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Author Topic: PC154: Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, in the City Under the Still Waters  (Read 23626 times)

Talia

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PodCastle 154: Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, in the City Under the Still Waters

by N.K. Jemisin

Read by Laurice White

Originally published in Postscripts

Tookie sat on the porch of his shotgun house, watching the rain fall sideways.  A lizard strolled by on the worn dirt-strip that passed for a sidewalk, easy as you please, as if there wasn’t an inch of water already collected around its paws.  It noticed him and stopped.

“Hey,” it said, inclining its head to him in a neighborly fashion.

“‘Sup,” Tookie replied, jerking his chin up in return.

“You gon’ stay put?” it asked.  ”Storm comin’.”

“Yeah,” said Tookie.  ”I got food from the grocery.”

“Ain’ gon’ need no food if you drown, man.”

Tookie shrugged.

The lizard sat down on the sidewalk, oblivious to the driving wind, and joined Tookie in watching the rain fall.  Tookie idly reflected that the lizard might be an alligator, in which case he should maybe go get his gun.  He decided against it, though, because the creature had wide batlike wings and he was fairly certain gators didn’t have those.  These wings were the color of rusty, jaundiced clouds, like those he’d seen approaching from the southeast just before the rain began.


Rated R: Contains Language, Violence, and Disturbing Imagery circa Hurricane Katrina.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2011, 04:40:47 PM by Talia »



Biscuit

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Quite simply: Thank you Nora. For someone who's just lived through a natural disaster, I finished this story with tears in my eyes. I completely identify with a broken and ugly (in spirit) city still being called "home".

Laurice's reading was absolutely masterful.


LadyDyani

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I'm only halfway through, so I can't comment on the whole story yet, but I wanted to stop and comment that I do hope Laurice White will be reading for us again.  Excellent.

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Anarquistador

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I thought this one was very cool. I loved the idea of the little storm dragons, and their role as sort of custodians of natural order. "Storm gotta come...gotta go too." Though I am a little nonplussed at how easily the main character just accepted that some little lizard started talking to him out of the blue. I mean, I hear New Orleans is a mellow town, but that's just silly...

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Spindaddy

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I loved the story. The reading was excellant as well. Its amazing how being a few hundred miles away from a disaster makes it easier to listen and enjoy. Then again, even though the story is based on disaster, it reads like a "unlikely hero" story so while bad, there is a lot of hope. Excellant work!

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Old Marshmallow

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Absolutely loved Laurice White's vocal characterizations and how they brought the story to life for me.  Please bring her in for more readings if you can.  What struck me most about the story itself was that Jemisin tied the trigger for human ugliness to the source - ourselves.  That monster was certainly big and evil, but the true monstrosity has its seed within each of us.  And we're the ones who have to face it and, hopefully, do away with it.



danooli

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Wow, what an incredible story and gorgeous reading!

I am the type of reader/listener that gets lost in the story and let me tell you...I was right beside Tookie throughout the whole adventure.  Ms. Jemisin's words spoken by Ms. White brought me to New Orleans and dumped me into the Ninth Ward.  When the little lizard was carried away at the end, I was sobbing.  Tookie, as a character, was perfect.  Flawed but noble.  Angry, but loving.  I want to hug him, I really do.

I absolutely LOVED this one, guys.  Thank you!!!!



Calculating...

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Though I am a little nonplussed at how easily the main character just accepted that some little lizard started talking to him out of the blue. I mean, I hear New Orleans is a mellow town, but that's just silly...

Don't you know? We all got little animals coming up on the front porch and having a talk with us.

Okay but seriously, I absolutely LOVED this story. I was really scared to listen to it, but wow. Captured the feel that many of us had before, during, and after the storm. The thought that the storm wouldn't be too bad, and then it got a whole hell of a lot worse, the fear of that first step trying to determine the damage, the huge terrifying monster that turned everyone into monsters, the hate and anger that filled us, and then the love and determination that this is our home and nothing can ever really change that. I know I didn't get that all right, but wow.
Loved Laurice White's reading as well, made me feel like my neighbor was telling me a story. Gave "And welcome back" a whole new meaning.
My one criticism (cause it's me and I always have one) is there was a missing element of the main character's emotions. There could have been a bit more of a build up there, and the main character seemed to just accept everything as it came at him until the end(ish). Okay, I guess it was really just his apathetic attitude to the storm and the levee breaking that bothered me. But even that has a whole New Orleans feel to it of accepting things as they come. I might just be over analyzing again.
Truly enjoyed this one, I sincerely hope there are more like this to come!

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Rain

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I had a hard time finishing this one, i found it boring and i am not sure if anything actually happened in it. I can appreciate the work that went into the reading, but the way of speaking made for a bad listening experience to me.

Sorry to me mr. negative, but i just didnt care for the story.
« Last Edit: April 28, 2011, 05:31:44 AM by Rain »



Anarquistador

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Though I am a little nonplussed at how easily the main character just accepted that some little lizard started talking to him out of the blue. I mean, I hear New Orleans is a mellow town, but that's just silly...

Don't you know? We all got little animals coming up on the front porch and having a talk with us.

Neat.

I'm jealous. Up here in Boston the only things that come up on the front porch are drunk Red Sox fans. Not quite as much fun.

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Listener

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Of the two "contemporary fantasy" stories over the past two weeks, this one was IMO far better. Right from the get-go we had a character we could root for. I found it well-paced, except for a couple of slow areas (like when Tookie meets up with Dre), and the imagery was very vivid without being overwritten.

Plus: thunderbolt lizards!

Throughout the piece it got a little preachy from time to time, but it was never really out-of-character. And if that's how the characters were feeling, then they were perfectly justified to say or think it. Having worked in the news media through MANY disasters, natural and otherwise, I can imagine how those who stayed felt when all these news crews flew over in their choppers and didn't do anything. From their side -- many newspeople are inured to disasters, especially since, to them, all a disaster is is an excuse for the station to get more ratings, and then after covering death and destruction and despair we would get congratulatory e-mails and win awards that allowed us to (before the death of local TV news) command more money and better jobs.

Great choice of reader. Other than a couple of word flubs (vehemence, misshapen) and some very peculiar lack-of-empty-space-to-denote-section-breaks issues, she did a wonderful job.

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Kaa

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Sometimes a story stands on its own as a work of art, and having never read this story in print, I can't speak for whether I would have enjoyed it as much as I did this episode. But what I can say is that the narration of this story quite simply turned it into a masterpiece. Extremely well-done, Laurice. I hope you're reading this. You did a fantastic job of bringing those characters to life, and with a "native" southern accent. (I'm from rural Alabama, and more often than not I cringe when people try to fake it.)

Excellent episode, guys. One of the better ones.

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Scattercat

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Nthing the praise for the reading.  Laurice White's interpretation of the storm dragon has given me a new favorite creature-voice (displacing Regis St. George.)

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kibitzer

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Nthing the praise for the reading.  Laurice White's interpretation of the storm dragon has given me a new favorite creature-voice (displacing Regis St. George.)

Maybe so but the image of Regis St George prancing about in a Tina Turner-style dress still can't be beat.


cbjames

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This is one of the best stories Podcastle has had in a while.  That statement comes from someone who thinks Podcastle has been on a very good run the past month or so.  This is one that I will be saving.  Thanks.



Fenrix

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Kudos to the editorial staff for sitting on this forever until you got the perfect narrator. This story really cranked up my desire to visit New Orleans again. I was supposed to go the spring Katrina hit and haven't gotten a good chance again since.

Also, having visited enough and ingesting enough local flavor, I think there's some folks there who wouldn't look crossways at a talking lizard on their porch.

Nthing the praise for the reading.  Laurice White's interpretation of the storm dragon has given me a new favorite creature-voice (displacing Regis St. George.)

Maybe so but the image of Regis St George prancing about in a Tina Turner-style dress still can't be beat.

Also, the storm dragon had no horribly mindwormy line like "Lisa Lisa Lisa". He can have second place, though.

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


DKT

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Kudos to the editorial staff for sitting on this forever until you got the perfect narrator. This story Also, the storm dragon had no horribly mindwormy line like "Lisa Lisa Lisa". He can have second place, though.

He ain't no foot soldier. He's a fucking lizard!

(I wish I could say that and sound half as cool as Laurice did ;D)


Makeda

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An excellent story and an excellent reader.  This was my first trip here and it was a winner.



Loz

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I loved the reading, and the 'realistic' elements of the story, but I found the 'fantastic' elements, when they arrived, weak. Of course Tookie and the lizard kill the monster that can't be killed, it wouldn't be a story otherwise would it?



Gamercow

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Thoroughly enjoyed this one.  I'm a middle aged, upper middle class white man in New England, and this story really brought home to me what the poor souls of the ninth ward(as well as many other locations in the South) went through in 2005, and what that city is still going through today.  It will never be the same city, and it angers me that so many people are intent on keeping out the poor from the ninth ward so they can rebuild it as trendy housing and shopping for rich white folks.  I saw that happen with South Boston, and while it is good in a way that liquor stores and pawn shops are now turning in to wine stores and antique shops, I feel bad for a people that have been forced out of a place they've called home, in some case for generations.  I watched the first season of Treme, and found it to be bitter and preachy, and not quite aimed correctly.

Back to this story though.  The pacing was excellently slow in a way a story about the Big Easy should be.  Tookie had seen so much in his life, such as laying low in his house because he didn't know if the person outside was just a normal robber or an assassin, he took the thunder lizards in stride, because hey, weird shit happens. 

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martinifan

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While I would rarely ever give a bad rating for anything on Podcastle and usually always love the choices of story and narrator, "Sinners/Saints" was off the charts!  Five++++ stars!!  This was an excellent story in and of itself, but the narration was what gave it the heart to really sing and climb into my psyche like few short works can.  Your new narrator, Laurice White, has a real future in this type of work, and a new fan.  And huge props to N.K. Jemisin, who consistently delivers the goods in extraordinary fashion, in whatever category or format she hurls words!
"
I rarely take the time to write in - my bad - but I had to comment today.  And listen to Dave's tip at the end of the show, too..."Zeitoun" by Dave Eggers is a must read!  For every individual who thinks,"Why the hell didn't people just leave when they knew a hurricane on the way?!",   the story of the Zeitoun family gives one of the many different plausible answers.

Thank you, Podcastle staff for all the great work you do!



ElectricPaladin

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I loved this story. It was wonderful. I give it six Zeppelins out of five.

The City. The City. The life that hums beneath our feet and flows in our veins and drifts in and out of our mouths like smoke when we breath. The City is in us, it is us, all of us, in each of our disparate ways. The City shelters us from storm and fire and earthquake, whenever it can, and in return the City calls on its sons and daughters to defend it, when need be.

I loved the storm dragons, the "haint," the real and flawed and fascinating characters... I loved it all.

Story time here: I'm a middle school teacher in East Oakland. Tookie could have been one of my kids. I can see the hate infecting them, I can feel its hot breath on the back of my neck, and I know they can, too. I watch as it pushes them to destroy and self-destruct. If I could pick up a gun and blow that hate away, with the power of the City in me, I'd do it. I'd do it in a heartbeat.

In real life, it's more complicated, but that's what we have fantasy for.

I also have a deep fondness for stories in which it is pure emotion or virtue - love, friendship, faith, passion - that wins the day. It's Tookie's compassion and self-love that conquers the monster, not his strength, skill, or aim. I dig that kind of thing.

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jjtraw

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Loved, loved, loved the reading. Excellent story, and Laurice brought it so alive. Thank you!

The evil in all of us, the strength of the city - all good, powerful themes. But I think one of my favorite parts of the story was the relationship between Tookie and his elderly neighbor. It said much about Tookie, that he reached out to her. And their exchanges felt so real.

Towards the beginning of the story, when Tookie is chatting calmly with the talking lizard - it took me awhile to figure out that was supposed to be *during the storm,* and it shook me out of the story a bit when I grasped that fact. I've never been in a cat 4 or cat 5 hurricane, but I've sat tight through my share of 2's and 3's. In my experience, in the middle of the event, there are no calm neighborly conversations outside. Too much wind, it's hard to hear. And you really don't want to be standing outside shelter for too long. I wasn't in New Orleans for Katrina, so maybe the experience there was different. Anyhow, after the initial "huh?" I suspended my disbelief over it just fine.

And the rest of the tale just blew me away. Good, good stuff.



Fenrix

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Towards the beginning of the story, when Tookie is chatting calmly with the talking lizard - it took me awhile to figure out that was supposed to be *during the storm,* and it shook me out of the story a bit when I grasped that fact. I've never been in a cat 4 or cat 5 hurricane, but I've sat tight through my share of 2's and 3's. In my experience, in the middle of the event, there are no calm neighborly conversations outside. Too much wind, it's hard to hear. And you really don't want to be standing outside shelter for too long. I wasn't in New Orleans for Katrina, so maybe the experience there was different. Anyhow, after the initial "huh?" I suspended my disbelief over it just fine.

Wasn't there a time lag between the storm and the levee breaking?

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jjtraw

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Wasn't there a time lag between the storm and the levee breaking?

Details like "watching the rain fall sideways" and "driving wind" make me think that first conversation was actually supposed to be during the storm.