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Author Topic: PC121, Giant Episode: The Warlock And The Man Of The Word  (Read 28831 times)

Julio

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Reply #50 on: September 28, 2010, 02:17:35 PM
Very nice story. I kind of like the more traditional fantasy than some stories that are here on podcastle. The way magic works makes me think of Sanderson who writes a lot not only using different magic systems and really fleshing them out, but also about how to write them, and about his ideas on soft versus hard magic. I am very much a fan of hard, within rules, constrained magic.



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Reply #51 on: October 05, 2010, 04:17:13 PM
This is the kind of world I love the most.

Here we have a typically-known creature (a demon) mingled with icons that those of us native to the United States really identify with (the Old West). Also, the magic involved -while impressive- is not really the stereotypical Dungeons & Dragons type that we see saturating video games and stories all over the place.

But best of all were the characterizations. The relationships were what made this work: both intra-human and intra-human-demon.

I'm definitely going to pick up "Native Star".

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Thomas Daulton

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Reply #52 on: October 07, 2010, 05:04:58 AM
I'm not usually a fan of Westerns -- even Weird Westerns had better be pretty darn good to get a smile out of me.  This one got a smile out of me.  The world-building and the character-building were absolutely lavish, at least for about 2/3 of the story at minimum.  (The reader's differentiated voices were also superb, although I would have liked it if the narrator-voice had a bit more of an accent.  The characters' voices had a lot of passion, but the narration struck me as dispassionate.  Perhaps because Ash was supposed to be so rational, but Ash wasn't even in the first couple minutes of the story!)

Unfortunately I agree with some of the other commenters that the final confrontation was resolved rather abruptly, glibly and with a lot of vague innuendo that sped by without me really understanding it (I backed up the "tape" and listened to it several times, and parts of it still lost me).  I kinda get the impression that Ash was falling in love with the being formerly known as Squaw Bess, and that now that she was revealed, he would have to find love somewhere else -- and then sacrifice that love in order to progress in power.  Bit of a dark twist, if I'm interpreting it correctly.  But I often get befuddled when the plot points turn on Love... guess I'm just too much of an automaton myself (hence my avatar)...

I concur with Scattercat that the preacher-as-unwitting-tool-of-evil is a bit of a cliche, and predictable.  It apparently doesn't bother me as much as it does 'cat, though... because the alternative can often be worse.  When the man of faith is presented as being right and justified... even if that faith so generic that the sectarianism doesn't turn off the reader... the result often ranges from the saccharine and treacly, (I hate reading Panglossian "just have faith and it'll all turn out all right" stories; whether the believer is religious or New-Age-Self-Esteem-y "believe in yourself")... through the pedantic and moralizing.  The character can even turn out buffoonish without the author meaning him to... (you can accidentally create a Ned Flanders).  With so many different ways for the faithful character to fail, well, in some ways I'm kinda glad more authors don't try.  Authors should always try for excellence, of course, but in the end I'd rather read more of this tried-and-true cliche than more of the treacly, pedantic failures (see, for example, http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/left_behind/ ).

On the whole, nevertheless, back to MKH's story, it was well worth the time I spent listening to it, just for the juicy world-building. 

"All that is gold does not glitter; not all those that wander are lost." --J.R.R. TOLKIEN


Gamercow

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Reply #53 on: October 18, 2010, 04:10:32 PM
It was the fact that Furness started out so well-developed that made me so disappointed, actually.  I was enjoying the interaction between the two characters, but that lasted only as long as Furness' doubts; as soon as he rediscovered his faith (with Alethia re-igniting his conversion experience), he became Other, and it was strongly implied (from the similarity of the two events) that his conversion in the first place was also the work of a demonic being like Alethia.  In other words, the story starts out with an interesting, conflicted man of faith and ends with the revelation that all faith is the tool of evil.  The only proper faith, it is implied, is the sort of stubborn self-reliance Ash displays, and everything else is suspect.

PodCastle has been well above average in selecting thoughtful pieces with regard to most touchy subjects.  I didn't find this particular story unpalatable or offensive; I was just vaguely bummed that I was seeing Ye Olde Evil Preacher again.

I didn't see it this way.  I took Furness' original conversion as quite possibly an angelic possession, rather than a demonic one.  After all, if demons exist in this world, why not angels?  Additionally, I saw a couple of spots where MK was trying to show that Furness wasn't an evil man, or even a tool of evil, just short-sighted.  After all, he did indicate that they supplicated for relief, not murder.  Furness, like extremists of any belief(theist vs. athiest, mac vs. windows, honda vs toyota) often find themselves to be close minded, and that close mindedness leads to their undoing. 

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yicheng

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Reply #54 on: November 03, 2010, 04:59:09 PM
I liked the story over all.  The world-building was interesting.  I haven't read too much of the 'weird western' genre, but it sounds pretty fun, like a story version of the Red Dead Redemption Zombie Plague game.

I felt that there was a lot of unanswered questions regarding the cosmology of the story.  After finishing, I wasn't sure exactly what happened at the end.  So Squaw Bess was actually a Demon, but Demons are actually Angels?  How exactly did Furness destroy Timos?  What was the significance of the Demons coming from Greece?  How does a Demon Agent get his power?  What's the role of the Judeo-Christian God in all this?

Also, it felt a bit weird for a Warlock to end up having such a strong sense of morality.  I mean, don't they have to sell their soul and sacrifice babies in exchange for those powers?  Why would a warlock care if Squaw Bess was innocent or not?  And if he did care, why would he have been a warlock?  It seems like a more realistic reaction would have been to just turn her over to the demons in order to curry favor.



DKT

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Reply #55 on: November 03, 2010, 05:41:02 PM
Also, it felt a bit weird for a Warlock to end up having such a strong sense of morality.  I mean, don't they have to sell their soul and sacrifice babies in exchange for those powers? 

No, that's not how they get their powers. What led you to that conclusion? Was it something in the story or an underlying trope from other stories?


yicheng

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Reply #56 on: November 03, 2010, 09:27:38 PM
Also, it felt a bit weird for a Warlock to end up having such a strong sense of morality.  I mean, don't they have to sell their soul and sacrifice babies in exchange for those powers? 

No, that's not how they get their powers. What led you to that conclusion? Was it something in the story or an underlying trope from other stories?

No, I don't mean from the story.   But in the general popular mythos, I believe a Warlock/Witch is said to sacrifice their soul and supplicate to the Devil in exchange for supernatural powers.  I've always thought warlock = evil.  Am I wrong?



DKT

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Reply #57 on: November 03, 2010, 09:35:03 PM
Well, in regards to this story - yeah, it's a bit off. And although I think that's generally how warlocks are stereotyped, there's always folk like Dr. Strange (or even Alan Moore).

FWIW, witches aren't evil either (see Harry Potter, Wizard of Oz, etc.), although some of them certainly are.


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Reply #58 on: November 03, 2010, 09:40:20 PM
Also, it felt a bit weird for a Warlock to end up having such a strong sense of morality.  I mean, don't they have to sell their soul and sacrifice babies in exchange for those powers? 

No, that's not how they get their powers. What led you to that conclusion? Was it something in the story or an underlying trope from other stories?

No, I don't mean from the story.   But in the general popular mythos, I believe a Warlock/Witch is said to sacrifice their soul and supplicate to the Devil in exchange for supernatural powers.  I've always thought warlock = evil.  Am I wrong?


I think that people use these terms in so many different ways these days that it's unsafe to make any such assumption.

"Warlock" is less commonly used, but "witch" is used simply to mean "female magician" in a lot of literature. "Warlock" can just be another word for "wizard" as well. Nothing in this story suggests to me that the author meant the term to carry any negative connotation, definitely not anything as particular as scrificing babies.



Wilson Fowlie

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Reply #59 on: November 04, 2010, 02:18:58 AM
I refer you to the example of the Winter Warlock in the Rankin/Bass animated Christmas special, Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.  When we meet him, he is an evil warlock (well, as evil as a warlock can be in a show for kids).  Not long thereafter, though, the innate kindness of one K. Kringle unfreezes his heart and he becomes good.  But he's still a warlock.

That being said, I think there can often be more of a connotation of evil in 'warlock' than in 'wizard'.

"People commonly use the word 'procrastination' to describe what they do on the Internet. It seems to me too mild to describe what's happening as merely not-doing-work. We don't call it procrastination when someone gets drunk instead of working." - Paul Graham


Sgarre1

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Reply #60 on: November 04, 2010, 04:41:01 AM
Quote
That being said, I think there can often be more of a connotation of evil in 'warlock' than in 'wizard'.

Yes, that's true.  And wondering why, I did a quick check on dictionary.com.  Wizard derives from "wise", whereas Warlock derives from oath-breaker or covenant betrayer, so there's a negative connotation in the root.  Sorcerer, interestingly, derives from "one who casts lots" or soothsayer/diviner, which seems fairly neutral.

I've always loved the vagueness of witches as characters: satan-sold black conjurer, misunderstood wise woman/midwife, walker on the paths between good and bad, out for her own good but bitter, out for the good of the community but scapegoat by choice, matriarchal holdover in the positive (fertility rites), matriarchal holdover in the negative (sacrificing children), triple-goddess, wyrd woman, soothsayer, femme fatale, bored suburban housewife looking for a little action... witches got it all going on!  Also, I've often thought it quite charming that occasionally you run across a conception of the witch as monster - not monstrous actions but actual monster - in like not "a human who just happened to learn these powers or access them", but "never human", the monster-witch.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2010, 05:43:49 AM by Sgarre1 »



Unblinking

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Reply #61 on: November 04, 2010, 01:54:17 PM
Yeah, I tend to think of Warlock as evil, wizard as neutral, though I don't have a problem with them being used otherwise.  I think sometimes the word "wizard" is avoided because it's too strongly associated with Gandalf, with D&D campaigns, with Harry Potter, in the eye of the public?



birdless

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Reply #62 on: November 04, 2010, 07:27:09 PM
It's intelligent discussions like these that make me miss this place so much and keep me coming back! Not that i intentionally leave, just that life brings up distractions that break my addiction for a while. Anyway, most of my commentary has already been stated in one way or another by other posters, and probably stated better than i would have stated it. I strongly echo most of Unblinking's comments. For the record, i, too, am a Christian, and tire of the 'man of faith' being the cast as the ignorant or blind character who unwittingly gets used for evil rather than good. On the other hand, i understand how this character can be so readily available to be this plot concoction. And like T. Daulton explains, the reciprocal is often worse. I'm trying to work out some sort of compelling story where the faithful are not rewarded for their faith, but retain their faith anyway, which is very much a part of real life. I'd leave it up to the reader to decide what their commitment to their faith means later on down the road (reward? cynicism? etc).

I enjoyed this story, all in all. I felt that the author (with apologies to M.K. for my assumptions) hasn't really figured out what faith in God/a deity really means, but did a pretty good job of trying to understand it from the character's point of view. The characters were certainly well developed. The ending was rather abrupt, but it didn't ruin the story for me. It really made me want to pick up the book, though!



yicheng

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Reply #63 on: November 04, 2010, 11:00:30 PM
I think that people use these terms in so many different ways these days that it's unsafe to make any such assumption.

"Warlock" is less commonly used, but "witch" is used simply to mean "female magician" in a lot of literature. "Warlock" can just be another word for "wizard" as well. Nothing in this story suggests to me that the author meant the term to carry any negative connotation, definitely not anything as particular as scrificing babies.

Another reason for my assumptions is that the warlock's powers in the story seem to specifically center around having knowledge of demon magic or manipulating demons.  While he recognizes God's power, he simply sees the divine as another potential source, and not The Power as Furness and the God-fearing folk do.  From the real world, it seems pretty similar to Voudoun (Voodoo) as practiced by Africans and Carribeans, and which typically require a blood offering of some sort (usually animal, but apocryphal tales exist of human sacrifices, too).



Gamercow

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Reply #64 on: November 05, 2010, 07:36:13 PM
I felt that the author (with apologies to M.K. for my assumptions) hasn't really figured out what faith in God/a deity really means, but did a pretty good job of trying to understand it from the character's point of view.

Isn't faith a very personal thing?  What you would consider faith in a deity someone else would consider heresy, or not faith, and what someone else considers faith in a deity you may consider heresy or not faith.  Some have faith that Jesus will make that tornado swerve, while others have faith that the Threefold Law will provide someone with their just desserts.  Some have faith that when they die, they will be rewarded for a virtuous life with virgin mates, others have faith that when they die, they will be rewarded for a virtuous life with a better life in reincarnation. 

Isn't faith itself just belief without proof, generally spiritual? It is neither good nor bad, it just is.  I'm not clear on why you think that M.K. hasn't figured out what faith in a deity "really means".

The cow says "Mooooooooo"


birdless

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Reply #65 on: November 08, 2010, 08:18:08 PM
I felt that the author (with apologies to M.K. for my assumptions) hasn't really figured out what faith in God/a deity really means, but did a pretty good job of trying to understand it from the character's point of view.

Isn't faith a very personal thing?  What you would consider faith in a deity someone else would consider heresy, or not faith, and what someone else considers faith in a deity you may consider heresy or not faith.  Some have faith that Jesus will make that tornado swerve, while others have faith that the Threefold Law will provide someone with their just desserts.  Some have faith that when they die, they will be rewarded for a virtuous life with virgin mates, others have faith that when they die, they will be rewarded for a virtuous life with a better life in reincarnation. 

Isn't faith itself just belief without proof, generally spiritual? It is neither good nor bad, it just is.  I'm not clear on why you think that M.K. hasn't figured out what faith in a deity "really means".
As i understand the definition of heresy, it does not mean "without faith," just faith in a standard that isn't generally accepted. I'm sure some of my beliefs some churches would find heretical. The word doesn't often find its way into my vocabulary unless it's for levity (e.g. Someone else:"Episodes 1-3 are way better than 4-6." Me:"Heresy!"). Anyway, I used the word "felt" because that's how i felt without being able to necessarily point to a specific passage to confirm it on a one-time listen, and her comments on the board sort of confirmed my 'feeling.' I don't know if i can explain this, but i would contend that there's more to faith than just mere "belief"—it's deeply spiritual. It may start with mere belief, but it would be hard for me to define it in it's entirety in so simple a word. It's just that the idea that something is only powerful as much as you believe in it seems a ridiculous thing to believe in. Unblinking put it best here. At any rate, it didn't destroy the story for me at all; in my mind the characters drew upon some power that was mistaken as God or faith. I didn't mean to offend Hobson nor anyone else with that post, so if i did, my apologies.

And I guess to your first question, "Is faith a very personal thing?" then i guess i would say, yes, i suppose, but not so personal that i don't mind discussing it with someone; if they believe differently, that's fine, and i am often interested in knowing why they believe that way. Sometimes it helps me understand my own faith better, sometimes it actually gives me more reason to believe the way i do, and sometimes it brings to light things that i should reevaluate. So, yeah, i mean, it's personal, but not in a "private parts" but more in the way i choose to dress! (that made me chuckle for some reason; i think because it's such a bad analogy and i can imagine it being over-analyzed)



Gamercow

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Reply #66 on: November 09, 2010, 03:03:46 PM
i would contend that there's more to faith than just mere "belief"—it's deeply spiritual. It may start with mere belief, but it would be hard for me to define it in it's entirety in so simple a word. It's just that the idea that something is only powerful as much as you believe in it seems a ridiculous thing to believe in.

I think I see what you are saying, that the characters in this story lacked the depth of belief that you have come to associate with faith.  Thank you for clarifying

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yicheng

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Reply #67 on: November 09, 2010, 03:52:40 PM
It would seem like, in general, religion and Faith (with a capital 'F') isn't really depicted very well in Science Fiction and Fantasy.  Most books (e.g. Dragonlance) tend to get it wrong, and I think the reason is that in Reality there is very little certainly about what's actually really going on.  There are many viewpoints and interpretations of the same real-world events.  A very tragic event to some, may be God's retribution for mankind's sins to others, or it may be karmic repercussions of a world full of hatred, or it might be an insidious global conspiracy, or any number of other things.  Faith and Religion gives us the room to understand, give our personal interpretations to these events, and come to terms with them.

But the entire point of Sci-fi and Fantasy is exactly the opposite:  The whole idea is to provide an escapist alternate reality, a reality that's completely different than ours, which the author has to construct and spoon-feed us piece-by-piece.  Unless the author's very gifted, he/she is not going to have the bandwidth left to talk about different secondary interpretations of that reality.  So religion and faith end up having very little "wiggle-room" for interpretation in that universe:  The religion is either Wrong or Right in the Canon, and no in-between.  Faith is either the blind fanaticism of a zealot, or a vaguely secular humanist "belief" system, or most commonly some mechanics of the universe itself (i.e. divine magic): none of which resemble real-world Faith.

The only book that I've seen get this right is Dan Simmons' Hyperion series.  Frank Herbert's Dune series may get this, but I haven't read enough of the series to be able to tell.



kibitzer

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Reply #68 on: November 10, 2010, 01:33:08 AM
The only book that I've seen get this right is Dan Simmons' Hyperion series.  Frank Herbert's Dune series may get this, but I haven't read enough of the series to be able to tell.

Big call! I happen to agree on Hyperion (but I think Simmons is a genius). What about Orson Scott Card's Tales of Alvin Maker?


birdless

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Reply #69 on: November 10, 2010, 04:54:06 AM
i would contend that there's more to faith than just mere "belief"—it's deeply spiritual. It may start with mere belief, but it would be hard for me to define it in it's entirety in so simple a word. It's just that the idea that something is only powerful as much as you believe in it seems a ridiculous thing to believe in.

I think I see what you are saying, that the characters in this story lacked the depth of belief that you have come to associate with faith.  Thank you for clarifying
Yes! Well put! Thanks for the help! =)



birdless

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Reply #70 on: November 10, 2010, 05:00:11 AM
It would seem like, in general, religion and Faith (with a capital 'F') isn't really depicted very well in Science Fiction and Fantasy.  Most books (e.g. Dragonlance) tend to get it wrong, and I think the reason is that in Reality there is very little certainly about what's actually really going on.  There are many viewpoints and interpretations of the same real-world events.  A very tragic event to some, may be God's retribution for mankind's sins to others, or it may be karmic repercussions of a world full of hatred, or it might be an insidious global conspiracy, or any number of other things.  Faith and Religion gives us the room to understand, give our personal interpretations to these events, and come to terms with them.

But the entire point of Sci-fi and Fantasy is exactly the opposite:  The whole idea is to provide an escapist alternate reality, a reality that's completely different than ours, which the author has to construct and spoon-feed us piece-by-piece.  Unless the author's very gifted, he/she is not going to have the bandwidth left to talk about different secondary interpretations of that reality.  So religion and faith end up having very little "wiggle-room" for interpretation in that universe:  The religion is either Wrong or Right in the Canon, and no in-between.  Faith is either the blind fanaticism of a zealot, or a vaguely secular humanist "belief" system, or most commonly some mechanics of the universe itself (i.e. divine magic): none of which resemble real-world Faith.

The only book that I've seen get this right is Dan Simmons' Hyperion series.  Frank Herbert's Dune series may get this, but I haven't read enough of the series to be able to tell.
Sorry for the double post (i read the quoted post after my last post), but i just really felt this was so insightful! Plus i appreciated that you separated Faith and Religion. And those do seem to be the two extremes. But that approaches the best answer i've seen as to why it's so hard to write a compelling "real world" faith.



yicheng

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Reply #71 on: November 10, 2010, 10:09:45 PM
The only book that I've seen get this right is Dan Simmons' Hyperion series.  Frank Herbert's Dune series may get this, but I haven't read enough of the series to be able to tell.

Big call! I happen to agree on Hyperion (but I think Simmons is a genius). What about Orson Scott Card's Tales of Alvin Maker?

I confess that I haven't read that one, but I shall add it my list.  :-)



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Reply #72 on: December 10, 2010, 05:28:22 PM
I'm really digging the conversation on faith. Very thought-provoking.

But for the story, I hate to say it, but I didn't enjoy it. Not that I don't like Westerns, but for the demons being referred to as "Hell-N-----". What bothered wasn't so much as that was being used, it was perfectly justifible, and I understood its use. It's just that the use of it made me wonder, Well, where *are* all the black people? You have a town that have a diverse group of Indians, Asians and whites, but no blacks. And the use of "Hell-N----" for the demons kept hammering that fact in to me, distracting me. Is this a world where bringing blacks over as slaves never happened? Is the demon race suppose to stand in for them?

Thus I couldn't really enjoy it like I wanted to. Which is a shame because, other than that, I found it a thralling story.

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yicheng

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Reply #73 on: December 22, 2010, 06:50:31 PM
I came across this relevant quote while listening to a history podcast:

"The trouble with fiction... is that it makes too much sense. Reality never makes sense." -- Aldous Huxley




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Reply #74 on: December 22, 2010, 07:42:57 PM
“Books say: She did this because. Life says: She did this. Books are where things are explained to you; life is where things aren’t. I’m not surprised some people prefer books. Books make sense of life. The only problem is that the lives they make sense of are other people’s lives, never our own.”

Julian Barnes, FLAUBERT’S PARROT