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Get your 500 word fantasy stories ready! We'll be open for submissions through the month of March, and starting the voting sometime in early April. Full details on Podcastle's website

Author Topic: PC029: Dead Languages  (Read 44275 times)

Heradel

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on: October 17, 2008, 05:26:32 AM
PC029: Dead Languages

By Merrie Haskell
Read by M. K. Hobson

“I have a confession,” Annabel said, steering the car into the snow-dusted mall parking lot. “I have involved us in a crazy scheme.

“Oh?” I asked, suddenly alert to my get-away options. Crazy schemes and Annabel had been getting me into trouble since I was six, when she convinced me to steal all the crayons from the art room to melt into a giant ball of wax.

“I’ve gotten you the lead in an independent short film.”

“What?” I shrieked. I admit: not my witty best, but I was trying to be discreet in wrapping my fingers around the door handle and calculating the car’s speed.

Annabel locked the car and smiled with a vague and friendly sort of evil. “There’s no need to thank me.”


Rated PG. Contains vampires, ass-kicking, and hijinx.
« Last Edit: October 20, 2008, 05:43:50 AM by Heradel »

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DKT

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Reply #1 on: October 17, 2008, 05:37:56 AM
Contains vampires, ass-kicking, and hijinx.


Pretty much all I need to know ;D


Ragtime

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Reply #2 on: October 17, 2008, 01:13:49 PM
I liked it a lot.  Not terribly original -- it seems like lots of horror stories are set on the set of a horror movie -- but very well done inside the genre.  The best part was the pacing, I thought.  Everything moved along from event to event, without the usual too-much-pondering of "how" and "why."  The worst part was the cringe-worthy insinuations -- battered down, but always picked back up -- that Lillian is considering a relationship with her "sidekick," even though they both know that his love is only the result of the spell.

Also, there seems like there was some sort of complete failure to edit the piece  -- lots of repeated lines and a "Take Two" thrown in there.



Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #3 on: October 17, 2008, 02:40:19 PM
For people who may have noticed them -- I've passed on a note about unedited outtakes to our audio editor.



Ragtime

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Reply #4 on: October 17, 2008, 03:04:16 PM
One more thought, looking at the opening again.

The first sentence seems like its bucking for a "great first lines" prize, but actually doesn't make a lot of sense it context.  Annabel really didn't involve them in a "crazy scheme."  At least not based on what she knew at the time.

So, the first sentence is my new least-favorite part. 

Since that means I should pick a new "favorite part," I'm going to go with Strege Nona's concept of little bits of magic escaping into the world.  Unfortunately, I can't think of Strege Nona any more without thinking of the kids' book about the bottomless spaghetti pot, but that's not the author's fault.



DKT

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Reply #5 on: October 17, 2008, 03:37:59 PM
For people who may have noticed them -- I've passed on a note about unedited outtakes to our audio editor.

I haven't listened yet and am wondering: should I wait? Is a re-edited one going to drop in the feed?


Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #6 on: October 17, 2008, 03:46:07 PM
I feel silly for not knowing how to answer that question. When we get a new file, I'll replace the one in the blog entry. Will that cause the feed to recollect it? I'm assuming not. Maybe I should delete the blog entry and make a new one when we get the corrected file?

I doubt the errors are enough to seriously impair a listening experience (though I may be corrected)... though personally, I hate finding errors in a file when I'm expecting it to be perfect, but knowing there will be a few later on allows me to shrug it off, so that's just my feeling. I guess it depends on how much you feel a few repeated phrases and one "Take two" will bother you.



Listener

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Reply #7 on: October 17, 2008, 07:15:04 PM
The reading was very good, except for the audio typos, but those have been discussed. (I _did_ offer to help do audio editing, way back when Steve made the call. Just sayin'.)

I liked the premise, but the five minutes of driving around and talking about feminism and being fat...? I could live without it. It felt like the author trying to make a point before finally getting to the interesting bits. I liked also that there was no way to reverse the process... so many "oops I cast a spell" stories have plot coupons and easy reversals. The Christian subplot was kind of silly.

A pretty good story overall. Not awesome, but I'm not complaining.


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thomasowenm

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Reply #8 on: October 17, 2008, 11:20:39 PM
I give it a strong B,  the characters for the most part were enjoyable, minus Christian.  The plot of an old ancient medallion mistakenly causing magical mischief is as old as probably storytelling itself, but it seemed fresh in this story.   Maybe just imagining Jolly old St. Nicks hurting each other for  Alpha Santa status was just twisted enough to freshen it up for me.   :)

I also liked that there wasn't any reversal chant, drink, or any other device in the story, but probably all the geeks playing Harry Potter who found that their wands now work could come up with one. 

My two cents on the editing.   Mistakes happen, but I had a hard time getting thrown back in the story over and over again.  When I reread a passage in a novel I get very frustrated for not marking my place.  I felt that same frustration with the missed edits. 



Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #9 on: October 18, 2008, 03:12:10 AM
Okay, the fixed audio file has been uploaded, but I did not create a new blog entry. I'm not sure what effect this has on the feed -- if anyone wants to let me know, I'd appreciate it.



Kaa

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Reply #10 on: October 18, 2008, 04:00:40 AM
I really enjoyed this one, although I do agree that the diatribe about feminism at the beginning needs to go.  Not because it's a diatribe and not because it was about feminism and I have a Y chromosome, but because it dumped liquid nitrogen on the pacing.

The only thing that surprised me was that no mention was made of all the cross-dressers who suddenly found themselves with real parts, or the kids in Spiderman or Wonder Woman pajamas that suddenly found themselves climbing walls or flying invisible jets. :)

Oh, and kudos on the reading.  That was just amazing.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2008, 04:02:22 AM by Kaa »

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deflective

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Reply #11 on: October 18, 2008, 04:51:01 AM
the escape artists' editors say over and over that they don't collaborate so this week is a strong case for culturally collective thinking. halloween could explain two vampire stories but two vampire stories with a feminist/anti-masculine viewpoint? an odd coincidence.

this story had a few things worth commenting about but thomasowenm brought up a big one (and now Kaa). speculative fiction authors tend to to introduce huge, world changing events without thinking through the consequences. this isn't always a big deal but it is distracting. where were the santas in the story? what happened to women as they realized that their makeup wasn't coming off and their underwire bra had disappeared, leaving them larger and unnaturally perky? why did the vampire take the personality of his character but the vampire hunter remain herself? did every room using mirrors to create an illusion of space suddenly get larger?

yeah, yeah, too picky. but i appreciate at least an attempt to think through and resolve speculation in a story.

<big-geek>
it's funny that Rachel went with Buffy for the intro, the whole costume-becomes-real event was used in one of the halloween episodes.

if you want to understand Whedon fandom without putting in a full seven seasons i would suggest watching the top five episodes (ideally with a fan to fill in background) rather than slogging through the first season. the first season is generally considered weak. at a minimum, everyone should see the musical episode. =)
</big-geek>

by the way, refreshed the feed and didn't download a new copy.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2008, 06:12:48 PM by deflective »



Heradel

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Reply #12 on: October 18, 2008, 05:28:03 AM
Okay, the fixed audio file has been uploaded, but I did not create a new blog entry. I'm not sure what effect this has on the feed -- if anyone wants to let me know, I'd appreciate it.

[...]
by the way, refreshed the feed and didn't download a new copy.

Uploading the new file will only affect future downloads, those that already have a copy will need to (in iTunes at least), delete the file, unsubscribe, re-subscribe, and download it again to get the corrected version.


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Peter Tupper

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Reply #13 on: October 18, 2008, 07:29:40 AM
Production glitches aside, I enjoyed this story. I wasn't quite sure why, but maybe it is because it reminds me of its source material.

I don't think it lives up to it's premise, a feminist take on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, other than the protagonist not being a perfect size four. There's a Oedipal angle in that the protagonist inadvertently caused the magical chaos, but otherwise she's still the reluctant female hero with superhuman abilities who relies on her allies for emotional support in her monster-infested small town where the conventional authorities are helpless. Even the tone of the story is fairly Whedonesque, the contrast between the mundane and the fantastic.



Heradel

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Reply #14 on: October 18, 2008, 07:42:08 AM
I don't think it lives up to it's premise, a feminist take on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, other than the protagonist not being a perfect size four. There's a Oedipal angle in that the protagonist inadvertently caused the magical chaos, but otherwise she's still the reluctant female hero with superhuman abilities who relies on her allies for emotional support in her monster-infested small town where the conventional authorities are helpless. Even the tone of the story is fairly Whedonesque, the contrast between the mundane and the fantastic.

I haven't had time to listen to the story yet (Deadlines! Programs! Middle English Poetry!), but I always thought Buffy was the feminist Buffy. Whedon's been accused of a lot of things (most unforgivably not letting two characters just be happy), but I don't think misogyny is one of them.

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Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #15 on: October 18, 2008, 02:27:54 PM
Quote
I always thought Buffy was the feminist Buffy.

Pretty much. Though I still can't stand Buffy.

If anything, I think this is a parody of Buffy, not an attempt at one-upmanship. Well, plus funny on its own,  or at least I thought it was funny.



cede

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Reply #16 on: October 18, 2008, 04:45:48 PM
the intro part about being into fantasy but hating buffy seemed kind of strange to me, i also hate buffy. i've never thought the 2 were related but i never really think genre specific when enjoying a story. enjoyed this one, i liked this chick's reading, sounds like the same one who read the story about the shrinking chainmail. the bad editing was very annoying, took a bit away from the story for me, easy to not pay full attention to something if i'm worrying that something's going to bug me. pseudopod also had a vampire related story this week, um, quite different of course.



sirana

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Reply #17 on: October 18, 2008, 05:33:52 PM

I haven't had time to listen to the story yet (Deadlines! Programs! Middle English Poetry!), but I always thought Buffy was the feminist Buffy. Whedon's been accused of a lot of things (most unforgivably not letting two characters just be happy), but I don't think misogyny is one of them.

You obviously haven't read A Rapist's View of the World: Joss Whedon and Firefly. It's all about how Firefly is the most mysoginistic piece of television. And sadly, it isn't a parody... Even more sad are some of the comments congratulating the author on her brilliant analysis.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2008, 05:37:29 PM by sirana »



mkhobson

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Reply #18 on: October 18, 2008, 06:38:36 PM
I want to thank everyone who's said nice things about my reading, and send out my personal apology for the audio errors! This was the first piece I ever recorded for Podcastle (though "Hallah Iron Thighs" and my intro for "Tanuki Kettle" happened to come out first) and I ... uh ... kinda didn't know how to use Sound Studio very well. I also had a crappy mike, which I've since replaced. And the dog ate my homework.  ;D

I have since figured out how to edit my own files, and in the future I won't be sending anything in to Rachel that I wouldn't feel confident having appear on the 'cast as-is. It's one thing to screw up your own story in a reading, but it's quite another to have your reading reflect badly on someone *else's* work!!

Thanks everyone for your patience. And kudos to Rachel and crew for getting an edited version up so fast! This team works so hard, and cares so much about putting out a quality product. They deserve lots of praise!

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Heradel

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Reply #19 on: October 19, 2008, 12:50:54 AM

I haven't had time to listen to the story yet (Deadlines! Programs! Middle English Poetry!), but I always thought Buffy was the feminist Buffy. Whedon's been accused of a lot of things (most unforgivably not letting two characters just be happy), but I don't think misogyny is one of them.

You obviously haven't read A Rapist's View of the World: Joss Whedon and Firefly. It's all about how Firefly is the most mysoginistic piece of television. And sadly, it isn't a parody... Even more sad are some of the comments congratulating the author on her brilliant analysis.

Wow, either that person is incapable of humor or couldn't get past what she wanted to see to see the characters being portrayed (and for the record, I grew up next to an interracial couple that had been together since the late sixties/early seventies). Just because one an make an argument to a certain effect, doesn't mean one should.



On another note, I liked this story and I had actually just read the Battle of Brunanburg this afternoon for class.

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ajames

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Reply #20 on: October 19, 2008, 01:11:18 AM
Audioblips aside (and they have been more than explained and taken care of - thanks MK and Podcastle crew!!) the reading got me into the story and the story was not bad.

The thing about bringing up Buffy in the intro was that I watched Buffy through most of the five seasons that show was on, and the characters and the show in general became part of my life the way such shows do. I liked the show for any number of reasons, from its campiness and obvious awareness of its absurd premise, to its occasional ability to take some risks ("Hush"), to its treatment of some serious emotional themes. So with that history with Buffy, and bringing up Buffy in the intro, this story would have had to be much, much better than it was for me to really take notice. If it was meant to be a parody or satire of Buffy it was okay but could have been much better.

Anyway, its not fair to compare a story I listened to for less than 40 minutes to a television show I watched over 5 years (with 100 hours or so of viewing time). Taking this story alone as much as I can, it was entertaining and kept me interested. It didn't slay me though.



deflective

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Reply #21 on: October 19, 2008, 02:53:53 AM
are you saying that you don't recognize the last two seasons when the show moved to upn? because i could understand that for season seven but six was mostly solid.

this story had a feeling of Whedon fanfic more than Buffy satire. projecting yourself into the show's filming rather than the show's plot, dropping your slow & boring boyfriend for the driven & entertaining director (who becomes hopelessly infatuated with you). all the ingredients are there.

some time has passed since i listened to the story and a way to make sense of the selective world changing has occurred to me. the locket's magic was wholly centered on Lillian, all changes that the locket makes is to support her role as vampire hunter. that means that dark creatures for her to fight were created but other costumes in the area were irrelevant. this way we could later find out that Christian was a talented film maker all along and his feelings really are genuine! awwww.

but, still, must point out logic error. it's the way i'm wired. Lillian's vampire hunter character could speak latin, she was pretending exactly that at the moment that the spell took effect. she shouldn't have had to look things up later.



ajames

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Reply #22 on: October 19, 2008, 11:12:43 AM
are you saying that you don't recognize the last two seasons when the show moved to upn? because i could understand that for season seven but six was mostly solid.

No, I wasn't making a statement about the last two seasons. As much as I liked the show, I did lose track of it towards the end, catching it piecemeal now and then the last year or two. I've slowly stopped watching all television except shows with my kids (and I DVR Numbers, because I read the book put out by some of the mathematicians who consult with the show, and got intrigued).

but, still, must point out logic error. it's the way i'm wired. Lillian's vampire hunter character could speak latin, she was pretending exactly that at the moment that the spell took effect. she shouldn't have had to look things up later.

Good catch. 



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Reply #23 on: October 19, 2008, 11:41:34 PM
I loved the reading of this story, and the story itself was a fun romp.  When Lilian wails that she does not want to be known as the woman on the internet with the arm flab, I nearly fell out of my chair laughing.  Arm flab heroines of the internet unite!

My main complaints were:

1) I never get to find out what dead languages the main character knew!  Yes, I know that the story is not really about dead languages but more about becoming that which you pretend to be (cool premise!) but I wanted to know which dead languages the main character was versed in.  It's pretty unusual for someone in western culture to study other dead languages but not Latin.  Latin is usually the default dead language option of high schools.  I wanted to know what else she had studied.  Since she recited the poem in old Anglo Saxon, I have to assume that was one of them.  What was the other?  Greek?  Sanskrit?  Ancient Egyptian?  Babylonian?  I want to know!

2) I enjoyed it when Christian fell in love with her, but boy was I disappointed when I realized that he fell in love with her because he was victim of a spell.  I wanted him to fall in love with her because she kicked ass, could recite poetry in different languages, had a razor sharp wit and a sense of humor and because she looked damn fine in a bustier.  Skinny guys fall for bright, funny, well endowed fat chicks all the time.  I would not have minded the spell bringing them together if the reason was that Lilian had become more confident, or just was a stronger person because of the spell.  But to have Christian love Lilian mainly because the spell made him do so... well, that cheapened it for me. 


Hmm


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Reply #24 on: October 20, 2008, 05:31:40 AM
2) I enjoyed it when Christian fell in love with her, but boy was I disappointed when I realized that he fell in love with her because he was victim of a spell.  ... But to have Christian love Lilian mainly because the spell made him do so... well, that cheapened it for me. 

This whole topic is interesting to me and is actually one that kind of raises my hackles/makes my skin crawl - magically altering someone's perception of the world or of someone else and causing them to fall in love or become attracted to someone?  Creepy as HELL.

Amusingly enough, the first time I really looked it in the face and was freaked out was a Buffy episode.  Hurr hurr.  Some random jock at the school has a letter jacket that he inherited from his father that makes girls who see him DESPERATELY want him, and Buffy ends up essentially trying to get in his pants.  Watching that whole scene just freaked me the hell out, so now I'm actually very conscious of that whole idea of unreliable or influenced 'love'.

Love potions = brainwashing = rape?


EDIT: Forgot to mention.  I liked the story.  I listen to them while I'm doing yard work (mindless physical labor, yay!), so the editing mess-ups didn't really irritate me, though I certainly noticed them.  There was also one point during the story where it literally repeated itself - like, went back a sentence or so and said the exact same thing (not like she was re-reading it but like the audio was repeated).  I'm with the other folks in the thread who are saying that it's not so much a feminist re-imagining of the vampire slayer idea, but at least it IS a fun story around a similar archetype/theme.
« Last Edit: October 20, 2008, 05:34:49 AM by Ignoranus »

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