Letters from Somnolescent December 25, 2019

A Year Under the Bulb: 2019 in Review

by bulb

And so, 1998+1 has come and gone. The first official year of Somnolescent. The first year out on our own, our own hosting, in our own group. People came, people left, projects were started, and love blossomed.

2019 was a year of change, of growth, and of optimistic unease. It was the start of us as Somnolians realizing what we had and what we didn’t need. It was the year of itemizing fears and coming to terms with realities. (You might say it sounds dramatic and pretentious, but so is life.)

Candy cane Christmas snake
Candy cane Christmas snake (drawn by dcb!)

Don’t worry, though. We got a lot done that people outside the group can enjoy too. If you missed anything, it’s more than likely here.


2019 started off productive. Tesserae, Somnolescent’s resident web development reference site, launched to much celebration. Work continued on my yet-unreleased second LP Isolated Together, and the Somnolians were still busy with work on their new sites under our hosting. Indeed, borb got online for the first time in the early part of this year (she’s still working on content, slowly, promise). Things seemed easy.

Tesserae 1.0
Tesserae 1.0

The year was to hit an early low point when Cheren and Neo viciously dragged the group (and especially yours truly) into day after day of codependent, abusive fighting and drama. Unceremoniously, Cheren left in late January, while Neo dropped in mid-February. Despite the attempts of both parties to shittalk their way out of things, the truth always makes it to the surface. Still, this came close to blowing the doors right off the group, and it wasn’t until March that things really settled back down.

Things weren’t all bad though, dire as they seemed: January 17 brought the third and final installment of my then-ongoing writing project “Darkpenny”, the prequel to Pennyverse and the adventures of the trio in Apricot Bay. Boy, was it a heavy thing. As I wrote in the resulting phlog entry:

Darkpenny 3 has been one of the most challenging and satisfying things I’ve ever written, and it’s all because of a miserable little raccoon guy I wrote about in one of my earlier phlog entries: Colton. Colton has put me through my emotional paces like no other character has. Colton was born out of pure giggly mischief and ended up wearing me out just thinking about him.

Naturally, everyone (including me!) was dead set on bringing Colton to Apricot Bay all the same. Thankfully, he wouldn’t go it alone for much longer, not even two weeks.

Colton and Madeleine
Colton and Madeleine, shortly before falling for one another

Their love wasn’t the only one blossoming, of course; in fact, ours is what lead to “Darkpenny” getting finished. January 20 was the day Caby and I became official, and nothing’s worked at bumping us off, a year onward.

March went a little nicer. With the departure of those two came the arrival of mon, our youngest and newest Somnolian. He managed to charm his way past a few slipups right into the group, where he’s made a rather comfy spot for himself in the middle of all the chaos. dotcomboom, not to rest on his laurels, took on one of his two big projects this year with Pituophis, a Python library for serving gophermaps and interacting over the Gopher protocol. For a brief moment before the Somnolescent Gopher died, we were actually using it in-house, which was pretty sweet.

Aside from returning to my streaming gig from a few months prior (including a brief, disastrous stint as a mayor), 2019 was only beginning. Things were looking up for us.


The first of April brought the release of my debut album, In Free Fall. I always intended to return to the batch of songs I’d built up throughout 2016, and while the songs I wrote early this year got lost in the Gopher crash, I still had these old project files to fall back onto. Filling them out, remixing them, and producing a debut album out of all the sounds I’d played with felt good, like a bit of closure. sushi even reviewed it.

“At Ghostgrove Point” from In Free Fall

Letters From Somnolescent, of course, the shared blog you happen to be reading, came later in the month. Originally, it used the Nucleus CMS software behind the scenes, but that very recently changed to WordPress over some pretty major glitches in the old backend. Still, it’s been good to us. Within two months, we had rants about writing, retrospectives on OS 9 software, and guinea pig sperging alike.

While Pennyverse went quiet for a bit, Caby and I got busy with site content. Pretty much the entirety of my junk section was built up in April and May, while Caby compiled all the badgers she had drawn up to that point u///u. Not the most eventful spring, but the summer was about to burn bright. Not just on the writing front, or the site front. On all fronts.

For all of us.


My setup during the writing of Colton's Adventure
My setup during the writing of Colton’s Adventure

I’d finally gotten over my nerves about writing this July, to great success. From character shorts to goofy crossover fic to nervy young romances like the one I’d been figuring out for myself, this summer was a clearinghouse for six months of Pennyverse ideas I’d built a backlog of. Caby and borb joined in for the first annual Pennyverse Month. References were drawn, bios were written, a DeviantArt group was made, all topped off with a detail-filled text adventure starring Colton himself with not one, but two different endings. An absolutely insane pace and over ten thousand words later, and Pennyverse looked more like a proper project than ever before.

Caby's site before and after the redesign
Caby’s site before the redesign on the left and after on the right

The summer also brought site redesigns from both Caby and dcb, the former taking on a sketchbook quality with piggos in tow and the latter far comfier than the Gopher-web-BeOS hybrid that preceded it. dcb’s redesign also brought many a photo of the Minnesotan wilderness and the return of AutoSite, formerly a humble Python script and now a fully-featured static site generation suite. We were getting braver with using our hosting to its fullest extent, taking advantage of all the niceties I outlined in my ode to DreamHost.

dcb's site before and after the redesign
dcb’s site before the redesign on the left and after on the right

On August 29th, mon finally got online in stunning mumblecore, his first site built from scratch (and not using Word uwu). We were all at personal highs, playing Minecraft on the regular and enjoying the warm weather while it lasted.


The back-to-school rush always slows us down a little, and with both Caby and I looking for a break after Pennyverse Month, big things stopped shifting. Not entirely, however: AutoSite XL (later being renamed simply AutoSite) was still under active development, and I finally launched my Silversun Pickups fansite, Misery Inspires, after three or four years of it sitting discombobulated on my computer. Here on the blog, Caby wrote about robot animals playing fake instruments, and I obsessively catalogued a Nirvana boxset. Good content.

Though I had much bigger things planned for Pennyverse’s first Halloween, I could only get two short stories finished for the occasion, both starring the manic little cryptid bunny Gonzo as he stalks fields with a rusty golf club in tow and sells off nasty Packard Bells to a disgusted but intrigued Seb. Still a bit sad about that, but better than nothing.

Lynx fever (and the microblog)
Lynx fever (and the microblog)

Approaching the end of the year, dcb (shortly before contracting lynx fever) had the bright idea to start up a microblog, much like the one on my first Neocities site, and I got inspired to start up an updates blog of my own. I’m only a month into it, but it’s been lovely to have around for my random thoughts and rambles about what I’m up to. Given my history of tossing things, I’m eager to keep it around.

So far, I’ve only listed what’s really notable, but there’s still a ton more content to talk about. I wrote about The City some more; Caby came up with a mayor and his dweeby assistant for Apricot Bay; dcb started aggressively hoarding Windows 2000 and PocketPC software; and mon snagged r/somnolescent for, uh, future use, I suppose.

Art Highlights

Given that two of our most active people mostly draw, I asked them to pick out two of their favorite pieces from this year each and tell me why they like them. Thankfully, one of those people happens to be borb, who’s been sorely underrepresented in this recap thusfar. They’re all rather pretty.

“Adventure” by Caby (February 1)

Colton and Madeleine out on an adventure
“While this is getting on a bit now, and a bit badly drawn in comparison to some of my latest stuff, this picture holds a place in my heart. One of the first big Pennyverse pieces I did, as well as helping solidify parts of both Madeleine and Colton’s personalities, I just feel happy when I look at it, such good lads!”

“habby halloween” by Caby (October 9)

Seb carving a pumpkin while shenanigans happen around him
“I sketched this out one day in October, decided it was too complicated to finish, and left it. Until a couple days later when I got a very nice comment on DeviantART, giving me a sudden burst of inspiration. A mixture of it containing the trio, some neat lighting and vibes, some level of success in perspective and just the fact I accomplished it at all makes it one of my favourites drawings this year.”

“Dunno what to name this” by borb (October 19)

“A painting of one of my ocs, Sam. I’m still really proud of the amount detail I captured in this one.”

“A ball o’ fl00f” by borb (December 8)

“A birthday present for someone outside of the collective. This is the first time I’ve rendered fur in such a way where it actually looks like you could reach out and stroke it and to this day I’m amazed I pulled that off.”

Blog Highlights

And, of course, we can’t forget about the blog you happen to be reading this on. We all rambled a little on it; I rambled a lot on it. All things considered, though, we broached a good few topics each, and there’s no sign of stopping from anyone. Here’s a couple of our personal favorites:

  • Cavy Wars by Caby (May 19): Caby’s guinea pigs sound adorable, dumb, and a danger to one another. No word on if she’s found Poirot a companion yet.
  • On Purpose by mariteaux (June 3): My frustrations with adopts and bland, basic character “designs” seemed to have resonated; borb nominated it, and it’s a unique one amidst all the tech chatter. (Another writing post scheduled for the start of next year~)
  • Gopher is Not the Web by dotcomboom (June 27): Gopher and the Web are apples and oranges really. I like this one for the Cyberdog GIFs and for discussing the less tread side of the protocol; it’s less the Web and more a steroidal FTP.
  • End it Someday: Looking Back on With the Lights Out by mariteaux (November 21): Okay, I might be cheating including myself twice, but this is the blog post I’m the most proud of and the one that took several weeks to write. Do not doubt my obsession with Nirvana.

And in case you missed any of the year-end retrospectives:

  • An Ode to DreamHost by mariteaux (December 6): “DreamHost hasn’t just been a huge step up for us in terms of hosting and our identity as a group: it’s just plain fantastic hosting. It’s everything we needed, a whole lot of what we wanted, and at the absolute perfect price point.”
  • Borb comes to ramble about things by borb (December 9): “It’s the first group I’ve ever been personally a part of or seen casually to function so well together. We’re not just friends; we’re also a team.”
  • Reflections (and Reveries) by dcb (December 14): “We lost a couple of long-time members who we had turned out to be better without and a couple other Neocities exiles who turned out to be utter thots still holding Districts for ransom. But, in the end? We prevailed.”
  • caby rambles, as requested by a badger boy by Caby (December 19): “Every time I left I braced for a dm from Cameron telling me I’m not allowed back in, but it never happened. I’ve always arrived back to happy, relieved greetings. I knew I had to sort my shit out for these people.”
  • Origins by mariteaux (December 20): “Somnolescent was slowly getting away from the people who’d just showed up years ago and got handed a seat at the table and towards the people who genuinely wanted to be there and make the group their own.”

In Closing

I talk enough, hence why I didn’t write a year-end retrospective (on Letters From Somnolescent, anyway). Still, despite the messes, the people coming and going, the nerves, and the stumbling?

This has been the best year of my life, bar none.

Forget the content for a moment. This was the year we came into our own as people, realizing the things we wanted, where we’re going, and what we should be as people. To watch Caby grow bold like she has, to watch dcb talk more and experiment outside his comfort zone, to watch mon stop being desperate for the attention of random-ass pozzed furries on Twitter? I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

I wanna give special focus to borb for a moment. As she wrote in her retrospective, she’s been with us for a minute now, and as much as this year kicked her ass? She’s still going. She’s steeled. She’s less prone to taking shit off people. In all my years of knowing her in person, I’ve never seen her grow quite as fast as she’s grown here in Somnolescent this year. Trust me, we’ve been plenty opposed at times, but it’s never slowed us down. That’s the mark of a Somnolian: to thrive in the face of adversity.

Hi it's me
Hi it’s me

And as for me? I’m working on things too. Confidence, focus, temper, motivation, and plenty of skills both new and old. All of it only came about because I had friends here who wanted to see it happen. Whether it’s trying to import a Caby or writing about cartoon animal people, it’s all because of Somnolescent. This group made me the badger boy I am right now.

And hey, why not take a quick moment to thank those that didn’t quite make it? They had just as much an impact, intentionally or otherwise…

  • To Cheren: It’s spelt “tongue”, remember. That’s an important, big-brained biology word.
  • To neo: Hope being a petite 5’0″ K-pop girl’s working out for you. Not quite your build but ah well. Definitely not gonna keep showing people the drawing you did of you nuzzling my shoulder or anything. Very platonic.
  • To the Bungo Funker himself, prengle: Better luck next time with all that “juice”. If anything, the RP just made Caby and I gayer. Some fun ideas in there~
  • And to Brianna: I’m in a much better place without you.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year from me and from everyone here at Somnolescent. The 20s are gonna be our fucking decade, watch us.

A Somnolian Christmas

About bulb

Group posts, recaps, and things we all contributed to. Hopefully, our hum-to-English translation is intelligible enough.

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