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Author Topic: PC160: After October  (Read 4810 times)
Talia
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« on: June 07, 2011, 08:50:14 AM »

PodCastle 160: After October

by Ben Burgis.

Read by Eric Luke (of the Extruding America podcast).

Originally appeared in GigaNotoSaurus. The full text is available.

The Tsar abdicates in February. The Provisional Government gets around to letting Fyodor out of prison in March. In April, he meets his Uncle Grigor at a Petrograd cafe. They talk about magic, death and revolution.

“I don’t care, Fyodka. Romans or Visagoths, Christians or Mohammedans, Tsars or…” The old man waves his hand, making a show of remembering the word. “…Bolsheviks… They’re all just different acts in the same circus.”

Fyodor and Grigor sit at a table by the window. They drink their tea in the Ukranian style, with apple slices.

Most of Grigor’s little sermon is familiar from the letters they exchanged while Fyodor was in prison, but one line rankles. “Politics change. What we do doesn’t. You should remember that.”

Fyodor wants very badly to correct that ‘we,’ to tell his uncle that there’s a reason he hasn’t so much as looked at his magic books since he was fourteen years of age. Instead, he blows on his tea and watches the steam rise up and disappear. When he does speak, his voice is subdued.

“In ancient Rome, who did the work?”

Grigor favors him with a sad, indulgent look. It’s exactly the way he always looked at Fyodor back home in the Ukraine, when they spent long winter afternoons playing chess. The look says, ‘I see why you’re moving your bishop like that, and I wish you wouldn’t, but I suppose this is the only way you’ll ever learn.’


Rated R for violence and adult themes.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2011, 11:56:26 PM by Talia » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2011, 10:18:20 AM »

So I'm listening to this story today and wondering why I'm getting an interesting viewpoint on a history lesson, with a little magic thrown in there.  Always just enough of a hint in there to keep me going, wondering how this is going to play out...until the fabricated confession comes along, near the end, and you can see where it's going.  However, when we're hit with the end, I'm left wondering, "So ..what's the relationship to the main character and his uncle after that?  And just what sort of Zombie Apocalypse will this be now?  The slow and steady sort, or the fast and dangerous one?"

Which, of course should lead to the moral of this tale:  Wait until the bodies are hidden before you raise the dead!
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iamafish
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« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2011, 04:51:17 AM »

I have no problems with an extended history lesson about the Russian revolution, wonderfully narrated by Eric Luke and Russian accent.

I liked how the main character completely ignored the magical skill he had to pursue a career as a political activist, which he uncle kept trying to convince him to come back to magic. I assume a fantasy story would do things the other way round, so with is a nice switch around.

That being said, there seemed to be little by way of story here. The main plotline - Gregor's attempt to master the power over death - seemed to get demoted to a sub plot, while the revolution and Fyodka's role in it took centre stage. It felt like it should have been the other way round.

If i didn't love history, i would probably have disliked this story, but given that any vaguely interesting historical setting gives me a massive hard on, i couldn't help but love it!
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LaHaine
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« Reply #3 on: June 09, 2011, 03:57:27 AM »

I have no problems with an extended history lesson about the Russian revolution, wonderfully narrated by Eric Luke and Russian accent.
Well, his pronunciation of the name Ivan was wrong, otherwise the narration was fine.

I liked this story very much, the ending was a bit sudden but it was the logical conclusion of the story. The magic was just used for one thing, to turn overturn Fyodor's political defeat in the end. So mainly it was a nice and thrilling history lesson.

I can relate very much to the protagonist's immersion into political activism, I felt a similar spirit of optimism after the Berlin wall fell, although that was later replaced by apathy. Still, it could have been worse, no prison or firing squad for me.
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dragonsbreath
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« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2011, 04:56:11 AM »

Having just read Charles Dicken's "Tale of Two Cities" for the nth time, I am reminded of Sidney Carton's admonition that evil oppressive regimes are always violentlty overthrown by other oppressive regimes. Evil begats evil. What may start as noble enterprise to win freedom and liberty for the oppressed is usually highjacked by power-hungry, egomaniacal, despotic men bent on placing themselves above the people. It is shame that in much of history, good intentions often lead to considerable human suffering.

At least history provides one example of a revolution against oppression, albeit a rather humane one in historical terms, that led to the birth of freedom and liberty - The American Revolution.
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« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2011, 06:31:18 AM »

he, oppression. sure.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #6 on: June 09, 2011, 08:43:14 AM »

I liked this so much I listened to it twice in a row. Smiley I love Russian history, and this story is set in an especially interesting period so of course it had that going for it. But I also thought it was great how Fyodor spent most of the story trying to deny the fact that he was in a fantasy story. It was like he wanted to pretend that magic was not a part of his world and worked hard to make it be a story purely about his political life, but his uncle stubbornly kept butting in with the magic bits.

Which makes me wonder, how does he feel about magic now that he's been raised from the dead? And what will he do with his newfound life - go back to being a political activist, embrace the magic in his family, or try to blend the two this time around?
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Corcoran
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« Reply #7 on: June 09, 2011, 09:47:54 AM »

Great reading. The story is a little short on the fantasy, but interesting enough in the "history" part to be quite entertaining.
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« Reply #8 on: June 10, 2011, 03:26:05 AM »

I had no idea how much I liked listening to historical stories. Cool. I was great to hear aspects of the complexities of that particular period too - so often all we get now is a blinkered and rabid ALL REDS ARE EVIL, rather than the more difficult to live with reality there there are good and bad people on both sides of any conflict, and good and bad within all people - the greys of the world are far more interesting to examine.

I wanted the sabre to be there at the end as part of the magic somehow, but cannot see how it could have been engineered. The story also left me wanting more, which is what good stories do. The dog with dead eyes got me wondering about what the reanimated would be like. Oh, and what if this was just the start of the zombie apocalypse - how would their politics change the development?

Pass the vodka...

edit: Gah! My flaky broadband died just as I tried to post this, so when the revolution comes, BT will be first up against that wall
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #9 on: June 10, 2011, 11:41:50 AM »

Whoa. Undead Commies....  THIS would have caused nightmares in the Reagan era.  Wink

Seriously, I'm sure you're going to get lots of crap about "this was history, where's the fantasy!??" and while I can see the problem, I'm not really bent out of shape by it, because this did what good history does, throw some light in the dark corners of the past; in this case, the often obscure and arcane power struggles in the early USSR. It makes everyone more human (despite the ending) and shows how complicated things can be.

Plus I always like this reader.
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Salul
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« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2011, 03:58:09 PM »

Just finished listening. I tried hard to like this story, but then, when you find yourself having to try it usually means that it didn't work for you.

Two positives first: it was certainly skilfully written, and it was very nicely narrated.

However, in the end, I also had the feeling that there was much of the historical, very little of the fantastical, and an ending that doesn't really leave much room for wonderment. Even if it might (and I emphasise might) herald the beginning of a zombie apocalypse, that doesn't really relate to what had been going on in the story in any meaningful way; mastery over death becomes, what? a way of potentially turning one faction's failed revolution around? that's a kind of convoluted concept, and in the end it doesn't really relate meaningfully to the story per se.
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2011, 01:58:21 PM »


However, in the end, I also had the feeling that there was much of the historical, very little of the fantastical, and an ending that doesn't really leave much room for wonderment. Even if it might (and I emphasise might) herald the beginning of a zombie apocalypse, that doesn't really relate to what had been going on in the story in any meaningful way; mastery over death becomes, what? a way of potentially turning one faction's failed revolution around? that's a kind of convoluted concept, and in the end it doesn't really relate meaningfully to the story per se.


See, this wasn't my take-away at all. I felt the author was attempting to express the notion that an idea was unkillable. Now, this might be because of a strong attraction to the Trotsky-ite notion of world revolution, on the author's part, I'm not sure, but I think the undead nature of the narrator is to be seen more metaphorically than literally.

Except when it's not.  Smiley
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« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2011, 09:59:29 AM »

I loved this one, even though it was left with an open ending. Sure he came back from the dead, in fact it seems like everyone is coming back from the dead. But what kind of undead? Are we being introduced to a hungry bitey zompocalyse or is it a new world order free from threat of death? I probably would have felt cheated if it was a zompocalypse, but I would have enjoyed seeing the writer speculate on a USSR with no death.
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« Reply #13 on: June 20, 2011, 08:54:19 AM »

This was a fun story.  I love hearing a new take on history.  (What on Earth would give anyone the idea that Grigor's quest for power over death was the main plotline?)
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« Reply #14 on: June 20, 2011, 10:33:41 AM »

I just finished reading Anna Karenina. I loved the relationship parts, but struggled to get through the Russian history and politics. This story felt to me it took all those boring political parts and added a couple perfunctory scenes of wand-waving. I mostly tuned it out. It's a great story, but sadly not for me.

Now...if it was Wisconsin politics... ;-)
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« Reply #15 on: June 22, 2011, 12:29:35 AM »

I loved this story. I think I listened to it 2 or 3 times on my way to and from work. Though to be completely honest, I was sad about the dog and I wanted to know more about Grigor .
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« Reply #16 on: June 23, 2011, 05:52:54 PM »

Now...if it was Wisconsin politics... ;-)

Amusingly - I read that as WisCon politics the first time. Heh.
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« Reply #17 on: June 23, 2011, 11:12:52 PM »

Not sure why it was read in a Russian accent, it wasn't necessary and really just confused me at times. Also, really long slow wind up with very little magic but pack a great punch at the end. I loved the image of the revolutionaries rising up to terrify the soviet soldiers and literally show that the revolution cannot be killed. Loved the end, the story itself needs more magic.
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« Reply #18 on: June 27, 2011, 05:23:26 PM »

Not sure why it was read in a Russian accent...

Because Russian accents are awesome?

Seriously though, for me this was a fun, engaging listen. Mostly due to the alternate-history angle, and secondly due to the interactions between Fyodor and Grigor. The fantasy element felt a little flat, being a sub-plot that mostly happens 'off-screen.' But the interesting take on an  playout of world events, and the way the author and narrator evocatively portrayed the protagonist and his uncle made up for that, to me anyway.

The real interesting part of this story, to me, is how little the existence of magic seems to affect the world. We're all used to settings where magic defines the life and times, but here it's just another fact of life, not even as interesting as politics. Why is this - is it an all-but-lost art? Is it just generally not very useful? Is it so commonplace that it's all over but not even mentioned in the rest of the story?

Whenever you have a story set in the "real world," but with an added fantastic element, it's fascinating to see how that thing affects the rest of reality that we know and take for granted. To re-explore the known world in the context of some new variable in the equation. I thought it was interesting how this story downplays the role of magic, until the end when it catches everyone by surprise.
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LaShawn
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« Reply #19 on: June 27, 2011, 10:30:49 PM »

Now...if it was Wisconsin politics... ;-)

Amusingly - I read that as WisCon politics the first time. Heh.

WisCon politics, Wisconsin politics....baby...bathwater...::shrug::
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