Escape Artists

PodCastle => Episode Comments => Topic started by: Ocicat on January 04, 2011, 04:55:17 AM



Title: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: Ocicat on January 04, 2011, 04:55:17 AM
PodCastle 138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance (http://podcastle.org/2011/01/04/podcastle-138-balfour-and-meriwether-in-the-adventure-of-the-emperors-vengeance/)

by Daniel Abraham (http://www.danielabraham.com/).

Read by  Paul S. Jenkins. (http://www.evilburnee.co.uk/)


Originally published in Postscripts #19: The Enemy of the Good (http://www.pspublishing.co.uk/books/postscripts-anthologies/individual-issues/enemy-of-the-good-postscripts-19-by-crowther-gevers).

“Assistant Curator Olds,” the man said. “I was working with Lord Abington on behalf of the museum. I was supposed to have been present at the unsealing, but Lord Abington ordered me out at the last moment.”

“Lead on, young Mr. Olds,” Meriwether said. “There may not be a moment to lose.”

The halls of the museum rose above the men in a gloom darker than the autumn sky. The scent of dust and still air gave the great triumph of English culture the unfortunate aspect of a necropolis. Their footsteps echoed against the marble and stone, dampening even Meriwether’s gay affect. Mr. Olds led them down a long corridor, up one long flight of stairs, and then another to a hall designed around a pair of great oaken doors. Two other men, clearly minor functionaries of the establishment, huddled in the harsh light of a gas sconce. The hissing of the flame was the only sound. Balfour stepped immediately to the closed doors, scrutinizing them with an expression so fierce as to forbid speech. Meriwether paced back and forth some length down the hall, his pale eyes moving restlessly across every detail, his footsteps silent as a cat’s.

“Something’s happened,” Balfour said, stepping back from the doors with a nod. Meriwether strode to Balfour’s side licked his fingertips and held them before the doorway.

“Yes, I see,” he said.

“What are you talking about?” Lord Carmichael asked. “What do you mean something’s happened?”

“The room within is not sealed,” Meriwether said, his voice unnaturally calm. “All through the museum, the air has been still as the grave, but here there’s the faintest of breezes. What other access ways are there to this workroom?”

“None, sir,” one of the functionaries said. “There was a back way, but it was bricked up years ago to make more storage room for the collection.”

“Light?” Balfour asked.

“Gas lamps, sir,” the functionary said. “Same as the rest.”

“And during the day?” Balfour said. “Are there windows?”

“Well, yes sir. But they’re set at the rooftop. The workrooms are high as a cathedral, some of them sir.”

“We’ll want rope,” Meriwether said. “And ladders that will reach the roof. There’s little time.”

“What do you suspect?” Lord Carmichael asked as the functionaries scattered to Meriwether’s command.

Meriwether shook his head silently and gave no other reply. A few minutes work brought the discovery that the window high above the workroom had indeed been breached, and less than a half hour more allowed the pair of special agents to be lowered into the stygian darkness within.


Rated PG


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: Heradel on January 04, 2011, 09:46:47 AM
You know, it had been far too long since the last improbably long story title.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: Max e^{i pi} on January 05, 2011, 04:56:34 PM
I kinda enjoyed this. Nothing sticks in my mind as something that I didn't like about the story now (many hours after I listened to it).
In general it was a very nice steampunk story, made all the better by that wonderful British accent of Paul's.
The beginning sounded a lot like a Sherlock Holmes story, and I kept trying to compare Balfour and Meriwether to Sherlock and Dr. Watson (respectively). But I eventually realized the error in this, since one of them is not a bumbling idiot. More a sort of Sean Connery as James Bond duo.
I liked that.
I also liked the well-researched Jewish mythology bits.
I know something about Jewish mythology, and to the best of my knowledge such a conspiracy theory doesn't exist, but it was based on true stuff that do appear in Jewish mythology. For example, every generation has 36 righteous people, on whose merit the world stands (I think that one is in the Talmud), the beginning of Genesis mentions that the Nephilim (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nephilim) were walking the Earth, and they could very well be alien masters, mechanical or otherwise.
I think it's a really cool conspiracy theory. The Jews are protecting the world from the Iron Masters.
Now we know why Indiana Jones wanted to find the Ark. He needed a steampunk mecha.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: malaclypse on January 06, 2011, 12:29:58 AM
What we have here is steampunk done right. Fight scenes! World-spanning conspiracies! Awesome killer robots! Creepy dum dum DUUUM ending! At no time did it set off my yeah-right-o-meter. Too bad for Mr. Detective, though -- Bat-Kohen don't date goyim.  :D


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: Wilson Fowlie on January 06, 2011, 04:08:56 PM
I really enjoyed this.  And I'm glad I did, because otherwise I might be complaining that this was more sf than Fantasy.  :)

(In my opinion, it was more sf than fantasy, but since I enjoyed it, that's not a complaint.  Besides, EP ran Dave's fantasy story for Hallowe'en, so why not the occasional fantasy-like SF here?)

The one element that I did feel was Fantastical - or at least really stretched the bounds of credibility - was that the humans could (presumably correctly) interpret the facial expressions of the (presumably) alien metal monsters because they matched ours so much.  First of all, it seems unlikely.  Second of all, even if it were possible (i.e. the monsters were clever enough to do so), why would they give humans the ability to outguess them like that?

Happily, though, I didn't think of that point while actually listening to the story, but when I was thinking it over afterwards.

And really, it's just a quibble.  The story itself, I really quite enjoyed.

I don't consider this story to be especially Steampunk, because it doesn't posit an alternate history in which Steam devices (computers, etc.) precede/replace the mechanical/electronic ones we have.  Instead, it gives Steampunk (or something Steampunk-like) to the ancient Egyptians as an explanation for the technology we did get.  So, sort of an alternate/secret/steampunk-history.  Wow, is that a whole new sub-sub-subgenre Abraham has invented? ;)

I really like Paul Jenkins's reading, though maybe it hasn't been quite long enough since the Carnacki The Ghost Hunter story (http://podcastle.org/2010/10/05/podcastle-125-the-whistling-room/); it was several minutes into this story before I was able to convince myself I wasn't still in that world.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: Swamp on January 06, 2011, 07:02:28 PM
Back in PC 114 for "Wolves Till the World Goes Down" I was wowed by the trifecta of having a Greg van Eekhout story, about Norse mythology, read by Dave Thompson.  The combination was magical.

Well, Podcastle has done it again.  This time we have Daniel Abraham writing a quaisi-steampunky story that involves mechanical monsters that date back before the Dawn of Man and delve into our religious origins.  All told through the reserved and pleasant sounds of Paul S. Jenkins.

I really need to listen to this again, first because I am sure I missed something in there, and also because it will be fun.  I like the title characters; and I am glad to know there are more stories with them.  Maybe they will show up here again.  nudge, nudge, wink, wink


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: Heradel on January 06, 2011, 09:32:34 PM
That was a very well told tale.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: Scattercat on January 06, 2011, 09:55:59 PM
The one element that I did feel was Fantastical - or at least really stretched the bounds of credibility - was that the humans could (presumably correctly) interpret the facial expressions of the (presumably) alien metal monsters because they matched ours so much.  First of all, it seems unlikely.  Second of all, even if it were possible (i.e. the monsters were clever enough to do so), why would they give humans the ability to outguess them like that?

Maybe they didn't.  Maybe we just adopted their facial expressions ourselves and gradually evolved to use them more fluidly and clearly.

I liked this story.  I didn't lurve it, but it was fun and amusing as a sort of weird-history thing.  The burning coals at the heart of the contraptions was a lovely little image, I thought.  The whole thing reminded me of those Aztec-magic-steampunk stories that the Dunesteef occasionally (http://dunesteef.com/2009/11/16/page-47-the-strange-affair-of-the-artisans-heart-by-joshua-reynolds/) runs (http://dunesteef.com/2010/03/14/page-96-the-strange-affair-of-the-skull-at-the-window-by-joshua-reynolds/).  Honestly, I slightly prefer the Aztec guy; these were some pretty bland main characters, all told.  (What was with the knives?  I kept expecting him to suddenly start referring to "Mister Vendemar.")


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: Unblinking on January 07, 2011, 10:30:05 AM
This is probably in my top 3 favorite Podcastle episodes for its cool ideas.  It got to a bit of a slow start, but when the revelation of the murderous automaton from the coffin became clear I was hooked from then on.

I'm very glad to see a "robots ruled ancient Egypt" premise that wasn't entirely ruined by Michael Bay's ineptitude.  I liked that the original automaton had dismantled itself for parts--it's goal was not preservation of its lowly self but of the supremacy of its race.  The revelation of the Jewish pact to protect the world was also very cool, and I liked the unease with which the story ended.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: Gamercow on January 07, 2011, 11:24:51 AM
That was a very well told tale.

My only complaint was that it was too short!  Honestly, the quality of the story, and the reading thereof, is something that could be put on BBC Radio 7, and fit right in.  It's an exemplary radio drama.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: ElectricPaladin on January 07, 2011, 03:24:26 PM
Oh man oh man oh man. This was probably my favorite podcastle yet.

I say that a lot, don't I?

Anyway, allow me to disclose a little: you all know that I am an electric paladin, but what you probably don't know (unless I've mentioned it before) is that I was called to the knighthood by the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That's right - I'm an electrical paladin Jew.

There was a time in my life that I felt like Jews and Judaism were invisible in fantastic fiction. Fantasy religions are more likely to be Crystal Dragon Jesuses (Jesi?) than Crystal Dragon Moseses and, I have found, characters in modern and urban fantasy are usually atheists, vaguely agnostic Christians, or some kind of pagan/wiccan/spiritualist mashup. There was a time that I was infamous in my writing/roleplaying circle for creating Jewish rpg characters, inventing fantasy religions and cultures similar to Judaism, and writing modern fantasy stories with Jewish characters. I wouldn't say I've gotten it out of my system - I've got this great idea for a modern fantasy stories with the Seal of Solomon and demon/djinn binding - but I no longer have the same manic need to see myself represented in what I read. In realizing that I can write it myself, I was freed to explore more and different points of view.

Anyway, the long and the short of it was that this story made my inner 14 year old jump up and dance around. Jewish conspiracies for goodness, fighting the evil legacy of the clockwork phaoronic masters of the world? Solid awesome. The story was also fantastically well written - I mean, let's face it, you can appeal to my inner 14 year old without actually being any good - with wonderfully evocative characters, set pieces, and a plot that was fast-paced but controlled. I really want to read more in this universe, especially if it features the lovely Rachel Cohen and the Clockwork Pharaoh.

As others have stated, I also enjoyed the note of unease with which the story ended. After all, this is a secret war that has stretched on for years; why should it be over after this one skirmish? Why should the defenders of the world expect that it will ever be truly over.

Finally, Paul S Jenkins' reading was top notch. Truly excellent.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: Wilson Fowlie on January 07, 2011, 03:26:58 PM
The one element that I did feel was Fantastical - or at least really stretched the bounds of credibility - was that the humans could (presumably correctly) interpret the facial expressions of the (presumably) alien metal monsters because they matched ours so much.  First of all, it seems unlikely.  Second of all, even if it were possible (i.e. the monsters were clever enough to do so), why would they give humans the ability to outguess them like that?

Maybe they didn't.  Maybe we just adopted their facial expressions ourselves and gradually evolved to use them more fluidly and clearly.

Studies with babies in multiple cultures have shown evidence that, for the basic emotions - sadness, anger, disgust, happiness, perhaps one or two others - both the sending and receiving signals  (i.e. making and recognizing the associated faces) are hard-wired into our brains.  Other, secondary emotions are more culturally based (e.g. wry humour), and are believe to be passed on socially rather than neurologically.

Given how quickly the automatons worked, I can't imagine that they were on Earth enough generations (i.e. thousands to millions) for these expressions to be as hard-wired into our neurons as they are.  If they'd been here that long, their machinations (har!) would have succeeded and we wouldn't be here.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: Chuk on January 07, 2011, 03:37:58 PM
I wouldn't say I've gotten it out of my system - I've got this great idea for a modern fantasy stories with the Seal of Solomon and demon/djinn binding

Don't know if you've already read them, but Jay Lake's Mainspring books have got some Solomon-Seal activated clockwork people in them. (And they are also excellent.)


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: DKT on January 07, 2011, 04:37:06 PM
Oh man oh man oh man. This was probably my favorite podcastle yet.

I say that a lot, don't I?

Possibly. But it never gets old  ;D

There was a time in my life that I felt like Jews and Judaism were invisible in fantastic fiction. Fantasy religions are more likely to be Crystal Dragon Jesuses (Jesi?) than Crystal Dragon Moseses and, I have found, characters in modern and urban fantasy are usually atheists, vaguely agnostic Christians, or some kind of pagan/wiccan/spiritualist mashup. There was a time that I was infamous in my writing/roleplaying circle for creating Jewish rpg characters, inventing fantasy religions and cultures similar to Judaism, and writing modern fantasy stories with Jewish characters. I wouldn't say I've gotten it out of my system - I've got this great idea for a modern fantasy stories with the Seal of Solomon and demon/djinn binding - but I no longer have the same manic need to see myself represented in what I read. In realizing that I can write it myself, I was freed to explore more and different points of view.

Have you read much of Michael Chabon's stuff? Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is my favorite (not incredibly fantastical, but fantasically incredible - especially if you like comic books). At one point he was toying with calling Gentlemen of the Road (a short novel) "Jews With Swords." Personally, I think "Jews with Swords" makes a better title, but I'm not Pulitzer Prize winner, so YMMV. (And I admit that book didn't completely satisfy me, but you might feel differently about it.) I have the Yiddish Policeman's Union on my bookshelf and will read it one day soon - soon being a relative term, of course  ;D


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: danooli on January 08, 2011, 09:49:11 AM
not surprisingly, this one tops my list as well.  Way to go, PodCastle!  Starting another year off on a VERY high note! 

The steampunkyness of this, plus the Sherlock-Holmesian detectives, the Jewish lore and the ancient Egyptian mythos all equaled just literary brilliance.  And, once again, Paul Jenkins reading was spot-on.

Perfect!


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: kibitzer on January 08, 2011, 10:55:16 PM
Excellent. Evoked gaslit London very well, some cool ideas, some great protagonists and even a beautiful, tough, capable female as well. What more could you ask for?

I was initially misled, thinking this was going to be a Holmes ripoff, what with the London apartments, two gents sharing a place, said gents being retained by the Government on occasion, and the kindly landlady. Thankfully, it wasn't!

Paul's reading was, as always, great. For mine his readings are just a little flat and expressionless, but that's merely personal taste in reading style.

Another great story PodCastle, well done.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: Motti on January 10, 2011, 03:00:28 AM
Pretty cool but was I the only one bugged by the 12 plagues?


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: ElectricPaladin on January 10, 2011, 03:05:59 AM
Pretty cool but was I the only one bugged by the 12 plagues?

Haven't you ever been to a seder? Just count yourself lucky she didn't say "fifty plagues," and then start listing each one and the logic by which there were that many.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: ElectricPaladin on January 10, 2011, 03:07:15 AM
Oh man oh man oh man. This was probably my favorite podcastle yet.

I say that a lot, don't I?

Possibly. But it never gets old  ;D

There was a time in my life that I felt like Jews and Judaism were invisible in fantastic fiction. Fantasy religions are more likely to be Crystal Dragon Jesuses (Jesi?) than Crystal Dragon Moseses and, I have found, characters in modern and urban fantasy are usually atheists, vaguely agnostic Christians, or some kind of pagan/wiccan/spiritualist mashup. There was a time that I was infamous in my writing/roleplaying circle for creating Jewish rpg characters, inventing fantasy religions and cultures similar to Judaism, and writing modern fantasy stories with Jewish characters. I wouldn't say I've gotten it out of my system - I've got this great idea for a modern fantasy stories with the Seal of Solomon and demon/djinn binding - but I no longer have the same manic need to see myself represented in what I read. In realizing that I can write it myself, I was freed to explore more and different points of view.

Have you read much of Michael Chabon's stuff? Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is my favorite (not incredibly fantastical, but fantasically incredible - especially if you like comic books). At one point he was toying with calling Gentlemen of the Road (a short novel) "Jews With Swords." Personally, I think "Jews with Swords" makes a better title, but I'm not Pulitzer Prize winner, so YMMV. (And I admit that book didn't completely satisfy me, but you might feel differently about it.) I have the Yiddish Policeman's Union on my bookshelf and will read it one day soon - soon being a relative term, of course  ;D

I have read Kavalier and Clay, and I loved it. That's... uh... all I've read of his so far, though I do own and want to read Gentleman of the Road. I'll probably get to it presently.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: ioscode on January 10, 2011, 02:40:38 PM
A great tale!  Nice mashup of multiple period history, ET, mystery, and action.  And the awesome characters of course.  I didn't quite get as solid a picture of them in my mind as I would have liked, but maybe my imagination was still a little bit asleep when I listened this morning.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: woodchuck on January 12, 2011, 11:22:32 AM
I loved this story. I can't say that I'm totally gaga over steampunk, but I really liked the mashup of industrial london, machine monsters, old testament mysticism, and super sleuths!  That's a combo that you don't see every day.  I loved the attention to detail, development of characters, and the pace of the story.  I felt that although stereotypes were used, they were appropriate for the story and didn't detract from the original templates.  I only wish that I had that kind of story making ability.

Great Job!


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: ElectricPaladin on January 12, 2011, 11:45:35 AM
gaga... steampunk

Lady Gaga does steampunk.

That would be kind of awesome and terrifying.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled conversation. :P


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: Max e^{i pi} on January 13, 2011, 12:49:11 PM
gaga... steampunk

Lady Gaga does steampunk.

That would be kind of awesome and terrifying.
No, see, she can't do steampunk. It's too normal for her. I mean, there are plenty of people who dress up in steampunk outfits (for cons, photoshoots or just because they are awesome people), so Lady Gaga can't. It's too mainstream.
Upholstery though, that she could do.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: ElectricPaladin on January 13, 2011, 12:56:06 PM
gaga... steampunk

Lady Gaga does steampunk.

That would be kind of awesome and terrifying.
No, see, she can't do steampunk. It's too normal for her. I mean, there are plenty of people who dress up in steampunk outfits (for cons, photoshoots or just because they are awesome people), so Lady Gaga can't. It's too mainstream.
Upholstery though, that she could do.

Perhaps she could dress up as a steampunk chair...


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: danooli on January 14, 2011, 07:04:19 PM
gaga... steampunk

Lady Gaga does steampunk.

That would be kind of awesome and terrifying.
No, see, she can't do steampunk. It's too normal for her. I mean, there are plenty of people who dress up in steampunk outfits (for cons, photoshoots or just because they are awesome people), so Lady Gaga can't. It's too mainstream.
Upholstery though, that she could do.

Perhaps she could dress up as a steampunk chair...

or maybe some sort of Victorian meat grinder?

(sorry for butting in  ;D )


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: BlueLu on January 15, 2011, 01:28:14 PM
Fantastic!  This is probably my favorite PodCastle story so far.  I loved the rapport between the two characters and the way the complexities of their long, symbiotic relationship were got across with just a few strokes.  I would read any number of stories with these characters and was delighted to read on the author’s website that he had sold another Balfour and Meriwether story and was working on a novella.  I hope we hear them soon on Podcastle!  (And no, I am not Daniel Abraham’s mom.)


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: tinygaia on January 20, 2011, 12:54:00 PM
First time posting.

The thing that really made this story for me was the characters. I thought the author did a great job of hinting at Balfour and Meriweather’s long history of clandestine adventures. The way their personalities worked so well together left me wanting more stories about them, and I was pleased to see the author’s blog post stating that some were in the works. Overall, great story.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: Talia on January 20, 2011, 01:09:10 PM
Welcome Tinygaia. Glad you enjoyed the story. :)


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: Unblinking on January 20, 2011, 01:30:35 PM
First time posting.

The thing that really made this story for me was the characters. I thought the author did a great job of hinting at Balfour and Meriweather’s long history of clandestine adventures. The way their personalities worked so well together left me wanting more stories about them, and I was pleased to see the author’s blog post stating that some were in the works. Overall, great story.

Welcome!  Does your avatar image happen to be from the game Secret of Mana?  It looks familiar.   :)


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: Listener on January 20, 2011, 04:37:28 PM
I think the narrator is very talented, but I don't always enjoy his readings. I think they're often TOO dry.

I enjoyed the story, although I agree with some other commenters that it was slow in places. Also, B&M were too conventional of MCs, and their unconventionalness wasn't adequately explained to keep it from drawing my attention away from the story. Why does Balfour use braces of knives? Why is he so quiet? How does Meriwether know Hebrew (I think that was mentioned; can't recall now)? And Lord Whatsisname was a very hackneyed character as well.

The story overcame the characterization issues I had with it, and by the end I was quite into it.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: stePH on January 20, 2011, 09:36:17 PM
The title of this one threw me; I was expecting another adventure of Sir Hereward and Mr. Fitz  :P But I liked this better.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: eytanz on January 25, 2011, 12:51:21 PM
Ooh, I really loved this one. A great steampunk adventure story.  Not really that much to say about it beyond that.

The beginning sounded a lot like a Sherlock Holmes story, and I kept trying to compare Balfour and Meriwether to Sherlock and Dr. Watson (respectively). But I eventually realized the error in this, since one of them is not a bumbling idiot. More a sort of Sean Connery as James Bond duo.

Watson was far from an idiot in the original Holmes stories, that's something that was added in the Basil Rathbone movies.

Pretty cool but was I the only one bugged by the 12 plagues?

Haven't you ever been to a seder? Just count yourself lucky she didn't say "fifty plagues," and then start listing each one and the logic by which there were that many.

Rabbi Akiva calls your fifty plagues at land, and raises you two hundred and fifty plagues at sea. ;)


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: tinygaia on January 25, 2011, 12:58:28 PM
Welcome!  Does your avatar image happen to be from the game Secret of Mana?  It looks familiar.   :)

You're right. That's my favorite game of all time.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: Max e^{i pi} on January 26, 2011, 03:14:07 AM
Ooh, I really loved this one. A great steampunk adventure story.  Not really that much to say about it beyond that.

The beginning sounded a lot like a Sherlock Holmes story, and I kept trying to compare Balfour and Meriwether to Sherlock and Dr. Watson (respectively). But I eventually realized the error in this, since one of them is not a bumbling idiot. More a sort of Sean Connery as James Bond duo.

Watson was far from an idiot in the original Holmes stories, that's something that was added in the Basil Rathbone movies.

I've read many (perhaps most, but certainly not all) of the original stories, and I've always found Watson to be a sort of weak character. Maybe my choice of words ("bumbling idiot") was incorrect, but he is not even close to being the equal of Holmes. I've always felt that his part in the story was for Holmes to bounce ideas off of and thus explain things to the reader who hasn't figured it out yet. He rarely contributes something clever and original to the story. He is clearly the sidekick and clearly far inferior to Holmes in every way (disguise, powers of observation, intrigue, fighting skills, deduction...), but better than the cop (I forget his name).
I got the feeling that Balfour and Meriwether were more or less equals in most things relevant to finding and capturing criminals or other things that may disturb the peace.
And that was what I meant.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: eytanz on January 26, 2011, 03:28:28 AM
Then we have no disagreement - Watson clearly isn't the equal of Holmes. But in the original stories it was made clear that Watson is actually a pretty intelligent and resourceful person, and the fact that as such he's still miles behind Holmes is supposed to indicate how much of a genius Holmes actually is.

I agree that Balfour and Meriwether seem to be far more equally balanced.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: Scattercat on January 26, 2011, 12:21:05 PM
Yeah, the point of Watson was that he was a doctor and a smart cookie, but he just couldn't keep up with Holmes when he was on an intuition high; nobody could.  Watson was a foil, someone who was smart but pedestrian and methodical to contrast with Holmes' erratic and unpredictable bursts of insight.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: kibitzer on January 26, 2011, 09:31:25 PM
Watson was far from an idiot in the original Holmes stories, that's something that was added in the Basil Rathbone movies.

You are SO right and that "bumbling idiot" persona annoys me immensely!! Thankfully it's not universal as the excellent Granada series and even the most recent "Sherlock" series showed. Other things that annoy me: the perpetual deerstalker; the stupid meerschaum pipe; the magnifying glass; "Elementary my dear Watson."


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: kibitzer on January 26, 2011, 09:35:41 PM
...to contrast with Holmes' erratic and unpredictable bursts of insight.

I'd argue that Homes was neither erratic nor unpredictable. It is true that when his brain was unengaged he dropped into extreme lassitude. However when engaged, his mental processes were logical, progressive and brilliant.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: Scattercat on January 27, 2011, 12:51:59 AM
...to contrast with Holmes' erratic and unpredictable bursts of insight.

I'd argue that Homes was neither erratic nor unpredictable. It is true that when his brain was unengaged he dropped into extreme lassitude. However when engaged, his mental processes were logical, progressive and brilliant.

Logical, perhaps, but not progressive.  He tended to make the final leap - often one that defied explanation - all in one go.  He was strongly intuitive, in other words, rather than building gradually on previous work.  That is what I mean by erratic; it was always a bit of a crapshoot as to which bit of information would tip Holmes over into revelation, and he tended in general to solve things by retreating to mull things over for a time rather than methodically testing and discarding hypotheses.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: stePH on January 27, 2011, 11:26:07 AM
Other things that annoy me: the perpetual deerstalker; the stupid meerschaum pipe; the magnifying glass; "Elementary my dear Watson."

Carl Sagan never said "billions and billions", Humphrey Bogart never said "Play it again, Sam", and Sherlock Holmes never said "Elementary, my dear Watson."


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: yicheng on January 27, 2011, 11:38:51 AM
The story was entertaining enough.  More of a fun romp than anything memorable, and it makes me wish for a Steampunk spin-off of Stargate.

I wanted to chime in on Ms Leckie's prologue piece about primitive cultures and "ancient aliens": I couldn't agree more.  I've always thought that much of that belief was based largely on colonial ethno-centrism, i.e. equating primitive people lacking in tools/technology as stupid or simple.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: Unblinking on January 27, 2011, 12:30:54 PM
I've always thought that much of that belief was based largely on colonial ethno-centrism, i.e. equating primitive people lacking in tools/technology as stupid or simple.

On a sleepless night a few months ago, I watched a show about Rome's Coliseum.  For a long time of recent history, no one knew how they built it, raising the highest stones on top of the others with the tools of the time.  Then some time fairly recently they found one historical document that had a picture of equipment they might have used to do it.  So, as an experiment, the researchers built a machine based entirely on the diagram.  It was built entirely of wood and fashioned using only period-appropriate tools, and was powered by humans walking inside a 15-foot diameter wooden wheel that looked like a hamster wheel.  With 3-4 people on the wheel exerting only moderate effort they were able to lift a huge block (was it 1 ton?  I forget).

I found that really amazing.  I think part of the reason that some of that huge scale long-lasting old architecture is so mind-boggling is that it was the result of huge resource and labor cost for a whole civilization to a degree that's only feasible if there is unchecked exploitation of the masses (i.e. slave labor, overtaxation, etc..).  Also, these days people are always demanding something new even if the old is perfectly serviceable (professional sports teams a major example of this, clamoring for new stadium when their old stadium is just fine).


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: yicheng on January 27, 2011, 12:57:46 PM
I found that really amazing.  I think part of the reason that some of that huge scale long-lasting old architecture is so mind-boggling is that it was the result of huge resource and labor cost for a whole civilization to a degree that's only feasible if there is unchecked exploitation of the masses (i.e. slave labor, overtaxation, etc..).  Also, these days people are always demanding something new even if the old is perfectly serviceable (professional sports teams a major example of this, clamoring for new stadium when their old stadium is just fine).

Exploitation is a relative term, though.  I've heard a fairly convincing argument that the average Medieval European Peasants had better living standards and worked less hours/day and days/year than our modern-day minimum wage working class. 

I think part of that mindset is also the rather arrogant idea that History is a natural continuation of a series of ever-improving steps, with us at the pinnacle, and things graduating getting worse and worse the farther you go back.  As far as I can tell, this is a fairly modern (post-industrial) world-view, whereas most ancient societies (Romans included) believed that civilizations had life & death cycles.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: Unblinking on January 27, 2011, 05:09:59 PM
I found that really amazing.  I think part of the reason that some of that huge scale long-lasting old architecture is so mind-boggling is that it was the result of huge resource and labor cost for a whole civilization to a degree that's only feasible if there is unchecked exploitation of the masses (i.e. slave labor, overtaxation, etc..).  Also, these days people are always demanding something new even if the old is perfectly serviceable (professional sports teams a major example of this, clamoring for new stadium when their old stadium is just fine).

Exploitation is a relative term, though.  I've heard a fairly convincing argument that the average Medieval European Peasants had better living standards and worked less hours/day and days/year than our modern-day minimum wage working class.  

I think part of that mindset is also the rather arrogant idea that History is a natural continuation of a series of ever-improving steps, with us at the pinnacle, and things graduating getting worse and worse the farther you go back.  As far as I can tell, this is a fairly modern (post-industrial) world-view, whereas most ancient societies (Romans included) believed that civilizations had life & death cycles.

With that statement I wasn't referring to Medieval times, because I don't think anyone theorizes that Medieval architecture was built by aliens.  I was thinking more like the Egyptian pyramids, Pharoah watching over as the slaves move the bricks up there one by one, putting together a huge monument that took decades to build and served the purpose of a burial chamber for the kings where they would be buried with all their most valuable possessions.  It's still a marvel of architecture, but I'd still call that exploitative.  None of the workers get a chance to be buried in pyramids.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: kibitzer on January 27, 2011, 09:26:25 PM
Logical, perhaps, but not progressive.  He tended to make the final leap - often one that defied explanation - all in one go.  He was strongly intuitive, in other words, rather than building gradually on previous work.  That is what I mean by erratic; it was always a bit of a crapshoot as to which bit of information would tip Holmes over into revelation, and he tended in general to solve things by retreating to mull things over for a time rather than methodically testing and discarding hypotheses.

Well, no. The mulling things over was after he'd collected evidence, it was the mulling that was the methodically testing and discarding hypotheses. Detectives who work more by bursts of insight and intuition include Ruth Rendell's Inspector Wexford and Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse.

Anyway, I'm hijacking this thread so I'll leave it there.

For now. :-)


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: hautdesert on January 28, 2011, 12:27:21 PM
 I was thinking more like the Egyptian pyramids, Pharoah watching over as the slaves move the bricks up there one by one,

It's quite likely the Pyramids (and other similar monuments) weren't built by slave labor.  I mean, any more so than any other endeavor for that time and place.  Many of the workers involved were skilled, and we've got tallies and receipts for wages for various people who worked on big construction projects like that.

And if you think about it, would it make sense for Pharaoh to buy a gajillion slaves, feed and house them in some way--even deliberately substandard rations would be a whole big mess of barley and onions--and then find some way to sell them off when the project was done?  Or feed and house them until the next expensive architectural project?  It makes very little sense.

It makes much better sense to hire laborers when they're available--say, agricultural downtimes--and pay them only while they work for you.  Or, not uncommon for any number of ancient societies, require a certain amount of public labor from every family and use the corvee to do whatever's needed at that particular time.

And given what we know about Egyptian religion, I strongly suspect that it was a great deal more like the situation with European cathedrals, castles, etc.  The laborers were almost certainly paid (barring assistants or indentured servants or bondsmen or what have you, who certainly existed in Medieval Europe, just like yeah, there were slaves in ancient Egypt and they were pretty much everywhere) and almost certainly believed in the worth of what they were doing--for the (G)god(s), for the institutions and ideologies they believed in, for their clan or region or country or tribe or whatever.

I'm sure there were slaves involved in the pyramids' construction, there were slaves all over the ancient world.  But the popular image of thousands of hapless slaves building the pyramids is probably not terribly accurate.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: ElectricPaladin on January 28, 2011, 12:35:33 PM
 I was thinking more like the Egyptian pyramids, Pharoah watching over as the slaves move the bricks up there one by one,

It's quite likely the Pyramids (and other similar monuments) weren't built by slave labor.  I mean, any more so than any other endeavor for that time and place.  Many of the workers involved were skilled, and we've got tallies and receipts for wages for various people who worked on big construction projects like that.

And if you think about it, would it make sense for Pharaoh to buy a gajillion slaves, feed and house them in some way--even deliberately substandard rations would be a whole big mess of barley and onions--and then find some way to sell them off when the project was done?  Or feed and house them until the next expensive architectural project?  It makes very little sense.

It makes much better sense to hire laborers when they're available--say, agricultural downtimes--and pay them only while they work for you.  Or, not uncommon for any number of ancient societies, require a certain amount of public labor from every family and use the corvee to do whatever's needed at that particular time.

And given what we know about Egyptian religion, I strongly suspect that it was a great deal more like the situation with European cathedrals, castles, etc.  The laborers were almost certainly paid (barring assistants or indentured servants or bondsmen or what have you, who certainly existed in Medieval Europe, just like yeah, there were slaves in ancient Egypt and they were pretty much everywhere) and almost certainly believed in the worth of what they were doing--for the (G)god(s), for the institutions and ideologies they believed in, for their clan or region or country or tribe or whatever.

I'm sure there were slaves involved in the pyramids' construction, there were slaves all over the ancient world.  But the popular image of thousands of hapless slaves building the pyramids is probably not terribly accurate.


Another thing to remember is that slavery in the ancient near east (probably) isn't what you're thinking of when you think of "slavery." Slaves weren't chattle, they were low-status members of the community who had certain rights. In a lot of cultures, there were limitations on how you could treat your slaves, when (and whether) you could sell them, how long they could be slaves, and how many generations a family could be enslaved. It wasn't great, of course... but it also wasn't anything like, say, American slavery. Again, there probably weren't thousands of hapless slaves toiling in the hot sun.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: Wilson Fowlie on January 28, 2011, 04:46:31 PM
It's quite likely the Pyramids (and other similar monuments) weren't built by slave labor.  ...

... there probably weren't thousands of hapless slaves toiling in the hot sun.

The 'haut desert' sun? :)


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: hautdesert on January 30, 2011, 09:22:13 AM


The 'haut desert' sun? :)


Groan.
 :D


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: stePH on January 30, 2011, 09:29:45 PM
The 'haut desert' sun? :)

Bad pun. Me no leckie.  :P


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: Wilson Fowlie on January 31, 2011, 01:02:20 AM
The 'haut desert' sun? :)

Bad pun. Me no leckie.  :P

Ahaha. :)


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: Unblinking on January 31, 2011, 01:39:08 PM
 I was thinking more like the Egyptian pyramids, Pharoah watching over as the slaves move the bricks up there one by one,

It's quite likely the Pyramids (and other similar monuments) weren't built by slave labor.  I mean, any more so than any other endeavor for that time and place.  Many of the workers involved were skilled, and we've got tallies and receipts for wages for various people who worked on big construction projects like that.

And if you think about it, would it make sense for Pharaoh to buy a gajillion slaves, feed and house them in some way--even deliberately substandard rations would be a whole big mess of barley and onions--and then find some way to sell them off when the project was done?  Or feed and house them until the next expensive architectural project?  It makes very little sense.

It makes much better sense to hire laborers when they're available--say, agricultural downtimes--and pay them only while they work for you.  Or, not uncommon for any number of ancient societies, require a certain amount of public labor from every family and use the corvee to do whatever's needed at that particular time.

And given what we know about Egyptian religion, I strongly suspect that it was a great deal more like the situation with European cathedrals, castles, etc.  The laborers were almost certainly paid (barring assistants or indentured servants or bondsmen or what have you, who certainly existed in Medieval Europe, just like yeah, there were slaves in ancient Egypt and they were pretty much everywhere) and almost certainly believed in the worth of what they were doing--for the (G)god(s), for the institutions and ideologies they believed in, for their clan or region or country or tribe or whatever.

I'm sure there were slaves involved in the pyramids' construction, there were slaves all over the ancient world.  But the popular image of thousands of hapless slaves building the pyramids is probably not terribly accurate.


Another thing to remember is that slavery in the ancient near east (probably) isn't what you're thinking of when you think of "slavery." Slaves weren't chattle, they were low-status members of the community who had certain rights. In a lot of cultures, there were limitations on how you could treat your slaves, when (and whether) you could sell them, how long they could be slaves, and how many generations a family could be enslaved. It wasn't great, of course... but it also wasn't anything like, say, American slavery. Again, there probably weren't thousands of hapless slaves toiling in the hot sun.

All right, fair enough.  I don't claim to be an expert about the economics of construction of ancient monuments.  It had just seemed to me, from the bits of information I'd absorbed, that the most impressive monuments were created during times of particularly wide caste separations where the castes in power exploited the lowest castes.  It sounds like you are more informed than I about this subject, and this does not particularly shock me.   ;D


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: LaShawn on March 08, 2011, 12:28:52 PM
I'll be the lone dissenter and say that it was hard for me to get into this one. The premise was interesting, but I guess I heard it before. I was sort of half listening to it as I worked. Probably something I would pay better attention to if I read it instead.


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: Fenrix on February 03, 2012, 02:07:48 PM
I won't let LaShawn be the lone dissenter. I didn't really dig this one, although I did like the Vampire of Kabul (http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?topic=5883.0).

The denouement was incredibly subtle and it brought the story up a notch or two for me. But the buildup to that was a relatively unsubtle story. This was the Good and Righteous Servants of the Queen (and a Jew) fighting SkyNet to prevent the termination of all humanity. Also there were a couple spots that seemed a bit racially/culturally insensitive, and although appropriate for the antiquarian style of the story, I'm surprised no one's tee'd off about them. I have to admit, I wandered off a time or two in this story while in my head Alasdair narrated a White Street Society story about the Zionist Threat.

Nothing wrong with Good beats Evil while Looking Cool, but it's not going to get my vote for the Best of PodCastle 2011.

 


Title: Re: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance
Post by: DKT on February 03, 2012, 02:41:26 PM
Also there were a couple spots that seemed a bit racially/culturally insensitive, and although appropriate for the antiquarian style of the story, I'm surprised no one's tee'd off about them. I have to admit, I wandered off a time or two in this story while in my head Alasdair narrated a White Street Society story about the Zionist Threat.

Oh, I think those shots were totally intentional criticisms of the time and style (at least from my perspective) - as much as anything the White Street Society stories (which I adore). It was just done in a completely different tone than tongue in cheek.