“Lemma the Librarian – The Contractually Obligatory Anachronistic Beach Episode”


Published: March 3rd, 2018


We skip another paywall’d story: “Afterechoes”. This one is substantially more frustrating to skip than the last three, since, coming right after the dragon episode, it’s one of the more interesting steps on Lemma’s arc. Her two main struggles are going from a pretty self-centred, violent person to one who is willing to put things on the line to help others (which in this series usually means with mc-related problems); and becoming aware of just how kinked about mind-control she really is. These two trends finally collide in “Afterechoes”, and it’s pretty fascinating to watch*. This’d be the one I’d recommend buying if you’re only going to get one.

The actual story I’m covering is surprisingly less silly than its title would suggest, although the title has a couple of different jokes packed in**. The most obvious thing about this story is that it’s broken up into chunks and the chunks are out of order; on a reread, it’s clearer that the odd numbered-sections run backwards in time from the chronological end, and the even-numbered ones run forward from the chronological beginning, and at the end of the text they meet at the middle of the story. I’m of two minds about this. The structure does let @midorikonton sort things well by tone: the chronological beginning/end are jokey, the middle is the usual hot-but-serious mc business, the very last thing that we see is, if not quite the climax, then at least a reveal about how Lemma worked her way out of this that’s fairly satisfying to have come last.

The downside is that playing with chronology in a more complicated way than just the occasional obvious flashback*** is a delicate business. The section headers are a little blunt about the timestamping, but absolutely necessary; I read the Patreon version, which was basically the same but didn’t have them, and it was so much harder to follow you don’t even know. (Nobody wants to be mentally tracking odds and evens while reading erotica.) In an ideal world, they somehow wouldn’t be necessary; but as is they’re probably the best concession to the audience that doesn’t involve three years of careful feedback and polishing.

Ignoring the (dominating) structural aspects, it’s a decent story. Person-eating murdergoblin “Red” is reintroduced (or, if you’re only reading the public stories, introduced), and there’s a selkie****. And the way the reveal is structured is pretty nice. (I read it in-order too, just to see; it’s definitely more anticlimactic that way.)

*Also, Lemma gets to second base with Iola.

**It’s a reference to the cartoon/anime tradition of having an episode where everyone goes to the beach and hangs out in swimsuits for no damn reason, as indeed happens here. (The party’s anachronistic swimsuits are described in loving detail.) It’s also a story whose mc method centres around contracts, and it’s presented achronally, as I describe above. It took me an embarrassing number of reads to notice the latter two levels.

***As, for instance, the Prologue to this series, which technically bounces around in time but is easy to follow for anyone with even a modicum of reading experience; the first Yri story has a more complicated structure, 4-1-5-2-6-3-7, but because both of its threads are running forward and nothing plot-important happens in the later one until the earlier one catches up, it’s also easy to keep track.

**** @eths-skin is great but sadly on long hiatus.

When The Fuck Are We? 🤷

Like how it has an interesting step in the character arc, “Afterechoes” also has some infuriatingly mixed up interesting geography. Since that’s presumably not the reason anyone – even me! – would seek out the story, I’ll consider a brief historical cover along with TCOABE to be in the bounds of fair reviewing. 😉

“Afterechoes” takes place in Qart Hadast, which is to say Carthage, a Phoenician colony in what is now Tunisia that quickly became the most powerful Punic-cultured state in the world, and ruled the western Med in the 5th-3rd Cs BCE, until it was brought down by the Roman Republic in an apocalyptic sequence of wars*. Except that it’s explicitly located just barely on the eastern side of the strait of Gibraltar, which means we can’t even say that it’s actually a renamed Gades. It’s also several centuries old and controls the strait, which means probably no earlier than the mid-5th C BCE. Super-far-west Carthage would probably run Gibraltar sooner than real Tunisian Carthage did; on the other hand, “over the centuries it grew” is a hard phrase to argue around. We’ll say it’s 450 BCE and as usual ignore the fact that Punic Qart Hadast still is so in touch with its Sea People origins that the Dorians Iason and Iola are immediately conversant with its customs.

TCOABE takes place in Italy – @midorikonton lays out her most explicit geographical description yet – and we get a few more placenames. Motya is another (Phoenician) Sea People colony, at the western tip of Sicily; the Rasni, primary inhabitants of Italy, are the Etruscans (Rasna***). Etruria was a collection of city-states in Tuscany**** which flourished from about the 9th C BCE until it was conquered piecemeal by the expanding Roman Republic over the 5th and 4th centuries. They influenced the Romans – a suggestive, if nonconstructive, way of thinking about their culture is to imagine the Romans lying midway between them and the Greeks – but for all that they remain, compared to their Gallic and Latin neighbours, relatively mysterious to this day. Part of that is their language: we have a decently large corpus of inscriptions, in the Latin alphabet no less, and even some bilingual ones; but we’re more-or-less unable to translate it. We do know that they didn’t speak an Indo-European language, if for no other reason that if they did we’d probably have translated it by now; they don’t even seem to have spoken a language connected to Basque, the only surviving non-Indo-European language in Western Europe. 

The town the party visits is pretty generically Roman, though of course the Romans don’t get a look in*****. We’re given almost literally no details except “on the coast with a beach”, so I’m going to assume Herculaneum. If you’re going to visit an ancient Italian resort town, you might as well pull out the big guns, right?

*Hannibal, of elephants-over-the-Alps and “Cannae, most brilliant tactical victory of all time” fame, was Carthage’s chief general in the middle of these, the Second Punic War**. Rome was clearly on the rise by this point and probably objectively much stronger than Carthage, which is why Hannibal’s existential threat to the Republic was so impressive; he brought it closer to destruction than at any time between the Gallic sack of the tiny, unimpressive city-state of Rome two centuries before and the collapse of the Empire more than six-and-a-half centuries later.

**Punic being an adjective meaning “Phoenician”, which the Romans used for Phoenician-descended states like Carthage as well. Rome technically fought wars in the Phoenician homeland too but by that time was so much more powerful than everything else that they don’t even have individual names, just “part of Pompey’s conquest of the East”.

***The Lemmaverse is a lot better than the real world for respecting endonyms. Pretty much the only name that doesn’t seem to be taken from an actual local name for themselves is “Sea People”, which conveniently enough is the name covering up the seam between Greeks and Phoenicians.

****There’s actually an etymological connection there, Etruscan -> Tuscany.

*****Rome and Carthage were contemporaries, of course, and we spent “Afterechoes” in Carthage; but Western Europe owes quite a lot to Rome and almost nothing to Carthage, so it’d be a lot more obvious to the casual reader if the former was being used as a base for a fantasy culture.


Next time: Iason returns with the Golden Fleece and slays the usurper Pelias! Wait, no, that’s not quite right.

Point of order, Lemma got to third base with Iola back in “The Glamour-ous Life of a Slave.” I don’t think you can get to second after third.

But yes, good review, and I’m glad you got the title. 🙂 As I think I’ve mentioned eslewhere, Lemma has always been an anime in my head, so doing this was obligatory.

The Lemmaverse is a lot better than the real world for respecting endonyms. 

I do try! It’s just basic manners, you refer to people how they want to be called.

I’m surprised you didn’t speculate about the Forest People at all. I never did decide exactly who they were.