Johannes Punkt’s Flaskpost

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Category: Parallel to Writing

A Level-Headed Conversation

Hi all,

Last month I entered into a contest called 200 word RPG, which is a fun thing. You write a game of at most 200 words, so you need to be succinct and evocative. You can read about it here:

My game was “A Level-Headed Conversation”, which can be found at this link: /2018/rpg/finalist/2018/05/23/ALevelHeadedConversation.html. It’s a game about having a conversation when you have fifteen minutes left to live. It did not win but I still like it.

You should also check out the winners of the competition:

#WinterIntoSpring, a game about worldbuilding through fashion, sorta. You get to arts-and-crafts. /2018/rpg/winner/2018/05/17/WinterIntoSpring.html

Dear Elizabeth…, a game about being in a Victorian novel. /2018/rpg/winner/2018/05/28/DearElizabeth.html

Sidewalkia!, a game about claiming a piece of sidewalk as your sovereignty and the consequences thereof. /2018/rpg/winner/2018/05/18/Sidewalkia.html

Also just click through the site, it’s fun and might inspire you.

Helpful Aphorisms for Your Everyday Life

The millipede that tries the hardest still has fewer than a thousand legs.

The obscenity of the nipple is in the mind of the perceiver perceiving the body as a certain gender or not, as it were.

You can’t raise healthy swine on the South-Pacific Garbage Patch.

Don’t mistake Britishness for politeness.

Big speeches can be given from small balconies.

Oncce divorced because you invented a horrifying clone machine to keep her in relatively perpetual youth, twice bride.

Bones heal, but phone screens stay broken.

Don’t ruin good food with your penis.

The future is written by the weird LARPers.

Reckoned Things

This month there is no content from me, not even a little thoughtlet of a poem, but I thought I’d point you to something to read by someone else instead. It may have escaped you, generally because I am bad at informing people of things and specifically because this website isn’t exactly read by anyone other than people trawling archives (which is fine by me, hello from the past), that I’m on the staff at Reckoning, a non-profit annual about environmental justice and the human relationship with the earth. The second issue came out last solstice, and you can purchase it here:

The contents of the issue is published online for free over the year, and what I wanted you to look at is the story The Complaint of All Living Things, by Joanne Rixon: I love this story for many reasons, and you will too even though it might be difficult to read for personal reasons. But you’ll be glad you read it, and maybe you will cry a little about it but that’s okay too. No one judges you for crying.

Once you’ve read that, you can read an interview that me and Michael, the editor, conducted with Joanne as well: The interview is well worth your time.

I hope you’re well. All the best,

First Lines

November is coming up and you don’t have a first line clear in your head for NaNoWriMo? Worry not, I’ve got you covered, for certain values of “I”, “‘ve”, “got”, “you”, and “covered”. I’ve also divided them up into different categories to help you along the way.

How about the classic main character’s full name and profession?

Angelo Simone combed algae until it looked like human flesh for a living.

You paid Mary Chang-Swanson £1224.91 to take over your identity and she lived your life better than you until you ran out of credits.

Marcus Solin went every day to the Undentist to earn his filthy lucre.

Or what about an alluring question to draw your readers in to your story?

What exactly is a three-headed tuvkin?

How did Emmet Mason escape the Westfall Jester School?

Have you tried turning it off and then back on again?

If that’s not your style, it’s hard to go wrong with a good in medias res.

I came back home with the owl stuffed into my jacket like I was smuggling it across the border, willing it to not make a single sound.

The library exploded awesomely but tragically.

She swallowed the poison, which action really only made sense in context — I can see how you might be confused right now.

Or you could take a page out of famous writers like Tolstoy, Austen, and others I can’t think of right now and start your novel with a sweeping statement only to paint the devil into the details for the rest of the book.

The best way to make money is always illegal.

Any sufficiently advanced form of syphilis is indistinguishable from Roy Elkins, my third-grade maths teacher whom I loathe.

Tunis is the 114th best city to live in, according to the Mercer Quality of Living Index.

Have fun writing!

Interview with Yours Truly

Dear All,

Reckoning editor Michael J. DeLuca interviewed me about bees, and also about that story I wrote for Reckoning 1. In case you’re wondering, who’s that mysterious figure behind the mask? you should click the following link to enlighten yourself:

Over on the site, you will also find the story to read so that you can know what we’re talking about. As I said back in December, when Reckoning 1 came out and you had to pay money to read it, I’m really very proud of this story. I hope you will like the story and the interview. I say things like “The bees are still here, being shipped about in big trucks all over your continent, dying, surviving, amnesiac and medicated” and “lofty basement mimeograph pipe dreams” in the interview, if that’s any carrot.

Androgyny and the Uncanny &c

Here is my bachelor’s thesis, with my own words removed. It is titled “Androgyny and the Uncanny in Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness and Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice” and if you’d like to read it you can reach me at johannes.punkt at gmail dot com. I don’t bite, I promise. Apparently quotes take up roughly 15% of the thesis. Is that good? No-one knows. The sources for all these words are also in the full document.

“man” “woman” “eliminated gender, to find out what was left. Whatever was left would be, presumably, simply human”

“science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender” “much-needed models for non-binary characters” “out of date”


The uncanny is queer. And the queer is uncanny.

“a foreign body within oneself, even the experience of oneself as a foreign body” “foreign body” “strange, peculiar, eccentric,” “homosexual”

“The ‘Uncanny,’” “Das Unheimliche.” “intellectual uncertainty” “ought to have remained secret and hidden but has come to light” “something familiar unexpectedly arising in a strange and unfamiliar context, or … something strange and unfamiliar unexpectedly arising in a familiar context,” “the uncanny is that class of frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar”

“The Uncanny Valley” “distinguish[ing]” “creating an artificial human is the true goal of robotics”

“[t]o discover our own disturbing [O]therness”

“Queer” “one’s so-called … ‘sexuality’”

“conservative, if not misogynistic” “approaching it from the masculine end of the spectrum [or] the feminine” “vacant[ly]”

Wavering Definitions of Human in The Left Hand of Darkness

I’ll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination. The soundest fact may fail or prevail in the style of its telling: like that singular organic jewel of our seas, which grows brighter as one woman wears it and, worn by another, dulls and goes to dust. Facts are no more solid, coherent, round, and real than pearls are. But both are sensitive.

“uncanniness occurs when the borders between imagination and reality are erased” “as if I told a story”

“as [his] landlady, for he ha[s] fat buttocks … and a soft face, and prying, spying, ignoble, kindly nature” “I saw a girl, a filthy, stupid, weary girl looking up into my face as she talked, smiling timidly, looking for solace”

“king-bee,” “queen-bee” “man I must say, having said he and his” “soft supple femininity that [Genly] dislike[s] and distrust[s]” “it was impossible to think of him as a woman … yet whenever I thought of him as a man I felt a sense of falseness” “effeminate deviousness” “effeminate” “[Estraven] was the only one who had entirely accepted [him] as a human being … and who therefore had demanded of [him] an equal degree of recognition”

“the very use of the pronoun in my thoughts leads me continually to forget that the [Gethenian] I am with is not a man, but a manwoman” “experiment” “[t]he somer-kemmer cycle strikes us as degrading, a return to the estrus cycle of the lower mammals” “loaded with meanings”

“as if they did not cast shadows” “shadow” “just a little bit unreal,” “vast stone semi-cellar with one door locked on us from outside, and no window … perfectly dark” “locked in the dark with uncomplaining, unhopeful people,” “ignored that black cellar and gone looking for the substance of Orgoreyn above ground, in daylight” “substance”

“Estraven the Traitor” “Long ago, before the days of King Argaven I” “a Domain’s pride is the length of its borders, and the lords of Kerm Land are proud men and umbrageous men, casting black shadows” “umbrageous” “shadow-fight” “murder is a lighter shadow on a house than suicide,” “shadow” “curse” “curse”

“shifgrethor” “prestige, face, place, the pride-relationship, the untranslatable and all-important principle of social authority,” “played” “waive shifgrethor” “never even really understood the meaning of the word” “It comes from an old word for shadow” “black shadows” “proud … umbrageous men” “murder is a lighter shadow on a house than suicide”

“the Unshadow” “there’s no lying” “neither [Estraven] nor [Genly] cast any shadow” “[t]he king shortens no man’s shadow” “[s]ome shadows got shorter and some longer, as they say in Karhide”

Light is the left hand of darkness
and darkness the right hand of light.
Two are one, life and death, lying
together like lovers in kemmer,
like hands joined together,
like the end and the way.

“[l]ight, dark. Fear, courage. Cold, warmth. Female, male. It is yourself, [Estraven]. Both and one. A shadow on snow”

The Machinery of the Empire in Ancillary Justice
“nonhumans … include[s] quite a number of people who [consider] themselves human,” “it’s so easy, isn’t it, to decide the people you’re fighting aren’t really human” “civilized” “doesn’t mark gender in any way” “invariably … offended when [she] hesitate[s] or guess[es] wrong”

“it” “its,” “any sort of individual,” “person,” “human,” “corpse soldier”

“used to wonder how Radchaai reproduced, if they were all the same gender” “They’re not” “inadvertently genders”

them all, suddenly, for just a moment, through non-Radchaai eyes, an eddying crowd of unnervingly ambiguously gendered people. I saw all the features that would mark gender for non-Radchaai … Short hair or long, worn unbound (trailing down a back, or in a thick, curled nimbus) or bound (braided, pinned, tied). Thick-bodied or thin-, faces delicate-featured or coarse-, with cosmetics or none. A profusion of colors that would have been gender-marked in other places. All of this matched randomly with bodies curving at breast and hip or not, bodies that one moment moved in ways various non-Radchaai would call feminine, the next moment masculine.

“captain” “cast[s] the Gethenian protagonist, Estraven, almost exclusively into roles that we are culturally conditioned to perceive as ‘male’” “mother,” “daughter,” “sister,” “sir” “parent” “parent,” “sir,” “captain”

“a generation or two” “the head priest of Ikkt,” “not seen her way clear to demoting her god in its own temple, or identifying Ikkt with Amaat closely enough to add Radchaai rites to her own” “normal practice to absorb any religion the Radch ran across, to fit its gods into an already blindingly complex genealogy, or to say merely that the supreme, creator deity was Amaat under another name and let the rest sort themselves out” “ma[kes] the strange god familiar and br[ings] it safely within her mental framework” “we go to the top of the local hierarchy”

“no control over the new body” “it” “I” “it” “’Help,’ I croaked … It was shivering, still cold from suspension, and from terror” “I can bring you back” “he” “she” “it,”

Unifying, Disunifying Telepathy
“the notion that any given moment … depends on the fiction that everyone is experiencing the same moment, uncannily interconnected, sharing the same ‘now’” “fiction,” “presumed analogy between the novelist as creator and the Creator of the cosmos, an omniscient God” “God knows everything because He is everywhere – simultaneously … [a narrator] does not ‘know’ simultaneously but consecutively” “telepathic” “clairvoyant” “same ‘now,’”

“now,” “the constant of simultaneity” “produce[s] a message at any two points simultaneously” “[m]indspeech [is] the only thing I ha[ve] to give to Estraven, out of all my civilization” “consists largely of simple communication [via ansible] rather than of transportation” “the rapport [is] there” “now” “now.” “now”

“now” “identity is never absolutely pure or singular” “Estraven the Traitor.” “as a dead man’s, his brother’s voice” “disturbed” “[p]erhaps a Gethenian, being singularly complete, feels telepathic speech as a violation of completeness” “now”

“every breath, every twitch of every muscle,” “very nearly” “possesse[s] thousands of bodies, all of them genetically identical, all of them linked to each other” “She’s been secretly moving against herself … the whole time all of her has been pretending not to know it was happening, because as soon as she admitted it the conflict would be in the open, and unavoidable” “prevent the knowledge from reaching the parts of her that aren’t [t]here” “and the rest would have to trust that” “now,”

“hiding what she'[s] done from herself,” “if there [are] now two Anaander Mianaais, might there not also be more?” “[c]orrupted” “No-one is subverting the Lord of Radch except the Lord of the Radch”


Plots You Can Have: Big Sprawling Novels Edition

Been a while since I did one of these. And NaNoWriMo is upon us — people might need inspiration? So, with some further ado.

Plots You Can Have is an ongoing series of posts where I give up stories for adoption. If any of these strike your fancy, please take them! And if you do write anything from this I would love to read it. For more posts, see: tag/plots-you-can-have


The One Earth Rule

genre: political far-future sci-fi, elements of cyberpunk and whatever comes after cyberpunk, stylistically

Have you heard of the One China Policy? Individual countries don’t exist anymore. Essentially, this is an idea about spies and diplomats; there are two or more governments calling themselves “Earth” and they’re all layered, all claiming to be separate from each other. Countries are no longer mapped out on, well, maps, but in more abstract ways. Off-world super cruise spaceships for the ultra-rich have broken down and are now as chaotic as Earth, and diplomats and ambassadors are sent up to these spaceships all the time. Sometimes diplomats do what diplomats love to do: break all the laws, go hunting the most dangerous game (humans interbred with strange alien parasites that roam about these space cruise ships).

One of the abstract ways that countries are mapped out is by way of cultural accumulation. Museums steal from each other — the most tenacious works of art must be the most valuable ones — and the culture elite of any given “Earth” are always trying to influence the cultures of the other Earths, while claiming to only draw inspiration from their own country.

From this, things spin out of control, of course.

Two main plots that fuse together later: 1. a museum director is trying to organise a museum heist of the most epic proportions: they are fiddling with data in order to steal an entire museum building over to their Earth. 2. a dickish diplomat is hunting human-things on a space cruise and gets fucked by the data-fiddling that the museum director is doing. Arrested because his country stopped existing for a while, then robbed of communications networks and left to survive on the chaotic cruise, ze decides to find out who is doing this and enact revenge upon them. Lots of subplots about how countries are reacting to all this, and especially the cultural world. Museum in-fighting is mesmerizing to watch. If you don’t believe me, read up on the Elgin Marbles. …/wiki/Elgin_Marbles


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Best Word of the Day Tweets

Hi, this is a self-indulgent post. Almost every day I give you, the Internet, a word of the day. Most of the time it’s a neologism, other times it’s a reinterpretation of an old word, or an outright lie. What you want to do with it is up to you. Here are some of the best ones so far, measured in retweets or how smug I feel about them.

Plots You Can Have: Low-Budget Indie Films Edition

Plots You Can Have is an ongoing series of posts where I suggest storylines for stories that came out of my head but that I have given up for adoption. If any of these strike your fancy, please take them! And if you do write anything from this I would love to read it. For more posts, see: tag/plots-you-can-have

This Plots You Can Have is about things I imagine would make good low-budget indie films.


“You have dreamt up a sick world.” (Variations on it are repeated throughout the movie like arc words.)

A person (who is really some form of deity but has repressed it) believes ze is experiencing psychosis and gets worried about it. First scene is where the deity explains to a psychoanalyst – the best in the field – that ze wants the psychoanalyst to follow hir around for a whole year and then come to a conclusion. The therapist protests, of course, but the deity presents hir with a lot of money, up-front, and gives hir a month to finish hir business before ze will come to pick hir up. When the money does not convince the therapist, the deity offers salvation instead.

It transpires that the deity is working as a world-class motivational speaker. The month passes quite quickly; the psychoanalyst lies to hir patients a bit and apologizes profusely but can’t say no to the deity’s offer. They travel the world a bit and things seem to be really quite bad wherever the deity goes. The psychoanalyst starts questioning hir own sanity, and at a conference for downtrodden psychopaths in business-clothes, ze decides the deity is the one who is making things bad. Now ze just needs to prove it.
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Methods and Morphology of Conlanging

This is a post on conlanging.

It details 3 methods of constructing a language more or less from scratch – that is, not basing it off already existing languages. There are surely other ways to do conlangs but these are the ones that have occured to me/the people I conlang with. Let’s give the methods the arbitrary names clusterfuck, evolutionary, and interpretive.


…is the approach taken with the Cekno’s language; all ideas and jumbledness, like a brainstorming session that doesn’t really end. It goes a bit unwieldy after a few months of working like that, apparently. This involves a lot of jumping back and forth between different topics. You can do it more or less structurally but it is the most chaotic method nonetheless.

In trying to create the Cekno Idiosyncrasy, we tried to think like the star and figure out what kind of stuff it would think up, and it got confusing. Rather alien, but … yeah.


…is when you try to create a language by making up the culture that goes along with it, maybe following its route from some imaginary savannah period to living in tents and placing religious importance on testicles. The way I considered doing this was to take a tribal society and mark out the concepts important to them, define some semantic clusters, and then add more stuff in hundred-year-leaps. This’d include some sound shift and imaginary politics.

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