Nanobots, genetic engineering, and two girls falling in love
March 14, 2018 12:30 AM   Subscribe

Always Human, by Ari Walkingnorth: In a future Australia, where body modification mods are ubiquitous, Sunati is fascinated by a woman she sees at the train station, who apparently has no mods at all. An offer of an anti-allergy mod simply upsets the woman, and causes her to leave. In a second meeting, the woman, Austen, explains over a cup of coffee; she has an overactive immune system, meaning she can't use mods at all. Day to day things that are simple for everyone else, like enhanced memory or changing her features, are frustratingly difficult or impossible for her. On impulse, Sunati asks her out, and despite her reservations about Sunati’s motives, Austen agrees...

This slice-of-life science fiction webcomic completed last year, and is eligible for the 2018 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story.

James Nicoll Reviews: Do What You Do With Your Head Held High

Autostraddle: Sci-Fi Romance Webcomic “Always Human” Is Sweeter Than A Basket of Kittens

Goodreads Page

TV Tropes Page
posted by happyroach (22 comments total) 64 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, I really like the artwork, especially the colours. I'm not at the end yet, but so far it's a really sweet story as well, and handles some relationship issues in an emphatic manner. I was thinking it was right up my 13 yo, web-comic-loving daughter's alley, but of course she has already read it. She did gush about it when I mentioned the title to her, though, so I my guess was right...
posted by Harald74 at 2:01 AM on March 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

OK, I'm done. I binged it. I'm not proud, but it was really very good.

The relationship and personal issues and growth were handled really well. The story arc wraps up nicely and the author is not tempted to drag things out into fanservice and endless side plots (as some webcomics tend to do). Thanks for sharing, happyroach.
posted by Harald74 at 3:31 AM on March 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

I read it off and on for about a year. Didn't know it was finished, will go back and read the whole thing, thanks for the heads up.
posted by signal at 5:43 AM on March 14, 2018

Discovered this about a week ago and totally binged it. Beautiful story.
posted by kokaku at 5:45 AM on March 14, 2018

This is beautiful and wonderful. Thank you so much for posting this. I cried all morning. Not in a bad way.
posted by Slinga at 9:35 AM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Binged this last night until 5am, it was so sweet and totally wonderful and the art is utterly amazing. Having original music for each page was a nice touch too! I admit I cried a lot, but it was way past my bedtime and representations of healthy relationships will kinda do that to me right now so.

Such a great job of representing queerness and real interpersonal struggles without being tokenizing-- the characters are never used as moral machines or "diversity hires", their struggles and hopes and lives are the center, and they're never punished by the author for being who they are. Seriously one of the best 3 hours of my life I've spent looking at a computer screen. Sniff. <3
posted by zinful at 9:36 AM on March 14, 2018

Also, oh my good lard, I wish I'd read/had access to things like this at 13! Harald, your daughter has great taste in media!
posted by zinful at 9:39 AM on March 14, 2018

Just binged the lot yesterday and today. Wonderful! Besides what's already been said about her use of colour and character design, I was also taken by the very effective use of white space in pacing each page.
posted by Mogur at 10:50 AM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Wow that was lovely, thank you so much for this!
posted by solotoro at 11:16 AM on March 14, 2018

Aaah, I've only read like 5 and had to come back and say thank you! It's really awesome and I'm looking forward to reading the rest, and rereading it. So good!
posted by Athanassiel at 12:32 PM on March 14, 2018

Dang, thanks! I just read the whole thing and it's lovely. Looking forward to her next project!
posted by sotonohito at 12:48 PM on March 14, 2018

Yep, binged it this aft. Just lovely. Many tears. But the end! Too abrupt! Thanks so much for posting.
posted by freya_lamb at 1:32 PM on March 14, 2018

(Zinful: Fun facts about my daughter's life: Same-sex civil unions has been a thing all her life. Same-sex marriage and adoption has been a thing since she was four. We haven't had sodomy laws here in my lifetime. It's not all sunshine and roses here (Norway), of course, but the Overton window has well and truly shifted on this subject. Even our far right has to pretend to care about gay rights to get at the scary Muslims.)
posted by Harald74 at 1:58 PM on March 14, 2018 [8 favorites]

I disagree about the ending. It was perfect, but I'm no fan of denouements. I vastly prefer the Neil Stephenson style ending to the Terry Pratchett style ending. Get to the end of the story and stop.

I'm also glad to see a story that reaches a definite end in a webcomic. Far too many just go on and on and on and on long after they should have stopped.

There's a place for ongoing stories, but no everything has to be. It's nice to have a story with a beginning, middle, and end too.
posted by sotonohito at 1:58 PM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Enjoying this, I'm going to resist reading it all today. Thanks for mentioning the music too zinful, I wouldn't have bothered to get my headphones otherwise and it's a really effective complement. A couple of times I was convinced it was somehow tied to how far down I'd scrolled.
posted by lucidium at 2:01 PM on March 14, 2018

I'm glad people like it. For me one of the things that really hit for me was the treatment of disability. I've had similar conversations as the "Coffee Talk". And the fact that Austen by 21st c. terms is perfectly able adds a SF twist to it.

Anyway, it's a long shot, but it is eligible for a Hugo.
posted by happyroach at 4:06 PM on March 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Ep 19: "I can just feel myself getting fat." Yargh. Now I have pain mixed in with the squee. Ok, I mean, I get that Austen likes going to the gym and stuff. But between that and the oh no, I couldn't possibly eat cake... apparently in the 24th century being agender is totes fine and so is being asexual or queer, and it is ok to modify yourself any way you like, just don't be fat. And after that comment I am of course realising that there are no fat people in the webcomic and this has gone from being lovely sweet pastel wish fulfillment to realising that in this world which is so ideal in so many ways, people like me don't belong. Still.

Oddly, before this comment from Austen I pretty much didn't even register that all the characters are skinny and beautiful because that's just manga style, right? It's funny how these things hurt much more when everything else is so awesome and open-minded.
posted by Athanassiel at 4:17 PM on March 14, 2018


[spoiler alert] I don't know if this makes you feel better, but it turns out that Austen has an eating disorder in an attempt to take control over her appearance, since she doesn't get to use mods like other people. That doesn't change the fact that most of the characters are thin, though Sunati mentions that some people use mods to make themselves curvier. [/spoiler alert]
posted by tickingclock at 4:22 PM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thank you, that does help. And yeah, Austen's comment on its own - I mean, she is clearly a bit of a control freak based on Cayli's comments. It's just the overall impact of every single person who is drawn being slender that underscores the message thin = good, beautiful etc; fat = undesirable and nonexistent. I shall keep reading and hope that some larger people show up, even if it's only in the background. (Having a main or even supporting character be fat would obviously be too much to hope for.)
posted by Athanassiel at 4:32 PM on March 14, 2018

I powered through a migraine and binged all morning on this. Beautiful art, character work and story, and such attention and sensitivity to representation. I’m in love with this work, including their sweet (but not fan-servicey) dialogue with their fans. Thank you.
posted by lieber hair at 8:20 PM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thank you for posting this.
posted by kyrademon at 3:51 PM on March 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

This is beautiful. Just gorgeous, in every way that I could see. (And Athanassiel, I *didn't* see that until you brought it out, and "Ouch!" -- it's got to have taken some of the joy out of it, knocked some of the shine off.)

I'm *really* dogging it, taking it very slowly, savoring it -- read a few, take a break, then come back.

I am so grateful that this has been posted, so grateful I clicked through to it. I have never looked at even one webcomic, and now I see that there is an entire world to investigate -- ah, Life, so much Beauty, so little time...
posted by dancestoblue at 4:22 PM on March 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

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