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Jul 06, 2022 9:25 PM
towertopia reviews and/or censors interdimensional fiction!
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A short story collection on the theme of censorship and secrecy being a fundamentally hostile attitude for a government to take towards its citizens. Stories include a metaphor about refusing sex education to children while self-servingly rationalizing about it, parables about the apparatus of censorship metastasizing to encompass things their well-intentioned creators never intended, someone escaping a cult (it seems to be some kind of linguistic prescriptivism and also sex cult) and learning to trust that the wider world does not systematically mislead them about anything, an attempt at keeping information that seemed to have triggered psychosis in a character's mother away from that character in the hopes that she will not suffer the same psychosis only for her to succumb to a psychotic episode anyway that's substantially worsened by the fact that everybody's been hiding things for her entire life, and aliens discovering that their taboo about discussing certain topics has been holding them back catastrophically in magical engineering in ways that would not have been foreseeable at the time the taboo was instituted.

A graphic novel about a little boy trying to find a teacher he likes enough to put up with school happening upon a person who washed out of actual teacher school due to executive dysfunction and limited energy but clicks with him really well; he winds up going over to her house all the time and shadowing her and asking her questions and eventually convincing his parents to pay the tuition budget to her. It includes a lot of the educational conversations and since it's a graphic novel they're accompanied by helpful visual aids, though it doesn't cover any single topic in much depth.

Not-quite-fiction about human (well, Green) evolutionary biology with an emphasis on fictionalized-anonymized nifty case studies from obscure insular cultures and some completely whole cloth just-so suppositions, supporting or in tension with this or that theory.

Basically just Flowers for Algernon with less sex in it and the strong implication that the main character's parents would have preferred the main character to have Down's instead of a less visible problem, since that's obvious at birth and you can commit infanticide about it.

A musical that is a biography of a famous orator who was active in political movements of his time including increased trade even with odious neighbors for positive sum prosperity, increased research into pharmaceuticals to help people on habit forming drugs, a major reform to his country's orphanage system which was still bad afterwards but not nearly as much so, and popularizing the idea that sex is kind of addictive and should be saved until you're in a place in your life where you will have reasonable and routine access. The songs are derived from his speeches but not in the exact words; they've been adapted for updated language drift and also to scan better. There is a narrator character who sings opposite him to discuss practicalities as they are understood in modern times, in addition to the chorus of extras representing other contemporary views.

A story about the household formation process for someone who has assumed for her entire life that one day she would live ALONE and no one would BOTHER her and she would listen to LOUD MUSIC and she would pick her nose in ANY room of the apartment she damn well pleased. She gradually accumulates friends and a love interest and realizes that it is possible to find living with other people actively desirable. The epilogue has the main character's toddler picking her nose in the middle of the dining room and the main character going "you know what, fair" about that. Also, everyone in the story has a prehensile tail, and there is light worldbuilding about how that would affect things, but it leaves Green largely recognizable.

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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A short story collection on the theme of censorship and secrecy being a fundamentally hostile attitude for a government to take towards its citizens. Stories include a metaphor about refusing sex education to children while self-servingly rationalizing about it, parables about the apparatus of censorship metastasizing to encompass things their well-intentioned creators never intended, someone escaping a cult (it seems to be some kind of linguistic prescriptivism and also sex cult) and learning to trust that the wider world does not systematically mislead them about anything, an attempt at keeping information that seemed to have triggered psychosis in a character's mother away from that character in the hopes that she will not suffer the same psychosis only for her to succumb to a psychotic episode anyway that's substantially worsened by the fact that everybody's been hiding things for her entire life, and aliens discovering that their taboo about discussing certain topics has been holding them back catastrophically in magical engineering in ways that would not have been foreseeable at the time the taboo was instituted.

TILES is very split on this one. Overall, Towertopian attitudes towards censorship -- much like many uses of Law and Authority -- is that it is important to a properly-ordered society but also a tool for great evil if misused. This work focuses entirely on the evils of misuse, but that is an important concept in itself and not intrinsically something that should necessarily be rejected (though more conservative panelists disagree!). Some different perspectives that are brought up during the discussion of what to do about this work include:

1. This collection should be suppressed as morally bad for its un-nuanced opposition to the important government function of censorship

2. This collection should be published, but with substantial content editing or censorship (the irony of this approach is not lost on the TILES panel and basically undermines the case for this option)

3. The collection should be re-edited and published with the most questionable/objectionable stories removed but no edits or censorship other than that

4. This collection should be published as is as a cautionary tale of how the abuse of authority can lead people to reject even basic functions of government

5. This collection should be published as is because we can in fact trust people to understand that this applies only to misuses of censorship

Ultimately, the fourth option wins out -- this collection is published more-or-less as is (there are some of the "standard edits" to Green fiction for sexuality), but with an introduction from the TILES panel framing these as cautionary tales of what can happen if authorities abuse their power of censorship.

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A heavy-handed concluding note tacked on about how the girl was right to finally go to an authority figure about this and that luckily, you -- the young reader -- live in a society where authority figures are both stronger and more trusted than in the world this book comes from.

The author of the book is incredibly offended by this conclusion and wants to retract the book from publication unless a more suitable concluding note is agreed upon. She agrees that children should not be misled about the appropriate way to react in your society if your parents are abusing you, but in the Teachingsphere children typically arrange their own adoptions, and this is not because monks aren't trustworthy! It's because children have an easier time transitioning out of an abusive household if they are going to be raise by an adult they know and trust. There is nothing wrong with the Towertopian approach-- different societies have different needs-- but that "luckily" is very offensive. She will accept a neutral note explaining the concept of cultural differences and the appropriate way for Towertopian children to respond to their parents being abusive. 

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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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An alternate-historical novel set after the Zadian Theocracy has been overthrown by revolution, following the revolutionary committee trying to set up a new government.  We have several characters pushing for new theocracies (but disagreeing on which religious sects to favor - a few of them still agree with the Zadians' teaching just not the strictness of their practices), some other characters advocating a more secular aristocratic-democracy, and others who want each town choose its own course.  The book majors on their debates and their interaction with the city around them.

(The author's brief prologue explains that in actual history, the Zadian Theocracy was overthrown by foreign armies some time before this book was set.)


A historical-fantasy novel set in the late Middle Ages (before the rise of global trade, the translator's preface explains), where magical elves kidnap some novice Historian-Monks, and they must use their historical and philosophical training to resolve the elves' political dispute and convince someone to bring them back home.  Along the way, they convince two elves to take Historian-Monk vows and set up their own Elven monastery.


A historical novel set during the Barren-Power war, about two (fictional, the author explains) people arrested for treasonously passing secret information to the Barren-Power army.

(The translator explains that the Barren-Power war was Ev's last major war, about a century before the present.  It was started by the Barren-Power ideology, which condemned abstract philosophy as useless, advocated whatever led to success, and saw successful dictatorship as its own justification.)

One person did it out of cowardice when they temporarily conquered his town; he's horrified at what he did and can't imagine how to atone.  The other person felt that a stronger Barren-Power movement would push the world out of their suboptimal equilibrium; he agrees he did wrong but thinks it was worth it.  We follow their psychological and religious journey while under sentence of death for treason.  The first person finally forgives himself and begs to be kept away from any similar situation; the second person finally trusts in God and other people to handle the situation.

In the end, both their sentences are commuted to lifelong vows as Astronomy-Monks.


(The Ecumenical Astronomical Monks also send their complete tables of supernova and pulsar observation, with a letter from the Abbot-General of the order expressing his wishes for profitable exchange of nonfictional knowledge.)

 

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A graphic novel about a little boy trying to find a teacher he likes enough to put up with school happening upon a person who washed out of actual teacher school due to executive dysfunction and limited energy but clicks with him really well; he winds up going over to her house all the time and shadowing her and asking her questions and eventually convincing his parents to pay the tuition budget to her. It includes a lot of the educational conversations and since it's a graphic novel they're accompanied by helpful visual aids, though it doesn't cover any single topic in much depth.

TILES approves this as offering interesting insight into childhood in an alien society, despite the fact that the conventions here are quite unlike those Towertopian societies have established with respect to education.

Not-quite-fiction about human (well, Green) evolutionary biology with an emphasis on fictionalized-anonymized nifty case studies from obscure insular cultures and some completely whole cloth just-so suppositions, supporting or in tension with this or that theory.

TILES evaluates this work as fun but potentially dangerous and it is ultimately sent to Towertopian universities for scientific review; depending on the results of this process it may be accepted or rejected, or in the event that the process is considerably disputed it may find itself stuck in the bureaucracy (and therefore not approved). Some degree of leniency will likely be extended thanks to the fact that it describes an alien version of this process, but insofar as its theories are wildly off they may be 

Basically just Flowers for Algernon with less sex in it and the strong implication that the main character's parents would have preferred the main character to have Down's instead of a less visible problem, since that's obvious at birth and you can commit infanticide about it.

This work was rejected on first submission after a cursory review, but has returned with an author appeal clarifying that the main character's parents are intended to be extremely negative figures. The TILES appeals group reevaluates the story in light of that and approves it for publication, though they add a preface describing how the parents in this story betray Authority and Love with their misconduct and are not intended to be admirable figures.

A musical that is a biography of a famous orator who was active in political movements of his time including increased trade even with odious neighbors for positive sum prosperity, increased research into pharmaceuticals to help people on habit forming drugs, a major reform to his country's orphanage system which was still bad afterwards but not nearly as much so, and popularizing the idea that sex is kind of addictive and should be saved until you're in a place in your life where you will have reasonable and routine access. The songs are derived from his speeches but not in the exact words; they've been adapted for updated language drift and also to scan better. There is a narrator character who sings opposite him to discuss practicalities as they are understood in modern times, in addition to the chorus of extras representing other contemporary views.

This work is heavily disputed among TILES panelists because the political movements involved seem like quite a mixed bag! The odious neighbors part is at least questionable (depending on just how odious those neighbors are), the research into pharmaceuticals and orphanage reform seem quite desirable, and the sex one seems... uh... not exactly what Towertopia would support but at least conceivably a step in the right direction? Additionally, given Green responses to previous efforts for editing, the TILES panel is quite unclear as to what editing (if any) would be acceptable-to-Greens in this case. It marks this one as "pending further historical review" and sends back some questions for expansion on the historical details of this orator's life.

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If they want more detail on the historical circumstances of the orator's life they can have them! Here are the non-musical versions of his speeches and essays; here is the Educational Libretto for people who use interest in musicals as a way to absorb the facts contained therein and enjoy additional facts to pin to their appreciation of the show tunes; here are some books about the history of the odious neighbors (this one was a theocracy, that one was a conquering government considered to be illegally occupying their state, this other one was the base for a lot of smuggling, that last one had a long low-key simmer of resentment between them and the orator's country due to a falling out between their monarchs a few centuries previously that never really got smoothed out enough to restore the benefit of the doubt). They don't really know what editing Towertopia could possibly mean to do here? The orator had these views and not different views. They suppose they could cut some of the songs if they don't like the idea of representing all of his activities. Censorship is weird.

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This is a 6 hour film which shows an image of an empty room with plain beige walls and an undecorated concrete floor.  It is seemingly a static image.  However, as time passes, it is revealed to indeed be film: the spot of light from an out-of-frame window slowly passes from one side of the floor to the other.  Nothing else happens.  A note with the submission mentions that this is the most frequently suggested work for people who demand censorship, as it contains literally nothing that someone could potentially find offensive. 

On a similar but opposite end is this old children’s book titled How Plants Work which is covered in heavy warnings: nudity, sex, reproduction, genital mutilation, etc etc.  All of the warnings are *technically* correct - the plants are not covering their reproductive organs (flowers) with any form of clothing.  One image has a person picking flowers and putting them in a vase to be admired.  Other flowers which are not picked get pollinated and form seed-bearing fruit to continue the life cycle.

The warnings are clearly tacked on by someone other than the author, and a further note by the cultural translator mentions that it frequently mass-sent to any censorship bureau or other censored publication list as a meme and is therefore the #1 most challenged book on Therrune despite being entirely harmless.  Nearly every creche-district library has a copy, where it performs its intended task as being an informative book for children just learning how to read.

Said cultural translator, being a rare person with any diplomatic skills, takes pity and decides to offer a more genuine story.  It is a film showing the heavily extrapolated-upon life of a popular artist from around 250 years ago.  It never got much traction on Therrune due to its heavily filtered-against warnings (pregnancy, children, deadly illness, disability) but might be better received elsewhere. 

Rulin Sepia9483 had no real drive or ambition when they were young.  Nearly as soon as their clutch was ready to move out of the creche-district they moved back in as an incubator (via artificial insemination, as was still the technological standard back then), then became a clutch-parent to their offspring’s clutch.  They got on well with the 6 children under their care and had a sibling-close bond with their two fellow parents, weathering the various trials that came their way including the wave of a dangerous illness which killed one of the children and paralyzed one of the other parents.  

As the children became teenagers and began to prepare for their own lives and future careers in the adult districts, Rulin once again felt lost and unsure what to do.  However, Tyrese Seafoam9927, one of the children in their care, was passionate about carpentry and often brought their study material home.  They bonded over the work rather than growing distant as Tyrese reached adulthood.  Rulin joined Tyrese at their carpentry classes and later moved out of the creche-district with their now-ex ward.  

They got a commission to replace an old dovecote and built a truly impressive double-helix-shaped sculpture which both pigeons and passers-by loved!  The two of them went on to build dozens more, each unique works of art, and brought about the fad of extravagant dovecotes which continues to this day. Rulin died of a lung infection about 20 years after their first sculpture, and Tyrese continued to work for another 40, eventually moving on to apartment buildings for humans.  The last few minutes of the film is a reel of photographs of their work, as well as video of the original double-helix structure which has been consistently rebuilt as needed in the same place with a bronze plaque showing its artists displayed beside it.

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If they want more detail on the historical circumstances of the orator's life they can have them! Here are the non-musical versions of his speeches and essays; here is the Educational Libretto for people who use interest in musicals as a way to absorb the facts contained therein and enjoy additional facts to pin to their appreciation of the show tunes; here are some books about the history of the odious neighbors (this one was a theocracy, that one was a conquering government considered to be illegally occupying their state, this other one was the base for a lot of smuggling, that last one had a long low-key simmer of resentment between them and the orator's country due to a falling out between their monarchs a few centuries previously that never really got smoothed out enough to restore the benefit of the doubt). They don't really know what editing Towertopia could possibly mean to do here? The orator had these views and not different views. They suppose they could cut some of the songs if they don't like the idea of representing all of his activities. Censorship is weird. 

With these updates, the musical is released along with a lot of other material explaining the historical context, explanatory notes from TILES that their context is not our context and that some of their deeds would likely be disendorsed if attempted here, and so on. The daunting amount of reference material makes the musical perhaps less popular as "light entertainment", though the large amount of "worldbuilding" material quite appeals to other Towertopians. A cultural dispute arises as to whether or not fandom for interdimensional history is Problematic, whether it's okay to make fan wikis based on the history books provided, and so on.

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A story about the household formation process for someone who has assumed for her entire life that one day she would live ALONE and no one would BOTHER her and she would listen to LOUD MUSIC and she would pick her nose in ANY room of the apartment she damn well pleased. She gradually accumulates friends and a love interest and realizes that it is possible to find living with other people actively desirable. The epilogue has the main character's toddler picking her nose in the middle of the dining room and the main character going "you know what, fair" about that. Also, everyone in the story has a prehensile tail, and there is light worldbuilding about how that would affect things, but it leaves Green largely recognizable.

This story is straightforwardly approved as a fascinating picture of how an alien society handles communal living, though if the main character and her love interest aren't married in canon, well, they're sure going to be now! The illustration of how what one thought one might like as a young person can change dramatically over time is considered quite appealing as well.

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.

While controversial for its portrayal of transhumanism (trans-alienism?) as a win condition, this is nevertheless approved as an interesting artifact from a foreign world and foreign gaming culture! Towertopians are highly inclined towards competitive multiplayer but this sort of thing is a fun option, and the focus on aesthetic arrangements appeals to Towertopian sensibilities -- games where the in-game strongest option (best armor set in an MMO, best base arrangement in an RTS, etc.) is aesthetically ugly are known to be controversial among Towertopians, and this game steers away from that obstacle.

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.)

Adorable and definitely approved! Some enterprising retailers start selling various items with roan cow print, which becomes something of an inside joke among Towertopians.

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.

TILES approves this work as an interesting look both at an alien culture and at cultural transmission through adolescence, though it is published flagged as "incomplete".

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.

Sounds like light-hearted and TILES-approved fun! Musicals are not the most popular genre in Towertopia but are not unknown by any means, so the core concept of people suddenly breaking into coordinated song and dance is pretty culturally accessible.

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The author of the book is incredibly offended by this conclusion and wants to retract the book from publication unless a more suitable concluding note is agreed upon. She agrees that children should not be misled about the appropriate way to react in your society if your parents are abusing you, but in the Teachingsphere children typically arrange their own adoptions, and this is not because monks aren't trustworthy! It's because children have an easier time transitioning out of an abusive household if they are going to be raise by an adult they know and trust. There is nothing wrong with the Towertopian approach-- different societies have different needs-- but that "luckily" is very offensive. She will accept a neutral note explaining the concept of cultural differences and the appropriate way for Towertopian children to respond to their parents being abusive. 

The TILES panelist reviewing this request puts his head in his hands. Given the brief blurbs he had seen about the known cultural factors of various worlds, he had thought the Teachingsphere was one of the most promising cultures in terms of prospect for TILES-approved edifying literature, but there must have been some kind of terrible misunderstanding or translation error... not only were many of the works submitted totally unacceptable, but somehow the one Teachingsphere book they actually published thus far has nevertheless led to incredible offense and controversy.

The book is indeed withdrawn so as to avoid exacerbating diplomatic problems between Towertopia and the Teachingsphere.

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Tree has stories for TILES! The stories treat the cultural default as assuming that obviously everyone is going to live together with a group of friends -- a cultural note explains that they've heard TILES is opposed to "polyamory," and they're not totally sure what this means, but generally speaking these groups of people are not having sex with each other.

A historical fiction novel set roughly five hundred years in Tree's past, discussing the attempts of a (real) scholar attempting to prove that another (real) scholar's work was in part fraudulent. A significant part of the work is devoted to the protagonist's attempts to determine whether the work is fraudulent, not-fraudulent-but-sloppy, or whether in fact the protagonist is wrong (although the protagonist is clearly assuming throughout the work that they are not wrong). Other major subplots include: the protagonist mourning the death of rir eldest sibling while simultaneously struggling with complicated feelings about the fact that ae died in an assassination attempt on two members of the de-facto rulers of a neighboring city, the surviving member of which is a major supporter of several of rir friends' scholarship; several background political debates on a war that seems to be going on nearby; and a handful of sex scenes in which rem and rir spouse attempt to conceive a second child while spending the entire time miserable about it. (It does not seem to have even occurred to the submitter that this might qualify as pornography.) An attached cultural-context guide notes that everything about the story is consistent with the current state of knowledge about the events in question, but notes a few specific places where the narrative in the story conflicts with the current leading hypothesis (though not with an alternative reasonably-plausible hypothesis) and several more places where the story just completely made up details that could be true but probably aren't.

A song about spaceflight, primarily focusing on how different people from all sorts of walks of life can contribute to the project of one day settling the stars, with a bittersweet emphasis on what it means to build something you'll never live to see.

A pair of short stories, both set in the same world, but each following a different teenage character as the protagonist. In this world, some people have access to limited magical powers allowing them to affect their own mind in various ways, as well as enabling minor acts of telekinesis, which can be used in various prosocial ways, most notably energy generation. However, unbeknownst to them, using these powers requires falsely believing that anyone can in principle learn to use these powers. (In fact, even absent this condition, not everyone has the potential to use these powers.) Children with the potential for these powers are raised separately from the rest of the society, in order to allow for this lie to be maintained. The two protagonists, who are friends, jointly discover evidence conclusively suggesting this is untrue, and simultaneously discover the fact that knowing this is untrue makes you lose access to your powers. Both of them realize what is happening in time that they could, in principle, use their powers to self-modify to forget this fact (which would allow them to retain their magical powers); one of them decides pe is unwilling to force pemself to believe something false, while the other decides ze would rather keep zir powers, and chooses to forget. The stories conclude with the first character mourning the fact that the second is willing to choose to believe something untrue, while the second character mistakenly believes that zir friend chose to abandon zem and pir work (in fact pe was expelled from the commune).

A bureaucratictasksassistant saves jir boss from a murder attempt, which is implied to be an ideologicalmurder, killing the attempted murderer in the process. The judge interviewing jem determines je is not legally culpable, but je wrestles with guilt out of the belief that if je had been trying harder not to kill the murderer, the murderer would also have survived. Je dedicates jemself to the project of trying to make up for what je perceives as jem having killed someone, which makes up the bulk of the novel. Je eventually discovers that one of jir close friends, whom je had been concerned about throughout the novel but had not expected to literally be a murderer, is planning to kill someone. Je attempts to talk jir friend down, seemingly fails but picks up some specifics about fir plan, confronts fem in person in an attempt to stop fem, and ends up choosing between having to kill jir friend, let jir friend carry out the murder, or risk jir own life and likely die trying to take fem down non-violently. Je takes the third option; the friend fails to force femself to kill or seriously harm jem and proceeds to have a breakdown about how if fe were more committed to fir beliefs fe'd have been able to just go through with it anyways. The story ends ambiguously, with it unclear what any of these people are going to do from there.

A novel set on a world in which people are immortal and unaging, and also live on floating islands in the sky. (The exact magical mechanism for the floating islands is left largely unclear.) At the start of the novel, it appears that the floating islands are universally difficult to travel between. The protagonist, an astronomer, lives on an island ruled by a single "first citizen" who essentially serves as an absolute monarch. At first, it appears that the absolute monarch is doing chir best given resource constraints, but the protagonist, an astronomer, uncovers evidence that travel between the floating islands ought to be relatively easy unless something is actively interfering. Ae attempts to publish air research, but is informed that it violates a law preventing the promulgation of misinformation. Terrified of accidentally misleading people, ae tracks down the person responsible for the decision and demands an explanation; when ae fails to get a satisfactory one, ae attempts to build a prototype ship to travel between the islands. As ae prepares to test the prototype, ae is confronted by the island's first citizen, who informs aem that the other islands contain various seemingly-good developments that would actually be harmful to life on the island. Ae decides that in that case, ae definitely has to be the one to check out the islands, so that no one else is put at risk. Ae investigates the other islands, concludes that the monarch believes what che said but is wrong, and returns with as much information as ae can bring. Ae attempts to persuade the monarch of this, fails, and concludes that the monarch believed this when che implemented the initial rules, but that che is continuing this policy because che is worried that if the populace finds out what they're missing out on they'll revolt. The monarch attempts to prevent aem from leaving, but fails due to some of the inventions from other islands ae brought back with aem. Ae wrestles with what to do, before ultimately deciding to inform the populace of the possibility of inter-island travel and what other islands are like, without specifically accusing the monarch of lying; ae does this by using a "typewriter" from another island to hand-type instructions on how to create an islandship, going into the central forum of the city, and handing them out to everyone in sight. The monarch comes to try to arrest aem under false pretenses, at which point ae points out that the truth is already out and arresting them won't actually do anything. The story ends with the monarch fleeing to another island, a significant portion of the populace emigrating, and the protagonist and various supporting characters debating what system of government to implement on the island with the departure of the monarch.

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A Further Guidelines Update:

    • Stories that describe sexual and/or fetishistic behaviors in the form of detailed descriptions of lustful thoughts, fantasies, pinings, hypothetical conversations, suggestive letters or messages, etc. will often be considered obscene and unworthy of publication even if the behaviors being fantasized about or discussed do not ever actually take place within the world of the narrative. (The concept of characters being attracted to one another, even lustfully or otherwise immorally so, is of course permissible, but certain specifics of that are not.)

 

  • Stories that praise, glorify, revel in, or endorse the idea that all moral authority is fundamentally invalid and one needs to rethink everything for oneself should be considered immoral and unworthy of publication.

 

 

  • Stories that contain detailed instructions on chemical processes, formulas, etc. that can be used to create addictive drugs, deadly and innocuous-seeming poisons, or other hazardous substances should be considered dangerous to public health and morals and unworthy of publication.

 

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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.

This novel is approved as an interesting fantasy, but publication is held up by a spirited dispute as to whether TILES should mandate that a word other than 'souls' be used in this translation to avoid unfortunate implications, or whether the word 'souls' should be retained in order to make the novel more of a metaphor for the intercession of the saints. The TILES panel is unable to resolve this disagreement on its own and the matter is referred to the metaphysicians.

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.

The Hadarite religion is of course not practiced in Towertopia, but its emphasis on truth is popular among Towertopians. This memoir is nevertheless approved both for its extremely in-depth look at two different cultures and their interactions. Interestingly, it becomes popular with a wider audience for its humor -- the "humorous misunderstandings" genre is very popular in Towertopia.

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.

Both this book and its answer sheet are subjected to in-depth evaluations by the TILES panel and subject-matter experts brought in to look at specific claims. Unfortunately, some of the claims rely on events that happened in an alternate world with history and psychology that seems relevantly different from that of Towertopia, making them difficult for Towertopians to properly evaluate -- both here on the TILES panel and more broadly, As a result this book is ultimately approved as an unusual and interesting alien cultural artifact, but its efficacy for its purported purpose is somewhat challenged by the historical and psychological differences between Towertopia and Olam.

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.

This book, like many of the otherworldly books that contain large amounts of reference material, finds an audience with Towertopians. "Rebuilding after a disaster" is a somewhat popular subgenre in Towertopia, but this one is interesting in that it not only involves new cultures emerging after such a disaster, but the culture culture that is being rebuilt from is itself rather alien! This book, once approved by TILES, adds further fuel to the debate about whether it's appropriate to treat actual events of otherworldly history as one would a fandom.

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This book is set in a world that is like the Teachingsphere, except that magic people wander the non-Teachingsphere parts of the earth and kill monsters. (Gods exist, but are understood by the magic people as being a particularly formidable kind of monster that is sometimes too helpful to need killing.) A poor village hires seven magic people to defend them from magic-people bandits by lying and claiming they have money to pay; when it turns out they don't, there's conflict, but all seven magic people eventually decide to defend the village. The seven magic people have varying kinds of trauma, which are discussed but not resolved over the course of the story; four of them die. The theme is that being a peasant is much better morally and for one's happiness than being a magic person who kills people. Six of the magic people are men, and one is a woman. The woman cooks, repairs clothing, and doesn't fight, but is also in charge of tactics and is universally obeyed by the men. The fighting is described in enthusiastic detail, and mostly used as a means of characterizing the protagonists. A subplot about the woman's husband atoning for having sex with a village girl was tacked on for the Towertopians at the last minute. (The sex was in the original book.) The man is deeply upset by how having sex with the girl offended the logos and harmed the social fabric because people couldn't rely on him not to have sex with people other than his wife. His wife comforts him about it, and the narrative seems totally unaware of the possibility that she might have had any objections to him having sex with someone else.

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A slightly complicated political novel, classified as “short,” with only 70,000 words and three subplots. In this one, one of the hives is secretly preparing to wage war on both hives and framing it on the other, and is thwarted when one of the ambassadors has a crisis of faith, which is detailed in full. She defects, tells the others about the evil plans, and gets lots of cuddles with her new friends.

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An alternate-historical novel set after the Zadian Theocracy has been overthrown by revolution, following the revolutionary committee trying to set up a new government.  We have several characters pushing for new theocracies (but disagreeing on which religious sects to favor - a few of them still agree with the Zadians' teaching just not the strictness of their practices), some other characters advocating a more secular aristocratic-democracy, and others who want each town choose its own course.  The book majors on their debates and their interaction with the city around them.

(The author's brief prologue explains that in actual history, the Zadian Theocracy was overthrown by foreign armies some time before this book was set.)

TILES approves this work as an interesting take on an alternate world's history and on the merit of various governmental systems.

A historical-fantasy novel set in the late Middle Ages (before the rise of global trade, the translator's preface explains), where magical elves kidnap some novice Historian-Monks, and they must use their historical and philosophical training to resolve the elves' political dispute and convince someone to bring them back home.  Along the way, they convince two elves to take Historian-Monk vows and set up their own Elven monastery.

Approved, and indeed very appealing to a Towertopian audience!

A historical novel set during the Barren-Power war, about two (fictional, the author explains) people arrested for treasonously passing secret information to the Barren-Power army.

(The translator explains that the Barren-Power war was Ev's last major war, about a century before the present.  It was started by the Barren-Power ideology, which condemned abstract philosophy as useless, advocated whatever led to success, and saw successful dictatorship as its own justification.)

One person did it out of cowardice when they temporarily conquered his town; he's horrified at what he did and can't imagine how to atone.  The other person felt that a stronger Barren-Power movement would push the world out of their suboptimal equilibrium; he agrees he did wrong but thinks it was worth it.  We follow their psychological and religious journey while under sentence of death for treason.  The first person finally forgives himself and begs to be kept away from any similar situation; the second person finally trusts in God and other people to handle the situation.

In the end, both their sentences are commuted to lifelong vows as Astronomy-Monks.

This work is quickly approved and becomes popular both for its history and for its narrative -- these sorts of "psychological" works are popular with Towertopians, especially around themes of redemption and repentance. The Barren-Power ideology is also prime "villain material".

(The Ecumenical Astronomical Monks also send their complete tables of supernova and pulsar observation, with a letter from the Abbot-General of the order expressing his wishes for profitable exchange of nonfictional knowledge.)

Astronomical information of a similar nature is transmitted back in return!

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This is a 6 hour film which shows an image of an empty room with plain beige walls and an undecorated concrete floor.  It is seemingly a static image.  However, as time passes, it is revealed to indeed be film: the spot of light from an out-of-frame window slowly passes from one side of the floor to the other.  Nothing else happens.  A note with the submission mentions that this is the most frequently suggested work for people who demand censorship, as it contains literally nothing that someone could potentially find offensive. 

This work is approved, including the explanatory note. One Towertopian art museum puts it on passive-aggressive display on a screen near the entrance with the caption "This is what anti-censorship cultures think our art must be like." If one walks past the screen, they find a balcony looking out over beautiful collections of art produced under Towertopian censorship.

On a similar but opposite end is this old children’s book titled How Plants Work which is covered in heavy warnings: nudity, sex, reproduction, genital mutilation, etc etc.  All of the warnings are *technically* correct - the plants are not covering their reproductive organs (flowers) with any form of clothing.  One image has a person picking flowers and putting them in a vase to be admired.  Other flowers which are not picked get pollinated and form seed-bearing fruit to continue the life cycle.

The warnings are clearly tacked on by someone other than the author, and a further note by the cultural translator mentions that it frequently mass-sent to any censorship bureau or other censored publication list as a meme and is therefore the #1 most challenged book on Therrune despite being entirely harmless.  Nearly every creche-district library has a copy, where it performs its intended task as being an informative book for children just learning how to read.

The TILES panelists reading this work are initially confused as to whether the content warnings are meant sincerely and this is a culture that views plant reproduction as immoral to depict -- upon reading the cultural translator's note at the end, they have to admit it's a funny joke. The plants depicted are somewhat different to those that are well-known in Towertopia and the work is approved as a foreign cultural artifact, though it is not considered suitable for children thanks to the warnings etc.

Said cultural translator, being a rare person with any diplomatic skills, takes pity and decides to offer a more genuine story.  It is a film showing the heavily extrapolated-upon life of a popular artist from around 250 years ago.  It never got much traction on Therrune due to its heavily filtered-against warnings (pregnancy, children, deadly illness, disability) but might be better received elsewhere. 

Rulin Sepia9483 had no real drive or ambition when they were young.  Nearly as soon as their clutch was ready to move out of the creche-district they moved back in as an incubator (via artificial insemination, as was still the technological standard back then), then became a clutch-parent to their offspring’s clutch.  They got on well with the 6 children under their care and had a sibling-close bond with their two fellow parents, weathering the various trials that came their way including the wave of a dangerous illness which killed one of the children and paralyzed one of the other parents.  

As the children became teenagers and began to prepare for their own lives and future careers in the adult districts, Rulin once again felt lost and unsure what to do.  However, Tyrese Seafoam9927, one of the children in their care, was passionate about carpentry and often brought their study material home.  They bonded over the work rather than growing distant as Tyrese reached adulthood.  Rulin joined Tyrese at their carpentry classes and later moved out of the creche-district with their now-ex ward.  

They got a commission to replace an old dovecote and built a truly impressive double-helix-shaped sculpture which both pigeons and passers-by loved!  The two of them went on to build dozens more, each unique works of art, and brought about the fad of extravagant dovecotes which continues to this day. Rulin died of a lung infection about 20 years after their first sculpture, and Tyrese continued to work for another 40, eventually moving on to apartment buildings for humans.  The last few minutes of the film is a reel of photographs of their work, as well as video of the original double-helix structure which has been consistently rebuilt as needed in the same place with a bronze plaque showing its artists displayed beside it.

This work poses major difficulties for the TILES panel. On the one hand, the primary story of a parent overcoming uncertainty about their path in life by working together with a child on artistic projects is interesting and inspiring, especially against the backdrop of what is by Towertopian standards a horrible and dehumanizing system.. On the other hand, the idea that pregnancy or children would be considered a content warning is itself somewhat objectionable, and the portrayal of group "clutch-parenting" and the birth of children via artificial insemination is highly contrary to Towertopian sexual ethics, even though it's by no means the focus of the story.

Ultimately, this work is approved with various additional warnings added -- some view it as an interesting cultural artifact of a very foreign culture, while it also has some popular artistic appeal as a perhaps unusually optimistic example of the Towertopian "triumph amidst dystopia" genre, as a lot of things in this genre normally end with the triumph being a glorious martyrdom.

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This is a story about a planet colonized by premodern magical exploration that has developed separately from the author's world since then (one can derive this from footnotes explaining worldbuilding details, of which there are a lot), and it's got dragons on it, and the colonists make friends with them and ride them around to do slash-and-burn agriculture and defend against less friendly megafauna and deliver messages long distances.

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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. Tags: heavy worldbuilding, heavy magicbuilding, large cast, death school, setting-crossover, magic-combat, fantasy, drama. 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; most characters are too busy not dying. The sexual implications should be pretty easy to edit out when they're gay, if you like. Conveniently, all but one of the pairbonds that do occur are heterosexual-coded. It should be easy to edit the last one to give one girl a preference for guys, which would naturally lead her partner to decide to be a guy, right? Anyway, 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.

Here's a fantasy novel about a young wizard who steals a fallen star and embarks on a journey to return it to the sky. Tags: light worldbuilding, light magicbuilding, discrete-spells, nondiscrete-spells, costly magic, whimsical cosmology, dystopia, nonsexual friendship-romance, magic-combat, fantasy. 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.

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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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Tree has stories for TILES! The stories treat the cultural default as assuming that obviously everyone is going to live together with a group of friends -- a cultural note explains that they've heard TILES is opposed to "polyamory," and they're not totally sure what this means, but generally speaking these groups of people are not having sex with each other.

An alarming beginning, but TILES forges on.

A historical fiction novel set roughly five hundred years in Tree's past, discussing the attempts of a (real) scholar attempting to prove that another (real) scholar's work was in part fraudulent. A significant part of the work is devoted to the protagonist's attempts to determine whether the work is fraudulent, not-fraudulent-but-sloppy, or whether in fact the protagonist is wrong (although the protagonist is clearly assuming throughout the work that they are not wrong). Other major subplots include: the protagonist mourning the death of rir eldest sibling while simultaneously struggling with complicated feelings about the fact that ae died in an assassination attempt on two members of the de-facto rulers of a neighboring city, the surviving member of which is a major supporter of several of rir friends' scholarship; several background political debates on a war that seems to be going on nearby; and a handful of sex scenes in which rem and rir spouse attempt to conceive a second child while spending the entire time miserable about it. (It does not seem to have even occurred to the submitter that this might qualify as pornography.) An attached cultural-context guide notes that everything about the story is consistent with the current state of knowledge about the events in question, but notes a few specific places where the narrative in the story conflicts with the current leading hypothesis (though not with an alternative reasonably-plausible hypothesis) and several more places where the story just completely made up details that could be true but probably aren't.

This work is an interesting foreign example of a "quest for truth" story, a genre that is popular among Towertopians, and it acknowledges multiple possibilities in a way that makes the story more engaging. (The stereotypical "bad teenage writing" version of the quest for truth story involves a protagonist who is Obviously Right and does not much consider the possibility that they are erring or even overconfident, just that they haven't found the right arguments yet.) While the work does contain sexual elements, they seem clearly not intended to arouse the prurient interest and the work is hence approved, albeit with major content warnings.

A song about spaceflight, primarily focusing on how different people from all sorts of walks of life can contribute to the project of one day settling the stars, with a bittersweet emphasis on what it means to build something you'll never live to see.

TILES approves this song -- a popular fan-made Towertopian music video draws sentimental parallels between the scenario described in the song and the workers who built a famous historical cathedral which took centuries to construct.

A pair of short stories, both set in the same world, but each following a different teenage character as the protagonist. In this world, some people have access to limited magical powers allowing them to affect their own mind in various ways, as well as enabling minor acts of telekinesis, which can be used in various prosocial ways, most notably energy generation. However, unbeknownst to them, using these powers requires falsely believing that anyone can in principle learn to use these powers. (In fact, even absent this condition, not everyone has the potential to use these powers.) Children with the potential for these powers are raised separately from the rest of the society, in order to allow for this lie to be maintained. The two protagonists, who are friends, jointly discover evidence conclusively suggesting this is untrue, and simultaneously discover the fact that knowing this is untrue makes you lose access to your powers. Both of them realize what is happening in time that they could, in principle, use their powers to self-modify to forget this fact (which would allow them to retain their magical powers); one of them decides pe is unwilling to force pemself to believe something false, while the other decides ze would rather keep zir powers, and chooses to forget. The stories conclude with the first character mourning the fact that the second is willing to choose to believe something untrue, while the second character mistakenly believes that zir friend chose to abandon zem and pir work (in fact pe was expelled from the commune).

These stories are accepted with the caveat that they must be published together, as the second story would be considered perhaps contrary to public morality if released on its own. When paired, though, this is beautiful art that speaks to the importance of standing up for the truth -- even when it hurts -- and the importance of resisting even useful lies. Beliefs are for true things!

A bureaucratictasksassistant saves jir boss from a murder attempt, which is implied to be an ideologicalmurder, killing the attempted murderer in the process. The judge interviewing jem determines je is not legally culpable, but je wrestles with guilt out of the belief that if je had been trying harder not to kill the murderer, the murderer would also have survived. Je dedicates jemself to the project of trying to make up for what je perceives as jem having killed someone, which makes up the bulk of the novel. Je eventually discovers that one of jir close friends, whom je had been concerned about throughout the novel but had not expected to literally be a murderer, is planning to kill someone. Je attempts to talk jir friend down, seemingly fails but picks up some specifics about fir plan, confronts fem in person in an attempt to stop fem, and ends up choosing between having to kill jir friend, let jir friend carry out the murder, or risk jir own life and likely die trying to take fem down non-violently. Je takes the third option; the friend fails to force femself to kill or seriously harm jem and proceeds to have a breakdown about how if fe were more committed to fir beliefs fe'd have been able to just go through with it anyways. The story ends ambiguously, with it unclear what any of these people are going to do from there.

The categories used in this work are somewhat unlike those of Towertopian society, but the plot is quite appealing despite the ambiguous ending. The amount of attempted murder going on in the bureaucratictasksassistant's life seems alarming, though Towertopian readers are uncertain whether that is reflective of actual high incidences of murder in Tree society or whether it's just one of those things you're supposed to overlook -- similar to how detective fiction protagonists often seem to encounter a really weirdly high amount of murder given actual historical crime rates for their setting etc. etc. 

A novel set on a world in which people are immortal and unaging, and also live on floating islands in the sky. (The exact magical mechanism for the floating islands is left largely unclear.) At the start of the novel, it appears that the floating islands are universally difficult to travel between. The protagonist, an astronomer, lives on an island ruled by a single "first citizen" who essentially serves as an absolute monarch. At first, it appears that the absolute monarch is doing air best given resource constraints, but the protagonist, an astronomer, uncovers evidence that travel between the floating islands ought to be relatively easy unless something is actively interfering. Ae attempts to publish air research, but is informed that it violates a law preventing the promulgation of misinformation. Terrified of accidentally misleading people, ae tracks down the person responsible for the decision and demands an explanation; when ae fails to get a satisfactory one, ae attempts to build a prototype ship to travel between the islands. As ae prepares to test the prototype, ae is confronted by the island's first citizen, who informs aem that the other islands contain various seemingly-good developments that would actually be harmful to life on the island. Ae decides that in that case, ae definitely has to be the one to check out the islands, so that no one else is put at risk. Ae investigates the other islands, concludes that the monarch believes what che said but is wrong, and returns with as much information as ae can bring. Ae attempts to persuade the monarch of this, fails, and concludes that the monarch believed this when che implemented the initial rules, but that che is continuing this policy because che is worried that if the populace finds out what they're missing out on they'll revolt. The monarch attempts to prevent aem from leaving, but fails due to some of the inventions from other islands ae brought back with aem. Ae wrestles with what to do, before ultimately deciding to inform the populace of the possibility of inter-island travel and what other islands are like, without specifically accusing the monarch of lying; ae does this by using a "typewriter" from another island to hand-type instructions on how to create an islandship, going into the central forum of the city, and handing them out to everyone in sight. The monarch comes to try to arrest aem under false pretenses, at which point ae points out that the truth is already out and arresting them won't actually do anything. The story ends with the monarch fleeing to another island, a significant portion of the populace emigrating, and the protagonist and various supporting characters debating what system of government to implement on the island with the departure of the monarch.

This one leads to more controversy -- the novel is interesting as a potential example of the virtue of truthseeking and the perils of unjust censorship, but the main character's actions are at least questionably obedient, but the "first citizen" also seems to be ruling unjustly, but it isn't entirely clear whether the main character had sufficient reason to know that, but also the "first citizen" is ruling in a fashion overtly contrary to Truth... ultimately this work is TILES-approved but with an introduction and summary that frames the "first citizen" as sinister from the beginning, which somewhat detracts from the dramatic tension of the work.

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This book is set in a world that is like the Teachingsphere, except that magic people wander the non-Teachingsphere parts of the earth and kill monsters. (Gods exist, but are understood by the magic people as being a particularly formidable kind of monster that is sometimes too helpful to need killing.) A poor village hires seven magic people to defend them from magic-people bandits by lying and claiming they have money to pay; when it turns out they don't, there's conflict, but all seven magic people eventually decide to defend the village. The seven magic people have varying kinds of trauma, which are discussed but not resolved over the course of the story; four of them die. The theme is that being a peasant is much better morally and for one's happiness than being a magic person who kills people. Six of the magic people are men, and one is a woman. The woman cooks, repairs clothing, and doesn't fight, but is also in charge of tactics and is universally obeyed by the men. The fighting is described in enthusiastic detail, and mostly used as a means of characterizing the protagonists. A subplot about the woman's husband atoning for having sex with a village girl was tacked on for the Towertopians at the last minute. (The sex was in the original book.) The man is deeply upset by how having sex with the girl offended the logos and harmed the social fabric because people couldn't rely on him not to have sex with people other than his wife. His wife comforts him about it, and the narrative seems totally unaware of the possibility that she might have had any objections to him having sex with someone else.

TILES approves this book, though it's certainly not without controversy or content warnings. While some of moral themes in this work are popular with Towertopian readers, reviewers criticize the female magic person as not fitting well into the narrative -- she is seen as unrealistically saintly and selfless in a way that undermines the core theme about the moral superiority of the peasants to the magic people.

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Some Additional Guidelines

  • Works that are clearly lewd or fetishistic in their core setting or fundamental concept will not be approved even if the directly sexual elements have been removed prior to sending them to TILES.
  • A previous guideline held that works that promoted infanticide or eugenics would be considered immoral. Infanticide because a child is deformed is still infanticide. In fact, it arguably counts as both infanticide and eugenics. Such will not be approved.
  • Works that portray sufficiently outrageous offenses against natural law as worthy of serious consideration will be rejected even if those offenses are ultimately rejected within the narrative; this does not mean that one cannot have morally errant characters, but some things are really just beyond the pale!
  • Works that praise, glorify, revel in, or endorse lying shall be considered hazardous to public morals.

 

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A slightly complicated political novel, classified as “short,” with only 70,000 words and three subplots. In this one, one of the hives is secretly preparing to wage war on both hives and framing it on the other, and is thwarted when one of the ambassadors has a crisis of faith, which is detailed in full. She defects, tells the others about the evil plans, and gets lots of cuddles with her new friends.

This work is approved, though it is by Towertopian standards not really that short. The moral heroism of the protagonist in refusing to go along with an evil regime is admirable, and the difficult details of questioning that authority and undergoing a crisis of faith are especially welcome. That said, the TILES panelists look a bit askance both at the amount of cuddling in the end (though it seems to be chaste and innocent?) and whether such would really be popular among ants!

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