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Author Topic: EP273: Death’s End to Middleton  (Read 5804 times)
eytanz
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« on: December 31, 2010, 03:54:00 AM »

EP273: Death’s End to Middleton

By Natania Barron
Read by Jason Adams

First appeared in Crossed Genres Magazine
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Dust rose at the horizon in tongues of earth and wind, dancing before the sinking sun. Bits of mica flashed now and again; almost like fairy dust, thought Nathaniel, more than a little delirious in his saddle by now. It had been far too hot for a breakneck race such as this.

But there were slobbering, chittering creatures swarming Middleton behind him, slavering over the horses and terrorizing the families that made up his close-knit community. Their only hope was in him. Sutherland Ranch couldn’t be far. Old Man Sutherland would know what to do.

Time was wasting. His horse, Mixup, needed water, and Nathaniel needed rest. His tongue felt cold, his lips cracked and bleeding; he’d gone so far past dizzy that he’d come to expect the world to shift a bit by now.

But, no. Maybe not that much.


Rated PG For monsters and old west excitement. Yee Haw.

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 264: St. Darwin’s Spirituals
  • Next week… Happy New Year!



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
« Last Edit: January 20, 2011, 03:28:33 PM by eytanz » Logged
Scattercat
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« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2010, 01:04:17 PM »

Well, it was a cute little romp, but it was basically "Giant Spider Invasion" without Mike and the 'bots providing entertaining commentary.  I'm not necessarily opposed to fluffy fun for fun's sake.  I just generally prefer a bit more thematic meat in stories. 

I feel like I never connected with this story for a couple of reasons.  First, the main character is desperately passive.  I think he shoots his gun once, maybe twice, and never to much great effect, and the climax is resolved because "by a miracle" the tram cart "landed just right" and no one got hurt despite the odds strongly suggesting that they would.  Second, the heroic sisters are too many to keep track of in such a short story, and their characterizations are one-note at best.  (There's the cranky one, the friendly one, and a handful of vague nonentities.)  This is simply, I think, an artifact of the length.  There are ten to fifteen characters in this story, at least eight of whom have significant roles, and not even a literary genius could fit more than a skeletal character outline for each of them into a short story.

The monsters were just monsters without much purpose or thematic heft, and not even any chilling implications to speak of.  They arrived from an unknown place for unknown reasons and proceeded to wreak generic mayhem until vaguely differentiated heroes kill them without excessive difficulty.  There was a moment of "Oh, how beautiful" with the queen, but without any sort of thematic underpinning, it just kind of falls flat.  It felt like we were aiming for that bit in "Alien" where the android babbles about how perfect the monster is, but that movie's horror comes not from the bizarre and incomprehensible beast, but from the revelation that the crew was purposely sacrificed to retrieve the creature, and thus that speech is both eerie and significant.  The heroes are likewise without much structure; they kill monsters because they were trained to do so from birth, and there's no real examination of the role of women in early American society or the significance of their prowess in traditionally masculine roles.  Likewise, they flash a whole bunch of technology that seems to just be imported directly from the Batcave, yet society doesn't seem to be impacted at all by their advanced weaponry and personal flying machines. 

I know it's just a popcorn story.  It's probably a flaw of mine that I can't turn off my brain and just enjoy silly adventures without taking them apart and looking for the underlying mechanisms.  I need to have something I can grasp on, either a really good bit of characterization, a thematically interesting threat, or an intriguing examination of something in the setting.  This story wasn't interested in that, really, because it was about Kick-Ass Grrlz Blowing Up Spider Aliens.  I'm sure that the author was quite happy with this story and that it did what it was intended to do; it's just not for me, apparently. 
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Talia
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« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2011, 08:14:09 AM »

Well, I though t this was a fun little tale. Not deep, but a lively little action story with an upbeat twist at the end. Satisfying for me. I'm not sure I care enough about the alien-killing ladies to want to read, say, a whole book about them, but the short story format works perfectly.
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KenK
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« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2011, 03:30:16 PM »

As a fan of Westerns from the pre-PC days of yore it kind of reminded me of the "damn redskins" theme that a lot of them had. Or Mexicans. Or bandits, renegade ex-confederates, time traveling Nazis or whatever. The plucky survivors kill off the savage hordes bent on over running them.   Roll Eyes

I agree with talia that the characters weren't developed enough and really couldn't be because of the short story format involved here. It was hard to follow the sisters and it was hard to figure out the MC's passivity as well, unless that's because he went catatonic from the trauma of his initial attack. All in all it was a noble but seriously flawed effort and so I'd recommend for the author to try again because she clearly has a passion and a talent for the steam-punk space-western genre.
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jenfullmoon
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« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2011, 04:49:04 PM »

I was interested in the sisters, but the ending is just awkward and frustrating.
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iamafish
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« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2011, 07:11:06 PM »

this one didn't really click with me. Pretty predictable and boring. Too many clichés and not enough substance
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« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2011, 12:20:05 PM »

This one was pretty fun, but not particularly engrossing, mostly for the reasons scattercat already noted, the passive main character and hordes of mostly undifferentiated monster hunters.

Through my own fault I got myself a bit turned around in the last scene--I thought the woman who woke him up was the schoolteacher he'd seen had already been transformed in a previous scene, which had me flashing on alternate scenarios:
1.  The condition is reversable, somehow
2.  Or he'd been converted to one of them, and with the change comes drastic changes in perception such that you see the other monsters as the people they used to be (and perhaps see ordinary people as monsters).  This seemed really cool until I realized that it was entirely a figment of my imagination.
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KenK
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« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2011, 05:34:12 PM »

Like unblinking noted it's easy to get confused or details wrong if the story doesn't draw you in.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #8 on: January 05, 2011, 10:33:20 PM »

just popped in to wonder why iTunes doesn't seem to have this one yet? I checked the itunes store when it didn't automatically download and it isn't there  Undecided
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« Reply #9 on: January 05, 2011, 10:38:17 PM »

just popped in to wonder why iTunes doesn't seem to have this one yet? I checked the itunes store when it didn't automatically download and it isn't there  Undecided

I listened to it in iTunes, so I suspect this may be more of a local problem, or at least a problem involving a mixup between your iTunes and the site...
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Devoted135
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« Reply #10 on: January 05, 2011, 11:14:55 PM »

just popped in to wonder why iTunes doesn't seem to have this one yet? I checked the itunes store when it didn't automatically download and it isn't there  Undecided

I listened to it in iTunes, so I suspect this may be more of a local problem, or at least a problem involving a mixup between your iTunes and the site...

hm, all my other podcasts (including podcastle) have updated correctly, so I would guess it's not a general communication problem. however, my technical abilities are fairly limited so really I have no idea. thanks for the input though, I appreciate it! Smiley
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Gamercow
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« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2011, 11:19:11 AM »

I thought this one was okay.  When I heard the names of the daughters, I said "oh for pete's sake, not more Austen tie in bullcrap."  But it was only names, and not direct character pulls.  The middle was the most solid bit for me, the beginning was muddled and the ending seemed to go haywire.  I think I was okay until the MC was bonked on the head by the tram car.  The destruction of the queen whatsit was disappointing at best, and then ending fell flat for me. 
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eytanz
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« Reply #12 on: January 08, 2011, 03:30:27 PM »

I agree with most of the posters above - this is not bad, but it lacks substance.

Part of the problem is that we seem to have gotten only part of the story. On her blog, the author describes the story as being "about seven gunslinging gals (the Sutherland sisters) with preternatural abilities to destroy paranormal creatures in 1880s Arizona". That certainly doesn't seem to me to be what the story is about. For one, there are really only two sisters that make any difference. Second, if the sisters have any preternatural abilities they aren't mentioned. The viewpoint character doesn't really know enough about the sisters - he's attracted to one, scared by another, and mostly hoping they'll save his town and his father.

The other description of the story by the author, later in the same paragraph, is "a story with lots of explosions that didn’t end up with everyone dying", which I think is a far more accurate description.
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« Reply #13 on: January 09, 2011, 09:29:17 AM »

Or he'd been converted to one of them, and with the change comes drastic changes in perception such that you see the other monsters as the people they used to be (and perhaps see ordinary people as monsters).  This seemed really cool until I realized that it was entirely a figment of my imagination.
That's what I thought/hoped too. As it stood, the story seemed a little under cooked and maybe tried to do too much in the space. There was the alien invasion, the rootin' tootin' seven brides (without the bothers), the teenage MC with hormonal stirrings, some potentially gritty steampunk imagery, and for me - worryingly - a lingering flavour of Yule Brynner in that robot western of yester-century. I was fondly pre-disposed and so vaguely annoyed at not being delivered a piece in accordance with my expectations. Bit unfair of me, really  Embarrassed
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kibitzer
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« Reply #14 on: January 09, 2011, 08:35:08 PM »

Enjoyable. However a lot of it struck me a just plain silly. I know it's just a story, but: (a) if these sisters are so all-out steampunk clever, how come the kid's never heard of them before? (b) the barn containing a full complement of steampunk paraphernalia was way too convenient. Tanks? Aircraft? "Thousands" of guns and parts? Nope. (c) Seven sisters, ranging from 13 to however old Elizabeth was? Plus at least two (dead) sons? Daddy wasn't just a drunkard, he was a randy old bugger.

Still -- enjoyable.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #15 on: January 10, 2011, 09:40:20 AM »

(a) if these sisters are so all-out steampunk clever, how come the kid's never heard of them before?

I assumed it was because they were the mop-up crew.  They only show up when a town is already gone.  They provide a valuable service by containing the contagion, and profit by looting the remains afterward, but everyone local who might have appreciated it is already dead. 
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kibitzer
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« Reply #16 on: January 10, 2011, 08:50:52 PM »

(a) if these sisters are so all-out steampunk clever, how come the kid's never heard of them before?

I assumed it was because they were the mop-up crew.  They only show up when a town is already gone.  They provide a valuable service by containing the contagion, and profit by looting the remains afterward, but everyone local who might have appreciated it is already dead. 

True, but the kid had heard of their ranch, their daddy and their brothers. And he knew to go there for help. Sounds like the place has a rep and it seems implausible folks wouldn't know why.

But really, I'm nitpicking. It's a story, not Gospel. ;-)
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #17 on: January 11, 2011, 11:12:33 AM »

True, but the kid had heard of their ranch, their daddy and their brothers. And he knew to go there for help. Sounds like the place has a rep and it seems implausible folks wouldn't know why.

But really, I'm nitpicking. It's a story, not Gospel. ;-)

Hm, I guess I hadn't remembered him going to them for help.  I thought they found him as he was fleeing.  *shrug*  I'm not always great at remembering details, so I probably missed that.
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Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #18 on: January 11, 2011, 02:58:39 PM »

But really, I'm nitpicking. It's a story, not Gospel. ;-)

Huh
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« Reply #19 on: January 11, 2011, 05:47:42 PM »

But really, I'm nitpicking. It's a story, not Gospel. ;-)

Huh

You don't remember reading "The Parable of Doctor Mekanik's Dirigible" in the Book of Doctorow?  Jesus totally kicked butt in that story.
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