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Author Topic: PodCastle Miniature 003: Pahwahke  (Read 9245 times)
Heradel
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« on: May 02, 2008, 08:39:02 AM »

PodCastle Miniature 003: Pahwahke


By Gord Sellar
Read by C. G. Furst.
Introduction by Rachel Swirsky.
First appeared in Fantasy Magazine, 2008 (full text at link).

The smoke in my longhouse swirled thick, thicker still around their strange faces. They sat all around me on brightly-colored mats and frowned, wrinkled their big noses as they tried to speak our language. I offered them bone spoons and cedar plates loaded with salmon and seal oil and nuts and blackberries.

“We’ve brought many gifts,” they said, our words heavy like stones on their tongues. They opened the bags, and set down handfuls of colorful round beads, hard axes, pouches bursting with long-traveled pemmican, braided sweetgrass, and tobacco. They set these things down before me, and then one of them—their chief—stared across the fire at my eldest daughter.

They gave me so much that I couldn’t refuse their unsaid request. Pahwakhe wept and shivered when I offered her to them. Her sisters and mother beat their breastbones and cried, but what could I do? They could have stolen her away, or stolen all of them, if they wanted. I had no choice. So we married her to their young chief. Our women sang mourning songs as young men danced, feathers swirling in firelight as drums pounded in darkness.


Rated PG. Contains spirits, violins, dusty bones, and an old man’s regret.



Why PodCastle miniatures? According to wikipedia, the word miniature is derived from the Latin minium, red lead, and is a picture in an ancient or medieval illuminated manuscript. We thought it was a good way to describe very short stories with a fantasy theme: a word that indicates brievity, manuscripts, and a medieval atmosphere.


Listen to this week's Pod Castle!
« Last Edit: May 02, 2008, 08:42:38 AM by Heradel » Logged

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eytanz
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« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2008, 03:01:24 PM »

Oh, I enjoyed this story. Very much.

But Rachel - please, please, please stop outlining the stories' contexts in the intro. Or at least if you do, can you give a timestamp for me to fastforward to? It's not that I don't want to know what you have to say, but I would like the opportunity to be challanged by the story, rather than being hand-held through it. I want to see if I can pick on the different layers of meaning myself before you kindly point them out.
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deflective
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« Reply #2 on: May 02, 2008, 09:22:02 PM »

i'm a fan of coast salish mythology. even have sisiutl on this laptop's lid.
the story was an interesting take i hadn't heard before.

btw, good job on the direct link to story text. it isn't always needed but hugely handy when it is.

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Nobilis
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« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2008, 09:37:27 AM »

I agree with eyetanz.  Please let us enjoy the stories for themselves, and give us the context at the end.
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Kaa
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« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2008, 02:16:40 AM »

First of all, I'll third what Nobilis and Eytanz had to say about the opening.  It had the effect of telling me what was coming and making the "reveal" a little less intense than it would otherwise have been.

My second constructive criticism is that I really wish you'd tone that background music down. The music is "pretty" and very "fantasy-like," but in the end, it's the words that have to matter.  Egad. At times, it drowned you out completely.

That being said, this is one of the rare shorts I enjoyed and...well, followed.  Flash tends to get overly surreal and I feel like there's going to be fish riding unicycles through the action any minute now.  Although, it's funny: I'm left with the impression that I liked it, but I could not tell you at gunpoint how it ended.  I probably got lost in a reverie, thinking about what I was "supposed" to take away from the "revelation" and forgot to pay attention to the action.  Maybe I'll listen to it again, and this time not follow it up with a Christiana's Shallow Thoughts right after it. Smiley
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Darwinist
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« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2008, 08:11:12 AM »

Cool story, I liked it a lot.  I was wondering if the author had a setting in place or did the story take place in some generic coastal village?
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birdless
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« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2008, 02:57:16 PM »

I'm going to refrain from commenting on this one until I give it another listen... I think I'm missing something.

By Gord Sellar
Why PodCastle miniatures? According to wikipedia, the word miniature is derived from the Latin minium, red lead, and is a picture in an ancient or medieval illuminated manuscript. We thought it was a good way to describe very short stories with a fantasy theme: a word that indicates brievity, manuscripts, and a medieval atmosphere.
Ha! I thought it was a play on the miniatures used in D&D.
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Windup
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« Reply #7 on: May 05, 2008, 05:04:52 PM »


Well, this one just didn't work for me. 

I really thought they were going to go someplace original with the Encouter period, and was very disappointed that the author fell back on a not-particularly-original take on the "can't-resist-opening-the-package" trope, which is at least as old as Homer, and probably even older.  Though I liked some of the period details -- like the Native American conception of what fiddle music sounded like -- it wasn't enough to rescue a rather well-worn plot. 
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« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2008, 08:00:29 AM »

Didn't like it.

Intro:  on PP, Alasdair usually puts his comments after the story.  On EP, Steve puts his before.  But yeah, this one had way too much stuff before the story, to the point where I was thinking "okay, it's 13 minutes because the intro is going to be long?"

Story:  just didn't like it.  It didn't grab me.  It didn't interest me.  I like alternative-to-my-own mythology stories (I guess my own mythology is primarily Jewish/Western, with household gods thrown in) but this one just didn't resonate, even as enjoyable fiction.

Reading:  blah at first, but got better.
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birdless
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Five is right out.


« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2008, 09:29:15 AM »

Yeah, I got less than halfway through on 2nd listen, and realized there wasn't anything I was going to hear that was going to make me like it more—I just plain didn't like this story... But eytanz and Darwinist really liked it, so it makes me feel like I missed something. I know: different strokes for different folks, but it's hard for me to understand why anyone would really like this story. I can see liking it okay, but it's hard for me to understand anything more than a "meh." It just makes me wonder if eytanz and Darwinist picked up on something that I didn't, or if it's simply a matter of different tastes.

Like, for instance, in "The Ant King," I can totally understand how some people would hate that one (I personally liked it) and I can understand how some people would love it (actually, I could say the same for pretty much every other episode on PC, but especially "The Ant King"). On "Pahwahke," though... I just didn't get enough out of it to understand how anyone else could.

Note to eytanz and Darwinist: I respect your posts here a lot (even if I don't agree, they are eloquent and well-constructed), so I don't mean to imply that your tastes are bad... I just wanted to make sure that was clear!! Wink I guess I'm just trying to pick your brains: was this not just an elaborate tale of "curiosity killed the cat"? or some sort of distorted King Midas story (his selfishness ends up costing him the life of someone he holds dear)? Or did it just simply work for you and not for me? Like I said, your appreciation for it makes me feel like there's something about it that I'm missing.
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DKT
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« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2008, 11:41:11 AM »

I loved the idea of this one...the way the native Americans reacted to the white men, the superstition of what they were, the imagery, how Pahwahke was so certain that the baby would come alive if she kept it bundled for 12 days.  I knew something was up when she wouldn't let her dad see the baby, but I didn't see *that* coming.  Very, very creepy and very well written.

I'll also add in saying that I would've just liked to hear this story on its own.  I'm okay with introductions, but the one for this miniature felt more like an academic lecture and I'm not sure it added anything to the story for me.  Instead, it might have actually taken something away, because I would have loved to just take this story on its own, and *maybe* then hear the context Rachel shared. 

But all in all, I think you guys are doing a bang-up job.  Thanks for running these miniatures especially.  I do miss the EP Flash. 
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cuddlebug
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« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2008, 12:18:12 PM »

I've got to agree with those who gave this a *thumbs up*. I liked this story as well. Very well paced and especially well read. Ok, I admit, it is not an entirely original idea, but the story certainly presents it in an original setting, which makes it all the more interesting. I am a fan of Native American mythology/religion and literature, having studied it at uni, and this story recreated that atmosphere very well.

And for what it's worth, I did not mind Rachel's intro too much.

I am very happy with what PC has been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time, giving us a great variety of fantasy stories, which always keeps me guessing what will be next ... and it certainly keeps me jumping up and down, pacing back and forth and all excited every week (*screenshot: hamster on a treadmill* ... for I am not the most patient person and waiting for the next story on PC, ... and EP and PP is pure agony). So thanks to Rachel and the team (and the writers of course) for some excellent entertainment.  Kiss





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Darwinist
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« Reply #12 on: May 06, 2008, 01:16:10 PM »


Note to eytanz and Darwinist: I respect your posts here a lot (even if I don't agree, they are eloquent and well-constructed), so I don't mean to imply that your tastes are bad... I just wanted to make sure that was clear!! Wink I guess I'm just trying to pick your brains: was this not just an elaborate tale of "curiosity killed the cat"? or some sort of distorted King Midas story (his selfishness ends up costing him the life of someone he holds dear)? Or did it just simply work for you and not for me? Like I said, your appreciation for it makes me feel like there's something about it that I'm missing.

I think DKT and cuddlebug hit it on the head for me in their posts today.  I liked how the white man / native American encounters were portrayed, the superstitions, and the creepiness of it.   The way the story was written and read really painted a mental picture for me.  As a rule, I don't usually disect stories too deeply.  I'm not a well read, big literature guy, just a common working man who loves sci-fi and fantasy. 
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For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.    -  Carl Sagan
eytanz
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« Reply #13 on: May 06, 2008, 01:36:46 PM »

Note to eytanz and Darwinist: I respect your posts here a lot (even if I don't agree, they are eloquent and well-constructed), so I don't mean to imply that your tastes are bad... I just wanted to make sure that was clear!! Wink I guess I'm just trying to pick your brains: was this not just an elaborate tale of "curiosity killed the cat"? or some sort of distorted King Midas story (his selfishness ends up costing him the life of someone he holds dear)? Or did it just simply work for you and not for me? Like I said, your appreciation for it makes me feel like there's something about it that I'm missing.

Well, I straight out like fairtale/folklore stories, so that's part of it. But for me, I liked how it had a second layer which involved nothing supernatural - she went away with white people, and came back, crazy, with her dead baby after it died. I'm not saying this is the "correct" reading - far from it - but the fact that it was available made the story a lot richer for it.
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birdless
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« Reply #14 on: May 06, 2008, 01:41:20 PM »


Note to eytanz and Darwinist: I respect your posts here a lot (even if I don't agree, they are eloquent and well-constructed), so I don't mean to imply that your tastes are bad... I just wanted to make sure that was clear!! Wink I guess I'm just trying to pick your brains: was this not just an elaborate tale of "curiosity killed the cat"? or some sort of distorted King Midas story (his selfishness ends up costing him the life of someone he holds dear)? Or did it just simply work for you and not for me? Like I said, your appreciation for it makes me feel like there's something about it that I'm missing.

I think DKT and cuddlebug hit it on the head for me in their posts today.  I liked how the white man / native American encounters were portrayed, the superstitions, and the creepiness of it.   The way the story was written and read really painted a mental picture for me.  As a rule, I don't usually disect stories too deeply.  I'm not a well read, big literature guy, just a common working man who loves sci-fi and fantasy. 
Yeah, I think I'm like you in that I don't usually dissect stories all that deeply, either. Hunh... I guess it's just a simple works-for-you-doesn't-for-me thing. Undecided:shrug: I just found it kinda dull for pretty much exactly the same reasons Listener and Windup stated.

Well, I straight out like fairtale/folklore stories, so that's part of it. But for me, I liked how it had a second layer which involved nothing supernatural - she went away with white people, and came back, crazy, with her dead baby after it died. I'm not saying this is the "correct" reading - far from it - but the fact that it was available made the story a lot richer for it.
Yeah, that's kinda how I "read" it, too, which made me wonder why it was even here... maybe it would have been better suited for PP (I haven't started listening to PP, yet... gotta put that on my to-do list)? So I tried to reposition it in my head where it was literal: the baby died due to the chief's meddling... it really didn't help any.
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Anarkey
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« Reply #15 on: May 06, 2008, 05:29:54 PM »

Welcome to my echo chamber post.

As others have said:  I love the regularity of the flash; thank you PodCastle for being faithful in this regard.  I liked this piece, though as people have pointed out, it didn't really score on the originality scale.  Still, I thought the imagery was vivid, and I liked all the tactile stuff in the story.  I liked the obscuring mechanism of fog and smoke, used as a motif.  I like the exploration of what it means to be a ghost, and to be dead.  I especially liked the protag's interpretation that the living and dead are no different.  That's definitely a non-western view of death, and it was intriguing to me.  I have to admit a slight letdown at the ending, but came out of the story glad I'd heard it, so I'm not going to call foul on that.  I love how consistently PC pimps the forums (wait, maybe no one else said that upthread.  I am first with something?  Woo!).

I know that at this point Rachel's going to feel like it's a battering, because it's hard to read so many people saying the same thing and not feel overwhelmed, but I, too, would prefer story analyses to come AFTER the story, if at all.  This one in particular felt a little strong on didacticism, and I know it's not meant to, but it's a lot of blah blah blah standing between me and my story and it makes me itchy and impatient and not particularly teachable.  For flash especially, I think it's a mistake to have a long introduction.  PP rarely has one at all, and I think that method works (whoa, look at me, praising something PP does even though I've sworn off that podcast for the time being).  I don't know if it's meant to build anticipation or something like that, but if so, it's not functioning that way for me. 
« Last Edit: May 06, 2008, 06:32:27 PM by Anarkey » Logged

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ajames
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« Reply #16 on: May 06, 2008, 07:47:02 PM »

Liked the story for reasons that have already been covered well, and I liked the intro. I actually don't mind hearing a bit of background about the story before I hear the story, but I see why others might want that moved to afterwards.

I love that we've had this much flash already - thanks Podcastle!!!
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sonata
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« Reply #17 on: June 03, 2008, 06:04:24 PM »

I liked it, creepy in a good way.
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Unblinking
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« Reply #18 on: January 11, 2010, 12:54:05 PM »

Didn't love it, didn't hate it.  But yes, too much in the intro.  The unique point of view of people of this time period was very well done and was the strong point of the piece.
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