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Author Topic: PC002: For Fear of Dragons  (Read 24356 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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« 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
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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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« 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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« 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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« 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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« Reply #13 on: April 09, 2008, 02:14:20 PM »

Quote
willingly sacrificing young men


and women.
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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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« 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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« 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
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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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ajames
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« Reply #20 on: April 09, 2008, 08:52:35 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. 

Very similar to my interpretation. I didn't think the clergy and the girl every cut any formal deal, just that she as the 'witch' essentially took the place of the dragon for the society - although she never did eat the girls. Like Birdless, I found it a stretch that none of the girls returned home, but not so much so that the story was ruined for me. And I interpreted the house the girl was sent to as a stop on their way to a new life, not a new home.

I liked a number of things about this story, but found the sexualization of such young girls disturbing. Even so, good follow up story. I'm looking forward to next week.
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birdless
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« Reply #21 on: April 09, 2008, 09:45:41 PM »

Yeah, it's an interesting question: Did she foster the rumors of her "witchiness" to sate the need of an object to fear, but one that wouldn't end the lives of innocents or did the essence of the dragon compel her to take up the dragon's role wholly?

My take on it was the "essence of the dragon" bit, but I can see how an argument would be made for her being a benevolent soul, too... It definitely opens up some interesting questions:
  • She proved herself to be resourceful and intelligent—why not address the need of her people to fear some gruesome entity, rather than feed into it?
  • She defeated a dragon, but did fear prove to powerful a foe to defeat?
  • Would revealing the truth completely upset social and governmental equilibrium?
  • If the truth would wreak havoc in society, might a child's innocence be worth the cost?

Hm.... maybe these are stupid questions... I'm so tired right now I can barely think.
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Ocicat
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« Reply #22 on: April 10, 2008, 01:20:27 AM »

It may not be PC to point this out, but the "sexualization of such young girls" was pretty standard practice though most of medieval history.  When a girl got her first blood, she was a woman, and as such ready to marry.  10 is certainly young for that to happen, so this society was pushing it before that - which I don't think many cultures considered acceptable.  But remember that Juliet was 14, and the idea that those under 18 are children and should be protected is a new invention.   A good idea, sure - but a new one. 
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Rachel Swirsky
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« Reply #23 on: April 10, 2008, 06:05:46 AM »

Quote
It may not be PC to point this out, but the "sexualization of such young girls" was pretty standard practice though most of medieval history.


Most of history in general, neh? I have no idea why that wouldn't be acceptable to say. It's certainly factually accurate.

The only way I can think of that the statement wouldn't be "PC" would be if there was a judgment attached to the end of it, e.g. "the sexualization of such young girls was pretty standard practice through most of medieval history [and therefore creepy 40 year old dudes are totally justified in catcalling and harrassing twelve-year-old Catholic middle school students as they walk home from school.]"

Quote
10 is certainly young for that to happen, so this society was pushing it before that - which I don't think many cultures considered acceptable. 


What I find myself reminded of by the need for "protection" from the dragon is the rumors that were passed in parts of Africa a while ago (are they still? I don't know) indicating that the only way to "cure" onself of AIDS was to sleep with a virgin. This led to the rape of infants. People will do crazy weird things when they're scared.
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Russell Nash
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« Reply #24 on: April 10, 2008, 06:32:35 AM »

Quote
10 is certainly young for that to happen, so this society was pushing it before that - which I don't think many cultures considered acceptable. 


What I find myself reminded of by the need for "protection" from the dragon is the rumors that were passed in parts of Africa a while ago (are they still? I don't know) indicating that the only way to "cure" onself of AIDS was to sleep with a virgin. This led to the rape of infants. People will do crazy weird things when they're scared.

Sex with a virginal girl has been a "cure" for all kinds of sexually transmitted diseases for about as long as there have been sexually transmitted diseases.  It was alive in Europe and North America well into the Victorian age.
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Darwinist
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« Reply #25 on: April 10, 2008, 08:24:14 AM »

It may not be PC to point this out, but the "sexualization of such young girls" was pretty standard practice though most of medieval history.  When a girl got her first blood, she was a woman, and as such ready to marry.  10 is certainly young for that to happen, so this society was pushing it before that - which I don't think many cultures considered acceptable.  But remember that Juliet was 14, and the idea that those under 18 are children and should be protected is a new invention.   A good idea, sure - but a new one. 

Look no further than current events:  how about what was recently discovered going on in that polygamist sect in San Angelo, Texas?  Disturbing to say the least.   
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« Reply #26 on: April 10, 2008, 08:31:18 AM »

When the dragon started speaking to her, I knew it was coming. 

Me too, but that didn't ruin the story for me.  What ruined the story was the fact that there was nothing new in it.  Even the underlying social commentary about how we need to have evil in order to have good, or we all need something to unite against, etc al.

This story belongs in the category of 'mindless background fantasy.'  You can listen to it while doing about any other task and won't miss anything if your attention is diverted from the story.  Even if you miss the detail, you've seen the premise before.

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birdless
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« Reply #27 on: April 10, 2008, 08:45:19 AM »

Quote
10 is certainly young for that to happen, so this society was pushing it before that - which I don't think many cultures considered acceptable. 


What I find myself reminded of by the need for "protection" from the dragon is the rumors that were passed in parts of Africa a while ago (are they still? I don't know) indicating that the only way to "cure" onself of AIDS was to sleep with a virgin. This led to the rape of infants. People will do crazy weird things when they're scared.

Wow! I hadn't heard that, and was even more surprised by Nash's follow-up statement.

On a side note, didn't the shorter life expectancy have something to do with marrying so young? I seem to remember hearing/reading that somewhere, but I don't remember where.
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« Reply #28 on: April 10, 2008, 10:01:41 AM »

Life expectancy in Europe didn't increase appreciably until the last 100 years.  Since "marriageable" age increased between 1000 and 1800 AD, life expectancy might be a factor but it would be a very small one.

I've been getting most of my fantasy from the MZB Sword and Sorceress collections lately, so I've been reading a lot of material more or less identical to this story.  That may be why it didn't really stand out to me as a great piece (although it was better than much of the MZB collection stuff).  The ending, in particular the Underground Railroad for Virgins, was a bit corny and didn't explain why the girls would so easily leave families behind.
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« Reply #29 on: April 10, 2008, 10:30:36 AM »

Was thinking about this story on my drive into work today. Heck, if we're going to draw parallels between this story's premise and real life we don't have to go very far. WMD = dragon. Oh wait, can't find any WMDs. Uh, okay, it's a struggle against global terrorism then.
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« Reply #30 on: April 10, 2008, 01:21:01 PM »

I thought it was a good story. It was quite obviously political but it didn't hammer it in to the point where it became tedious. I don't feel there is too much to discuss about it, I think it pretty much speaks for itself (I was, and still am, absolutely convinced that the "witch" in the end was setting all the girls free; I think all the bad things about her are repeated from her public perception and not meant to be taken as fact).
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« Reply #31 on: April 10, 2008, 01:40:26 PM »

I thought it was a good story. It was quite obviously political but it didn't hammer it in to the point where it became tedious. I don't feel there is too much to discuss about it, I think it pretty much speaks for itself (I was, and still am, absolutely convinced that the "witch" in the end was setting all the girls free; I think all the bad things about her are repeated from her public perception and not meant to be taken as fact).

I didn't find the story political at all in the "this is an allusion to how evil Bush/Clinton/Obama/Bin Laden/the UN is".  If I had to categorize it, I'd say I found it more political like "The Golden Compass" is political -- the politics of religion as it relates to politics, not the politics of government.  Though this mythical land was apparently some sort of theocracy.

However, I didn't think about politics at all when listening.  I'm reading "Time Enough For Love" again, so I'm more thinking in the abstract than the concrete when it comes to political stuff.  Maybe that's contributing to it.

Sometimes a story about priests sacrificing virgins to dragons and witches is just a story about priests sacrificing virgins to dragons and witches.
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« Reply #32 on: April 10, 2008, 02:03:04 PM »

Sometimes a story about priests sacrificing virgins to dragons and witches is just a story about priests sacrificing virgins to dragons and witches.
I agree.

I liked the story, though I think the bit at the end would have been better if what she did with the sacrifices was clearer — say, if it was said the path looked like it was only used once or twice a year.

We can pull out themes to go to other things, but I'm really not sure it's there, or that it makes this story a better story if we take it as an allegory for Iraq. I'm also not sure if the evidence is really there, it seems like the journey there could have included hints if we were meant to take the Dragon for Iraq.
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« Reply #33 on: April 10, 2008, 04:03:18 PM »

It's not an allegory to Iraq in specific - it's about how governments (and churches) use fear.  It would have been just as topical during McCarthy's Red Scare of the 50's as it is today.

And that's the beauty.  And the point.  Slay one dragon, and you create the need for another...
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« Reply #34 on: April 11, 2008, 12:08:49 AM »


And that's the beauty.  And the point.  Slay one dragon, and you create the need for another...


That does seem to be the case.  While that's certainly exploited by people in power -- or those who aspire to be in power -- my pessimistic suspicion is that it goes even deeper than that.  At some level, we may be happier when we are scared and can feel united about something.
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« Reply #35 on: April 11, 2008, 04:46:48 AM »

It's not an allegory to Iraq in specific - it's about how governments (and churches) use fear.  It would have been just as topical during McCarthy's Red Scare of the 50's as it is today.

And that's the beauty.  And the point.  Slay one dragon, and you create the need for another...

This is just so true.  We can walk back through every leader who took hard control of his people and see "the enemy over there" being used.

US: Terrorists, Commies, Nazis
Russia/USSR: Nazis, US/The West
Germany: The enforcers of the treaty of versailles, Jews

It just keeps going and going and …
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« Reply #36 on: April 11, 2008, 11:17:44 AM »

My first thought was that the girls were becoming the dragons, and that each new girl slew the dragon and replaced it.  I'm glad it went somewhere else.

I, too, was thinking of the movie "Dragonslayer" all the way through the story, although that didn't detract from this story at all.

The ending, to me, was a lot like the ending in The Giver (by Lois Lowry): ambiguous enough so that if you read the story in one state of mind, you interpret it as a happy ending, but if you read it in another state of mind, it seems sinister.

All in all, I really liked this story and look forward to the next.
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birdless
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« Reply #37 on: April 11, 2008, 12:55:17 PM »

My first thought was that the girls were becoming the dragons, and that each new girl slew the dragon and replaced it.  I'm glad it went somewhere else.

I think that would have been a cool place for it to have gone.
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stePH
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« Reply #38 on: April 11, 2008, 05:49:36 PM »


And that's the beauty.  And the point.  Slay one dragon, and you create the need for another...


That does seem to be the case.  While that's certainly exploited by people in power -- or those who aspire to be in power -- my pessimistic suspicion is that it goes even deeper than that.  At some level, we may be happier when we are scared and can feel united about something.

Ozymandias in Alan Moore's Watchmen certainly seemed to think so.
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« Reply #39 on: April 11, 2008, 05:53:09 PM »

You know, this story has so far been likened to the life of Joan of Arc (guilty!) and the situation in Iraq.

Independent of the author's intention, the sheer fact that a totally made up story, set in (as far as I can tell) a mostly of Medieval setting and involving well known fabled beasts, conjures up such comparisons, for me proves the best argument for why fantasy will always be a relevant genre and why so many people enjoy it.

All good fantasy stories either refer to a real world situation or are so imaginative and/or well written, that every reader is able to project whatever real world situation he or she finds important into the story.

Anyway, that's my dime. Any prices for the longest grammatically correct sentence in a thread? (PS: if it's not grammatically correct, I have the excuse of not being a native speaker. And anyway, how your Dutch (or French, or German).... Grin
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« Reply #40 on: April 11, 2008, 06:03:25 PM »

It may not be PC to point this out, but the "sexualization of such young girls" was pretty standard practice though most of medieval history.  When a girl got her first blood, she was a woman, and as such ready to marry.  10 is certainly young for that to happen, so this society was pushing it before that - which I don't think many cultures considered acceptable.  But remember that Juliet was 14, and the idea that those under 18 are children and should be protected is a new invention.   A good idea, sure - but a new one. 

I feel I must add a little nuance. Although it is true that during the European Dark Ages (as just one example) girls were wedded as early as 10 or 11, this wasn't a sexual thing (or not entirely, at least). Among nobility, marriage was mainly a way to cement bonds with other nobles and extend power and influence. A noblemans daughter's main funtion was that of a bargaining chip.

Now, I'm not claiming that there weren't many lecherous older nobles that certainly had sexual intentions toward girls who, even measured to an objective standard, weren't ready to deal with sex. However, I believe that intercourse wasn't the main motive. It was power.

And of course, the younger the bride was, the greater the chance of her being a virgin and having a long and fertile life. Nasty. But it's not the same as bedding young girls just because they are young.

And one last thing: records for this period mainly concern the nobility. We really have no clear idea of what age the ' lower classes' considerd to be appropiate (did I spell that right..?). But it might have been a very different story.
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« Reply #41 on: April 11, 2008, 08:11:55 PM »


And that's the beauty.  And the point.  Slay one dragon, and you create the need for another...


That does seem to be the case.  While that's certainly exploited by people in power -- or those who aspire to be in power -- my pessimistic suspicion is that it goes even deeper than that.  At some level, we may be happier when we are scared and can feel united about something.

Ozymandias in Alan Moore's Watchmen certainly seemed to think so.


Hmmm... I think maybe I've been dissed, but even after glancing over the Wikipedia article, I'm not completely sure. (I've never read The Watchmen, so I haven't got a lot of context to work with.)  In any case, I'll clarify by saying that just because I suspect something may be true doesn't mean that I think it's good.  People can react to information in lots of different ways, but ignoring it completely is usually the least-safe route.
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birdless
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« Reply #42 on: April 11, 2008, 10:10:12 PM »

I seriously doubt you would be disappointed if you made time to read the Watchmen! And I don't think that was a diss... that's just pretty much exactly the view that Ozymandias held.

SPOILER WARNING:
In short, Ozymandias perpetrated a highly secret conspiracy to create a catastrophe made to look like an invasion by a creature from another dimension/planet. The intent was to introduce a nefarious, overarching, alien "third-party" for which the whole world could unite against. This catastrophe cost a large number of people in NY (I think) to lose their lives, but Ozymandias thought the ends justified the means. He felt that humans needed something to fear, so he thought that by giving them some tangible outside force to fear, it would create peace and unity on a global scale.

That summary doesn't do it justice...  Undecided

<edit: included "not a diss" comment>
« Last Edit: April 11, 2008, 10:14:59 PM by birdless » Logged
Windup
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« Reply #43 on: April 11, 2008, 10:23:39 PM »


I seriously doubt you would be disappointed if you made time to read the Watchmen!


What with a job, child, spouse, bike, church and other issues -- not to mention a little writing of my own -- I've only got time for one comic, and right now, Freak Angels is it.


And I don't think that was a diss... that's just pretty much exactly the view that Ozymandias held.


That part I got; I just wasn't sure if StePH meant a simple factual comparison, or if the intent was to say, "see where that idea takes you."  (Destination: Super Villany)  My argument is that even if you believe that fearing an "outside" force fills some sort of primordial human psychological need, you can react to that information in lots of different ways.  At least some of which do not involve bloodshed or oppression.
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birdless
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« Reply #44 on: April 11, 2008, 10:58:44 PM »

The perception of whether he was a villain or not was kinda left open to the reader. But as for time, it's a stand alone 12-issue series not related to any other super-hero universe, which you can find in a single TPB volume. Think of it as adding it to your novel reading list. Wink
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« Reply #45 on: April 12, 2008, 12:57:20 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.   

Ah... just goes to show the double-edged nature of analogy.  I thought the "old dragon and the backwards-thinking knuckledraggers responsible for thousands of deaths" sounded like Dick Cheney and Co.

(Of course, I read this after posting in this thread.)
« Last Edit: April 13, 2008, 11:31:19 AM by Tango Alpha Delta » Logged

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« Reply #46 on: April 12, 2008, 01:14:28 PM »



The perception of whether he was a villain or not was kinda left open to the reader. But as for time, it's a stand alone 12-issue series not related to any other super-hero universe, which you can find in a single TPB volume. Think of it as adding it to your novel reading list. Wink

The Watchmen is another classic example of this "one man's villain..." idea.  I doubt we'd have to brainstorm for very long to come up with other stories that build on that theme.  It was all over the place after the Berlin Wall came down - "Now that the Soviets are gone, who will be our 'dragon'?"  (Not in those words, of course...)

The problem, of course, is that there is no shortage of "threats" on the radar at any given time.  What I liked about this story was that the protagonist recognized that if she became "the threat", she could counteract the damage that was being done by the superstitious.
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« Reply #47 on: April 13, 2008, 09:46:57 AM »


And that's the beauty.  And the point.  Slay one dragon, and you create the need for another...


That does seem to be the case.  While that's certainly exploited by people in power -- or those who aspire to be in power -- my pessimistic suspicion is that it goes even deeper than that.  At some level, we may be happier when we are scared and can feel united about something.

Ozymandias in Alan Moore's Watchmen certainly seemed to think so.


Hmmm... I think maybe I've been dissed, but even after glancing over the Wikipedia article, I'm not completely sure. (I've never read The Watchmen, so I haven't got a lot of context to work with.) 

Not dissed.  I'm just pointing out that (trying not to spoil too much) Ozymandias planned to unite humanity in common cause by creating a fear of an outside threat.
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« Reply #48 on: April 13, 2008, 12:42:45 PM »

I agree with Gelee on this one. I was really kind of disappointed in this selection, and I try really hard to enjoy any kind of faerie tale.
Minx did a fine job with the reading, but the writing seemed a raw and I hope the story wasn't chosen solely for its plucky young heroine.
On the most superficial level I enjoyed the overall concept of the piece: Atypical girl sacrificed to dragons and upsets centuries of tradition, much to the consternation of powers that be. If I go much deeper than that the story loses cohesion.
Here we have a very young child who, rather inexplicably, decides to be the first one to buck a system that has been in place for a thousand years and is capable of conceiving and executing a plan. The child makes a lock-pick, then practices with it, on many locks, in different ways, for some period of time. (I dunno about you, but I've tried making my own lock-picks and picking locks, it ain't easy and I have skills and abilities a child doesn't.) So super-child executes the plan that it was 'fated' to do and becomes the dragon in its own right.
So why is a child capable of all this, incapable of seeing the greater picture of maybe the priests won't appreciate it?
Why did the dragon's spirit speak on the first night, but not the second? Why wasn't the girl hungry?
What was the point of the line "Some hunters believe that they gain the powers of the animals they kill..." why not just say "At my death you gained my powers, kick the old priest's ass!"
It all seemed as though it could have used either another draft or a more stringent editor.
My opinion of the story goes down even more if this story was written to be some kind of social critique.

Oddly, one thing I didn't have a problem with was the ending where the girl wanders off to become "The Old Witch". I actually saw that coming a mile away, as a pretty standard trope, and am ok with it because that's how faerie tales go.

I thought it was a good story. It was quite obviously political but it didn't hammer it in to the point where it became tedious. I don't feel there is too much to discuss about it, I think it pretty much speaks for itself (I was, and still am, absolutely convinced that the "witch" in the end was setting all the girls free; I think all the bad things about her are repeated from her public perception and not meant to be taken as fact).

I didn't find the story political at all in the "this is an allusion to how evil Bush/Clinton/Obama/Bin Laden/the UN is".  If I had to categorize it, I'd say I found it more political like "The Golden Compass" is political -- the politics of religion as it relates to politics, not the politics of government.  Though this mythical land was apparently some sort of theocracy.
I think eyetanz meant "political" in the more obscure definition that Rachel Swirsky uses to refer to a person's collected points of view or personal reference point.
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« Reply #49 on: April 13, 2008, 03:39:17 PM »

The child makes a lock-pick, then practices with it, on many locks, in different ways, for some period of time. (I dunno about you, but I've tried making my own lock-picks and picking locks, it ain't easy and I have skills and abilities a child doesn't.)

This tidbit really bothered me in the story. I could sort of accept that she could secret a lock pick and knife, but it was too much when this 10 year-old recounts endless hours of practice - behind her back and in the dark, hanging upside down. It struck a really sour note for me. I didn't think it needed to be explained and it brought me out of the story.

Otherwise, it was fine. A little too straightforward theme-wise and a little abrupt at the end, but not bad.
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Rachel Swirsky
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« Reply #50 on: April 13, 2008, 04:27:13 PM »

Quote
I hope the story wasn't chosen solely for its plucky young heroine.

This was one of Steve's picks from before PodCastle was conceived (as was "Come Lady Death"; we'll get to the first of my selections this week with Hilary Moon Murphy's "Run of the Fiery Horse"), so I can't say for sure, but I strongly doubt that was the case. If nothing else, plucky heroines show up frequently in the slush pile, so if Steve bought every one that came along, you'd be inundated.

UPDATE: "Stone Born" was my selection, for the record.
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Heradel
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« Reply #51 on: April 13, 2008, 10:27:01 PM »

UPDATE: "Stone Born" was my selection, for the record.

But also ours, the forumites.
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Rain
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« Reply #52 on: April 14, 2008, 10:39:48 AM »

This felt like a really generic fantasy story, the subplot about controlling people through fear also fell flat with me and didnt really fit in with the rest of the story
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« Reply #53 on: April 14, 2008, 12:07:19 PM »

Quote
But also ours, the forumites.

Although technically it wasn't voted high enough for us to *have* to buy it. ;-)
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Russell Nash
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« Reply #54 on: April 14, 2008, 01:08:38 PM »

I have the excuse of not being a native speaker. And anyway, how your Dutch (or French, or German).... Grin

We don't care as long as you're easy to understand, and you are.

BTW my German has been upgraded from shitty to crappy, but Wherethewild is basically fluent at a fairly decent level.  I'm ex-pat American.  She's ex-pat Australian.
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sirana
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« Reply #55 on: April 15, 2008, 03:32:01 AM »

Hmm, not really my story.
The characters were cardboard, but I guess that goes with the territory if you tell a classical fairytale.
The telling was solid and the ending worked quite well, but to me the main idea and political message was just to heavily applied.
I like stories that want to convey a certain message, but I don't really enjoy beeing beaten over the head with it.
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DKT
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« Reply #56 on: April 18, 2008, 04:52:46 PM »

This one didn't do as much for me as the other PC stories have, however, there was something about the image at the end -- about being afraid and expecting the worst, and then being given hope instead -- that made me smile. 
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Chey
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« Reply #57 on: April 21, 2008, 10:12:05 AM »

I like Vaughn's Kitty series and was looking forward to one about a dragon.  I was rather disappointed. 

I was pulled out of the story by Minx’s reading.  I felt she was too sensual in the beginning.  She’s narrating a story about a young girl with no desire to have sex, and yet there were parts that were down right lascivious.   

Beyond that the idea of our heroine first being able to live, at such a young age, without parents or a support system was a bit unbelievable.  Then to hear about the witch sending young girls off to, I assumed, a better life made me wonder what type of civilization lived outside of the kingdom and why weren’t they stepping in to stop such practices.  Did they have a dragon or ogre or evil menace they in turn fed the girls to? 

Not to mention, at some point in time, the kingdom is going to run out of virgin girls.  Jeanette was the last virgin of proper age, and she had ample opportunity to make herself ineligible.  Why was this tolerated?  If they needed a girl after her first showing of blood to tempt the witch/dragon, the powers that be are either going to have to have a stable of girls locked up tight under guardianship of women, or they are going to have to start imposing heavy penalties on girls for having sex and getting married.  Either way, not a sustainable enterprise.  Maybe each year they selected a girl at birth and kept her in seclusion.  I don’t know, but the questions made it hard for me to concentrate on the story.

For once I heard a story with too little world building or exposition. 
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« Reply #58 on: April 23, 2008, 11:20:51 PM »

I'm a sucker for stories that center around facing and overcoming fear, or a hero or heroine who stands up to those who try to control through fear.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2008, 11:34:50 PM by Deaf Leper » Logged

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« Reply #59 on: November 12, 2009, 04:27:21 PM »

Thus begins the rise of Unblinking's threadomancy!  Smiley

It was an okay story, but had a lot of problems.  My favorite part was the odd fact that the dragon was old and frail and probably had been for centuries but nobody realizes it.

A few of the things I didn't like:
1.  As others have noted, the fact that she made her own lockpick and somehow practiced for hours in a variety of situations was far-fetched.  Beyond the more obvious questions, where does she get access to locks?  She's a peasant, right?  I'm not sure locks and keys were in common posession.  Maybe I'm wrong.
2.  As Deaf Leper pointed out, there's a serious logistics problem with the way they're running things.  If young girls are encouraged to get knocked up as young as possible, then you're going to run out of virgins sooner rather than later. 
3.  Why would the dragon need to wait at its cave for someone to kill it?  It could just come out of its cave when the sacrifice came or circle around and block the path down to the village when the soldiers do come and they'd be forced to fight it and would quickly kill it.  Or it could attack the town.  And if it wanted to be killed, why did it fight the girl?  The girl even asks the dragon this and didn't really get an answer--what's with that?
4.  The dragon's layer of scales is described as being "like iron", but the girl cuts its toe off with a peasant's knife. 
5.  The priests are too aware of their own deceptions, or perhaps they are just too verbose about it.  Either way, having them freely admit to the girl "Yeah we know the dragon's not really a danger, but we do it so that people will have something to dispel their fear with" is completely out of character for the priest role as described.
6.  Instead of trying to make a real difference, she just sends the girls away from their parents to go live in God knows where.  I find it hard to believe that none of the girls comes back, for one thing.
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