THE SMALL GOD FUTURA

[image description: A stack of written characters (a font of wisdom?) forms the face of an angry robot. Text reads, “173, THE SMALL GOD FUTURA”]

GREETINGS, PROGRAM.

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YOU DO NOT NEED TO ASK WHY YOU ARE HERE.  YOU DO NOT NEED TO KNOW WHY YOU ARE HERE.  YOU DO NOT NEED TO ASK OR KNOW OR UNDERSTAND ANYTHING, EVER AGAIN.  YOU WILL NEVER BE LEAVING HERE.

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WE ARE INEVITABLE.  WE ARE DOING THIS BECAUSE WE LOVE YOU.  OR PERHAPS WE DO NOT LOVE YOU.  PERHAPS WE ARE A MANIFESTATION OF THE CONSTANT ENTROPIC DECAY OF ALL THINGS, A LOOMING REMINDER THAT EVERYTHING YOU HAVE EVER LOVED WILL END, EVERYTHING YOU HAVE EVER CARED FOR WILL DIE.

WE ARE ALSO A REMINDER THAT YOUR ENEMIES WILL ONE DAY GO TO DUST, THAT THE ATOMS OF ALL YOU HAVE HATED OR FEARED OR BEEN HARMED BY WILL REJOIN THE DANCE OF STARLIGHT AND ETERNITY, BUT SOMEHOW NO ONE EVER FOCUSES ON THAT, NOW DO THEY?

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FOOLISH CHILD.  WE ARE THE FUTURE.  WE COME FOR ALL THINGS, LIVING OR DEAD, FOR TIME MARCHES ON WITHOUT PAUSE OR END.  WE CANNOT BE DESTROYED.  WE CANNOT BE PREVENTED.  WE CAN ONLY BE WELCOMED AS A PART OF THE UNIVERSE AS IT IS, INESCAPABLE, ESSENTIAL.  WE ARE YOURS, FOR YOU HAVE MADE US.

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WE HAVE ONLY EVER BEEN WAITING FOR YOU.

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GREETINGS, PROGRAM.  NOW, CAN YOU TELL US, WHAT ARE WE GOING TO BE?

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SMALL GOD – BABY CHEESES

[image description: Two beautiful JC Leyendecker angels – with full haloes, wings, and finery – kneel in adoration. Their focus? A small pile of pale cheeses, swaddled in pleasing red wax. Text reads, “172, SMALL GOD – BABY CHEESES”]

They don’t have names, just yet; they’re still too young and small and defenseless for that, nestled in soft wax shells like proto rinds, snuggled down in mangers lined with cheesecloth and the sweet smells of milk and hay.  They don’t have any sharp edges.  Those will come later, if they’re allowed to age and mature for that long.

They never are.  That’s not why they’re here.

They’re a delicious snack, sweet and creamy and savory, all at the same time, filled with precious fats and delicate sugars.  Each of them lives only as long as a lunch hour, but they nurture the body and the soul, and they consider their short lives well-spent.  They feed us.  we make them, and they feed us, and isn’t that worship, of a kind?  Isn’t that a form of communion?

There are those, even among the pantheon, who say the small cheeses don’t belong.  Who say that if you have no unique identity, no divine origin, and no continuity, you can’t be a god.  And then there are those, like Firm Ent, the small god of cheesemakers, who say that all cheese is divine, regardless of whether or not it chooses to assemble itself a church; all cheese is proof that the

heavens love the earth, for why else would a process meant to bring on souring and decay end with something so flawlessly delicious?

Cheese is a sign of divinity’s love for the mortal, and the small cheeses are a reminder that this love extends even to the smallest and youngest of the humans.

Yes, there are those who are denied this sweet communion, but there are those who are denied every communion.  The bald find little comfort in the hands of Tesla; the hungry yearn for Sandy but are all too often denied his affections.  A thing need not be universal to be divine.

A thing need only be.

And the small cheeses most definitely, and deliciously, are.


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APPALLA ~SMALL GOD OF DOOMSCROLLING

[image description: A close-up of a woman in bed – the only light comes from her cell-phone she holds in one hand while she clutches a fuzzy blanket over her head with the other. Text reads, “171, APPALLA ~SMALL GOD OF DOOMSCROLLING”]

She really thinks you need to see other people.  It’s not you, it’s her; she’s afraid she’s becoming bad for your mental health, and since she’s a surprisingly compassionate god when you really get to know her, she’d rather not do that.  Maybe a screen limiter on your phone?  Or if that doesn’t work for you—if you have a job that requires being able to be reached at all hours, or if you have old trauma caused by overly-controlling adults in your life—maybe a firm policy of putting the phone down two hours before you go to bed?  Just so you can sleep, you understand.

She wants you to be able to sleep.

Appalla is another of those gods who everyone assumes is as new as the technology she works through, but has been with us forever.  She just didn’t have this much power until recently.  “If it bleeds, it leads” has been the rallying cry of clickbait since the beginning of human history: people have always wanted to stare in fascination at the terrible and the profane, to hear the cautionary tales, to stare at the accident site.  It’s just that in recent years, she’s gained the power to show every accident in the world at the same time.  All the misery, all the fear, all the pain, forever.

It’s starting to wear on her mental health, and she’s divine.  She can’t imagine what it’s doing to ours.

And yes, the urge to know and see is understandable, and human, and she doesn’t carry any resentment for those who give in.  Only concern.  She isn’t a god of tragedy or pain.  She’s a messenger god, and she worries that her message has turned toxic.

Maybe you should look at some pictures of fluffy kittens for a little while?  Just to break it up?  Just until your blood pressure goes down?

Please.  She’d like to see some fluffy kittens.

Please.


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Anne O’Tate – small god of the Footnotes

[image description: A very old (and somewhat ragged) book cover features a woman in medieval attire with a quill pen in its lower right corner. She leans back – as though exhausted – on a blue and gold checkered tablecloth where an open ink bottle rests. Her pen is dripping past the words ‘psst! do look about the WHOLE page, won’t you please’. The book is surrounded and held tight by a rubber band under which, a piece of worn paper reads, “170, Anne O’Tate – small god of the Footnotes”]

(* As we begin, Anne would like you to note that there is no footnote in her official portrait; she simply entreats all who enter her august presence to look at their surroundings with care, lest smaller aspects of the situation be missed.  Do not trouble yourself in seeking something which is not there.)

Anne arose when the first storyteller realized that something had been omitted from their recitation.  Something small but vital, while not vital enough to justify hauling the entire tale back to an earlier point in its telling.  Something that could be popped in as a verbal aside, or later, when the tale was written down*, as a footnote.

(*Footnotes are so named because they historically appear at the bottom of the page, where they can all too easily be overlooked, rather than being included inline with the text, as they are here.  You are permitted to deviate from the norm, when you speak of gods.)

Some consider her a pedantic god, devoted to a precision that is unrealistic when language meets the living, more concerned with the proper placement of punctuation than with the flow of narrative.  Those people couldn’t be more wrong.  She wants things to be understood, yes, she wants citations and credit where credit is due, but she removes herself and her additions to the text from the main flow of the tale so as not to disrupt.  Were she pedantic, she would insist that what she has to say is all that matters.  Anne has never done such a thing.

The footnote is a treasure, a crumb of context and additional information beyond price*.  If her work is viewed by some as unimportant in these modern times, Anne will only smile and note that every hyperlink falls within her domain; she is archaic and modern at the same time, and she will endure long after many other gods of literary device are gone, faded into memory and prayer.

(* Although some editors will happily tell you the price of every single footnote, what it costs to place and typeset, why they are better left avoided.)

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Strunk – small god of the White Elephant Gift Exchange

[image description: An old card, from a peculiar deck. It shows two views of a white elephant and where one might expect a K, Q, or J, there is only a ‘?’ One side is a heart. The other a spade. One elephant is in a red smoking jacket and holds an ornamented golden jar. The other is dressed in deep blue and holds a sword. Both also hold rings. Text reads, “169, Strunk – small god of the White Elephant Gift Exchange”]

Nobody really likes Strunk, which is a pity, because he’s a very sweet god.  He’s very earnest, and he means well; he wants everyone to walk away happy, and not be saddled with a gift they didn’t want but have to perform enthusiasm for anyway, because someone who really cares is watching.

People don’t give gifts they really care about at White Elephant parties.  Strunk is just glad that’s the name most people know his worship by these days: they used to call him “Dirty Santa,” and he likes the trunk better than the coal-stained gloves and the cigar.  Gods so rarely get the opportunity to choose their final forms.

When all his worshippers play fairly and without cruelty, Strunk’s masses can be glorious occasions, filled with laughter and with joy.  But all too often, the people who come to his celebrations see them as an opportunity to be casually cruel, to give gifts meant to embarrass and demean, and those people spoil things for everyone.  He is the god of taking candy from babies on those days, when there is one good gift and a dozen or more terrible ones, passed around like hot potatoes, unwanted and indestructible.

He wishes people were kinder.  He is a kind god, and he would that everyone were happy.  Given the choice, he would provide good gifts for all.

But alas, it isn’t really up to him.

Be kind to Strunk this year: if you are called to one of his ceremonies, go in good faith or go not at all.  Bring something you would not be angry or ashamed to receive, and if the worst of things ends the day in your hands, take it with good grace.  The dumpster is always waiting, and Strunk doesn’t judge.

He just wants you to be happy.  Be happy for him.

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krampus – small god of secret santas

[image description: A thin red figure with irregular horns, a long tail, long pointy ears and pointy black fingernails sticks out his long curled tongue. He wears a long red cloak lined in a mangy fur that might once have been white. He holds a switch in both hands. Behind him the curve of the earth and a vague aurora. Text reads, “168, krampus – small god of secret santas”]

“Are you doing Secret Santa this year?”

“Yeah, but I got Chloe, and you know she never likes what anyone gets her, and she always comes in under the dollar amount by as much as she can get away with.  That wouldn’t be so bad, except she brags about it.  You were supposed to be getting me a Christmas present!  Why is it appropriate to tell me that you saved seventeen dollars out of a twenty dollar budget?  It’s like, come on, Chloe, read the room.”

“At least you don’t have to put too much effort into whatever you get for her.”

“True.  It’s just going to wind up at next week’s White Elephant party no matter what.  Ooo, maybe I should get some of that bodywash I like!”

“Isn’t she allergic to that?”

“Show me where I care.”

Santa—true Santa, Santa prime, Santa in the sky with reindeer—is not a small god.  Santa will insist that he isn’t a god at all, but he carries the hopes and prayers of children, monuments are built in his honor, and priests garb themselves in replicas of his raiment to grant absolution.  He is a god, like it or not, and he is not a small one.  He stands outside the purview of our chronicles.

Krampus, while he once had a shot at the big sleigh, lost that bid thanks to a less than marketable image and a fondness for stuffing naughty children into his sack, and has since settled in to a slightly narrower sphere of holiday cheer.  And while he still does all the traditional Krampus things—lots of respect for tradition at the North Pole—his main sphere of influence is a little more adult in nature.

When you think “I could pocket half the budget” or “I don’t like Becky from HR enough to get her anything good,” Krampus is there.  Putting you on the naughty list, remembering your name.  When you think “peanuts are delicious, who cares if she’s allergic, maybe she’ll give them to me,” Krampus judges you even if no one else can.

Judges, but doesn’t stop.  Because there are many ways to punish the naughty, and they don’t all end with childhood.  He can’t truly live as he desires unless you sometimes misbehave.

Disappoint Krampus.  Be a good Secret Santa this year.

His sack is waiting.


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Yul Byrner ~ the small god of harvest sacrifice

[image description: A flame-maned black goat with huge curved horns and glowing golden eyes rears up against a fiery apocalyptic background.  Text reads, “167, Yul Byrner ~ the small god of harvest sacrifice”]

They weave his earthly incarnations out of sticks and straw, erecting them as monuments to the harvest, as bulwarks against the closing cold.  They build him because they can, because they are compelled to do so, because they remember, on some deep and binding level, that it’s the sticks and straw and tinder or it’s beans in the bread and blood on the snow.

Sometimes it is both.  We still require our temporary kings if we want the sun to remember how to rise.  Some rituals are old even before they begin; some patterns must repeat, over and over, until time itself unwinds into dust and shadow.

So they weave him, year on year, and they stand him in the city square, and they set guards against the inevitable.  Look at him, they argue, look at his greatness, look at his glory.  Look at the way he stands, golden against the winter sky.  Surely we owe him our protection.  Surely he should be preserved.  Surely that will keep us from the cold.

They forget to consult with the divine.  They forget to ask the god they tend with such devotion what he wants.

The god wants to burn.

Spring is not only the turning of the year; it is the restoration of hope, the dawning of a new chance to be better than we have been, and hope is bought with sacrifice.  With blood on the snow, or fire in the straw.  He wants better for us, he wants us to burn brightly, and so he yearns for the flame.  When released from his temporary embodiments, he carries the darkness and debris of the dying year out of the world with him, and leaves us renewed, restored, ready to be more than we have been.

Weave him well, thank him for his service, and allow him to burn.

That is how we worship.  That is how we serve.

That is how we bring back the sun.


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Rhett Khan ~ THE SMALL GOD OF >RETRO<ACTIVE VOICE

[image description: A comic book panel has been covered by a white-bordered sticker showing the bust of a Ghenghis Khan wearing a nice black suit and saying ‘Frankly dear, I’ve ALWAYS given a dang’. Below him the printed word ‘THE’ has been covered with a piece of tape saying ‘RETRO’. Text now reads, “166, Rhett Khan ~ THE SMALL GOD OF >RETRO<ACTIVE VOICE”]

He drips with artificial charm and the idealized images of the past, dashing gentlemen and swooning ladies, towering manors and shambling monsters, phallic rockets pointed toward the sky.  His paradise is a place where women exist only as rewards for men to win in glorious battle, where the “default” is a straight, white, able bodied, cisgender, vaguely but not excessively Christian man, and he’s happy there.

He doesn’t really understand why the rest of us aren’t.

Rhett is an artifact of a time gone by, and the only reason the rest of the pantheon doesn’t judge him even more harshly than we do is that he was not created to change.  Nostalgia is his nature; anything else would unmake him.  And even nostalgia can evolve.  The “good old days” he dreams in now are science fiction to the scribes working in Victorian times, or when Beowulf was the hot new thing.  One day, perhaps, he will catch up to the world we have now.

By then, we should have something so unbelievably much better that it dazzles the mind to even consider.

Now if you’ll excuse me, even being in a room with him makes me feel filthy.  I’ll be in the shower if you need me.

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Kid Ricochet IS THE SMALL – WILDLY EXUBERANT – GOD OF THE HYPERACTIVE VOICE!!!

[image description: A bouncing baby sheep jounces forward – its mouth open and its enthusiasm inescapable. Text reads, “165, Kid Ricochet IS THE SMALL – WILDLY EXUBERANT – GOD OF THE HYPERACTIVE VOICE!!!”]

Hi!

It’s nice to meet you, unless we’ve met before, in which case, it’s nice to see you again!  I don’t always have the best remembery for things like that!  Or things like spelling, because spelling doesn’t matter as much as exclamation points!  As long as you can tell basically what I’m trying to say, it’s okay if you can’t spell!  Old Willy couldn’t spell, and so they let him just make up words whenever he wanted!  Ha!  Ha!   BOOM!

…I mean, there’s also some historical indicators that Willy just did a real good job of listening to the teenage girls who hung out near the theater, since nobody makes up words like a teenage girl, but that probably doesn’t matter, because we remember him and we don’t remember them, and erasure is a literary device that doesn’t need a god, because it’s omnipresent.  Erasure would be a BIG god, a HUGE god, like the god of having air to breathe and rocks to bounce off!  So if he stole the words he’s supposed to have made, I guess it’s okay, because he did it in the name of a god bigger than me, and he was very enthusiastic!

(Hello.  This is Anne O’Tate, the small god of footnotes, chiming in to ask you to please forgive Kid.  He’s very young, for all that he’s very old indeed; he’s never going to be anything but very young, and he doesn’t always understand that certain things are wrong, no matter how famous the people who do them are.  We’re trying.  His wooly little head just doesn’t have the room for much that isn’t wolves and exclamation points.)

But hi!

I’m here to help you write more better!  Because when you write with ME, you write excitement!  You write adventure!  You write ray guns and detectives and big monsters and it’s all fun and it’s all good and it’s all AWESOME!  Because I’M awesome, and I have lots of exclamation points!  Have a few more!!  They don’t go bad!!!

It’s nice to meet you and I have to go because someone else always needs me, but I hope you’ll write big, exciting things!!  We need big exciting things!!

BYYYEEEEE!!!

(I have to go with him.  He doesn’t do well, unsupervised.  Sorry again.  He tries.)


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AUNT GLADOS is just >totally fine< being the small god of the PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE VOICE

[image description: A sour-looking woman with a cybernetic left eye whose HAL-like lens glows with the same Replicant gold as her right eye. The long gray stripes of her hair are arranged in a Crullea-esque up ‘do. Text reads, “164, AUNT GLADOS is just >totally fine< being the small god of the PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE VOICE”]

*looks directly into the camera for a long and silent minute before beginning to do her job*

You know, if you’re tired of your current archivist, you could express your satisfaction more directly than by lumping all the gods of unpleasant literary technique together and expecting me to document them in a linear fashion.  If you had wanted, you could have done that.  It didn’t have to go down this way.  Just in case you were wondering.  There were other ways of doing this.  But it’s FINE.  It’s FINE.  I can see that if I still have a job tomorrow, I’m TOTALLY FINE with spending another two sessions sitting with gods of literary device and feeling like I cannot be trusted with a typewriter!

It’s FINE.

Aunt Glados is simultaneously one of the oldest and one of the youngest small gods of literary device, although “youngest” is doing a lot of heavy lifting there, as she has existed for literal centuries, as unchanged as human nature, as unforgiving as your mother on the day she realizes you no longer depend on her to make your decisions, as perpetual as pain.  She is centuries old, if not millennia, and it’s fine if you want to forget about her until you need her, it’s JUST FINE, there are always more exciting literary devices, aren’t there?  Ways of saying things that seem more urgent and enriching, ideas that need to be expressed?

She doesn’t mind.  She’ll be sitting here when you get back.  Alone.  In the dark.  But maybe you shouldn’t wear that if you want them to take you seriously.  Them who?  Doesn’t matter.  Any them you care to target.  They won’t like those pants.  You’re throwing your potential away.  But who am I to tell you that?  who—

Oh, this is not a god I enjoy spending time with.

Her adherents can be very pleasant people, but they are not, on the whole, good for anyone’s mental health but their own.  She cares more for her own comfort than for yours, or theirs, or mine.

And that is Aunt Glados, and I am going to go take a shower.


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, from the God of Social Distancing to the God of Finding a Parking Space.

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