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Author Topic: PC188: The Ghost of Christmas Possible  (Read 8968 times)


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on: December 20, 2011, 01:15:38 PM
PodCastle 188: The Ghost of Christmas Possible

by Tim Pratt and Heather Shaw.

Read by Ian Stuart.

A PodCastle Original!

I was asleep: to begin with.

The hour was just before midnight on Christmas Eve when a ferocious knocking woke me from my slumber. My first muddled thought, or rather hope, was that some specter or spirit stirred beneath the cramped rafters of my newly rented accommodations. Such a prospect aroused in me no little excitement — for though I am well versed with the actions and habits of apparitions, ghosts, and hauntings of all sorts, I have always had to seek out such extraordinary creatures in situ, as it were, and their attentions had never been initially directed toward me. I thought immediately of the incident of the Knocking Well, when I helped lay to rest the unquiet spirit of a lost child in Somerset, and so I leapt to my feet and pulled on my dressing gown to begin my investigation. I followed the sound of knocking, now ever more ferocious, through the corridor and down the narrow stairs.

Alas, it soon became clear the knocking was of an entirely ordinary sort, attributable to some visitor pounding upon my front door — though the lateness of the hour did suggest some manner of emergency or alarm. When I opened the door, a wild-eyed creature, with a ghostly white aura about his head and loose robes that flapped wildly in the wintry winds, forced his way inside, and I reconsidered my assumption that he was a mortal man. I had certainly never encountered an apparition polite enough to knock — however vigorously — before entering, and when he spoke, I was crushed by the mundane quality of his voice, which possessed none of the eerie harmonics I associated with those few spectral beings who deigned to speak.

“Mr. Hodgson, I presume? I have immediate need of your services, man!”

He was a frightened old man, and I was acquainted with such; I had met the terrified, the dread-filled, and the desperate over and over during my researches into the occult.

Rated PG.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: January 10, 2012, 01:07:15 PM by Talia »


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Reply #1 on: December 20, 2011, 08:28:47 PM
This was beautiful! When the name was revealed? I squeaked, squealed, and giggled like a child opening that oh so special and unexpected gift. Thank you! Epic story of epicness.

Oh, great and mighty Alasdair, Orator Maleficent, He of the Silvered Tongue, guide this humble fangirl past jumping up and down and squeeing upon hearing the greatness of Thy voice.
Oh mighty Mur the Magnificent. I am not worthy.


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Reply #2 on: December 21, 2011, 05:32:32 PM
That was pretty neat. I have to admit I was a little wary of a literary mash-up, especially with the only Charles Dickens story I really enjoy, but it was very cleverly done. I thought it was a nice touch to have the Ghosts sort of be on autopilot until they realize they're not actually talking to Scrooge. Like they really are players in an orchestrated event, and nobody told them they were going to be ad-libbing. I liked the running gag that nothing the Ghosts did ever elicited anything other than intellectual fascination in Hodgson; it's almost as if he's already seen worse. "A horrifying personification of Ignorance? Neat! How does that work?" Heh. Lots of fun.

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Reply #3 on: December 22, 2011, 04:48:25 PM
This was a wonderful Christmas gift from Heather, Tim, and PodCastle.  Thanks so much!  While I never before envisioned a conglomeration of Dickens/Hodgson/Capra, I was certainly pleased by the resultant tale.  I have to admit that I was seriously getting anxious for Scrooge (and the Cratchits), worried that they would loose their chance for redemption/deliverence.  I loved how the solution was offered in the birth of a new Christmas spirit.  And I enjoyed how it was tied in with "It's a Wonderful Life".  That was a nice touch! (though the continuity enforcer in me has to point out that Clarence's last name was Oddbody)  Anyway, thanks again for a wonderful tale.

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Reply #4 on: December 23, 2011, 03:20:53 AM
Thanks, all!

Swamp: Yeah, the last name thing was an issue. We could have made his surname Oddbody, but it seemed too silly, and we wanted a Hodgson homage. So we decided, if he can lie about being an angel, he can make up a fake last name too!


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Reply #5 on: December 23, 2011, 01:37:26 PM
I expected to like, even love this one, but I didn't really expect it to top The Christmas Mummy.  I didn't think it was possible.  (Really, I still LOVE the Ninja Elves!!!)  What a fool I am!

This was so well written that at times I forgot it wasn't actually written by Dickens!  I am SO glad that Heather Shaw and Tim Pratt are married.  The stories they write together are magic, they so obviously belong together!  <3 

I can't wait to play this one for the entire family tomorrow (Christmas Eve)

Thank you Heather and Tim, thank you PodCastle and Escape Artists.

May your Christmases be bright  ;D


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Reply #6 on: December 23, 2011, 05:07:57 PM
Thanks, all!

Swamp: Yeah, the last name thing was an issue. We could have made his surname Oddbody, but it seemed too silly, and we wanted a Hodgson homage. So we decided, if he can lie about being an angel, he can make up a fake last name too!


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Reply #7 on: December 23, 2011, 08:47:14 PM
Was this was written just for me?  Two favorite authors (Dickens and Hodgson) collide with my favorite narrator!  Get out of my head!  On second thought, make yourself at home in there.  This was a truly great homage to both Dickens and Hodgson and I doubt that anyone else could have pulled it off.

Thank You.


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Reply #8 on: December 27, 2011, 06:06:51 PM
My first reaction:  Heather and Tim doing a new Christmas story, a mashup of Dickens and Hodgson, how cool!
My second reaction:  Argh!  That's such a great idea, why did I not think of it?
My third reaction:  Oh well.  If someone's going to run with this idea that I'd never thought of, there are no better hands it could be in.

I really got a kick out of this one.  Among other things, one of the things I liked about this story was how faithful it was in many of the details to A Christmas Carol.  There are so many adaptations of A Christmas Carol, but most of them vary quite a bit more in the details.  In this one, the descriptions of each of the ghosts was pretty much the same as the original, including the old/young appearance of Past, and the fact that the third ghost is "Christmas Yet to Come" rather than "Christmas Future".  I liked how each ghost was progressively more aware of the ruse from the start, and the story gradually shifts from the familiar tale of Ebenezer to Hodgson's own tale.  And I liked the homages to Hodgson with the name and the magnetic pentacle.  There were so many funny parts it's hard to choose my favorite, but I think it would have to be when Hodgson, driven by his scientific curiosity, peeks under the robe of the Ghost of Christmas Present.

The one thing I didn't like was that the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come was entirely too chatty for my tastes.  I prefer the original foreboding and silent figure that conveys everything with gestures and scene.  In every adaptation of A Christmas Carol, I always look forward to that interpretation.  On the other hand, I don't see how else that ghost could've bridged to the ending given here if the ghost couldn't speak.  And I liked the ending, with hints of It's a Wonderful Life.  So I guess I can't really complain.

Of the four time spirits (including Hodgson) I'd say that the Ghost of Christmas Possible would be the least effective of the group.  Past can help you understand how you came to be the way you are (to better understand and evoke change).  Present can show you how you're affecting others right now (to better understand and evoke change).  Future fills you with a sense of dread for the consequences of your current actions (to better understand and evoke change).  But for the most part, the ability to see what is possible is more of a curse than a blessing, for it is more likely to instill regret and depression than resolve for change.  It's already TOO LATE to evoke the changes suggested. 

So what is he going to show Scrooge? 
1.  At first he suggests using it to show what his life could've been like.  But what would that entail?  What a great present time this would've been if he hadn't been such a bastard?  How Tiny Tim would never have gotten so ill in the first place?  How he could've been happily married if he hadn't screwed up his relationship?  What good is it to show him how happy his life could've been if he can't get onto that track of reality.  He can try to change, but if he's shown the most ideal of timelines then anything he can branch to now is certain to be a disappointment.  He will have seen these other realities with their own eyes, and would be filled with regret at having missed forever his opportunity to really experience them.  He might even be driven to suicide.
2.  Then he suggests that he could pull the plot from It's a Wonderful Life, but would that really work in this circumstance?  By every account I've heard, the experience of Scrooge's fellow man would've been improved dramatically if he'd never been born.  Someone else would've filled his economic niche, and that person would likely be less mean and stingy just from random chance.  So is the ghost going to show him an alternate present in which Scrooge was never born and the world is such a better place?  Again, to what purpose?  It worked in It's a Wonderful Life because there were tangible ways he'd improved the world that could be shown.  Again, I think the results would be more likely to be regret and depression, possibly leading to suicide.


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Reply #9 on: December 27, 2011, 11:12:05 PM
I too must confess that I didn't think I could like this as much as "Christmas Mummy".

I'm still not sure I do, but I think I like this differently than "Christmas Mummy"; the latter is just such a piece of giddy joy it's impossible not to love it whole-heartly. This story, well... I'm always wary of Dickens pastiche, especially the Christmas Carol, since it's just a well-rutted road, but Tim and Heather managed not to get stuck in a rut, and used a lot of the original language, and the same time managed to make it sound like a Hodgson story, so it was impressive in its balancing act.

I'm ashamed to admit it took me a full 10 seconds to realize the meaning of the name "Clarence", but if made me smile when I did. I was expecting something completely different as an ending. And even after I think Dave warned us.

And... Alisdair, you lucky man! Now we can hear where he gets the talent from.

Dave, I have a friend who's a scholarly specialist in the story, and she's always reminding me not only of the psychological depth of the story but also Dickens' social consciousness and historical context. Yeah, it's pretty amazing.

I can't believe this is your first commissioned story, but if so, great start!
« Last Edit: December 29, 2011, 08:21:30 PM by InfiniteMonkey »

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Reply #10 on: December 29, 2011, 06:41:28 AM
Just adding my tuppence worth of praise for the story, the authors and the narrator.
It was a magnificent and magical conglomeration of epic.
Thank you, one and all.

I am not even remotely British, but my mind is still sort of stuck in the story's universe. So instead of tuppence my fingers typed tuppence.

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Reply #11 on: December 29, 2011, 11:39:53 AM
So instead of tuppence my fingers typed tuppence.

Crazyness :p


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Reply #12 on: December 29, 2011, 03:55:40 PM
This was beautiful! When the name was revealed? I squeaked, squealed, and giggled like a child opening that oh so special and unexpected gift. Thank you! Epic story of epicness.

Me too! Two of my favorite Christmas stories combined convincingly and a great, great origin story for Clarence. What more could I ask?


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Reply #13 on: December 29, 2011, 07:23:45 PM
What's the significance of the name Clarence Hodgson?


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Reply #14 on: December 29, 2011, 07:48:10 PM
What's the significance of the name Clarence Hodgson?

Clarence (Oddbody) is featured in a different Christmas classic :)

As to Hodgson vs. Oddbody debate, see the discussion above by Swamp and Tim Pratt. Hope that helps :)


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Reply #15 on: December 29, 2011, 10:19:12 PM
This one fell a little flat for me. I loved where it started, I liked where it went, but I missed the Clarence angle until it was pointed out above. Though, now that I see it, I find my opinion of the story gradually altering, so perhaps I'll post again in a few days to say I loved it - who knows?

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Reply #16 on: December 30, 2011, 07:44:53 AM
Very entertaining. I generally don't like "retellings" or maybe "retoolings" of classic stories (just call me the Resident Grinch) but this worked well. Nicely done.

Oh, and the narration was "OK"* as well.



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Reply #17 on: January 01, 2012, 10:12:15 PM
I thought this was a good addition to this group of characters, though it definitely seems to feel likely it has some finality to the series.  I liked how the character we've come to know and enjoy was mashed right into a traditional Christmas Story.  It flowed well, was well narrated, and nicely written.

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Reply #18 on: January 03, 2012, 07:23:18 PM
Wow, what a great story! And a particularly good way to ease into my first day back at work after nearly two weeks off. :) God bless us, everyone indeed!


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Reply #19 on: January 04, 2012, 06:39:15 PM
The story was well done and very polished, but I was kind of hoping for an utter derailing of the Christmas Story with our intrepid investigator totally hijacking the bemused spirits for his own purposes and them, flummoxed, going along with it, flattered that someone would take an interest in them, ultimately with Hodgson making good for Scrooge with everyone else (finds tabloid gold, distributes to the poor) and Scrooge dying, unloved and irrelevant.