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Author Topic: PC133: And The Blood Of Dead Gods Shall Mark The Score  (Read 12653 times)
Ocicat
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« on: November 30, 2010, 02:45:48 PM »

PodCastle 133: And The Blood Of Dead Gods Shall Mark The Score

by Gary Kloster.

Read by Christiana Ellis.


Originally published in Fantasy Magazine.

Huck smiled, and his smile stretched the pink rift of scar tissue that ran up from the corner of his jaw, across the twisted pit of his ruined right eye and onto his broad forehead. Before Nikolai’s betrayal, Huck’s face had been sternly handsome and the blood tatted into his dark skin had shone like lightning. That tat’s magic had made him beautiful and terrifying, like a storm rolling, and with a look he could make all the world his bitch. Now, left with just the scar and the spark of rage that still burned in the depths of his remaining eye, he had to be content with just scaring people shitless.

“Tribals are crap, redneck poser ink. Do yourself a favor and piss off.”

Two minutes after Huck banged in and my only customer that whole damn day was sulking out, a black dot of ink no bigger than a pimple hidden beneath his shirt. “Follow him out, Huck,” I said as the door rattled shut and I trashed the ink that I’d laid out for the job. “We’re done, remember?”


Rated R for: violence, language and adult themes.

This week’s episode is sponsored by METAtropolis: Cascadia
« Last Edit: December 13, 2010, 07:51:57 PM by Ocicat » Logged
iamafish
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« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2010, 06:59:08 AM »

I'm not really sure how i feel about this one. For large parts of the story it felt very childish and seemed to deal with interesting issues in a rather ham-handed and unsophisticated way. But then I found myself really getting into it and actually finding the concept slightly more interesting and well thought-out than I first assumed. The story seemed to flirt between a quite interesting study of identity and a really twisted tough guy/gal testosterone off.

The plot was pretty weak. It was fairly obvious that the antagonist would arrive at just the wrong moment and that the protagonist would go with the other guy, not him. The way in which he got out of the seemingly impossible situation was slightly interesting, but I think the fact that those blood things were there and had so much power made it inevitable. It seems odd that the antagonist didn't think that he might just do that and plan for it.

The characters were also slightly flat and bland, apart from the protagonist, whom I actually found quite interesting. The antagonist was a pretty generic deceitful backstabber - I don't think the Russian accent helped to be honest. Huck was also pretty unlikable - why did the protagonist ever love him again? he just seemed like a very dominant and overbearing guy. I'd have liked to have seen the protagonist cut his losses with him as well, because there seemed little reason to stay with him apart from his dependence issues.

The setting was probably this story's strong point. I was initially really dubious about the idea of killing old gods and having their blood stick around, especially being an Ancient Historian - I can get a little snobbish about mythology and gods and the like - but eventually I bought it. I thought the idea of tattooing into one's skin was kinda silly to start with, but again I warmed to the idea as I got over my slightly snobbish attitude to tattoos, especially the kind of crap that the drunk guy was getting at the start - but for completely different reasons from Huck I might add.

The writing was also a highlight. I thought this was really well written. I was slightly dubious about saying things like 'making me his bitch', which seemed to be a really jarring colloquialism against a much more ordinary style, and a slightly childish one at that. Apart from the odd little bit that I didn't like, the writing was, on the whole, pretty solid, with a nice mix of exposition, description and plot. I liked how you didn't fall into the trap of not showing, but telling with the first person perspective. It's always tempting to let the narrator tell too much.

In terms of tattoos, I'm not really much of a fan. That being said I've seen some people with really awesome tattoos. I'm just not sure how they'll look when I get older. I'm also not sure what to get. I'd probably get a phrase, rather than a motif, mostly because words have always meant much more to me than pictures.
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2010, 07:10:39 AM »

First things first: Christiana's reading was truly excellent. I always enjoy listening to one of her readings/podcasts. I love it when she does different voices for the characters, and she did a great job on this one.

The story:
Well... I kinda liked it. The whole killing the pagan gods thing for personal gain (or Truth) sort of irked me, but it's to be expected of an "enlightened" civilization. (Holy Roman Empire persecution of the Druids, anybody?).
I've said this before and I'm going to say it again, I like it when the fantasy is part of modern day life. Electronic alarms alongside wards, strong thick glass strengthened by charms, and hearing the words "data lines", "wards", and "cell towers" in the same sentence is fun.
The story was a little dark, and I was listening to it in broad daylight without a cloud in the sky, so it was a little weird, but a lot of fun.

Oh, spoiler alert, in case somebody didn't hear the end yet. If you haven't, do bother reading the rest of the post.

The character development was a little weak in my opinion. I spent far too much time trying to figure out exactly what the narrator is. (She's a girl, oh no wait, stubble. A dude then, and gay. That's fine. "Baby girl"Huh A man in denial? Oh, sex change...) it was fun trying to work it out, and I do like it when the author doesn't come right out and tell you what's going on, but makes you work for it, a la O'Henry. But there was too much going on that I was trying to figure out at the same time. (Scar? Tattoos? Blood of gods? Why jail? And what exactly does the blood of the gods do? And how come it doesn't affect Woody?) All the questions were answered in the end, but I spent a lot of the story trying to work it out, and think in parallel across many lines of thought.
That isn't necessarily a bad thing, it was just.... strange.
I think the one thing I truly didn't like was the ending.  My sense of justice is wronged. Huck is a manipulative bastard and needs to be punished so he knows he's been punished. (Having his tattoo burned out (how and when and why did that happen??) wasn't a punishment for him. It just fueled his hate and anger. He needed something a little more... dreadful, perhaps. Maybe losing his mind?) Also, having Woody work with him again implies either that he (Woody) hasn't learned his lesson, while it certainly sounds like he has. Or that he's falling prey to the same old "This time I will be in charge, and things will be different" mantra which never works.
I don't need every story too have a happy ending, nor do I require the opposite. But this case just seemed off. The whole story was dark, and we get a happy ending, full of promise for the future? I don't think so. That makes the whole thing unbelievable. I had no problem with my suspension of disbelief until now, welcomed it in fact, but the ending won't carry. I'm sorry, but it just doesn't hold water.

Other than that, a very good story, especially (or because) it was written in a sleep-deprived 24 hour marathon.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2010, 07:12:17 AM by Max e^{i pi} » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2010, 09:21:18 AM »

Hmmm...   I liked and disliked it.  I like GaryK's writing style, and he certainly does come up with some great ideas.

-The beginning, for the longest time, was just two guys at an ink shop haggling over their crimes.  The god blood didn't really become an element until 20 minutes in with the flashback of her seeing a god bleed out.  That's where it really god interesting to me, so it would've been nice if that'd been a little closer up front.
-iamafish has a good point that it's a little surprising that Nicolai didn't have a contingency plan for this outcome.  Considering her high resistance to the blood, that ought to be one of his first plans.
-I really really wanted to see the blood at work.  There were hints that it was magical even early on with Huck complaining about her using "ordinary" ink for tattoos and whatnot, and then later Woody explained that he could become a shapeshifter.  But they stated time and time again that they've never seen this amount of blood, so how do they know what the effect will be?  What has the blood been used for in the past?  For all I know it's just a hallucinogenic that makes you think you've done something fantastic, since we never actually see it used.


On the question in the outro:  I don't know what I would choose for a tattoo.  When I was younger I pictured a dragon, but I'm not sure about that anymore.  Most of my interests are media-related and it seems a little too corny to me to have an image from a book, movie, or video game.

Regarding Max's name, if I were pressed to pronounce that handle, I would say "Max E to the I Pi", but I'm probably completely wrong.  Tongue
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2010, 01:52:00 PM »

On the question in the outro:  I don't know what I would choose for a tattoo.  When I was younger I pictured a dragon, but I'm not sure about that anymore.  Most of my interests are media-related and it seems a little too corny to me to have an image from a book, movie, or video game.
I like tattoos, but on other people. I wouldn't be able to see one on myself properly to get the full affect. So, I wouldn't chose any tattoo for myself, but I can appreciate nice ones on other people.
Regarding Max's name, if I were pressed to pronounce that handle, I would say "Max E to the I Pi", but I'm probably completely wrong.  Tongue
That's exactly right, it's a math joke. When you pick a username that has already been chosen, sometimes sites prompt you to add some numbers to your name. Well, I added a number to my name.
Cheat sheet.

On topic: I agree with Unblinking that the god blood aspect was introduced far too late into the story, but it wasn't a deal breaker for me.
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« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2010, 02:33:30 PM »

That's exactly right, it's a math joke. When you pick a username that has already been chosen, sometimes sites prompt you to add some numbers to your name. Well, I added a number to my name.
Cheat sheet.

Ah, I wasn't aware of that formula.  Apparently you have been voted the most beautiful theorem in mathematics.  What an honor!  And, yeah, you know your magazine demographic is geeky if you have a poll for "most beautiful theorem".   Grin

On the subject of tattoos, this one still makes me laugh, which I saw posted by Ocicat in the picture association thread.


Edit:  Ocicat's a moderator?  I don't remember that being the case.  Well, yay Ocicat!
« Last Edit: December 01, 2010, 02:37:11 PM by Unblinking » Logged
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« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2010, 02:54:36 PM »

[Ocicat's a moderator?  I don't remember that being the case.  Well, yay Ocicat!


It's a relatively recent development  Cheesy
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« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2010, 04:23:35 PM »

I enjoyed this story, though like Max e^{i pi} I was preoccupied with the nature of the POV character... specifically, I was wondering why a female reader was doing a story with an apparently male character narrating in first-person. Once I figured out that he was a transgender, physically female but identifying as male, it made perfect sense (we've got one where I work).

I've sometimes thought about getting a tattoo. The fact that it's permanent, and I can't think of anything I'd want to wear for life, is the primary reason I don't have one. Maybe the Ohtori Academy rose crest?
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« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2010, 04:31:42 PM »

Hi there.  This is my first time posting!  I've been slowly listening to back issues and catching up to the present--don't know what I'll do now that I can only listen to one new issue of PodCastle a week!

I quite liked this story.  I'm surprised you all weren't crazy about the character development because that was the real highlight for me.  Tattooing the blood of dead gods on your body for power is a fantastic  image, but it was really the character of Woody that drew me in, and the slow reveal of who he was.  I often get annoyed by stories in the just-one-more-heist genre because I'm never convinced by the character's reasons for going back to a life of crime.  In this case though, how could Woody do anything else with the carrot of his deepest desire dangling in front of him?  (Yes, I'm calling him him, since that's what I think he'd prefer.)  I also found the imperfect reconciliation at the end of the story quite real and touching.

(Yes, I do have a tattoo.)
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Lena
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« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2010, 04:55:31 PM »

Hi there.  This is my first time posting!  I've been slowly listening to back issues and catching up to the present--don't know what I'll do now that I can only listen to one new issue of PodCastle a week!

Ah, I know that feeling. The withdrawals set in next, and the need for your weekly fix to finally get here seems to take FOREVER Smiley

Seriously, though - welcome to the forum, and thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts!
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« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2010, 05:29:00 PM »

From the title of the story, I wasn't sure if I'd like it or not - blood isn't really my thing, but music (which is what "mark the score" made me think of) is.  But then both of those aspects turned out differently than I expected, which was a pleasant surprise.

I liked the world of this story, but despite Dave telling us it was urban fantasy in the intro, something about the writing style kept making me feel like it wasn't contemporary and for the first little while, whenever I heard reference to modern civilization - Huck's Ford Tahoe, or cellphones, for example - it was a little disorienting.  It was like the setting was modern but the language wasn't so much so.  Then I made the mental adjustment and it was okay.

I had a similar problem in choosing a tattoo as Dave did: I couldn't find one that adequately expressed who I was and my view of the world.  Then I read a book about Fuzzy Logic and it suddenly became clear.  It may be simple, it may even be a cliché, but I decided that the Yin-Yang symbol captured it perfectly.  And that's what I got tattooed on my chest, just to the left (my left) of my breastbone.

Hi there.  This is my first time posting!  I've been slowly listening to back issues and catching up to the present--don't know what I'll do now that I can only listen to one new issue of PodCastle a week!

Well, if you're already caught up on Escape Pod and (if horror doesn't deter you as much as it does me) Pseudopod, many of us quite like Decoder Ring Theatre. New full-cast adventures in the style of radio serials of the 40s and 50s.  There are 11 seasons (6-episodes each) of The Red Panda superhero adventures and 6 1/6 Smiley seasons of Black Jack Justice, a hardboiled detective series.  It only comes out twice a month, but those 103 episodes (plus the Summer Showcase episodes featuring various other kinds of stories, including Westerns, sci-fi and a superhero almost entirely unlike the Red Panda) should keep you catching up for quite some time. Smiley
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« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2010, 10:32:03 PM »

having listen to this a second time, my reaction is much more positive. I think I've got over my previous hangups about the subject matter , which initially seemed childish. I still have the same issues with the characters, the plot and the ending, but I enjoyed it a lot more second time round.
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« Reply #12 on: December 02, 2010, 12:47:50 AM »

This story was awesome.  I love a slow build, personally, and I liked the opening banter as a good way to establish the dynamics without infodumping.  The plot wasn't a scintillating and unique piece of brilliance, but it was a good traditional heist story to hang an interesting world concept on.  Personally, I found the character of the protagonist to be well-drawn and fascinating, with the other two providing the right sparks and gravitic forces to shape a solid arc.  Nicolai was the thinnest, no question, but I'm okay with antagonists sometimes just being antagonistic.

@Why wouldn't Nicolai plan for it?
I'm fairly sure Nicolai could not imagine anyone just destroying that much money and power, nor could he understand the depth of the anger Woody felt.  Nicolai is someone who works with enemies.  He's pragmatic.  He does the smart thing.  He thinks he understands Woody, but he doesn't really grok how much his identity means to him.  Sure, we in the audience see it coming from a mile away, but we have a bit of a privileged position in terms of understanding Woody's thoughts and motivations. 
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« Reply #13 on: December 02, 2010, 12:59:36 AM »

Man, I loved this story. I had a few nitpicks - little things I'd do differently if I were the author - but I generally thought it was awesome. Great setting, great characters, and a wonderful backstory. Really, this is one of those stories that's so good I have nothing to say except this: I want to hear more stories in this setting, and I want this setting for an RPG. And, of course, Christiana did a brilliant job reading.

Except...

I really think having a woman read this story was a mistake. The main character's essential maleness - and need to change his body to match it - was incredibly important to the story. If a man had read the story, the disconnect beneath the narrator and the backstory would have been more poignant.
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« Reply #14 on: December 02, 2010, 02:31:27 AM »

I have a confession. First time I listened to the story I though it was a guy with a quite high pitched voice reading...
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« Reply #15 on: December 02, 2010, 02:45:42 AM »

It was a pleasant surprise to hear a story told from the viewpoint of an FTM protagonist.  Given where we are in transgender history, it's probably inevitable that Woody would have a storyline about Who I Am and Who I'm Striving To Become, but that aspect felt a bit clunky to me.   Woody's abusive relationship with Huck was vivid enough to be frustrating.  Thanks to the author (whose description of the story's development did not treat the transman as an oddity), and to the narrator, and to PodCastle.
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #16 on: December 02, 2010, 03:27:43 AM »

I have a confession. First time I listened to the story I though it was a guy with a quite high pitched voice reading...
But but but
That's how Christiana sounds! That's what makes her the best choice (IMO) for this story!
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« Reply #17 on: December 02, 2010, 09:28:27 AM »

I have a confession. First time I listened to the story I though it was a guy with a quite high pitched voice reading...
But but but
That's how Christiana sounds! That's what makes her the best choice (IMO) for this story!

Huh. I feel that Christiana Ellis has a really feminine voice. Kinda husky, but feminine.
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« Reply #18 on: December 02, 2010, 09:36:45 AM »

@Why wouldn't Nicolai plan for it?
I'm fairly sure Nicolai could not imagine anyone just destroying that much money and power, nor could he understand the depth of the anger Woody felt.  Nicolai is someone who works with enemies.  He's pragmatic.  He does the smart thing.  He thinks he understands Woody, but he doesn't really grok how much his identity means to him.  Sure, we in the audience see it coming from a mile away, but we have a bit of a privileged position in terms of understanding Woody's thoughts and motivations. 

Nicolai does understand what Woody's identity means to him or he wouldn't have offered the blood of that particular god as the incentive.  And in the end, Woody got to walk away with that blood, so clearly Nicolai was right about what motivated Woody. 

I really think having a woman read this story was a mistake. The main character's essential maleness - and need to change his body to match it - was incredibly important to the story. If a man had read the story, the disconnect beneath the narrator and the backstory would have been more poignant.

It made sense to me.  Woody's need to have a body to match his self-image was punctuated by the fact that his body was still essentially female.  Having him insist on male identifiers while his voice clashes with these identifiers made sense to me, gave me a hint about his transgender nature, and helped add to the tension.
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« Reply #19 on: December 02, 2010, 11:04:13 AM »

Thanks for the welcome!

Well, if you're already caught up on Escape Pod and (if horror doesn't deter you as much as it does me) Pseudopod, many of us quite like Decoder Ring Theatre. New full-cast adventures in the style of radio serials of the 40s and 50s.  There are 11 seasons (6-episodes each) of The Red Panda superhero adventures and 6 1/6 Smiley seasons of Black Jack Justice, a hardboiled detective series.  It only comes out twice a month, but those 103 episodes (plus the Summer Showcase episodes featuring various other kinds of stories, including Westerns, sci-fi and a superhero almost entirely unlike the Red Panda) should keep you catching up for quite some time. Smiley

And thanks for the tips!

@Why wouldn't Nicolai plan for it?
I'm fairly sure Nicolai could not imagine anyone just destroying that much money and power, nor could he understand the depth of the anger Woody felt.  Nicolai is someone who works with enemies.  He's pragmatic.  He does the smart thing.  He thinks he understands Woody, but he doesn't really grok how much his identity means to him.  Sure, we in the audience see it coming from a mile away, but we have a bit of a privileged position in terms of understanding Woody's thoughts and motivations. 

Yes, I agree with that.  Also, it seemed that what Woody did was so dangerous it was almost suicidal, and Nicolai wouldn't have been expecting that.
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Lena
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