Escape Artists
November 19, 2018, 09:24:45 AM *
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
News:
 
   Home   Help Search Login Register  
Pages: [1] 2  All
  Print  
Author Topic: PC035: Winter Solstice  (Read 6474 times)
Heradel
Bill Peters, EP Assistant
Hipparch
******
Posts: 2938


Part-Time Psychopomp.


« on: December 01, 2008, 09:14:36 PM »

PC035: Winter Solstice

By Mike Resnick.
Read by Chris Furst.

Once I knew all the secrets of the universe. With no more than a thought I could bring Time to a stop, reverse it in its course, twist it around my finger like a piece of string. By force of will alone I could pass among the stars and the galaxies. I could create life out of nothingness, and turn living, breathing worlds into dust.

Time passed—though not the way it passes for you—and I could no longer do these things. But I could isolate a DNA molecule and perform microsurgery on it, and I could produce the equations that allowed us to traverse the wormholes in space, and I could plot the orbit of an electron.

Still more time slipped away, and although these gifts deserted me, I could create penicillin out of bread mold, and comprehend both the General and Special Theories of Relativity, and I could fly between the continents.

But all that has gone, and I remember it as one remembers a dream, on those occasions I can remember it at all. There was—there someday will be, there may come to you—a disease of the aged, in which you lose portions of your mind, pieces of your past, thoughts you’ve thought and feelings you’ve felt, until all that’s left is the primal id, screaming silently for warmth and nourishment. You see parts of yourself vanishing, you try to pull them back from oblivion, you fail, and all the while you realize what is happening to you until even that perception, that realization, is lost. I will weep for you in another millennia, but now your lost faces fade from my memory, your desperation recedes from the stage of my mind, and soon I will remember nothing of you. Everything is drifting away on the wind, eluding my frantic efforts to clutch it and bring it back to me.


Rated PG. for possibly disturbing content. Contains winter, loss, and fading images of the present.
Logged

I Twitter. I also occasionally blog on the Escape Pod blog, which if you're here you shouldn't have much trouble finding.
Zathras
Guest
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2008, 02:12:43 PM »

Wow.  Strong intro, Steve. 

I really liked this story.  I thought at first that it would be a pale reflection of Bearing an Hourglass. 

I only had 2 problems with this story.  How could Merlin interact with people if he lives in the opposite direction and how did he build the legend of Merlin to begin with?

This is in my top 3 Podcastle stories, regardless of length, and my favorite Mike Resnick story.

I'd say more, but being the first to comment, I don't want to be greedy.
Logged
Raving_Lunatic
Radiohead Addict (please, do not encourage this)
Lochage
*****
Posts: 470


Red Blue Green


« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2008, 02:14:37 PM »

Oh, steve!
Logged
tazo
Extern
*
Posts: 18


WWW
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2008, 11:22:20 PM »

Oh man, Steve, that is tough.  My step-grandfather is in the early stages of Alzheimer's and he's already having trouble recognizing me.  This story kind of helped me see how he might be viewing things, desperately worried about remembering things like his grandkids names.  It also gave a wonderfully tragic twist to Merlin, who himself is in the middle of a wonderful tragedy.

Kind of funny, how Merlin's backwards living locks him very, very firmly in the present, almost horribly so.


Oh, and in a completely unrelated note, it was really kind of strange to hear Steve give an intro and not hear him finish with "It's storytime".
Logged
stePH
Actually has enough cowbell.
Hipparch
******
Posts: 3906


Cool story, bro!


WWW
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2008, 12:58:42 AM »

Wow.  Strong intro, Steve. 

I really liked this story.  I thought at first that it would be a pale reflection of Bearing an Hourglass. 


Considering how badly I thought Hourglass sucked*, that would have been very, very bad.  But I liked this story.

* Absolutely the worst of the Incarnations series ... though admittedly, I only read the first five, and considered Pale Horse and Tangled Skein the only good ones.  But Hourglass was just made of bad.
Logged

"Nerdcore is like playing Halo while getting a blow-job from Hello Kitty."
-- some guy interviewed in Nerdcore Rising
Zathras
Guest
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2008, 01:05:52 AM »

Wow.  Strong intro, Steve. 

I really liked this story.  I thought at first that it would be a pale reflection of Bearing an Hourglass. 


Considering how badly I thought Hourglass sucked*, that would have been very, very bad.  But I liked this story.

* Absolutely the worst of the Incarnations series ... though admittedly, I only read the first five, and considered Pale Horse and Tangled Skein the only good ones.  But Hourglass was just made of bad.

Don't want to hi-jack the thread, but I think the first 6 Incarnation books are all worth reading.
Logged
Ocicat
Castle Watchcat
Moderator
*****
Posts: 2858


Anything for a Weird Life


« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2008, 02:12:05 AM »

Good intro, but in the service of a story that just annoyed me.  But then it's Resnick, and I should know he's never to my taste.

I'm an aficionado of Arthurian stories, but the Merlin lives backwards bit is something that never really worked for me.  Mostly because the idea of someone really living backwards is so fascinating... and it's never really handled well.  So I had hopes here, but the idea isn't explored the way I'd like.  Of course, instead it's used as a funhouse mirror for Alzheimer's - which again is a good idea... and I guess the story wasn't really bad on that angle.  But my head kept catching on other things.  Like "Did that bit mean he remembers being older?  But he's supposed to age backwards too!" or just how he's always thinking about what he should or used to know, and not really being in the "now".  Whereas most the Alzheimer's victims I've known haven't seemed as cognizant of what they've lost or gotten wrong.  Just more living in their fantasy...
Logged
Void Munashii
Matross
****
Posts: 267


twitter.com/VOIDMunashii


WWW
« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2008, 10:59:43 AM »

  Wow, heavy story. I have a Pavlovian response to seeing/hearing the name Resnick now, it's like bungee jumping off of a bridge, there's fear, excitement, and the near certainty that it will all end in tears even if it is enjoyable.

  I found this to be an interesting take on Merlin, and one I really liked. the story was a little dry for my tastes, but the characterization made it very compelling.

  Steve: The fact you feel comfortable enough sharing information like that is a big reason why You are one of my favourite podcasters. Your content is almost always as interesting, if not more so, than the stories themselves.

  My thoughts and those of my wife go out to you.
Logged

"Mallville - A Journal of the Zombie Apocalypse"
http://mallvillestory.blogspot.com
Benjamin
Extern
*
Posts: 5


« Reply #8 on: December 03, 2008, 07:26:06 PM »

This story had an interesting premise and I wish it had been explored more. How comes Merlin is going backwards while everybody else is going forwards? Did he start life with tremendous knowledge and power and now he’s loosing it all? How’d he get to become this renowned and powerful wizard if he’s clueless now and getting worse the farther back in time he goes?
Maybe these are just gaping holes in the story.
Either way, to me the story just sounded like the same thing over and over again:
Someone’s coming. Do they know me? Do I know them? I’ll drop some vague and mysterious statement to stall for time and get rid of them. Now I’ll try to remember… But I can’t remember! Someone’s coming. Do they know me?” and so on.
I kept waiting for this story to materialize into something, but no. It ended with Merlin still trying to remember and getting nowhere.
And that’s where this story got me - nowhere.
Logged
DKT
Friendly Neighborhood
Hipparch
******
Posts: 4980


PodCastle is my Co-Pilot


WWW
« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2008, 11:48:53 AM »

Well, first off, this one definitely isn't SF...oh, wait. Wrong podcast Smiley

Actually, this might very well be my favorite of the Resnick stories I've heard on Escape Artists (and I've really liked a couple that Escape Pod's run).  Merlin living backwards, losing his mind to Alzheimer's was a fascinating angle, and the way it all came together in the end with Arthur felt sublime to me.

The reading was okay but felt a little emotionless or flat at times, which is kind of funny for a Resnick story.  Maybe it Chris Furst's attempt at toning down the Resnick-inducing tears?
Logged

ajames
Lochage
*****
Posts: 358



« Reply #10 on: December 05, 2008, 06:29:55 PM »

Well, first off, this one definitely isn't SF...oh, wait. Wrong podcast Smiley

What do you mean? There were space ships and allusions to scientific marvels... but let's not go there...   Lips sealed

Resnick generally does a nice job with the human elements of his stories, and this story is no exception. Merlin the Mysterious, in Resnick's hands, becomes Merlin the Mysterious AND at the same time a familiar and accessible old man, with familiar and accessible problems, hopes, and dreams. I felt for this character, and I thought about his predicament, and what our memories mean to each of us, and what it must be like to lose them at an increasingly accelerating rate, and so on.

So for that, Bravo, Mr. Resnick. 

At times, though, it seemed that Mr. Resnick either didn't care to fully work out the living backwards angle or lost track of it. Merlin's wondering if he will meet the scullery maiden later that night, for example, seems a memory he should be still capable of recalling, even with his advanced memory loss. I also had problems with the timing of the story - Merlin seems about to become incapable of even remembering his name even though we know he has much left to do ahead of him.
Logged
H. Bergeron
Palmer
**
Posts: 55


COACH! Check this out!


« Reply #11 on: December 06, 2008, 01:26:19 PM »

This story fell a little bit flat for me, I think.

Either way, to me the story just sounded like the same thing over and over again:
Someone’s coming. Do they know me? Do I know them? I’ll drop some vague and mysterious statement to stall for time and get rid of them. Now I’ll try to remember… But I can’t remember! Someone’s coming. Do they know me?” and so on.
I kept waiting for this story to materialize into something, but no. It ended with Merlin still trying to remember and getting nowhere.
And that’s where this story got me - nowhere.


Though I do kind of wonder at the title - the winter solstice is definitely the day with the shortest light and the longest night, but the sun always returns to greater and greater strength every day afterward.

Maybe I'm reading too much metaphor into the title, though.
Logged

Formerly Ignoranus - now too big for my britches, literally and figuratively.
MacArthurBug
Giddy
Hipparch
******
Posts: 648


I can resist anything except temptation


WWW
« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2008, 08:46:28 AM »

 I really just couldn't folllow this. I wanted to like it, Merlin being my favorite Autherian persona. I was driving when I listned and perhaps traffic or my own tangled thought process messed with this, just couldn't follow. It also seemed to ramble on overlong.

That all said, missed the heack out of hearing Steves voice, so that was a very nice suprise. Good intro.outro almost makes up for the head scratching this lead me to.
Logged

Oh, great and mighty Alasdair, Orator Maleficent, He of the Silvered Tongue, guide this humble fangirl past jumping up and down and squeeing upon hearing the greatness of Thy voice.
Oh mighty Mur the Magnificent. I am not worthy.
deflective
Hipparch
******
Posts: 1171



« Reply #13 on: December 09, 2008, 12:55:44 PM »

Though I do kind of wonder at the title - the winter solstice is definitely the day with the shortest light and the longest night, but the sun always returns to greater and greater strength every day afterward.

Maybe I'm reading too much metaphor into the title, though.

i'm glad you did, your speculation made me find an interpretation where i can sorta enjoy the story.

Merlin in the once and future king is a favourite character of mine. he was a prototype for bumbling characters wielding cosmic power such as Fizban. this angsty, powerless Merlin seemed out of place since he should be better off here than he was in the novel.

but if we think of this as his solstice then it could interpreted to be the darkest day of his winter years, this is when his degenerating memory is most painful. he has already lost so much (and he can feel more slipping away) but he's sharp enough that he understands what is happening and knows what he has lost. later (for him), it will become easier.

still, this is the first Resnick story that i've actively disliked.
Logged
Hatton
Peltast
***
Posts: 88



WWW
« Reply #14 on: December 10, 2008, 11:33:53 AM »

Thank you for posting this story.

My grandmother recently passed away after suffering from Alzheimer's and this story gave me the same insight into her condition that I think it gave Steve (dude, we really need to stop having so much in common!).  Listening to the wizened old man revert to his childhood and hearing his frustration at knowing what was happening yet at the same time not knowing matches what my aunt described my grandmother going through as well.

I thought it was especially ironic that the Senator Bilbo comments would be mentioned at the end.  Not because of the decay of an old man, rather the fact that this story represented yet another world that was added to.  In this case though, this story provided an insight of one man's mind as it unraveled.

Logged

Normal is just a setting on the washing machine.
Listener
Hipparch
******
Posts: 3187


I place things in locations which later elude me.


WWW
« Reply #15 on: December 11, 2008, 06:35:32 AM »

  Wow, heavy story. I have a Pavlovian response to seeing/hearing the name Resnick now, it's like bungee jumping off of a bridge, there's fear, excitement, and the near certainty that it will all end in tears even if it is enjoyable.

Every time I see Resnick's name in the author field I worry, because I just don't like his style or most of his stories. I guess I'm in the minority, since he's the most awarded author or somesuch.

The reading was passable, though there was some metallic rattling at times that I think could be explained by the microphone. I also like how, in PC, breaths are left in, whereas in most EP and PP that I remember, the breaths are taken out in editing.

The story didn't do anything for me. It was interesting at first, but it was FAR too talky and I just felt like it didn't go anywhere. I have a couple minutes left of it, but I can't see it getting much better in two minutes. It's like "I'm Merlin, I live backward in time, here's someone I'm talking to that I don't remember, I'm really upset about that, here's a pithy reference to how I live backward in time, rinse, repeat."

Either way, to me the story just sounded like the same thing over and over again:
Someone’s coming. Do they know me? Do I know them? I’ll drop some vague and mysterious statement to stall for time and get rid of them. Now I’ll try to remember… But I can’t remember! Someone’s coming. Do they know me?

I realize this story is important to people who've been affected by Alzheimer's, but I'm sure there at least a few good stories about memory on the slushpile that were (a) written more recently (b) more interesting (c) not written by Mike Resnick. But to me it was distressingly self-indulgent and pretty boring, and it kind of felt a little anachronistic too; though it took place in the Round Table times, I didn't have any sense of being in that time. It was more like all these actors going to a big castle and playing parts.

I try to give every story at least a chance, but I'm almost to the point where I'll see Resnick's name and think "oh, thank goodness, I can save myself 45 minutes and just move onto the next item in my podqueue."
« Last Edit: December 11, 2008, 06:37:30 AM by Listener » Logged

"Farts are a hug you can smell." -Wil Wheaton

Blog || Quote Blog ||  Written and Audio Work || Twitter: @listener42
LadyIndigo
Palmer
**
Posts: 22


« Reply #16 on: December 11, 2008, 05:01:07 PM »

I enjoyed it, though it was so 100% introspective that it didn't end up being my favorite.  The allusion to a woman who I'm guessing was Nimue confused me - what role would she play in this backwards trek?  I don't know enough about Arthurian legend to puzzle it out myself.

The most affecting moment in this, in my newbie opinion, had to be the woman begging for help for her son - it gave an importance to Merlin's illness, while touching on a feeling of paralysis that I've both heard about and experienced personally when serving people in the field of mental health.  Utterly heartbreaking.

Logged
Corydon
Peltast
***
Posts: 113


« Reply #17 on: December 12, 2008, 04:34:37 PM »

There's a great moment in the story, early on, when Merlin maps his capacities against the backwards march of technological progress, from godlike powers to medieval superstitions.  That was terrific, and gave me high hopes.  Unfortunately, it went downhill for me from that point on.

Leaving aside the heavy-handed Resnickian heartstrings-tugging, which leaves me cold, I guess I don't really understand how Merlin's condition is supposed to work here.  As he moves backwards in time, his mind goes, more and more.  Which suggests that the the Merlin that the young Arthur meets is somebody who isn't able to help him much (or given the way the story works, even recognize the young king-to-be.)  Are we supposed to imagine, then, that Merlin's mentoring is all of the Chauncey Gardiner sort that we see in the story?
Logged
Windup
Hipparch
******
Posts: 1226



« Reply #18 on: December 14, 2008, 03:16:24 PM »

Score this one as a near miss for me. 

Like some others, I've never been comfortable with the notion of Merlin "living backwards."  Though Resnick did a good job of illuminating the personal costs and how "forgetting" would work in such circumstances, it foundered on the (probably impossible) task of illuminating exactly how the backward-travel works for Merlin.  If he were truly traveling backwards through time, it would seem like he should be seeing people walk backwards through doors, hear people talking backwards, etc. which seems completely untenible.  Does the reversal happen in day-long chunks?  Or what? 

Though the poingnant image of power ebbing away and making desperate choices with limited information was remarkable in its own right.
Logged

"My whole job is in the space between 'should be' and 'is.' It's a big space."
Void Munashii
Matross
****
Posts: 267


twitter.com/VOIDMunashii


WWW
« Reply #19 on: December 16, 2008, 10:57:19 AM »

  Does the reversal happen in day-long chunks?  Or what? 

  That is how I picture it; sort of like how in "Groundhog Day" Bill Murray goes to sleep and wakes up that morning again, only that Merlin wakes up yesterday morning instead. Howzit work? Magic!
Logged

"Mallville - A Journal of the Zombie Apocalypse"
http://mallvillestory.blogspot.com
Pages: [1] 2  All
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.21 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!