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Author Topic: PC095: Fulgurite  (Read 8467 times)
Heradel
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« on: March 16, 2010, 07:24:15 AM »

PodCastle 95: Fulgurite

by Vylar Kaftan.
Read by Cunning Minx.
Originally appeared in Sybil’s Garage.

“It has a horn,” I say, pushing my plate aside. “That makes it a unicorn.” I go to the window and stare at the sky. It smells like a storm. Clouds stack on top of each other in thick blankets. Lightning flashes in the west. It fires an electrical impulse into my body, and I push the window open. I’m on the fourth floor. “Hello!” I call out the window, leaning forward into the hundred-degree heat. The blast of hot air buoys me up like boiling water, burning me but supporting me, and I’m sure I can fly away if I just let go.

Maddoc hauls me back in the window. “Are you crazy? Get back in here. You’ll fall and kill yourself.” It’s like Maddoc, to make sure everyone and everything is safe.

Rated R for unusual unicorns and deflowered virgins.

Stay tuned for the announcement at the end. More details on our forums here: http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?topic=3429
« Last Edit: March 30, 2010, 07:04:02 AM by Heradel » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2010, 12:21:43 AM »

I liked Vylar Kaftan's story on Pseudopod ("Breaking the Vessel").  This one wasn't quite as much of a hit for me.  Now, I've never had the experience of losing my virginity as a woman, so that might be the source of my unenthusiastic reaction, but I was really expecting... more of a plot, I guess.  Some sort of revelation or complication.  "I'm going to lose my virginity in two days.  This preoccupies and intimidates me.  Time passes.  I lose my virginity.  It's not as bad as I thought it would be."  We come in after she's made her climactic choice, and nothing really happens to put that choice in doubt.

I did like the extended metaphor of genitalia/erogenous zones as faces; that was an interesting piece of imagery.  However, I'm uncomfortable with the recapitulation of traditional sex and gender roles.  Women are "mysterious" but men "flap their tongues everywhere."  Throughout the story, her virginity is presented as something she has which will be taken away, that sex is something she does for Maddoc and not something they do together.  I thought that perhaps the climax, so to speak, might break through that a bit, but no.  She is just a passive conduit for the "unicorn," channeling the electricity of the lightning blast down into the mountain.  She's even pinned to the ground for the procedure, her cries of "This is my choice" ringing hollow.  I'm uncomfortable with sex presented in that light.

TMI WARNING  TMI WARNING

Even when having sex with my wife, I lose it completely if I get even a hint that she's not enjoying it, that she'd rather be doing something else.  I've schooled myself enough so that a random accidental pinch or hair-pull doesn't wilt me, but I am prone to muttering "I'm sorry," and "Are you sure you're okay?" at the slightest provocation, such as a breath that sounds too much like a sigh, or a moan which sounds too much like pain.  This is doubly frustrating because my wife would prefer me to be more aggressive and dominant (even up to such mild implements as handcuffs, which do not do it for me at all), but I just do not have it in me to force myself on anyone.

Thus, I found it troubling that all the way through, sex was either fearsome or vaguely uninteresting.  "It looks so fragile" has connotations of "Why was I afraid of that?" but not so much, "Woo!  That was awesome!  Let's do it again."  Both reactions, fear and apathy, make me depressed, and there isn't any sign of sex-as-joyful-bonding to be seen.  Even Maddoc gets into it, with that "Thank you," as though she's just done him a favor, as though she sacrificed something.

On another note, I've repeatedly encountered this idea of the unpredictable or "spooky" girl as being somehow desirable, particularly with males reacting "She's so hard to figure out.  I must have her!"  Here, the protagonist's whole schtick is telling Maddoc something other than what she's really thinking or feeling, and that "Come here!  Now go away!" stuff would get tiresome quickly.  I've never understood the appeal of that particular meme.  How do you enjoy spending time with someone who deliberately constructs emotional walls and barricades?  Why would you want a serious relationship with someone who purposely obfuscates their real feelings?  Is this  reaction of mine related to my apparently rampant habit of oversharing and excessive honesty?
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« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2010, 06:25:57 AM »

I can't say that this was a favorite.  I found the voice of the piece clunky.  I think it didn't flow well for audio, it may have been better on paper.  Meh.
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« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2010, 07:56:10 AM »

A little too weird for Podcastle in my opinion. This type of story belongs on the Drabblecast. At the end my reaction was "wha...? what was that?". I don't really consider this fantasy. It seemed more like a story written about losing ones virginity while tripping on mushrooms.
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« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2010, 08:08:03 AM »

I too had difficulty identifying with any of the characters, being a heterosexual man*. Though I have been intimate with virgins, none of them have mentioned anything about unicorns. Also, none of them indicated that it felt like being struck by lightning. I wonder if that's a reflection on me. But anyway... So while I think the imagery was interesting, and Minx's reading was very good, with appropriate shifts in speed and breath to indicate pacing, it didn't really strike me**. It seemed more like the 40-Year-Old Virgin in that the MC had put losing her virginity up on such a high pedestal that it had to be uber-special to actually happen. Then she surrounded it with unicorns and lightning storms and that whole weird trip into seeing people naked. (Which has never worked for me.)

Amusingly, I too took a geology class in college. It was the most boring class I ever took -- not because of the material, but because the professor (a) had been teaching it forever (b) had the charisma of a bathroom door (c) "wrote" the book -- that is, put together a 60-page "text" of handouts and such that corresponded exactly with what he was teaching, but was impossible to read because it was written about as excitingly as he lectured (d) gave tests that were hyperbolically-difficult, given what we were actually "learning". At least the MC seemed to have a slightly-more-interesting class than I did.

* Yes, I know, Maddoc was heterosexual, or at the very least bisexual, but I didn't identify with him regardless because he was pretty flat -- he just wanted to have sex with the MC because he loved her. When he said he'd been with other virgins, that lessened him in my eyes. You don't talk about previous partners with your current virgin partner unless she asks, and even then, it's a bad idea.

** No lightning-strike pun intended.
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« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2010, 10:41:21 AM »

Heh, I disagree that this story "belongs" on Drabblecast - there's nothing saying any of the Escape Artists 'casts shouldn't run weird stories! :p

Anyway, all I really got out of this story was the strong feeling the protagonist was severely mentally ill. I spent the entire story wondering what her problem was.  And if it was all just meant to be her way of dealing with the thought of losing her virginity, well, she still comes off as a most disturbed individual.

I had trouble relating, I guess. I could hear her thoughts, but I couldn't get inside her head, I suppose you could say.
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« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2010, 11:07:58 AM »

Heh, I disagree that this story "belongs" on Drabblecast - there's nothing saying any of the Escape Artists 'casts shouldn't run weird stories! :p

I agree with your disagreement.

As a disclaimer, I have not listened to this story, so I can't contribute much to specific plot points.  However, as a general principle, I kind of miss the proportion of "fun" stories on the EA casts.  That's not to say I don't like the stories they are producing, far from it.  It's just that I've noticed they have become more serious in general.  Fun and weird makes for great diversity.
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« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2010, 08:19:48 PM »

A little too weird for Podcastle in my opinion. This type of story belongs on the Drabblecast.

Actually, I had Nobilis' show more in mind, but maybe that's just because I've never listened to Drabblecast.

Seems to me that these "explicit" stories are typically read by the hosts of podcasts like Polyamory or Ropecast, am I right?  Come to think of it, has Nobilis ever been conscripted as a reader for Escape Artists?

As for the story, I saw the fantasy elements as being entirely in the girl's mind... imaginary or hallucinatory, which kind of detracts from the "fantasy" of the story.
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« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2010, 08:23:34 AM »

Didn't care for this one at all, which sucks, because the last PC fell flat to me, as well as the last PP, and my back-listening of EP has me in an uncharacteristically "fall-flat" stretch as well.  I hope there're more stories with plots coming in the near future! 

As far as I could tell:  Girl decides to give into boyfriend's pressure and lose her virginity to him, sets a date, and they do it.  The end.

Where's the conflict?  Where's the arc?  She's already set the date, and there's no question in her mind whether she's going to do it or not.  So she just passes the two days with very strange hallucinations that really make me question her mental health, but otherwise don't affect the plot in any way.  Both of the characters in the main plot were stereotypes, without really any distinguishing features to take them beyond that. 

The only distinguishing feature is her hallucinations, and they really become more of their own character.  They're 100 times more interesting than anything else in the story, but because they're such rambling dream-like associations that don't really further anything, so even though they're weird, and interesting, and rather creepy, they're also pointless, in terms of story.  Just like I tend not to like a message that overshadows the story, I don't like metaphors that overshadow the story, and in this case the metaphors were the only thing going for it.
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« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2010, 08:50:25 AM »

I found it a little strange to include the contest details after an explicit content story (I don't remember if there was a warning, but the entire story was about loss of virginity, so probably not great for the kiddies).
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« Reply #10 on: March 18, 2010, 10:24:28 AM »

I found it a little strange to include the contest details after an explicit content story (I don't remember if there was a warning, but the entire story was about loss of virginity, so probably not great for the kiddies).


Yeah, I did think about this. There was a warning - and I also mentioned there was going to be an announcement after the story, for people who wanted to skip ahead.
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« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2010, 12:02:22 PM »

(not really on topic)
oh, and she lost her virginity the day before my birthday.

(guess why I like the film Con Air so much...  Wink)
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« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2010, 01:51:18 PM »

(You can tell when I'm traveling, because suddenly I post on all the Podcastle eps I'm catching up on.)

Like many of the commenters here, I didn't really get into this one.  My least favorite kind of fantasy is the sort where the magical elements can also be read as metaphorical or delusional or something else not quite real, and that's exactly how this one came across.  The main character was so freaked out by the prospect of sex that she wrapped it up in this trippy cockroach-unicorn disguise to make her feel okay about it.  If I'd gotten invested in her as a character, I might have liked it better, but I didn't; and Maddoc, while nice, wasn't very well-elaborated either.  Basically just "Nice Guy Who's Willing to Wait."  I didn't see why he loved her, just that he did.

Also, after the intro, I think I was hoping for something neat about actual fulgurites. :-)
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Sandikal
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« Reply #13 on: March 18, 2010, 06:39:09 PM »


As for the story, I saw the fantasy elements as being entirely in the girl's mind... imaginary or hallucinatory, which kind of detracts from the "fantasy" of the story.

This story definitely struck me a different kind of fantasy than fantasy literature.  It seemed like an over-extended metaphor for sex that tried to include way to many symbols.  To me, this would only have counted as fantasy if the unicorn was real instead of imaginary.
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Gia
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« Reply #14 on: March 18, 2010, 07:21:53 PM »

I have chosen to remain a virgin, so I respect people and characters who have made the same decision, but her reason for making that choice really annoyed me. She's not a virgin because she is unsure whether he loves her or not, or because she wants their relationship to be about something more meaningful than sex, or because it is the most effective way to prevent disease and pregnancy, or because she has a religious reason. All of those are valid reasons that would protect her emotional, physical and spiritual well being, but she wants to be a virgin because it will hurt that one time. That's a pretty pathetic reason. Sure, it gets us to the being-struck-by-lighting metaphor, but the other reason have much more depth and would have made fuller stories.
Specifically about the being-struck-by-lightning metaphor, it was a good metaphor, but the way she went on and on about the lightning and the glass and the cockroach-unicorn thing made it really neurotic.
Still, even if I didn't like the reasoning and the metaphor bothered me, I do appreciate a story where losing your virginity is an important event that you don't want to rush into. Most stories have it as either something uber-exciting for teenagers or no big deal. It's nice to have someone be a little worried about it.
« Last Edit: April 01, 2010, 09:41:32 PM by Gia » Logged
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« Reply #15 on: March 23, 2010, 08:33:48 AM »

i certainly feel that this story has a place on PC; fantasy is a broad church and this story has as much right to claim the genre as any other.
that said i thought the story a little weak. for those of us outsiders (men) i didn't feel that the story made me feel or even understand the emotional and physical side of the occasion.
on the plus side, isn't this the weirdest unicorn description ever?!
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« Reply #16 on: March 23, 2010, 12:34:51 PM »

on the plus side, isn't this the weirdest unicorn description ever?!

My favorite is still Professor Gottesman and the Indian Rhinoceros by Peter S Beagle.
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« Reply #17 on: March 24, 2010, 09:08:56 PM »

There was a lot of stuff that seemed out of place, or tacked on for extra sexiness, for example the whole presentation/naked thing.  I think the author thought of this great/funny/sexy idea of taking the "naked crowd" idea  a few steps further, which is fine, but i'm not sure if it fit in the story, other than the MC being very focused on sex and her impending deflowering.  Also, why make the unicorn so funky looking?  There were certainly some sexually tense parts in it, I found the first scene in the apartment to be pretty steamy, but by the end, when every third word was either heat or breasts or lightning, I started to lose focus, and I think the sexual tension that was supposed to be there wasn't.  I got to the end, and I said "Well, that just happened."
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« Reply #18 on: March 24, 2010, 11:21:51 PM »

I got to the end, and I said "Well, that just happened."

Irony!
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« Reply #19 on: March 25, 2010, 07:51:17 PM »

This story did absolutely nothing for me. I do agree that this could be called fantasy but its a stretch. When I sit down to chill out and listen to the latest podcast I usually expect to listen to a story that can draw me into a new world with exciting characters and imagery. Or at least have a plot line that doesn't revolve totally around a metaphor for sex. The symbols and imagery seemed over done and the characters remained flat and stereotypical. I am open to new ideas about what is fantasy but certain boundaries need not be crossed.
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