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Author Topic: PC144: To Ride Beyond The Wide World’s End  (Read 9358 times)
Ocicat
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« on: February 15, 2011, 01:55:53 PM »

PodCastle 144: To Ride Beyond The Wide World’s End

by Caitlin Brennan.

Read by Steve Anderson
.

Originally appeared at BookView Cafe. This story is a prequel to a novel: House of the Star (Tor, November 2010).

“Those verses of yours,” old Coel said as the fire died and the hall subsided into a sort of rollicking quiet, “they’re clever. Especially your description of that son of a swine down the valley–how did you know he’s wall-eyed and has a distinct left hook to his private member?”
“Well,” said Madog, “the eye’s easy to see when you’re singing in front of him. As to the other — let’s say it’s a trade secret.”
Old Coel’s bushy white brow arched; he laughed. “Caught him in the jakes, did you?”
Madog shrugged and smiled. Sometimes it was safer to let the patron decide how the story went.
Coel thumped him on the shoulder, and grinned when he barely swayed. Madog was light and wiry as horsemen often are, but he was strong as they often are, too. “Gofannwy won’t thank you for the things you sang of him, but I’ll be warming my evil old heart for days with the thought of them. I owe you a debt for that; I’d like to pay it, for my honor and your pleasure. You’re a horseman, you say? And yet you walked through my gate.”
Madog nodded. His throat still tightened when he thought of his beautiful mare down and gasping in the snow, so far gone with pain that she could not even will to move. He had cut her throat for mercy, and wept for hours after.
Old Coel saw the tears that brimmed in his eyes, and nodded. He was a horseman, too. “In the morning,” he said, “we’ll go out to the fields and see what’s minded to follow you on your travels.”


Rated G
« Last Edit: March 08, 2011, 08:58:55 AM by Talia » Logged
ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #1 on: February 16, 2011, 12:37:32 PM »

I am the king under the mountain, and this is the first post on this thread.

Overall, I really liked this one. I remember when that bard came to my kingdom under the mountain. He was such a nice young man - full of impertinent questions - and so talented! We were all sad to see him go.

But seriously, this story was very well written. I enjoyed the slow build, as Madog gradually became aware of the magic that had fallen into his life and how the possibilities it opened to him changed him. The way the horse gradually acquired a name, a voice, and magical powers was subtle, clever, and, once I tripped on to it, really fun to watch. What I loved best, was how Madog was transformed forever by the mere possibility of extraordinary action. In an instant he went form an ordinary bard to a bard who would traverse faerie and learn its secrets... or suffer the consequences of failure.

Or possibly both - I haven't read the novel yet.

The only thing that didn't appeal to me about the story was the distance. I tend to prefer my narratives a little closer to the meat and blood than To Ride Beyond the Wide World's End cut it. I like dialogue and detail. I don't want the narrator to tell me what happened in a conversation, I want to read the conversation itself, in all its glory. I understand, however, that this is a matter of style, not an absolute. In this story, it worked, lending a folkloric bend to the narration. For a tale that was more distant than I usually prefer it, To Ride Beyond the Wide World's End was still quite enjoyable.

To end on a strong note, I also really liked the relationship between Madog and his horse. I thought talking (kinda) horse tales were played out for me; I guess I was wrong. Madog and whats-her-bucket had an interesting rapport. I enjoyed how the horse never developed a fully human perspective, despite her clear intelligence. And yet, the author didn't fall back on any boring stereotypes and shortcuts on animal characterization. If the novel is about the two of them, there's a good chance I'll pick it up.
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stePH
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« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2011, 05:45:41 PM »

To me, this was only a beginning of a story, not a story proper. Just when I thought it was about to really get going, it ended. Boo.
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« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2011, 06:02:23 PM »

To me, this was only a beginning of a story, not a story proper. Just when I thought it was about to really get going, it ended. Boo.
Good thing it's the prequel to a novel then, right? I'm ready to read the rest of it myself!

I liked it! This story could have been straight out of the Mabinogion. I'm not usually keen on horse stories, but the horse in this story was more like Destiny on hooves. I got the feeling that Madog was fated to be in that field that day and fated to find that particular horse because he was fated to be the bard that went to Fairie and learned all the songs. I only wish I could bribe my own destiny with oats and barley.
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eytanz
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« Reply #4 on: February 16, 2011, 06:25:17 PM »

I really enjoyed the story, both stylistically and because the bard was a fun character to follow. I do wish I hadn't known in advance that it was a prequel - I don't think I would have thought it incomplete if I hadn't known that, but with that colouring my expectations as I came in, I definitely ended up sharing some of Steph's response.
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stePH
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« Reply #5 on: February 16, 2011, 06:39:43 PM »

To me, this was only a beginning of a story, not a story proper. Just when I thought it was about to really get going, it ended. Boo.
Good thing it's the prequel to a novel then, right? I'm ready to read the rest of it myself!

Ah, okay. I missed that part. I kind of thought Escape Artists was in the practice of publishing complete stories, not fragments (PC miniatures notwithstanding Tongue).  So yes, I would be interested in reading the continuation.

Well played, Podcastle... well played.
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« Reply #6 on: February 16, 2011, 09:36:50 PM »

this was delightful!  I loved it and am looking forward to reading the novel, seeing what adventures Madog and Kind One will have  Cheesy
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« Reply #7 on: February 16, 2011, 11:37:53 PM »

For those of you interested in checking out Caitlin Brennan's House of the Star, well, there you go  Smiley
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iamafish
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« Reply #8 on: February 17, 2011, 06:12:31 AM »

I was just starting to think 'this is really good, I love where this is going'

then it ended. I was sadface.  Sad <-- see?

It felt, frankly, like a prologue, and act one, an introduction. Good thing it is then. It left me wanting more, and I intend to go get more!

I didn't like this story because it wasn't a story at all. I plan on actually reading the story at some point.

That being said, it was a really awesome prologue. Very well written, established some very interesting characters and started to build a very interesting world. I though the horse was very well characterized - it was interesting and very human, while still retaining some uniquely horse-like aspects that made it very different from the usual. I though the story could have benefited from less tell and a bit more show, but I guess that's a stylistic point - I don't like my PoV's to get too far inside the character's head. I understand the desire for it in longer works, but I like my short stories to be vaguer and more allusive.

in short: who put a prologue in my short story podcast?
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« Reply #9 on: February 17, 2011, 08:27:04 AM »

Well, The Hobbit is a prologue, isn't it?  Doesn't subtract from its appeal. "Want to see more by this author" is a better praise than, say, "That was fun, now on to the next author". 
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Reginod
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« Reply #10 on: February 17, 2011, 09:12:46 AM »

I’m with iamafish
I was just starting to think 'this is really good, I love where this is going'

then it ended.

This felt like a great first chapter to a novel, but it doesn’t seem like a story to me.

Well, The Hobbit is a prologue, isn't it?  Doesn't subtract from its appeal. 

For me, the difference between this story and The Hobbit is that one could (if one were, like me, a bad geek) read and enjoy The Hobbit and never read the Lord of the Rings without feeling like Bilbo’s story is incomplete.  I was just starting to really get into the character of Madog when this story ended, and it feels to me that his story had just begun when this tale ended.

Again, I think this sounds like a great first chapter of a novel (one I’m probably going to have to pick up now) or an interesting back story to a great character in a novel, but as a short story, this just didn’t work for me.
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« Reply #11 on: February 17, 2011, 09:24:43 AM »

I’m with iamafish
I was just starting to think 'this is really good, I love where this is going'

then it ended.

This felt like a great first chapter to a novel, but it doesn’t seem like a story to me.

Well, The Hobbit is a prologue, isn't it?  Doesn't subtract from its appeal.  

For me, the difference between this story and The Hobbit is that one could (if one were, like me, a bad geek) read and enjoy The Hobbit and never read the Lord of the Rings without feeling like Bilbo’s story is incomplete.  I was just starting to really get into the character of Madog when this story ended, and it feels to me that his story had just begun when this tale ended.

Again, I think this sounds like a great first chapter of a novel (one I’m probably going to have to pick up now) or an interesting back story to a great character in a novel, but as a short story, this just didn’t work for me.


In defense of this story... how is this different from any good short story? I've never read a short story that had time to really - really - complete a character's story arc. Short stories are too, well, short. You get it, mess around, and do stuff, the character grows, and life goes on. The best short stories evoke a sense of a larger narrative, but they don't get around to it. If they did, they wouldn't be short stories, they'd be novels.

Consider Before the Uprising, The Bear in the Cable-Knit Sweater, Terrible Ones, To Follow the Waves, and Balfour and Meriweather In the Adventure of the Emperor's Vengeance (just to name the stories on the front page), all stories that evoke a larger narrative but only tell the story they set out to. Not everything is going to be The Beautiful Coalwoman (SPOILER: He dies at the end).

I'm challenging you (and not just you - everyone else, too) on this, simply, because I don't understand how any short story would be good if "fun story, but left me wanting more" was a qualification for being bad. That's not to say there might not be things wrong with this story or ways it didn't appeal to you... but this flaw doesn't make sense to me.

Would you feel the same way if Dave hadn't mentioned that the story was a prequel?

Or, how's this: I followed the link to Amazon, and I have returned to report that the novel is not about Madog and his horse. It's (If I Recall Correctly, Sir) about two girls and their horses, one in our world and one a fantasy princess. Do you feel the same way now?

I know I feel differently - sad. I liked Madog. I would probably go pick up a book about him; I'm not so inclined to pick up an only tangentially related book by the same author. As I wrote above, I didn't so much dig her style as her characters and setting.

It's probably for the best. I have too many books, anyway.
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« Reply #12 on: February 17, 2011, 09:50:32 AM »

I was just starting to think 'this is really good, I love where this is going'

then it ended. I was sadface.  Sad <-- see?

It felt, frankly, like a prologue, and act one, an introduction. Good thing it is then. It left me wanting more, and I intend to go get more!

I didn't like this story because it wasn't a story at all. I plan on actually reading the story at some point.

That being said, it was a really awesome prologue. Very well written, established some very interesting characters and started to build a very interesting world. I though the horse was very well characterized - it was interesting and very human, while still retaining some uniquely horse-like aspects that made it very different from the usual. I though the story could have benefited from less tell and a bit more show, but I guess that's a stylistic point - I don't like my PoV's to get too far inside the character's head. I understand the desire for it in longer works, but I like my short stories to be vaguer and more allusive.

in short: who put a prologue in my short story podcast?

100% agreement.
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« Reply #13 on: February 17, 2011, 11:15:20 AM »

Well, let's look at the rest of great literature, by these measures:

Cat. 1: TOTALLY done at the end:

INCIDENT AT OWL CREEK BRIDGE
THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO
KING LEAR
ON THE BEACH

Cat. 2: done at the end, but room for related story:

COLD EQUATIONS
THE STAR (Clarke's)

Cat. 3: intended and worked as standalone, ended up a prequel:

ENDER'S GAME
(whatever the first chapter of FOREVER WAR was)
THE SHIP WHO SANG

Cat. 4: blatant prequel, but good anyway:

WEYR SEARCH (McCaffrey's)
WARLOCK IN SPITE OF HIMSELF
the first Callahan's story by Spider Robinson
THE MAN WHO NEVER MISSED
the first part of Dune as originally written
DUNE MESSIAH
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« Reply #14 on: February 17, 2011, 11:42:39 AM »

And then I thought, why am I trying to find precedents?  I liked the story, I liked spending time with it and the characters, the ending worked for me (it ends with an epiphany of sorts which may not have the finality of death or the intensity of triumph but is still a valid conclusion).  I generally prefer EP to PC, but every once in a while PC does something I really like.  The last one before this was CURANDERO AND SWEDE, and that also had a thoroughly enjoyable ride to an anticlimactic conclusion.  A St-Saens piece, as opposed to a Beethoven.  Oh snap, I just can't resist precedents. Smiley
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« Reply #15 on: February 17, 2011, 01:51:35 PM »

I didn't really love the story. The author clearly loves horses, which aren't something I'm really into, so a lot of that was lost on me. The whole horse-language thing needed a payoff -- and maybe there is one in the novel -- but as it was it left me sort of cold.

Taken in the continuum of the novel as a whole, I'm sure this would be great, but as a stand-alone episode of a podcast, it wasn't for me.
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« Reply #16 on: February 17, 2011, 02:26:10 PM »

The author clearly loves horses, which aren't something I'm really into, so a lot of that was lost on me.
I was able to make it work by remembering how I relate to my own pets. When the story describes Madog's sadness over his first horse's death, it took me back to when one of my pets died years ago, and that made the character more real to me.

Also, I don't think the rest of the story would have worked as well if he had just been given the talking horse. There had to be that loss first.
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Peter Tupper
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« Reply #17 on: February 17, 2011, 04:01:04 PM »

My problem with this story is that it ended right when the story started. The protagonist has the magic thing (a horse, in this case) that will take him from the mundane world to the fantasic world. And then what? We don't know. The story ends. It's as if The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe ended before they even get to the lamp post.

If the story was about the protagonist deciding whether to go on the adventure, that would work, but this is the first chapter of a novel, not a story.
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« Reply #18 on: February 17, 2011, 09:06:19 PM »


I'm challenging you (and not just you - everyone else, too) on this, simply, because I don't understand how any short story would be good if "fun story, but left me wanting more" was a qualification for being bad. That's not to say there might not be things wrong with this story or ways it didn't appeal to you... but this flaw doesn't make sense to me.

Would you feel the same way if Dave hadn't mentioned that the story was a prequel?


Fair questions.

I think (I’m not sure but I think) I would feel the same way even if I didn’t know this was a prequel.  Knowing the book is not about Madog doesn’t change how I feel about this story, but it does make me sad—I liked him too and I want to know what happens to him—and less likely to buy the book.

I think your other question is a bit harder to answer.  The short answer is that this story didn’t feel complete to me and short stories I enjoy do (even, perhaps especially, when they leave me wanting more).  I know that’s not a great answer, but I think that it really does come down to, ”did this feel like a complete story?”  And, to be honest, after struggling since reading your question with a better answer than that—something more general something more universally applicable—I’m not sure I have one.

I can say that in the case of this story, it is in part about character arc.  I didn’t feel like Madog grew or changed or even really struggled with anything.  It seemed to me that the closest he came to having a choice was whether or not to visit Faerie, and that didn’t even seem like much of a choice for him, and to the extent it was a tough decision it came at the end without a chance to see what/how he learned/grew/developed from it.  I think that it is also about my expectations about narrative structure.  I expect a trip to Faerie to be followed by some sort of adventure there and a return home.  I know this is, in part, about genre conventions, but I think it goes beyond that.  My story expectations (and I think this is true of other people as well) are really rooted in the Hero’s Journey (if only subconsciously) so when a story seems to be following that path very closely (and I think this one did) it feels incomplete to end in the middle. 


Does that make sense?  I'd be interested to know what you (or anyone else thinks).

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« Reply #19 on: February 17, 2011, 09:24:21 PM »

Simply wonderful, and an inventive magic horse -- it doesn't fly or run faster than the wind, just cuts through the ways between the worlds. And a great character in its own right!

Yes, I, too, felt ripped off at the sudden end -- was just getting into it and it ended! Then I remembered Dave said it was a prequel -- phew!

I don't mind a prequel being included at all.
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