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Author Topic: PC194: Their Changing Bodies  (Read 5419 times)
Talia
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« on: January 31, 2012, 09:25:30 AM »

PodCastle 194: Their Changing Bodies

by Alaya Dawn Johnson.

Read by Tina Connolly.

Originally published in Subterranean Online. Read the text there.

Judy had been painfully aware of him since her arrival two weeks ago, when she had seen him across the mess hall. They talked a little, but Judy hadn’t been prepared for his appearance or his popularity. She hadn’t expected him to change quite so much.

Judy had first met Brandon last summer in the woods of rural Michigan, at an institution the promotional brochures called Better Image! for Teens. The kids sentenced to this energetically punctuated camp had referred to it as the Penitentiary, but Judy’s sister Alice had more accurately called it Fat Camp. Judy came home thirty pounds thinner and possessed of a first kiss that had admittedly also encompassed some of her cheek. Still, at sixteen she had finally accomplished several of her goals in life: a) meet a boy, b) talk to the boy, c) impress him with her knowledge of esoteric subjects like grafting apple trees, and, finally, d) mack on him like crazy.

If pressed, Judy admitted that perhaps she still had a slight distance to travel until she fully accomplished d). Even though Brandon had attempted to insert his tongue in her mouth, the reality of it wagging wetly in the air had so disconcerted Judy that she turned at the exact wrong moment, thereupon forcing Brandon’s tongue to slither over her cheek until he realized what had happened and put it back in his mouth. How, she asked Alice, does anyone make out with so much spit? Alice just shrugged and said you got used to it.

Judy hoped she would get used to it.


Rated R for profanity, young adult themes.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2012, 08:44:19 PM »

le roi d' la montaine c'est moi!

I liked this story in spite of its subject matter. And the fact that the knitting needles were Chekovian guns. And the confusion of characters.

What saved it for me was its realistic, down-to-Earth depiction of the hell of Adolescence. Without, y'know, actual Hell, just some lame-ass vampire-wannabe boys. And I did like the rather weak take on vampires.

Wasn't grossed out by the bodily fluids, though I assumes "ooky-cookie" was an urban myth they made up. Less gross (ok, gross) than really stupid.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2012, 10:46:08 AM »

le roi d' la montaine c'est moi!

I liked this story in spite of its subject matter. And the fact that the knitting needles were Chekovian guns. And the confusion of characters.

What saved it for me was its realistic, down-to-Earth depiction of the hell of Adolescence. Without, y'know, actual Hell, just some lame-ass vampire-wannabe boys. And I did like the rather weak take on vampires.

Wasn't grossed out by the bodily fluids, though I assumes "ooky-cookie" was an urban myth they made up. Less gross (ok, gross) than really stupid.

This story was okay.  I was amused and pleased that the vampires were still pretty much lame teenage boys, but with some weird appetites.  The grossout went a bit too far for me, though--I didn't really find it humorous or horrifying, just gross.  That being said, though, the menstrual blood cure explanation made this world's vampire's somewhat more plausible than typical vampires.  I generally don't find vampire's very plausible because when there is an outbreak on a story, the condition is pretty much viral.  If you don't stop it when there's only a few you won't ever stop it (I've never found the concept of killing the head vampire to kill all his progeny at all plausible).  The menstrual blood cure gives a reason why the vampire plague isn't unstoppable--because at any given time there are menstruating women out and about, and if the vampires are lured to their cure then even if they have a sudden population explosion it will probably resolve itself within a few weeks instead of becoming unstoppable.
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2012, 12:31:26 PM »

First of all, I have a joke: how do vampires spell "cheerleader"

. . .

They spell it "cheerlitre."

Get it? Litre?

*Ahem.*

. . .

I have to admit, I kind of had a problem with this story.

Let's talk about the positives first. I was really charmed by the narrator and - for the most part - the reading. I enjoyed how the story expanded the "hell of adolescence" with supernatural elements. I thought the gross-out humor of the piece was a perfect example of synchronizing tone and subject matter. I even liked how the main character was overweight, but it wasn't a big deal, didn't mean she was categorically unattractive or unfit, and didn't stop her from getting the boy.

That was all great.

However, there was one thing that bugged me a little.

I don't think the author intended this - in fact, I'm almost certain she didn't! - but there was a weird bias in the story.

Let me get this straight: girls experimenting with each other sexually is awesome. Out lesbian teenagers are brave and neat, girls can kiss heroically at the end of stories, and people who are homophobic are jerks. On the other hand, boys doing that strange homosocial communal sexual exploration that some boys do? Not only is that weird, icky, and gross, but it's liable to cause you to become a monster and start victimizing the girls in your life.

Say. What?

I don't think the author intended this, but it's definitely kind of a weird message.

Sweet mother of lizards, I'm turning into issues guy, aren't I?
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Gary
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« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2012, 02:13:25 PM »

Um ...

Uncomfortable.
Can't say I much cared for this story. Besides the obvious "ick" factor ... I find that stories involving underage kids and their sexual habits now also carries an "ick" factor for me. I'm going to blame society for this if that's okay.

The only positive thing I can add is that it has been a long time since I have heard or read a story that could gross me out like this.
Nice to know it's still possible ... I guess.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2012, 02:36:22 PM »

Oh. My. Gross.... Dave, did Norm let you go exploring in the Drabblecast crypts again?

Okay, I can dig the "it's just a parasite that has a complicated life cycle" spin on vampirism, and any story that gives a shout-out to Toxoplasma has to get at least one little grin from me. But, this story had several too many icky things going on for me to actually enjoy it. But then again, I'm never one for body humor, so don't mind me I'll just be over here. Tongue
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Devoted135
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« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2012, 10:15:30 PM »

Oh! And I forgot to add that MK Hobson is totally right! Bathroom water is completely different from kitchen water. Cheesy
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Megatron9
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« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2012, 12:46:41 PM »

Ok. Normally I'm just a listening lurker. Podcastle has always done an awesome job chosing stories that blow my mind on a regular basis. Until this one. This story was unnecessarily disgusting and poorly written. I stopped listening around the vampire cure dialog and threw down my headphones. Really guys?! Please never chose a story this unnecessarily vomit inducing. Sigh, for a second I thought I was listening to the Drabblecast...WHICH I EXPECT TO BE WEIRD!
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H. Bergeron
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« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2012, 12:46:45 PM »

Ok. Normally I'm just a listening lurker. Podcastle has always done an awesome job chosing stories that blow my mind on a regular basis. Until this one. This story was unnecessarily disgusting and poorly written. I stopped listening around the vampire cure dialog and threw down my headphones. Really guys?! Please never chose a story this unnecessarily vomit inducing. Sigh, for a second I thought I was listening to the Drabblecast...WHICH I EXPECT TO BE WEIRD!


Oh, my, the fantasy podcast violated your expectations? I didn't particularly like the content of this story, but I knew was kind of thing was coming when the intro specifically warned RATED R for, among other things, "Young Adult gross-out humor." That seems pretty clear to me.

For what it's worth, I really enjoyed the quality of the writing on this story. It had a steady flow (...heh) and seemed to fit together well. At the same time, I felt like it was very heavy-handed - the whole idea of young girls as prey and young guys as predators seems almost old hat to me. I'm not exactly sure WHY it seems so cliched, but when she was describing the guys coming toward them almost as if they were wolves, I nearly rolled my eyes. But to be fair, maybe it reads different to the YA audience for which it was originally intended.
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2012, 02:48:08 AM »

This story was okay.  I was amused and pleased that the vampires were still pretty much lame teenage boys, but with some weird appetites.  The grossout went a bit too far for me, though--I didn't really find it humorous or horrifying, just gross.  That being said, though, the menstrual blood cure explanation made this world's vampire's somewhat more plausible than typical vampires.  I generally don't find vampire's very plausible because when there is an outbreak on a story, the condition is pretty much viral.  If you don't stop it when there's only a few you won't ever stop it (I've never found the concept of killing the head vampire to kill all his progeny at all plausible).  The menstrual blood cure gives a reason why the vampire plague isn't unstoppable--because at any given time there are menstruating women out and about, and if the vampires are lured to their cure then even if they have a sudden population explosion it will probably resolve itself within a few weeks instead of becoming unstoppable.
Having seen more vampire movies than I can remember, and read about two bookshelves worth of books, think I feel qualified to respond to this.
See, I have developed a theory that accounts for the existence of vampires. Actually, it's two theories, and nearly every vampire story fits into one of them.
1. First there is the fantasy vampire story. This is the story that explores vampirism along the fantastic route. These vampires are a sort of demon or some other creature from outside our physical plane of existence. Hence they are susceptible to non-mundane weapons: religious symbols (most often crosses, but in some cases other paraphernalia from other religions work), running water and killing the sire kills the underling. It's metaphysical, and only needs to make "sense" within itself. Two popular examples for this type of vampire are the Buffy series and Van Helsing (the movie and Bram Stoker's book Dracula).
2. Then there is the scifi vampire. These vampires are the victim of parallel evolution, a parasite or even modern experiments. Whatever it is, there is a scientific explanation for the vampires powers and weakness. A different physiology (whether it came about naturally, via a parasite or through mad-scientist-tinkering) would explain many things, since we see them in other animals in nature: the need to drink blood (mosquitoes), aversion to sunlight (moles) allergies to garlic and/or silver (humans). These stories make their own sense as well. Two popular examples: Underworld, Blade.

It is important to note that in both types of vampires there are explanations for why the entire world isn't overrun. Be it the Buffy-verse vampires who only turn people when they want to or the Underworld-verse where the parasites more often kill the victim than turn them.
Also, one will almost never see the second type of vampire flying, but will see the first type flying.
And that brings me back to our story. Where does it fit?
On the one hand, an STD that turns people into vampires and doesn't morph their physiology (prosthetic teeth) fits the second type of vampire. The cure also jives nicely with that, as well with the stereotypical vampire being attracted to women in underwired nightdresses. On the other hand, these dudes can fly and we're hearing about them from our tentacled flying castle.
But then there's the deal with a poked vampire bleeding smoke, not blood. That, in my opinion, is the clincher. These are fantastical vampires. Such a drastic change in the person's body is usually the manifestation of demon infestation or other-worldly habitation. And if the method of infestation bothers you and doesn't fit nicely with that, just ask any religious person, they will tell you that their god works through the natural world. So why shouldn't demons?

Aside: "vampirism" should be a real word and there is no excuse for it not being in my spellchecker's dictionary.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2012, 02:52:17 AM by Max e^{i pi} » Logged

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Lionman
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« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2012, 02:36:56 PM »

I'm going to have to stick this story in the 'enh, okay' category.  I started listenting to it, it was alright, sorta interesting...then I put it down and just haven't had the desire to pick it back up.  Unlike at least one other story I've heard, this didn't make me want to put it down, it just didn't give me a drive to not miss the next word.
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Rats
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« Reply #11 on: February 06, 2012, 12:45:50 PM »

I saw this story as a lesson in how boys and girls can survive adolescence to become strong, compassionate adults. Its like an antidote to the more harmful, yet often more commonly told, story in our culture. Bear with me as I delve into the metaphors: the boys’ sexuality (vampirism), left unchecked, can turn them into potential rapists, but this same sex drive can urge them to seek to understand the primal forces of the female world beyond the superficial (symbolized by menstruation), which gives them back their humanity towards girls and balances their otherwise harmful urges. The girls learn that every part of themselves is useful, from the extreme of Alice to the extreme of Sonya (who act in the story as different aspects of Judy's persona). I think if you focus on the “gross-ness” of the story you’re forgetting that sex (of varying kinds) and blood (of varying kinds) are often part of being an adult. I could get into this a lot more, and maybe making statements like this without more details to support it is a bad idea, but I’m not sure if anyone is interested in this take on it. Finally, I think Judy is one of the healthiest examples of a heroine I’ve ever heard in a story. I’m curious to read more by the author.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2012, 08:33:11 PM by Rats » Logged
Gamercow
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« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2012, 07:07:59 PM »

I thought that the writing was very good in this story, and the narration was excellent, but it was a train that I did not want to catch.  I simply was not the target audience for this story, which is absolutely fine.  I wasn't grossed out by the body humor, but it did not appeal to me either.  This was a YA story, and I am not a YA.

I saw a video recently in which Max Landis, son of the famous John Landis, tells a story.  His father asks him "How do you kill a vampire?"  and young Max replies with "stake to the heart, a cross, sunlight", and John says "You can kill them any way you want, they don't exist!"  I find that to be a very poignant point about fantasy tropes, and breaking them. 

Unfortunately, the cookie mentioned in this story is a real thing.  I roomed with a guy that was pledging a fraternity, and walked in on such a...ceremony.

Bathroom sink water is for brushing teeth and washing hands only.  Kitchen water is MUCH better.  And water from the hose, in the middle of the hot summer, is nectar of the gods. 
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #13 on: February 13, 2012, 12:11:08 PM »

Unfortunately, the cookie mentioned in this story is a real thing.  I roomed with a guy that was pledging a fraternity, and walked in on such a...ceremony.

Wow, no kidding?  I had a roommate who a fraternity pledge freshman year of college.  He was a shoe-in because his older brother was already a member, but he still had to go through all the initiations and stuff, which were all top secret.  And I'm really glad they were top secret.  I don't want to know about that kind of stuff.  I've heard of other rituals, and those were bad enough (for one of the sororities, the girls were made to hang around the house in their underwear with their fattier bits circled with marker).

I've never really understood the appeal of those groups anyway, and even less so after hearing things like that.
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Kanasta
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« Reply #14 on: February 14, 2012, 03:59:36 PM »

I think this story would have gone down better if I were a YA - sometimes it doesn't matter not being part of a target audience but sometimes it really shows, and for me this was one of those stories. Did feel a bit like an empowerment box-ticking exercise too, but like I say, I think it just wasn't for me.

However, the kitchen/bathroom water discussion certainly brought back some memories! When I was a kid, I always preferred the taste of the bathroom water. It came from a tank in the attic rather than straight from the mains. Sometimes the mains water tasted too bleachy from whatever purification process it goes through (especially on Sundays) but I think being left to stand in a big tank gave the water a chance to clear. So every night I would get a drink of bathroom water. One night, I noticed it was tasting a bit... odd. Oh, did I mention my two pet rats that had gone missing a few weeks previously?

Yes. They had clearly got thirsty but couldn't get out again. They had probably been in there a couple of weeks. My father was never too keen on the idea of pet rats in the house. Even less so once he had spent the afternoon slopping out rat soup from the water tank, emptying the tank fully and scrubbing it down with steriliser.

I don't drink bathroom water anymore.
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danooli
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« Reply #15 on: February 14, 2012, 05:35:32 PM »

I liked the story.  It certainly had the ick factor set at eleven, but...I am probably the most immature 38 year old woman ever, so it worked for me.  I will admit that Tina Connelly's narration had a LOT to do with it.  That was absolutely fantastic.

As with "Skatouioannis" by Nick Mamatas, I appreciate that PodCastle can and does bring us the not-so-clean fiction along with the super G-rated fare.
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jk_jackel
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« Reply #16 on: February 16, 2012, 04:09:20 AM »

I really liked this story and thought it was really funny. Especially the tampon as a mace metaphor, that actually made me laugh out loud on my way to university. A few people have wondered where the vampires fit into traditional vampire mythos, and my opinion is that the best thing about fantasy is that its, well, fantasy. I doesn't have set rules from piece to piece.

Also someone noted the change in attitudes to homosexuality between women and men, I took this as not the writer's opinion but just her good writing of her main character. I'm pretty sure adolescent girls would find those kinds of urban myths gross.

(Btw, a great explanation on how there are no rules in fantasy/sci-fi fiction is in this video, about 15:22  Smiley
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Talia
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« Reply #17 on: February 17, 2012, 10:23:12 AM »

Hey guys, I've moved the bathroom water discussion here. I know it was kind of related to the pre-story commentary, but it was kinda taking over the thread. Smiley
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #18 on: February 17, 2012, 11:02:18 AM »

Also someone noted the change in attitudes to homosexuality between women and men, I took this as not the writer's opinion but just her good writing of her main character. I'm pretty sure adolescent girls would find those kinds of urban myths gross.

I would never accuse this author of homophobia, but I do think you need to pay attention to the unintended side-elements of your work when you write, lest you accidentally send messages other than the one you want to send. In this case, I bet that the author either didn't notice ("Really? You read it that way? Huh... oops.") or decided that it didn't matter ("This story is for adolescent girls, some of which will be gay or bisexual - hence that out lesbian teen - not for boys, so I don't care if someone reads an unfortunate message into my story."). I don't think the author meant it. That doesn't mean it isn't there.
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eytanz
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« Reply #19 on: February 17, 2012, 05:00:55 PM »

I found this story rather amusing, and not particularly gross. But then, I'm fine with talking about bodily fluids. In reality, I get really squeamish with most bodily fluids - I can't even look at the bag containing my own blood after I do a blood donation.

As for the themes, I can see the difference in attitude to male vs. female homosexuality pointed out by electricpaladin is true, but there's an important factor here - it's not a direct comparison. It's a comparison between an attitude towards lesbian serial monogamy with an attitude to group male homosexual sexual play. We don't know how the girls would react to group lesbian sex, either. I would think that that's an equally relevant part of the equation. Note that no-one commented negatively on Brandon's originally getting infected, though there's a pretty good chance that must have been a homosexual encounter as well.
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