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Author Topic: PC215, Giant Episode: Ours Is the Prettiest  (Read 6602 times)
Talia
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« on: July 04, 2012, 11:49:07 AM »

PodCastle 215, Giant Episode: Ours Is the Prettiest

by Nalo Hopkinson.

Read by Nalo Hopkinson.

Originally appeared in Welcome to Bordertown edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner. You can find out more about Bordertown here.


The camel bus had a black banner draped around it. The lettering on it was made to look ike bones, and read “We Dead Awaken.” Through the windows we could see the musicians, all of them wearing funereal black suits, including top hats tricked out with black lace veils. Even the musicians were playin’ mas’. It was a brass band, instruments shouting out the melody to a song I almost recognized.

Today was Jou’vert; the daylong free-for-all we were pleased to call a “parade” ushered in the week of bacchanalia that was Bordertown’s more or less annual Jamboree. Word had gone around town that thi year’s theme was “jazz funeral.” I was dressed as a Catrina from the Dia de los Muertos — a gorgeous femme skeleton in sultry widow’s weeds, complete with a massive picture hat.

I suppressed a sneeze; my sinuses were tingling. Juju breeze for true, blowing a withcy front of magic from the Realm into Bordertown. Juju weather always made things in Bordertown especially…interesting.


Rated R for language, sex.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: July 25, 2012, 08:17:36 AM by Talia » Logged
Unblinking
Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2012, 08:40:38 AM »

Another Welcome to Bordertown story?  I'm starting to wonder if that whole anthology will end up being reprinted here.

This story was cut from the same cloth as the other Welcome to Bordertown stories that have run at Escape Artists.  Which is to say, it seemed like they hinted at an interesting larger world, the characters seemed authentic enough to feel like real people, but I found myself completely without tension.  I was tempted to turn it off shortly into the story because nothing of interest to me was happening, but I wanted to give Nalo a fair shake, and I wasn't sure that I was doing that because I'd immediately groaned when I heard it was another Bordertown story, so I listened on.  But, still by 3/4 of the way through I just wasn't really interested.  For the most part it seemed to be a description of a party, with the main attempt at tension seeming to be whether one character was born in the World or not.  I didn't particularly care where they were born, so that didn't do much for me.

Nalo's voice is certainly easy on the ears, though.  Even though I didn't get much from the story, it was enjoyable listening to her voice.
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lisavilisa
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« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2012, 11:31:12 AM »

Another Welcome to Bordertown story?  I'm starting to wonder if that whole anthology will end up being reprinted here.

Yes please.

I read the story when it came out, I didn't quite resonate with it. Read aloud I found it much more vivid and I got some nuances of the narrator that I missed before. Especially her need to control everything around her.
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danooli
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« Reply #3 on: July 08, 2012, 06:31:09 AM »

huh.  I enjoy the Bordertown stories, so I hope you keep 'em coming!

Anyway, I liked this one just fine.  It did take a while to get into the groove of the narration for me though.  Ms. Hopkinson's accent wasn't the impediment, it was the speed in which she read that was the hindrance for me.  However, as I was driving, I realized that I was missing key points but I was interested enough to give it another try.  So I did, after reading the opening pages in Welcome To Bordertown (I had only previously downloaded a sample, but this made me go get the whole book.)

Once I realized that there were flashbacks, I was able to understand what was going on.  Boy, is that a party I want to go to! One year for Halloween, a bunch of my friends and I all went to Salem, MA for the weekend.  That was a blast and a half, and the closest I can think of to compare to the celebration in "Ours Is The Prettiest." 

I am left wondering what exactly Beti and her brother/cousin/betrothed really ARE though. The description of the dancing Beti as a whirling dervish made me picture the metamorphosed and spinning creature as such, but I don't think that's the way I'm supposed to see it.

Either way, damn it, now I want buttery battered fried green bananas.
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HailToTheChimp
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« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2012, 05:26:44 PM »

After listening to Nalo's reading I'd have to say that I now rank this story of one of my favourites in the Welcome to Bordertown collection. It really does a service to the wider setting by featuring some characters who are outside of the Eurocentric, Hetero background that most of the other Bordertown protagonists belong to.
 I always thought it was a little awkward that people of presumably all sorts of cultures from the real world managed to break though into a semi-mythical world to find that the magical peoples there only really came from European fairy tales, which is why this story scratched at in itch for me.


Either way, damn it, now I want buttery battered fried green bananas.


Me too dammit, good plantain is hard to find Tongue
https://www.google.com/search?q=fried+plantains&hl=en&prmd=imvnse&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=dAj6T8dUztrRBeL41K0H&ved=0CEUQ_AUoAQ&biw=1366&bih=643
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ThomasTheAttoney
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« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2012, 05:51:50 PM »

I know that we are only supposed to be gushing praise, but...
Unblinking summed it up well.  I didn't care about the question "where is that character born"? I agree, most of the Bordertown stories are poor.  If a writer doesn't have enough to develop their own story, giving them a poorly constructed world isn't going to help, except to get published on a site that has a sad penchant for the boring Bordertown.
It would help to learn to observe the world.  Stilt walkers don't bounce, they glide -stop, glide - stop.  Learn to really look at a stilt walker before you are going to slow down your story to describe one, and you will learn to more fully observe people.  Or was that just to describer a character's breasts?  We don't really care what a character looks like, we want to know how the character feels.
 
There were a lot of unimportant ideas just thrown in an not developed.  Example "The mad hunt" that hunts for the doomed in broad day light.  Okay, build a story around that and make us care about a character who is being hunted, or develop the idea, but just putting it and then going on to the next partly developed idea is a waste of time.
danooli is right.  the reading was too fast. Also, the narration was poor.  We have all heard Jamaican accents, but we have also heard them with clear enunciation.   Read more slowly and focus on giving the ending consonants their full stop.  Ending vowels can be linked, do not clip off an ending consonant to link a previous vowel.
Altogether, not a strong study of people, or any interesting or thought provoking ideas.  Was the incest supposed to be so "crazy" we would overlook the lack of plot?  Being non hetero, non European does not make it automatically non boring, but they might be crutches to deflect constructive criticism.  Being counter culture gives you a ready made audience.  Break out of that rut to let your voice run free.  Stop trying to impress people with how different you are.  First, not different, second, being weird is not different, third, you have have to be different to be better, but being different doesn't make you better, and being different for the sake of being different will prevent you from being better.
Since escape artists started paying per word, it seems the stories have started to get longer and in large part, of lower quality.

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eytanz
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« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2012, 06:01:46 PM »

I know that we are only supposed to be gushing praise

You're not supposed to be gushing praise. Most people who comment on the stories here are quite happy to criticise. You'll note that of the four posts made before your own, two were negative.

What you may wish to consider doing, though, is to drop the attitude. At the moment almost everything of value you have to say (and I do think you are saying stuff of value) is being drowned out by your insistence on being a jerk while saying it.

Quote
Since escape artists started paying per word, it seems the stories have started to get longer and in large part, of lower quality

Podcastle does not pay per word, and never has. The only Escape Artists podcast to pay per word is Escape Pod.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2012, 06:04:09 PM by eytanz » Logged
ThomasTheAttoney
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« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2012, 06:47:39 PM »

"Jerk"  really?  Do you have a definition of that? 
Do you call everyone you disagree with a "jerk"?
Are you proud of calling me a "jerk"?
Do you feel that a wrong has been committed and that by attempting to brand me as a "jerk" people will praise your bravery in righting a wrong?
What was the statement that wounded you so?
If the only defense of this story is to attempt to denigrate a criticizer, should the story have been run the first time?
Did you think this was a special story?  Did you feel that was going to bring some kind of change?  Was it when people discussed it as a pedestrian attempt at making an interesting story by trying to make it fantastic that you were upset? 
One rarely insults someone if they are wrong, so I appreciate your acceptance of my comments.  I am surprised you made an actual acknowledgement of the comments.
If this story was not paid by the word, why was it a Giant episode.  Not much happened and there was little character development.
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Ocicat
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« Reply #8 on: July 08, 2012, 09:45:32 PM »

Moderator

Alright everybody, settle down.

Story criticism is of course welcome, personal insults are not.  In addition, story criticism should be in a constructive light, and not mean-spirited.  Thomas, I do think you were coming close to that line in your original post.  Eytanz, you're not doing so great either. 

Everyone should go review The One Rule.

Moderator out
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eytanz
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« Reply #9 on: July 09, 2012, 01:40:32 AM »

Yeah, very sorry here. I was tired when I posted that last night and I really shouldn't have resorted to a personal insult. My sincere apologies to ThomasTheAttoney and everyone else here.

For what it's worth, I haven't listened to the episode, I was responding to the tone of ThomasTheAttoney's current and past posts, not the content (except for the mistaken assumption as to paying by word).
« Last Edit: July 09, 2012, 01:51:37 AM by eytanz » Logged
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #10 on: July 09, 2012, 08:45:09 AM »

Being non hetero, non European does not make it automatically non boring, but they might be crutches to deflect constructive criticism.  Being counter culture gives you a ready made audience.  Break out of that rut to let your voice run free.  Stop trying to impress people with how different you are.  First, not different, second, being weird is not different, third, you have have to be different to be better, but being different doesn't make you better, and being different for the sake of being different will prevent you from being better.

I'm not knocking Nalo Hopkinson for writing a story from a different perspective.  I welcome the different perspective, as a different POV can render a familiar setting in an entirely new light.  Beyond that, I've heard many people, editors, readers, and writers alike, say that they want to read more stories from non-Eurocentric perspectives, so it makes sense for those stories to be published, there is demand for them.

But there was nothing about the story that made me think that she wrote it with the primary purpose of making it sellable by making it non-Eurocentric.  Unless I heard it from her own mouth, I'd assume that she was trying to write the best damned story that she could write.  The fact that it was purchased for this anthology means that the editors (both of whom I have respect for from reading their prior editing) at least thought she did a good job at it. 

That doesn't change the fact that I didn't really care for the story, nor for the other Bordertown stories that have run here so far.  But I am willing to give the writer, and the editors of that anthology and this podcast the benefit of the doubt that they are all trying to write/pick the best stories for their personal definitions of "best".  Sometimes that definition will coincide with mine, and sometimes it won't.
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Pirvonen
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« Reply #11 on: July 09, 2012, 01:37:13 PM »

Some Bordertown stories have been nice. Others have been meh. This one was interesting and engaging. It did not need to be a Bordertown story, though.

I'm weird, probably. Reading shared-world stories by professional authors leaves me often with the same feeling as reading fanfiction. The writing, the storytelling can be good, even excellent. But the writer is not able to take full control of the situation -- or elsewise, the writer causes the shared world to fragment into mutually incompatible ostraca.

Like much of Nalo Hopkinsons work, I liked this. Moreover, she made the characters come through -- not all authors reading their own work manage that.

Thank you, talent and staff both.
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danooli
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« Reply #12 on: July 09, 2012, 04:30:33 PM »

The song in this one, by the way, has become a (not so terrible) ear worm  Cheesy

do you hear, my sissie-oh?
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #13 on: July 09, 2012, 05:21:27 PM »

I'm frankly NOT a tremendous fan of the Bordertown series - which probably creates a bit of a negative feedback loop. I sometimes feel like I'm missing something important, not having gotten on the train earlier.

That doesn't mean I can't like them, though, and I certainly liked this one. Mostly, though, it wasn't because of the nature of the story, that I took to be a statement about abusive relationships, but rather the joyous authentic Caribbean narration of the author. Which made a nice change from the European stuff (ok, maybe not after the week before). Really, it was completely entrancing, in any sense of that word.

And Dave... did you mean Ellis Island instead of "Stanton" Island?  Wink
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DKT
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« Reply #14 on: July 09, 2012, 05:50:54 PM »


And Dave... did you mean Ellis Island instead of "Stanton" Island?  Wink

HA! Yes. Danooli had let me know about the very same error - and I was just about to apologize for letting my California show. (Particularly after just rereading Chabon's Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and also reading to my daughter a couple series in the American Girl books.)

Sorry, all!

(FWIW, I can do a decent rendition of President Whitmore speech toward the end of ID4 right along with Bill Pullman...)
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danooli
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« Reply #15 on: July 09, 2012, 05:52:35 PM »

And Dave... did you mean Ellis Island instead of "Stanton" Island?  Wink

I'm certain he must have had Dreadnaught Stanton, from M.K. Hobson's Veneficas Americana  series on his mind when he recorded that. 
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Scattercat
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« Reply #16 on: July 09, 2012, 06:52:45 PM »

If this story was not paid by the word, why was it a Giant episode.

Because it was longer than the usual stories PodCastle runs, and PodCastle likes to label those stories with the "Giant" tag?

I mean, look, if you're really that upset about PodCastle paying by the word, I don't know what to tell you.  It's not true and never has been true.  (Although it might be true in the future, funds willing.)

More to the point, when markets start paying by the word, stories tend to get shorter, not longer.  The way fiction writing mostly works (if you're not Neil Gaiman or Peter S. Beagle or someone) is that you send your story in to the slush pile, and the submissions editors decide whether it's good enough to run.  We (in the sense of editors in general) don't have, like, contracted content providers who get paid per word after they complete their mandatory writing for the day.  Authors can't boost profits just by writing unnecessary words; the authors are completely independent agents who write their stories in isolation and then we pick the ones we like best.  It's *against* our interests to select longer stories because we have limited funds with which to purchase fiction and long stories cost more.  The only reason for an editor to select a story is if they think that particular story is a good one, and long stories have to be more impressive than usual because you're using up more of your purchasing power without getting more than one new story out of it. 

---

On the story, honestly, I'm just kind of meh.  I'm one of the more-common-than-I-thought crowd that finds the Bordertown stories middling at best.  Not sure if it's the effect of the shared world or the particular fae/reality tropes or what, but they've all left me a little cold.  And I often enjoy shared-world fiction.  (The Thieves World books, the Wild Cards series, the Forgotten Realms novels...) 
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #17 on: July 10, 2012, 08:47:20 AM »

Not sure if it's the effect of the shared world or the particular fae/reality tropes or what, but they've all left me a little cold.  And I often enjoy shared-world fiction.  (The Thieves World books, the Wild Cards series, the Forgotten Realms novels...) 

For me at least, I don't think it's shared world, or the fae/reality tropes.  For me it's just that so far none of them have provided me tension.  Things happen, and then the words stop, but never am I eager to hear what happens next like I am with some other stories.  I don't know if that's just the kind of stories these editors prefer, or the particular authors that we've seen have that tendency, I'm not sure.
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Unblinking
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« Reply #18 on: July 10, 2012, 11:27:47 AM »

The only reason for an editor to select a story is if they think that particular story is a good one, and long stories have to be more impressive than usual because you're using up more of your purchasing power without getting more than one new story out of it. 

And fiction podcast, even more so.  Even if the pay is the same for two stories, a story which is much longer will take more effort to record and produce.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #19 on: July 10, 2012, 11:47:03 AM »

I guess I'm usually in the upper-middle for Bordertown stories, in that I neither dislike them nor gush at them on sight. Tongue I loved the lilting tones of the narrator's voice and really enjoyed letting her take me along on a ride through the more Caribbean streets of Bordertown. Both the characters and the setting felt very authentic, and a welcome diversion from the usual Euro-centric flavors. For me, this was a poem expanded into a story, and I'm really glad that the author read it because I'm not sure any of the current PodCastle readers could have brought it to life in the same way.

Speaking to Unblinking's criticism, for me the tension didn't come from the question of where Beti was born but rather from the question of who was she hiding from and why should Gladstone be the one who is afraid. There were enough hints along the way that I believed Beti was not human, and my curiosity as to what Beti therefore was kept me listening.
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