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Author Topic: PC180: We Were Wonder Scouts  (Read 6634 times)
Ocicat
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« on: October 25, 2011, 04:12:59 AM »

PodCastle 180: We Were Wonder Scouts

by Will Ludwigsen.

Read by Christopher Reynaga.

Originally published in Asimov’s Science Fiction.

My parents, Father especially, had little interest in the imagination. “Why would you read things that someone else made up?” he always wanted to know. We had no books of fiction in the house or a radio, and I didn’t have many toys.

What I had was Thuria, and it was better. In the shadowy crawlspace beneath my house where only I could fit, I built a kingdom out of discarded sardine tins, thread spools, and cereal boxes. A wide boulevard wound between four hills to a colander capitol dome. There, King Wemnon and his twenty wise councilors benevolently discussed and executed their national affairs. Sometimes they called the men to arms to repel giant invading animals, usually the neighbor’s cats. Often, they built elaborate fortifications along the frontier to defend against the evil Count Pappen and his massing armies. At least once, they sent lone heroes across the dusty wasteland to rescue poor Princess Annabella from the Tower of Eternal Woe.

A strange sensation of stretched time would overtake me when I visited Thuria, started by a sort of whispering trance, and I could perform whole epochs of its development in just a few stolen moments before dinner. Have you ever felt that way? It’s a feeling of total absorption, the kind that seems to hum and fizz against the edges of your brain.


Rated PG.
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Scattercat
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« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2011, 07:19:33 AM »

How come Fortean stories always seem to end, "And then nothing much actually happened, but wouldn't it have been cool if it did?"

It wasn't exactly a bad story, but as soon as it name-dropped Fort, I had a feeling it was going to be one of those trailing-off-suggestively plotlines.  In that sense, I suppose, I wasn't disappointed.  Perhaps I was just crabby because dowsing rods and EMF equipment were mentioned in a positive light (and with the suggestion that they were still using such tools after eighty years, which should be more than enough time for a dutifully "skeptical" Wonder Scout to notice that they don't work.)
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2011, 11:12:27 AM »

Everything 'Cat said occurred to me, too, but I'll be damned if I didn't love the story anyway. You see, that was me. My mother was a rabidly anti-fantastic crazy person. I had my Thurias - Monolthia, the Ten Kingdoms, the Great Desert and the Lion Tribes - and their stories, in addition to the stories I read, are what kept me alive and sane through long, lonely days at school and long evenings of my mother's abusive bullying. Now that I'm a writer (and a teacher), I can continue to play on a whole other level. Anyway, I can't help but be sucked in by a story that starts where I started, especially when it's generally as well-written as this one, whatever inconsistencies it might contain.

That said, I agree that the story might have been better without the name-dropping. It would have given the story a little more flexibility when it came to the practices of the Wonder Scouts. I didn't mind the trailing-off at the end, because this was much more and atmosphere-and-character piece than a plot piece. No criticism here - it worked for me and the mood I was in, and I can see how it might not work for other folks in other moods.
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raetsel
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« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2011, 03:07:16 PM »

I really enjoyed this story. It started off as a real slow burn and I was starting to get a little frustrated with old man's rambling anecdote ( though maybe that was intentional ) but this all helped build feeling for the character and when the hammer came down and the "weirdo o' the woods" turned up it really got me. The timing was perfect as my commute ended just as the tarp' was drawn back on the igloo of sticks. I couldn't wait until lunch to be able to listen to the rest and find out what was inside.

I liked the ambiguity of interpretation of what was going on at then and all in all it was a deliciously dark tale. October has been pretty cool here at PC

  Perhaps I was just crabby because dowsing rods and EMF equipment were mentioned in a positive light (and with the suggestion that they were still using such tools after eighty years, which should be more than enough time for a dutifully "skeptical" Wonder Scout to notice that they don't work.)

I bridled a bit initially at this too but then I remembered I was listening to Pod Castle not Escape Pod and so that made it much more palatable.
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Scattercat
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« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2011, 02:25:50 AM »

I bridled a bit initially at this too but then I remembered I was listening to Pod Castle not Escape Pod and so that made it much more palatable.

I DEMAND SCIENTIFIC ACCURACY IN MY FANTASY FICTION!

I WILL NOT BE DENIED!
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« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2011, 03:50:23 PM »

I found the story enjoyable to listen to. I too wanted a little something more to happen -- and how exactly did this kid find the bodies (that is what happened, right?) when the whole area had been previously combed by many better-trained searchers than him? But beyond that, no real qualms.

My only knowledge of Charles Fort, other than a vague impression of who he was, is the references to him in "Good Omens".
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danooli
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« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2011, 04:25:42 PM »

It seems I'm sheltered, as I've never heard of Charles Fort until I heard this story and will be going to wikipedia....

OK, the story still seems pretty cool to me.  I bet we all grew up dreaming of other worlds, better worlds.   I liked this a lot.
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Umbrageofsnow
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« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2011, 04:21:52 AM »

I like the storytelling tone of the story, and the story within the story, and particularly the tale that Fort told the narrator around a campfire, when the Scouts asked for a scary story. It's a bit creepy, in a traditional ghost story sort of way, but it's also really, really sad. It's about regretting your lack of courage and curiosity, and the fear that maybe you aren't special, but other people are. I can see kids not getting excited about it as a ghost story, but that makes it more special as a sad adult story.  That campfire tale gives so much sympathetic characterization to Fort, and that same longing is the whole story in microcosm.

That's the real take-home message I get: the narrator experienced something terrifying and dangerous, but he went back into the woods later in life, and he doesn't regret it. And maybe if he'd been afraid and stayed safe at home, or stayed with the group, he'd have been safer, but he'd have regretted it. Curiosity is important, as is the courage to indulge it. And we can always hope for a more fantastic answer, somewhere out there.

Also, this didn't get nearly as dark as I was expecting when creepy-guy showed up.  I listen to too much Pseudopod...
« Last Edit: October 28, 2011, 04:24:39 AM by Umbrageofsnow » Logged
raetsel
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« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2011, 01:33:09 PM »


I DEMAND SCIENTIFIC ACCURACY IN MY FANTASY FICTION!

I WILL NOT BE DENIED!

Oh! Why didn't you say?  Cheesy

In that case the jury will please disregard my last statement.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #9 on: October 31, 2011, 09:32:45 AM »

Apparently this was a case where ignorance truly is bliss. I've never heard of Charles Fort before, so hearing his name didn't raise any expectations in my mind.

The deliberate pacing did a great job of evoking the feeling of sitting around the campfire listening to a storyteller weave his tale. I also really appreciated the wistfulness of the young narrator's longing to be a part of something special, and then the bittersweetness of remembering the one time he felt that he was truly a part of a larger, more fantastic story.
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Talia
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« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2011, 09:33:43 PM »

As a child (oh and what the heck, to some degree as an adult as well) I lived in my imagination a lot, inventing fantasy lands to which I wanted to escape, so this story really resonated with me. I was a Girl Scout as well, so I too had the scouting experience, minus this particular troop's fantastical bent. Smiley

I enjoyed the main story with the creepy guy and all, but what really stuck with me was the setting, because it made me reminisce.
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #11 on: November 02, 2011, 12:42:18 AM »

I've heard Fort mentioned before on Escape Pod and now Pod Castle, and I don't feel I have enough of a hold on him to really appreciate this story. Was this like the "Five Ways Jane Austen Never Died" story, where people felt they needed to understand the central person to really "get it"?
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raetsel
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« Reply #12 on: November 02, 2011, 04:38:32 PM »

I've heard Fort mentioned before on Escape Pod and now Pod Castle, and I don't feel I have enough of a hold on him to really appreciate this story. Was this like the "Five Ways Jane Austen Never Died" story, where people felt they needed to understand the central person to really "get it"?

Personally I don't think so. I only knew of Fort through knowledge of the existence of the magazine Fortean Times. I think the intro by Anna  gave me all I needed to know. Whether anyone who knew more of Fort got more out of the story I don't know. If they did I'd be interested to hear what they thought.
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rotheche
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« Reply #13 on: November 04, 2011, 08:17:03 PM »

I bridled a bit initially at this too but then I remembered I was listening to Pod Castle not Escape Pod and so that made it much more palatable.

I DEMAND SCIENTIFIC ACCURACY IN MY FANTASY FICTION!

I WILL NOT BE DENIED!
I see this with that little kittycat-going-raaar avatar and it makes me want to pinch your cheeks and tell you how cute you are.

Ahem. Story.

This one did it for me, with that sense of wistfulness and what Umbrageofsnow said about curiosity and regret.
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Balu
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« Reply #14 on: November 05, 2011, 07:22:24 PM »

How come Fortean stories always seem to end, "And then nothing much actually happened, but wouldn't it have been cool if it did?"

It wasn't exactly a bad story, but as soon as it name-dropped Fort, I had a feeling it was going to be one of those trailing-off-suggestively plotlines.  In that sense, I suppose, I wasn't disappointed . . .

You say that like it's a bad thing.

I know that trailing off isn't how the form is supposed to work according to the literary rule of the moment, but I like it anyway. Gives you an invitation to keep the story going on in your own head.

Which is kind of what the wonder scouts were being taught how to do. Could the form of this story have been shaped by the content or am I just reading things into it?

Either way, it was definitely one worth logging on to praise up. As somebody above mentioned, we wouldn't be here if we weren't all wonder scouts too.
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Scattercat
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« Reply #15 on: November 06, 2011, 06:51:36 AM »

It's more that they tend to be prone to "It was all a dream" or else a subjective experience that might be mystical if you squint at it, and they tend to end inconclusively within the main character's plot arc as well.  I liked "Hard Rain at the Fortean Cafe," but in this case I heard "Fort" early on and went, "Oh.  Nothing's going to happen but it will change his life forever anyway," and then it did.  *shrugs*

I think it's more that I heard "Wonder Scouts" and wanted something like this
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« Reply #16 on: November 06, 2011, 10:38:56 AM »

It's more that they tend to be prone to "It was all a dream" or else a subjective experience that might be mystical if you squint at it, and they tend to end inconclusively within the main character's plot arc as well.  I liked "Hard Rain at the Fortean Cafe," but in this case I heard "Fort" early on and went, "Oh.  Nothing's going to happen but it will change his life forever anyway," and then it did.  *shrugs*

I think it's more that I heard "Wonder Scouts" and wanted something like this

Except that I basically go through my days always wanting something like that, I agree with you.

You vile chicken.
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« Reply #17 on: November 08, 2011, 03:13:05 PM »

I happened to listen to this one while I was walking down a wooded trail with my dogs, so the setting was perfect.  The story was enjoyable, and the ideas were good, but overall, I think it is a fairly forgettable story. 
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« Reply #18 on: November 09, 2011, 10:50:44 PM »

I liked this story. Since I'm now commuting to work via train, I've been trying to catch up on all the episodes I missed. I gotta say that once they were on the bus and Fort started to recount all the missing persons I said to myself "Oh no... theres a pedobear killer on the loose." All  missing persons were young girls... yeah, there isn't a magic kingdom portal there, only a hellmouth.

Still, I liked this story mainly because growing up I too had my magical kingdom of Thuria, though mine was named differently.
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« Reply #19 on: November 13, 2011, 12:04:23 PM »

I liked this story, but I didn't love it quite as much as I expected to when it started. I usually really love these slow burn stories, where it's never left entirely clear whether anything supernatural had occured or not. But on the other hand, a lot of little things didn't work for me - especially the boy's relationship with his parents seemed to be very two-dimensional. And I don't think that central conciet of the whole thing being a speech to the current generation worked. I never really bought into that, even though the narrator did as good a job as he could of selling it.

It was good, yes, but I couldn't help think at the end that it should have been better.
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