By Any Other Names
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Humans-B-Gone! (Cartoon)
Professor Gregorsa (Humans-B-Gone!), Rose (Humans-B-Gone!), Sophodra (Humans-B-Gone!)
Additional Tags:
Prediction Fic, Guilt, Stream of Consciousness, Unreliable Narrator, Self-Doubt, gregorsa knows much more than we realize, and he's hiding more than he's admitted to (but he's got good reasons for it), he's trying to play 5d chess but nobody bothered showing up, so he's just melancholically poking at the gamepieces waiting for something to happen
Published: 2023-03-11 Words: 1767

By Any Other Names


Musings on arachnophobia, why exactly we're watching Rose and Sophodra in the first place, and the inherent subjectivity of being a translator between two very different cultures.


Hello, Humans-B-Gone fandom! I'm very new here- I scrambled to write this so soon partially so the memories from having just watched it would still be fresh in my head and partially so I could get this posted before a new episode comes out and potentially disproves any of this.

(This was supposed to be a fairly straightforward prediction fic, but then my brain decided "Nope! Time to write about Gregorsa unnecessarily guilt-tripping himself in the most obfuscating way possible instead!" and I just had to roll with it or risk another month of writer's block.)

EDIT (3/22/2023): I initially posted this as an anonymous fic, but... honestly, the sole reason was that posting it normally would've pushed a fic I've been meaning to update for a while off my dashboard, and I knew full well if that happened I'd promptly forget about its existence for the next several months. (Thanks, ADHD.) In hindsight, I should've just posted this under a pseud or something, but oh well.

By Any Other Names

Round and round and round are the subjectively tiny eyes that watch as they remain frozen in place, barely moving as the screens before them flicker from one item to another, one scene to another. Gregorsa pushes and prods and nudges and tweaks in the moments before and between what he gives them to see, for while he would not presume to claim himself to be the director of this story, he is its cameraman and narrator and editor all in one.

More than that, he is their translator, their filter, and not just for the simple things like taking away ved and adding ultragreen (as he's translated both names for their ears, both carefully chosen so they understand what he needs them to). He renders pheromones as sound, streamlines the images of Sophodra and Rose and those around them into something more palatable to the eyes that watch, scrutinizing frame-by-frame as he alters what he needs to- maybe more than he needs to, but once he's gotten started it's difficult to stop himself. (Difficult to know when to stop. Difficult to realize he needs to stop. The control, the sight, it all runs together into something almost maddening, and it's all he can do to pull away from it.) Now and then he grants glimpses of truth, the unaltered reality of the people he wants them to grow to like... or, at least, he gives them glimpses of Sophodra's true form.

Rose is more complicated. Even from the perspective of a world that has never known macrovolutes, what Gregorsa's seen and read indicates that spiders remain objects of terror to humans even there, though for different reasons. It's because of this that he's veered around showing them her true form so far (save for one instance in which he briefly allowed them to see her approaching in the distance before quickly filtering their sight once more) and dedicated particular care to making her "translated" appearance as familiar, soft, and unthreatening as possible without entering the territory of outright deceit.

It's why he took special care to emphasize Rose as deeply mundane, yet also kind and likable, from the moment he showed her to them. In truth, the introduction to Rose he showed them wasn't all one contiguous morning- he carefully selected the "best" bits and pieces of almost a week's worth of mornings and edited them together into one with the express purpose of a final product that would be both microcosm and lull.

It's not only a matter of getting them to like her. No, if this is going to work, Gregorsa needs those that watch to let their guard down completely, suspend their disbelief, view Rose and Sophodra as people not unlike themselves and little else. And... maybe not all of them would be so closed-minded as to react in fear and shut down if allowed to see what Rose really looks like for more than a flicker of a second, but some would, and he can't let that happen. Every watching eye needs to stay in place as much as they need to stay at ease. He can't afford to lose or intimidate any member of his test audience, especially not when things are so delicate, so unestablished, at this point. So Rose will remain filtered for now.

If Gregorsa is subtle enough, they won't immediately begin to realize that he never allows them more than tiny fleeting glimpses of Rose's true self, but eventually it will add up. Eventually they won't be able to ignore it any longer. He hopes they won't think him manipulative once they begin realizing why he has done it. Should she ever find out, should she ever even learn his name, he hopes Rose won't hold it against him either.

(He may be overcorrecting for old guilt. Older mistakes. Newer complicity. But recognizing this does not grant him the ability to stop himself.)

It's the constancy of his distortion of Rose's image that makes Gregorsa wonder sometimes if he was mistaken in choosing for those that watch to follow her. (He's willing to admit her selection was something of a gamble. His... interlocutor... certainly seemed to agree.) Indeed, nearly any other in Gregorsa's position would have completely disregarded Sophodra and Rose as potential tools of presentation for their civilization. He could even see the logic behind rejecting them as candidates: kind as Rose is, the genuinely fearful arachnophobia on the other side of things would likely have immediately overriden it if Gregorsa hadn't stepped in, and her status as a blatant statistical outlier aside, Sophodra is...

Well. At the risk of sounding impolite, Sophodra is Sophodra.

But Gregorsa wasn't analyzing his potential lenses at the surface level. It isn't how he operates, isn't how he chooses to, isn't how he would choose to even if he still had the option of narrowing his mind, casting away the clogging choking haze of purpose, blocking out near to all he can see until his vision is as haltered as that of anyone else on the vines outside. He took human cultural viewpoints on specific types of arthropods into consideration as well before making his final selection. To them, mantises connote quiet, dignified stillness and refinement and spiders connote patient manipulation and near-invisible traps, and yet both are the inverse of the archetypes they couldn't possibly know have been set out for them: Sophodra eccentric and graceless and very much not quiet, Rose polite and genuine and reluctant to take action. In jarring loose the watchers' ingrained ideas right off the bat... perhaps they'll be quicker to accept them as simply people.

And as for roaches? Humans see them as living filth, objects of hatred and disgust and yet so very hard to kill, but right now he embodies neither the perspective played straight nor its mirror. Nor is he an inverse of Sophodra or Rose. Instead, he's merely the watchers' guide, friendly and intelligent and thoughtful, the truth of his motivation never something he gives them the time to think about before he sends them on their way.

Should they decide to see him as the unaltered archetype once his... complicity is unveiled, he won't object. He has already come to terms with the possibility and accepted it. Maybe it's why he's so thoroughly embraced his control over what they see when it comes to himself, eliminating the overcluttered backdrop they would see otherwise and painstakingly selecting every tiny aspect of the "translation" of his own body to evoke every subconscious and conscious judgement he wants from them. Even the way he built up to his introduction was... can he call it anything but manipulative? He let them watch a protocule cockroach with a strong resemblance to himself wandering around, coaxed them to start rooting for her, then made them watch her be mindlessly crushed underfoot- could one's subconscious reaction upon seeing him after that be anything but sympathetic?

He wants them to like him. He wants them to trust him. And the vast majority of the filtering is for their comfort, it's the honest truth, but... even after he admitted just how much he's distorted, he doubts they can grasp the full scope of it. Nor would they grasp the scope of just how carefully he's curated everything he lets them see to ensure they walk away after each lecture-episode in the state he desires.

It's a thin line Gregorsa toes. He wants to give them enough information to keep them happy and interested, but not enough to confuse or overwhelm them, not enough to stop them from coming back. Filter enough to keep them at ease, but not enough to reach the point of unforgivable dishonesty. Hint at his transgressions in the hopes that his newest students will learn and forgive them before their depths can ever be revealed, but stop them from finding out just how far he once went until they're too invested to abandon him.

And how many liberties has Gregorsa taken that he didn't need to? How many things has he chosen to tweak or outright change, be it for aesthetic's sake or as a simple artistic flourish he couldn't otherwise express? (It's why he rendered the city's name as "Formicosa City" rather than a more accurate translation, but that's a complaint, a revelation, for another day.) Rose and Sophodra's names were the only place where he made himself draw the line: Rose's name was a surprisingly easy translation, complete with most of the associated cultural connotations, while Sophodra took a shortened, slightly altered form of the equivalent to her genus's name as her own name, so he simply did the same to the human word for the same genus. He can't let his deceptions result in his audience holding an unconscious grudge against either of them. He owes them that much.

He has not allowed himself the same courtesy. The truth is, the professor's name is not actually Gregorsa, nor is it a close equivalent. There are a few stories similar to the humans' Die Verwandlung he knows of, but he's never found the time to read any of them; even if he had, he hardly thinks his chosen name would have been a subtle reference to one of them. It may have been more accurate, though... just for every other reason than those that would likely come to the minds of those who watch were he to admit it. He's under no risk of transforming into a giant vertebrate, the... expansion of his and his interlocutor's senses aside, but nearly every other element of Gregor Samsa's tale painfully echoes his own.

(The protocule cockroach jumps to mind again. The thoughtless crushing of her body underneath an ultragreen boot, snuffing out her life in an instant. How soon, until...?)

He wanted to be able to guide them. He wanted them to be able to trust him. He wanted them to like him just as much as he wanted them to like Rose and Sophodra. He thought a subtle pun would appeal to those of the watchers who were well-read enough to recognize it, and for the rest of them, the syllables that made up "Gregorsa" seemed as if, together, they would connote friendliness, openness, and quiet intelligence all at once. And it's worked, hasn't it?

At least for now... isn't that what matters?

(A part of the professor wonders if, once what he has planned reaches its entelechy, those who watch will finally have the opportunity to learn his real name. He doesn't know if this is a thought that comforts him.)


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