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Author Topic: PC150: Mister Hadj’s Sunset Ride  (Read 11119 times)

Ocicat

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on: March 29, 2011, 04:34:45 PM
PodCastle 150: Mister Hadj’s Sunset Ride

by Saladin Ahmed.

Read by Cheyenne Wright
.

Originally appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue # 43.

The toughest man I ever met? That’s an easy answer to give, but a tricky tale to tell.

Mister Hadj was from the same place as my rattlesnake of a Pa. Araby, or someplace like, though I don’t rightly know the name since neither him nor my Pa ever said a blasted word about the Old Country. You’d ask and ask, and all you’d get back was a look as hard as rocks. No use digging after that.

I’ve ridden with good men and bad men, but I never rode with a man like Mister Hadj. That wasn’t his proper name. Just a way of calling the old man respectful-like. My Pa taught me that, if I ever met a man from the Old Country, to call him ‘Hadj.’ Damn near the only thing that sonuvabitch ever taught me.


Rated PG.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2011, 04:44:59 PM by Ocicat »



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #1 on: March 30, 2011, 02:56:23 AM
I am the King Under the Mountain, and this is the first post on this thread!

Ok, so, I loved this story when I heard it on Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and I loved it more just now. Cheyenne Wright beats the hell out of whoever reads the stories over at BCS... which is no insult to BCS, because Cheyenne Wright beats the hell out of pretty much everybody. His voice definitely added a lot to the story. I liked the way he actually slowed down during the action scenes, rather than speeding up, which did a good job of invoking a real man reliving a painful memory, rather than just an exciting story told on a podcast.

As for the story itself, I enjoyed the light hand with which the author played with themes of alienation, honor, and finding your own way in a hostile world. The characters of Mr. Hadj and the nameless narrator were both surprisingly deep, despite being portrayed in few words. And, of course, the fantasy elements were lots of fun, and likewise very subtle.

A brief aside: when my wife and I were in Egypt, our friend Jon took us on a walk through the Necropolis, a working neighborhood situated in a centuries-old graveyard. Squatters have moved in over the generations, putting roofs on the tombs and wiring them for electricity, water, and satellite TV. It's not a great neighborhood to live in, but it's safe to walk in and, unlike the rest of Cairo, quiet. One particularly awesome thing I saw was a painting of the Kaaba and the faithful marching around it on someone's external wall. Jon confirmed - I'd studied Islam in college a bit and suspected it myself - that this marked the owner of the home as a hajji, or someone who has performed a pilgrimage to the Kaaba himself.

Anyway, for the curious, that's what Mr. Hadj's name was (probably) a reference to. What the narrator's father was doing was ensuring that his son would apply a fairly high honorific to any man of his father's people he met - at best, anyone he used that title with would be justifiably flattered and at worst, probably just bemused and also flattered.

One of the best things about this stories is how many questions it raises in me. Was Mr. Hadj a real hajji, or was he just amused at this half-Arab kid using a title he didn't deserve? What was Mr. Hadj's crime, and what contexts did it give their relationship?

For myself, I like to imagine that Mr. Hadj had almost completely lost his faith before he met the narrator, and that suddenly being called "Mr. Honored Pilgrim Sir" is what started him down the path to his own redemption... but that's just me. The story doesn't tell us, and that's part of what makes it so beautiful.

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saladinahmed

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Reply #2 on: March 30, 2011, 12:28:28 PM
ElectricPaladin:

I generally avoid responding to reviews of my work (not that I've always been successful in doing so), but wanted to say a quick 'thanks.' This is a very thoughtful response that really understands what's going on in the story - always gratifying for a writer to read.

thanks for listening!
Saladin



stePH

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Reply #3 on: March 30, 2011, 07:50:31 PM
"Hurt a lot of people. Price to pay. Should be more" is eleven words, not nine.

Other than that... "Cool story, bro!"

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DKT

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Reply #4 on: March 30, 2011, 07:56:19 PM
FWIW, the direct quote from the story's text is actually:

Quote
“Hurt alotta people. Price to pay. Should be more.”

Some of that gets lost in the audio :)



Anarquistador

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Reply #5 on: March 31, 2011, 01:06:20 AM
<terse Middle Eastern Accent>
Good story. Interesting premise. Too short. Should be more.
</terse Middle Eastern Accent>

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stePH

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Reply #6 on: March 31, 2011, 03:28:14 AM
<terse Middle Eastern Accent>
Good story. Interesting premise. Too short. Should be more.
</terse Middle Eastern Accent>

That is nine words. I counted.

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Scattercat

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Reply #7 on: March 31, 2011, 03:31:30 AM
Excellent story.  Top marks all around.  Cheyenne Wright as the reader is just the icing to make a perfect cake.



iamafish

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Reply #8 on: March 31, 2011, 12:40:06 PM
<terse Middle Eastern Accent>
Good story. Interesting premise. Too short. Should be more.
</terse Middle Eastern Accent>

that.

Loved the story, but i would have loved for some of the characters and the setting to have been fleshed out a little more. I feel like fleshing out this post, but this is more fitting for the story :P


Scattercat

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Reply #9 on: March 31, 2011, 12:45:34 PM
No, no, no.  It was perfect as it was.  Leave things to be implied.  We can see the history spilling out behind the characters, and the details speak of the world without belaboring the point.  There's nothing worse than a good world too thoroughly explained.

I like this story, with my desire for more being a feature, not a bug, in my liking.



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Reply #10 on: March 31, 2011, 01:03:32 PM
Fantastic story and great narration!

I've been away from the Castle for a while and have some catching up to do.  But I come back and this was like a kick in the pants saying "why haven't you been keeping up?"

Electric Paladin, thank your for your insight. 


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Unblinking

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Reply #11 on: March 31, 2011, 01:40:00 PM
I heard this first over on BCS just a few weeks ago as I was plowing through their backlog.  Not a bad story, and well told.  I like the living dead son and the Lucifer preacher.  I'm not sure it will really stay separate in my memory from other Weird West kind of stories, didn't really set itself apart.



stePH

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Reply #12 on: March 31, 2011, 06:26:16 PM
I'm not sure it will really stay separate in my memory from other Weird West kind of stories, didn't really set itself apart.


Yeah, those Weird West stories with Muslim gunslingers are so tired and overplayed  :P

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iamafish

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Reply #13 on: April 01, 2011, 05:32:05 AM
No, no, no.  It was perfect as it was.  Leave things to be implied.  We can see the history spilling out behind the characters, and the details speak of the world without belaboring the point.  There's nothing worse than a good world too thoroughly explained.

I agree in principle, but disagree on the degree to which this should be applied. I like something that I can sink my teeth into, so I like my fantasy to be somewhat more juicy and fatty than your lean, chewy ideal.

As i said, a matter of degrees. Still a fantastic story.


kibitzer

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Reply #14 on: April 01, 2011, 07:29:03 AM
Fantastic. Could not have been better. I agree, the twist on the wandering preacher gun-slinger being another kind of holy man was wonderful.

PodCastle, you guys are hitting out of the park just about every week. Kudos.

(Waitadamnminute -- did I just use a sport analogy?? And an American sport at that?? Godammit I'm gonna hafta turn in my both my Geek Passport and my Kanga Card).


Anarquistador

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Reply #15 on: April 01, 2011, 11:30:10 AM
Not meant as criticism. Liked story too much. Wanted more.

...dropping articles and pronouns against will. Turning into Rorschach. Need help.

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Unblinking

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Reply #16 on: April 01, 2011, 01:52:49 PM
I'm not sure it will really stay separate in my memory from other Weird West kind of stories, didn't really set itself apart.


Yeah, those Weird West stories with Muslim gunslingers are so tired and overplayed  :P

I guess changing the ethnicity of the main character didn't make it seem any different to me.  YMMV and all that.  And I didn't say "tired and overplayed".  I didn't think it was bad, it just won't stand out in my memory.  Not every story does.



kibitzer

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Reply #17 on: April 03, 2011, 05:01:10 AM
...dropping articles and pronouns against will. Turning into Rorschach. Need help.

No need. Fine like this.


Listener

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Reply #18 on: April 07, 2011, 03:19:25 PM
Excellent reading, especially the voice of Mr Hadj.

I didn't really care for the story progression, mostly because I've heard it (and written it) before, just not with an Arabic hero. Good characterization, but I didn't really feel the relationship between the MC and Mr Hadj was strong enough for Mr Hadj to sacrifice himself just to save this stupid, impulsive kid. I'm glad the kid grew up to be a good bounty hunter, but still. Perhaps I would've liked that angle more if Mr Hadj had explained more (or if the story had explained more) about how Mr Hadj knew he was reaching the end of his life and wanted to make a difference or something like that.

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Devoted135

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Reply #19 on: April 07, 2011, 03:25:46 PM
I really liked this story, especially once I figured out that Mr. Hadj was referring to himself, not the outlaws at the end there. It was a really poignant moment and made me really curious to learn more about his history. Very nice! :)


(Waitadamnminute -- did I just use a sport analogy?? And an American sport at that?? Godammit I'm gonna hafta turn in my both my Geek Passport and my Kanga Card).

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Spindaddy

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Reply #20 on: April 08, 2011, 04:28:13 PM
this marked the owner of the home as a hajji, or someone who has performed a pilgrimage to the Kaaba himself.

Anyway, for the curious, that's what Mr. Hadj's name was (probably) a reference to. What the narrator's father was doing was ensuring that his son would apply a fairly high honorific to any man of his father's people he met - at best, anyone he used that title with would be justifiably flattered and at worst, probably just bemused and also flattered.
Thank you for pointing out the (probable) reference. I was wondering during the story and had been trying to guess the meaning. I know relatively little about Islam, but I suspected there was something important about the title.

I liked this story a lot as it reminded me of several of my favorite "westerns" when growing up. Hearing the story on my way to work was a great start to my day. I loved the stark simplicity that leads more to reading between lines. The element I enjoyed most was the relationship between the MC and Mr Hadj. I've been on both sides of the "Mentor" relationship, so could easily see Mr Hadj showing up to save the day for the MC. While I've never had to gun down an 'evil Bible thumping necromancing gunslinger' I have put my neck on the line for a young hothead in a vain attempt to spare them from their poor judgment--much like another had done for me once upon a time.

I must say that Cheyenne Wright was amazing. On the ride home, I was looking for some of the other stories that he read. Excellant job sir.

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DKT

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Reply #21 on: April 08, 2011, 04:54:57 PM
Heya! Welcome to the forum!  ;D

Have you listened to Tim Pratt's Another End to the Empire? Probably one of my favorite things he's read at PodCastle.

He's read a ton of killer stories for Pseudopod and Escape Pod as well. I can dig around later for more specifics(unless someone else beats me to it).


Talia

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Reply #22 on: April 08, 2011, 05:03:18 PM
If you make use of the search bar on any of the 'casts sites, it will bring up all the episodes he's read. :) (It's a bit hidden on Pseudopod's site; you have to scroll down. It's on the left underneath the "Archives" section.)



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Reply #23 on: April 08, 2011, 08:01:56 PM
Good characterization, but I didn't really feel the relationship between the MC and Mr Hadj was strong enough for Mr Hadj to sacrifice himself just to save this stupid, impulsive kid. I'm glad the kid grew up to be a good bounty hunter, but still. Perhaps I would've liked that angle more if Mr Hadj had explained more (or if the story had explained more) about how Mr Hadj knew he was reaching the end of his life and wanted to make a difference or something like that.

This sums up my main beef with this story. I didn't feel drawn in and it was primarily because the narrator tells us about this guy who had a major impact on his life, but so much of it is told in summation. Granted, Mr Hadj is apparently the strong, silent type, and probably not one to bond with anyone including the young protagonist, so you can understand why their wouldn't be a close relationship. On the other hand that just proves my point that there wasn't a whole lot of emotional involvement with the character.


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Reply #24 on: April 08, 2011, 08:07:05 PM
Thank you!

The first story I listened to was 'Hart and Boot' which hooked me hard. I used the search function and found all of Tim Pratt's stories and was listening to them whenever I was in the car. Since then, I've joined a local self help group entitled "How to not be a Tim Pratt stalker" as being a creepy stalker is bad for getting more stories.

I have quite a few favorite readers, Cheyenne Wright being at the top of the list and I've been using the search function to slowly hunt each one down and listen them during my hour commute. Um... well, maybe not hunt... thats sounds a little too creepy.

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