mage who treats these categories as absolute and as a magical truth. Because non-Mages don't know much about magic, he accepts what he is told, and does not dabble in dark magic. Over time, as he learns magic and goes on various small adventures, he starts to meet other mages and realize that some of them dabble in dark magic without succumbing to evil. Eventually, he is sent alone to a great magical library to find and make a copy of a book for his master. While he is in the magical library, he takes the opportunity to read various other books on magic, and quickly learns that the classification is not an innate magical truth but instead a judgement made by mages based off of various things. Thus disillusioned, he decides to learn more about dark magic, and in addition to the book he was sent to get, he secretly makes himself a copy of a how-to book on one of the more harmless types of dark magic. He takes the book home with him, and studies it in secret, taking great care to never let his master see it. Eventually he reaches the point where in order to learn more he must begin to apply his magic practically, and begins to sneak out to practice.  One night while he is out practicing, he is seen by a passing mage, who instead of turning him in, offers to help teach him. The mage happens to live nearby, and begins to teach him ongoingly. The mage does not stop with the contents of the book the protagonist had found, but continues to teach him more and more dark magic, though he sticks to the more innocuous stuff at first. They enter into a romantic and sexual relationship, and slowly the other mage pushes him to be more and more self-interested. Meanwhile, the protagonist is often tired during the day, due to being up all night training, and is evasive and distracted with his master, leading to tension between them, and eventually the master mage tells the protagonist to take the rest of the season, and the season after, for himself, and to come back to resume his training afterwards, as it is clear he cannot learn more at this time. The protagonist, thus released, moves in with the dark mage, and steadily delves deeper and deeper into dark magic. The dark mage encourages him to practice his magic on nearby townsfolk, and to focus on taking what he wants and not on good and evil, and the protagonist quickly finds this comes far more naturally to him. He eventually learns enough to be considered the other mages equal, and suggests they go off travelling, and the story concludes with the protagonist and the dark mage travelling the continent as evil dark wizards, feeling happy and fulfilled.

 

A novel set in a popular shared soft sci-fi setting, which features aliens and spaceflight and very little concern for the scientific possibility of these things, but no magical powers, nor magical powers by some other name- all of the impossibility lives in the tech. The novel clearly expects the reader to be existingly familiar with the setting. The novel focuses on a young woman who lives with her girlfriend, and does not seem to have other friends and datemates. She's clearly dependent on her girlfriend in a few ways, living in an area with no public transportation despite being frequently unable to drive, and cannot afford housing on her own. Over the first half of the story it becomes increasingly apparent that the girlfriend is emotionally abusive, frequently cancelling plans with the protagonist in favor of other friends or datemates, and never cancelling in favor of the protagonist, lying to the protagonist about all sorts of things, making promises she never intends to keep, and, several times throughout the story, begging the protagonist to promise to never leave her shortly before confessing to gradually worse and worse atrocities. Throughout the same time the sex scenes gradually become less and less consensual, culminating with the protagonist physically shoving her girlfriend off her, after which her girlfriend claims she didn't realize the protagonist wasn't into it.  Up until this point the girlfriend had been employed and the protagonist had not, instead living off of her savings. Shortly after, this dynamic switches, with no reason given, and the protagonist slowly begins to make friends at her new work. She spends more and more time away from the house, which enrages her girlfriend, and eventually begins dating another girl at her work. This relationship is much healthier and allows her to realize her existing relationship is abusive, and she begins the tedious work of figuring out how to move out of her and her girlfriends shared house. At the end of the story she lives in a small apartment alone in a city, still dating the girl from work, though it's now long-distance, and has friends and other datemates in her new city.

 

Another novel from the same setting as the relationship fic, but during a different time period. At this time, the setting is ruled by an archetypal Evil Empire, with the Evil Empress passing down all sorts of laws allowing for slavery of various alien species, censoring all sorts of content, banning criticism of the government, and sanctioning multiple genocides. The protagonist, a 15 year old boy, starts the story as a member of the Imperial Navy, but quickly realizes that the Empire are the bad guys, and drops out to join the Plucky Rebels. The Rebellion generally have good values and good aims, opposing slavery, censorship, genocide, and large states- a set of things which the narrative treats as a completely natural and obvious set. The Rebels suffer a large number of setbacks, and several lesser protagonists die, but they win the day and overthrow the Evil Empire, killing the Evil Empress. There is a minor romance sub-plot, featuring 4 characters, at least 2 of which are dating at any given point, ending with all 4 in a happy relationship.

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A crossover fantasy series about a group of 64 young adults from a wide array of settings who wake up in a sapient, magical library-slash-academy and are trapped there. The characters each bring some form of magic or powers from their respective worlds. They are tasked with surviving for four years so they can "graduate" and return to their respective worlds with new and more powerful magic. The academy itself is hostile, and produces a variety of threats both environmental and active each year. However, the primary challenge is the end-of-year exams, which test the students on magical knowledge (in particular, each other's magic systems,) and which pass only the top 50% of the class each year; the bottom half are turned into books by the library. Dead students are treated as having gotten a score of 0, so students are incentivized to kill each other to increase their chances of passing each exam. The magics brought by the various characters are not at all balanced against each other, and the characters also vary greatly in competence, but beyond these factors, it is difficult to tell which characters will die or fail and which will survive; some characters get more screentime than others but there are no clear primary protagonists. A fair amount of sex is implied but it occurs offscreen, and pairbonding is not a focus; everyone is too busy not dying. Death-school-magic-system-analysis-many-setting-crossover-fantasy is a popular enough combination of tropes to constitute its own genre. This series is an exemplar due to the variety of novel magic-and-power-classification systems studied and invented by the characters, a few of which are groundbreaking by Auderan standards and many of which are refinements of popular classification systems, and which have since entered common usage. The settings and characters involved are not actually from other works; the team of authors who worked on this series took great pride in its originality and scope, and there's a perceptible aesthetic that holds across the diverse settings. There are numerous appendices expounding on the settings and their magic systems. At the end of each novel, this information is included for all of the characters who have died, to minimize spoilers in the intended reading experience.

An AU series of the aforementioned death school books where the characters attend a much kinder multiversal institution which lets them gradually learn each other's magics, including many of the noncontagious ones, and after graduation releases them be free to uplift their worlds in exchange for contributing original research. There are still some stakes, as it is possible for a student to drop out early with insufficient magic to solve all the problems they want to solve at home and no ability to visit their friends, but there's much more breathing room for love and pairbonding. In particular, several fan favorites who died early in the original series get a lot more development, and a prominent pair who led opposing factions in the later books of the original end up pairbonded. A lot of the words are straightforwardly indulgent descriptions of precious precious characters bantering and flirting and being happy together and having fun together and making each other happy like they clearly deserve. However, there is still no explicit description of anything more intense than cuddling despite their sex lives not being implied to be dead offscreen. Also, despite all the sunshine and roses, a few of the students are still egregiously terrible people, and prominent plot in the second book involves a faction of students conspiring to sabotage their experimental results so that they drop out early instead of gaining enough power to take over their homeworlds. There's a lot more tangled-up mixing of magics, analysis of their interactions in edge cases, and characters using multiple magic systems together than in the original series. Many details of magic systems previously relegated to appendices are instead discovered organically through diligent experimentation. Due to the greater focus on magical academics, characters helping each other succeed despite severe executive dysfunction is a prominent theme. The series culminates in the fourth year with a few students designing a communicable near-omnipotent powerset by jailbreaking a few key magics with other magic systems that are able to bypass their limitations. The graduating class adopts this powerset and is implied to have an easy time uplifting their own worlds, while the characters who dropped out with less power are left as further spinoff-bait.

A selection of the most popular erotic fanfiction of these series. Fanfiction set in the first version of the death school tends to have sadistic-exploitation, rapey, desperate-comfort, and desperate-indifferent sex. There is little in the way of explicit consent. Fanfiction set in the AU version tends to have more comfy sex, and a few characters ask for consent explicitly before their first time together, if not thereafter. There is also some crossover fanfiction between the universes which tends to take one of two forms: either a more amoral and hostile character from the original series defiles an innocent cozy character from the AU, or a powerful, kind, and safe character from the AU rescues a character from the original series and helps them learn to feel good and be happy during sex again. The sex tends to occur without any preamble, often while one participant is working on something else, or with a focus on the pleasure of only one participant. There is also a lot of casual groping. In some cases the characters in question are alts of the same character. In none of the fanfiction sent over does a character who is pairbonded in either series have sex with someone other than their partner.

A fantasy novel about a young wizard who steals a fallen star and embarks on a journey to return it to the sky. The protagonist is targeted by the setting's magocracy, who want to get the star back and exploit it for its magical properties. The protagonist's primary character traits are his curiosity, impulsiveness, and creativity. The star is sapient, and is depicted as naive, intelligent, alien, and adorable. The deuteragonist is a girl who has run away from a family of genetically modified mercenaries with superhuman physical abilities but drastically shortened lifespans. She joins the protagonist and the star on their journey and lends them her acute tactical intellect, her abilities in combat, and her well-honed paranoia. The deuteragonist never expresses vulnerability in an obvious way, but there is a lot of adorable cuddling and casual handholding. The featured magic system centers around sacrificing knowledge to evoke magical effects: to perform magic, a wizard focus on some area of their understanding of the world and figuratively "burns" it to power the effect. Efficiency of knowledge use scales with specificity, accuracy, and relevance of the knowledge used. Overdrawing on knowledge is easy and potentially disastrous, as it can not only undo years of study, but in extreme cases erase fundamental intuitions about the world that can't be easily relearned, such as a wizard's instinctive understanding of heat or gravity. This is played for horror, and depicted as one of the most awful things that can happen to a person ever. A central element of the setting is that anyone at all with significant scientific knowledge can perform magic, potentially to great destructive effect, and so the magocracy has outlawed literacy and study of the natural world among the populace. The novel ends with somewhat abruptly with the main characters overthrowing the magocracy. The characters dealing with the resulting chaos, implementing a better way to deal with the dangers of magic, studying sufficient astrophysics to return the star to the sky, and studying sufficient biology to save the deuteragonist from dying in her 30s is implied to be the plot of one or more sequels. This novel is notable for having been written by a particularly young author, whose style is a bit unrefined in a way that many Auderan readers find refreshing. It's also an example of a work with less heavy magicbuilding.
 
A series of relatively short novels about magical girls whose powers each revolve around conjuring and manipulating some class of ordinary manufactured objects, and who must fight monsters that appear in extradimensional fake nightmares to survive. The protagonist's powers are themed around measuring instruments. Her conjures aren't very scary in combat, but each magical girl has a mental power as well, and hers is highly potent: anything she can perceive with her senses, she can perceive with absolute precision, and she can also move her body with perfect precision and imagine distances and motion in space with precision. Early in the story, she is mentored by a magical girl who can conjure springs in arbitrary states of compression or tension. Before meeting the main character, she had been acting conservatively and laying low, but she takes on more monster fights to support the protagonist, as magical girls depend on dream marbles dropped by the monsters for sustenance. In the third chapter of the first book, she dies, and this spurs the main character on to be more self-reliant and agentic despite her offensively weak powers. Besides the necessary conflict with the nightmare monsters, there is a lot of conflict and combat between magical girls over hunting territory and the limited supply of dream marbles. There are around 20 magical girls who are introduced at various points with interesting powers. The most prominent characters besides the protagonist are a sadistic cleaning supplies-themed magical girl who fights with devastating gases and corrosive industrial cleaning agents, a happy-go-lucky balloon-themed magical girl who can conjure arbitrarily pressurized balloons which create pressure explosions, and a recordings-themed magical girl who acts as a mastermind and foil to the protagonist due to her similarly potent mental power. The second book revolves around a conflict with the sadistic cleaning supplies girl, and by the end the protagonist wins her over by outsmarting her in their cat-and-mouse game and begins to pairbond-date her. The third book revolves around the two of them taking care of and training the balloon-themed magical girl, whose power initially appears useless; there are clear parallels with the beginning of the first book. The fourth book is implied to escalate the conflict between the protagonist's party and the recordings girl mastermind, who has been exploiting other magical girls for dream marbles, but it hasn't been released yet. 

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