Gosh yesterday was full of opinions, wasn’t it? I said some mean things about a website! And maybe even someone who liked that website might have thought: He doesn’t like that thing! But I like that thing! and had a whole moment to reconcile with themselves. Who knows.
But I do say that there’s writing I like on the SCP wiki, so now I’ve had my fun pointing out how entire categories of media on the wiki are tedious as hell or needlessly interested in hurting women, I am now obligated by the Centrist Bullshit Rules Of Not Being Mean To Websites On The Internet to point out things on that website that I like, for fear that me having a preference will be seen as ‘problematic’ or ‘he didn’t really get it’ or ‘I don’t think you’re giving it a fair chance.’
Fifthism is an idea that spreads across a couple of SCPs in the wiki, some of which are bad, and some of which are kinda cool. The idea at the root of it, though, is that there’s essentially a kind of a cult, or a haunted idea, or some kind of anomalous religious space (what we in the business call a memeplex), and the result is not that it has a religious following, but rather that the Fifthists create anomalous religious groups.
I, perhaps for reasons that don’t click for you, find this idea of a kind of memetic predation on a pattern of behaviour people have to be super interesting, and the credulity of people in that space is neat. And it also means that people get to write about nonsense religions and flex their muscles a little instead of just writing about the Abrahamic faiths and Greek and Roman myth (though, you know, hold on there).
The Fey are one of those places where the SCP foundation’s whole framing is weaponised against them: The Fey presented in SCP 4000 play on a trope from stories of the fey, which themselves build on the idea that ‘Gaelic myth was never written down.’ There’s this idea that Fey and the Fair Folk do something with names, and the SCP foundation are scientifically minded enough to recognise that over time in human usage, any title or adjective becomes a name, and therefore they have to write their containment procedures minimalising the chance that these names will form.
There’s also a good joke about how editors handle how difficult this SCP procedure would be to write.
I find the fair folk interesting because they present a challenge to be spoken about, and they do reiterate on a thematic space that another SCP I like builds on which iiiiiis:
This is a really good idea, wielded well. The basic idea is that sasquatch exist, in the wilds, and you need to avoid them because they have a terrible virus that can kill about thirty percent of all humans that even look at them. That’s weird and fits the existing SCP universe, and it’s a really believable ‘that’s all’ point that you can imagine a character in the universe being satisfied.
Then you have the further development, expanding on it, until you eventually cross the threshold of available information and the mask slips and you find out that the Bigfoots are the last remnants of a prehuman civilisation, who ran a shimmering, golden empire of biological super-science all across the face of the Earth. Then there was a revolution, they were overthrown, and now they’re asking to come back in, because they have forgiven us.
This is really interesting to me, because on the one hand, there’s room for an actual enormous civilisational disappearance in our earth’s history. Civilisation is fragile, it can disappear, it can be disappeared. Also, there’s a cycle of violence where the bigfoots were overthrown, but also overthrew their forebears too. It creates a vision of the cycle of violence in our own civilisations, without saying ‘those other humans are just as bad as us.’
Bigfoots are an overthrown colonial power that wants to ‘make good’ but isn’t doing it in a way we can meaningfully trust, because it’s hard to talk about solutions on the scale of civilisation. I mean, an abuser is standing outside, insisting to be let in: When do you extend trust?
3 Moons Initiative
I like the 3 Moons Initative as both an attempt to replicate a benevolent heavenly benefactor within the SCP universe and also the enormous challenges doing so. The 3 Moons are genuinely trying to be a net positive, but between the layers of secrecy erected by the different conspiracies, and the difficulty of being dead. Every faction that isn’t the SCP foundation in the SCP universe is treated as being kinda wrong and stupid, but even through that filter I have a hard time dismissing the intentions and hopes of the 3 Moons Initiative.
Also their motto is just the perfect kind of badass boast that is also kinda tone deaf about how creepy they sound.
Buried in the list of ‘explained’ SCPs is this idea of an SCP from the earliest days before the foundation came into existence, which was an attempt to catalogue the way that slaves seemed to want to escape slavery rather than accept their ‘natural’ state the way that slaves should. The whole thing is framed as a scientific examination of a phenomenon with containment procedures and some possible explanations, but also about how the individuals considered were used in human experimentation.
This is an excellent SCP because it’s both historically accurate – that there were attempts to treat slavery as ‘a science’ and black people have endlessly been used as test subjects by oppressor science – and that it shows that the SCP foundation is an entity made and maintained by people. The previous organisation that made these papers tried to codify their prejudice with science, and even if now they can, with their super science, recognise that this is just that, they still have the records, on file, because they need to keep track of what they did.
These are a good weird science boogeynonsense thing. The idea that order is something humans impose on the universe by observing patterns, and that the universe itself doesn’t have them, and the tension between the imposition and the actuality is space where something can happen is an extremely good, interesting space to create horror monsters out of that isn’t just delving into Lovecraft’s space of ‘what if we know things, but too much?’
Pattern screamers are also good in that they are extremely hard to explain; they dabble in the quantum that was discovered and popularised after Lovecraft died, not in the ocean or outer space which he feared in his lifetime. With quantum, you have room for a lot of nonsense, but pattern screamers aren’t a thing that was already there and waiting to be found; they’re things created by humans, unconsciously, but created by us.
Some of the stuff that relates to them, like deep time and universal reboots? A bit boring. But the core idea of a special kind of horror that comes from demanding things make sense is good to metaphorise.
I like these as just a neat little cryptid with a reasonably explicable but also deeply unsettling reproductive system. Things like this exist in other species – parasites that afflict a variety of other creatures – and the nose crabs are only weird in that they’re really unsettling and limited to a small location. Containing this kind of species is a very doable thing, and the reason to do so is because just knowing these things exist at all could get some really problematic behaviours. They’re essentially a parasitic species that can have large-ranging health implications and that nobody needs to know exists, so, keep it contained. I like this especially because it doesn’t need to be too anomalous to be just weird enough that it’s worth keeping separate from society.
The Brain That Ate Itself
And here’s another, much weirder idea. The notion in SCP 3513 is a place you pass through, and once you do, you get a break grow in your brain and start to eat it until you die. This, by necessity, is extraordinarily hard to study and the attempts to study it have proven fruitless. I like this because the weird and eerie nature of the story makes it hard to study, so they study it until it gets to be too hard. The fact that there’s a point where the foundation just gives up is important. It’s very much ‘my finger hurts when I do this – so don’t do that.’
If you go into this area, you get a brain beak. So, keep people out.
I love how simple it is? Like, the limit of curiosity is ‘this is hard to look at, it doesn’t seem to yield anything, so let’s just stop people from dying by going there and leave the rest of it alone.’
Are We Cool Yet
Art changes the world. Are We Cool Yet are the example of one of those kind of things that would happen in an anomalous universe – people devising strange ways to interact with the anomalous for the sake of creating that art. It’s nice because normally this stuff is treated as being ‘science’ stuff, so science research is done. AWCY is instead an attempt to render a pretty reasonable representation of what art movements might do in a world with a real global conspiracy and less tactile boundaries of reality.
It also helps that they seem to do a lot of things that are contrary to the fascist behaviour of groups like the Global Occult Coalition or the SCP foundation themselves. These organisations have functionally unlimited spending and operate completely in secret with the endorsement of world governments, for your own good – Are We Cool Yet are the street artists demanding that reality be presented as it is to the people who had no say in their imprisonment.
I really like this one, and I dislike reality warping, and needless sexual violence, what gives?
If you’re not familiar with The Deer, SCP 2845, the containment procedures open with an extremely detailed list of containment procedures. These procedures are in some cases remarkably specific, including a need for the commercial value of goods to be tracked with a price limit of $4.28. It also deliberately presents this in a particularly high-volume way that can make the details occasionally confusing to parse – like how the chamber the Deer is kept in is at -110 degrees celsius. Reading the SCP in a single run, you’re likely to have a hard time putting all these details into a meaningful, shared context. There’s even a bit of political sniping about these procedures. Then there’s an entity as described, which is a deer, capable of doing basically whatever it wants any time it wants to do it, and the stunningly difficult process of containing it.
The Deer is Saturn.
It’s the Roman god Saturn, but run through a photocopier that jams a bit, so it’s got a bunch of details about it that are about the Roman god; some details are about Saturn, the planet; some details are about the process of the god as expressed in Roman myth; and some details don’t quite fit either. The Deer is ‘Saturn,’ but kinda. It’s a God, kinda. It’s not a God in the way that we treat Gods in our own myths, when we’re the ones writing the story and processing the fanfics of fanfics generations later. This is what in a face-to-face dealing, a God is like, and what dealing with it in our modern industrialised way, with forgotten and half-remembered truths is.
The Deer is interesting to me because it is both a hand grenade with a rusty pin, and its monstrous containment is representative of something that feels like an idea that started from a place other than ‘let’s write a story where a little girl gets tortured.’ It is a thing that has to be contained very carefully, where the need for containment is high enough to justify the dreadful cost of it, but where that cost can be treated coldly.
Fox has pointed out that the Deer is definitely in the too edgy basket, and I do agree: I think the narrative works just fine if you cut out the baby eating, because part of the point of the myth it’s drawing from is that the babies survive being eaten. Still, ‘I would revise it a few steps’ doesn’t change the fact that the deer is definitely doing something with its horrifying elements.