Is nice to see that we have users from all around the world, even if nearly 50% are from English speaking countries. Image 1.
How old are you?
The average age of a /OnePiece user is 23.62 years old. We have roughtly 10% of users that are underaged, and 10% that are 30 years old or more. Image 2.
There is no surprise there. For the others, we have some Gender Fluids, transgenders, Bigenders, quite a lot of Non-binary, a Loli, a Furry, and nearly a 100 Oden (You wish), as well as some rude people, but I won't put up what they said.
Manga or Anime?
No real surprise here either. Considering the subreddit has a lot of spoilers and is focussed around the chapter release, it's obvious there are only a few Anime Only people here. So thank you for Sticking Around, even if it the best place to avoid spoilers.
For approximately how long have you been following One Piece?
1 Year or less
10 years or more
Nearly 40% of our users have followed the series for 10 years or more. (To give an idea, this mean they followed the series since Before the timeskip, as chapter 597 was released at the end of August 2010). For the rest, we have roughly the same number of new readers that stays with the series. So it's quite good to bring new blood and not have a decrease of new readers.
Where does One Piece rank on your list of favorite manga?
Bellow Top 10
Well, you are in /OnePiece after all. So it's kinda obvious the manga is either your favorite or in your top 3. If it isn't your number 1, what series are better than One Piece for you?
Do you own One Piece Merchandise?
Those are some good numbers I would say, 55.8% of users have some merchandise and are probably supporting the series (depending on where you bought those) For the OTHERS answers given, some good ones are : autograph from dub VA of brook, Alvida pre devilfruit bodypillow, Chopper teddy bear, Sountracks, Custom made and 3D printed Keychain, Databook.
Subreddit Section :
Do you visit OnePiece mostly on mobile or on desktop?
Mobile or Apps
If you are using desktop, are you using the old version of reddit? Or the redesign?
It seems like most users are using Mobile and Apps, as well as the redesign on desktop, so it's probably time to pay more attention to that than to the old version, this way we can get banners/flair for users that are on the new version of reddit.
How often do you make : a submission on OnePiece?/Comment?/read the rules?
Very often (Daily)
Very often (Daily)
Check the rules :
Very often (Daily)
This really shows that there are a lot of lurkers on the subreddit. Most of you won't ever post or comment on the subreddit. With 8% of users creating submission and 25% commenting. As for the rules, there isn't any surprise since nearly every post respect the rules. (Only 1/5 of the post needs to be removed), so thank you to all of those that read them.
Content you enjoy the MOST/the LEAST.
Content you enjoy the most :
Media (Photo and Video)
So without surprise, people in this subreddit enjoy the Theories/discussions the most out of every type of post, it's then followed by the Fanarts. Which is good since like 75% of posts made are Discussion (50% total)/Fanarts (25% total). Content you enjoy the least:
Here there aren't any content that most users enjoy the least, but it still seems like users don't want to see that much Merchandise or Cosplay post. (Youtuber video are very rare) Also, a quick reminder, Discussion/Theories are mostly found by sorting by New. This is where you will see all of them, as it's hard for them to show up on the front page of the subreddit (but if it shows up on Hot, then it's a very good one).
Do you only use the subreddit for the Spoiler and Chapter Discussion thread?
It's nice to see that roughly 2/3 of the users are here for more than just the Spoilers and Chapter discussion. But there is still a huge part that only use the subreddit for that.
Do you want the spoilers gone from this subreddit?
As it was expected, Luffy is the Favorite Straw Hat for a lot of peopel, he's also the Straw Hat with the fewest "Least Favorite". After him Zoro is second favorite, followed by Sanji, Robin, Usopp, Brook, with the other Straw Hat having very few votes (and Nami having the Least "Favorite" Straw Hat.) After that, it seems like Chopper, Usopp, and Franky are the one people like the least out of the Straw Hat. I know it was a hard question for some of you, but the result are still interesting to know.
Which Strawhat has the saddest backstory?
The Straw Hats with the saddest backstory is Robin! Followed by Brook, then Sanji, Chopper and Nami.
What is your favorite Yonko crew?
So the favorite Emperor's crew are the Red Hair Pirate! Which is very impressive since we haven't seen much of them. I guess Oda better delivers when it come to see them in action after Wano.
Who is your favorite Admiral?
While Garp was only a Vice Admiral, he was put in the poll, and he won it! Whitout him, it's Aokiji that is the favorite, followed by Fujitora. Image 4
Who is your favorite Supernova (outside the Straw Hat)
Who else than the character that nearly managed to defeat Luffy in the 5 popularity poll? Law is the Favorite Supernova outside of the Straw Hat!
Which is your favourite canon arc in One Piece?
The Favorite Canon Story arc are (You could vote for more than 1) :
Which is your least favourite canon arc in One Piece?
The Least Favorite Canon Story arc are (You could vote for more than 1) :
Long Ring Long Land Arc
Favorite Cover Story?
Enel's Great Space Operations
From the Decks of the World : "The 500.000.000 Man Arc"
The Stories of the Self-Proclaimed Straw Hat Grand Fleet
Ace's Great Blackbeard Search
Straw Hat's Separation Seria
Character Design in One Piece :
Do you like the female character designs in One Piece?
I have no opinion.
Do you like the male character designs in One Piece?
I have no opinion.
It's true that Oda isn't the best when it comes to Female character design. However it seems like the majority of users don't have a problem with that.
Are fight a determining factor for your enjoyment of the series/arc?
Now this is rather surprising I must say. What do ou thing about this?
What is/are your (absolute) favourite aspect(s) of One Piece?
From the result we have, it seems like the World-Building is the favorite part of One Piece (With 88.6% of voters choosing this). It's followed by The Adventure (69%), The characterization (54.4%), the Inter-character relationship (49.4%), the Action (36%) and the Art Style (26.2%). And those result are obvious. Some of the most upvoted chapters of this subreddit are when we have huge world building moment, like 907 (Shanks talks to the Elders), or 957 (ULTIMATE).
On Par with Pre-TS
Better than Pre-TS
Worse than Pre-TS
This question is one of the most asked. With a lot of vocal voices saying that post TS is worse than Pre-TS. It's different for sure, but now we know how the community feels about that.
If you could eat a Devil Fruit, what type would you want?
Most people could choose to eat a Logia, and it seems like becoming a Furry is the lesser choice in this subreddit.
The Final Antagonist of One Piece will be :
With 48.5% it's Blackbeard! Really? That is surprising for me since it's obvious that Oda will make the SH fight against the World Government after they find the One Piece. And I honestly don't see Blackbeard being the final Antagonist because of that. So people who voted for this, what was your reasoning for it?
What is One Piece Biggest Flaw?
Some of the biggest flaws mentionned are :
The Lack of characters' death outside of Flashback
Which are all fair flaws to the series.
Random Questions about the Series :
As of Wano, is Jimbei stronger than Zoro?
Yes but Zoro will be stronger soon
I guess people really want Zoro to always be the second strongest no matter what... I expected this result, but I was still disappointed...
Was Zoro as strong as Luffy just after the timeskip?
I... Really? 31.5% said yes?
Will Sanji get laid by the end of the story?
Nearly the perfect split, and it's easy to see why it's very divisive. (Also shows that every vote counts).
Will Usopp be part of the 1 Billion Club by the end of the story?
The Straw Hats will go to Laugh Tales :
Before fighting the WG
After Fighting the WG
It's been hinted at a lot that the SH will go to Laugh Tales before taking on the WG. So for me it feels rather strange to have more than 1/4 voting for them reaching the final island after.
Who will be the one to defeat Kaido? (So give the last hit)
With 66.3% of the votes the one who will give the last hit to Kaido is : Luffy! Followed by 11.5% with someone else (that isn't Law/Kid/Zoro/Big Mom/Scabbard/Admiral) and 11% by one of the Scabbard. Zoro received 6.4% of the votes.
Who will be the first SH to realize their dream?
Most users believe that Usopp will be the first one to realize his dream! I also think the same as it's the easiest Dream to realize really. I could bet you it will happen in Elbaf. After that, we have Luffy and Robin, and it make sense since their dreams are linked. Both can be done once they reach Laugh Tales.
How many members will the crew have at the end? (With Luffy)
And most people want 11 members total in the crew! (With 28.6%), 27.5% wants 12 members, wile 19.8% want the crew to be complete right now with Jinbe.
Who do you think wins in a 1v1 : An Emperor or an Admiral?
If you are active on the subreddit, you know it's one of the question that creates the most discussion/arguments about. So it's nice to know the overall opinion of the subreddit on this question (Doesn't mean it's always correct mind you).
Is Mihawk emperor's level?
Also a very divisive question on this subreddit.
Is Aokiji emperor's level?
Is Akainu emperor's level?
So they fight for 10 days in a very close battle. With Akainu winning in the end, but after a long and hard fight. And one is Emperor's level while the other isn't? Really? I find that hard to understand.
If Oden was alive would he be stronger than Mihawk
How strong was Oden at the time of his death?
< Top 20
I like Oden, but sometimes I feel like people are overestimating him.
Who is stronger between Shanks and Mihawk?
This is also one of the question creating the most arguments on this subreddit, after all Mihawk is the World Strongest Swordman. But Shanks is an Emperor and became one after losing his arm.
Is Kaido stronger now that 20 years ago?
Yes, he's stronger
Had Ace survived, would Wano be liberated by now?
Could the Marines take on ALL the Yonko at the same time ?
Yes in Marineford only
2 at the same time
3 at the same time
This question is also linked to how you see the Emperor vs Admiral. So depending on which side you are on, you are more likely to pick Yes or No.
Which character do you want focus on next?
All very good choices, and all of them are character we have known for a long time without really knowing.
Will Blackbeard find the One Piece before Luffy?
How strong is Monkey D. Dragon?
< Top 10
Here, most people seems to think that Luffy's father, Garp's son is part of the strongest characters of the series. Oda better respond to our expectations then. As for his Bounty : Well, 31.6% think it will be more than 6 Billions and 28.1% think it will be between 5-6 billions. That remind me, I once made a poll asking people what Sabo's bounty would be (since we knew it was getting revealed in a magazine soon). So maybe I will do the same for Dragon? That could be nice.
Who is currently the strongest Emperor?
I wonder if the recent chapters made people change their perception on this...
What are the fights you would want to see?
Blackbeard vs Shanks
Garp vs Rocks
Garp vs Roger
Mihawk vs Shanks
Akainu vs Aokiji
How long do you think One Piece has left? (At a rate of 40 chapters a year)
Image 5. As you can see, most people think One Piece has at least 5 years left to go on. We will know Oda is terrible with respecting his own objectives. And this is good. The more One Piece the better.
On a scale from Spandam to Whitebeard/Roger, How strong is Im?
For this question, it seems like most people put Im at the same level as Whitebeard/Roger with 28.6% voting Im being there. I honestly don't know how strong I want Im to be.
What arcs, after Wano, do you want?
The arcs people want the most are :
The Final War
Red Hair Pirates
So arcs teased for years (Elbaf/Laugh Tales/Final War) and about character that people want to see (Vegapunk/Red Hair pirates).
How is Blackbeard able to use multiples Devil Fruits?
More than 1 soul
It's one of those question were people have very different opinion about. And right now there isn't really a major concensus in the fandom, even if the theory about it being related to the Yami Yami is more popular. In the Other catergory, there was the Cerberus Devil Fruit option, Blackbeard being a Triplet, him being actually 2+ kids in a trenchcoat, him being a failed Vegapunk experiment, having several stomachs him being pregnant (Stop reading fanfiction), him putting the power inside his rings, being a great guy and him being a cunt.
Haki is :
Image 6 Overall, People like Haki in the series, with a 4.38 out of 5!
How many arcs are left after Wano?
Image 7 Here, it seems like the answer for the community would be 4-5 arcs left. Which would then make (base don the How long One Piece has left), like a year per arc on average.
The final war of One Piece will be :
SH+RA vs WG+Marines vs BB
SH+RA vs WG+Marines
SH vs RA vs WG
I just don't see Blackbeard being in the final war, as my opinion is that he will be dealt with before it. For the other answers, there was Straw Hats vs Blackbeard Pirates, Family of D vs vs im sama, Total civil war in marines, Straw Hat vs Shanks, Straw hat vs Pound, Zoro vs World Goverment, Dugongs vs buggy.
Will Luffy die at the end of One Piece?
Will Luffy die?
An ending were Luffy died wouldn't be a good ending for me. He needs to survive and go on more adventures.
Are Shakky and Rayleigh Mihawk's parent?
Will the crew still be together at the end of the series?
Yes, they will keep going on adventure together.| 57.6% o, they will move on, like the Roger Pirates| 42.4% Like with Luffy living, I want the Crew to stay together, and sail together for many more adventures. I could see them taking breaks from time to time, but them staying together would be the best ending for me.
Can the Red Line be destroyed with Ancient Weapons?
What is the biggest mystery left to be revealed?
The most common answers were : The Void Century, the Will of D, Im, The One Piece, Joy Boy, Luffy's mother and Who is Pandaman?
What is the One Piece?
Here, there was plenty of : "No idea", The friends we made along the way, a Devil Fruit, Knowledge, Uranus, History, a book, my mom.
What sort of Devil Fruit do you want to see in the story?
The most common answer was : Water Logia! Followed by Wind Logia and people wanting more mythical Zoans.
What is the craziest theory you believe?
Here are a few of them :
Shanks is a Celestial Dragon
That Vegapunk is going to flip a switch in the Pacifista programming to fight the marines at the end.
Luffy's mom was a celestial dragon
Devil fruits are all artificial from the void century
That Finland doesn't exist
Zoro is going to get Rodger's disease
D's were the original Celestial Dragons
Weevil was made by Vegapunk using Whitebeard's cells and then was discarded until Bakkin picked him up
One of the Roger Pirates (probably Scopper Gaban) is on Laugh Tale waiting for whoever finds it, sort of like how Crocus and Rayleigh seem to be positioned to monitor rookie pirates
Onigashima is an Oarz like skeleton and Big Mom is gonna bring it to life.
The different races came from other planets/moons
Tama is a Kurozomi
Ussop is a descendant of Mont Blanc Nolan
Luffy hatched from an egg.
The fish that bit Shanks's arm off was Joyboy's pet
Bon chan is Kin'emon's son
Oda no longer draws the manga
bonney and ace having a child
That Perospero is going to help kill Big Mom.
Dragon being former Admiral
What are your favorites? And here it is, the 500K survey! Took me far too long to make, as I underestimated the time needed to sort the answer and create this post. Like damn. I hope you enjoyed it. The anwers for the Survey Saga will be up next in some time.
Hey, it's some weirdo again. Bored on a gloomy day, thought I'd write down some thoughts. I see a lot of my fellow sissy weirdos having a lot of serious struggles with whether to come out, whether to live full time, and what kinds of secrets to have. It can be a very painful thing to struggle with, and for a lot of people it's what leads a harmless kink into some serious depression and anxiety. So I just wanted to share a bit about what I've learned along the way in the hopes that it could be beneficial to someone reading. Now just to start with, I have very little judgement and I don't aspire to be a bummer. The last thing I want to do is make you overthink your love of sucking cock, your desire to have your sensitive little sissy nips played with while you're in a pink tutu, or make you feel bad about your secret panty collection. This should be fun, and you should have fun! I don't think sex is inherently something to be ashamed of, nor do I think eschewing normal gender roles is inherently problematic. So don't worry, sweet little sluts, I have you. That said, we do get a little serious towards the end. I feel like I need to give a disclosure here: I live my life as a cis man, but experience some gender dysphoria and have been having sissy experiences for something like a decade. I'm not a mental health professional, and if you're struggling with serious depression, go find one instead of reading reddit threads. That said, if you want someone to relate to, some of my experiences might help. Definition of Sissy So though a million people have done this in the past, I wanted to start by defining what a sissy is. The fact is that nobody can really make a definition that works for everyone as there is no true authority on the matter. But from reading what others have interpreted and from my own personal life experience, I think that a sissy is a person born male who gets sexual gratification out of the idea of being forced/ coerced/ or seduced into acting feminine, dressing feminine, or taking on a feminine role in sex. This is meant to stand in contrast to a trans woman, who is a person assigned male at birth but who identifies distinctly as female. Trans women can certainly still enjoy sissy play, but not all sissies are trans. What's probably the most important thing to take from this definition of sissy is that it sort of has some inherent discord to the definition: "sissy" describes a person who should have had the OPPORTUNITY to be male and masculine, but who instead chooses or is forced to portray a feminine role. The very existence of sissies is thus in a state of inherent disharmony, a disharmony echoed in most sissy porn that frequently expresses coercion or plays off the idea of being degraded to a point of sexual submission. In essence, it's about being one thing AND another, at the same time. It's no surprise then that the idea of secrets and imbalance are an inherent part of the ideology. You are effectively living your life as one thing and another, so it's normal that people confront this idea of secrets and what to be open with. The Value of Secrets In short, everyone has secrets, and secrets can be a fun thing. We all like to act like we're open books, but the fact of the matter is that everyone you know has something they don't share with the world. More of us than not have unique sexual interests or have had unique sexual experiences, and even outside of sex, we all have things we don't want the world to know about. You shouldn't feel like a freak if you have a fun obsession with sexy sissy stuff. If you day dream about having a mouth full of cum all the time, you shouldn't feel bad about that. Gargle away. Secrets in this case are not inherently a bad thing. By their very nature they express a certain vulnerability: they represent something that you know that you wouldn't want the world to know about, and that can make you feel like there's a moralistic imperative to have less of them. Basically you're afraid of your secret leaking to the world, so you think to yourself that your secret is inherently bad. But it isn't! The way I always think about it is this: does your mom need to know what your favorite sex position is? Does your boss need to know when your first hand job was? These are fundamental experiences we all have that don't need to carry a moral weight to them, but that also don't need to be shared in the world. Your personal fetishes can be the same. And there are, from my personal experience, some benefits to having secrets. I spent a long time in my 20s being pretty closeted about my sexual endeavors. I'd meet up with guys from craigslist and suck their cocks, I would dress in my girlfriends clothes and have two guys over to double end me, I snuck off to gay sex parties where i'd suck cock and get fucked by strangers, and the world didn't know about it. As much as I did feel some vulnerability that my secrets might be exposed, I also felt an ongoing sense of confidence. When you have secrets like that, certain things in the world can't touch you. insults that people might make about you or assumptions about you just roll off your back: you know that they don't know the real you, so how could their opinion about you really matter? Only you know the real you. They just see what you want them to see. their judgments mean nothing. Additionally, going through some of the real scary and intense sort of stuff--having gay sex in a public restroom or glory hole, or going to a strangers house to fuck--can sort of turn down the volume on other things in life. Stuff that used to be scary simply isn't anymore because you've dealt with some REAL scary shit, and survived. Even when your secret is that you love taking it in the ass and guzzling piss and cum, it can be empowering to simply have something for YOURSELF. something that you do, because you want to do it, and you aren't afraid of the world's repercussions. The Cost of Secrets All of that said, there are certainly costs to being a secretive person, and some of those costs can be pretty serious and a real bummer. Some of them can have a drastic effect on your mental health. The first thing to confront for sissies of course is whether or not you're expressing internal homophobia or misogyny. Feeling closeted can be an awful feeling. Watching people be out and proud about being gay or being trans and you yourself having impulses that you don't share can make you see yourself as a coward, or a liar, or a fake. You can feel like you're hurting people who are out, or hiding from people who scare you. There's a lot of nuance in the sissy world about this kind of thing so I won't go at it at length, but I would encourage everyone to try to step away from those classic "is being a sissy gay" or "am i gay if i just wanna suck cock" kind of arguments. These sort of things still put the term "gay" as being this awful, OTHER thing that you don't want to be. It's inherently qualifying gay as being a worst case scenario, something to avoid, something to be afraid of. So i would encourage you to have less fear of it as a sexual identity. maybe you are bisexual, or queer, or curious, or whatever. It doesn't matter. What matters is how you feel about it. If, to you, having a preference to suck cock isn't any different than a slight preference for doggy style, then sure, maybe you don't have an obligation to come out as gay or bi or whatever. Looking at some cock here and there isn't a big deal. But if for you it's causing you to feel ashamed, then consider coming out as queer or bisexual. That's what i did! eventually i started feeling awful about being closeted in a world full of hate and homophobia, so i came out. For me, it was a good decision that ended up having a remarkably small effect on my life, and it separated a lot of the mental baggage i had. I still had my secrets, nobody knew exactly WHAT i was doing with guys, but knowing that the world had an idea made me a lot less afraid to be exposed to the world, a lot less ashamed of who i was as a person. So, to summarize, it's a personal decision, but consider non-binary options. You can identify however you want, to whoever you want. Shades of gray are not only permitted, but inevitable. (quick note: there's nothing cowardly or shameful about not coming out if you're in a scary situation. if you live with your parents and your dad is an awful homophobe, you don't have to feel an obligation to come out that said, you should start the wheels on doing ANYTHING and EVERYTHING you can to get out of that situation, at your own pace. get a job, save money, make a plan to move out and gain your own independence so you can start being yourself.) The next risk of being secretive concerns your partners. Many of you are in straight relationships and you might feel like you've got past the point of no return: if you were going to tell your partner that you sometimes suck cock or that you want to wear her clothes or that you look at weird sissy hypno porn, you feel like you should have done it by now. maybe you feel like she won't love you or respect you anymore. This obviously is going to be very different from relationship to relationship. But I would strongly recommend that you open up to people you're in relationships with, and try to do it early. The longer you're with a person the higher the odds are that they'll somehow find out what you've been up to, and if they find out that you have a whole sexual identity that they weren't aware of when they've been with you for years, this can be a very painful and traumatizing process. It isn't that the things you enjoy are inherently BAD, it's simply that you've shown that you don't trust this person to know the whole you, or to be welcomed in. and that can put a serious dent in a relationship. You certainly don't need to tell your partner every time you jerk off or show them what porn you like (unless you do that in a fun, kinky way). but if it's going to be an increasingly big part of your life, consider opening up to them about your interests. In the end, you deserve to be loved and appreciated for who you really are. \**incoming, important part**** Which leads into the biggest problem with secrets. Secrets are fun at first; as stated above, you get a thrill out of having these secret parts to you, these things that make you unique and special. you feel excited, horny, thrilled, and you have a good time. But there is a consequence to this, and that is that you'll begin to subconsciously feel that the people in your life don't know the REAL you. You'll come to believe that your friends, family, and partners only love the version of you that you PROJECT into the world, that they only love you because of who you fake you are. And when you're in a dark place in your life and you're trying to convince yourself that you are a good person, a person who's life has meaning and value... then a loved one looking you in your eyes and telling you they love you and think you're a good person will begin to feel hollow. You won't be able to take comfort in it, because you'll know that they don't actually know the REAL you. and you'll resent that part of yourself, and the people who don't know the real you, and you'll convince yourself that if they DID know the real you, they would hate you. If it isn't clear, I'm talking a bit from experience here. But fear not, there is a way out. I was a man full of secrets and lies, and eventually i realized that to really enjoy my life the way i wanted to i'd have to just be honest. I worked with my partner to open up about who i am and open up our relationship so that i could get what i needed, i gave my friends loose details about me being into weird kinky stuff (and didn't go into more detail than that) and came out as bisexual. And now, when my partner says she loves me, i can believe it. I know she knows the real me. And I have to tell you, my fellow perverts, having someone know the real you, know your deepest darkest feelings and secrets, and still LOVE you is just... the best feeling there is. Whether it's your partner or your friends or your family, it's a very uplifting feeling. So it takes work to communicate these things. You'll need to go out of your comfort zone. you'll hurt feelings, you'll have a hard time communicating, you'll stumble, you'll have moments of remorse. But if you get to the end of that road, you'll be happier and more free than you thought you could be. Whether to go Full Time Ok again, have to say that I'm not a therapist and i'm not a trans person, so take anything I say here with a grain of salt. But I know that lots and lots of you fine sissies are struggling with whether to go from fantasy to reality and transition. The first and most important thing here is that there isn't anything inherently wrong with being trans! So don't consider it a worst case scenario or anything that you should look at with dread. lots of people transition and live much happier lives, so if that's the path for you, enjoy yourself. That said! As I stated above, there's this inherent idea of being a "sissy" that means that you know that you're a man but believe you should act like or be treated like a woman. So a lot of the porn that goes along with sissy stuff tends to deliver this tempting, taunting message that you should finally take the plunge, take the leap, give in to your true desires, and transition. I guess I'd just say that you should jerk off and then think about it, if i'm being straight with you. We all get pretty ... intense, when we're in the heat of a sexual moment. when i'm horny and desperate you can feed me your ass and piss and spit in my face and i'll beg you desperately for more. I've done some shit. And for me personally, it does make me want to fall headlong into sissy play. I want to shave every inch of me, convert my body, throw away all my boxer shorts and be the sissy cock sucker cum dump i was meant to be. But i guess just keep in mind that real life is, in fact, real life. you can't actually look at the life of a cock sucking sissy as a simple ALTERNATIVE to your hum drum life because the fact is that sissies also need to do things like pay rent, have jobs, see their families on the holidays, raise their kids, see that guy from high school at the mall... all the stuff we have to do every day. The fact is there just aren't all these rich guys who want to pay you to dress pretty and be their slut, and the people who do get close to that, just get a few years out of it before they age out. So just jerk off. get it all out of your head, then go back and ask yourself how transitioning would effect your life goals, your relationships with people, and everything else you have going on. if it meets your goals, then go talk to a therapist and see if it's a good idea! If not, maybe you should just chill out and enjoy that you have this ever tempting fetish that you can enjoy for the rest of your days. In the End, Open Your Mind So that's pretty much it. I'd just want to end on this: a lot of sissies feel anxiety about their personal identity because they're trying to force that identity into boxes other people have defined. Whether you're gay or straight, whether you're a male or female, whether you're full time or part time, passable or not, a slave or a pillow princess, a cum addict or just a fantasizer.... these are all just toys for you to play with. none of them have to define you. none of them have to hurt you. you can use them to build up the identity and routine that gives you a sense of sexual satisfaction while preserving your greater life goals. so have fun with it, and relax. the world is your playground. note: if you liked reading this, i've written about lots of other sissy stuff on reddit. just click on my page and you'll see more, i think, i dunno i don't really know reddit. also, i love talking about sex and sexuality, so feel free to dm me with any questions if you don't like to comment directly.
My one-year anniversary of Intuitive Eating. TL;DR: Keep going, this fight is worth it!
Minor TW size/weight mentioned. I’m a frequent poster so likely you’ve already read bits and pieces of this story! But I really want to throw down the whole thing here, just on the off-chance I can inspire one single person to keep going and not give up. One year ago yesterday, I fell hard and sprained the shit out of my ankle while on a punishment run. I was running a 10km trail to punish myself for the excess calories after my 5-year old daughter’s birthday party; the cherry on top of 20+ years of obsessive dieting and over-exercising. I won’t dive too deep into this, because I know all of you that are here will get it. Food and diet owned my thoughts; my day was determined to be bad or good by whether the scale was up or down in the morning. It was hateful. It ruined some of the best moments of my life - beach vacations, parties, dinners with friends where I couldn’t stop thinking about what I looked like and comparing myself with others relentlessly. Anyways, I reached a fork in the road on October 28th, 2019, where I was either going to descend fully into a full-blown eating disorder, or I was going to fix this shit once and for all. With two young daughters, I think I finally had the reason I’d needed to escape the self-imposed loathing and hell of dieting. I came across IE accidentally and connected with the concept instantly. Devoured the books and dove into “eat all the things” mode. Lemme tell ya, this part was messy. I ate allllllll the things. For six whole weeks I ate basically nothing but carbs. Even the sight of vegetables made me gag, after 20 years of force-feeding them to myself. I ate whole meals at 10pm, in order to fully process my restrictive thoughts around “going to bed hungry”. Of course, I gained some weight pretty rapidly, at least 30lbs. I don’t know the actual number because I haven’t weighed myself in a whole fucking year! Omg. That’s wild. So anyways, after this phase things leveled out into this calm space. I would not have got there without my coach, Courtney Hill, who was there with a truck and a winch every time I fell in a ditch. I struggled with body image, initially. But it forced me to find some strategies. Buy some new clothes, change my thoughts. And I totally have. I just don’t really care anymore - not in a “letting myself go” way that I always feared was the binary of obsessive dieting. Nah I just roll around now with a new kind of confidence. Sometimes now whole days will go by where I don’t think about my body once. I just focus on rocking my life and being an amazing mom, wife, and manager. It’s opened up doors for me. I got headhunted by a big company, the cream of the crop in my industry, and I swear I wouldn’t have had the confidence to take it if I hadn’t been well along on this path. I’m so much more calm and present in my life, with my kids. I picked up meditating which has been critically important in this wild pandemic year. I am happier and calmer and more confident than I’ve ever been. My body totally leveled out at a size I’m really happy and comfortable with. Will I ever fit into my wedding dress again? Nah. Do I care? Also nah. I bought new clothes that I feel hot and awesome in. In September, I was finally feeling ready to work out hard again, after a whole year of throwing in the towel. Previously, I’d been an elite athlete and had always exercised obsessively, Crossfitting and running myself into oblivion, ignoring my body’s signals and subjecting myself to one over-use injury after the next. Anyways, I started working out with a personal trainer and absolutely love it. I just smashed a 213lb deadlift yesterday and feel like a fucking beast. I feel healthy. I’m not constantly sick and bedraggled. My hair, skin, and nails are luscious. I have energy. I sleep. I almost wish I’d done some more journaling in the “before” times so I could better comprehend the magnitude of this shift. But I’m also content with just leaving it behind forever. I’ve had a pretty amazing life and have done a lot of incredible things - sailing across oceans, pursuing grad degrees and intense, challenging career options. But I’m proudest of what I’ve done to stomp diet culture to the curb, and, hopefully, break the cycle for my daughters, who will see their mom loving food and being strong and confident and happy. Keep going, it’s worth it.
Going to keep this simple. EDIT: this isn’t simple and I should write a short story on this. I am generally risk averse. I hate losing $100 at the casino, I hate paying extra for guac at chipotles, I will return something or price match an item for a few dollars of savings. I am generally frugal. But, I somehow had no issues losing 10k in options... How I started I remember my first trades like they were yesterday. I was trading the first hydrogen run-up in 2014 (FCEL, BLDP, PLUG) and made a few hundred dollars over a couple weeks. I quickly progressed to penny stocks / biotech binary events and general stock market gambling mid-2014. I was making a few % here and there but the trend was down in total account value. I was the king of buying the peak in run-ups. I managed to make it out of 2014 close to break-even to slightly down. WSB Era March 2015 was my first option trade. It was an AXP - American Express - monthly option trade. I saw one of the regular option traders/services post a block of 10,000 calls that had been bought for 1.3 and I followed the trade with 10 call options for a total of $1300. I woke up the next day to an analyst upgrade on AXP and was up 50% on my position. I was addicted! I day-dreamed for days about my AXP over night success. I think around that time there was some sort of Buffet buyout of Heinz and an option trade that was up a ridiculous amount of %%%. I wanted to hit it BIG. I came up with the idea that all I needed to reach my goal was a few 100% over night gains/ 1k>2k>4k>8k> etc. I convinced myself that I would have no problems being patient for the exact criteria that I had set and worked on some other trades. Remember, the first win is always free. I was trading options pretty regularly from March 2015 until August 2016. During my best week I was up 20k and could feel the milli within reach. I can remember the exact option trade (HTZ) and I was trading weeklies on it. For those who have been in the market long enough, you will remember the huge drawdown of August 2015. I lost half my account value on QCOM calls (100 of them) that I followed at the beginning of July and never materialized. I watched them eventually go to 0. It was another 10,000 block that was probably a hedge or sold. In August 2015 there were some issues with China and all of us woke up to stocks gapping down huge. Unfortunately my idea of buying far dated calls during the following days/weeks after the crash went sideways. I quickly learned that an increase in volatility causes a rise in option prices and I was paying a premium for calls that were going to lose value very quickly (the infamous IV crush). I kept trading options into the end of 2015 and managed to maintain my account value positive but the trading fees for the year amounted to $30,000+. My broker was loving it. I tried all the services, all the strategies. I created rules for my option plays: 1. No earnings 2. Only follow the big buys at a discount (10,000 blocks or more). 3. No weekly options 4. Take profit right away 5. Take losses quickly 6. etc. I had a whole note book of option plays that I was writing down and following. I was paying for option services that all of you know about - remember, they make money on the services and not trading. I even figured out a loop-hole with my broker: if I didn’t have enough money in my account, I could change my ask price to .01 and then change it to market buy and I would only need to accept a warning ⚠️ for the order to go through. I was able to day trade the option and make money, who cares if I didnt have enough? After a few months of this, I got a call from my broker that told me to stop and that I would be suspended if I continued with this. By the way, I was always able to satisfy the debit on the account - so it wasn’t an issue of lack of funds. Lost it all. Started taking money from lines of credits, every penny that I earned and losing it quicker and quicker. I was a full on gambler but I was convinced that 8 trades would offset all the losses. I kept getting drawn in to the idea that I could hit a homerun and make it out a hero. I eventually hit rock bottom on some weekly expiring FSLR options that I bought hours before expiration and said to myself - what the f are you doing? I resolved to invest for the long term and stop throwing tendies away. The feeling was reinforced during the birth of my first born and I thought - what a loser this kid will think of me if he knew how much I was gambling and wasting my life. It was a really powerful moment looking at my kid and reflecting on this idea. I decided at that point I was going to save every penny I had and invest it on new issues with potential. Fall 2016 TTD, COUP and NTNX IPO ‘ed I decided I was going to throw every dollar at these and did so for the next few months. I eventually started using margin (up to 215%) and buying these for the next 6 months. They paid out and managed to make it over 100k within the year. The first 100k was hard but once I crossed it, I never fell below this magic number. 2017 - I did some day trading but it was mostly obsessing over the above issues. I did gamble on a few options here and there but never more than 1k. 2018 - SFIX was my big winner, I bought a gap up in June 2018 and my combined account value had crossed 400k by August 2018. I was really struggling at crossing the 500k account value and experienced 3 x 30-40% drawdowns over the next 2 years before I finally crossed the 500k barrier and have never looked back. I still made some mistakes over the next few months - AKAO & GSUM come to mind. Both of these resulted in 20k+ losses. Fortunately my winners were much bigger than my losers. I thought about giving up and moving to index funds - but i was doing well - just experiencing large drawdowns because of leverage. 2019 big winners were CRON SWAV STNE. 2017 / 2018 / 2019 all had six digit capital gains on my tax returns. At the beginning of 2020 I was still day trading on margin (180-220%) and got a call from my broker that they were tightening up my margin as my account was analyzed by the risk department and deemed too risky. Believe it or not this was right before the covid crash. I brought my margin down to 100-110% of account value and even though the drawdown from covid hit hard, I wasn’t wiped out. I stayed the course and bought FSLY / RH during the big march drawdown and this resulted in some nice gains over the next few months. I am constantly changing and testing my investment strategy but let me tell you that obsessing over 1 or 2 ideas and throwing every penny at it and holding for a few years is the best strategy. It may not work at some point but right now it does. I still day trade but I trade with 10k or less on each individual position. It allows me minimize my losses and my winners are 1-7%. I am able to consistently make between 3-700$/ a day on day trades using the above strategy. I still take losses and still dream about hitting it big with an option trade but dont feel the need to put it all on the line every month / week. I finally crossed into the two , club. I know people are going to ask for proof or ban but I am not earning anything for posting and the details about some of the trades should be proof enough that I kept a detailed journal of it all. I have way more to write but these are the highlights. Eventually I will share how I build a position in a story I love. I still sell buy and sell to early but I am working on improving. TL:DR - I gambled, lost it all and gambled some more lost more. I made it out alive. I have only sold calls/puts lately. The one common denominator in all successful people is how much they obsess over 1 or 2 ideas. Do the same. All the winners on this sub have gone all in on one idea (FSLY / TSLA ). Stick with new stories or ones that are changing and go all in...wait a second, I didnt learn anything.
I was typed on this sub some time ago but my answers were too vague and not that accurate I think. I’m doubting my type again and I need some new insight. – Describe yourself in as much elaborate detail as possible (that still renders you anonymous, or to a level of acceptable comfort) 18 yo high school student just trying to survive IB. My gender is a questionable thing. I consider myself non binary because I’ve always felt extremely uncomfortable with talking about my gender and I wanted to obey all of the expectations and gender roles. I hate all of the labels and sht. I feel like I’m an individual being that doesn’t fit anywhere but at the same time I feel like a part of humanity and I can connect to literally any human being. Doesn’t matter of nationality/age/gendesome other sht. I sympathize with everyone and I kinda feel like I belong to them. If I had to move to foreign country that I don’t know anything about, right now, I think I’d quickly adapt to the culture. I feel like everything and nothing at the same time. I am diagnosed with severe social anxiety and I display some characteristics of avoidant personality disorder. It basically makes me unable to figure out my type since I don’t know what is true about my personality and what is a defense mechanism anymore. I need some insight from other people because I’m so confused about my own self. I don’t really understand the concept of personality traits at all. I feel like a chameleon and I have no consistent personality. – Why are you interested in knowing your type? At first I was just curious because I’m really into psychology and I found the idea of cognitive functions interesting. But now I’m just mad at myself that I can’t decide on my type because I relate to few types but at the same type I relate to none of them. I just want to be certain. I have this issue that I need to be sure about my every decision and I hate that whenever I finally decide that “this is my real type, it feels right” then suddenly a few days later I find out that it can’t be my real type because the way that type is supposed to think doesn’t really describe how I think very well. – Do you go to work and/or you in school? If so, what field/occupation/subjects? I go to school. I changed my school a year ago. My first school wasn’t that bad, the teachers weren’t the worst, my classmates didn’t bully me for being quiet and I had not so bad grades. But deep down I hated that school. There were so many people that I felt overwhelmed and I had to close myself in the restroom every break. I just couldn’t handle this many people. And this school had such a depressing vibe for some reason. After one of my classmates almost commited a suicide it had become even worse. I accidentally found another school that was way smaller (less people) and since it was IB it could mean I’d have better opportunities for universities abroad. And I could choose every subject. I didn’t think twice, I changed my school immediately. It didn’t matter for me that the exams would be much harder and there would be overall more work. And that new classmates might bully me or something. I mean, I was scared at first but I had to try no matter what. Now I think it was actually a great idea. I love this school even though I sometimes struggle with this much work. My subjects are my native language, english, german, biology, psychology and maths. I chose them because I’m good at them. Except for math, it was obligatory. – Describe your upbringing. Did it have any kind of religious or structured influence? How did you respond to it? It was pretty chill I guess. My parents have always supported all of my weird interests that I wanted to try and some of my dumb decisions even if they disagreed with them. Although most people would say that I should be grateful to my parents that they were always generous to me with their affection and money, at the same time they never understood me. I’ve always been a very creative and imaginative child. I’ve always been daydreaming and I used to write stories a lot. My parents thought it was some sign of schizophrenia or something (it wasn’t) and told me to stop daydreaming and focus on school and grades. I remember whenever I tried to share some of my weird ideas with them, they were always telling me that it’s pointless and I have to be more down to earth. I was also very curious as a kid and I could sometimes research some really bizarre stuff because I found it interesting. I remember my parents once found my searching history and literally yelled at me for searching some useless knowledge. I’d understand their reaction if I was searching for p0rn or something like that but I was looking for some psychology stuff lol. I started to become very secretive at this point and now I always have to be in incognito mode and I have to clear my history frequently or I’ll become anxious that somebody is judging me. And I remember when I once told them about my anxiety they literally told me that it’s not a problem and I’m perfectly fine and I should stop thinking about such pointless stuff. Religion wasn’t a very big issue for me. My parents are christian but they never tried to force anything on me. They tried to make me religious when I was a child but eventually let me choose whether I want to believe in that or not. At first I considered myself christian even though I didn’t know what it was even about. I was told since childhood that it is the truth so I didn’t question it at that time. But I eventually started questioning my faith. I didn’t like going to the church, the prayers and all. I didn’t really agree with some of the principles of that religion. I began to ask myself whether I really believe in god or do I “believe” because I’m scared of punishment. When I grew up, I started doing some research on the Bible and I realised that it doesn’t make any sense. I mean, it depends how you interpret it, for me it didn’t make any sense. Also, in my native country there’s something like religious education in school and it’s basically forcing christianity into kids. I hate this. I rember a priest that was „teaching” my class in middle school and once he could say that god loves and accepts everyone but then he could say something like gay bad, trans bad. Like the fck is this?! – Do you need logical consistency in your life? I have no idea what that inherently means but I’ll try to answer anyway. I like to think that everything is connected and I can start overthinking things that don’t make sense to me, to find some explanations. I need explanations for everything. I used to be really anxious about what happens after death because that’s something I can’t explain. I mean, I can try but it wouldn’t be 100% accurate because I can’t check that unless I’d die. If I ever decided to kill myself, the reason would be probably that I just wanted to check what will happen to me. I created my own theory on what happens after death that I try to believe is true so I won’t have to kill myself. I somehow tried to base it on science but it turned out to be some irrational crap. But for me it makes the most sense so I assume it’s accurate since it can’t be proven right or wrong. It just depends what you believe in. I know my theory is not perfect and I only pretend I believe in it but I really don’t want to have to kill myself so I need to approve any explanation, doesn’t matter how irrational it sounds. – How curious are you? Do you have more ideas then you can execute? What are your curiosities about? What are your ideas about? I think I’m very curious. I want to know everything. Like literally everything. Possessing all of the knowledge possible and understanding the whole world and how it works had been my dream since I remember. Sometimes I can get into some bizarre interests that are completely useless for me but I still find them interesting, like marine biology. Anyway, I have too many ideas and usually, I end up with nothing. My ideas can be about everything and anything but usually creative stuff like ideas for songs or novels. – If money was not an issue, what careejob would you have? I wouldn’t even go to work lmao. I’d just procrastinate all day. At the end of the day I’d probably have to go to work because I’d be scared that I’d lose all the money and I wouldn’t know what to do with myself anymore and I don’t want to parasite on anybody so yeah, I’d have to go to work someday. But the thing is, I have no idea what job I’d like to have. – Are you a free spirit or do you play by the rules? If so, why? This is quite hard for me to answer. I have a weird relationship with the rules. Of course I don’t like being limited or told exactly what to do, I can be a little rebel sometimes. But at the same time I need some guidance. When I have no direction, my mind goes blank because I either have no idea what to do or too many ideas. When I’m doing some work for other people, I always have to ask about every little detail so they’ll be satisfied with my work. I have to do that because if I’m given too much freedom I tend to think backwards and do the literal opposite because I could understand the assignment differently or something like that. I don’t want others to be disappointed with my work. I always think differently than it’s expected from me lol. I remember once there was a test at school about some poem and there was a task to interpret the last sentence or something. I thought it was about time loops so I wrote about it but when we were checking the test, the teacher said it was about death. I got half of the points for that task because my arguments were good but my interpretation wasn’t the same as the teacher’s and it was a bit out of the blue. Like my teacher probably didn’t even know where the hell did I get that from. – If I asked you to take a shot with a football how would that make you feel? Would you be able to do it well? Would you enjoy it? I’d die internally because it’d remind me of my trauma associated with team sports. I used to be bullied in primary school because I wasn’t good at sports. I could never follow the ball and the general action that was taking place because that sht was too fast for me. And I used to have anemia so I literally had no strength or energy to do anything. I’m still not very athletic so I’d probably do terribly. But I think I could enjoy it if it was just for fun and I wouldn’t be ridiculed for any mistake. – If I asked you to write me an essay, would you enjoy it? What would it be about? How would it make you feel? I love writing essays in english but I hate writing in my native language (it’s more complicated than english and even native speakers can sometimes make some really stupid and basic mistakes) so as long as it is in english I’d enjoy it. I have no idea what I’d write about. If I was given a topic I could write about literally anything but if I had to choose a topic myself I’d be completely clueless. I’d probably search for some ideas on the internet and then choose whatever seems the easiest to write because I don’t want to spend 7492810847 hours on that essay. – Is it okay to crack a few eggs? If it makes an omelette? Do the ends justify the means? I guess so. Do anything you want, just don’t hurt anybody else. – Do you put things back in their proper place? I never do that and it’s going to make me insane someday. I can sometimes put my phone somewhere and after 5 minutes I can completely forget where the hell I put it and then search for it for hours. I lose my stuff at home all the time because I put my sht wherever I feel like. I wish I wasn't this messy because it can be annoying but I can’t stand order either. I get inspiration from chaos and whenever I’m drawing I HAVE to make my desk a bit messy because when it’s empty and clean it feels as if my mind was empty. – How do you behave around strangers, acquaintances and friends? I have social anxiety so I act very awkwardly around strangers and people I don’t know that well like for example classmates. I’m very shy. I stutter a lot, I say stupid things unintentionally, I tend to zone out a lot. I’m also very quiet and I never talk unless I’m being asked directly. Even if asked directly, I can sometimes still keep quiet. I can become overwhelmed a lot when I’m around other people and I sometimes have panic attacks or I can start crying for no reason. I can’t do small talk, it’s pointless for me and it seems so fake. But if I ever approached somebody for the first time and asked them what is the meaning of life or something like that, they’d think I’m insane, so I don’t really know how to start a conversation. And I really hate questions like „how are you?". What does it even mean, like wtf. My social skills are so terrible, I wish I was born with some instruction on how to act in any social situation. Whenever I have to talk to a teacher or somebody else in a formal setting, I always have to ask my mom how do I say what I want to say in a way that will be appropriate. This sht’s exhausting. I have no friends but my family is like my friends so I can say how I act around them. I think I’m the most “real” around them because I’m not scared they’ll judge me. I’m a completely different person when I’m comfortable. I can be a clown sometimes, I say a lot of dumb stuff intentionally because I don’t feel embarassed when I’m around my family. My family has so many inside jokes, most of them made by me lol. I can be very loud and talkative sometimes or even argumentative and I’ve heard so many times from my parents “if you only were this outspoken at school like you are at home”. If any of my classmates saw me like that they’d say it’s an impostor because there’s no way I could act like that lmao. I also got more comfortable with my distant family and I’m not that shy anymore when I’m around them. I can confront my uncles whenever they’ll try to playfully bully me (I really hate when they do that) and I feel so good about that. I wouldn’t be able to do anything like that a year ago and I’m glad I’m getting more confident. – Do you have exquisite tastes that you would expend effort or money for? I buy apple stuff because it’s easier for me to use. I once had an android phone and it was a pain to use. – How do you act when others request your help to do something (anything)? If you would decide to help them, why would you do so? I think I’d help no matter how I’d feel about it. I lack assertiveness because of my social anxiety. With people I’m comfortable with, I think I’d still help no matter what. I’d just feel terrible as a person if I wouldn’t help. – How long do you take to make an important decision? How would you go about it? And do you change your mind once you've made it? I’m hella indecisive. I have to ask other people for some guidance or I’ll be lost. I literally cannot decide for myself. I also sometimes seem like I have no opinion on anything but I just see pros and cons in everything and I can’t decide on the best option. Everything is shades of gray and whatever I choose should be personal preference but I always look for the objectively best solution that will be approved by my inner critic and also other people. It’s exhausting because I can’t even choose a meal in a restaurant. I treat it like some very important decision while it’s so mundane. When it comes to food my final choice would probably be something I haven't tried yet that sounds good or whatever with shrimp. I’m always in a mood for some shrimp lol. I sometimes can choose something familiar but only when I really don’t know what to choose. After making my final decision, I always wonder what if another one would be better and I never feel certain about my decisions. I’m scared of making decisions because I’m anxious that my decision was the wrong one. I wish I could try everything in my life. – If I asked you to design a plan of action, would it be easier to work alone or in a group? Do you ask for others’ opinions? or stick to your own guns? It would be better to work alone because I cannot work in a group since my social skills are lower than the bottom of Marianas trench. I can’t even work with people I’m comfortable with. I feel like they distract and overwhelm me and I prefer to get some ideas from others and then execute everything myself. When I get some ideas from other people, it immediately stimulates my mind and I can quickly come up with something. I sometimes have great ideas while trying to create something out of nothing but I have the best ideas when I find some ideas from the external world that inspire me and I start from there. After I finish my work, I have to show it to others. I need some validation from them because I want to know if my work is acceptable. With any schoolwork, I have to first show it to my sister before I can show it to my teacher so I know I didn’t do any crap and I wouldn’t be laughed at. I can’t show anything to my teachers without being certain it’s good. – A weekend best spent looks like ...? If I could do anything I wanted, I wish I could go to the mountains or sightseeing by myself or with my family. More realistic best weekend would be a weekend where I don’t have that much work for school and I can actually relax. – My biggest fears are ... There’s quite a lot of that. Most of my life has been full of the feelings of fear and anxiety. I’m really scared of social interactions and public speeches, being judged or rejected. I hate the feeling of embarrassment, it makes me feel so uncomfortable. I’m also really scared of crowds. When there are too many people around, I start panicking. I once got a panic attack at a wedding and nobody could calm me down, I was so overwhelmed (especially that there were many photographers and they were surrounding me so I couldn’t really escape from them. I didn’t want them to take any pictures of me so I put a jacket on my face whenever I saw them near me. Most of the wedding I spent outside sitting on a bench because there weren’t that many people there and there weren’t any photographers around). I’m really scared of the future because I don’t know what to do with myself and I’m probably gonna end up lonely, depressed and addicted to some crap. What I really hate is pressure and feeling controlled or trapped. Especially at school because I’m forced to do things that make me uncomfortable, like performing in front of people. And I feel like school has always been limiting my creativity and individuality. I’m also scared of bugs. I hate them so much. I can start panicking whenever I hear a fcking fly. – How much do you express yourself and what mediums do you do that through? Art? Writing? Talking? Art is my thing. But I’m more into analyzing and critiquing art rather than creating. When I do create, I express my ideas more than my feelings. I draw graphic novels. The funny thing is that I don’t even “like” most of my works. I mean, if somebody else created these stories and I was a reader, I’d rate them something around 5 on enjoyment. Most of my stories are based on some concepts I found interesting or I create stories to see how the public would react to it or just to check how I’ll perform at a specific genre rather than something that is personal to me. I sometimes write songs and they also aren’t that personal to me. Some are, but most of my lyrics are about things anyone could relate to. And I like to create some really weird analogies. I wrote 8379287593 songs about comparing some random stuff to toxic relationships. Give me any random thing and I could transform it into a song about toxic relationships. I’ve never been in a toxic relationship tho. My sister also writes songs but they are so personal that only she knows what they are about. I hate that to be completely honest. I prefer lyrics that make sense and are easy to interpret given the context. I think I create for the audience instead of myself. I express my feelings through writing. I sometimes just write down my thoughts to let go of them and it’s very therapeutic for me. I sometimes post some of my thoughts on my twitter. I really need an audience lol. – Generally where do you lean politically? Is it every man for himself? Should people be pragmatic? Does the government need to step in and help people? I’ve tried to get into politics more because I might seem ignorant since I have no political views. I see pros and cons in everything and it’s really hard for me to decide what is the best. I somewhat agree with every side. I could say I’m libertarian because I value freedom a lot, but I don’t really know. – Does it matter if something is factually correct for you to believe in it? Depends. I won’t believe in something like flat earth but not everything can be scientifically proven. I can be a bit sceptical since science is constantly improving and literally anything can be proven wrong at any time. – Are emotions/feelings an important aspect of your life? If so, then why? This is a very tough question for me. I have no idea if emotions are just chemicals in the brain and the way I react to things or if it’s something deeper. I want to think it’s something deeper because it’s more optimistic and it could mean that feelings are something individual for everyone (and my therapist said so lol). I like to think that there is something in the world that is only for me. I got very obsessed with my individuality because I have a twin and we’ve been constantly compared to each other. People used to treat us as if we were one person. Now I have to be “different” in everything, so people will finally address me by my name and not per “twin” all the time. I like to see myself as an individual being and I also see other people like that. I just love the idea that everyone is different but at the same time we’re all connected. Are emotions actually important in my life? I guess so. I mean, I don’t really know, but my therapist told me that understanding my emotions is the key to curing my mental health issues and existential crisis. The thing is that I try to avoid my feelings as much as I can because when I’m left alone with my feelings I get depressed and start crying. Every night when I’m going to sleep, I start overthinking a lot since it’s the only thing I can do, so I started to distract myself from thinking by creating some fictional stories in my head. A bit on my feelings because it’s really confusing to me: I have trouble with recognizing my feelings and I sometimes have trouble being subjective. I can even be a people pleaser. I remember I had to write an essay for my english class about my thoughts on some quote and I first wrote what I think the author meant, then why it’s accurate and why it’s not and then in conclusion I wrote in which aspects I agree with the author and in which I disagree. Then my sister told me I did it wrong because I was supposed to write what the quote meant to me personally. But that was what it meant to me lol. Whenever my therapist asks me about my feelings I always answer “I don’t know”. Because I just genuinely don’t know. Even when she once told me I can explain my emotions metaphorically, I still couldn’t. For some time I was thinking that I don’t feel emotions at all but my therapist told me I just feel differently than how I think I „should” feel. I have this weird inner view of how emotions “should” be and I’m quite anxious that it doesn’t actually work like that. I can sometimes get really dramatic with my external emotions (shouting, crying, etc) but I never actually feel like that. I think that how I react is so different from how I actually feel. I never realise that I’m acting like I was angry in that exact moment but rather when people tell me that I was acting dramatic or something and after I’ll calm down I’m like “oh, I probably seemed angry at that time”. – How attached are you to reality? I don’t think I’m very attached to reality. I feel like I’m living in a simulation sometimes. The experience of life is so surreal, I can’t even explain it. I daydream a lot. Maybe even too much. I can sometimes lay in my bed for hours doing nothing and just thinking and listening to music. I even wondered if I don’t have maladaptive daydreaming at some point. I sometimes get caught up in my thoughts and when somebody distracts me I can get frustrated. When I’m with other people I can sometimes zone out completely because, for example, I saw a plane and I started wondering how the hell does it exactly work that it can float in the air, completely ignoring the people I’m with. – How thick skinned are you? Are you sensitive to criticism? I am very sensitive actually. But I think I got more thick skinned over time. I used to be such a sensitive child that literally anything could make me cry. Not sure if I really got more confident or if it’s the medicine I’m taking for my anxiety tho. I’m also a huge empath. Whenever I read a book or watch a film, I literally “transform” into the main characters and feel everything they feel. I remember I tried to read The Sorrows of Young Werther for school and I couldn’t finish it, I wasn’t able to handle this much negative feelings. I just read the summaries and hoped I’ll pass the test. I also started reading a manga called Chi no wadachi recently and it killed me. I’m fine with constructive criticism. I like criticism if it’s intended to help me improve and I hate it when somebody does that just to sht on me. I can get aggressive sometimes when somebody criticizes me all the time, even when I improve my work and they still can see something bad about it. I really hate it because it doesn’t help me at all. If I get insulted, I try not to care or not show that I care, but I actually deeply care at first. I usually forget about it and move on quickly but it’s still somewhat hurtful I guess.
Previously on the Cryptic Zombonium *** A priest, a wolf, and a german walks into a bar. One of them is an atheist, the other an agnostic, and the priest says he has the cure for the Zombie Virus, but only if you believe in God Almighty. “What do you mean, you have the cure?” I spat blasphemously. “And what do you mean we have to have faith?” the German joined in. “Is he the leader now?” Travis asked Hannah. “He said he was the leader now.” The Vatican Archivist, Father Connor, the priest, the holy trinity of cool nicknames, put a finger to his mouth, like he was hushing a bunch of toddlers. “That’s not what I meant,” he said softly. “I simply stated that the Virus comes from the heavenly archives of the Vatican, and that it is in fact not a Virus.” “What in the god-forsaken shit fucking hell is it then?” I asked politely. “Language?” Hannah suggested. “He is a priest and all.” I nodded thoughtfully. “Sorry, Father. Didn’t mean to say ‘hell’.” “Sit, children,” the Archivist sang weirdly. “And all shall be explained.” We didn’t have anywhere to sit, so most of us just shuffled around awkwardly as he told us in great detail about his incredibly complex backstory, for some reason starting at his birth. The real juicy parts came right near the end though, so I’ll be skipping to that part. Apparently the Zombie Virus wasn’t a Zombie Virus at all. It was Demon Virus. Yes, you heard me. According to the Father, the Vatican collects samples of demon blood (or fluids as he would have it, but let’s just go with blood), and stuffs them in boxes all the way down there in the catacombs. “So how did it end up here?” Kat asked. “We shipped a vial of the foul blasphemous fluid overseas by mistake,” Father Connor replied. “Blood,” I coughed. “Let’s call it blood. And what in god’s name in vain did you mean to send?” “Holy Water, of course,” he said. “The quality stuff has to be blessed by the Pope himself. We keep it on the shelf next to the demon fluid.” “Blood,” I coughed again. “As we all know, some people are more blessed than others,” Father Connor continued. “That’s because they were blessed by the Pope himself. Costs a pretty penny though, mind you.” “So some rich asshole paid for super-blessed holy water, only to receive demon blood instead?” “Yes,” the Father nodded solemnly. “But as it turns out, it wasn’t just any old demon fluid.” “Don’t fucking tell me,” I said. “It was the bodily fluid of the Antichrist himself,” the Father murmured, crossing himself feverishly. “Or herself,” Eileen Dover chimed in. “Who’s to say the Antichrist isn’t a she?” “Or themselves,” Hannah said. “Could be non-binary too.” “All realistic options,” I agreed. “But what’s the big deal? Is it contagious or something?” “That’s exactly it,” Father Connor said. “The Vessel of the Antichrist now spreads unlife wherever it journeys, and the Afflicted then spreads it even further. The only way to stop it, is by destroying it.” “And this Vessel would be?” Travis inquired. “A five year old girl,” Father Connor replied. “By the name of Kreszentia.” “And by destroying it you mean...” the German said. “Killing her, yes,” Father Connor nodded. “Humanely, of course. We have to crucify her.” There was quite a bit of uproar at this statement, and deservedly so. Killing a five year old girl? Antichrist or no Antichrist, you just don’t go around murdering children willy-nillily. The group split up into smaller cliques, all of us trying to make sense of the situation. Could we trust the Father? Was he really an Archivist? Did he have some credentials to that effect possibly? Like a badge or something? And how much did the Vatican charge for super-blessed holy water? “CHEESE,” Max suddenly yelled. “WE SHOULD GO GET THE CHEESE.” “I’m sorry,” Kat said. “I thought we’d given up on that plan?” Grant stepped forward. “We did,” he said. “On account of all them zombies.” “I KNOW A SECRET STASH,” Max shuffled around excitedly. “NO ZOMBIES THERE PROBABLY.” “Probably?” I said. “How probably are we talking?” “LIKE MAYBE THREE,” he replied weirdly. “THREE PROBABLY’S.” “I like those odds,” Travis said. “We desperately need the food,” Hanna sighed. “If we’re gonna keep adding more wackjobs to our group, we’re gonna have to find a way to feed them.” “Alright,” I stepped forward. “As the leader of this group, I say we give it another go. Eileen, Hannah, Travis, the German; you’re with me. Max, get busy drawing us a map or something.” “SHOULDN’T I COME WITH?” Max asked. “Are you kidding me?” I exclaimed. “The Z-boiz (trademark filed) will be on us the moment you open your mouth.” “FAIR POINT,” he nodded loudly. “Who made him leader of the group?” Eileen Dover asked. “He did it himself,” Travis said. “Last episode.” *** We sped down the bumpy roads moments later with Hannah behind the wheel. Max had drawn us a fairly crude map with some bizarre notes, but having staked out the factory for weeks, I had the place memorized like someone had carved it right into my brain with tiny sharp needles. “Are you guys buying the priest’s bullshit?” I asked. “Demon blood? The Antichrist?.” “Demon fluid,” Travis corrected. “I don’t know,” Hannah said. “And I don’t care. I’m here for the cheese.” Eileen Dover nodded. “Demons, Zombies, Antichrists, they’re all baddies in my book.” I shrugged. “And you, the German?” “Please, just call me German, no need to be so formal about it.” We pulled off the main road, and slowed down as we approached the harrowing brutalist structure of the cheese factory. The sun was in descent, and we had to be quick about it if we were to pull off the heist before nightfall. “Strange,” the German said. “What is?” I asked. “I don’t see any walkers around,” he said. “Uh, I mean zombies.” He was right. “He is right,” I said. The place looked deserted. Not only human deserted, but the other kind too. Dead deserted. With all the deafening noise we served up last time we were here, there should at least be a horde or two shambling about. Eileen Dover pointed ahead. “The gates,” she said. “They’re open. Were they open before?” I shook my head. “They were not.” Hannah parked the car, and we all slipped out stealthily, slowly making our way to the main gates. The place was eerily silent, and you could hear a squirrel’s neck snapping from a mile away. We entered the factory, and we all stumbled back in shock at the sight that unfolded. Well except me, of course. I don’t do shock. “What the fuck?” I said, stumbling back in shock. “There is no cheese,” Travis mumbled. “There should be cheese, right?” “I’m more concerned about the insurmountable mountain of zombie corpses,” the German noted. It was huge. Three-four hordes worth of re-deaded dead, stacked so high that they almost reached the factory ceiling some twenty feet up. Travis nodded. “That too,” he said. “Look,” Eileen Dover said, pointing at one of the mangled zombies on the floor. “Look at the forehead.” Hannah bent down, inspecting the thing with some interest. Carved deep into the rotting flesh was the letter “M”. “They all have it,” I said, dragging limp bodies down from the massive pile. “They’re all marked.” “What does it mean?” the German mumbled. “Who the hell did this?” “No time for wacky theories,” I said. “Although it was obviously done by a crazed gang of nutjobs as an insanely laborious way to send us a deeply unsettling message. They’re probably watching us right now.” “What?” Travis exclaimed. “I don’t like being watched.” “No matter,” Hannah said. “We’re obviously too late. There’s not a single cheese crumb left in this place.” “Don’t be so sure,” Eileen Dover said, reaching into her sweater. “These guys beg to differ.” She produced from the depths of her baggy clothing two lively rats, and held them out for us all to see. “This is Microwave,” she shoved a rat in my face, “and this is Tea.” “We sometimes call her Rat Girl,” Travis whispered to me. “You know, because she’s got rats, and she’s a girl.” “What?” I said sourly. “If she’s Rat Girl, why can’t I be the Wolf then?” “Do you own a Wolf?” Hannah asked. “No, but-” I started. “There’s your answer then,” she said. “OK, bring us the map, and we’ll let the rats sniff around.” We started moving from room to room, trying to decipher the rather cryptic messages Max had scribbled down. After about thirty minutes of not getting anywhere, Travis came running out from one of the offices, waving the map around. “I found it!” he yelled excitedly. “I think I found the stash.” “Are you sure?” I asked. “How can you be sure?” “Look, look,” he pointed to the map. “See, right next to the big X, he wrote ‘nursery rhyme profanity’.” “And?” “There’s a bookshelf in that office,” he said. “And one of the books are ‘FUCK LICKETYSPLIT’.” I shrugged. “I don’t see the connection.” “In my hometown we had this old nursery rhyme called LICKETYSPLIT, and I always had a feeling the verses were hiding something.” “Well, it’s all we got,” Hannah said. “Rat Girl, we need Microwave and Tea.” Rat Girl scurried into the office, and gently placed the rats next to the bookshelf. We watched in weird silence as Microwave and Tea sniffed around the big old thing, until they both eventually disappeared behind it. “Cheese,” Rat Girl grinned. “There’s cheese behind that shelf, I guarantee it.” We all stared at each other for half a second, before snapping into action, tearing the bookshelf apart piece by piece. It took us a minute or two, but at the end we heard Rat Girl giggling gleefully as Microwave and Tea scurried back into her sweater. “Cheese,” I said, wiping sweat from my forehead. “We’ve got cheese.” The room wasn’t large, but it was stuffed to the brim with wonderful cheese. Brie. Camembert. Mozzarella. Other foreign names. “Won’t last us years,” Hannah said. “But it’ll do for a month or two.” We quickly cleaned out the room, backpacks soon filled with the dairy gold. Without pausing, we made our retreat, the sun now all but disappeared behind the horizon. I convinced the German to carry my backpack, since I was lactose intolerant. “You can’t eat cheese?” he asked. “Why so eager to loot this place then?” “Oh no, I can eat it,” I said. “I just can’t have it anywhere near my skin,” I lied. We approached our car a few minutes later, but Hannah, who was leading the way, suddenly stopped dead in her tracks, and signalled for us to shut the fuck up. “What is it?” I whispered. Hannah took a few cautious steps toward the car. “Not sure,” she said. “I think I hear something.” We all stopped moving, and stood there perfectly still. And sure enough, I heard it too. A soft wheezing, a pained gargling. The sound of the dead. Hannah waved us closer, and we all tippy-toed the rest of the way, soon spotting the parked car right where we left it. But there was something else too. Something strapped to the hood. “Fuck me,” I said. “These guys are all about the games, aren’t they?” The bloody zombie, once a middle-aged man by the looks of it, was missing it’s hands and feet; nothing now but an undead head on an undead torso. A chain held the thing in place, and carved deep into its forehead was that ever-ominous “M”. “That’s horrible,” Travis mumbled. “But not horror,” the German noted. “A short scary story if I ever saw one,” I said. Hannah and Rat Girl had already started unchaining it, while we were busy pointing out the different gruesome aspects of the deed. Without saying anything, they both simultaneously took a step back, eyes wide with what I can only imagine was fear. “What?” I inquired. “What’s wrong.” The zombie squirmed disgustingly, crimson blood smearing the hood of the car like some kind of messed up art piece. Then it opened its hideous mouth and wheezed discordantly. “Please,” it gargled. “Please kill me.” [TO BE CONTINUED]
Completing the 2020 Bingo Challenge: Short Story Edition
Completing the 2020 Bingo Challenge: Short Story Edition One of the rules of the Fantasy Bingo Reading Challenge is that you can read an anthology or collection for any of the squares. I’ve always been a fan of short fiction, so I’ve occasionally used this rule to complete my Bingo Card (I used three collections outside of the Five Short Stories square last year, for example). When planning my card for the 2020 Bingo, I noticed that several of the squares fit quite well for some of the collections and anthologies I had (a Star Trek anthology for Exploration, books with colors or numbers in their names, etc.). “What if…” I wondered, “…I can do it for every square?” Thus, my project is born: Complete my Bingo card using only books of short stories, following all the other rules of Bingo. I did not repeat a single author from one square to another, and I even made sure not to repeat editors, either. Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! A brief aside before we start, some terms I use that some may not be familiar to some:
Anthology: A book of short stories by multiple authors, usually assembled by an editor whose name is attached to the book (i.e. The Book of Dragons edited by Jonathan Strahan)
Collection: A book of short stories by a single author (i.e. Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor)
Short Story Cycle: A book of short stories that has its own narrative (i.e. Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood). Some similarities with “interlinked collection,” “mosaic novel,” and “fix-up novel” (The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury being a famous example of the latter).
Reprint and Original: Many anthologies/collections reprint stories published previously (reprint) vs. originally written for the book in question (original). Some collections will mix it up (such as a reprint collection with one original story to encourage readers who have read the others to pick up the new book).
Why? What did I hope to accomplish by doing this particular short fiction challenge? Some of my friends will complain about the Five Short Stories square (especially the hard mode requirement to read a book), and I wanted to spite them a little bit and also demonstrate that there’s a lot of different and interesting books out there to read in that format! Planning: The hardest thing about this was the original planning, as several books I thought would be an easy match for the square didn’t work because another anthology I planned to use already included that author, so I had to dig a bit deeper to find something that didn’t repeat any authors. Also, in past Bingo Challenges, my cards are usually quite fluid as I shift books around throughout the year. Because of all the authors I was juggling, I couldn’t easily do that (though it was vastly easier to do with collections instead of anthologies, for obvious reasons). Numbers: For this card, I officially read 32 books for the 25 squares: One of those books was quite short, so I read an additional three to meet the length requirement. For the original Five Short Stories square, I decided to be obnoxious and read five collections. These 32 books included 1 short novel (included in one of the collections), 8 novellas, 106 novelettes, 498 short stories, and 3 poems for a total of at least 2,739,975 words (the rough equivalent of reading the first nine novels of The Wheel of Time). I read 189 different authors. In addition to the 32 books above, I read 15 “pre-Bingo” books—books I felt I needed to read to be able to read the anthology or collection I actually used for my Bingo Card. Fifteen of the 32 books were ones I already owned. Nine books I checked out from the library. Five books I bought specific for Bingo, and three books were free (gifts or free online). 1. Novel Translated from Its Original Language: There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (reprint collection)
Reason: I couldn’t read my first choice so I looked through my TBR list to find another SF/F collection I thought would be a translation. It also won the 2010 World Fantasy Award for Best Collection.
Favorite Story: “My Love” as I really liked how the characters grew apart and then back together again.
Recommended: Only if you like short depressing literary fiction that mostly hinge on dreams and ghosts.
Hard Mode: Yes, Pretrushevskaya is a woman.
Other Options: I really wanted to read Xia Jia’s A Summer Beyond Your Reach, but she had a story in another anthology I read. I also considered one of Ken Liu’s Chinese SF/F anthologies (Invisible Planets or Broken Stars). I read Jurado & Lara’s Spanish Women of Wonder last year. Etgar Keret’s Fly Already, Kenji Miyazawa’s Once and Forever, or Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge also looked promising.
2. Setting Featuring Snow, Ice, or Cold: Frozen Fairy Tales edited by Kate Wolford (original anthology)
Reason: I literally searched snow and anthology and this was one of the early options.
Favorite Story: tie between “The Stolen Heart” by Christina Ruth Johnson and “Death in Winter” by Lissa Sloan; the first just felt great, and the second has this haunting feel I loved.
Recommended: Yes; a good selection of fairy tale-inspired stories. Read during the summer, though, it felt really cold.
Hard Mode: Yes, every story is in a snowy or cold setting.
Other Options: I’m kind of mad that I didn’t come across Snowpocalypse: Tales of the End of the World (edited by Clint Collins and Scott Woodward) until after I read my original choice. I like silly titles.
3. Optimistic Spec Fic: Ingathering: The Complete People Stories by Zenna Henderson (short story cycle, 1 original to this book)
Reason: I’ve had a copy of this book for a couple years, and I needed an excuse to read it. It’s actually an omnibus of Henderson’s two People collections plus some previously uncollected stories. I’ve read the first People collection (Pilgrimage) several times people).
Favorite Story: I’ll say “Ararat” here, but the first six stories (the original Pilgrimage collection) are amazingly wonderful and heartwarming.
Recommended: Yes, absolutely. Zenna Henderson deserves more attention.
Hard Mode: Yes. <3
Other Options: If Henderson’s book hadn’t worked out, I considered Heiroglyph (edited by Ed Finn & Kathryn Cramer) and Salena Ulibarri’s two Glass and Gardens anthologies (Solarpunk Summers and Solarpunk Winters), but that would’ve required juggling my card.
4. Novel Featuring Necromancy: The Book of the Dead edited by Jared Shurin (original anthology)
Reason: I asked Jared Shurin (pornokitsch) if he knew of any anthologies with a necromantic theme, and he rattled off five or six options before remembering that he himself had edited an anthology about mummies. I don’t know how you forget something like that.
Favorite Story: tie between “Old Souls” by David Thomas Moore and “Three Memories of Death” by Will Hill (non-SF/F)
Recommended: Yes, but it’s out of print! Several of the stories were reprinted in Paula Guran’s The Mammoth Book of the Mummy, including “Three Memories of Death.”
Hard Mode: No, through several do have mummies as protagonists.
Other Options: I was considering Brian McNaughton’s The Throne of Bones since the description seemed rather death-magicky. At this point, the Paula Guran anthology above would probably be a good choice.
5. Ace/Aro Spec Fic: Life Within Parole, Volume 1 by RoAnna Sylver (collection, mix of reprint and original)
Reason: A friend found this on Claudie Arseneault’s asexual recommendations website, which was good, but I felt I needed to read her novel Chameleon Moon first to understand the collection. I’m glad I did.
Favorite Story: Reluctantly “Phoenix Down” as it felt the most self-contained.
Recommended: Only if you loved Chameleon Moon, which I only recommend if you like a sample of the writing. It’s amazingly diverse in representation, but my frustrations with the novel related more towards its pacing and worldbuilding. Plus I don’t like superheroes.
Hard Mode: Yes, half the stories have an asexual or aromantic protagaonist.
Other Options: My original choice was Common Bonds: An Aromantic Speculative Anthology edited by Claudie Arseneault, C.T. Callahan, B.R. Sanders, and RoAnna Sylver, a Kickstarter-funded book. However, due to the pandemic, the publication was pushed back, and I didn't want to wait any longer. I also seriously considered Chuck Tingle’s Not Pounded in the Butt.
6. Novel Featuring a Ghost: Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M. R. James (collection, mix of reprint and original)
Reason: I just searched ghost anthology, and this was a top result. I have actually never heard of M. R. James before this year, but I gather he’s a huge influence since he’s written so many ghost stories.
Favorite Story: “The Mezzotint” as it was the one that creeped me out the most.
Recommended: Yes, but only if you realize that it’s got an older style to them (since this book came out in 1904), and that most of these stories won’t creep you out in the year 2020.
Hard Mode: No, the ghosts are either antagonists or obstacles.
Other Options: I actually don’t know, I stopped searching after I found the book. M. R. James does have 3 more collections of ghost stories, though (all of 4 of which have been gathered in Collected Ghost Stories by M. R. James).
7. Novel Featuring Exploration: No Limits edited by Peter David (original anthology)
Reason: I read the first few Star Trek: New Frontier novels back in the late 1990s, but never finished it, so I got all the books for a personal readthrough. Star Trek is by definition perfect for the exploration square, so I read the books. However, I was reading them in publication order, so I had to read the first 14 books before I could get to the anthology!
Favorite Story: “Waiting for G’Doh, or, How I Learned to Stop Moving” is a rather funny story about the security officer Zak Kebron at the beginning of his career.
Recommended: Yes, but only if you’ve read at least the first six Star Trek: New Frontier novels (all the stories are set before the first book, but most of the characters aren’t really established until you’ve read the first four).
Hard Mode: Maybe, nearly all the stories feature exploration, but the plots are often about backstories for the main characters of the series.
Other Options: I considered James Alan Gardner’s Gravity Wells (his novel Expendable is a perfect exploration book, so I was hoping the collection would work). Past anthologies that would probably work is Federations edited by John Joseph Adams, Galactic Empires edited by Neil Clarke, and maybe Alastair Reynolds’s Deep Navigation or Galactic North.
8. Climate Fiction: Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction edited by Manjana Milkoreit, Meredith Martinez, & Joey Eschrich (original anthology)
Reason: A friend recommended to me as this theme was getting difficult for me to find, as all my other options included stories by authors I had to read for other squares. This book was produced from a short story contest run by the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at Arizona State University and judged in part by Kim Stanley Robinson.
Favorite Story: “On Darwin Tides” by Shauna O’Meara, which follows a “sea gypsy” in Malaysia as she struggles in this new dystopian future.
Recommended: Only if the topic appeals to you—because it was a contest, the stories are mostly from amateur writers and the quality mostly shows. It’s free online, though, and there’s a second book, Everything Change II, which I’ve been told is better.
Hard Mode: No, most of them are apocalyptic or post-apocalypse.
Other Options: My original choice was Drowned Worlds edited by Jonathan Strahan, but there’s also Loosed upon the World: The Saga Anthology of Climate Fiction edited by John Joseph Adams, and I imagine a lot of solarpunk-themed books could work for this, too.
9. Novel with a Color in the Title: The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers (original collection)
Reason: I already had it (it’s available on Project Gutenberg)
Favorite Story: “In the Court of the Dragon” which felt like one of the creepier stories to me.
Recommended: Honestly, no. Only half the stories are SF/F, the other half are all stories about bohemian artists in Paris. This book is known for the stories involving “The King in Yellow” play, but they didn’t really work for me.
Hard Mode: Yes.
Other Options: I considered using Judith Tarr’s Nine White Horses, the anthology Blackguards, Jack Vance’s Wild Thyme, Green Magic, Walter Jon Williams’s The Green Leopard Plague and Other Stories, Black Feathers edited by Ellen Datlow, or How Long ‘til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin.
10. AnyFantasyBook Club Book of the Month ORFantasyReadalong Book: Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker (reprint collection, 1 original to this book)
Reason: The Goodreads Book of the Month club picked it for June this year. I did own or read all the other options that were available at the time.
Favorite Story: tie between “And Then There Were (N-One)” and “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind”
Recommended: Yes! There’s only one story I would rate less than 4 stars in this book.
Hard Mode: Yes, I actually led the discussion for the book in June.
Other Options: We don’t read very many collections or anthologies for the Fantasy book clubs, so my only choices were Fritz Leiber’s Sword and Deviltry (Classics club, November 2017), Mahvesh Murad & Jared Shurin’s anthology The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories (RAB, May 2018), and we currently have Daniel M. Lavery’s The Merry Spinster for FIF (September 2020). There’s also the Dresden Files read-along which did two of Butcher’s collections, and the Uncanny Magazine Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction/Fantasy read-along (those would’ve been rereads for me, though).
11. Self-Published Novel: In the Stars I'll Find You & Other Tales of Futures Fantastic by Bradley P. Beaulieu (mostly reprint collection)
Reason: I already owned this, it was basically the oldest self-published collection I had.
Favorite Story: tie between “Flashed Forward” and “No Viviremos Como Presos” – both dealing with a lot of emotions.
Recommended: Yes, the only other stories by Beaulieu I’ve read were 2 co-written novellas, and I felt this collection was better. I haven’t read his novels so I can’t compare.
Hard Mode: Yes, at the time of this post, it has 18 ratings on Goodreads.
Other Options: There are hundreds of options, but I could’ve read Lawrence M. Schoen’s recent collection The Rule of Three and Other Stories (his other collection, Buffalito Bundle, has stories featuring The Amazing Conroy and are lots of fun.)
12. Novel with Chapter Epigraphs: Not the End of the World by Kate Atkinson (short story cycle)
Reason: This was another difficult square, as I knew a short story cycle had the best chance of having epigraphs before every story. I finally found this book by Kate Atkinson. (Ironically, I realized later that my Politics choice also had epigraphs.)
Favorite Story: “The Cat Lover,” I guess.
Recommended: No, unless you like literary magical realism where stories just kind of end.
Hard Mode: No, all of the epigraphs are quotes from Latin or Shakespeare.
Other Options: Apparently, Retief! by Keith Laumer would’ve worked from my options. It really is a difficult thing because in a collection some authors might have an epigraph for a story, but not all or most of them.
13. Novel Published in 2020: Shadows & Tall Trees 8 edited by Michael Kelly (original anthology)
Reason: I picked this off Locus Magazine’s forthcoming books list and bought it.
Favorite Story: tie between “The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell” by Brian Evenson and “Child of Shower and Gleam” by Rebecca Campbell – the first is creepy as hell, and the second is strange and lovely.
Recommended: Yes, if you’re comfortable with weird or darker fantasy stories.
Hard Mode: No, Michael Kelly has edited several anthologies before.
Other Options: I had planned to use The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu, but I needed Liu for another square. I also considered A Phoenix First Must Burn edited by Patrice Caldwell, and I had three anthologies from Joshua Palmatier I could’ve used (Apocalyptic, Galactic Stew, and My Battery is Low and It is Getting Dark) but I needed another Palmatier anthology for another square. Any of the various “Best Science Fiction or Fantasy of the Year” type anthologies that came out in 2020 would’ve been appropriate as well (Jonathan Strahan, Neil Clarke, Rich Horton, Paula Guran, Ellen Datlow, Bogi Takács, and Jared Shurin all edit “Year’s Best” or “Best of Year”-style anthologies).
14. Novel Set in a School or University: Sideways Stories from Wayside School; Wayside School is Falling Down; Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger; and Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom by Louis Sachar (short story cycles)
Reason: Strangely, one of the first books I thought of for this square. Plus, the most recent book had come out. I decided to read all four as each book is really short (only about 20,000 words per book). Only the first one or two was a reread.
Favorite Story: None, they’re all funny and good.
Recommended: Yes, absolutely. Maybe better for kids, but I smiled a lot while reading these.
Hard Mode: Yes.
Other Options: Witch High edited by Denise Little would’ve been good, but included a story by Esther M. Friesner whom I needed for another square. A Kickstarter-funded anthology, Schoolbooks & Sorcery edited by Michael M. Jones, would’ve worked, but it’s not out yet.
15. Book About Books: Ex Libris: Stories of Librarians, Libraries, and Lore edited by Paula Guran (reprint anthology)
Reason: This was another difficult square because did you know that searching “book anthology” does not narrow things down at all?? I finally hit upon just searching “library anthology” which did the trick, but this one anthology predetermined at least 3 other squares because of its authors (I couldn’t use Ken Liu, Xia Jia, Amal El-Mohtar, and others because they were all in here).
Favorite Story: tie between “In the House of the Seven Librarians” by Ellen Klages and “Summer Reading” by Ken Liu. Klages’s story about “feral librarians raising a child” is just wonderful, and Liu’s is very, very sweet.
Recommended: Yes, absolutely. This also contains Scott Lynch’s excellent “In the Stacks” and I will never not say no to Kage Baker.
Hard Mode: No, libraries are an integral part of most of the stories.
Other Options: *gestures wildly* I don’t know!
16. A Book That Made You Laugh: Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories by Alex Shvartsman (mostly reprint collection)
Reason: Alex Shvartsman edits an annual humorous SF/F anthology series called Unidentified Funny Objects (the 8th volume is out this fall), but even though I have them all, they all shared authors with other squares until I remember that I had two collections from Shvartsman, and this was one of them.
Favorite Story: “Things We Leave Behind” is a semiautobiographical story about books. Absolutely lovely.
Recommended: Yes, but I understand most won’t share his sense of humor. He also tends to write very short stories, so don’t read these for immersion.
Hard Mode: Yes.
Other Options: Books making you laugh is so subjective, so any author you like probably has something that could work (you only need one story to make you laugh after all). John Scalzi has a couple collections that could work, Connie Willis has a great sense of humor.
17. Five Short Stories:
Reason: To be obnoxious I decided to read five collections for this square (instead of just five short stories). I decided to read 5 that I already owned by women/non-binary people. I picked semi-randomly (Hand and McHugh), by older ones I owned (Wurts), and by a couple new ones I was excited about (Datt Sharma and Slatter).
Not for Use in Navigation: Thirteen Stories by Iona Datt Sharma (reprint collection)
Favorite Story: “Quarter Days” is a full third of this book, and it’s an interesting post-WWI setting with magic.
Recommended: Yes, they have an interesting outlook, and one of the stories has an Indian wedding in space.
Saffron and Brimstone: Strange Stories by Elizabeth Hand (reprint collection, 1 original)
Favorite Story: “The Least Trumps” should appeal to the booklover in every single one of us.
Recommended: These are definitely interesting stories, but I’d only recommend for “The Least Trumps” and “Cleopatra Brimstone.” She’s got a poetic style here that didn't always work for me.
After the Apocalypse by Maureen F. McHugh (reprint collection, 2 original)
Favorite Story: “Special Economics” which follows a Chinese girl trapped into working at a factory.
Recommended: Yes, though it’s also one of the few themed collections (versus themed anthologies) that I’ve seen, with every story dealing with apocalypse in some way.
Sourdough and Other Stories by Angela Slatter (mostly original collection/short story cycle)
Favorite Story: “Gallowberries” which features Patience from the Tor.com novella Of Sorrow and Such as a young woman.
Recommended: Yes, absolutely. Every story is in the same setting, and they all interconnect with each other. I can’t wait to read more from Slatter (I already have The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings).
That Ways Lies Camelot by Janny Wurts (mostly reprint collection)
Favorite Story: tie between “Wayfinder” and “That Way Lies Camelot” – both are great stories, the first a coming of age, and the other is bittersweet.
Recommended: Yes, definitely. In addition to the above, “Dreambridge” is also awesome. I wasn’t as fond of the three ElfQuest stories, but it was interesting to read Wurts’s 4 Fleet stories as I never realized she ever wrote anything close to straight science fiction.
Hard Mode: … Yes?
Other Options: This is the most open-ended square for this particular Bingo Card, especially since at the time of this post, I own 121 unread anthologies and collections.
18. Big Dumb Object: Alien Artifacts edited by Joshua Palmatier & Patricia Bray (original anthology)
Reason: This was one of the books that made me realize I could do an all-short-story card. I thought the anthology’s theme would perfectly encapsulate the square.
Favorite Story: “Me and Alice” by Angela Penrose – a kid finds a strange artifact while digging at a site.
Recommended: Yes, though a few stories weren’t to my taste.
Hard Mode: No, while the classical BDO is present in several stories, most would fall in the wider definition being used for Bingo.
Other Options: I’m at a loss here, as I never looked for more after I found this.
19. Feminist Novel: Skin Folk by Nalo Hopkinson (collection, mix of reprint and original)
Reason: I owned this already from a Humble Bundle.
Favorite Story: “And the Lillies-Them A-Blow” – a woman is inspired to reconsider her life.
Hard Mode: Yes, Hopkinson is a Jamaican-born Canadian.
Other Options: I had a few other books from the same Humble Bundle called Women of SFF. Most of them would’ve worked.
20. Novel by a Canadian Author: The Very Best of Charles de Lint by Charles de Lint (reprint collection)
Reason: It appears I picked this up in 2014 for some reason (I’ve never read de Lint before this year). But he’s Canadian!
Favorite Story: There are honestly too many to say, but I’ll say “In the Pines” for now.
Recommended: Yes, yes, yes. I basically added everything he’s written to my TBR.
Hard Mode: Maybe, it was originally published in 2010 with Tachyon Publications, but in 2014 it was reprinted by de Lint’s Triskell Press (which is the copy I have), which would count.
Other Options: A friend sent me an anthology edited by Dominik Parisien called Clockwork Canada: Steampunk Fiction, though I would’ve had to juggle square to get it to work. Nalo Hopkinson is Canadian, so Skin Folk would’ve worked, too. Jo Walton has a collection called Starlings.
21. Novel with a Number in the Title: Nine White Horses: Nine Tales of Horses and Magic by Judith Tarr (reprint collection)
Reason: At the time, the only collection I had with a number that I could use.
Favorite Story: “Classical Horses” – an absolutely lovely story that mixes real life and fantasy, and appeals to my Classics nerd background.
Recommended: Yes! Tarr is a wonderful writer.
Hard Mode: Yes.
Other Options: I could’ve used The Golem of Deneb Seven and Other Stories by Alex Shvartsman, Nine Hundred Grandmothers by R. A. Lafferty, and The Rule of Three and Other Stories by Lawrence M. Schoen.
22. Romantic Fantasy/Paranormal Romance: Once Upon a Kiss: 17 Romantic Faerie Tales published by Anthea Sharp (original anthology)
Reason: My original first choice was a bust when I realized quickly that the stories involved love, but were not romance stories. This was an emergency backup as I was nearing the end of reading for this Bingo Challenge.
Favorite Story: “The Bakers Grimm” by Hailey Edwards, which is a sweet little story about baking under pressure.
Recommended: No. 99% of the stories are direct appeals to try to get you to buy their books. Many of the stories don’t even really feel like short stories. I had a friend who only read urban fantasy who was adamant that she hated reading short stories and I couldn’t figure out why. Now I do. Many of these read more like vignettes than proper short stories.
Hard Mode: No, the HEA Club hasn’t done any anthologies or collections for me to participate in.
Other Options: My backup would’ve been to find some paranormal romance series and look for a collection or anthology in that world, but it would’ve involved more prep reading.
23. Novel with a Magical Pet: No True Way: All-New Tales of Valdemar edited by Mercedes Lackey (original anthology)
Reason: Valdemar is an easy setting to choose for this square, and even though I had stopped reading the yearly anthologies (they’re up to 13 or 14 now), I decided to grab the 8th anthology from the library.
Favorite Story: “A Dream Reborn” by Dylan Birtolo, a beggar girl with a gift grows a conscience.
Recommended: Only if you’re a Valdemar fan and you literally can’t get enough of the world (I’d recommend sticking with the novels up until the Collegium Chronicles).
Hard Mode: Yes, Companions can usually speak telepathically with their Heralds and a select few others.
Other Options: I’m sure there’s a themed anthology perfect for this, but I honestly don’t know offhand if there is one, since this was an easy choice for me.
24. Graphic Novel (at least 1 volume) OR Audiobook/Audiodrama: Eerie Archives, Volume 1 edited by Archie Goodwin (original comic book anthology)
Reason: I searched “comics anthology” into my library’s digital catalog. This showed up.
Favorite Story: No real favorite, but I guess “Flame Fiend” by Eando Binder, about a man desperate to avoid fire.
Recommended: Yes, if you’re interested in 1960s horror comics anthology magazines. Each story is about 6-10 pages long, but many felt like cheesy horror to my modern eyes.
Hard Mode: Maybe, each story is standalone, but this book contained the first 5 issues of Eerie comics. I’m going with No because Eerie is a running series.
Other Options: I considered The Escapist (inspired from Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay), a Mouse Guard comics anthology, and Thrilling Adventure Hour before finding Eerie. I also though the Eisner Awards were a good source of finding potential comics anthologies, since that's a category.
25. Novel Featuring Politics: Retief! by Keith Laumer (reprint collection)
Reason: I knew the main character was a problem-solving diplomat, so this was an easy pick.
Favorite Story: “Diplomat-at-Arms” which is a great story of following an experienced old man on a mission, and “Cultural Exchange,” a really funny bureaucratic tale (and this one is free on Project Gutenberg).
Recommended: Yes, with reservations. They’re all stories from the 1960s, they’re bureaucratic galactic pulp fiction where Retief always knows better than his bumbling superiors and women only show up in secretarial or minor support roles. The stories also feel a bit repetitive as a whole, so if you read these, space it out.
Hard Mode: No, several of the stories feature royalty.
Other Options: I felt like this was a nebulous category, but offhand, I’d suggest Do Not Go Quietly: An Anthology of Victory in Defiance edited by Jason Sizemore & Lesley Conner and Resist: Tales from a Future Worth Fighting Against edited by Gary Whitta, Christie Yant, and Hugh Howey for two explicitly political anthologies, and maybe something like Harry Turtledove’s interlinked collection Agent of Byzantium for an alternate history take on a Byzantine special agent.
Favorite collections:The Very Best of Charles de Lint by Charles de Lint, Ingathering: The Complete People Stories by Zenna Henderson, Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker, Sourdough and Other Stories by Angela Slatter, and Nine White Horses by Judith Tarr
Favorite anthologies: Ex Libris edited by Paula Guran and The Book of the Dead edited by Jared Shurin
Favorite overall short stories: In addition to my favorite stories in the books above, I’d also give a special place to The Very Best of Charles de Lint (“In the Pines,” “In the House of My Enemy,” “A Wish Named Arnold,” “Mr. Truepenny's Book Emporium and Gallery,” “Pixel Pixies,” “The Badger in the Bag,” “Timeskip,” “Into the Green,” “Birds,” and “Pal o' Mine”) and to Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea (“And Then There Were (N-One),” “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind,” “Our Lady of the Open Road,” “Wind Will Rove,” and “A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide”).
An Aside: My father died suddenly in the middle of my reading for this challenge. The books I read from Zenna Henderson and Charles de Lint really helped me during this time, with de Lint’s book making me cry multiple times (in a good way).
The End Sometime last year after touting one short story or another to my friends, I said, “Oh, I don’t think I read *that* much short fiction,” and they all looked at me funny for some reason. Oh. Never mind. I get it now. All joking aside, I’ve read SF/F magazines off and on growing up, and I always enjoyed the occasional Year’s Best Science Fiction anthology from Gardner Dozois, and Robert Silverberg’s Legends anthologies were rather formative to my growth as a fantasy reader (that’s where I read George R.R. Martin and Robin Hobb for the first time). Some of my favorite writers have done amazing short stories (in fact, I think I like Alastair Reynolds better at the short length than the novel; witness my love for his story “Zima Blue”!). Even if you don’t read more than the usual five short stories for the Bingo Challenge, please consider branching out! I hope I’ve shown with my own card how much variety is out there. If you’re not sure where to start, your favorite author may have some short stories of their own, either in an anthology or one of their own collections. Mary Robinette Kowal is one of my favorites, and I loved her collection Word Puppets. If they’re prolific enough, they may have a “Best of” book, like The Best of Connie Willis or The Very Best of Kate Elliott. Trying one of the Year’s Best anthologies I mention under #13, Published in 2020, is also a fun way to explore short fiction. And even though I didn’t read any for my Bingo Challenge, there are tons of SF/F magazines out there to read from on a daily, weekly, monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly schedule. My personal recommendation is for Asimov’s SF, FIYAH, and Fantasy & Science Fiction for subscription-only options, and places like Clarkesworld, Uncanny, Fireside, and Tor.com for free online stories. There are also some great magazines/sites like Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Daily Science Fiction. Looking at award lists is a fun way to get started, as most of the major awards also have short fiction categories. Find out where they were published and try out a magazine issue or an anthology. I’ll end this with the following:
an interview by our own tctippens with Jonathan Strahan over at the Fantasy Inn Podcast where they discuss not only his new anthology The Book of Dragons, but reading short fiction in general.
One of my favorite short story writers is John Wiswell, and I’d like to link two of his wonderful stories: "Tank!" follows a sentient tank attending its first SF convention, and "Open House on Haunted Hill" is a very sweet story about a haunted house trying to get sold to a new family. Both stories are quite short and you can read each in just a few minutes.
Did anyone transition later, when they knew they were trans for a long time but weren't sure? (FTM)
This feels like a weird question to ask. I know this is kind of long, I hope it's not too rambling or weird, there's just a lot going on right now and would really appreciate other perspectives from people who might have been through something similar. I'm 28. As a kid I just never really thought about gender much, apart from an embarrassing obsession with penises when I was little that I quickly learned wasn't really appropriate. I started to feel I was outside of the gender norm in some way when I was 13/14 around when puberty started, this was the first time I felt real dysphoria and seriously considered that I might be trans. Over the years since then, I went through a whole convoluted journey of questioning, supressing, questioning again, having a weird breakdown, seriously questioning, thinking, planning, considering, gathering information, getting frustrated by the uncertainty, deciding transition wasn't worth it, trying to make space for the idea of being a non-standard woman, trying to be comfortable with the ambiguity, trying not to think about it too much, trying to use the label "non-binary" as an umbrella term that includes some feelings that are "actually just plain transgender". If you'd asked me about my gender a few weeks ago I would've just said that I was non-binary. Socially, I don't really feel like I have much of a gender. I feel miscategorised and out of place when I'm included in women's spaces, but I doubt would feel any better placed in men's spaces. I see people as individuals and I've always had mixed friend groups which suits me just fine. When I was in my teens/early twenties, I wanted to be seen as male, but I think this has gotten mellower as I've got older - after all, why should I care whether strangers think I'm male or female? What I wouldn't have told you, though, is that I have a mild but persistent level of body dysphoria that I mostly try not to think about too much. I hate having breasts. I wish I had a penis. I wish my voice were lower, and that I could grow a beard. It's little things too, like when I see a male friend yawn and stretch and his t-shirt lifts a little, I feel weirdly jealous of his stomach hair. The idea of magically waking up with a male body one day is a theoretical joy that's too painful to think about. I haven't told anyone this because it feels too shameful and personal. These last few weeks, the sense of dysphoria has really come to a head. I don't know why all of this is happening now, I think it's just a culmination of several things, but I found myself thinking how this feeling isn't just for a month or a year, this is for the rest of my life. I still don't want to transition because I feel like the cons still outweight the pros, and I thought I had closed the book on this long ago. Where I am at the moment, I'm thinking, ok, even if I'm trans there's no law that says I have to transition if I don't think it's worth it. On the other hand, for me personally, non-binary is a lie, I'm just trans, the limited surgical options or discrimination or whatever don't change that. I can't pretend it's all about pros v. cons, it's also about who I am and who I want to be. At a minimum, I have to make space for these feelings in a real way by coming out to some close friends and maybe even presenting male sometimes, because keeping this a secret is starting to do me real harm. And honestly... thinking about medical transition gives me a strange hope I didn't think was even possible. Sorry about the length here. All of this is to say: I decided against transition a long time ago, but I reluctantly feel like I have to consider it again, and at least come out as trans to some people whether I transition or not. I really don't know what to do, and I'm still scared transition isn't worth it. Were you in my position? What did you do? How did it turn out? Do you have any regrets? If anyone is willing to take the time to answer, I am happy to answer any follow-up questions. Thanks so much for reading.
Part 1 What if it wasn’t about anything related to the text? What if it was similar to the riddles that brought me to those pages? What if the mystery behind them was related to their page numbers, or hell the page numbers in general? Once at home I went to work. I told myself once more that I needed to get the full picture. So I went to write down all the page numbers in the book, one after another. When I was done, I took a step back and stared at the result. Yet, there was nothing that stood out to me right away. I haphazardly picked one of the secret pages. Page 427 was in front of page 811. Then I continued. 811, 812, 813, 814, 815, 816, 817, 818, 818, 820, 821, and right after was yet another secret page. This one was page 528. And after that, the regular page numbers continued. 822, 823, 824, 825, 826, 827, 828, 829, 830, 831, 832, 833, 834, 835, 836, 837, 838, 839, 840, 841, 842, 843, followed by another one, page 143. This list of ongoing numbers made me suddenly wonder. My thoughts drifted right back to what had gotten me to do this, the secret pages. What if they weren’t placed randomly? Yet, as I checked their distribution, it felt almost too random. I checked the number of regular pages before and after, put them in sequence, but there was no correlation. Then I got another idea. I added up all the pages before and after, but this also made no sense. Half the results were too big and exceeded the total number of pages in the book, by far. Then, starting at number 111 to 137, which I’d just added together, I got yet another idea. What if I only added together their last digits? The result I came up with was 648. Which was exactly the secret page that followed afterward! My eyes grew wide. I’d had it, hadn’t I? The hint I’d been looking for! I was going livid. Right away I went to the next one and calculated all the preceding numbers, only to come up with an entirely different result than the page number of the secret page following. Cursing I got up. It had been another goddamn coincidence. I laughed, but this time in abject misery, mocking my stupidity. How’d it be so damned easy, you idiot? There was no way. None of this was easy. None of it! But as I stared at the result I’d come up with just now, I noticed something. The result of my calculation was 702. The page number was 351. Wait. Wait. Wait. That’s half of 702! Maybe it really was nothing but a coincidence and I was just grasping at straws, but what else was I to do? The next result I came up with was 176. If I multiplied it by three, it gave me the page number of the secret page that followed it, 528. The number 715, divided by 5, gave me the page number 143 that followed it. I continued adding, dividing, and multiplying and it all checked out. All the page numbers of the secret pages resulted from calculations of the last two digits of their preceding pages. What does it mean though? Does it even mean anything? The exhilaration I’d felt ebbed away, and I sat there, staring at all my calculations wondering if there was any meaning to it. Yet, there had to be, right? This couldn’t have been designed as yet another red herring. This was too damned complex. No, there had to be a reason for this. What if there was an order? If I went through all the calculations I quickly noticed that the result was never divided by the same number. The highest number that a result was divided by was 26, the highest a result was multiplied by was 27. It was exactly 53 different calculations. With that, I started ordering them, one by one, starting backward from the highest division, to the highest multiplication. Then I put the topic of each page behind the numbers in the resulting list. I’d hoped for something. I’d hoped to find it starting with the page about the universe, followed by constellations and stars up to the evolution of apes, plants, and other animals. Yet, it was all mixed-up nonsense. There was no order to it at all! Even when I ordered them in other ways, trying to find any sort of correlation, it was always the same. Nothing, but nonsense. My hands started shaking as anger flooded through me. I crumbled up the stupid, ordered lists and threw them across the room. Then I cursed in sheer and utter rage. This was freaking stupid. This was insane! This was nothing at all, just pure fucking nonsense. I picked up a random object on my table and hurled it against the wall where it shattered into pieces. Then I threw aside a chair I found standing in my way and kicked over the small couch table, creating general chaos in my living room. I was stopped from going any further when my neighbors banged against the wall, screaming to knock it off and threatening to call the cops. That made me stop. The anger went away. I stared in shock at my living room. What the hell was happening to me? Why’d I done that? Why’d I destroyed my things at 1 am in the freaking morning? Then I slowly smoothed out the lists I’d created and put them on one of the few free spots remaining on my living room wall. Who knows, I might need it later. I laughed as I looked from them to the rest of the wall which was now entirely covered. Even worse were the stacks of notes that had accumulated in front of them. I was proud all right, but I also knew that this thing was absolutely insane. Once more, I couldn’t help but wonder what I was doing. Shaking my head, I turned around and made my way to the bedroom. Yet, as my fingers rested on the light switch, I turned around one last time. I stared at the mad lines, the mad paths who were connecting here and there. There was nothing but lines upon lines. Here and there, if I looked hard and long enough, I could almost make out shapes. I froze. What if it was a visual puzzle? What if there was a hint hidden in the shapes of the paths? For days I sat down, drew points and lines and connections, warping them into surreal shapes. This was crazy, wasn’t it? How’d it be visual? There’s probably not a damn thing to be got from this. This was stupid. Yet, I couldn’t stop. Each day, I spent my entire afternoon, my evening, and even half the night, drawing. And eventually, it all came to nothing. There was nothing but mad lines and not a clear shape in sight. I didn’t give up though, wasn’t discouraged. I was beyond that, far beyond that. What if there was something else? Maybe there was a hidden code between these pages? When I was at work, I’d completely forgotten about my former vow not to talk about the book or do anything related to it. Instead, I read up on cryptography. Going through article after article. I read up on Caesar Code and Binary Code, on the Polybius Cipher and Hex Code. I went mad with it. Before long I spent more time reading up on things than doing any of my work. Eventually, I even brought pages filled with numbers with me, cross-checking them for hits of any and all codes. I heard co-workers whispering behind my back, asking me what I was doing and I told them, I just hadn’t closed the weird articles after break time. They knew it wasn’t the truth. They’d heard me mumble, saw the little notebook I was writing in, noticed the endless lists of numbers I brought with me each day. My superior eventually came up to me. He asked me what I was doing with all those weird pages. I told him it was nothing but a little puzzle. “Well, Todd,” he started in a condescending voice. “You’re not here to do any of those ‘little puzzles’, you’re here to do your damn job. Where are the calculations for this month? I’ve been waiting for them all day.” “Oh, I guess, I’m almost done with them, I just need another hour or-“ My voice trailed off when he picked up one of the pages I’d been looking at mere minutes ago. Suddenly, when I saw him holding it, I felt nervous. “What even is this? It’s just random numbers.” He saw my face, saw the way my eyes grew wide when he’d picked it up. The hint of a smile washed over his face as he crumbled it up. He opened his mouth for another remark, but before he could I jumped up from my chair and ripped the page from his hand. He cringed back a step in shock at my reaction. “The hell’s wrong with you?” he screamed at me, but I didn’t listen. Instead, I carefully smoothed out the paper and made sure he hadn’t torn it apart. By now half the office had gotten up to watch the weird exchange. Only now did I realize what I’d done and how everyone was staring at me. Suddenly I felt very watched and almost sunk back into my chair. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to,” I mumbled but broke up under the pressure of all those eyes. “Get back to work and finish those damned calculations! If I see you tinkering with any of this shit again, you can clean out your desk!” With that, he stormed off. I heard people whispering all around me, some laughing, others speaking in a more reserved tone. Yep, I thought, it’s official. I’m the office nutjob. Right away, I forced myself to close all the Wikipedia articles I had still open and put away all my notes. And then, grudgingly, annoyed and half-mad at the distraction it represented, I went back to work. Somehow though, it felt meaningless, calculating all these stupid orders and filling out this customer database. What the hell was I even doing? What if it really was a code? What if it was actually a mixture, a double-code? My mind went wild with ideas. Five minutes later, I found myself holding one of my notes again. I couldn’t even remember taking it out. Pushing it back, cursing, and not a little afraid, I forced myself to work calculations until the day was over. At the moment my shift ended, I jumped off my chair and rushed for the door. People stared at me, looked after me, their faces a mixture of amusement and worry. I didn’t care. I had work to do. The important kind of work! I’d just tried to find another connection between the page numbers of the secret pages when my doorbell rang. I ignored it, but it just kept ringing. When it finally stopped, I sighed in relief. Just leave me alone, I cursed, I’ve got work to do. Then, mere moments later, my phone vibrated on the other end of the room. Dammit, I’d forgotten to mute it again. I waited for it to stop, but it started up right away. Cursing I went over to see who it was and noticed the name instantly. It was my friend Andrew. Annoyed, I answered it. “Yo, Todd, you home?” I heard his voice from the phone next to my ear and more distant, muffled from the front door. My first reaction was one of annoyance. Then I pushed the thought away. What the hell was wrong with me? This was Andrew. He was my best friend, the only one of our old group who still lived in the same city. Right away, I thought about how long I’d last seen him. Surprised I realized that it must’ve been weeks. One glance at the mad mess in my living room told me why. “Yeah, sure hold on,” I said over the phone and made my way to the front door. Andrew smiled at me brightly and held up to six-packs. “Haven’t seen you in forever, how about we have a few! I got quite the story for you, my man!” I smiled at him. “Sure, come on in.” We made our way inside and Andrew had barely set foot into my living room when he stopped. His eyes grew wide as he stared at the wall and the stacks of paper all over the place. “Holy shit man. I was wondering why I haven’t heard from you. The hell’s all that? You working on some sort of project?” “Kind of,” I mumbled a little embarrassed. I quickly picked up the papers on the couch and put them aside to make room for him to sit. “Sorry about the mess.” “Nah man, it’s all right. So, the thing I was about to tell you, you remember Thomas, right?” Thomas, I thought. Did I know a Thomas? Then I remembered him. Of course, I remembered him, he’d been part of our group. I rubbed my temples for a second before I nodded. “He’s getting married and you won’t believe who the lucky girl is!” With that, Andrew told me the entire story of how our friend Thomas had been dating Susan, Andrew’s cousin for the past three months, and the two of them had decided to get married. I listened, nodded here and there, even laughed a few times absentmindedly, but my eyes wandered to my notes again and again. For a moment I spaced out entirely, thinking about an idea that had popped into my mind just before he’d arrived. What if there was something about number sequences? I must’ve sat there for an entire minute, simply holding my beer and staring off at nothing when Andrew waved his hand in front of my face. “Yo, dude, you listening?” “What? Oh, sorry, no, I think I spaced out for a moment.” “All right, man, I got to ask, what’s all this? What sort of crazy thing are you working on? Haven’t seen you this into something in years.” I smiled at him awkwardly and then sighed and pointed at the book. “It’s one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books,” I started. With that, the flood gates broke open, and I told him all about it. He listened, at first curiously, but after a while, his face changed. There was visible concern, as I rambled on about secret pages, strange objects, and cryptography. “Todd, hold on, hold on, what the hell are you even talking about?” I stared at him. “The book. You know those secret pages must’ve some sort of meaning. At first, I thought there was a simple order to them, but it was too chaotic. If you add up all their page numbers though, you get 20670, and if you divided this up by-“ “All right, man, stop,” he cut me off. “So you’re adding up all those numbers, I get that, but for what?” I began explaining again, I tried, but he couldn’t follow me. “Yeah, I don’t get it, man. Just, what the fuck?” “All right, look,” I said and walked over to the wall covered in lines and numbers and started once more. I told him about the different adventure paths, the references, the secret pages, and when and how they appeared. His face was blank as I rambled on and on and on. “Yo, dude, you might want to take a bit of a break, this sounds, well, a bit crazy.” For a moment I was quiet, then a short, nervous laugh escaped me. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” He stepped up next to me, staring at the wall. “Shit man, you did all this? Just for a damned book?” Before I could answer, he reached out and was about to take one of the pages off the wall. My hand shot forward instinctively, batting his aside. “Don’t touch it!” I called out before I realized what I’d done. Andrew stumbled back a few steps, shocked. “Shit man, sorry, I didn’t mean to-“ And then it happened. I didn’t even listen to his words anymore as he bumped against some of the stacks of notes I’d placed neatly in front of the wall. They toppled over one another, the pages scattering all over the floor and intermixing. My eyes grew wide. Oh god, no, freaking god no. Anger rose in me. It had taken me so goddamn long to sort them all out, to order them. There was a freaking method to it all and now he’d destroyed it. He’d destroyed the work of entire fucking days! “What the fuck are you doing?” I screamed at him. He cringed back, only now realizing what had happened. “Hey, didn’t mean to,” he said and began picking up random pages. I ripped them from his hand and pushed him back. “No, don’t fucking touch them. Those two don’t belong together you idiot! Are you freaking insane?!” With an empty face, he watched as I gathered up some of the pages, stared at them, and began sorting them as best as I could. “You know, Todd, that’s what I should ask you.” “What the hell do you mean?” I snapped at him. “You destroyed the work of days! Days! This is-“ “This is what, man?” he cut me off once more. “It’s nonsense. It’s a freaking children’s book, nothing else.” That did the trick. I got up and stepped up right in front of him. “Nonsense? You’ve got no FUCKING idea, how far I’ve come! You’ve got no clue what’ve done already! And here you are telling me this is NONSENSE?” His face had grown hard. For a second he was about to say something, but then he simply shook his head and laughed. Without another word, he picked up his things, the beer, and left. If he said any words in parting, I didn’t hear them. I was already busy re-ordering my notes. It was hours later, when I was done sorting them all out, that I realized what I’d done and how I’d acted. For the first time, I grew truly scared. That hadn’t been normal. That wasn’t me. Why’d I gone crazy like this? I took first one step back from the wall, then another before I went to pick up my phone. When I tried to call Andrew, he didn’t pick up. Instead, the call went straight to voice mail. Then I saw how late it was, long past three in the morning. I wrote him a quick message, apologized for my behavior, and told him he was right. I should take a break from this entire thing. That’s what I did right away. I picked up my laptop, made my way to the bedroom, and this time I turned off the light without looking over my shoulder. I lay down on my bed and started browsing YouTube and told myself to just enjoy it and take a break. Yet, even as I watched video after video, the little voice in the back of my head spoke up again. It told me I should go on, told me to go back to the living room. You almost had it, Todd, you almost had it. Just one more hint and you’re done with it. Then you can let it go and you can- “Shut up, goddamnit!” I screamed at myself to quiet the subconscious voice in the back of my head. “I freaking know,” I said quieter. “God, I freaking know.” I sat in bed, the video that was playing already forgotten. As video, after video played, I was on my phone, checking stars and numbers before I eventually drifted off to sleep. The next morning I didn’t even get to make myself a coffee. I was mad, pissed off and I wanted to finally make progress. For a while, I tinkered about the various codes I’d read about. What if there was a code, but what but if it concerned the entire book and not just the secret pages? What if it was related to the adventure after all? Maybe you could scramble up page numbers and- I stopped and rubbed my temples. Calm down, don’t go crazy. Calm down and take a step back. You don’t even know if there are any damned codes hidden in the book. You did well deciphering all the different adventure paths and the connections between them. You did well discovering all the secret pages. But what if there’s something you haven’t discovered yet? That was the question that told me what I had to do. Something I hadn’t dared to do so far. I had to go through the entire book. I had to make my way through it not following the adventure, but going page by page and look out for anything new. There might be chapters I hadn’t discovered yet, hadn’t read yet. With newfound energy and a new plan, I started right away. My phone rang shortly after noon, but this time, I didn’t even bother with it. I just ignored it. After all, I had more important things to do. This time I didn’t just write down chapters, choices, and connections. This time I wrote down every single thing that came up. I took note of every single object that was mentioned then added the page number, the corresponding path, and any reference I knew about it. It was a momentous task. I spent the entire day doing it and barely made it through the first 130 pages. The next day, Sunday, I didn’t even finish another hundred. The further I came, the more objects I noticed, the more combinations, and references. At times, I even had to go back, to cross-check things, and to change notes accordingly. It was the most enduring task I’d ever attempted, concerning this damned book and probably my entire life. It took me weeks. I finished stacks upon stacks of notes. I went to the office supply store multiple times a week buying stacks of papers I ended up filling by the day. Work during this time was barely an afterthought. I was barely functioning at all. I was typing in numbers and names almost on autopilot. By now I didn’t even get stares anymore. I was entirely ignored, a shell of a man, a ghost that stumbled to his cubicle in the morning and rushed back home in the evening. Days went by, then weeks, as I slaved away over the book’s many pages. Until one day, when I was finally done. I can’t even say how many weeks I’d been at it. There were stacks of hundreds of papers, maybe even more. Notes, references, objects, names, words, anything basically. I’d just created a table of how often each and every single object appeared and in which setting when I noticed a new hint. I stared at it with a giant grin on my face. The Ruby Orb had been the very first object I’d added to the table. It appeared in all paths:
Fantasy - 31 times
Space - 3 times
Stone Age - 2 times
Ocean and Pirates - 11 times
Desert Ruins - 29 times
Mountains - 17 times
City-State - 7 times
Ancient Rome - 5 times
Jungle Tribes - 13 times
Small Village - 19 times
Underwater Civilization - 23 times
As I wrote those numbers down, there was something about them. Somehow I knew those numbers. I went over them, staring at them for a while before it hit me. I cross-checked it online, and I was right. They were all prime numbers! Yes, I thought, I’d found something new! I quickly rechecked another object, the Desert Orb, and realized it was the same here, too. This one’s appearances made up a simpler sequence. It only appeared once in the city-state, twice in fantasy, and finally 11 times in the desert ruins. I couldn’t help but grin. I did it for another object, this one the Ebony Stick. It too appeared in all paths and its number was increased by two, starting at 4 and going up to 26. That’s when I knew what I had to do. I had to go through all the objects, all the hundreds of objects in the damned book, and check how often they appeared. There was a correlation, another part of the puzzle. I was exhilarated, in a state of glee and unbound excitement. These number sequences, maybe they were the key to figuring out what the secret pages meant, or maybe the page numbers in general. I started laughing. I could feel it, I was so damn close. I slept when necessary, ate when necessary, right there on the living room floor. It was only once that I thought about work, only in passing, and the idea that I should go never even came to my mind. My phone was at the other and of the room. I ignored it entirely during that time. It wasn’t important. This right here, that’s what was important. I was done by the end of the week. It was long past midnight on Saturday when I’d finally deciphered the number sequences of all 311 objects in the book. When I was done with my work, I looked at the tables of objects in a state of awe. I spread them out in front of me and marveled at the dozen or so pages. For a moment I was about to dive into them when I realized how tired I was. For the first time since the beginning of the week, I picked up my phone. It was off, must’ve been for days. I connected it to the charger and turned it on. I was bombarded with a plethora of notifications. For almost a minute the damned thing started ringing and vibrating. There were a few messages from Andrew, asking how I was doing and if I’d stopped with my damned obsession yet. I laughed and closed the chat. I’d also received countless emails. Most of them were from work and only now did I remember that I hadn’t shown up for an entire week. They started normal enough, reminding me to call if I was sick, became reproachful after a day or two, and finally angry. The last one told me this was the last straw. I should come in on Monday for a talk and be prepared to clean out my desk. It was strange how little I felt about it, how little it mattered in the grander scale of things. I almost laughed again as I threw the phone aside and laid down to catch some sleep. When I woke up, I went right back to work. I tinkered with the number sequences, looked at each one of them, added them up, multiplied, and divided them. It was the Crown of Ice that finally made me look up. When I added all its appearances together, I came to a total of 1000. This damned thing, I thought, it was by far the most common object in the damned book. I started to read up on it in my notes. It was said in the Manuscript of the Seven Seas, that the Crown of Ice was found in the Crypt of the Dragon. The Crypt of the Dragon was located in the desert ruins. I went back to it, page 1544, and read the part again. There were three choices. One sent me to leave without the crown and sent me back to a desert tribe. Destroying the crown ended in painful death while the third option was wearing it. All right, wearing the crown opened a secret passage that sent me to the location of the Magic Water and from there back on my way through the desert. Dammit, I thought I had something! I was about to go back to the list. Maybe the number thousand was another coincidence. Then something made me look up. The crown appeared in the desert ruins a total of 53 times. I thought about it. The desert ruins one was by far the shortest path. How long was it in total again? I stepped up to my living room wall and counted the chapters. When I followed them, there was only a single path that was longer than 50. It came to a total length of 78 chapters before it started from the beginning. Chapter 53 described what you found if you opened a chest hidden in the Ancient Pyramid. I read the entire chapter again. It was titled ‘The Treasure Chest.’ There was a total of 289 gold coins in the chest. When I went back to the list of objects, I noticed that the gold coin was mentioned a total of 289 times. The same was true for the sparkling diamonds. There were a total of 33 in the chest and the object itself came up 33 times in the book. I almost laughed when I noticed that it was true for the third object in the chest as well. I got an empty page and like a child, I wrote the words Chest, Pyramid, and Treasure in huge letters at the top of it before I went and added all the two dozen objects in the chest. While I did it, I wondered if there was something like this for every other object in the book. What if every object’s number of appearances was mentioned somewhere in the book? Not just in this chest, but just somewhere. And then, on a whim, I asked myself another question. What if certain objects didn’t? What if there were just a few or maybe just one whose number was mentioned nowhere? Maybe those were the important ones! For the entirety of Sunday, I followed through with this idea. I calculated, I added objects to yet more lists, I followed through paths and loops, studied my notes, and slowly, the number of objects remaining got smaller and smaller. Eventually, just as I’d hoped, there was a single object whose total number of appearances was mentioned nowhere. It was a small, red die. One that was mentioned here and there, only in passing when people played a game of dice in bars or the streets. There had to be something to this damned thing, I knew it! After this entire week, no after all these entire months, I finally had something, I’d finally narrowed it all down to a single object. A shiver went down my spine when I realized that this might be it. This might be the solution that I’d been searching for all this time! I went back to my notes about the red die and all its appearances. Here a few kids were playing with it in the streets, there was someone holding it in their hand, and here it rolled onto the floor when a fight broke out. Finally, I found what I’d been looking for. There was only a single instance in the entire book where you could interact with it. It was in a bar in space where you could join a futuristic game of dice. When the game was done, you could pocket the red die. The short chapter that followed it was mundane and almost unimportant. But when I read it, I noticed something else, not in the text, but the choices below. Weren’t they the same as in the chapter before? I went back to the preceding page and reread it. Yes, the same two choices, sending you to the same two pages. Almost as if picking up the die didn’t matter at all. Making it appear as nothing but a red herring. And I grinned. I grinned wider than I had ever before. There had to be a hint here, no, there had to be a way of finishing this entire damn thing. I wrote down the entire paragraph and went back to work, studying it. I checked everything that was mentioned in it: the page number, the chapter title, colors, words, anything I could think of. Until late in the morning hours, I pondered over this one, single paragraph. I could barely keep my eyes open when I stumbled upon it. It was silly, but I exploded with joy and was suddenly wide awake again. The number of words in each sentence was eight. The number of sentences was eight as well. There were eight sentences here, with eight words each. This was no coincidence. This was it, the total number of words was 64, the square number of eight. There was too much here for it to be a coincidence. I rushed back to the buck, almost stumbled over my feet, and threw open page 64. Like a crazed, starved animal I poured over the words on the page, almost pressing my face against it. The chapters, there had to be something here, the solution had to be right in front of me. Yet when I was done reading it, I was dumbfounded. The entire page comprised a single chapter, a chapter I knew damn well. And I realized that I knew the number 64 damn well, too. I was at the beginning of the fantasy setting. I read once more that I was a young farmer, standing in front of a burned down far, the bodies of his dead parents next to him and that I was about to set out on a grand adventure. For the next three hours, I analyzed every single word in the paragraph, every single one and I found as many hints as I could search for. I went back to the die paragraph and slowly I came to another conclusion and then another. The number of certain letters corresponded with the number of other objects in the space path. If you put certain letters from certain words together you ended up with yet another number. I followed every single one of them, but each one ended at another mundane position in the book. I slaved away over those as well, reached and analyzed them and I found more hints, more connections, more clues. And the longer and the more deeply I analyzed them, the more I could find, if only I wanted to. There was almost an endless number of nonsensical clues and hints if you wanted so. They were all leading me on, leading me around in a circle, on and on and on and on. And I sat there, over the damned book, over hundreds, if not thousands of pages of notes. I sat in front of an entire wall covered in information and I laughed. For long, terrible minutes I couldn’t stop laughing. This was all crazy. This was all entirely and utterly crazy. And finally, it clicked. At this singular moment it finally and ultimately clicked. There was no solution. The book had no solution. It finally made sense. I’d slaved away for weeks, no for months, and all I’d done was to walk in circles, continue from one hint to another, only to be sent back to the beginning. The entire damned book was a loop, a loop of loops with secret loops that sent you to more secret loops. And then, for the first time in months, I closed the book and put it away. After that, I slowly went and took down all the mad pages from my wall, stacked up all the notes, and put them together in a box in an almost apathetic state. I was done. All of this had been utterly meaningless, a fundamental waste of time. That night, I didn’t sleep. I lay in bed, contemplating a lot of things. My life, my work, the book, and why I’d been so taken by it. Yet, as with the book, there was no solution. There was nothing to it all. The next day, with the book in my backpack, I made my way back to the store. It felt as heavy as the world, an endless number of possibilities all resting on my back. I knew I had to return it, I had to get rid of it before it might throw me into another crazy fit. When I entered the store, the old man looked up. “Can I help you with,” he started but broke up, a surprised look on his face. “Well hello there, young man. Haven’t seen you in quite a while.” I only nodded, took down my backpack, heaved out the book, and brought it to a rest in front of him. “I’d like to return this.” The old man probed me for a moment. “We’ve got a no-money-back policy,” he said and pointed at a small, almost illegible sign behind himself. “Yeah, that’s fine, I just want to get rid of it. I’m done with it.” “So, you got your reward then?” I couldn’t help but laugh a little. “Guess so.” “What was it?” the old man asked curiously. “It’s meaningless, there’s no end to it. It just goes on forever.” “Oh,” he mouthed with an expression of surprise. “You ever tried it yourself, old man?” “Did once, when I was younger, but I got nowhere. Was too damned hard for me.” “There’s one thing I’m wondering about. Who the hell wrote a thing like this? I mean, it’s freaking insane. How’d’you ever write something like this?” “Well, to tell you the truth, there’s something I didn’t tell you when you first came in. I originally bought the book from a street merchant, half a century ago. He told me a few things, and I learned a few more over the years from other people.” “Like what?” “There’s nothing but rumors of course. The merchant told me it was written by the Devil himself. Then someone told me it was supposedly written by Machiavelli back in the day, to confuse a man who’d wronged him and drive him mad. There was also a guy who was convinced it was the work of aliens. The most plausible thing I heard is that there’s no single author, but that it was written over the course of centuries, with each new writer adding to it and extending it, making it better and ever more complicated.” “Heh, sounds about-“ I started, but the old man raised a hand and pushed his head forward, towards me. “There’s one more. Someone else told me it was written by no other than God himself as a big, giant joke about our earthly existence itself.” I laughed, but it was a weak laugh. Nothing but a giant joke, that fit it damn well, didn’t it? And as I stepped out of the store and stared at the city surrounding me, watching the urban bustle, I began thinking. People were hurrying past me, on their way to work, cars and buses rushed down the streets. As I watched it all, this ever-repeating bustle of civilization, I realized that it was all another never-ending loop. On and on and on we all went, doing the same thing over and over and over again. And as I walked on I started laughing. Maybe that was all right and maybe it didn’t matter. Who knows, maybe the book was true. Maybe all of this, all of life, all of existence, just like the damned book, was nothing but God’s big, giant joke.
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