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Author Topic: PC080: Superhero Girl  (Read 8246 times)
Heradel
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« on: December 01, 2009, 08:08:58 AM »

Podcastle 80: Superhero Girl

by Jessica J. Lee

Read by Jack Mangan

Originally published in Fantasy Magazine.

Ofelia was a superhero.  She told me so without reserve.  “It’s safe for me to tell you,” she said.  “I can sense you’re not a villain.  Besides, it would be unfair to keep it from you.  It won’t be easy, you know, being involved with a superhero girl.”

It did take some getting used to.  She received her mission briefings in birdsong, in radio static, encoded in every third word backwards from a breaking news bulletin on the televisions in a specific store window.  She saw battle plans drawn out for her in cloud patterns, coffee cup rings, the movement of players on a soccer field.  During these moments she would stand frozen in mid-motion, her head cocked to the side, listening intently.  Then she would drop—literally drop—whatever she was doing and dash away, calling apologies over her shoulder.

Rated PG: For Superheroes, Secret Identities, and Wham! Pow! BOOM!
« Last Edit: December 16, 2009, 01:47:52 AM by Heradel » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2009, 11:28:54 AM »

For reference, the interview Rachel mentioned with the author is here at Fantasy Magazine.
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« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2009, 03:56:42 AM »

 Smiley I enjoyed this one! The narator did a good job and the story was fun. It just goes to show that sometimes reality is what you believe to be true.
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2009, 09:22:56 AM »

Not my favorite, but not bad, either. Remember how someone criticized One Graffito Love Note Somethingorother for its manic pixie dreamgirlness - that is, a female lead who has no personality and seems to exist purely to teach the sober main character to embrace life - well, I didn't think it was true of that story, but I see it here. Ofelia has no meaningful arc. She sweeps in, crazies for a bit, and then dies. However, I will grant that this story is redeemed somewhat by the fact that the manic pixie dreamgirl leads the main character to embrace not "life," but rather, "crazy," and a role as one of the universe's protectors.

Or possibly a role as one of the universe's mental patients.

Or - and this is one of the story's other attractive qualities - both, because maybe there's no difference, and that's a thought that sends chills up my spine.

So, not my favorite, primarily because I wish Ofelia had had more agency, but I still have good things to say about it. A solid middle-of-the-road story.
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« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2009, 09:34:07 AM »

I have to admit that I started out not liking this one. A little too manic. Too disconnected.

Then, ironically, her death brought the story around and I finally figured it out.

I ended up really enjoying it.

And, the reading was very well done for this type of story.
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« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2009, 10:59:03 AM »

  I've been in superhero mode for the last month because of NaNoWriMo, so I found this story to be absolutely heartbreaking. I thought it was sad when it seemed like she was just mentally ill, but the ending....

  When he gets the call that she's gone I expected to find out she had killed herself somehow, but to find out she had cancer all along really hit me.

  The ending was fairly predictable from about the halfway point, but I still found it incredibly sad. Far too realistic to really be fantasy, but still a great and emotional story.
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« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2009, 10:07:40 AM »

This was a good story... but it wasn't fantasy.  It was a study in denial and grief-induced psychosis.
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« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2009, 11:27:07 AM »

This was a good story... but it wasn't fantasy.  It was a study in denial and grief-induced psychosis.

How so? A lot of fantasy dances on the border between real and fantastic. There are names for the genre - Slipstream, Magical Realism - but it still falls under the purview of fantasy. The fact that one valid interpretation of the text is that he went crazy, rather than that he followed in the footsteps of his now either disembodied or hiding superhero girlfriend doesn't make the story any less fantasy in my (small, green) book.
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« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2009, 11:51:55 AM »

I love crazy characters, unreliable narrators, and ambiguous endings, so I enjoyed this story a lot.
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Heradel
Bill Peters, EP Assistant
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« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2009, 12:00:15 PM »

This was a good story... but it wasn't fantasy.  It was a study in denial and grief-induced psychosis.

How so? A lot of fantasy dances on the border between real and fantastic. There are names for the genre - Slipstream, Magical Realism - but it still falls under the purview of fantasy. The fact that one valid interpretation of the text is that he went crazy, rather than that he followed in the footsteps of his now either disembodied or hiding superhero girlfriend doesn't make the story any less fantasy in my (small, green) book.

And all The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe was is a bunch of kids breathing in the fumes from a badly vented fireplace that leaked into the back of a wardrobe.

Either it all is, or none of it is. Attempting to force a rigid classification system on anything kills it.
« Last Edit: December 04, 2009, 12:09:40 PM by Heradel » Logged

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« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2009, 04:44:42 PM »

This was a good story... but it wasn't fantasy.  It was a study in denial and grief-induced psychosis.
And all The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe was is a bunch of kids breathing in the fumes from a badly vented fireplace that leaked into the back of a wardrobe.

I don't remember anything about fumes from a badly-vented fireplace in Lewis' work.  Ofelia's cancer was quite explicitly mentioned in this story.
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« Reply #11 on: December 04, 2009, 05:43:07 PM »

I don't remember anything about fumes from a badly-vented fireplace in Lewis' work.  Ofelia's cancer was quite explicitly mentioned in this story.

Was it? Was it really? Some people certainly said that Ofelia had cancer, but perhaps they were Ofelia's friends trying to cover for her super heroism, or Ofelia's enemies trying to trick the narrator into giving up hope. Really, there's no way to be sure, which was kind of the point of the story.

If I may, the point Heradel is making is that you don't ever know what's really going on, even in fiction. You just know what the narrator has chosen to tell you. In this case, the narrator has told us that the main character was told that Ofelia had cancer and was dead. The reality of this is entirely up for debate in a story like this. Maybe she's dead and the story is about how the main character loses touch with reality. Maybe she's not and its the story of how the main character enters a magical and terrifying world. Whose to say? Similarly, we assume that the events of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe are actually happening, but perhaps they're not. Perhaps the children are piling into the back of the wardrobe and tripping out. Reality is barely clear-cut in reality, in narrative all bets are off.
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« Reply #12 on: December 04, 2009, 05:50:50 PM »

I think ElectricPaladin has more or less said everything I had to say, both in his initial reaction and in his replies to others.
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Talia
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« Reply #13 on: December 07, 2009, 10:50:57 AM »

I liked the way the ending was mysterious. Is there something to the seeming insanity after all, or has the narrator finally lost the last vestiges of his mind? Its reminiscient of Pan's Labyrinth in this way. Sure would be nice to believe in something beyond the dismal reality wouldn't it...
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« Reply #14 on: December 07, 2009, 11:13:43 AM »

Finally catching up and starting to comment again.  I listened to dozens of Podcastle stories on the long Thanksgiving drive, and I've got a lot of work to do to catch up on the comments.  Smiley

I wasn't expecting to like this story, but I did.  It was sad, and touching, and I always love unreliable narrator stories.

Not to start a fight, but I also didn't think this was fantasy.  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, all presented what it was showing as fantasy, but in this one nothing particularly fantastic happens even from the narrator's point of view.  Girl shaves her head and runs off at odd times on threadbare excuses, that's not fantasy that's just a strange person.  It didn't help that her "mission-finding" in patterns of everyday events closely paralleled John Nash's experiences in A Beautiful Mind.  I'm not saying it was a rip-off or anything derogatory, only that mental illness was my first conclusion because I saw that movie.  Sort of like how it is much harder to pull off "he was dead all along" twist after certain movies come out.

So in the end, he falls into his own mental disorder, even if he does think he's saving humanity.  A downer ending to a downer story, all wrapped in sparkly wrapping.  I'm not saying that's a bad thing, it's just an interesting way to tell the story.
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Talia
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« Reply #15 on: December 07, 2009, 12:23:00 PM »

but in this one nothing particularly fantastic happens even from the narrator's point of view.


Not true. In the end, he recieves a phone call even though his phone is unplugged. Its possible its just a symptom of insanity, but, well, you never know. Smiley
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« Reply #16 on: December 07, 2009, 12:27:35 PM »

but in this one nothing particularly fantastic happens even from the narrator's point of view.


Not true. In the end, he recieves a phone call even though his phone is unplugged. Its possible its just a symptom of insanity, but, well, you never know. Smiley

I guess I'd forgotten about that detail between listening to the story and commenting?  Was that before or after he started seeing patterns?
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Talia
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« Reply #17 on: December 07, 2009, 01:26:55 PM »

I'm pretty sure its after, in the chronology of the story. Its pretty much the very last couple lines of the story, which I believe catches up with the "present" where he's sitting in his apartment coming unglued.
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DKT
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« Reply #18 on: December 07, 2009, 01:54:42 PM »

I'm pretty sure its after, in the chronology of the story. Its pretty much the very last couple lines of the story, which I believe catches up with the "present" where he's sitting in his apartment coming unglued.

Yeah, chronologically, I believe it's the very last thing that happens (that we're aware of) in this story's timeline.
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« Reply #19 on: December 07, 2009, 02:32:04 PM »

I'm pretty sure its after, in the chronology of the story. Its pretty much the very last couple lines of the story, which I believe catches up with the "present" where he's sitting in his apartment coming unglued.

Yeah, chronologically, I believe it's the very last thing that happens (that we're aware of) in this story's timeline.

Ah, so I would chalk that up under "delusion", not supernatural.  But that's just me.
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