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Author Topic: PC129: Songdogs  (Read 6952 times)
Heradel
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« on: November 02, 2010, 05:59:56 AM »

PodCastle 129: Songdogs

by Ian McHugh

Read by Amanda Fitzwater

Originally published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. (Read the text here!)

She led Carrick along the eroded bank, examining the creek bed in the moonlight. It was furrowed with flood channels and littered with rocks and small debris, but no patches of smooth sand that might indicate a jack-o-box lurking underneath.

He slipped going down the bank, despite Agnieska’s efforts to keep him upright. He knocked her off balance, too, and caught her a painful blow on the breast with his elbow as they slithered to the bottom. Carrick landed on top. He pressed the mittens onto her chest as he scrambled up, squashing the breath from her lungs. Agnieska got her arm in the way of his clumsy swing at her head, yelped as she caught the blow on the point of her elbow. Carrick staggered away, trying to run. His escape lasted only a handful of paces before the compulsion spell stopped him and he sprawled once again in the dust.

Agnieska surged to her feet, her patience shot. With a snarl, she kicked him over onto his back. From her coat pocket she took a pair of steel-bladed calf hooks.

Rated R: Contains violence, disturbing imagery
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2010, 03:20:36 PM »

I am the King Under the Mountain, and this is the first post.

So, I really liked this one. I enjoyed the world McHugh presented us, with all its weird and deadly splendor, almost as much as I did the characters of Carrick and Agnieska. Carrick - idealistic, judgmental, but not without compassion - and Angieska - pragmatic and haunted - presented a perfect counterpoint. I could have listened to them argue for hours. The explication was particularly impressive; McHugh did a very good job of educating us about his world without bogging down the story (if you know me and my writing IRL, you know that I'm working on the same thing myself). I was also very happy with the ending. In fact, my only critique of this story is that it had an ending. I'd love to read a novel-length version of this short piece.

Watch out for songdogs.
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Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2010, 04:43:22 PM »

I haven't listened to the story yet; I just wanted to point out that every time I see the title, I am reminded of Paul Simon's song "The Cool, Cool River" (from his 1990 album The Rhythm of the Saints), which contains these lyrics:

    I believe in the future we shall suffer no more.
    Maybe not in my lifetime, but in yours I feel sure.
    Song dogs barking at the break of dawn,
    Lightning pushes the edges of a thunderstorm
    And these streets, quiet as a sleeping army
    Send their battered dreams to heaven

Now I have to go listen to the whole album.  Smiley
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"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
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« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2010, 08:49:38 AM »

Ooh, thanks for the lyric quote Wilson, I'd not heard of that before.

The characters were great, the setting was great, the story was great.  An Australian Weird West tell with mutated beasties in the Outback.  I thought the descriptions of the songdogs were done well, I was given enough distinctive features (the serrated beak, black and white feathers, scorpion tale) to put together a reasonably good picture of them, but never quite enough details that they took an entirely solid form, instead their shape seemed to twist in the grasp of my mind, which was a pretty cool effect.  I also liked how the other creatures were mentioned by name, but never seen (though the jackabox had a brief offscreen description, and the name gives a good connection there). 

This reminded me a good bit of Cindarella Suicide for its Australian setting and wasteland beasties.  It also reminded me a bit of some of the sub-worlds in the Otherland series by Tad Williams, particularly the...  I forget what they were called, but they were a wraith-like dingo-like creature.
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« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2010, 09:01:04 AM »

Oh yeah, the one thing I would've liked to see in the story is to see the songdogs' song actually do its work.  It was described as "soporific", so it puts the victim to sleep, but then do they just eat the victim alive or does the song have other effects?
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Scattercat
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« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2010, 10:37:56 PM »

How come stories set in Australia are always so much more awesome than non-Australian stories?  Is it some kind of secret kangaroo technology?
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« Reply #6 on: November 04, 2010, 10:40:31 PM »

Is it some kind of secret kangaroo technology?

"Secret Kangaroo Technology" would make an awesome name for a band.
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Loz
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« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2010, 08:15:10 AM »

Is it some kind of secret kangaroo technology?

"Secret Kangaroo Technology" would make an awesome name for a band.

Did you hear the double a-side they did with 'Dingos Ate My Baby'?

I did enjoy that story. I'm glad it deviated from the standard 'foes start talking and become allies when they realise their stereotypical ideas of each other aren't true to life' trope, she could go either way depending on what the future holds at a larger societal level. And Amanda's reading was top notch too.
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« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2010, 09:05:54 AM »

My favorite interaction was at the end when he asks her to promise never to chase him and she refuses, and then he asks for her to promise not to chase him today.  That illustrated both their characters very effectively.
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Listener
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« Reply #9 on: November 06, 2010, 11:14:24 AM »

My favorite interaction was at the end when he asks her to promise never to chase him and she refuses, and then he asks for her to promise not to chase him today.  That illustrated both their characters very effectively.

It was a Pratchett-ian moment.

I enjoyed the story, although the material -- lawman (in this case law-woman) leading criminal on a difficult journey to bring criminal to justice -- is well-worn. I think it was the setting and the wonder as to what the False Moon actually is. To me it's a cross between what the Empire did to the Noghri and Torque technology.

Not a huge fan of this reader, but she did an all right job.
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Talia
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« Reply #10 on: November 08, 2010, 11:16:41 AM »

I must admit that when the reader for any given story has an accent I'm always a bit concerned - I have something of a hearing problem that makes it VERY difficult for me sometimes to understand heavy accents. I am happy to say that by the end of the story I wasn't even noticing the accent anymore, which I ascribe to two things: 1) an excellent reading and 2) the compelling nature of the story. So thanks for that!

Did enjoy the story as a whole. Particularly enjoyed the little details, like the man-eating horses. Would like to know what's going on in the rest of the world during this time. Smiley
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birdless
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« Reply #11 on: November 08, 2010, 03:32:24 PM »

Wow! Even though there was nothing necessarily groundbreaking here, it was masterfully written. Compelling story, intricately-woven world building, well-defined and likable characters and good dialog. I hated to hear this one end. I definitely wanted more. Love this guy's style, and will be checking out more of his stuff.
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Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #12 on: November 08, 2010, 04:16:37 PM »

I rather liked this story.  Like ElectricPaladin, I particularly liked that it didn't go the predictable direction of the prisoner converting the jailer (however right he might have been to do so).

I found Amanda's reading to be a lot easier to follow this time than I did for "Other People’s Money".  I don't know if it was because my mind still remembered the verbal patterns from then or she read more slowly or what, but I had a lot less trouble with the New Zealand (?) accent than last time.  (That being said, I love the accent; I just can't always follow it.  But that's my problem.)

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"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
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« Reply #13 on: November 09, 2010, 10:37:47 AM »

I rather liked this story.  Like ElectricPaladin, I particularly liked that it didn't go the predictable direction of the prisoner converting the jailer (however right he might have been to do so).

I found Amanda's reading to be a lot easier to follow this time than I did for "Other People’s Money".  I don't know if it was because my mind still remembered the verbal patterns from then or she read more slowly or what, but I had a lot less trouble with the New Zealand (?) accent than last time.  (That being said, I love the accent; I just can't always follow it.  But that's my problem.)

I agree that I had more trouble following that one than this.  This one I didn't really have a problem, and I lover her accent.  In Other People's Money I think she was speaking a bit more quickly, and also I just found the subject material uninteresting, so I didn't had less interest to try to follow along.
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DKT
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« Reply #14 on: November 09, 2010, 11:54:42 AM »

FWIW, I think there were some technical issues with "Other People's Money" - and I'm not sure how much of that Amanda was able to control.
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« Reply #15 on: November 10, 2010, 04:38:07 PM »

Great story, I turn my non thumb digits into thumbs (with a spell powered by magic from the false moon), and stick them all up for a 10 thumbs up.
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Biscuit
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« Reply #16 on: November 12, 2010, 09:55:50 PM »

FWIW, I think there were some technical issues with "Other People's Money" - and I'm not sure how much of that Amanda was able to control.

Dave's right - on OPM I had a stuff up on the digital codec I used. And I agree, I read way too fast on it. Combined with a challenging story, it made a dense moment in narrating history Wink

Thanks for the support this time round. It means something to me, being a foreign narrator. I know not all ears are trained for the kiwi experience Smiley
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Obleo21
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« Reply #17 on: November 14, 2010, 03:44:31 PM »

I think that the reading was spot on for illustrating both the gravity of the dangerous situation as well as the lack of ability to move through the landscape more quickly. 

I want to know more about the man-eating horses...
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Dave
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« Reply #18 on: November 16, 2010, 09:20:11 PM »

I really enjoyed this story. I want more in this setting. Hell, I want the RPG sourcebook for this setting so I can play in it myself!
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-Dave (aka Nev the Deranged)
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« Reply #19 on: November 16, 2010, 09:21:41 PM »

Is it some kind of secret kangaroo technology?

"Secret Kangaroo Technology" would make an awesome name for a band.

Feel free to add it to the Band Name List!
http://bandnamelist.wikispaces.com/The+List
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-Dave (aka Nev the Deranged)
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