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Author Topic: PC093: Giant Episode: The Mermaid’s Tea Party  (Read 5123 times)
Heradel
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« on: March 02, 2010, 08:16:16 PM »

PodCastle 93, Giant Episode: The Mermaid’s Tea Party

by Samantha Henderson.
Read by Tina Connolly.
Originally appeared in Helix.

The mermaid barely slowed her breakneck pace as she approached and ran herself halfway up a yellow beach, belly-down and arching her back so her torso was almost upright. At the same time, she flung Cassandra casually upon the sand, half-knocking the breath out of her. Cassandra gulped for air, then scrambled as best she could up the beach, out of reach of the mermaid’s grasp — or so she profoundly hoped.

The mermaid watched her and made no move towards her, a nasty grin on her face.

“I’ll find the tea, and you’ll make us a party,” she said. “Then, maybe, I’ll bring you some food.”

Cassandra stared. Then the import of the creature’s words struck her and she looked around, beginning to panic. The island was perhaps a mile around and very flat, save where white ridges were raised above the surface. A large wave would have swamped it. A few trees she recognized from picture books as palms clustered off-center, a green haze underneath them. There was not much else.

Nothing to eat, certainly.

The sand clung in a fine film to her dress and bare legs, and itched. Miss Murchinson would have been scandalized.

Rated R for carnivorous mermaids, sexual shenanigans in the presence of a minor, and near death experiences. This one’s not for the kiddies.

This episode was brought to you by The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, out now from Orbit. You can read the first three chapters of the book at www.Nkjemisin.com.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2010, 07:22:01 AM by Heradel » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2010, 08:46:42 PM »

Rated R also because Dave sings in the intro! YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!!!!!!!!!
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Allie
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« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2010, 09:34:40 PM »

One of my favorite things about this one was the comparison between Cassandra and the mermaids. Both are like spoiled and bored children who seem completely indifferent to the human suffering around them. I'm glad Ms. Henderson ended the story by allowing Cassandra to redeem herself and choose to live a purposeful life.
 
On another note: The "Slimy Octopus Abortion" insult from Escape Pod's The Legend of St. Ignatz!! Between that and "fishy bitches", I don't know which is more fun to say  Cheesy
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Talia
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« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2010, 11:16:12 PM »

Great story. Equal parts weird, beautiful and creepy, as I've found many of Ms. Henderson's stories to be. Jack/John's eccentric behavior is in keeping with someone long stranded on an island alone (but for the ever present threat of psychotic mermaid jailors) to be.

I must admit, though, once I heard the name he had given to the mermaids was "Jack..." well, yeah. One guess who I instantly envisioned him as Tongue

(particularly the Jack at the beginning of POTC 3, when he's off his rocker).
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« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2010, 09:20:13 AM »

This story was told very well except for the very beginning, which starts in the middle of the tea party. I was a little confused. Also, in the beginning we weren't quite sure how old Cassandra was -- not until the narrator told us. I'm fine with that but I thought she was nine or so, not twelve. But I guess the narrator's vocabulary made that less likely.

It was a suitably gritty and chilling and disturbing story, and I think the author really captured the feelings of being marooned, and of being lost at sea with nothing to drink. She didn't mention Cassandra getting a sunburn, although I guess with everything else that happened listening to her go on and on about the pain of the sunburn would've been too much to handle.

Did we really need Jack to desecrate the bodies at the end, before they get off the island?

I don't think Cassandra was rescued by pirates. Sailors, sure, but not pirates. Not necessarily. Not sure how I felt about the very end, where she decides what to tell them -- I almost think there could be a "book two" where she said "I'm Cassandra Wilkins, and my dad owns a sugar plantation" and then when Cassandra is in her twenties she becomes a pirate. But it's not my story to tell.

Tina does excellent readings. I think some of the reading fell down with the pirate dialect but there's nothing to be done about that.

Overall a good giant.

On another note: The "Slimy Octopus Abortion" insult from Escape Pod's The Legend of St. Ignatz!!

I didn't remember the title but I remembered the story.
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« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2010, 10:26:51 AM »

Another fantastic story and the reading was delightful.  You guys certainly earned the $5 this month (even though I am not sure which *pod gets the $5 from me). 
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« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2010, 11:47:01 AM »

On another note: The "Slimy Octopus Abortion" insult from Escape Pod's The Legend of St. Ignatz!! Between that and "fishy bitches", I don't know which is more fun to say  Cheesy

Well, shoot. I knew it wasn't the most difficult question, but I didn't realize it'd be the first response to the story. Anyway, Congratulations, Allie! You win the No Prize!  Grin

(Next time I'm going to make it waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay harder.)  Wink
« Last Edit: March 04, 2010, 12:42:06 PM by DKT » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2010, 05:05:39 PM »

OK so four of the top five are now filled.

This was a splendid listen, nasty bitey mermaids and pirates who might not be pirates, a resourceful young heroine and a desert island, what more could you want?

My only slight quibble was the desecration of the bodies, maybe it'd work better in print but it just felt a little shoe horned in to me.
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« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2010, 11:27:35 PM »

As distasteful as Jack's desecration of the bodies of the fishy-bitches might be, I found it perfectly in keeping with the story and the character. From the very first moment we encounter Jack as he presses his body against the young Cassandra to the last moment in the boat when he mutters about never having touched her, Henderson paints a picture of a half-insane wretch just barely holding onto his humanity, and trying desparately not to descend into the depths of animal depravity like the mermaids themselves. His momentary loss of that grip after he and Cassandra have killed their captors reinforces the essential tension of the story between depravity and civilization. The moment was necessary to the story and Henderson restrained from creating a lengthy and graphic scene, leaving the worst to our imaginations.

Cassandra's decision at the end of the story is between returning to so-called civilized society, so that she can wear a hat to tea while her father the plantation owner takes his pleasure with slaves, or proclaiming herself a pirate so that she can live honestly between the hidden depravity of English society and the animal depravity of the fishy-bitches. Again, Henderson does not spell outthe final decision in black and white, but left no doubt in my mind what the outcome would be.

Overall, one of my favorite Podcastles ever. Great characters, fabulous story, and I'll be saying fishy-bitches instead of mermaids now, just for the sheer pleasure in the shape of the phrase.
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Julio
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« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2010, 09:54:56 AM »

I just wanted to say, those are some nasty fishy-bitches.
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Ocicat
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« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2010, 07:06:07 PM »

Great stuff, very horrific but quite enthralling - much like the fishy bitches themselves.  I do love these kind of old-school takes on fantasy creatures we currently see as sweet and nice. 
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« Reply #11 on: March 08, 2010, 12:13:41 PM »

One of the few Giant episodes that really kept my attention.  Wow, that was dark!  From the opening description of the drowned governess and the mermaids drinking seawater tea, all the way almost to the end, the descriptions and characters kept me interested.  I should've predicted the poisoning of the mermaids long before she suggested it, but I didn't, so that was more fun for the surprise.  I liked Jack making up his pirate background for his own survival and the interactino between him and Cassandra was very well done.

I didn't so much care for the end though.  She's really considering spending a life at sea after that?  I would think she'd have pretty severe fear of boats after that point, and her thinking about a life spent entirely at sea really surprised me.  I understand her not wanting to go live with her father after the things Jack said about him.  Though he did say those things without any real knowledge of her father, so they might not be true, he effectively poisoned her impressions of her dad, for good or ill.  But even if she didn't want to live with dad, I found it hard to believe she'd consider a life at sea.
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« Reply #12 on: March 08, 2010, 12:28:13 PM »

And a Mermaid related link:  a music video by Flight of the Conchords for a song titled "Mermaids".  One of my favorite bands ever!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZLhUik0tSU
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yicheng
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« Reply #13 on: March 08, 2010, 05:39:39 PM »

A good story overall.  For me, predictability of the plot got in the way of putting this one down as a Podcastle classic.  As soon as the poisonous flowers were mentioned, I said "they're going to poison the mermaid's tea party and hide it with honey".  "Callico" Jack (at least that's what I call him) makes an engaging character, with just the right mix of crazy and caring.  With such a character, you knew he was destined for a tragic death, though.  After all that, he wasn't just going to live happily ever after.

One thing that did bug me, though, is why they didn't think to make some sort of shelter on their raft.  Jack, we assume, is a capable sailor, and so must have known their odds of survival were much better if they could stay out of the sun.  You'd think he could have wove some of the palm fronds as hats or umbrellas, and use the mermaid's hair as rope.  Of course, he was half-crazy by then, so meh...
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Cool story, bro!


« Reply #14 on: March 10, 2010, 10:34:57 AM »

A good story overall.  For me, predictability of the plot got in the way of putting this one down as a Podcastle classic.  As soon as the poisonous flowers were mentioned, I said "they're going to poison the mermaid's tea party and hide it with honey". 

It didn't come to me until Jack showed Cass the boat; then the chain of associations went off in my mind... "even with boat, they can't get off the island because of the mermaids... OH!"

What Jack had done to the bodies wasn't clear to me on listening (I was busy operating the Risograph, which goes "kerchunk" about 130x per minute); reading SixDeafTaxi's post and putting it together with what little I did hear... ugh.  Disturbing... not the least reason being that they were dead.  Don't we have a "barf" emoticon?

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So, I suppose that when the sailors asked her name, Cass answered "Grace O'Malley"?
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« Reply #15 on: March 10, 2010, 12:08:48 PM »

I didn't so much care for the end though.  She's really considering spending a life at sea after that?  I would think she'd have pretty severe fear of boats after that point, and her thinking about a life spent entirely at sea really surprised me. 

You know, when I first read this story, that was the way the ending came off to me as well. But after some reflection, I don't think that's what actually happened. Here's what Cassandra's thinking at the end:

"Handsome Jack, once John Brendon, lived a while by telling stories, and it didn’t matter that they were lies. A world of possibilities opened before her. Was this how Pirate Queens were born?"

So my read is that she didn't literally become a Pirate Queen, but that she'll go on to tell stories about her "past" as a Pirate Queen - one who battled wicked mermaids, had tea with the Queen, and the like.

YMMV, though Smiley
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« Reply #16 on: March 10, 2010, 03:16:57 PM »

What Jack had done to the bodies wasn't clear to me on listening (I was busy operating the Risograph, which goes "kerchunk" about 130x per minute); reading SixDeafTaxi's post and putting it together with what little I did hear... ugh.  Disturbing... not the least reason being that they were dead.  Don't we have a "barf" emoticon?

Apparently I missed that entirely.  And maybe I'm happier not knowing!
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« Reply #17 on: March 10, 2010, 03:18:10 PM »

I didn't so much care for the end though.  She's really considering spending a life at sea after that?  I would think she'd have pretty severe fear of boats after that point, and her thinking about a life spent entirely at sea really surprised me. 

You know, when I first read this story, that was the way the ending came off to me as well. But after some reflection, I don't think that's what actually happened. Here's what Cassandra's thinking at the end:

"Handsome Jack, once John Brendon, lived a while by telling stories, and it didn’t matter that they were lies. A world of possibilities opened before her. Was this how Pirate Queens were born?"

So my read is that she didn't literally become a Pirate Queen, but that she'll go on to tell stories about her "past" as a Pirate Queen - one who battled wicked mermaids, had tea with the Queen, and the like.

YMMV, though Smiley

Ah, that would certainly make WAY more sense given her likely new fear of the ocean.  I thought that she was assuming that these folk were pirates and that she would use her outlandish stories to actually BECOME their queen.
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« Reply #18 on: March 11, 2010, 01:05:40 AM »

What fun!  Top marks all around.  Five lumps of sugar.

My one complaint is that I, like Yicheng, instantly pegged on the toxic flowers as the key to escaping the island, and thus was a little confused when they were instantly made part of the plan.  "Hunh," I said to myself, "I must've been wrong.  If the flowers really were the correct route, they'd never get mentioned as such THIS early.  I wonder what it'll be instead?" 

I do have a tendency to assume obfuscation on the part of any story.  I'm not sure if that's my English major analytics or my inborn core of pure, bitter cynicism kicking in.
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« Reply #19 on: March 11, 2010, 06:56:53 AM »

what a dark and delicious story!  fishy bitches....  Cheesy
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