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Author Topic: PC006: Hotel Astarte  (Read 18464 times)
Heradel
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« on: May 06, 2008, 12:01:00 AM »

PC006: Hotel Astarte

By M. K. Hobson
Read by Paul Tevis of (Have Games, Will Travel).
Introduction by Ann Leckie.
First appeared in Realms of Fantasy (full text online here).

There is a loud knock on the door of the farmhouse.

The Queen of the Midwest glances at her husband; strangers at night may bode ill, foreshadowing assassination or traveling salesmen.

“Who could it be?”

The King lifts his rifle from above the fireplace; the look on his face indicates that the visit is expected, but is no more desired for being so.

The Queen tucks away her yarnwork and goes to sit close to her son. Her son does not stir, but continues to stare out the window.

“A dark man,” he murmurs to his mother, without looking at her. “A dark man from the east. Walking through the corn. He has been summoned.”

The Queen’s breath seizes. She cannot swallow. Her hands become ice. The palace shudders with her anxious dread; muffin tins and cream separators and sheaf binding machines rattle.

But when the King opens the door, there is no one there, only the miles and miles of fields all around.

“Come in,” the King speaks to the darkness, gruffly. “Come in, damn it. I have been waiting for you.”


Rated PG. Contains hotel rooms where lovers tryst and spells are cast.



Listen to this week's Pod Castle!
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stePH
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Cool story, bro!


« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2008, 09:53:59 AM »

I'm only 12 minutes into the episode (about 7 minutes into the story proper I think). But I note that this one also has exposition in the introduction.  (For the record, this doesn't bother me like it does some others.)
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Kaa
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« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2008, 11:56:39 AM »

The opening exposition didn't bother me in this one like it did the last one. I think because it didn't try to tell me what to think of the upcoming story.  Or at least I didn't take it that way. *shrug*

I was fairly sure I wasn't going to like this story, but the longer I listened the more I liked it.  By the time it was done, I liked it a lot.  Alternate-reality stories like this one generally don't do much for me, but for some reason, this one clicked with me.  Possibly because it didn't try to explain anything, but just leapt right into the story, and let the "reader" glean what we could from the context.  Those are the best, from my point of view.

I was a tad disappointed that the Prince just had to exposit the bit about not needing one heart, let alone two.  I had already gone there and was appreciating the dark humor...and then had it "rammed down my throat."

But overall, a good story, well told.  But...did he say "reading French movies" at around time 27:29?  I could swear I heard it that way....

As an aside, I also appreciated that I had to look up several words/terms.  I like that in a story. Smiley

« Last Edit: May 06, 2008, 11:58:41 AM by Kaa » Logged

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eytanz
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« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2008, 12:23:19 PM »

I'm only 12 minutes into the episode (about 7 minutes into the story proper I think). But I note that this one also has exposition in the introduction.  (For the record, this doesn't bother me like it does some others.)

It didn't bother me nearly as much this time, for the simple reason that the exposition was really background data that was only subtly related to the story, as opposed to "Here is the subtext of the story. Enjoy!" like the miniature had.

As for the story itself - loved it very, very much. It's vying to the spot held in my heart by "Come lady Death" as my favorite PC story (I don't think it'll end up winning, but it's a good contender).

I do have a weak spot, developed over the past five years of living there, for the mythization (mythicization?) of America. Stories such as American Gods, and Last Call really appeal to me, and this is a fine entry into that genre. Probably the best I've read/heard that fits into a short story form as opposed to an epic novel.
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cuddlebug
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« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2008, 03:09:50 PM »

Wow, this story was like a cauldron filled with all the good stuff, there was romance and sensuality, magic, revenge, flashbacks, a father-son-reunion, disgusting self-mutilation and it was a 'coming of age story' at the same time. That is quite an accomplishment.

Especially loved the ‘heart of the west’ part.

I have to say, just like Kaa I thought at first I wasn’t going to like this story, the characterization took some time to develop and at the beginning I had a hard time sympathizing with anyone, which is rather unusual for me since I tend to identify easily with fictional characters (hahaha). But they, especially the dead warlock, grew on me throughout the reading.

And I wanted to add, I really enjoy the mythification of America as well (maybe a bit far-fetched, but a few examples of Homer in an American context come to mind), so this is maybe a little wink towards the writers, please keep them coming. Stories of Kings, Princes and maybe witches, dragons and fairies/Faerie in America (… or anywhere really, am not too picky Wink) are always welcome on my iPod.
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stePH
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Cool story, bro!


« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2008, 03:25:51 PM »

I do have a weak spot, developed over the past five years of living there, for the mythization (mythicization?) of America. Stories such as American Gods, and Last Call really appeal to me, and this is a fine entry into that genre. Probably the best I've read/heard that fits into a short story form as opposed to an epic novel.

ok, finished this one at lunchtime.  Loved it.  I don't know if it's the 'mythization of America' that I get off on, so much as my preference for a story with fantastical elements in the mundane world ("low fantasy") over a fantasy story set in a wholly imaginary world ("high fantasy").  But I loved American Gods and wonder what is this Last Call to which you refer.

And I never thought I'd post anything worth quoting in the feedback outro  Grin
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eytanz
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« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2008, 03:32:27 PM »

But I loved American Gods and wonder what is this Last Call to which you refer.

Last call: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0380715570/escapepod-20

It's the first book in a trilogy, but it's self-contained. Its sequels are not as good, but still worth reading.

Moderators - please adjust Amazon link.

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« Last Edit: May 06, 2008, 04:02:38 PM by Heradel » Logged
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« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2008, 03:40:53 PM »

And I wanted to add, I really enjoy the mythification of America as well (maybe a bit far-fetched, but a few examples of Homer in an American context come to mind), so this is maybe a little wink towards the writers, please keep them coming. Stories of Kings, Princes and maybe witches, dragons and fairies/Faerie in America (… or anywhere really, am not too picky Wink) are always welcome on my iPod.


I should clarify, perhaps, that while I enjoy fantasy set in modern settings and would probably enjoy all of the above, that was not exactly what I meant - I was specifically referring to stories, such as this one and the other two I named, that contain a retelling of (elements of) American history in mythological (not just magical) terms. And a key feature of these stories is that they could all actually be true, in a way, in parallel to actual history.
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Ocicat
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« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2008, 04:01:43 PM »

I really liked this one when it started out, but my attention seemed to wander as it went along.  The premise was great, and the world-building had my interest, but once everything was set up (about the time the price took out his two hearts) it just didn't grab me anymore.  The narrative style had gotten old, for one thing.  But mostly I could see where things were going, and couldn't bring myself to care anymore.

So, a solid "Eh" here, and interestingly the exact opposite of other listener's responses to the story.
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cuddlebug
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« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2008, 04:11:17 PM »

And I wanted to add, I really enjoy the mythification of America as well (maybe a bit far-fetched, but a few examples of Homer in an American context come to mind), so this is maybe a little wink towards the writers, please keep them coming. Stories of Kings, Princes and maybe witches, dragons and fairies/Faerie in America (… or anywhere really, am not too picky Wink) are always welcome on my iPod.


I should clarify, perhaps, that while I enjoy fantasy set in modern settings and would probably enjoy all of the above, that was not exactly what I meant - I was specifically referring to stories, such as this one and the other two I named, that contain a retelling of (elements of) American history in mythological (not just magical) terms. And a key feature of these stories is that they could all actually be true, in a way, in parallel to actual history.

Yes, and those were included, sorry if I didn't make that clear. I really enjoyed that aspect in the story and giving the dates helped with the anticipation of what was going to happen.

And I am sure we will have a retelling of 9/11 in mythological terms any day now. (... for all I know there might be one already?)
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stePH
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Cool story, bro!


« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2008, 05:16:44 PM »

And I am sure we will have a retelling of 9/11 in mythological terms any day now. (... for all I know there might be one already?)

J.C. Hutchins' 7th Son: Descent (book 1) contains (as background exposition) an oilman's conspiracy that led to the 9/11 attacks, I seem to recall.
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« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2008, 05:36:56 PM »

And I am sure we will have a retelling of 9/11 in mythological terms any day now. (... for all I know there might be one already?)

I would say that is impossible, at least not in the way I was suggesting. Oh, it's certainly possible to give a supernatural explanation of 9/11, or one using mythological tropes, but it's way too recent past to actually be mythology. I have vivid recollection of hearing about the first plane crash while driving home after class, and watching CNN in horror for a few hours, and worrying about a friend who worked in downtown New York. I remember following the ever changing death counts on the news. My children, or their children, could form myths about it. For me it's just a part of my life, and even if someone manages to demonstrate that the twin towers were actually taken down by Zeus, that won't make it mythology.

Hotel Astarte works because the Great Depression is known to us - at least those of us who are not actually historians - mostly as a myth. We only hear it from secondary, teritary, and further removed sources. We have fragments of knowledge about it that don't combine together into a coherent picture, because there are too many gaps and probably too many contradictory accounts feeding into our knowledge. We can't tell apart what really happened from scenes from movies such as Grapes of Wrath. And most importantly, we grew up on these myths. They may be based on reality, but for all practical reasons they are just cultural background the same way the Trojan war was. I'm generalizing over myself here, but I'm sure that's true for most people here, at least of my generation and younger.

9/11, the (first) Gulf War - even the second World War, those are too recent history to be myth, because either my life was touched directly by them, or I know people who were. The Great Depression falls just beyond the cusp (it's not just timeline, by the way, it's also geography - Last Call works for me because I've never been to Las Vegas, and everyone I know who had only went for very short visits and didn't look beyond the surface).

Anyway, I'm not sure if this post has gone off-topic or not, but it's probably time to end it regardless.
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birdless
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« Reply #12 on: May 07, 2008, 10:30:23 AM »

In the first few minutes, I thought this was going to be some thinly veiled rant against technology. I was thinking, "Oh... great... I'm gonna hate this." But then, I realized it was just a mytholization (another option, eytanz! Cheesy) of the events in the early twentieth century, which I thought was pretty cool! So I ended up liking it. I thought it was very well written, even when I thought I didn't like it.
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« Reply #13 on: May 07, 2008, 11:31:50 AM »

This one... um... I'm kind of in the middle.

It was hard for me to get into it, even though I understood all of it.  The mythological retelling of the end of the Roaring Twenties was good stuff.  I want to make an America-as-Oz reference (several distinct kingdoms in a country) but I didn't see an Emerald City per se.  The magic was cool.  The reading was pretty good, though some of the voices (especially the warlock's) were overplayed, and toward the end his voice started to get too boring.

The writing bothered me a little in that Jacob Philadelphia was constantly referred to as "the dead warlock", almost to excess.  Started to drive me crazy and draw me out of the story a bit.

I usually like stories like this a lot more, so it's odd to me that I'm not full of more glowing praise, but I guess it just didn't resonate.  Good idea, good execution, good reading, but somehow only "eh" in the end.
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« Reply #14 on: May 07, 2008, 03:17:35 PM »

Yeah, the "Dead Warlock" repetition was difficult to miss. I thought the author was trying to make a point with it, though I was never really clear on what it was. And I expected to be in the middle on this one, but I think reading the other posts and just letting the story digest a little before I posted pushed me more towards the "like" end.

One thing about the dead warlock: was he supposed to represent something specific? Like, at first, I thought Columbia represented freedom, Licorice represented technology and the East represented upper-echelon businessmen who sacrifice all for another dollar. Obviously as the story went on, I realized that wasn't the case, or at least not so simply put... but out of all of it, Licorice/Dead Warlock/Jacob Philadelphia was the most puzzling character to me. Anyone care to give their take?
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ajames
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« Reply #15 on: May 07, 2008, 07:37:39 PM »

First off, I loved this story.

As I was reflecting on it, I thought of what Virgil's Aeneid did for Romans. This story doesn't rise to that level for a variety of reasons, most of which aren't in the author's control, but I was impressed. This is a myth I'll be sharing with my children when they get a little older.

If I have to criticize, I'd say once in awhile the prose seemed a bit overworked (though I loved many of the descriptions and similes), and the ending, IMO, didn't quite live up to the promise of the beginning and heart of the story. But these are quibbles.

Wonderful story.
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ajames
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« Reply #16 on: May 08, 2008, 06:02:39 AM »

One thing about the dead warlock: was he supposed to represent something specific? Like, at first, I thought Columbia represented freedom, Licorice represented technology and the East represented upper-echelon businessmen who sacrifice all for another dollar. Obviously as the story went on, I realized that wasn't the case, or at least not so simply put... but out of all of it, Licorice/Dead Warlock/Jacob Philadelphia was the most puzzling character to me. Anyone care to give their take?

I didn't really try to analyze the symbolism in this one too deeply, but enjoyed letting the different possibilities come and go. That said, some things which stuck out:

Columbia: obvious references to an earth/fertility goddess, and an agricultural way of life tied to the seasons and the vicissitudes of nature. Simple and "pure", and idealized. Yet as we find out, Columbia is more complex and less pure than she seems at first.

Jacob Philadelphia: a Jewish man who sold his soul to the devil because the devil seemed more interested in it - in other words, Jacob did not have an appreciation for the good things in life. Interestingly, he takes for his last name the name of a city, the city of brotherly love founded by Quakers.

Licorice: the name given to Jacob by Columbia. Maybe she sees the good in him and awakens it (and this is "licorice"), or maybe she is simply taken in by his ruses, yet her own goodness and innocence call forth the goodness latent in all of God's creatures, or maybe yet another interpretation is correct. Yet where Jacob Philadelphia sold his soul to the devil, Licorice reneges on the deal, at least in part. Yet despite his ability to love, it is hard to make the case that he has converted to the cause of goodness.

The dead warlock: This calls attention to the fact that Licorice sacrificed his life so that Columbia could live. This fact is even more salient given that Jacob had sold his soul, and therefore had nothing but hell to look forward to after his life was over. How much more precious must his life have been? Perhaps his deal with the devil is null and void after his act of self-sacrifice for love, but if so this is never dealt with in the story. And clearly, although Licorice has loved and sacrificed for love, he is no saint. As the dead warlock, his only desire is revenge. But revenge for what? This is one of the most fascinating elements of the story to me. Revenge for his own death? No. Revenge for Columbia's death? Obviously not, he thwarted the Emporer of the East's plans. Revenge for Columbia's trip into the underworld and de-flowering? In which he played the major role. This is what he is willing to unleash chaos and death upon countless innocents for? An act that would destroy his son, the son of Columbia, and Columbia herself (the two hearts that were destroyed were the Prince's and Columbia's).

Well, this post is far past too long, but this story had a lot of things to think about. However, I liked that it could be enjoyed without knowing exactly what things meant, and therefore met the criteria for myth rather than merely fable.
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« Reply #17 on: May 08, 2008, 06:47:52 AM »

  While I enjoyed this story, I found it to be a bit dull, and kind of hard to listen to. I liked the mythology that was infused into American history, it reminded me a bit of Harry Turtledove's "Case of the Toxic Spell Dump", but it just seemed to get quite dull during the middle.

  Once I was sure of what the story was moving towards, I was able to get more into it, but there was a good ten or fifteen minutes there where I was fighting to pay attention.
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« Reply #18 on: May 08, 2008, 02:11:48 PM »

If our current world ever somehow falls into another dark ages... I see this being the type of tale that will rise about the mordern world over time.  Corperate and union bosses are Warlocks.  People who are used and tossed aside are seen as having been sacreficed and killed.  An idea stolen by all is a person torn apart for power.  A whistleblower is a lost prince out for revenge. 
It works for me ok.
>_>


I don't know that much about the great depression other than what I've learned myself... but I've never taken much interest in it, but I did like this story.  It was fun.
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« Reply #19 on: May 08, 2008, 04:34:25 PM »

However, I liked that it could be enjoyed without knowing exactly what things meant, and therefore met the criteria for myth rather than merely fable.
Well said.

Interesting, your take on Columbia. I associated her with the District of Columbia.
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