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Author Topic: PC167: Portage  (Read 7177 times)
Talia
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« on: July 26, 2011, 06:08:37 AM »

PodCastle 167: Portage

by An Owomoyela

Read by Elizabeth Green Musselman


Originally published in Apex Magazine.

When it came time to carry her father’s soul down from the mountain, she had nothing to carry it in.  The bowl her mother had carved from heirloom ivory, fit together like a puzzle mosaic and watertight without needing glue, had been shattered just that morning in an argument with the father’s retainer.  No other bowl had been carved with the requisite love for him.  But her father’s soul couldn’t be left up at the temple on Mount Ossus, so she went with the pilgrims to claim him before the sun did.

She stood in rank with them as the soul-preparers poured distillations from the cleaned skulls of the dead. When they came to her, a girl whose name was soonafter forgotten, she set her jaw and cupped her hands out like a beggar.  “Give me my father,” she said.

They did.  She took him down the mountainside cupped in her hands, tightening her fingers until they ached against every drop, until the piercing blue sky gave her terrors because it, too, was the color of soul water and it had spilled across the horizon, out of her hands.

Rated R. Contains Adult Themes.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2011, 10:07:25 AM by Talia » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2011, 07:38:33 PM »

...I don't get it.

 Huh
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« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2011, 10:52:21 PM »

...I don't get it.

 Huh

Girl is supposed to carry her father's soul to safety in some kind of ritual thing.  Girl's soul-bowl is broken by father's gay lover.  Girl drinks father's soul instead in order to carry it.  Girl is possessed by her father (which involves growing a penis for some reason), who boots her out and sends her on to the afterlife because he is apparently a douchenozzle.  Father breaks up with his gay lover, has a fight with his wife, and heads off into the sunset to start a new asshole life in some other city where his buttheadedness will probably win him just as much acclaim as it did in this one.

The end.

*shrugs*

I didn't really empathize well with any of the characters, and frankly Dad was total jerk.  It took three sittings to get all the way through this one.  I wasn't a huge fan.
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Anarquistador
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« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2011, 08:59:08 AM »

Wait, her father's gay lover? I completely missed that. Man, I guess I really couldn't get into this story...
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Devoted135
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« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2011, 09:06:41 AM »

On the whole I thought that this story had really great start, but I didn't agree with the author's choices after the priests discover that the MC contained her father's soul. It was just depressing to watch her father heartlessly take over his own daughter's body, when all she was doing was being a dutiful daughter. However, I did think it was really interesting to see a "man" struggle within the confines of a young female's role in this society and loved the tug of war that created in the MC.


father's gay lover. 

*double take* wait, what???
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« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2011, 10:33:10 AM »

That was what it sounded like to me.  If the retainer wasn't Dad's side squeeze, then half of Mom's lines make like no sense at all. 
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #6 on: July 28, 2011, 11:22:17 AM »

hmmm .... didn't hear a gay lover. DID hear that Mom expected the retainer to treat her better. Thought the daughter drank the Bowl of Soul because it would have been broken by forces beyond her control in the environment.

This one really didn't do much for me. I like some of the subtlety of interlaced character at the end, but the completely un-subtle treatment of the daughter ... bored me.

I want to be very clear on this... I realize that women - and especially girls - are brutalized, killed, mistreated, and just ignored everyday all over the world. It's awful, and I don't like it.

But I also don't like being preached at, even when it's something I agree with.
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« Reply #7 on: July 28, 2011, 11:46:19 AM »

I too do not like being preached at. Even more so when I can't figure out exactly what the Important Message(tm) is supposed to be. That performing your filial duty is a no-win situation? That the only way a young woman can be respected is to literally become a man? That the afterlife is just as random and unfair as life? That organized religion is inherently evil? That men are inherently evil? That it sucks to be a girl? That you should always have a backup container for your soul?

...I think I need to go lie down. And make sure my soul jar is in a safe place.
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iamafish
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« Reply #8 on: July 28, 2011, 02:58:28 PM »

...I think I need to go lie down. And make sure my soul jar(s) is in a safe place.

fixed. This whole problem would have been solved if there had been more than one....

yeah, this story didn't really do anything for me. I loved the start where the girl drank her father's soul in order to preserve it, but then it turned a hard left down batshit ally and I lost interest.
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NomadicScribe
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« Reply #9 on: July 28, 2011, 06:12:07 PM »

I listened to this yesterday in one sitting. It was um... interesting? Overall, the Important Message(TM) was lost on me, and the whole thing seemed like a self-congratulatory exercise in Literary Fantasy. It even fails to make gender-bending very compelling. The soul retrieval was an interesting concept, but the story had poor execution.
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danooli
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« Reply #10 on: July 28, 2011, 06:47:24 PM »

I think I'm in the majority here.  This one started out gripping, but I was lost after the squatting incident.  I just didn't like, as most have stated already, the Father who would sacrifice his daughter that way. I couldn't connect to any character, to be honest.  I wanted to feel something for the daughter, but all I have is detached pity.

One thing that was a positive, for me at least, was that I was reminded of a good book I read a few years ago called Misfortune by Wesley Stace.  It's about a foundling baby boy who is adopted and raised as a very wealthy Lord's daughter in 19th Century England.  I appreciated the reminder and will be re-reading it soon now  Grin
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Oren
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« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2011, 10:00:03 PM »

I liked this story very much at the beggining, but then I kept waiting for something that never happened, and that was for the daughter to finally assert herself. The descriptions of how marginalized she was really gripped me, but then nothing happened. Seeing the daughter just slowly drift away to be replaced by her father felt really anti climactic.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2011, 01:14:00 AM by Oren » Logged
kibitzer
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« Reply #12 on: July 28, 2011, 10:30:21 PM »

I'm not sure the father had a choice after his daughter drank his soul. It felt to me like a sort of natural outgrowth of the situation. (Obviously, I use the word "natural" advisedly). What floored me was how the soul-bowl could have been broken in the first place. If it's such an important -- indeed vital -- part of the after death ritual, how was is it in a position to be broken? I seem to recall the retainer knocked it out of someone's hands but maybe it was deliberate.

I didn't hear "gay lover" either. I just took it to be a male-dominant society and so the retainer's only allegiance was to the father. And he'd want to hold onto that position of power whether the father was alive or not.

As for a "message" or a "point" -- well I didn't hear one, but I have a notoriously literal outlook on literature. I remember being absolutely gobsmacked in these very forums when it was suggested that Frankenstein could be read as a gay euphemism (or whatever the right term is). In retrospect I could see it that way but it would never have occurred to me. Anyway, I thought this one was a piece of fantasy imagining -- given this, and that, and then the other thing, what would happen? Nothing wrong with that.
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grokman
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« Reply #13 on: July 29, 2011, 03:08:43 PM »

I liked the idea that both the mother and the retainer were trying to get rid of the father: He smashed the soul bowl, and the mother sent the daughter without a replacement. Obviously nobody knew what would happen if one drank a soul, so they were expecting the daughter to lose it. But that conspiracy aspect didn't seem to be explored very well, and the story just dissolved into a rather straight-forward and lame revenge story, with the retainer being exiled in one direction, the father in another, the mother losing everybody, and the daughter consumed and no longer existing. So it's a lose-lose-lose-lose situation.
One other distracting thing to me - it's never explained what happens to the souls that are in the bowls. What happens to those people? Listening to the intro about Egyptian rites (VERY interesting, btw, thanks!) had me sticking an ear out waiting for what was SUPPOSED to happen in a normal take-bowl-get-soul-go-home-before-dark run. Not knowing what the usual outcome was made the transformation that much less incredible to me - after all, I already had to buy into the idea that a person's soul could be put into a bowl after they die, and that their face is seen in there. How was I supposed to know that it wasn't known what would happen when a soul was drank?  Huh
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Kanasta
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« Reply #14 on: July 29, 2011, 03:46:15 PM »

How do these people eat soup or cook food? There was really NO alternative container to the girl's bare hands? I get that it's a story device but I think it would have been more believable if she'd dropped it on the mountain or something...

A rather Freudian story... girl takes father inside her and grows a (much-envied?) penis... Hmm.

Oh and I definitely heard "gay lover". The mother says she moved in despite the retainer; they lived together like brother and sister... Father insists that at least he did his duty by giving her a child ... I don't think listeners are reading too much into that.
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Spindaddy
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« Reply #15 on: July 29, 2011, 10:05:42 PM »

Took me a few tries to listen to this one all the way through. In the end it just wasn't my bowl of tea.
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« Reply #16 on: July 29, 2011, 11:08:21 PM »

How do these people eat soup or cook food? There was really NO alternative container to the girl's bare hands?

Think of it like losing a wedding ring.  Sure, you could just tie yarn in a circle or use your keychain ring, but that would kind of ruin the ritual.  (Imagine here that weddings actually ARE magical binding ceremonies, since here there is an actual soul that everyone can verify is present in the magic bowls they use.)
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kibitzer
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« Reply #17 on: July 30, 2011, 01:25:41 AM »

One other distracting thing to me - it's never explained what happens to the souls that are in the bowls. What happens to those people? Listening to the intro about Egyptian rites (VERY interesting, btw, thanks!) had me sticking an ear out waiting for what was SUPPOSED to happen in a normal take-bowl-get-soul-go-home-before-dark run. Not knowing what the usual outcome was made the transformation that much less incredible to me - after all, I already had to buy into the idea that a person's soul could be put into a bowl after they die, and that their face is seen in there. How was I supposed to know that it wasn't known what would happen when a soul was drank?  Huh

There was a bit about taking the soul to the sea. I assumed the priests then poured it into the ocean with appropriate ritual.
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Kanasta
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« Reply #18 on: July 30, 2011, 10:57:16 AM »

How do these people eat soup or cook food? There was really NO alternative container to the girl's bare hands?

Think of it like losing a wedding ring.  Sure, you could just tie yarn in a circle or use your keychain ring, but that would kind of ruin the ritual. 

I know what you mean, but the thing is that the ritual still went ahead with nothing to hold the soul, which seems to me also to ruin it! Like, you lost your wedding ring so we won't use a substitute, we'll just all imagine the ring's there, but if anyone forgets about the imaginary ring, you're not married anymore- much better than a nasty piece of yarn... (Actually, maybe this isn't such a bad idea  Grin Grin )
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Thomas
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« Reply #19 on: July 31, 2011, 12:11:47 PM »

Ok, not a winner. next....
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