Author Topic: Pseudopod 183: Learning to Fly  (Read 5122 times)

Bdoomed

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Pseudopod 183: Learning to Fly
« on: February 27, 2010, 05:53:34 AM »
Pseudopod 183: Learning to Fly


By Garth Upshaw
Read by Jacquie Duckworth

I set my feet and reached for the next rung of the ladder. The wind snatched at my clothes, whipping my bomber jacket against my thighs, and then pulling it outwards in a billow, tugging me sideways towards the scary drop.

I muttered three short Words, voice cracking on the last, and the wind’s grip slackened, leaving me in a fragile bubble of calm. I sagged against the wet, rusty ladder. Spots flickered at the edge of my vision, and I tried to catch my breath. The preparation for tonight had taken months, and electric anticipation warred with the exhaustion in my body.

I’d snared the rats with generous dollops of peanut butter in long rectangular, live-catch traps. Their fur was sleek and glossy. They were greedy, bright-eyed pests, always wanting more than they needed. Never satisfied.




Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?

Scattercat

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Re: Pseudopod 183: Learning to Fly
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2010, 07:44:37 AM »
A fun little story that was spoiled a bit by being on Pseudopod.  Since we knew it had to be a 'horror' story somehow, that strictly limited the number of possible endings.  I will admit to being a little surprised by this one; I was expecting an ending that went 'splat.'  On the other hand, Lord Rat seems a teensy bit too convenient; I'd have liked it if there were more foreshadowing of him.  Like, say, if her initial experiment included a comment about "that big rat, the patriarch of his little clan, him I couldn't catch.  I'll get him next time.  His wings will be beautiful..."  Just something to have him less rattus ex machina.

Lord Rat's plan also confused me somewhat.  It seems almost like a Xanatos Roulette.  I mean, how likely is it that the girl given the textbook for Magic 101 will A) Decide she wants to fly, B) Become successful enough to achieve it, and C) Choose to use rats as test subjects.  Oh, and D) Finally succeed directly AFTER the rats, instead of, say, graduating to stray cats and dogs first before trying it herself. 

But Scattercat!  He's watched closely and chosen a girl who he knows will want to fly.
- Given that she doesn't interact well with her parents and doesn't seem to have any friends, I'd ask how he knew that.  Okay, fine, he soulgazed her or whatever and saw her innermost desire.  It's still hardly a sure thing.

But Scattercat!  He probably has several possible mounts selected and she's just the one who succeeded!
And he just happened to know that she would succeed tonight.  Because of magic, I'm sure.  Also, this isn't in the story at all, and I do prefer there to be at least hints of how things worked out rather than relying on pure fabrication on my part.

But Scattercat!  He's obviously guiding her along through his Book!
- Then we should see more of that in the story.  See previous nitpick RE: rattus ex machina.

But Scattercat!  He's a magician, so obviously he could shapeshift into whatever he wanted in order to be among her test subjects when she did succeed.
- Except she calls him "Lord Rat" and references his "claws" digging into her shoulders.  Rats seem to definitely be his 'thing,' at least.  Anyway, he's never shown shapeshifting per se in the story, and if I have to invent extra powers for your bad guy to make his plan make sense, then I feel like your bad guy hasn't been successfully conveyed.

Anyway, it's not a dealbreaker, but it bugs me.  Foreshadowing, people!  Even really really subtle hints work for me. 

I was also a bit distracted by the reading; it wasn't bad, exactly, but it felt at times as though Ms. Duckworth were trying just a bit too hard to read a horror story.  Really lingering over some of those word sounds when the words themselves weren't actually all that impressive.  I sometimes felt like I was hearing an overly dramatic reading of something inappropriate, like a cookbook.  ("And then chop the onions into fine pieces before adding them to the sauce, which should be simmering nicely now...")

Overall, the "win" outweighs the "meh," but if it didn't involve flying rats (and the off-hand reference to the lotto-ticket-addiction worm), that wouldn't be the case.
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Sgarre1

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Re: Pseudopod 183: Learning to Fly
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2010, 05:22:26 PM »
Quote
Except she calls him "Lord Rat" and references his "claws" digging into her shoulders.  Rats seem to definitely be his 'thing,' at least.  Anyway, he's never shown shapeshifting per se in the story, and if I have to invent extra powers for your bad guy to make his plan make sense, then I feel like your bad guy hasn't been successfully conveyed.

You think she was ferrying him to parties with other rats?

Scattercat

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Re: Pseudopod 183: Learning to Fly
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2010, 09:20:38 PM »
Quote
Except she calls him "Lord Rat" and references his "claws" digging into her shoulders.  Rats seem to definitely be his 'thing,' at least.  Anyway, he's never shown shapeshifting per se in the story, and if I have to invent extra powers for your bad guy to make his plan make sense, then I feel like your bad guy hasn't been successfully conveyed.

You think she was ferrying him to parties with other rats?

Rat parties would be pretty bodacious, I think.

I was assuming he was partying with other evil spirits.  The ones we saw were a worm and a blimp, after all; presumably being human is optional for evil magicians.
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kibitzer

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Re: Pseudopod 183: Learning to Fly
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2010, 10:36:20 PM »
Short!

The ending seemed forced or tacked-on to me. Seemd like a good idea waiting for a better plot. I enjoyed the description of trying to get the rats to fly, thought that was well done. But the rest of it fell a bit flat.

Unblinking

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Re: Pseudopod 183: Learning to Fly
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2010, 02:53:45 PM »
Not bad.  I would've liked some explanation about what she was trying to do during the descriptions of the experiments.  We know she's on a tower tossing rats off the side and it has something to do with magic.  The title explained it to me, but I usually think of titles as being pretty much separate--having a worthwhile title is great, but the story shouldn't lose anything by not reading the title first.

Anyway, I didn't see the end coming, and I didn't think it was too far out of right field.  And I like stories that retain ambiguity about whether it is actually happening or of the person is actually insane.

MacArthurBug

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Re: Pseudopod 183: Learning to Fly
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2010, 06:47:26 PM »
This was great. I like the weird this side of our worlds the writer builds. All full of odd magic potential. I wanted so badly for everything to turn out okay, even knowing (it was here after all) it wouldn't.
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kurtgw

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Re: Pseudopod 183: Learning to Fly
« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2010, 01:30:02 AM »
I liked it, overall.  The ending was a little jarring and seemed very deus-ex-machina, as a few others have suggested.

After 'The Getalong Gang', I can't help but wonder if this story, too, is about for mental illness -- schizophrenia or something along those lines.  ("I'm one in a million", she sees things other people don't see, mom makes references to meds...then she's up on a tower tossing rats to see if they'll fly, and then she's fallen under the control of Lord Rat as a manifestation of her illness.)

Or maybe I'm just overanalyzing.

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Re: Pseudopod 183: Learning to Fly
« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2010, 03:05:55 AM »
I liked it, overall.  The ending was a little jarring and seemed very deus-ex-machina, as a few others have suggested.

After 'The Getalong Gang', I can't help but wonder if this story, too, is about for mental illness -- schizophrenia or something along those lines.  ("I'm one in a million", she sees things other people don't see, mom makes references to meds...then she's up on a tower tossing rats to see if they'll fly, and then she's fallen under the control of Lord Rat as a manifestation of her illness.)

Or maybe I'm just overanalyzing.

Alasdair said in the outro that one possible interpretation is that the girl is just insane.
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kurtgw

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Re: Pseudopod 183: Learning to Fly
« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2010, 03:31:20 AM »


Alasdair said in the outro that one possible interpretation is that the girl is just insane.

I didn't catch that, but then I usually listen to pseudopod in the car.   Great mood setter when you're driving at night back from a client in the boonies...

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Re: Pseudopod 183: Learning to Fly
« Reply #10 on: March 03, 2010, 03:26:50 PM »
... and then she's fallen under the control of Lord Rat as a manifestation of her illness.

Or because it's an Owl Creek Bridge ending.  (Again, just one possible interpretation.)

Garth Upshaw

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Re: Pseudopod 183: Learning to Fly
« Reply #11 on: March 12, 2010, 06:49:16 PM »
Thanks, all of you, for your thoughtful comments on my story!  I'm flattered that you listened to it and took the time to respond.

-Garth

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Re: Pseudopod 183: Learning to Fly
« Reply #12 on: March 21, 2010, 07:31:40 PM »
But wouldn't an occurrence at owl creek bridge ending require the noose / splat?  Along with an I jumped / noose around my neck beginning?

I'm probably being too literal.

My only nidge here is "reality" -- the rats splatting from a hundred so feet up.  I think rats dropped from that height bounce and survive.  They're small, fuzzy in an aerodynamic sense, and they're supposed to have wings, even a glider would slow them down a good deal, and flying squirrels are rat-size, after all (aren't they?).  I'd fold in a little Wright Brothers in her reading material as a hedge she gets the wings scaled properly, and establish she's small and not eating properly via mom.  Wings for a person need to be much larger than wings for a rat / bird, so I was expecting her to hit the ground, too.

It's the same issue I have with Joe Haldeman's "If I Had the Wings of an Angel" -- if a kid can fly, bigger wings can make an adult fly, particularly in low gravity.  That's an adult / child maturity metaphor story, though, so the kid has to lose the ability to fly (childhood) to be "mature."  Except the science doesn't work right.

What did you folks read as the narrator's age?  Or, Garth, what was your intended age for the narrator?  I listened yesterday, so if it's in the story, forgive me.