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Author Topic: PC099: The Hag Queen’s Curse  (Read 9073 times)
Heradel
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« on: April 13, 2010, 07:04:54 AM »

PodCastle 99: The Hag Queen’s Curse

by M.K. Hobson.
read by Christiana Ellis.
Originally appeared in Realms of Fantasy.

1986. Salty’s. Newport, Oregon.

Colored shadows from the square-tiled disco floor flash against finger-grimed black walls. There is a mirror ball and a pair of cute bartenders who are always squabbling. Two tall Marshall stacks in each corner thump out a beat you can feel all along Bay Boulevard. Jeff and Kat come down to Salty’s every Saturday night because in Newport Oregon in 1986 there’s nothing else to do on a Saturday night if you haven’t the taste for pickup trucks, country music, and mullets.

Always the same people. Skinny transient boys with names like Etienne and Colby; they spasm on the dance floor, get up intrigues in dark corners, pass little plastic packages of white powder from hand to hand. Always the same music: Adam Ant, Depeche Mode, Dead or Alive, Culture Club, The Cure. Always the same table, the wobbly dark one in the back with the red glass candleholder. Kat likes to dip her black fingernails in the melted wax and then peel it off like dead skin. It creeps Jeff out.

Jeff dresses preppy in pastel Izods and pressed chinos. He drinks pina coladas and saves the paper umbrellas. Kat wears black, sips Manhattans through crimson-painted lips, and smokes clove cigarettes in a long jeweled holder.

Every Saturday, it’s the same.

Until the pirate.


Rated R for the fashion woes inflicted by Adam Ant and complicated relationships.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2010, 11:08:15 AM by Heradel » Logged

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Scattercat
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« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2010, 03:56:42 PM »

I saw this in Realms and wondered how long it would be until it got here...  ;-)

I do have to say that I had a hard time relating to the characters; I must just not be part of the subculture, but the descriptions we gave didn't give me enough to go on, and so their subsequent actions felt a little disconnected.  I had a better experience of it here on PodCastle, but as this was my second time with the story, it's hard to say if that was the audio or just knowing what was going to happen and being able to see the incoming twists better.
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« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2010, 06:45:10 PM »

When I first saw the title, I read it as "The Drag Queen's Curse" and was kind of disappointed when I realized my error. It turned out I wasn't far off the mark, though.

M. K. Hobson's writing is always good. Some lines made me laugh aloud. This wasn't really my favorite, though. There's been an upsurge in all forms of media recently of the dynamic of the fag and his hag and it's very rarely done well. Too often, the gay character's only purpose is to be sympathetic to the straight female protagonist and go shopping with her and bond over cute boys and he is given very little personality of his own. For the most part I thought this story wasn't too bad about that, but it strayed into dangerous waters when Kat said, "I prefer the term 'gay man in a woman's body.'" I've heard that line so many times.
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Listener
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« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2010, 08:05:31 AM »

I enjoyed the 80s setting and the humorous lines, but I had a lot of trouble actually caring about the story or the characters. The fight between the pirate and the warlock didn't capture me -- or, more precisely, it WOULD HAVE if the story had stayed in the original timeline. I didn't really care if Jeff and Kat made it to San Francisco or not, Brady was the catalyst for way too much exposition and little else, and I don't think any of the 80s characters really had any redeeming qualities. Except perhaps Patty, because he was an EMT.

I also felt that it went on for far too long and I somehow failed to understand how 11 hours passed between Jeff getting bodysnatched and Cat/Brady/Rogers going back to the bar -- I had the feeling it was still night. Kind of like that Buffy episode (I may be quoting apocryphally here; I never watched the show) where she's fighting the vampire and he loses track of time but then gets fried when she opens the curtains... or did she open the curtains, make him laugh at her, then stab him? I don't know. It's been a while. But anyway, kind of like that feeling -- like night was far longer than it actually is.

Oh, and FWIW, Arby's old-style fries were far better than their curly fries. And given how good their curly fries are, that's saying something.

Good choice for reader -- with this many male characters around a female MC you really need a woman who can convincingly do male voices without sounding like (with all due respect) Steve Eley's "Megaton" voice from Union Dues.

So, y'know, some good funny bits and a good story germ but I didn't really care for the end result.
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« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2010, 06:10:24 PM »

The magical pirate fight was good and overall I didn't hate the story, but I had a lot of issues with it.

Apparently hag means something other than what I think it means and it went right over my head. "Kat is a decrepit old woman?" I remember thinking to myself. "I don't remember that part."

Rogers and the pirate were sent to (I forget the magical word) a place a stagnation, boredom and such, which is an interesting idea, but it came after the beginning narration about how nothing ever changed. That made it sound more like a unsubtle way of saying that Kat needed something new it her life.

I somehow failed to understand how 11 hours passed between Jeff getting bodysnatched and Cat/Brady/Rogers going back to the bar -- I had the feeling it was still night.

I was wondering about that too. it's an enormous plot hole. The only explanation that I could think of was that they were high for several hours, but if your friend were possessed by a magical pirate would you spend hours on end getting high? And it shouldn't still be night after eleven hours (unless they were in the Arctic, which they weren't) so that would conflict with the whole seeing-the-sun-and-never-being-able-to-go-home thing.

Now that I think about it, the pirate only being able to spend thirteen hours in one body is kind of a plot hole too. Yes, he can steal everything the person owns,  but what's he going to do with it? It's really hard to cart your ill-gotten fortune to the country and enjoy it of a little while if you need a new body twice a day. He basically spends his whole life looking for the next guy with the right boots.

One more plot hole. This is the last one. I promise. Why was Patty allowed to vacuum up the pirate dust and keep it? Wouldn't the police what to take it for their investigation?
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« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2010, 08:06:14 PM »

Apparently hag means something other than what I think it means and it went right over my head. "Kat is a decrepit old woman?" I remember thinking to myself. "I don't remember that part."

Relevant.
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Heradel
Bill Peters, EP Assistant
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Part-Time Psychopomp.


« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2010, 08:44:19 PM »

Apparently hag means something other than what I think it means and it went right over my head. "Kat is a decrepit old woman?" I remember thinking to myself. "I don't remember that part."

Relevant.

Yes, very.
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« Reply #7 on: April 14, 2010, 10:09:14 PM »

Weak.

The writing is solid enough and never gets in the way, but in the end one is left with a feeling of "What's the point?"  The alternative history set up piece is terribly weak and one gets the felling the whole thing was just a setup for the 'fag hag' line.

Which for someone as talented as MK Hobson, is a disappointment.
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« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2010, 08:23:46 AM »

Didn't finish it, which is too bad because I've enjoyed some of Hobson's other work here.

The beginning setting in the past seemed to be competing with itself for the number of modifiers it could use in a small space and it got to the point where that was a huge distraction.  And I didn't really care about the warlock (who seemed to be a soldier not a sorcerer?), the pirate, or the hag, or what happened to any of them.  Then it jumped to the 80s to add two more characters that I didn't give a damn about as they complain about their lives and go on about their dreams that I also don't care about.  Even when the pirate shows up, it's told so drily that still nothing was getting my interest, and then the girl comes out of the bathroom after taking a noseful of happiness and I was just content to skip the rest.
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Talia
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« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2010, 04:26:09 PM »

I thought this story was great. I'm rather shocked so many people seem to disagree.

Because indeed what's not to love about time travelling, body-stealing pirates? hehe. Smiley

I thought it was just a really fun story. I could empathize with the feeling of being stuck, do I did find I cared about the characters. I actually enjoyed the dry way the pirate re-entered the scene in the modern day. Part of the appeal for me was the almost casual way the fantastical elements were introduced into the modern day setting - I think it added an amusing flavor to the tone of the piece. I got a kick out of some of the little details too, like the mental image of a pirate beating up Beethoven (or whatever comparison it was the story used, I forget) in the street. How can you not think of that and grin. Smiley


RE: the warlock: he was both a soldier (well, a sailor technically) and a sorcerer. He did cast spells in the story. It was part of his job.

Two and a half thumbs up.
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tinroof
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« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2010, 04:34:44 PM »

So hanging around with gay people gives you magical blood and dominion over men's souls?

Awesome, I'll keep that in mind.
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Talia
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« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2010, 04:52:33 PM »

So hanging around with gay people gives you magical blood and dominion over men's souls?

Awesome, I'll keep that in mind.

I can't figure out if you're joking or implying that's what the story is suggesting Tongue

(doesn't seem to me like the story's saying that at all..).
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tinroof
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« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2010, 07:03:06 PM »

Sort of both, actually. They kept saying she was a hag and therefore had dominion over them and it seemed like all of a sudden the whole story had turned into an excuse for a bad pun. I mean, maybe it was supposed to be that she had the powers for some other reason and the hag/fag hag thing was just a very contrived coincidence but they really didn't put much effort into explaining it, if that was the case.

Most of the story was fun, but by the end I was honestly more baffled than entertained.


I should also state, for the record, that I completely loathe the term "fag hag". Which may have influenced my response somewhat.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2010, 07:05:00 PM by tinroof » Logged
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« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2010, 07:42:55 PM »

Okay, I liked this story.  It had me at the phrase "Warlock First Class, United States Navy." 

I was amused at the double meaning of "hag" - and has no one else thought of "The Fireman's Fairy", another PodCastle story with an awfully similar double-meaninged title?

Okay, maybe I just have a dirty mind, but it seemed the story hinted at some naughty puns that it could have made, but chose not to.  (Hint: "Seamen".)  I respect that.

Did Kat say 1768 near the end when she meant to say 1798?  Was that intentional?
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« Reply #14 on: April 16, 2010, 07:56:02 AM »

This story seemed to be missing elements that would have made it a better audio read.  In print this works as the reader's mind fills in the blanks, but as an audio piece it makes you feel like you missed something.  I could see this being worked into a longer piece easily as the alternate history line is only skeleton developed.  I found myself wanting to know more about how the navy used warlocks and what were all the kinds of magical scaliwags out there.  Was the warlock corpse only responsible for hunting down magical pirates?  I am also not sure what the point of the 80's as a landing point for their exile.  What were we saying about the 80's? 
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« Reply #15 on: April 16, 2010, 08:30:56 AM »

Because indeed what's not to love about time travelling, body-stealing pirates? hehe. Smiley

When you say it like that it sounds so great, but I just didn't like the execution. 
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Talia
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« Reply #16 on: April 16, 2010, 09:14:54 AM »

Because indeed what's not to love about time travelling, body-stealing pirates? hehe. Smiley

When you say it like that it sounds so great, but I just didn't like the execution. 

To each their own, I suppose. It worked for me (apparently I'm in the minority, though. That's ok, not everyone can be as awesome as me :p :p).
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Listener
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« Reply #17 on: April 16, 2010, 09:25:07 AM »

Sort of both, actually. They kept saying she was a hag and therefore had dominion over them and it seemed like all of a sudden the whole story had turned into an excuse for a bad pun.

I kind of felt that too, although I actually appreciated the cleverness of it, how Rogers realized (a) she thinks she's a hag and (b) how he can use that to his advantage.
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tinroof
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« Reply #18 on: April 16, 2010, 10:10:22 AM »

Listener - yeah, I considered that too, but any way you look at it, it's still kind of incoherent.

Option One: Being a "fag hag" really did give her magical powers, in which case the whole story was written in support of a really not very good pun.

Option Two: She didn't really have the power, the pirate just thought she did because he didn't know the real meaning of "fag hag", and so he automatically obeyed her when she yelled. But that's pretty contrived to begin with, and then they actually did (I think?) use her blood to go back, plus the Warlock believed she could come get him if she wanted. I'd think a warlock would be able to tell if someone honestly had power or not.

Option Three: She had the power but it had nothing to do with being a "fag hag" in which case it's Plot Convenient Ability Out Of Nowhere. Which is pretty objectively bad writing.

Maybe I'm missing something obvious, but I just think if Ms. Hobson had meant to take a less ridiculous option she would have been a little clearer on what was actually going on.
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Talia
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« Reply #19 on: April 16, 2010, 10:12:45 AM »

You're not taking into consideration the fact that she was a Goth who was wearing a pentagram on a necklace. It seemed pretty clear to me the "hag" was referring to her Gothyness, not the "fag hag" thing.
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