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Author Topic: PC205: Outlander  (Read 2768 times)
Talia
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« on: April 24, 2012, 12:44:01 PM »

PodCastle 205: Outlander

by Samantha Henderson

Read by the intrepid Graeme Dunlop.

Originally appeared in the anthology The Feathered Edge, edited by Deborah J. Ross.

I well know the whole disgraceful affair was my fault. I was the one that befriended that great beast of an Outlander, spawn of his border-clan House, and led him with such fatal consequences to my family’s heart.

But Lukah Brehill seemed such harmless oaf, charming in a way rare among my fellows, and I thought it was a kindness to introduce him to proper society. He’d been sent by his House to pay his respects to Sireni and its Duke, and was housed among the rest of the young bucks of the Houses too far and unfortunate to live in the heart of the city spectacular.


Rated PG.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: May 15, 2012, 12:34:28 PM by Talia » Logged
DKT
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« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2012, 12:55:51 PM »

For those interested, you can check out M.K. Hobson's The Warlock's Curse kickstarter here! Also, there's a thread to discuss the Kickstarter project here, so we can keep this thread focused on the story Smiley
« Last Edit: April 24, 2012, 01:11:05 PM by DKT » Logged

jenfullmoon
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« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2012, 05:43:41 PM »

Oh, poor Kai. Had no idea there was a secret romance going on whatsoever. It's just kind of funny that way.
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merian
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« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2012, 01:54:36 PM »

Long time listener, first time poster, to prevent you guys from deleting my account again. (*)

This was a mostly enjoyable, if straightforward story with a pretty much previsible end from the moment when the friend and the sister first meet or at least when the duel challenge is issued. I do wonder a little about the proliferation of unreliable-narrator-type stories that I'm seeing float around that seem to be trying out the trope for size more than actually needing it for some narrative goal. That's the reason, I think, the end is a bit awkward. But it was a nice enough world, well told, entertaining motives about gender relations and the role of combat thrown in. Well read, too. Not a great Podcastle but worth the listen aplenty.

Good you're back on the air!







(*) No, I'm not peeved about it ... much. I run forums myself and know how hard it is to keep the spam out.
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2012, 02:22:20 PM »

My only problem with this story was that the author did too good a job with the narrator. Sure, he was a bit of schmuck, but he seemed like among the nicest his people had to offer. In a screwed up, arrogant, self-assured way, he was trying to be a good person, to behave with courtesy and honor. Therefore, it left a bad taste in my mouth when I realized that not only was this not really his story, but that he was going to be vilified and mocked the entire way through.

I kind of wonder if the gender-roles-stuff in this story didn't fall into the Indiana Jones/Nazi Paradox. Have you heard of it? I can't remember who it was - the Dalai Lama? - who said, of the Nazis in Indiana Jones, "they didn't die because they were Nazis; they were Nazis so we wouldn't mind watching them die." In other words, if something bad happens to someone because he's a jerk, that's one thing, but if someone is made to be a jerk so that the audience won't care when something bad happens to them - will laugh, will cheer - then it's lazy and dehumanizing. It's a very fine line, and I won't say that I always know when a story lies on one side or the other. However, this was the reaction I had to the gender roles elements in this story: the bad sexist narrator gets his in the end, despite the fact that all his actions were basically motivated by compassion, but he was a bad sexist guy, so who cares?

I'm going to repeat part of that, because it really summarized my feelings on Kai: although he is, in fact, a prideful and arrogant man, his actions were motivated by compassion, and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth that he was given no compassion by the author in return.

That said, I thought the story was incredibly clever and well-paced. The point of view shenanigans breathed new life into an old story. I was particularly amused by the mask conceit, which made it easier for Kai's sister's true feelings to go unseen. The story felt like a puzzle, the pieces gradually falling into place around me, and I was very amused.

I'm also particularly thankful that this story was good, as I listened to it last night, in bed, while riding out a stomach flu. Outlander was able to distract me from the worst stomach pain I've felt since Cairo, so it was definitely a winner! I give it four slightly ill zeppelins out of five.
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merian
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« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2012, 07:51:23 PM »

I kind of wonder if the gender-roles-stuff in this story didn't fall into the Indiana Jones/Nazi Paradox. Have you heard of it? I can't remember who it was - the Dalai Lama? - who said, of the Nazis in Indiana Jones, "they didn't die because they were Nazis; they were Nazis so we wouldn't mind watching them die." In other words, if something bad happens to someone because he's a jerk, that's one thing, but if someone is made to be a jerk so that the audience won't care when something bad happens to them - will laugh, will cheer - then it's lazy and dehumanizing. It's a very fine line, and I won't say that I always know when a story lies on one side or the other. However, this was the reaction I had to the gender roles elements in this story: the bad sexist narrator gets his in the end, despite the fact that all his actions were basically motivated by compassion, but he was a bad sexist guy, so who cares?

The paradox was new to me, and it'll come in useful in the future. However, I fail to see how it applies here, as nothing bad happens to the narrator at all. (I even went back and listened to the beginning and the end again because your comment left me bemused.) As I said above, I did consider the unreliable narrator schtick here to be a little artificial, but that's all there is to it for me: our narrator is an example of what happens when a civilization's leaders degenerate into uselessness. He doesn't notice that the story isn't about himself (as he seems to think), or even mostly about the title character, but about his sister, whose scholarly skill goes unacknowledged and whose desire for agency is beyond the understanding of any man has any influence over her, plotting her escape. You're right, he isn't an incarnation of evil and indeed has some measure of decency in him, though clad in oodles of condescension, but what we can learn is that compassion is a dreadful basis for friendship.
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ZQ Drake
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« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2012, 05:50:43 AM »

Early on in this story i started thinking of the Firefly episode "Shindig", and to my amusement, Dave referenced it on his way out.  Both involve a pompous man who is struck by a supposed savage because he insulted a woman or women, and a following fight to the death wherein the challenger's life is spared by the supposed savage.  And women dressed in all manner of finery.  This story entertained me so much that i've listened to it several times.  My only problem with it is the excessive foreshadowing on the part of the narrator.  He kicks himself so many times for what he didn't realize, saying that he was blind, calling Luca a hypocrite.  Building up suspense is good, but it could have been done without so much of this.   Other than that, the story is really good, and i thought it was funny how the Kai seemed to think his sister was always being rude when this was either her manner of flirtation or another kind of mask to hide her true feelings for Luca.  I also think it's funny how Luca's mask was that of a simpleton--Kai refers to him as "simple" many times, and innocent, when he and the sister were probably scheming for a long time.  Was pissing off the prince knowing he would be challenged and feeling confident that he could best him, and proposing an acceptable alternative to slaying him all a set up?  Sounds like fun to me. 
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childoftyranny
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« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2012, 09:29:30 AM »

Therefore, it left a bad taste in my mouth when I realized that not only was this not really his story, but that he was going to be vilified and mocked the entire way through.

I'm going to repeat part of that, because it really summarized my feelings on Kai: although he is, in fact, a prideful and arrogant man, his actions were motivated by compassion, and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth that he was given no compassion by the author in return.

I'm afraid I fail to see him as vilified, its true that his pride was his undoing but as you said he trying to compassionate within his fallacy. Would it have been better if he'd realized how much he had been played in the end, its quite possible that his father did and I'm not sure that is better? Though I'm a bit puzzled that the sister was clever enough to ferret out this scholarly information and join in this plot with our barbarian but was not clever enough to play her father in more subtle fashion. That she could not figure out a way to drop clues to make him think it was his idea in a way that so often happens makes me think that her moving to the Outlands is quite fitting.

As for Kai I don't think it'd be charitable to say that he was naive, simply truth, the world fit so well into he expectations so why would he even bother to wonder at things out of the ordinary?

I for one appreciate that this story was straight forward, I could tell what was going to happen, yet that isn't a bad thing. The writing flowed smoothly and the reading was delightful, bravo I say, bravo.
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #8 on: April 27, 2012, 01:20:34 PM »

I enjoyed this. I didn't mind that our narrator was a prideful noble dick - "barbarians are great to party with but God forbid my sister marries one!". People are like that.

It almost played like a sunnier version of "Game of Thrones", given that it concentrates on powerplays and intrigue, and showing that the "nobility" may not be as noble or bright as they make themselves out to be.

In fact, the masks were for me that weakest part of the story, because I found them a bit heavy-handed as a reference. Yeah, the brother can't see what's going on behind the sister's mask until the very end. A little obvious, perhaps?
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lisavilisa
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« Reply #9 on: April 28, 2012, 07:48:29 AM »

I kind of wonder if the gender-roles-stuff in this story didn't fall into the Indiana Jones/Nazi Paradox. Have you heard of it? I can't remember who it was - the Dalai Lama? - who said, of the Nazis in Indiana Jones, "they didn't die because they were Nazis; they were Nazis so we wouldn't mind watching them die." In other words, if something bad happens to someone because he's a jerk, that's one thing, but if someone is made to be a jerk so that the audience won't care when something bad happens to them - will laugh, will cheer - then it's lazy and dehumanizing. It's a very fine line, and I won't say that I always know when a story lies on one side or the other. However, this was the reaction I had to the gender roles elements in this story: the bad sexist narrator gets his in the end, despite the fact that all his actions were basically motivated by compassion, but he was a bad sexist guy, so who cares?

The paradox was new to me, and it'll come in useful in the future. However, I fail to see how it applies here, as nothing bad happens to the narrator at all. (I even went back and listened to the beginning and the end again because your comment left me bemused.) As I said above, I did consider the unreliable narrator schtick here to be a little artificial, but that's all there is to it for me: our narrator is an example of what happens when a civilization's leaders degenerate into uselessness. He doesn't notice that the story isn't about himself (as he seems to think), or even mostly about the title character, but about his sister, whose scholarly skill goes unacknowledged and whose desire for agency is beyond the understanding of any man has any influence over her, plotting her escape. You're right, he isn't an incarnation of evil and indeed has some measure of decency in him, though clad in oodles of condescension, but what we can learn is that compassion is a dreadful basis for friendship.

I can see your point. The guy is not a little bit patronizing and completely blind to the idea that women or outlanders could ever be smarter than him. If the worst that happens to him with this attitude is his sister gets to live a happy life with a man she loves and the pear trees don't die, I think he made off ok.

BTW, I couldn't catch the end, did the sister engineer it so her and her new husband got the orchard, or was she just given control of them?
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washer
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« Reply #10 on: April 29, 2012, 05:23:39 AM »

I had this idea that the sister was the servant that escorted Luca home each night.  Safe bet?
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kibitzer
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« Reply #11 on: April 29, 2012, 05:54:33 AM »

Merian, great to have you around! Come back and comment again Smiley

I do wonder a little about the proliferation of unreliable-narrator-type stories that I'm seeing float around that seem to be trying out the trope for size more than actually needing it for some narrative goal.

Honestly, I think this was less about the "unreliable" narrator than the "completely and utterly unaware" narrator. To me, "unreliable" implies some kind of deception -- the narrator bigging themselves up by... economy with the truth. Kai told the story from his PoV which was completely truthful, as far as he was concerned. He just had no real idea of what was going on.
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olivaw
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« Reply #12 on: April 29, 2012, 06:53:30 PM »

This one caught my attention and held it.
It was obvious from the beginning where the story was going but, like the Game of Thrones, it was great to hear it played out pitch-perfect.
I've grown fond of depictions of the 'nice bigot' - the affable chap who nurtures all kinds of horrible prejudices beneath a veneer of polite open-mindedness. I think it's a characterisation that resonates with a wide portion of modern liberal society, and challenges us to look at ourselves, if we dare, for similar 'but my sister?' reactions.

Also, my last year's LRP calendar has been full of bloody arena battles to conquer Cyrene from the masked Carthaginians, and tea and cake with hideous barbarians who are great for outraging polite society, so long as they don't go marrying my sister. Ms Henderson clearly has her finger on the pulse of what's going on.
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Leishalynn
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« Reply #13 on: April 30, 2012, 04:28:23 PM »

You nailed it, Olivaw. I listen at work and was interrupted, so came back to it days later. I suspected what was going on, but I had to learn how the duel came out, too. The lovers reminded me of Elizabeth and Darcy, but under their cool appearance they had already reached an agreement. Clever.
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patriciomas
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« Reply #14 on: May 05, 2012, 01:20:25 PM »

I'd love to hear this story from the point of view of Liliam (although, from reading comments on "The Rowan Gentleman," it would be too girly for some). I love the longer episodes, too.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #15 on: May 07, 2012, 10:32:56 AM »

I enjoyed watching this story play out - sometimes it's about the journey, not the destination. Or somesuch. Tongue

The sad part for me was that the main character doesn't seem to have learned anything from realizing that he had completely misjudged not only his new friend, but also his sister. In the end, he still thinks that it was a "disgraceful affair", and something that it would have been better to avoid.
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Unblinking
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« Reply #16 on: May 17, 2012, 09:49:18 AM »

I enjoyed this story pretty well, though the length could easily have been cut in half to make the story that much stronger.  I especially enjoyed the duel scene, the buildup to the duel seemed too slow, not uninteresting just slow. 

I enjoy the occasional story about political maneuvering, and have been enjoying Game of Thrones TV series for the same reason.

Honestly, I think this was less about the "unreliable" narrator than the "completely and utterly unaware" narrator. To me, "unreliable" implies some kind of deception -- the narrator bigging themselves up by... economy with the truth. Kai told the story from his PoV which was completely truthful, as far as he was concerned. He just had no real idea of what was going on.

Personally, i would say that an unaware narrator also qualifies as an unreliable narrator.  There are shades of unreliable narrator, including:
--A narrator who is confused or naive (like this story or the early and late chapters of Flowers for Algernon)
--A narrator who is applying his own skewed and strong POV on events (The White Street Society)
--A narrator who is lying (The Usual Suspects)

The important thing for me to call a narrator unreliable is the fact that there are strong indications that the world, characters, or events is not as the narrator says it is.  I tend to like this sort of story because it provides a puzzle apart from the main plot itself, to try to spot that there's something wrong with the story, to try to figure out what parts are wrong, and to figure out why they're wrong.  Smiley

In this case, I thought the author was a bit too heavy-handed on the hints that Luca and his sister were deceptive, to the point that it was pretty obvious very early on rather than me either figuring it out bit by bit or suddenly realizing my misconception at the end.  I think I would've liked it more if the cards were played closer to the chest because I would've had a puzzle to work on as the rest of the plot unrolled, that may have made the length seem more justified.
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Listener
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« Reply #17 on: May 17, 2012, 12:01:20 PM »

I didn't much care for this story. It was, to me, very much in the "noble savage" trope/theme, and didn't distinguish itself from said theme well enough to stand out. Plus, the deus ex machina at the end where Luca turns the tables by forcing his opponent to fight his way really slowed down the action and by the time it ramped up we all knew who was going to win.

I talked about this in another forum I'm on where we were discussing "how do you determine which character should win the battle?" along with Rowling's corollary*. I mentioned that, regardless of who wins in the end, any battle needs to have three (and only three) beats**. Whether it's three fights throughout the movie/story or three moments in a single battle (or both), it helps set things up. I think the battle here had that -- Evenly matched, Villain starts to win, Hero wins -- but somehow it still didn't add up for me. Contrast it to the fight between Mal and Atherton (in Shindig, since it was already referenced) -- First Atherton plays with Mal, then he starts to win, then Mal fights his way and takes the victory. That battle was more interesting because we knew what we were fighting for -- Inara's freedom to choose who she sells herself to. In this story, until Luca made Lilliam a condition of not killing the villain, I think we only had an inkling that there was something going on between them, and I didn't even know if it was one-sided, two-sided, or both.

Anyway, that moment in the fight is where the story really lost it for me. But I didn't much care for Kai anyway throughout. He wasn't really sympathetic in my eyes.

* If one person has a wand and the other has a shotgun, the one with the shotgun will probably win.

** My opinion.
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LaShawn
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« Reply #18 on: June 14, 2012, 12:03:37 PM »

In this case, I thought the author was a bit too heavy-handed on the hints that Luca and his sister were deceptive, to the point that it was pretty obvious very early on rather than me either figuring it out bit by bit or suddenly realizing my misconception at the end.  I think I would've liked it more if the cards were played closer to the chest because I would've had a puzzle to work on as the rest of the plot unrolled, that may have made the length seem more justified.


I agree with Unblinking in that right away I knew Luca and the sister would be as they seem. Actually, and I hate to say this, but Dave's intro sort of spoiled me on the nature of masks and deception. I did enjoy the story, even though it would have been nice if there was a bit of growth on the narrator's part, though. The patronizing attitude had a good comeuppance in the end, but on the flip side, Luca and the sister used him, and that left a bad taste in my mouth at the end of the story.
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