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Jul 06, 2022 8:44 PM
Abrogail Thrune reviews submissions
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(There is a response note from the Grapeverse letting her know that everyone is rather confused about the format of her feedback, but as an incidental result of their confusion, the authors of the scribe book and the statue story have met and are considering a collaboration, which news they tentatively expect she will appreciate?)

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(They can see it and -)

 

Oh, definitely!  What Abrogail really likes, though, is stories about worlds with relatively unsophisticated technology and magic being uplifted to more sophisticated technology and magic - her favorite romance ever is about somebody getting tortured into doing that!  Any stories like that in Grapeverse?

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Homerealm's cyberpunk about industrial espionage upload pain-free masochists From Homerealm, a space-cyberpunk novel trilogy about the industrial espionage between two large space-based corporations. It is quickly established in the first scene that all of humanity has uploaded, and enjoy spectacular luxury in a post-livingonplanets future. Some implausible technobabble is introduced to justify the mathematically-unbreakable self-sovereignty of every upload, and the main consequence of that these novels are exploring: how you replace torture in a world where everyone is immortal, indestructible, and doesn't feel pain.

(The narrative seems to go out of its way to belabor that physical pain or harm is now impossible to impose, but also that it is only pain, among sensory experiences, that one is protected from this way: one might get the impression that the author was in love with the concept of masochism but also feels strongly that pain is a very unsexy thing.)

An ensemble cast of two teams of spy-hackers then proceed to try to keep their company ahead of the other in the race toward inventing new technologies and securing new resources, mostly through means involving breaking in to key individuals' virualities to trace their emulator and then kidnapping them to sex dungeons where the author takes advantage of the simulated environment to describe fantastically elaborate, implausibly artistic, and physically impossible forms of bondage, which serve as a backdrop to exquisitely pornographic interrogations that mix skilled orgasm-control and other dominant techniques with mind-games to break the wills of the "victims" and get the information they're looking for... and in one case get a new submissive-pet-relationship. In none of these scenes do the depicted people appear to have much if any reaction to being forced into a sexual situation; it is clearly shown that the sexual "torture" is, if not fun, then exciting, for everyone involved, as a background fact that no one questions.

The climax of the first book is the defection of one spy-hacker from one company to another, which was a purposeful scheme that results in the two spy-hacker teams finding out about each other's existence. The climax of the middle book is the aforementioned new-submissive-relationship in which an important character, in fact the same character who, it is now revealed, falsely defected, falls for her interrogator for real this time... after resisting longer than anyone else and nearly succeeding in subverting her new dom as well, but in the end deciding to give up the information willingly for the sake of the new relationship, which is depicted as entirely genuine. The climax of the last book is a sort of BDSM battle-royale in which the two spy-hacker teams go head to head, each capture half of the other team, and go all out to break each other. The book ends with the two teams in uneasy truce, comparing all of their information and realizing that they can sell the critical McGuffin-secret to both companies and buy their own (virtual) universe with the proceeds. (The subtextual assumption being that of course even high-action hacker-spies would want to retire and spend the rest of eternity worldbuilding.)

 

You could reasonably read this as a horror novel about the desperate attempts of sadists to be sadists in a world where real torture is impossible and they are trying to be creative about that but it is fundamentally impossible to break people.  But it can't even work as a horror novel, because everybody is relentlessly cheerful about being trapped in a world like that.

The aliens in this book are ultimately impossible to relate to.  Abrogail would send the author to Hell, but they might enjoy it, and then some devils might end very unhappy and one can imagine them eventually tracking down Abrogail somehow... also it seems like her orders are not, in fact, usually getting carried out on the other end.

Definitely not printable in Cheliax, maybe see if one of the other planes will buy this alien book for something of value.

Abrogail's feedback to the author will gush a lot about the 'new technologies' they're trying to investigate, in between extended lies about how much she liked the pornography and character development, and express sadness that the innovative technologies weren't more relatable to her own world's technology level.

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Abrogail.

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Now what.

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Don't try to be overly clever here or the books will stop arriving.

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Why would that even -

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It's obvious if you understand decision theory, Abrogail.

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Plastic Heart, augment technician A soft sci-fi where almost everyone uses various 'augments' - biological or robotic modifications of their bodies, or even cloned or fully robotic bodies. Everyone is effectively immortal barring the most terrible accidents or thorough and deliberate murder. Nonsentient robots do almost all the work, allowing people to live without working at all if they wish. People are more open sexually than in the past, the book explains as if to justify itself. The book follows an augment technician who only has a few basic augments herself. She gets her business off being one of the best, more than for stellar customer service. She often refuses 'boring' jobs and usually only works on customers with interesting problems. The mods themselves range from brain implants that prevent the bearer from lying or deceiving at all, custom eyes that display high-definition hypnotic patterns, RADAR and jamming equipment stored in a low-profile forearm hollow, all sorts of physical enhancement from muscle to reflexes to armor, and lots and lots of different configurations of extra limbs. Tails, animal ears, private parts, and tentacles are the most popular. There's a lot of sex - one scene at least with most 'clients' and every interestingly exotic augment, usually justified as 'testing' and often discovering lingering issues that need to be fixed, like the new skin feeling weird or tentacle control spasming out. One repeat customer keeps adding and removing more and more exotic mods, changing genders at whim, and eagerly explaining the experiences that are only possible when you have extra senses and extra limbs. As the two fuck after each augment session they follow a cute sexfriends-to-romanticpartners path with the augment tech blushing and nervous for the first time in her life.

The notion of using maliciously modified brain implants to get oneself a slave seems to have simply not occurred to the author.

There's a surprising amount of alien technical detail in there. Probably not enough to build a 'RADAR' outright but enough to deduce that it involves using light to detect far away things. An appendix talks about how most of this isn't possible yet but it's not IMpossible either.

 

Abrogail will send back her entirely honest feedback about how this story is almost absolutely boring except for the alien technical detail.  Is Aspexia going to object to her sending back entirely honest literary feedback?

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I'm watching you, Abrogail.

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Well, the technically detailed stuff mostly isn't romance novels. After conferring with some others how's this horror book about a charismatic cult leader who uses gaslighting and blackmail and conditioning to build himself a harem, take control of a major company, buy an island, and effectively become a tiny King until it starts falling down when people get too suspicious? There's a lot of attention paid to the details of psychology and how to keep intricate lies believable and consistent. But the psychology is weird and the lies are actually not especially skilled, these people seem kind of deeply suspicious and good at picking them apart so the lies are arranged at a different angle than Cheliax would use to lie, lots of arranging background facts and faking books and records. She can probably just skip the part where the island is invaded and he gets caught and executed and everyone gets therapy, since that's her taste in books.

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Ev has a lot of novels containing occasional mentions of romance!  But novels centered on romance are scarcer... though in a planet of several billion, there're enough outliers.

* A novel where a woman in love with a king (mostly for his wisdom?), and she begs him to let her join his court.  Noticing her talents, he sends her on various missions - some of which seem Abadarian in how they help trade; others of which are exhorting people about a rather-Iomedaeian religion - which she does very well while sadly deciding her love is futile.  Finally, as they're both going on a diplomatic mission together, a peasant happens to mention her obvious romantic feelings in the king's hearing.  He's shocked but not averse since he's grown to admire her; she's shocked that it could be returned; the book ends with their wedding.

(Readers might notice that there's no mention in the novel of sex or magic or gods aside from this Iomedae-lookalike, we only get vague ideas of each character's appearance, and this kingdom appears to have no army nor bandits.)

* A novel where a man who's ended up in an alternate timeline (where he was never born) finds the alternate-timeline version of his wife, tells her the story, and proposes they affirm or reaffirm marriage.  The novel focuses on their debate about the ethics of vows taken by alternate-universe versions of yourself, her growing feelings toward him, and his gradual realization that she's changed from his original-universe wife but he loves her anyway.  Eventually, having tentatively concluded the marriage vows from the other timeline aren't in force between them, they decide to get married.  In a subplot, he attempts to reproduce and publish some of his original timeline's historical research, hampered by the fact that he doesn't remember it that well.

(Both characters explicitly agree in the ethical debate that sex shouldn't happen unless they're clearly married, and it doesn't.  Also, governments are barely mentioned, and we have only vague ideas of each character's appearance aside from their hair.)

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…The Antfolk are a bit concerned about the Evil Empire thing, but as long as they’re getting Cheliax literature in return, they don’t care that much. (They would probably care that much if they knew about Hell, but thankfully for Abigail, they don’t!). Are these better?

 

Unfortunately, seduction doesn’t translate very well, since Antfolk are a hive species and don’t do sex! Cruelty is also not very popular. The other stuff they can totally work with, though! They can’t actually think of a single piece of literature that doesn’t include pride, actually - they’re a very proud people, normally!

 

Another dense-action filled series, but this one involves rescuing the other from slavery because of a much more possessive “this one is mine they can’t have it I don’t share they’re mine” sort of thing. Instead of sneaking in for the rescue, the rescuer, named Jalturi brutally kills everyone in her path, and loots most of their wealth in reparation. The former slave, Telmu, kill all of the grubs and eggs in reparation for being forced to work in the nursery, and she makes lots of badass comments while doing so. The narrative doesn’t seem to even think that people would consider this very evil.

 

 

A young worker, Telrun, looking to prove herself, infiltrates an enemy hive, telling them a backstory that heavily implies that her “former hive” was killed by her actual hive. Using the sympathy and goodwill this gives her, she gains enough trust to become an apprentice alchemist, and thereby gain access to the notes. She sends the information to her actual hive using telepathy. This continues for a while, until the spymaster tells her to stab the senior alchemist on the next herb gathering explanation and run. Telrun objects, asking why, and the spymaster explains that she can tell that people are getting suspicious, even if Telrun is less skilled in the arts of spy craft and can’t, and that the senior alchemist previously created a nasty weapon that roughly translates to liquid-burning-living-hive-destroyer. She stabs her with a tool somewhere in between and spear and a dagger, and runs back to her hive, where she is praised and celebrated for her excellent work.

 

 

A very complicated political novel with around 600,000 words, featuring nine diplomats from three different hives navigating a tension-filled debate about the best way to handle criminals (execution, forced-work, exile, and loss-of-rights seem to be the main options), 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. 

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Plastic Heart / Planet Rockeye's charismatic cult leader After conferring with some others how's this horror book about a charismatic cult leader who uses gaslighting and blackmail and conditioning to build himself a harem, take control of a major company, buy an island, and effectively become a tiny King until it starts falling down when people get too suspicious? There's a lot of attention paid to the details of psychology and how to keep intricate lies believable and consistent. But the psychology is weird and the lies are actually not especially skilled, these people seem kind of deeply suspicious and good at picking them apart so the lies are arranged at a different angle than Cheliax would use to lie, lots of arranging background facts and faking books and records. She can probably just skip the part where the island is invaded and he gets caught and executed and everyone gets therapy, since that's her taste in books.

 

Oh, yes, this new novel is definitely much better!  Keeping the part about the island being invaded is fine; it just has to be set up in a way where the King's downfall clearly results from the protagonist's many careless mistakes, rather than being some inevitable quality of the world.  The therapy sections at the end can be deleted without trouble - or just rewritten in a more Asmodean way, which makes it clearer that the people getting this involuntary "therapy" have simply changed from one owner to another; and that the question is not whether the little people of the world will be owned, but whether it is you doing the owning or somebody else's government.

If there's any way to pay for the creation of new books interdimensionally, Abrogail would happily pay 1000gp to fund production of a romance novel with a proper Asmodean plotline (now that they have some idea of what that is) but with the sort of technical details that don't usually go into romance novels!

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This novel opens with a mad scientist having captured a family of noble adventures. She proceeds to 

cw: torture, rape, incest rape and tortured each of the college aged children in front of their parents, sometimes using spinal implants to puppet the bodies of the parents to force them to participate in the childrens' torment.

One by one the adventurers break, leaving the mad scientist disappointed in how easy this is. 

Deciding she is bored with how breakable everyone is, she clones herself. Her clone, an exact duplicate of her in mind and body, immediately manages to escape her. The two engage in a protracted duel of wits, struggling to kill each other inside their lair. The battle is close and the clone very nearly wins, but ultimately the original uses a spinal implant she put in the clone after the copying process but before she woke the clone up, complaining that this feels like cheating.

A substantial section of the book is then devoted to the original torturing her clone and attempting to break her, while the clone tries various desperate plots to escape. 

plot relevant, cw: monster rape, brain surgery
Much of the torture involves various monsters the original creates raping the clone, relying on brute force to make the clones cleverness useless. When the clone becomes inured to this the original performs brain surgery to render her ability to remove the clone's ability to disassociate, suppress, or hide her emotions. Any positive responses towards the original are rewarded with pleasure and a short break from the more gruesome tortures. 

The clone is slowly broken, falling in love with her captor. The love is genuine and the captor lets her guard down, mildly disappointed in her own success. Taking advantage of this to escape, the clone, having planned this all along, creates another clone of herself. The two are able to cooperate to defeat the original, managing to form an alliance built on mutual love. They tell the original that she too will come to love them, in time. 

In the epilogue an expanding swarm of clones is overrunning civilization, torturing innocents and each other for fun and sport. It's left ambiguous as to how sad of an ending this is as, as at least the clones love and care for each other.

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The first novel from the Earthtenders is…something. Certainly not Asmodean. The two main characters, a soot-stained welder and a slender and delicate textile artist, have no discernible gender, bond with each other within the first quarter of the book, and spend the rest gradually developing a relationship, melding aesthetically to each other as they barely withstand the minor injuries of the outside world. The textile artist spends an entire scene weeping on a grassy, flowered hill, being comforted by their partner, after stumbling on the corpse of a beautiful hummingbird in the woods, reminded of the fragility of such innocent and beautiful things. The welder, somewhat hardier, still tears themselves apart over their inability to rise to the peak of their craft, destroying half their own workshop once in despair, curling up in their partner’s arms. By the end of the book these two strange hothouse-flower people have bonded into something slightly more equipped to weather their lives — unlike some of the minor characters, who all seem to be very much like them.

 


In the second novel, set in about the same world as the first as far as the average resident goes, the viewpoint character, a doctor struggling with the responsibility of his profession and with an old addiction, meets a mysterious, beautiful sculptor at a series of dinner parties. The sculptor is, outwardly, as cripplingly empathetic as the rest of their kind — but the more time they spend together, the more the doctor notices that their behavior is precisely calculated for an effect, to silence or punish someone they dislike or to gain the trust of an observer, all at the expense of the group at large. The doctor becomes fascinated. The sculptor reveals to him, the first time they’re alone together, that they burned away their natural concern for other people in much the same way their species does for chairs and stuffed animals and disease-bearing insects. What follows is an extended flirtation of slowly escalating secondhand cruelty. The sculptor stops making the effort to leave the social circle tied together, and begins dissolving friendships, setting up accidents, ruining livelihoods — the doctor watches, crippled by guilt but sexually fascinated and yearning for the ability to deaden the pain he feels whenever his mistakes cost lives. The climax of the book is a murder, the sculptor guiding the doctor’s hands, and then a terrifyingly gory scene of eroticized anguish as the doctor watches the sculptor use the raw materials he’s given them. It is heavily implied that the next death of a patient at the doctor’s hands is not an accident. The last page of the book is a sketch of several delicate mobiles of bone.

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Ev novels: King and courtier, husband and alternate-timeline wife Ev has a lot of novels containing occasional mentions of romance! But novels centered on romance are scarcer... though in a planet of several billion, there're enough outliers.

* A novel where a woman in love with a king (mostly for his wisdom?), and she begs him to let her join his court. Noticing her talents, he sends her on various missions - some of which seem Abadarian in how they help trade; others of which are exhorting people about a rather-Iomedaeian religion - which she does very well while sadly deciding her love is futile. Finally, as they're both going on a diplomatic mission together, a peasant happens to mention her obvious romantic feelings in the king's hearing. He's shocked but not averse since he's grown to admire her; she's shocked that it could be returned; the book ends with their wedding.

(Readers might notice that there's no mention in the novel of sex or magic or gods aside from this Iomedae-lookalike, we only get vague ideas of each character's appearance, and this kingdom appears to have no army nor bandits.)

* A novel where a man who's ended up in an alternate timeline (where he was never born) finds the alternate-timeline version of his wife, tells her the story, and proposes they affirm or reaffirm marriage. The novel focuses on their debate about the ethics of vows taken by alternate-universe versions of yourself, her growing feelings toward him, and his gradual realization that she's changed from his original-universe wife but he loves her anyway. Eventually, having tentatively concluded the marriage vows from the other timeline aren't in force between them, they decide to get married. In a subplot, he attempts to reproduce and publish some of his original timeline's historical research, hampered by the fact that he doesn't remember it that well.

(Both characters explicitly agree in the ethical debate that sex shouldn't happen unless they're clearly married, and it doesn't. Also, governments are barely mentioned, and we have only vague ideas of each character's appearance aside from their hair.)

 

It's disheartening to think that so much of the universe where a concept akin enough to 'romance' exists at all, to turn up any scrap of literature involving it, has so many people who know barely anything of sexuality, and nothing of cruelty or power or anything that makes sex more interesting than slapping flesh and a fleeting moment of pleasure.  Worlds full of the sort of boring creatures Shelyn would make, if Shelyn had the capacity and desire to make mortals without free will.

Abrogail will simply set this aside without any comment that might inspire the authors to write back again; Abrogail does not know how many 'romance novels' like this Cheliax may receive, before Otolmens shuts it all down, and she wishes to focus on more promising universes with more hints of useful knowledge in their books.

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The maggieverse has heard hints from elsewhere about what Abrogail likes and would like to present the following: 

A novel with "psychological horror" warnings on it but nonetheless genre-tagged for romance, about a girl who grows up in a monarchist, feudal-adjacent dystopia where personal relationships are overshadowed by personal gain and everyone has to keep an eye out for backstabbing at all times; while carefully balancing her legal obligations to her parents and teachers with the extra-obligatory factors that will prevent them from discarding her before she's gotten everything she needs out of them, the young noble girl at the center of the story yearns for genuine affection and care such as she had once received from a nanny who was executed for crimes it had been convenient to her parents to frame her for when she was very young. At a social event, she is briefly distracted from checking various refreshments for poisons or mind-altering drugs by a handsome young nobleman with a charming smile, who over the course of the next in-universe weeks takes an interest in her without making clear any ulterior motives and slowly seducing her into trusting him. After she has fallen thoroughly into his clutches, he proceeds to betray her in the most viciously pragmatic way possible, stripping her of several opportunities she had spent years cultivating at the behest and payment of her rivals. A brief window into his perspective shows that he thinks of her as pathetic and almost hopelessly naive, but that there's a chance she'll take the event as the reality check it is and shape up into someone it would be dangerous to overlook and with a quite central grudge against him, so he's preparing to order some token security measures against her when, mid-sentence, his perspective cuts off. 

A reframe back to the protagonist's viewpoint shows her as having picked up the pieces of her shattered psyche quite effectively, if not perhaps in what a normal person would call the usual fashion, and having decided that the extent to which she could blame him for doing exactly the same thing anyone else would have done to her given the chance is vastly overshadowed by how skilled he was at making her feel good and happy and adored when he was trying to do that. So she has decided to kidnap him and psychologically break him into doing what she wants again, using resources that she had continued hiding from him even while she trusted him out of sheer habit. The torture scenes, both physical and mental, are lovingly described, and the boy pretends to break several times before it actually happens, only to be caught out by clever tests the protagonist devises. 

For the rest of the book, the protagonist's rise through the ranks of the kingdom is steady, even though she starts out lower than she would have if she had never fallen for the boy's original betrayal, and although her rivals initially deride her for spending so many resources on acquiring her pet, it turns out that having a consistent source of extremely basic emotional needs strengthens her considerably psychologically, giving her the edge she needs to triumph over several crucial rivals. At the end of the book she has acquired a position of direct service to the king, who is so impressed by her effectiveness in bending her pet's will to her own that he puts her in charge of breaking critically important dissidents.

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2nd tranche of Antfolk novels …The Antfolk are a bit concerned about the Evil Empire thing, but as long as they’re getting Cheliax literature in return, they don’t care that much. (They would probably care that much if they knew about Hell, but thankfully for Abigail, they don’t!). Are these better?

Unfortunately, seduction doesn’t translate very well, since Antfolk are a hive species and don’t do sex! Cruelty is also not very popular. The other stuff they can totally work with, though! They can’t actually think of a single piece of literature that doesn’t include pride, actually - they’re a very proud people, normally!

Another dense-action filled series, but this one involves rescuing the other from slavery because of a much more possessive “this one is mine they can’t have it I don’t share they’re mine” sort of thing. Instead of sneaking in for the rescue, the rescuer, named Jalturi brutally kills everyone in her path, and loots most of their wealth in reparation. The former slave, Telmu, kill all of the grubs and eggs in reparation for being forced to work in the nursery, and she makes lots of badass comments while doing so. The narrative doesn’t seem to even think that people would consider this very evil.

A young worker, Telrun, looking to prove herself, infiltrates an enemy hive, telling them a backstory that heavily implies that her “former hive” was killed by her actual hive. Using the sympathy and goodwill this gives her, she gains enough trust to become an apprentice alchemist, and thereby gain access to the notes. She sends the information to her actual hive using telepathy. This continues for a while, until the spymaster tells her to stab the senior alchemist on the next herb gathering explanation and run. Telrun objects, asking why, and the spymaster explains that she can tell that people are getting suspicious, even if Telrun is less skilled in the arts of spy craft and can’t, and that the senior alchemist previously created a nasty weapon that roughly translates to liquid-burning-living-hive-destroyer. She stabs her with a tool somewhere in between and spear and a dagger, and runs back to her hive, where she is praised and celebrated for her excellent work.

A very complicated political novel with around 600,000 words, featuring nine diplomats from three different hives navigating a tension-filled debate about the best way to handle criminals (execution, forced-work, exile, and loss-of-rights seem to be the main options), 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.

 

Mm, they're not bad as novels, but something about the depiction of ambition and cruelty here feels more Taldor than Cheliax; you get the impression that the author thinks that the object of cruelty is power, rather than the object of power being cruelty.  Also Abrogail is concerned about impressionable young girls growing up to want to be ants.  Possibly they should, as an experiment, reprint these books and sell them in Taldor.

Abrogail doesn't write back again; she wants to focus on worlds that are sending her useful technical details, and these ants have probably gotten about as romantic as they can get.

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Fayliens: Mad scientist and clone This novel opens with a mad scientist having captured a family of noble adventures. She proceeds to
cw: torture, rape, incest rape and tortured each of the college aged children in front of their parents, sometimes using spinal implants to puppet the bodies of the parents to force them to participate in the childrens' torment.
One by one the adventurers break, leaving the mad scientist disappointed in how easy this is. Deciding she is bored with how breakable everyone is, she clones herself. Her clone, an exact duplicate of her in mind and body, immediately manages to escape her. The two engage in a protracted duel of wits, struggling to kill each other inside their lair. The battle is close and the clone very nearly wins, but ultimately the original uses a spinal implant she put in the clone after the copying process but before she woke the clone up, complaining that this feels like cheating. A substantial section of the book is then devoted to the original torturing her clone and attempting to break her, while the clone tries various desperate plots to escape.
plot relevant, cw: monster rape, brain surgery

Much of the torture involves various monsters the original creates raping the clone, relying on brute force to make the clones cleverness useless. When the clone becomes inured to this the original performs brain surgery to render her ability to remove the clone's ability to disassociate, suppress, or hide her emotions. Any positive responses towards the original are rewarded with pleasure and a short break from the more gruesome tortures.

The clone is slowly broken, falling in love with her captor. The love is genuine and the captor lets her guard down, mildly disappointed in her own success. Taking advantage of this to escape, the clone, having planned this all along, creates another clone of herself. The two are able to cooperate to defeat the original, managing to form an alliance built on mutual love. They tell the original that she too will come to love them, in time.

In the epilogue an expanding swarm of clones is overrunning civilization, torturing innocents and each other for fun and sport. It's left ambiguous as to how sad of an ending this is as, as at least the clones love and care for each other.

 

Finally an alien plane she can trade with! Possibly! She'll send back three Chelish romance novels of her own favorite taste, and there can be more if the Fayliens have more stories! Especially if they go into even more technical detail! Cheliax will pay them to produce stories like that, if they don't have them already!

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The author issues an amended version of the harem king book where the king's downfall was largely due to hubris leading to careless mistakes, and some extra nerding out about the magic?? centralized-record-system-thing that the protagonist is skilled at manipulating despite precautions built into it explicitly designed to prevent this, mostly by quietly controlling an important node of it that redirects people to the right records, but decline to change anything about the therapy. They can't take payment but the author was happy enough to take the excuse to gush a bit.

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The first novel from the Earthtenders is…something. Certainly not Asmodean. The two main characters, a soot-stained welder and a slender and delicate textile artist, have no discernible gender, bond with each other within the first quarter of the book, and spend the rest gradually developing a relationship, melding aesthetically to each other as they barely withstand the minor injuries of the outside world. The textile artist spends an entire scene weeping on a grassy, flowered hill, being comforted by their partner, after stumbling on the corpse of a beautiful hummingbird in the woods, reminded of the fragility of such innocent and beautiful things. The welder, somewhat hardier, still tears themselves apart over their inability to rise to the peak of their craft, destroying half their own workshop once in despair, curling up in their partner’s arms. By the end of the book these two strange hothouse-flower people have bonded into something slightly more equipped to weather their lives — unlike some of the minor characters, who all seem to be very much like them.

 

Abrogail finds herself deeply appreciative of the haunting fragility of these innocent, pathetic beings.  They are Lawful Good, but not in a way depicted as admirable, only in the way of making them more attractive victims.  Abrogail could break dozens of them, gently, with the softest touches driving them to break themselves, before becoming bored; and would treasure ever after whatever expressions of art they produced along the way.

 

Hannibal TV as written by Logan In the second novel, set in about the same world as the first as far as the average resident goes, the viewpoint character, a doctor struggling with the responsibility of their profession and with an old addiction, meets a mysterious, beautiful sculptor at a series of dinner parties. The sculptor is, outwardly, as cripplingly empathetic as the rest of their kind — but the more time they spend together, the more the doctor notices that their behavior is precisely calculated for an effect, to silence or punish someone they dislike or to gain the trust of an observer, all at the expense of the group at large. The doctor becomes fascinated. The sculptor reveals to them, the first time they’re alone together, that they burned away their natural concern for other people in much the same way their species does for chairs and stuffed animals and disease-bearing insects. What follows is an extended flirtation of slowly escalating secondhand cruelty. The sculptor stops making the effort to leave the social circle tied together, and begins dissolving friendships, setting up accidents, ruining livelihoods — the doctor watches, crippled by guilt but sexually fascinated and yearning for the ability to deaden the pain he feels whenever his mistakes cost lives. The climax of the book is a murder, the sculptor guiding the doctor’s hands, and then a terrifyingly gory scene of eroticized anguish as the doctor watches the sculptor use the raw materials he’s given them. It is heavily implied that the next death of a patient at the doctor’s hands is not an accident. The last page of the book is a sketch of several delicate mobiles of bone.

 

Now this is just beautiful.  This is by far the most beautiful book that any of these worlds have sent her.  This is not a romance novel for young girls, this is a beautiful creation for everyone in Cheliax to read who is smart enough to comprehend it.

If she, herself, had to be sent to any of these worlds, Abrogail would choose this one without the tiniest hesitation, from among all of those shown so far.

Abrogail will send back a copy of the romance novel that she had the greatest hand in creating herself, when she first ascended the throne, along with a copy of the most precious grimoire of Hell that Abrogail has in her own possession.  It's not clear that she can pay anything meaningless; maybe she can pay something meaningful.

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Maggieverse story about a noble girl who learns cynicism and cruelty

The maggieverse has heard hints from elsewhere about what Abrogail likes and would like to present the following:

A novel with "psychological horror" warnings on it but nonetheless genre-tagged for romance, about a girl who grows up in a monarchist, feudal-adjacent dystopia where personal relationships are overshadowed by personal gain and everyone has to keep an eye out for backstabbing at all times; while carefully balancing her legal obligations to her parents and teachers with the extra-obligatory factors that will prevent them from discarding her before she's gotten everything she needs out of them, the young noble girl at the center of the story yearns for genuine affection and care such as she had once received from a nanny who was executed for crimes it had been convenient to her parents to frame her for when she was very young. At a social event, she is briefly distracted from checking various refreshments for poisons or mind-altering drugs by a handsome young nobleman with a charming smile, who over the course of the next in-universe weeks takes an interest in her without making clear any ulterior motives and slowly seducing her into trusting him. After she has fallen thoroughly into his clutches, he proceeds to betray her in the most viciously pragmatic way possible, stripping her of several opportunities she had spent years cultivating at the behest and payment of her rivals. A brief window into his perspective shows that he thinks of her as pathetic and almost hopelessly naive, but that there's a chance she'll take the event as the reality check it is and shape up into someone it would be dangerous to overlook and with a quite central grudge against him, so he's preparing to order some token security measures against her when, mid-sentence, his perspective cuts off.

A reframe back to the protagonist's viewpoint shows her as having picked up the pieces of her shattered psyche quite effectively, if not perhaps in what a normal person would call the usual fashion, and having decided that the extent to which she could blame him for doing exactly the same thing anyone else would have done to her given the chance is vastly overshadowed by how skilled he was at making her feel good and happy and adored when he was trying to do that. So she has decided to kidnap him and psychologically break him into doing what she wants again, using resources that she had continued hiding from him even while she trusted him out of sheer habit. The torture scenes, both physical and mental, are lovingly described, and the boy pretends to break several times before it actually happens, only to be caught out by clever tests the protagonist devises.

For the rest of the book, the protagonist's rise through the ranks of the kingdom is steady, even though she starts out lower than she would have if she had never fallen for the boy's original betrayal, and although her rivals initially deride her for spending so many resources on acquiring her pet, it turns out that having a consistent source of extremely basic emotional needs strengthens her considerably psychologically, giving her the edge she needs to triumph over several crucial rivals. At the end of the book she has acquired a position of direct service to the king, who is so impressed by her effectiveness in bending her pet's will to her own that he puts her in charge of breaking critically important dissidents.

 

...it's the sort of romance novel that Abrogail always thought she wanted to read, and Abrogail would have been much more excited about reading it before coming across the Earthtender masterpieces.  This is most well-crafted and Abrogail will be printing it throughout Cheliax and seeing if she can slip it into Taldor to corrupt their own sensibilities - it's very well-placed for that - but now it has the hollow sense of being given only exactly what you asked for, when you didn't understand what you really wanted.

Somebody, she guesses, put this directly after the Earthtender book exactly so that Abrogail would realize that all the romance novels she used to enjoy, even brought to the pinnacle of the art form she herself tried to create, would only be hollow things compared to what the wider universe could offer her?  And then she never gets an Earthtender book again, and has to read the two she has over and over again, or if they do send her other books they're not as good?  It's finely honed cruelty if so.  Especially the part where Abrogail herself wouldn't give back the Earthtender book for anything; even knowing that not with the Crown of Infernal Majesty could she boost any Chelish writer to produce its equal, and may never again see its like.

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@Planet Rockeye:

It's not really the kind of technical detail she was hoping for but... thanks on the editing help, she supposes.  Her own censors can do the same sort of work, but Planet Rockeye is doing it better.

 

She's still in rather a melancholy mood, now.

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Firstplanet has also heard the rumors about Abrogail's tastes! Something like sixth- or seventh-hand, admittedly, but they still hope this novella will be more of a hit.

On a planet whose human inhabitants have barely become more interesting than other species of ape, a black obelisk appears. It ensnares the mind of any human who comes near and sets them a task. The tasks vary in complexity and duration, but the results of success and failure are always the same: for failure, stabbing pain and an explanation of how to do better, for success, ineffable pleasure and delicious food and a harder task. The humans strive to please their alien god, accomplishing successively greater feats of dexterity and intelligence and clearly becoming a nascent civilization. Of the three viewpoint characters, one fails too often and loses the obelisk's attention entirely; the other two excel with fire and stone tools and twisting string and drawing primitive maps. The descriptions of their devotion to the obelisk and the experience of communing with it are blatantly and unashamedly horny, but none of the sexiness involves body parts in any way. Eventually one of the protagonists invents the first alphabet, and is rewarded with a vision of their descendants walking on the planet's moon, where a second obelisk awaits them. The novella ends shortly thereafter with the two successful protagonists being told to produce offspring with each other.

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