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Author Topic: PC135: California King  (Read 8616 times)
Talia
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« on: December 14, 2010, 12:39:34 PM »

PodCastle 135: California King

by Michael J. Jasper and Greg van Eekhout

Read by Dave Thompson

Originally published in Asimov’s Science Fiction

Our hero, a scrawny, bristle-haired man, softly sings a song he wrote when he was fifteen as he gives himself a new tattoo. He no longer remembers the verses, but the chorus goes something like: “Nyah-nyah, fuck-fuck, I’m the king, nyah-nyah, fuck-fuck.” Even after all these years, he finds the hook sort of catchy. His raspy tenor smoothes and deepens as he embeds dozens of carefully-spaced puncture wounds into his skinny right arm with his long, sharp knife, stealing the voice of the unconscious man upon whom he sits.

This will not be a big tattoo, we realize, for the real estate on our hero’s right arm has become quite crowded. Someday soon he’ll have to move on to his unmarked left. As he rubs a hanky soaked with berry dye and coal dust into the bloody dots, we watch a thin line of red trickle from the mouth of the motionless, waxy-skinned man beneath him. We see the scuffs and the ruined soles of our hero’s black boots, so recently applied against the skull of the man under him. But what we cannot see is what his tattoo will be. At least not yet.

We call this man, our hero, the California King.


Rated R: Contains violence, language, drug use, and Dave Thompson singing.
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AliceNred
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« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2010, 02:25:55 PM »

Most of the time I really enjoy the intro. Could have done without the curtsy trivial.  I feel like I know the hosts a little, but that has more to do with my galloping imagination. See, I am still in control.

Dave Thompson's reading was good. His voice seemed more scratchy than normal, but it fit the story. I'm a little surprised the poor man didn't pass-out with those long winding sentences.

It took a little while to get to the fanatical element.

This one was a little thick on grime of the urban setting, but I liked the story taking place in a bus station. I hate taking the bus on long distance trips.

I think a lot of us are shadowed by our parents. So far my kids are only light in my life, sometimes an irritating one, but light nonetheless. I hope we when I am with them in memory that it's more colorful than grey shadows. I think a lot of us try and have a different relationship with our kids. Doesn't always happen. Things I say and feel, I know my parents did. But I still try, trying.

Another 2nd POV story. Although it is in there so little, I am sure many won't mind. By the end I understand why it was used. And I'm with ya Dave. Nothing changes unless we do it ourselves and try and inspire those around to do so also. But sometimes, it's a lonely road and others, ya wish you left the kids at home.

The tattoos were nicely used. Never saw a tat that didn't have a story to go with it.

Lots of good references peppered this story, and I am a sucker for that. See, I like trivia, but I hope I never have use the curtsy trivial.

I like that he really was a king of California. It's a little nice to think where I live has a king. Why not? My backyard is a cemetery for airplanes and a spaceport. You can get a pretty good peanut butter cheeseburger there too.

 
« Last Edit: December 14, 2010, 03:44:39 PM by AliceNred » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2010, 03:16:01 PM »

Yet another "sureal California" story. It seems like there have been a string of those recently. (I am including "And the Blood of Dead Gods Shall Mark the Score" & "Some Zombie Contingency Plans" in this category.)

I am not objecting to stories that happen in California, but I am not interested in stories which seem to be "about" California. As far as the father/son generational conflict, I liked that p.o.v. character chose not to follow the script, but on the whole I didn't really care about any of the characters.



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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2010, 11:59:22 PM »

I really wish I'd gotten to post first on this one. It'd be nice to greet the King of California as the King Under the Mountain. Next time, perhaps...

Anyway, I loved this story. Really, really loved it. I mean, woah. The end sent shivers up and down and then back up my spine. The shivers then popped out the top of my head and sent multicolored flames up into the night sky, right out from the garage under my San Francisco apartment and into the air above the Outer Sunset. Hail to the king, baby. I love stories that are about a sense of place - because what are the best locations but characters who don't get to speak? - and because rootedness and rootlessness have both been such important themes in my life. I loved the idea of California's kings, the whole fucked up mismatched dysfunctional family of them, down through the ages.

This story made me wonder about the rest of the hierarchy. Is there an Emperor of the United States somewhere in D.C.? Is there a Baron of the Bay Area, a Lord of Los Angeles, A Caesar of the Central Valley who owe fealty to the king of their state? Could the lesser nobility of the state overthrow the rightful king, or help a better heir unseat his jerk dad early? The possibilities are endless!

I also thought this story struck a perfect balances between the references we all love and too many references we all love. In fact, in most things - pacing, language, themes - the story was extremely well done. I enjoyed it hugely.
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« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2010, 01:14:50 AM »

Did anyone else see the final boss from FFX during that emergence scene?  In more than one way.
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« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2010, 11:08:01 AM »

I really wish I'd gotten to post first on this one. It'd be nice to greet the King of California as the King Under the Mountain. Next time, perhaps...
You'll always be our King Under the Mountain no matter when you comment . . . unless you someday have a son and he gets here first. He'd get to be king.
Quote
This story made me wonder about the rest of the hierarchy. Is there an Emperor of the United States somewhere in D.C.?
Of course not. That would be silly. Emperor Norton lives in San Francisco.
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Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2010, 03:25:40 PM »

I'm still digesting the story.  I have to say that until Dave pointed it out, I didn't see the message of 'we must be the agents of change and not expect others to do it for us,' but then when he did, it made sense.

I did really like that King II decided not to let the cycle repeat.  For me, that was the salient message of the story.

I loved the curtsying bit in the intro - I laughed out loud a few times, especially at the end.  I also appreciated how it made me respect the Royal family that much less.  We can use more of that.
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« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2010, 06:25:27 PM »

I have no particularly strong feelings about the story or the reading in either direction.
But I was floored by the intro.
Murr, where did that encyclopedic knowledge of the minutiae of the royal family come from? Do you have too much spare time on your hands? I find that hard to believe. Anyway, this is why we ridicule the British. Because of their unhealthy obsession with the royal family to the extent that the pundits are discussing who will curtsy to whom, and what scandals will occur when the curtsy totem pole is upset.
I loved it.
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« Reply #8 on: December 16, 2010, 06:39:56 PM »

I have no particularly strong feelings about the story or the reading in either direction.
But I was floored by the intro.
Murr, where did that encyclopedic knowledge of the minutiae of the royal family come from?

Heh. Actually, that's not Mur in the intro, but M.K. Hobson. Both are mighty in their own right Smiley
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« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2010, 03:16:38 AM »

I have no particularly strong feelings about the story or the reading in either direction.
But I was floored by the intro.
Murr, where did that encyclopedic knowledge of the minutiae of the royal family come from?

Heh. Actually, that's not Mur in the intro, but M.K. Hobson. Both are mighty in their own right Smiley
Roll Eyes My bad. I guess I should check these things first...
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« Reply #10 on: December 17, 2010, 04:17:47 AM »

Murr, where did that encyclopedic knowledge of the minutiae of the royal family come from? Do you have too much spare time on your hands? I find that hard to believe. Anyway, this is why we ridicule the British. Because of their unhealthy obsession with the royal family to the extent that the pundits are discussing who will curtsy to whom, and what scandals will occur when the curtsy totem pole is upset.

mostly just the media actually. Most brits tend not to care too much about the royals, or who's curtseying whom?
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« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2010, 09:45:14 AM »

I liked the curtsying trivia in the intro.  I've never really understood the hubbub the American media makes of royal weddings, and that sort of thing makes me even less interested, and is very good to know.

I didn't make it through the story.  After 20 minutes, we have a  guy with unknown past who calls himself king for unknown reason, working off a debt of unknown origin to a guy with an equally unknown past, and these tasks involve getting tattoos for unknown reasons, and in this particular case to seek out a "thing".  The "thing" thing by itself was kind of funny, and if that'd been the only vague element it probably would've been hilarious and cool but the whole story was lacking specificity to a degree that after that time I didn't know the characters enough to care about them and I didn't know the stakes enough to be worried about them.
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kibitzer
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« Reply #12 on: December 18, 2010, 02:58:43 AM »

I actually liked the intro. Weird for me, since I've argued that PC intros should be shorter.

The story: well, I really, really did not get this one at all. Very baffling. Way too metaphorical.
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FireTurtle
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« Reply #13 on: December 19, 2010, 06:03:42 PM »

This was, interesting. I couldn't pin down where it was going, which I enjoyed. My mind wandered a bit, or a least I felt like it did when the Kind fell asleep. This may have had to do with driving down a rainy and slightly hazardous highway during listening but... But, I loved the turns it took and the "message." Not that I like "messages" being beaten into my skull or being told what I should appreciate in a story by the author. I don't. Nevertheless, this was captivating in the ultimately human simplicity of the ending. And, who can't love a god of concrete and redwood?

Maybe the California element prejudiced me towards enjoying this more. There sure has been a lot of California going' on at PC lately!

As for the intro, love the trivia! Wow thats some weird stuff.
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« Reply #14 on: December 19, 2010, 07:39:33 PM »

I for one really enjoyed it. I love these surreal settings, where not everything is clear from the get-go.

The curtesy trivia however...good to be reminded about how ridiculous the whole shebang is. Bad to be reminded that, in this day and age, we still have royalty running around all over the world and that people actually respect these muppets.
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Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #15 on: December 20, 2010, 02:02:11 PM »

and that people actually respect these muppets.

'Muppets' ... Bahahahaha!

(Of course, I do respect the actual Muppets, so while the comparison was funny, it was a little insulting to them.)
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« Reply #16 on: December 28, 2010, 12:36:28 PM »

and that people actually respect these muppets.

'Muppets' ... Bahahahaha!

(Of course, I do respect the actual Muppets, so while the comparison was funny, it was a little insulting to them.)

yes, I have much more respect for the muppets than I do for the caricatures who spend their time choosing who to snub by lack of curtsey courtesy.  Cookie Monster.  And the Count.  And Animal, because I love his drumwork.
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« Reply #17 on: December 28, 2010, 05:14:58 PM »

I generally enjoy Dave's readings, especially because he doesn't need to put on voices to differentiate characters. I'm still working on that in my own narrations.

However, I didn't like the story. It felt long, and a bit ponderous, and there weren't enough breadcrumbs left in the narrative for me to realize that (a) the kid is his kid and (b) the old man is his dad.

Once we got in the area of the climax, that was cool, with the battle scene and so forth, but then it devolved into boring talky stuff that didn't really interest me.

I guess I just expected something different. And at least one bed joke.
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« Reply #18 on: December 30, 2010, 12:30:31 PM »

For some reason, this reminded me a lot of Southland Tales, which I have seen, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which I have not seen, but I definitely got the gist of. What is it with California that it has all this trippy and surreal wtfery? You don't see that in Midwest or East Coast stories. Guess it's all the drugs.

And yet, though I gripe, I do say, I loved this story. I loved how the California King is a super hero of sorts, and while his methodology is grim, he truly wants to save the land he loves. It had me rooting for him in the end. The only quibble I had was the fact the boy being his son did sort of come out of left field. Where was his mother anyway? Was she guility of ditching the boy like the father did Alex all those years ago?

Also, awesome description of the Grayhound station. Nailed the booger-color floor spot on.
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« Reply #19 on: December 30, 2010, 08:03:14 PM »

...this reminded me a lot of Southland Tales...

That was one seriously weird and trippy movie.
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