S1E102 – “Blood, Soil, & Frozen TV Dinners” with Matthew Dougal

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, we have a short story about prepping called "Blood, Soil, & Frozen TV Dinners" by Matthew Dougal. It’s a parody about two right-wing preppers who are faced with a collapse in society. After the story, there’s an interview with the author about prepping mentalities and writing. This episode was reposted from the Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness podcast. The story can be read at tangledwilderness.org.

Host Info

Inmn can be found on Instagram @shadowtail.artificery


The Reader is Bea Flowers. If you would like to hear Bea narrate other things, or would like to get them to read things for you check them out at https://voicebea.wixsite.com/website

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.

Theme music

The theme song was written and performed by Margaret Killjoy. You can find her at http://birdsbeforethestorm.net or on twitter @magpiekilljoy


Live Like the World is Dying: “Blood, Soil, & Frozen TV Dinners” with Matthew Dougal

**Inmn ** 00:16
 Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host today, Inmn Neruin, and today we have something a little different. I host another podcast called Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness where every month we take a zine that Strangers puts out and turn it into an audio feature and do an interview with the author. We had a two-part feature called Blood, Soil, and Frozen TV Dinners by Matthew Dougal, and it is a short story about prepping from a very strange perspective, that of two right-wing preppers facing a mysterious collapse of society. This short story is a parody and I promise that the two main pov characters are not the heroes of the tale. It’s a fun story and I do an interview with Matthew afterward about prepping mentalities, fiction, and other neat stuff. If you like this episode, check out my other podcast that this is featured from. I did not re-record the outro, so you’ll get a little taste of Margaret playing the piano, because she wrote the theme music for the Strangers podcast. You’ll also get to hear our wonderful reader, Bea Flowers narrate the story. Follow along with the transcript or at Tangledwilderness.org where you can read all of our featured zines for free. But before all of that, we are a member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts and here’s a jingle from another show on that network.  [sings a simple melody]

**Bea ** 02:49

“Blood, Soil, & Frozen TV Dinners” by Matthew Dougal. Read by Bea Flowers. Published by Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. 
Katie sat, wide-eyed, beneath the kitchen table and hugged her knees to her chest. She was shaking, vibrating visibly. Tanner put his finger to his lips and prayed that her silent tears would remain just that. There was no time to stop and calm her down. Not again. He moved slowly around the kitchen, fumbling through cupboards and pulling out pre-wrapped packages of food. Always be prepared. Tanner had practiced this before things went dark, but it was different doing it for real. His hands hadn’t been so shaky, back then. 
A noise, on the porch. His body froze before his mind registered the sound. Tanner dropped into a crouch and crossed the room to the window, willing every cell in his body to radiate confidence toward his baby girl. His hand found the Glock 17 at his belt and he brought it up in front of him, the familiar feel of the grip reassuring. He took a breath, steadied himself, and raised his eyes to the level of the windowsill. The muscles in his thighs steeled and he remained, unblinking, utterly still, staring out into the darkness. 
After thirty or forty nerve-twanging seconds, Tanner drew breath and relaxed. His quads were burning, and they thanked him as he straightened. He could hear the specter of his ex-wife in his head, telling him to lose some weight, exercise more… Well she’d left, and that was 135 pounds gone right there. She’d probably say that was a good start.  
An unbearably loud ringing pierced the silence and sent him diving to the floor, landing awkwardly on his gun and sounding a crash through the kitchen. A keening whine came from under the table, Katie shaken from her silence. 
The doorbell. 
Feeling foolish, Tanner twisted over his shoulder and hissed at his daughter to be quiet. Still prone, he crawled toward the hallway in the most reassuring manner he could manage and pointed his Glock at the front door. 
Footsteps outside, then a shadow appeared at the window. Tanner’s heart pounded in his ears—more violent pulses of silence than sound—and his vision blurred as panic flooded his body. He’d heard the early reports of armed groups in the streets, some sort of fighting downtown, but he hadn’t really believed they would come here. His legs were weak, and he silently thanked God that he was already on the floor. The shape at the window didn’t move, frozen in the gloom, silhouetted by flickering light coming from the street. As Tanner’s head cleared he tried to take stock of what was happening. 
The apparition was vaguely man-shaped but shorter and slighter, an ethereal grace evident even in its stillness. A voice called out, muffled through the door, the guttural singsong completely at odds with the sleek form at the window. Tanner couldn’t understand everything, but he thought he caught the words “little girl.”
A second shape mounted the porch alongside the first, similarly short but squat and stocky, and grunted something to its companion in an alien tongue.
Fluorescent light flooded the yard and the voices momentarily disappeared beneath the growl of an angry engine. Tanner’s breath caught. His trembling finger hovered over the trigger and he willed the barrel to still its swaying dance. Two shots exploded outside—loud shots, from a much bigger gun than his. The creatures spun to face this new threat, their chatter rising in pitch and speed. They sounded panicked. 
yalla! hawula’ alnaas majnoon.”
Tanner sensed his opportunity. He was forgotten. All those hours of training kicked in and muscle memory took over as he rose to one knee, took a two-handed grip, and unleashed a furious hail of fire at his front door. 
“Keep your filthy hands off my daughter!”
He fired until he felt the Glock stop kicking, the magazine spent. As the cacophony faded he realized he was screaming. 
“Tanner! It’s me, Blake. Stop shooting goddammit, they’re gone.” 
“Blake?” Tanner mechanically reloaded his gun. “Why…” His throat was raw, his voice barely audible even to him. He swallowed, fighting to control his breath, and cleared his throat. “What are you doing here?” 
“Come to see if you were okay. Figured you and the kid might need a hand.” 
A stocky, heavily muscled figure wearing fatigues and a plate carrier stepped up to the porch, visible through the splintered ruins that had been the front door. A halogen glow lanced through the holes, like the brilliant aura of some kind of avenging eagle. 
“When this shit spread across the river from the city we locked down. It was touch-and-go for a while, but things quieted down eventually. When they did, I came straight over. Good thing I got here when I did. The quick little fuckers ran for it, but I think you hit one of ‘em.” 
The figure stopped, pulled down the red, white and blue bandana covering its mouth, and spat. Tanner had never been more relieved to see his buddy’s foul-mouthed face. Or his M1A SOCOM 16 rifle. 
“We’re alright.” Tanner’s voice was exhausted, his body shivering as the adrenaline fled. “Thank God I was prepared. Still, it’s good to see you.” 
“Prepared, shit.” His buddy grinned. “I been telling you for years to get something heavy duty.” Blake kicked the splintered remains of the door and his grin faded. “You can’t stay here. Those things’ll be back. Grab your girl and jump in the truck. Let’s head to mine, she’ll be safe there.”
The grin returned.“Prepared, shit.” 

An hour later they were sitting in “the Hole,” as Blake affectionately called it. The Hole was both name and description, although it perhaps undersold the amount of effort that had gone into its construction. Attached to the garage by a short, downward-sloping corridor, The Hole was a full-blown bunker that spread underneath almost the entirety of Blake’s backyard. Tanner was sitting in the main chamber eating Top Ramen, chicken flavor. 
They had made the half-mile journey in silence—lights down on the Tacoma, Tanner jumpy, Blake grim, Katie in a state of shock. The streets had looked completely foreign, the usual calming glow of LEDs replaced by the orange flicker of scattered flames. The familiar hum of traffic had been gone. Instead, gunfire had cracked in the distance. 
Blake’s wife Lauren had buzzed them inside after Blake confirmed his identity via video feed—three times: at the gate, the door, and the entrance to the Hole. The security was impressive. Lauren had ushered them inside, AR-15 at the ready.
“This is prepared,” Blake was saying, as Katie stared blankly at her untouched ramen. “Old owners, they had this backyard full of fruit trees, vegetables, fuckin’ kale and kohlrabi. What good is that gonna do, I said, you gonna hide in the pumpkin patch with a slingshot? Idiots. 
“Anyhow me and Lauren, we wanted to be ready, so I been building this the last two years. Ain’t no one knows about it, not even the contractors…” Blake sliced a finger across his throat, then laughed, “I’m joking, but they were from one of them Mexican countries. Had no idea what they were building. Good workers, though, came here the right way. And I did the security all myself.” 
Tanner laughed too, but at what he didn’t quite know. “You took this all real serious.” 
“Yessir. You never really believed, but we did. Earl Swanson was right, this here’s been a long time coming. It’s just like he said, and we listened. And here we are, while you was laying on the floor waving round that little waterpistol of yours.” 
Tanner had listened too, but apparently not well enough. There was only so much time he could watch an angry man on TV shouting about the state of the nation, no matter how prophetic he was turning out to be. Tanner tried to put up a strong front and flex his knowledge. He had listened, dammit. 
“Is this it, then? The invasion? Earl said they’ve been preparing it for years, brainwashing people. Recruiting sympathizers and traitors…” 
“It’s worse than that. The invasion started way back, we just didn’t notice. Well, most of us didn’t. Earl did. He tried to warn us, that the aliens’d started infiltrating, landing in remote parts of the country, blending in, looking just like us…” Blake spat. “Well, not quite like us. But close e-fucking-nough, hiding out and biding their time.”
“And now it’s out in the open…”
Tanner looked from his friend’s face to his daughter’s, scared and staring, and trailed off. He may have been listening, but he sure as hell didn’t understand. 
“What’s happening?” Tanner asked. “We’ve been laying low at home, locked down and trying to wait out whatever this is. We haven’t heard a thing since the power cut out three days back.” 
He could feel a surge of emotion building, pent-up adrenaline and stress and fear and loneliness rolling over him in a wave as they were released. His stoicism wobbled. 
“We’re… Katie’s scared and confused, and tired and sick of hiding and we’re all alone! What is all this? What’s happening?” Tanner realized he was shouting and stopped, taking a deep breath and lowering his voice. “Blake, man, what the hell is going on?”
Blake never flinched, just ran his tongue over his teeth in thought while he watched Tanner’s outburst through hooded eyes.
“Naw, we don’t know nothing for sure. Swanson’s been off-air for two days, since just after shit started going down. Said he was right, that it sure as shit seemed like those aliens he’d been warning us about were making a move, and the whole fuckin’ lot of us did nothing. Well, seems like it blew up in our face. Last thing he said was he’s heading somewhere safe to keep broadcasting, and he’d let us know when he found out more,” Blake paused, sucked his teeth, “We’ve had the TV and radio on non-stop since then, since we fired the generator up. Nothing.” 
Lauren lent forward. “There was something, couple days back…” 
“Nothing useful,” Blake cut in. He spat. “Same old fuckin’ commie stations, same old crap. They took over the channels, emergency broadcasting. Said there was a ‘protest.’ Stay inside, all under control, daddy government’s here, blah blah,” he laughed “Hell of a protest. More like an insurrection. Doublespeak bullshit.” 
“So what’s the plan? We hide out? Lay low? Wait for the military?” 
“The troops ain’t coming, chief.” Blake grimaced, “Alien tentacles go deep. Probably strolling around in general’s stars by now, the politicians just handing over the keys. This President’ll have us kissing their feet before dinner. 
“Nah, if we wanna fight back we can’t rely on that fuckin’ bunch of secretaries and scribes. We hole up here, wait for instructions.” He laughed again, “Huh, hole up in the Hole. That’s funny.” 
That grin was starting to get on Tanner’s nerves. “Instructions from who? How long is that gonna take? Who’s gonna fight back against… this?”
“I know some people, from back in the old days. Good people. There’s still patriots out there who won’t give up this country without a fight.” 
 Tanner still bristled with questions, but he was starting to feel relieved. There were people in charge, and they had a plan. That was something he could work with. “What if it takes weeks? Months? Do we have food for that long?”
Blake settled further into his chair, grinned that cocky grin. “I do, don’t know about you.” Before the words were even out of his mouth he was already raising his palms, “Chill out, I’m joking. I’ll put it on your tab. You’re a lawyer, I know you’re good for it. Show him, babe.” 
Lauren got up and went over to a large yellow flag hanging on the concrete wall, pulling it aside to reveal a long, narrow room that ended abruptly at a large steel door. She flicked on the light. 
“Dry storage,” she said, gesturing at the shelves lining both walls. Packets of ramen, boxes of cereal, rows of whiskey, and gleaming stacks of cans stared down at Tanner. “And cold storage,” Lauren continued as she stepped over to the door, kicking aside two enormous tubs of supplements and pulling it open to reveal a walk-in freezer. Tanner followed her inside as she happily chatted away, showing everything off like a house-proud hen. 
“We’ve got everything we need. Steaks, hotdogs, chili, hamburgers, mac and cheese, chicken parmesan, mashed potatoes–whatever you want. There’s a well, too, over the other side, we had that dug last summer. Tastes a bit funny, but it won’t hurt you.”
Tanner was hardly listening. He had never seen anything like it, never imagined anything on this scale. Blake really had taken preparing for the end of the world seriously. The freezer room was filled, wall to wall, with a treasure trove of gourmet excess; thousands upon thousands of frozen TV dinners. 

Tanner stared at his microwaved salmon filet, fries drooping from his fork. Out of habit he was eating in front of the TV with Katie, though the display hadn’t changed in… however many days it had been. Just the red, white and blue logo, a tile flipping between ads for pillows, brain pills, and frozen food, and the same scrolling red banner: 
Breaking: The United States of America is under attack. Stand by for updates. 
Katie was poking at her food silently, barely eating. Still no appetite. Tanner had told her they were safe, told her he wasn’t going to let anyone hurt her, told her a hundred times in different ways that she was his precious little girl and he would make sure she was okay. It had made no difference. She had just looked up at him with big, frightened eyes that pulled at Tanner’s heart. The only time she had spoken in the past 24 hours was to ask why he had tried to shoot people. Of course she didn’t understand. Maybe he should ask Lauren to talk to her. 
The TV display glitched, blipped, flicked to static and then to black. Tanner shoveled the fries into his mouth and rubbed his eyes. He’d been staring at a blank TV for too long. He chewed and stretched, squeezing his eyes shut and trying to straighten out his aching back. 
Earl Swanson was on TV.
Tanner blinked a few times to make sure he was seeing straight. Swanson’s shirt was wrinkled, his hair a mess and his signature bowtie slightly crooked, but his face wore that familiar expression of righteously indignant bewilderment. It was him. 
“Blake. Blake, get in here!” 
Swanson was in what looked like a large living room rather than his usual studio. Bookshelves and a TV cabinet were visible behind him. There were shadows under his eyes and his wrinkles were clearly visible without his usual TV makeup, but his eyes were as sharp as ever. There was a strength to them, piercing the screen, full of faith and fire. It felt like he was in the room. He looked like he’d been in a fight, and won. He was back. 
“Good evening America, and welcome to Earl Swanson Tonight.”
Blake stuck his head through the door. 
“What? I’m working out, give me a…. No shit.”
Blake stepped into the room. He was topless, breathing heavily. His stomach was shiny with sweat, pooling and running down the chiseled channels between his well-defined muscles before disappearing behind the low-riding waistband of his camo pants. Tanner realized he was staring and felt his cheeks flush as he snapped his eyes back to his friend’s. 
“Blake, it’s–”
“Shut up, I’m trying to listen.”
The rebuke slapped Tanner back to the present and back to the TV. He surreptitiously sat a little straighter and sucked in his gut, trying to ignore the heat rising in his face.
“…cities up and down the west coast. From Seattle to San Diego, the alien invaders and the traitors from among our own citizens have taken control, sowing chaos and destruction. Order has broken down, and anarchy rules in the streets. Yet we hear nothing but silence from the White House. The elites in Washington won’t do anything about this — they encouraged it. They caused it!
“No, it is up to patriotic Americans to stop this existential threat. It is up to us, to you and me and the other patriots out there. If you value the American way of life, if you respect the principles that built the greatest nation ever imagined, if you care about your family and the future of your children, then the time has come to stand up. Your country needs you. 
“I have been warning about this day on this very program for years. If you have been listening, you will be prepared for this betrayal. You know what to do. Find other true Americans who are ready to fight for our civilization and our culture. Defend our Western values against this attack by anarchists and aliens who wish to destroy us. They tried to take our guns from us, to disarm us, and failed — now is the time to use them. Seek out the prepared, the militias, the heroes. Fight back. Show them that we will not allow it.
“I will be moving to an undisclosed safe location so I can keep you informed. You know your job. I am doing my part, will you do yours?”
Swanson sat erect and defiant, no less commanding for his disheveled appearance. His willpower flowed from the screen in waves, washing over the watchers. It was compelling. It was urgent. It was the only option. 
The screen went black. 
Swanson’s gaze bored into Tanner long after the TV went dark, burning with righteous fire, lip curling with fury. The heat in Tanner’s cheeks sharpened, focused, began to spread into his chest and throughout his body. There was only one thought in his mind.
“We gotta go.”
It took him a second to realize that Blake had spoken the words out loud. 
“We do. But where? I don’t know anyone like that.”
“You know me, and I know people. Don’t worry about that. We gotta go to Baker City. I talked to one of my buddies from the marines this morning, he’s headed to join one of the militias out east. They might not be big, but they’re hard. They’re something.”
Tanner looked at Blake blankly, unable to quite comprehend what he was being told. Days of no news, no action, now everything all at once.
 “But what’s in Baker City? Don’t you know anyone here? This is where we live, where we have the Hole, where we have a safe base.” 
Blake was clearly agitated, shifting from foot to foot. 
“It’s not safe. Weren’t you listening? It’s fallen. The military ain’t doing jack, like I fuckin’ told you they wouldn’t.” Blake stopped bouncing and steadied himself. “But my buddy said the boys in Baker held out. It was bloody, but they held strong. If we can get there in a hurry, we can join a caravan heading for Boise.” 
“Baker… Boise? What the… Boise?! Surely it’s safer in Texas, or… or…” 
“Texas? And how far away is that? Look, I don’t know nothing about nothing, but I know I ain’t looking for safer. All I know is I got buddies in Baker, and they say Boise, and they are the fuckin’ resistance. We got our orders, soldier.
“The west had been invaded. Destroyed. Gone. You heard Swanson, same as me. Grids are down, water’s down, TV’s down–mostly, anyway. Sky’s half full of fire and smoke, gangs roaming the streets, traitors and aliens taking or breaking whatever they can get their thieving hands on.” Tears came to Blake’s eyes. 
“It’s a fucking mess out there, buddy. Anarchy. They’ve burned the lot.”
It was a lot to chew on. Tanner put a piece of salmon in his mouth. 
“I’m not gonna let some filthy aliens take my home, fuck my wife, invade my country, and steal the god damn US of A! The fight is right there, and I’m gonna fight it. Are you?” 
Tanner’s brain was spinning, but his blood was still hot from Swanson’s speech. Blake’s fire, delivered standing there half-naked like a Steven Seagal action figure, was rousing something inside him. His country needed him, and he felt the call in his bones. He put down his fork. He swallowed. He rose. 
“Of course I’ll fight. I’ll put a bullet in every alien who steps foot on American soil. I’ll put every collaborator in the dirt.”
He saw himself, next to Blake, riding shotgun as they made a fighting escape through the streets. He saw a heroic journey to Baker City, filled with danger and righteous violence. He saw a triumphant return, at the head of an army, cleansing his city with purifying flame. And he saw Katie, small and fragile and beautiful. Perfect, and terrified. The flame wavered. 
“But I’m fighting for her,” Tanner gestured, “I got my little girl, and I’m not so red-hot on riding out guns blazing to meet these savages with her hanging off my arm. She’s the future of this country, and that’s a future we have to protect.” 
To Tanner’s surprise, Blake took a half step back. 
“Shit. I know, man. Katie and Lauren, the innocent and the pure. I’m thinking of them, too.” He dropped his shoulders, but held Tanner’s gaze. “But it’s not safe for them here neither. We’re on our own, and all hell has broken loose up top. We fight for them, and they are the reason we have to fight.
Tanner paused, then nodded. He reached out and placed his hand on his friend’s shoulder, fingers gripping the sweaty skin. 
“Let’s go pack the truck.” 
As the sun set and twilight brought a low fog creeping across the city, they piled into the Tacoma with as many frozen dinners as they could carry. 
Tanner rode in back. Lauren was up front, AR at the ready, while Blake drove, M1A by his side and his Glock taped to the dash. Katie was at Tanner’s side, curled up below the window and hidden from view, and Tanner watched over her with his own Glock and a borrowed Remington 870. They were all a little jumpy. He and Lauren had wanted to maintain a shoot-on-sight policy. Blake had been more cautious. According to Swanson, there would be plenty of people collaborating with the aliens. Lights out, engine low, and hopefully they could slip right on by. 
No one knew what to expect—Tanner suspected they were all terrified. He certainly was. Even Blake had swapped out his flag bandana for a more understated camo print. He had stashed the red, white and blue fabric in the bed of the truck with the rest of their gear.    
They pulled out into streets Tanner knew, but didn’t. He had driven them every day, on the way to work, to Katie’s school, to church, to the mall. The streets were as familiar as a cold Coke, yet now, in some important way, they were… different. As they left the Hole and drove through the suburb he couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but once Blake reached the main street and turned past the bars and shops and take-out joints, it hit him. 
The streets were dead. The cars were gone. The steady flow of traffic, of people living their lives, had stopped. The parking lot in front of the drug store was empty; so was the one behind the bar. The convenience store, normally ticking over with a steady stream of customers buying cigarettes and beer, was dark behind its windows. Unintelligible graffiti in some alien script covered the ads for energy drinks, an expression of mindless violence across someone’s hard work. 
A light rain had started, misting around them and adding to the dreariness. A billboard loomed overhead, the lights that illuminated the Colgate-bright smiles of the models now permanently dark. Tanner was glad—the gloom obscured the flame-scarred destruction streaking the toothpaste company’s perfect white message.
“Disgusting,” Blake spat. He looked like he wanted to say more but pulled up short, shocked at the sudden sound of his own voice. His eyes focused back on the road and he fell into uneasy silence. The truck continued its crawl down the deserted street, barely clocking 20 miles an hour. Even at that speed, the low growl of the engine seemed unbearably loud as it reverberated among the carcasses of commerce and ricocheted down abandoned side streets. 
They kept driving, and nothing kept happening. It was torturous. Every minute of unbroken inactivity twisted the crank on the tension in the car, until the unceasing hum of the engine began to seep into Tanner’s brain. Every muscle in his arms and legs, primed and waiting and ready to spring, began to tremble, and his eyes focused and unfocused on nothing at all.  His frantic heartbeat messed with his breathing, a powerful panicked thud that matched the rumble of the pistons. 
Overall, he was relieved when the road curved and they entered a strip of restaurants to see signs of life among the debris littered across the street in the distance. 
It wasn’t immediately clear through the gloom what was happening. Blake slowed the truck, now rolling along at barely more than walking pace, and they crept closer. The scene was illuminated by the flickering light of small fires and backlit by a pair of enormous floodlights, creating a glowing aura in the surrounding mist. Images began to resolve, ghostly figures flitting in and out of view and the harsh geometric shapes—not of debris, but of hastily manufactured barricades—throwing long shadows that lanced through the air around them as they approached. 
All eyes were fixed on the barricades as they pulled within shouting distance, and Tanner nearly pissed himself when someone knocked on his window. He yelped, Blake swore, and Lauren’s weapon x-rayed Tanner’s head and pointed at the intruder. Tanner followed her lead and jerked his gun up to aim in the general direction of the window and for ten, twenty heartbeats nothing moved. Then another knock, and Blake hissed at them: “Put those things away you idiots, we’re the good guys here. Whatever side that guy is on, so are we.” 
Tanner slowly lowered the gun, then the window. 
“Hey folks, no cars through here.”
The man was clad head to toe in black—black jeans, black hoodie, black gloves, black bandana covering his face, black curly hair running with rainwater. No wonder they hadn’t seen him. The stranger spotted their guns. 
“Oh, nothing like that,” he added, catching the nervous energy in the truck, “You’re a bit late to the party. No trouble ‘round here, this area’s been cleaned out for days.” He chuckled, sending a shiver through Tanner. 
“Some folks messed up the cop shop a while back, it was a bit of a fight. Streets were all blocked up anyway, so we set up a little kitchen here. Been feeding some folks. Symbolic, like, new world in the ruin of the old and all that.”
The smile fell from his face as he took in the scene in the truck. 
“Everything alright? Is she okay?” 
He gestured at Katie, curled up and quivering silently beside Tanner. Tanner opened his mouth to respond, but Blake was quicker.
“Sure, probably just spooked by that fucking mask. Look, we don’t mean to bother you people. Just heading east, trying to cross the river. We’ll go around you and your little kitchen.” 
If the man took issue with Blake’s tone, it didn’t show. 
“Bridge is a no-go, I’m afraid. Pigs blew the cables as they pulled out, some of it collapsed. It’s way too unstable to cross.” He scratched at his temple. “What d’you want out that way, anyway? There’s dangerous people out there, not exactly safe for… families.” 
“We’re heading for, uh, Hood River,” Tanner spoke up, “Taking supplies out to the girl’s grandparents.” 
“Indians,” Blake chimed in, “they need the help.” He winked at Tanner. 
The stranger turned to Blake and met his eyes, holding his gaze for an unnerving moment. Then he seemed to resolve some internal discussion, relaxing his shoulders. “Well, you might be able to get across up St. Johns, last I heard the bridge was still intact. There’s some folks in the park up there, you can ask them.” 
“St. Johns? That’s the wrong fucking way!” 
“A bridge is a bridge. It’s that or swim, champ.”
“Can you at least call the, uh, your boss? Tell him you checked us out, ask if we can get across?” 
The man smiled, but something hardened behind his eyes. 
“My boss? Sure, sure. Look, I think it’s time you moved on. Head on up there and tell ‘em what you told me, they’ll let you out. There’s a bunch of poor Indians waiting for their dinner.” 
There was something strange about the way the man said “Indians,” but he patted the hood of the truck and turned away, waving them down a side street away from the barricade. As Blake slowly drove off, Tanner collapsed back into his seat and quickly rolled up the window. His underarms were cold with sweat, and he relaxed muscles he hadn’t known were clenched. 
Blake took the turn the stranger indicated, muttering that if he heard anyone say “folks” again he would hit them. Tanner stared out the window at the “little kitchen” as they passed. There must have been a couple hundred people, milling around a dozen or so small fires. They were all loosely centered around a large tent directly in front of the scorched skeleton of the precinct. Laughter and music drifted through the open window, and Tanner closed it. He didn’t think he could see any aliens, but it was difficult to tell in the dark. 
“Collaborators. Must be a ration station or something,” he muttered, mostly to himself. 
Lauren heard him. “No, this has been going on much longer than that, it just wasn’t so out in the open. Swanson warned us about it. He said they lure hungry people in with food.” 
“Yeah,” cut in Blake, “this is how they recruit ‘em. Set up a kitchen, give ‘em food, homeless and crackheads and queers, mostly. Drugs too, probably, and spewing their propaganda. That guy was probably one of the junkies. Sure as shit looked like it, you see the way he stared at me?” 
Tanner shuddered. A junkie. He had an overwhelming urge to wash his hands. He remembered the way the man had talked about the police station, his manic laugh in the face of such violence, and glanced back at the quickly fading light. And saw a small figure, tottering at the edge of the firelight. A child. 
“Disgusting,” he said out loud. 
“Yeah, disgusting. It’s like Earl said,” Blake continued, “they been feeding people right under our fucking noses.” 

They drove on toward the bridge. The streets were more cluttered here, both with people and the remnants of the riots, and they could only manage a slow pace as they picked their way through the destruction. Blake had to swerve to the wrong side of the road to avoid a group of people carrying trash bags, picking through the rubble. 
“Looking for something to eat,” he grunted, and locked the doors. 
Signs of violence were everywhere. Tanner’s chest tightened as they drove past the law firm where he had started his career—the job that had brought him to the city after he finished college, working for his father’s best friend and learning his profession. Inside the shattered windows it was nothing but a shell, the desks overturned and the computers gone. No one would be working there any more. 
The destruction was completely random. Violence for its own sake. Beside the firm was a pawn shop, covered in graffiti and looted. Next to that, a Vietnamese restaurant, completely unharmed except for ‘Delicious, 5 stars’ sprayed on the pavement outside. Across the road was an untouched convenience store and a bookshop with its doors wide open, light flooding out and people crowding the entrance. A donut shop and an Apple store destroyed, a mechanic and a bar looking like they had simply closed for the night. There was absolutely no pattern or reason to it. 
They saw a Fred Meyers with every window broken, the front door jammed open with a twisted shopping cart. A movement caught Tanner’s eye and he saw someone leaving from a side door, carrying a huge bag of stolen food. He hoped Blake didn’t see—he might do something stupid, and Tanner didn’t want to stop. It wasn’t safe. 
They made it a few more blocks when Lauren gasped and grabbed Blake’s arm, making him brake. She gestured across the intersection to a KFC. Half the building had collapsed in what must have been an enormous fire; the half that still stood had been savagely attacked. She pointed to the entrance with a shaking finger. Someone—or something—had toppled the giant bucket sign and sent it crashing through the ceiling of the kitchen. Above the door, someone had scrawled a message in red spray paint: 

There were more barricades set up near the bridge. Where the others had been makeshift, marking a boundary, these were more serious. They were to stop people getting through. Blake slowed before they got too close to the blockade, which they could now see was lined by shapes that very much suggested people. On both sides of the road the land fell away into darkness, sloping down to become a park that ran beneath the bridge. 
The park itself, a rare green space normally dotted with dog walkers and children, was transformed. The once-quiet lawns were a mass of tents and makeshift structures, stages and bars and sound systems, the proud trees now decked out with effigies and lights. Fires burned everywhere, and the distant space was carpeted with a swarming mass of humanity, undulating to a throbbing cacophony of noise. 
“This doesn’t look good,” said Blake. He pulled over, a hundred yards or so short of the bridge. 
“That guy said they would let us through,” said Tanner, “if we stick to our story.” 
“He was a junkie,” scoffed Lauren. 
“But he thought we were working with them,” said Tanner, “he had no reason to lie to us.” 
“I guess it’s worth a try. Anyway, they ain’t gonna try anything against this much firepower.” Blake grunted. “Too late to change our minds now. They’ve seen us.” 
He nodded at the barricade, where two shapes had detached from the mass. They moved toward the Tacoma, and Blake responded by flicking the lights to high beam and heading to meet them. As Blake swung back out into the road the beams cut through the darkness to illuminate the figures, throwing wild shadows from the two shapes until the truck steadied course and they coalesced into recognisable forms. One was a large man, white, with a nose ring and a loosely-tied blond ponytail. He was wearing a plaid shirt and carrying a large rifle. The other—Tanner’s throat caught—the other looked like one of the aliens. 
“Shit,” said Blake, as the headlights picked out at least half a dozen more shapes along the barricade, several with big guns visible. “Fuck.” He stopped the truck and rolled down the window, then cursed again and threw open the door. 
“I’ll be fucked if I’m gonna sit here and be pulled over like some criminal. Tanner, you’re with me—let’s go meet them man to man.”
Tanner scrabbled for the door handle and chased after Blake, half-skipping to catch up. They pulled up a few paces before colliding with the approaching party. The blond man stepped forward. 
“How’s it going, dude?” he said. 
“We need to get to Hood River,” said Blake, “we’re trying—”
“Yeah, we heard.” The man cut him off. “Bridge is closed to traffic, unfortunately. You wanna cross, you’ll have to walk.” 
Blake bristled. “Are you joking? We need to bring all this stuff. It’s… important,” he objected. “You can’t just keep people here!” 
“We could,” said the blond man, calmly. He sounded confident in his assertion. Looking at the line of men—and women, Tanner realized—standing along the barricade, he agreed. 
“But we’re not,” the man continued. “You can go wherever you want. Take your shit, cross the bridge. Some folks have organized buses up the river, they’ll take you. But the truck stays.” 
“But that’s my fucking truck!” Blake squealed. The man’s eyebrows shot up and Tanner laid a hand on Blake’s shoulder, squeezing it and hoping he got the message. The stranger paused, then sighed. 
“Look, I’m sorry dude. I love my truck, too. But there was an attack at another camp last night by these so-called freedom fighters,” he grimaced. “Militia wackjobs, really. Word is they are gathering across the river, and we can’t risk weapons and vehicles falling into the wrong hands. Especially not an arsenal like you folks got here.” 
The alien stepped forward and, much to Tanner’s surprise, spoke in perfect American English. 
“Don’t worry, it’ll be here when you get back. We’ll take real good care of it for you. They will appreciate the help guarding the buses and I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to help you move these… important supplies.” 
They signaled to the group at the barricade and two more figures made their way into the light of the truck’s high beams. The first was a slim Black man in fatigues, wearing a red beret at a jaunty angle and carrying a AR-style rifle in one hand. The other was a woman, tall and imposing. She wore a leather jacket over a long black dress, which was slit to the thigh to reveal hints of slim, bare legs that stretched from the pavement to the heavens. Tanner blinked rapidly and swallowed. He had always had a soft spot for long legs in thigh-slit dresses. 
As they came closer the man nodded at Tanner and Blake, but he was not what held their attention. The woman with the legs from God was also rocking a luxurious mustache that would have put Teddy Roosevelt to shame. As Tanner’s eyes bulged, she caught his gaze and winked. 
“Hello, boys. I’m Sunshine, they/them. I’ll be with you on the bus.” 
Tanner didn’t know how to react. A fuzzy memory bounced around in the back of his head.
“An investigation on college campuses found that increasing numbers of American citizens are using pronouns.” Earl’s bewildered face frowned, then puckered. “These ‘theys’ and ‘thems’ are making a mockery of the American tradition, seeking to spread their insidious ideology among good, hard-working citizens, brainwashing young Americans into adopting these ‘pronouns.’ What’s next, people identifying a different age? A different race? We need to speak out against this perverse trend and most importantly, keep them away from our children.” _
That was it. These were the pronouns Swanson had warned them about. He gripped his gun and glanced at Blake, trying to get his mental footing. 
Blake looked shocked, too, but quickly pulled himself together. He threw Tanner a sly look, one that hinted at an idea. “Give us a minute,” he snapped, and pulled away from Tanner, back to the truck. When they were both inside he turned on the occupants with a spark in his eyes. 
“They must be talking about my boys, alive and kicking,” the old grin was back, his excitement barely contained. “Must have set up in the woods. We’ll head over and find ‘em. Maybe they got word from Earl. If they’re here, and they’re fighting, maybe we don’t have to go all the way to Boise after all.”
“What’s going on?” Lauren looked confused. 
“We’re leaving the truck. Grab the shit, cross the bridge, hijack their fucking commie-wagon and strike out east. Either we find them in Baker, or our boys find us first.” 
Tanner was still coming to grips with the situation. “What about… them?” he said. 
“They… them. In the dress, with the pronouns!” 
“And what are they going to do, stop us? You ever tried to fight wearing something like that? No. The four of us, across the bridge, grab the bus, easy.”
“Katie’s not hijacking any bus. She’s eight, for God’s sake. Maybe she and Lauren should stay here…” 
“You stay here with Katie,” Lauren snapped, cutting Tanner off. “If you think it’s safer, if you’re looking for safer, you take her for a nice walk in the park down there. I’ll be with my husband, taking my country back from these freaks.” 
“I know you want to keep Katie safe,” Blake added, almost apologetically, “but you saw what it’s like out there. You heard Swanson’s warnings. These aren’t people, they’re animals, aliens. She’s your baby fuckin’ girl, man. You do what you’re at peace with, but my wife sure as shit ain’t staying here to get felt up by some dick in a dress.” 
Tanner looked at Lauren. “But she’s just a kid! What if she gets hurt.” 
“What if she gets hurt _here
? So you look after her. Be a man,” Lauren spat back.   
Blake clapped Tanner on the shoulder and held his gaze. “It’s do or die time, soldier. Let’s get the fuck outta here, hook up with the resistance, then bring back the fury of God and freedom and the USA to take back this city and liberate my God damn truck!”
Tanner looked at Katie, curled up in the footwell, and wanted to object. He wanted to take her somewhere safe, back to the Hole, where it was warm and they could hide from the aliens and the bad people and they had all the food they could need and they could wait for this all to be over. 
But the fire in his belly wouldn’t let him. He knew Blake was right, he knew that he should be ashamed of his moments of weakness. He saw Lauren gripping her rifle and staring at Blake with faith and devotion in her eyes and he knew that was the kind of man he wanted to be. Tanner breathed a silent promise to keep Katie safe, no matter the cost. 
“Let’s do it.”
Blake pulled the truck up to the group of guards and they all piled out, Tanner standing straight and feeling tall, Blake’s words ringing in his ears.
It’s do or die time. _
Two of the barricade guards came over to help them unload while the others stood around and watched, their mustachioed escort who made Tanner’s skin crawl and the large blond man. Traitor. They stripped off the tray covering and began shifting gear, Blake and blondie up above handing packages down to everyone else. Tanner heard the guards muttering to each other. 
“Holy shit, that’s a lot of firepower.”
The blond man snorted. “And a lot of nasty-ass TV dinners. Important supplies, my ass.” 
Sunshine shrugged. “Folks eat what they eat. Not everyone lives in a Whole Foods and learned to make Tom Yum on their gap year,” they rebuked him.
The man grimaced and scratched his jaw. “Yeah, right. That was unfair of me. Well, Thai cooking workshop tomorrow and I’ll make a big pot, so at least folks here don’t have to eat that frozen stuff… unless they want to.”
They busied themselves unloading, bundling food and weapons into bags or tying them together for ease of carrying. Tanner was tying the straps of his backpack and settling it on his back when he heard a curse from the back of the truck. He glanced up, and, frozen in time, watched the next few seconds helplessly. 
The blond man had pulled out one of the last few satchels, the one containing all their spare clothes. He was standing upright, arms held out, nose ring quivering in silent outrage. In his left hand he had Blake’s flag bandana; in his right, Blake’s spare jacket, rebel flag patch sitting proudly on the shoulder. 
Blake reacted fastest. He dropped the food he was holding, raised his Glock, and with a vengeful crack the blond ponytail exploded in a spray of red. 
The man in the beret raised his rifle and fired two shots into Blake’s chest, sending him flying from the tray. A scream burst from Lauren as she reached for her gun, but the alien matched the sound and met her with a powerful tackle, sending both of them crashing into a pile of frozen hamburgers. Sunshine reached out and grabbed Tanner’s arm.
Time snapped back into motion for Tanner. He instinctively pulled away and shook his arm free of the grasping fingers. Stepping back, he spun and swung his fist in a wild roundhouse. It connected with Sunshine’s jaw as they overbalanced toward him. Tanner watched them collapse in a heap. His gaze danced over the chaos unfolding around him, frantically searching for Katie. _There
. Tanner picked her up and ran. 
They plunged off the road and into the darkness. There was only one thought in his mind: get Katie across that bridge. She was sobbing, shaking in his grasp, and Tanner made what he hoped were comforting shushing noises as he ran. He knew this park—there was a staircase inside one of the support towers that rose from the park to the bridge overhead. That was his way out. Holding Katie tightly, breath ragged, he ran toward the orgy of light and noise pulsating below. 
The two escapees burst into the mass of people. Tanner looked around, eyes darting, taking in the madness and trying to get his bearings. The sensory assault was overwhelming, but he slowly made out patterns in the polyrhythmic press. What had looked from above like a continuous swell of humanity was actually a hundred, a thousand separate groups and camps and parties. People flowed freely between them, groups forming and merging and coming apart in a chaotic, everchanging anarchy. A makeshift stage to his left throbbed with bass, colliding with the bone-jarring screams and guitars of a group of punks. Tanner found himself surrounded by ecstatic dancers, while a group almost under his feet sat staring into a campfire, oblivious to the rest of the world. He crashed through their doped-out reverie and bounced off two men, locked in a hungry embrace. 
Tanner recoiled and turned away, shielding Katie with his body, searching desperately for the tower that would lead him out of this nightmare. Lights flashed, blinding, creating a sort of slideshow of horror as Tanner scanned the crowd. There. He found it. His escape from this festival of the damned. He soldiered on, caught up in a whirl of half-naked dancers, men, women, and everyone else, mindless of the frigid air as they span and writhed in rapture. 
Tanner spotted an exit, an island of calm, and dove for it. He exploded from the throng, gasping for air, and breathed in the relative silence. Collecting himself, he was faced with rows of bodies, still, staring at something unseen up ahead, the very air trembling with collective anticipation. 
A voice shattered his uneasy reprieve, loud and bombastic and dripping with drama. 
“And now, my darlings, it is time for these fuckers to do what I do best—go down!”
Tanner dashed through the crowd as they roared and surged into motion, and caught a glimpse of the scene ahead: two lines of people, straining on thick ropes, as a woman in lingerie and feathers pranced like a princess of hell before them. The ropes led upwards, where they were tied around the necks of two enormous metal figures.
Lewis and Clark. 
Tanner broke into a full sprint, shouldering bodies aside. He was almost there. Up ahead, rising from the chaos, was his stairway to the heavens. His legs trembled and his breath came in ragged sobs, but he couldn’t slow down. Not when he was so close. He tore out of the crowd and into the comforting darkness of the spaces in between. His hysterical panic began to subside. One foot in front of the other. Keep running. They were going to make it.
As he neared the tower a figure came into view at the base, looming from the shadows of the doorway, staring into the blackness beyond. A stocky, muscled figure wearing fatigues and a plate carrier. It couldn’t be…
“Blake! Blake, thank God.”
Tears welled in Tanner’s eyes as he reached his friend. Lauren was nowhere to be seen, but right now Tanner couldn’t think about her. He had survived, and he had brought Katie through. His heartbeat was still frantic, but from exertion rather than fear. They were here. He, Katie, and Blake. Emotionally exhausted, physically spent, battered and terrified, but alive. They were going to be okay. He reached out to his friend.
Blake turned—No, not Blake. A thick black beard engulfed the shadowy face, momentarily lit by the glowing ember of a huge cigar. The eyes were deep-set and dark, the skin weathered, wrinkled, brown. The face of an illegal alien. 
Tanner’s throat betrayed him. He squeaked, and nothing more would come out. His knees wobbled and threatened to give way, his feet froze in place. He wavered. He whimpered. 
Puffing on the cigar, the alien took in his terrified face and the little girl slung over his shoulder. He gestured toward the doorway and blew out an enormous plume of smoke. 
“Go, gringo.” 

It was well past midnight when Katie ran into the side of a tent, fell on her bottom, and started crying. They had crossed the bridge, left the highway, and headed for the safety of the forest. Since then they had been wandering among the trees for hours, directionless, driven by fear, then by hope, then exhausted aimlessness. Tanner wasn’t going anywhere except away from that park. He had briefly entertained the image of finding a group of militia, sitting around a fire, eating and laughing and, maybe, swapping stories with their old friend Blake. That was hours ago. Visions were fleeting in the fever dream of the forest. Since then, they had walked because they didn’t know what else to do.
Tanner stumbled over to Katie and collapsed beside her, holding her close and hushing her. He felt like crying too. 
A flashlight clicked on inside the tent and a dreadlocked head poked out of the flap. 
“Hey, there’s someone here!”
Rustling erupted from all around and more faces appeared.
“Wasn’t someone keeping watch?”
“I thought you were.”
“Doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter. Someone’s crying.”
“You folks okay?”
Tanner and Katie were soon surrounded by a small group of people. He looked up at them.
“Are you the militia?”
“No, don’t worry. You’re safe here. We’re friends.”
“Although I guess we are a militia if you think about it. Sort of.” 
“Shh, don’t confuse the poor people. They’re terrified.” 
“Sorry. No, no militia. Someone get them a blanket and something to drink.”
Minutes later, Tanner and Katie were wrapped in sleeping bags, sipping on hot cocoa. It was scalding and familiar and Tanner felt the tension of the past day fading, leaving bone-deep exhaustion in its place. 
“Are you okay? What happened?”
“Thank you. We were… we just need to sleep.” 
“And you? What’s your name? Are you alright?”
Katie looked at her dad, then stared up from her tin mug.
“I’m Katie. I’m scared.”
“You’re safe now. We’ll help you. Look, we’ll get you somewhere to sleep.”
The first face they had seen rummaged around in a tent and brought out a bag.
“Lucky we have a spare tent. I’ll just put it up, won’t be a second.”
The tent was almost up by the time Tanner and Katie finished their drinks, and they got up and walked over, sleeping bags over their shoulders, holding hands.
“Hey, thanks,” Tanner said. “I would have helped but I don’t really know how. Never had much call for camping. I am, uh, was a lawyer,” he glanced around, “not criminal, uh… intellectual property. Copyright.” 
“No problem, of course. Here, it’s not hard. I’m just clipping the…”
“This isn’t the time for camping lessons, Jacob. Anyway, you’ll scare the man, sharing information for free like that. They’ve been through enough already.” 
“Sorry, yeah. Look, slide in. Take these sleeping mats. It’ll do for tonight, I’ll teach you tomorrow.” 
Tanner and Katie squeezed into the tent, sleeping bags huddled together on the cold, hard ground, and slept.

**Inmn ** 1:03:01
Hello, and welcome to the show. Thank you so much for coming on today. Could you introduce yourself with your name, pronouns, and just a little bit about what you do in the world?

**Matt ** 1:03:15
Yeah, hi, I’m Matt. He/him pronouns. And I’m a student again, after a really long time, actually, which is why I’ve just moved to where I’m living now. But I like to write, you know, mostly for me, and this is the first first thing I’ve published but I enjoy it. And yeah, I’m really grateful that you’ve taken an interest in it.

**Inmn ** 1:03:37
Yeah, totally. I love the story. So we just listened to the second half of your story, Blood, Soil and Frozen TV Dinners and even though listeners just heard…just heard the whole story, I’m wondering if you could just kind of like walk us through the story in your–you know, from the mouth of the author–what is this story about?

**Matt ** 1:04:01
So the story, for me, was about, to some extent, seeing yourself in some ways or, you know, people like you, through the eyes of…through the eyes of someone else, I guess, someone who’s very different and might see things in a different way. So I always find it interesting to play with different perspectives or different characters instead of telling the story from a heroic perspective or something. And I wondered what a pathway to a better world might look like from someone who didn’t necessarily want that to happen. So we have these, you know, preppers who–call them you want, right-wing conservatives, something like this–and what they might think, given the knowledge that they receive about the world, what they might think is happening when something happens that a lot of the rest of us might want.

**Inmn ** 1:05:00
Yeah, totally. I really like how you put that. What was it, like, "a better world that they don’t necessarily want?" [both laugh] Okay, well, how did this, how did this story kind of…like how did it come to be? What inspiration did you kind of draw from to craft this situation or these like personalities from Tanner and Blake or Earl Swanson?

Yeah, the story itself, there was a discussion last Halloween, I believe it was, on Coffee With Comrades, there was a interview with Pearson and Margaret Killjoy, talking about the discussion of the monster in literature, which is where I first took the idea that they were talking about seeing yourself as the monster in this idea and sometimes reveling in that or perhaps enjoying it. And that was where the first idea came from. And then the most specific layout of the story or main theme, I guess, was, I was doing something on the US Tax Office website. And there’s this whole section for aliens, right, if you’re an alien in the U.S., these are the tax rules you need to follow. And I just thought it was a funny word. You know, I’d seen it on Fox News or something before but it just struck me as really weird in such an official position. Yeah, and I just was playing with the ideas of this and, you know, I like thinking about utopias and things. And this is where the like the main shape of the story had come from, just the idea of seeing the monster, seeing the alien from there. And then specific characters, I mean, some of them are just kind of people that I’ve met, you know, Tanner and Blake, specifically, and I think Earl Swanson’s character, I mean–I don’t know it’s possibly libelous–but we can probably figure out who that’s meant to be, right? I think it’s reasonably obvious.

**Inmn ** 1:07:09
Totally, totally. Yeah. Yeah. No, that’s super interesting. Yeah, it’s funny, I was rereading the story today to prepare for this interview and I realized that the first time that I was reading it, because of this perspective of the…. I’m like, okay, I know, these are some, you know, at least center-right, far-right preppers and they’re using the word "alien" and I don’t actually know what they mean by this, which was, you know, maybe a purposeful being vague about it, but I was like, I don’t know if they think that it’s, you know, illegal aliens or undocumented  migrants or whatever or if they mean, like, literal from outer space aliens. And, yeah, I was like, I don’t know what they mean by what they’re talking about. And maybe they don’t either.  

This was part of the conceit, right, was setting it up like it’s a pretend big reveal, I think, that it’s a twist in the story that at some point gets revealed, but that’s not really the point. It’s not really meant to be a big trick or something like this, you know? I think in discussions in the editing, we talked about in the first page or so when they speaking Arabic, and it’s reasonably obvious to anyone that knows Arabic who these people are, you know, it’s not hidden, but this was the idea, that they may have meant illegal alien all along, was, you know, the way they we’re using the term, but that they weren’t necessarily drawing so much of a distinction between the two uses of the word alien, that in their minds a, sort of, invasion by one was the same as the invasion by the other to some extent.

**Inmn ** 1:09:10
Yeah, which, you know, I actually really love that from the perspective of…. It’s like maybe an interesting twist. I didn’t listen to that interview with Pearson and Margaret, so I’m not sure what they talked about, but there’s this kind of idea in a lot of spaces that I’ve been part of,you know, when people talk about things like assimilation or something, especially in queer spaces, of like, "We have to seem harmless to them. We have to seem innocent. We have to seem like we just want to be part of the group," you know, and then this other side that’s like, "No, we want to be unknowable. We are claiming the monstrosity that they are putting on us," and I’m like, yeah, we’re fucking…. I don’t know, anarchists are kind of aliens, like, in an entirely other way of thinking, you know?

Yeah, and just considering some social norms is completely irrelevant or harmful or repressive and other things that other people would consider, perhaps, violent or something seem completely okay to other people. There is a complete sort of alienation of perspective from broader society, I think. And yeah, it is, there’s a tension between sometimes wanting to go unnoticed, or, as you say, like assimilate, and even, for me, walking around, you know, sometimes you want to look like an anarchist and sometimes you don’t. It’s an interesting dynamic, I guess, that you can switch sometimes day-to-day.

**Inmn ** 1:10:54
Yeah, yeah. Have you read much of–you know, love talking about this person on the show–have you read much of Ursula Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle?

I’ve read only "The Dispossessed" and "The Left Hand of Darkness". 

**Inmn ** 1:11:16
Great examples. I think "The Left Hand of Darkness," kind of brings out this idea of where the reader is going to maybe most identify with the alien, or whatever, in "The Left Hand of Darkness" being not the not the Gethens–or I don’t remember what they’re called. But then it’s like, the more that we’re reading the book… or there’s some times where I’m this alien or, you know, our perspective person just doesn’t understand this culture. And that’s really painful. And then there are other times when I’m like, I don’t know, maybe the alien’s perspectives on the world are far more dissimilar to what a normal person on like our planet Earth would think, because they’re advocating for a better world that is very alien to people on this planet. Does that make sense?

**Matt ** 1:12:24
Yeah, I mean, in "The Dispossessed," I think it’s the same dynamic with Shevak coming back to Earth and presenting the perspective, both ways that it seems incredibly alien to him and then the other way around to everyone else that’s there, to the general culture there. Yeah. I think it’s an interesting literary device to present the outsider point of view, I think, which I mean, is quite the opposite of what I did in this story, I presented the more mainstream point of view, I guess, but from the circles that we’re in, it’s funny to see from the outside what that looks like.

**Inmn ** 1:13:02
Yeah, yeah, I had this very silly idea once for…I don’t know if it was gonna be a short story or what but kind of, using that "alien" trope or like "Stranger in a Strange Land" trope as a way to talk to my parents about anarchism or about radical queer spheres.

**Matt ** 1:13:27
Yeah, I mean, that’s about as alien as it can get for a lot of people’s parents, right.

**Inmn ** 1:13:31
Totally. But just as some funny little zine that’s like an introduction to the punk house, you know?

**Matt ** 1:13:44
Yeah, viewed as some sort of interesting zoo creatures.

**Inmn ** 1:13:46
Yeah. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the kind of political renderings of Tanner and Blake or ,rather, their differences in how they perceive or interact with either preparedness or this new world that they’re encountering?

**Matt ** 1:14:14
Yeah, I think that Blake’s character is a lot…. He knows what he’s doing, right? It’s a lot more intentional and more–I guess educated is maybe not quite the right word–but a lot more of an actually constructed ideology, whereas for Tanner it’s very much received. He’s not so keen, not so entirely sold on the idea or doesn’t necessarily know the idea. It feels like it’s like lost and failing a lot of the time and I think that’s why I found him a much more interesting character because that’s how I feel a lot of people that I know and talk to and family members and friends and things or friends of people I know get pulled into a lot of these, you know, reactionary ideologies is kind of by accident a lot of the time, right? Because it’s what’s presented and what they’re drawn into by someone who has a lot more investment in it than they do. And they just kind of bumble into it almost by accident. Yeah.

**Inmn ** 1:15:20
Because it’s what they’re seeing on TV. People who are deeper into that philosophy are like…. It’s like the people that they’re around who are their own little echo chambers of, "Oh, okay, there’s this thing happening. Not sure how I feel about it. But I’m being like, fed this perspective on it."

**Matt ** 1:15:46
Yeah, and a lot of the social or interpersonal issues that draw people in as well, I think. I tried to make it seem relatively obvious that Tanner is envious of Blake in a lot of ways, right? He is, you know, hotter than him and he is cooler than him and he knows more than him and he’s always trying to, like, live up to this ideal that he has just completely interpersonally with no politics or anything in it. And he just wants to live up to what he thinks Blake wants him to be, which it turns out, is a bad thing. I mean, I’m not trying to excuse Tanner’s character too much here. But yeah, I think this is what’s really dangerous a lot of the time actually, for people who don’t necessarily have a fully formed belief in all of these philosophical systems or something that then puts them on the wrong side not by…not necessarily out of evil intention.

**Inmn ** 1:16:54
Yeah. No, that’s very true. And it’s interesting talking about not excusing Tanner’s character too much, but as I was reading the story I found myself like, not necessarily rooting for Tanner and Blake to win or whatever, but rooting for Tanner to be confronted with the contradictions in his worldview. Because it’s like, I don’t know, it’s like, that’s what I hope for in the world that we live in is that these kind of–I heard this phrase recently. It was people talking about everything going on in Palestine right now and these "sharpening contradictions" and that’s what I hoped that would happen for Tanner, which is not really what happened for Tanner. [Laughing]

**Matt ** 1:18:00
Yeah, well I’m sorry to let you down, I guess. When I was thinking about the story initially, I was thinking about doing this, but then it became kind of a, I don’t know, a redemption story, everything ends…. Well, he gets pulled out of this destructive ideology. He, you know, potentially reconcile some of these contradictions and, you know, maybe even talks to his daughter or something. But I didn’t necessarily want it to go in that direction because it’s not necessarily the way I see the world going, that these things just get better and everything’s okay in the end and I don’t always like stories when that happens. You know, it’s a bit too optimistic for me sometimes. And I thought it was maybe more interesting just to sit in it.

**Inmn ** 1:18:50
No, yeah. No, I appreciate how the story ended. And like, I think that is, you know, that is unfortunately probably a more likely outcome for most people and that is a hard reality to sit with because–I’m not an optimist as much as I am just really holding on to hope or something. I don’t know. You know, I’m a hopeful nihilist or something.

**Matt ** 1:19:25
Yeah, I mean, I think it’s important to be hopeful. I mean, I’m quite happy to call myself a utopian…maybe a pessimistic utopianist or something like this, but I think these things are important. And, you know, I tried to leave a little seed of that in there with–you know, there if there’s one thing that does redeem Tanner’s character in some way is his poorly expressed but the care for Katie. And we tried to end it on that, right? 

**Inmn ** 1:19:55
Yeah, totally. And maybe I’m experiencing these political ideologies wrong but Tanner is like this kind of center-right kind of character–in the American perspective, I know other places these things mean vastly different things–but how Americans might view Tanner is center-right, who…. You know, Tanner’s fear, or the core fear for a lot of people is reasonable things where they’re like, "Oh, I’m worried about my kids. I’m worried about surviving with my family in these situations." But then, you know, they go about it in the most horribly wrong way.

**Matt ** 1:20:48
And they take the easy options that are given to them that don’t make them think too much. I mean, just on the point of him being center-right in the US, here in Portugal, a friend was telling me the other day that they consider their Socialist Party center-right. So it’s kind of funny. But I think Tanner represents someone who’s maybe not even so political, but he’s just been given explanation to things that he is worried about and it doesn’t require him to think too much. And he doesn’t have to do so much. I mean, okay, well, then the position is presented in the story, a lot of stuff happened, but ideologically, he hasn’t had to do too much work, right to get to where he was.

**Inmn ** 1:21:31
Totally, totally. And golly, I’m sorry, my last like having empathized a little too much with Tanner throughout the story, is–I think this is the quotation–"These were the pronouns Swanson had warned us about." And when Tanner attempts to use Sunshine’s pronouns, I was like, okay, yeah, you’re a little wacky and like, I don’t know, you’re trying I guess? 

**Matt ** 1:22:12
Yeah, I mean, okay, I was not sure about this, you know, we talked about being a bit concerned about how the story would be received because it’s through this strange perspective. And I genuinely wasn’t sure if this was kind of funny or weird or a little offensive or something, perhaps. But, you know, it’s important to acknowledge that this is at least like such an amazingly popular topic at the moment in the US on the reactionary right. I think. So….

**Inmn ** 1:22:50
Totally, totally. Um, well, I don’t know, you know, at least as someone who…. I’m nonbinary and use they/them pronouns and I found it weirdly relatable at least within…. I don’t know, we have a lot of caricatures built up about what the Right looks like here in the United States. And these depictions, to me, are very spot on. I’ve met both of these people, you know. But it’s like, I’ve also met that version of Tanner who’s center-right has some wacky thoughts about the world, listens to Earl Swanson, or whatever, but like, at that core, just, you know, they’re like, "Oh, well, this person hasn’t harmed me. They seem nice. And they want to be called this thing. And I was told that was dangerous, but I just want to refer to people how they want to be referred to," it’s like, I don’t know, you know, it’s like I’ve met that person. I’ve met that person who has some problematic views and also doesn’t actually want to be rude or be viewed as rude to people.

**Matt ** 1:24:18
Especially, I think, you know, on a lot of these more conservative positions, that politeness is, you know, almost a virtue above all others sometimes. In a more traditional Conservative view, maybe not so much sometimes now, but, yeah, like, exactly like you say, that someone doesn’t want to be mean for no reason, or they might not understand it and they might have very problematic views about it, but this inherent very conventional politeness just prevents them from actually saying what they might mean or say otherwise when they don’t necessarily–like I said–does not necessarily have this ideological position so much. Like, why would they want to be mean to another person?

**Inmn ** 1:25:07
Yeah, they view themselves as you know, like the quote-unquote, "Good guys." And so when they’re confronted with someone who’s like, "Oh, this is just a person, they seem nice. I don’t know, doesn’t seem dangerous anymore." You know, because that’s the narratives that people like Earl Swanson are feeding people, is "These people are dangerous." And I don’t know. Sorry, not not to harp too much on the humanity of these characters, but I think they’re…. I do think there’s interesting things to find in those interactions. I don’t know.

**Matt ** 1:25:53
Yeah, no, sure. I mean, I was talking to some people about this last night, but that this liberal position that especially we saw coming up during Covid, where, you know, "Oh, Florida voted Red, let them all die," type stuff. You know, "Everyone’s redneck hicks and things," that this is for me much more…. It’s horrible, right? It’s really, really terrible. And there are a lot of people who, I mean, again, maybe a lot of people who wouldn’t even attempt to use the right pronouns or that do genuinely hold more problematic views, but fundamentally they’re still people. We can’t just write off half of everyone because they vote the wrong way. Or, we don’t have to accept the positions, but we have to accept that they are people, right? 

**Inmn ** 1:26:39
Yeah. Or it’s like, I don’t know, I think about it, as–you know, again, talking to people where I’m like, okay, yeah, y’all got some problematic views. And when I talk about pronouns, you try at least? And I don’t know. Anyways, I’d be super interested to hear about like…. So you have spent some time living in the United States but I’m curious what…. I’m curious how, kind of, American. you know, preparedness, prepper culture is viewed from not the United States.

**Matt ** 1:27:26
Yeah, I mean, I’ve sort of got a background in anarchist circles and things, so a lot of the more community preparedness sides are more universal, especially when we’re talking about climate resilience and food sustainability or, you know, local food sustainability and production and these kinds of ideas. And, you know, even just decommodification of some of these things, to provide them for ourselves even without a massive sudden crisis or something. So I’m, like, more familiar with these kinds of ideas, but the specifically right-wing, American version, or US version, is kind of interesting, you know? Like, one of the first experiences I had coming into the US that I found quite interesting was went to the supermarket the first or second day I was there and there was just a guy with a hunting knife strapped to his thigh that was down to his knee, you know, just walking around. And this kind of stuff, I mean, okay, not necessarily prepper ideology, but it just really threw me off that these kinds of things happen and how…. The way that this then pulled…the types of things they’re being prepared for, I guess, is what it is, I just find very, very funny. I mean, that was part of the reason for choosing the frozen dinners, apart from a symbolic value of it, is that as a way to prepare for the end of the world, they’re the worst kind of food you could have. You know, they’ve got the highest sort of…. They require the most convenience infrastructure, right, you need a freezer, you need some kind of microwave or something. It’s a very useless way to prepare. I find it kind of funny, you know, that Blake talks about when he builds his bunker, that there were a bunch of useless fruit trees and stuff there, so he took them out to put in a freezer full of frozen foods, right? Yeah, I find the approach very strange. And it’s incredibly individualistic, I guess, is the main point and assumes a level of comfort that might not necessarily be there if the end of the world came.

**Inmn ** 1:27:27
Yeah. And there’s these, I don’t know. there’s some really fun quotations that I’d really love to just highlight from the story that kind of relate to that, like them talking about, you know, when talking about food, they’re like, "Oh, they’ve been luring people in with food," or I think Blake says, "They’ve been feeding people right under our noses," and I’m like that’s what you do during disasters, is you feed people.

**Matt ** 00:12
Yeah, this is, I mean, not so much even on the prepper side of things, but just the attitude of people towards a lot of the sweeps and stuff, right, the absolute dehumanization of people that just don’t have somewhere else to live, that all of a sudden that…. Not even that they don’t deserve anything, but that anyone who helps them is a criminal in encouraging, encouraging the fall of the US empire or something. And I just, I mean, I find these attitudes just deeply inhuman. I don’t know, I just…the story is mainly a joke. Not trying to highlight too much. I think most people know most of these things, right? Especially people that are listening to this podcast, but I just wanted to have some fun with some of it.

**Inmn ** 01:06
Yeah, I really appreciate that as like, you know, we do Live Like the World is Dying and we talked a lot about preparedness and we usually approach it from these like, really, you know, these much more serious views and we’re like, "the danger of the Right, the danger of bunker mentality," and, you know, with good reason, those things are scary and like the world is having some wild…you know, wild things are happening in the world right now. And I really appreciated this bit of humor about it to be like, yeah, here’s this funny tale. 

**Matt ** 01:48
Yeah, I had to do a lot of research into all the different types of guns, because I’m not so familiar with them. I mean, okay, there’s like three types of guns, but I still had to go look at what they were because I don’t know them. But that seems to be the number one, the number one thing to do, if you’re right-wing prepper is to build a bunker and put like 70,000 guns in there. So…. 

**Inmn ** 02:08
[Laughing] Yeah. Extreme forethought on the guns and not that much forethought on food.

**Matt ** 02:16
Or access to water or something, you know?

**Inmn ** 02:19
Yeah, or just community, you know? I don’t know, that’s one of my big things with bunker mentality. It’s like, okay, you’ve built the bunker where you’re going to survive the collapse, or whatever, and then what? You’re just like, alone in a bunker? That doesn’t sound like a good place to end up. I’d rather build these communities that can, kind of like, get through things together and like, take care of each other.

**Matt ** 02:52
Yeah, I think you can have a lot better chance of getting through something with a group of people around with varying skill sets and expertise and experience and so on. But also, like you say, I mean, I just…I don’t want to end up by myself in a bucket. That sounds like not a lot of fun. It’s not really a life I want to live.

**Inmn ** 03:10
Um, how do people talk about community preparedness in Europe or Portugal?

**Matt ** 03:21
Yeah, I mean, it’s not so much of a…. Things here maybe haven’t broken down quite as much as they have where you are. There aren’t…the contradictions haven’t sharpened–I think was a way to use before–quite as much as they maybe have. So people are much more interested in–or, not interested, maybe more focused on–finding ways to provide things for ourselves in the moment without a market, right. So finding ways to access housing and to access food and to provide food. There’s at least as much hyperbole and xenophobia and panic about refugees in Europe as there is about people coming into the US. And so trying to, you know, build links with these communities and things I think are much more focused on. The sorts of community care that people are doing here is more immediate, it’s not really aimed at the future. It’s kind of aimed at now. It has a different character, right?

**Inmn ** 04:30
Yeah, which stuff like that certainly happens here where there’s just so much to respond to. There’s so many bad things happening that it…it does feel hard to adequately be able to plan for the future because we are constantly reacting to what is currently happening.

**Matt ** 04:55
Yeah, I mean, I think there’s plenty of people trying to make life better right now in the US too. Yeah, I think maybe there’s not quite the same expectation that it’s all gonna go to shit soon here right away.

**Inmn ** 05:14
Oh, yeah, no, that’s an interesting difference because here, there’s just so much that it feels hard to stay on top of it but we all know stuffs gonna get real bad. Whereas there, it seems like people have more optimistic views of stuff not getting bad or they’re just like not thinking about it? [Said like a question]

**Matt ** 05:36
I mean a lot of it’s just kind of more hidden, because there are, you know, stronger welfare states in some parts of Europe. So things aren’t as immediately bad for, you know, as many people. It’s still very bad for plenty of people. But there’s not as many people who are facing the same immediate problems. And, sort of lurking in the background, you know, like, but I think they haven’t been brought into focus as much as the US has. 

**Inmn ** 06:08
That makes sense. I guess like…I usually ask this at the beginning of the story, or at the beginning of the interview, but like…and, you know, we’ve talked about a lot of this already, but what is the story behind the story? like, why is this an important story for people now?

**Inmn ** 06:27
I know, I love that the mechanism of collapse, of whatever’s happening in the story is really vague, you know? I’m like, did something happen? Was there just an insurrection? But whatever happened, like, I don’t know, these anarchists are really on top of it. [Laughing, like it’s unexpected they would be]

**Matt ** 06:27
I think it’s, first, important to sometimes laugh at these things because otherwise you just despair. And like I said, I wrote this for myself as a joke initially. So for me it was important for me to write, not necessarily have a plan for anyone to read. But I think–so, I mean, this is maybe stretching the definition of Utopia a little bit–but I think that thinking about what worlds could look like is incredibly important. You know, I think Bookchin says that, "The change comes from the difference of what people see their life to what they can imagine it to be like," basically, the bigger this differential, the more likely people are to act. And I think by expanding the sort of normative horizons of what we can expect of the world, I think this is quite important, genuinely. Like I said, it might be stretching it a little bit to apply that to this story. But I think it’s maybe a funny look at changes happening, right? I mean, it’s somewhat utopian to imagine that a city in the US could fall. So…. 

**Matt ** 08:09
Yeah, I didn’t want to go too much into that and make some sort of, you know, "10 pages on how to do a revolution," because, I mean, who am I to talk about that? And we’ve had that and got that. And, you know, this is a much bigger, more serious discussion. Also, it didn’t make any sense for Tanner and Blake to know how that happened. 

**Inmn ** 08:33
No, I love that we’re wrapped up in the mystery of that.

**Matt ** 08:37
Yeah. And I think, you know, we wanted to suggest that some things, they’re very basic things, like you mentioned before, just, you know, feeding people for a long time, recruiting people by helping, you know, helping people, convincing them at their side is better because actually their side was nice to them and help them and, you know, gave them some agency. Oh how dastardly of them. [said sarcastically]

**Inmn ** 09:02
Yeah, so dastardly. But, yeah, sorry, just to go back real quick to this….  It’s funny because I think maybe we maybe have different terms that we might use, but I, for instance, I feel resistant to the idea of utopian thinking, but something that I think is really important is like–and I think Bookchin talks about this idea or at least Cindy Milstein talks about this idea a lot–is prefigurative organizing or prefigurative visioning, which is like…. I don’t really…I don’t know enough about these things to know the difference between utopianism and prefigurative visioning but prefigured visioning being like, "We want to build the world that we want to live in now and not like wait for the future or for to be too late," or something?

**Matt ** 10:02
Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, there’s a lot of debate over what utopianism is, if it’s good, if it’s bad, if it’s whatever. So I’m just, you know, I’ll use the word and other people can disagree. But I exactly agree. Like, I think, you know, prefigurative politics is what we need to be doing. We need to build a world that we want to live in. But we need to have an idea of what world we want to live in to do that. And so I think we hold it out as a horizon that we can move towards, it’s not some fixed blueprint of how we want the world to be, but rather, that we can just continuously imagine and change and reflect on and we can bring little bits and pieces of it into the here and now. You know, like I’ve mentioned a couple of times with people trying to find ways to feed themselves in their communities and other ways to access housing and other ways to just exist right now. I mean, we need to have some idea of how to do this. And I think if we can, if we can conjure–especially as writers–I think if we can conjure some of these ideas of Utopia then people can take bits and pieces and try it. We can experiment, we can see if it works. If it doesn’t work, we can update our idea of Utopia. But it’s important that it’s a practice not a…not some fire or vision, you know?

**Inmn ** 11:13
Yeah, yeah. No, yeah, I totally, totally agree. And that’s like one of the…that’s like one of the natures of, you know, anarchism or anarchic philosophy is this adaptability or the ability to experiment and be like, "Oh, golly, that didn’t work. Well, we’re going to…. We thought it would, but it didn’t. So we’re going to try something different and see if that works better for people." We can change. Our visions can change. I don’t know.

**Matt ** 11:44
Yeah, and we try ways of, I don’t know, something as simple as try a way of organizing some collective or something. And then you find out that, actually, maybe we didn’t need 10 pages of different bureaucratic structures to stop power accumulating in one place too much. Maybe we could just wing it a bit, you know?

**Inmn ** 12:02
Yeah. Well, we are nearing the end of our time. But is there…are there any…is there any last things you want to say about this story? Or like, questions that I should have asked you that I didn’t ask you?

**Matt ** 12:18
I don’t think there’s anything that I was really itching to say that didn’t get mentioned. I mean, I don’t know. Maybe, like I said, I was worried about the story. Maybe just to mention that the misogyny that comes across is, as you know, is definitely…the characters are not speaking for a reason. So maybe I’ll just mention that in case anyone’s worried about it.

**Matt ** 12:42
Totally, totally. Yeah.

**Matt ** 12:45
No, I think there’s…. Yeah, it was a good discussion. I enjoyed talking about it. 

**Inmn ** 12:50
Yeah. And maybe that’s my final question about the story is like–we talked a little bit off air about this–but there being some nervousness around how the story would be perceived. And I was wondering if you wanted to say just a little bit more about that?

**Matt ** 13:07
Yeah, sure. I mean, I think writing from this perspective, I mean, from the perspective of someone who holds some racist views, misogynistic views, they’re gonna have a racist, misogynistic perspective. And it would be kind of weird not to have that in the writing. It would feel off somehow. So I mean, okay, obviously, I’m not using slurs and stuff. And I think in some way, you know, we mentioned this slightly before, but that in some ways, this is a caricature and in some ways it’s toned down. Like I think of these characters that actually have this happened in real life, they would have been a lot…. The language would have been a lot stronger in a lot of cases, even if they behaved slightly more sensibly in some cases, right? I think there was a tension there. But I think this was a very nervous story. So far everyone that’s read it has been very graceful or given me a lot of grace or goodwill, I guess. In reading it, assumed I had good intentions, which is very nice. But yeah, it was definitely very nervous submitting it to people that don’t know me at all and I don’t know them and they could have read it in a different way. So yeah, that went a lot better than I was maybe hoping

**Inmn ** 14:18
That’s all very understandable. I thought it was…. Like, we thought it was hilarious that Strangers so….

**Matt ** 14:25
Oh thanks a lot.

**Inmn ** 14:28
Yeah, I had some nervousness because where we ended the first part was like the kind of big reveal really hasn’t happened yet. I really hope people stick with this and are viewing it as a caricature or as a satire, which I thought was pretty obvious from the beginning. So….

**Matt ** 14:50
Yeah, it’s hard to satire something these days. I mean, alright, it’s cliche to say that satire is dead. It’s definitely not. You can still do it, but it’s getting difficult, you know?

**Inmn ** 15:00
Yeah, well it’s like…. I don’t know like there’s this–this is a weird plug–there’s this really silly movie that came out a while ago called Dark Dungeons and it’s a movie that some people made about this Chick Track of this Evangelical comic about how Dungeons and Dragons the game will make your kids queer and it’s about how they’re trying to summon Cthulhu. And they like…. So people made a movie of it and the movie is incredible. And like you watch it and you’re like, "Wow, this is a whole area satire." and the creators of that movie we’re like, "This is not a satire. We didn’t change anything. This is a sober rendition of these events and they satire themselves."

**Matt ** 15:57
Yeah, this is documentary. What are you talking about? [Joking]

**Inmn ** 16:02
Yeah, it’s like these things where it’s like, yeah, maybe it’s not the appropriate thing to call it a satire because it’s just presenting it as it is, you know? Does that make sense?

**Matt ** 16:13
I mean, as the world gets more ridiculous, it’s, you know, you have to do less work to do satire, I guess. [Laughing]

**Inmn ** 16:21
Yeah. Okay. Um, are you working on anything else or have anything that you would like to plug?

**Matt ** 16:28
Um, nothing really to plug. I mean, I’m writing…. Like I said, I like…I like the idea of utopia–as you know, we could disagree on maybe–and the idea of different perspectives and different utopias and how this could be. So I’m working on, you know, a collection of short stories of, you know, different utopias from different points of view. So, you know, maybe people can find that on Strangers. I don’t know. In the future. But yeah, that’s about it.

**Inmn ** 16:58
Are you…can you be found on the internet anywhere where you would like to be found? 

**Matt ** 17:03

**Inmn ** 17:04
Great. I love when people can’t be found on the internet. It’s wonderful.

**Matt ** 17:10
Yeah, no, I mean, it’s not my favorite place to be.

**Inmn ** 17:15
Yeah, it’s a weird place. Yeah. And I think we probably have more similar views than…. I think the word "utopian" is like a kicker word to me. But it seems like we have pretty resonant views on those things. Um, so just to end out the episode, we do this, Word of the Month, which is I’m going to tell you a word. I’m going to ask you if you know any of its origins or like any guesses about its origins and then I will tell you a little bit about the word.

**Matt ** 17:54
Excellent. I can’t wait to sound pretentious by guessing the origins of something.

**Inmn ** 18:01
So, you know, the word apocalypse? 

**Matt ** 18:03
I do. 

**Inmn ** 18:04
Do you…. What does the word apocalypse mean to you? And where do you think the word might come from?

**Matt ** 18:12
Apocalypse? I’m probably just gonna embarrass myself here, like "the end of the world," something like this. Right? Like, maybe it doesn’t mean this. But where it comes from? No idea. I mean, the only thing I could think of it similar to it is like Calypso, and I’m sure that’s not…that’s very far away.

**Inmn ** 18:29
Oh, I should have looked up Calypso. I didn’t make that connection. I’m gonna have to look. There might be…there’s there’s usually connections. Um, yeah, you know, it means the end of the world. That’s what we’ve come to…that’s the meaning that it’s come to have. Yeah. And Margaret actually posted something about this recently, which is why I’m doing this word. I was like, "Oh, that that is an interesting word." But you know, Apocalypse from the Greek ‘apokalyptein," in which means, ‘uncovering,’ and it has these two components there’s ‘apo’ and ‘kalyptein.’ ‘Apo’ meaning ‘off’ or ‘away from’ and ‘Kalyptein’ meaning ‘to cover’ or ‘conceal.’ And then, you know, the root word ‘kel’ goes to form some other words. Like in Latin, there’s ‘celare’ [said like ‘sell-are’] which means–or celare [said like kel (rhymes with ‘tell’)-are], which means ‘to hide.’ The derivative, there’s a derivative of ‘kol’ which forms ‘hal’ in Germanic and ‘haljo’ which means ‘hidden place’ and it’s the source of the Old Norse word for the deity Hela, who rules the underworld and then also like the Christian ‘hell’ as in like the bad place. And you know, it’s famously like, The Book of Revelations was, it was originally called like, or it was, since it was named in Greek, it was ‘apokalyptein," or sorry, ‘apokalypse,’ which was a derivative of ‘apokalyptein’ and it’s an interesting word to me because it’s like an–I always tried to pick a word that in some way applies to the story–which is like…. Apocalypse, meaning disaster or cataclysm wasn’t a component of the word until the 19thcentury or something. And prior to that, it was like…it was a word that was like, "uncovering" or "revealing things that have been hidden." And like…I think, disasters kind of do that. They reveal simmering things in our society that are apparent to a lot of people but not apparent to everyone. And yeah, I don’t know. 

**Matt ** 20:47
If they’re  big enough disasters, maybe they can reveal some sort of pathway to utopia, you know, we’ll see. 

**Inmn ** 20:56
Yeah, or at least like–again, to use this phrase–these  sharpening contradictions of like…. For which is I think applicable to a lot of people who are like, not, you know, not like anarchists or like people who are confronted with these things in their lives all the time, but for people who are more hidden away from these realities and like being fed propaganda by people is like, that these systems or structures that they have put faith in are not designed to help them and that will become more obvious to them so that we can build a better world with more people. That sounds great. Yeah.

**Matt ** 21:41
That’s a good place, a good place to end with apocalypse, I think, is that maybe it can lead us to something better.

**Inmn ** 21:49
Yeah, exactly. Which…I hate this kind of…this lining up with the Book of Revelations. It’s a weird…it’s a weird book. Christian mythology is really weird. But anyways, thank you so much for coming on the show. And we will catch you next time.

**Matt ** 22:10
Yeah, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Thanks for having me.

**Inmn ** 22:21
Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, then prepare for the apocalypse. Or just tell someone about the show. Or tell someone about the show and then prepare for the apocalypse together. That’s the ticket. Also, you can rate and review and like and subscribe or whatever the nameless algorithm calls for. Feed it like a hungry god. But really just tell people about the show and prepare for the apocalypse. It’s the main way that people hear about the show and honestly one of the other one of the better ways to support it. However, if you want to support us in other sillier ways that don’t involve feeding a nameless and mysterious entity, consider supporting the show financially by subscribing to our Patreon. If you subscribe to our Patreon at $10 a month, we’ll mail to you a zine version of the pieces that you hear here every month, anywhere in the world. You can also get access to an archive of old Strangers content as well as discounts on things like Tshirts and books we publish. Find us at patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. Oh and current Inmn, or future Inmn, looked up the origins of Calypso and you know Calypso’s a Greek word. It absolutely has the same roots as apocalypse or at least that Calypso has the root ‘kel’, meaning ‘to conceal’ and so Calypso literally meaning ‘hidden one’ or ‘one that hides.’ So, these words are absolutely related. And that’s…that’s kind of cool. That’s all I got. Our theme music is by Margaret Killjoy. Our zine layout is by Casandra. And thanks to the lovely mountain goblins that mail out our feature every month. I would like to give some special shout outs to these wonderful people though, who have helped make this podcast as well as so many other projects possible. Thank you. Patoli, Eric, Perceval, Buck, Julia, Catgut, Marm, Carrson, Lord Harken, Trixster, Princess Miranda, BenBen, Anonymous, Funder, Janice & O’dell, Aly, paparouna, Milicia, Boise Mutual Aid, theo, Hunter, SJ, Paige, Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea, Staro, Jenipher, Kirk, Chris, Miccaiah, and Hoss the Dog. If you sign up for our $20 a month Patreon then you can also get your name read here. And, you know, it can be, it can be whatever you want. So, you know, so if you feel like supporting us at that level, come up with a fun name for us to read every, you know, two or three times a month. It’ll be fun. And lastly, a lot of these features on the podcast come from listeners like you. So if you feel like a stranger that would like to find their story at home in this tangled wilderness, consider submitting it. Next month, which is going to be a little bit earlier than usual. It’s not…. Instead of coming out on the last day of the month, it’s going to come out earlier in the month, so keep an eye out because we’re going to be talking about a pretty timely thing. And that is St Lucy’s day. And…which means that we have a really wonderful piece by one of my favorite writers and one of my oldest friends, Wren Awry, who is bringing us a piece called "St. Lucy: an anti-hagiography." It’s gonna be a lot of fun. And if you want to learn more about, you know, Catholic mysticism and other really cool things–you can tell I feel really articulate right now–then come back and give it a listen. It’s gonna be a fun time. Stay well. We hope you come back

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