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Jul 06, 2022 9:33 PM
towertopia reviews and/or censors interdimensional fiction!
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Extremely! They’re a very cuddly kind of people! Do… do aliens not cuddle??

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Extremely! They’re a very cuddly kind of people! Do… do aliens not cuddle??

We do... sometimes? But cuddling is somewhat private and intimate for us, and is also associated with things that ants (or at least our ants?) are typically considered to lack, such as softness and warmth.

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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.

Delightful! For some reason Towertopian authors never came up with the idea of using dragons for agricultural purposes, though in retrospect it seems to make a lot of sense! TILES approves this work as a mostly fun and whimsical exploration -- not necessarily the most psychologically intense sort of literature or anything, but sometimes you want high impact stories about wrestling with crises of faith and authority, and sometimes you want exciting adventures in an unexplored new frontier with dragon friends by your side!

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

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

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Yet Another TILES Guidelines Update

 

  • A previous guideline clarified that works that provide sufficiently detailed instructions on how to produce hazardous substances will be considered dangerous to public health and morals. This principle also applies to works that provide detailed instructions as to how to commit criminal, immoral, or otherwise destabilizing actions. This applies even if the likelihood of such action actually being carried out seems low -- for instance, technical descriptions of how an individual with sufficient resources could unilaterally modify the moon's orbit, causing widespread destruction, will not be approved.

 

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Further selections from the working group (likewise certified for accuracy) include the following.

A romance/coming-of-age novel. This is an extremely common genre in the Union, but a very important one; the curators felt they had to include one acclaimed example. This book is more than a hundred years old, set in the Union of that time. It alternates perspective between the two main characters, a boy and girl who meet as children, become friends, slowly fall in love as they grow older, get married as young adults, and build a life together. Romance, as depicted in this story, is primarily composed of friendship, trust, and some understated lust, which culminates in joyous, certain-as-the-sun-rises love. This is not to say that they don't have disagreements, but all are resolved amicably.For Towertopia the curators have edited out all of the sex scenes, although some sexual content is still implied to have happened (mostly after, and not before, marriage). Their comings-of-age include of course increasing knowledge and sexual awakening, but the story also places great emphasis on seizing one's agency and the way the couple grows into each other, simultaneously adapting to their relationship and the world around them to together form an integrated whole.

A fantasy epic set in a very high-magic world with a long power ladder (and ensuing chaotic, complex power dynamics). The magic system works in such a way that it is possible (albeit difficult) for even the lowliest mortal beings to ascend to great power (and for even the greatest to be usurped). The story follows a woman of great ambition and deadly cleverness. After the spillover of a battle between two mid-level entities destroys most of her hometown, she becomes determined to gain the power necessary to control her fate in a chaotic world. The first act tells the story of her quest, the trials she undergoes, the stratagems she employs, the people she meets, the fantastical locations she visits, the entities she slays. Most of her victories are the result of her intelligence and strategic acumen (or, perhaps, her lack of mistakes). Notably, she does not at any point use deception to get ahead, although there are plenty of situations where it seems advantageous to do so, and several occasions on which she would gain from dishonoring agreements she has made. The second act begins as she nears the peak of power. At this point, she becomes more contemplative, stepping back from her schemes to gain power that she might think about how to use the power she has gained. She comes to realize that, despite the unending struggle and change, the nature of that struggle is constant. ("What did you expect? That you would climb to the top, seize power, and find waiting for you a switch to flip and fix the world? This world runs in cycles of cycles, and if it were easy to break them it would have happened already. When everything changes, nothing changes.") So she seeks a way to undermine those patterns, to make way for a world which is less chaotic and truly different. But—she decides—despite the constraints of the ecology they all participate in, everyone makes their own choices, and there is no reason it is impossible for them to make different ones. In the third act, she brings her vision into reality, persuading and bargaining for people to change their behavior, to work together to build something better. The costs of her honor are repaid many times over, as she alone has the credibility to make this plan succeed. What makes the difference is helping others to see the truth, to recognize the fundamental stupidity of collectively choosing to create a world rent by conflict. Over many thousands of years, the forces of coordination creep forward, and eventually overcome those of conflict. Peace at last.

A slice-of-life/comedy with tactical elements, which follows a group of six teenage boys, who have long been friends, as they decide to form a kravmabid* team and play together. At first, they aren't very good: unskilled, uncoordinated, and prone to blunders. As the book goes on, they learn from their mistakes, get better, and eventually become one of the better teams in the region. The story focuses most on the camaraderie and friendship between them, as well as the humor they share together and find in their situation—despite numerous losses, they do not become dispirited, instead joking about their ineptitude. The incompetence only enhances its effectiveness as an ode to boyhood friendship. Almost as an afterthought, the story offers detailed insight into the tactical dynamics and competitive landscape of kravmabid—the narrator often describes the characteristics of skilled play as an ironic contrast to what the boys are actually doing—as well as what it feels like from the inside to slowly get better at something by experimenting and learning from your mistakes.

*This is a sport on Olam, combining hiking, navigation, tracking, archery, and martial arts into a sort of multiday wilderness wargame. It was originally developed for training soldiers, and has since evolved into a more fun recreational activity. Play is dominated by maneuver, team coordination, stealth, and tracking.

An inside-view novel (set on contemporary Olam) from the perspective of a man who is a narcissist. He is often inconsiderate, and treats the people close to him poorly, but is exceptionally good at justifying his actions to himself. Since the entire book is from his—often warped—perspective, readers may initially believe that he is in the right, and underestimate the depth of his shortcomings. Eventually, he upsets someone in a way, and to a degree, that he cannot explain away, and for practically the first time is actually confused about why they feel as they do. He carries this confusion with him for several weeks, ruminating over it until he is eventually forced to conclude that he is responsible, and has very deeply fucked up. This triggers a long process of introspection, and attempts to change. Slowly, haltingly, with great difficulty, he is able to see through some of the illusions that have afflicted him, and comes to understand himself and others better. He repairs some of his relationships, and at the books end, makes a heartfelt apology to the person he has wronged the most (their reaction is not shown).

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An incredibly long magic-people-wandering-the-earth-killing-monsters story. The protagonist is a genius; he invents a lot of the spells used in other stories. The primary plot is an incredibly complicated and thorny political intrigue that blends into both a murder mystery and a war story, which is mostly rooted in the fact that everyone is taking gruesome revenge on so-and-so in response to so-and-so taking gruesome revenge on so-and-so in response to and so on and so forth. (It is strongly implied that the cycle of revenge began long before the book started, although the protagonist assumes that it began because the person he knows least well was Just Evil.) Further complicating the situation, everyone insists on adopting any orphaned child they happen to come across-- of which there are many, because of all the revenge-- and then is incredibly surprised when it turns out that those orphans had previously been adopted by people they hate. Everyone has a bunch of secrets and is incredibly bad at communicating with each other, leading to a lot of dramatic irony; these end up compounding the political intrigue. Everyone is also wildly traumatized, which informs their actions. You can understand everyone's point of view and really desperately want them to be okay. In theory, the heroes are supposed to be killing monsters, but in practice they are too busy with their political intrigue and the monsters rampage around killing peasants. The primary plot is the protagonist and his best friends, all of whom were originally invested in revenge and under the impression that their clans were correct, gradually becoming more fed up with the revenge thing.

The climax is thirty thousand words of the world's most painful and awkward group therapy session, in which everyone is stuck in a room together because of one of the monsters they'd been ignoring and finally discuss their feelings and reveal their secrets. Most of the characters wind up fundamentally broken and are implied to never be okay again. The protagonist and his best friends decide that they are SO FED UP WITH THIS SHIT, kill the monster, and decide to wander the earth with their adopted child killing monsters and never talk to any of these people ever again.

Interestingly, no character in the story is depicted as being in a romantic relationship with or having sex with any other character. While there are a variety of close relationships, these relationships are all referred to in the story as "close friendships". All children were originally adopted from assorted peasant couples who died of monsters. One of the major plots of the story is a tonally bizarre series of humorous misunderstandings and miscommuncations between the protagonist and his two best friends, which often parallel and comment on the main plotline. An example of one such scene is when the protagonist thinks his best friend hates him when actually the best friend admires him greatly; the protagonist almost dies saving a girl from a monster, and the best friend is very angry and upset, and the protagonist concludes that it is because the best friend wanted the glory of saving the girl from the monster himself! Another example is when the protagonist's best friend got blackout drunk and sparred with him; reawakening the next morning to see the protagonist bloody and bruised, he concludes that he must have flown into a rage over some unknown insult and assaulted him, and runs away without a word, leaving the protagonist confused and rejected. Best friends are commonly physically affectionate with each other; they cuddle, hold hands, and spar, and when the protagonist resurrects one of his best friends from the dead there are a lot of tender scenes where he has to perform medical examinations on and provide emotional support to his best friend.

In spite of all the passionate desire for revenge, no one commits any act more heinous than straightforward murder in a painless fashion.

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One of the earliest stories of the nations of (what is now) the Global Alliance, written down before contact with their extraterrestrial benefactors. It is an epic poem in three parts. Part one follows a capricious river-goddess as she alternately provides for and torments the people of the villages along her banks. In one of her rages, she pulls a town metalworker down beneath the water and he nearly drowns; in the next, she is depicted as pregnant; in her next calm period, she gives the baby to the metalworker she had nearly drowned.


(Without cultural context, readers may or may not put together that “pulling the metalworker under the water” was tasteful concealment of a rape scene.)


The second piece of the epic jumps ahead to when the metalworker’s baby has grown into a young girl. He has just passed away from smallpox and she is crying over his dead body. Desperate for any way to bring her father back, she consults with the town elders, who eventually reveal to her a route to the land of the dead. They warn her that the journey will be dangerous, but she presses on. The girl kills monsters on her journey to the underworld; annotations mention that different versions of the epic include different fantasy creatures here, and it is traditional for new adaptations to add their own. At the climax of the second part, she has to pick her real father out from two imposters, charismatic shapeshifting monsters who had escaped her on her journey. She figures out which one is her real father by asking trivia questions about metalworking; the monsters are stumped but her father answers correctly. She returns to the village in triumph.


The third part again skips ahead in time; the girl has grown into an adult woman, developed divine powers like her mother’s, started a family of her own, and made journeys up and down the river uniting the villages in an alliance. The alliance is building canals to control the floods and protect themselves from the river-goddess’s rage. Finding herself constrained, the river-goddess tries to assassinate her daughter; all three generations of the family–the metalworker, his daughter, and her children–make their stand against her together. The girl and the goddess have a battle of wills with hydrokinesis, her family backs her up with ordinary weapons, and ultimately they prevail in the fight over the goddess. The defeated goddess repents of her actions and signs a contract with the alliance, promising protection from other gods and monsters in exchange for the alliance’s correct ritual practice and sacrifice. An epilogue of sorts describes the growth of the alliance over the next few generations, with them accumulating wealth, building cities, and educating their children, all thanks to the actions of their heroes, who saved them from the whims of capricious nature.

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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.

This is an interesting concept, though of course the setting is deeply horrific. The series ends up getting approved, though TILES decides to edit out most of the sexual implications in general, regardless of whether they are "pairbonded", "gay", etc. The TILES panelists are also quite confused about the author's note about the one girl's partner naturally being led to decide to be a guy under other circumstances!

In terms of how the actual content is received, Towertopian readers like talking about different combinations of abilities and how the characters might have acted differently. One popular theory is that the most ethical behavior available under the circumstances might be to become as spiritually advanced a person as possible and then sacrifice oneself to save others (intentionally failing the exam if needed) so as to leave behind a wise and edifying book that can help future students trapped in this realm.

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.

This work also presents a very interesting concept! TILES considers delaying its release until after more sequels can come out so it can see whether the plot goes in an approved direction, but ultimately decides that if the plot goes way off the rails, the sequels could be refused permission even if the original is approved.

Like many works, this novel provokes a Towertopian "reverse version" that becomes somewhat popular, though in this case it's a reverse version of the magic system rather than the more typical reversal of characters or moral themes. In the Towertopian version, the magic system (which ends up being used as part of a quite different plot) doesn't sacrifice knowledge of the area being used, but rather sacrifices knowledge of other areas -- as a magic user uses more and more abilities in a particular domain, their other knowledge becomes more and more twisted to be relevant to their domain of focus, even if the utility of that relevance is very limited.The equivalent of losing fundamental intuitions would be becoming so specialized that one can no longer relate to things outside one's specialization. For instance, a fire mage who overdrew his knowledge might see furniture only as kindling and not for its intended purpose at all.

This system creates an interesting dynamic where in order to use power more effectively, one studies one's own field of specialization -- but since one can only sacrifice unrelated areas of knowledge, there are also major incentives to branch out and study unrelated or semi-related matters in order to have other knowledge to sacrifice -- a magic user with limited knowledge of other areas will quickly start losing basic concepts if they draw on their powers too heavily!

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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.

This is an interesting one because the main character's actions and moral state for much of the novel are extremely bad. The idea of a protagonist torturing and coming close to murder over such an issue as the one described towards the end, while clearly not acceptable or portrayed as acceptable, seems like it might well be over the line -- especially since the book is apparently intended for grade school students! At the same time, though, the actual moral message of the book seems profound and important -- repentance from past misdeeds, the struggle to improve yourself, and the idea that your enemies are people too. The TILES panelists reviewing this work end up quite divided. Ultimately the core themes of the work win out over the content and this novel is approved, since the actual terrible acts described are mostly offscreen, but it's very very close.

The final TILES-approved release version also has lots of content warnings and an introduction that emphasizes it deals with very heavy subjects, which means that ultimately it is likely to be read by an older audience in Towertopia than that which it was originally intended for. That said, this book is still something that provokes substantial interest. In some ways, the very extreme and alien nature of the acts committed by the protagonist make this more appealing than a hypothetical similar work that focused on things a grade schooler would be more likely to be tempted to commit -- a version of this story that involves someone lying to gain social standing or similar might be much harder to write in a way that avoids potentially giving people bad ideas!

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

This... isn't exactly the format that most appeals to a Towertopian audience, but it's approved nevertheless. The author's decision to release this work on an accelerated catch-up schedule rather than as one compiled work seems logical and appropriate -- this sort of work seems perhaps best appreciated as a set of serial installments.

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

Masterpiece! Masterpiece! TILES swiftly approves this and it becomes very popular among Towertopians, in large part for its brilliant use of a device that not only subverts readers' expectations, but does so as a means of advancing a legitimately meaningful and interesting point. It's not just trolling, it's trolling for a cause! Unfortunately, the nature of this device also means that why the book is so good is difficult to explain -- fortunately, it has an interesting and engaging plot in its own right as well to draw people in!

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IMPORTANT TILES UPDATE:

Owing to unusual circumstances, all Faylien media distribution has been suspended pending further evaluation.  This restriction has now been lifted, Faylien media distribution may proceed as normal. (For more information, authorized personnel may wish to peruse TILES case file: "The Girl In The Black and Blue Dress")

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A romance/coming-of-age novel. This is an extremely common genre in the Union, but a very important one; the curators felt they had to include one acclaimed example. This book is more than a hundred years old, set in the Union of that time. It alternates perspective between the two main characters, a boy and girl who meet as children, become friends, slowly fall in love as they grow older, get married as young adults, and build a life together. Romance, as depicted in this story, is primarily composed of friendship, trust, and some understated lust, which culminates in joyous, certain-as-the-sun-rises love. This is not to say that they don't have disagreements, but all are resolved amicably. For Towertopia the curators have edited out all of the sex scenes, although some sexual content is still implied to have happened (mostly after, and not before, marriage). Their comings-of-age include of course increasing knowledge and sexual awakening, but the story also places great emphasis on seizing one's agency and the way the couple grows into each other, simultaneously adapting to their relationship and the world around them to together form an integrated whole.

TILES approves this novel, with some content warnings for the implied sexual activity.

A fantasy epic set in a very high-magic world with a long power ladder (and ensuing chaotic, complex power dynamics). The magic system works in such a way that it is possible (albeit difficult) for even the lowliest mortal beings to ascend to great power (and for even the greatest to be usurped). The story follows a woman of great ambition and deadly cleverness. After the spillover of a battle between two mid-level entities destroys most of her hometown, she becomes determined to gain the power necessary to control her fate in a chaotic world. The first act tells the story of her quest, the trials she undergoes, the stratagems she employs, the people she meets, the fantastical locations she visits, the entities she slays. Most of her victories are the result of her intelligence and strategic acumen (or, perhaps, her lack of mistakes). Notably, she does not at any point use deception to get ahead, although there are plenty of situations where it seems advantageous to do so, and several occasions on which she would gain from dishonoring agreements she has made. The second act begins as she nears the peak of power. At this point, she becomes more contemplative, stepping back from her schemes to gain power that she might think about how to use the power she has gained. She comes to realize that, despite the unending struggle and change, the nature of that struggle is constant. ("What did you expect? That you would climb to the top, seize power, and find waiting for you a switch to flip and fix the world? This world runs in cycles of cycles, and if it were easy to break them it would have happened already. When everything changes, nothing changes.") So she seeks a way to undermine those patterns, to make way for a world which is less chaotic and truly different. But—she decides—despite the constraints of the ecology they all participate in, everyone makes their own choices, and there is no reason it is impossible for them to make different ones. In the third act, she brings her vision into reality, persuading and bargaining for people to change their behavior, to work together to build something better. The costs of her honor are repaid many times over, as she alone has the credibility to make this plan succeed. What makes the difference is helping others to see the truth, to recognize the fundamental stupidity of collectively choosing to create a world rent by conflict. Over many thousands of years, the forces of coordination creep forward, and eventually overcome those of conflict. Peace at last.

This epic is not just approved but widely praised in the TILES reviews. The main character's honor and unwillingness to break agreements or use deception is a great example of loyalty to truth, but aside from that reviewers really appreciate the fact that the main character realizes that the idea of trivially fixing the world is naive and then proceeds to take constructive long-term action anyway -- this sort of story is psychologically complex and interesting/inspiring in a way that "wildly overpowered main character fixes everything" plots generally aren't.

A slice-of-life/comedy with tactical elements, which follows a group of six teenage boys, who have long been friends, as they decide to form a kravmabid* team and play together. At first, they aren't very good: unskilled, uncoordinated, and prone to blunders. As the book goes on, they learn from their mistakes, get better, and eventually become one of the better teams in the region. The story focuses most on the camaraderie and friendship between them, as well as the humor they share together and find in their situation—despite numerous losses, they do not become dispirited, instead joking about their ineptitude. The incompetence only enhances its effectiveness as an ode to boyhood friendship. Almost as an afterthought, the story offers detailed insight into the tactical dynamics and competitive landscape of kravmabid—the narrator often describes the characteristics of skilled play as an ironic contrast to what the boys are actually doing—as well as what it feels like from the inside to slowly get better at something by experimenting and learning from your mistakes.

*This is a sport on Olam, combining hiking, navigation, tracking, archery, and martial arts into a sort of multiday wilderness wargame. It was originally developed for training soldiers, and has since evolved into a more fun recreational activity. Play is dominated by maneuver, team coordination, stealth, and tracking.

This work is easily approved and becomes quite popular, sparking substantial interest in kravmabid among Towertopian readers. Are there good professional-quality casts of kravmabid games that Olam could send over?

An inside-view novel (set on contemporary Olam) from the perspective of a man who is a narcissist. He is often inconsiderate, and treats the people close to him poorly, but is exceptionally good at justifying his actions to himself. Since the entire book is from his—often warped—perspective, readers may initially believe that he is in the right, and underestimate the depth of his shortcomings. Eventually, he upsets someone in a way, and to a degree, that he cannot explain away, and for practically the first time is actually confused about why they feel as they do. He carries this confusion with him for several weeks, ruminating over it until he is eventually forced to conclude that he is responsible, and has very deeply fucked up. This triggers a long process of introspection, and attempts to change. Slowly, haltingly, with great difficulty, he is able to see through some of the illusions that have afflicted him, and comes to understand himself and others better. He repairs some of his relationships, and at the books end, makes a heartfelt apology to the person he has wronged the most (their reaction is not shown).

A novel that shows a flawed person bettering themselves and features growth, change, and noticing confusion? Another work very appealing to Towertopian readers, once again approved and praised!

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Kravmabid is by nature very difficult to film, but there have been a few games recorded in extra-narrow-format*. They send over some reels and projection equipment. The editing and voiceover commentary is quite expert, but unable to compensate for the low quality of the recording.

*The Olamite equivalent to Super 8 mm film.

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An incredibly long magic-people-wandering-the-earth-killing-monsters story. The protagonist is a genius; he invents a lot of the spells used in other stories. The primary plot is an incredibly complicated and thorny political intrigue that blends into both a murder mystery and a war story, which is mostly rooted in the fact that everyone is taking gruesome revenge on so-and-so in response to so-and-so taking gruesome revenge on so-and-so in response to and so on and so forth. (It is strongly implied that the cycle of revenge began long before the book started, although the protagonist assumes that it began because the person he knows least well was Just Evil.) Further complicating the situation, everyone insists on adopting any orphaned child they happen to come across-- of which there are many, because of all the revenge-- and then is incredibly surprised when it turns out that those orphans had previously been adopted by people they hate. Everyone has a bunch of secrets and is incredibly bad at communicating with each other, leading to a lot of dramatic irony; these end up compounding the political intrigue. Everyone is also wildly traumatized, which informs their actions. You can understand everyone's point of view and really desperately want them to be okay. In theory, the heroes are supposed to be killing monsters, but in practice they are too busy with their political intrigue and the monsters rampage around killing peasants. The primary plot is the protagonist and his best friends, all of whom were originally invested in revenge and under the impression that their clans were correct, gradually becoming more fed up with the revenge thing.

The climax is thirty thousand words of the world's most painful and awkward group therapy session, in which everyone is stuck in a room together because of one of the monsters they'd been ignoring and finally discuss their feelings and reveal their secrets. Most of the characters wind up fundamentally broken and are implied to never be okay again. The protagonist and his best friends decide that they are SO FED UP WITH THIS SHIT, kill the monster, and decide to wander the earth with their adopted child killing monsters and never talk to any of these people ever again.

Interestingly, no character in the story is depicted as being in a romantic relationship with or having sex with any other character. While there are a variety of close relationships, these relationships are all referred to in the story as "close friendships". All children were originally adopted from assorted peasant couples who died of monsters. One of the major plots of the story is a tonally bizarre series of humorous misunderstandings and miscommuncations between the protagonist and his two best friends, which often parallel and comment on the main plotline. An example of one such scene is when the protagonist thinks his best friend hates him when actually the best friend admires him greatly; the protagonist almost dies saving a girl from a monster, and the best friend is very angry and upset, and the protagonist concludes that it is because the best friend wanted the glory of saving the girl from the monster himself! Another example is when the protagonist's best friend got blackout drunk and sparred with him; reawakening the next morning to see the protagonist bloody and bruised, he concludes that he must have flown into a rage over some unknown insult and assaulted him, and runs away without a word, leaving the protagonist confused and rejected. Best friends are commonly physically affectionate with each other; they cuddle, hold hands, and spar, and when the protagonist resurrects one of his best friends from the dead there are a lot of tender scenes where he has to perform medical examinations on and provide emotional support to his best friend.

In spite of all the passionate desire for revenge, no one commits any act more heinous than straightforward murder in a painless fashion.

This work is... somewhat begrudgingly approved with a bunch of content warnings. It's very dark and harsh by the standards of Towertopian literature, and the elements focused around adoption of children are quite strange by Towertopian lights, as is the extreme secrecy and bad communication. The ending is considered tragic and negative even if there are some hopeful aspects, and while one might expect the work's portrayal of close friendship to be appealing, it seems like these people are really bad at being friends with one another!

(One typically does not have extended unreconciled serious misunderstandings and errors with friends at this level of intimacy in Towertopia -- one of the biggest marks of Towertopian intimate friendship is ease of communication, increased transparency, and the joy in efficient conversations and shared leaps of comprehension that result. In fact, in one Towertopian culture the word for "close friend" translates roughly to "one who needs no examples" -- in other words, the level of shared understanding where giving examples for conversational points is often a waste of time because your friend will already know what you're talking about without this level of detail!)

All that said, the core theme of the work -- the tragedy and futility of revenge -- is quite an appealing one for Towertopians, but ultimately while TILES approves the book it ends up not being particularly popular with Towertopian readers other than some of those who like very dark/tragic stories. The Teachingsphere is back on the board after having its previous accepted submission pulled from circulation, though, and maybe this will help lead to increased cultural understanding in the future? (Also, uh, maybe not.)

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The fan translator of an otherwise unobjectionable historical fiction serial (told in epistolary format about the crew of a long-haul merchant vessel and their loved ones in various ports) has been dutifully if bemusedly assigning genders and editing relationships as the chapters come out.  This has now led to a situation where two "male" "committed friends" are deciding to have a baby, and they would like to know just what they're supposed to do with this?

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One of the earliest stories of the nations of (what is now) the Global Alliance, written down before contact with their extraterrestrial benefactors. It is an epic poem in three parts. Part one follows a capricious river-goddess as she alternately provides for and torments the people of the villages along her banks. In one of her rages, she pulls a town metalworker down beneath the water and he nearly drowns; in the next, she is depicted as pregnant; in her next calm period, she gives the baby to the metalworker she had nearly drowned.

(Without cultural context, readers may or may not put together that “pulling the metalworker under the water” was tasteful concealment of a rape scene.)

The second piece of the epic jumps ahead to when the metalworker’s baby has grown into a young girl. He has just passed away from smallpox and she is crying over his dead body. Desperate for any way to bring her father back, she consults with the town elders, who eventually reveal to her a route to the land of the dead. They warn her that the journey will be dangerous, but she presses on. The girl kills monsters on her journey to the underworld; annotations mention that different versions of the epic include different fantasy creatures here, and it is traditional for new adaptations to add their own. At the climax of the second part, she has to pick her real father out from two imposters, charismatic shapeshifting monsters who had escaped her on her journey. She figures out which one is her real father by asking trivia questions about metalworking; the monsters are stumped but her father answers correctly. She returns to the village in triumph.

The third part again skips ahead in time; the girl has grown into an adult woman, developed divine powers like her mother’s, started a family of her own, and made journeys up and down the river uniting the villages in an alliance. The alliance is building canals to control the floods and protect themselves from the river-goddess’s rage. Finding herself constrained, the river-goddess tries to assassinate her daughter; all three generations of the family–the metalworker, his daughter, and her children–make their stand against her together. The girl and the goddess have a battle of wills with hydrokinesis, her family backs her up with ordinary weapons, and ultimately they prevail in the fight over the goddess. The defeated goddess repents of her actions and signs a contract with the alliance, promising protection from other gods and monsters in exchange for the alliance’s correct ritual practice and sacrifice. An epilogue of sorts describes the growth of the alliance over the next few generations, with them accumulating wealth, building cities, and educating their children, all thanks to the actions of their heroes, who saved them from the whims of capricious nature.

TILES looks into this for some time. The implied rape in the first part of the poem is indeed evident, though the presence of such is not intrinsically objectionable if portrayed carefully (as it is here). The fantasy creatures displayed during the "journey to the underworld" are interestingly different from some of those familiar to Towertopian audiences, and the idea of thwarting the shapeshifters via trivia about one's occupation rather than by personal/family interactions is an especially interesting twist.

The ending is a bit unusual. Given that this "goddess" seems very dubiously good (and in fact might herself be a monster or demon), the alliance's eventual pact with her seems strange. That said, as a founding myth and metaphor for the victory of progress and civilization over the cruelties of nature, this seems passable, and indeed the ritual practices the alliance offers can be interpreted as the need to protect nature's bounty and avoid undue pollution etc. in order to best live in the natural world. The genre of "foreign historical epic and founding myth" speaks in this work's favor and TILES approves it.

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The fan translator of an otherwise unobjectionable historical fiction serial (told in epistolary format about the crew of a long-haul merchant vessel and their loved ones in various ports) has been dutifully if bemusedly assigning genders and editing relationships as the chapters come out.  This has now led to a situation where two "male" "committed friends" are deciding to have a baby, and they would like to know just what they're supposed to do with this?

An interesting puzzle. It seems that edits to this work made earlier in the serial have led to objectionable situations later in the serial -- in this case, editing to make earlier relationships TILES-approved has led to the edited characters' later relationships not being TILES-approved. The earlier portions of these serials are indeed quite acceptable with the edits in place, but the later elements present quite an obstacle.

There's some internal debate as to whether these sorts of major amendments are even worth requesting, or if they should just reject these kind of works outright -- if such substantial modifications are needed is it really worth distributing this at all? On the other hand, there is often good to be found even in bad things, and insofar as they can be modified to contain the good but not the objectionable elements that seems quite positive. Further, some of the edited works that have already been distributed seem to have done well.

The pro-modification position ultimately wins; a TILES representative writes back that the best solution might simply be to excise this subplot altogether. Alternatively, the translators could return to whatever had happened earlier in the story to make them change the characters in question and redact that, if this later relationship would be more important to the plot than whatever went on earlier was implied to be.

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