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Episode 55 is part of the Autumn 2017/Winter 2018 issue!

“The Huntsman’s Sequence” is a GlitterShip original.

Support GlitterShip by picking up your copy here: http://www.glittership.com/buy/

 

 

The Huntsman’s Sequence

by Octavia Cade

 

01011011101111….

m-configuration: Knife

The war is blank.

Not in its individual parts, but as a whole. It covers everything, smothers everything. It blows continents open with opportunity. Much of that opportunity is for death, for carcasses hung up and split open in massive consumption, a grind of bone and blood, but for some the opportunity is a tool for all that. Something to insert into the space between ribs, to lever open and dissect.

Not everyone dies in war. Not everyone sinks into blank nothingness, into unmarked graves and mass burials, into fields turned red and mud that stinks of iron. Some fight with symbols instead of flesh, their weapons heady and hidden, and it is in combination and in permutation that Turing finds his battleground.

 

[Full transcript after the cut.]

 

Hello! Welcome to GlitterShip episode 55 for May 5, 2018. This is your host Keffy and I’m super excited to be sharing this story with you today.

Before we get started, I want to let you know that GlitterShip is now part of the Audible afflilate program. What this means is that just by listening to GlitterShip, you are eligible to get a free audio book and 30 day trial at Audible to check out the service.

If you’re looking for a great book with queer characters, I recommend checking out Amatka by Karin Tidbeck. Amatka is set on a colony world in which objects can only maintain their shape if they are properly named. While visiting a colony not her own, Vanja discovers truths that alter the way she thinks about the world forever.

To download a free audiobook today, go to http://www.audibletrial.com/GlitterShip and choose an excellent book to listen to, whether that’s Amatka or something else entirely.

 

On to the episode, we have one original story and a poem for you today.

The poem is “Telegram From Tomorrow’s Lovelorn” by Shannon Lippert.

Shannon Lippert is a reluctant New Yorker, a former professional
Internet surfer, and a performing artist. She writes plays, essays, poems,
short fiction, long fiction, bad fiction, and fanfiction.

 

 


Telegram From Tomorrow’s Lovelorn

By Shannon Lippert

 

oh how good it is to be alive in a time
without miscommunication, we have so many
tools for reconciliation, we are inclined to be happy
with our upward trajectory—the next tool to be improved upon
is love

we have experimented with procedures and
policies that calculate for irregulars and
deviations in nature, and designed a program
suitable for all kinds, in the future we will not worry about
a thing

the remarkable innovation of the essential human
experience is made possible by contributions
made by companies you’ve never heard of
with wealth you’ve never dreamed of, for the creation of lovers
to be

no more the messy business of
hiring a writer for your profile or
interviewing for the position of life-partner
you will be intuited, distilled,
contained STOP

in the future love will be sleeker
an organic machine of orgasmic proportions
conducted by an algorithm calibrated to destiny
the beta version has been intriguing, and produced an
object

an artifact of more visceral traditions, tomorrow
there will be no more incompatibility, no more
irreconcilable differences, for all will be reconciled
categorized, tagged, compartmentalized, converted
to data

this is virtually reality, with a few minor upgrades
the bugs reported and removed, like
the hair between one’s brows, or the
men with low testosterone, the women who are too
driven

unnecessary inclinations will be resolved in the future, with
equations installed in a binary system of zeroes and ones
the problem is not one of variables, but imbalance, which
drove the initiative towards simpler paradigms of
passion STOP

reducing the complexity has caused initial disturbances
but overall the product has been well-received by
focus groups, carefully selected, who long for a time
when lonely is no longer something one has to
be

it is a wonder the species was able to replicate
at all, with the mire of mundane relations
and deeply confusing infatuations, and now
our relief is in the last stage of development, to learn the art of
loving STOP

we will have models that are easy to duplicate, simple
to impose on any group or subgroup, our
assets determined not by unquantifiable inherent
value, but by the concrete fact of what we need to
be

to other people, to those that assess us
like the auditors of old, only for fate
we can now be evaluated for attractive features
more easily, leaving more time to construct our true
love

 

Our original short story for this episode is “The Huntsman’s Sequence” by Octavia Cade.

Octavia Cade is a New Zealand writer with a PhD in science
communication, who particularly enjoys writing stories about science
history. She’s currently working on a collection of short fantasy stories
set at Bletchley Park during WW2; “The Huntsman’s Sequence” is one
of these. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, and
Shimmer, amongst others. She attended Clarion West 2016.

Our guest reader is Jacob Budenz.

Jacob Budenz is a writer and multi-disciplinary performer whose work has been published by Assaracus, Hinchas de Poesia, Polychrome Ink, The Avenue, and more. Currently, Jacob resides in New Orleans in pursuit of an MFA in Creative Writing.

Content warning for mention of suicide and dysphoria.

 


The Huntsman’s Sequence

by Octavia Cade

 

01011011101111….

 

m-configuration: Knife

The war is blank.

Not in its individual parts, but as a whole. It covers everything, smothers everything. It blows continents open with opportunity. Much of that opportunity is for death, for carcasses hung up and split open in massive consumption, a grind of bone and blood, but for some the opportunity is a tool for all that. Something to insert into the space between ribs, to lever open and dissect.

Not everyone dies in war. Not everyone sinks into blank nothingness, into unmarked graves and mass burials, into fields turned red and mud that stinks of iron. Some fight with symbols instead of flesh, their weapons heady and hidden, and it is in combination and in permutation that Turing finds his battleground.

He’s under no illusion that it keeps his hands clean. The information he extracts from the body of Enigma, the sweet little Snow White of his waking dreams, is used for murder as much as if he did the stabbing himself.

He can live with that, because he has the skills and it is a necessary thing, what he has become. The war, when he holds it, is sharp and bright and clean-surfaced and he knows his role, knows what it makes him.

For Turing the war is a knife that cuts him off from the old life; that sutures him into the new. He uses it to make little holes in his skin; to lace up the flesh again in new configurations, for the open theater of conflict comes with orders and betrayal. Academia was exploration, but what he does at Bletchley comes with focus, with tracking down and opening up. He cuts through code as if it was wild boar, slices out the heart of it, the liver and lungs, and offers the organs up to others.

He is the Hunstman.

new m-configuration: Huntsman

 

m-configuration: Huntsman

The huntsman is 1.

Turing is solid in himself, upright. Not simply in a physical way, though he is proud of his body. A runner’s body, swift and sure and when he runs of a morning, he is certain of his steps for he counts each one, catalogues the variation and speed and distance. There is little fat on him. He is smooth and straight and lean.

This is the shape he admires in others. A man’s shape, like his own, and he is not ashamed of where his desires lead him.

A huntsman is built for the chase. He has stamina, and strength. He has the determination to follow through mud and thorn thickets and shell holes, through bureaucracy and ill weather. He has patience, too, for there are times a huntsman has to stay downwind, to wait and wonder and make his best guess as to where the prey is hiding.

The huntsman is an analyst. He is able to follow the bare pattern of footprints, covered over as they are by leaves and leavings to pick out the true trail amidst the false. There are many false trails. They’re left to confuse him, to put him off the scent. It’s hard to pick out one pattern among many when the letters are sneaking by, in such numbers that the ones he wants are camouflaged by the rest.

It takes an analyst to butcher, too. The huntsman’s job isn’t over with the hunt: he must string up and dissect, pull out the organs for inspection and passing over.

He must have the scent of blood.

new m-configuration: Huntsman

 

m-configuration: Huntsman

The huntsman is 0.

The queen is the loveliest figure the huntsman has ever seen. He feels that he is nothing in her presence.

Will you give me your allegiance? she says.

She is built of abaci and cogwheels and calculation. She is built of logic and syllogism, axiom and tautology. Turing can see numbers in her hair and her dress is embroidered over with computation.

He does not worship her as if she were a woman, for women he finds difficult. They are expectations he cannot fulfil. He worships the queen as if she were an ideal: mathematics come to life, and that life does not expect him to lie with her.

He’d rather lie with men anyway.

The queen knows and does not care. You are what you are, she says. Why deny it?

She is all objectivity and questions.

Am I not beautiful? she says, head cocked to one side with cool assessment. Could you make me more beautiful?

It’s not as if truth needs decoration to shine. Still, Turing thinks he sees a path forward, and that path lies in mechanism, in the potential for engines and computing. He is the huntsman, and he knows the value of haste, of not letting a trail go cold. The queen chews equations slowly, with slide rules and logarithmic tables. He thinks he could make her work faster, more accurately.

You are already the most beautiful, he says. But it’s not like you couldn’t stand a few improvements.

His social skills have never been a strong point, but the queen is not insulted by accuracy.

I will give you my allegiance, he says, as if she’d never had it already as he worked through his arithmetic exercises as a lad, as he studied logic and looked in mirrors and recognized himself for what he was.

The queen is satisfied.

new m-configuration: Queen

 

m-configuration: Queen

The queen is 0.

The queen is 1.

She sees in black and white. A binary code, and even her mirror lacks color for color comes in degrees and all that the queen can see is certainty.

The mirror shows her troop movements and casualty lists. They are in black and white for dead is “not alive” and alive is “not dead” and these are the switches she has. Injuries are the same. Her soldiers are “fixable” or “not”, where “fixable” means “able to be returned to the front”.

There is an increasing proportion of “not”.

The fronts too are binary things, for all they change on their many border. This town is ours, that ridge is theirs. She has no room to wish them shaded with pink or lavender or violet. Dreams are a distraction, and wishing for victory will not make it so. Better the queen looks the whole horrid situation in the face, clearly assesses her chances.

Mirror mirror, she says, and it’s no surprise to hear that Enigma is prettier than she is. Younger, smoother, more efficient in her workings. No surprise there, they’re related enough for beauty to cross over, based as they both are in numbers and logic. It’s a family thing.

Nothing the queen does can crack that lovely surface, and with every failure, with every not-success the casualty lists become larger, the fronts closer.

She sees projections and possibilities, feels the mirror start to tremble with strain for it’s hard to show truth without color and that’s what the queen is: truth. How can she be truthful without certainty?

The truth is that the war will be won or it will be lost. It is not a pleasant truth but the queen is unconcerned with pleasantry. She’s always preferred surety to manners.

What are you certain of? she says to her reflection, and it’s less a question than a means of building up. A foundation for future plans.

You are certain that you are pretty, she says.

You are certain that Snow White is prettier.

There’s a viable argument in there, one that rests on removal.

new m-configuration: Queen

 

m-configuration: Queen

The queen is blank.

In another world, another story, the queen would look into a mirror and her frustrations would come out in anger, in wrinkled hatred and the end of blooming, and these things together would wash out her reason and leave her mind a mirror of continents: breaking up into little pieces in preparation for war.

In this world, the world where war is no longer a thing of plans and dark dreams and potentiality, rage is self-indulgent. Victory requires reason, the cool and easy flow of numbers, and there is no room for anything but rationality and the stepped resolutions of engineers and mathematicians.

(Control may be the only thing the two queens ever shared; the mirror that binds them together.)

In this world, the queen must speak truth and that truth is objective and binding.

“If we do not break Enigma, we will fail,” she says.

Turing watches her speak her truth every morning in the mirror. It is a truth he knows in his bones and his water, in his cheekbones, in his fingertips.

A queen should be that way. Regal, with nothing of the lie about her.

“If we do not break Enigma, we will fail,” she says.

(“If you do not kill Snow White, I will fall,” she says.)

Enigma is the focus of his days. Turing pictures her sometimes, the way she’s snuck up on him with her perfect complexity, with the smooth supple shape of her code. Never has he seen such a perfect encryption. He’d like to pin her under glass, to keep her still and silent and spread out for observation, but she’s too much of a living thing to lie quietly.

new m-configuration: Snow White

 

m-configuration: Snow White

Snow White is x.

She marks the spot.

Enigma is information. She is dates and coordinates. She is rotors and contact points and letter routes, and she cannot be decrypted until her position is known. She is shiny keys and crossed wires and combinations that can be remade over and over. She is sleek and slinking and beautiful and she shines bright enough to hide the truth.

Where is Snow White? says the queen, when the organs on her plate are shown to have come from other encryptions. Snow White is the threat, the unbreakable one.

Enigma is in the castle, in the woods, in the cottage, in the coffin. Her positions are different each time the queen looks for her.

Snow White romps over the countryside, cleaning up for the men who employ her, washing out submarines and rinsing out battalions, hanging them up to dry. She is sweeping airfields off the map.

She is very hard to catch.

Messages spill over the queen’s plate, and all of them are inedible. Tainted by combination, watered down with alphabet and permutation. The queen can’t chew fast enough to eat her way through to the marrow of them, and the truth of the messages is hidden from her.

But the queen has a huntsman, and she is chewing faster and faster.

new m-configuration: Queen

 

m-configuration: Snow White

Snow White is ǝ.

She is a placeholder, essentially. The point in the story tape that indicates beginnings.

It’s beginnings that illustrate again for Turing the difference between knowledge and truth. Some confuse them, but he never has. Snow White is a story of beginnings: of conception and transmission, of birth and ciphers and familial betrayal, the crossing of borders and what it’s like to run and hide against an enemy too strong to fight.

She’s a need for science, is Snow White, for poison antidotes and the exact number of kisses necessary to break the spell and open up glass and lungs, to start the heart beating again in the resistance. That too is a beginning, for waking comes with new rules and allied forces, with ambush and undermining and troop movements, the silencing of submarines as well as confetti and the roasted meats of feasting time.

She’s pure numbers, is Snow White. They make up her spirit and her bones and the typewriter casing of her flesh, but as Turing tries to tease meaning from her blood he is certain in his own warm marrow that there are only two endings to her beginning.

In one, Enigma sleeps in her coffin and never wakes, and there is blood and blackened hulls in the water, an island overcome.

In the other, the Huntsman learns enough from the red evisceration of her organs to be able to satisfy the queen.

Turing knows the ending will be one of these. He knows also that there is only one he is prepared to tolerate. He’ll see to it that Enigma has a happy ending.
Because happy endings might not be truth but they’re a type of knowing too, and one he’s pinned his hopes on.

new m-configuration: Apple

 

m-configuration: Snow White

Snow White is blank.

In this she reminds him of war and knives, though it’s a knife that brought Enigma to life, it’s an apple that ends her. There is such a range of possibilities in her, spread out and spread open. Thousands of permutations, millions of them, and they are all packed so close together that the mass becomes a single body, smooth and inviolate.

The trouble is that Turing was brought in to violate, the huntsman tracking down, snatching skin and code from the airwaves and carving it up for queen and country. He can’t regret his post. Enigma is clean and lovely and he admires the way she moves, the kinetic precision of her, the way she skips and teases.

He is confounded by her. Fascinated, and if a huntsman has dogs to bring to bay he too has beasts that growl and bite, and these are made of metal. Bletchley is full of machines, their colossal presence a bulwark and barking behind him, ready to gobble. Turing feeds Snow White to them in thin pieces, in tiny paper strips and she’s opened up before him, her blankness taking brief form and breaking up again.

He doesn’t begrudge the girl her figure. Not even that it’s always changing. The variation keeps him interested; it’s more than any other woman’s ever been able to manage.

But Snow White isn’t any other woman. She’s perfect, siren-voiced and something to come back to again and again. Though Turing knows he has to open her up, has to pin her down to pin meaning to that fascinating blankness, there’s part of him that’s glad for knives.

It’s such an opportunity they’ve given him, to put Enigma in her coffin.

new m-configuration: Snow White

 

m-configuration: Apple

The apple is 0.

The apple is 1.

The apple is x.

The apple is ǝ.

The apple is any number of bloody things.

If there’s one thing his work at Bletchley has given Turing, it is knowledge. More than that, it’s the knowledge that what he knows is frequently useless.

It’s a discouraging realization.

This is a list of what he knows:

Turing knows that he has cracked Enigma. He sees her in his dreams sometimes, code come to life in a perfect construct of flesh and glass, black and red and white and delicate as snowflakes. And it’s such a satisfaction, he doesn’t deny it, and a relief to know that for all this hideous war has cut his country to ribbons he has helped to settle it, to blunt the sharp edges and turn them away from others, from himself.

He knows constriction. Not just the pressure of routine and isolation and the need for silence, but that which comes from silence extended. For when the war is over and his work has been buried under official acts and promises, he knows limitation and what it is to bite his tongue until the bites never heal.

And he knows, above all else, what it is to be lonely. Bletchley is full of people and there’s always the sense of them massing at his borders but he finds it difficult to reach over. This is especially so when these people begin to spill out of manor grounds, to go home and on and he is left with all the connections he never could make, quite. The connections he most wants, those that come with firm warm flesh and hardness moving over him… well.

There is black bile within him, red teeth, the white of lips bitten down, and Turing comes to understand that, after all, knowledge can be poison as well as panacea.

He knows what it is to be betrayed.

He knows what apples taste like.

new m-configuration: Apple

 

m-configuration: Apple

The apple is blank.

The apple is bright and sweet and carries the promise of nothing; of gaps and absence and the thought of these is a restful one.

(Lately rest seems very appealing.)

Turing knows what permutation is—knows it in his flesh, softer now than it used to be with his runner’s body ruined by estrogen, the chemical castration that has given him breasts.

Snow White has breasts, no matter how much old Walt tried to cover them up. Turing would like to think a prince would come for him, wake him from this drugged state and break him out of the glass coffin of expected behavior but he is—has always been—the queen’s man and he knows he is not Snow White.

Snow White was sealed away behind glass and put on display. She has always been Enigma for him: something to be manipulated and spread out, to be opened up for silent viewing.

The apple did for both of them. Knowledge is half the time a poisoned fruit, and for all it can break a code into pieces it can break other things as well. His permutation is not nearly so subtle; it doesn’t have the camouflage of mathematics and he’s never been good at lies. Never seen the value in them.

Poison seems to be the only possible solution. Simple enough to track down and Turing has made a career of tracking, of long-distance pursuit.

He dips the apple in cyanide, a parody of the Evil Queen because truth is confused so often with knowledge and when he looks in mirrors they stand behind him, these so-close permutations and he’s the only one to tell difference between them.

The apple is bright and sweet.

He is the Huntsman.

He is the Huntsman.

new m-configuration: Huntsman

 

END


“The Huntsman’s Sequence” is a GlitterShip original and is copyright Octavia Cade, 2018.

“Telegram From Tomorrow’s Lovelorn” is a GlitterShip original and is copyright Shannon Lippert 2018.

This recording is a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license which means you can share it with anyone you’d like, but please don’t change or sell it. Our theme is “Aurora Borealis” by Bird Creek, available through the Google Audio Library.

You can support GlitterShip by checking out our Patreon at patreon.com/keffy, subscribing to our feed, or by leaving reviews on iTunes.

Thanks for listening, and we’ll be back soon with a reprint of Njàbò by Claude Lalumière.