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Author Topic: PC030: Grand Guignol  (Read 14527 times)
Heradel
Bill Peters, EP Assistant
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« on: October 21, 2008, 11:33:34 AM »

PC030: Grand Guignol

By Andy Duncan
Read by Frank Key (of Hooting Yard).

The third of our Halloween features, which will be continuing through October 31.

…today he brought me a sack of eyeballs of which, before God, not one was usable. Stress? Love? Syphillis? Who can say? I am saddened beyond speculation.

The instant I hefted the sack, I knew. A director senses these things. Yet to appease Charles, I dutifully hefted each eyeball, rolled it in my fingers, inspected it, flung it to the floor. Not one bounced — not one! Smack, smack, smack, like so many eggs. They surrounded my desk, gazing up at my shame.


Rated R. Contains gore, gross-outs, and eyeballs.
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Hilary Moon Murphy
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« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2008, 02:12:40 PM »

Oh my.  From the bouncing eyeballs onwards, this story kept me laughing.  I loved the decrepit little theatre and their tawdry and gory plays.  This had many wonderful character studies, and great little gross details throughout.  It was weird.  It was wacky.  I liked it.

The narration had great style and verve, but I do wish the narrator could have pronounced the french words a little more clearly.  As someone who knows how french sounds, I was a bit distracted by the pronunciation in this piece.  Still, that's a small peeve in an otherwise fun piece.  Thanks for running this one, Rachel!

Hmm
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wintermute
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« Reply #2 on: October 22, 2008, 07:17:31 AM »

I'm a huge fan of Frank Key, and think he should narrate more EA stories. That being said... I think this one should have gone to someone else. It took me several segments to realise that each one had a different narrator (partially due, perhaps, to my own inattention, and a little bit of static), which meant I had to mentally recast the story-so-far about half way through.

Overall, I enjoyed the story, though. I'm not 100% sure there were any fantastical elements to it, but that's hardly an issue. I am a little confused about the ending, though; Anton (?) pretended to stab his collaborator? To what end? Or did he really stab him and was only pretending to pretend to stab him?
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wintermute
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« Reply #3 on: October 22, 2008, 07:20:30 AM »

The narration had great style and verve, but I do wish the narrator could have pronounced the french words a little more clearly.

The effect from the narration I got was that it was a Scottish/English man saying the French words with a bit of distaste/disgust and a heavy accent.  I sort of liked the effect, in the way I have always liked the playful antagonizing between the two nations.
It's worth remembering that Scotland and England are different nations (even if part of the same country) with very different historical attitudes towards France. In particular, the Auld Alliance was about all that kept Scotland out of England's clutches for several hundred years.
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SFFNut314159265
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« Reply #4 on: October 22, 2008, 11:08:27 AM »

 Lips sealed  Somewhere I heard this story before... it got a meh from me then, and it's got one from me again...

"Meh..."

A waste of a good Episode number... 
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thomasowenm
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« Reply #5 on: October 22, 2008, 06:01:11 PM »

I finally found an episode I couldn't finish.   
While Frank Key can read real well, this story just wasn't for his voice. 
The movement from narrator to narrator without any change in inflection left me scratching my head about what was happening.
I Just couldn't follow it.  I'm almost sorry that I did not enjoy it like HMM did, I could have used a good laugh.
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Ragtime
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« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2008, 09:34:36 AM »

1.  So, I was listening to the story, and was all prepare to think, "Hey look!  Another story set in the theatre making a horror movie when a REAL horror breaks out . . .  Just like the last one!"  Except, as best as I can tell, the real horror never broke out.  As best as I can tell, this was a psychodrama, not "fantasy."  I mean, I was COMPLETELY on the side of "This is fantasy" during all the "Is it or isn't it" arguments.  I think a little bit of the uncanny is perfectly sufficient to make a good Fantastic Tale.  But I couldn't even find that here.  A good "this is definitely fantasy" argument would likely convince me, but I can't find that argument here.

2.  I grew up thinking that Austrians and Germans all had British accents because of "The Sound of Music."  Later on, I conflated by British accents with the French because of Captain Picard on Star Trek.  Now a Scotsman (?) doing French?  I couldn't help but imagining the Monty Python sketch. ("You're not a Frenchman!"  "Yes, I am."  "But you're wearing a kilt!"  "No law against Frenchmen wearing kilts." . . .)

3.  There was something weird about how the story was framed.  It started out with A talking to B about C.  Then it backed up, and we got C's perspective, and he mentiond D.  And then it backed up again . .  . I was starting the follow, but then the pattern broke (or, more likely, I just created a pattern that wasn't there to begin with.)  I think that if you are going to jump from narrator to narrator in a story this short, there should be a little more rhyme and reason.  Maybe there was, but I missed it.

Rating: 4 out of 13 Friday the 13ths.
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stePH
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« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2008, 09:36:21 AM »

This story was even less fantasy than "It Takes a Town".  It wouldn't have been out of place on Pseudopod I think (considering that I don't listen to Pseudopod).

That aside -- Not a bad story, but not a keeper either.
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wintermute
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« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2008, 10:14:51 AM »

Now a Scotsman (?) doing French?
I'm about 80% sure that Mr Key is not Scottish. I'm not exactly sure where I'd put his accent, but my best guess (and it's probably a poor one) is somewhere in the vicinity of North London...
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Hatton
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« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2008, 03:14:00 PM »

I understand running this story if you're keeping with a "Halloween" theme through October.  However I also don't understand running this story on Podcastle.  The only element of fantasy in the story was the voices of the nuns praying in the balcony.

It was, without a doubt, a good story and an excellent reading by Mr. Key (though I still have to get EP090: How Lonesome a Life Without Nerve Gas out of my head every time I hear his voice).
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« Reply #10 on: October 23, 2008, 07:33:59 PM »

I'm on the "did I miss the fantasy?" bandwagon.

I liked the reading. I didn't mind the lack of shifts in voice -- in fact, I had no trouble at all keeping track of the characters.

I liked the story. Period stories (PP112 notwithstanding *shudder*) are always interesting to me when they are in a genre. Describing the climax through a newspaper review might not have been the best way to go; it felt too detached. And the whole thing with the arm and the stage makeup? Yeah... that would've been the perfect turning point to get into dark fantasy or horror.

But the story didn't go there.

Good story. Wrong podcast.
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eytanz
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« Reply #11 on: October 24, 2008, 01:37:24 PM »

Good story. Wrong podcast.

Yup, I agree.

I found the story a bit slow, but the ending pulled it all together masterfully. And I just loved that it ended on comedy, not tragedy, since I was expecting an unhappy ending. And an unexpected - yet not gratuitous - happy ending is always a lot of fun.

But this story really didn't belong on PC.

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hautdesert
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« Reply #12 on: October 24, 2008, 03:49:52 PM »

I would submit that this, like several other Andy Duncan stories, is in fact alternate history.  Which is at least speculative.

According to wikipedia, Max Maurey was director of the Grand Guignol from 1898 to 1914.  In this story, it's 1925, and he's still directing.

For me, personally (I can't speak for Rachel) Andy Duncan's work is often not technically SFnal, and yet it feels like science fiction or fantasy to me.  I can't really say why that is--but I'm not the only one.  Just as an example, "Unique Chicken Goes In Reverse" , which so far as I know doesn't even have the alt hist angle, was nominated for a Nebula, and appeared in a lot of genre honorable mention and recommended reading lists.

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eytanz
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« Reply #13 on: October 24, 2008, 07:16:27 PM »

I would submit that this, like several other Andy Duncan stories, is in fact alternate history.  Which is at least speculative.

Alternate history is not the same as a fictional account of real historical characters, places, or events. Otherwise, almost all fiction would be considered as speculative.

Which is a bit besides the point anyway, since Podcastle's tagline is "The Fantasy Fiction Podcast", not "The Speculative Fiction Podcast", nor "The Good Story Podcast". And its mission statement states "PodCastle is the world’s first fantasy audio magazine. Each week we bring you short stories across the spectrum of fantasy from leading authors and new discoveries."  Note that the word "fantasy" appears twice. The word "speculative" does not appear.
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Anarkey
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« Reply #14 on: October 24, 2008, 08:18:57 PM »

Good story. Wrong podcast.

I don't know that I agree about this story being on the wrong podcast.  I was about a thousand times happier with this appearing on PC than I was with "It Takes A Town" and not just because this was a far better story. 

I am open to the speculative elements being subtle.  I didn't catch the alt hist angle hautdesert pointed out, but for me the ghost nuns were enough to place the story outside our realm and into fantasy.  I don't need my fantasy to be all up in my face for the piece to qualify for broadcast on PC.  In fact, I would prefer to have some of the fantasy up in my face and some of it understated.  I'd like the whole gamut, please.     

In fact, if we're going to throw around the magic realism label, as we did in defense of "It Takes A Town" this piece comes closer to the mark, because everyone took the nuns for granted, and it didn't have to be explained or believed in or anything.  It just was and its existence was neither here nor there to the story itself, nor what the story hinged on.  The fantasy illuminated character instead of driving plot, which was quite nice.  Use of fantasy in this way is a hallmark of magic realism.
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Peter Tupper
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« Reply #15 on: October 25, 2008, 02:40:18 AM »

I liked this story quite a bit, so much so that I listened to it twice. I've been interested in the history of horror media, as a sibling to the history of pornography, and this was full of interesting ideas, particularly the intersection of science and art in Binet's efforts at playwriting. I think people have this strange idea that people in the past never saw realistic violence in movies or plays, but things like the Grand Guignol or pre-Hays Code film show otherwise.

I didn't find it particularly horrific or frightening, and the "is the knife real or fake" business was unsurprising, though satisfying.

Incidentally, I don't think a normal-looking knife could contain a full pint of any fluid concealed in its handle.
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eytanz
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« Reply #16 on: October 25, 2008, 03:54:06 AM »

I am open to the speculative elements being subtle.  I didn't catch the alt hist angle hautdesert pointed out, but for me the ghost nuns were enough to place the story outside our realm and into fantasy.  I don't need my fantasy to be all up in my face for the piece to qualify for broadcast on PC.  In fact, I would prefer to have some of the fantasy up in my face and some of it understated.  I'd like the whole gamut, please.     

But surely there were no ghost nuns - remember, it was the death-obsessed playwright who describes them, and the Eugenie, the sweet, shy, impressionable girl who is quite clearly awed by him that he says that too, and who then hears them as well. I mean, I absolutely adored those two - they were my favorite characters and I really was happy they ended up together - but I thought the nun scene was about how these two were able to connect even over his morbid fascinations, not about actual ghosts.

Or maybe I need to re-listen to the story - maybe I missed evidence the nuns were real.

Note, though, that my responses to Listener Ann aside, I was happy to have this story on the podcast. But I would be happier if the response by Ann and Rachel was "yeah, it wasn't really fantasy but it was about people who create fantasy so it was related, and it was a good story so we included it anyway" or something like that, rather than "no, no, it's actually fantasy, given criteria wide enough that make every other story ever written fantasy too".
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Anarkey
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« Reply #17 on: October 25, 2008, 08:41:38 AM »

But surely there were no ghost nuns - remember, it was the death-obsessed playwright who describes them, and the Eugenie, the sweet, shy, impressionable girl who is quite clearly awed by him that he says that too, and who then hears them as well. I mean, I absolutely adored those two - they were my favorite characters and I really was happy they ended up together - but I thought the nun scene was about how these two were able to connect even over his morbid fascinations, not about actual ghosts.

Yes, you're exactly right about what the ghosts signify, and that's what I mean about the ghosts being used to illuminate character as opposed to being plot driving.

However, you're not right about the non-existence of the ghosts.  Everyone sits on the balcony listening to the ghost nuns in the final segment.  It's very understated, but it's there.  The secret that was at first just Eugenie and the playwright's turns into everyone's secret, once they've each achieved their dreams in the Grand Guignol. (I think the final segment is in Max's POV, even).

Note, though, that my responses to Listener Ann aside, I was happy to have this story on the podcast. But I would be happier if the response by Ann and Rachel was "yeah, it wasn't really fantasy but it was about people who create fantasy so it was related, and it was a good story so we included it anyway" or something like that, rather than "no, no, it's actually fantasy, given criteria wide enough that make every other story ever written fantasy too".

I see what you mean here, and I don't think a lot of Ann's defense either (if it is a defense, it seemed more of a 'consider this aspect') but I think this story is defensible within a clear and defined realm of fantasy (as you can see from my point above), just a quieter, subtler kind of fantasy instead of a unicorn/dragon/hero of the world kind of fantasy.  Which is fine, and I can enjoy epic and grandiose, but I like the other kind too, and I'm unhappy with the attempts to litmus test the fantasy quotient of each podcast, especially if it will result in the elimination of perfectly good stories like this one because they aren't fantastic enough.  It may well be that my definition is broader than most peoples (my definitions often are), though even I call stuff not fantasy,  yet this isn't something I feel the need to exclude from the set of stories that are fantasy.
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Opabinia
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« Reply #18 on: October 25, 2008, 09:49:36 AM »

Quote
But I would be happier if the response by Ann and Rachel was "yeah, it wasn't really fantasy but it was about people who create fantasy so it was related, and it was a good story so we included it anyway" or something like that, rather than "no, no, it's actually fantasy, given criteria wide enough that make every other story ever written fantasy too".

Well, I don't think I gave a response on whether or not it's fantasy.

Is the story fantasy? Eh. It was in Weird Tales. It was clearly intended for a genre audience, or at least an audience that includes both genre and lit. Probably easier to classify it as non-supernatural horror.

I bought it because I was trying to think of really cool horror-esque stories I'd read for our Halloween run. This story actually replaces one about zombies which was in our initial line-up, but which fell through before the contract was signed. Confronted by a hole in the schedule, I solicited this piece from Andy Duncan, who is a former teacher of mine, because I think it rocks, I think it fits with the Halloween theme, and while this wasn't necessarily part of the purchasing decision, the story is obviously of interest to genre readers.

In other words, I did sort of buy this as a horror story. We're running "Cask of Amontillado" on Halloween, which also doesn't have any supernatural elements, as I recall.

But, it's probably also important to note, that I find discussions of whether or not a story is genre enough to be extremely tedious, and of basically no import. I'm going to keep running stories that fall into one of two categories: A) I think they're really good, or B) I think y'all will think they're really good. Preferably both. While we probably won't run anything that's straight-up hard SF, or straight-up lit in the New Yorker mold, I will continue to run stories that feel fantasy-esque, or of interest to genre audiences, or which (like "It Takes a Town") are written by authors who feel them strongly enough to be fantasy to send them to me instead of to another market. It's not that I don't ever turn things down for genre reasons, but it's not my primary concern.
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Opabinia
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« Reply #19 on: October 25, 2008, 09:50:56 AM »

Continued note to self: check who is signed in when using husband's computer, especially when own is in for repair.
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