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The Letters of Nadja Geiszler and Hedda Gottlieb

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November 17, 2014

Newspaper clipping sent from Newt Geiszler to Hedda Gottlieb

AP News in Brief

UN Conference Agrees Upon Defense Strategies Against Kaiju

SEOUL (AP) - After several days of heated discussion, the United Nations has come to an agreement regarding defense against the Kaiju. The strategy agreed upon was proposed by Dr. Schoenfield and Dr. Lightcap, two neuroscientists who previously worked for D.A.R.P.A. The project revolves around creating robots the size of the Kaiju to attack them more effectively. According to Dr. Lightcap, this is to ensure that nuclear weapons never have to be deployed in anti-Kaiju combat again. Collaborators on this project include Dr. Lars Gottlieb, a mechanical engineer, and Stacker Pentecost, a member of the United Kingdom air force.

Letter from Newt Geiszler to Hedda Gottlieb. Stapled to aforementioned newspaper clipping.

Dr. Gottlieb,

Have you seen this? The answer to fighting the Kaiju- giant robots. GIANT. MECHA. ROBOTS. My life has literally become Neon Genesis Evangelion.

            What do you think about this? I saw another Gottlieb on there- any relation? Did he tell you about this beforehand, or was it a surprise? If it wasn’t a surprise, I’m going to be really disappointed that I had to find this out from the news instead of from you. I mean, I understand military secrecy and all, but bros before pros, you know? I think you do, but it doesn’t hurt to check.

            Anyway, do you plan to sign up for the PPDC? Personally, I can hardly wait. There’s a lot at stake for science here! I’m so tired of working with shattered, bombed corpses. If they don’t consult me and instead use this as another opportunity to destroy half of my data when they bring the Kaiju down, heads will roll. Metaphorically with military personnel and literally in terms of Kaiju remains. Not a single one yet has been attached to its body after it was taken down. Completely restricts our knowledge of the peripheral nervous system. That has got to change.

I’m assuming they’re going to try to lure a lot of people away from tenured positions to nobly save the world. I bet working for the PPDC is going to be a well-paying career for a lot of people. Even at the end of the world, people want to be rich. Me, I’m simpler. All I want is glory, fame, and Kaiju remains.

            I bet you’ll be recruited hardcore. That statistics project you’re working on sounds like something they would want to use. Maybe they’ll be interested in your physics too. Dream big; I have a feeling that this program is going to change everything.

            Write soon,

            Newt

November 23, 2014

Letter from Hedda Gottlieb to Newt Geiszler

Dr. Geiszler,

            Though I appreciate your enthusiasm about our positive working relationship, I really must insist that I cannot comfortably call a respected colleague “Newt”; in many ways I transgress my traditional upbringing, and so I am not keen to produce more cognitive dissonance inside of myself alongside that which I wrestle with daily. If you would like, I could try to call you Nadja instead of Dr. Geiszler. Perhaps you could frame this in your mind as an act of rebellion, since you do not believe people (particularly men) will take you seriously if you embrace your God-given name and all feminine implications thereof. To reclaim your femininity only in private and in the company of another woman could, in the right light, be interpreted as defiance.

            Let me know if this works for you; if not, I am sure we shall figure what to do about names eventually.

            As for myself, you may call me Hedda if you wish. However, should we meet, you must never use my first name in front of my other colleagues. Permission to use my first name is a privilege given out sparingly; please respect the weight of this decision.

            How much ink do you have on your body exactly? In the photograph that you sent, I only saw the outline of a Kaiju on your left forearm.

            Those are interesting coincidences. I shall add one more to the growing list. I was born in Germany. Ich bin aus Garmisch- Partenkirchen. Wo kommen sie her?

[I am from Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Where are you from?]

            Thank you for your insight. As I have never dated a man and never wish to, I have little experience with analyzing the more carnal aspects of the male psyche. Much of my time is spent trying to pretend the pervasive sexism of my field does not exist, as pointing it out to the men I work with does essentially nothing to change it.

            Your tale of abrupt sexual awakening brought a smile to my face. I too had a similar jarring experience at thirteen. One day, I became aware of my attraction to my longtime piano teacher. Attempting to learn Chopin in the presence of such a handsome woman was a considerable challenge; all I could think about was her long brown hair and the perfume she wore instead of proper technique.

            Is that too much information? I don’t meet many other women who like women; I am unfamiliar with the disclosure protocol.

            You are correct that I would not call that typical lab attire; however, I also have never used the word “queermo” either in jest or seriousness. According to urbandictionary, it means “a superf*g” so I don’t believe I’ll be using it any time in the future either. I have never been one for reclaiming slurs, even when they are used affectionately. Your confidence and lighthearted attitude in the face of oppression is admirable. Would you say that “alternative” is a good middle ground word for describing your attitude and style of dress? It implies variation from the mainstream without using a word that has unfortunate connotations.

            Having looked at your photograph, I can say that while I would not personally adopt your fashion choices, your clothes are artfully chosen and suit you and your personality well. I also now understand why your advisor was displeased by your appearance; it is nontraditional and is not what one generally thinks of when picturing the MIT neuroscience department in their mind.

            In the manila folder, I have attached an overview of my statistical work up to this point. I appreciate the reassurance that technology is progressing in a direction favorable to my project. Tell them for me that they are doing good work, if you have not done so already.

            As to the suggestion that my coworkers might hold on to petty disagreements in the wake of a Kaiju attack- well, “hope is the thing with feathers” as it were, Nadja; “I’ve heard it in the chilliest land and on the strangest Sea.”

            Thank you for the overview of Kaiju anatomy. I have annotated it for my personal use; it was very enlightening. However, one question has stuck with me since I read that article- you briefly mentioned Kaiju embryonic development during your discussion of classification. No one is actually trying to create a Kaiju in the laboratory, correct? Such an experiment would be unwise, and though I am not a biologist I feel compelled as a member of our species to advise against it.

            Dr. Geiszler, I implore you to characterize that microorganism. I know little about microbiology or cell membranes, but any proof of radium oxide would be enough to solidify multiverse theory into fact. This news is extremely exciting; your production of said data would be a defining moment of my career and of my life.

            You and I are both working tirelessly to ensure that I have many years of my life left to watch this film. I would thank you to not imply that our work will have been for naught.

            I saw the article shortly after I assume you did, but I still appreciate your enthusiastic dissemination of information. I am unfamiliar with the genre that you speak of, however I understand your incredulity. Human beings possess a remarkable capacity for creative thinking, which is well represented by the Jaeger program.

             I believe that this program shows a lot of promise as long as generous amounts of work, time, and money are invested in it. I am unfamiliar with the work of Drs. Lightcap and Schoenberg, however the UN seems to view them as capable of this undertaking. I am inclined to trust the judgment of our international ambassadors, who I feel have our best interests at heart.

            Additionally, Pentecost is a beloved English national hero. He is a skilled and experienced leader; I expect that the PPDC shall be commandeered efficiently and that he will garner respect from all who work underneath him.

            Dr. Lars Gottlieb is my father. He is a talented mechanical engineer. I was unaware that he was working on this project until I read about it in the paper. We do not often interact with each other.

            My family has a long history of military service, and I have always possessed a desire to be likewise involved. Poor health restricted me from pursuing this career path. For some time, I believed that my opportunity for service was long past. However, as you and I are both heavily intertwined with interdisciplinary scholarly pursuits, I am optimistic that we will both be recruited when the time comes.

            I too see change upon the horizon. Though I am cautious by nature, I cannot deny the glow of hope burgeoning inside my chest. Only time will tell us whether or not our expectations will line up with reality.

            Sincerely,

            Dr. Gottlieb

 

~two photographs~

1. Newt is standing outside in a park. She is smiling brightly. Her cropped hair is a violent shade of purple, and her eye makeup is very thick. Her black pants are tight, and her combat boots are painted with intricate, cartoonish Kaiju. Her top is a white button up with the top three buttons undone, and her sleeves are rolled up to her elbows. Her arms are crossed, left over right, which makes the half-colored sleeve tattoo of Trespasser on her lower left arm visible. She is very short and curvy, and she holds herself in a way that can only be described as gleefully rebellious.

Caption: Yours truly ;)

2. Hedda is standing in front of a desk in an office. Her hair is pulled back tight into a bun. She is wearing no makeup. Her long skirt is colored khaki; her shoes are oxfords. Her short sleeved white blouse is buttoned up completely. She is thin, stands very straight, and does not smile, which, combined with her high cheekbones, makes her appear noble and austere.

Caption: My likeness.

Excerpt from the manila folder: Statistical Modeling

Abstract: The study of Kaiju statistical modeling dates back to the first discovery of radioactive isotopes on Breach associated rocks. Subsequent analysis revealed novel rates of radium isotope decay, different than those ever found in the known universe. The purpose of this analysis is to interpret those rates of decay and explain what data we can extrapolate from them. Our team used real-time measurements, statistics, and chaos theory to converge on several possible dates for Kaiju re-emergence.

[cont. on page 2]

November 30, 2014

Letter from Newt Geiszler to Hedda Gottlieb

Dear Hedda,

            I suppose I can settle for being called Nadja, if only because I enjoy being privileged enough to call you by your first name as well. As for framing it as an act of rebellion against men, well, that’s very second wave feminist and I’m third wave all the way, baby. Questioning gender constructs, promoting openness and equality, rebellious and queer as hell. Sure men can be annoying, but I don’t want to hide in private spaces to gossip about it. I’m of the belief that if anything, we should intrude on the spaces of the privileged over and over and be successful in our own ways in systems designed against us- whether we reclaim the traditional or pave new ground, it’s important that we’re loud and visible.

            Look, you’ve got me all sentimental and fired up about intersectional feminism. Four for you, Glenn Coco.

            The amount of ink I have on my body is small, but growing. I currently have Trespasser on my lower left arm (as seen in the photograph) and Hundun on my upper right arm. I also have a newt on my ankle. A lot of people don’t like them and think that they’re insensitive or obscene, but we all have our own ways of dealing with the existential questions raised by monsters appearing from another dimension. I’ve squeezed and chopped Kaiju viscera on the daily for a year- they’re on my person at all times whether or not I have tattoos.

            Ich bin aus Berlin! Das ist ein Zufall! Ich bewegte mich, als ich zehn war, nach Amerika. Deutsch Wissenschaftler-Leute werden denken, wir sind böse.

            [I am from Berlin! What a coincidence! When I was ten, I moved to America. German scientists- people are going to think we’re evil.]

            Bisexuality will do that to a girl- gives insight into all sorts of fun gender-y things. To be honest though, it sounds like it sucks to be a physicist or mathematician if you’re a woman. I see sexism in my field, but with the people I knew in undergrad and grad school, the sexism women saw in math, physics, and engineering was just relentless. You guys are hardcore just for existing, man. Sorry that you have to deal with that all the time. We just have to keep being awesome, and eventually the men will have to respect us.

            HA is that too much information. Oh Hedda. Hedda, Hedda, Hedda. I am fazed by so little anymore. Believe me, if something is too much information, I’ll tell you. If you’re ever feeling shy about saying something, feel comforted by the fact that I’ve probably said something worse in public, at an important conference, or to a superior that I really should have held my tongue around. Really, I think I should be the one who is concerned about telling you too much. Let me know when that moment comes. I assure you, it will come.

            Anyway, your story was one of the most adorable things I’ve ever read. Reminded me of this kick-ass rock musical called Spring Awakening that came out back when I was a teenager-

            “See each night it’s like fantastic, tossing, turning without rest cause my days at the piano with my teacher and her breasts. And the music’s like the one thing I can even get at all and those breasts, I mean, God please just let those apples fall-”

                The musical took place in Germany and everything, it was great. I mean, two of the main characters died in it, but the guy who sang that part of the song didn’t! Score.

            I want to hear all of your lesbian stories now, because damn that one was cute.

            Admirable schmadmirable. I just don’t know how to shut up or take anything seriously. But thanks. I guess alternative is an ok word. Except for if you’re saying “alternative lifestyle” because that phrase needs to die all the time forever. And I’m going to take your careful choice of words about my fashion choices as compliments. I make people uncomfortable- I’m used to it, and I revel in it. I’ve made people uncomfortable my whole life, so there’s not much else to do about it.

            I told the main guys who are doing your geology projects that they’re actually super useful, and the two of them gave each other high fives. A prime example of international cooperation and communication done right. They said they reached a breakthrough several days ago that sped up data processing tenfold.

            Also, your statistical work is a beast. I had no idea that you’d made so much headway on that project already. I had no idea that the numbers and theories would be so complex and intricate. The next Kaiju attack narrowed down to five dates- that’s pretty awesome. I’m going to be honest, I don’t understand most of what’s going on in that paper (never have been one for applied mathematics), but I give it a big thumbs up for the things I did understand.

            I don’t think Emily Dickinson intended for that poem to be used passive aggressively, but I support your efforts wholeheartedly. Audience interpretation is more important than author’s intent anyway.  

            No one is trying to create a Kaiju in the laboratory as far as I know. Theoretically it would be fascinating, but in reality that would be the best way to get funding sapped from your department. Also, you might go to prison for trying to destroy the world via science. I’m not too sure what the exact law on that one would be, but I feel like “don’t clone a Kaiju” is in the books somewhere. Biologists like to put things on a framework and give them names, and embryology is crucial to classification.

            Hedda I’m so close to this data. I actually got the archaean to grow on media yesterday. My heart nearly stopped when I saw my samples, I swear. I’m putting them through rigorous testing now- I should know within the week whether or not they’re oxidizing radium oxide. From the dyes I used to look at them under the microscope, their cell membranes do seem to be silicate structures. I will send you official data as soon as I can. I don’t usually believe in prayer, but I’m praying for this one.

            Hedda, I know that our work is important. But you have to be realistic- the world could end. It could end via Kaiju without you having ever watched Godzilla and I’m sorry, in my mind that’s just a travesty.

            I’m familiar with Lightcap- we’ve corresponded about neuroscience together way back. She was working on this program where pilots could control planes using only their minds. Fascinating stuff. If I remember correctly though, she got really sick and had to stop working on that for a while. It was a sad time to be a neuroscientist for sure, because she was brilliant and headed for the top. It’s awesome that she climbed the ladder again- I’m rooting for her.

            I don’t know who that other guy is; hope he’s as good at his work as Caitlin is. I would have faith in her leading the project by herself, so if she has a partner then he must have some sort of expertise that she doesn’t have. Or maybe she just likes having support- it’s hard to work alone.

            I’ve heard about Pentecost! He had a sister that helped take down Trespasser. I have a coworker who knew her and said she was a wonderful young woman. If he’s anything like his late sister, the PPDC is in good hands.

            Ooh, estranged family? That’s rough. I don’t have a great relationship with my dad either, if it’s any consolation. Neither of my parents were married to each other when they decided to do the horizontal tango and have a surprise baby. Two years after I was born, dad went back to his wife and started to conduct the Berliner Philharmoniker, saying that he didn’t have time for a kid, and that having one out of wedlock made him look bad.

            I turned out to be a girl genius anyway, so who’s looking bad now, Jacob Geiszler?

            Anyway, it’s good that he’s talented at his job, even if he’s a jerk.

            I sure hope that poor health doesn’t restrict either of us from enlisting for the science division, because I have some crazy to go along with this brilliance that would normally restrict me from going into any other kind of military anything. I hadn’t considered that this might count as a military thing- hope I don’t have to falsify any records to get into the VIP poking at dead Kaiju club. I suppose we’ll see what happens when recruiting starts.

            Keep a close eye on your mailbox. I am so close to getting our data. We’re gonna show em how it’s done very, very soon.

            Sincerely,

            Newt