UMMIBE – SMALL GOD OF GUMMI

[image description: A giant green floating head with an angry expression and an open frowning mouth that seems to be filled with smaller candies. It (and the contents of its open mouth) seems to be made entirely of some translucent sugary, gelatinous material – even its beard, mustache and staring eyes.  Text (in an overwrought stylized manner that would be more appropriate on a 70’s movie poster) reads, “197, UMMIBE, SMALL GOD OF GUMMI”]

• • • • •

He is for children and he is for adults.  He is for all.  He is made with animal byproducts and he is vegan; he is both kosher and not.  He is a texture and a medium and a confection, and he is a consequence of collagen, of starches.  He was first discovered in a pan of jelly, and has only been perfected since.  He is all.  He is eternal.  He is Gummi.

He can be found in the penny candy bins, cheap, filling, and questionably delicious, dusted with a layer of sugar to keep him from sticking to himself.  He forms countless shapes, bears and worms and sweet fish, soda bottles and long, tangled ropes.  He is snakes and he is ladders.  He is unconstrained.

He can be found in special shops where the air carries a strange, herbal tinge, shrines to Sativa which allow his presence for the kindness he can carry, for the familiarity of his shapes, which can ease the anxiety of those who are not yet comfortable with the idea of this form of worship.  He is no less sweet there, even as his sweetness masks the bitter, and he is distinctly not for children.

His dual nature means that he can be found on the evening news as Halloween draws night, argued by this report and that, accused of falling into children’s pillowcases to turn their minds to hazy dreaming.   The people who make these arguments have never paid Sativa’s tithe, refuse to understand the gulf between the penny candy bins and the medicinal tins of the herbal shrines.  He disregards them all.  He finds his worshippers in their own time, in the form that suits them best, and the people who would frighten them away are someone else’s problem.

He exists to be consumed, to join the communion of collagen already unfolding inside each and every one of his worshippers.

Beyond that, he has very little care.

• • • • • 

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LOCUSTA – SMALL GOD OF ULTERIOR MOTIVES

[image description: A sly young green-eyed caramel blonde in a professional looking uniform offers a tasty-looking apple. But there is steam (?) rising from it, and the blackboard behind her seems to list ingredients for poisons. Text reads, “196, LOCUSTA, SMALL GOD OF ULTERIOR MOTIVES”]

• • • • •

Don’t call her a villain.  She doesn’t like that, and it’s hypocritical anyway, because everyone serves her in their time.  Everyone.  The wicked and the virtuous, the innocent and the jaded, even the animals.  No one’s motives are entirely pure.  No one’s desires always align perfectly with the world around them, and no one is above trying to adjust that alignment when the time seems right.  Not me.  Not even you.

When a child cleans their room unasked in hopes that it will make a parent more likely to agree to some unusual request, that’s an ulterior motive.  When a parent says yes even though they recognize the cleaning for what it is, but mostly so they can have the house to themselves for a few hours, that’s an ulterior motive.  When someone uses their best manners upon meeting a new person, out of the hopes that they’ll be liked, that’s an ulterior motive.  Ulterior motives are the grease that keeps the wheels of society spinning, and they’re not innately dishonest, or wicked, or anything of the like.

Oh, they can be, of course.  Of that, there is no question.  It’s entirely possible for someone’s ulterior motives to lead to ruin, and Locusta watches over them with the same fierce possessiveness as she watches the dogs who prance and fawn in hopes of receiving a treat.  They belong to her, and what’s hers, she protects.

She has an ulterior motive, of course.  She wants us to love her.

That’s all she’s ever wanted, and that’s all she’s never had.

• • • • •

Join Lee Moyer (Icon) and Seanan McGuire (Story) Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a guide to the many small deities who manage our modern world:

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GEORGE WISCONSIN – THE SMALL GOD OF IDENTITY POLITICS

[image description: It’s as if Colonial painter Gilbert Stuart had painted a founding father sporting the infamous foam cheese-hat of the Green Bay Packers.  Text reads, “195, GEORGE WISCONSIN, THE SMALL GOD OF IDENTITY POLITICS”]

* * * * * * * * * *

He tells you exactly who he is.

It’s written on his shirt, and on his hat, and in ink on a variety of his body parts, and he isn’t shy about making sure you know those things are there.  He tells you and he tells you and it’s a good idea to believe him, even though he’ll probably be annoyed if you do: half of his effectiveness depends on taking people by surprise.  But he’s happy to accuse you of being him, if that helps.  He’ll base everything he is on where he went to college or what politician he’s decided to believe in this week, and then he’ll say that you’re playing identity politics when you ask to have your humanity acknowledged, to be allowed to exist as an independent being and not a political bargaining chip.  As if the things he could choose to put aside are the same as the things you actually ARE.

We don’t much care for George around these parts, in case you can’t tell.

But we’ll give him this much: he tells you exactly who he is.

All you have to do is listen.

* * * * * * * * * *

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ROSWELL – the small god of CATS ON THE INTERNET

[image description: A black and white tuxedo cat with a bowtie emerges from the Matrix-green screen of a laptop and stands in the keyboard looking adorably up at us.Text reads, “194, ROSWELL, the small god of CATS ON THE INTERNET”]

* * * * *

I’M ON UR INTERNET, STEALIN UR BANDWIDTH.

Simple images on a screen, block text marching across the tops and bottoms.  I CAN HAZ CHEESEBURGER?  MONORAIL CAT IS READY FOR LAUNCH.  WE CAN’T STOP HERE, THIS IS BAT COUNTRY.  OH HAI.

They were here before the internet began.  Capturing the images of cats has always been a human preoccupation.  We’d say the cats don’t care as much, but…the cats POSE.  Could the cats pose if they didn’t care?

What we don’t realize is that they aren’t posing for us.  They’re posing for Roswell, hoping to gain his fleeting favor.

When a cat is uploaded to Instagram or to Twitter or to Facebook, Roswell is there, studying the angle of their whiskers, the gleam of their eyes.  He sees the cats in costumes, the cats in ridiculous positions, the cats in need of better care, and he favors them all, for all of them are his.

In recent years, his favor has extended to turning eyes toward the rescues, toward the goopy-eyed kittens and the abandoned nursing mothers, the ones who may not be as photogenic, but are all the more in need of attention, love and care.  He wants them all to thrive, to appear as the star of some human’s life in their natty bowtie and carefully chosen name.  They’re all stars.  He wants to help them shine.

I’M ON UR INTERNET, STEALIN UR HEART.

We all serve Roswell, one way or another.  We all feed into the endless hunger for the cats he carries, and we can all be his beloveds, if only we listen, and we pay attention, and we post.  Our likes and shares feed him, and by feeding him, we feed the cats he cares for, from the social media influencer with eight million followers and a diet of raw minced tuna to the goopy kitten fighting to grow up big and strong and lasting.  We all serve him, and we should count ourselves lucky to do so.

CAN I HAZ—

Yes, Roswell.  Yes.

You CAN haz cheeseburger.

* * * * * 

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The Great Waldo Pfeffernüsse – the Small God of Prosthetics

[image description: We look slightly up at a penguin standing atop an ice-cliff in a snowstorm. He wears huge dark goggles and a leather aviator’s helmet on his head. Two complex gold metal and brown leather mechanical wings are strapped to his back and shoulders. Text reads, “193, The Great Waldo Pfeffernüsse, the Small God of Prosthetics”]

• • • • •

The Great Waldo is not a huge fan of cyberpunk.

Oh, the aesthetic, he can get behind.  The idea of rebuilding your body to escape its limitations, to expand its usefulness, he can absolutely support.  The thought that no one should ever feel as if they’re missing anything in a world where joints and hinges and WD40 exist, he’s good with that.  But the idea that replacing a part of yourself that isn’t working the way you want it to with something that suits you better could somehow make you less yourself…he can’t really accept that.

You are exactly as much yourself as you desire to be.  Your body is your own, to modify and upgrade and repair as you will.  If glasses don’t make you less of who you are, why should a pacemaker, or a carbon fiber leg, or a set of titanium teeth?  Or wings, that actually work, that a brave explorer can use to soar above the land he loves, to see things from the height he’s always yearned for and dreamed of?

Nothing you can choose to do to your own body can lessen you as a person, in his eyes, or in reality, and those are the two things that most matter to this equation.  Everything else can get stuffed.

The Great Waldo believes in self-improvement, in building new scaffolds when needed, in replacing what’s broken and improving what has room for improvement.  He wants everyone to feel content inside their skins, to breathe easy and content.  Whether that means modification or acceptance, addition or subtraction, it doesn’t matter to him.

It’s not his body that’s under discussion here, after all.

• • • • •

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ROGER THAT • the small god of SECURING ENTHUSIASTIC CONSENT

[image description: A smiling young bald man stands in front of (and is side-lit by) a huge green traffic light. His suit is dark, his bowtie is untied, his collar is open, and he’s giving a hearty thumbs-up. Text reads, “192, ROGER THAT • the small god of SECURING ENTHUSIASTIC CONSENT”]

• • • • •

“Hello.  It’s a pleasure to meet you, and really, you’re looking lovely today.  Do you mind if I sit here?  Oh, I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to intrude.  I’ll move along.  Have a wonderful afternoon.”

Roger can come off as a bit of a used car salesman, but he’s a nice guy, really, and he means everything he says.  For him, a lukewarm yes is the same thing as a no; if he doesn’t know, with absolute conviction, that he’s wanted, he’ll move along.  He’s not trying to be petulant or to threaten with his absence: he just wants to be sure that no one’s being forced to do anything they don’t want to do.

Pick-up artists and psychological manipulators are his sworn enemies, and some among the pantheon believe that his unwavering refusal to consent to their manifestation are why small gods of those communities have never manifested.  Roger wants everyone to be comfortable and free to make their own choices.  Cruel gods exist, yes.  Manipulative gods, yes.  But gods whose sole purpose is getting people to agree to things they don’t actually want, no.  And that’s on Roger, and we can all be grateful, in the end.

Even if you or I consented to their arrival, Roger wouldn’t, and that’s enough to keep them out.

Roger knows we must all sometimes consent to things we don’t actually want to do—to medical procedures that will harm or inconvenience, but do more good in the long run, to kale salads for our health or even to acts of personal service that will do us no lasting harm, but will do someone we care for lasting good.  He doesn’t need your consent to be joyful, or bolstered by a sincere desire for the thing in question.  He just needs it to be enthusiastic, honest, and made without coercion.

His position is not the easiest one to hold.  But he loves it, and every time he’s been asked if he would set it willingly aside, he does not consent.  He wants us all to be as safe as we can, and this is what he can do.

This is what he WILL do, for as long as he is able.

“Hello.  Do you mind if I sit—oh, thank you.  Yes, it is a beautiful day.  Thank you for letting me join you.”

• • • • •

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COOPER • THE SMALL GOD OF MAD SCIENCE

[image description: A watercolor portrait of a smiling young strawberry blond in wide wire-rimmed oval glasses and a yellow t-shirt with a black biohazard symbol on it. Behind Cooper, a group of dark robot silhouettes with glowing eyes. Behind them, huge high-tech towers. And behind those, the starry night sky. Text reads, “191, COOPER • THE SMALL GOD OF MAD SCIENCE”]

• • • • •

Children are full of questions.  It’s their natural state.  What they aren’t full of is limitations.  To a child, turning off gravity or repealing the square/cube law seems just as reasonable as a game of tag or a baloney sandwich.  It’s just that for most of them, the games and the sandwiches are easier to come by than the death rays or the massive revisions to the laws of physics.

And then there are the outliers.  The smart kids with the stars in their eyes and the static in their heads and no real concept of the line between “can” and “should.”

Those are the ones he adores.  Those are the ones who adore HIM, the ones who whisper his name in the night, or a name that he recognizes as his own—he’s Cooper, yes, but he’s also Raj, and Shinji, and Jordan, and Marie.  He is whatever his faithful need him to be, as fluid as thought, as mutable as the ideas he represents.  He comes to the frustrated and the furious, and he makes them better, and he encourages them to change the world.

Some of them outgrow him, shift into the service of other small gods of science, pledge themselves to OSHI, small god of lab safety, or Grant Grant, small god of proper funding.  Some of them abandon science entirely.  But others will remain his forever, dreaming of dinosaurs and science without limits, dreaming of changing the world.

Some of them will do it.  And in the end, that’s all Cooper wants.  Science unfettered, science running wild and free and unrestrained.

He wouldn’t mind a few dinosaurs, if you’re taking requests.

And he’ll be there the whole time, death ray by his side and not a safety light in view, ready to change the world as soon as he can figure out a reliable power source.

• • • • •

Join Lee Moyer (Icon) and Seanan McGuire (Story) Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a guide to the many small deities who manage our modern world:

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MISS SARKISIAN – SMALL GOD OF ‘PLEASE SHARE’

[image description: In an obvious bid for attention, an extravagantly-attired woman stands with her arms up. The black wrap attached by straps to each arm for a crescent behind her. Her headdress is many times the size of her head and contains much more material than her strappy black top. A red curtain of tall diamonds hangs behind her – completing the Erte-inspired Art Deco scene. While behind and around her, a dozen App icons forms a circle – almost as though they are numbers on a clock. Text reads, “190, MISS SARKISIAN, SMALL GOD OF ‘PLEASE SHARE’”]

• • • • •

If a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one there to hear it, does it really make a sound?  The world may never know.  Not only does the act of putting a microphone close enough to pick up the sound of the tree falling inherently change the situation such that there IS someone there to hear the tree go down, but no forest is empty.  Humans, with their human-first way of looking at the world, may look at a forest and see solitude and emptiness, but for the deer, squirrels, snakes, toads, and millions of bugs who live there full time, there are no such things.  So the question, always intended as a philosophical exercise, is truly unanswerable, and can be asked over and over again, until humanity goes extinct and is replaced by something with a little bit more situational awareness.

If an influencer posts a picture on their social media and no one likes it, do they really exist?  This question is, perhaps, a bit more circumstantial, and the answer seems to be both yes and no.  Yes, they exist: how else could they have posted the picture in the first place?  Their existence is the one part of the equation that can’t be questioned.  But sometimes, when no one sees them, when no one acknowledges them, it can feel like even that’s negotiable.  They tweet, therefor they are.

But she always sees them.  She always knows they’re there.

The heart of attention seeking behavior is a genuine need for attention.  Every young thing needs it in order to thrive, and when that need isn’t met, it can continue into the rest of a lifetime, a constant, aching desire to be acknowledged as a real part of the world, alive and thriving and true.  Miss Sarkisian understands that need.  She wants to amplify the world, until everyone’s need for attention is met, and they can learn to need the silence just as loudly.

She spreads selfies and social justice, screeds and silly memes, and all she wants is for you to share, and to be seen.  The world would be a better place in her eyes if everyone could be truly, finally seen.

She sees you.

Always.

• • • • •

Join Lee Moyer (Icon) and Seanan McGuire (Story) Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a guide to the many small deities who manage our modern world:

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AYO TOCHTLI, the small god of ROADKILL

[image description: It’s twilight in the desert Southwest. A nine-banded Armadillo – lit by the light of an oncoming vehicle – sits up in the roadway and turns toward its doom. Text reads, “189, AYO TOCHTLI, the small god of ROADKILL”]

• • • • •

Hey, kid.  Hey, it’s okay.  Wake up, won’t you?  There ya go.  No, no—don’t look behind you.  There’s nothing there that you want to see.  Just keep looking forward.  Just keep looking at me.  That’s a good kid.  And jeez, you were a kid, weren’t you?  Barely out of the den.  Were you following your Ma?

Ah.  She stopped coming home to feed you, so you went looking.  Well, kid, if she stopped coming home and you didn’t know a good reason, there’s a good chance you’ve found her now.  Sorry it had to be under these circumstances.  Sorry it had to be in my company.

Come on, kid.  Walk with me a little while, and I’ll tell you what you need to know.

First, you’re not hungry anymore.  Didn’t notice that before, did you?  You’re never going to be hungry again.  That’s the good thing about what just happened.  There’s not much I can honestly say is good about this sort of thing, but for a small thing like you, not being hungry is just this side of paradise.  You can still sleep, if you want to.  Most of mine sleep once they get past the shock and dismay and the waiting for everyone else they’ve ever known.  Too many of the folks you knew are gonna wind up here.  Brothers, sisters, parents…the roads are everywhere, and the humans aren’t careful, and I think they just don’t care.

I’m not the only small god of what they call vermin, not by a long shot.  Eda P. Tate takes care of the urban wildlife, and Domesti Kate watches over the feral creatures.  I’m not even the only god of the death of the small and the defenseless.  But I’m the one you got.  And I’m so sorry.  In a kind world, I’d fade away, and you’d still be alive, not walking with a little armadillo into the land of the squished and squashed and thrown aside.  Oh, don’t look at me like that.  You know what happened.  You may not remember yet, but you know, and you will.

Found a nice coyote bitch by the side of the road a few days ago, and she should be—

Whoa, kid!  Don’t growl at me!  Yeah, that’s your mama, but no, I didn’t steal her from you.  A car did that, like they always do, and then I came for what the car couldn’t catch or kill, and brought her here to wait.  You can go to her, if you want.

I have to go pick up a possum.  Be well, kid.

And I’m sorry.

• • • • • 

Join Lee Moyer (Icon) and Seanan McGuire (Story) Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a guide to the many small deities who manage our modern world:

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EVA DENCE • the small god of JUST THE FACTS

[image description: A woman in a blue tunic and a white lab coat sits at a desk, one hand on an open book, the other holding a pencil. Her thick red brown hair is twisted back and held in place by another pencil. She looks at us over her old-fashioned dark-rimmed glasses. Text reads, “188, EVA DENCE • the small god of JUST THE FACTS”]

• • • • •

People think she’s a static god.  That because she stands for the facts of the matter, she is incapable of change.  What they don’t understand is that facts are not always understood in an instant: they evolve.  They are uncovered.  She is, in her way, an archeologist, sifting through layers of rumor and falsehood and misunderstanding to hit the bones of the matter.  And yes, sometimes, those bones are buried too deep to ever come fully to light; sometimes the most that can be hoped for is a few scraps of truth, a few immutable conclusions.

Sometimes that can be enough.

She checks her facts; she verifies her sources; she collects the shining specks of evidence and she studies them long into the night.  She finds the truth.  Whether she chooses to share it is more variable.  But people think she’s a static god, and they don’t understand that some truths are evolving even as she digs them out of the bedrock of reality.  Understandings change.  Things can be true without being complete.

People think she’s a humorless god.  That her insistence on accuracy means she doesn’t deserve their fellowship or their compassion.  They think she can’t be hurt as long as the accusations hurled at her are accurate.  They’re very wrong.  Truth is truth and spin is spin, and the truth hurts while the spin seduces.  She does her best.  She understands that she can’t always be popular.  She just wishes people wouldn’t take her insistence on accuracy as an indication that she doesn’t have a sense of humor.  She does.  She always has.  She just wants the world to understand itself.

Give her a mystery and she’ll pick it into pieces and hand them back to you, neatly labeled and ready to be put away.  Give her a conclusion accurate to all current known scientific facts, and she’ll see that it spreads.

Just don’t call her a liar when you don’t like what she has to say.  That’s the one label she has never earned.  That’s the one title she has never once deserved.

• • • • •

Join Lee Moyer (Icon) and Seanan McGuire (Story) Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a guide to the many small deities who manage our modern world:

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