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Author Topic: PC151: Wizard's Apprentice  (Read 3176 times)
Talia
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« on: April 06, 2011, 05:46:26 PM »

PodCastle 151: Wizard’s Apprentice

by Delia Sherman.

Read by Peter Wood.

Originally appeared in Troll’s Eye View, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

Mr. Smallbone peered at him through his round glasses. “Humph. You’re letting the cold in. Close the door behind you. And leave your boots by the door. I can’t have you tracking up the floor.”

That was how Nick came to be the Evil Wizard’s new apprentice.

At first he just thought he was doing some chores in return for food and a night’s shelter. But next morning, after a breakfast of oatmeal and maple syrup, Mr. Smallbone handed him a broom and a feather duster.

“Clean the front room,” he said. “Floor and books and shelves. Every speck of dirt, mind, and every trace of dust.”

Nick gave it his best, but sweep as he might, the front room was no cleaner by the end of the day than it was when he started.

“That won’t do at all,” said the Wizard. “You’ll have to try again tomorrow. You’d best cook supper—there’s the makings for scrapple in the icebox.”

Since the snow had given way to a breath-freezing cold snap, Nick wasn’t too unhappy with this turn of events. Mr. Smallbone might be an Evil Wizard, ugly as home-made sin, and vinegar-tongued. But a bed is a bed and food is food. If things got bad, he could always run away.


Rated PG.
« Last Edit: April 26, 2011, 08:21:05 AM by Talia » Logged
ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2011, 01:09:10 PM »

Booyah. King Under the Mountain again.

Um. Anyway.

I really loved this one. It was fun, clever, and did a very good job evoking a certain style of fairy tail that I like very much. I loved the structure of it, the tasks and their completion, and how Nick grew in confidence and, of course, magical power. It was like Harry Potter, but without everything that sucked.

I wish I had more to say about this story. It was incredibly awesome!

Oh, wait, I know. The reading also blew me out of the water. I loved the way his voice turned up on the snappy lines. The reading was crisp, fun, and energetic - a perfect compliment to a fun and energetic story.
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eytanz
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« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2011, 02:39:30 PM »

This was great fun - it had a delightful way of keeping the reader just one step ahead of the Nick (and a few steps behind the wizard) at all times without ever needing to hold me by the hand. Very, very cool. And, like ElectricPaladin, I thought the reading was really awesome.

Shame that the genreforjapan promo ended up a couple of weeks too late, though - and actually, it may confuse readers who'll think that the "28th" refers to April rather than March. I think EA podcasts need to figure out a better way to handle time-sensitive information...
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DKT
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« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2011, 02:54:17 PM »

Shame that the genreforjapan promo ended up a couple of weeks too late, though - and actually, it may confuse readers who'll think that the "28th" refers to April rather than March. I think EA podcasts need to figure out a better way to handle time-sensitive information...

Noted, for sure.
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« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2011, 03:04:07 PM »

I think EA podcasts need to figure out a better way to handle time-sensitive information...

I agree. Taunting me with ads for a long-past FogCon was a bit cruel, guys.
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« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2011, 06:23:29 PM »

wow, this was fantastic.  i really loved every thing about the story.  From the characters, to the setting, to the dialogue...the reading was outstanding as well.  I love how I just knew that Mr. Smallbone was telling the truth when he said that the uncle wasn't going to be coming back, and just like Nick, I didn't want to know why. 

One more thing, this was just SO very different than The Fiddler Of Bayou Teche, but yet wonderful just the same.  To go from the swamps of Louisiana, if I remember correctly, to the snows of Maine...from crawdad to lobster...what a great talent Ms. Sherman has!  This isn't the first time PodCastle has inspired me to go and seek out more writings by a particular author, and I doubt it'll be the last, but she is one who is now really on my radar... Now where's my Nook?

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Scattercat
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« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2011, 08:18:47 PM »

I found this story pleasant, and the reading was downright fabulous, but it felt a little too... light.  That is, it was pretty immediately clear from the opening that the Evil Wizard wasn't evil, and I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it never did.  The uncle was an unambiguous bad guy, the boy was an unambiguous victim, the wizard was an unambiguous good guy, and magic was cheap and easy and solved all the problems.  Perhaps it's just my ingrained cynicism talking, but I had a hard time engaging with a story that presented everything so simply and cleanly.  I prefer ambiguity and shades of gray to clarity and clean divisions.  

(I got really hopeful when the uncle managed to recognize Nick three times; I thought maybe we'd see that his uncle really did care for him, in a twisted way, and there'd be an interesting conflict and a more complex, more intricately faceted relationship, but then it was just a chase scene instead.  That's the kind of thing I"m talking about.)
« Last Edit: April 08, 2011, 08:42:17 AM by Scattercat » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2011, 04:25:10 AM »

Now where's my Nook?

Did you leave it in the cranny?
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« Reply #8 on: April 08, 2011, 04:31:27 AM »

Liked the story a very lot, though I felt it cranked down a level after the "choose correctly three times" bit. Hard to say why; possibly because I heard up until that bit in the morning (going to work) and the rest in the evening (coming home). Times of day; food; sleepiness; all these things play a part in the listening experience to some degree. For me. But honestly, the whole was great :-)

Now, about the reading. Peter, I read your blog post about your feelings towards your performance. Your fears are groundless -- this was a great reading! You did a nice job of imbuing each character with a little uniqueness; your pacing was good; the clarity was there. Nice one. I hope to hear more from you in the very near future!
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danooli
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« Reply #9 on: April 08, 2011, 05:59:39 AM »

Now where's my Nook?

Did you leave it in the cranny?

 Grin Thankfully, it wasn't dripping with butter, although nooks and crannies usually are better that way  Grin

Now, about the reading. Peter, I read your blog post about your feelings towards your performance. Your fears are groundless -- this was a great reading! You did a nice job of imbuing each character with a little uniqueness; your pacing was good; the clarity was there. Nice one. I hope to hear more from you in the very near future!

Is there a link to this blog post?  I really enjoyed this reading, I hope Peter doesn't think he did less than a stellar job!
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eytanz
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« Reply #10 on: April 08, 2011, 06:18:24 AM »

Is there a link to this blog post?  I really enjoyed this reading, I hope Peter doesn't think he did less than a stellar job!

Click Peter Wood's name in the top post of this thread, it leads to his blog.
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« Reply #11 on: April 08, 2011, 08:26:26 AM »

This was fun.  It wasn't earth shattering, by any means, but not every story has to be.  It was a fun use of the fairy tale format.

I didn't get why the boy didn't try something different in the "pick the boy out of the lookalikes" games after the uncle explained exactly how he recognized him the first time.  Pick an animal that's likely to scatter from human contact like a mouse so that the boy doesn't stand out.  Seemed simple to me.

I also didn't understand why the boy just didn't turn into something more fearsome when his uncle came after.  Turn into a bear, dude.  No uncle, no matter how mean, is going to kick a bear's ass.

But I didn't see those as major problems, just questions I had.  Fun stuff.
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« Reply #12 on: April 08, 2011, 09:48:54 AM »

I signed up to the forums just so that I could comment on both the story and the reader. I thought this was a great story and the reading was excellant. It made my commute so much more enjoyable.

There was only one tiny problem that I had with the story and that was how easily the "Bad Uncle" gave up. I had hopes he was going to meet an icy demise, but no such luck. In my experience, rarely do men so controlling and cruel give up easily on anything they view as their property. Part of me thought the "Evil Wizard" was going to drop a hint about the Uncle's ending as the two foxes sat in the snow, confirming his Evil Wizardness... but alas, no such luck.  It's a very minor quibble, however and I've recommended the story to several friends.
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« Reply #13 on: April 08, 2011, 10:38:50 AM »

Mmm, I liked this one. Smiley eytanz is right, I love how I could always figure out each test just before Nick could, but couldn't predict exactly where the story would end up. I did wish that he was a little bit quicker on the uptake in figuring out how to not be obviously himself in the three tests, but of course if he had then he couldn't have been in a position where he had to earn his freedom from his uncle.



I didn't get why the boy didn't try something different in the "pick the boy out of the lookalikes" games after the uncle explained exactly how he recognized him the first time.  Pick an animal that's likely to scatter from human contact like a mouse so that the boy doesn't stand out.  Seemed simple to me.


I got the impression that the Wizard was in control of the three tests, at least as far as picking what animals would be involved. It was up to the boy to figure out how to not stand out of course, and it seemed like he always used a strategy that might have worked in the previous test. The puppies didn't fear the uncle, so the boy/spider didn't react. The spiders cowered so the boy/raven tried to fly away. Though by that time he was probably just trying to run away instead of actually trying to blend in with the other fledglings.
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« Reply #14 on: April 08, 2011, 02:56:29 PM »


I didn't get why the boy didn't try something different in the "pick the boy out of the lookalikes" games after the uncle explained exactly how he recognized him the first time.  Pick an animal that's likely to scatter from human contact like a mouse so that the boy doesn't stand out.  Seemed simple to me.


I got the impression that the Wizard was in control of the three tests, at least as far as picking what animals would be involved. It was up to the boy to figure out how to not stand out of course, and it seemed like he always used a strategy that might have worked in the previous test. The puppies didn't fear the uncle, so the boy/spider didn't react. The spiders cowered so the boy/raven tried to fly away. Though by that time he was probably just trying to run away instead of actually trying to blend in with the other fledglings.

I got the impression the wizard was just doing the tests to verify the uncle was in fact blood kin. In the story, I believe there was a line about "not being able to hide from blood kin." The boy acted as most abused victims react when confronting their abuser. It is a programmed behavior and difficult to break. So he cowered as a puppy, tried to hide as a spider and then tried to flee as a raven. The uncle was able to tell every time, thus verifying for the Wizard the Uncle was indeed blood kin.

The boy's test came when the Uncle immediately dragged him away. Would he stay in the cycle of abuse or would he use his new-found powers to return to the wizard and continue the apprenticeship, breaking his Uncles hold on him? Much like the previous seemingly impossible tasks, the wizard gave no hints or directions at what the boy should do, but let him figure out the solution on his own.

I had my hopes up for a can of evil wizard whoop-ass to be opened on the Uncle, but such was not the case.
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« Reply #15 on: April 08, 2011, 03:58:48 PM »

Thanks for the appreciation and support - it was more the technical aspects of the recording that bothered me rather than my actual reading (but that's probably mostly because I'm hypercritical of my own work in general and since I'm the sound guy for the show I felt I should have gotten a cleaner recording).

I'm glad it works for people.  Smiley
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« Reply #16 on: April 11, 2011, 08:52:39 AM »

I got the impression the wizard was just doing the tests to verify the uncle was in fact blood kin. In the story, I believe there was a line about "not being able to hide from blood kin." The boy acted as most abused victims react when confronting their abuser. It is a programmed behavior and difficult to break. So he cowered as a puppy, tried to hide as a spider and then tried to flee as a raven. The uncle was able to tell every time, thus verifying for the Wizard the Uncle was indeed blood kin.

I understood that, but why didn't he choose animals that cowered so that he would fit in?
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« Reply #17 on: April 11, 2011, 09:16:12 PM »

I got the impression the wizard was just doing the tests to verify the uncle was in fact blood kin. In the story, I believe there was a line about "not being able to hide from blood kin." The boy acted as most abused victims react when confronting their abuser. It is a programmed behavior and difficult to break. So he cowered as a puppy, tried to hide as a spider and then tried to flee as a raven. The uncle was able to tell every time, thus verifying for the Wizard the Uncle was indeed blood kin.

I understood that, but why didn't he choose animals that cowered so that he would fit in?


He's a 12-year old boy reacting to a sudden and threatening situation. Always tough to choose rationally under pressure.
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eytanz
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« Reply #18 on: April 12, 2011, 03:45:46 AM »

I don't think Nick chose the animals - I think that was the wizard. And I think the test was not designed to test whether the uncle can find Nick, but how he choses to do so. He basically always chose the option based on fear and intimidation. That demonstrated to the wizard that Nick was right to fear the uncle. Note that the wizard did not honor his word - he told the uncle that if he passed the tests Nick was his, but then he intervened anyway. I think the wizard wanted to see what the uncle would do and what Nick would do once alone with the uncle, rather than have a genuine recognition test.
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« Reply #19 on: April 12, 2011, 11:11:52 AM »

Note that the wizard did not honor his word - he told the uncle that if he passed the tests Nick was his, but then he intervened anyway.

He didn't say how long Nick would stay his.  >:-)
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« Reply #20 on: April 13, 2011, 06:15:51 AM »

For my commentary, read what Scattercat said, because I feel basically the same way: http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?topic=4831.msg87329#msg87329

But I did really like the ending, when they're working together.
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« Reply #21 on: April 18, 2011, 06:52:06 AM »

I really enjoyed this; it's a simple tale but full of personality. Although I did have to wonder how the evil Wizard stays in business! Made me smile, so a good start to a Monday.
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« Reply #22 on: April 27, 2011, 10:25:22 PM »

Hmph. Cute. White bread beginning, white bread ending, but some definite sort of meat in the middle. I think I would have like a bit more in the way of strangeness to help me out, but I did like the uncle choosing bits. Quite a lot.
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« Reply #23 on: May 03, 2011, 10:54:37 AM »

Interesting story. Sort of the opposite of "Honing Sebastian", don't you think? Although I do think it was a bit light towards the end. The fact that the kid ran across the pond out of accident instead of on purpose felt too random for me.
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« Reply #24 on: May 12, 2011, 03:04:56 AM »

I think I must be being incredibly dim this morning (in my defence it is still early). I came on here to see if anyone was as confused as I am about the ending of this one, but no-one seems to have been vexed by it like I am. It all makes sense right up to the last line of dialog:

"What do you want?"

"The Evil Wizard," Smallbone said.

Eh? Who's that who's just come into the shop? Another Mr Smallbone? What's all that about? Is this something to do with the door spell (the old wizard going out back and coming in front)? Why?

Please help me.

Otherwise I enjoyed the story for what it was, and liked the old-style omniscient storytelling mode.
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Talia
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« Reply #25 on: May 12, 2011, 06:14:14 AM »

I think I must be being incredibly dim this morning (in my defence it is still early). I came on here to see if anyone was as confused as I am about the ending of this one, but no-one seems to have been vexed by it like I am. It all makes sense right up to the last line of dialog:

"What do you want?"

"The Evil Wizard," Smallbone said.

Eh? Who's that who's just come into the shop? Another Mr Smallbone? What's all that about? Is this something to do with the door spell (the old wizard going out back and coming in front)? Why?

Please help me.

Otherwise I enjoyed the story for what it was, and liked the old-style omniscient storytelling mode.

The story doesn't say who came in the front door, it doesn't matter. The young guy dressed up like the Evil Mr. Smallbone to maintain the illusion that there's an Evil Wizard working there, not just a wizard and his apprentice. he didn't go out and come back in, he moved from the backroom to the front room, then let in whomever had come calling and began his act.
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DKT
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« Reply #26 on: May 12, 2011, 11:10:27 AM »

I think I must be being incredibly dim this morning (in my defence it is still early). I came on here to see if anyone was as confused as I am about the ending of this one, but no-one seems to have been vexed by it like I am. It all makes sense right up to the last line of dialog:

"What do you want?"

"The Evil Wizard," Smallbone said.

Eh? Who's that who's just come into the shop? Another Mr Smallbone? What's all that about? Is this something to do with the door spell (the old wizard going out back and coming in front)? Why?

Please help me.

Otherwise I enjoyed the story for what it was, and liked the old-style omniscient storytelling mode.

The story doesn't say who came in the front door, it doesn't matter. The young guy dressed up like the Evil Mr. Smallbone to maintain the illusion that there's an Evil Wizard working there, not just a wizard and his apprentice. he didn't go out and come back in, he moved from the backroom to the front room, then let in whomever had come calling and began his act.

Pretty much this. Essentially at the end of the story, Smallbone and Nick are both wizards. They just have to arm-wrestle for who's going to dress up as the evil wizard and go deal with the paying customers.
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« Reply #27 on: May 12, 2011, 02:35:50 PM »

Essentially at the end of the story, Smallbone and Nick are both wizards. They just have to arm-wrestle for who's going to dress up as the evil wizard and go deal with the paying customers.

Or rather, who's not going to.
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« Reply #28 on: May 12, 2011, 03:21:17 PM »

Right!

Sorry, I was projecting there. I always want to be the evil wizard  Wink
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« Reply #29 on: May 12, 2011, 10:20:47 PM »

Right!

Sorry, I was projecting there. I always want to be the evil wizard  Wink

No, don't tell me... you put on your wizard hat and robe, right?
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« Reply #30 on: May 13, 2011, 09:27:21 AM »

Right!

Sorry, I was projecting there. I always want to be the evil wizard  Wink

I just can't imagine a maniacal laugh coming from you, DKT.
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« Reply #31 on: January 09, 2012, 01:11:20 AM »

This is a "Fun" story in the true sense. It's like an old fastioned hero drama, just it happens to be a wizard instead. It's pure frivilous fun that leaves you cheering at the end. I loved it. It had just the right amount of twists and turns and a book store I want to visit.
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« Reply #32 on: February 07, 2012, 09:18:52 PM »

I think I must be being incredibly dim this morning (in my defence it is still early). I came on here to see if anyone was as confused as I am about the ending of this one, but no-one seems to have been vexed by it like I am. It all makes sense right up to the last line of dialog:

"What do you want?"

"The Evil Wizard," Smallbone said.

Eh? Who's that who's just come into the shop? Another Mr Smallbone? What's all that about? Is this something to do with the door spell (the old wizard going out back and coming in front)? Why?

Please help me.

I was in the same boat. It still doesn't quite jive for me. If "The evil wizard" is in response to the evil wizard's question to the visitor, why did Smallbone say it?

e.g.

This works for me:
Person playing the evil wizard: "What do you want?"
Visitor: "The evil wizard"

This doesn't:
Person playing the evil wizard: "What do you want?"
Smallbone: "The evil wizard"
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