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Author Topic: PC030: Grand Guignol  (Read 8815 times)
Anarkey
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« Reply #20 on: October 25, 2008, 11:06:12 AM »

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.

I'm glad to hear that holes in the lineup are being replaced on short notice with such kickass stories.  I really dug this piece.  Honestly, if it had run on PP, I think people who listen there would have been annoyed that it wasn't scary enough.  It was mostly horror in tone and ambience, not so much in plot.  Horroresque is a good description.  I am glad that PC is willing to explore and present material that works the interstices between genres and the edges of what is usually considered fantasy.  Keep pushing that envelope, especially with the best representatives of different aspects of fantasy.

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.

Also, LOVE LOVE LOVE "Cask of Amontilado".  Hope you have an awesome reader lined up for it.  Can't wait to hear it.  (Did I mention I love it?)

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.

I'm reassured by this, Rachel, thanks for saying it.  While I do think it's an important part of the mission of the podcast to bring us fantasy, I'm more interested in stories I'll think are really good than in whatever fantasy elements a story does or does not have.  (Still didn't care for "It Takes a Town, but if you only ran stories I liked you'd probably be me, and the world would be in trouble, because the world doesn't need more than one of me).

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Rachel Swirsky
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« Reply #21 on: October 25, 2008, 11:18:11 AM »

Quote
Still didn't care for "It Takes a Town

I was so surprised by the negative reaction to that one! I thought it would be a hit -- midwest themes, optomistic ending. I'm generally a lot more pessimistic in my taste than Steve, and one of the things I've been consciously trying to do is select for happy endings since Escape Artists podcasts are supposed to leave listeners in a good mood for the day. I really liked the story; the prose was really clean and moved quickly; the characterization was sharp; I thought the vignette structure created interestand sharpened intent. I thought - except for the fantasy issue which I did expect to show up - that it'd be a shoe-in for success. Heh. ;-)
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eytanz
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« Reply #22 on: October 25, 2008, 11:52:29 AM »

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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.

Yes, sorry, I didn't mean to imply that you did - that was careless phrasing on my behalf.

Quote
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.

Let me echo Anarkey's "Yay!".

Quote
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.

I agree with this reasoning completely. Though I have a feeling you'll need to get used to the "is this story in this genre" discussions. I've gone through several opinions about them myself, and right now I'm in a "if you can't beat them, join them" phase, but since you run a podcast that, literally, wears its genre on its banner, you're going to face them again and again.
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Kaa
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« Reply #23 on: October 26, 2008, 12:41:55 AM »

I barely finished this one. I had to "rewind" no less than five times because it kept losing my attention, and with the narrator's completely inflectionless, lackluster reading, making no attempt to alter his voice when performing different characters, I couldn't tell when the viewpoint switched, and became more and more confused.

Finally, I just let it play through, not caring, just wanting it off my iPod so I could move onto the next podcast.  I don't even remember the ending, nor do I much care.

This is the weakest story I've heard in a long time on Podcastle, Pseudopod or Escape Pod.  I give it a half-hearted "meh."
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I invent imaginary people and make them have conversations in my head. I also write.

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mbrennan
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« Reply #24 on: October 26, 2008, 01:19:06 AM »

I find the "genre or not?" issue relevant because if I'm listening to a fantasy story, a part of my brain is waiting for the magic to show up.  The further I go without it appearing, the more I start trying to work it into what I've heard, and sometimes that results in me getting more and more distracted from the story I'm actually listening to.  I think I spent half a scene or more trying to figure out if Eugenie was some kind of trickster messing around with them all, instead of paying attention to what was really going on.  Reading protocols (or in this case, listening protocols) strongly affect how a story registers on me, which means that expecting more fantasy than I get can end up detracting from my enjoyment of an otherwise fine tale.

That's a general statement; for this story specifically, I enjoyed the characters, and even enjoyed the narration, but I do think the lack of inflection muddied the transitions between the characters, both within a scene and between them.  And at the end of it, count me among those wondering if there was some fantastic element I somehow overlooked.  (See above, about Eugenie the Oh Wait She's Not A Trickster After All.)
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mbrennan
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« Reply #25 on: October 26, 2008, 01:32:05 AM »

I should clarify what I mean about thinking "genre or not?" is a relevant question.  I recognize that genres are artificial categories, and arguing about what does and does not fit into them rapidly becomes a waste of time; it's inherently a subjective question.  Fantasy is what we decide it is.  But of course genres shape people's expectations -- what I was getting at in the previous post -- and frustrated expectations can be more disappointing than a bad story.


--Marie
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Kaa
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« Reply #26 on: October 26, 2008, 01:54:57 AM »

genres shape people's expectations...and frustrated expectations can be more disappointing than a bad story.

I said something similar a while back when the story The Sloan Men aired on one of the EscapeArtists podcasts.  I started listening to it, forgot which podcast I was listening to, and realized that because of that, I had no idea how to "expect" it to end.

Had it been Escape Pod, I was expecting aliens or pod people, and with an upbeat ending ("Fun!" is Steve's criterion).

Had it been Pseudopod, I was expecting a very down ending, as horror stories don't tend to have happy endings.

And had it been Podcastle, I expected a more ambivalent ending, with demons or something supernatural-y instead of aliens.  (Which I believe it actually was, implying that it was, in fact, on Podcastle.)

I kept expecting with this one to find out that they were actually being killed on stage every night and then brought back to life. Or that they were all vampires.  Or all ghosts.  Or creating the reality of the play. Or...just something with a definite fantasy element.  And I think that my not getting this is what made it very 'meh' for me.

So, yes, genre discussions are quite valid because they by definition form opinions for those of us who listen to the stories as to what is going to appear in a given story.  This was a much less valid argument before Pseudopod and Podcastle split off from Escape Pod and subdivided the genres.  To say that genre doesn't matter is specious at best because by splitting them into three podcasts, you've demonstrated quite nicely that they do matter, and that our expectations are going to be informed by the statement--implied or not--that the story is "fantasy."

Granted, "fantasy" covers a wider range than do "horror" and "science fiction."

And I'll end this by saying that I by no means think this story didn't belong on Podcastle.  It just didn't do anything for me.  And I'll keep listening and hope the next ones do.  No story is going to please everyone.
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I invent imaginary people and make them have conversations in my head. I also write.

About writing || About Atheism and Skepticism (mostly) || About Everything Else
cuddlebug
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« Reply #27 on: October 26, 2008, 05:55:29 AM »

OMG, I am absolutely gobsmacked. Oh, the skill, the skill … Every word seemed to be placed precicely, creating an amazingly visual experience. Actually, I had to listen to this story 3 times, the first time while I was walking I kept thinking What? WHAT? What was that? And was totally frustrated. The second time while running around the flat, cleaning and cooking, was just as frustrating. But the third time I actually sat down and listened and LOVED it, the story is so full with character, an incredible setting and atmosphere, I started painting a weird bohemian picture in my head, with loads of detail and texture.

This was a great story, actually I can see a number of spin-offs from this, it seemed as if there were so many more stories hidden in it.
And the reading was perfect. 

I applaud you Andy Duncan and Frank Key. You may paint a picture in your head of an audience giving you standing ovations, throwing flowers on the stage, maybe chocolates, or panties even. 

So now I have to go and read what the other posters have said. That is just as exciting as the stories themselves. Well almost.
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cuddlebug
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« Reply #28 on: October 26, 2008, 06:28:49 AM »

Oh no, I can't believe the reactions to this story were so negative. This comes to show how different our tastes in the community are. But I can see how people could get frustrated at the density of the story especially when listening with one ear only and being distracted with the other. Maybe this story is just easier to digest on paper. Well, as I said I was really frustrated the first 2 times I listened.

And as for the fantasy or not discussion. I personally couldn't give a rat's arse if it qualifies as fantasy or not, I enjoyed he story and that's all I care about. I like a wide variety of stories and this one was certainly 'different' and fantastical enough for me. So good choice, Ann and Rachel.
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hautdesert
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« Reply #29 on: October 26, 2008, 10:57:23 AM »

Just for the record, my post wasn't meant to be a defense.  I didn't pick the story (i don't ever pick, Rachel does), though also for the record if I had been Rachel I would have picked it.

It was just that, I was surprised by the "it's not fantasy" responses, and was trying to figure out why I was surprised, and why it felt like fantasy to me.  So I offered my thoughts. 
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Rachel Swirsky
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« Reply #30 on: October 26, 2008, 12:27:54 PM »

Quote
Though I have a feeling you'll need to get used to the "is this story in this genre" discussions. I've gone through several opinions about them myself, and right now I'm in a "if you can't beat them, join them" phase, but since you run a podcast that, literally, wears its genre on its banner, you're going to face them again and again

Oh, I'm sure. Wink

I hear people who say genre expectations shape how they listen to stories. For me, that's not a reason never to publish anything that counters expectations, but I totally hear what you're saying.

If it helps, I don't think we have anything scheduled through the end of January that's not straight-up fantastic fantasy. :-D
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Roney
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« Reply #31 on: October 26, 2008, 03:44:27 PM »

I find the "genre or not?" issue relevant because if I'm listening to a fantasy story, a part of my brain is waiting for the magic to show up.

I can appreciate that.  Until about half-way through I was in a similar place, frequently expecting the acting to turn out not to be an act (or some other theatrical plot cliché).  Then I decided that the fantasy twist would turn up when the time was right, I would stop trying to second-guess it, and just relaxed and enjoyed the ride.  This turned out to be a much better frame of mind in which to appreciate this story.

It was wonderful.  Although I have some sympathy for the opinion that it wasn't fantasy and doesn't belong in a fantasy podcast, I think PodCastle would have been the poorer for not running it.  If we get more stories as imaginative and elegant as this one, I won't complain.
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mbrennan
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« Reply #32 on: October 26, 2008, 10:11:00 PM »

Maybe all I really want is a heads-up in the intro, letting me know how much fantasy to expect. :-)  (No, I'm not asking for any kind of actual metric.  But I think I might appreciate the "realism with just a touch of the fantastic" stories more if I knew that was what I'd to be listening to.)


--Marie
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Rachel Swirsky
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« Reply #33 on: October 27, 2008, 08:53:50 AM »

Just wanted to say that it's lovely to see you here, Ms. Brennan.
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ryos
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« Reply #34 on: October 28, 2008, 04:36:20 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.

Me too. It didn't hold my interest. I stopped it 11 minutes in out of sheer boredom.
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Dwango
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« Reply #35 on: October 29, 2008, 02:35:04 PM »

This story was rather dense and hard to swallow.  But it was a wonderful story in any event.  I liked the characters and the setting, and enjoyed the positive ending.  This would definitely not fit well on PseudoPod with such a nice, non-violent ending where no one was truly dismembered or bleeding.  I don't really care that it had only fantasy trimmings and would rather hear a good story that barely fits a genre than a bad story the fits it well.

I thought it was interesting how the proper doctor turns out to be a worse person in his actions than the people of the grotesque horror theater.  This is an extreme case of being happy with who you are, even if you do hear dead nuns praying over our souls and take pride in making people upchuck.  The psychologist doesn't seem to deal with his own mental quirks that well, allowing his jealousy to rule his mind.  The point with him seemed to be that being eccentric is not as bad as being a crooked jerk.

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mbrennan
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« Reply #36 on: October 30, 2008, 02:20:02 AM »

::waves hi to Rachel::

I'm finally getting caught up on podcasts, so for the first time it's worth my while to check the forums for discussion, instead of just hearing it recapped on a later episode. :-)
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Corydon
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« Reply #37 on: October 30, 2008, 09:39:04 AM »

Oh, Grand Guignol!  You had me at "a bag of eyeballs".

Seriously, this was my favorite EA story in ages.  I don't have too much to say about it right now, other than that the setting and atmosphere were spot-on and drew me right in; the black humor made me laugh out loud; and Frank Key's reading, as always, was masterful.  I laughed!  I cried!  It was better than "Cats"!

On a more serious note, the story led me to read up on the real Grand Guignol-- I didn't realize that Binet and de Lorde were real people.  But this note from Wikipedia, on the theater's closing, was especially affecting:

Quote
The Grand Guignol theatre closed its doors in 1962. "We could never equal Buchenwald," said its final director, Charles Nonon, on the theatre's decline and fall. "Before the war, everyone felt that what was happening onstage was impossible. Now we know that these things, and worse, are possible in reality."
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Hobart Floyt
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« Reply #38 on: October 30, 2008, 10:35:00 PM »

Hmm...  I guess all I can say is that I liked it. Especially the bit where the tortured artist plays a well deserved prank on the plagiarist psychologist/collaborator. I was confused at times because of the narration/pronunciation but that is a good reason to listen again. It's sort of like a very short version of the bible, in a metaphorical sense. The more you read it the more you glean from the subtleties. Perhaps a lifetime of listening/reading will not be enough. There will always be something more to learn/understand. Perhaps you sense a/pattern.

Ah well, in the end I simply liked it. It held my attention. It was entertaining. I love Frank's voice even if it's difficult to understand at times. Can you beat a British accent, even when mimicking French? I love it!

Having said that. This is not my favorite so far. I loved M. K. Hobson's narration/embodiment of Dead Languages. If you missed it I would recommend that you listen to it. If you didn't like it I would recommend that you listen again and again and again. I think this might change your mind. If not, then................


Thank You for being another PodCastle reader,

Gary

PS Pass it on! (The podcast, I mean) Just like McDonald's. I'm lovin' it!
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In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
  In the midst of his laughter and glee,
He had softly and suddenly vanished away—
  For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.
sjg1978
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« Reply #39 on: November 05, 2008, 07:22:26 AM »

Well, this is the first episode of Podcastle which has totally failed me. 

I think the reading was fine, but I just couldn't keep myself listening to "the horror voice guy" in a fantasy story.
With that voice, it just felt like a horror story developing, and I'm not a horror fan. I really gave it a try. I listened to the 10 minute mark. But still, it was a no go, so I quit listening and moved on.
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