The following article will spoil “There Is No Antimemetics Division” and “Five Five Five Five Five” by qntm. Please consider going and reading them yourself first.
Content warning for references to (no descriptions of) bodily mutilation, and a synopsis of a horror story.
What is SCP?
First, a bit of background about the SCP project for those unfamiliar with it. The SCP Wiki is a collaborative writing project sharing a common universe. The main draw of the site is the supernatural (or “anomalous”) items that the eponymous SCP Foundation “Secures, Contains, and Protects”. The articles describing these entities are written in dry, clinical tone; this is the central creative restriction for the site’s primary content. How do you describe Yog-Sothoth like a dispassionate scientist, and still make it sound scary? (That said, the site’s content is not limited to horror; many of the articles are more intriguing than scary, and there is also an extensive collection of “-J” joke articles.)
The site’s content is copylefted under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license. Consequently, there is no “canon” on the site, because anyone is free to adapt content into their own creative work however they like. Nevertheless, often authors will take it upon themselves to write a series of articles (usually including “tales” in more traditional prose) which build upon each other in an episodic fashion to create a coherent plot. “There Is No Antimemetics Division” and its sequel “Five Five Five Five Five” are two such stories, and they are what I would like to discuss today. (For brevity I will refer to the two collectively as “the Antimemetics Saga”.)
Scroll down to begin the spoilers.
A plot synopsis
You can skip this if you’ve read the Antimemetics Saga.
The Antimemetics Saga follows Marion Wheeler, the director of the Foundation’s Antimemetics Division. An antimeme is exactly what it sounds like; it is an idea which, for whatever reason, is very difficult to spread. Some antimemes are simply hard to remember or notice. Others kill you if you learn about them, or cause you yourself to become unrememberable or unnoticeable, or both; either way, you can’t share what you’ve learned.
The third article in the series, “Unforgettable, That’s What You Are” introduces us to a cosmically-dangerous antimeme, the main antagonist of the series, SCP-3125. We learn that the current SCP Antimemetics Division was not the first. The first, years ago, began to deduce the existence of SCP-3125 from the other anomalies it had discovered. Those who learned of it because visible to it. And those it could see, it killed, as well as their “memetic bystanders” who shared similar thought patterns. Consequently, as soon as one Antimemetics researcher discovered it, the entire division was in danger of being destroyed. The division detonated an antimemetic bomb to erase all knowledge of SCP-3125 – and in doing so, obliterated all knowledge of the division itself. Every competent antimemetics research group eventually discovers, and is destroyed by, SCP-3125.
SCP-3125 is a complex system of ideas, originating from outside normal reality, capable of entirely overwhelming the human mind’s ability to conceive of anything else. When it has fully manifested in our reality, this property will entirely obliterate human civilization.
The Antimemetics Division has been working to fight SCP-3125 for – well, there’s no actual record of how long. All attempts to work on the problem occur in “Vegas rooms,” which are shielded from SCP-3125’s influence and cause occupants to entirely forget what happened inside upon leaving. (What happens in a Vegas room stays in a Vegas room.) Research is thus a continual project of rediscovering SCP-3125 in a safe environment, getting some work done, and then forgetting it exists.
The Foundation determines that there is one way to destroy SCP-3125 – to combat it with a more powerful idea complex. But since no human can conceive of an idea that complicated, the only way to generate such a meme is by amplifying an idea we can conceive of. This would be a massive engineering undertaking, however, and the self-secrecy required makes it extremely difficult to even get started. Ultimately, the solution is to build a Vegas room large enough to house the machine and lock some engineers (though due to Things Going Wrong, just one engineer, trapped in a non-human body) inside for years until they finish building it.
Ultimately, aided by a young man in his 20s, known only as Red, who effectively became a kind of “host” to the meme complex, SCP-3125 successfully manifests. Civilization is annihilated; individuals affected by SCP-3125 (read: basically everyone) begin mutilating anyone who shows resistance to it, and feed people into massive, cognitohazardous “sarcophagi” erected in the center of cities, for reasons known only to them.
One man is able to be broken free of the complex: Marion’s husband, Adam Wheeler, one of the rare people with natural mnestic ability, acting as a sort of armor against mental alteration. He is able to travel to the Foundation site housing the machine, where it is activated. Marion (or rather a thought-form recreation of her, as she is dead at this point in the story) is the idea which ascends to meet SCP-3125, and destroys it. The whole world forgets that any of this ever happened. The end.
Okay Skylar what exactly is your point
Alright, so far all I’ve done is provide a fairly artless synopsis of the plot of the antimemetics saga. Why am I even talking about this? Well, it’s because of the implication.
In “Introductory Antimemetics,” we are introduced to the phrase, “Ideas don’t die.” This is very quickly juxtaposed against the Foundation’s desperate need to kill SCP-3125. Ideas don’t die; we have to kill this idea. And the saga’s answer to this contradiction is introduced in “Your Last First Day”:
“Your team is dead,” SCP-3125 says. “Their minds have been pulled out, like eyeballs. They’re hollow people, with holes in space where their brains were. The war is over! Finally! It’s just you, Marion, a division of one! Dying from mnestic overdose, two hundred metres underground, cared for by no one, known to exist to no one, up against an immortal, unkillable idea.”
“Ideas can be killed,” she says, stepping into the airlock.
“With better ideas.”
And yet SCP-3125 does seem unstoppable, inevitable, immortal. Adam Wheeler, at one point, is confronted by Red:
“This is what the human race really is,” the man explains, spreading his hands to gesture at the whole world. “We lied to ourselves that we could be better, for thousands of years. But this is it. This is what we’ve always been. We’ve never been anything else.”
And finally, in “Tombstone,” Marion destroys it.
She looks “up”, at the unimaginably gigantic memeplex which she has to kill. Inside its maw, human existence, all humans and all things humans have ever done, said, thought or been, are burning alive. SCP-3125 is, in large part, the lie that SCP-3125 is inevitable, and indestructible.
But it IS a lie.
When they meet, what happens is less a fight than it is mathematics, an equation settling at the end of a long, painful stretch of working, a blizzard of cancelled terms. In the presence of
WILD LIGHT, vast tracts of SCP-3125, thought to meaningfully exist, prove not to. It is, in the new context which
WILD LIGHTprovides, an ancient irrelevance. It folds up, limb after branching limb winking out of existence. It releases its grip on everything human. The mathematics is good.
And if this is beginning to sound a little familiar to you, you’re not alone. The description of SCP-3125’s demise, to me, smacks of the contradiction/synthesis of dialectical materialism. And indeed, our capitalistic, racist, imperialist, patriarchical, cisheteronormative society is exactly this kind of ideological system, sustaining itself largely by convincing us all that it’s inevitable and unkillable. “This is the only way things can be,” we are told, in words echoing Red’s, “because this is just human nature.” And yet, the system runs counter to everything that seems good and right and just and of us. So it has to be killed. But how do you kill an idea?
With better ideas.
But not just better ideas. Because our civilization is an ideological
system maintained by billions of minds around the entire world. A
better idea, in one human mind, is too small to fight it. No, not just
better ideas – better ideas amplified, by people collectively
standing up and practicing those better ideas, helping each other,
showing each other the true state of things, guiding us to imagine
what our society could look like, and then bringing that idea into
WILD LIGHT of millions upon millions of people demanding a
Friends, don’t give up. These awful ideas that run our society can be killed. Better ideas can live. Keep fighting.
I really enjoyed the Antimemetics Saga, and because I’m an anticapitalist I couldn’t help but notice a parallel.