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Author Topic: PC192: The Interior Of Mr. Bumblethorn’s Coat  (Read 8226 times)
Ocicat
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« on: January 17, 2012, 08:36:53 PM »

PodCastle 192: The Interior Of Mr. Bumblethorn’s Coat

by Willow Fagan.

Read by MarBelle of the Director’s Notes blog, audio and video podcast

Originally appeared in Fantasy Magazine. Read the text there.


Mister Bumblethorn slept through the morning, as he usually did,
rising from his dry-as-dust bathtub just after noon. He stood in the
weak light of the shaded window, his massive blue coat rumpled but
still imposing. He did not even remember getting into the bathtub the
night before, much less falling asleep in it. He yawned and shook out
his arms. An antelope or a gazelle, tiny as a beetle, tumbled out of
his coat sleeve and splatted on the floor below. Mister Bumblethorn
studiously ignored this.

Bleary-eyed, he walked across his tiny apartment to rummage through
the cupboards, finding no food except some stale crackers. Worse, his
water flask was empty as a thimble; he held the thing upside down for
a full minute and not a drop appeared, not a whiff of moisture.

Mister Bumblethorn sighed heavily. Into the blank space of his empty
stomach, memories began to flow like saliva. Once, adoring folk had
thrust gifts of cheese and honeycakes at him wherever he walked:
through the streets of grand Abadore, through the humble thoroughfares
of nameless hamlets. Fingers shaking, Mister Bumblethorn rolled
himself a fat spliff of redleaf. No matter how little the peasants
had, they shared their suppers with him and refused any offer of
payment. Damn it, light already. After all, he was–Ah, there it
was, that sweet smoke filling his mouth, translating the stream of
memories into a language as meaningless to him as the clicking prayers
of the insectile priests in their hive temple on Wingcleft Avenue, his
old life grown as insubstantial as their flowery incense, drifting
away in the wind.

Rated R for graphic violence, drug use.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: February 07, 2012, 08:43:48 AM by Talia » Logged
Anarquistador
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« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2012, 08:10:53 AM »

Hey, check it out, I'm King Under The Mountain.

Anyway...

Interesting story. I got confused by the narrative a few times, but I think I was supposed to be. It was no doubt meant to be a weird and discomfiting world that Mr. Bumblethorn inhabited. I liked that the main character was pretty much a victim of a wish backfire: he's tired of being a hero - or at least tired of all the violence that being a hero often entails - so he's transported to a world where not only is he not a hero, but there doesn't seem to even be any concept of heroism at all. And he can barely function there. Be careful what you wish for, indeed.

Plus which, hey TVTropes got mentioned! Love that site.
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« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2012, 03:41:07 PM »

Wow... I'm feeling like a real negative force Podland. I didn't like this one at all.

This story had a lot to recommend it. I enjoyed the sheer weirdness of the world Mr. B ended up inhabiting, the idea of the outcast former hero forced to live with the damning evidence of his own cowardice hanging on his back. Fleet City and multiverse framework were the real stars of this city.

What ruined it for me, though, was Mr. B himself. There was absolutely nothing sympathetic - or even worth exploring - about the main character. He bumbled about, being a worthless cowardly schmuck, and then the story ended. Had this story had a... well... a story in it - some growth or learning or development for Mr B - then I would have loved it. As it was, I enjoyed Fleet City and the way the worlds interacted, but the rest of the story didn't impress me.
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« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2012, 08:48:58 AM »

I didn't really see the main character as a coward, per se. He came across as a reluctant hero from the beginning, and he was just burnt out from the hard life of a monster slayer (he mentions having to kill a posessed little girl; that would give anyone a serious case of the self-doubts). He just didn't want to kill things any more. If only he'd chosen his words more carefully when making his wish, he wouldn't have been thrust into a reality where heroism has no meaning, and all his virtues are worthless.
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« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2012, 10:40:32 AM »

I didn't care for this one.  I was intrigued by some of the idea, especially the world inside the coat, which was nicely foreshadowed by the eyelid window shades at the beginning, but there was no real plot to it.

I found the flashback section with Lavender disorienting--I wasn't really clear that it was Bumplethorn himself until the flashback was over, and that was a looong flashback, so I spent most of that time pretty confused. 

Even before that, there were so many weird details that were never really fleshed out, and so it seemed like just an attempt to heap up weirdness and hope that it was mistaken for a story.  Why are florists the only ones who can deal in blood?  What's the point of tradiing blood for water--the blood contains water so you're only going to get more dehydrated while you give away valuable iron and other vital elements.

And worst of all, is the point-of-view withholding.  Although the title combined with the eyelid windowshade at the beginning implied the secret behind his coat, that needed to be fleshed out MUCH sooner.  That is an incredibly relevant information that is left out until much too late.  He's staggering around the city, trying to find any source of water, heads into the flower shop, and offers to sell an entire world in order to get water... all of this while he has RIVERS flowing inside his COAT, which apparently all he needed to drink was to have a glass.  You can't get a much more relevant detail than that, and so the POV should have shared it with me--but I suppose that would've removed the only tension in the main narrative, false as that tension was.
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« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2012, 11:40:21 PM »

Geez you guys are a tough crowd. Smiley It was less a story than a journey, possibly a weed-trip of its own. I stopped trying to figure it out and just went with the flow of the images, which were lavish, rich and astonishing.

To quote Cypher: "what a mind-job."

For comparison, Cast of Wonders ran a Willow Fagan story last year called "Cockatrice Girl Meets Statue Boy." It's more of a story, I guess, but it contains much of the fantastic ideas and imagery so present in "Bumblethorn." (Episodes 18 & 19)
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« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2012, 07:27:10 PM »

I get the criticisms, but I liked it. In fact, I thought that it was worth the price of admission if only for that extra's coat of living water.

To misquote Stalin, such a quantity of weirdness has a quality all of its own.
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« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2012, 09:52:37 AM »

I just couldn't get into this story. I even re-started once I got past the section "explaining" how he got to Fleet City in the hope that the first half would make more sense the second time through.

In the end though, I was just left with heaps of questions ranging from dumb to maddening. Why are florists the only ones who can exchange blood for water? For that matter, why isn't everyone in this entire city dying of thirst if there is no ready water supply? How long has he been there and does he have any intention of trying to get back to his home world?

For the record kibitzer, "Cockatrice Girl Meets Statue Boy" is the only story from Cast of Wonders (excellent podcast, go check it out) that I have disliked so far, so there's that. Tongue
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Talia
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« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2012, 06:22:39 PM »

Deliciously surreal. I LOVE that sort of story! So many fun little details tucked into a fairly mind-bending scenario. I just really dig the image of this guy wandering around with a world under his coat. Super-rad. The second world with the living buildings and whatnot was pretty awesome too - though the key/lock party was pretty icky. Hehe.

A hit for me.
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« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2012, 09:52:55 PM »

For the record kibitzer, "Cockatrice Girl Meets Statue Boy" is the only story from Cast of Wonders (excellent podcast, go check it out) that I have disliked so far, so there's that. Tongue

Excellent! Always happy to please Smiley (please excuse my silly sense of humour)

No, that's fine. Variety is the... thread in.. a bush... that's worth... spoiling the broth. Or something.
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« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2012, 10:50:04 AM »

I just really dig the image of this guy wandering around with a world under his coat.

This made me think of this guy becoming a new kind of street-flasher, walking around in his coat and flashing its interior to passersby, which would be a much more shocking sight to most than a naked man.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2012, 11:12:28 AM »

For the record kibitzer, "Cockatrice Girl Meets Statue Boy" is the only story from Cast of Wonders (excellent podcast, go check it out) that I have disliked so far, so there's that. Tongue

Excellent! Always happy to please Smiley (please excuse my silly sense of humour)

No, that's fine. Variety is the... thread in.. a bush... that's worth... spoiling the broth. Or something.

Yeah, I realized that may have come across more negative than I meant it, should have said it the reverse way (I've loved just about every story run on CoW). It's just that surrealism doesn't happen to be my thing. Sorry about that!
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Marguerite
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« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2012, 04:41:15 PM »

I really like Willow's talent at world-building, both in this story and, as Kibitzer mentioned, in the "Cockatrice Girls Meets Statue Boy" story at Cast of Wonders.  But I see the points being made about this being more a tableau piece than a story.  Maybe it's the time perspective, in that the real story is the way Mr. Bumblethorn arrives at the situation he's at and not is current situation of finding water and suppressing his memories.

Also?  This:

Variety is the... thread in.. a bush... that's worth... spoiling the broth. Or something.

Needs to be a t-shirt.  *grin*
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« Reply #13 on: January 25, 2012, 09:25:39 PM »

This had so many levels of Weird that I was running to keep up.

I did like all the strange things in the city on the street-worms, a bit reminiscent of China Mieville, but I wanted something more cohesive to tie it all together.
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eytanz
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« Reply #14 on: January 26, 2012, 09:57:25 AM »

I thought there were some marvellous images painted there.

And that's about it. The story was soulless and empty, a bunch of words to hang the nice imagery on. I did not enjoy it one bit, I only enjoyed the scenery.
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« Reply #15 on: January 28, 2012, 12:32:35 AM »

Variety is the... thread in.. a bush... that's worth... spoiling the broth. Or something.
Needs to be a t-shirt.  *grin*

You have my blessing. I require only a 70% cut.
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El Zoof
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« Reply #16 on: January 28, 2012, 02:48:25 AM »

What a lovely (well, beautifully awful) world that was. I wonder if anyone will write a story set in it someday.
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« Reply #17 on: January 28, 2012, 05:48:28 AM »

I think one of the  biggest problems with this was that the text was too rich and dense for audio. There was too much information and too many layers. Reading the text might have made it easier to take it all in and you can flick back if you lose the thread.

Even so I think the author, who clearly has an amazing imagination, needs to rein it in now and again. Unless I missed some of the symbology the whole section with the comic book Mr Bumblethorn reads could have been cut as I don't think it added anything.

I also didn't think the narrator's style fitted the story. I loved MarBelle's narration of The Behold of the Eye (PC 107) which went to making it one of my favourite ever stories here, but for me his voice has  a very UK modern urban feel  which didn't sit right with the fantastical landscapes. If the world from which Mr Bumblethorn's had come was this world today then the style might have worked better for me.

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Mitch
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« Reply #18 on: February 01, 2012, 06:37:34 PM »

I'm surprised by some of the other comments - this is maybe my favourite podcastle episode to date. The world was intriguing, the narrator was engaging and the protagonist had depth.

I felt that the exotic and indifferent world of Mr Bumblethorne constrasted well with the more traditional fantasy setting of Lavender's world, with the result that I was better able to emphasise with the protagonist.

I think the book at the end was effective; it fleshed out Lavender's character as a pitiful soul. Lavender/Mr Bumblethorne emphasises with the meta-protagonist. He wishes his problems, too, could be anthropomorphised into an old man who would set everything right. The fact that Mr Bumblethorne ends his day escaping into this kind of fantasy brings home that he always feels the weight of Lavender's duty.
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Gamercow
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« Reply #19 on: February 02, 2012, 09:23:56 AM »

1.  Willow Fagan has access to some epic-level drugs.
2.  I can't believe no one has used the word "doorgasm" yet in this thread.
3.  Doorgasm.
4.  The images in this story were absolutely Jabberwockian in their density and imagery.  If this was a visual piece, I would expect Tim Burton to create it. 
5.  Not much really happened, did it?  Seems to me that Bumblethorn is running through some sort of Groundhog Day type of repetition, and therefore there is no growth or development in his character.
6.  That said, I didn't dislike the story, it was gorgeously done, but like others have said, it is a beautiful atlas rather than a story to me.
7. Other examples of sentient objects/furniture/houses:  The ambulatory house from the PC episode a couple years ago.  The various objects in Beauty and the Beast(Disney version).  Smidgen the Snack Cake may qualify, but I'm not sure. 
8.  I have very mixed feelings about TV Tropes.  I feel it has its uses, such as those mentioned in the intro, but I also feel that some people try to reference it a little too much, and seem to only get pleasure from a story by jamming it into TV Tropes categories, like some sort of hipster pedant.  "This was clearly a Mary Sue/Giant Baby/Soup Nazi/Evil Roy situation.  How droll."
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