SFP

sfp 6 129 for web

It’s been nearly a year since the original black and white stone scene went online, so here it is if you need refreshing!

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  • Markus

    Is it just me, or did he never say you actually had to cast a stone when he first gave that test?

    • Eagle0600

      He said you had to keep one in your hand and place the other on your desk.

      • Everyone involved in that game has a second hand. Alison also has the option of literally atomising the stone while they wait without ever technically having removed it.

  • Anondod

    From the perspective of the game it’s a very different situation since Allison now only has to consider one other person’s choice instead of the whole class.

    From Allison’s perspective it’s probably even more different since she now presumably won’t assume that everyone will make what she previously considered the obvious choice.

    • AshlaBoga

      The obvious choice is to not screw over John.

      I was surprised to see the Prof put a resignation as part of this.

      • Rando

        Eh, he most likely already resigned (or is planning on) or was fired. I mean, there is no risk of him losing unless he desires it, this isn’t gambling from his perspective.

        • It’s not a gamble on her part, either; the whole part of this is that it’s a choice, not a gamble: you cannot know the way anyone (except John) will swing, so you have to act according to whichever principles motivate you most strongly.

          • Weatherheight

            It’s possible that the lesson is that black and white, yes or no, on or off options really aren’t a thing in the real world, only in thought experiments. It’s the end of War Games, essentially.

            “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.
            “How about a nice game of chess?”

          • Zorae42

            Ah, but John hasn’t been given the option not to play. So by not playing you’re condemning him to failure.

          • Weatherheight

            OR
            you can suggest another game…

      • Tylikcat

        Certainly, a lot of his behavior would make sense if what was at stake is not whether he teaches the class but a mentor relationship with Al.

    • Eagle0600

      I think the real lesson she can take away from the last one, at least as applies to this time, is to talk over the situation first and try to actively cooperate.

    • Lysiuj

      She also only needs to consider the choice of someone she already knows, where last time she didn’t seem to know anyone else there.
      This will help her consider that there’s more than one choice he might make; and at the same time, it’ll lead her to think about why he would make a different choice than she does. Her familiarity with him will also make her more empathetic if he has different viewpoints or motivation than her.

  • Lysiuj

    Nearly a year…
    I’d like to once again express my support and love for long haul stories like this one (issue 6, and SFP in general). The narrative has room to breathe and grow, the audience has time to embrace and analyze everything, and in cases where there’s a forum for discussion (digital or otherwise) we can have encyclopedia’s worth of ideas and debates. And all in all, it’s just a long-lasting journey that will feel that much fuller when (if?) it ends. Like a part of our lives…

    • juleslt

      I can’t believe it’s been a year…

      • Lysiuj

        And not a year since issue 6 started, that was even earlier!

    • Walter

      Yes, it is one of my favorite things about the webcomic publishing model. Stories have the leisure to sprawl.

    • Stephanie Gertsch

      Meh I think this issue went on too long and was too dialog heavy. If you have to spend pages and pages having your characters explain in detail “this is why I did what I did and what I think it means” the plot can’t stand on its own. But that’s my nitpick.

      • Lysiuj

        Fair enough.
        I will agree to disagree about this arc, although plenty of plots are long without being as dialogue heavy as this issue, and my point was more about how letting the story last for a long time grants a lot of unique opportunites.

        • Stephanie Gertsch

          Yean, your mileage will vary. This is more of a pet peeve for me, since the dialog has been getting on my nerves for a while, especially when everything gets rehashed ad naseum by armchair philosophers in the comics.

          Personally, I care more about whether the characters are believable and consistent rather than which one is “right.” (Hint: probably none of them). I feel like the Dostoevsky-length ramblings were just in there to justify Allison straight up kidnapping a dude and torturing him (which has still got to be my favorite page in the whole thing), to make it seem like it didn’t come out of nowhere.

          • Raven Black

            Funny, that page was so un-favorite for a friend of mine that they stopped reading the comic entirely!

          • Stephanie Gertsch

            I can definitely see why people wouldn’t like it. I like the page for the use of lighting and also that it’s very gutsy to take a likeable character and have them do something genuinely awful.

          • Tylikcat

            There are certainly portions of the discussion I mostly skim 🙂

            Just as a piece of story telling, the whole “oh shit” sequence, leading up to the absolutely beautiful image of Max using his power and being kind of heartbreaking (which was pretty amazing for a character I mostly want to diss) impressed me – you could kind of see the shape of everyone going “There can’t possibly be a good enough reason” which mean that there was almost certainly going to be a really good reason coming, but seeing the awful without the explanation was a good way of seeing it for just how awful it was.

      • Scott

        Just to provide a contrary point of view:
        I think you may be missing the point. This isn’t an explanation of the plot, the explanation IS the plot. Allison isn’t explaining herself in such detail as an expository crutch for the audience, she’s doing it because, as a character, she is struggling to come to terms with what she has done and why. This comic has never really been about the action. It has always been more about Allison finding her role in society and learning what to do with all her power.

        That said, everyone enjoys what they enjoy and all art is open to the interpretation of the consumer. It is simply my perspective that the last year of ‘rehash’ hasn’t been beating a dead horse but actually a deep exploration of morality and moral authority through the lens of a superhero comic.

        • Stephanie Gertsch

          “This isn’t an explanation of the plot, the explanation IS the plot.”

          That sums up why I got frustrated. 😛 You can say the same about Dostoevsky but good lord his scenes go on.

          I think for sure the surplus of dialog is intentional; I just don’t think it works.

          • Scott

            Perfectly understandable. I was simply defending my belief that the dialogue heavy nature of the chapter doesn’t weaken the strength of the plot. I completely understand that it may kill someone’s enjoyment of that plot.
            Citizen Kane is constantly regarded as the best film ever made is consistently placed at the top of every reputable “Best Films of All Time” list. Yet there is a sizable amount of the population who would find the film completely boring and unwatchable. I don’t know if it’s possible to create a work of art that will appeal to absolutely everyone.

          • Stephanie Gertsch

            For me as a writer, anything that smacks of “Tell, don’t show” is what feels clunky. Stories are about people living their lives and why they make the choices they do. But to show that through the medium of story, you have to actually show them living their lives and making decisions. Otherwise you might as well write an essay and ditch the characters.

            For example, Sandman does a good job showing characters making some very ethically dubious decisions, but the focus is always on consequences and what they will do next. There’s not so much drawn-out rehashing of “Why did I do that? Should I have done that?” It’s tempting to use characters as mouth pieces, but that’s never going to be as powerful as showing cause and effect.

            I think when SFP sticks to that core of action and consequence the arc feels genuine, and there are some scenes that really work, but when the dialog drags on too many pages the story stagnates because it’s not playing to the strengths of the medium.

    • cphoenix

      …And unlimited bathroom breaks!

  • Flesh Forge

    Then Allison crushed both stones to dust and punched Professor Jerkshoes in the face

    • Oren Leifer

      Thus failing the testing

      • Who defines “fail” and “succeed”? Remember, for that matter, that Alison could use her celebrity to get a professor fired and a passing grade in the class if she wanted to. Or, indeed, despite her NOT wanting to.

        • palmvos

          to be fair- what that professor did was against most reasonable standards of academic conduct. if he was not going to accept her taking that position he should have told her beforehand. his position may be defensible but it is inappropriate in that context. there was reference to prior incidents in the explanation so he may have said or done questionable things in the past. I have seen academic departments jump through hoops when it is clear they have been caught being petty. so it wasn’t entirely her celebrity and/or power.

    • Beroli

      In light of your previous complaint about the comic supposedly endorsing “be evil,” it is ironic that you apparently want Allison to respond with violence to hearing a perspective you don’t like.

      • The Improbable Man

        I took Flesh Forge’s comment as dark humor, and was amused.

        • Beroli

          Given that Flesh Forge has previously: said that “Every time the comic covers the choice between ‘be good’ or ‘be evil’ the stated conclusion is always ‘be evil’. Every single time.” as their sole comment on page 122, and asserted that Allison couldn’t have realized what Patrick said in the scene where she blew up at him was trying to manipulate her into getting angry (?) because she, quote unquote, “wouldn’t have been so shitty in response” if she had, I’m pretty sure the humor here is unintended.

          • Flesh Forge

            Get a load of this guy haha

          • Flesh Forge

            Oops *mic grab* since her Great Power puts her on a different moral plane, she should indeed crush the stones to dust, the whole point of her conversation here was that power and violence makes rules meaningless. Punching the professor would be pretty funny though.

            *mic re-drop*

          • Beroli

            And now that we’ve established that it wasn’t humor:

            In light of your previous and ongoing complaint about the comic supposedly endorsing “be evil,” it is ironic that you apparently want Allison to respond with violence to hearing a perspective you don’t like. Unless you recognize that what you’re calling for would be evil and you’re complaining about perceived inconsistency? Either way.

          • Flesh Forge

            I don’t know how you conclude that I *want* Allison to prefer violence, and I don’t know how you can misinterpret “punching the professor would be pretty funny” as a not intending to convey humor. Either you’re intentionally misreading me or you’re just not reading very carefully at all.

  • juleslt

    “God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players [i.e. everybody], to being involved in an obscure and complex variant of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.”
    ― Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

    • CanuckAmuck

      Always love for Pratchett.

      • Jimbotherisenclown

        There are a few important rules on the internet, but perhaps none so important as ‘Always Upvote for Pratchett’.

    • Lance Allen

      That man sure did love to use the word “ineffable”.

      It makes me sad that there will never be another “Good Omens” or “Small Gods”.

      On the other hand, it makes me happy that these works exist, and that I have read them (multiple times)

    • Hawthorne

      I was visiting Edinburgh when Terry died. I can’t even begin to explain how he helped save my life when I was lonely and suicidal at 19, and how many times I’ve read all of his books in the 18 years since.

      I sobbed uncontrollably for a good while, then decided I’d have my first whiskey, in Scotland, and toast in his honor.

      Being me, I then spent two hours researching “best whiskey for beginners” online, and how to order it at a bar and not embarrass yourself.

      I then wandered, weeping, through the 6 PM night rain of Edinburgh, as one does when mourning Terry Pratchett. And discovered that proper whiskey shops closed around 5-ish.

      At 7 PM, soaked with tears and rain and feeling like an absolute traitor, I quietly toasted Terry with a cafe mocha at Starbucks.

      Ever upvoted, old friend.

      • Hawthorne

        I also personally embarrassed myself to Neil Gaiman, but that’s another story.

  • Roman Snow

    We can take this as confirmation that he was serious about the arbitrary grading system, right?

    I mean, I guess it’s obvious that he was serious and at this point that seems to matter a lot less. I’m just sore about an argument on page 106 that got way too personal way too fast.

    …On second thought, with his “trolling” personality, an argument could still be made that he wasn’t and isn’t serious. So I better acknowledge that now and preempt any comments pointing that out.

    • Beroli

      I think just the opposite–we can take this as confirmation that even when he told Allison that she’d failed the class and that was that, he planned to give her another chance at some point.

      • Roman Snow

        Does repeating the exercise make it any less arbitrary? Especially if he’s only repeating it for one student? That exercise determined that Alison would fail (until this do-over, potentially), that Davenport would earn and lose points normally over the course of the class, and that every other student had an automatic “A.” That’s not fair to a single one of them: not Alison, not Davenport, and not any of the other students.

        …And wait a second, nothing remotely confirmed that he planned this. Certainly there are clues that could lead you to this conclusion, such as Gurwara carrying the stones with him and the fact that he found her in the park, but if we assume that’s the case it raises other questions I’m not ready to worry about.

    • Stephanie Gertsch

      Yes, finally confirmation of what was explicitly confirmed many pages ago, but which a minority will tie themselves up in logical knots to avoid believing because it reveals the pettiness of a character they otherwise like.

      But maybe on some deep, secret internal level he always intended to make things right with Al? Don’t see what that has to do with anything. Actions reveal character, not thoughts the character maybe could have had in an alternate universe.

  • Dafydd Carmichael

    Does he just carry a little baggy of pebbles just to mess with people’s minds?

    • Pretty sure those are the Urim and Thummim and professor is the immortal wandering Melchizedek.

      • Weatherheight

        I cannot upvote this enough. Thank you for teaching me something new.

      • palmvos

        the Urim and Thummium was carried by the high priests (in a pouch on the breast plate). where is it written that Melchizedek had them?

        • Melchizedek is a high priest (the first named one, even); and, according to mystical interpretations of Hebrews 7:1-3 he’s also immortal and a judge of souls.

          At no place in the Bible it says that he uses the Urim/Thummim, but since these mysterious objects are used by high priests and seem to be related to innocent/guilty divination, they seem fitting for the character. As far as I can tell, the first one to use this association (or at least its popularizer) is the New Age writer Paulo Coelho.

    • Alaska

      “That’ll be $12.99.”

      “Let’s play a little game. I have in this bag a set of black and white pebbles. Everyone here in line gets one of each – ”
      “… please sir, just pay and move along.”

      • Even better if the bag of pebbles was the item being rung up at the cash register.

  • Rando

    So this is where she still puts down a black stone, in order to “prove to herself she is still a good person” right?

    • Lostman

      You know she is… or will she?

      • This seems necessary to me, because if Gurwara puts down a black stone and she puts down white, she will feel a lot worse than if Gurwara puts down white and she puts down black.

        • Lostman

          Maybe that Gurwara plan? no matter what stone she put down, it will be rendered null and void.

    • Emily Smith

      Or it’s where she puts him in a chokehold until he plays the stone she tells him to.

    • Tylikcat

      a) Way to put the most mean-spirited interpretation on it.

      b) I think there’s a lot more being communicated here.

      • Lostman

        What’s not being said, that important part.

  • Since John is still out there with his black stone for our purposes, she and John will both pass when she puts down a black stone.

    (Whether he is counted or not, she passes whether she puts down black or white in any case.)

    • Beroli

      Unless Gurwara puts down a white stone and they both fail again; this time he’s participating himself.

  • Kris Dunlap

    John. Out in the world with his one black stone forever doomed to serve our whims! Robbed of his own agency as we gamble once again for his future! He will forever be a cruel reminder of the injustice that plagues this world as we lord over him like gods! Curse his pitiful existence for lacking the privilege of a white stone.

  • Darkoneko Hellsing

    Oh, I like where this may be going.

  • Whaaaaaaat how could that possibly be a year already

  • Stephanie

    There are so many ways this could go. It would be interesting if Alison took away Gurwara’s white stone before he could put it down, but that would be doubling down on the choice she made with Max, and I’m not sure if that’s the place she’s in right now. Another option, since it’s only a two-person game this time, would be to visibly throw away her white stone as a show of good faith–if she’s guaranteed to put down a black stone, Gurwara theoretically has no incentive not to do the same. In any case, what happens next will tell us a lot about where Alison’s head is at and what Gurwara is ultimately hoping to teach her.

    • Lysiuj

      Although throwing away the white stone could be seen as an empty gesture outside the context of the game. Since in reality people (and especially her) can’t really get rid of their ability to make more than one choice. So a commitment to a certain choice in a certain moment is one thing, but I’m not sure what she’d be saying about herself in a wider philosophical sense.

      • Zorae42

        It’s not really about getting rid of the ability to make another choice. It’s about making the other player feel safe about making theirs.

        If she plays white and he plays black, then he’s fired and neither her nor John fail since he’s not their teacher anymore. By getting rid of the white stone, she’s saying that he can play the black stone with no possible way of losing.

        And in reality when making agreements, there are certainly many examples of giving up power to let the other person feel secure that you can’t stab them in the back.

        • Huttj509

          Like what he just did, in telling her his story to use as blackmail if she wished, trusting she would not.

          • Tylikcat

            The bit where Alison sudden fruck and started asking that Gurwara not share her story honestly felt a little off to me? I mean, I suspect that reading it all together it will feel less so, and it certainly serves as a bridge to Gurwara’s story. Just, the timing of “Alison suddenly gets cold feet” felt… off somehow. (Maybe in as little as I would have expected it to hit before they got food. It seems more like a low bloodsugar sort of thing. Sure, I know, the food is in front of her uneaten, but the body reacts to the promise of food.)

            But they have spent the day exchanging confidences of so much greater import, which is pretty much what I was getting at below. I think that’s one way to build solidarity.

        • Lysiuj

          Yeah, I agree. But all this is in the realm of specific choices, and she can decide in each case in the future to make a gesture of this kind in order to foster trust with the other person.
          But the point of the game seems to be to get people to think about how they might act in similiar circumstances, and she can’t just establish a principle that she’ll always…

          Wait a minute. Maybe she can. Maybe that’ll be the entire point! The most powerful person in the world, confronted with how she deals with other people and with disagreements and differing values and priorities and motivations.
          One one end she has the option of enforcing her will on others to suit what she thinks is right, with no reprecussions. But what if she decided to go in a very different direction, to not just refrain from forcing others but to actively limit her actions and choices in dealing with others? To keep herself far away from any kind of enforcing her will, and to foster mutual trust with others despite the gulf her powers might create, and to force herself to consider the opinions of others more seriously…
          Holy shit this could be a fascinating development for her.

    • Zorae42

      But he could claim that she’s thrown a fake white one away to try and lure him into placing a black stone and losing.

    • MirrorMan

      Everyone, please see my post above. You’re still playing the game the wrong way, IMO.

  • Tylikcat

    So there is what they are both saying about how they position themselves with regard to the world, but also what they are saying about how they position themselves wrt to each other. This seems to be almost as much about their evolving relationship. I’m not expecting any trickery, because that makes it less interesting. (Though I’m always open to really interesting trickery.)

    They both play white: “We are both assholes. Screw John.” Hey, there is an argument that they are both assholes, but I don’t think either of them is exactly committed to assholery.
    Al white, Gurwara black: “You have taught me to wield the knife! I will so so glad to be rid of your fucking class” Uh, yeah…?
    Al black, Gurwara white: “Never trust the man! (but enjoy your principles).”

    Both black… the interesting thing about this outcome, to me, is that it not only speaks to potential ethics, but to growing trust between them. Because that kind of solidarity comes out of trust, doesn’t it? (I know there are still different camps about Gurwara, but I think the relationship between them is a lot more interesting than Al’s grade.)

    • masterofbones

      ALL IN ON DOUBLE BLACK

    • Chani

      The way they’re interacting now, I think Alison wouldn’t want Guwara to lose. Maybe she’ll play black to ensure he’s still her teacher, grades be damned. 🙂

      …or, maybe she’ll actually try using her words first? that would be nice.

      • Tylikcat

        She’s been using a lot of words. They both have.

  • elysdir

    And Alison hasn’t slept during that whole year…

    • elysdir

      (I don’t remember whether that’s really true, but I thought it was funny.)

      • Danygalw

        It’s plausible.

  • Arkone Axon

    There’s one particular rule that has never been mentioned, an option that Alison didn’t even consider the last time:

    She can TALK before she plays. More precisely, she can COMMUNICATE with her fellow player(s ), establishing who’s going to put down what.

    That’s the thing she didn’t do with Max, or with anyone else. Communicate. Discuss. Share ideas. Achieve a consensus. When everyone verbally agrees to play the black stone, then it becomes a lot less risky (granted, there’s the issue of other players being deceitful about their intentions, but communication still cuts down the risk considerably).

    • Zorae42

      And what happens if somebody refuses to play the black stone no matter how much discussion is had?

      Then she’s right back to needing to play the tyrant to get everyone to ‘win’.

      • Arkone Axon

        Yes… but it’s like what every responsible self defense instructor (be it unarmed or weapons based instruction) tells you from the very start: “This is a last resort option.”

        In other words, yes, you may need to play the tyrant… as a last resort. IF somebody refuses to play the black stone no matter what. IF discussions fail. But at least give it more than a cursory effort.

        • Zorae42

          Ah, but that’s exactly what happened with Max. Granted, she did a poor job of discussing with him, but they devolved to him saying he wouldn’t help no matter what.
          So if she hadn’t ever dismissed Max’s pathetic story, somehow never gotten angry/upset, and attempted to offer him things in return but he still turned her down, then her actions would’ve been okay?

          • Arkone Axon

            Yes. If she hadn’t dismissed Max’ story as pathetic, made it stunningly clear that she would offer him no sympathy, empathy, or even a momentary appreciation for his position, and made herself into someone so completely detestable in his eyes that he wanted her out of his home and out of his life, and he’d still been the petty and spiteful person that he canonically is not (according to both Alison and the webcomic itself), then yes it would have been a bit more permissible.

            And going back to the self defense analogy: going into a negotiation with that kind of a dismissive attitude towards the person you want to do you a favor by risking exposure to something he’s been terrified of for years (including dismissing the very idea that he is scared or deserves to be scared and should be mocked for being scared) is roughly on a par with walking around with a loaded gun and assuming that every person you encounter is a felon just begging to be put down. Simply put: you’re looking for the excuse.

        • Merle

          I am put in mind of a quote from James Mattis:

          “I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you fuck with me, I’ll kill you all.”

          Violence is the last resort of the compassionate. But a last resort is still a resort.

          • Arkone Axon

            Exactly. That’s why Mattis is so highly admired, to the point that even the many (many many many! So many!) vehement critics of the current POTUS agree that at least ONE cabinet pick was a good choice.

            That’s also why Mattis didn’t have to kill anyone that day. They knew he meant every word – that he could kill them, that he would kill them, and that he didn’t want to kill them.

        • Psile

          I find this comment kind of interesting, considering the discussions in the comments over Alison’s decision. It’s all a matter of degrees. Like, I think pretty much everyone in the comments section of this comic thinks that violence should be a last resort and the main argument is if Alison expended a reasonable amount of alternatives before resorting to it. Some think she did, some think she didn’t. Everyone thinks it would have been better if Max had been convinced rather than coerced, at least from what I’ve see. Mostly everyone, anyway.

          I realize this is going to sound like I’m setting a debate trap, but I promise I’m not. Do you think there is a point where Alison would have been justified to physically coerce Max? Like assuming she had handled things much differently, had negotiated with him more, offered more that he might want or respected his point of view more, or just given him more time to make the decision. If Max had refused all offers and reasoning would she be justified in using force?

          Just to be clear, I don’t think that she exhaust every option before resorting to violence. I think that she exhausted every option that she could think of. Perhaps offering him some kind of robotic super-hero suit might have appealed to him, but it’s hard to say.

          • Arkone Axon

            Um… yes and no. After a certain point, coercion would have indeed been permissible – say, if Max were in fact the completely selfish and whiny jerk that his detractors/Alison’s apologizers claim him to be. If his actual reaction were like Margaret Thatcher responding to a plan to help the poor with a flat out refusal just because it’s the poor, or if he were as sadistically spiteful as Leona Helmsley encouraging her dog to bite employees and then making them get on their hands and knees to beg to keep their jobs, then yeah.

            However, there’d still be better ways to coerce him. The most obvious one being to give him a little speech. Something… something like this, “I found out who you are because someone sent me a file. I have that file. I can always make a .pdf of that file for safekeeping… and post it online where anyone can read it. What happens to you then?”

            (Also, a robot super-hero suit would indeed have been a good bribe… along with actual compassion and pity for the poor guy. Not only would it likely have secured his cooperation, but she came SO close to actually busting open the Harmony Council, and she doesn’t even know it)

          • Psile

            I didn’t really want to get into it again because I feel a little exhausted at the discussion and also a new page will be posted in a few hours, but…

            I thought that a significant portion of the defense of Max is that he is in genuine physical danger if he is revealed. Like, his fear of exposure is significant and real enough to justify inaction that would result in the deaths of others. Basically Alison is asking Max to do something profoundly heroic, risking his life for thousands of strangers. If Max is in real physical danger if he is exposed, isn’t threatening to expose him just physical coercion with more steps? It seems nicer because she doesn’t actually physically touch him, but it is worse in many ways assuming the danger to Max is real. If Alison is threatening to hurt him herself, that’s one thing. If she’s threatening to expose him, she is putting in much more danger than he would be if he was just being directly threatened.

            Ultimately, this is where we don’t see eye to eye. I very much compare his reaction to a Margret Thatcher situation, except he wouldn’t help dying sick people literally because he wanted to spite Alison. Anyway, I was mainly curious if you thought violence was ever a solution.

          • Arkone Axon

            Technically it’s the same level of threat. From the point of view of someone in Max’ position, there’s not much difference between “a bunch of unknown biodynamics are being made aware that I exist and they can harm me” and “This known biodynamic is harming me right now.” Alison is simply one of the many biodynamics he justifiably fears learning his secret.

            He didn’t react like Margaret Thatcher because what I described was her actual reaction to propositions that would have helped the poor while still achieving her own goals. No just to be saying no, no just because she couldn’t be bothered to lift a finger to help them (there’s a reason why she ended her days with armed guards watching over her just so she could garden in her back yard. And why her death coincided with a spike in sales of the song “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead”). However, if he did react like Margaret Thatcher, then yes violence could be a solution to it.

            HOWEVER… are you familiar with the Discworld series? Particularly “the Hogfather?” It’s like Lord Downey explained to Mister Teatime when critiquing the latter’s performance on an assassination assignment (one where the target was eliminated… along with everyone else in the house. Including the dog, who was found nailed to the ceiling), “It lacked… elegance.”

            That’s why I still think that Alison should have resorted to a verbal threat of public revelation rather than giving in to her petty urge to inflict pain and terror. Simply put, she’s better than that. She’s bright enough to find a more elegant solution than that.

    • JohnTomato

      “Achieve a consensus.

      With college kids? Most of them don’t even have a grasp on the basics yet. A strong personality can push them towards agreement but actually understanding the game is still a couple of years down the road.

      • Arkone Axon

        Speaking as someone a bit older than the average college student… I think you’re underestimating the younger generations.

        • JohnTomato

          Speaking as someone who’s daughter is dithering about where to go for her PhD… I think kids are kids.

          • Arkone Axon

            No, adolescents and college age people are… people. Just people less experienced than you or I. But if they’re old enough to go to college, they’re old enough to serve in the military… and when I was that age I dealt with plenty of peers who were idiots, and plenty who were brilliant and mature, and plenty who were somewhere in between… and as I got older I noticed plenty of people my age or older who were still immature brats.

    • Nathanaël François

      Last time she couldn’t. Guwara didn’t leave them time for that, and explained the rules too fast for some of the half-awake kids to follow.

      • Arkone Axon

        That’s true. He was making a point there about her good intentions and ideals, and what happens when they meet with reality. This time… well, I’m thinking he’s going to try to offer her a little hope that yes, you CAN make the world a better place, even after you’ve sinned and erred as badly as the both of them have.

  • craptastic

    I find the notion that is seemingly being steered to very reminiscent of Ann rand’s pile of crap, I hope this will be avoided….. somehow.

    I mean that the selfish (white stone) choice seems to be the notion we are being guided towards.

    • masterofbones

      I bet you are wrong.

      See, this is the part where he shows “you can rely on me,” when they both take black. Showing that while you can’t rely on random people, there are those out there that *are* worthy of trust. Thus he is brought into Alison’s confidence, etc etc.

      • craptastic

        I sincerely hope you are right!
        we’ll see.

        Though that does brings up the idea of was that what he was after all along?

  • Scott

    Stick to your guns and play the black stone! Don’t just screw over poor John because he isn’t there for you to feel bad about it. Maybe Gurwara will play his black stone as well and you’ll still get the better grade. If not, then you’re still failing and your situation hasn’t changed. What made you a tyrant wasn’t your willingness to sacrifice for others, it was your demand that everyone else sacrifice as much as you. If you can continue to sacrifice for the betterment of those around you but be content with the fact that you may not always be able to change the world, you will be on your way to being the hero you want to be.

    • Lysiuj

      Or… be pragmatic, and hedge your bets that the other person may not be willing, or able, to risk as much as you can. And so put up the white stone on the chance that he will too, in which case everyone wins in a roundabout way.
      Both seem like good lessons to learn.
      (Though outside this game, I’m not sure I can envision how everyone making a ‘selfish’ (even if justified) choice, will lead to good results for everyone. It may represent certain strains of liberalism and libertarianism, but it doesn’t ever work out that way in real life…)

      • Scott

        I don’t know if you saw or if this just isn’t relevant to your argument but Professor Gurwara did mention that John is still a part of this game. That means that even if both Allison and Gurwara put up the white stone, John loses since he still does not have a white stone to play. I only bring this up because this does change the nature of the game. If John were not a part of this, then Allison and Gurwara should absolutely put up the white stones since there is no reason to accept risk. However, since John is included there is a new chance to save him. Allison could play the white stone, sure. It would get her a passing grade and leave Gurwara’s fate entirely up to him. However, doing so would sacrifice any hope of saving John.

        • Lysiuj

          Good point.
          I guess this means the game is already a criticism of what I mentioned – if everyone has good circumstances then everyone can simply do what’s best for them; but if some people are screwed over to begin with then we probably need something more to ensure that everyone can have a good life.

          • Scott

            Exactly. This game was always meant to reflect life’s choices. Many people have the option to focus only on themselves and act in their best interest with no regard for those around them. As in the classroom example before, this isn’t always evil and it isn’t always selfish. However, there’s always going to be someone who, no matter how hard they may try, will never be successful without a little bit of sacrifice from others.

        • Tylikcat

          In a practical sense, I’m not sure what to make of John’s inclusion. John was allowed to win his grade back last time, after all – would this get him an A? This almost seems like a symbolic nod to all of the Johns on the world who you can screw over by your safe choices for a better life for yourself and yourself alone.

          Then, listening to them both, it’s hard for me not to look at this current round as a game their playing on a pretty different level than the first time.

          • Scott

            I’m not sure if this will actually address your point but this is what I took from it.
            Without including John, Allison could have played the white stone guilt free and gotten her A. Whether or not Gurwara kept his job would have been completely up to him since he had the choice of a white or black stone and has no reason to play the black one. However, by including John, the game is completely different. As it stands now, before anyone plays, we know a few things. 1) John and Allison are both currently failing the class. 2) John must play the black stone as he does not have a white one. Therefore 3) Allison can either choose to play the white stone, guaranteeing herself an A but leaving John to fail or play her black stone in an attempt to save John.
            What is an unknown, however, is what Gurwara will do. If Allison chooses to play it safe and use the white stone, she is secure. However, if she wants to save John, what Gurwara plays will matter. Gurwara is risking far more than just a grade if he actually intends to wager his job with the school. It is possible that, despite his recent bonding moment with Allison, he will choose not to risk his job and play his own white stone. If he does, Allison’s attempt to save John will result in both of them continuing to fail and she will have missed an opportunity to save herself. However, if Gurwara believes that she will try to save John and plays the black stone himself but Allison plays the white stone, she will have her A at the cost of Gurwara and John both losing.
            Really, this game is more simple than the first time. The only actual players are her and Gurwara so she only has to decide what to do based on her own feelings and her sense of one other person and this time she knows everyone clearly understands the rules. She no longer has to worry about a dozen plus people with various motivations and understanding. Yet, the elimination of other players makes her action much more direct. With only the three of them, there will be no group to hide behind. She can’t rely on someone else to take the blame; if she plays her white stone it will be her fault that John fails.

  • Merle

    I favor those who say, in this situation, to trust your fellow player – and visibly throw away your white stone.

  • Walter

    Guwara will put down the black, Alison will put down the white, he’ll resign.

  • Mechwarrior

    Faced with a choice between the black stone and the white stone, Alison grinds both stones into powder.

    • Weatherheight

      Fifty shade worth.

      ::puts on some smooth jazz::

      I am so going to be punished for this someday

      • Danygalw

        Why?

  • MirrorMan

    I think you’re all missing the point. The game itself is unfair. It’s like the Kobiyashi Maru from Star Trek, or War Games, when Joshua says “Strange game. The only winning move is not to play’. Unless you have the power to change the rules and/or transcend them, you are stuck on the same playing field, no matter what approach you take. So, the obvious answer, to someone with Alison’s power and new perspective, is to pick up both stones and use her strength to crush them into powder.

    • Zorae42

      Except no one is hurt if you don’t play War Games or perform the Kobiyashi Maru without failing. If she refuses to play, Guwara can (and most likely will to prove the point) place a white stone and thus John will fail.
      Unless she also convinces Guwara not to play or crushes his stones as well (the first may be ineffective and the second is yet another tyrannical action), then taking the ‘no option’ route is still not an acceptable route. Sure she didn’t contribute to John’s failure, nor did she cause herself to fail, but she didn’t prevent his failure – which is an unacceptable outcome in her eyes.

      • MirrorMan

        People still get hurt no matter how hard you try. The whole point of this is that no matter how hard you try, there is no perfect outlook or solution. You just do the best you can according to your conscience. “If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what’s said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.” Abraham Lincoln

        • Zorae42

          You’re solution is still a selfish solution that you only pick so you don’t feel bad about directly contributing to suffering, but by not taking action you are STILL indirectly contributing to it. My God, the choice of non-action in this case is even worse than playing the white stone. At least by playing the white stone you’re admitting that you’re really only looking out for yourself.

          If you HONESTLY believed in doing the best you can according to your conscience (and part of that was not resorting to ‘tyranny’), then you’d suggest she swap her white stone with John’s black stone. That’s not a perfect solution, but it would be the only non-selfish and non-tyrannical solution.

          Also, Lincoln is probably not the best person to quote in this instance. As he wouldn’t take the path of non-action, and would instead take the path of tyranny since that’s the path he took when faced with that choice.

          • MirrorMan

            You are trying to apply black and white to a grayscale situation. No matter what you do, there is no ‘right’ answer. It’s nice to think so, but someone always, and I mean ALWAYS, sacrifices or gets hurt in the end. And I think you need to re-think your Lincoln stance. Maybe watch Ken Burn’s Civil War, as it’s probably the best documentary out there. Yes, he ran roughshod over the constitution, but it was for the greater good. You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

          • Zorae42

            *My reply was marked as spam for no reason, going to try reposting it.

            Except this game is not a grayscale situation 😛 And you’re completely correct about the nature of the world. Although there are some times where there is a ‘right’ answer and a solution where no one needs to be sacrificed or hurt. And I think the point of the lesson is supposed to be that you can’t achieve those solutions if you’re first instinct is to punch your problems. Not that the solutions are impossible or that some sort of compromise that minimized the sacrifice and hurt is impossible, so you just need to condemn people to their fate so you don’t get your hands dirty.

            I wasn’t criticizing Lincoln, I was merely stating a fact about his policy. Being a Tyrant doesn’t necessarily mean bad/evil; it can be exercised in the right way. It’s just a dangerous position to be in, and dangerous if that’s your go to solution to problems. Breaking a few eggs is okay, breaking a million probably isn’t, breaking a few eggs to make an omelet when you’ve got some perfectly good cereal available isn’t okay. Killing all your hens, cutting the eggs out of them, and using those to make an omelet probably isn’t okay.

            It’s just if you’re attempting to argue for a path that let’s you be non-tyrannical and tell yourself that you did nothing to directly contribute to suffering (while still implicitly allowing it), then quoting a Tyrant is just not really the best thing to do.

            Also, Ken Burn’s Civil War was great!

    • Tylikcat

      All of this depends on whether you see Gurwara as a mendacious outside force, or a single person you might build a coalition with, I suppose. This is a very different situation than Alison walking into a classroom full of students she makes erroneous assumptions about (then throwing a temper tantrum).

      This is totally not a unwinnable scenario, unless he’s specifically out to get you. (Which makes the Kobayshi Maru a fairly poor comparison – it was straightforwardly unwinnable without cheating.) And she can *always* save herself. Alison has to decide whether she trusts him. Which, after the day they’ve had together, is a really interesting question.

    • Stephanie

      That would be a real dick move. Those aren’t her stones to crush. She can make the same point by just taking them and holding them in her fist until Gurwara concedes not to play.

    • Weatherheight

      I upvote this mostly for referencing War Games and Start Trek “Wrath of Khan”.

  • Margot

    I hope she asks him some questions this time, even just to clarify the rules. Like, will John suddenly get a free pass if they both pick black? Are there any actual consequences?

    • Merle

      He’s stated that they’re keeping the rules the same, and that this is a new game, with John out there forced to pick “black”.

      His grade is very much still on the line (as is her grade, as is Gurwara’s career).

  • I’d like to see Alison exercise her creativity and rational mind by searching for a third option here. After all they’ve spent the past several pages discussing the overwhelming need in real life for multiple alternative options. Could she decide not to reveal her hand at all or reveal both stones, say, render the game null and void and proceed to actually sit the class like a normal student?

  • Cake

    If I were her I’d chuck those pebbles at the moon and say, “Thanks for the lesson.”
    Then fly away.

  • RRand

    Allison: [Swallows the black stone]. Show me how deep the rabbit hole goes.

  • Philip Bourque

    Gambling tip: never bet more than you are willing to lose.

    • Mechwarrior

      Gambling tip: you can’t beat the house.

      • Philip Bourque

        So who would be the house in this case? Prof Guwara?

        • Mechwarrior

          He’s the one who set up the game, so yes.

  • Todd Cole

    When he first appeared, Gurwara didn’t have the big scar over his left eye (which I had forgotten about until I reread it just now). Is the scar new in the strip, or is this a ret-con situation?

  • solkan

    I’m pretty sure the test is actually “How do you make sure all of the stones are black?” so the answer has everything to do with not assuming that there are any other rules and actually -talking- to coordinate.

    If Gurwara is half the teacher he’s shown himself to be, if she fails that test, he’s going to cheat his stone to produce one of two possible outcomes:
    1. Alison plays black and he plays white
    2. Alison plays white and he plays black, so that he can say that he’s failed to teach her anything.

  • Caliban

    Clearly the only reasonable action is to take the professors white stone away from him and thus guarantee that the only stone he can play is the black stone, and then play your black stone. Ensuring the “right” outcome through an application of power instead of relying on such uncertain things as free will or choice.

    (I have no idea what she will actually do, but that’s basically what she did to save Feral, once she was sure he wouldn’t help willingly.)

  • Graeme Sutton

    I’m starting to wonder when the writers met my old medical ethics prof, the resemblance is uncanny.