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Author Topic: PC201, Giant Episode: Golden City Far  (Read 8881 times)

Ocicat

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on: March 20, 2012, 08:14:50 AM
PodCastle 201, Giant Episode: Golden City Far

by Gene Wolfe.

Read by Kane Lynch

Originally appeared in Flights: Extreme Visions of Fantasy, edited by Al Sarrrantonio.


This is what William Wachter wrote in his spiral notebook during study hall, the first day.

Funny dream last night. I was standing on a beach. I looked out, shading my eyes, and I could not see a thing. It was like a big fog bank was over the ocean way far away so that everything sort of faded white. A gull flew over me and screeched, and I thought, Well, not that way.

So I turned north, and there was a long level stretch and big mountains. I should not have been able to see past them, but I could. It was not like the mountains could be looked through. It was like the thing I was seeing on the other side was higher than they were so that I saw it over the tops. It was really far away and looked small, but it was just beautiful, gold towers, all sizes and shapes with flags on them. Yelllow flags, purple, blue, green and white ones. I thought, Well, there it is.


Rated PG

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: April 12, 2012, 02:12:38 AM by Talia »



epilonious

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Reply #1 on: March 20, 2012, 07:48:13 PM
I liked the story and the happenstance of it all... but by the end I can't help but say to myself "Willy Stu who got the beauty of his dreams at only 16 and a half years old..."

I feel like he should at least have had to lose a favorite toe somewhere along the line...

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
 Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
 Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
 Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it
 -- Omar Khayyam


Unblinking

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Reply #2 on: March 21, 2012, 01:41:20 PM
I listened to about half of this, and decided not to listen any farther.  It's not that I hated it by any means, it just seemed like it had spent 45 minutes going a whole lot of nowhere.  I know the dream journal played a major part but I felt like it was nothing but a dream journal, some interesting images strung together but nothing more substantive than that. 

I'm not sure if it was the tone of the narrator, but I kept picturing Bill as being 10 years old rather than 16.  It might've also been the dialogue, which stood out to me as being overly simple.

Anyway, I didn't really dig it, at least not enough to listen for another 50 minutes to hear it resolved.  Not that unusual for novellas or novelletes for me anyway, I tend to feel that they're at least twice as long as they need to be really effective.

I am curious:  is the mysterious golden city quest some kind of literary reference?  I ask because it reminded me very strongly of Tad Williams' City of Golden Shadow.  I thought perhaps they were both making a reference to some well-known poem or something.





InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #3 on: March 21, 2012, 10:37:38 PM
There was a lot I liked about this, but two things that irritated me.

1) Bill's a pretentious little turd sometimes.
2) Sue's unquestioning following of Bill. C'mon, girl. Stand up for yourself at little more. Live a little more before committing yourself to a 16 year old.

But it did have a talking dog.... so it wasn't all bad.



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #4 on: March 22, 2012, 12:48:10 AM
This story doesn't have a place in my heart. It is my heart. I don't know any other way to say it. This story hit every chord, every nerve, every ounce of fear and pain and hope and nobility and strength and cowardice inside me. I don't think I've heard anything this beautiful in a long time.

I... I just... there aren't words. I loved it. I'm done.

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Reply #5 on: March 22, 2012, 12:08:22 PM
I got positively giddy when I heard that a Gene Wolfe story was going to air.  We're talking about someone who was just honored at the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame with the first Henry Blake Fuller Award. 

At any rate, I really enjoyed this story.  It's not as much as a 'coming of age' story as a 're-awakening' story (no pun intended).



Devoted135

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Reply #6 on: March 22, 2012, 02:01:47 PM
I wanted to like this story so badly! For a lot of it, I could almost love it, but then something would get in the way and I would be back to trying to like it. I have to be honest and say that half my problem was the reading. I usually like Kane Lynch's readings, but at times it seemed like he was getting as lost in the lengthy meanderings as I was. I also 100% agree with Unblinking, it was entirely too long.

I appreciated how the introduction primed us to think about how we know which world is real. The story did a good job of first making us come to conclusions on whether his dreams were real, and then turning it around enough to make us question what we thought we knew. For me, one of the first hints was when Willy first spoke some of the words from the runes on his sword. Since people generally can't read anything in a dream world (our brains won't usually go to the trouble of having actual words written out), that was a huge clue that these weren't your ordinary, run-of-the-mill kind of dreams. :)



4bidden

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Reply #7 on: March 22, 2012, 07:44:28 PM

 I hate to say it but this story didn't really reach me. It seemed to meander around and around with little to nothing going on for the better part of 40 minutes.I turned it off just over half way through because it wasn't really doing anything for me.
 I like Gene Wolfe's writing,but for some reason this just did not work as something read out loud.I like the reader as well his work is usually quite good,but he seemed like he wasn't really in it either.
 Don't get me wrong I like long episodes.I just want them to go places before half of the episode is over.
 



DKT

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Reply #8 on: March 22, 2012, 08:04:03 PM
I got positively giddy when I heard that a Gene Wolfe story was going to air.  We're talking about someone who was just honored at the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame with the first Henry Blake Fuller Award. 

At any rate, I really enjoyed this story.  It's not as much as a 'coming of age' story as a 're-awakening' story (no pun intended).

Discordanian, not sure how long you've been listening, but you may want to check out the other Gene Wolfe story we've run - PC171: The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories. Interesting to compare and contrast with this one!


childoftyranny

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Reply #9 on: March 23, 2012, 05:31:10 PM
I had some trouble with one, a part of it was the speed that it was read at, I realize that keeping up a good pace would be important for a longer reading yet it felt kind of breathless. As if the words just needed to come out in a way that made feel as well that the protagonist was much younger than he was supposed to be.

Intermixed with speed was the constant maybe responses that just made me feel like things were happening and he didn't care at all. At first we get pretty amazed-sounding descriptions of the city in the distance but then it all seems to start rolling downhill and never stopping. Each new occurrence, he just accepted, and other than maybe implied thoughtfulness we don't get a hint he was really feeling anything. That is one thing that I didn't have happen all with Tackman from "Dr Death and friends".

Because of that disconnect I never felt like I understood Bill, it didn't seem to matter in the slightest which world he was in, even his vague memory of the previous year being much worse didn't seem to mean much since he didn't seem to be happy nor care all that much about what was going on.

I wish I could have enjoyed this story but I just didn't get much out it, the entire time I felt like there was that "dream-like" fog over the images. Yet, that isn't how dreams are to me, I always found them to be crystal clear, things in the dreams are important and you know how you feel about them, even if you might not remember them. 



BlueLu

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Reply #10 on: March 24, 2012, 04:11:18 AM
I’m not sure about this one, which I guess is a good thing. 

I loved the strange non sequiturs, the places where you felt you must have missed something because the story seemed to jerk off in a different direction all of a sudden.  This seemed to really capture what dreams are like.  However, like dreams, the story did wander and meander around quite a bit.  When Bill was going out for the football team, my interest really started to lag, though that might have something to do with my complete lack of interest in football.  Wolfe pulled it together with a transcendent ending, but, honestly, if I’d been reading this story instead of listening to it, I might not have gotten there.

Until Dave mentioned it, I hadn’t clued in the this was by the same author as Island of Dr. Death, which I loved.  Similar themes, too.  I’ll have to listen to that one again now.


Intermixed with speed was the constant maybe responses that just made me feel like things were happening and he didn't care at all. At first we get pretty amazed-sounding descriptions of the city in the distance but then it all seems to start rolling downhill and never stopping. Each new occurrence, he just accepted, and other than maybe implied thoughtfulness we don't get a hint he was really feeling anything.

See, that's part of what I enjoyed about the story because it seems to me that's what dreams are really like.  Something bizarre happens and you accept it.  Your brain weaves the story around the new idea and incorporates it into the dream.

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Reply #11 on: March 26, 2012, 02:20:18 AM
Loved it. Loved the way the dream and reality gradually meshed, loved the "quest", great outcome.


Talia

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Reply #12 on: March 27, 2012, 03:14:10 AM
While I'm not really sure what Bill's destiny was here, I surely did enjoy the journey. Really neat, the way fantasy and "reality" blended (although I'm uncertain why the shrinks locked them in the basement, especially the seemingly kindly Mrs. Grimes, or whatever it was). The concluding lines particularly made me think Bill and Sue were stuck in some sort of virtual reality video game, and had just gotten through the intro part - with Dina being the helpful "genie" for newbies.

It also made me think of the show 'Awake,' of which I am also a fan. Though they are quite different, really.



Unblinking

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Reply #13 on: March 27, 2012, 01:53:25 PM
It also made me think of the show 'Awake,' of which I am also a fan. Though they are quite different, really.

That show looks cool, though I've yet to tune in.  I like Jason Isaacs a lot, though he may always be named "Lucius Malfoy" in my internal monologue.



Talia

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Reply #14 on: March 27, 2012, 02:11:03 PM
It also made me think of the show 'Awake,' of which I am also a fan. Though they are quite different, really.

That show looks cool, though I've yet to tune in.  I like Jason Isaacs a lot, though he may always be named "Lucius Malfoy" in my internal monologue.


I'm really, really enjoying it (your mileage may vary). If you want to pick it up I'd recommend finding the previous episodes online somewhere (or On Demand, possibly) and starting with those. It doesn't exactly have an ongoing plot, but it the first few episodes set things up nicely.




Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #15 on: March 27, 2012, 06:52:42 PM
I'm still only half way through with this.
It's long, and doesn't appear to go anywhere.
Also, the narrator bugs me a little bit. While he does an excellent job with tone of voice and inflection, there is something wrong with his L's. I'm not sure of it's a mild speech impediment or a weird accent, but whatever it is, I seem to have some sort of horrific fascination with it. As the story progresses I lose more and more interest in the story and am simply listening to the words as words waiting for the next 'L' sound (which also says something about the strength of the story).

I also seemed to have gotten the idea that Billy is in, maybe, the fifth grade. I'm not sure exactly what it is, perhaps it's the way he talks, the way he thinks, the things that seem to bother him.... I don't know. Whatever it is, it just feels wrong.

Maybe later I'll be able to finish it, but not now.

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Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #16 on: March 28, 2012, 10:49:53 PM
Well, I finally finished it.
I didn't like it very much.
The buildup was too slow and gradual (and I think I lost the thread of the story more than once, assuming there was one) and the action was too "and then we did this and that guy did that and then it was over" kinda thing.
Also, and while I appreciate that this may have been the point of the story, the whole unable-to-tell-when-one-scene-ended-and-the-next-one-began was just awful. This wasn't the usual run-of-the-mill scene breaks not working in audio format, this was a whole other level of ambiguity entirely. The thing is, scenes didn't really end in this story. The author just seemed to have gotten tired telling us what had happened and moved on to something else. If we're lucky, we'll get to hear the end of the last scene in a recap. But most likely we won't.
Also, sentences like "... the iron door. He had not seen it. He lifted the bar and threw it aside, it burst open nearly knocking him down..." are just wrong. I had to rewind and listen to that bit 3 times before I understood what had happened.

And I want to know what planet those people live on, because nobody calmly watches a boy, a dog and a non-existent lady kill monsters that jump out of an old coal furnace, and then chops them up into itty bitty little pieces and feeds them to the furnace. Oh, and they locked those people in the furnace as well. Why? Because.

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Wilson Fowlie

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Reply #17 on: March 28, 2012, 11:22:12 PM
nobody calmly watches a boy, a dog and a non-existent lady kill monsters that jump out of an old coal furnace, and then chops them up into itty bitty little pieces and feeds them to the furnace. Oh, and they locked those people in the furnace as well. Why? Because.

I don't think they locked them in the furnace - I could be wrong (it wasn't, as you note, entirely clear), but I believe the iron door that the boy, the dog and the non-existent lady went through was in the basement wall, and led to a dark underworld. The doctors locked them in there, not the furnace.

(I'm not saying that should necessarily make it better for you, just hopefully clarifying a detail.)

"People commonly use the word 'procrastination' to describe what they do on the Internet. It seems to me too mild to describe what's happening as merely not-doing-work. We don't call it procrastination when someone gets drunk instead of working." - Paul Graham


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Reply #18 on: March 29, 2012, 01:28:57 AM
Discordanian, not sure how long you've been listening, but you may want to check out the other Gene Wolfe story we've run - PC171: The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories. Interesting to compare and contrast with this one!

That episode doesn't leave my ipod. 



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #19 on: March 29, 2012, 03:31:42 PM
nobody calmly watches a boy, a dog and a non-existent lady kill monsters that jump out of an old coal furnace, and then chops them up into itty bitty little pieces and feeds them to the furnace. Oh, and they locked those people in the furnace as well. Why? Because.

I don't think they locked them in the furnace - I could be wrong (it wasn't, as you note, entirely clear), but I believe the iron door that the boy, the dog and the non-existent lady went through was in the basement wall, and led to a dark underworld. The doctors locked them in there, not the furnace.

(I'm not saying that should necessarily make it better for you, just hopefully clarifying a detail.)
I somehow got the impression that the furnace was the gateway to the underworld (or whatever) but now that you mention it, the random iron door in the wall makes a little more sense. After all, they were burning the bodies in the furnace when our intrepid heroes came out of some other door (presumably. I wouldn't put it past the weird narration of this story to have these guys walking out of the furnace while those other guys are throwing chopped up monster bits into the furnace).

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Wilson Fowlie

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Reply #20 on: March 29, 2012, 03:56:49 PM
(I wouldn't put it past the weird narration of this story to have these guys walking out of the furnace while those other guys are throwing chopped up monster bits into the furnace).

Yeah, that occurred to me while I was writing that. It wouldn't have surprised me, either, but I don't think that's what happened. :)

For myself, I rather liked the story, though it did feel overlong. There have been some Giants where, upon getting to where I'm driving before end of the story, I've been all, "Ooo, can't wait to find out what happens next!" And there are others where my reaction is more, "Geez, there's that much of the story left to go?!" This, I'm afraid, was one of the latter.

I get that Podcastle Giants are supposed to give room for deeper and more detailed world- and/or character-building, but I really feel that Wolfe managed to give me an excellent sense of both world and character in a fairly short space. A lot of the middle of the story felt like marking time: stuff happened, but it didn't seem to matter much, and was just there to express the weirdness of dreams. That could have been done a lot more compactly. Maybe this couldn't have been done as a half-hour story, but certainly within an hour (which would still qualify it as a Giant).

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Reply #21 on: March 30, 2012, 04:04:44 PM
Each time I hear or read a Gene Wolfe story, I think, maybe this is the one, this is the story that makes me understand why people love Wolfe stories so much. I got it a little with the Island of Dr Death story, but I wanted something that knocked my socks off and really turn me into a Gene Wolfe fan.

Sadly, this was not the story. If anything, I actively disliked it. Kid finds his dreams are blending into reality, he gets smart and strong through no effirt on his part, all the women fall for him, even the dog become his friend, and they all ride into the sunset happily ever after. At first I found the dream bits at the beginning interesting, and the whole part with the girl who's neighbor was a ghost was interesting to, but then the story just went on, and on and ON. I almost gave up during the time in the counselor's office when he's talking with three women, because I had no clue who was who, or why I should care.

There was one line, though, out of the entire story, that struck me as brilliant: when the dream girl (don't ask me who) offers the boy a kiss, and he runs away saying, "I won't be able to stop." That was perfect, and poignant, and summed up the entire adoloscent experience for me. Too bad it dragged on for so long.


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Reply #22 on: April 01, 2012, 04:59:07 PM
This story was unlistenable. By the way, as a side note- would it be possible not to schedule back-to-back stories over 1 hour long? The length can get exhausting.



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Reply #23 on: April 01, 2012, 06:11:55 PM
This story was unlistenable. By the way, as a side note- would it be possible not to schedule back-to-back stories over 1 hour long? The length can get exhausting.

You know a great way to get your scheduling requests listened to? Precede them by a four-word comment that contains absolutely nothing but an ambiguously general put-down.
« Last Edit: April 01, 2012, 07:11:55 PM by eytanz »



eytanz

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Reply #24 on: April 01, 2012, 06:19:32 PM
I loved this story, but I find Gene Wolfe to be hard work. Maybe I loved it because I found it to be hard work. It started out as a deceptively straightforward story, but it has quite a few layers. It reminded me of my own teenage daydreams, in many ways, both good and bad.

I really enjoyed the reading, too. It seemed to deliberately exist on the surface level of the story - it made Bill seem very guileless and earnest. Which I think is just right for how it should have been read. The problematicity of the story should come from the listener.