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Author Topic: PC149: Honing Sebastian  (Read 9031 times)
Talia
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« on: March 22, 2011, 12:10:28 PM »

PodCastle 149: Honing Sebastian

by Elizabeth Engstrom

Read by Kane Lynch

Originally Published in Outsiders

Sebastian found the paper sack at 0217 hours on Monday, the sixteenth of Aout, the day of our Lord Hammersmith 12. He saw it in the corner of the doorway of an old apothecary, and made note of all the details in his journal before he approached it.

He expected it to be empty, something blown there from the other world, but when he touched it, he could tell it had weight. He made note of that in his journal, along with the words that were printed in green on its side. The words made no sense to him, but he copied them as exactly as he was able.

Then he looked inside the sack, and the terror seized him. He cringed, hunkered down over the sack, expecting to hear sirens. He expected the great hands to grab him, rough fingers bruising him, lifting his bony body off its feet and carried by burly, faceless, hairy creatures in blue to throw them into a caddy and land him on concrete with four walls.


Rated R: Contains Adult Themes and Some Strong Language
« Last Edit: April 12, 2011, 05:35:37 AM by Talia » Logged
ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2011, 11:35:44 AM »

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

Anyway, I liked this story, but I didn't enjoy it. It wasn't a tale of adventure and passion, it was a kick in the pants. I teach in an inner city school, and my kids are going to grow up to be Sebastian and Cutter if someone doesn't do something about it. The system sucks and it needs to come down. The only thing that would have made this story more enjoyable would have been if Sebastian had stabbed Hammersmith in the eye with a pencil and then pissed on him as he died. This story broke my heart, but left me with the burn to fight harder, teach stronger, kick ass and take names (presumably of people who's asses I will kick later).

Hammersmith, stabbed through the eye with a pencil and dying as Sebastian pisses on him. Ah... that's a happy image. It will warm the cockles of my heart all through this cold, rainy day.

Um... what did you think of the story?
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Unblinking
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« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2011, 11:49:50 AM »

My reaction was similar to ElectricPaladin's.  It hit home because it's just plain true, but I would've liked to see positive change instead of maintenance of the status quo. 

This world needs a revolution, but as with other revolutions, the choice to stand against the established power is an infinitely difficult one.  In this case, if he rebelled he'd just end up being tortured like Slicer and would die soon after.  It sure wouldn't him survive personally, but maybe he could be a martyr in some sense if others saw his example.  Revolutions tend to gorge on blood, and whatever the outcome, if you're one of the dead you don't get any less dead even if the revolution causes change.
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stePH
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« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2011, 04:46:29 PM »

Um... what did you think of the story?

I missed whatever aspect of it made it "fantasy". No trace of magic or supernaturalism was in evidence. It seemed like straight dystopianism to me.
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blueeyeddevil
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« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2011, 07:01:26 AM »

I have the feeling that this story would have been better on paper, or with a narrator who embraced a slightly flatter affect (not a bad narrator, just not a great narration, I think).

I feel about stories like this the same way I feel about the first chapter of "The Sound And The Fury" which is to say; it's risky to tell a story about an unstable and deluded character from their own viewpoint. The listener has to go through a lot of heavy lifting in the first half of the story to decipher the nomenclature of this creature's worldview.

By halfway through, when I had gotten that "grinding" is chewing, "papers" is money, and some of the other hints, only then could I really begin to sink into the story. At which point, of course, the plot pivots and moves into some of the exposition I no longer needed.

It's a grubby little thumbnail sketch scrawled with ashes and mud, skillfully done but depicting something I'm not sure I care about learning.
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Listener
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« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2011, 04:19:23 PM »

Um... what did you think of the story?

I missed whatever aspect of it made it "fantasy". No trace of magic or supernaturalism was in evidence. It seemed like straight dystopianism to me.

Probably the urban part. I had trouble seeing it too.

I just didn't enjoy the story all that much. I've read similar stories like this, including "Arvies Aren't Stupid", which ran on EP -- and which I didn't really adore either. Intelligent street-rat type of character finds something he shouldn't and has to deal with it, and in the end nothing changes.

I did appreciate Hammersmith's explanation of the way things are. Makes me thing the author might have intended this as some sort of allegory.

I enjoyed the reading, and I think the voice was right, although he did seem to be smiling as he read.
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« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2011, 05:52:13 PM »

Bwahaha!  Oh, that was nice and vicious.
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Gamercow
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« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2011, 02:49:24 PM »

I enjoyed the narration, but I did not like or enjoy the story.  It is a straight up dystopian tale with nothing new to differentiate it from any other textbook dystopia.  The characters were flat, the world was non-existent, and didn't really go anywhere.
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« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2011, 08:31:29 PM »

Like EP and Unblinking said, it's scary because it's true. On a personal level, I constantly struggle with my lazy inner-Hammersmith, who is quick to remind me, "You know, if you just didn't want that thing you're working toward, you wouldn't have to work so hard..." But the problem with that way of thinking and what I have to keep reminding myself is that there are things in this world that are more awesome than spending every night in front of the TV, and those things take work. Whether it's a big goal like traveling the world or paying off a house, or something as mundane as mastering a yoga pose, it requires a conscious choice to take action.

Another thing I liked about this story was how it reminded me of 1984, particularly the ending, with the main character giving in to his oppressors. "The struggle was finished [...] He loved Big Brother."
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astyanax
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« Reply #9 on: March 27, 2011, 08:27:56 AM »

Anyone else waiting to hear that in the end Sebastion loved Big Brother? That being said, I think it would not hurt to step back from the bleakness of the story and consider the words of Hammersmith. I'm not saying its wrong to want better for yourself, or that we shouldn't aim high. But for many people who are always miserable because they can't reach what they want, sometimes a step back to notice that what you have is actually pretty great wouldn't hurt. I realize this wasn't the intended reaction for this story but I am trying to look at it another way.
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #10 on: March 27, 2011, 02:38:54 PM »

I have mixed feelings about this story, but mostly negative ones.
Using words like "grinding", "paper", "rents' (which I thought for most of the story were parents), "humes" bothered me. It's like the author is saying, "Oh no, this is a made up world. See? They have different words for stuff." What it really does is to make it annoying to listen to. I think I remember reading a TV tropes article about this, but I can't recall. In any event, I hate it when authors do that.
On the other hand, the ending surprised me. Pleasantly. I liked hearing The New World Order According to Hammersmith, and I liked that Sebastian knuckled under. I would have like it even more to see him rebel a little, but acting the way he did was perfectly in character with the whinny, sniveling little wimp we were introduced to in the story. When characters act out of character it means the author messed up in building the character, so here that was well done.
The heavy-handed message of the whole story irked me a little too. I mean, it's a nice moral and all, I just wasn't in the mood to hear a story with a moral. I wanted to be entertained, and mostly I wasn't.
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« Reply #11 on: March 27, 2011, 03:37:11 PM »

That being said, I think it would not hurt to step back from the bleakness of the story and consider the words of Hammersmith. I'm not saying its wrong to want better for yourself, or that we shouldn't aim high. But for many people who are always miserable because they can't reach what they want, sometimes a step back to notice that what you have is actually pretty great wouldn't hurt. I realize this wasn't the intended reaction for this story but I am trying to look at it another way.

Ah, that's what the Hammersmiths of the world want you to think. It isn't that you shouldn't be content that you won't always get what you want, and should learn how to moderate your aim and compromise your desires. It's this: you have a right to be angry when some selfish son of a bitch is out there stopping you from getting what you want.

You have a right to be angry, and you have a right to fight back.

The Hammersmiths of the world want you to believe that the injustices they perpetrate are the same as the vagaries of chance and misfortune. They want you to believe that this is just the way the world works, and this is how it has to work. They're wrong.
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« Reply #12 on: March 27, 2011, 03:43:22 PM »

For example.
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« Reply #13 on: March 27, 2011, 03:56:36 PM »


THIS
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« Reply #14 on: March 28, 2011, 12:01:33 AM »

When characters act out of character it means the author messed up in building the character, so here that was well done.

What about when people do?  Who messed up then?
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« Reply #15 on: March 28, 2011, 12:18:20 AM »

When characters act out of character it means the author messed up in building the character, so here that was well done.

What about when people do?  Who messed up then?

Brahma.
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #16 on: March 28, 2011, 01:42:52 AM »

When characters act out of character it means the author messed up in building the character, so here that was well done.

What about when people do?  Who messed up then?
When a writer creates a character, and then plans on the character acting "out of character" further down the road, or even at the end of the story, there need to be a few small hints that this can happen, or it needs to be under specific and extreme circumstances.
In this story there is nothing to hint at Sebastian's "hidden depths of will". He has none. Had he suddenly developed a backbone it would be akin to George W. Bush saying, "Yes, I once read a comprehensive and detailed article about that and that piqued my curiosity so I researched the matter further, and I must say that I disagree with you for the following detailed reasons:...." simply out of character, and there is no hint that it could possibly be in character.
However, in most cases when real people act out of character it is either under extreme stress, (life or death situations) or you can honestly say "in hindsight, she really does believe that, I should have seen it coming." Because if you know how to look, the clues are there.
And in a story, the clues need to be there, and most readers need to be able to pick up on them. Otherwise it's a bad story because it breaks the suspension of disbelief.
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lisavilisa
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« Reply #17 on: March 28, 2011, 07:20:27 AM »

The Hammersmiths of the world want you to believe that the injustices they perpetrate are the same as the vagaries of chance and misfortune. They want you to believe that this is just the way the world works, and this is how it has to work. They're wrong.

Reminds me of the president after Iran's recent "Election" comparing the protestors to angry football fans whose team had lost and who needed to grow up and except it.
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« Reply #18 on: March 28, 2011, 08:44:45 AM »

Using words like "grinding", "paper", "rents' (which I thought for most of the story were parents), "humes" bothered me. It's like the author is saying, "Oh no, this is a made up world. See? They have different words for stuff." What it really does is to make it annoying to listen to. I think I remember reading a TV tropes article about this, but I can't recall. In any event, I hate it when authors do that.

I think that "'rents" did mean "parents".  The 'rents were the caretakers of the trashpickers, making sure they didn't overstep their station.  They weren't literally parents of them in the sense of biological lineage (at least not necessarily) but they were taking the role of caretakers and so were called parents, or 'rents.
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« Reply #19 on: March 28, 2011, 10:42:04 AM »

I think that "'rents" did mean "parents".  The 'rents were the caretakers of the trashpickers, making sure they didn't overstep their station.  They weren't literally parents of them in the sense of biological lineage (at least not necessarily) but they were taking the role of caretakers and so were called parents, or 'rents.

I assumed it was short for 'rent-payers' (or rent-collectors?).

It's possible that the term had a kind of dual etymology. Some words in English came from one source but were reinforced by a (perceived, at any rate) relationship or similarity to another.

Of course, I can't think of any examples at the moment...
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