S00E04. “SCP-6001: Avalon” Transcript

Josh Woodward (singing) 0:00
Let’s pretend it’s the end, of this whole ugly story
We vanquished the foe and we triumphed in glory
There’s nothing but rainbows and blue skies ahead
Hallelujah, amen, it’s the end

We threw off the yoke, and we broke all the shackles
We tore down the walls, and we burned down the castle
The oppressors all scattered, and naked, they fled
Hallelujah, amen, it’s the end

Melissa Avery-Weir 0:37
Welcome to Before the Future Came, temporarily not a Star Trek podcast. We are looking at the ideals of utopian science fiction as we voyage from one work to the next following a breadcrumb trail motifs. This month we’re talking about “SCP-6001: Avalon” by T. Rutherford, a story from the SCP wiki collaborative writing project written in 2021. It was a finalist in the 6k Contest. I’m Melissa, and this time I know exactly where I am.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:10
I’m Gregory, zen-like at my total disbelief of the universe.

Lucy Arnold 1:14
I’m Lucy and I am a calico after all. Since we’re both doctors, we can spare the honorifics.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:22
Last episode, we discussed Wil McCarthy’s The Collapsium, which had humanity and a political united society that made extensive use of teleportation for travel. Today, we’re talking about “SCP-6001: Avalon”, which also features a version of humanity with a global, nonviolent system of government and instantaneous travel around the world. Gregory picked it so please give us a summary of the story in your own words.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:50
All right, here we go. This one’s a little complicated. I say that—we say that every time. They’re all complicated. That’s how stories work. Yeah.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:59
It’s science fiction!

Gregory Avery-Weir 2:00
Researchers log: 11:26pm. Zero minutes ago. While browsing the Special Containment procedure database of the SCP Foundation, a shadowy organization that secures and contains anomalous objects and entities and protects humanity from them, you receive an email from Dr. David Caspian, the head of alt-dimensional research telling you about his “most incredible day”.

Gregory Avery-Weir 2:28
We then read a fully public phenomenon report from an organization called the Compendium of Phenomic Inquiry on Phenom # 6001, a microsingularity in Tokyo that leads to a parallel universe called A6K. A6K, it seems, is our universe. A6K is far more violent and repressed than the CPI’s dimension. And the full Compendium is being called to render judgment on unity with A6K, whatever that means.

Gregory Avery-Weir 2:58
The rest of the story alternates between two narratives. One is a series of brief opinion statements from the strange organizations that make up the Compendium voting yes or no on the topic of unity, with the running vote staying very close to 50/50. The other narrative is from Caspian’s perspective, as he reports to you about his trip through the singularity that our universes foundation calls SCP-6001. While studying SCP-6001, Caspian suddenly finds himself on a rooftop and an alien space age Tokyo, talking to a house cat named Dr. Primrose. She is his counterpart in the Compendium and claims to have brought him to the other dimension as part of standard test procedure.

Gregory Avery-Weir 3:38
She takes him on a tour of the world via a teleportation network that uses something called the Everywhere Chair, and she says that the Compendium are the benevolent dictators of her universe, providing universal health care and all other necessities of life. Her world is vegan, hyper-technological, and has cured cancer. Caspian gradually learns that Primrose’s world works with what it calls phenoms instead of imprisoning them like the SCP Foundation does with its anomalies. Caspian recognizes many of these ,including a deadly statue that’s openly on display for tourists to see and an unkillable murder dragon that roams free in Australia in large numbers.

Gregory Avery-Weir 4:17
Caspian grows suspicious and tries to puzzle out the dark side of this apparent utopia. Primrose claims there isn’t one; her world’s humans simply chose to exist alongside phenom despite the dangers they pose. He finally believes her and they go and get very drunk at a ramen bar where the cook is a weird nightmare creature. After karaoke, Caspian gets separated from Primrose. He uses a roadside computer to try and find her and is accidently patched into a stream of the ongoing debate on A6K unity. Primrose finds him and he confronts her about why he’s actually there. She confesses that her world’s Caspian was her best friend, but died working with phenoms and she wanted one last day with him.

Gregory Avery-Weir 4:58
After a little joke about erasing his entire universe, she explains that the Compendium is voting on whether to reach out to the people of A6K or close off contact entirely. The vote is tied six to six, when Primrose’s version of the Foundation cast the deciding vote: no, there will not be unity with A6K. But when they can make contact on their own, the Compendium will reconsider. Caspian is sent back home, but not before he gets permission to pet Primrose on the head.

Gregory Avery-Weir 5:27
So I really liked the story. I think it’s, it’s, it’s interesting because it’s in a collaborative project that’s very horror themed. And there’s very little horror in this one, like, there’s horror creatures in it. But like, it doesn’t feel horrific or scary, which is… This is just a straight up sci fi story.

Melissa Avery-Weir 5:49
My topic is going to cover something that I feel is the horror of the story.

Gregory Avery-Weir 5:54
For sure, yes, totally.

Melissa Avery-Weir 5:55
But I think, actually, I shouldn’t… We should note here that—we probably should have noted it earlier—but if you have not seen the previous show notes for our episode, there is a glossary that goes alongside reading SCP-6001. So if you want to read the story and have some additional notes so that you don’t feel like you have to read all of SCP to get it, that is up on beforethefuture.space.

Gregory Avery-Weir 6:29
So we just summed up and it’ll, it’ll be linked in the show notes too.

Lucy Arnold 6:35
I am not very knowledgeable of SCP, and I read this story and dis just fine. So I don’t think you have to have a lot of… I mean, maybe I missed a lot of important things. We’ll find out about that soon, I guess! Okay, so hold off. Maybe at the end of the episode, I will say you should read the glossary closely. We’ve each brought a topic for discussion. Mine is disorientation, essentially. I thought about disorientation a lot while I was reading the story. Can I just call it a story? The story? Is that okay.

Gregory Avery-Weir 7:21
Sure. Yeah, it’s a story.

Lucy Arnold 7:24
So I thought about disorientation a lot while I was reading because, of course, I was disoriented. I think because it’s not something that I am usually reading. But I think, I assume anybody reading it is also disoriented by the way things are changing. And, as Gregory mentioned in the summary, the shift between the voting and the story between Caspian and Primrose that’s happening, and even sort of the frame of it, which I expect, we will talk about a bit about the email at the beginning that says “to you”, you know. I think the story creates a sense of disorientation.

Gregory Avery-Weir 8:08
And I, I’d say that, like, your typical SCP reader might have a disorientation, might have a disorientation that’s like uncanny familiarity? Like feelings of “Boy, that sounds familiar, but it whatever it is, it’s different enough that I’m not sure what it’s talking about.” So I think that holds true.

Lucy Arnold 8:28
So what I what I was reminded of is this book, which I’m showing on the camera, it’s Sarah Ahmed’s Queer Phenomenology. And in this book, Ahmed traces the concept of disorientation as a feeling of general discomfort and feeling out of place. And for her, this is a kind of metaphor for queerness and queer bodies, which she argues don’t contain spaces, but become the spaces that they are in. And I’m going to talk about that a little bit and just want to sort of be clear that I’m talking about this from sort of a theoretical queer theory perspective, and not like a representation of queerness, which I think are sort of two different concepts.

Gregory Avery-Weir 9:16
We’re not talking about gay and trans people. We’re talking about a queer way of looking at the world.

Lucy Arnold 9:21
Yeah, which concerns LGBTQ+ people, but it also… I mean, you can think about, you know, a good friend of mine wrote an article about queering writing instruction, right? Like you can talk about queering lots of things and you’re not talking about having more representation of certain kinds of people in those spaces. I read Ahmed’s book a long time ago, and I found it to be a really useful framework.

Lucy Arnold 9:52
The disorientation to me is, as I was saying before, really crucial to this story, Caspian is disoriented throughout the story. Literally, his body is transported into a new space in a new universe. He’s disoriented by the ways in which Primrose knows him, although he is learning about her, there’s a moment of deja vu, where he feels like he’s experienced the moment before. And I think deja vu is a kind of disorientation. And then toward the end, Caspian and Primrose are literally drunk and disoriented in a sort of literal way. So Caspian’s disorientation is reflected in his understanding of the worlds in his relationships with others, notably Primrose, and how those relationships get framed in those worlds. So although I don’t think this is a lowercase queer text, I do think it’s a capital Q queer text, because it queers our thinking about relationships, and our relationships with worlds and spaces. And I think there’s even sort of a queer conclusion in that the vote happens, but the door is left partially open to something else, some other possibility.

Gregory Avery-Weir 11:06
Yeah, we get this yes or no vote throughout. And then the final vote is like, is like “I’m going to tie break. No, but kind of yes? Maybe?”

Lucy Arnold 11:16
Ahmed’s concludes her book, Queer Phenomenology with this noticing—and this is a quote—”If orientations point us toward the future, to what we are moving toward, then they also keep open the possibility of changing directions and of finding other paths, perhaps those do not clear, perhaps those that do not clear a common ground where we can respond with joy, but goes astray.” And I find that to be an incredibly utopian version of the world, and a way of thinking, and a version of queerness that speaks of possibilities, and joy, and helps you think about orientation, and the concept of disorientation in ways that have been generative for me. And that is what this story reminded me of, is the ways in which disorienting and being disoriented is sort of a path to orientation.

Gregory Avery-Weir 12:22
So we’re talking about like, like, accepting that maybe you don’t know where you’re going to end up or realizing that you’ve been headed in the wrong direction in life and thinking and so on and being willing to pivot? Is that the sort of kind of disorientation and productive reorientation?

Lucy Arnold 12:40
It’s so funny, I was just, you know, with a good friend of mine yesterday, and she was reminding me how much I despise the word “pivot.”

Gregory Avery-Weir 12:53
But that’s the that’s the same sort of orientation, right? It’s like, “What’s your path? What’s your goal? Where, where are you headed?”

Lucy Arnold 13:01
And I don’t want to say a lot of nice things about Dan Savage, so take this with caution. But he said something, years and years ago, when I was listening to him, and he was talking about how, when the things that you feel and want internally are things that you’re able to do externally, like, you… There, there’s some joy that comes from the ability to live like that. And he was talking explicitly about queerness, right, like being able to live the way you feel is important. And there’s something about that, that I’m reminded of in this too. You know, when you’re able to point yourself in the right direction, at least what feels like the right direction, or have some some clues for orientation. I mean, because we’re all always disoriented. You know, disorientation is a part of the experience of being a human. But finding ways to orient yourself is, is work, maybe the work of being a person?

Melissa Avery-Weir 14:07
Yeah, as he’s moving through this story, as David is moving through the story, he is grasping for reference points, kind of constantly. “This is supposed to behave this way. This is supposed to behave this other way. What are my anchor points?” And… there are almost none. There are very few.

Lucy Arnold 14:29
And the way he learns about Primrose, like, “Oh, that’s a cat saying. That’s something cats are allowed to say.”

Melissa Avery-Weir 14:35
That was funny.

Lucy Arnold 14:35
“Am I allowed to say that?” But I’m also like, understanding her. Like, understanding their relationship is a kind of orientation in the story.

Gregory Avery-Weir 14:49
It’s interesting. Thinking of queer phenomenology… So like, phenomenology is like, what it’s like to experience things, right? Like, what it’s like to feel things.” And there’s a lot of places in this book that made me think of Object-oriented Ontology and, and the, that we discussed earlier of like, there are all sorts of ways of being that this story is like, that’s a fine way of being. Like, it’s fine to be a cat, it’s fine to be a weird, deadly sculpture, it’s fine to be a fish out of water in this world. And like, everyone’s very accepting even of Caspian’s, like, accusations of them being some sort of evil conspiracy.

Gregory Avery-Weir 15:35
Part of the thing that Caspian has trouble with is something that is core to my topic, which is that this is a, this is a very interesting exploration of pacifism and nonviolence. This world, although, I mean, Primrose admits at one point or… accepts? It’s not like she’s confessing to it, it’s just like, she’s like, “Yeah, we’ve had war. There was martial conflict that was required to enter into the world that we are in.” But like, the way that this universe has become peaceful and so on is a) through like a sort of, through literal mutually-assured destruction, in the sense of… I did not get into this, but basically, all of the powers of this world became strong enough that they realized that fighting each other would result in apocalypse, and also that they could team up against the real problem.

Gregory Avery-Weir 16:38
So like, where in, in A6K, in the default SCP world, there are these, you know, evil gods and strange forces of nature that cannot be stopped. And there’s these shadowy organizations that are kind of feuding with each other, and each claiming that they have the best way to hold off this apocalypse. In this world, they’re like, “No, let’s team up and use all this weird stuff we have and just kill the devil,” and stuff like that. And they end up in this society where having done, having removed the worst of the, of the existential risks and of the things that are truly antithetical to to joy, they have proceeded from a perspective of pacifism. Of like, of saying, “We’re not going to hold things prisoner, we’re not going to kill things and fight, even if it means we will die along the way.”

Gregory Avery-Weir 17:38
Because, like, there’s been a decent amount of pacifist discussion in philosophy. A whole lot more of the discussion around nonviolence and pacifism has been either opposition to wars run by a powerful state, from individuals. Or ways to resist against oppressors by marginalized people. So like, think Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr, people who recognized that, you know, if they’re going to kill you anyway, you might as well put yourself at risk strategically, and, like, use the fact that they will, that the power will be aggressive towards you in order to forward your cause.

Gregory Avery-Weir 18:30
And that’s not actually what’s happening here. This is a world in which the benevolent dictators, the people in power, are deliberately nonviolent now. They deliberately accept the fact that sometimes your researchers are going to get killed by the monster you’re trying to talk to, and it’s better that they get killed and that monster becomes your friend, than they get killed and your monster becomes your prisoner forever or another existential threat. And it’s really it’s, it’s a kind of a refreshing way of depicting this sort of utopia. The, I was looking for kinda like, what, what, what’s a good quote, to use to talk about this philosophy. And Robert L. Holmes is a philosopher who wrote Pacifism: A Philosophy of Nonviolence, and he has like a really straightforward argument against war in that. I mean, it takes a very long time to to elaborate it and make it convincing, but his basic argument is: we can assume that a war is going to be bad, right? Because wars involve killing a lot of people. So we can start from the assumption that any given war is going to be bad. And then in order to make that war acceptable, you must then be able to prove that it causes enough good in some whatever—it doesn’t have to utilitarian, however you determine what the war is, what is good about a war—you have to be able to balance out… You have to be able to prove that this war, this war in particular is good. And his argument is like, you might have a concept of a “just war”. But if so, you’ve got to admit that virtually no war has ever met it, has ever met those criteria, and yet we keep doing it. And, and that, that is, that’s morally inconsistent. And it’s a, it’s, it’s a very, like, cutting the Gordian knot approach to looking at this violence, which is like, “Hey, why don’t we just do the good thing instead?” which is, which is a refreshing way of not getting bogged down and all those, all the really rough stuff about figuring out war and violence and so on, especially like… I was thinking about this story and current events with, with genocide going on in the Middle East and stuff like that. And it made me wistful, but maybe hopeful? I don’t know.

Lucy Arnold 21:05
You’re actually making me think of a parallel between this story and Binti and Ooma University. I think that there are some kind of similarities. You remember the faculty meeting where they discussed everything brusquely, and they were even welcoming to the tentacled people.

Gregory Avery-Weir 21:27
The Meduse?

Lucy Arnold 21:29
The Meduse, who had basically… they were the monsters, you know, that were basically welcomed. So, it seems similar.

Gregory Avery-Weir 21:42
And you can even, you can kind of contrast this with Star Trek—which we’re not talking about—but a lot of other utopian science fiction, kind of has the attitude of, “Well, if we’re the good ones, well, of course, we’re sometimes going to have to go to war. Or sometimes we’re going to have to use our weapons to kill things that are dangerous in order to save lives.” And this world, the world of Avalon would kind of be like, “No, we’re not going to attack this thing, even if it is killing things until we have figured out why it’s killing things and how to convince it to stop.” And that’s a… yeah. It’s a very plausible political philosophy to me, right? Like, some utopias, it’s like, “How did you do that? By magic!” It’s like, well, I can understand how you… how that is an appealing worldview to have. I mean, it is, it is my worldview. And I think it’s presented in the story in a way that makes me feel like it could convince other people.

Melissa Avery-Weir 22:45
Yeah, there’s a lot of discussion of—or not discussion of, there’s a lot of instances of consent in the story that go from the micro to the macro, and the one that stuck with me as so charming… It’s very micro, does not apply to wars. But Primrose and David are talking about the Atlantic Super City. So there’s a very large, underwater city. There’s basically—it’s called the Atlantic one, but it’s in the Pacific. I don’t know. But it’s a big city—

Gregory Avery-Weir 23:20
I think it’s because it is Atlantis, I think is the joke.

Melissa Avery-Weir 23:24
Right. Haha. Now I get it. But they’re talking about how, you know, animals were given the option of sentience of full-on sentience. And Primrose says, “If we’re ranking the failures of PACT-15,”—which is sort of this this animal arrangement—”in terms of hostility, the octopi sit somewhere between jellyfish and aphids, and the insects nearly caused hell on earth.” David says, “What happens with what happened with jellyfish?” And Primrose says, “A moment of consciousness, then a very polite ‘No, thank you.'” And they find it hilarious. I mean, it is it is a funny story, but it’s also like, fuck yes. Like, I’ll get into this a bit more later, but like, one of the things that I think characterizes my limited experience with SCP is a distinct lack of consent.

Gregory Avery-Weir 24:20
Yeah, and like, it’s, it’s, it is a horror setting in which, like, we’re depicting an evil organization.

Melissa Avery-Weir 24:27
Exactly. And so I think, to have a good philosophy of pacifism and nonviolence, explicitly or otherwise, consent enters the picture. Do you let people, how do you let people say no? What happens when they do? And I think the story weaves that in very well.

Lucy Arnold 24:52
Is it because they went to a different universe, that, that was possible?

Gregory Avery-Weir 24:59
Possible to be to be pacifist?

Lucy Arnold 25:03
Yeah, I don’t know. I guess I’m just wondering.

Gregory Avery-Weir 25:06
I mean, I think the story is kind of arguing that I think the story is arguing no, right? Because in the story, they’re like, we really aren’t that different. Like, our two worlds have very different like societies and different… Just A6K, which is our world, is just more violent and more oppressive and less empathetic. But like, there’s not like a certain point in history where things went differently. There’s not like some neurological difference. They’re just like, “Yeah, we’re as close as two dimensions can be. And for some reason, y’all are oppressive and evil and violent, and we are less so.” I think the story is like, “We could just stop. We could just stop fighting and be peaceful, right? Today,” is kind of what the story is saying.

Melissa Avery-Weir 26:02
I think there’s some tension there. I think it, it seems like if—I don’t know how many hairs are possible to split. It feels like the author has this, has this viewpoint. I’m not sure David, that David Caspian does. I think it’s a little more ambiguous.

Gregory Avery-Weir 26:22
I don’t, I don’t think Caspian is won over. Yeah.

Melissa Avery-Weir 26:25
Yeah, okay.

Gregory Avery-Weir 26:28
And I definitely think that the story is clear that like, this is a very costly philosophy. Like, if, if you go into this… If you do a pacifism, people are gonna die. A lot of people are going to die.

Melissa Avery-Weir 26:45
Even the, even the capitalists are like, “Hey, if you, you know, why don’t these folks realize that if they were to just pay the price, they could have the world?”

Gregory Avery-Weir 27:00
Yeah, the one of the groups is the Partnership.

Melissa Avery-Weir 27:03

Gregory Avery-Weir 27:03
Like all the, the good equivalents of all the evil organizations from, from our universe.

Melissa Avery-Weir 27:09
Corporations, really, right? Like—

Gregory Avery-Weir 27:11

Melissa Avery-Weir 27:12
—they are—

Lucy Arnold 27:12
Were they a no vote, or yes vote?

Melissa Avery-Weir 27:15
They were a no vote. They said, “We have the resources, yes. But why invest them in a venture destined to fail? We didn’t spend the last 100 years retrofitting capitalism, eliminating billionaires, and rebalancing globalism, just to start all over again. A6K is still a world of tiny, golden kingdoms. Our counterparts need to realize on their own that they can have the whole world if they just pay the damn cost. And the time and resources if it takes to break them of their greed? We cannot afford them. The Partnership of Three vote no.”

Lucy Arnold 27:51
That’s, there’s Adam Smith for you.

Gregory Avery-Weir 27:55
The fact that this, that we’re presented with a world in which all of the cost of overhauling society has already been paid in, in, for the most part, at least, makes this seem much more appealing, right? Because we’re seeing like, oh, well, all the bodies have been buried at this point.

Melissa Avery-Weir 28:18

Gregory Avery-Weir 28:19
And, but I don’t know that capitalism or other vectors of power will go down without a huge fight.

Melissa Avery-Weir 28:28
Yeah, there’s, there’s a segment on that, that I think is is interesting and optimistic. But yeah, I think you’re right. So speaking of costs, I want to talk about jailers. I’m talking about people who run jails. So I have read SCP… I’ve read a few SCP articles over the years. None recently until this sort of burst. So although I’m going to talk about, like, SCP, this is sort of from the perspective of reading this story and blooming outwards more than recollecting things I read five, six years ago. But I think one way to look at the story is, is, look at the tension of the story is as being between David and… as David as a jailer who is faced with those who would be imprisoned. He is a cop looking at ex-convicts and flinching at the possibility that they might do the thing he is absolutely 100% confident they are going to do.

Gregory Avery-Weir 29:41
And I mean, David Caspian is more like a prison doctor in this sense. Like he’s—

Melissa Avery-Weir 29:48
Hm. That’s always great.

Melissa Avery-Weir 29:50
I mean, I’m not saying he’s good, he’s good.

Melissa Avery-Weir 29:52

Gregory Avery-Weir 29:52
Like, his job in our universe is like, he doesn’t really have to work with the prisoners, right? He, he is not, he is not generally jailing people. He’s like, looking through rifts and going, sending prisoners, sending incarcerated people on expeditions that are probably deadly and stuff like that.

Melissa Avery-Weir 30:19
Right. So he might not have the keys to the door or sign the checks, but he is nonetheless in the role of a jailer in our society, in A6K’s society. And if I take the story as it is, he does not seem, he doesn’t even register the cruelty of SCP’s actions, particularly. Like, he acknowledges that they are imprisoning people, they’re torturing a child, they’re doing these various things. But even imprisoning a person for decades is cruelty. To imprison them, and then torture them is, I think, what currently the masses would say is cruel, is an additional cruelty, right? So he, he doesn’t even, he doesn’t even come into this discussion with this idea that like, maybe we’re doing a bad.

Gregory Avery-Weir 31:27
And meanwhile, like the first Compendium entry, the first Compendium opinion we get is from the Wanderers, who were like, “Hey, the one other time someone’s come across from this universe, it was a person who is being held prisoner and enslaved. And he fell in love with one of our people, and then had to go back and like, that’s not cool. We don’t like this universe. We need to liberate them. We need to have unity. We vote yes.” But like, yeah, they see it as a liberatory.

Melissa Avery-Weir 32:03
So when… There’s a, there’s a point at which they go to a museum, and David sees a statue that is a sort of well known, famous SCP thing. It’s a statue that—

Gregory Avery-Weir 32:17
The first SCP arguably.

Melissa Avery-Weir 32:19
Yeah. It’s a statue where if you look away from it, if it is unseen, it will move and in our world probably kill you, or kill something. And Caspian asks… currently in… Let’s see… in this alternate world, the statue is set up as a workpiece. So it is given one second a day to move itself into a new position. And then people come and stare at it all day. And so Caspian asks, “Aren’t you worried it might, you know?” And Primrose says, “Might what? Hurt someone? Kill someone? Oh, it might if we were ever so disrespectful to lock it away and leave it unseen, letting it wallow in its own filth. Any person would do the same. It’s a statue, David. It’s art. It stops when it’s seen because it wants to be seen.” And it’s just one of those things where Primrose is just saying like the basic humane thing, which is if you lock a person up, and leave them to wallow in their filth, they are going to be miserable. They’re going to be miserable, and they’re going to try get free.

Lucy Arnold 33:28
And it’s even, I would say it’s even more basic than—I feel like this is what I teach every day. Like, our work is to figure out what people need and then—I’m in education, by the way—to figure out what people’s needs are and help them meet those needs. And when we consistently refuse to do that… Well, then, yeah, like, bad things happen. But then the answer is not to build a prison for the monster. The answer is: figured out what it—And I loved this part so much. I’m so glad you brought it up, Melissa.

Melissa Avery-Weir 34:02
Yes, it was one of my favorite parts. Another part was about this Everywhere Chair, which I will touch on lightly for the sake of brevity. But in the SCP world, in A6K, the Everywhere Chair, the teleportation chair, is a pile of wood chips, because another secret society put it in a wood chipper. And so even—

Gregory Avery-Weir 34:24
And so now those wood chips teleport around and kill people by teleporting into their lungs and stuff.

Melissa Avery-Weir 34:30
And so the entire containment protocol for this pile of debris is to make sure no one aggravates it, and gives it something mildly useful to do. It wants to be useful, so let it be mildly useful. And don’t aggravate it and if it gets upset, play an alarm and let people know. It’s… this… This is a trauma response on the part of this chair. And the reaction is not actually to do anything to heal it; it is not to find where it wants to be and what it wants to be, but it is instead to, to put it off, to contain it, to keep it just tame enough, right, that it isn’t hurting anything.

Melissa Avery-Weir 35:16
And even when David comes across, and he sees this Everywhere Chair, he’s like, he says, “Why not just carry those atoms of this chair around in pins or wristbands? Why bother having chairs at all?” And Primrose is like, “It doesn’t want to be a pin. It wants to be a chair.” So we’re having… if it want to be a chair, it’s gonna be a chair.

Melissa Avery-Weir 35:39
And it just, it just fits and just explains like David’s tendency to look towards, you know… He asked like, “is, are all animals like this?” “are all things like this?” he’s looking for these boxes and these, these containments, right, these these ways of parceling up people that I think just does a very, very good job at, at going to a person who reads this space, who was in the SCP world as a reader and saying, “Hey, this is you, I’m you. And here’s our mindset. We’re a mindset that cannot expect that cannot escape imprisoning.”

Lucy Arnold 36:20
I want to just “yes, and” that to say it’s also, it’s also that he is trained to be distrustful, right? To distrust the phenoms. And that’s what when, when Primrose points out that they trust the statue. Yeah, we trust it not to be a concrete killing machine.

Melissa Avery-Weir 36:41

Lucy Arnold 36:41
And that is like that is an inthinkable, unthinkable to him. And I do think that is a commentary on, like, I feel there’s a lot happening here, that’s a commentary on modern science, you know. And, you know, the desire to not trust instead of to maybe accept or trust.

Gregory Avery-Weir 37:05
And for people who like the idea of treating monsters like people and really figuring out what they need this, there’s a passing, there’s a cameo in this story from the ramen chef, the ramen cook, that when, when they’re starting to drink is a weird monster. And that is SCP-5031, which the story in our world is kind of, is much more tragic, but kind of sweet, where it’s like, it starts off as a, “Here’s this description of this weird monster and some experiments we did with it while it was imprisoned,” and the researchers gradually realizing that this creature is just kind of a sweetheart who likes to cook? Highly recommend that one. It’s one of my favorite SCP stories.

Lucy Arnold 37:55
And this actually has a lot of ties in… This story has a lot of ties into The Wild Robot, I think, too, with the communication piece. Have, being able to communicate with people who communicate differently than you is important.

Melissa Avery-Weir 38:12
Oh god, yeah.

Gregory Avery-Weir 38:13
Yeah. And they go through a lot of effort to communicate. The… Primrose is unwilling to tell Caspian like all of the, the tricks that they do, because you know, vague sort of Prime Directive sort of thing is the implication. They don’t want to contaminate his universe. But like, they, their process for talking to some of these creatures, like, has hundreds of steps to it, like combining a whole bunch of different weird phenomenons and technologies and so on, to be able to even begin to figure out what things might want, and they consider it worth it. You know, this is what they’re spending their research efforts on instead of nuclear missiles and so on.

Melissa Avery-Weir 38:55
All right. So with the main topics covered, it’s time for a quick lightning round of other interesting things we spotted.

Lucy Arnold 39:04
An old version of me, of Lucy, used to sort of shit talk reader response theory, which is the idea that, you know, what you personally and your personal experience and background bring to a story is important, and an important way lens for reading lit’rature, literature. But I’m going to focus on my own personal response to this story for a moment here. And for me, I mean all this cool SCP references… I mean, I’m totally here for talks about prison and capitalism, queer phenomenology, but the beating heart of the story for me was Primrose and her grief for her friend. [tears up]

Gregory Avery-Weir 39:59
Yeah, like, this is, this is the kind of Orphean ideal of being able to pull your friend from a world where he is still alive and talk to him.

Lucy Arnold 40:13
You know, I was reading the story, and I thought for a long time, I was like, “Oh, you know, he’s a phenom. He’s something she’s studying, you know. He’s…” I, you know, I had all of these theories that were a part of, you know, my perception of SCP and what it is, but then to find out in the end that she’s grieving and she saw an opportunity to have her friend for a day. And she offers for him to stay, you know, and I think, I think she knows, you know, that he won’t. And I think she also knows that it’s not really him, you know, it’s not really her friend.

Lucy Arnold 40:55
But, um, you know, I have, I have struggled so much with grief for the past couple of years. And I have just really identified really hard with that cat in that story. That little cat with her PhD and her little jacket, and her big ball of grief that, you know, caused her to, you know, make a choice that doesn’t really make sense, you know, for her work, or for her life, just because it’s this thing that she feels. And, and just not even from a part of this, like, of this whole writing project and all, and all of that stuff, but just from a story perspective, I thought it was lovely, and heartbreaking. And also a reminder that these connections that people have, the connections, you know, that we feel for each other are… important. Well, I didn’t mean for it to be me crying again. I—

Melissa Avery-Weir 42:12
I’m crying, too. I teared up three times, maybe four times reading this story.

Lucy Arnold 42:20
I sobbed. I sobbed at the end about this fucking cat. That’s what I’ll say. Grief is weird.

Gregory Avery-Weir 42:32

Lucy Arnold 42:32
And I really understand that cat.

Gregory Avery-Weir 42:36
We talked about that hard science fiction, soft science fiction divide last time about The Collapsium and like, this is solid, soft sci-fi, right? Like, this is entirely about politics and sociology and feelings. But like, even, even your most standard hard sci-fi story, like almost certainly the thing at its core is something deeply emotional… if the story is any good, right? Like, it’s, it’s grief or passion and like, you know, we… Some of our more most stereotypical justifications for characters in fiction are things like revenge and like, trying to redeem yourself for, for some thing that you are mourning that you did. And like, it always feels to me a little goofy when I tear up over you know, some anime kid who’s crying super hard or a cat who’s sad about her friend or anything like that, but, like… I dunno. It’s fiction, right?

Melissa Avery-Weir 43:43

Gregory Avery-Weir 43:45
Something that stuck in my head as I was reading this that like, kind of helps make it feel a little realer to me is that this is an epistolary story. Which, when it’s, like, when people… When we all learn this in middle school, probably, or high school, epistolary stories are stories made up of letters, right? So like, Frankenstein, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is an epistolary story, because it’s all letters and journals and stuff like that. And more generally, epistolary stories are stories where all, all or most of the text in them is real in-universe text. What kind of a game design person would call “diegetic” text. Like, this, this story is, its entire frame is an email from Caspian, in which he’s sort of written up, like incident reports in a, in a style that’s very similar to the rest of the wiki. And then like selections from the minutes of this meeting, and one government report.

Gregory Avery-Weir 44:58
And it kind of gives everything this immediacy to it where it’s like, you’re not… especially with how this is presenting such a such a far-fetched or such an alien feeling universe. The fact that everything we’re seeing is either a direct eyewitness report or a dialogue that someone said, or a letter that someone wrote sort of makes it feel like… You can, you can do the reading between the lines, but that the lines are things that you’re not arguing with, right? If there was a narrator here telling you all this where it’s like, “And it turned out that this universe was completely legitimate,” you could be like, “Hey, narrator? I don’t think you’ve proven that.”

Gregory Avery-Weir 45:48
But in this case, we can be like, “I don’t know. Primrose says so. And the way that these people talk among themselves, it sure seems to hold up with, with this, that they genuinely have these utopian ideals.” And, and I think that that’s, it’s interesting, especially in this project in the, in an SCP story to see it used in this way. Because… So generally speaking, the SCP project as a whole is epistolary. The your, your kind of stereotypical and—stop me if we’re gonna, if you do want to talk about this as part of Ten Forward. But your typical SCP story is a, a report that is like, “here’s how to protect yourself from this thing”, or “here’s how to keep this thing contained”. And it’s always written from that perspective. There are often redactions. There are no redactions in this story, no black bars covering any words. Except maybe, maybe in the opening email? No, not even the opening email.

Gregory Avery-Weir 46:55
But like, usually, the way that this epistolary process is deployed in SCP stories or SCP entries, is to kind of provide horror through a mission. Like, this thing didn’t end up in the report; the report isn’t going to say what actually happened to these people, it’s just going to say, “You shouldn’t do what they did. Or you’ll suffer a terrible fate that we’re not even going to mention.” And, and so it’s, it’s deployed in this horrific way, instead of being deployed almost as a like, case study in the story, where it’s like, “Hey, here’s, here’s our what these characters think. Here’s what these characters are saying and doing.” And there’s no—I mean, of course, there’s editorializing and all manner of it, but like there’s the feeling that there isn’t there’s not being, there’s not a narrative, not a narrator offering their opinion or their interpretation. It feels almost documentary in that fashion. I think that’s interesting.

Melissa Avery-Weir 48:00
Yeah, it’s documentary for an inside group. He’s not reporting this up to his bosses. He’s reporting it to his peers. He’s like, “Not going to tell the bosses.”

Gregory Avery-Weir 48:12
His one specific person that “you”… The whole thing is an email to you the reader. And he’s like, “I know someone who I can tell the story to and trust that they’re gonna, not gonna do the wrong thing with this information.”

Lucy Arnold 48:25
Honestly, we learn everything we need to know about Caspian from the subject line he gives that fucking email. “Important”.

Gregory Avery-Weir 48:31
“Subject: Important.”

Lucy Arnold 48:32
Oh, come on.

Melissa Avery-Weir 48:33

Lucy Arnold 48:34
Right? I’d’ve deleted it. I wouldn’t even have read it.

Melissa Avery-Weir 48:39
The only thing worse is if it didn’t have a subject line.

Lucy Arnold 48:42
Fuck off, David.

Gregory Avery-Weir 48:44
I guess another, like, just format thing to note is that this didn’t have to be an SCP entry. Like, this is positioned as if it is a containment, containment instructions for SCP-6001, which it isn’t. Like, those containment instructions don’t appear here. But like this could have been a story. There are just straight up stories on the SCP wiki that are, like, written with a narrator about events in the Foundation but like, aren’t part of the kayfabe of, aren’t aren’t in-character in the, in this fiction, are not epistolary in that way, they’re just like, “One day, Researcher X was walking down the hallway,” right? But the creator here chose to make this a, an entry, although the only actual entry we get is this Compendium Phenomic Inquiry document that’s like, “Here’s what this thing is.” This is a public document. This isn’t containment instructions.

Melissa Avery-Weir 49:43
Yeah, I was gonna ask, like, did he just clip this article and take it with him? Because it says “share, copy, and disseminate this knowledge as you see fit” in the Compendium Phenomic Inquiry. So you think you just like took that shit in his pocket and took it with them?

Gregory Avery-Weir 49:59
I mean if we’re talking literally—

Melissa Avery-Weir 50:01

Gregory Avery-Weir 50:02
Maybe? I feel like the, the phenom report and the, like, minutes of the meeting aren’t actually being delivered to us in character. I think, I feel like all that’s in the email is Caspian’s narrative. But…

Melissa Avery-Weir 50:19
Okay, yes.

Gregory Avery-Weir 50:20
I can certainly see an argument that, like, he just grabbed it. You know, had it printed and tucked it in his pocket or something.

Lucy Arnold 50:27
Or maybe he just asked for it and they gave it to him.

Gregory Avery-Weir 50:31
Yeah, maybe.

Lucy Arnold 50:34
They don’t seem like they have a lot of secrets.

Melissa Avery-Weir 50:38
They do not.

Gregory Avery-Weir 50:40
Although doesn’t Primrose… Primrose, is like, “Hey, don’t tell them.” Yeah, Primrose says, “You’re not going to tell them, are you? Your bosses, I mean,” because her head was, her head’s hanging low. And he’s like, “Oh, good god, no.” And she seems pleased that he wasn’t going to tell them. So probably, sharing this stuff isn’t, isn’t what they want to have happen.

Melissa Avery-Weir 51:06
Not on, not on this side of the rift.

Gregory Avery-Weir 51:09

Melissa Avery-Weir 51:10
Yeah. So my lightning round item very much relates to the structure as well and raises some political questions. Which… So Greg already talked about the the interwoven structure of this and I… Sometimes I read things, and I feel like a naive baby when I read things I was on, like, tenterhooks about this vote. Because as you’re reading this vote, as Greg mentioned, it’s broken up throughout the story. At first you get two yes votes, “Yes, we’re gonna get a free these, these sad folks that are living terribly. Then you get a no vote. And I’m like, “Uh-oh.” This is not that kind of utopian story, in which everyone over here is 100% benevolent, and in unity on what benevolence means. And then you get two more no votes. And then you’re like, “Well, how many voting bodies are there? How many, ow high is this number going to get? Is it gonna tie? Will it be close? Like, what if there are six voting bodies?” And you’re like… this is it, right?

Gregory Avery-Weir 52:18
And you’re kind of not even sure whether you want a yes vote or a no vote, right? Because the people saying yes are like, we should help them. But also, like you’re voting on something called “Unity” from this suspicious thing that we even we as readers are not sure if it’s truly utopian or some sort of secret horror.

Lucy Arnold 52:39
And liberating people like that can sometimes be suss.

Melissa Avery-Weir 52:42
Exactly. And at, you know, we’re still finding out as this, as these votes are coming in, what the cost of this liberty is, right? Like, where are the bad parts of this world? Where are the, what are the cost benefits and the trade offs that they have had to make? So you’re really not sure if you want that vote. And then I’m like, “Will we even be told the final vote?” Is there going to be something that like, ends the report right before the final, you know, does it?

Gregory Avery-Weir 53:14
That’d be classic SCP wiki story move.

Melissa Avery-Weir 53:17
Exactly, exactly! So my, my selective familiarity with SCP, I think, helped, helped make this fun. But as Lucy mentioned, the final vote is from the Foundation, which would be the SCP Foundation if it were our world. And they say they vote no, don’t help them, don’t help us. But with an addendum: “We seal the gate, but not entirely. We keep an eye on A6K and let them find us. When they do we’ll greet them without security, containment, or any protections. When they’re ready to step into the light, we’ll be here. Shall we take it to a vote?”

Melissa Avery-Weir 54:04
And I am like, how many votes?! How, how many? Please tell me. These people—who pulled a Binti faculty meeting and over the course of ostensibly one day resolved an incredibly important, world-changing matter—decided this and then opened another vote. Is this what they do all day, every day? Is this like a… Is this a once every five years kind of thing that requires them to all come together and vote?

Gregory Avery-Weir 54:36
And to be clear, like, these groups—and I’ll be going through them in a little bit more later… Like, these groups are like, one of them is a bunch of weird supernatural commandos and one of them is the Fae realm. One of them is just a bunch of Bigfoots, right? These aren’t all just, like, human government bureaucratic cabinets.

Melissa Avery-Weir 55:01
Right. One of them is Nobody. Like, capital N Nobody. So I have no answers. I just have questions. I want to know what cadence, like what rates important enough to pull in all these different factions for them to give these little speeches. Each one of them gives a little speech, written or otherwise… I kind of assumed written, but who knows, maybe they’re all chit chatting each other over Zoom. But I want to know how this world works.

Gregory Avery-Weir 55:40
It’s, you get the feeling that it’s big enough to be on the news, like because he mentions A6K in the computer’s like, “Oh, you want to watch the A6K discussion?” But also, like, it’s not being broadcast on, like… They’re walking and when he’s walking through New York City, he doesn’t see it on the screen at Times Square.

Melissa Avery-Weir 56:00
Right. Right. Anyway, I found that interesting. I found this this sort of little setup of a, of a weird government that, theoretically, if the world is kind of what Primrose suggests, in terms of having solved a lot of big things, they shouldn’t need this panel of seven groups to do a ton of work. The template should be set, but I have questions. I want fanfic of this.

Lucy Arnold 56:32
Now who’s the panel of seven groups?

Melissa Avery-Weir 56:35
The seven entities that voted. Oh, 13. Sorry! Thirteen, not seven.

Lucy Arnold 56:42
Oh, okay. Yeah, yeah. I was like whoa, I missed something big.

Melissa Avery-Weir 56:46
It’s definitely 13.

Gregory Avery-Weir 56:47
You’ve been playing too much Fallen London.

Melissa Avery-Weir 56:49
It was seven to six. It was seven to six. And so that’s why I had seven in my head.

Lucy Arnold 56:55
I thought that last part from the Foundation was…I thought that was the creepiest part, like “they’re ready to step into the light, we’ll be here”? Like, nobody ever says that it means it in a good way. I guess maybe if you’re the angel Gabriel or something, but I don’t know. It doesn’t…

Melissa Avery-Weir 57:11
Yeah, and one of the other groups talks about, like, the A6K needs to have the will, they need to find a will in themselves. Oh, the synthetic assembly, which is a group of robots? “Synthetic robots” seems to be the term. And they need a will that is set on their own liberation. So, which I get like, I don’t think they’re wrong, necessarily, but that gets into the complication of whether you want a yes or no vote.

Melissa Avery-Weir 57:48
So in addition to the deep stuff, we’re also all big utopian sci-fi fans. So let’s head to Ten Forward to talk about stuff we geeked out about. I will start with what I have called the, a unifying, unifying works of fanfiction. So I adore a work that weaves together a universe. That’s like, here is a thing that exists over the course of 75 books or 1000 articles, whatever it is, and I’m kind of, I’m going to piece them together, selectively, of course. And that’s just one of my favorite kinds of stories. And this, this is like a love letter to the SCP community. This author is, is just like, hey, I’m going to write this piece. As Greg talked about with the sort of epistolary thing, it’s not a report in the normal way of an SCP piece. It’s… We get a reimagining of this writer’s top hits of SCP, right?

Gregory Avery-Weir 58:59
And if it’s not clear from the summary, like, I skipped over a lot of detail, there’s like, maybe 30 items in my glossary that I wrote out that are, like important references in there. And then there’s like, probably 100 total references, just little obscure pieces of SCP lore in here.

Melissa Avery-Weir 59:18
Exactly. And a lot of it is, a lot of it is changed, right? It has to be to show what its alternate universe existence would be. So it’s not just that, you know, I don’t know, the… I don’t have a concrete example. Yeah, I don’t have a concrete example. I mean…

Gregory Avery-Weir 59:38
Yeah, the, it’s like that floating island that shows up in the, after you learn about the octopodes or the octopod, like there’s this big floating sky castle that’s like one SCP but then it turns out that living there is like a different group. That’s another reference that I didn’t get. You get, like—

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:00:02
The library, the library was a combination of I think three or four different SCP entities like paper dragons and a person living in a storybook. And all sorts of things sort of morphed and changed and reimagined. And I came in to reading this like, like SCP… If you were to take SCP as a work, despite the fact that it does have cross references within itself, it does refer to things in the real world, sometimes obliquely or otherwise, it’s paying homage to various horror tropes and all sorts of things and certainly has invented its own. Like, it is a body of work that exists and is important on the internet as that, that gets riffed on and of itself. But this particular piece of SCP to me is fanfiction.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:00:57
I mean, it’s, it is literally an SCP AU, right? Like, literally, “what if SCP was cool, was good.”

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:01:05
Yeah. And I did not expect to find that in SCP. My, my sort of perception of SCP is, is a space that takes itself very seriously—or quite seriously—as producing an important to work. And so I like, I like what others like yeah, and, and we’ll just make it part of the thing. We’re not going to put this over here with side stories or whatever.

Lucy Arnold 1:01:31
Alright. I’m gonna talk about cats some more.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:01:36

Lucy Arnold 1:01:38
First, in order to prove that this is a utopian sci-fi thing, I must point to Exhibit A: Isaac Asimov’s 1942 short story “Time Pussy”. I didn’t make this up. This—

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:01:55
You could have gone with “The Cat Who Walks Through Walls,” but you’re going to go with “Time Pussy”.

Lucy Arnold 1:01:58
But I didn’t. I didn’t. I’m going with “Time Pussy”. In “Time Pussy”, written by my favorite sci fi writer Isaac Asimov. I don’t know, maybe Octavia Butler, but I still love Isaac Asimov. He wrote about these cats that lives on an asteroid that stretched somewheres into the middle of next week. The time pussy would howl 24 hours before seeing a robber and digest their meals three hours before eating them.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:02:32
Kind of like a normal cat.

Lucy Arnold 1:02:34
Yeah, like if they’re like kind of non-time oriented. People were willing to pay a whole lot of money on earth for the remains of a time pussy, but they would decay too quickly after death. They tried to soak the time pussies in water just before they died. Like, quickly freezing, but they couldn’t do that because the water froze so quickly, it was still warm. So…

Lucy Arnold 1:03:08
I know we’re not talking about Star Trek, but I also love Spot.

Lucy Arnold 1:03:12
I think you just want to say pussy about 100 times, in our podcast.

Lucy Arnold 1:03:21
I definitely have not yet said “pussy” 100 times. I would have to say pussy several more times in order to get to 100. And I guess I will add that I was 100% won over by the prospect of reading this story when at the beginning: “However, what drew my attention the most was the fact that there was now absolutely a cat. It sat facing me perched on the rooftop’s edge. It had a coat of spotted orange, white, and brown, all underneath an actual coat. A violet blazer, specifically. Beneath the blazer’s collar was a long, glossy, white bow held in place by a strange black brooch, itself shaped like a half lidded eye inside a cradled globe. The cat’s eyes sharp and green peered at me through a pair of small gold spectacles balanced on its nose. And then she says, “Ma’am is correct. I am a calico after all. You can call me Primrose. Since we’re both doctors, we can spare the honorifics.” And I knew I loved this cat very much.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:04:26
Is it only later that we find out she’s also wearing a derby?

Lucy Arnold 1:04:32
I do not… I will have to do a search.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:04:37
Or did I misread that part? There’s a part where Caspian is drunk and insulting her fashion sense.

Lucy Arnold 1:04:46
Ah, she says “I’m going to drink it, David, and you’re going to help me.” Oh my gosh, she’s the best cat. “Don’t talk to him like that”… “And another thing, little miss stylish, little miss blazer and bow. Orange and purple don’t mix.”

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:05:06
Okay, so no bowler just the her fur and the coat.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:05:11

Lucy Arnold 1:05:12

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:05:13

Lucy Arnold 1:05:13
She’s orange.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:05:15
He’s wrong. He’s wrong. As a, as a person who will do purple anything, purple and orange can go great together.

Lucy Arnold 1:05:25
They’re Clemson colors, which is problematic, but it’s not the cat’s fault. She’s calico like and violet is great.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:05:34
I like the bit where this giant murder dragon is approaching and she just like immediately goes up to the window and sits down in front of it. Very cat behavior.

Lucy Arnold 1:05:45
She hops up onto his shoulder.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:05:49
She has a collar that like expands into 100 spider arms that lets her manipulate things. She seems to just eat human food. She seems to just eat ramen and sushi and booze and be fine, because they’ve created a technology that will finally let cats eat whatever they want.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:06:11
Well, the, my, my fan thing is a thing that happens in genre fiction, generally sci- fi/fantasy, sometimes in horror, where like, you get a, a group with a political view that just goes out and says it. Just like, has a vision statement for what they believe that’s like real quick to be summed up and is easy to digest. And like, this has a, can have a bad side, right? Where you’re like, “Oh, all the Klingons are warlike and say that today is a good day to die.”

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:06:51
But like, when it’s specifically about a, like, a political group, I think it’s really cool. So I’m thinking of like, Babylon 5, which is struck work, so don’t go watch it. But it has two groups there the Cylons and the Shadows. And the Cylons always—not the Cylons. That’s Battlestar Galactica.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:07:10
You’re thinking of the Vorlons?

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:07:12
The Vorlons, thank you. Vorlons and the shadows. So the Vorlons—although that also might be a Mass Effect alien, but we’re gonna go with it. The Vorlons always ask, “Who are you?” And they, when they meet a new person, they say, “Who are you?” And then the person is like, “I’m so and so,” but they’re like, “But who are you?”

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:07:33
And then the Shadows have their representatives ask, “What do you want?” And like, in those ways, like, that kind of defines how these two cultures, like, think about the world and interact with the world and, like, what you can expect of them in the story. And then, like, both from a what’s their narrative role, and then also, like, what’s their literal, like, event-based role in causing the events in the story to happen.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:07:59
And this, this story just has like, it’s just got 13 short essays. They’re just like, here’s what we believe. It’s really cool. So you can kind of get a real high level summary of what’s going on in this society and the groups that make it up. We get the Wanderers who are like, the, the “We want to explore and learn new things” and they call Unity “liberation”. They’re the ones who are like, “These people are jailers. We need to liberate their world.”

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:08:31
The Charity which is, like, a group of people who in our, you know, in A6K, like, try and help people and do awful things to them instead. But in this world they call Unity “salvation”. They say they want to save A6K. The Assembly, which is the robot people, I think, say it’s “enlightenment” and then that’s later parroted by the Foundation saying “bring them in when they want to see the light” or “when they want to come into the light.”

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:09:00
The Partnership sees Unity as an expense. They say it’s too expensive we can’t afford it. The Collective sees a Unity as disruption. As, like, trying to invoke authority on on someone. The Absent Party sees Unity as redemption, as something that could be made up, that could make up for something in the past.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:09:25
The Workshop, who are the, like, factory and, like, union people, see it is working together. The Apex, who are Sasquatch, see Unity as reaching out. Oh, no, I’m sorry. The Apex are not Sasquatch; I forget who this… The Nocturnal with Sasquatch and they see Unity as letting, letting the other universe in. Whoever the Apex, Apex are see it as reaching out.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:09:47
The Watchers see it as solidarity with another universe. The Unnamed sees Unity is like traveling a path; they’re the Fae people, I think. Peacekeepers, who are the military folks, see Unity as trust. And the Foundation sees it as stepping into the light. And so you just got real fast 13 groups who definitely blur together. I’m not saying that like, in this, you come out of the story being like, “I understand the political structure of the Compendium.” But like, you get this series of real quick snapshots of here are all the different views that make it up. And they’re incredibly diverse, but also like, pretty well-formed. Like, you can go up and be like, “Well, didn’t that other group just describe it this way? But this person, this group thinks this instead.” And so you can you get that, like… It’s like in a in a sci-fi movie, where there’s a bunch of aliens in a room, but each one of them looks cool and different. And you’re like, I could bet there, you could write a whole story about that dude with the weird nose and the long stick. And then it’s just, like, the camera moves past and that’s the last you see of that guy. This kind of has that feel to me of like, here’s, here’s real quick, 13 kinds of weird, utopian agencies and what they might think of what’s going on. Like, that sort of thing is always super cool to me.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:11:13
Yeah, and I think it’s really well done here. I think there’s still a stereotype in our cultural perception of utopia, especially as would manifest in the real world, that there must be that, that unity of government means a distinct lack of diversity in opinion. That you have to have all come together. And that means not, not hugely divergent opinions on things. And I like when a story— in several ,of course, you know, I think Binti showed some of this, I think the Robot book certainly did—that, that is not true. You can have vastly different lived experiences, and different perspectives and come to the table like that. And I, the way that this story makes each of those perspectives very clear, it’s, it’s what muddies the vote, right? Has you as a reader going, “Ah, damn, maybe yes, maybe no, is the right answer.” But it does a really good job of doing that concisely.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:12:18
And notably, many of the, there are people who come across as good guys on both sides of the vote. Like, there are people who were like, “We need to help them. We need to liberate them.” And there are people who are like, “We would be imposing our own views on this, on this other world if we were to go in now.” And both of those are like, yeah, that that seems like a good argument.

Lucy Arnold 1:12:44
I think the important part is that there’s able to be discourse, you know, that it’s showing you, like, a model for the discourse, that’s able to happen.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:12:55
And not in terms of like, “we need to consider all sides of the argument”. But in the sense of like, you can have certain differences and still have solidarity on important issues, as long as you’re not, like, coming in wanting to kill other people and that sort of thing.

Lucy Arnold 1:13:15
Oh, and there’s maybe a difference between discourse and rhetoric, right? Like, they’re not being, they’re not even trying to persuade anybody. They’re saying, here’s our position. Here’s what we think. And here’s why. And I don’t take, I didn’t have the perspective… I didn’t feel like it was persuasive. I felt like it was “Here’s what we’re offering. Here’s what we think.”

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:13:38
Right. I will say, though, so we’re not actually seeing them converse, right? We’re seeing them state their opinion and then move on.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:13:47
We don’t know what it looks like in the room or rooms, presumably, because some of these people probably don’t have bodies.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:13:53
Right. And then, second, we’re seeing a vote that had to be, like, did not require 100%, one side or the other, like, we’re seeing a very particular kind of vote in which one vote could sway. And that really does change how a conversation goes if you’re in a committee, and the decision that you need to make needs to be unanimous, or something like that, that shifts the tone of the discussion. So we’re seeing a particular structure here that, that really does simplify everything.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:14:30
Yeah, with the implication that, like, if this could have been, like, 50-something percent voting, yes, let’s have unity and then they would have just opened that rift right up and said “hello”.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:14:41

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:14:42
With whatever the procedures are, but like they didn’t, there wasn’t the implication that you needed a two thirds majority vote on this incredibly significant issue.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:14:52
Exactly. Yeah.

Lucy Arnold 1:14:55
I just had a thought that is related to something previous, like, not current. But I think—because I’ve just have up on my screen right now the immediate email, like, “Hey, sorry, I know it’s late but I just had to share this with someone and there’s no one in the world I’d rather share it with than you.” You, like me? I’m Primrose, right? I’m the Primrose of our universe, because I’m clearly the person Caspian wants to talk to the most. So I’m Primrose.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:15:27
Except that you are probably not a cat. Like, I’m not saying that this universe’s… I’m not saying that A6K doesn’t have cats working for the Foundation, because I’m pretty sure that canonically they do even though SCP doesn’t have canon, but I, Caspian seems surprised, does, it seems new to him that Primrose is a talking cat, and I don’t think Caspian is sending an email to his non-talking cat.

Lucy Arnold 1:15:59
Right, but I feel like I meant it as an analog. Like—

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:16:02
Yes, yeah.

Lucy Arnold 1:16:03
I am Primrose. Me, I am Primrose’s opposite number here in our universe. That’s who I am.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:16:10
Yeah, this email is just a big elaborate introduction to your metamour. It’s like your, your poly, like the partner of your polyamorous partner, being like, “Hey, I met this person. And they kind of are a little like you?” You’re like, “Are they another cat?” “Yeah, they’re another cat.”

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:16:33
But okay, so I had thought that David had had a friend that was a marine biologist and is dead. That’s the Primrose analog, right?

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:16:53
Yeah, that’s is also the—yeah, Lisa. “Lisa would have loved this, an old friend of mine. She was studying this anomalous coral substance when, well, things can be a bit more dangerous on my side of reality.” And like I mean, there’s also a potential thing of this as like, all of these are like sparking off a little like fanfic ideas, right? What if Caspian has a cat at home? Like, what if Caspian has a calico cat? And like, we’ll be petting, you know, go home and pet his calico cat and think of Primrose.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:17:28
Like, this, the story seems to kind of encourage you to, like, to do that, like, “Who do I cast into these into these counterpart roles?” Which I guess is a thing that alternate dimension stories always do, right? It’s like, what’s the what’s what is the Avalon version of this SCP? Who, what’s, what’s Dr. Cleff like in this universe? All of this stuff of, of known characters. You know, like, I am positive that someone somewhere read this story and immediately started working on like, a story set in this universe, about the head Counsel of the Foundation, who are all like, very loosely defined characters in the, in the collaborative canon. But yeah, I think the question of “Who, who are you? Who is the reader in this?” is his super interesting, like.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:18:17

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:18:17
Who would the head of alternative dimensional research for the SCP email trusting that they wouldn’t tell?

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:18:26
Mm-hmm. And is he… So like, when, when I originally read that ending, and he says, he says he knows who just, just who to send it to, right? I, I assumed that, that was plural. I thought he meant his peers, his colleagues. And that it was a little bit of a fomenting of revolution. But I also, I now agree that it’s probably just the one person like it’s, it is just you, not y’all.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:19:08
But he says, “I can think of someone who would appreciate all of this,” which certainly could be a group. But yeah, yeah, there’s, there’s more of the vibe of like, I’m going to share this with one special person.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:19:22
Yeah. I think I had a little hope in my heart that he was going to be starting, starting some shit. In which you need a group of people to start some shit. Not two people.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:19:35
Yeah, that would be a long project.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:19:37
It would be.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:19:38
Like, if he’s going up to start things, he’s like, it’s a more difficult project than like, “Let’s put together a bomb!” It’s like, let’s figure out a way to change the SCP Foundation towards pacifism.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:19:53

Lucy Arnold 1:19:55
Hi, I’m interrupting as Lucy from the future. This is normally the part of the podcast where we talk about what we are watching, listening to, or reading next. I was choosing our next sci-fi utopian text in this episode and I selected… Actually, I’m not revealing what I chose today.

Lucy Arnold 1:20:17
Since we recorded this episode early in November, the SAG-AFTRA strike has ended with what seemed like favorable terms for the actors. Yay! We’ve been recording episodes on utopian science fiction generally these last few months in solidarity with the strikes, which we were thrilled to do. Now we are happy with the outcome of the strikes and able to return to the original concept for this podcast: Star Trek.

Lucy Arnold 1:20:44
It’s weird to say it without a preface that one should not watch struck works. So, next month, we’ll actually be talking about the Star Trek movie First Contact, the episode we planned and recorded as our first actual episode of the podcast back in the summer of 2023. We chose First Contact because well, it was meant to be our First Contact with this podcast and the film deals with lots of Star Trek famous firsts. But real life happened, and this will now be our fifth episode, not the first.

Lucy Arnold 1:21:14
You may notice some differences in our style and recording setups. We were definitely still warming up. But we still dig in on the elements we want to talk about in something we love (Star Trek), and I think you’ll like the episode. We’ve talked about continuing the sci-fi utopian cycle, we’ve started separately of Star Trek properties, and it’s still possible that will happen at some point in the utopian future. If you’re eager to hear it, let us know. We’re about to talk about all of the places you can find us and the podcast. And though we don’t say so at the end of this episode, next month we’ll finally be a real Star Trek podcast. See you then.

Lucy Arnold 1:21:52
Oh, and hey, don’t mention any of this to past us. We don’t want to fuck up the timeline or anything.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:21:59
You can find links and show notes at beforethefuture.space. Please rate us five stars on Apple Podcasts or wherever you found the show. If you have any questions or comments you can comment on our website or write to us at onscreen@beforethefuture.space.

Lucy Arnold 1:22:18
I’m Lucy Arnold and sometimes blog at intertextualities.com.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:22:23
I’m Gregory Avery-Weir, and you can find me at ludusnovus.net Or on cohost at cohost.org/gaw.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:22:32
And I’m Melissa Avery-Weir, and I live at irrsinn.net, or on Macedon as melissa@irrsinn.life. Our music is “Let’s Pretend” by Josh Woodward. used under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Thank you for listening.

Josh Woodward (singing) 1:22:51
I’m sure we’ll all live happily ever after
Surrounded by butterflies, children and laughter
It’s a fairytale story, so let’s just pretend
Hallelujah, amen, it’s the end
Happily ever after, the end

Lucy Arnold 1:23:12
That’s my fan thing. Oh, just one last thing though: pussy.