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Author Topic: PC197: Destiny, With A Blackberry Sauce  (Read 2095 times)
Ocicat
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« on: February 21, 2012, 03:28:12 AM »

PodCastle 197: Destiny, With A Blackberry Sauce

by David J. Schwartz

Read by Daniel Foley

Originally published in Strange Horizons. Read the story here.

During my brother Mel’s final test to become a guard, he performed a flourish with his halberd and cut off his left foot. You wouldn’t think it was possible to slice your own foot clean off while you’re standing on it, but he managed. He says that he didn’t really feel any pain at first, but he did feel the tendon in his leg rolling up like a window shade.

My parents were mortified. My dad just set his jaw like he does when he can’t yell at us right exactly then, and my mom covered her eyes. Me, I watched the whole thing. There was a lot of blood, and of course Mel was screaming—they say you’re not supposed to, that it makes a bad impression on the test officers, but I’m pretty sure I would have, too. Then the healer came over and made an incision in the back of my brother’s leg. He reached in and found the tendon where it had gone into hiding and pulled it down to where it belonged, chanting the entire time. Mel was screaming a lot louder by then. Five minutes later the foot was reattached. It’s pretty much as good as it ever was, but Mel still has nightmares about the pain.

Not that I’m the least bit sympathetic. If you ask me, he did it on purpose.


Rated R: Contains violence and prophecies

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: March 13, 2012, 07:12:19 AM by Talia » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2012, 09:17:21 AM »

I got a lot of laughs out of this one.  It is almost always so taken for granted in epic fantasy stories that one must go with the destiny that pursues you.  Even when someone resists it's usually more of a token effort, or is more about finding a way to fulfill the destiny that doesn't leave them dead, they don't try so hard as these kids to avoid their destiny entirely.

I liked the escalating invitations, and their immediate and violent reactions to each.  Especially the line about the easiest birds to kill were those who were trying to tell you something.  And in the end it turned out that they didn't just want to avoid destiny, they wanted to avoid doing any real work (and were willing to commit murder to do so!)

Good stuff!
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2012, 01:00:40 PM »

Maybe I'm just a callous, cynical shit, but I didn't see this story's narrator as on par with Hannibal Lector. I mean, Destiny was bothering him, it's not like he was looking to mess with Destiny. I can see where that would be bloody annoying.

Ok, so, attacking an old man with a shotgun might be a little much, but he's already been pestered by talking animals.

I agree with Unblinking. It was very amusing.
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« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2012, 03:16:21 PM »

On the story:
This was entertaining!  A dark humor parody really hits the spot now and again.  Fantasy often has a tendency to become really serious and heavy with themes, etc.  This was refreshing.  

And if you think about it, in a less extreme way, how many of us daily refuse to embrace our "destiny", or at least don't live up to our potential, because it is too tiring, difficult, uncomfortable, imtimidating, etc.?  I think of the quote from Maryanne Williamson: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most."

Of course, this story certainly wasn't trying to inspire us, but as I said, it did entertain.

On Dave's Anikin comments:
I was never really sold on the fact that Anikin was the chosen one or that he brought any balance to the Force.  Is the balance that he destroyed the Emperor and redeemed himself, thus eliminating the Sith?  Is there only balance because Luke is the only living Jedi at that point?  Is so, then the only balance Anikin (Vader) restored resulted from the unbalance he created by killing all of the other Jedi in the first place.  The mathmatics are a little complicated to begin with because the balance seems to be when its two against hundreds.  Apparently the Dark Side is so much stronger that more than two Sith would destroy the galaxy, but then I suppose the Force is unbalanced at the beginning of Episode I because it needs restoring.  I don't get it.  I would think if there were no Sith, there would be no balance.  But maybe when Luke builds the Jedi up to the rank of hundreds again, the Sith can return.  Granted, my intake of the Extended Universe of novels and comics is limited so this may have all been explained.  Well, hopefully I haven't distracted from the story too much.
 
« Last Edit: February 24, 2012, 03:27:58 PM by Swamp » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2012, 04:08:49 PM »

So, at first I heard that as "During my brother Mel’s final test to become a god, he performed a flourish with his halberd and cut off his left foot...." and so on. In fact, for several minutes I kept hearing "god" instead of guard.
And it was quite amusing.
It wasn't until he expounded on the three possible career choices that I realized that it's guard and not god. And until then it all made some weird kind of sense. Even the bit about how far away the so-called enemy is.
Then I settled in to the story and really enjoyed it. I loved the snide, cynical outlook of it. The callousness with which these boys committed acts of violence and murder bothered me a little bit, but not too much. It seemed to fit in with the rest of their outlook.
And the reading was excellent. That perfect blend of dry amusement mixed with world-weariness.
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« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2012, 09:34:09 AM »

On Dave's Anikin comments:
I was never really sold on the fact that Anikin was the chosen one or that he brought any balance to the Force.  Is the balance that he destroyed the Emperor and redeemed himself, thus eliminating the Sith?  Is there only balance because Luke is the only living Jedi at that point?  Is so, then the only balance Anikin (Vader) restored resulted from the unbalance he created by killing all of the other Jedi in the first place.  The mathmatics are a little complicated to begin with because the balance seems to be when its two against hundreds.  Apparently the Dark Side is so much stronger that more than two Sith would destroy the galaxy, but then I suppose the Force is unbalanced at the beginning of Episode I because it needs restoring.  I don't get it.  I would think if there were no Sith, there would be no balance.  But maybe when Luke builds the Jedi up to the rank of hundreds again, the Sith can return.  Granted, my intake of the Extended Universe of novels and comics is limited so this may have all been explained.  Well, hopefully I haven't distracted from the story too much.

Although I generally try to forget Episodes I-III exist, because I generally consider them a low-quality cash-whore for Lucas's ever-declining tastes, the way that I interpreted the prophecy:
Anakin was born in the Old Republic, a time of unrivaled prosperity and peace.  The Sith still exist, but they must do so in hiding because the Jedi Knights kick ass.  This is an unbalanced state because evil has so long been suppressed.  During his rise to power, the Jedi Knights are killed, and the Sith Lords seize control of the galactic civilization.  Sure, this new state is also unbalanced, but I look at it as the trough of the wave recoiling from the previous crest. 

I suppose you could also see his killing the Empire as changing the wave again in the other direction, but to me the prophecy seems to be referring to his rise as a Sith.  Which makes Mace Windu's words that were paraphrased by Dave all the more relevant:  Mace sees the prophecy as some far-off thing that can be discussed in a council meeting after the current troubles are over.  But the current troubles are all part of the events that contribute to Anakin's metamorphosis.

On a sidenote:  Hayden Christiansen was a terrible casting choice.  He has all the acting range of a wooden post.  Or worse: Channing Tatum.

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« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2012, 03:22:58 PM »

I don't know, I've seen Hayden Christiansen in other stuff, and he CAN act. It's like George Lucas is a quantum singularity of talent. In his presence, talent gets sucked into the void.

Oh right, there was a story here somewhere...

I wasn't a fan of this one. I couldn't, for the life of me, understand why the narrator was so vehemently opposed to the machinations of fate. It's not like he had a lot of career choices. It's not like he even seemed particularly happy with his life as it was. It's was almost as if he was opposed to it simply on principle. "Sure, I'm a bored sullen teenager living in a one-horse town with no job prospects, but I'm not gonna change my life just because Destiny Says So. So there. Now I'm gonna wear black eyeliner and smoke some clove cigarettes behind the 7-11."

Speaking personally, I would LEAP at the chance to be the Chosen One. Unite the scattered clans of my nation, lead them to victory against their mortal enemy, usher in a golden age? Hell yeah! Sign me up for that! Bring me a skystone-forged warhammer and a ragtag band of misfit followers! That would be awesome! Or at least a refreshing change from accounting...
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« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2012, 04:08:16 PM »

I can't believe I forgot to mention this in my previous post.

That part about the river had me laughing out loud.
"...but the River to the west is so big that everyone says it with a capital R. Like it's President River or Mother River or something that you have to be careful not to piss off-" and my brain automatically inserted "like River Tam".
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2012, 03:27:39 AM »

At the risk of derailing this thread:

On a sidenote:  Hayden Christiansen was a terrible casting choice.  He has all the acting range of a wooden post.  Or worse: Channing Tatum.

Hayden Christiansen made me miss Jake Lloyd. He was THAT bad. And, yeah, I've heard he can act in other things, and part of me thinks this might be true since I know Samuel L. Jackson and Natalie Portman can act in other things too.  But I wasn't all that taken with Shattered Glass.
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« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2012, 09:53:30 AM »

I don't know, I've seen Hayden Christiansen in other stuff, and he CAN act. It's like George Lucas is a quantum singularity of talent. In his presence, talent gets sucked into the void.

Really?  Come to think of it, the only other movie I've seen him in was Jumper.  Which was pretty worthless, and I didn't think much of his acting there either, but in that case it was just a badly written movie from the start.  And coincidentally also cast Samuel L. Jackson, I hadn't realized they had a history of crappy movies together...  Not to derail this thread too far, but what have you seen him in that showed his talent?  If I see it on cable, maybe I'll check it out.

I've heard he can act in other things, and part of me thinks this might be true since I know Samuel L. Jackson and Natalie Portman can act in other things too.  But I wasn't all that taken with Shattered Glass.

Good point.  I have liked Jackson and Portman in other things.  I just saw Portman in Black Swan the other day, and I thought she did a great job with the role.
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« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2012, 10:54:43 AM »

I've seen him in the aforementioned Shattered Glass, and I've seen him in Awake. Although your individual mileage may vary as to whether or not that was a good movie....
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« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2012, 02:28:41 PM »

It's amazing, the reading was so fantastic that I thought this story was hilarious until I started to really think about what the characters actually did to themselves and others. I guess I'm not clear on why being the chosen one, or even a guard would be such a horrible thing that the brothers were willing to kill, maim and destroy in order to avoid Destiny. At any rate, it was short enough that it was completely carried by the delivery and only later did I notice the bad aftertaste.
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« Reply #12 on: February 29, 2012, 04:15:16 AM »

Long time listener, first time poster, blah blah blah...

Fan-bloody-tastic.

Wow.  Just... wow.

David J. Schwartz has created a wonderful tale here, perfectly paced and wonderfully voiced.

But the work of Daniel Foley in providing the actual voice is the thing that completely and utterly sold this story to me.  Disclaimer: I am Australian and therefore completely biased.  Foley provided the laid-back, laconic, cynical, utterly-Australian edge that this story was begging for.  Imagine that a 53-year-old Henry Lawson bailed up a 28-year-old John Tolkein in a pub in Winton in 1920 and (after a disturbing quantity of beer) the two of them staggered off to co-write a piece of short fantasy fiction.

This is that good.

I have goaded my wife into listening to the story right now, and (eavesdropping) I'm getting tears in my eyes just because of the utter perfection of brilliant story and great reading.

Thank you.

Thank you thank you thank you.

[ahem]

I need a beer.
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« Reply #13 on: February 29, 2012, 06:22:06 PM »

I didn't love this one, but the dry dark wit was enjoyable. It had some great florid writing, in particular the titular line.
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« Reply #14 on: March 04, 2012, 11:54:08 PM »

I really enjoyed that it took the trope of The Chosen One™ and turned it on its head in a couple of ways. Very enjoyable.
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« Reply #15 on: March 07, 2012, 09:19:15 AM »

Yea!
Yea yea yea!
A fun, quirky story with a nice twist on an old trope.
For me this story was totally unpredictable. I kept thinking that "destiny" would win out in the end but the brothers' increasingly inappropriate  responses had me laughing out loud at this dark tale.
This one was really a pleasure to listen to!
I can't wait for the Coen Brothers to turn it into a movie.  Grin
« Last Edit: March 07, 2012, 09:27:21 AM by Gary » Logged
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« Reply #16 on: March 07, 2012, 09:25:32 AM »

So, at first I heard that as "During my brother Mel’s final test to become a god, he performed a flourish with his halberd and cut off his left foot...." and so on. In fact, for several minutes I kept hearing "god" instead of guard.

Just thought I'd throw in that this is EXACTLY what happened with me as well!
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« Reply #17 on: March 07, 2012, 09:26:45 AM »

So, at first I heard that as "During my brother Mel’s final test to become a god, he performed a flourish with his halberd and cut off his left foot...." and so on. In fact, for several minutes I kept hearing "god" instead of guard.

Just thought I'd throw in that this is EXACTLY what happened with me as well!

I forgot to mention that was the case with me too!  Smiley
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« Reply #18 on: March 07, 2012, 10:34:32 AM »

So, at first I heard that as "During my brother Mel’s final test to become a god, he performed a flourish with his halberd and cut off his left foot...." and so on. In fact, for several minutes I kept hearing "god" instead of guard.

Just thought I'd throw in that this is EXACTLY what happened with me as well!

I forgot to mention that was the case with me too!  Smiley

Me, three. Or four. Or something.
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« Reply #19 on: March 07, 2012, 01:34:34 PM »

The writing was excellent, the reading was fantastic, and despite all this I didn't like it.

The first inkling I that this wasn't to be my story was when the hints of cynicism kept coming, lately I've just had about my fill with cynicism, often I've felt that its what most people seem to think of as humor today, not realizing there is so much more available for use. Its in this vein that instead of "Oh a dark humor fantasy story, how rare," and enjoying the change I thought, "Oh great... another dark humor story," and things were off to a bad start.

Then we get to know our protagonist better and he comes across as a normal whiny teenager who wishes to get his own and to lounge around and accomplish nothing. Not my favorite type of person, but they outnumber me by quite a lot so what would I do about it? Then we learn that unlike most teenagers he is both homicidal and willing to act on it. It proceeds from there but I already don't care about him, his twin brother or what happens to them. Alas, I fear I was a lost cause at that point.
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