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Aug 10, 2022 11:18 PM
the teachingsphere meets tradcats
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Meanwhile--

Nela has figured out that Christendom likes violence! There is a very popular sharedworld that has a lot of violence in it, and hardly any magic used by the protagonists, and the sex scenes can be easily left out without harming anything. The basic premise is that the protagonists are strong, agile, physically tough, and quick-healing, and they wander the earth fighting monsters of various kinds, and also getting involved in nasty intraclan politics. The monsters are loosely based on pre-Teachingsphere mythology, but they don't seem very close to demons or devils or anything, and anyway killing them is pretty universally considered a good idea within the genre.  

She has collected a few examples of the genre, the writers of which were gracious enough to edit out all the sex scenes and soft/hard people.

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Good Faith: A twelve-year-old girl's parents are killed by a god who is offended by their hubris. In a touching scene, she takes her mother's keys off her body and commits herself to maintaining their household. (Her brother is sixteen and apparently competent but at no point does the narrative think he might be in charge of the household.) She tracks down a hero that her father told her stories about when she was a little girl, and discovers that he's an alcoholic who can barely ride his horse. (The alcoholic is clearly written by someone who has never drunk alcohol and expects that none of the audience has drunk alcohol and is massively overexplaining the experience.) However, she has faith in him that he can kill a god. He tells her that he is a broken man; she insists that there is goodness in everyone. The strength of her faith in him inspires him to successfully kill the god. 

 --

In Pursuit Of Honor: The protagonist has become fed up with all of the revenge and intraclan politics, and has decided to wander the earth getting drunk. (This author has a somewhat more accurate understanding of how alcohol works.) Unfortunately for this plan, he adopts an orphan child whom he has to protect. He keeps giving the orphan child good advice about how life works, and then grudgingly having to follow the advice himself in order to set a good example. The book is most interested in emotional regulation and parenting techniques, which it describes in great detail, as well as the common ways that people fail at doing them even when they're trying very hard, and how you can fix the situation once you've failed. The protagonist is bizarrely good at spontaneously figuring out emotional regulation techniques from first principles; this mostly seems to be a suspension-of-disbelief thing and not a characterization point.

A mysterious woman becomes extremely interested in the protagonist and keeps "accidentally" running into him. It turns out that she's the queen of the ghosts; she kills and tortures people recreationally because she thinks it's funny. The protagonist has to explain to her why being a mass murderer is wrong and instead one should behave ethically, and ends up accidentally persuading himself with his own arguments, much to his own disgruntlement. They also do a lot of sparring. Like, a lot a lot of sparring. The ghost queen can easily beat the protagonist up, and there are a lot of very detailed descriptions of his pain, the feel of her skin, the excitement he feels when she easily takes him down, how beautiful the ghost queen looks covered in the protagonist's blood, etc. Sometimes the protagonist gets injured and she has to tenderly take care of him and the book is also very interested in this fact. In general, the book is under the impression that it is very sexy when there is a very terrifying woman who is very nice to you specifically and wants to be a good person because of how much she likes you, and also she beats you up but consensually. 

There isn't really what one would call a climax; the story ends when the protagonist and the ghost queen has been successfully dragged kicking and screaming into consistently behaving ethically, and the reader can reasonably predict that this will continue going forward. Monster-related conflicts are episodic and solved through cleverness, cunning use of magic, and extensive knowledge of monsters. Conflict in the monster sequences mostly arises from the protagonist behaving badly because of his poorly regulated emotions, having been too drunk to have a quick reaction time, not wanting to trouble himself but being forced to in order to be a good role model to the child and the ghost queen, etc. An epilogue clarifies that the ghost queen and the protagonist get married. 

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Good Faith: Sounds like a good story. I especially appreciate that the girl focuses on gender appropriate tasks like maintaining the household and seeking help from a man. The alcohol part is not a problem. "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine/ there's always laughter and good red wine" says one of our poets. However, we would prefer editing the word "god" to "demon." After all, there is only one God; any other being laying claim to the title must be an evil spirit of some kind or they would not call themselves gods.

In Pursuit of Honor sounds excellent, I really like the kid and the ethical teaching. I was confused, though, on the implicit sensuality of some of the fight scenes. What are we trying to do with this? Is it supposed to be lascivious, or not? I was so unsure I asked three of my fellow Inquisitors to have a look. Two said it was fine, suggesting that if the ghost had been a man there would be nothing unusual about these scenes. Another said he found it so arousing he needed to go to confession after. Usually we consider things objectively lustful or objectively not lustful, but in this case we felt it might be read as lustful by some people, though we are unsure how to predict which people would find it so. As a result we placed it on the Index. Probably most readers will be fine with it, but this way people will consult with their confessors and be warned off if necessary.

We are pleased to hear they get married at the end. Perhaps that is the reason for the strange tension in these fight scenes. The man is feeling a call to marriage? during the fights? Hmm.

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The alcohol part is not a problem. "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine/ there's always laughter and good red wine" says one of our poets.

...alcohol is legal in Christendom???? 

However, we would prefer editing the word "god" to "demon." After all, there is only one God; any other being laying claim to the title must be an evil spirit of some kind or they would not call themselves gods.

Of course! That was a translation issue; the Teachingsphere language doesn't use the same word for God and for polytheistic deities, because they're basically unrelated. The translator wanted to err on the side of not summoning demons.

 I was confused, though, on the implicit sensuality of some of the fight scenes. What are we trying to do with this? Is it supposed to be lascivious, or not? I was so unsure I asked three of my fellow Inquisitors to have a look. Two said it was fine, suggesting that if the ghost had been a man there would be nothing unusual about these scenes. Another said he found it so arousing he needed to go to confession after. Usually we consider things objectively lustful or objectively not lustful, but in this case we felt it might be read as lustful by some people, though we are unsure how to predict which people would find it so. 

Well, most people are attracted to a woman who can beat them up, right? There's a reason the ghost queen is a popular trope. Presumably Christendom has similar tropes? Nela doesn't want to go into details here because the Inquisitor seems very sensitive about sex but they know how sex works for most people.

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Alcohol is a naturally occurring compound and our bodies possess natural reactions to it and the ability to break it down. Plus, it has a long tradition dating back to prehistory. If it was good enough for our ancestors, it's good enough for us!

Well, most people are attracted to a woman who can beat them up, right?

We are not certain. We don't exactly spend time thinking about the roots of our attraction. We tend to assume attraction comes from the recognition of opposites and the desire to procreate. Perhaps a woman who could beat one up would be a good mother, because strength is certainly useful to motherhood.

The issue is more *dwelling* on being attracted, in a sensual way. It is appropriate for the characters to feel attracted to one another, since they are on a path to marriage, but we don't want to excite sensual desires in the reader.

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Alcohol is a naturally occurring compound and our bodies possess natural reactions to it and the ability to break it down. Plus, it has a long tradition dating back to prehistory. If it was good enough for our ancestors, it's good enough for us!

But when people drink, they become violent and rape people and hit children with tuktuks and don't show up to work and spend all the money that was supposed to go to their children's clothes on alcohol! Lots of things are natural that people don't approve of. For example, men naturally have a prostate, and Christendom seems very concerned that they don't wind up using it!

We are not certain. We don't exactly spend time thinking about the roots of our attraction. We tend to assume attraction comes from the recognition of opposites and the desire to procreate. Perhaps a woman who could beat one up would be a good mother, because strength is certainly useful to motherhood.

Right, exactly! It's not politically correct to say it in this day and age but most men do want a strong woman to guide the household. 

The issue is more *dwelling* on being attracted, in a sensual way. It is appropriate for the characters to feel attracted to one another, since they are on a path to marriage, but we don't want to excite sensual desires in the reader.

...isn't the major problem there the concept of a really powerful really evil woman who is redeemed by the power of your love. 

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Well, it is a sin to use alcohol to the point that you aren't in control of your actions or act imprudently. It takes practice to learn how to drink in moderation. Perhaps if the characters had grown up in a culture with drinking, they would have practice limiting their intake.

Catholics love strong women, or at least one strong woman, which amounts to the same thing, right?

Why would we not like redeeming evil people? If they're powerful, and women, that's even better. As women go, so does the culture, is a popular saying of ours. Just think, by redeeming her, he may also be redeeming the dozen or so children she may have and teach in the ways of virtue!

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That's. That's so many children. What would you do with so many children?

--

The translation of award-winning herofic Master of Magic is finally complete!

The protagonist is a genius hero; he invents a lot of the spells used in other stories. The characters explain to each other that they were given these powers from God in order to fight monsters, and therefore the spells are not at all a bad or objectionable sort of magic. 

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

Parallel to the primary arc is a tonally bizarre series of elaborate humorous misunderstandings and miscommunications between the protagonist and his future best friends (A and B), which often parallel and are commentaries on the political intrigue happening in the main plotline.  An example of one such scene is when the protagonist thinks A hates him when actually A yearns for the protagonist's friendship; the protagonist almost dies saving a girl from a monster, and A is very angry and upset, and the protagonist concludes that it is because A has a crush on the girl! Another example is when A got blackout drunk and sparred with the protagonist; reawakening the next morning to see the protagonist bloody and bruised, he concludes that he must have flown into a rage and assaulted him, and runs away without a word, leaving the protagonist confused and rejected. A third is after the protagonist resurrects B and has to do all kinds of occasionally painful, occasionally invasive medical exams to make sure B's new body is working properly; B yearns for the touch and the care, but knows that this utilitarian care is all he is ever going to get.

In general, like in In Pursuit of Honor, the best-friend subplot in Master of Magic is very interested in detailed descriptions of the three primary characters' pain, the feel of their skin when they touch, the excitement they feel interacting with each other, how much they appreciate each other's appearances, the desperate longing they have to hug each other, etc.

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

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That's. That's so many children. What would you do with so many children?

The same thing you do with one!

Master of Magic seems like a good book. Revenge is bad: a good moral. Magic comes from God: good worldbuilding. 

Hugging your best friends and sharing your feelings with them is great. I assume all three characters are men? It's great when men hug, platonically, which of course nobody doubts in a world where everyone understands homosexuality does not exist. If one of the character is female, however, it's important that there are boundaries to ensure nobody becomes sexually excited. Or perhaps the girl character marries the protagonist at the end? Marriage is a great end to a story. We love that kind of thing.

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They are all men! Well, the protagonist is actually supposed to be a hard person, but the author made him a man for this version. 

Don't worry, there are no worries about anyone being sexually excited in this book, because the author took out all of the sex scenes and replaced them with sparring! Just like the authors do for straight romances aimed at Christendom!  

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...It's hard to be sure this won't result in some very strange and unintentionally sensual fight scenes.

Then again, there are books like that in our tradition so we can't exactly argue against it.

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Nela has come up with a brilliant idea! Comfort fiction! No one could possibly object to comfort fiction. The entire point of comfort fiction is that it is inoffensive.

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A slice-of-life science fiction story set in a utopia where they've figured out how to get people even better at regulating their emotions and they've learned how to live in harmony with nature. "Living in harmony with nature" means that everyone lives in very aesthetic houses in the woods and obsessively manages the lives of wild animals in order to make sure they're as happy as possible, such as by giving them food and vaccines and contraception. The protagonist is a tea monk, which means her job is to go around listening to people's problems and giving them cups of tea. The book is a collection of short stories, each of which is about the very small problems people face in utopia. This person's babies have a hard time getting to sleep! This person can't decide between two romantic partners! This person is sad that her cat is dead! Everyone ends up feeling better once they have a cup of tea. The table of contents includes a complete summary of each chapter, in case you want to skip a chapter for being too close to home. 

A story about a girl who has a crush on her barista, who has incredibly cool tattoos and keeps drawing cute pictures of her on her cups of tea. The barista also has a crush on her. They are both too shy to say anything about it to each other, but they pine a lot and spend a lot of time staring at each other from afar and daydreaming about what it would be like to date each other. By a series of plot contrivances, they wind up spending time together. They run into each other at the library and both pretend not to recognize the other one because it would be Creepy, and so they're both left with the conclusion that the other one didn't recognize them! Their friends lock them together in a closet and they spend the entire time realizing they love the same specific band! The girl breaks into tears because she doesn't understand her homework, and the barista gives her a hug and comforts her and turns out to be a really great tutor! Eventually, the girl makes an anguished confession of love, saying that she knows the barista doesn't return her feelings, and the barista says he returns her feelings. The remarkably sudden ending implies that something was cut out. 

A girl has depression! She thinks that it's embarrassing to want to do childlike things, because she's an adult, so she shouldn't ever do things that bring her joy. Her best friend bullies her into doing things that she likes. She eats an incredibly fancy dessert. She paints a picture, even though it's really bad and doesn't look like anything. She wears an extremely flouncey dress. She picks up a pet cat and takes care of it. It turns out her best friend is also depressed, and having someone to take care of and a reason to do things that make her happy ends up lifting the best friend out of depression too. At the end of the story, they agree to be friends forever and that they're the only people who have ever made each other's lives worth living. 

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First book: contraception is a sin. We suspect it is also a sin for animals. That is, it is a sin to give it to animals. Because isn't it the nature of animals to procreate, like it is for humans?

This inquisitor has suddenly remembered his cat is neutered. This inquisitor will need to discuss this matter with his confessor and get back to you.

Otherwise the book sounds lovely.

Second book: this seems enjoyable. To fix the choppy ending, might we recommend a proposal of Holy Matrimony, and then they go to the chapel together to pray? This is what young people in our universe always do after a confession of love. If we had any reason to suspect otherwise, we couldn't admit to it, because of the seal of the confessional.

Third book: we also like this. G. K. Chesterton, one our leading lights, tells us that "anything worth doing is worth doing badly" and "angels can fly because they take themselves lightly." We believe he would enjoy this book.

There are other approaches to suffering we also endorse, such as white martyrdom, "offering it up," etc. But it's not like this approach is in any way sinful or condemned. Joy is, all things being entirely equal, not bad to have.

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The author of the first book can... edit... a version of this story... where they're instead neutering all the animals...? If this is a problem?

Nela explains that they can't have the couple propose marriage this quickly, because that would lead to it being denied its nihil obstat, for encouraging people to propose marriage immediately after confessions of love. Maybe this isn't a problem Christendom has but they are not comfortable sending over things that have been denied nihil obstats. 

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It was just an idea, they could perhaps embark on a discernment period instead.

To be clear, neutering is a form of contraception as far as we're concerned. I have discussed it with my confessor and he says contraception is fine for animals for the same reason euthanasia is fine for animals, because they don't have human dignity. But I'm still confused about why.

~~~~~

Hello, I am the new Inquisitor assigned as your contact! Your previous contact has been transferred. This happens all the time and is nothing whatsoever to worry about! It's just that censoring is a hard job which few can do for very long.

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Oh good! They also move people a lot in sensitive jobs, although fiction censorship is generally not considered to be a sensitive job! It makes sense that Christendom is much weaker, though. They have to censor so many more things!

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They liked herofic, so here is a classic trilogy of herofic novels! The main pairings are heterosexual and everything!

In the first book, the heroine Alpha is resurrected from the dead by a teenager, Beta, who wants her to take revenge on his abusive family. She has a reputation as the Evil Ghost Queen-- it seems to be some kind of recurring trope-- but is actually just very traumatized and kind of a mess. She decides that Beta clearly can't spend any more time with his abusive family, so she drops him off with Gamma, the most righteous person she knew when she was alive, who has subsequently become an immortal. The first half of the book alternates between four plotlines:

-Beta's process of attaching to the hero and recovering from his abusive family; this involves a lot of detailed descriptions of the hero's home, which bears a striking resemblance to a Teachingsphere monastery. It takes in orphans, the psychotic, and anyone who needs a home. There are regular services in praise of the logos (although no one ever does any sort of petitionary prayer other than strength to do the logos' will); meditation lessons; and chores, which seem to be optional except insofar as if you don't do any chores you will be very bored because there is not a lot else to do. Meditating on the will of the logos seems to give you magic powers. 
-Alpha's process of recovering enough that she can take revenge on the teenager's abusive family, which involves a lot of hanging out at the monastery because they do take everyone in and there is nothing else to do because if the Evil Ghost Queen shows up somewhere the torches and pitchforks will show up. A lot of this plotline involves the heroine spending time with her best friend Delta, whom she resurrected from the dead back when she was the Evil Ghost Queen, thus inventing the concept of resurrecting people; unfortunately, the kinks hadn't been quite worked out, so Delta is a zombie whose limbs keep falling off. 
-Alpha getting nerdsniped by solving the murder of the brother of one of Gamma's friends, Epsilon, The Very Stupidest And Most Useless Man In The World. (The hero's brother is also immortal and reigns over the entire world of heroes wisely and well.)
- Alpha completely missing that Gamma is in love with her, and thinking about how much she WISHES that she could date him, but UNFORTUNATELY she is the Former Evil Ghost Queen and no one as good as Gamma would ever be into her, and thus acting constantly like she hates Gamma and wishes he would go away.  

At the end, Beta has recovered enough from his trauma to decide that the best revenge is building a good life for himself away from his abusive family. Gamma makes an anguished confession of love in which he explains that her independence caused him to realize that being a good person wasn't just about obeying those in authority over you but following the wisdom inside your heart, and he has built his entire life asking himself what she would approve of, and he knows that he's bothering her by spending so much time with her but he can't resist because she has made his life so much better; Alpha is amazed and kisses hm. Alpha solves the murder. It turns out that the Gamma's brother's wife murdered the victim because he was going to report that she'd murdered her father. In deference to Christendom sensibilities, exactly why and how she murdered her father has been edited out, but they don't quite manage to get rid of the implication that cannibalism was somehow involved. The hero's brother, Zeta, is fundamentally broken by the revelation and retires to live in seclusion in the hero's monastery. The Very Stupidest And Most Useless Man In The World, it turns out, is much less useless than previously believed, and manipulated Beta into resurrecting Alpha in order to get her to solve his brother's murder.

In the second book, Gamma is working through his relationship problems caused by the fact that he had put Alpha on a pedestal for a thousand years, and now she actually exists and is an actual person with actual traits, some of which are annoying and not even in a grand interesting way but just kind of petty and stupid. He had a grand noble love for her, which redeemed him, and then his love redeemed her, and now he has to deal with the fact that she compulsively eats crackers in bed, tells the same jokes over and over again, and is also kind of a mess who keeps having the same emotional problems over and over again no matter how many epiphanies she has.

Meanwhile, Zeta has met Delta, and they're falling in love. Zeta had always seen the best in his wife, had always defended her against slander when people had criticized her, and he still loves her and cares about her and is aware of her good traits and is reconsidering the extent to which their entire relationship was based on gaslighting and lies. Delta is kind and sweet and has a hard time expressing preferences. They both have difficulty with trusting people: Zeta wonders if everyone else is going to betray him the way his wife did; Delta has trouble trusting that people will stay if she actually has emotional needs instead of endlessly self-sacrificing. Eventually, they build a fragile relationship based on a leap of faith. 

Meanwhile, Epsilon The Very Stupidest And Most Useless Man In The World is apparently the only heir to the throne who isn't about to start a war, and wars are BAD, because you might DIE IN THEM, so Epsilon The Very Stupidest And Most Useless Man In The World has to do politics. How could he have foreseen this. He has nervous breakdowns about twelve times a day. 

In the third book, Alpha and Gamma cope with becoming parents because of the child they have accidentally adopted, and also do the Industrial Revolution powered by magic. Zeta and Delta create a fragile relationship based on their mutual trauma. And The Very Stupidest And Most Useless Man In The World invents democracy as an elaborate attempt to get out of having to rule anything. 

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We are having a little bit of trouble following the plot; our predecessor was so much better than this Inquisitor at this job, alas.

In general we appreciate a good chaste, heterosexual love story and a murder mystery. Also monasteries. Vengeance is, of course, the Lord's so it's not appropriate for humans to take it upon themselves. However, it is true to life that they do in fact do so, it's just important that this is not morally promoted. The ghost and zombie bits are not true to life, but we find them appropriate as fantasy. It is up to the author of this sort of thing how much they want to explain about the afterlife and what the resurrected person experienced, so long as it is not something clearly false.

being a good person wasn't just about obeying those in authority over you but following the wisdom inside your heart,

Following authority is a good thing actually?

In the second book, the hero is working through his relationship problems caused by the fact that he had put the heroine on a pedestal for a thousand years, and now she actually exists and is an actual person with actual traits

Ah, what an excellent type of story. More stories need to include the natural after-marriage adjustment from idealization to true spousal affection. It is true that there's often some frustration involved.

Meanwhile, the hero's brother has met the heroine's best friend, and they're falling in love.

What happened to the hero's wife? Is she dead? This sounds potentially adulterous. We understand that his wife is a terrible person, but that doesn't make adultery okay.

And The Very Stupidest And Most Useless Man In The World invents democracy as an elaborate attempt to get out of having to rule anything. 

What an excellent explanation for how a morally bankrupt system of government like that ever came to be.

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It is up to the author of this sort of thing how much they want to explain about the afterlife and what the resurrected person experienced, so long as it is not something clearly false.

Oh, the author didn't explain any of that because the logos didn't tell us about the afterlife because it's bad for humans to think about the afterlife.

Following authority is a good thing actually?

Following authority is a neutral thing! It is bad to follow authority instead of the inner wisdom which the logos put into each person's heart. Sometimes your inner wisdom will tell you to trust competent authorities and that is a very good thing during e.g. pandemics.

What happened to the hero's wife? Is she dead? This sounds potentially adulterous. We understand that his wife is a terrible person, but that doesn't make adultery okay.

Oh, sorry, that might have gotten taken out in the edits for Christendom sensibilities. A new version is put out in which it is made more explicit that the wife killed herself out of shame. 

What an excellent explanation for how a morally bankrupt system of government like that ever came to be.

Oh! The logos wants us to be democratic, actually. Maybe things work differently in Christendom. This is supposed to be a plotline about how even very stupid and useless people can wind up doing good things for terrible motives. 

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I'm trying to understand why my predecessor thought your universe was so similar to ours and we would get along so well.

In Christendom, we *do* know what happens in the afterlife, and we think about it a lot. But of course it does no harm for it not to be included. Our readers will well understand what happens to the wife after she dies.

God writes straight with crooked lines, I'm sure that's something we can all agree on! Take most of the kings we've ever had. If God weren't directing their behavior toward the good, who knows how much worse things would be run!

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