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Author Topic: PC086: Tio Gilberto and the Twenty-Seven Ghosts  (Read 16732 times)
DKT
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« on: January 12, 2010, 07:32:55 AM »

PodCastle 86: Tio Gilberto and the Twenty-Seven Ghosts

By Ben Francisco
Read by Brian Lieberman

Originally appeared in Realms of Fantasy

Before I can even ring, Uncle Gilberto opens the door and gives me a
big hug and a kiss that smells of gin and menthol cigarettes.  His
dog, Ganymede, barks and snuggles his head between my legs.  The cat
eyes me suspiciously from the next room.  From behind me, someone
helps me slip off my jacket.  I look over my shoulder, but nobody’s
there.  “Who’s that?” I ask my uncle.

“That’s Daniel,” he says.

“Hey, Daniel,” I say.  “Been a while.”

Gilberto shakes a finger at the air behind me.  “No, you cannot also
take his shirt!  I told you to behave.”  Uncle Gil throws both hands
into the air.  “Dios mío, what have I done?  Bringing my innocent
nephew into a house with twenty-seven horny ghosts.  Qué barbaridad.
You tell me right away if any of them try anything, me entiendes,
James?”


Rated R: Contains Love, Ghosts, and San Francisco
« Last Edit: January 26, 2010, 11:05:17 AM by Heradel » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2010, 09:22:28 AM »

Bdoomed sounds great as a reader!
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« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2010, 05:57:36 PM »

Cheesy
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« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2010, 06:10:24 PM »

I'd slay any dragon, fight any ogre, summon any demon, or go on any perilous journey sooner than I'd put my self at risk again and have to go through the horrible anxiety of waiting for my doctor to give me a clean bill of health. The way this story ended upset me so much at first, but I think I see the intentions behind it and appreciate it. It's beautifully written, and beautifully read. Just listen to your tio, chicos. ALWAYS wear a parachute.
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« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2010, 07:00:13 PM »

This is a great story with a great reader.  I don't know if it was meant as a cautionary tale, but I can say it could almost have been written about my life around the same age as the protagonist.  My name also happens to be James.  The moral for me is that "love" can make you stupid, which can lead to consequences that last long after the boyfriend is history.

My only criticism is that the ghosts were all into show tunes.  At least they weren't opera queens, so I guess it could have been worse.  With 27 of them, you'd think a few would be into football or something not stereotypically gay.  It was kind of funny I must say.

Brian has an incredibly sexy voice by the way.  Yum.
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« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2010, 10:26:06 PM »

I'm liking the story so far, but I had to stop because I cant make out a couple of the words - couldn't find a copy of the story online (my google fu is weak?) - can anyone tell me, or if I'm hearing it right explain to me what it means, when the protagonist goes, "the second answer is that Gilberto's washer and dryer are not ______"? it SOUNDS like "staffed by casts" or "staffed by cats" (heh).

thanks...
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Bdoomed
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« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2010, 10:46:58 PM »

staffed by kasper. Tongue
my bad, but again I did it kinda rushed
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« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2010, 10:48:11 PM »

Oooh. No that makes a ton of sense,  I just .. forgot the one guy's name was Kasper. Or.. something.

Thanks :p
« Last Edit: January 12, 2010, 10:49:44 PM by Talia » Logged
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« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2010, 12:18:39 AM »

OK, finished. Yep, great story. I enjoy the concept of ghosts as .. almost comforting figures, as friends, rather than figures of abject fear as most commonly portrayed.

Would kinda liked to have known how the test came out, but I guess that would be too.. something, and the point was to leave that air of uncertainty at the end. Like his life is all up in the air, but at least his uncle's ghost buddies have his back.. heh. :p

And yes, great reading man. My hearing is not so good, which probably contributed to me not getting that one part.. sorry bout that.
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« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2010, 10:14:45 AM »

Great reading!  Grin

Shitty recording.  Sad

Story... meh. Undecided  "Boy meets boy; boy loses boy; boy gets AIDS."  I didn't see that the ghosts were integral to the story, so the fantasy element seemed tacked-on.  This same story could have been told without them.


...oh, this would be the story that needed a reader who could pronounce Spanish, right?
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« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2010, 10:38:04 AM »

Great reading!  Grin

Shitty recording.  Sad

Story... meh. Undecided  "Boy meets boy; boy loses boy; boy gets AIDS."  I didn't see that the ghosts were integral to the story, so the fantasy element seemed tacked-on.  This same story could have been told without them.


...oh, this would be the story that needed a reader who could pronounce Spanish, right?

Ultimately the ghosts were the reason he and and the other guy broke up, so I do kinda think they were integral to the story.
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« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2010, 04:35:15 PM »

I loved the reading of this story and the story itself was good. I wish that the SanFran had been a little more SanFran-y, to contrast it a little more with New York and create more of an "other" space for James where love can happen and so can ghosts.

The line about not knowing how many layers to wear in SF was absolutely perfect.

I thought the ghosts were good too. 27 people trapped in this world because of tragic death--of course they do the same things over and over.
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« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2010, 06:53:59 PM »

I didn't see that the ghosts were integral to the story, so the fantasy element seemed tacked-on.  This same story could have been told without them.

I have to agree with that. If you took out the ghosts and replaced "Tio Gilberto lives with ghosts" with "Tio Gilberto is merely concerned and cautious" you would end up with the same thing: James and his boyfriend having sex . . . again . . . and again . . . and again.
I didn't exactly find this story thrilling.
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« Reply #13 on: January 14, 2010, 11:37:41 AM »

"Boy meets boy; boy loses boy; boy gets AIDS." 

*snip*

...oh, this would be the story that needed a reader who could pronounce Spanish, right?

Yes, this is that story Smiley

FTR, the story's intentionally ambiguous at the end as to whether or not James has AIDS.
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« Reply #14 on: January 14, 2010, 01:09:08 PM »

FTR, the story's intentionally ambiguous at the end as to whether or not James has AIDS.

I understand that the story doesn't share the test results with the reader -- but if Uncle Bert's early admonishments to always wear a condom, followed by Casper talking James into going it bareback, isn't "hanging a gun on the wall", then I don't know what is.
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« Reply #15 on: January 14, 2010, 01:31:15 PM »

Oh, there's no question that all that stuff for the metaphorical gun is there. And it definitely goes off. IMO, what the results of that are are ambiguous and could be interpreted in several ways. For me, the ambiguity of the ending, the dread of waiting to find out if you have that clean bill of health or not (as ridiculouslee said earlier) is much more powerful than definitively learning whether he'd contracted AIDS or not. So when the so-called gun goes off and I'm left filled with a sense of dread and uncertainty instead of knowing for sure, well, that's some master marksmanship. (Again, all IMO.)

That said, I think your interpretation is completely valid. I was just trying to point out is that it's not necessarily the only one.
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« Reply #16 on: January 14, 2010, 06:15:19 PM »

I almost didn't listen to this one because I tend to find ghost stories either boring or way too scary, (because I sort of believe in them). But I'm glad I did -- it's one of my favorite PC stories so far. On the craft side, it's extremely well written with so many lines that left me jaw-dropped with their casual poetry. And on the story side, I thought it was such a sideways and sly way to mythologize the horrors and sadness of the AIDS epidemic in the US in the 80's.

My favorite moment was when Gilberto was describing his house, and how it had been bought by so many men full of love and life, and how now it was just him and the ghosts. Tying in that past with the current present of what it feels like to be in love, and how it feels to have that love not be a true thing, was just, well, haunting, to echo the outro. Well done. Well done.

Wonderful reading, as well.     

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« Reply #17 on: January 15, 2010, 08:12:25 AM »

Fantastic!  Thank you, Pod Castle, thank you Brian for the fantastic reading, and thank you Mr. Francisco for giving us a story a gay character that I could hang my hat on.

For once, HIV/AIDS was a maguffin in a gay romance and not the central player.  Here we have a story about a man's first true romance set against the backdrop of a generation gap in his family.  The differences between the gay men of the 1970s and those coming up, now, are very, very different.  As a former reporter for a GLBT newspaper, this is exactly the sort of thing I covered in my stories.  To see it expertly woven into the narrative was nicely done.  The fine touches of detail contrasting the community of "old queens" of community builders from the hey-day of San Fransisco's 70's Mecca to today's diaspora of gym bunnies and much more accepted (although still reviled in many quarters) gay culture was excellent.  To set a coming-of-age tale against that was lovely and heart-breaking.  As mentioned in the outro, it may sound cliche when said, but it was beautifully "haunting".

The ghosts, of course, were both literal and allegorical.  I have met men from that day.  They are surrounded by the ghosts of the friends they lost to AIDS during the 80s.  For them, too, there are many "Another Suitcase, Another Town" nights.  Those ghosts drive them in their actions just like they drive the younger generation, today whether they like it or not.  The generation of James and Casper live in the shadow of the Stonewall generation, the Pride generation, and -later- the AIDS generation.  Heck, they live in the shadow of the Mattachine and Bilitis Generation even if they've forgotten them.  The upshot of it all is that they're finding their own identity at the same time they're finding their feet, discovering college-age sex, having their first relationships, and trying to figure out what it means to be a part of this subculture that gets re-written every few years.  The past looms over them -the ghosts, as it were- even while they try to ignore it.

In the end, while dire and leaving me wanting to know if James is HIV+ or not, that's not the point of the story.  The tale is slice-of-life showing a young man in that magical summer where he experiences his first love, navigates the differences between generations, and finds himself.  The ghosts were crucial in that:  intangible, ever-present, and -again- haunting.

I remember my first relationship:  that's what this story did to me.  It made me long for that first heartbreak in the same way you pull off an annoying scab.  Would I really go back and suffer through it again?  No, of course not.  But there was a magic in that time when I flew across the country on borrowed money to meet a man I'd fallen for.  It lasted longer than 6 weeks.

"Tio Gilberto and the Twenty-Seven Ghosts" is a brilliant example of coming-of-age in the shadows of ghosts:  ghosts of different generations, ghosts of the past, and ghosts of trepidation and an unknown future.  I've listened to it twice, now, and will -again- many more times.

Thank you, PodCastle, for one of the very, very best!

Yours,
Sylvan (Dave)
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« Reply #18 on: January 15, 2010, 10:28:17 AM »

I enjoyed the joke about people not liking their realism with magic.

I always enjoy a bit of magical realism in my stories, it's a great tool for telling history.  It was seen here to show how the AIDS epidemic left its mark on gay culture, as Sylvian explained better than i could.

My mom was a pretty big hippi and went into the 80's with lots of gay friends.  She was honestly shocked when I told her that I didn't know anyone with HIV or AIDS.  To her mind it's still this ever present threat looming and every social circle has at least one member.
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« Reply #19 on: January 15, 2010, 12:50:33 PM »

I also loved the magical realism joke, especially because of the Hispanic angle Smiley
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« Reply #20 on: January 17, 2010, 10:34:47 AM »

I understand this might be my stretching a point a little, alI listened to this as I fell asleep, but I interpreted the uncle as a carer/nurse for men who had already contracted HIV. The reason they're "invisible" to the protagonist was because, by his own admission, he was there for laughs and hook-ups...

Maybe I'm seeing more metaphor here than there is...?

(excuse my dodgy typing, reading/listening from my phone)
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« Reply #21 on: January 17, 2010, 11:03:35 AM »

I understand this might be my stretching a point a little, alI listened to this as I fell asleep, but I interpreted the uncle as a carer/nurse for men who had already contracted HIV. The reason they're "invisible" to the protagonist was because, by his own admission, he was there for laughs and hook-ups...

Maybe I'm seeing more metaphor here than there is...?

If you interpret that way, then it isn't a fantasy story and doesn't belong on PodCastle.
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« Reply #22 on: January 17, 2010, 11:54:08 AM »

I understand this might be my stretching a point a little, alI listened to this as I fell asleep, but I interpreted the uncle as a carer/nurse for men who had already contracted HIV. The reason they're "invisible" to the protagonist was because, by his own admission, he was there for laughs and hook-ups...

Maybe I'm seeing more metaphor here than there is...?

If you interpret that way, then it isn't a fantasy story and doesn't belong on PodCastle.

Can we please stop with the "if there are not clearly dragons and wizards then it does not belong on PodCastle" line of reasoning? There will be fantasy stories that could swing both ways, and they belong on PodCastle.
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« Reply #23 on: January 17, 2010, 12:13:26 PM »

I understand this might be my stretching a point a little, alI listened to this as I fell asleep, but I interpreted the uncle as a carer/nurse for men who had already contracted HIV. The reason they're "invisible" to the protagonist was because, by his own admission, he was there for laughs and hook-ups...

Maybe I'm seeing more metaphor here than there is...?

If you interpret that way, then it isn't a fantasy story and doesn't belong on PodCastle.

Thanks for the insight Steph, always nice to have it outlined nice and clearly why an opinion is wrong Sad
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« Reply #24 on: January 17, 2010, 12:44:49 PM »

I understand this might be my stretching a point a little, alI listened to this as I fell asleep, but I interpreted the uncle as a carer/nurse for men who had already contracted HIV. The reason they're "invisible" to the protagonist was because, by his own admission, he was there for laughs and hook-ups...

Maybe I'm seeing more metaphor here than there is...?

If you interpret that way, then it isn't a fantasy story and doesn't belong on PodCastle.

Thanks for the insight Steph, always nice to have it outlined nice and clearly why an opinion is wrong Sad

okay let's stop this before it turns into a needless argument, kay?
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« Reply #25 on: January 17, 2010, 01:31:29 PM »

Can we please stop with the "if there are not clearly dragons and wizards then it does not belong on PodCastle" line of reasoning? There will be fantasy stories that could swing both ways, and they belong on PodCastle.

Then enlighten me; I'm listening: without ghosts, how would this qualify as a fantasy story?
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« Reply #26 on: January 17, 2010, 01:32:58 PM »

Can we please stop with the "if there are not clearly dragons and wizards then it does not belong on PodCastle" line of reasoning? There will be fantasy stories that could swing both ways, and they belong on PodCastle.

Then enlighten me; I'm listening: without ghosts, how would this qualify as a fantasy story?

The point is - a story that is ambiguous, and some readers may interpret as fantasy and others may interpret as non-fantasy, falls within the mission plan of Podcastle.
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« Reply #27 on: January 17, 2010, 07:07:11 PM »

I didn't see that the ghosts were integral to the story, so the fantasy element seemed tacked-on.  This same story could have been told without them.

I know everyone has already talked smack about this. i am not talking smack but i kind of agree that the ghosts seem a little after thought. how else is the uncle going to come in and see young men getting it on. yea it is his nephew but his only company are ghosts. other than the "culturally insensitive" thing i could have done without the ghosts.

that said it was a really different direction for podcastle and i like hearing different things.
 
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« Reply #28 on: January 17, 2010, 10:03:06 PM »

Can we please stop with the "if there are not clearly dragons and wizards then it does not belong on PodCastle" line of reasoning? There will be fantasy stories that could swing both ways, and they belong on PodCastle.

Then enlighten me; I'm listening: without ghosts, how would this qualify as a fantasy story?

The point is - a story that is ambiguous, and some readers may interpret as fantasy and others may interpret as non-fantasy, falls within the mission plan of Podcastle.

Eytanz makes the point for me. Fantasy is what the editors point to and call fantasy.
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« Reply #29 on: January 18, 2010, 04:28:30 AM »

It doesn't matter if the story could have been written without ghosts, the fact remains that it had them.  This story was a magical realism piece.  It blends the ghosts in with the real world in a way that makes them accepted as a normal occurance only in the house.  Gilbertos house becomes a portal into another world, an escape in more than one way (both from new York and also from kasper's roommate.)  Outside of the house lies the real world and all too real dilemmas.  The world is harsh to him.  (kicked out of kasper's place). However comfort is once again found when the ghosts accompany him to the clinic.  The two worlds blend even as they clash.  The ghosts represent not only comfort but also a sense of dread: this can happen to you.

That's how I see it anyway.
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« Reply #30 on: January 18, 2010, 11:17:11 AM »

I mostly liked this one.  It had a lot of good emotion in there and I could connect with the characters relatively well.  The ending of it's strongest point--it would've had much less impact if he had found out his results one way or the other.  If it had ended with him hearing a HIV- result he could celebrate and hopefully learn a lesson.  If it had ended with him hearing a HIV+ result then he could begin to come to terms with his mistake and begin to think about what the future might hold for him.  By ending it at the waiting room, the potential energy of both futures is looming over his head like the Sword of Damocles, maddening with its inconclusion!  I think we've all experienced lesser versions of this tension when we know our future branches on the contents of the response to an application letter, medical test results, or some other Scrhodinger's box of potentiality.

What I didn't like about it was that there were several major elements that seemed like they were leading to some grand point, and then didn't.  I don't know if this was intentional or not, or perhaps I just totally missed a connection.  An example of this is his performance of a comedy act in front of an invisible audience.  That was a really compelling idea, and I can imagine how goddamned hard it would be to do that.  Live performances feed on the energy of the watchers and if the reaction of the watchers is invisible, it would be hard to maintain the energy.  I haven't participated in any sort of live performance since college drama club, but I acted in a few plays then and the audience response is a tangible element.  There was one faculty member who always came to at least one performance of each play, and when something tickled her funny bone she would laugh uproariously, louder than any other person in the audience.  And those nights were ALWAYS the best night of any show.  Nobody forgot their lines, every punchline was delivered to perfection.  If you know that someone is enjoying it that thoroughly, there's no NEED to be nervous.  When I'm not nervous, my performance is more natural, which makes the reaction better, and the feedback system makes everything significantly better.  Now, performing in front of a silent audience would be terrible, even if you know they're responding.  It seemed like that was going to be a driving point, but that line of reasoning never seemed to continue, which is too bad--it was such an interesting moment of tension that I wanted to see where that line of reasoning would go from there. 
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« Reply #31 on: January 18, 2010, 01:12:49 PM »

I mostly liked this one.  It had a lot of good emotion in there and I could connect with the characters relatively well.  The ending of it's strongest point--it would've had much less impact if he had found out his results one way or the other.  If it had ended with him hearing a HIV+ result he could celebrate and hopefully learn a lesson.  If it had ended with him hearing a HIV- result then he could begin to come to terms with his mistake and begin to think about what the future might hold for him. 

Just to clarify: HIV+ is the "bad" result and HIV- is the "good" result. Wink
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« Reply #32 on: January 18, 2010, 03:07:59 PM »

I enjoyed this one, largely because:

- I am a queer lady
- I am of hispanic heritage
- I'm into speculative fiction

and most of all . . .

- Everyone in my family saw ghosts growing up! Including me.  And the explanations from my mother's side of the family (the hispanic side) were very casual, as in, "Oh, that's just Uncle so-and-so coming to check up on me, he and I were very close as a child."

It's fascinating how the stereotypes about one's people often turn out to be true!  Even better if they're made into compelling fiction.


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« Reply #33 on: January 18, 2010, 09:21:58 PM »

As I sat there doing my own laundry listening to this story, I couldn't help but think two things.
1. How I wished my adorable laundry attendant was also gay.
2. How I wished my laundromat had a bar.

Between this story and the The Threnody of Johnny Toruko, I am feeling VERY VERY happy!  I am a very big geek.  It seems like in the geek/scifi community there is a deep void of homosexual content/people (or maybe I'm looking in the wrong places).  It warms my heart to hear fiction stories that I can relate to.  Stories that not only involve gay characters (Yes, they DO exist!), but feature them!

This story reminds me of my youth in so many ways.  It seems like those rash, carefree and idiotic 18-22 years were brilliantly captured in this story.  I recall a similar clinic visit myself, beads of sweat on my brow while waiting to hear my fate.  I almost felt those same feelings again as I was waiting with James in the clinic.  I was upset at first that we didn't get an answer, but the 'not knowing' actually drove the point home more.

I can sum this whole response up by saying, "Thank you.  I appreciate this a lot!"
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« Reply #34 on: January 19, 2010, 12:32:51 AM »

I thought bdoomed's reading was great.  I especially appreciated his casual, friendly tone, which is a great match for the voice of the story and for James's character. And the brief burst into song for "one singular sensation" was perfect.  Smiley

I wrote this story at Clarion South, and was inspired by another story about a soldier haunted by the ghosts of his friends who died in the war.  His children and grandchildren--whose lives were untouched by the war--were completely removed from the reality of the ghosts that haunted him.  I've always had a lot of older gay friends, and it made me think of them and of their ghosts.  I thought about one friend in particular--he's not my "tio" by blood but he is in most of the ways that matter. One night, when his dog died, he was devastated, and it was clear that his sadness was about much more than the loss of his dog.  He had lost not just one friend or two friends, but an entire community to AIDS.  Meanwhile, I had close friends my own age who were having unsafe sex, to whom HIV seemed distant and theoretical.  My generation of gay men--the generation that came of age in the 90s and the 00s, in the era of sex education and protease inhibitors--had grown up with the constant spectre of HIV.  We'd learned since middle school that we had to set strict boundaries on our intimacy--and some of us resisted that notion.  I wanted to write a story about that generation gap, in a way that was subtle and a bit sideways and that embraced the validity of both experiences.  And that managed to have some fun along the way. Smiley

I don't want to get too engaged in the is-this-really-a-fantasy-story debate, but I will say that, from my perspective, the ghosts were essential from the outset.  It's hard for me to imagine the story without them.  I'm one of these people who believes that the author's reading is just another interpretation of the story, so I don't mean this to be any sort of last word on the subject.  Just wanted to share my two cents.

Many thanks to Podcastle for bringing this piece to a new audience and to all of you for your thoughtful comments. Please keep the comments coming and feel free to throw questions at me if it strikes your fancy.
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« Reply #35 on: January 19, 2010, 06:56:40 AM »

Please keep the comments coming and feel free to throw questions at me if it strikes your fancy.
thank you for the story!

I do have a question...why did Tio Gilberto have to hurt the cat?  Sad  I liked his character a lot, up to that point
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« Reply #36 on: January 19, 2010, 10:01:56 AM »

I mostly liked this one.  It had a lot of good emotion in there and I could connect with the characters relatively well.  The ending of it's strongest point--it would've had much less impact if he had found out his results one way or the other.  If it had ended with him hearing a HIV+ result he could celebrate and hopefully learn a lesson.  If it had ended with him hearing a HIV- result then he could begin to come to terms with his mistake and begin to think about what the future might hold for him. 

Just to clarify: HIV+ is the "bad" result and HIV- is the "good" result. Wink

Oops!  I modified the original to be correct.  I had the right symbols in mind but the signal got lost before the fingers!
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« Reply #37 on: January 19, 2010, 10:04:34 AM »

Many thanks to Podcastle for bringing this piece to a new audience and to all of you for your thoughtful comments. Please keep the comments coming and feel free to throw questions at me if it strikes your fancy.

Thanks for stopping by!  I love to hear the story behind the story from the author.  Smiley
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« Reply #38 on: January 19, 2010, 10:09:13 AM »

Between this story and the The Threnody of Johnny Toruko, I am feeling VERY VERY happy!  I am a very big geek.  It seems like in the geek/scifi community there is a deep void of homosexual content/people (or maybe I'm looking in the wrong places).  It warms my heart to hear fiction stories that I can relate to.  Stories that not only involve gay characters (Yes, they DO exist!), but feature them!

Besides this one and Johnny Toruko, there have been at least a few other stories with homosexual characters on Escape Artist 'casts:
The Petrified Girl on Pseudopod
My Friend is a Lesbian Zombie on Escape Pod
Red Riding Hood's Child on Podcastle

I've heard from others that many people would like more stories with homosexual characters--maybe I should go write one!  Smiley
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« Reply #39 on: January 19, 2010, 10:17:21 AM »

I'm one of these people who believes that the author's reading is just another interpretation of the story, so I don't mean this to be any sort of last word on the subject.  Just wanted to share my two cents.

Yeah, you're just the guy who wrote the story... what do you know?  Tongue
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« Reply #40 on: January 19, 2010, 03:02:46 PM »

H
I'm one of these people who believes that the author's reading is just another interpretation of the story, so I don't mean this to be any sort of last word on the subject.  Just wanted to share my two cents.

Yeah, you're just the guy who wrote the story... what do you know?  Tongue

From a literary criticism point of view, there's almost no importance placed on authorial intent; it has an awkward tendency to undermine modes of critical examination Sad
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« Reply #41 on: January 19, 2010, 04:25:36 PM »

I thought bdoomed's reading was great.  I especially appreciated his casual, friendly tone, which is a great match for the voice of the story and for James's character. And the brief burst into song for "one singular sensation" was perfect.  Smiley
I'm glad I could do your story justice! Smiley I had fun reading it, especially being straight. Tongue
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« Reply #42 on: January 20, 2010, 04:24:12 AM »

I liked this a lot, but then, it did match fairly closely with my own writing style, leaning heavily on symbolism and making metaphors literal in order to serve a thematic end.  The ghosts were excellent in every respect, even their stereotyped "gay" behavior (they are, after all, fossilized imprints rather than the actual people), and I loved the metaphorical depth they brought.

My only gripe was that Kaspar seemed to go really quickly from enthusiastic boyfriend to vicious rejection.  I mean, at the time of the "breakup," they've been having sex steadily for almost two months.  This may just be my strong monogamous streak showing, but it feels weird to have such an extreme reaction to such a minor situation.  I mean, yes, usually the line about "boundaries" is a prelude to breaking up, but it's not like Kaspar didn't know James was leaving at the end of the summer anyway, right?  Kaspar's abrupt shift makes a teeeeensy bit more sense if he already knows he's got the Bug, likes to pretend he doesn't, and James' hesitance reminds him of it, but then I'm stuck trying to reconcile his apparent fondness for James and their long talks about their future together with the idea that he'd try to talk James into barebacking it when he knows he's positive. 

I dunno.  I have a hard time getting from "Maybe we should set some boundaries" to "Get out of my house into the freezing cold without a coat and don't come back!"  That seems like, at absolute WORST, a "Well, you can just sleep on the couch then," and that only AFTER an hour of vituperative verbal conflict.

The fact that I spent more time talking about the flaw than what I liked is not representative of the actual division of my feelings.  This is definitely in the nineties, percentage-wise; possibly the high nineties.
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« Reply #43 on: January 20, 2010, 09:32:25 AM »

H
I'm one of these people who believes that the author's reading is just another interpretation of the story, so I don't mean this to be any sort of last word on the subject.  Just wanted to share my two cents.

Yeah, you're just the guy who wrote the story... what do you know?  Tongue

From a literary criticism point of view, there's almost no importance placed on authorial intent; it has an awkward tendency to undermine modes of critical examination Sad

I like the author to come and put in their interpretation, but as Ben said I consider it just another interpretation.  If it doesn't mesh with the view that I had based on the reading itself, then I'll just know deep down inside that I'm right.  Wink  But seriously, I think it's cool when the author's stop by.
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« Reply #44 on: January 20, 2010, 11:39:53 AM »

Please keep the comments coming and feel free to throw questions at me if it strikes your fancy.
thank you for the story!

I do have a question...why did Tio Gilberto have to hurt the cat?  Sad  I liked his character a lot, up to that point

Hi, Danooli.  It's funny because people have often pointed to that moment as one of the strangest parts of the story, and of course it's one of the few that's drawn from a "real-life" experience.  I feel odd explicating it too much, but my own interpretation is that Gilberto is having a moment of grief and anger, mixed with survivor's guilt (and a fair amount of alcohol). He takes his anger out on the cat, because, like him, the cat has survived.  Despite that, I think Gilberto's a good guy.  He's usually very kind to the cat and other animals.  Smiley

But as SirJolt well put it, authorial intent is not terribly important. Smiley  Would be interested to hear if anyone had other reactions/interpretations of that moment. 
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« Reply #45 on: January 20, 2010, 02:53:33 PM »

But as SirJolt well put it, authorial intent is not terribly important. Smiley  Would be interested to hear if anyone had other reactions/interpretations of that moment. 

FWIW, I read that moment pretty much exactly as you intended.  I thought it was pretty clear.
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« Reply #46 on: January 20, 2010, 05:09:26 PM »

my own interpretation is that Gilberto is having a moment of grief and anger, mixed with survivor's guilt (and a fair amount of alcohol). He takes his anger out on the cat, because, like him, the cat has survived.  Despite that, I think Gilberto's a good guy.  He's usually very kind to the cat and other animals.  Smiley

thank you Smiley  i did wonder at that interpretaion, but i had also noticed at the beginning when the dogs name was mentioned (LOVE the dogs name, by the way!) but the cat was simply the cat. 

felinity aside, this story has stayed with me in a noticeable way the past few days. i like it  Smiley
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« Reply #47 on: January 20, 2010, 09:25:37 PM »

good good story. GREAT reading BD (unlike some other narrators) your singing was fantabulous as well. I liked/hated being left hanging in the end. Really? all that build up and we don't get to find out. harrumph.
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« Reply #48 on: January 21, 2010, 01:19:41 AM »

Despite the serious undertone to the narrative, the visual imagery had me in stitches.   Grin 

Forests of hankies wiping invisible tears, floating top-hats and feather boas, and, of course: "Daniel! Johnny! I told you to leave them alone!"  Can't remember now if I got the second name right . . .

This one MUST be made into a short film.
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« Reply #49 on: January 22, 2010, 11:25:36 AM »

I listened to this on my first train ride for a few years, and it was enjoyable - also seemed to bring me luck as I go an offer on the job I went for  Grin

I enjoyed the story, although some of the descriptions of various 'acts' went beyond my comfort zone, but thats my thing, not a fault with the story...

My only gripe was that Kaspar seemed to go really quickly from enthusiastic boyfriend to vicious rejection.  I mean, at the time of the "breakup," they've been having sex steadily for almost two months.  This may just be my strong monogamous streak showing, but it feels weird to have such an extreme reaction to such a minor situation.  I mean, yes, usually the line about "boundaries" is a prelude to breaking up, but it's not like Kaspar didn't know James was leaving at the end of the summer anyway, right?  Kaspar's abrupt shift makes a teeeeensy bit more sense if he already knows he's got the Bug, likes to pretend he doesn't, and James' hesitance reminds him of it, but then I'm stuck trying to reconcile his apparent fondness for James and their long talks about their future together with the idea that he'd try to talk James into barebacking it when he knows he's positive. 

I think the idea was Kaspar is one those user type people (not unique to gays btw  Undecided). You know, the passive-aggressive sort who use people and flip out over the smallist things, especially if they get caught doing stuff they shouldn't (i.e. spreading HIV in his case, it seems). Also, I think the mention of him trying to barge into the toilet was a hint of that too.
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« Reply #50 on: January 22, 2010, 11:44:48 AM »

In regards to Kaspars change of heart.  I wonder if the view we had of him in the beginning was through the MCs "love goggles".  So when Kaspar dumps him it appears to come out of left field because the MC's been blind to anything that didn't fit how he saw Kaspar.

It's a shattered delusion.  The way it ends conflicts so much with how you saw things, it feels like they transformed into another person instantly.
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« Reply #51 on: January 22, 2010, 02:57:06 PM »

It's a shattered delusion.  The way it ends conflicts so much with how you saw things, it feels like they transformed into another person instantly.

I think that would work better if it was more explicit.  That is, I'd buy that as an explanation if the MC's view of Kaspar had changed at all, if he had looked back and seen Kaspar's actions with a new light; instead, he just seems shocked and confused (as was I.) 
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« Reply #52 on: January 22, 2010, 04:13:05 PM »

  That is, I'd buy that as an explanation if the MC's view of Kaspar had changed at all, if he had looked back and seen Kaspar's actions with a new light; instead, he just seems shocked and confused (as was I.) 

I guess the line about Gilberto and his ghost driver smiling in nostalgia when the MC said " how could he do this after we got so close over the last 6 weeks" really resonating with me.  It made me think of how common his situation is.  How it involves realizing the person you'd been dating was largely in your mind, and it takes a while to absorb that. 

I may also be projecting a bit, but his situation is a cliche for a reason.
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« Reply #53 on: January 23, 2010, 10:53:18 AM »

I wonder if a mod would be willing to split the microphone discussion out of this thread. Its a bit distracting when there are too seperate, interesting, discussions going on in the same thread.

I really liked this story, though it made me rather sad for a while. And it made me feel old, mostly because the narrator felt so young and foolish to me. The story also made me think quite a lot about my perspective. I've never really associated homosexuality with HIV. I mean, I always knew that historically gay men were highly at risk, but by my late teens, in the mid-ninties, I was educated that as a straight man, unprotected sex is just as risky for me. But then, well, I wonder if that education would have been as succesful if unwanted pregnancy wasn't also a risk.

I also thought bdoomed did a great job as a reader.
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« Reply #54 on: January 23, 2010, 11:23:42 AM »

I really liked this story, though it made me rather sad for a while. And it made me feel old, mostly because the narrator felt so young and foolish to me. The story also made me think quite a lot about my perspective. I've never really associated homosexuality with HIV. I mean, I always knew that historically gay men were highly at risk, but by my late teens, in the mid-ninties, I was educated that as a straight man, unprotected sex is just as risky for me. But then, well, I wonder if that education would have been as succesful if unwanted pregnancy wasn't also a risk.

There are numerous protections against pregnancy that do nothing to prevent the spread of disease.  Meaning, even if you know the girl is on the pill* or Depo or whatever, you'd still better wrap that willy.  Wink

(*working at Planned Parenthood, I've seen more brands of BC pill alone than I have brands of aspirin)
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« Reply #55 on: January 23, 2010, 12:29:57 PM »

I know that, of course. But a condom is practically the only form of birth control that I, as a male, could guarantee was available when I felt the need for it. Every other form relies on pre-planning on behalf of my partner, and therefore not something I could rely on (esp. not in the days when the partner herself inhabited a hypothetical future)
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« Reply #56 on: January 23, 2010, 09:57:42 PM »

I wonder if a mod would be willing to split the microphone discussion out of this thread. Its a bit distracting when there are too seperate, interesting, discussions going on in the same thread.
And lo, write it so that Bdoomed did take his staff of moderation and did split the topic thusly.  And the people rejoiced, and did feast upon the lambs and geese and orangutans and small rodents.  And the land was thusly made peaceful.  And the people did return to their regularly scheduled programming.
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« Reply #57 on: January 24, 2010, 01:53:53 AM »

I know that, of course. But a condom is practically the only form of birth control that I, as a male, could guarantee was available when I felt the need for it. Every other form relies on pre-planning on behalf of my partner, and therefore not something I could rely on...

And, as I hinted above, it's the only one that helps guard against catching an infection through intercourse.
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« Reply #58 on: February 04, 2010, 09:26:28 AM »

I liked the story. I thought the author really captured James's voice and his inner monologue. The scene with the ghost driving the car was EXCELLENT, and the fact that James didn't even blink even more so.

But I hated the ending. The story didn't end. It just... stopped. James was uncomfortable, the ghost opened a window, and...

FWIW, I don't think James had HIV/AIDS, unless he'd already caught it from having unprotected sex back in college. I'm not a doctor, but I don't think it sets in THAT fast. The test will show if you have it, yes, but many people live asymptomatically for years before realizing they've got it -- IIRC that's one of the ways it spread so quickly through the gay community in the 80s.

The reading was very good, especially given that it was done last-minute. He captured James's voice, both internally and externally, very well. Not a fan of Casper's voice but he had to differentiate it somehow.

More interesting to me would have been if Ganymede haunted James, or if they'd gone back to the house and Ganymede had joined the other 27 ghosts.

I also wonder how Gilberto supported himself. At age 54, I don't think he's eligible for social security, and while he owns his home, I don't know if he's on welfare, or unemployment, or what. Or maybe the money comes from James's parents (helping him out) or his own parents (perhaps via inheritance). It doesn't really matter, but I guess I'd like to know.
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« Reply #59 on: February 04, 2010, 09:49:07 AM »

FWIW, I don't think James had HIV/AIDS, unless he'd already caught it from having unprotected sex back in college. I'm not a doctor, but I don't think it sets in THAT fast. The test will show if you have it, yes, but many people live asymptomatically for years before realizing they've got it -- IIRC that's one of the ways it spread so quickly through the gay community in the 80s.

I'm sure he didn't have AIDS, as you said it didn't have time to set in.  But he could very well be HIV positive.  Even if he would stay asymptomatic for many years, it still changes everything to know you WILL have full blown AIDS at some point.
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« Reply #60 on: February 05, 2010, 10:02:53 AM »

I didn't like this story.  I may be a dumb hetero, but having unprotected sex (anal no less) with someone you just met is just called being stupid.  I kept on waiting for Tio Gilberto (or someone) to slap him upside the head ask him what the hell he was thinking.  I also thought it was also weird that none of characters thought twice about the ghosts but yet the boyfriend apparently didn't believe in them.  Nor did it seem like there was ever a good explanation for why Gilberto almost never left the house.  I mean what does he do for a living and how does he buy groceries?  Is this typical of magical realism stories for the plot to be inexplicable?
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« Reply #61 on: February 05, 2010, 01:31:57 PM »

I also thought it was also weird that none of characters thought twice about the ghosts but yet the boyfriend apparently didn't believe in them. 

There weren't that many characters in the story.. I thought only the one guy and his uncle believed in the ghosts, which they should since they live with them.

I found it believeable that they'd believe in the ghosts and this one random guy wouldn't.
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« Reply #62 on: February 05, 2010, 11:05:58 PM »

Nor did it seem like there was ever a good explanation for why Gilberto almost never left the house. 

I think it would be difficult to deal with 27 ghosts outside the house.
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« Reply #63 on: February 20, 2010, 06:43:08 PM »

As to the latency period of HIV, that comes after an acute infection within a couple weeks of first exposure.  The author didn't get anything wrong here, medically speaking. 

And the relationship with Kaspar seemed headed in that borderline abusive direction to me from not too far in.  I don't know if it was the dialogue or the getting upset about the ghosts or what, but I wasn't at all surprised by how things ended, I had been expecting it.  It was very well foreshadowed I thought, which I attribute to the author's great ability for awkward dialogue.

Anyway, I really liked this story, it was too sad to be a favorite, but it was very good.
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« Reply #64 on: February 22, 2010, 03:55:04 AM »

I understand this might be my stretching a point a little, alI listened to this as I fell asleep, but I interpreted the uncle as a carer/nurse for men who had already contracted HIV. The reason they're "invisible" to the protagonist was because, by his own admission, he was there for laughs and hook-ups...

Maybe I'm seeing more metaphor here than there is...?

If you interpret that way, then it isn't a fantasy story and doesn't belong on PodCastle.

Can we please stop with the "if there are not clearly dragons and wizards then it does not belong on PodCastle" line of reasoning? There will be fantasy stories that could swing both ways, and they belong on PodCastle.

Sorry to bring this up again, but I, for one, didn't take Steph's comment that way at all.  I felt he was saying that if you don't see the ghosts as truly ghosts but as metaphors, then the story wouldn't be a fantasy story, and therefore wouldn't belong on PodCastle.  He's not saying this story ISN'T a fantasy story, just that it WOULDN'T be if you took the ghosts out.

Then enlighten me; I'm listening: without ghosts, how would this qualify as a fantasy story?

And I think this proves my point.

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« Reply #65 on: February 22, 2010, 09:46:45 AM »

Can we please stop with the "if there are not clearly dragons and wizards then it does not belong on PodCastle" line of reasoning? There will be fantasy stories that could swing both ways, and they belong on PodCastle.

Sorry to bring this up again, but I, for one, didn't take Steph's comment that way at all.  I felt he was saying that if you don't see the ghosts as truly ghosts but as metaphors, then the story wouldn't be a fantasy story, and therefore wouldn't belong on PodCastle.  He's not saying this story ISN'T a fantasy story, just that it WOULDN'T be if you took the ghosts out.

Thank you.  At least somebody gets me, a little bit.  Smiley
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« Reply #66 on: February 22, 2010, 10:12:10 AM »

I understand this might be my stretching a point a little, alI listened to this as I fell asleep, but I interpreted the uncle as a carer/nurse for men who had already contracted HIV. The reason they're "invisible" to the protagonist was because, by his own admission, he was there for laughs and hook-ups...

Maybe I'm seeing more metaphor here than there is...?

If you interpret that way, then it isn't a fantasy story and doesn't belong on PodCastle.

Can we please stop with the "if there are not clearly dragons and wizards then it does not belong on PodCastle" line of reasoning? There will be fantasy stories that could swing both ways, and they belong on PodCastle.

Sorry to bring this up again, but I, for one, didn't take Steph's comment that way at all.  I felt he was saying that if you don't see the ghosts as truly ghosts but as metaphors, then the story wouldn't be a fantasy story, and therefore wouldn't belong on PodCastle.  He's not saying this story ISN'T a fantasy story, just that it WOULDN'T be if you took the ghosts out.

Then enlighten me; I'm listening: without ghosts, how would this qualify as a fantasy story?

And I think this proves my point.

I don't disagree on the point of no ghosts means that it's probably not fantasy.  Like many good stories, it has many facets, some of which place it in different genres.  However, since SOME of those facets would make this clearly fantasy, then I don't think it's unreasonable to call the story itself fantasy.  Much like Superhero Girl--I didn't see any fantasy in that at all, but many people did, so it's not out of place here at all.


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« Reply #67 on: February 23, 2010, 07:16:38 PM »

This was a nice story, and definitely well-written, but in the end it didn't hook me -- I think because (as someone else said way back in the thread) it's a slice-of-life kind of story, and those rarely get me as much as the ones where the protagonists are trying to accomplish something.  Also, the understated nature of the fantasy element (the ghosts treated as mostly mundane, and never really being a turning-point in the plot) is another thing that isn't as much to my taste.  One of those things on its own can be fine, but both together results in a story that, while good, isn't all that compelling to me.

But that's all personal-mileage stuff.  The one more solid quibble I'd make has to do with the reading: in places it seemed like there was a scene break, but the narration went from one bit to the next as if it were a paragraph break, leaving me briefly confused as to how the characters had gotten from Point A to Point B, or when Tio Gilberto had shown up, or whatever.  It's possible the original text just flows those things together, and there was no scene break after all, but it tripped me up here and there.
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« Reply #68 on: February 24, 2010, 12:33:48 PM »

I found this to be a beautiful story, not so much for the relationship between James and Kasper, but between him and Tio Gilberto. While James and Kasper's relationship is based off of sexual attraction, you can tell he's searching for intamacy, which is displayed not only between Gilberto and the Ghosts, but between him and James. I loved the element of not just his tio watching out for James, but the ghosts as well, even though James couldn't see them. The scene where James performs his comedic act for them was beautiful and sad...James searching for that one frowning face and not being able to see it. That is haunting indeed.

I think I like this story far better than The Petrified Girl. Whereas the latter seemed to me more hollow and selfish, I could feel genuine love coming from the characters. And the ending was so gentle...so caring...I can honestly say this is my favorite gay story on Podcastle.
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« Reply #69 on: February 28, 2010, 04:21:45 AM »

hi, i don't normally bother to post as you guys have always already said it more eloquently. however i have to comment on this.
this is a contrived moralising story about the fact that gay guys should wear condoms; all the lecturing about using them, not using it once, getting unwell. the concept was thrust down your throat in a very unsubtle way.
as for fantasy, i didn't see any. apart from setting a scene where we accept a houseful of ghosts, they play no significan practical or allegorical part in the story. yes, casper was spooked by the idea, but it was only ever a casual relationship for him. it wasn't the ghosts that caused them to split up, they'dve done that soon enough anyway.
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« Reply #70 on: March 01, 2010, 12:09:07 PM »

Welcome to the forum, merryoldsoul.

If you're curious about the fantasy element, you may want to read the discussion no page 1 and page 2. You can also find the author's reasons for writing the story on page two. Also, make sure you check out the rule during your stay. The phrasing of your post above comes off as borderline to me.
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