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Author Topic: PC187: Ties of Silver  (Read 7253 times)


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on: December 13, 2011, 02:55:36 PM
PodCastle 187: Ties of Silver

by James L. Sutter.

Read by V.O.  Bloodfrost (Follow him on Twitter: @Vbloodfrost).

Originally appeared in Beast Within 2: Predator & Prey

Harris always found me when I was at my worst. Not that it was particularly difficult — the way I figured it, I’d been at my worst for going on three years, and if there was reason to expect a change, nobody had clued me in.

In this case, I was sleeping off an evening of hard drinking and harder words, the latter contributing to the egg-sized knot on the back of my head. Turned out folks in the skin bars didn’t take kindly to a fur running his mouth, blueskin or otherwise. There was no way to tell how much of my headache had come from the bruise, and how much had been the brew.

Still, I was at my desk when Harris arrived. I may have been half-drunk, worked over, and counting each heartbeat as it lanced through the back of my skull, but I was no deadbeat.

“Jesus, Terry,” he said. “You look like hell.”

“At least I have an excuse,” I replied. “What’s yours? And don’t call me that.”

Harris sighed and seated himself in the only other chair. He was middle-aged and balding, with the soft cheeks of a man who’d never lost his baby fat, just converted it. His uniform was drab brown save for the full moon insignia on the shoulder, and his gut hung over his gun belt as if trying to hide it.

“Jackson, then,” he said. “But the observation stands. I heard you got thrown out of O’Meara’s last night.”

“It’s still a free city. I can get thrown out of any bar I want.”

Rated R for some strong language and violence.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: January 03, 2012, 11:32:12 AM by Talia »


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Reply #1 on: December 14, 2011, 04:29:36 AM
First, let me say that when this story started, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to listen to all of it.  The voice of Jackson, the main character, was difficult to understand in the beginning, but got better.  Now that said, this was the only thing I didn't like about the story.

I was very pleased with this story.  I like all of the elements of this story from the way the genre is constructed, to how various details are drawn in to build the mental picture, from the status of second class citizen to how we uncover true motives and heart of the man from the Bureau...for me it worked well together.  I like how everything came together, unfolding the past of the main character.

The story speaks to the feelings we have of being downtrodden, wanting to push back at oppression, push back against 'The Man' and find meaning for ourselves, to become better than we are, to be accepted by the powers that be.  But, it also reminds us that when we get to that point, we find ourselves just wanting to come full circle and return to what we know, where we feel at home.

As a side note: Was there a warning for suggestive imagery on this story?

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Reply #2 on: December 14, 2011, 08:01:50 AM
A nice little werewolf noir with prejudice and corruption.

I liked the growling narrative, as well as the reader's ability to switch character voices.

However, I would offer the nitpick that after a Presidential candidate's being mocked over its pronunciation, it's a little embarrassing to hear "chutzpah" pronounced just like its spelled.  ;)


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Reply #3 on: December 14, 2011, 12:44:03 PM
I was a little disappointed with the structure.  We paused in the middle of the setup for a lengthy backstory infodump, then the action wraps up with the Easiest Break-In Ever and a brief moment of menace that is quickly dissipated.  (Honestly, I assumed that the "break in to find us evidence" was so clearly illegal and not admissible in courts that what was actually being requested was for them to just give the police a hint, like an anonymous tipoff, somewhere to point their investigation so they could uncover what was wrong.  If they already KNEW where the crime was and only needed an excuse to bring the hammer down, I think it would have been a lot easier to find a ShifTech employee with some sort of dirty laundry and quietly lean on them to go on record as an informant; that's a lot less of a legal issue than hiring criminals to burglarize the place.)

The reading was fun, and the world was okay.  Solid middle-grade story, in my opinion. 

(BTW, if legal troubles and werewolves get you going, I have to recommend "Benighted," by Kit Whitfield.  The premise is that 99.9% of humanity has lycanthropy, with the "bareback" minority tasked with doing damage control and keeping essential services running during full moons.  It's a little uneven, but overall it was quite fun.)

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Reply #4 on: December 14, 2011, 03:12:36 PM
I liked this story, despite not typically going in for the whole vampire/werewolf/shapeshifter thing. I liked how the author slowly revealed various world-building elements, and didn't mind the backstory in the middle. The bit about the low-percentage feral births and how their society supports them was an especially nice touch, and I was happy when Bobby got to come home. :)

I must say that I was worried by the first few minutes of the reading. It seemed like the narrator decided to have the main character speak at the very lowest tone that he could manage, thus removing any ability to add inflection to his lines. My enjoyment of the story suffered as a result, but the other voices were so well done that it was somewhat balanced out.

it's a little embarrassing to hear "chutzpah" pronounced just like its spelled.  ;)

Oh my goodness, yes! I cringed so hard at that. :-\


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Reply #5 on: December 14, 2011, 04:37:38 PM
This was an absolute pleasure to read. I personally enjoyed how the main character was motivated by his brothers well being. The fact that this was a short story, and not a novella or novel, impressed me with its' world building.

As far as the pronunciation of chutzpah, I'm from Philly and have never pronounced it any differently, nor have I heard it any other way. This is the first I've heard of it being pronounced differently. Also this recording, as all recordings, go thru a q/a process from Dave and Peter the editor and sound engineer respectivly and mispronounced words are generally corrected. They sent me no notes.


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Reply #6 on: December 15, 2011, 05:45:54 AM
What a unique and excellent auctorial voice, both in the sense of the POV character and the reading. Best listened to in a quiet room, however. In traffic (which is where I do most of my Podcastling) those very low frequencies get muffled.

I agree that structurally things were a bit shaky. Perhaps the big lump of infodump would have been better told in flashback rather than as narrative. And I was disappointed by the quick and easy resolution; I fully expected the cop to be intending a real double-cross and for something truly dire to happen to confound his plans.

I liked the idea of "feral" weres that the story hung on, and the nod to our own history (and current events!) in the offhand mention that human disability rights activists resented any implication that there was common cause to be made.

And, yeah. /x/utspah, not /h/utspah. Who do you think you are, Michelle Bachmann?


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Reply #7 on: December 16, 2011, 04:19:13 AM
At first I was put off by the beastman voice, but I don't really have a good reason why. I think that it was due to the fact I didn't have a good picture of the main character until a bit further into the story. Once I had a good picture in my mind, the voice fit perfectly and I really enjoyed the other voices as well. As someone from the NY Metro area, I'm well aquainted with the appropriate way to pronounce chutzpah, but years of playful mockery of words and sounds between my jewish friends and myself have rendered incapable of pronouncing the word properly so I didn't notice it until after I got to the forums.

The story itself was ok. I dug the little things in it--like the slurs and jargon--that made it a little more real. Carla the furchaser made me chuckle and the old man's bar with old man values reminded me of some of the places I've been in that I could describe in a similar vein. I liked the fact the wererat played a decent role instead of being the clown/coward. I liked the background and the descriptions of the scenes. I liked the description of the cappos and the slum in general.

My only complaint was that everything wrapped up a little too quickly. It seemed way too weird that a human would totally go out of his way to help a "fur" fro no other reason than trying to solve the bad tinc mystery. I was hoping that perhaps Harris and Terry had some sort of background or history together. It just kind of fell flat for me.

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Reply #8 on: December 16, 2011, 05:20:02 PM
I liked the story. I too love werewolves and feel an outspoken resentment that vampires steal all the limelight. I especially liked the love the cast had for Bobby. It really captured the helplessness a family feels when their loved on is taken away, probably not being treated well, and there is nothing they can do about it.

That said, I am a bit tired of crime stories where the story argues that illegal activities on the part of law enforcement are necessary to carry out justice. Due process is there to protect people, and I worry that public sentiment is starting to see it as a way for ‘bad guys’ to get away with crimes. The key to the tinc manufacturers getting busted was for law enforcement to find an excuse to do a search of the premises without a warrant. As scattercat said, surely they could have found an easier way to get evidence that would be admissible in court.

Still, the story was awesome; this chip on my shoulder is probably the result of one to too many Law & Order episodes that vilify the constitutional rights.


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Reply #9 on: December 16, 2011, 11:30:45 PM
Regarding the pronunciation of "chutzpah" - yeah, you all are right, of course. It wasn't the common pronunciation. However, V's reading of it - the way he growled out "for the sheer chutzpah of it" and slurred sheer with chutzpah? I thought it sounded like kind of nifty slang, and loved it. So, yeah, that one's on me :)


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Reply #10 on: December 17, 2011, 07:04:49 AM
That said, I am a bit tired of crime stories where the story argues that illegal activities on the part of law enforcement are necessary to carry out justice. Due process is there to protect people, and I worry that public sentiment is starting to see it as a way for ‘bad guys’ to get away with crimes. The key to the tinc manufacturers getting busted was for law enforcement to find an excuse to do a search of the premises without a warrant. As scattercat said, surely they could have found an easier way to get evidence that would be admissible in court.

I think that's an excellent point; all I would say in response is that nowadays, a story where an elite law enforcement unit actually does observe due process and other Constitutional safeguards really would be a fantasy. Unfortunately.


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Reply #11 on: December 18, 2011, 10:48:11 AM
I really enjoyed this story. It had the great structure and style of a Sam Spade, noir style hard-boiled detective story but it was more than just that with teeth and fur thrown on to make it fantasy. It had real heart and a fully fleshed out milieu. At its core is a story about identity, community and what prejudice will make members of an oppressed group do to conform and what the cost of that can be.

The narration was excellent and it was also great to have a full voice cast recording of it. The V O Bloodfrost group are an excellent little ensemble.  ;D

Seriously I thought it was one of the best narrations I've heard especially in terms of variety of voice and the way they fitted the characters personas.


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Reply #12 on: December 19, 2011, 01:05:27 AM
Really enjoyed this one, though I too had a hard time understanding it at first. Eventually I got over that though. :)

An interesting little almost noir-ish bit of fantasy crime fiction. Fun take on the werewolf genre. Though it got my blood in a boil over the social injustice of it all.
I liked the little details like "furs" vs. "skins" too, just the kind of slang likely to develop in such a world.

I wouldn't mind reading a novel set in this universe, though I'm not sure if I'd opt for the same characters - it feels like they're story is done.


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Reply #13 on: December 21, 2011, 02:43:36 PM
I liked the setting of this a lot, with the weres having the option to take the tincture to keep them human, but in the process setting them apart from both sides. 

But on the overall plot I agree with scattercat that the reveal after the breakin didn't make a lot of sense.  If they knew such details already they could've found a way to get admissable evidence.  I found it much more likely that some people had decided our narrator was inconvenient and wanted him removed from society, and decided to force that to happen by getting him to rob a place and then sending an anonymous police tip to get him arrested or killed.

I had a lot of trouble with the growly voice in the main narration, for a few reasons:
1.  The voice was so low there was no room for inflection so he sounded very emotionless
2.  The low low tone was hard to hear over road noise.  I could mostly hear the higher pitches in the graveliness, but not the words themselves.
3.  When listening to the voice it was hard to concentrate on the words for listening to the voice.  I'm not sure if what I mean is clear.  Let's say that Clint Eastwood did a televised reading of Hamlet--I'd be paying more attention to the growly voice than I would to the soliloquies.  I guess some voices become the focus of my attention to the exclusion of focusing on the story.  That's probably a flaw in my attention span more than anything else...


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Reply #14 on: January 07, 2012, 03:43:56 PM
I've been a follower of Escape Pod & Podcastle for a number of years with my preferences always towards the sci-fi end of the scale.....but I must admit that this episode finally drove me onto the forums.
I've never bothered before as I tend to be a few weeks behind in my listening but the narration on this one just begs for comment. As I note in a few posts, other listeners were concerned at the start of the narration (as was I) but what a marvellous piece of reading it was as the story unwound. Can't say the whole werewolf thing is my topic of choice but the amazing narration just blew me away.
Thanks again.


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Reply #15 on: January 07, 2012, 09:01:44 PM
Welcome Eck! Thanks for dropping by -- stick around a while :)


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Reply #16 on: January 25, 2012, 08:33:53 PM
I guess I'm going to have to give this one another try.  I was put off by the narrator when I cued it up the other day, and skipped to the next episode.

As someone else said, if you're in a car the growling voice of the narrator can be hard to understand.


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Reply #17 on: January 26, 2012, 03:04:39 PM
Overall, I found the story average. There was so much buildup in the beginning that, by the time we got to the break-in, it's like "gotta wrap this up". That was somewhat disappointing, as was the "walk off into the sunset with the girl and the dog-brother" moment.

1.  The voice was so low there was no room for inflection so he sounded very emotionless

I personally disagree. As someone whose voice can be pretty flat*, I'm used to listening for inflections. Plus, from the POV of the character, he was this pissed off, downtrodden guy who kind of hates what he's become. So the narration was okay for me. It did take a little while to adjust my ears. I was quite surprised at the different voices he did, though; I wasn't expecting all those different tenors.

* Narrations notwithstanding. But that's acting, not real life.

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Reply #18 on: February 09, 2012, 06:28:47 PM
First Impression: Holy cow, it's the MAXX!!!

Second Impression: This had me thinking back in the 20s and 30s when there were cases of black people decided to pass for white. I'd often wondered how they would come to such a decision: deny your heritage or give yourself and children a better life?

I saw this story and more so as an identity story than a tale of corruption.  Once I got used to the narrator's gravelly voice (which was wonderful, btw), I could hear the barely restrained tension within him. The part where the MC visits his mother and she tells him to stay, indicating the slum she lived in, was a scene that resonated with me. The ending where he decided to stay in the slums made me smile. Great story, even greater narration.

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Reply #19 on: March 01, 2012, 11:23:41 AM
Let me be the first to fanboy squeal at a shape-shifter noir. Despite the rather slim pickings I greedily devour different werewolf tales. I'm still on the search for a story collection of werewolf shorts I read during my school years which had some really fantastic takes on shape-shifting in different worlds. To me, its a rather neglected area when you fuse beast and man as it were. In some fashion its how we've made so many aliens but these are aliens of earth of that are not limited to one shape, but are limited by their own alien nature, fascinating.

Like most I wasn't sure about the narrative voice at the beginning, it took a few minutes but then it was clear enough and the wide range of voices was fantastic.

As for the break-in ease, it really felt as if the entire thing, I mean even the fatc that only two guards were on duty was a set-up. I believe it was indicated in the story that the police-ish squad had convinced Shiftech to let them guard the facility due to the rising threat against them. So while that isn't a perfect explanation I do believe it was hinted at.

And on one final note, I'd say that the premier werewolf book would be "Cycle of the Werewolf" by Stephen King. I'm not always a fan of King, but this was one of his early works before he got too famous. My personal favorite is "The Wolf's Hour" by Robert R. McCammon which involved a shapeshifting british secret agent sent in to eliminate a weapon of the Third Reich, a great story that intersperses his history into its own chapters in between the main narratives progress.