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Author Topic: PC005: The Ant King: A California Fairy Tale  (Read 47225 times)

Heradel

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on: April 29, 2008, 04:18:55 AM
PC005: The Ant King: A California Fairy Tale

By Benjamin Rosenbaum
Read by Stephen Eley.
Introduction by Rachel Swirsky.
First appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction (Prime Books).
Also by the Author: The Ant King: and Other Stories (Paperback)

Sheila split open and the air was filled with gumballs. Yellow gumballs. This was awful for Stan, just awful. He had loved Sheila for a long time, fought for her heart, believed in their love until finally she had come around. They were about to kiss for the first time and then this: yellow gumballs.

Stan went to a group to try to accept that Sheila was gone. It was a group for people whose unrequited love had ended in some kind of surrealist moment. There is a group for everything in California.


Rated PG. Contains surrealism, involuntary cohabitation, strong language and characters with unconventional genders. Also, an extremely large number of geek culture easter eggs.


Listen to this week's Pod Castle!
« Last Edit: April 30, 2008, 03:19:02 AM by Heradel »

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Reply #1 on: April 29, 2008, 03:12:05 PM
This story, oddly, frustrated me.  It wasn't that I couldn't follow it; after a while, I just didn't care.  I found the narrative style too disjointed to develop any real empathy with the characters.  Everything was strange but the setting had enough in common with the real world that each unusual note ended up conflicting with the setting rather than contributing to it.  While the reader is expecting a strange storyscape right from the beginning -when the damsel in distress falls apart into a pile of gum balls- we are never offered any insight into the mechanisms or methods of this madness.  It is the opposite of "show don't tell":  we aren't told enough.  At the same time, as I'll note in a second, we are told, rather than shown, some very key elements.

A surreal story can be excellent but the fundamental need of the reader to connect with someone -anyone- is still there.

I'm afraid I have already forgotten the main character's name in the tale.  The only names I really recall are the very unique "Corpse" and "Vampire" along with the relatively grounded character "Monique".

Perhaps I also balked at what I saw to be an unhappy ending.  True, the protagonist still has -as we see- the things that truly make him happy but those items -numbers and corporate America- aren't things I can identify with loving.

At all.

I more identified with his professed love for the damsel-in-distress.

And here's the odd thing:  about his motivations, we are told, not shown.  The only thing we have shown to us about what drives him is his quest to save his girlfriend ... the one thing for which he fails to reap any reward or validation.  Everything else about what drives him is told to the reader.

This contrasts with the shown-not-told, surreal world elements which are maddeningly dropped into the narrative without elaboration.

Sure, this means I can construct my own interpretation and get a feel for the story on my own terms, but in much the same way that I don't go to the "modern" wing of an art museum very often, I find it lacking.  It is as if the creator of the piece wanted to let the audience decide what it means without realizing that -for any piece of artwork- the audience already does just that.  Adding purposefully vague and surreal elements, without giving justification or grounding for their presence, smacks of pretension or merely adding things for the sake of adding them.

In any event, I did not care for this story despite it's uniqueness.  There just wasn't anything I could latch onto or identify with in any meaningful way.

I look forward to future stories on this podcast, even those that are somewhat experimental or strange.

Yours,
Sylvan (Dave)



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Reply #2 on: April 29, 2008, 03:44:21 PM
You give Ben Rosenbaum's web site as "benrosenbaum.com" in the podcast, but it's actually www.benjaminrosenbaum.com as it's correctly posted on your thread.



Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #3 on: April 29, 2008, 04:55:35 PM
Presented without comment (but with great affection):  http://www.crazygames.com/game/zork [link edited by request]
« Last Edit: March 16, 2020, 09:11:57 AM by astrokath »



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Reply #4 on: April 29, 2008, 06:40:10 PM
I'm undecided about this one. I found the characters and events hard to relate to. Not because of the surreal nature of some of the events; on the contrary - the surreal parts where the ones I most enjoyed. It was when things settled down and became more coherent that they lost momentum for me.



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Reply #5 on: April 29, 2008, 07:52:25 PM
Wow, how weird was that. I am not sure I LIKED it. I certainly laughed out loud at times and cringed at others. But I loved the attention given to details: names (Pringles, Corpse, Vampire), foods, textures, colours, especially colours – there were so many, yellow, grey, black, ochre, mahogany-coloured, pink … that ‘orange sofa’ stands out in my memory, I have to admit, …. oh, and not to forget the ‘Black Roach of Death’, hilarious. I really feel like drawing that one now, or photoshopping something, …. maybe that could be my avatar – a cuddly cockroach, I know one, actually.  :D



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Reply #6 on: April 29, 2008, 07:59:13 PM
Maybe I'm just easy to please, but I enjoyed this story.  It was fun.

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Ocicat

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Reply #7 on: April 29, 2008, 08:05:59 PM
Wow, I've lived there.  Ya, I'm a Californian too, and lived in Silicon Valley during the .com boom (I'm up in Seattle now, where things are a tad more grounded).  And I was laughing out loud at all the references to the old text based computer games (Adventure/Zork) that were all through the second half the text.  So for me, the story was a lot of fun. 

The story was about the unreality of that place and time, and the even more unreal interests of the people there (be it computer games or putting NetBSD across several DNS servers).  Beyond that I'm not sure it was a great story, but it was certainly fun.



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Reply #8 on: April 29, 2008, 09:26:50 PM
Wow, I've lived there.  Ya, I'm a Californian too, and lived in Silicon Valley during the .com boom (I'm up in Seattle now, where things are a tad more grounded).  And I was laughing out loud at all the references to the old text based computer games (Adventure/Zork) that were all through the second half the text.  So for me, the story was a lot of fun. 

The story was about the unreality of that place and time, and the even more unreal interests of the people there (be it computer games or putting NetBSD across several DNS servers).  Beyond that I'm not sure it was a great story, but it was certainly fun.

Perhaps we know each other.  I knew a guy named Shayne who lived in Silicon Valley at that time who also had an Ocylot character he played occasionally.  Ring any bells?

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Reply #9 on: April 29, 2008, 10:57:56 PM
Sorry no.  Also: not a furry.



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Reply #10 on: April 29, 2008, 11:03:46 PM
  I loved this story for a lot of the same reasons other people seemed to dislike it. It was a wonderful blend of dot-com era reality and utter and complete nonsense.

  I liked the main character, he reminded me a lot of Arthur Dent or Richard Mayhew. I enjoyed how he loved the most boring of things, was somewhat clueless, and was both totally incapable of coping with the oddness surrounding him while being totally willing to go along with it.

  I enjoyed the cartoonish quality of the other characters. Their lack of depth actually made this story more fun for me. Monique, Corpse, The Ant King, Pringles, and Vampire had no layers to them at all, they were exactly what they appeared to be. In most stories I would complain about such simplistic characters, but it really worked here.

  Being a gamer, I really enjoyed the video game references. I alwasy hated the mazes that Sierra put into their adventure games to make the last twenty minutes stretch out to an hour unless you had a walkthrough.

  I have enjoyed the more serious stories that have been done so far (some more than others), but I really hope we get more silliness like this every once in a while.

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Reply #11 on: April 30, 2008, 01:03:17 AM
Wow, I've lived there.  Ya, I'm a Californian too, and lived in Silicon Valley during the .com boom (I'm up in Seattle now, where things are a tad more grounded).  And I was laughing out loud at all the references to the old text based computer games (Adventure/Zork) that were all through the second half the text.  So for me, the story was a lot of fun. 

The story was about the unreality of that place and time, and the even more unreal interests of the people there (be it computer games or putting NetBSD across several DNS servers).  Beyond that I'm not sure it was a great story, but it was certainly fun.

I didn't quite live there (Silicon Valley/SF Bay area), but lived in the equally surreal Los Angeles area from 1987 to 1998 (and prior to 1982, grew up in the San Fernando Valley).  And from '87 to about '90, hung on the fringes of the goth club scene in Hollywood, so used to know a few people like Corpse.  :)

Oh, and the bridge (run to the end and jump at the last second) seemed to me more like something out of Dragon's Lair than Zork.

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Reply #12 on: April 30, 2008, 01:36:39 AM
Oh, and the bridge (run to the end and jump at the last second) seemed to me more like something out of Dragon's Lair than Zork.

The bridge wasn't an Adventure Text game reference.  But the rod and the bird puzzle was directly from the game, as was the maze of little passages that all look alike (which you solve by dropping different objects), and several of the text descriptions.  That game was great - it's the grand-daddy of all fantasy games, and was on all the college mainframes in the 70's and early 80's (Zork was a direct descendant that more people have played, since it had PC versions).  The programmer lived in the Bay Area, of course.  My housemate used to game with him.  A lot of the Bay Area subcultures were rather small, and had CEOs and goths alike bumping about in them...

xyzzy



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Reply #13 on: April 30, 2008, 03:00:31 AM
The story was a delightful romp. It doesn't expect too much from the listener. Silliness for the sake of silliness: sometimes smiles are all you need from a story.

My suspension of disbelief ended when Vampire didn't know that you needed the cage to catch the little bird.

The old Adventure game came back to me just 2 weeks ago when someone prompted me to put something obscure as my IM status. I posted "plugh" for a time, but gave up after having to explain it too many times. What kind of geeks do I work with, anyway? I never did do well with Dungeon, but I had a lot of fun hacking the original FORTRAN code.



Heradel

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Reply #14 on: April 30, 2008, 03:14:58 AM
Was it just me or did anyone else keep seeing Richmond Avenal as Vampire?

I did like the beginning, it felt like one of Phillip K. Dick's more trippy stories (I seem to remember one of them being about gumballs incidentally).  It took a little while for the plot threads to cohere, but I enjoyed it while everything was in it's pre-blended state. I'll need to listen to it again to really think about the fairy tale aspect, but I liked it.

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Reply #15 on: April 30, 2008, 01:43:06 PM
Presented without comment (but with great affection): http://thcnet.net/zork/index.php

Awesome! That really takes me back to the old BBS days!



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Reply #16 on: April 30, 2008, 02:01:17 PM
More Weird Please. I loved this story, ever since China Miéville blew my mind with Perdido Street station, i have had an urge to read stories that are content to be interesting and new without defining themselves as fantasy or science fiction and this story did all that, a really fun ride and hopefully the first of many weird Podcastle stories



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Reply #17 on: April 30, 2008, 05:00:32 PM
i enjoy an odd (erm, meaning occasional) story like this. big thumbs up for including it.

the story probably makes more sense once you know what the gumballs represent (like the suitcase in pulp fiction). maybe computer gaming? addictive, dissolves relationships, online companies built around them. it would fit in with the rest of story.

Was it just me or did anyone else keep seeing Richmond Avenal as Vampire?

he isn't all that tech savvy. as much as i pictured anyone, it was sort of a Seth Green in the italian job.



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Reply #18 on: April 30, 2008, 05:36:47 PM
Quote
the story probably makes more sense once you know what the gumballs represent (like the suitcase in pulp fiction)

I don't have a particularly literal reading of this aspect of the story, and certainly my guess is only as good as anyone else's, but I assume they're pomegranate seeds.



Heradel

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Reply #19 on: April 30, 2008, 05:48:57 PM
Quote
the story probably makes more sense once you know what the gumballs represent (like the suitcase in pulp fiction)

I don't have a particularly literal reading of this aspect of the story, and certainly my guess is only as good as anyone else's, but I assume they're pomegranate seeds.

That's what I was thinking too (especially with the "don't look back" part), which I wasn't really expecting because Greek lit/mythos doesn't come up in my head when I think fairy tales.

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Reply #20 on: April 30, 2008, 05:49:46 PM
Was it just me or did anyone else keep seeing Richmond Avenal as Vampire?

he isn't all that tech savvy. as much as i pictured anyone, it was sort of a Seth Green in the italian job.

  I don't have a particular person in mind, but I pictured him looking a lot more brutal than either Avenal or Green. I almost want to say The Undertaker, but not that big or buff.

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Reply #21 on: April 30, 2008, 05:54:24 PM
Quote
the story probably makes more sense once you know what the gumballs represent (like the suitcase in pulp fiction)

I don't have a particularly literal reading of this aspect of the story, and certainly my guess is only as good as anyone else's, but I assume they're pomegranate seeds.

Though, of course, she was given one to eat on her way out of hell.



deflective

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Reply #22 on: April 30, 2008, 06:16:59 PM
I assume they're pomegranate seeds.

well spotted. that must be where the addictive aspect comes from, but both dissolving into gumballs and the online company extends it in a way i don't understand.

from the text:
Quote
Stan tried to remember the gumballs.com business plan. “They have hard shells,” he said. “People, ah, they want challenge... the hardness, the gumminess...”
...
She took a yellow gumball from the dish on the coffee table, popped it in her mouth, and bit down. A crunch, a rush of sweetness, the feeling of her teeth sinking into the gumball’s tough flesh. Sheila smiled and blew a bubble.

probably just a coincidence but it's the exact opposite of pomegranate seeds, soft on the outside crunchy in the middle. the description of gumballs is one reason why i thought of games: a not too hard challenge with immediate reward.

edit: and yellow pellets could be linked to pacman.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2008, 08:45:46 PM by deflective »



stePH

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Reply #23 on: April 30, 2008, 07:22:02 PM
Quote
the story probably makes more sense once you know what the gumballs represent (like the suitcase in pulp fiction)

I don't have a particularly literal reading of this aspect of the story, and certainly my guess is only as good as anyone else's, but I assume they're pomegranate seeds.

I can't see it that way at all ... eating the pomegranate seeds condemned Persephone to stay in the underworld, while having the woman consume a gumball helped Stan get her out.

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Reply #24 on: April 30, 2008, 09:25:51 PM
I. Love. This. Story.

Surrealism is something I have difficulties with - I am not a fan of Steampunk. However, this story hit many big buttons. The original discourse with Vampire made me laugh out loud - Steve's delivery was so dry.

All the conversations in the story seemed so disconnected, but this really struck a chord. At times it felt like two people were having completely different conversations, not really hearing each other, but understanding each other perfectly. A lovely metaphor for how I feel western society actually connects in our fast internet LOLworld.

I am really impressed by a writer who has the vision to write so randomly, yet make it say something without saying anything at all. Sense, much?


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Reply #25 on: April 30, 2008, 09:45:30 PM
Quote
the story probably makes more sense once you know what the gumballs represent (like the suitcase in pulp fiction)

I don't have a particularly literal reading of this aspect of the story, and certainly my guess is only as good as anyone else's, but I assume they're pomegranate seeds.

I can't see it that way at all ... eating the pomegranate seeds condemned Persephone to stay in the underworld, while having the woman consume a gumball helped Stan get her out.

Right, but if she hadn't touched the gumballs while she was staying with the ant king, she wouldn't have turned back when she tried to escape.  It was the craving for the addictive gumballs that trapped her there.

The parallel is there, but not exact.  Which is the kind of parallel that I like best, just personally.  The resonance is there, but it's not just an allegorical, one-thing symbol.  It's flexible, it echoes different ways, depending on where you're standing while you're listening.



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Reply #26 on: April 30, 2008, 09:51:43 PM

That's what I was thinking too (especially with the "don't look back" part), which I wasn't really expecting because Greek lit/mythos doesn't come up in my head when I think fairy tales.

I don't generally either, and am occasionally surprised when I run across clear connections.  Consider "Beauty and the Beast" and "Psyche and Eros," for instance.



stePH

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Reply #27 on: April 30, 2008, 10:53:24 PM
Quote
the story probably makes more sense once you know what the gumballs represent (like the suitcase in pulp fiction)

I don't have a particularly literal reading of this aspect of the story, and certainly my guess is only as good as anyone else's, but I assume they're pomegranate seeds.

I can't see it that way at all ... eating the pomegranate seeds condemned Persephone to stay in the underworld, while having the woman consume a gumball helped Stan get her out.

Right, but if she hadn't touched the gumballs while she was staying with the ant king, she wouldn't have turned back when she tried to escape.  It was the craving for the addictive gumballs that trapped her there.

Good point; I can see that now.

And on a tangent, going back to Rachel's post, I didn't see the suitcase in Pulp Fiction as representing anything, other than being an object for Vincent and Jules to be sent to retrieve.  IOW, nothing more than a plot device.

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Reply #28 on: April 30, 2008, 11:11:30 PM
that was generally accepted until another theory made the rounds.



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Reply #29 on: May 01, 2008, 12:37:52 AM
Quote
the story probably makes more sense once you know what the gumballs represent (like the suitcase in pulp fiction)

I don't have a particularly literal reading of this aspect of the story, and certainly my guess is only as good as anyone else's, but I assume they're pomegranate seeds.

Now, THAT, I wish I'd noticed, before...

Perhaps that was my problem when I first listened to it:  that I didn't catch the reference.  I'm not usually obtuse, but -in this case- I definitely was.

I'm still not fond of it but I certainly don't think it a bad story.  Perhaps it was just a bit difficult for me to wrap my head around.

Yours,
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Reply #30 on: May 01, 2008, 02:04:40 AM
a couple other things i noticed that may shed light on the story as a whole.

AntAgonist became the Ant King. this may be a way of saying that the Ant King is a higher antagonist, sort of a meta-villain placeholder representing antagonists in general. alternatively, the author included a little wordplay because it's fun.

both Corpse & Vampire joined the Ant King. this works well with the underground hades theme, if there are direct parallels to an particular myth i'd be interested to hear it. they are also the two youngest characters. maybe it's a new generation embracing a new way of doing things?



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Reply #31 on: May 01, 2008, 03:30:17 AM
that was generally accepted until another theory made the rounds.

From that same page:

Quote
According to Tarantino A to Zed: The Films of Quentin Tarantino:
Tarantino has admitted that there is no official explanation behind the briefcase's contents, and that it was simply written into the screen play as an intriguing McGuffin.

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Reply #32 on: May 01, 2008, 09:17:10 AM
Quote
the story probably makes more sense once you know what the gumballs represent (like the suitcase in pulp fiction)

I don't have a particularly literal reading of this aspect of the story, and certainly my guess is only as good as anyone else's, but I assume they're pomegranate seeds.

Now, THAT, I wish I'd noticed, before...

Perhaps that was my problem when I first listened to it:  that I didn't catch the reference.  I'm not usually obtuse, but -in this case- I definitely was.

I'm still not fond of it but I certainly don't think it a bad story.  Perhaps it was just a bit difficult for me to wrap my head around.

Yours,
Sylvan (Dave)

I absolutely agree with Sylvan (Dave), but I have to say I LOVE mythology and I didn't notice the reference at all, since I was looking for other references the whole time, it didn't even occur to me to take Greek myth into consideration. It totally makes sense now, Pomegranate seeds, Hades, ... of course, why didn't I think of that...

But not getting it is extremely frustrating.

Whereas I enjoyed the story at first for its surrealism alone, I now have to revise my initial assessment and I am not sure whether I am just sulking over my own 'daftness' or am blaming the story itself for it.

Will have to pay more attention next time. 



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Reply #33 on: May 01, 2008, 12:33:49 PM
I enjoyed a lot of this story -- it was vivid and fun to listen to -- but I didn't really care about any of the characters.  Sheila was a cutout, Stan was un-empathize-with-able, the Ant King was not nearly what I expected, and no one else made any sense.

It was surreal.  I liked the surreal bits quite a lot.  But I don't know that I necessarily enjoyed the story as a story; it felt more like a strange dream.  And may have been (the author's, that is).

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Reply #34 on: May 01, 2008, 04:19:41 PM
Wow.  I totally missed the greek mythology bit. 

Really enjoyed this story, though.  Thanks for picking something this kind of weird. 

I fell for tale when Vampire turned to Stan and said "You poor bastard!"  There was something in the way Steve delivered that line that just made me laugh very loud.  There were some hilarious images and characters.  Stan going to a waterpark with a sword.  The Ant King on the couch chomping dorritos.  Vampire trying to help Stan navigate through the tunnels.  Vampire and Corpse pretty much cracked me up whenever they spoke.  And Steve's reading was great -- I'm not sure how much I would've enjoyed it without Steve's reading. 

I'm gonna have to listen to it again now. 


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Reply #35 on: May 02, 2008, 05:40:36 AM
There were some hilarious images and characters.  Stan going to a waterpark with a sword.  The Ant King on the couch chomping dorritos.  Vampire trying to help Stan navigate through the tunnels.  Vampire and Corpse pretty much cracked me up whenever they spoke.  And Steve's reading was great -- I'm not sure how much I would've enjoyed it without Steve's reading. 

Going to the waterpark with a sword was somehow a beautiful moment. 



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Reply #36 on: May 02, 2008, 08:35:06 AM
Sorry, but this story just did not click for me.
It had a similar style to a Tom Holt type story which I like, but I do not know if it is because of the minimal humour or the set up, but I did not really care about any of the characters or what they were doing.
It was not that I hated it, I just felt a bit meh.


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Reply #37 on: May 02, 2008, 11:18:02 AM
There were some hilarious images and characters.  Stan going to a waterpark with a sword.  The Ant King on the couch chomping dorritos.  Vampire trying to help Stan navigate through the tunnels.  Vampire and Corpse pretty much cracked me up whenever they spoke.  And Steve's reading was great -- I'm not sure how much I would've enjoyed it without Steve's reading. 

Going to the waterpark with a sword was somehow a beautiful moment. 

Maybe because it's something every California boy longs to do?


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Reply #38 on: May 02, 2008, 11:50:07 AM
There were some hilarious images and characters.  Stan going to a waterpark with a sword.  The Ant King on the couch chomping dorritos.  Vampire trying to help Stan navigate through the tunnels.  Vampire and Corpse pretty much cracked me up whenever they spoke.  And Steve's reading was great -- I'm not sure how much I would've enjoyed it without Steve's reading. 

Going to the waterpark with a sword was somehow a beautiful moment. 

Maybe because it's something every California boy longs to do?

  I know I wanted to when I was a kid, but mom said it would rust  :-\

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Reply #39 on: May 02, 2008, 12:49:54 PM
I fell for tale when Vampire turned to Stan and said "You poor bastard!"  There was something in the way Steve delivered that line that just made me laugh very loud.  There were some hilarious images and characters.  Stan going to a waterpark with a sword.  The Ant King on the couch chomping dorritos.  Vampire trying to help Stan navigate through the tunnels.  Vampire and Corpse pretty much cracked me up whenever they spoke. 

My first reaction to this story was, "Ok..."
My second reaction was the same as any other story which I'm required to know *other* stories in order to understand, "Crap!  It's all crap!"
But, my third reaction dovetails nicely with other comments.  The imagery was highly entertaining.  The Doritos were probably the best character by being the central foil in the Ant King's lair, and as mentioned in the quote, "You Poor Bastard" was freaking hilarious.



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Reply #40 on: May 02, 2008, 01:20:56 PM
I REALLY didn't care for this story.  The only positive thing from this story for me was that it got me to register on the forums so I can complain about it.

Two major things I didn't like

When Vick, Shelia, and I can't even remember the main character's name were talking it was So and So said... over and over again.  I felt like I was watching a 3 way tennis match.  So and so said, so and so said, so and so said, so and so said.  I almost had to turn the story off.

Also and I hope I dont offend anyone here but typically I would say fantasy is a nerdy genre, the only finger I am really pointing is back at myself, but who writes a fantasy story where the nerd loses the girl to the jock.  I mean I understand sad endings but not in a story that came across humorous and fun.  I am sure all the Fantasy Jocks named Vick loved the story, but fantasy nerd exoasol, did not.

exoasol



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Reply #41 on: May 02, 2008, 02:45:48 PM
Did anybody else think that having Steve Eley read this one made it feel like it belonged on Escape Pod?  Or was it just me?

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Reply #42 on: May 02, 2008, 02:53:04 PM
Oh bravo, PodCastle!  Well done!

I loved this story.  It doesn't knock my favorite Benjamin Rosenbaum story off its perch on the hill (that would be "Start The Clock") but it met all my criteria for depth and complexity and is another solid example of what I like in his stories.  While I normally whine about lack of character development in stories, I have to admit this is the type of archetypal play I can happily go along with, because there's enough layers and other things going on and references and resonances to make the stiffness in the characters work for me.

I'm afraid to say this without outing myself as a complete lunatic, but I have no association with California or Silicon Valley whatsoever (ok, ok, I played Zork about a billion times as a kid, but that's the ONLY connection, I swear) and yet I didn't find this story weird at all.  Yes, I'm here to throw off the statistics in the CA vs. rest of the world weirdness debate.  Maybe I'm overly at home with surrealism, or maybe my outsider persona lets me roll with time/place dependent scenarios better than most.  I really liked the vividness of the setting, how concrete and specific all the details were.  I also liked that people talked like they were from California in the 90's.

There's one more thing I loved about this story, which is that it worked as fairy tale.  To me, fairy tales are stories about the hopes and fears of a culture.  When they get reinvented (expurgated, changed, enhanced, etc.) it's a specific society's way of saying, 'we've changed, and this is who we are now'.  We're a society that can't talk about sex, frex, but where eating children is just fine to treat thematically.  Or perhaps: we can't talk about how painful transformation and change are, but we can layout an improbable tableaux of romantic love, bc 'romantic love' is what we're all about.  At the rate of change in our world, I expect a remake of this one in about 20 years.  I can't wait.

BTW, as far as the Greek connection goes, I've always thought of the Greek myths/legends/deity tales as a type of fairy tale.  Probably because I was exposed to both in the same impressionable time frame and because the Greek stuff goes a long way toward explaining their society, so they work the way I think fairy tales work.

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Reply #43 on: May 02, 2008, 04:45:51 PM
OK, maybe you have to be from CA to like this story, or at least appreciate CA culture, but this just bored the hell out of me.  The text was well crafted, but the characters were uninteresting, and the story itself was just dull.  Obscure Zork references may make for a good inside joke with part of the audience, but inside jokes make for crappy stories.  Absurdist non-sense with a lot of pointless details thrown in for window dressing to lend the appearance of depth.  Or is that another CA reference?
Pleeeease no more fairy tales for a while?



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Reply #44 on: May 02, 2008, 09:02:26 PM
It was okay when I heard it, but it's growing on me.



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Reply #45 on: May 02, 2008, 09:35:42 PM
It was okay when I heard it, but it's growing on me.

I could totally see that happening.  Kind of like some of the Coen Brothers movies.


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Reply #46 on: May 03, 2008, 07:19:29 AM
You know, I usually like to think I know my way around weird.

Obviously I was wrong. Upon finishing this story, I thought to myself "what the hell?"

The following sentence is false. The previous sentence is true.


ajames

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Reply #47 on: May 03, 2008, 10:51:30 AM
I like video games and I loved the Zork series. I like stories of almost all kinds, and I love the Greek myths.

I like some video games based on stories. But for the most part stories based upon video games have left me cold, and this is no exception.

This story seemed a jumble of elements with no real cohesion or purpose. Some zork here, some orpheus there, a bit of persephone and demeter there, .com craziness strewn throughout, and so on, but to what end?

Clever, I guess, and entertaining for some, but not for me.



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Reply #48 on: May 04, 2008, 04:42:25 PM
Loved it. I am a big fan of funny Surrealism in Fantasy (opposed to not-funny Surrealism which usually bores me). This one was just what a modern fairytale should be.



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Reply #49 on: May 04, 2008, 10:20:33 PM
Yes, I'm here to throw off the statistics in the CA vs. rest of the world weirdness debate. 

Don't worry, I'm as far from California as you can get, but I still Get it.

I loved that the ending wasn't a happy one, despite being set in Hollywood (well, metaphorically speaking). Life is messy.


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Reply #50 on: May 05, 2008, 01:55:31 AM
HAAAAAAAAaaahahahahahahahahahaha!  If anyone has seen Invader Zim (and liked it), i think you'd like this one!  it has the same type of reactions, the surreal, either too calm or too overblown, or just plain wrong reactions.  Its perfect!  I loved it, all of it!  Everyone was so nonchalant about everything, cept Corpse.  :P

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


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Reply #51 on: May 05, 2008, 03:25:46 AM
HAAAAAAAAaaahahahahahahahahahaha!  If anyone has seen Invader Zim (and liked it), i think you'd like this one!  it has the same type of reactions, the surreal, either too calm or too overblown, or just plain wrong reactions.  Its perfect!  I loved it, all of it!  Everyone was so nonchalant about everything, cept Corpse.  :P

I love Invader Zim.  And it's been on my mind quite a bit lately since I've been playing Psychonauts for free on Gametap ... not only is the atmosphere of the whole game very reminiscent of Invader Zim, but the main character Razputin is voiced by Richard Horvitz, who also voiced Zim (though Raz in the game talks more like Dib).

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Reply #52 on: May 05, 2008, 03:43:15 AM
:D yay a fellow fan! id start a whole convo here but i dont want to get off topic :P
and boy could i get off topic!

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


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Reply #53 on: May 05, 2008, 05:12:15 AM
:D yay a fellow fan! id start a whole convo here but i dont want to get off topic :P
and boy could i get off topic!

Start a thread in Gallimaufry ... or maybe even in the general Science Fiction section.  I'll meet you there.  :)

Back on-topic, I didn't find myself thinking of Invader Zim while listening to this story.

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Reply #54 on: May 05, 2008, 05:33:41 PM
I think I'll go with Steve's comments of brain-bending.  I got the mythos and the history and even the cheesy play-on-names... but as others have said, the narrative style was too stilted for me... literally hearing, "he said" and "she said" 50,000 times broke the 4th wall for me.

Something else to comment on, not about just this episode but most, is the intro/outro moments; I think the background music is a touch too loud - I'm listening on good quality headphones and the music distracts me from the person.  Not sure if that effect put me in the wrong mindset from the beginning or not.

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Reply #55 on: May 05, 2008, 08:22:09 PM
When I heard the intro, I groaned, thinking I was going to hate this story. And by all rights, I should have... but I didn't! I just let comprehension, sense and reason go and went with the flow of the narrative and ended up really, really enjoying this story. I didn't make the Persephone connection—like someone else, I thought of Pac Man first, especially with the inclusion of the Adventure references (which made me laugh!). I'm pretty sure there were other references that I missed that would make me like this story even more if I knew what they were, but, regardless, it was just fun. Pure and simple fun.



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Reply #56 on: May 06, 2008, 05:05:12 AM
This story completely cracked me up. Several times.  And I caught less than half the game references. 

I'm an Iowan (more-or-less the anti-California), though I did live in California for a little less than a year in the early 80's. (BTW, Rachel, if you were here all winter, I feel like I should extend some sort of personal apology for the weather.  I hated it, and didn't have the contrast with San Jose.  Unfortunately, it was just regression to the mean after two soft winters in a row.)

Anyway, I thought it was great fun, and really showed off the broad range of modern fantasy. 

Like many others, I thought Steve was the perfect narrator for this story.

Keep'em coming...



« Last Edit: May 13, 2008, 04:21:59 AM by Windup »

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Reply #57 on: May 07, 2008, 12:29:49 AM
I was really looking forward to this story. I moved away from CA a couple of years ago and I miss it terribly, additionally, I love weird postomderny stuff, but I didn't like this tale. The only thing I really enjoyed was the name "Corpse." It felt like it was rushed and pointless. The weirdness was not nearly weird enough, but rather two dimensional. I did not feel like the author captured anything new or special about California. Maybe spending a large chunk of my life in the state does not help, because the imagery seemed old and trite, even boring, and superficial. I really was hoping for a more substantive and intelligent story. It felt like I was reading bad fan fiction.

That said, the whole "underworld" theme was fascinating, especially because this morning I was thanking the world for the return of persephone. While the reference to the myth might have been intentional, it did not go far enough for my taste.



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Reply #58 on: May 08, 2008, 07:03:27 PM
HAAAAAAAAaaahahahahahahahahahaha!  If anyone has seen Invader Zim (and liked it), i think you'd like this one!  it has the same type of reactions, the surreal, either too calm or too overblown, or just plain wrong reactions.  Its perfect!  I loved it, all of it!  Everyone was so nonchalant about everything, cept Corpse.  :P

I love Invader Zim.  And it's been on my mind quite a bit lately since I've been playing Psychonauts for free on Gametap ... not only is the atmosphere of the whole game very reminiscent of Invader Zim, but the main character Razputin is voiced by Richard Horvitz, who also voiced Zim (though Raz in the game talks more like Dib).

I wondered why I loved this story.  I live in Glasgow Scotland... its not exactly LA.  but then I love Zim, and Psychonauts. (if you don't know the game watch the review by  Yahzee at http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/editorials/zeropunctuation/1368-Zero-Punctuation-Psychonauts )
I loved the insanity of all of this; and yes... its all very zim.  I agree. 

My mind didn't bend at all at the speed that the world moved at, how fortunes changed or LA being as fake as games.  Thats the main thing this game made me think about.  That LA is as fake as a computer game; it's brilliantly unreal.  I loved the getting of a magical sword on ebay.  This story said that hollywood stories were all... erm... stories.
>_>Let me try that again. 

This work of fiction said that all tales of sucess in hollywood are movies in their own right. Fantastical, brilliant, And made up.

Good stuff.

Though this story could be set in the middle of the escape pod ep ''Save Me Plz'' (EP124) and make sense without it having to be LA....

But hey...

---
Mike---Glasgow.  Scotland.-->


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Reply #59 on: May 09, 2008, 02:07:34 AM
I have been listening to Escape Pod for about 6 months and PodCastle since it started.  I frequented the old BBS scene, played Zork, and spent hours playing Legend of the Red Dragon.  I was one of the earliest users of Mozilla browsers on the East Coast, back when only Universities really had access to the net.  Plus, I play forumwarz which draws heavily on these types of themes.  For all of these reasons, I should have loved a story that brought back these memories.

However, this story was by far the worst I have heard.  Steve narrated great, and I liked the intro, but Stan was a completely unlikeable character.  He was a disgrace to nerds everywhere because he let stuff happen to him.  He had no particular ambition or marketable skills.  Sheila was a gold digger waiting for her chance and clearly had no feelings for Stan.  What kind of "Fairy tale" is that?  The epilogue was needed, though.  It was rather like getting to hear the jury pass a unanimous verdict of guilty for all characters involved in the story, who had committed fictional homicide against the characters that could have been.  Justice in a way...

That being said, characters like these people are celebrities in reality TV these days.  Its no wonder I hate reality TV so much.






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Reply #60 on: May 09, 2008, 02:11:59 AM
There were some hilarious images and characters.  Stan going to a waterpark with a sword.  The Ant King on the couch chomping dorritos.  Vampire trying to help Stan navigate through the tunnels.  Vampire and Corpse pretty much cracked me up whenever they spoke.  And Steve's reading was great -- I'm not sure how much I would've enjoyed it without Steve's reading.

My favorite image in the story is when Corpse, the androgynous anti-social anarchist, is waiting patiently for the light to turn green on the ride. 

Reminds me of my all-time favorite newspaper headline (from the Minneapolis Star&Tribune, circa 1985):  "Anarchists Organize for March"

Second to the praise for Steve's reading - another fine performance.

rkg  101010


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Reply #61 on: May 13, 2008, 12:07:38 AM
Obviously I was wrong. Upon finishing this story, I thought to myself "what the hell?"

It took you that long?  I think I started thinking that about 10 minutes in.  Never got over it.

Maybe not quite geeky enough for this one.



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Reply #62 on: May 13, 2008, 01:41:47 PM
I could not get into this one at all.  The first escape artists podcast I've turned off due to story and not technical issues.  Which suprised the hell out of me.  I'm a huge fantasy fan, my bookshelves will prove it.  Perhaps it was just the type of story.  This reminded me of Charles de Lint's urban/fantasy mix, or Gaiman's Anastzi Boys.  Neither of which I enjoy. (Though I loved Gaiman's other things)

It was just too confusing.  Overly, uneccessarily, confusing.

Podcastle is sitting at 2 good ones so far for me. (Come Lady Death and Run of the Firey Horse)



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Reply #63 on: May 14, 2008, 03:31:00 AM
I just feel like, this early in the Podcast, there should be a little more "fantasy" in the fantasy. Not that every story needs to be wizards, warriors amd white horses, but I guess I was just expecting a bit more of those kind of stories out of the gate. But I'm really not trying to define or limit the genre. Really, I'm not!
This story certainly qualified as fantasy, as opposed to any notion of reality. It held my interest, but I was left having to admit that I had absolutely no idea what had happened, or if anything was supposed to have actually happened.
And even though Rachel Swirsky said said she didn't think the story was that weird in her intro, I'm inclined to respectfully call b.s. Not that weird? I wouldn't be shocked if David Cronenberg was working on the screenplay as we speak.

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Reply #64 on: May 22, 2008, 11:37:33 AM
Oo, I loved this story! Great references to the 90s corporate bussiness, the games, even Greek mythology [as I read on this forum..] in a wonderful surreal world [I'm always a sucker for that].
The story is full of nicely put puns and jokes and even though I must have missed half of the references, it was great fun listening to it, especially since it was so very very well read by Steve Eley!

It is never too late to be what you might have been.


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Reply #65 on: May 25, 2008, 10:30:57 PM
I thought this was just superb. I thought the storyline was great, the oddball stuff was great, it was all great. I like it when really weird stuff happens but it just gets treated as normal. More please.



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Reply #66 on: June 03, 2008, 11:03:44 PM
I was very pleasantly surprised with this one!

I originally wasn't very inspired to listen to this story since the summary really didn't interest me--it seemed to surreal and abstract to really catch and hold my attention. But when I finally did get around to listening to it, I enjoyed "The Ant King" so much!

It was funny and heartfelt and so unexpected.

Great choice, PodCastle. One of the best so far.



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Reply #67 on: June 16, 2008, 10:35:09 PM
It made me laugh, a lot. In public.
And it made me want a gum ball...
That marks a good story.

...you've got three metric seconds.


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Reply #68 on: June 16, 2008, 10:50:19 PM
get more gumballs from this american life 357: the truth will out. the podcasts are only available for week, so grab it quick if it's still up.

it has a solid urban fantasy story near the beginning, had me thinking of this story.



Cerebrilith

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Reply #69 on: June 17, 2008, 12:38:42 AM
That story from This American Life was much better then this one, in my humble opinion anyway :-)



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Reply #70 on: June 18, 2008, 10:51:07 PM
Heh.  When I was listening to that story This American Life, I was thinking that it would have made a great Podcastle episode.  I didn't pick up on the gumball connection though, at least not consciously.



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Reply #71 on: June 21, 2008, 11:23:11 PM
I thought this was a terrific story.  Frankly, I was really hesitant to even try PodCastle because I was afraid that all of the stories would be medieval dungeons, dragons and wizards fantasy.  I was delighted that the first story I listened to was none of these.  It was funny and fantastic.  I'm going to be seeking out more of this author's work.

For the record, I love Charles de Lint and I like the Neil Gaiman works I've read.  I hated "The Golden Compass" and got totally bored and stopped reading "The Lord of the Rings" a couple of chapters into the second book.  "The Ant King" kind of reminds me (sort-of, not-really) of "Magic Kingdom for Sale: Sold" by Terry Brooks. 



Schreiber

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Reply #72 on: July 19, 2008, 07:05:33 AM
Quote
Frankly, I was really hesitant to even try PodCastle because I was afraid that all of the stories would be medieval dungeons, dragons and wizards fantasy.

I'll admit that I felt the same way about Podcastle when I first heard Escape Artists was branching out again.  Not that there's anything wrong with dungeons, wizards, and dragons.  I just had a sneaking suspicion that PodCastle would be more limited in scope, less bold when it came to breaking convention, and just generally less topical than EscapePod or Pseudopod.  I was very wrong.

I'll be honest...I love EscapePod and Pseudopod.  I listen to them both every week.  Stephen Eley, Ben Philips and Alisdaire Stuart do fantastic work.  But I feel that right now, over these last couple months, this podcast has been the strongest of the three.  Maybe that's just because it's newer and still feels it has something to prove.  Maybe my tastes run in different directions than I thought they did.  Or maybe -and I think this last one is probably the case- the genre of "fantasy" is broader and more inclusive than science fiction or horror.  EscapePod used to tackle everything.  Then Pseudopod started tackling everything that was too dark for EscapePod.  Now PodCastle seems to be tackling everything that doesn't have to do with serial killers or aliens, and that's a pretty broad range of topics.

Anyway, all that to say I'm enjoying PodCastle and look forward to more stories.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2008, 07:08:22 AM by Schreiber »



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Reply #73 on: July 20, 2008, 09:14:58 PM
I was really hesitant to even try PodCastle because I was afraid that all of the stories would be medieval dungeons, dragons and wizards fantasy.

That's so true. I was thinking "great, I can't even keep up with EP, now I need to subscribe to one about elves if I want to hear another Squonk the Dragon story?". How wrong I was. :)
The Ant King is one of my two favourite stories so far.

P.S.: Still waiting for that Squonk the Dragon story...



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Reply #74 on: July 21, 2008, 03:02:04 PM
Apparently, Squonk will be grandfathered in on EscapePod.

Science means that not all dreams can come true


Schreiber

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Reply #75 on: July 21, 2008, 11:10:25 PM
It's where Squonk belongs.  It's his home.



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Reply #76 on: January 07, 2010, 09:29:48 PM
This one started off great with the gumball transmutation, and I was really looking forward to seeing his confrontation with the Ant King.  But then for a looong time after that it described his dealing with the company, how he was getting edged out of every responsibility and didn't seem in the slightest bit concerned about it.  I found it really hard to keep interested in that, not only because he was just blindly accepting whatever fate the others relegated him to, but he was not questing to rescue his wife. 

Unfortunately I think I missed most or all of the gamer jokes by turning it off early.  I was a little younger than their demographic at the time that most of the text adventures came out, but I saw my older brother playing them, and I'm a big enthusiast for retro gaming.  Too many recent video game releases are all just flash with no substance, and it's fun to play some of the old-school games when there was no flashy graphics to bring the consumers in by the truckload.  At the moment I'm trying to work my way through Bureaucracy (a text game written by Douglas Adams) and also Eric the Unready (a graphical adventure of the early 90s). 




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Reply #77 on: August 03, 2010, 02:49:08 PM
I was a little surprised at the love-it-or-hate-it feedback here.  I personally loved this story, and it remains one of my favorite Podcastles.  I've never worked in LA, but at where I used to live (Arizona), we get a lot of the Westcoast-Corporate cultural influence.  It's not quite so exaggerated as the story portrays, but it's not too far off the mark.  I've worked with a few people that were eerily similar to Vampire and Corpse.  The only character that seemed to be unrealistic was the Monique character.  The sprinkling of gamer reference was hilarious as well.

I also appreciated the alliteration of the Greek Myths, particular that of Orpheus descending into Hades (with a roach for a Cerebus).



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Reply #78 on: October 04, 2010, 06:54:39 PM
OK--Benjamin Rosenbaum is definitely not for the casual (or causal--possibly not even coastal) reader nor for the faint (or feint) of heart (or hart). This story runs on pure loopiness for awhile put really pays off in the end. You'll need to suspend belief, disbelief, unbelief--hell, suspension just leaves 'em all out on the street and that's dangerous...better to just send all of those unproven bastards to detention.

As with Rosenbaum's ""Biographical Notes to ‘A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with Air-Planes’, by Benjamin Rosenbaum" by Benjamin Rosenbaum" either you're gonna love the meta stuff or its going to make the back of your head hurt in that special way that comes just before brains burst out.

If this sort of thing is your cuppa brains, though, may I strongly recommend reading "Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology" details here: http://www.librarything.com/work/930149

NateZ