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Author Topic: PC097: Smokestacks Like The Arms Of Gods  (Read 8971 times)
Heradel
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« on: March 30, 2010, 07:03:43 AM »

PodCastle 97: Smokestacks Like The Arms Of Gods

by Ben Burgis.
Read by Ben Phillips.
A PodCastle original.

At the time, it was pretty exciting stuff. The flaming torches on the tunnel walls as me and half a dozen of my fellow inductees rushed to the ceremony. The older guys who’d known my Da all standing around and beaming down at me as I pricked the drop of blood from my fingertip and pledged eternal loyalty to my fellow workers. Then the singing of the Anthem of the Red Flag and my first taste of whiskey.
Raise the scarlet standard high,
Beneath its folds we’ll live and die…
I knew Guilds weren’t exactly legal, but everyone still seemed to be in one. I’d heard some talk of Guilds sabotaging machinery when conditions got really bad, even walking off the job. In the excitement of the induction ceremony, I didn’t realize just yet that Guilds didn’t do that sort of thing any more.
In our grandfathers’ era, they might have gone on strike. Now that the companies have smartened up and started using drinkers instead of regular humans for plant security, we pretty much drink whiskey and hold induction ceremonies and sing. Good jaunty song, though, real nice beat to it.
Let cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We’ll keep the red flag flying here…


Rated R because those unionbusters don’t play around, and they might just be genuine bloodsuckers.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2010, 07:05:21 AM by Heradel » Logged

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lhoward
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« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2010, 08:03:26 AM »

Dam that was a good story.  Just the kind of thing to listen to on my commute to work.  I could really feel the grit.  It left me thinking of some fantasy lovechild of Deadwood and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
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Void Munashii
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« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2010, 09:56:00 AM »

Fantastic story; I loved seeing the origins of a labour movement in a fantasy setting, especially that it did not come across as tongue in cheek. I loved the characters, and even though the last line is fairly obvious, I loved it all the same.

I look forward to the sequel where the company moves its factories to goblin territory so they can go back to abusing the workers and not have to pay them as much  Wink
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« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2010, 04:06:52 PM »

Wobblies off planet, what's not to love? Really well done. Great reading. Great story.
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Sylvan
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« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2010, 08:09:24 AM »

What a brilliant, fantastic tale!

This is what I look for in fantasy:  brilliantly paced, an invigorating world, parallels to things with which I can identify ... all perfection in my estimation.

Thank you, Mr. Burgis and thank you, PodCastle.

This one gets saved!

Yours,
Sylvan (Dave)
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Boggled Coriander
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« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2010, 01:40:21 AM »

Damn fine opening sentence.  Damn fine everything else too, really.
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« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2010, 08:18:59 AM »

The writing was great, and the story was compelling, and I didn't expect that they would actually end up in hell and it would be part of the story.

But really this was just "the birth of unions" mixed with "fantasy/horror character types". I guess the reason I liked it more than "Diary of a Beast's Life" is because I thought the writing was better and the story was more interesting (and had more action in it).

It did drag in places, especially during the expository bits, but that's okay. My only real problem was with the ages of the characters -- and maybe that's because I know the reader is an adult and doesn't sound like a teenager. But then, maybe on that world, adulthood is both physical and mental at 13, not 18.
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Morgan le Fay
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« Reply #7 on: April 01, 2010, 10:47:47 PM »

Awesome Story! This really was a pleasure to listen to and the narration was so good. I could really understand what the main character was feeling by the way the narrator spoke.. I also loved the little plot twist at the end. All around great story. I hope there are more like this on on the way,
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Talia
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« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2010, 07:31:48 AM »

Hah, definitely hooked from that very first opening sentence (although I was vaguely unprepared for it and it did gross me out just a bit.. hehe).

[Spoilers]

I didn't expect them all to die at the end. You don't hear too many stories that end that way :p So that was an interesting turn of events. :p

I liked how the story treated fantastical elements casually, and elements of the world's religious beliefs were mentioned almost as an aside. For me that made the voice of the narrator very believable, because what's fantasy to us is just everyday to him.

All around good times. Kudos to all.
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« Reply #9 on: April 02, 2010, 08:33:04 AM »

If this is the sort of thing in the "original" stack, I hope to see more from it!  And I'm not just saying that because I've submitted unpublished stories from time to time.  Wink

Really, very outstanding.  Like Listener said, it was an obvious parallel to real life like Diary of a Beast's Life, but this one worked for me.  The fantasy details mattered and with those elements it was able to become more than "just" a union formation story. 

Did anyone else get some memory associations with Cool Hand Luke?  Some of the scenes with the new guy reminded me a bit of Luke.  And I do love that movie.
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Scattercat
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« Reply #10 on: April 02, 2010, 02:18:44 PM »

I enjoyed this one a lot.  Put another mark in the "Awesome title that isn't ruined by the actual story" column. 

I like a good union/company town story.  I kind of wish it had gone a little further from the real world; I was initially confused about whether this was supposed to be an alternate Earth, a future Earth, or a wholly imaginary world.  The use of words like "whiskey" and "foreman" in particular were a little disorienting in that respect.

Otherwise, solid marks.  I enjoyed the ending quite a lot; I was expecting the Green Devil to be all on their side and not actually evil.  I approve of having the religion be accurate and the Devil be evil, but still maintaining the hopeful note. 
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« Reply #11 on: April 03, 2010, 05:07:19 AM »

This story puzzled me a bit.  I found myself trying too hard work out what sort of world it was supposed to be - it was obviously not in an earth-like place, with two suns and goblins etc.  But they refer to themselves as human, despite the green blood, and they have whisky and know The Red Flag. Is this the far future? An alternative history? A magical realm? Or a long time ago in a galaxy far away?  The more detail that went into the world, the more puzzled I got by it.

I guess I found myself needing to put the workers' struggle put into some kind of political context.  That's where the real story is in any kind of dispute.  Any strike is the end of a story, rather than in itself being the story.  How did the workers end up in this terrible condition in the first place?  Why did families need to sign into contracts in the first place?  Who is this Company, and, if they run everything, who do they sell to?

On the subject of distracting details, do you sing The Red Flag to another tune in the States? In Europe it's usually sung to O Tannenbaum.  Was the reader singing it to a familiar tune, or making one up for this new world?  Or is it possible that the reader had not heard The Red Flag sung?  I understand there's a rather different attitude to Socialism in the States!
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stePH
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Cool story, bro!


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« Reply #12 on: April 03, 2010, 10:10:05 AM »

I enjoyed this story. 

Also while listening, the thought occurred to me that the story could have just as easily run on PseudoPod, and I found myself pondering that ever since PodCastle was established, both EP and PC now have their own, non-overlapping territories... but PP can still take certain stories from either one.
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« Reply #13 on: April 03, 2010, 10:49:57 AM »

I think that's part of the nature of the genres.  Scifi and fantasy both have a lot of furniture; magic is fantasy and can't be scifi, and technology is science and can't be fantasy, etc.  You can have elements of both, of course, but those tend to be outliers, with the majority of the data points falling more or less under one of the two bell curves.

Horror, on the other hand, is more about the tone than the trappings.  You can have scifi horror, fantasy horror, historical horror, real-world horror, etc.  It's a way of writing and a purpose for writing rather than any particular set of elements.

I don't know that this would have fit quite as well on PP; for all that it ends literally in hellfire and damnation, it's really rather hopeful at the end...
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stePH
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Cool story, bro!


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« Reply #14 on: April 03, 2010, 12:22:34 PM »

I don't know that this would have fit quite as well on PP; for all that it ends literally in hellfire and damnation, it's really rather hopeful at the end...

Not all the PseudoPod stories have ended on a down note, for all their horrific elements.

And I just remembered thinking last week's PP "Oded the Merciless" would not have been out of place on Escape Pod (though would have certainly had an "R" rating at the least, for disturbing violent content)
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alllie
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« Reply #15 on: April 03, 2010, 04:32:22 PM »

I really liked this story. I yearn for scifi and fantasy stories with a leftie tilt. This one about a labor union was great. I have been exposed to so few stories about the heroic struggle for labor rights so it made me happy to see one.

I'm working my way through China Miéville's Fifty Fantasy & Science Fiction Works That Socialists Should Read. I've been surprised at how many early science fiction authors were socialists. I just finished Jack London's The Iron Heel. It is arguably the novel in which Jack London's socialist views are most explicitly on display. Generally considered to be "the earliest of the modern Dystopian" novels it chronicles the rise of an oligarchic class in the United States.

Disclaimer: I'm a social democrat myself. I think what works best is regulated capitalism mixed with limited socialism and with a strong social safety net.
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stePH
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Cool story, bro!


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« Reply #16 on: April 03, 2010, 11:16:51 PM »

On the subject of distracting details, do you sing The Red Flag to another tune in the States? In Europe it's usually sung to O Tannenbaum.  Was the reader singing it to a familiar tune, or making one up for this new world?  Or is it possible that the reader had not heard The Red Flag sung?  I understand there's a rather different attitude to Socialism in the States!

I'd never heard of the song before.  In my own head I have something halfway between the tune of "Jerusalem" and the intro to Blue Öyster Cult's "Golden Age of Leather".
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alllie
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« Reply #17 on: April 04, 2010, 06:24:31 AM »

On the subject of distracting details, do you sing The Red Flag to another tune in the States? In Europe it's usually sung to O Tannenbaum.  Was the reader singing it to a familiar tune, or making one up for this new world?  Or is it possible that the reader had not heard The Red Flag sung?  I understand there's a rather different attitude to Socialism in the States!

I'd never heard of the song before.  In my own head I have something halfway between the tune of "Jerusalem" and the intro to Blue Öyster Cult's "Golden Age of Leather".

Here is Billy Bragg's version of Red Flag sung to O Tannenbaun. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhmfQhtszf0
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coughcool
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« Reply #18 on: April 04, 2010, 01:01:11 PM »

Wow great story. It was nice to hear a positive story on workers rights and the struggles to get those rights. Defiantly one of the better stories I have heard on Escapepod. Thank You  Smiley
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« Reply #19 on: April 05, 2010, 11:58:33 AM »

We don't sing The Red Flag in the United States. We can't have that sort of Commie stuff in our fine land of capitalism.

/sarcasm

Neat story, like a proletariat fairy tale. If Marxism had developed its own mythic cycle, this would probably be part of it. Our heroes are frustrated veterans and common line workers. The foremen are soulless collaborators, the security force are vampires, and the Devil is a capitalist fatcat with a trophy wife. Clearly a lot of thought went into this world.

Would you classify this as steampunk, do you think?
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