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Author Topic: PC002: For Fear of Dragons  (Read 25529 times)
Heradel
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« on: April 07, 2008, 11:06:34 PM »

PC002: For Fear Of Dragons

By Carrie Vaughn
Read by Cunning Minx (of Polyamory Weekly).
Introduction by Summer Brooks.
First appeared in Weird Tales, 2006.

The year came when soldiers rode to Jeanette’s family’s holding. Their captain announced that from the sea to the mountains, Jeanette was the only woman over the age of ten known to be a virgin. Only one possible name could be drawn in the lottery.

Jeanette’s mother sobbed, and the soldiers had to tie her father to keep him from doing violence. They held her three brothers off with crossbows. Her family had urged her time and again to marry someone, anyone, a young whelp, an old widower on his deathbed. They had even begged her to find a likely boy to love her for a night and give her a child. But Jeanette had refused, because she knew that this day would come, that one day she would be chosen, and she knew her destiny.

Before the soldiers led her away, Jeanette held her mother’s face in her hands. “It’s all right. I have a plan, I know what to do.”


Rated PG. Contains sharp teeth, enormous webbed wings, and a hide of glistening scales.


Listen to this week's Pod Castle!
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coyote247
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« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2008, 08:03:25 AM »

I've never liked medieval fantasy, my limits being Conan style sword and sorcery. But this story smacks of fables and faerie tales, which I do like. This and Come Lady Death suggest a milieu of fantasy that has something intelligent, wise, or just fun to say- very appropriate for the fantasy version of EscapePod which does that with science fiction.

Looking forward to future stories.

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Hatton
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« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2008, 09:11:38 AM »

This story says a lot for the ignorance that some religions used to force on it's followers... or in some rare cases still do.  The idea that the sacrifice was to quell the fear of the priests and had nothing to do with the country at all was quite telling in that.

Good story though, and well read.  I like the format that Podcastle has adopted (and can see why it took so long to produce).
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Ramsey
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« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2008, 10:59:40 AM »

That was a fun story. I liked it a lot. Although, I can't help feeling there was something missing there in the middle. That was quite a jump between her escaping and turning up as the witch. I got the fact that she was a resourceful and intelligent little girl, but still. Other than that, I really enjoyed the story. It reminded me of that movie Dragonslayer. And the reading was nice too! Thanks!
« Last Edit: April 08, 2008, 11:35:55 AM by Ramsey » Logged
Ocicat
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« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2008, 01:37:35 PM »

Quite good.  It's message is certainly quite relevant to today's society.  For example "We must sacrifice or we will be over-run by godless communists!  Er, I mean Islamo-fascists!  Only we can save you!"

Very well read, as well.  Though the sound quality on the intro was pretty poor.
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stePH
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Cool story, bro!


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« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2008, 03:10:35 PM »

That was a fun story. I liked it a lot... It reminded me of that movie Dragonslayer.

I had the same thought.  And I loved the story.
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« Reply #6 on: April 08, 2008, 09:15:14 PM »

This story says a lot for the ignorance that some religions used to force on it's followers... or in some rare cases still do.  The idea that the sacrifice was to quell the fear of the priests and had nothing to do with the country at all was quite telling in that.


I really liked this story.  I though the same thing as hatton when the priests were giving her the third degree.    It's better to keep the lemmings ignorant of the truth than to let them question reality and eventually, your power.   

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Listener
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« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2008, 07:22:53 AM »

When the dragon started speaking to her, I knew it was coming.  The coda was great, though.

I felt with this story as I do with a lot of short fantasy -- that there's such a big world and so little space to put it in that I wonder just how much like a world we know this one actually is.  Are dragons the only outlier?  Inquiring minds.  Even a little teaser ("the naiads waved from the riverbank, then splashed into the current") is all I need.

The reading, I think, suffered from the material -- the author said "she" so many times that the reader was required to keep saying it... and I noticed it.  Sometimes you just have to say the character's name again, or at least find another way to refer to her.  (Again, the author's purview, not the reader's.)

Good for a fable, or for light fantasy, but now that we've had two lighter pieces, I think I'm ready for something dark.
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gelee
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« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2008, 08:03:27 AM »

I really didn't care for this one.  Spirited girl fights back against the oppressive, patriarchal society keeping her down.  That's really just been done to death and beyond, and far better in most cases.  The characters were 2D cardboard cut-outs from central casting, including the protagonist.  The exception to this trend, and the bright point of the story, was the dragon itself, though I really don't get why the dragon had to wait for someone to come to it and kill it?  Why not just amble down to the village and look menacing until someone got desperate enough to take a shot at it?  There were other problems, but on the whole, I just didn't like this.
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birdless
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« Reply #9 on: April 09, 2008, 10:16:36 AM »

I liked it just okay. I felt it had a nice flavor and style, except, as Listener mentioned, the abundance of "she"s.

The implication of ritual child molestation was disturbing. I think I would fear that for my daughters more than I would fear the wrath of the dragon.

I'm with Ramsey on the jarring jump from intelligent, resourceful girl to witch who eats children. I'm not necessarily saying it isn't plausible, just... somewhat incomprehensible. I mean, okay, perhaps the essence of the dragon compelled her to do it, but if that's the case, maybe just a few more hints towards that end would have been helpful.

The last line really fell flat for me, as well. It was just weird that it made such a point of mentioning the cloak. Maybe she should have been given the dragon claw or the dagger that was used in slaying the dragon or just something that implied the cycle would continue, since the story seemed to incorporate that theme.

Hmm... I'm failing my personal standards as a critic here. I always like to try to point out something specific that was done right. I don't have time to re-listen to it now, though. I'll try to make a point to do that more in the future. For what it's worth, my apologies to the author for my failure to do that here.
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gelee
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« Reply #10 on: April 09, 2008, 12:46:13 PM »

The girl at the end of the story was not, I think, the 'replacement witch,' and the protagonist did not eat the children.  She cut a deal with the Clergy.  She would take the place of the dragon, giving the community an outside enemy to fear and obey.  They, in turn, would not burn her at the stake, or some such.  She, the dragon slayer, would become the 'witch.'  Instead of eating the girls, she rescued them from their evil patriarchal society and sent them on the the next village, where they would be loved and valued. 
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birdless
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« Reply #11 on: April 09, 2008, 01:13:08 PM »

I think that's one interpretation of it, but I don't think there's enough information in the story to state that as an absolute. That occurred to me, too, that she had been sending all the girls to safety, but it fell apart pretty quickly: the story stated that the consumption of the girls prolonged the witch's life and the witch directed the girl to a particular person's house. In all those years, they would have collected quite a number of girls! And regardless if they went to different people, not one of them would have tried to return to their parents? I personally think it's quite a leap to say she cut a deal with the clergy, though. But like I said, that's open to subjective interpretation. For my part, I'd prefer not to have something as critical as that suggestion left out of the story.
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High 5
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« Reply #12 on: April 09, 2008, 01:53:21 PM »

An amazingly modern story.
I cant help thinking of that other country.
It is also ruled by fear.
It is a country willingly sacrificing young men to an old dragon who is hiding in the mountains.
That old dragon also is never seen, seemingly never actively seeked out.

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Yeah, well..how is your Dutch then eh?
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« Reply #13 on: April 09, 2008, 02:14:20 PM »

Quote
willingly sacrificing young men


and women.
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Darwinist
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« Reply #14 on: April 09, 2008, 02:18:00 PM »

An amazingly modern story.
I cant help thinking of that other country.
It is also ruled by fear.
It is a country willingly sacrificing young men to an old dragon who is hiding in the mountains.
That old dragon also is never seen, seemingly never actively seeked out.

Yeah, but that modern-day old dragon in the mountains is responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocents in NYC and elsewhere, and the backwards-thinking knuckledraggers in that country helping him hide rule with fear and oppression.  I don't buy the analogy.    

Check out the movie "Osama" for an interesting perspective the poor dragon-hiders.
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For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.    -  Carl Sagan
Ramsey
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« Reply #15 on: April 09, 2008, 02:55:39 PM »

The more I think about it, the more the jump from her escape to her being the witch that eats children bothers me. I can see how the clergy can jump to the conclusion that Jeanette must be a witch since a "normal" little girl could never kill a dragon. I liked that bit since it shows how the need to fear something holds them so tight that they project it onto her. And I can see how she could grow up to be someone that seeks to save other children from the same fate as she would have suffered had she not been so uniquely resourceful, but to have her turn into a witch that lives in a cave who eats children in order to prolong her own life strains believability. Perhaps she spread the rumors herself. My understanding of the sacrificed girls was they get sent off elsewhere to live their own lives without fear.
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High 5
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« Reply #16 on: April 09, 2008, 03:25:44 PM »

Yeah, but that modern-day old dragon in the mountains is responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocents in NYC and elsewhere, and the backwards-thinking knuckledraggers in that country helping him hide rule with fear and oppression.  I don't buy the analogy.    

Check out the movie "Osama" for an interesting perspective the poor dragon-hiders.

I have trouble basing an opinion on a movie.
Movies can be made to pro or contra just about any viewpoint that sells best to a wide audience.
That said, I am surprised of the amount of fear that was -and still is- created by the old man in the mountains.
As a real threat, the dragon doesn't rate very high.
Traffic alone kills more people, yet there is no single word that I know of for those deaths that has the same emotional impact as the term "911".

For me it raises the question what is worse, the dragon or the everlasting fear for it.
Good story.

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Yeah, well..how is your Dutch then eh?
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« Reply #17 on: April 09, 2008, 03:33:36 PM »

You know, the first part of this story reminded me in an odd way of the life of Joan of Arc. It's about a girl who feels she has a mission to destroy a dragon and save her country. Wasn't the dragon the symbol of the English forces that Joan fought? And when she succeeds against all odds, it turns out that the conservative holders of power (in the story the dragon-priests) aren't too happy with that at all. So they burn her as a witch (or intend to, in the story).

Also, the main character is called Jeanette (little Joan in French). It all seems like to much of a coincidence.

On the other hand, I might have just forgotten to take my pills this morning....
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birdless
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« Reply #18 on: April 09, 2008, 03:44:51 PM »

An amazingly modern story.
I cant help thinking of that other country.
It is also ruled by fear.
It is a country willingly sacrificing young men to an old dragon who is hiding in the mountains.
That old dragon also is never seen, seemingly never actively seeked out.

Yeah, but that modern-day old dragon in the mountains is responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocents in NYC and elsewhere, and the backwards-thinking knuckledraggers in that country helping him hide rule with fear and oppression.  I don't buy the analogy.   

Check out the movie "Osama" for an interesting perspective the poor dragon-hiders.

I think I'm confused... isn't the dragon in the story responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocents, and couldn't the knuckledraggers be the priests? It's neither here nor there, but it seems like both of your analogies are the same to me.

You know, the first part of this story reminded me in an odd way of the life of Joan of Arc. It's about a girl who feels she has a mission to destroy a dragon and save her country. Wasn't the dragon the symbol of the English forces that Joan fought? And when she succeeds against all odds, it turns out that the conservative holders of power (in the story the dragon-priests) aren't too happy with that at all. So they burn her as a witch (or intend to, in the story).

Also, the main character is called Jeanette (little Joan in French). It all seems like to much of a coincidence.

On the other hand, I might have just forgotten to take my pills this morning....

Intended or not, that's an interesting correlation. Good call!

<edit: added the first section of the post—the question just nagged at me... I can't see what I'm missing there, so I just had to ask>
« Last Edit: April 09, 2008, 03:49:55 PM by birdless » Logged
Darwinist
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« Reply #19 on: April 09, 2008, 04:25:14 PM »

Yeah, but that modern-day old dragon in the mountains is responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocents in NYC and elsewhere, and the backwards-thinking knuckledraggers in that country helping him hide rule with fear and oppression.  I don't buy the analogy.    

Check out the movie "Osama" for an interesting perspective the poor dragon-hiders.

I have trouble basing an opinion on a movie.
Movies can be made to pro or contra just about any viewpoint that sells best to a wide audience.

I don't form opinions based on movies either, I guess in this case more it was more through the media and history channel documentaries. It's no secret that women are second class citizens and there are plenty of other human rights issues there.  Just a quick FYI on the "Osama" movie - it isn't about the infamous dragon, it is about a young girl's run-in with the Taliban.  Filmed in Afganistan by an Afghan director and producer, it won the 2004 Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film.  It's worth watching. 

Again, loved the story.  Especially the way the fear-mongering religious leaders were portrayed.  Can't wait for the next story.
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For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.    -  Carl Sagan
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