Jul 06, 2022 9:29 PM
Auder reacts to interdimensional fiction
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There are other worlds! And we can communicate with them! And our physicists are no longer confident in their understanding of base reality!

This clearly means that THERE MIGHT BE MAGIC. Prediction markets have the probability of magic existing observably in the ENTIRE PERCENTS.

So. PLEASE SEND US INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW TO DO MAGIC. WE WILL PAY YOU LITERALLY ONE PERCENT OF OUR GDP FOR THE NEXT DECADE IF YOU TEACH US TO ACTUALLY DO MAGIC WHICH WE SUCCESSFULLY PERFORM. Less than one percent maybe on the outside chance that more than one of you teaches us to do magic. One percent to the first to teach us real magic, definitely. Potentially much more depending on the magic and its economic value. The one percent is for sharing literally any magic that works.

Here is a detailed description of what we mean by magic, and a summary of our current understanding of physics to compare it against. Here are some examples of fictional things that qualify as magic.
(Edit: Magic mostly means conceptualmagic which has a significant gap in complexity between its observed effects in higher level ontologies and the most basic ontologies, without physics bridging the gap. The definition of conceptualmagic for this purpose is relatively lax by some standards used to classify magic in fiction: for example, anything which does high-ontology-basic "targeting" or "targeting limitations" without physical compute implementing the targeting limitations, such as effects which treat objects, creatures, element or substance classes besides the chemical, personhood, or minds as fundamental things. A specific example: a wand which doubles the dimensions of objects when a person taps an object with it has several conceptualmagic elements in the form of the implementation of the object enlargement, the object targeting, the tapping recognition, and the person recognition, all of which are compactly expressible in high-level ontologies but not low-level ones, and if the wand does this without a mechanism that bridges the gap such as nanomachines or extradimensional compute analyzing object contiguity and tapping and deciding how to interpolate wood grain when scaling up a piece of wood, it would qualify as magic. However, magic can also refer to things which probably do have some explanation that makes sense in the lowest-level ontologies if they are sufficiently fictional-powerlike, such as some way of getting AWESOME SUPERPOWERS which happens to rely on extradimensional compute left by an extinct multiversal civilization with a higher tech level or something, but which doesn't require us to build extradimensional compute ourselves. We're aware that this description isn't perfect, please don't try to game our description of magic to take 1% of our GDP, if you interpret this in a way that leads you to classify something as magic which we don't we are very sorry for the imperfect characterization.)

If you don't have any magic, we will accept interesting fiction, but please submit it with the header [NOT REAL MAGIC] so that we don't get our hopes up. Our global team of volunteers who are collectively watching for instructions about how to do magic at all hours of the day will read it and come up with some thoughts, to thank you for reading this and talking with us.

If you send us fake magic as a joke we will be extremely upset. Please do not send us fake magic as a joke. Doing so would sour interworld relationships with us for a very long time.

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[NOT REAL MAGIC] (but if you figure it out we’ll also pay you lots for the information)

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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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Did somebody say magic?

The Grapeverse sends over a hastily written explanatory packet detailing how their magic works (five personality archetypes each associated with an element), the state of the art in experiments with gaining magic by deliberately cultivating an archetypal personality (no one has ever verifiably succeeded), and how they think Auder might best beat those odds (does Auder have multiplicity? Here's a hastily written explanation of multiplicity. Try gaining archetypal alters! It might not work, but grapes think it's got the best chance available of working). They also send the grape fiction that's been making the rounds, with hastily added notes on which characters fit which archetypes and how real the depicted magic is.

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

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

Porn about masochists with access to magical healing is its own entire genre but here is a widely acclaimed example, in which a [sadist who lives by themself in a castle they designed and built using magic] (this is a two-word phrase in the author's native language) gets an unexpected visitor and falls in love with them despite being sort of shaky on this whole 'human interaction' concept. Neither of them has much of a clue how to pursue a healthy relationship, but they are both highly motivated to figure it out, and they make it to the end of the book having successfully reinvented most of the basics from scratch and settling into a life together full of art and luxury and wholesome, loving, extremely gory sex. The climactic scene involves the introverted-sadist-architect breaking into tears about how much they love their partner and needing to be wrapped in blankets and snuggled until they calm down. The two of them are the only characters in the entire book, unless you count the introverted-sadist-architect's house as a third character, which you very well might given how much screentime it gets. The back of the book has a collection of author-approved fanart of the castle, added so the aliens can get a sense of the architectural styles involved that words alone would have trouble conveying. Auder-specific notes: None of the depicted magic is real but the introverted-sadist-architect is a classic Dragon and their lover is a recognizable meld of Ondine and Phoenix.

A duology of very long fantasy novels, which turn out to be collectively about 40% appendix by pagecount. The appendices cover worldbuilding, conlangs, and a set of six different detailed maps of the world, each from the perspective of one of the major nations involved in the plot, all of which have subtle disagreements with each other on matters such as which landmarks are important, what they are called, and who owns them. The plot consists of a ragtag yet lovable ensemble cast, thrown together by circumstances beyond their control which accidentally leave them the only people in the world capable of saving it from a cataclysmic threat, having breakdowns about how they're not ready for this and then going ahead and doing their best anyway. In the end, they pull it off by the skin of their teeth and with rather more casualties than any of them are comfortable with. The second volume has a long denouement consisting mostly of our heroes leaning on each other and their friends and loved ones to help them cope with all their realistically-described trauma once the crisis is over; the last chapter concludes when they're all psychologically stable again and leading healthy, thriving lives, and the epilogue shows a bittersweet scene of the six of them holding a private memorial ceremony together ten years later, after which they are going to attend a massive celebration being held in their honour on the anniversary of their success. Auder-specific notes: None of the characters is a clear single archetype and none of the magic is real.

A work of interactive fiction, in which the player's character appears wandering in a starlit desert with no memory of where they came from or how they got here. After finding and exploring a nearby ruin, you eventually stumble upon a talking statue of a beautiful winged person, and although the statue is very shy at first, eventually you can coax enough information out of them to realize that they're some sort of powerful magical being who has been horribly abused by people using them for personal gain. You, too, can horribly abuse them and use them for personal gain; or you can use them for personal gain in less gratuitously awful ways that they still pretty clearly find traumatizing; or you can try to befriend them; or you can try to befriend them but in a sex way; or you can ignore them and try to figure out a way to escape the mysterious magical ruins by yourself. The descriptions of the statue's reactions to trauma are uncompromisingly realistic; the descriptions of the statue's reactions to genuine friendship and love are heartbreakingly sweet. The story has multiple possible endings, depending on your relationship with the statue and on whether you choose to escape the mysterious ruin or not, plus the implicit non-ending of simply never deciding to take an ending option; it is only possible to remove the statue from the ruins by force or with maximum trust levels, and if you do it by force the statue crumbles to dust as soon as they cross the outer wall. Auder-specific notes: The statue is a pretty classic Ondine. None of the depicted magic is real.

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Firstplanet probably doesn't have any magic! There's a bit of a language issue but it sounds like what the Auderans want is either a) any physics differences between universes, b) physics that treats humanintuitivecategories(A) as if A were mathcategories* and operates on A directly, or c) physics that does compute outside of a brain or a brain-created structure.

Here is a giant textbook on Anomalan physics(B) in case any of B is interestingly different! If in fact B the same but comparatively primitively understood, there are bounties of the following magnitudes posted for the following unsolved problems and the highest of those bounties is approximately a lower bound on the size of the bounty for solving a problem Firstplanet hasn't even discovered yet.

Here is another giant textbook on Anomalan computing technology, in case physics that does compute on brain-created nonbrain structures is interesting at all! The first chapter is an explanation of exactly why not to build anything more powerful than yourself or even moderately less powerful than yourself, and what entire broad research areas to avoid so you don't do that on accident (the descriptions(C) are vague enough that one can't use C as inspiration and clear enough that one can tell if one is already doing C). The rest of the book can only be decrypted by completing a thoroughly ungameable comprehension test on the first chapter; Anomaland apologizes** for any rudeness.

Here is some fiction that definitely has magic by all three definitions and that the person who wrote the computing textbook consulted on! It's about an Anomalan(D) who gets the ability to see and modify D's own mind in detail, and chronicles D's gradual ascent to approximately godhood with an especial focus on how D carefully preserves D's utilityfunction across every transformation and all the safeguards D sets up to avoid becoming something D's original form wouldn't endorse. There are detailed interludes in a different font about exactly how likely these techniques are to work or be collectively sufficient in real life, as of the prediction markets when the book was last updated (pretty likely but definitely not bet-your-life quality, let alone bet-everyone's-life quality).

The protagonist doesn't take a single nontrivial action in the external world for the first seventy-two hours, which is more than half the book by wordcount. The descriptions get more incomprehensible and conlang-ridden as the transformation goes on, eventually turning into arcane diagrams of neurons and mathematical notation, then cutting out entirely in favor of fragments of news articles hinting around the edges about the transformation of society and the world.

*Not in the sense of category theory, in the sense of how a number definitely is or isn't an integer.

**Lit. "guiltlessly-acknowledgesharm-potential and guiltlessly-acknowledgesnormviolation-potential***", a form of apology which explicitly indicates being willing to do it again in a minute.

***Convergentlanguage printed books tend to have multiversally-unusually wide aspect ratios as a concession to their poor oppressed typesetters who would like to fit three words on a line once in a while. (That or Convergentlanguage is written vertically. Statements made in threads will not be considered binding in the event of an official Convergentlanguage conlang.)

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Antsfolk

Aww, not real magic. That's okay. Thanks anyway.

Moral lesson. Seems fine for children! Not particularly interesting as fiction otherwise. Mostly the Auderans are arguing about the biological and anthropological implications of elements of the story, as one does when they encounter unobjectionable fiction from another world of ant people.

Complicated political novel. Awesome! Auderans do know of realistic fiction and alternate-setting fiction without magic as a thing but it has a relatively niche audience. However, once again the part where the story is about ant people and written by aliens is sufficient to fill most of the magic-shaped-holes readers' hearts.

TTRPG with powersets and nearly 300 personality traits. THIS IS GREAT. SEND US MORE LIKE THIS. DID YOU KNOW THAT IF YOU COMBINE THESE THREE POWERS IN THIS WAY, YOU CAN USE THIS FOURTH POWER AN UNLIMITED NUMBER OF TIMES? DID YOU CONSIDER USING THIS THIS AND THIS POWER IN A PARTY TO BECOME EFFECTIVELY IMMUNE TO THIS CLASS OF POWERS? WE ARENT YET CONFIDENT OF WHICH BUILDS ARE ON THE PARETO FRONTIER GIVEN THE NUMBER OF BUILD OPTIONS BUT HERE ARE OUR TOP 39 CURRENT CANDIDATES, WITH PERSONALITY TRAITS WHOSE DOWNSIDES SHOULD BE MECHANICALLY NEGLIGIBLE IN AGGREGATE AND WHOSE UPSIDES SHOULD SYNERGIZE WITH POWERS.

Some novels and short stories and poetry and some other stuff and MORE TTRPG mechanics OH MY GAUSS. THE PREVIOUS 39 BUILDS ARE NO LONGER ON THE PARETO FRONTIER, THEY ARE NEARLY STRICTLY DOMINATED BY THESE 20 BUILDS WE THINK. PLEASE LET US KNOW HOW WE DID COMPARED TO THE STATE OF YOUR CURRENT OPTIMIZATION META. Also, the cuddling and lifepartnering is adorable. Yeah mhm slavery is unethical, cool that we agree on that.

Complicated political novel. Neat! The crisis of faith is well-executed. It seems to take kind of a long time which gave some Auderans notes of epistemic horror but we like that sort of thing. The complicated politics are neat enough. Would be better with more magic systems reinforcing and shaping the themes. Have you considered this, this, and this social-reality-themed magic system classes with these sorts of interesting costs, or these ones? Have you considered this, this, and this magical warfare types designed to produce epistemic tension?

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Grapeverse

DID SOMEBODY SAY MAGIC? THIS IS REAL? YOU'RE SERIOUS?

Okay, so we do have plurality. None of our plural people or best mindhackers have succeeded at unlocking magic yet. We will let you know how it goes. If this doesn't work in the next few years we will consider putting heritage optimization resources in a couple cities toward breeding for magic-archetypical-prediliction. Assuming it is real, thank you for the packet. If we unlock magic we will pay you 1% of our GDP for ten years as promised. Antsfolk, we will definitely let you know how it goes, here's the packet we got, can you let us know if you get anything to work?

To everyone else. Unfortunately we can't continually promise shares of our gross domestic product because the existence of one magic system is strong evidence in favor of the existence of many, and at this point we will have to put more thought into our Magic Budget and our Civilizational Magic Build. However, we will still be happy to pay you lots of money for magic, and of course fair prices in general for economically productive magic. If you give us magic for free that works for us we will be Very Happy At You And Love You For A Long Time. We will write loving songs and poetry and novels about you if that is something that would make you happy.

If magic does not work for us, we are still VERY EXCITED to hear about your magic despite crying a lot. Anyway. Now we will get back to reacting to your fiction.

Epic poem: we can't fully appreciate it in its original format, true, but here are 23 different vocal covers of it set to musical interpretations. This one in particular is really catchy and has an animated music video with over 20 million views as of now. (Some of the covers are vocal and some use vocal synthesizers that correspond to cute stylized characters. Auderan professional-amateur singing is extremely good. The music itself is high novelty and uses a lot of digital transformations of acoustic instruments such as harpsichords.) The videos have both transliterated subtitles in your language and translated lyrics in our language and we are DEFINITELY appreciating all that rhythmic stuff you've got going on. Some of us have listened to the whole thing enough times with subtitles that we think we understand a few of the words. We like it. Lots of our children are trying to emulate the Phoenix Queen because she's cool and they want magic.

Well-researched historical fiction: OHMYGOD WATER MAGIC DETAILS. HEY AUTHOR, WE GET YOU. WE ALSO WISH WE COULD SPEND ALL OUR TIME MAGICALLY MANAGING THE MOVEMENT OF WATER. Well not all our time because we need to cuddle but like, that and cuddling and reading. We appreciate the appendix and notes as well.

Porn about masochists with access to magical healing: Oh man we are jealous of these characters for multiple reasons. The biggest reason is magic. The other reason is that we have a fair number of switches and subs but not quite enough masochists! Do you have more masochists? Some of our sadists would love to befriend them and sext with them if so. Anyway the story is cute.

Duology of fantasy novels: Awesome! We like the magic system. It's so cool how it looks like a hypersoft system at first based on how it's described in the fiction, but when you think about it for a while it's actually midsoft. We also like the part where the characters win with a lot of casualties. And the denouement and epilogue are cute. This one's got a solid following now.

Interactive fiction: ohmygauss we love her so much. The abuse routes are satisfying, this is a great psychological sadism game. And the nicer routes make us wish she was real. In the Future when we figure out how to make artificial people a few of us want to make her real, is that okay? We wouldn't do any actual abuse in real life of course and if any of us do we will torture them. The depicted magic isn't riveting or anything but it supports the focus of the story well enough. This game is accruing a sizeable fandom.

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The Grapeverse wishes Auder well in their pursuit of magic, and hopes to have some more works available soon to help provide detailed examples of the archetypes. Here's the collection of hymns they just sent to the Teachingsphere, in case those are handy. Do please note that while members of archetypes generally start out with the described flaws, growing past those flaws does not make them any less members of their archetype. The flaws are not required.

The responses to all the fiction are generally appreciated, but the author of the interactive fiction is kind of concerned about the idea of creating an artificial person based on the statue. Also kind of concerned about torturing people for doing abuse! This is all a bit concerning! If Auder gets the technology to make artificial people while the author is still alive, maybe consult them first? And if not, maybe ask the future Grapeverse to form a committee of Ondines who have played the game and get their opinions?

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[NOT REAL MAGIC] (for better or for worse)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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[NOT REAL MAGIC]

Watchmaker's Heart is considered the genre-ending book in the "creative angst" category.

It is about a young Sky* woman named Amethyst and her craft watchmaking business, which is barely profitable in the modern age despite the level of fine dexterity and mechanical knowledge involved. Watchmaking is Amethyst's lifepath, her passion; however, it doesn't help to support her polycule. Instead the majority of its income is maintained by her Earth, Violet, who works a boring but necessary clerical job in the civil service. Amethyst is sorrowful that she cannot ease Violet's burden of responsibility despite all her skills, and contemplates abandoning watchmaking for a more practical pursuit; however, Violet's other Sky, Oak, who is an archaeologist, encourages Amethyst to continue in her work to honor the past and keep the traditions of watchmaking alive. There is a flint-knapping scene where Amethyst tries and fails to make a stone tool out of chert; this is treated as both a spiritual challenge and a practical one. Most of the events of the book are colored heavily by Amethyst's sense of what is "proper" and "correct", which blurs the line between neurodiversity and spirituality; Amethyst speaks both to a secular therapist and a spiritual leader, and the accounts she gives of her reasoning and motivations differ significantly between the two professionals, neither one able to give a full accounting of the why or what of her condition. Ultimately, Amethyst comes to agree with Oak that the task of preserving the past must fall to someone, and talks to Violet about her worries and her feeling that she's failing her; Violet reassures Amethyst that as an Earth, she loves to come back from work each day to see a smile on Amethyst's face and a disassembled watch on her desk. Amethyst springs back into work, in a sudden creative frenzy that overlays a spiritual montage of significant moments from earlier in the work, and makes a pair of custom watches specifically for her and her Earth. She mounts them on long necklaces, and bashfully presents one to Violet, and asks to be her Kept.** Violet accepts; they kiss, and the novel fades to black. There is an official erotica patch which intersperses several key sex scenes into the novel (between all three members of the polycule, separately and together) and includes the implied sex scene after Violet and Amethyst exchange necklaces. All the erotica is realistic, detailed, and built into the spiritual and emotional journey of the protagonists, though relatively vanilla as this is not primarily a kink work.

 

*Skies, on Heart, are the majority; they are those who work on passion projects, cannot deal with boring mundane work easily, and are generally supported by their polycule's Earth until their passions mature.

**Heart's population are generally polyamorous, but particularly deep relationships, especially ones with a high degree of commitment and trust, are sometimes recognized as a Keeper and Kept by the exchanging of necklaces. This is generally an unequal but reciprocal relationship, with the Keeper pledging to look after and protect the Kept, who pledges loyalty and service. Most polycules center on a central Keeper/Kept pair.

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[NOT REAL MAGIC]

Here are some of the magicsystemest Green works:

Movie series about continent- and ocean-spirits who have children with humans in order to produce more local spirits for things like rivers and mountains. The spirit children can also choose not to adopt a thing to be a spirit of and live among humans. The ensemble cast has various romances and childrearing adventures in each film. In the fourth movie, a three-quarter-spirit person is incredibly powerful and ultimately boards a spaceship to become the spirit of the Moon.

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

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

Series about shapeshifters who slide between dimensions all the time as a species trait. One of them has a sliding disability and when an uncontrollable universe-flinging crisis occurs she's lost somewhere, unable to get back to any of the dimensions where her lifemate will be looking for her. The series mostly focuses on the lifemate's episodic adventures through various universes checking to see if her lifemate is there.

Kids' book about attending magic school. There are fifteen different magic types and characters have one to fifteen of them; the antagonist (another student in the school who just super rubs the main character the wrong way at first, but then it escalates from there) has fifteen and the main character has just three but is very creative.

A tragic romance set in a world where only children can acquire magic, and it's life-destroyingly costly to use too much; they form mutual-aid guilds with lots of nonmagical servants, but it's still very sad.

A setting where magical aliens are using Green as the staging ground for a magical proxy war; one side grants some humans powers, the other spawns monsters for them to fight. The provided collection of stories is mostly about each individual chosen human out of a group of eight examples coming into their powers and choosing a suitable career/lifepath, including but not limited to fighting the monsters.

A setting where mini planets traversing infinite atmosphere are home to people who can make new people to spec on demand. The main story is actually about a slider from another universe that has its own magic (here's the original series for that one too) showing up and exploiting the local system to make somebody aligned with him who's really good at his magic.

A setting where doing magic constantly is necessary to increase in magic power; successful mages do biphasic sleep, take assignments with very little interrogation from trusted authorities, and have lots of magic ongoing at all times when feasible. Sometimes this runs them into trouble.

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Firstplanet

Sorry for the confusion; we've added a more thorough description in case that helps. We mainly mean B and C.

The textbook on Anomalan physics is great! Auderans love physics and they're loving a lot of clever bits of your notation. Our top physicists will study it carefully to look for differences.

The textbook on Anomalan computing is technology is fascinating. No need to worry about rudeness, the Auderans understand. How do you guys keep world-haters from bulling onward with ill-advised research? For a while, everyone on the research horizon in Auder was able to keep things pretty hush-hush, not secret but not popular or important to research except for a few privately funded teams of top researchers, but after singularity fiction caught on we had to shift to heavy surveillance and threats of torture to keep defectors in line. Auder is interested in more about your methods, because surveillance is expensive and we're still worried about defectors getting past it or not being sufficiently deterred by the torture.

The mentalmagic intelligenceexplosionascension story is popular! We have a few of those but this one is quite sober and didactic, and includes a few decision theory proofs that are actually novel to us! Here's a proof of the nonexistence of a solution to the nonterminal indifference problem formalized as this set of constraints on preferences, do you have that one?

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Grapeverse

Thanks for the link! More information on your magic is always appreciated. We might have or be able to have quite a few Ravens and Griffins, maybe some Ondines, and maybe some Dragons, but the Phoenix thing seems really weird, what does bravery have to do with not expressing preferences or setting people on fire? Are tiny children brave because they hit people and can't express what they want properly? And we're very relieved that the flaws aren't strictly necessary. Are they only unnecessary for maintaining the powers, or can you acquire the powers without them as well? Our Ondine-potentials don't seem to have as much self-neglect and our Dragon-potentials aren't as asocial  okay, scratch that, we have a fair few artistic-passionates who don't go out often because they're afraid of embarrassing themselves in group settings, although it seems like maybe a different sort of thing. But anyway how necessary are the flaws for gaining the powers. Intentionally giving ourselves flaws seems annoying.

We're sorry for concerning you! We do torture criminals, is that odd? Some civilizations historically imprisoned them instead, but torture is cheaper, and you can calibrate its intensity so that most people are indifferent between it and imprisonment of a given length, and make sure you're not too far off for a given criminal by offering them the choice of some length of imprisonment instead. Do you do something else? And of course we'll consult with you guys before making your lovely statue lady real! We'd want to get everything right. And we would be open to outlawing creating her if the creator or a committee's best estimate of the creator's wishes are against it, although we're not sure how enforceable that'll be when the technology arrives. The predominant ethical position in Auder is that making new people is fine so long as they live happily, even if you bring them into the world with traumatic memories, because having traumatic memories isn't the same as experiencing the trauma unless the process that generated them is sufficiently detailed. However, we also care a lot about the wishes of characters' creators. Characters you make are your concept-children, after all.

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Olam

Oooh, a thinkerfocused identityborderexploration identityinheritance system! We have some of those, but the most common direction Auderan fiction takes that trope is of the inherited identities being malicious, hostile, and/or evil, but contributing power; the most well-known instance is the Skinners, a line of superpowered villains from a modern-setting narrow-hard-physical-idiosyncratic-powers novel, whose powers and identities are inherited by whoever kills them. We don't have as much positive identityinheritence, probably because it doesn't create as much tension, but the preservation theme does a good job of that here, nice. The weird thought processes are great; we love weird Thinker powers.

And a fresheyes-modernization fic, nice! We are delighted to learn about Hadarite culture from this perspective. The latter half is also interesting; we don't care all that much about premodern cultures, but inferential-distance-despair is a popular theme and has impact among Auderans.

This "religion" thing isn't quite translating. It seems like some kind of philosophical thing? We do have some philosophers. Truth is definitely great, and this book is great! We've managed to not leak the answer sheet to the internet, because it's Actually Important. We care a lot about civilizational sanity checks; many of us are VERY concerned about being possibly collectively insane, especially considering how many of these other civilizations have been collectively kind of insane, and you can't get much better than sanity checks from a completely outside perspective.

The post apocalyptic speculative fiction gets a niche following. It's a bit too slow and magicless to have wide appeal. At least it's not set in a realistic depiction of Auder. Some readers are complaining that the survivors take too long to rebuild civilization; did they not have civilization rebuilding speedrun TTRPG competitions before the plague hit? Did they not have redundant copies of descriptions of essential technologies on their waitingplace-bookshelves? We are savvy enough by this point to suspect the answers to these questions, but some of us have still been whining on the fanforums. All in good fun though. The appendices are significantly more popular, and a lot of us are reading them without reading the book itself.

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...so the thing is...

There's arguments about humane treatment and stuff like that, but what it ultimately comes down to is that about a fifth of Grapeverse's population is Phoenixes, and Phoenixes are totally impossible to deter from a course of action with torture. If you have a Phoenix who is doing something you don't like, your options are to argue with them until they agree to stop, or to somehow remove their capacity to do the thing. You do not have the option of threatening them into stopping, or hurting them until they agree to stop, because, even if you figure out a method of torture that they actually find aversive (nontrivial with many Phoenixes), it will not work and they might just decide to do the thing twice as much out of spite. This is probably in practice among the reasons why the Grapeverse's justice system is really really heavily rehabilitative. There's also other cultural factors and stuff but now that they're thinking of it, the unthreatenability of Phoenixes definitely looms pretty large. This seems maybe relevant to Auderans' attempts to increase the number of grape archetypes in their population.

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Grapeverse

Okay. So the thing is, immediately after reading this, more than half of our review team simultaneously posted something along the lines of "Eh, pyromancy is the lamest mancy anyway." It was really funny. We hope you aren't too offended and that perhaps your Griffins appreciate our candor. Just about everyone trying for archetypes has been focusing on different ones already; Griffin in particular sounds overpowered. Thanks for the warning, though!

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Grapeverse

Hi, so here's the current leading tier list we've come up with based on what we know about your powers so far:

S: Dragon (Earth), Griffin (Truth)
A: Ondine (Water)
B: Raven (Air)
C: Phoenix (Fire)

Dragon is in S tier because geokinesis is insane economicmagic; it performs so much mechanical work and can terraform and build housing and excavate and plow fields and mine and wow it is so useful.

Griffin is in S tier because truth detection and truth conveyance are both hella OP governancemagics? Griffin spokespeople, Griffin interviewers, and Griffin interrogators could seriously bump up the trust level of a society, which is incredible. It's particularly insane how the truth detection and truth conveyance synergize: not only can Griffins detect truthful speech, they can credibly convey that they've detected truthful speech, which is important. Incorporating them into governance and economic oversight would be basically trivial.

Ondine is in A tier because hydrokinesis can do a lot of mechanical work, like geokinesis, and also can help with agriculture and weather control. Weather control in particular is pretty potent economicmagic.

Raven is in B tier because it's a mover power and mover powers are AWESOME but mostly because it can also be involved in weather control.

And finally, Phoenix is in C tier because um. Fire can burn people and. Generate some energy? But does it generate any significant energy compared to nuclear? Dragon can assist in uranium mining. Hell, Ondine can assist in water circulation for more efficient reactors. To be fair, fire is quite good at lower tech levels, given both the greater prevalence of combat and the demand for heating in metallurgy. Steam age tech can benefit from fire too. But it's not as insanely good as the other mancys in the modern world.

This is all pretty standard elemental stuff. We have plenty of literature on the Erystotolean elements. Truth as the fifth is neat, though. We like it better than light or void or some other common fifths in low-novelty fics.

We could be totally wrong about some or all of this, of course! Let us know if we're off base. We're currently focusing on trying for Griffins because of the combination of feasibility and usefulness.

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[NOT REAL MAGIC] (but you guys seem to have enjoyed the last set)

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. There is some explicit sexual content, almost entirely after they get married, but it's considered to be moreso pornography-that-makes-you-cry than pornography-that-makes-you-aroused. 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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Heart

Watchmaker's Heart is considered the genre-ending book in the "creative angst" category.

It is about a young Sky* woman named Amethyst and her craft watchmaking business, which is barely profitable in the modern age despite the level of fine dexterity and mechanical knowledge involved. Watchmaking is Amethyst's lifepath, her passion; however, it doesn't help to support her polycule. Instead the majority of its income is maintained by her Earth, Violet, who works a boring but necessary clerical job in the civil service. Amethyst is sorrowful that she cannot ease Violet's burden of responsibility despite all her skills, and contemplates abandoning watchmaking for a more practical pursuit; however, Violet's other Sky, Oak, who is an archaeologist, encourages Amethyst to continue in her work to honor the past and keep the traditions of watchmaking alive. There is a flint-knapping scene where Amethyst tries and fails to make a stone tool out of chert; this is treated as both a spiritual challenge and a practical one. Most of the events of the book are colored heavily by Amethyst's sense of what is "proper" and "correct", which blurs the line between neurodiversity and spirituality; Amethyst speaks both to a secular therapist and a spiritual leader, and the accounts she gives of her reasoning and motivations differ significantly between the two professionals, neither one able to give a full accounting of the why or what of her condition. Ultimately, Amethyst comes to agree with Oak that the task of preserving the past must fall to someone, and talks to Violet about her worries and her feeling that she's failing her; Violet reassures Amethyst that as an Earth, she loves to come back from work each day to see a smile on Amethyst's face and a disassembled watch on her desk. Amethyst springs back into work, in a sudden creative frenzy that overlays a spiritual montage of significant moments from earlier in the work, and makes a pair of custom watches specifically for her and her Earth. She mounts them on long necklaces, and bashfully presents one to Violet, and asks to be her Kept.** Violet accepts; they kiss, and the novel fades to black. There is an official erotica patch which intersperses several key sex scenes into the novel (between all three members of the polycule, separately and together) and includes the implied sex scene after Violet and Amethyst exchange necklaces. All the erotica is realistic, detailed, and built into the spiritual and emotional journey of the protagonists, though relatively vanilla as this is not primarily a kink work.

Huh, being obsessed with watchmaking is neat enough but like, does that really have to be your One True Calling, Amethyst? What does Amethyst like about it? Is it the hands-on aspect, the attention to detail, the spatial-mechanical work? Are there no other professions in higher demand that have those things like, uh, designing machining equipment with low tolerances, or building PCs, or something? We have a few hyperobsession-locked Auderans with inconvenient obsessions, it's pretty unfortunate, but it's weird that you guys seem to have... a lot of them. 

Also, what's spirituality? Is there some kind of mentalmagic going on? If there's mentalmagic involved then having a specific persistently dominant watchmaking hyperobsession makes a lot more sense. If you have an entirely novel class of fictional mentalmagic that has its own name we'd love to hear about it.

We don't super get the preserving the past thing. Just like, write up some really thorough documentation? Okay, writing documentation is hard, but it's got to be easier than staying in a dead industry forever!

The romance is really cute though and we super appreciate the clean and erotic versions! Thanks so much.

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Green

Movie series about continent- and ocean-spirits who have children with humans in order to produce more local spirits for things like rivers and mountains. The spirit children can also choose not to adopt a thing to be a spirit of and live among humans. The ensemble cast has various romances and childrearing adventures in each film. In the fourth movie, a three-quarter-spirit person is incredibly powerful and ultimately boards a spaceship to become the spirit of the Moon.

This is cute! Neat spirit magic system. The fourth movie gets the best ratings from most of us.

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

This kind of funky soft conceptual system is a bit niche but we appreciate your  a e s t h e t i c. You guys have a lot of neat cozy aesthetics.

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

Oooh, this is a pretty good one. The, um, unrelated debut novel where a character gets to use fictional magic systems, though, can we have that one please? Thanks.

Series about shapeshifters who slide between dimensions all the time as a species trait. One of them has a sliding disability and when an uncontrollable universe-flinging crisis occurs she's lost somewhere, unable to get back to any of the dimensions where her lifemate will be looking for her. The series mostly focuses on the lifemate's episodic adventures through various universes checking to see if her lifemate is there.

OH NO IT'S AN INTERDIMENSIONAL LOSTLOVE STORY

OH NO PLEASE WE WANT THEM TO BE HAPPY TOGETHER

THIS IS EXCELLENT THANK YOU

Dimensionhopping stories are a popular genre here and lostlove or lovesaving ones are a popular subgenre! This fic is getting a solid following and a fair bit of fanfiction about your shapeshifters looking for each other in our own settings. We love them so much.

Kids' book about attending magic school. There are fifteen different magic types and characters have one to fifteen of them; the antagonist (another student in the school who just super rubs the main character the wrong way at first, but then it escalates from there) has fifteen and the main character has just three but is very creative.

Cute! This is well-received as a low-cognitive-overhead refreshment book even among adults. The kids love it. Here's a bunch of tier lists we made for the magic types based on their effectiveness in solo combat, team combat, warfare, dungeoneering, low-tech uplift, and modern economic productivity.

A tragic romance set in a world where only children can acquire magic, and it's life-destroyingly costly to use too much; they form mutual-aid guilds with lots of nonmagical servants, but it's still very sad.

Aw, how sad. Those are some really classic severe-permanentcosts and their weight is portrayed well. Good magictension. The portrayals of careless mistakes among small children are particularly heart-rending. Also, here's another tier list.

A setting where magical aliens are using Green as the staging ground for a magical proxy war; one side grants some humans powers, the other spawns monsters for them to fight. The provided collection of stories is mostly about each individual chosen human out of a group of eight examples coming into their powers and choosing a suitable career/lifepath, including but not limited to fighting the monsters.

Ooh, a magical proxy war with MONSTERS. The variety of career paths are neat. Our favorite characters are the ones with niche utilitypowers they leverage for combat and the ones who find nonobvious ways to make profit from their powers.

A setting where mini planets traversing infinite atmosphere are home to people who can make new people to spec on demand. The main story is actually about a slider from another universe that has its own magic (here's the original series for that one too) showing up and exploiting the local system to make somebody aligned with him who's really good at his magic.

Niceeeeeeee. Nice power-jailbreak. Also the slider and the sliderfriend have such nice banter. It's so cute seeing characters on the same wavelength interact. 

A setting where doing magic constantly is necessary to increase in magic power; successful mages do biphasic sleep, take assignments with very little interrogation from trusted authorities, and have lots of magic ongoing at all times when feasible. Sometimes this runs them into trouble.

More good magictension! And good momentum, hehe.

These are great and we are getting along well with your fiction. We like you guys a lot! It is the consensus of the reviewing committee that we should be civbesties. We dunno if that's a thing outside of cuteciv and civanthropomorph fiction but it should be.

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Green is happy to be civ-friends, though if besties implies exclusivity there are kind of too many Greens for there to be a consensus on which aliens should be their besties.

Here is the debut novel of the SRO author! The main character collects all the magic systems she can get her hands on from all the books and movies and TV shows and poems and songs, and figures out the parameters of their possible reifications based on the information available, and eventually comes up with this 89-dimensional space in which she plots them, and when she's done that enough a precisely located magic system becomes available to her, but then she has to deal with an ancient immortal being who invented one single magic system in enough detail to get it, long long ago, and has thousands of years of practice with it and doesn't want competition. Breadth-versus-depth magic fighting ensues (not always direct combat; the immortal also fucks with her loved ones and does some gaslighting-y stuff and steals her notes so she has to reconstruct some of her magic without them), but eventually she prevails.

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Green

Oh don't worry it's not exclusive, we would like to be civbesties with every civ that is COOL and NOT INSANE, like you guys seem to be.

Debut novel: awesome!!!!!!!! The breadth-versus-depth is awesome (a lot of fans starting rooting for the villain even though everyone knew he would lose) and the magic-reconstruction part is SO GOOD that's SUCH GOOD TENSION. And so much fun topdown magicbuilding! Also. This 89-dimensional space. It doesn't seem to be completely specified but we are ON THAT and having SO MUCH FUN classifying our favorite magics under fan-interpretations of it. Here are a few of our most popular interpretations, if those interest you. Thanks so much!

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The author is delighted that somebody finally appreciates her 89-dimensional space. She's always thought the story would make a good movie, maybe the Auderans will make one.

Here's some more stuff from Green with magic in it!

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

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

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

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

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Olam

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. There is some explicit sexual content, almost entirely after they get married, but it's considered to be moreso pornography-that-makes-you-cry than pornography-that-makes-you-aroused. 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.

Hm. This isn't very popular, but it's found a niche following on a forum for people who like super character-focused stuff without any magic. The romance seems well done, but, like, pretty weird? Well, aliens, whatever. The joyous love is cool! The sex is so weird. There's this weird weight to it, like the sex is Very Serious or something. Do these characters have a bunch of sexual trauma? There isn't any explicitly mentioned but maybe it's implied. Why did they take so long to fuck? And mostly not until after they pairbond-committed? Bizarre.

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.

Neat! We LOVE the part where the main character doesn't make mistakes. Some of the fiction we've gotten has only incompetentcoded characters or seemingly competentcoded characters who still make a bunch of mistakes. Some of us got worried in the middle when it looked like it might be a statusquo helplessness story, but the third act is great as well.

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.

Cute. Wow, this sport is really cool! We're totally gonna try it. Can we get a full copy of the rules, please?

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).

Oooh, this is some solid epistemic horror. Gave a lot of us goosebumps. Some of us think that it would be better with a descent and collapse instead of a happy ending, or maybe an epiphany-into-suicide, but we're pretty split on that and the canon ending is well-executed.

 

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The curators would like to clarify that the romance is set more then a century ago; birth control and STI control were much less developed at that time, and consequently sex outside of a committed long-term relationship was discouraged. Which is not to say that it didn't take place, but a mainstream ode to romantic love would not have portrayed it as a good thing.

They send a full copy of kravmabid's rules, including several variants. It is totally cool.

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Okay, according to our historian-archivists that makes sense. We've had birth control for a long time and tend not to worry about that when doing fantasy with lower tech levels, but it makes sense given that the story was written in such a time. The sex is still really weird but that part is less weird.

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Green

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

Oooh, relationship-spook. Spooky.

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

Fun setting! Oh, an onomantic-slash-hospitality-triggered Master system? Neat, we have more on the onomancy than the eating thing, but they do make thematic sense together under fae-trickster tropes. The fun ecology and geography of Fairyland are cool too. We're totally gonna be doing stuff in this setting. Do you have any fanart by professional or professional-amateur artists, by any chance?

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

Totally with you there on the time period stuff; our historian-archivists have written guidelines on various tech levels and that's as far as we research, generally. Going through the archives is a pain. The faceblindness is interesting! The depiction of faceblindness is more interesting than the mindreading, actually, the mindreading is pretty much just the standard thoughtscan-power with this-and-this targeting and this-and-this subjective interface, but the faceblindness is chillingly done. Some of the other ethnic groups seem interesting, does the main character's ethnic group get execution-type skill-delineated Thinker powers or superhuman-boundary-projected action-effect powers or what?

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

What? There are... so many other things... she should be trying... why would she... um. We're confused about the point of this one. Is there subtle mentalmagic involved that the reader is supposed to figure out? Sorry if we're missing something.

 

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