28 thoughts on “[5.b Spoilers] Phone Conversations

  1. While I like the story, I don´t really like that a world view I admire and subscribe to (scientific method, skepticism, atheism) is portrayed as ignorant and naive as a natural result of this world. I realize that in this fictional world that is actually true, but there are enough people in the real world who think like that and this parallel makes me uncomfortable.

    It has been alluded to that Sharon is an unpleasant person, but if this were the real world I would mostly agree with her views. It is just jarring to also know that in Pact-World I shouldn´t agree with her views.

    Liked by 3 people

    • One of the key points of the Pact-verse is that it’s a world where occultism is a real thing. It’s logical in a mirroring effect that the opposing realistic views would be wrong in that world and I don’t think it should be taken as an attack on our scientific perspective in any way. I believe this perspective is interesting and it makes me relate to Sharon way more than the previous add-on did. It probably wouldn’t be the case if we’d had more details over the thing with her boyfriend, I assume.

      Liked by 5 people

    • Yeah it’s jarring. But that’s a good thing. The scientific method is build on the concept that the real world is testable, and the truth won’t adapt itself to the observers mindset.
      In our real world that’s only when talking about your own observations and the biasses in your own mind.
      This world is a thought experiment. What would be the best way the determine thruth when thruth evades being tested?

      In a roundabout way, we are getting into similar troubles that we see in the most sensitive of scientific experiments, like quantum physics. Where the act of observation is smudging the data.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, but it’s also annoying because it’s an artificially extreme case, on the author’s part.

        Pact magic is absolutely susceptible to scientific tests. (Verona is a natural magic scientist if ever there was one.) It may be strongly influenced by perception but it’s easy to demonstrate things happening; the illusion that no magic exists is just that. But we consistently see practitioners have to fight for (and pay for) every tiny bit of power they get.

        Most people in Sharon’s position would just have become Aware. And then be scientists about it.

        Because she’s obsessively hanging on to her false hypothesis, she… gets rules breaking powers of great usefulness at no cost? But only as long as she continues to be invalidly smug about it?

        For me that actuality breaks the reality of the universe. Where is this super-power coming from? Why is nobody charging her for it? It feels far too deus ex machina for me. No strike that… it feels like there’s not enough deus behind it.

        That’s why the metaphor’s a problem for me. Sharon says exactly the things many of us atheists have to say in the real world, but she’s not only objectively wrong in this universe, she’s behaving like our worst enemies’ bigoted caricature of us… and only a character because that behaviour is apparently rewarded with exemption from the usual rules, and if she responds with real scientific curiosity she’ll lose that and die.

        Innocents being safe because practitioners won’t hurt them, not can’t, was a major plot point only a few arcs ago. Innocence being vulnerable to predation from terrible things had been a theme throughout this universe. Why should super-determined-Innocence change that?

        It doesn’t enrich the universe that it does, and it makes the character feel heavy-handedly uncomfortable at the narrative rather than the (intended) personal level. But the extent the usual rules have to change for Sharon, the sledgehammer nature of her texts, feels so much like undermining the exhausting and frustrating work debunkers have to do in real life, because we’re not shown any other express representations of scepticism.

        Which I know wasn’t Wildbow’s intent. I’m just saying the character would land better with a lighter touch and clearer limits on her power.

        Liked by 2 people

        • re: Sharon’s “power” is inconsistent with established rules of the universe

          1) Magic takes power to happen, but it’s conceivable that 0 magic takes 0 power to happen. Rather than some ability stemming from Sharon, this could just be the universe contriving for Sharon’s worldview to be reinforced. Sometimes the universe contrives things at no power-cost to an individual. Case in point: Clem.
          2) It could be powered by Sharon’s Self.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Honestly, to me she seems more like those unpleasant internet skeptics that seem to think more than they do and worship science as a set of ndeniable facts rather than as a process and a way of thought that progresses and changes.

      I have seen the type a lot, the type of person to cling to a 30 year old biology textbook or to claim they know more about a person’s culture that the person themselves and who use science and platitudes about the scientific process (which they do not actually follow) and the sactity of debate as a cudgel to hurt others, simplify scientific results, go against science in general and be a general asshole in ways real scientists and people who actually progress humanity’s knowledge rarely or never are.

      Sure, many of the things she says sound reasonable at first glance, but the way she acts sets off many, many alarm bells that make me wonder how scientific her approach actually is. People like this tend to be more dogmatic than scientific, merely using whatever science research agrees with their conclusion and worldview rather than starting from a point of no bias after all.

      Liked by 10 people

      • You bring up some good points about nuances of her view and personality that I didn´t recognize or skimmed over at first reading, but that are definitely there. It´s certainly a trap to be aware of, to view science as dogma and use it as a cudgel. It´s a trap I probably also fell into at some points in my life.

        But as an ‘Innocent’, Pact-World should be indistinguishable from the real world. When people in the real world want me to be more open to the supernatural or various pseudo-sciences (sore point homeopathy), I tend to react dismissively or even belligerent depending on the degree of condescension I encounter.

        So if I lived in Pact-World and the ‘Truth’ was revealed to me, I would probably react and end up like Sharon because this is the only rational reaction for me.

        And that´s probably what´s bothering me so much.

        Liked by 2 people

        • It’s not like it’s a bad reaction. It’s the reason Sharon hasn’t been eaten by bogeymen, despite specifically seeking them out in a setting where they exist. She has true faith in science; blind, bull-headed religious faith, and it works to ward her against the creatures of the night just as surely as an incantation or a prayer.


    • Speaking as a skeptic atheist who follows the scientific method, I don’t feel represented by Sharon because…well…she’s not as rational or scientific as she thinks she is.

      I wrote a whole comment about this (it’s the one that’s way, way too long), but TL;DR, Sharon has a bunch of preconceptions about the world, and perceives anything that clashes with them as irrational. That’s why she’s a racist, and that’s why she doesn’t recognize the other magical people in her apartment complex as magical.

      Liked by 6 people

    • I mean, it’s quite clear from my POV that sharon’s approach is in fact NOT scientific at all, just like her interlocutor points out here “not as scientific as you’re purporting”. While sharon’s effect dampens practice-related stuff, she was still rejecting it as an hypothesis BEFORE she had such powers, which means she probably wasn’t following the actual factual scientific method.

      I find it quite hilarious that “skepticism” – defined mostly by doubt – represents here people that DON’T actually EVER doubt their beliefs ! That alone makes it obvious IMO that the criticism is NOT toward skeptics but towards those that hide their dogmatism behind a veil of purported skepticism.

      And that’s actually quite a frequent occurence in the real world, so that seems very reasonable that ideological purists opposed to any and all practice-things exist and hide behind science, skepticism etc…


  2. You know, looking at Sharon’s interaction with her lover, it’s no wonder that she’s failing at breaking into the Alt-Right commentator space. Even full-fledged national socialists in the Alt-Right generally don’t claim that they know more about other people’s cultures than they do – though they do sometimes accuse them of deliberately lying about it (e.g. Muslims and Taqiyya, or their portrayal of Jews in general).

    Liked by 3 people

    • Maybe you and I have had different experiences, but I have seen a LOT of Alt-Right individuals claim that they know more about other people’s cultures than them. Especially the rightwing people who end up in a relationship with someone from that culture. I’ve seen republicans marry Muslims and then try to tell other Muslims all about their culture as if they know it better.

      Liked by 5 people

      • ngl, I’ve seen that attitude out of plenty of people across the entire political spectrum. There are know-it-alls in all walks of life and they’re all just as toxic.


  3. Mm, “knows more about her culture than she does”. There’s that big ol’ warning signs I was expecting.

    Also immediately calling her… I’mma go with booty call. Calling her booty call a “betrayer” for asking her not to be a shit to his friends is a big one.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. We use what we know are near-absolute truths and we build out a hypothesis we can then test. It’s the rational approach. Ghosts aren’t rational. Nor are goblins, trolls, or alien abductions.

    Reminds me of something I heard on BreadTube*: That the right-wing “rationalist” community tends to see rationality as an innate quality rather than a methodology. IE, if Sharon is rational, then she must have arrived at her opinions logically, so they must be true—which is, of course, backwards. Similarly, ghosts, goblins, trolls, and alien abductions aren’t inherently irrational things we can dismiss a priori, but things which have been dismissed by rational methods.
    But the nonexistence of such things, just like every other “near-absolute truth,” should be discarded when rational methodology indicates that the actual truth is difference. Look at early-20th-century physics for two of the classic examples—relativity and quantum mechanics—where basic assumptions about how the universe fundamentally works had to be discarded to fit with observed evidence.

    The right-rationalists have a pre-existing “rational” view of the world. Anything which supports that view is rational, regardless of methodology (e.g. The Bell Curve†); anything which doesn’t is irrational, regardless of methodology (such as anything related to gender studies). This maps brilliantly to “The Scully mindset” [ref TV Tropes]. The Scully has a pre-existing “rational” view of the world, and anything which is irrational can be dismissed, regardless of how much empirical evidence there is that the “irrational” thing exists.
    Making a Skeptic one of those right-rationalists was a brilliant idea, because the Scully mindset maps so well onto the innate-rationality one. I love it and hope I didn’t just start a flame war. (…not that I imagine a lot of Sharons are still following Wildbow’s stories.)

    *In-community name for left-leaning and outright leftist YouTubers. It’s a reference to Peter Kropotkin’s The Conquest of Bread.
    †See Shaun’s video on the book if you’re interested in learning more. (“Shaun” is the guy’s YouTube username.) It’s a thorough dissection of everything in the book, including the main sources it cites. Speaking of which, you don’t need to watch it all in one sitting—it’s two and a half hours long.

    Dickless Betrayer

    And since I’ve already kicked the hornet’s nest, it’s worth drawing attention to the “dickless” bit. He’s not a “race traitor” or something, he’s a “dickless betrayer”. Emasculation isn’t a particularly biting insult if you don’t consider the masculine superior to the feminine. Sharon might be racist first and foremost, but racism is comorbid with misogyny (is comorbid with religious intolerance is comorbid with homophobia is comorbid with transphobia is comorbid with…)
    Which isn’t to say that all racists are misogynists, etc, but that it’s extremely rare to find single-issue bigots.

    He only remembered when I got him thinking about it…So that’s the big mystery.
    Obviously it’s mundane. You don’t need magic to explain stuff when people are bad enough.

    On one hand, “it’s not magic” is a perfectly reasonable response for anyone in something like the real world who hasn’t been directly exposed to empirical evidence of magic. On the other hand…the assumption that the teacher must be “bad enough” to just not notice that he doesn’t have enough students is noteworthy. Especially since Sharon singled him out as an Asian teacher.
    Stop the presses, the racist character is probably racist. Yeah yeah, but I think I’ve had enough hot takes for one comment.

    …my current line of thinking is what if there’s a tie between that guy & the missing kids?

    Welp. That’s ominous.

    Holy shit you’re getting a lot of views.

    WELP that’s probably even worse.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Whoah. This is a great analysis and it makes me feel much better about my understanding of her as a character, to the point that I completely retract the critical comments I posted above.


  5. Unofficial Transcript:

    Sharon: Been Waiting Forever!

    Heyyyy hon

    It’s been 30 minutes. I walked around but couldn’t find you two. I’m going to give you the benefit of a doubt and I’ll assume Daniel had a little meltdown & you couldn’t check your phone.

    I’m not mad, but please try to keep me in the loop next time around. I know we’re here as a favor for our landlord but I am working too and I can’t work while waiting around for you guys.

    I’m going to go check us in and then do a walkabout to interview some locals & see if there’s any good material. I’ll be out late tryingg to get some spooky film footage of prime locations but call if you need me.

    No replies. Try your last conversation with Clem?

    Clem: Want anything? I got Daniel water and fruit. I have chips. I paid for the gas.

    Sharon: No thanks hon! Thx! You’re great!

    He sent, 21 hours ago…
    Bristow: a fine summer day for a drive do you think? Might it be a possibility, however slim? I have reason to believe there is something afoot in a small town at the northern end of Lake Superior. As always I am a fan of your investigation videos and I believe they are where your strengths lie. This time I have personal reasons to inquire.

    I think an old acquaintance of mine, an ex-friend I now know to be a conman and thief who rips hard work from the hands of others and preys on the young and vulnerable is profiting off of the very same content your investigation videos focus on. In fact, if I’m being entirely honest, when I invited you to stay, I had a faint hope I could one day point you in his direction. If you are amenable then this day could be soon. While I might normally bring you the offers and let you do as you want, this time I would pay you.

    The town, Kennet, has links to this man, and authorities know too little to take

    has a good head on her shoulders.

    A two day trip to a resort town, all your expenses paid, $2,000, and I’ll put you in touch with the media group we discussed. You can leave Daniel to Clem and focus on your video.


    Sincerely, Lawrence T. Bristow, esquire

    9 messages not shown. Unfold?

    You sent, 2 minutes ago…
    Sharon: …and I’m getting a bit worried. Daniel has his moments.

    He sent, less than a minute ago…
    Bristow: I have not heard from them but I would not worry. Clementine is capable and Daniel oft gets by in the end. Let them find their own way. I asked a favor of Daniel as well and he may be distracted by that. You focus on your work for now.

    Lawrence T. Bristow, esquire

    New Message Board
    Replies on Haunt Hunt Hut

    ArcticTurn wrote…
    I disagree strongly. what’s the point of doing what we do if we can’t keep an open mind? can you truly hunt ghosts and other phenomenae if you never allow yourself to consider that they might actually be out there?

    we do this for fun. people watch me & watch you for fun. this clinical method you’re insisting I adopt sounds so joyless.

    You sent, less than a minute ago…
    Sharon: The ‘clinical method’ I describe is the scientific method. Familiar with that one, bud? Gather the info and research the background. We use what we know are near-absolute truths and we build out a hypothesis that we can then test. It’s the rational approach. Ghosts aren’t rational. Nor are goblins, trolls, or alien abductions. We know so little for sure in this crazy, sad world, but I have to believe we’ve come at least that far. Any other approach is unconscionable.

    Slowsweetharddeep messaged you:
    Hey, Shar
    Can we talk?
    About last week.

    Hey baby babe.
    I’m filming some interstitial shots for another paranormal debunking vid. I don’t have a lot to go on this time. It’s such a drag. I’m happy for any distractions. ❤

    There are some creepy bystanders here. Long stares. As a setup this is great but I’ve got to figure out how to handle it. Creep factor is high but not a lot of material. I’d have to catch them out in a lie.

    Are you there baby?

    I’m here.
    I’m just trying to figure out what to say. I don’t love the way you talked to my friends when I introduced you to them.

    I don’t love the way they talked to me either but I’m a big girl. I can take it.

    Slowsweetharddeep messaged you:
    You can’t talk about someone’s faith like that.

    Before you get into it with a reply can we move to phone? Turn off your Do Not Disturb mode?


    Sent by you 6 minutes ago…

    Change made!
    Slowsweetharddeep has been renamed to Dickless Betrayer

    New Message Board
    Replies on Haunt Hunt Hut

    ArcticTurn wrote:
    that’s not as scientific as you’re purporting there. whatever it is it seems to work for you. shall we agree to disagree? I’ll do my thing and have fun exploring factories and you can do your science, which you seem to love, and we’ll do the internet equivalent of giving each other smiles and nods as we pass in the hallways?

    You sent, two minutes ago…
    Sharon: Fuck no, i’m not smiling or nodding. I meant it when I said what you do is unconscionable. I’m speaking from experience when I say I know how hard and far people can fall when they buy into the kinds of lies you see as ‘fun’. We currently have a massive issue with the lies of entertainment and news media and you want to become exactly that: lying entertainment that purports to be ‘ghost journalism’. Kids watch you. Impressionable kids.

    That’s not ok.

    You messaged Thea The Great:
    I’m in such a bad mood.
    Locals keep giving me the stink eye. And Dickless Betrayer tried to give me shit for knowing more about his friend’s culture than she does.


    Slow & Sweet is now Dickless.

    Ice cream time?


    Are you close?



    Did you stop in at my apartment yet?

    Ate your cookies.

    You whore.
    Listen. Help me get out of here faster and I’ll forgive you for the cookies. Take notes for me?

    Collab? I can get on my mic.

    You do this thing where you laugh in the face of the “monsters”. And that works for you, but if I have to do this stuff I want it to be serious.
    Take notes?

    Will do.

    Some mentions of a thing at a party. Crazy stripper dude. No way to follow up. A lot of these cons work from the same playbook, with graffiti that hints at the magic, same basic ideas.
    Not seeing a LOT of that here. Which is nice. Creepy bystanders, recent uptick in the crime rate. All in the last few months.

    This is from talking to locals?

    I was able to pick this Asian guy’s brain about stuff. Asked him to name any weirdness. He said his books didn’t add up with how classes are balanced. Missing kids?



    That’s big if true.

    He only remembered when I got him thinking about it. Must be a top notch teacher, right? So that’s the big mystery that jumps out at me. Obviously it’s mundane. You don’t need magic to explain stuff when people are bad enough.
    Case in point: Dickless being a total jackoff to me.

    Is any of his stuff at your place? I’ll put his toothbrush in the toilet and you can tell him to pick up stuff while you’re gone. You’ll have an alibi.

    I’ll think about it.
    Our landlord said there was something sketchy about the guy that he used to know. I need to talk to him for more details, but my current line of thinking is what if there’s a tie between that guy & missing kids?

    I am avidly listening.
    That would be such a good video. If you started out looking for a mystery and found a creep in a shithole town.

    I’m pretty good at getting cops to listen and pay attention to stuff like this. And the scumbags who try to use cons or “mystical” smokescreens like this tend to fall to pieces when the cops come calling.

    Weeping Gallows: Final Part

    That video yeah.
    There was another incident but I felt like I shouldn’t put it online. I do have a conscience. Unlike certain young ladies who are asked to watch an apartment and eat the owner’s cookies.



    It’s not like I’m doing anything with my night. You called me and now you’re BRBing me, wasting my time…

    It’s a mutilated animal BRB, Thea.

    The creepy bystanders were getting to me, so I headed out to walk around and get more shots of the scenery. This fucking squirrel is all swelled up, it’s almost spherical. There’s marks on trees, too. Cutting out some of the etched bark.

    Either A+ effort and F for caring about animals from these bozoz or you’re about to get murdered, Sharon.
    It was nice knowing you. You bought great cookies.

    I’m not murdered yet.
    There’s so much more of this crap.
    Stuff dangling from the branches like that Warlock movie, carved into wood. Skeletons of animals, fresh mutilated animals. I’m filming and grabbing what I can. Not touching the animals tho. Cops’ll be interested.

    You’d better be filming!

    I hear them. They’re freaking about some perimeter. Gonna run & hide. Call 911 & use the Phonelink on my computer to get my locations & video.

    This sounds huge. Be safe! Will do as you asked. Are you streaming?

    Hopefully these yokels are the type who know enough about computers to care about getting caught on live video.
    Turning off my phone. I don’t want the glow or sound of it to draw attention.

    Good luck.
    Holy shit, you’re getting a lot of views.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Oh man, Bristow’s writing style. I want to punch him in the face.

    I like Thea’s sense of humor. I hope she’s not one of Sharon’s alt-right friends.


    • I’m not sure how you can read this chapter and come away wanting to punch Bristow in the face…
      Actually, what puts you off about his writing style? It’s a little smarmy and wall-of-texty, but not that much of either as far as I can see.

      Considering how abruptly Sharon cut Slowsweet out of her life, Thea is either actively alt-right or at least tolerant of Sharon’s bigotry. That is, at best, a red flag.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I mean, Bristow isn’t the only one I want to punch, but he’s the one I want to punch for the most irrational reasons so he’s the one I commented on.

        Liked by 1 person

        • It’s a combination of the dated dialect, the lack of contractions, the fluffy fake politeness, the obliqueness, and other things I can’t quite put my finger on. They’re all fine on their own, but together they pile up into the shape of somebody who is way too full of himself. “Hey! Hey guys! Look at me! I’m so fancy! I’m and esquire even! WooOOooOOoo fancy!” That’s what I hear when I read his message.

          Well, that’s what I heard before. Now that I’ve said it, what I hear is Bristow covering Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy”. Times like this make me I wish I was an animator.

          Liked by 2 people

        • If he’s a lawyer (which wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest) then “esquire” might in fact be an earned title.


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