aleph symbol with title UNSONG

Chapter 31: The Foundation Of Empire

Together, we can build a better America, colonize it, and use the old one for raw materials and target practice.
Steven Kaas

January 30, 1981
Camp David, Maryland


The song goes:

Who can retell
The things that befell
Us so long ago?
But in every age
A hero or sage
Came to our aid

As the 1970s drew to a close, America was at a low point. The armies of Thamiel had been defeated by twin miracles in the East and West. But technology and infrastructure were still shattered, the state governments could barely maintain order, and outside the Eastern Seaboard the country was still divided into the regional powers that had taken over after Nixon’s fall.

We needed a hero or sage to come to our aid.

When he came, it was out of California. A popular governor had been presumed dead in the chaos; now he reappeared, restoring order to the fledgling California Republic. When he talked, people listened. Matthew 7:28 – “For he spoke as one having authority, and not as the scribes and Pharisees”. He traveled the land, talking about the American Dream, and where he went the impossible seemed possible. People dropped their quarrels and swore loyalty. John 7:46 – “Never man spake like this man.”

There had been no midterm election in 1978. The war was too desperate, lines of communication too frayed. Nobody had expected an election in 1980 either. But now the impossible seemed possible. The remnants of the federal government in Washington came together to make it happen. By train or ship or ox-cart, the votes rolled in, steering carefully around the smoking ruins of the Midwest. The ballots were counted. The results had never been in doubt. It was the biggest landslide in American history.

And so on January 20, 1981, Ronald Reagan stood in front of the Capitol Building and declared that it was morning in America.


In 1 Samuel, King Saul of Israel has grown paranoid and is trying to kill his former general David. David has only 600 men; Saul has 3000; open battle would be suicide. So David waits for cover of night, and along with his friend Abishai he sneaks into Saul’s camp. They steal a spear and water jug from the sleeping Saul. The next morning, they show off their treasures. Saul realizes that David could have killed him in his sleep; that he chose to spare the king’s life proved that he must still be loyal. There in his camp Saul embraced young David and begged his forgiveness for his former suspicion. David, for his part, kneels before Saul and swears a renewed oath of loyalty.

That makes the kabbalistic meaning of “Camp David” “a place where the anointed of God swears loyalty to the earthly king who has been set over him for the time being”, so Jala West was trying to treat President Reagan with as much respect as possible. It was proving difficult.

“The young man who saved Colorado,” Reagan kept calling him. Emphasis on the word “young”. He slapped Jala on the back jovially. “Why, you can’t be a year over fifteen!”

“Five,” said Jalaketu. “I grow quickly. I have to.”

A disconcerting blankness flitted across Reagan’s features, then dissolved into laughter. “I feel that way too sometimes! All the work, never-ending, and Congress breathing down your back. I feel like a kid back in grade school!” There was something paternal about him now. No, grandfatherly. “But whatever your age, you’ve done great work, son. America is proud of you. We’ll be giving you the Medal of Honor soon, I’m sure. But I wanted to tell you personally first. It’s lads like you who make this country great.”

Jalaketu shifted uneasily in his seat. “We were going to talk about Colorado’s re-admission to the Union.”

The President looked disappointed to have his small talk brushed aside, but he nodded. “Of course. You’ve done great work, Jala. Mind if I call you Jala? And we can’t thank you enough. But Colorado’s part of the Union. The plan is to get all the old territories – California, Washington, Texas, even what’s left of the Midwest – and join them back together. The legalities are complicated, but the boys in Interior have promised to send you some lawyers to help you…your advisors sort it out.”

“Mr. President,” said Jalaketu, “Colorado is open to discuss various forms of free association with the United States. But we are not interested in outright annexation at this moment.”

The robes Jalaketu was wearing should have looked ridiculous on him, all interwoven black and silver patterns studded with little gemstones. They didn’t. They looked correct.

“Mr. Jala,” said the President. He reached out, put an arm on the boy’s shoulder. “I know it seems exciting now, leading a whole state. I hear you’ve even got them calling you king! Well, good for you! But you’re going to learn that leading a government is hard work. Too much for one person to manage. You’ve got economics, defense, laws…that’s why, all those years ago, our forefathers decided on a United States, so that all of us would work together on the hard job of running a state. I know you want to go it alone – ” he gave a big understanding smile ” – but it’s just too much for one boy. Too much for anybody. Certainly too much for me! That’s why I’ve got my Cabinet and whole buildings full of people trained at Yale and Harvard.”

“I know I’m young,” said Jalaketu, “but if you could just talk to me the way you would talk to, say, the President of France, then this would go a lot quicker.”

Another disconcerting blankness. Then back to the folksy smile. Jovial laughter. “All right, Jala. You’re a straight-shooter. I respect that in a guy. So let’s talk shop. Colorado’s right in the middle of the United States. Long as we’re apart, neither one of us is defensible. That’s why your parents and grandparents brought Colorado into the Union, and it’s why my parents and grandparents accepted it. in order to have a country that stretches from sea to shining sea…”

“This isn’t working,” said Jalaketu. “Let me make my proposal. Instead of a full reunification of the US, a continental partial union based on the European Economic Community established by the Treaty of Rome back in 1958 but integrated with some of the military provisions of NATO. Given what’s happening with the Communion and the League over in Europe, NATO’s dead in the water otherwise, but we could rebuild it as a pan-American organization. We include the United States, Colorado, California, Texas, Salish, and the free areas of Canada, maybe Quebec and Ontario as individual member nations. Continental free trade and open borders modeled after the Anglo-Irish common travel area. President as head of state of the union in much the same way as the British monarch and pre-collapse Canada.”

Reagan laughed. “I like you, kid. You’re ambitious, just like I am! But there’s a lot of stuff you don’t know. Treaties are delicate things; the Treaty of Rome alone probably has a hundred articles – ”

“Two hundred forty eight.”

“What I’m saying is this is difficult stuff for a fifteen year old.”

“And yet I seem to be the only one here who’s read it.”

Reagan laughed heartily. “I like your spirit, son,” he said. “But this isn’t about us. It’s about America.”

“Stop it and listen to…” Jala paused. This wasn’t working. It wasn’t even not working in a logical way. There was a blankness to the other man. It was strange. He felt himself wanting to like him, even though he had done nothing likeable. A magnetic pull. Something strange.

Reagan slapped him on the back again. “America is a great country. It’s morning in America!”

That did it. Something was off. Reagan couldn’t turn off the folksiness. It wasn’t even a ruse. There was nothing underneath it. It was charisma and avuncular humor all the way down. All the way down to what? Jala didn’t know.

He spoke a Name.

Reagan jerked, more than a movement but not quite a seizure. “Ha ha ha!” said Reagan. “I like you, son!”

Jalaketu spoke another, longer Name.

Another jerking motion, like a puppet on strings. “There you go again. Let’s make this country great!”

A third Name, stronger than the others.

“Do it for the Gipper!…for the Gipper!…for the Gipper!”

“Huh,” said Jalaketu. Wheels turned in his head. The Gipper. Not even a real word. Not English, anyway. Hebrew then? Yes. He made a connection; pieces snapped into place. The mighty one. Interesting. It had been a very long time since anybody last thought much about haGibborim. But how were they connected to a random California politician? He spoke another Name.

Reagan’s pupils veered up into his head, so that only the whites of his eyes were showing. “Morning in America! Tear down that wall!”

“No,” said Jalaketu. “That won’t do.” He started speaking another Name, then stopped, and in a clear, quiet voice he said “I would like to speak to your manager.”

Reagan briefly went limp, like he had just had a stroke, then sprung back upright and spoke with a totally different voice. Clear. Lilting. Feminine. Speaking in an overdone aristocratic British accent that sounded like it was out of a period romance.

“You must be Jalaketu. Don’t you realize it’s rude to disturb a woman this early in the morning?” The President’s eyes and facial muscles moved not at all as the lips opened and closed.

“I know your True Name,” said Jalaketu. “You are Gadiriel, called the Lady. You are the angel of celebrity and popularity and pretense.”


“You’re…this is your golem, isn’t it?”

“Golems are ugly things. Mud and dust. This is my costume.”

“This is an abomination. You’ve taken over America.”

“I have saved America,” corrected the Lady.

“Not yours to save!” said Jalaketu. He drew the sword Sigh from…he drew the sword Sigh. “This is America! Government by the people, of the people, for the people. What’s good is their decision, not yours. You should have left it alone!”

“Like you did, Jalaketu ben Raziel?”

“That’s different! I’m American. I was born here.”

“Dear, you’re what? Five years old? I’ve been in America longer than there’s been an America. I am America. I watched it through the curtain of Uriel’s machinery, and when I could I sent my love through the cracks. Who do you think it was who made George Washington so dashing on his stallion? Who put the flourish in John Hancock’s signature? Who do you think it was who wrote Abe Lincoln telling him to grow a beard? I stood beside all those foolish beautiful people talking about cities on hills or nations of gentlemen-farmers or the new Athens and gave their words my fire. Who do you think whispered the Battle Hymn into Julia Ward Howard’s ears as she slept? Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored. He has loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword. His truth is marching on.”

“He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,” said Jalaketu. “He is wisdom to the mighty, He is succor to the brave. The world will be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave.”

“You’re a fan?” asked the Lady.

Jalaketu knelt, like David had knelt before Saul three thousand years earlier. “I wronged you, my lady”, he told Reagan. “What I said was hurtful. Please forgive me.”

The door cracked open, and a woman came in bearing a tray. “Coffee and snacks, Mr. President, Mr. West?” President Reagan regained his facial musculature and laughed in his own voice. “Aw, Sally, you always know exactly what we need,” he said, and flashed her a huge smile. She blushed and set down the tray. “Anything else? Anything for you, Mr. West?” The boy shook his head. “That’ll be plenty,” said the President, “You go get some lunch yourself.” She smiled and left. Reagan’s pupils veered back up into his skull, and the angelic voice returned.

“I accept your apology, Jalaketu ben Kokab,” said the Lady, “but the golem’s opinions are mine as well. I will not let you tear my country apart. I didn’t feed Lincoln all those battle plans through Nettie Maynard just to let people break the Union when things got tough. America’s story isn’t done yet. It’s too beautiful a story, and it’s not yet done.”

“Your intentions are good,” said Jalaketu, “but you’re running on hope and empty promises, and you know it. Without the Midwest, everything’s scattered geographically; with air travel and roads what they are DC can barely connect to Sacramento, let alone rule it. Even if you can get the others in by sheer force of will, it’ll be your powers as the Lady that do it and not the geopolitical realities. As soon as you try to leave the stage, the whole thing will collapse, and you might not get another chance.”

“I will keep it together,” said the Lady. “I’ll stay as long as it takes.”

“For what? Is that how you want America’s story to end? An angel tricks them into giving her supreme power, and uses supernatural charisma and giant smiles to force the nation to cling to life despite itself? You want to possess President after President till kingdom come? My idea offers something legitimate and self-sustaining. Give the states some independence, bow to reality, but keep the country together.”

“And what about you? Are you going to give up power in Colorado? Put down that ridiculous crown of yours?”

“No,” admitted Jalaketu. “I have a mission. I don’t have enough time to do it the right way, so I’m going to do it the fast way. But if I ever finished, then…yes. Yes, I would set Colorado free.”

“I also have a mission,” said the Lady. “I protect dreams and stories. I also don’t always have enough time to do it right.”

“I’m not ending the story,” said Jalaketu. “Just proposing a new chapter.” He placed his briefcase on the table, took out a document, handed it to Reagan. “A constitutional amendment. Well, a set of constitutional amendments. More of a Constitution 2.0.”

“Typo in the title,” said the Lady.

“No,” said Jalaketu. “There isn’t.”

Reagan thought for a second, then laughed. “I like you, Jalaketu ben Kokab. But not enough to give up.”

“It’s not giving up! You know and I know this has to be done. We can do it now, the right way, peacefully. Or it can happen later, badly, without our input.”

Reagan scanned the document again. Her eyes narrowed.

“Look,” said Jala. “Jefferson. Declaration of Independence. Was that you?”

“What do you think?”

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

“Don’t you twist my words at me. I know what I meant!”

Jalaketu answered: “It is not in Heaven.”

Reagan started laughing. Then kept laughing. Then laughed some more. “You are really something, Jalaketu ben Kokab. You really think you can do this thing?”

“Somebody has to and no one else will.”

“You know,” said Gadiriel, “the thing about America is that everyone comes here, everyone becomes a part of it, everyone contributes. The African-Americans all stand up for each other and add their mark. So do the Mexican-Americans. I think it’s time we Celestial-Americans present a united front, don’t you agree?”

“Is that a yes?”

“It’s a maybe. We’ll negotiate. We’ll talk. But in the end I think you will have your Untied States.”

A presidential staffer came in. “Mr. President, lunch is ready. Reporters from the Times are there, they’ve been waiting to meet Mr. Jalaketu for a long time.”

“I’m sure it will be delicious!” said President Reagan, laughing. “And I’m sure our guest here is starving as well. We’ll be in in a moment. In the meantime, let the press know that I’ll be calling a conference tonight. We’re going to have to renegotiate parts of the reunification plans, and I want Mr. Jalaketu there to help me sell this to the public.”

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164 Responses to Chapter 31: The Foundation Of Empire

  1. Pickle says:

    Non-typo comments:

    1) Welp, Comet West is officially Raziel. Due to my personal suite of associations with Raziel, this is hilarious.
    2) Welp, Gadiriel is Reagan. Question that comes to my mind: Was she always Reagan, or did she take his identity for her own purposes after true-Reagan’s death in the chaos?

  2. John Fast says:

    …and one of the people involved in the fall of Richard Nixon was Black Dynamite, whose followers practiced kabbala, as shown in this clip.

  3. Beavis says:

    Buttress hahahahhaa

  4. Sniffnoy says:

    Oh, man. This is great.

    Who can retell
    The things that befell
    Us so long ago
    But in every age
    A hero or sage
    Came to our aid

    …you know, I’ve never heard that translation before; I’ve always heard it with “us” on the second line and the third line as “Who can count them?”

    “Two hundred forty eight.”

    …whoa. So there are. TINACBNIAC.

    “Huh,” said Jalaketu. Wheels turned in his head. The Gipper. Not even a real word. Not English, anyway. Hebrew then? Yes. He made a connection; pieces snapped into place. The mighty one. Interesting. It had been a very long time since anybody last thought much about haGibborim. But how were they connected to a random California politician? He spoke another Name.

    …this is amazing.

    “Like you did, Jalaketu ben Raziel?”

    Oh, huh. Confirmation. I really wasn’t sure if that was true. Have to wonder if Jala himself knows by this point that Raziel is Comet West; I assume he has to, as he doesn’t react with any surprise here.

    “I accept your apology, Jalaketu ben Kokab,”

    Hm, things didn’t end very well for the last “son of a star” who was often regarded as the Messiah, did they? Might have been more effective foreshadowing if the “ben Kokab” name had been introduced earlier in the story.

    “Typo in the title,” said the Lady.

    “No,” said Jalaketu. “There isn’t.”

    Hopefully the commenters here get the message. 😛

    Jalaketu answered: “It is not in Heaven.”

    I suspect some readers may need quite a bit of explanation on this one…

    • Daniel Blank says:


      It is not the right of the people to alter or abolish their government in heaven, i. e. TOK was wrong to rebel, can’t go against God, sort of thing.


      • Daniel Blank says:

        Previous post is a potential explanation for “It is not in heaven”, mentioned in that post’s parent.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Are you suggesting as the meaning, or in addition to the Talmudic reference?

        Since I’m guessing a number of readers aren’t going to be familiar, here’s a copypaste of the relevant bit from a translation I found here:

        On that day R. Eliezer brought forward every imaginable argument, but they did not accept them. Said he to them: ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let this carob-tree prove it!’ Thereupon the carob-tree was torn a hundred cubits out of its place — others affirm, four hundred cubits. ‘No proof can be brought from a carob-tree,’ they retorted. Again he said to them: ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let the stream of water prove it!’ Whereupon the stream of water flowed backwards — ‘No proof can be brought from a stream of water,’ they rejoined. Again he urged: ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let the walls of the schoolhouse prove it,’ whereupon the walls inclined to fall. But R. Joshua rebuked them, saying: ‘When scholars are engaged in a halachic dispute, what have ye to interfere?’ Hence they did not fall, in honour of R. Joshua, nor did they resume the upright, in honour of R. Eliezer; and they are still standing thus inclined. Again he said to them: ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let it be proved from Heaven!’ Whereupon a Heavenly Voice cried out: ‘Why do ye dispute with R. Eliezer, seeing that in all matters the halachah agrees with him!’ But R. Joshua arose and exclaimed: ‘It is not in heaven.’ What did he mean by this? — Said R. Jeremiah: That the Torah had already been given at Mount Sinai; we pay no attention to a Heavenly Voice, because Thou hast long since written in the Torah at Mount Sinai, After the majority must one incline.

        R. Nathan met Elijah and asked him: What did the Holy One, Blessed be He, do in that hour? — He laughed [with joy], he replied, saying, ‘My sons have defeated Me, My sons have defeated Me.’

        • Daniel Blank says:

          I was not familiar with that, but main takeaway from that would be “Yes, I can twist your words against you. I also know what you meant.” I would give much more credence to that than my original suggestion, because it is an actual source. Maybe both are true because Kaballah.

          • Timothy Scriven says:

            Not quite. The point is more that the Torah is ours to interpret, so a majority opinion regarding it cannot be wrong because there is no higher court to judge the matter, G-d has given it to his people in its wholeness, and it is their inheritance, the whole thing is already on earth so the idea of appealing to the heavens to arbitrate a dispute about its true meaning is meaningless, because this posits G-ds ‘true’ intention as this extra thing, a part of the Torah we do not have, whereas in reality we have the whole thing.

          • Timothy Scriven says:

            Fits with the common idea in Jewish metaphysics that the word is the primary building block of reality, not things. Thus to posit the word as secondary to some divine intention is meaningless. The words are whole in themselvesnot just a secondary inscription of things or intentions .

            This whole story is occurring in a world where linguistic idealism is true (e.g. words and their patterns are the fundamentals of reality) thus very appropriate reference.

        • Nonternary says:

          To further elaborate, Rabbi Joshua is quoting Deuteronomy 30:12.

          • -_- says:

            More specific and fun: He is quoting it out of context.

          • PDV says:

            > More specific and fun: He is quoting it out of context.

            Not so. Here’s the full quote from the NIV, emphasis added:

            > … [10] if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Lawand turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
            > [11] Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.
            > [12] It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”
            > [13] Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”

            The context is entirely in agreement with R. Joshua; it is specifically saying that the laws, in the Book of the Law, is present and near to hand, not up in heaven where ordinary humans can’t go.

        • SonOfLilit says:

          This here is in my opinion the most important text of Rabbinic Judaism (and not, as one would assume, the Bible).

          I learned of it when I was comparing philosophies with a good friend who is an observing Jew. We were trying to come up with empiric tests of his beliefs, situations where it might be falsified, and I went more and more extreme…

          “Oh come on. A prophet comes and performs a lot of miracles right in front of your eyes, proving he is a real prophet, and then tells you your interpretation of Kosher law is wrong and should be so and so”
          “I ask my Rabbi”
          “What do you mean, you ask your Rabbi?! This guy just performed miracles in front of your eyes, why would your Rabbi know better than him?!”
          “Oh no, it’s explicit in Halachic law. God doesn’t decide what the correct interpretation of Torah is, our hierarchy of Rabbinic Scholars does. If a prophet is trying to convince me in a wrong interpretation, then he is a False Prophet. There’s a story called “The Over of Akhnai…”

          • dsotm says:

            The thing is that similar dogmas exist in pretty much every major religion, the papal infallibility doctrine in Catholicism being one example.
            On the heretical side – for me it’s also a very strong evidence that the entire notion of god in (relatively) modern religions is basically being *admitted* to be a legal fiction used to legitimise a particular system of government or priestly class.

    • “…you know, I’ve never heard that translation before; I’ve always heard it with “us” on the second line and the third line as “Who can count them?”

      The version above is how we always sang it at my synagogue, but it was a Reconstructionist synagogue so we probably changed the words around a bit just to make sure we weren’t being too traditional.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Also having Jala reply with “It is not in Heaven” is just great also.

    • Haggai says:

      I didn’t get either of the last two. Some help?

    • I really wanted her to actually call him “Jalaketu bar Kochba”, but I remembered at the last moment that angels can’t speak Aramaic.

      • Sniffnoy says:


      • Sniffnoy says:

        I like it better this way though, where it’s not quite as overt.

        • Sniffnoy says:

          I wonder if the last-minute change is why it didn’t show up till now? Had it been mentioned earlier, like I said, it could have been foreshadowing. But if it had originally been planned as “bar Kochba” rather than “ben Kokab” it might have been too blatant. But going back and adding it in somewhere earlier now that it’s less blatant is hard. (What character would refer to him as that, for instance? You’d probably need to add a whole new scene or something.)

          • Aegeus says:

            It did show up earlier, in the “There’s a Hole in my Bucket” interlude. It mentions the “Star Prophecy,” which mentions a comet/scepter/king, identified as the Messiah.

            And people in the comments noticed that this description fit the “Comet King” very well, and that the prophecy was historically used to describe Bar Kochba in the Roman times, and we tried to draw some parallels.

            I’m still not sure what to make of it, though. We knew that the Comet King didn’t succeed, that was pretty clear from the outset, the real puzzler is how he failed and why.

        • Warren Peace says:

          Oh yeah, so overt! I bet even students who flunked out after just 7 years of religion school would get that obviously obvious reference!

      • Moshe Zadka says:

        I am ashamed to say I needed this explanation. That bit is truly #winning.

      • dsotm says:

        Nitpicking: s/Kokab/Kochav
        Also I sorta wish he wasn’t, there is little admirable about the namesake – although with Thamiel’s hell in the picture the utilitarian payoff table of Unsongverse is somewhat different I still hope that the Colorodans won”t end up paying the price of their King’s ambitions

      • -_- says:

        And ABSOLUTELY NOTHING could POSSIBLE go wrong with this messianically-fervered last-ditch rebellion against a sudden incredibly well-organized and -supplied occupying force, now that they’re holed up in the mountains and led by a guy called “Son Of A Star”.

        This isn’t even “Nothing Is A Coincidence” anymore this is “There Is Nothing New Under The Sun”.

    • Jason GL says:

      In context, the Biblical reference “It is not in heaven” is a lecture about what frame of mind you should be in as you organize a new government!

      Deuteronomy 30:11-16

      For this commandment which I command thee this day [i.e., on the day that the Israelites are crossing the Jordan River to take possession of Israel after returning from slavery and exile in Egypt], it is not too hard for thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say: ‘Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say: ‘Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?’ But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it. See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil, in that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His ordinances; then thou shalt live and multiply, and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest in to possess it.

    • Aegeus says:

      “It is not in Heaven” means “I know you wrote it, but you don’t get to say what it means.”

      It originally comes from Deuteronomy, where in context it’s telling the people “Torah isn’t some unreachable thing in Heaven, it is right here in front of you, and all of you can study it and follow it.”

      But the meaning here comes from a Rabbinic story. During a dispute, Rabbi Eliezer disagreed with the majority of the sages, so he called on God to show that he was correct, and a heavenly voice said “Rabbi Eliezer is correct!” And the other rabbis replied: “It is not in Heaven” – God himself is not a greater authority on the Torah than anyone else.

    • I think “It is not in Heaven” means that the constitution must be interpreted by what is written down, not by the person who wrote it explaining what they meant. That’s the parallel with the story of Eliezer.

    • Alsadius says:


      What’s that stand for?

    • John Fast says:

      The midrash is wonderful, and there is also the fact that Jefferson wrote to Madison, apropos the Constitution,

      “that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living”: that the dead have neither powers nor rights over it. The portion occupied by an individual ceases to be his when himself ceases to be, and reverts to the society.

      Lincoln also stated in the Gettysburg Address that it is “for us, the living, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”

      Robert Heinlein’s first-written (and last-published) novel is called For Us, The Living.

      Ayn Rand’s first novel, meanwhile, was We The Living.

      Reagan and Lincoln were Republicans; Heinlein and Rand were libertarians; libertarians are generally considered on the same team (Team Red) as Republicans.

      These are not coincidences, because *nothing* is ever a coincidence.

      (As Ian Fleming supposedly taught new agents in British Naval Intelligence, look out for patterns, because “Once is luck, twice is a coincidence, and three times is a enemy action.”)

  5. Sniffnoy says:

    Also: Guess Ninmesara turned out to be wrong about the costume being a fake Peter Singer corpse.

    • Ninmesara says:

      Yup, seems like I guessed wrong. I still prefer my version, in which the answer ties to an already introduced character with some foreshadowing instead of introducing a brand new fake character out of thin air.

  6. Alan Robinski says:

    So apparently the people who said in a previous chapter’s typo thread that the phrase “Untied States” was intentional were right.

    • Pickle says:

      Yeah; it had been pointed out ever since it first showed up in Chapter 2, and since Scott has been so good about fixing typos when pointed out, the fact that this was repeatedly and obviously not fixed was an indication that he meant it all along.

  7. hnau says:

    Yay politics!

  8. Beavis says:

    There’s no tucking way either of the Bushes are costumes of this anvel, right? That’d be ridiculous.

    • evergreen says:

      Well, the angel of the Lord has used a burning bush for concealment before, so…maybe?

      • LHC says:

        Uriel, specifically. I think the Bushes are just humans with kabbalistically relevant names here, though.

        • fubarobfusco says:

          “It took all the way until the turn of the millennium before America listened to a bush and then got stuck wandering in a desert without an exit strategy.”

          — Aaron, in Interlude ב

    • Ninmesara says:

      Sarah clearly wants a Trump costume to run for the 2017 Presidential election (in Unsong the election cycle has been shifted one year forward). She is still on time for the formal announcement in June 16th 2017. Since the general consensus is that the story will end the day the last chapter will be published, this isn’t probably teh plan. Which is a shame.

      • I was thinking: we know Gadiriel has incredibly talent for showmanship and a habit of posing as Republican presidential candidates. And her name literally means “Wall of God”. So the chance that she’s Trump in our universe is pretty high.

        On the other hand, Trump has a habit of making really tall buildings for silly reasons, so he might also be Samyazaz. Maybe he’s some kind of child of both of them, or a joint project, or something.

        • Ninmesara says:

          We will know for sure after god Emperor President Trump adresses the nation with the words “philip king papist madrid, mary scoths catholic londoh america”, or something to that effect,” thus summoning vast hidden forces from beyond the veil and erecting a wall of darkness over the Medican border.

  9. LHC says:

    This recontextualizes every earlier Reagan reference. Only interesting one I can find is that she created the Angel Reserves.

    Gadiriel is still around in the present day, but the golem might have been publicly destroyed – possibly by John Hinckley. If so, the Curse Of Tippecanoe never broke in the Unsong verse. Of course, the Curse might also have been satisfied because the man the American people elected was already dead. Occam’s Razor might favor this interpretation, as it requires no new information from the story. Also, Gadiriel might have knowingly picked someone deceased to impersonate specifically to satisfy the curse this way, on the basis that a president dying in office would deal a lethal blow to the American spirit in these already testing times.

    • stavro375 says:

      If so, the Curse Of Tippecanoe never broke in the Unsong verse.

      Nice catch. There was a reference to President Cheney a while back (I think he cracked down on the Unitarians?), so it seems that at some point Bush Junior was assassinated. And, of course, the Curse of Tippecanoe is clearly the sort of thing the divine-light powered universe would enforce.

      But I don’t think that Gadiriel!Reagan makes it to the end of her term. The Curse is about a President’s death in office, not being dead before taking office. And you yourself point out that there’s an assassin waiting in the wings for an opportunity to impress Jodie Foster…

      • LHC says:

        That is a possibility, but the Curse might have been tripped up by checking to see if Reagan was dead and determining that he was so the job’s already done.

      • boris says:

        Erica’s sometime boyfriend, Brian Young, had left Ithaca three months ago out of annoyance at what he considered to be the excessive pacifism and hippie-ness of the California counterculture. He’d vowed to find BOOJUM, the terrorist cell that had already killed one President and was supposedly gunning for more…

        This probably means that Bush was assassinated by BOOJUM.

      • LHC says:

        John is derived from the Hebrew names “Yohanan” and “Yehohanan”, meaning “Graced by God” and “God is gracious”. The one who popularized the name was a high priest of the temple in Jerusalem during the Bablyonian exile. According to Flavius Josephus, he got into a fight with his brother, Jesus (no relation) and killed him in the temple. This was seen by the few who were aware as desecrating it, but few were aware. John was also the name of King John Hyrcanus, who was popular at the time for destroying the Samaritan Temple (even though it, too, was a temple of Yahweh, it was detested by the Jews in Jerusalem because it was not theirs). John is one who cuts off tributes to God both domestic and foreign.

        John is much more prominent in the New Testament. There are several New Testament Johns, though they were conflated in antiquity. John the Baptist is considered by Christians to be equivalent to the prophet Elijah. He was the predecessor to the Messiah, Jesus, and baptized him; when he did so, God came down from Heaven and announced that Jesus was his son. The Gospel of John is one of the more mystical books of the New Testament, and the one that most clearly equates Jesus with God, a tentpole Christian belief. Revelation was written by a John and speaks of the Antichrist, a prominent world leader, being grievously struck in the head, revealing him as a nonhuman agent of Satan. John is one who publicly reveals the supernatural puppetmasters of great leaders – violently if necessarily.

        John is also slang for a prostitute’s client; John is one who is unable to obtain a woman’s affections without acting immoraly. John is also slang for a toilet. Hell, which is in the center of Earth and the universe, was traditionally thought to be in the center of Earth and the universe because it’s the asshole of the universe, where gravity collects all the spiritual shit of the universe. John is one through whom the energies of Hell flow.

        Warnock is a Scottish surname meaning “son of the follower of St. Mearnag”. John Warnock Hinckley Jr. is the son of a follower of George H. W. Bush. John Warnock is a Mormon computer scientist who, in OTL, cofounded Adobe; it’s probably a theonomic in Unsong called Adamah. He also helped fund Salon. Warnock’s Dilemma, as described by Bryan Warnock, a Perl programmer, is the problem of not knowing what readers thought of something you posted online because none of them responded. Warnock is also only one letter removed from “warlock”. A Warnock is one who taps into arcane magic, creates the news by becoming an active participant in it, has a special connection to his father’s leader, and is tone deaf regarding people’s response to his actions.

        Hinckley derives from a British place name which means, in Old English, “Hynca’s Farm/Woods/Clearing”. The only Old English etymology I can find for Hynca suggests that it refers to a bear cub. A bear is a dangerous creature and a woods or clearing is its element, though we’re specifically referring to a cub, which is less so. “Junior” is synonymous with “the second”, but has a connotation of childishness which people with that suffix can never escape. A junior is someone in their third year of high school or college. A “Hinckley Jr.” is a dangerous young man.

        The origin of “Jodie” is unclear. It appears to come either from “Judith” or “Joseph”. “Judith” means “woman from Judea”, and, deuterocanonically, was a woman who got an enemy general drunk and decapitated him in his sleep. “Joseph” is a very common biblical name, but is most prominent in Genesis in the Torah, where he is a Jew sold into Egyptian slavery who acquires status through his Godly interpretation of dreams as prophecies. “Joseph” is also the New Testament father of Jesus, who provides the ancestral connection to David but is not Jesus’s biological father. We might, then, expect a Jodie to be someone intoxicating, who comes to someone enthralled in their sleep, and wreaks destruction and tells of the future. “Jodie” is not actually a given name of Jodie Foster, but a stage name; her real name is Alicia Christian Foster. So the “Jodie” who came to John Hinckley Jr. was not the real human being he thought it was, but an artificial creation of Gadiriel; how ironic that she would inadvertently be her own undoing! There are accidents on set and then there are accidents on set. This is not unusual; it is Thamiel’s way to turn beautiful things, like those Gadiriel creates, away from their intended functions.

        “Foster” is most likely an Anglicized version of a surname meaning “forester”, but it also has a literal English meaning invoking adoption of a child. John Hinckley Jr. became obsessed with Foster when she was still legally a child (though not by the traditional Jewish definition, as she was 14 and was thus already a young woman). Freud associated the forest (an anagram of foster, and obviously what a forester, or Forster, deals with) with puberty; this is, for example, the basis of Into The Woods by Stephen Sondheim. It is not unusual to see a young teenage Foster as the object of a pedophile’s obsession.

        Incidentally, in Taxi Driver, the film that inspired Hinckley’s obsession, Foster portrayed a teenage prostitute who inspired the protagonist to assassinate a politician. This fictional assassin, Travis Bickle, was possibly based on the real would-be assassin Sam Byck, who attempted to kill Richard Nixon, outraged over the Watergate (Outer Gate) scandal. This assassination would have been carried out by crashing a plane into the White House, foreshadowing 9/11, but since it failed so badly (he never even got off the ground as he didn’t know how to fly the airplane himself and could not convince others to do it at gunpoint) it was not taken seriously and measures were not put into place to prevent a future successful incident. The Unsong equivalent of 9/11 was the Other King killing the Comet King, but George Bush may well have been assassinated by BOOJUM via plane-crash; this would certainly be an impressive display of ritual magic. Perhaps Sam Byck was a ritual magician in Unsong, but utterly failed to impress.

    • Peter D says:

      How is that for a TINACBNIAC:
      I am riding in a car with my wife Sunday night an pick an ebook to read aloud to pass the tme away. From the library catalog we settle on “Bad For Business” by Rex Stout. One of the characters – a private detective – is Tecumseh Fox. Huh, Tecumseh, that’s a strange name, says my wife. I then remember this was the middle name of General Sherman of the Civil War fame. Then I look up Tecumseh on Wikipedia, find out he was a great Native American chief and so forth.
      Now, reading this comment two days later, I look up Curse Of Tippecanoe and what do I see?
      The name Curse of Tippecanoe (also known as Tecumseh’s Curse…
      Creepy or what?

    • Peter D says:

      By the way, the Curse Of Tippecanoe is something straight out of the Unsong universe!

  10. How did Carter become President?

  11. Gerald says:

    There are 248 words in the Sh’ma

  12. He spoke a Name.

    Reagan jerked, more than a movement but not quite a seizure. “Ha ha ha!” said Reagan. “I like you, son!”

    Jalaketu spoke another, longer Name.

    Another jerking motion, like a puppet on strings. “There you go again. Let’s make this country great!”

    So why/how does this work?

    Also, might this be used to unmask whoever is behind the body that Gadiriel is constructing?

  13. Inty says:

    I’m now re-imagining how the interaction between Metatron and The Comet King would’ve gone, assuming TCK really is Raziel. At least now it’s a lot less of a mystery how TCK managed to persuade Metatron to tell him the Shem haMephorash. Also, maybe this means the Black Sail’s game is that it only responds to an archangel?

    • LHC says:

      The Comet King isn’t Raziel, he’s a nephil with Raziel as a father. Comet West is Raziel.

    • Roman Davis says:

      “Ben” in this case means “son of.”

    • Ninmesara says:

      We only have his word that Metatron told him the Shem haMephorash… I’m starting to get some vibes that Metatron might have refused to talk to him and he might be actually be the captain (Nemo) trying to find someone worthy of speaking to Metatron… After all, he seems to know how to drive the boat and how to find Metatron’s ship.

  14. Jason GL says:

    Is there an Isaac Asimov reference here? The chapter title sounds like a variation on Foundation and Empire, the second book in the Foundation trilogy, which focuses on the disruption caused by a warlord with super-human charisma, as well as on the social contrasts found in the Empire (which is enormous, and necessarily governed at a remote distance) and the Foundation (which is smaller, and has a more local system of government, although that government has begun to feel complex and awkward as the Foundation continues to grow).

    I would say that nothing’s a coincidence, but I see Asimov references everywhere, so I’m not a reliable source.

  15. stavro375 says:

    Tear down that wall!

    Wait, what? There’s no Berlin Wall in the Unsongverse (I think?*) and certainly no Gorbachev for Reagan to utter this command to. What could this quote possibly mean in the context of the Unsongverse? Are these Names somehow pulling in information from OTL?

    *I mean, the USSR is no more, and without it there’s little stopping the people of Germany from reuniting the Fatherland except perhaps bureaucratic inertia and south Germany joining the Catholic superstate mentioned a while back.

    • John Fast says:

      Maybe it’s a reference to Wall Drug. And we know that Reagan was very into the war on drugs.

    • Aegeus says:

      Maybe the wall was repurposed to keep out the demon hordes?

      • LHC says:

        Then why the fuck would Gadireagan want it torn down?

      • stavro375 says:

        Thamiel, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for Hell and its legions, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Thamiel, open this gate. Mr. Thamiel, tear down this wall!

        And then Gadiriel put three influence points on Lake Baikal and performed three realignments anywhere in Eurasia.

    • Angstrom says:

      Morning in America also wasn’t a thing in our universe until 1984:

      I think the idea is that Reagan is pre-programmed with various Reaganite slogans, and that changing circumstances can cause them to be pulled out early (i.e. Morning in America), or that Names can be used to pull them out even when they don’t make sense (i.e. Tear down that wall!)

      • stavro375 says:

        That’s also quite weird. And the actual quote is “Tear down this wall”… So you assert that in the Unsongverse there’s some fundamental connection between these slogans and Reagan? One fundamental enough that Gadiriel’s vague costume-making procedure and the CK’s vague Names can reveal them?

        But these connections aren’t just weird — they’re coincidences. (Well, they’re not, because nothing is ever a coincidence, but you know what I mean.) A further coincidence: I don’t think it’s been established who the presidents of the 90’s were, but in 2000 a man named Bush was elected amidst some kind of controversy. And it was established early on that the US, in 2017, is stuck in the desert without an exit strategy. In the spirit of Nothing is Ever a Coincidence, I reassert that something that something someone did is causing information to leak into the Unsongverse and mess with causality, and that this information is coming from some other reality (read: OTL). Related predictions: the elections of the 90s were won by the familiar people (Bush Sr., Clinton, Clinton), the middle east either has organized or is organizing into some kind of hostile Muslim superstate (ISIS), the European catholic superstate recently had some treaty with the UK break down (Brexit), and Europe’s leader is either named Francis (Pope Francis), Bergoglio (Pope Francis again), or Merkel (jab at German dominance in the EU).

        Oh, and we won’t know who the current leader of the Untied States is until the the results of the coming Presidential election are known. At which point there will be some kind of kabbalistic analysis of either being lead by a former leader’s wife, or by a man named Trump.

    • Bassicallyboss says:

      I gather from context that “OTL” means the world that we, the readers, live in. But what is it an acronym for?

    • The Comet King spoke a name that enabled access to the Reagan of Adam Kadmon, which includes everything that any Reagan said in any timeline.

  16. Dima says:

    A crackpot theory (just for fun): Could Gadiriel’s presence be the reason the “storytelling-based magic” is actually working? Perhaps high-tier angels act as mediators of an underlying divine principle and enable human-usable magical systems: Uriel (a mathematician/programmer) provides kabbalah, and Gadiriel (a patron of dreams and stories) provides ritualism/placebomancy.

    Also, Thamiel was shown to have a mastery of kabbalah on par with Uriel. I wonder, was he always proficient at it? Can he (or angels/archangels/sentient computers, for that matter) also use ritual magic, or it’s exclusively a human domain?

    • scratches in the corner says:

      Other high-tier angels didn’t have the ability to be god-concepts of decision theory. While the idea is intriguing, this would be something you become, not something that you’re born/created as.

    • LPSP says:

      I’d say that adds together. Gadiriel prefers to take the form of a beautiful, all-aluring female, not unlike an Aphrodite figure. Some strains of Kabbalah interpret gods from other systems as corresponding to an Archangel and thus a sphere of the Kabbalah. Of the Greek Pantheon, Aphrodite is mapped to Haniel and the sphere of Netzach, which is probably the trickiest to translate into English but which can mean eternity, victory, endurance, longevity or presidence.

      Haniel was the head of a host of regular angels like all of his (her?) kind, and that host was the Elohim, which literally just means Gods. So if Gadiriel was an angel of Haniel, it wouldn’t be surprised that she not only would be feminine by the standards of angels, but would be quick to take on a god-like manner on Earth.

      Of course, Gadiriel could easily also fit as an angel of Raphael’s host, as he is the Archangel of Tiferet or Beauty. Said host is the Melekim or Kings, so naturally Gadiriel would slip right into controlling, impersonating, manipulating or being prominent earthly rulers.

  17. Aran says:

    “Typo in the title,” said the Lady.

    “No,” said Jalaketu. “There isn’t.”


  18. Nitpick thread: The phrase “___ 2.0” wasn’t used in the 1980s. It didn’t become popular until the early 2000s.

  19. Quixote says:

    Nice chapter. More pieces are becoming clear

  20. Angstrom says:

    Disappointed in this chapter. I always want more after every chapter, but that’s the nature of a serial, to leave you wanting more … this one in particular is short and pretty vacuous. It only has two sections, and although normally the different sections are about related but different things, this time they’re much more about the same thing. Plus, the Reagan/TCK/Gadiriel dialogue is more boring and artificial (yes, I know that the initial Reagan/TCK bit is supposed to be boring and artificial, but still), and just doesn’t have the flow to it that even the other Gadiriel chapter had. There’s no nifty revelations except the big “Reagan is a puppet” one … Gadiriel’s involvement with past American history . There’s no character development. There’s no plot, because we already knew the Untied States had become a thing. I would be much happier if we’d gotten a different chapter. This one could easily have been replaced with one of those detailed offhand summaries that Scott is so good at: “America finally got back on its feet in the early ’80’s, after the Comet King and President Reagan hammered out a constitution for the Untied States at a Camp David summit in 1981. The fact that Reagan was actually a puppet controlled by the angel Gadiriel made it easy to sell the public on the vision, and the Comet King’s success at turning Colorado around made it easy to sell the public on the details.” Boom. Done.

    Ah well. Looking forward to next week.

    • Angstrom says:

      Oops, didn’t finish the sentence whining about the staleness of Gadiriel’s retcon boasting. Doesn’t matter. 🙂

    • LHC says:

      This chapter was great, and if you’re disappointed, please shut up, because vocalizing your incorrect opinion could mislead Scott into making less good things in the future.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Oh my god cut it out with this already.

        • LHC says:

          Do you want Unsong to stop happening? Also, frankly, if you don’t like this chapter, you’re genuinely wrong; look at all the people enjoying it. What’s the point of coming to the comments section to maliciously complain and literally suggest Scott should not have published it?

          • Sniffnoy says:

            …did you read my comments above at all? I like this chapter a lot! “Jalaketu ben Kokab” is a nice touch in particular, the “Gipper” bit is great, and I really like having Jala respond with “It is not in Heaven,” even if that will be opaque to many readers. (I do agree with the criticism that “Gadiriel was secretly behind lots of historical events” is a pretty tired device, though having her be behind Lincoln’s beard is a good one.)

            I am tired of your constant insistence that people who don’t like things about the story are not allowed to express it here, your general rudeness towards those who do, and, most especially your bizarre insistence that those who do are doing so maliciously in order to get Scott to stop writing Unsong — or, more generally, that Scott can’t handle criticism and will stop writing Unsong in response to such comments, even if they’re not intended maliciously. But the more specific version of that hypothesis is… I’m not even sure what to say about it. It’s so utterly detached from how people actually act that it’s not worth wasting the space here to argue over it.

            Going by previous comment threads I’m pretty sure I’m not alone here. Please stop polluting the comment threads with this uncivil crap. And no, the people you’re responding to are not “polluting the comment thread”, they’re just expressing disagreement. Something sensible people should not have some horrible aversive reaction to.

          • LHC says:

            Can Scott please confirm that he will not stop writing Unsong in response to a small and destructive minority that requests that he do so? It really worries me.

          • Ninmesara says:

            I also didn’t like this chapter for the same reasons. You now have a second data point for an “incorrect opinion” from someone else who is “genuinely wrong”.

          • Angstrom says:

            I wrote some words, but they were similar to what Sniffnoy wrote so I deleted them. For the most part they can be summarized as “So, I did think before commenting. I think you’re doing an extraordinarily bad job of making the case that we shouldn’t talk about the parts of the book that we dislike.”

            Scott is not so insecure that he will be dissuaded by people discussing his book instead of drowning it in generic praise. How can I be sure of this? Well, besides his documented ability to handle much less respectful criticism, the fact that he has generally shown himself to be someone with a healthy ego and a properly-screwed-on head? He’s already mostly done writing Unsong, he set up a website and cultivated an active fan base, and I feel silly spelling this out because it seems so unbelievable to me that you are actually afraid of him stopping.

            To be honest, the thing that would scare me the most if I were a content creator is not the idea that people would dislike my work, but that I wouldn’t know if my work was bad because people were shutting down critique or papering it over with generic affirmations.

            I also suggest that you should take more care and have more charity when you write your words, rather than categorizing any negative comment as “maliciously complain and literally suggest Scott should not have published it”, which is a very poor fit with what I wrote. Constructive criticism is an overused phrase but also one that applies here. Unironically suggesting that taste is objective is also something that I find very confusing and indicative of a low respect for precision.

          • LHC says:

            Stop giving Scott bad data points, Ninmesara.

            Scott has demonstrated vast willingness in the past to knowingly entertain bad ideas out of the principle of charity. I would not want him to entertain the idea of discontinuing Unsong, as many people have tried to make him do, nor would I even want him to entertain the idea of abridging Unsong, as you have directly tried to make him do.

            Of course I believe that my opinions are objective truth. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t hold those opinions. You may say that your opinions are just as valid as mine, but I hold that enjoyment of art is a joint effort between the artist and the audience. You are failing to put in your half of the work, and are blaming it on Scott, who has done a superlative job of his.

          • dsotm says:

            Oh my god cut it out with this already.

            This, totally – You seem to think of Scott as a 16 y.o. emo writing angsty poetry on livejournal (and even they would rarely stop either)

            Probably every work worth reading underwent some form of early review and critical reading that may or may not have resulted in some revisions and edits, it’s even a full time job of some people.

            On the subject level – I actually think there’s some nice character development being done here for both Jala and Gadiriel, Gadiriel’s emotional stake in the US is elaborated upon and Jala shows further signs of high ambition and devotion to details and practicality.
            It does seem to be more the kind of expository material that used to go in the interludes up until now. I’m guessing this has to do with Scott’s lettering/numbering plans?
            And there are definitely some Gary Stu vibes coming of TCK’s character, but hey that’s what people build worlds for.

          • 271 says:

            Since there’s no upvote/downvote here, and I want to affirm the perspective I strongly agree with, I just want to say that I 100% agree with Sniffnoy and Angstrom (about the total OKness of Angstrom’s first comment — I actually enjoyed the chapter, but it was fun to read Angstrom’s perspective on it anyway!). Sorry LHC.

      • anon says:

        Holy fuck, how much of a delicate flower do you think Scott is? Were I Scott, I think I’d be way more bothered by this than by what you were responding to.

        And no, I’m not just saying this because Angstrom vocalized a misgiving I hadn’t quite put my finger on.

      • holomanga says:

        Alternately, perhaps this chapter was bad and if you like it you should shut up because it could mislead Scott into making more bad things in the future.

        Or, better yet, everyone gives their honest thoughts on the chapter and then the weighted average is taken.

    • LPSP says:

      I’ve had issues with the writing in Unsong before, but I really don’t see any problem you raise in this chapter. Jalaketu is very forward and commanding in manner, and Gadiriel is imperious and egoist. Both are angelic and know it, and communicate as such.

      • LPSP says:

        That said, although I have agonised about presenting criticism for Unsong *precisely* because I think it’s spectacular and basically wouldn’t want to arrogantly mess with powers beyond my present factoring, the idea that Scott shouldn’t be criticised is ridiculous. I don’t understand where the “Unsong criticism is de-facto illegitimate” thread is coming from.

        • I’d say that criticism of the form “omg this is terrible and I hate it” is illegitimate (because it’s just pointlessly annoying), but “X bothered me because of Y” is probably worth saying. I don’t agree with this particular criticism, but it does seem more of the second sort.

          • LPSP says:

            I have yet to see any examples of the former in Unsong threads, which is part of my fairly unilateral stance above. The standards here are excellent by all measures.

    • I’m not really disappointed – it was a bit of a low-energy filler, but we do need those from time to time, and after the last few energetic chapters (about TCK’s rise and fall), it was a good time for one.

  21. Sniffnoy says:

    Hm, I just realized — with Raziel confirmed alive, that means we have 3 living archangels and 7 dead. 7 and 3, once again.

    …except it doesn’t quite match up, because the living archangels are Metatron, Raziel, and Uriel, rather than Metatron, Raziel, and Sataniel. Hmm.

    (Also thought: Has anyone previously connected the difficulty of the infamous 7-10 split in bowling with the 7 out of 10 broken, or split, sephirot? 😛 )

    • dsotm says:

      Is Gabriel’s death considered confirmed ?

      • Sniffnoy says:

        It hasn’t been truly confirmed in-text yet, no. But I think it’s probably the case, seeing as Gabriel declared his intention to go fight either Uriel or Thamiel (and gave up on the former), seeing as the angels in Chapter 19 thought he was dead, and seeing as there’s been no mention of him alive.

    • LPSP says:

      It’s 6/10, isn’t it? The first three sfira are intact, and Malkuth the Kingship at the bottom isn’t really breakable like the others, being the base of the fountain moreso than any layer of filter. So the six inbetween it are shattered into qliphoth.

      Given four intact pots, we have four /sort-of/ archangels – Metratron for Keter, Raziel for Chokmah, Thamiel for Binah (it’s the right side of the Tree of Life for him to steal a slot) and then Uriel on Malkuth down at the bottom.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Hm, Thamiel stealing Sataniel’s slot is interesting. Elsewhere though we’ve seen our tens splitting 7-3 rather than 6-4, like with the 7 ordinary colors and 3 Heavenly ones.

        • LPSP says:

          Yeah, it completes the pattern. 6 of the sfira are destroyed and – worse – another 1 is corrupted and in the service of hell. Only three good/loyal sfira remain.

  22. SilasLock says:

    Anyone know what language the “ben” from “Jalaketu ben Raziel” is from?

  23. Haugmag says:

    Crap. There goes my pet theory that Jala’s father was actually Gabriel (because he’s traditionally the archangel who does the Annunciation thing).

    Jeez Scott, do you even know how many whole minutes I spent looking up possible Kabbalistic connections between ‘Gabriel / God is my strength’ and ‘Comet West’?

  24. A. says:

    Am I the only one uncomfortable and unhappy that, in the Unsong universe, all those things that made the USA came not from God, but from a capricious third-tier entity?

    Yes, I know, it’s a story where number 8 gets taken down for repairs, and island of Taiwan gets cancelled, but for some reason I wasn’t expecting that kind of treatment here.

    • LHC says:

      Unsong is more or less a fantasy world where polytheism is true, but the gods all belong to a monotheist religion.

    • Quixote says:

      To be fair, we only know that a capricious third-tier entity says those things come from it.

      Something that wants to govern the world from behind a puppet might not be 100% honest or trustworthy.

      Many of those things happened when it might not have even existed, or would have had greatly circumscribed power.

  25. Peter D says:

    Am I the only one finding it hard to imagine that there would be elections and the federal government in the wake of complete desolution of the United States, entire regions razed by Thamiel’s Army or disappearing down the Wall Drug black hole, all the troubles with technology etc? Or am I too conditioned by the post-apocalytic genre?

  26. Peter D says:

    . He drew the sword Sigh from…he drew the sword Sigh.

    What’s going on here? Why the weird sentence? Allusion to something?

    • stavro375 says:

      It’s an allusion to chapter 29, which establishes Sigh as the CK’s sword that he can apparently summon at will.

      • Peter D says:

        Right, but why the sentence first ends with “from…”, then picks up again? Why not just “He drew his sword Sigh”? What does the ellipsis after “from” signify?

        • Sonata Green says:

          I think it’s meant to emphasize that, although a sword would normally be drawn from somewhere, in this case Sigh was not drawn from anywhere in particular. He drew his sword Sigh from zi’o</a>.

          • Peter D says:

            Ok, so why not stop there: “He drew the sword Sigh from…”? Why the need for the second repetition?

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Well without that it’s just an incomplete sentence. It’s meant, I’m pretty sure, to suggest a narrator stumbling and taking back a wrongly chosen word — Aaron starts off narrating, “He drew the sword Sigh from…”, realizes that he can’t actually finish the sentence like that, and then goes back.

          • Peter D says:

            That kinda make sense, thanks!
            Although I’d still hold onto the possibility there might be more to it 🙂

  27. Peter D says:

    Who do you think it was who made George Washington so dashing on his stallion? Who put the flourish in John Hancock’s signature? Who do you think it was who wrote Abe Lincoln telling him to grow a beard? I stood beside all those foolish beautiful people talking about cities on hills or nations of gentlemen-farmers or the new Athens and gave their words my fire. Who do you think whispered the Battle Hymn into Julia Ward Howard’s ears as she slept?

    Gadiriel channeling God from the Book of Job…

  28. Michael says:

    I’m still hoping for the Cucumber Planting Name every time there is a new chapter 🙂

  29. Peter D says:

    Style-wise, doesn’t “Mr. Jalaketu” sound wrong? Shouldn’t it be “Mr. West”?

  30. beoShaffer says:

    My new life goal is to get Scott to say that my interpretation of something in Unsong is wrong based on something not in the text, so I can reply “it is not in heaven”.

    • -_- says:

      title:”Who/What Is Vohu?” — I’ve been tossing this around in my head, might chuck up a blog post if I ever come up with anything good.

      (As an aside, fun conceptual combining:
      “Lo BaShamayim Hi/It Is Not In Heaven” + “Death Of The Author” = “God Is Dead”.)

  31. Natedogg says:

    Nettie Maynard was Mary Todd Lincoln’s medium who claimed to be controlled by spirit known as “old Dr. Bamford”. I don’t see the connection between Dr. Bamford & Gadiriel, kabalistically. Anyone want to take a stab at it.

  32. Was the Statue of Liberty also Gadiriel’s idea?

  33. I liked the callback to Scott’s first second post.

  34. Jeremy Jaffe says:

    This video made me think of unsong

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  37. John Fast says:

    On July 31, 2016 (a/k/a 07/31/2016), the same day Scott posted the text of this chapter (which is Chapter 31), he also posted a complaint about anonymous commenters posting #$@&.

    Today, eleven days later (07+31+2016=2054; 2+0+5+4=11) three “people” posted #%@&.

    This is not a coincidence, because, as Pema Chödrön says, nothing ever goes away until we have learned everything we need to learn from it.

    P.S.: Scott, in answer to your question in OT 55, IMO doing something to prevent spambots (whether artificial or “human”) from posting garbage is not merely permissible, but praiseworthy. It’s a freaking mitzvah. (5+5=10; there are 631 mitzvot, and 6+3+1=10.)

    • WannabeCoder says:

      I was going to comment that there are 613 mitzvot, and snarkily ask where the missing 18 are, but then I realized that most people would say that by spending my time reading ridiculous alternative histories I was the one missing out on life.

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  39. Hmmm…. Gadiriel’s avatar signed the Keller–Stern Act of 1988. That means that she, as a Celestial American, will turn the Ensouling Name over to the Untied States government.

  40. Angstrom says:

    Sohu was born in 1982 – she was eight years old in September 1990 ( – and here we are in January 1981 with … still no mention of the Comet King’s wife, who was dead by the late 90’s ( …

    That’s not a lot of time – I know the Comet King operates on rushed timelines, but does his wife? Who is he gonna meet and marry and have kids with in a year and a half? Probably he didn’t marry Gadiriel, who is not dead in 2017. Maybe he married one of her avatars? Or is there somehow a non-celestial who could put up with him? Or was Sohu born out of wedlock?

  41. If supernatural creatures could whisper to humans even when Uriel’s machine was in working order, what was Thamiel whispering?

    Were the whispers to Aleister Crowley deliberate misdirection?

    Did the Nazis have two purposes? To kill off kabbalists and to start the space program?

    Was Thamiel trying to whisper to Aaron’s great-uncle?

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  43. CCous says:

    I have a hard time believing after all this time that I am the first to point out that “Reagan” is Irish for “queen.” Although I have long favored the form “President Ray-gun.”

  44. Anon Cowherd says:

    Erratum: “Julia Ward Howard” should be “Julia Ward Howe,” unless this is somehow going to turn out not to have been a typo.

  45. chrisgail says:

    Hi, Your whole story about a historical but I satisfy your basic rules the foundation of Empire

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