Escape Artists

PodCastle => Episode Comments => Topic started by: Heradel on November 05, 2009, 02:30:11 PM



Title: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: Heradel on November 05, 2009, 02:30:11 PM
Podcastle 76: The Small Door
 (http://podcastle.org/2009/11/05/podacastle-76-the-small-door/)

By Holly Phillips (http://www.hollyphillips.com/index.htm)
Read by Tina Connolly (http://tinaconnolly.com/)

Originally published in Fantasy Magazine (http://www.fantasy-magazine.com/2008/05/the-small-door/).

Neither knew what the Weirdo did with his captives, but it was hard to think of a possibility that wasn’t horrible. Not when you saw that figure, with its thatched gray hair, lumpy shoulders and white hands as big as baseball gloves, carry some hapless creature into the house with the broken drainpipes and curtained windows. Even cooking and eating seemed too simple, too close to human.

“Sal,” Macey said, “we’ve got to find out.”

“You keep saying that.” Sal picked fuzzies off the bedspread, her mind drifting to the fair’s candy-bright commotion.

“But now I have a plan.”

Rated PG: Contains weirdos, children (the two are not mutually exclusive), and a very small door.

Mod note: The initial version of the RSS feed went out with a slight typo in the title, it has been fixed but may remain for those whose podcatchers downloaded the episode before it was fixed.


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: Gia on November 05, 2009, 07:34:09 PM
I liked the characters, especially Sal who was well-formed a believable.
It took a while to get to the fantasy and even though I always know from the beginning that the Weirdo would be a nice guy and I had figured out where the door went by the time they got to the basement, none of that was really a problem for me. The story was able to stand on its own. I think that if the door was taken out and the Weirdo merely took the animals to shelters or something, then I still would have liked the story and I would assume that the fantasy came from the everyday magic of seeing people in a new light and finding the good in others. That sounded cheesy, didn't it? :-\ Who cares? I liked it.


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: MacArthurBug on November 06, 2009, 01:42:56 PM
This was fantastic. Strange and sad. The fragile caution and dismissal of a concerned child. Wonderous


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: Swamp on November 06, 2009, 06:08:55 PM
This story had kind of a Rear Window vibe going for it.  I liked it.  Sal was presented very well.  It was easy to relate to her and care for her.  The dialog between her and the Weirdo was realistic.  Her short plea "My sister?" at the end was touching and full of hope.  Their discussion of it was short, but you could feel the emotion.

One thing that seemed out of place was the carnival.  Was that just the representation of the fun that Sal was denied due to the attention to her sister or was there more to it.  I'm not sure if it needed as much focus as it was given.

I like the idea of the magazine recommendations and look forward to the rest of the month.


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: Scattercat on November 08, 2009, 12:01:04 AM
This story's shape was clear from the beginning, but I think the mark of a well-told tale is when you can see how it will go but are able to sit and enjoy the ride.  In particular, I liked this story's use of dialogue.  The characters were clearly portrayed, each with a distinct voice and all speaking like real people, i.e. never saying what they actually mean, leaving thoughts and statements unfinished, shifting tones in the middle of a speech.  So often dialogue is polished down like everything else in a story, carefully angled to reflect just the right bits of narrative.  This dialogue was reminiscent of a well-planned landscape; on the surface, it resembles wild plant life, things growing haphazardly, but on closer inspection one sees the underlying structure of the design.  The hand of the gardener is evident, but only to one seeking its signs, and nowhere obtruding on the natural beauty of the scene. 

Good dialogue is startlingly rare.  I am pleased to see it wielded with such deftness and skill.


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: Unblinking on November 09, 2009, 02:40:51 PM
This is the first Podcastle story that I've listened to so far (only a handful of course) that I could heartily recommend.  That's a relief--I was starting to wonder if my tastes were just unsuited for this podcast, so I'm happy to know they are not.  Or at least, not always.

This was a great story and well-told.  The dialogue was believable.  The ill sister watching obsessively out her bedroom window provided a tension that felt real and kept me asking what was going to happen next.  The interaction between her and her sister was fantastic, especially how her sister, having no ability to do things except through her sister, would have the first reaction after her sister went through the trash of "You must have missed something".

The weirdo took on a Boo Radley sort of light throughout the thing (not a bad thing).

The only thing I'm not sure I liked was the ending.  After all this buildup we find out that this man has the means to cure illness and give people what they most desire.  But in the end, this ray of hope is offered at the same time as it's shot down--the door is too small.  How cruel!  Not that that makes it a bad story, but it just makes the ending especially depressing.

I do think it's a cool idea to have other magazines recommend their favorite.  I really enjoy Fantasy Magazine, so no surprise that I liked their suggestion.


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: Ocicat on November 10, 2009, 02:53:53 PM
It was kind of a shame that I could guess where this story was going just because of what podcast it was on.  I kept thinking about how different a feeling I'd have of it were it presented on Pseudopod. 

But it was still an enjoyable ride - I really liked the details of the relationship between the sisters.  And I agree that even if the fantasy element had been dropped it would have been a fine story.  But still, it did add a little something, if only for the bit about it being a small door...


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: Sandikal on November 10, 2009, 08:51:08 PM
Even though I saw where this story was going, I really enjoyed the journey.  It was a simple story, simply told and that was its power.  It reminded me a bit of the movie "The Sandlot" and I mean that in the nicest possible way.  I would love to learn what happens with Sal and the old man once this story ends.  Does she start helping him with the animals and eventually take his place? 

I'm very, very glad the story didn't end with either a miracle healing or a death for Macy.  The author had the courtesy to leave me with the power to decide what happens.


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: kibitzer on November 11, 2009, 02:18:28 AM
This is a very sweet, very enjoyable story. Some pretty heavy "To Kill A Mockingbird" overtones there but that's OK. The reality and motivations of each character shine through.


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: Whatever on November 11, 2009, 11:18:58 PM
I liked this story, and what's more, I didn't think I would. 

I supposed I had a strong suspicion of where the story was going, but when Sal sees the first critter in the cage and its condition, my expectation got derailed.  I also thought there was a lot of stuff going on that gave the story a "bigger world" feel to it like the carnival and Macey's condition.  Finally, the unabashed way that the characters talked --- referring to the guy as "a weirdo," making comments like "you fought like a girl" --- were very in character.

I thought that Tina Collony's performance/reading was also quite good.  I bought her a tastee cup-cake as a reward, but it seems to have gone missing (burp).

Whatever

P.S. I wrote up the episode as well as Podcastle at http://blather-n-rants.blogspot.com
P.P.S. Yes, I use "whatever" as my pseudonym.


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: Heradel on November 11, 2009, 11:23:29 PM
[...]
P.P.S. Yes, I use "whatever" as my pseudonym.
Believe me, hereabouts that isn't that far a pseudonym from the beaten path. Welcome, hope you like it here in our little corner of the internet.


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: stePH on November 15, 2009, 11:14:07 AM
It was kind of a shame that I could guess where this story was going just because of what podcast it was on.  I kept thinking about how different a feeling I'd have of it were it presented on Pseudopod.

Fools seldom differ -- I mean, great minds think alike ...


... "me too," is what I mean to say.  My thoughts were something along the lines of "if this were on Pseuopod, that Weirdo would certainly be up to something awful."  That this was on PC and not PP had me certain that The Weirdo would not be the villain Macy made him out to be.


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: Talia on November 15, 2009, 12:18:17 PM
and if it had been on Escape Pod? :) perhaps he would have been taking in injured animals and modding them with electronics, creating a veritable army of animal cyborgs.


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: Ocicat on November 15, 2009, 06:22:41 PM
and if it had been on Escape Pod? :) perhaps he would have been taking in injured animals and modding them with electronics, creating a veritable army of animal cyborgs.

And it would have been awesome.


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: stePH on November 15, 2009, 07:42:10 PM
Another thought that kept crossing my mind as I listened was "Macy is e-Macy-ated."

... yeah ....  :-\


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: Myca on November 16, 2009, 05:21:34 PM
That this was on PC and not PP had me certain that The Weirdo would not be the villain Macy made him out to be.

You know, the really lovely thing for me is that I have all of my Escape Artists podcasts in one playlist, so after I was a couple of minutes in, I'd completely forgotten whether it was PC, PP, or EP. I kept trying to remember, but I was on a bicycle, and I didn't want to either stop or rewind, so I figured I'd just listen it out.

It made Sal heading into the basement far more nerve-wracking than otherwise, but that's probably a good thing, isn't it? Less predictability isn't bad.

---Myca


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: stePH on November 16, 2009, 05:42:34 PM
You know, the really lovely thing for me is that I have all of my Escape Artists podcasts in one playlist, so after I was a couple of minutes in, I'd completely forgotten whether it was PC, PP, or EP.

I have a single playlist  for all three EA 'casts as well, but I've not yet lost track of which one I'm listening to.  And I was on the roof stringing holiday icicle lights at the time.


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: Unblinking on November 17, 2009, 12:49:55 PM
That this was on PC and not PP had me certain that The Weirdo would not be the villain Macy made him out to be.

I'm not sure you could rule out villany in a PC piece just because of the podcast.  The man would have to be villainous to qualify for PP for sure, because there were no other horror elements, but as long as there's a fantasy element it could qualify here.  So he could've been doing something horrible, but it would have to be fantastic and horrible!


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: cdugger on November 17, 2009, 09:12:27 PM
I have to say that I have had a great podcast day at work today. This was one of the many stories I listened to.

Yes, "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Rear Window" bits were there.
Yes, once I remembered which podcast it was from, I kinda saw where it was going.

Makes no difference whatsoever. Good writing, excellent reading. And, the fact that the reading turned out good was a surprise. There wasn't really a lot of differentiation in the voices, but it was so clear, so distinct, that even the slightest change was very pronounced. That takes skill.

It actually gave me a little chill when she talked about the high dive. I have a slight thing about heights, but it is rare that a simple description will affect me.

Great story. I haven't been the biggest fan of PC, but decided to stick it out and listen to them anyway. Glad I did.


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: stePH on November 17, 2009, 11:40:59 PM
That this was on PC and not PP had me certain that The Weirdo would not be the villain Macy made him out to be.

I'm not sure you could rule out villany in a PC piece just because of the podcast. 

Not as a rule, no, but I thought it was telegraphed pretty clearly even for this usually-non-perceptive listener.  That the sister was making such a business out of him put actual villainy almost completely out of the realm of possibility.


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: Unblinking on November 18, 2009, 09:32:51 AM
That this was on PC and not PP had me certain that The Weirdo would not be the villain Macy made him out to be.

I'm not sure you could rule out villany in a PC piece just because of the podcast. 

Not as a rule, no, but I thought it was telegraphed pretty clearly even for this usually-non-perceptive listener.  That the sister was making such a business out of him put actual villainy almost completely out of the realm of possibility.

I do agree with that , I just meant to say that the story's presence in PC did not prevent the possibiliity of villainy--but there were definitely other clues.


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: Loz on November 19, 2009, 03:24:39 PM
I read a story to a school class today. It was one that it turned out they'd heard before. "Shall I go and get a different story then?" I asked. "No!!" they all shouted. When I'd finished they all wanted to hear it again, so I gave a repeat performance. Then, when they were choosing books to take before going back to school, they wanted to take the story with them, so they could get their teacher to read it to them again. I was thinking of how children like hearing the same stories over and over again, often choosing books they know they've read before over books they haven't, when I realised that I don't know how often I've read Lord of the Rings, and couldn't count how many well-thumbed books there are on my bookshelves.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that while there was little new in this story I appreciated it for it's well-crafted use of themes and fragments that have been used many times before in stories.


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: try harder on November 21, 2009, 02:07:04 AM
I've been thinking about this story since I listened to it a few days ago. Childhood is often sad and unfair and I think this story captures that fact, yet offers a sliver of hope to temper it. I also agree that the dialogue was great.

There have been so many times I wish I could go through a door like that!


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: LaShawn on November 23, 2009, 10:33:41 AM
I listened to it with my 5-year-old son in the car. This story had just a tiny bit of magical element to it, yet that tiny bit seemed to permeate the entire story with its magicalness. To me, this proves that a good fantasy story doesn't always have to start the magic from the first page onward.

I loved the carnival bits. It spoke volumes that while Sal could see and hear it, it was tantalizing out of reach for her. I tied in nicely with the small door at the end. I am glad that the story ended where it did--it gave the impression of possibility on a hopeful note.

While I too could easily see where the story was going (the title pretty much gave it away), I still enjoyed listening to it.


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: Listener on November 24, 2009, 09:20:06 AM
Great reading. Connolly should do all the adolescent characters from now on. I think she nails the voice even better than Mur Lafferty.

I had two major problems with the story:

1. It took for-EVER to get to the fantasy element, and when we got there, it felt a little trite. Like, this old dude has a magic door in his house so he sends stray animals through it for their own happiness? I can appreciate where the character is coming from, but WAY too much was left unanswered -- how did the door get put there? Did he make it, when he was younger and able to do magic? Did someone else put it there? Who was he listening to when he cocked his head? Is he sort of a Dr. Doolittle with supernatural powers? Telling the story from Sal's POV precluded us from learning most of these things but still, without them I felt empty.

2. The carnival metaphor -- to my mind, overused in fiction, especially when the gun in the first act fails to fire in the third. Also, and maybe this is just my own experiences, carnivals tend to linger for at least two full weekends, and where I grew up (south FL), the Broward County Fair stayed at least a month, long enough to host several exhibits and competitions like the spelling bee. I felt it extended the story overmuch, and was unrelated to pretty much anything. I could've lived without it and saved five or six minutes of description and reading. I suppose it's there to show how Sal doesn't really get to have any fun because Macie is sick, but I still didn't like it.

All that said, I echo the good comments made by others -- nailing the voice, the building of tension (nice three-act wave there with the trash heist, the fight, and then the jump into the backyard, though I think there's a missing scene between when Dad calls home and when Sal jumps into the Weirdo's yard), the sad realization that Sal isn't going to be able to use the door to save Macie.

It was kind of a shame that I could guess where this story was going just because of what podcast it was on.  I kept thinking about how different a feeling I'd have of it were it presented on Pseudopod. 

I agree. There was that vibe. I almost feel like if you mixed this with the recent PP where the dad keeps the kids locked in the house and the older brother makes model airplanes...

Anyway, a decent story, though too long and I wasn't terribly pleased with the payoff.


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: Dave on December 06, 2009, 08:08:38 PM
Good so far... where's the rest of it?

Since when does the definition of a "story" not include RESOLUTION?

Grr.


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: Heradel on December 06, 2009, 10:13:37 PM
Good so far... where's the rest of it?

Since when does the definition of a "story" not include RESOLUTION?

Grr.

The Sopranos?

Really though, a long time. I'd argue that Love's Labour's Lost doesn't really have a resolution.


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: Jagash on December 07, 2009, 07:16:17 AM
This piece frustrated me despite the generally good writing.  My key complaint is that half the story is built explaining how Macy is sick and thinning while the other half is describing the small door which "only Macy might be able to squeeze through".   They explicitly mention that it might be possible for Macy to use the door, but when the subject is mentioned, our protagonist doesn't even fight the statement to the contrary.    Doesn't even try.

Either don't put the gun on the mantelpiece, or let the bloody thing go off.


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: Scattercat on December 07, 2009, 03:03:00 PM
Either don't put the gun on the mantelpiece, or let the bloody thing go off.

Or show the reader a character picking the gun up, considering it, putting it back, starting to leave, stopping, and turning to look again at that gun, just resting quietly on its mantelpiece as the lights go down...


Title: Re: PC076: The Small Door
Post by: mbrennan on December 23, 2009, 12:49:23 AM
(Can you tell I'm catching up Podcastle?  It's the one virtue of long plane flights.)

As with "Superhero Girl," this one disappointed me because the fantasy component was so understated as to be almost nonexistent.  It really didn't show up until the last few minutes of this story, after more than half an hour of essentially mundane narrative.  Well-done mundane narrative, mind you; my one technical complaint about it is that there was a stretch where it seemed like one sentence about the weirdo, three paragraphs about the sister's illness, repeat pattern.  A bit too skewed of a balance for me, but fortunately it righted itself after a while.

In the end, though . . . the end didn't do it for me.  As someone else said in this comment thread, you could remove the overtly magical element from those last couple of minutes and be left with 99% the same story.  The rest of it is only "fantastical" in the way that (when I was a kid) From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was fantastical*.  Imaginative, yes; what I'm looking for in a fantasy story, no.


*So this is where I hope memory serves me correctly, and there isn't any actual fantasy in From the Mixed-Up Files.  Because otherwise I've just undermined my own point . . . .