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Author Topic: PC126: Creature  (Read 10609 times)
Heradel
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« on: October 12, 2010, 12:49:00 PM »

PodCastle 126: Creature

by Ramsey Shehadeh

Read by Norm Sherman (of the Drabblecast)

Originally published in Weird Tales (Read the text of the story here)

And so came Creature out of the wasteland and into the city, bouncing from hilltop to hilltop like a bulbous ballerina skipping across the knuckles of a great hand. He was big as the moon and black as the night, and he came crashing into the city like a silent meteor. The cityfolk watched his approach with wide eyes and open mouths, and then scattered like leaves.

The sun sat smudged and pale behind a grey smear of cloud, and the air stank of scat and putrefaction. But Creature said: “What a fine day it is!” Though he did not say it, of course, he thought it, and so the cityfolk thought it too. And when he released a great bolus of happiness into the air, they paused in their desperate flight, and smiled, and thought: “What a fine day it is!”

Creature surveyed the sea of smiles around him, and was well pleased. He rolled along, growing and shrinking and flattening and widening as he went, dispensing false joy to the destitute and the hopeless, the desperate and the sad. They lined his path like parade-watchers, caught helplessly in his spell.

Rated R: Violence and Disturbing Themes
« Last Edit: November 02, 2010, 05:57:35 AM by Heradel » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2010, 08:28:39 AM »

I'm about halfway through listening and so far I'm really enjoying it!

So far the only thing that bugged me was that the writer seems to not understand how a shotgun works.  It does not scatter bullets, it scatters pellets, like BB's.  One pellet hitting the girl isn't liable to cause any major damage even if it hadn't just grazed her.  A shotgun blast is dangerous not because of an individual pellet being dangerous, but because, when fired at relatively short range,  hundreds of the pellets hitting the same area simultaneously can cause much greater damage.
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blueeyeddevil
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« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2010, 12:53:53 PM »

Norm Sherman's voice,
Alisdair's outro...
either one of these things is enough to elevate any non-terrible story, for me, to enjoyability.

This story has both, and is better than non-terrible.

No deep commentary this time, just a favorite line:
'-one morning he didn't wake up, because of the knife in him.'
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« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2010, 01:29:38 PM »

The story's allusion to the wider world, other monsters and curious things like "semaphore ravens" piqued my curiosity for Shehadeh's world building. 

The lack of clear direction for Creature (who I can only really visualize as a negative giant-sized version Gloop or Gleep from the Herculoids - with the mandatory goatee) left me wondering if this was all just an ordinary day from it and that Melody would wake up tomorrow with out her malleable bodyguard, of if was moving along its character arc; continue moving from its feral life, to wanted to be loved by humans, to actually learning to love/be loved.

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« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2010, 01:51:28 PM »

I loved this one, from the evocative descriptions of a radiation-maddened post-apocalyptic wonderland to the story of Creature itself. It was sad and beautiful and strange. I like that it managed to end on a hopeful note. With a human to serve as an interlocutor, perhaps there is some hope for Creature. With Creature to serve as her protector, perhaps there is some hope for Melanie. All in all, a beautiful tale.
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« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2010, 03:42:48 PM »

Giant Monsters.  I love them too.  This was a great story, partly for the monster, more for the little girl and her outlook on the world, and mostly for the world itself.  So many great little throwaway bits of this dreamlike post apocalypse landscape, and the amusing critters therein.  It just really added to the feeling of the main narrative.  I'm not sure I want more detail - I don't think the world really holds up to close examination, that would just destroy the dream-like quality.
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« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2010, 04:04:56 PM »

My goodness, I enjoyed this so much!  This is the most I've liked a Podcastle story since ... oh, wait, last week's.  Smiley

I fell in love with this story right from the opening sentence.  Bulbous ballerina skipping across the knuckles of a great hand is unutterably delightful imagery.

I was afraid that the sadness in this story was going to depress me enough to make me like it less, but for me at least, Shehadeh balanced Creature - both character and story - perfectly on the high wire between sombre and (gently) silly, sometimes leaning one way, sometimes the other, but ultimately making it all the way to the other end with a focused tension that was deftly released with the final paragraph.


Also, I was glad that Creature was able to defend Melanie from the monster.  :Þ
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« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2010, 04:40:13 PM »

oh, wow.

I absolutely love this one.  LOVE.  Everything about it was delicious.  As Wilson Fowlie wrote, Creature was nicely balanced.  He and Melanie complimented each other in such a beautiful way.  When I got home tonight from work, I told my husband that I heard my favorite PodCastle today Smiley 

I can see this world developing.  I want Creature to go back to the city and save Rat from the city-dwelling monsters and bring him back to the forest with Melanie...and then I want adventures!   Grin

blueedyeddevil...thanks for reminding us about that awesome line!  Cheesy It made me grin when I heard it!
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« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2010, 05:21:43 PM »

I forgot to mention that besides the awesome story, the excellent (as usual) reading from Norm, and the interesting analysis from Alasdair (though I confess I had to rewind a couple of times and sort of mentally 'squint' to catch a couple of Al's lines), I thought this was one of Dave's better story introductions.  It felt somehow a little livelier than Dave's usual laid-back delivery.

Don't get me wrong: I like both the 'caffeinated' and 'uncaffeinated' versions of Dave.  Each has his own virtues and in this case, I thought the 'caffeinated' version fit well with the story that followed.
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« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2010, 05:53:02 PM »

Heh. Thanks.

Note to self: Drink more triple cappucinos right before recording intros. If necessary, eat a couple double chocolate chip cookes, too.

Additional note to self: If you overdo it, the badass Wolverine costume you're thinking about for next Halloween will never fit.
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Grayven
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« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2010, 08:59:34 PM »

So who built this "creature". While the story is sweet, the unlikeliness of a "creature" ever existing ruined it. If any such creature existed, it would not give a care about a little girl.

Sweet, treacly, and false just like the dreams the creature foisted on the normal people.
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« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2010, 10:06:30 PM »

Really liked this one!! Great world building and discovery through the Creature and child. I have a soft spot for Norm Sherman's reading too. I couldn't help but think Norm added the clown piranhas  Grin
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« Reply #12 on: October 14, 2010, 04:25:46 AM »

Listening to this story, I was correctly able to predict each and every plot element, and this was bothering me.
Until I realized why.
The whole story felt like a "been there, done that, bought the proverbial one-size-doesn't-fit-anybody T-shirt" experience.
Let's look at the story elements.
First, we have the setting, post-apocalyptic world. This is the stereotypical post-apocalyptic world, a world of extremes. Extremely cool mutants, and extremely diverse worlds. You have the city representing "order", humanity (more on that in a minute) and the wastelands.
In the city you have the Black Clads whose job it is to separate two extreme opposites: the haves and the have-nots. The haves live in an ordered, civilized world (speculation) at the expense of the have-nots, who have brought the word poverty to a new low. I'd like to hear more of their stories. We're only treated to a glimpse, but I get the feeling that the "ordered" and "civilized" cities are far from either.
The main characters are themselves diverse opposites, and contain within them opposites. There's the innocent little girl, the stereotypical embodiment of innocence, and the monster.
The girl herself contains innocence "...didn't wake up because of the knife in his back" as well as a deep understanding of the world and life and death.
The monster has the power to be the ultimate evil and has used that power. But now he is reformed, and sees something akin to love in the little girl.

These elements play off each other very nicely, and thus the story has all the ingredients necessary for a great story.
But it wasn't.
Creature reminded me too much of Dr. Frankenstein's monster.
The girl reminded me too much of every single child hero in most movies, games and books I can recall.
The story itself has a faded feeling to it, like it's been fingered far too many times.
Movies like ET and The Iron Giant, books like Frankenstein's Monster and The Big Friendly Giant. Games like Resident Evil. All of them have elements in this story.
That's why it was too predictable and why I didn't enjoy it as much as I could have.

I know that literature has been around for a long time, and good ideas will be constantly reused, but when reusing an old idea, try to put your own personal touch on it. I saw none such individual touches here. It was just a cast of stereotypes playing out a well-rehearsed act on an overused stage.
Had I been reading this story I would probably have speed-read through the last two-thirds of it, if not skipped them all together.
BUT, Norm's reading saved it for me.
He injected an element of sadness into the whole thing that I'm not convinced the author intended.
Creature came off as a world-weary traveler who has witnessed and caused far too much sadness and pain and is now trying to atone for some of it, rather than as an O' Henry type villain who turns out not to be.
And that is the reason why I kept listening, and why I liked this story.
Norm gave it the personal touch it was missing.
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Heradel
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« Reply #13 on: October 14, 2010, 09:30:10 AM »

So who built this "creature". While the story is sweet, the unlikeliness of a "creature" ever existing ruined it. If any such creature existed, it would not give a care about a little girl.

Sweet, treacly, and false just like the dreams the creature foisted on the normal people.

Did you miss the part where the creature was born of woman and half-man soon after the apocalypse?
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #14 on: October 14, 2010, 09:51:32 AM »

I know that literature has been around for a long time, and good ideas will be constantly reused, but when reusing an old idea, try to put your own personal touch on it.

I thought there were plenty of personal touches to it.  For instance, the language itself, the odd nature of this particular monster who wasn't just a generic vamp or boogeyman from central casting.  The nature of the monsters abilities--at the beginning the monster storms into town... spreading happiness wherever he goes?  Yes it's reminiscent in some ways of stories like The Iron Giant, but not in a way that makes it derivative, it's just that "kid befriends monster" has been done.  Most stories are derivative if you break them down to that extent, like "boy meets girl and they fall in love" or a typical quest format.
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« Reply #15 on: October 14, 2010, 09:55:35 AM »

No deep commentary this time, just a favorite line:
'-one morning he didn't wake up, because of the knife in him.'

Ha!  Yes, that was my favorite line in the story.  Friggin fantastic.

This could very well be my new favorite Podcastle episode.  The nature of the monster was unique enough with it extruding mouths to speak, eating and cubing those who oppose him, sliding his face onto a mountaintop, and his blooming feelings for the girl that he doesn't understand.  Lines like the above gave it a touch of silly even while being dark, a precarious balance to pull off but done superbly here.

Loved it loved it.  All except for botching the details of a shotgun--that still bugs me, partly because it would've taken only a few word changes to have made it describe a shotgun accurately without having to change the story details at all.  I still love the story, but I wish that would've been caught.
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« Reply #16 on: October 14, 2010, 10:17:12 AM »

I really liked this one, and Norm Sherman's reading was outstanding.  I'm casting about for something insightful to say about it, but all I can come up with is, "wow."  I guess that means I need to give it another listen.  Poor me.   Cheesy

Like blueeyeddevil and Unblinking, the line
Quote
'-one morning he didn't wake up, because of the knife in him.'
was my favorite.

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« Reply #17 on: October 14, 2010, 10:46:28 AM »

I fell instantly and deeply in love with the story as soon as I heard it.  Crying on the treadmill was a fascinating new experience.  I've been trying to process my thoughts into something coherent or insightful ever since. 

But I can't, I really can't.  I just have to love it as a whole and let that be enough.  There is something deeply touching and pure about a monster that knows it's a monster and yet does good anyway, even with the occasional failure, that just wrenches my heartstrings.

I have to give a gigantic virtual hug to Norm Sherman for the reading on this.  Every time he read "Mister?" - "Yes, little girl?" was subtly different, perfectly done.

And Alasdair?  Thank you for reminding me of a story I haven't thought about since 6th grade.
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« Reply #18 on: October 14, 2010, 11:38:56 AM »

The whole story felt like a "been there, done that, bought the proverbial one-size-doesn't-fit-anybody T-shirt" experience.

For me, the story was a beautiful allegory. It didn't need to be original - frankly, originality is a little overrated in my book - because it was beautiful.

Creature reminded me too much of Dr. Frankenstein's monster.

I saw zero points of similarity, except for the whole "sympathetic yet monstrous" thing. Frankenstein's monster was an artifact of one man's mad ambition, Creature was an accident of nature; Frankenstein's monster was brutish and uncontrolled, Creature was erudite and (mostly) gentle. Frankenstein's monster just wanted to be accepted, Creature wanted to make the world a better place, to change it until it would accept him; Frankenstein's monster is simply brutally strong, while Creature's telepathy added a very interesting dimension. There's not a lot of similarity in my mind.
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« Reply #19 on: October 14, 2010, 02:33:12 PM »

I liked this story if a bit predictable, but I must admit I did not see the turret crabs coming, the idea had me smiling all day ;-)
 
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