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Author Topic: PC166: Stereogram Of The Gray Fort, In The Days Of Her Glory  (Read 5775 times)
Ocicat
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« on: July 19, 2011, 11:58:06 AM »

PodCastle 166: Stereogram Of The Gray Fort, In The Days Of Her Glory


by Paul M. Berger

Read by Graeme Dunlop and Ann Leckie

Originally published in Fantasy Magazine. Read the story here!

The path, which had once been a broad road, was pitted with holes. Back in the heyday of the fort, the paving stones had been interspersed with scraps of iron the humans had salvaged from their own defunct machines. It had hurt to march that road—our feet had burned, and my regiment stayed to the verge and fields whenever possible. In the years after the Elven triumph we had sent out details of Men to pick the poison from the earth here and the other places they had defended against us, and throw it into the sea.

Jessica was wearing loose silk for me. A cool breeze came down out of the hills and played the fabric over the smoothness of her shoulders. I delighted in the sensation, and she knew it. I smiled at her, and my beloved hesitantly returned my gaze for a moment. Our pair-bond was still new enough that she found it disorienting at times; looking into each other’s eyes could throw her into an infinitely recursive image of ourselves, with a vertigo that twisted both our guts. She would require gentle handling, for a while. It had been so with my first wife as well: an awkward initial adjustment period that settled into centuries of intimacy and trust, ever strengthened by the continual sharing of our five senses. I knew every facet of her life, and I would not have traded a moment of it, even during those last long years of pain when her illness gripped her more closely than I could. When she died I was amazed to find that I had not gone with her, and for decades afterwards I had no use for this drab and colorless world, or even for our own. Although it is not often done, I think it was wise to choose a human for my bride this time; they are frail and short-lived, and I will not be faced with another such lingering illness or the same depth of love.


Rated R: Contains some violence.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2011, 09:26:24 AM by Talia » Logged
Jim F
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« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2011, 07:10:02 AM »

Thought the story was great, but the issue I had was that these seemed to be fairies (of the old school) and not elves, and in my mind I had always differentiated the two.

Reading the sentence above, I realize how ridiculous it sounds, but am I the only one who felt this way?
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iamafish
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« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2011, 08:16:29 AM »

if the author says it's an elf, it's an elf.

I really liked this story. I though the way it was told was simply wonderful. To get two people's perspective on the same series of events and yet for it not to feel repetitive was masterfully done. I love they way in which the two different people had completely different outlooks on the world and the situation. The first one is not really an unreliable narrator, just one who does not realise what is really happening. It was really satisfying to hear the other side and realise that the human had some backbone after all.

Podcastle continues it's fantastic form this year! Keep up the good work, guys.

Actually, one quibble. I liked the two narrators and though it worked really well, but having the other narrator voice their character's speech felt a little off and was a little jarring. I would have preferred it if Graeme had done all of the first part, including Jessica's dialogue and Ann done all of the second part, including the elf's dialogue.
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« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2011, 10:03:00 AM »

  A fun story, but as soon as the dagger was mentioned I knew how it was going to end. That's not really a complaint, but as Chekhov's guns go it was a fairly obvious one. Maybe if he hadn't seen/felt what the object Jessica picked up from the table was I would have been kept in suspense until at least when Jessica herself revealed it. Of course maybe the audience was supposed to realize what Jessica's true intent was in order to build up a different sort of suspense to see if she would succeed or not.

  It sounds like the world that the elves invaded was sometime in our near future (references to landing on the moon and all), and I would be interested to see how the elves managed to conquer a world of automatic weapons. tanks, and helicopters with spears and magic, and managed to drive humanity to hiding out in stone fortresses for an entire century before finally being defeated. Those must have been some damned impressive spells.

  One last though; my wife thought that Graeme's version of the guide sounded like Hagrid. This is not a criticism, but it does make for an interesting mental image of the story.
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washer
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« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2011, 05:55:47 PM »

Saw the ending coming a mile away, but I really liked the telling from two vantages and I thought the idea behind the stereogram was really inventive and original.
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kibitzer
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« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2011, 10:09:12 PM »

 One last though; my wife thought that Graeme's version of the guide sounded like Hagrid. This is not a criticism, but it does make for an interesting mental image of the story.

Actually I was trying for a sort of misplaced Gamgee. Wasn't sure it'd work (and maybe it didn't). (Kinda hoping no Brits will chime in...)  ;-)

Anyway, I really loved this story. The ending wasn't obvious to me and I loved the resolution there, just fantastic. The dual- (or multi-)voiced PoV story isn't new but man, was it done well! I thought the character's voices were consistent all the way through, even the cross-over bits. Fantastic, PodCastle -- another winner for me.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2011, 10:18:49 PM by kibitzer » Logged

grokman
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« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2011, 07:22:50 AM »

A post-apocalyptic story of Humanity's defeat at the hands of Elves? YES YES YES! Seeing the ending from early on did nothing to diminish the joy I felt listening to this wonderful story. Such a hint of a bigger world with so many more stories hidden in it. I love the idea of modern (and future) humans at war with elves. I grow so weary of most fantasy because it's always set in medieval (or medieval-esque) times. And I especially love how humans lost that war. (or DID we?Huh??)
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« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2011, 09:04:36 AM »

I liked this story. I liked how it did not shy away from just how arrogant and downright evil Elves could be, which is more in keeping with the original folktales about them. I also enjoyed the faint whiff of Rudyard Kipling I got from Loren's attitude about humans. Oh, we're doing this for your own good. We've taught you to be civilized. We've re-awakened all the noble warrior ethos in you. You should be grateful, you silly little morals.

One minor understated touch that I enjoyed: each character's different take on the hawk and the rabbit, and how thoroughly Jessica misinterpreted what was going through Loren's mind at that moment (or did she?). In that one moment we see the gulf of difference between Man and Elf.

Luckily I'm a fire demon. So when the war between Man and Elf finally begins, only my people will win. Because everything burns, baby...
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« Reply #8 on: July 21, 2011, 12:48:45 PM »

Execllant story! When I was first listening to it, the feed cut out right as Graeme finished his narration (turned out my phone dropped its data connection) and I had to wait until the drive home to finish listening.

Over all, I loved the differences between the elves (I kept hearing fae/sidhe) and the humans. I'd love to get better details of how the elves had brought magic to nullify technology and knocked humans  back to the Dark Ages of creating castles. I specifically enjoyed the thoughts of Loren as he traveled the countryside Basking in his own "Awesome".

The only quibble I had with the story was how the thoughts were being blocked or flowing freely. I had the impression Loren was sharing his thoughts with Jessica the entire time. Basically him saying to her "You know how I awesome I am? Let me tell you about the time me and 10,000 of my closest friends stormed your last bastion. Totally rocked. For the hell of it we got all big bad wolf on the doors on our way out." When she started speaking about "I wonder what magics blew these doors outwards..." there was a bit of a disconnect where I thought to myself 'Um, wut? Weren't you listening to him?' I got the whole allusion to 'dogs learning how to wear a collar' but it seemed weird to me.

All I gotta say... if I ever had to kill someone bonded to me like that, I wouldn't be stabbign them in the eyeball. Cut their throat, stab the heart--no way would I be brave enough to deal with the sensation of my eyeball phantomly exploding and a blade ripping into my brain. On the other hand... I just listened to Heather Shaw's 'Little Match Girl' not too long ago, so I'm thinking maybe Elf sexy times has got to be fun!
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #9 on: July 21, 2011, 02:36:02 PM »

This was quite good. I liked the contrasting views of the oppressor and the oppressed. I just knew there was more to the "courtship" story than Loren let on. And it also reminded me why I'm so uncomfortable in clearly exploitative "tourist" situations. All in all, an excellent look at occupation (the military-political kind)

And I just must be slower than most. When Jessica first acquired the dagger I thought "mmm, I wonder what's going to happen with that?"

One criticism - while I LOVED the two different narrations, the difference in sound quality, especially in the first part, kinda destroyed the illusion. The recording quality on Ann's side just wasn't as good as Graeme's, and it showed. (heard?). I'd love for you to do this sort of thing with other stories, though.

I would be interested to see how the elves managed to conquer a world of automatic weapons. tanks, and helicopters with spears and magic, and managed to drive humanity to hiding out in stone fortresses for an entire century before finally being defeated. Those must have been some damned impressive spells.

Doesn't Loren's narrative mention something about nanotech? I'm guessing that was easier to overcome.....

  One last though; my wife thought that Graeme's version of the guide sounded like Hagrid. This is not a criticism, but it does make for an interesting mental image of the story.

Actually I was trying for a sort of misplaced Gamgee. Wasn't sure it'd work (and maybe it didn't). (Kinda hoping no Brits will chime in...)  ;-)


I think that's because the guide had a strong West Country accent, something Hagrid and Sam kinda sorta have.

Which bring up another minor question - he (the guide) says he's from the "southeast region" -- southeast *from what*?? Where is the Fae Prime Meridian??
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danooli
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« Reply #10 on: July 22, 2011, 06:26:02 AM »

I really liked this one. A LOT. 

When we heard Loren's story, his arrogance shined through and I was left wondering what it could be about him that Jessica was attracted too.  I guess it didn't occur to me, since it must not have occurred to him, that Jessica really "wasn't that into him."  So when we heard her story, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she was not the blushing bride I had thought she was.

I truly dug the pair-bonding idea.  I know it's not terribly new, but the thought of sharing the senses of your lover is certainly intriguing and terrifying!  Adding the stereogram to the mix was brilliant. I think. 

The dual-narration also added to the dichotomy of emotions and points of view and the difference in sound quality didn't detract from that for me.
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« Reply #11 on: July 22, 2011, 12:30:36 PM »

While listening to this story, I started realizing that the ending was being telegraphed.  This left me wondering, "So, when do we get to the part where she turns on him?"

Writing the story in, essentially two parts, his point of view, then her point of view was really the way to go, however I am curious what would have happened to the story if it had been written with the paragraphs going back and forth.  So, instead of all of his point of view, then hers, it went back and forth, scene after scene.  It might have built more suspense.  We would have know very quickly that we were in for a twist (of the knife), but it might have been a bigger build-up that way.  Plus, it would have made the story itself feel more like a Stereogram itself.

Nonetheless, I'm going to give the story positive marks.
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Kaa
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« Reply #12 on: July 22, 2011, 03:58:16 PM »

I liked the "he-said/she-said" nature of this story, and that we get to see the same events from two very different points of view.

From a purely "craft" point of view, I also enjoyed how a lot of exposition was done by having the tour guide there. I struggle with exposition, myself, so it's nice to see it done well.
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Thomas
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« Reply #13 on: July 22, 2011, 10:27:28 PM »

I enjoyed the the story. I liked the two "voices" seeing the story play out through one set of eyes, then the others.
the ending did not surprise me though...

was anyone else reminded of the prequels to Herbert's Dune series? I have forgotten character names, but when she killed herself, that was the beginning of the open rebellion. there are plenty of parallels with this story. not the same but ... us pitiful humans against a stronger and more intelligent "Race". the underdogs proving their surprising metal in battle

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NomadicScribe
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« Reply #14 on: July 24, 2011, 11:01:56 AM »

I like how this story showed an example of a fantasy story using sci-fi story structure (post-war dystopia where humanity is now the underclass) much like a recent episode of Escape Pod was basically a fantasy story with sci-fi furniture (girl becomes hero in Another World, comes back home and is downtrodden/repressed/abused).

Stereo narration gimmick was a nice touch, and fit into the duality of the story: the whole is not understood until each side is understood. Nicely done.
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« Reply #15 on: July 25, 2011, 06:55:16 PM »

The stereogram was a fabulous idea.  I wasn't overly thrilled with the dual viewpoints; a lot of Jessica's version of events was just rehashing rather than reinterpreting or giving new insights.  (That's the problem with being a good writer handling an unreliable narrator; it was immensely clear from his description of Jessica that she was not nearly as happy as he thought she was.  When we went to Jessica's eyes, it wasn't much of a surprise to know that she outright hated him.)  The hawk thing was interesting, and I appreciate how the dual viewpoints reinforces the motif of the stereogram, but Jessica's viewpoint felt a little underwhelming and went on a bit too long for my taste.  Not really a lot to be done about that, given its centrality in the story structure.

I was a little disturbed by how happy everyone is about going to war.  Jessica's perspective is completely alien to my way of thinking (though obviously not to everyone's way of thinking, judging by the popularity of terror tactics).  So is Loren's, for that matter, but that's a bit more expected from an elf.
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Talia
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« Reply #16 on: July 26, 2011, 06:01:12 AM »

The dual viewpoints left me a bit impatient, I don't think it's a technique that I particularly enjoy. I did like the ending, though, despite it having been obvious to me as soon as her viewpoint was revealed. Nice and angry and vicious.
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Thomas
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« Reply #17 on: July 26, 2011, 08:57:02 AM »

I was a little disturbed by how happy everyone is about going to war.  Jessica's perspective is completely alien to my way of thinking (though obviously not to everyone's way of thinking, judging by the popularity of terror tactics).  So is Loren's, for that matter, but that's a bit more expected from an elf.

the human response to captivity and subjugation is two fold, fear and violence. The humans as a whole have had enough of fear, time to do some damage. when a society or race is so totally subjugated violence seems to be the best answer for freedom or total annihilation.

As illustrated Herbert's Prequels (and history is full of them, past and recent) the human race has always seen violence as the solution to tyranny.

I have a similar stance as Scattercat, but i have not lived as the oppressed.
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« Reply #18 on: July 26, 2011, 11:50:49 AM »

I really enjoyed the stereo storytelling, and having the two narrators switch off worked well for my tastes.

I was really hoping that Jessica was somehow using her proximity to Loren to infiltrate into the elfen government, so while I was glad that this was partly true, I was admittedly disappointed that she settled for killing him instead. Though perhaps this is an underestimation of his position and the impact that his assassination would have on the government? I also missed the fact that she bought a dagger the first time around (I thought he said she picked up a bauble that appealed to her) so I wasn't tipped off to her plan until we got back to that point in her side of the story.
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« Reply #19 on: July 26, 2011, 12:15:55 PM »

the human response to captivity and subjugation is two fold, fear and violence. The humans as a whole have had enough of fear, time to do some damage. when a society or race is so totally subjugated violence seems to be the best answer for freedom or total annihilation.

Actually, repression is really good at repressing people.  What makes freedom and revolutions is options and a lax leash.

What I was actually referring to was Jessica's plan to assassinate an elf lord in order to trigger reprisals in the hopes that a vicious round of slayings and massacres would somehow spur a rebellion.  That's just all kinds of twisted.
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