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Author Topic: PC019: Galatea  (Read 16019 times)
Heradel
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« on: August 05, 2008, 06:18:02 AM »

PC019: Galatea
 
By Vylar Kaftan
Read by Rachel Swirsky
First appeared in Heliotrope (full text online)

Since I moved to the city, I’ve been dying piece by piece. It’s not really the smog, or the crowds, or my tiny apartment above the Arabic bookstore, or any of the things that bother most people. It’s the way people hurry around, their faces to the sidewalk, darting through the streets like ants swarming over a dead lizard. City life is fractured into thousands of pieces--faceted like the view from insect eyes. Maybe it makes sense to ants. To a small-town girl like me, it’s overwhelming.

The problem is that I’ve been here long enough to start dying. I lost two fingers last week. They fell off while I was sleeping. I found them next to my pillow in the morning, and put them in a shoebox with my big toe.


Rated PG. Contains alienation from community and spirit.

Listen to this week's Podcastle!
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« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2008, 07:57:50 AM »

Great premise, along the lines of Mur Lafferty's "Citytalkers" -- the City as a semisentient (or more) being -- but I didn't enjoy the ending, nor the deus ex machina of Julie just HAPPENING to live next door to an artist.  It's like, Julie gets all introspective, she falls to pieces, and she is reborn as Galatea and falls in love with Trent, which is kind of Electra-complex if you think about it.

I think the reading would've benefited from more pauses.  Especially when Julie's consciousness leaves her body and enters Galatea's (that's how I understood it to happen).  It's like, Julie lick's Trent's fingers and then BOOM she's inside Galatea.  It felt choppy to me.

I almost wanted MORE -- like another conflict between Julie and the city.  Things just seemed to HAPPEN to her.  She wanted to be a catalyst and make the city accept her, but in the end it just took one leap of faith and suddenly all was, if not well, at least passable.

So, in short, half a meh and half a hmm.
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« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2008, 09:56:46 AM »

 I agree with Listener on a lot of points. This story did remind me of "Citytalkers", although I would have to say I liked that story a little more due to the ending of "Galatea" falling a little flat for me as well. There's this wonderful premise, an interesting and thought-provoking explanation for what is happening, and then suddenly *pbbt*, she falls to pieces and is part of Galatea, the end.

  I found the ending to be sad, she mentally tried so hard to keep herself whole, and then lost herself compeltely. It's almost as if Galatea is some sort of maliscious soul-stealer, which makes me think Trent is actually evil, as his intervention in Julie's life seems to have sped up the process. I wwonder how many other people he has fed to Galatea.

  The story did make me think though. I've never really consciously thought about the fact that I do not feel like I fit where I am. I tried thinking back to when I did feel like I fit, like I was whole. Julie had her hometown to think about, but by the time I left there I did not feel like I fit there either. I know I have lost parts of myself over the years (although not as literally as in this story), but I've never felt at risk of losing my entire self.

  This story certainly rates higher than a "meh" for me, but it would have been nice to have more of an ending.
 
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« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2008, 10:13:11 AM »

I found the ending to be sad, she mentally tried so hard to keep herself whole, and then lost herself compeltely. It's almost as if Galatea is some sort of maliscious soul-stealer, which makes me think Trent is actually evil, as his intervention in Julie's life seems to have sped up the process. I wwonder how many other people he has fed to Galatea.
Innnnnteresting...
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« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2008, 10:52:54 AM »

I found the ending to be sad, she mentally tried so hard to keep herself whole, and then lost herself compeltely. It's almost as if Galatea is some sort of maliscious soul-stealer, which makes me think Trent is actually evil, as his intervention in Julie's life seems to have sped up the process. I wwonder how many other people he has fed to Galatea.
Innnnnteresting...

Unfortunately, to make the average reader see that, I feel more would've needed to be done to pull it off.  You need more breadcrumbs than what was given.
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« Reply #5 on: August 05, 2008, 12:32:09 PM »

I found the ending to be sad, she mentally tried so hard to keep herself whole, and then lost herself compeltely. It's almost as if Galatea is some sort of maliscious soul-stealer, which makes me think Trent is actually evil, as his intervention in Julie's life seems to have sped up the process. I wwonder how many other people he has fed to Galatea.
Innnnnteresting...

Unfortunately, to make the average reader see that, I feel more would've needed to be done to pull it off.  You need more breadcrumbs than what was given.

  I'm not saying that the author's intention was for me to draw the conclusion I drew, that's just how my mind saw it. Trent takes an item from Julie to add to Galatea, and suddenly the process accelerates for her. I wonder if the same thing will happen to the bookseller, or if it only happens to people who don't "belong".

  BTW: I apologize for my horrid typing/spelling errors in that post.
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« Reply #6 on: August 05, 2008, 03:25:19 PM »

My origional gut reaction to this one was quite literally "Eeheheheeeeew"
This one was kinda gross, and almost felt more Psudopod (or for that matter Drabblecast) worthy then Podcastle.  I didn't HATE it... but didn't much like it either. There was no sense of "winning" in the ending.. it felt more tacked on.  Ick. And eew? Bits falling off? Ew!
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« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2008, 04:41:42 PM »

I see the metaphors the author is trying for here, but the story never made them really work for me.  For lots of little reasons, I think.  Not enough reason to care for the main character, not enough reason to care for the city... and the setup was both too surreal and not surreal enough.  If it was a little more out there, I could just flow with it.  As it was, I kept wondering why *anyone* would live in a city when just living there might make your body parts fall off.  But then again, I'm not quite sure why anyone would live in a city at all - I love visiting them, but I live on an 11 acre ranch where I see deer most days.  Much nicer.  But I don't really relate to the main character being there just sort of because she's been told she should be, and with no specific goal, and clearly not accomplishing anything or even having a direction.  More background may have helped... but dunno.

Anyway, ambitious but fell short of the mark.
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Heradel
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« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2008, 05:28:32 PM »

As it was, I kept wondering why *anyone* would live in a city when just living there might make your body parts fall off.  But then again, I'm not quite sure why anyone would live in a city at all - I love visiting them, but I live on an 11 acre ranch where I see deer most days.  Much nicer. 

I love visiting the country, but I'm not quite sure why anyone would live there. The city lacked any kind of personality for me, and when I realized that the story stopped really working for me. I found myself projecting NYC onto the setting and when I realized it I realized that I was filling in bits that should have been filled in by the author — it would have been better if the city had been picked. As it was, the stereotyped City got really grating(I get it, she's a small town girl and thus unfamiliar with our strange cityfolk ways so she might not be that capable of picking up the personality of the city, but the Arabic-bookstore-to-show-readers-cosmopolitan-existence bugged me). Cities, especially if you're portraying them as somewhat living/semi-sentient, have distinct personalities. The bigger ones end up being pretty schizophrenic.

I go to college in NYC (grew up in DC) — I know, fairly well, people that are in the city and shouldn't be. At least one that think 10:00 PM is too late to be walking through Times Square (and they're not old enough to be remembering Times Square in the 80s). So I got both the country mouse in the city and city-caused change bits of the story's machinery, and somewhere in those parts of the machinery gears are being thrown.



Edit: And because I couldn't say it in the story post — Woo 1k!
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« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2008, 10:16:14 PM »

This story struck me as heavyhanded and clumsy.  The POV character (I hesitate to call her a protagonist) was too passive, the active character (the artist) was too absent, and the ending was telegraphed way way too soon. I could have skipped the last half of the story, given the Wash-dies-esque spoiler of the title.

Not one of the better choices.
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ryos
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« Reply #10 on: August 06, 2008, 04:10:24 AM »

"Do you understand now?"

No. Maybe. Probably not.

My favorite part of the story was the blind bus driver. It's so utterly ridiculous to imagine that any human could drive a bus by muscle memory alone! Or that human passengers would tolerate a bus that moved slowly enough to be able to clock a green light as lasting three minutes (you could walk faster!). Or that real traffic would stay clear, regardless of how slowly the bus moved. That one image was so surreal that it sucked me out of our world and into the author's creation.

My least favorite part was the ending, but only because I don't understand it, and I've noticed that I don't like what I don't understand. This is the danger of posting immediately after listening to the story, and at 3AM.

Did Trent really understand what was going on at all? Was Galatea not rejecting her citizens, instead taking pieces of them to make herself as she also took pieces of their material lives? Did she need to separate Julie from her body so that her life force would provide the spark, like Frankenstien's lightning rod, to allow Trent to say, "It's alive"?

I don't know. I don't get it. Trent's theory doesn't jive with ending, but nothing else does either. I feel like I'm missing some required context. Do I need to be familiar with the Greek legend to understand what's going on here? Because I'm not. I don't like mythology, and know very little about it.

If I put my confusion aside, I liked the story. It was surreal and emotionally stimulating. If I embrace my confusion, I realize that I found the ending, and thus the story, deeply unsatisfying; but again, I've noticed that I don't like what I don't understand. By tomorrow I should know if I'm to be rejected for it. Embarrassed

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« Reply #11 on: August 06, 2008, 04:21:34 AM »

Human touch (or licking in this case, I guess) as a cure-all? ... I KNEWWWW ITTT. So once again human relationships, connections as a way to reconfirm our humanity, to make us whole again?

Would be nice if it were that easy in reality. I live in a country where touching (ie hands, shoulders, hugging) people, even friends in some cases, yes, as sad as it sounds, will get you either frowns or submitted. ... and I am getting a bit sick of this overused 'all we need is love'-message, that comes up so much in literature, films, music, etc. .... for some reason 'The Fifth Element' comes to mind.

I have to say I am a bit undecided about this story, but I'll start with the things I did like, I loved the way Trent's apartment was described and I always like quirky details in stories, and this one was full of them, the doll's head, the placenta, the measuring cup as a breast, the pencil eraser for a nipple etc. those things always delight me irrespective of plot and characterization in a story. But these things don't make a story, they paint a picture, a scene, but they don't make it literature, poetry maybe but nothing more. Although I think my opinion of the story was slightly less negative than other posters' comments, I have to agree with some of the criticisms, the ending for example felt sloppy and rushed.

I also wondered about the way Julie lost her body parts without leaving a mess, no blood, no tissue, no flaps of skin etc. if she was made of clay it would have made sense, but from the start we knew that these people bleed. OK, maybe she has leprosy, but that was never mentioned. So how can she lose fingers just like that? And what about the wound, does the skin grow back together right away? When a surgeon amputates a limb, they have to leave some extra skin to cover the wound. So how exactly did this work with Julie? It was really frustrating that this was completely brushed over.

Anyway, I did not hate the story, by no means, there was a lot that kept me interested and engaged, it just wasn't great.
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« Reply #12 on: August 06, 2008, 10:42:33 AM »

I have, as an Austen character might say, no great opinion of this story.  It didn't engage me, and there seemed no point to it.
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« Reply #13 on: August 06, 2008, 10:57:55 AM »

I didnt really care for this story, the non-ending especially annoyed me, perhaps i would have liked it better if i had heard of that story it was based on
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« Reply #14 on: August 06, 2008, 11:39:31 AM »

Rain: It was retold as Pygmalion by Oscar Wilde, now best known as its musical adaptation, My Fair Lady.
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« Reply #15 on: August 06, 2008, 05:56:25 PM »

you're thinking of George Bernard Shaw and it was a pretty broad interpretation of the original myth. cool to know where my fair lady came from.


i have an explanation for this story that i'm happy with; there's even a chance it was the author's intention.

Trent was in love with the city & all its aspects and his work was a tribute to it. one of those romantic ideals that new yorkers seem particularly prone to. part of this was that he was enamored with the idea of so many people from different places coming together.

Julie is exactly as she appears, adrift in a city where she isn't comfortable and slowly loosing herself. it isn't until she has the anchor of human contact that she's centered enough see the city's benefits as well as its disappointments.

the story shows us a (relatively healthy) codependent relationship where Trent has Julie to love as his city and Julie has Trent to give her a place in that city. one of the interesting things speculative fiction can do, give us a visceral metaphor for the things we encounter.


i do agree with cuddlebug, the holy reverence that fiction gives to human contact is getting repetitive.
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Heradel
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« Reply #16 on: August 06, 2008, 06:40:01 PM »

...
Trent was in love with the city & all its aspects and his work was a tribute to it. one of those romantic ideals that new yorkers seem particularly prone to. part of this was that he was enamored with the idea of so many people from different places coming together.
...

Texans seem to be prone to it as well. Seems like Ocicat loves his ranch. Californians love California. People usually love where they live or they end up not living there for long. There are just a lot of writers in NYC so there are a lot of writers in love with that particular City. Plus it's rarely boring and often surprising — I had Chris Rock walk two feet in front of me when I was waiting for a bus this spring and about a week later had 60 Rock film outside of my dorm.

Edit: Added link.
« Last Edit: August 06, 2008, 08:58:18 PM by Heradel » Logged

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« Reply #17 on: August 06, 2008, 10:06:19 PM »

i didn't mean the comment to be targeted at you Heradel, when i read today's comments i had forgotten that it came up before.

even taking into account the large number of works by new york authors there's a disproportionate amount of time spent on the city and how the city relates to the characters. they may love it or wish for a hard rain to wash it away; there may only be time for a truck driver to shout at the green goblin that new yorkers stick together.

however it plays out, if the setting is ny then it'll usually play a role instead of being a backdrop.
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Heradel
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« Reply #18 on: August 06, 2008, 10:51:20 PM »

i didn't mean the comment to be targeted at you Heradel, when i read today's comments i had forgotten that it came up before.

even taking into account the large number of works by new york authors there's a disproportionate amount of time spent on the city and how the city relates to the characters. they may love it or wish for a hard rain to wash it away; there may only be time for a truck driver to shout at the green goblin that new yorkers stick together.

however it plays out, if the setting is ny then it'll usually play a role instead of being a backdrop.

I wasn't feeling targeted, I know there are other New Yorkers (or at least NYC-adjacent) folk in the forums. I'm a transplant anyway and haven't quite forsaken my Washingtonian status (born a bit too close to the White House/Capitol Hill to not have politics in my blood).

I'd say that writers in NYC treat the City like Joss Whedon treated Serenity in Firefly. Any city with enough personality tends to become it's own character, and it's a useful shorthand for fate/the-fickle-masses/chaos/luck and all of those Man v Society/Supernatural/Nature/Environment stories.

The problem with Big City stereotypes/archetypes is that they really don't work in the same way stereotypical/archetypal characters don't work. First, you're missing the opportunity for added depth, second the product tends to be bland and predictable, and third I have never been to a Big City where I felt it was much the same as another city.
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« Reply #19 on: August 07, 2008, 07:18:53 AM »

you're thinking of George Bernard Shaw and it was a pretty broad interpretation of the original myth. cool to know where my fair lady came from.
Ah, my apologies. I was thinking too fast.

...
Trent was in love with the city & all its aspects and his work was a tribute to it. one of those romantic ideals that new yorkers seem particularly prone to. part of this was that he was enamored with the idea of so many people from different places coming together.
...

Texans seem to be prone to it as well. Seems like Ocicat loves his ranch. Californians love California. People usually love where they live or they end up not living there for long. There are just a lot of writers in NYC so there are a lot of writers in love with that particular City. Plus it's rarely boring and often surprising — I had Chris Rock walk two feet in front of me when I was waiting for a bus this spring and about a week later had 60 Rock film outside of my dorm.

Edit: Added link.
And no matter how long I live abroad, I'll always love London.
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