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Author Topic: PC218: Insect Joy  (Read 6343 times)
Talia
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« on: July 25, 2012, 08:23:08 AM »

PodCastle 218: Insect Joy

by Caspian Gray.

Read by Julie Hoverson of 19 Nocturne Boulevard.

Originally appeared in Interzone.

The crickets started screaming after Luis came back from the war. Theirs was the lowest form of communication; they did not so much exchange ideas as alternate between different ways of expressing alarm. When Amy noticed they were out of water gel and took their bowl to refill it, they screamed. When she sprinkled calcium powder on their food, they screamed. When she cleaned the tiny bodies of their dead brethren out of the cage, they screamed.

It was tiresome.

Outside, now that each night brought frost, the world was quiet. There were the last dying flutters of cecropia moths, blown along the sidewalk like dead leaves. The swarms of ladybugs were already burrowed deep into schools and churches and people’s homes, where occasionally she heard them chirring to each other. She’d met a single dragonfly, perhaps the last one of November, perched in the sun on her front door, but that dragonfly was too tired or too old to speak.

Only the feeder crickets at the store were still trying to express their mangled lives.


Rated R for sex, language and adult themes.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: August 14, 2012, 09:58:42 AM by Talia » Logged
HueItzcoatl
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« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2012, 12:01:09 PM »

Just finished listening to insect joy and I have to say that I'm feeling very bleh about the whole thing. While I understand the theme of sacrifice in the story and can appreciate that we journey through our lives making those types of decisions and sacrifices every day I wasn't immersed enough in the story to really care about the sacrifices that they were making.

I will admit some morbid fascination with the image of an "angry" penis, but I suppose that says more about my issues then anything else.
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It's not that I can't see the line, it's merely that I burned it away when I was 5...
danooli
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« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2012, 06:02:31 AM »

Rocket!!!   Cry

I didn't really like this story, and I am pretty sure it was because I didn't like the characters. At all.  Amy was a whiny little thing, and Luis was just a dick.  Rich was a moron and the other female clerk at the pet store was a ditz. The taking of innocent creatures lives to give that jerk the ability to walk again was an awful sacrifice. If I were a neighbor, and my beloved kitties were killed for that...well, this is too nice a place for me to type what I would want to do.  (I may be singing a different tune if it were to save the life of a good person, but to allow an ass to walk, nope.)

That said, I still appreciate the story, and LOVE baby chicks!!!  Any chance for pictures, Dave??

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Unblinking
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« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2012, 08:44:14 AM »

I didn't care for this one much.  I think danooli hit at my reason pretty well--none of the characters were likeable.  Not every story has to have likeable characters, but I like to be able to root for someone, and in this case the only creature I cared about was Rocket so I was not pleased when he died.  I certainly didn't think the sacrifice of his life and the life of the other animals was at all worth this man's legs. 

I wonder if she kills just lower animals or if she kills people too, ones who were not involved in the exchange?  I would find that more fitting, as she would end up in the middle of an investigation of what might or might not be perceived as a mass murder.

I liked the core premise of being able to communicate with animals, but how it's mostly consigned to insects who just scream constantly.  I imagine mice and other small animals would be the same way.

So... where does the title come from?  The "insect" is the crickets apparently, but what does their joy have to do with it?  All they experienced was terror.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #4 on: July 27, 2012, 08:50:48 AM »

Yeah, pretty much what danooli and HueItzcoati said. I have quite a number of close friends who are either "lifers" or in the various reserves, so the struggle of soldiers to adjust back into "normal" life and society is very dear to my heart. That said, while the resultant relationship difficulties were emphasized to the point of breaking, there was nothing in the story to indicate that they had been a happy couple before he was deployed. I found myself wondering why Amy didn't just leave Luis since there didn't seem to be any sort of prior relationship to fight for. Even a few sentences letting the reader know that Amy really missed the old fun-loving, warm, tender Luis would have been enough to help me root for their relationship to recover.
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Unblinking
Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2012, 09:03:22 AM »

Yeah, pretty much what danooli and HueItzcoati said. I have quite a number of close friends who are either "lifers" or in the various reserves, so the struggle of soldiers to adjust back into "normal" life and society is very dear to my heart. That said, while the resultant relationship difficulties were emphasized to the point of breaking, there was nothing in the story to indicate that they had been a happy couple before he was deployed. I found myself wondering why Amy didn't just leave Luis since there didn't seem to be any sort of prior relationship to fight for. Even a few sentences letting the reader know that Amy really missed the old fun-loving, warm, tender Luis would have been enough to help me root for their relationship to recover.

Yes!  I never doubted that he had always been a jackass.  Even a small indication that their relationship had been good before his trauma would've helped me like this story a lot.
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lisavilisa
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« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2012, 09:25:22 AM »

Even a few sentences letting the reader know that Amy really missed the old fun-loving, warm, tender Luis would have been enough to help me root for their relationship to recover.

There were a couple of lines where she remembered how happy they had been with her riding her boyfriend's shoulders and how much potential they had back then.
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danooli
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« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2012, 09:27:37 AM »

Yeah, pretty much what danooli and HueItzcoati said. I have quite a number of close friends who are either "lifers" or in the various reserves, so the struggle of soldiers to adjust back into "normal" life and society is very dear to my heart. That said, while the resultant relationship difficulties were emphasized to the point of breaking, there was nothing in the story to indicate that they had been a happy couple before he was deployed. I found myself wondering why Amy didn't just leave Luis since there didn't seem to be any sort of prior relationship to fight for. Even a few sentences letting the reader know that Amy really missed the old fun-loving, warm, tender Luis would have been enough to help me root for their relationship to recover.

Yes!  I never doubted that he had always been a jackass.  Even a small indication that their relationship had been good before his trauma would've helped me like this story a lot.

Yup. I have loads of sympathy for wounded service people, but this was a toxic relationship.
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Unblinking
Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2012, 10:41:58 AM »

Even a few sentences letting the reader know that Amy really missed the old fun-loving, warm, tender Luis would have been enough to help me root for their relationship to recover.

There were a couple of lines where she remembered how happy they had been with her riding her boyfriend's shoulders and how much potential they had back then.

Those lines didn't make an impression on me I guess.  Which could be bad listening on my part.  But I think it could've been emphasized more.
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lisavilisa
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« Reply #9 on: July 27, 2012, 11:06:49 AM »

Even a few sentences letting the reader know that Amy really missed the old fun-loving, warm, tender Luis would have been enough to help me root for their relationship to recover.

There were a couple of lines where she remembered how happy they had been with her riding her boyfriend's shoulders and how much potential they had back then.

Those lines didn't make an impression on me I guess.  Which could be bad listening on my part.  But I think it could've been emphasized more.

Based on how many people shared your sentiments you are probably onto something. It did take me a while to realzie they were a couple and not roomates or land lord/tennet to explain why she was there.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #10 on: July 27, 2012, 11:51:48 AM »

Even a few sentences letting the reader know that Amy really missed the old fun-loving, warm, tender Luis would have been enough to help me root for their relationship to recover.

There were a couple of lines where she remembered how happy they had been with her riding her boyfriend's shoulders and how much potential they had back then.

Those lines didn't make an impression on me I guess.  Which could be bad listening on my part.  But I think it could've been emphasized more.

Based on how many people shared your sentiments you are probably onto something. It did take me a while to realzie they were a couple and not roomates or land lord/tennet to explain why she was there.

Hmm, I must have missed them somehow, thanks for pointing that out. Do you remember approximately when they came up?
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lisavilisa
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« Reply #11 on: July 27, 2012, 01:02:41 PM »

Minutes 15:55- 16:40
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Ben JB
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« Reply #12 on: July 27, 2012, 01:25:10 PM »

As Dave mentioned in the outro, there's certainly some sacrificing/trading going on in this story; but one aspect of this sacrifice that he didn't mention (and other commenters here haven't mentioned) is that Amy doesn't know the price of what she's asking. (Which might be one reason why you may get some "Why not Pseudopod?" emails--the Faustian bargain/"I didn't know what I was bargaining for" is a well-worn horror trope.) As she notes at the end, if she had know Luis's legs would cost her Rocket's life, she wouldn't've taken the trade.

That makes it a little less interesting as a character study--this isn't the story of someone who will stop at nothing to get the one thing she wants--and a little more potent as metaphoric study. That is, the way I read it, the "I thought I was sacrificing X, but I ended up sacrificing Y" is very much a story of war in general and perhaps the US last few wars in particular.

As a story, I'm a little neutral about it, but leaning towards liking it. At the very least, as a dog owner, I thought the depiction of Rocket was very finely observed, play-bows, pack-mentality, and all.

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danooli
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« Reply #13 on: July 27, 2012, 04:06:21 PM »

Even a few sentences letting the reader know that Amy really missed the old fun-loving, warm, tender Luis would have been enough to help me root for their relationship to recover.

There were a couple of lines where she remembered how happy they had been with her riding her boyfriend's shoulders and how much potential they had back then.

Those lines didn't make an impression on me I guess.  Which could be bad listening on my part.  But I think it could've been emphasized more.

Based on how many people shared your sentiments you are probably onto something. It did take me a while to realzie they were a couple and not roomates or land lord/tennet to explain why she was there.

I was also a bit confused after Luis got upset that Amy didn't say hello to him before she took Rocket (  Cry ) for his walk.  I had just figured, incorrectly it turned out, that if she had a significant other, we would have heard about him before that.
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danooli
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« Reply #14 on: July 27, 2012, 04:13:22 PM »

As Dave mentioned in the outro, there's certainly some sacrificing/trading going on in this story; but one aspect of this sacrifice that he didn't mention (and other commenters here haven't mentioned) is that Amy doesn't know the price of what she's asking.

I disagree, slightly.  She didn't know the scope of the sacrifice, that much is obvious.  But I believe she bought 1,000 +/- crickets with the sole intention of killing them so Luis could walk.  Probably so she could leave him, guilt free.  I'll repeat myself, I really didn't like the characters in this story; well, except for Rocket as Unblinking mentioned.  He was cool  Grin  Although, if it was the authors intention for us to not like them...Spot on, Caspian Gray!
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Devoted135
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« Reply #15 on: July 28, 2012, 12:14:32 AM »

Minutes 15:55- 16:40

Okay, upon re-listening I can tell why I dismissed that section as support of their previous "good" relationship. My summation of it is Amy feels nostalgic about how they were young, stupid a**holes (her word) together before he was deployed. Others can certainly take more stock in that than I do, but for me that is scant evidence.
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« Reply #16 on: July 30, 2012, 09:30:37 AM »

I disagree, slightly.  She didn't know the scope of the sacrifice, that much is obvious.  But I believe she bought 1,000 +/- crickets with the sole intention of killing them so Luis could walk.  Probably so she could leave him, guilt free.  I'll repeat myself, I really didn't like the characters in this story; well, except for Rocket as Unblinking mentioned.  He was cool  Grin  Although, if it was the authors intention for us to not like them...Spot on, Caspian Gray!

I more or less agree with that.  With the addition that she knew damned well ahead of time that she was in territory she didn't fully understand, and wasn't at all wary about the cost.  "Hey look at all the energy stored up in that atomic nucleus.  I could use some of that energy.  I'll just cut it to let it loose."  So for me I think that she should've either been wary enough not to try it, or at least worked her way up to such a large task.  It's very possible that if she had refined her skill to a greater degree she could've had a greater effect with less cost--and it's not like there's any need for this to happen today instead of in a month or a few months.  Instead she killed all the neighborhood's animals because she rushed.
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Pirvonen
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« Reply #17 on: July 30, 2012, 12:54:39 PM »

I wonder if the sacrificial dead included not only the insects, squirrels, dogs that were mentioned, or if the quiet night meant that some amount of nominally "higher", bipedal mammals were taken as vivification energy sources, too.
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« Reply #18 on: July 30, 2012, 01:40:00 PM »

I wonder if the sacrificial dead included not only the insects, squirrels, dogs that were mentioned, or if the quiet night meant that some amount of nominally "higher", bipedal mammals were taken as vivification energy sources, too.

I was wondering that too!  If they were the only ones who survived in blocks and blocks, they'll probably have a lot of police and media attention soon.
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jdarksun
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« Reply #19 on: July 30, 2012, 06:13:43 PM »

Was not a fan of this one. Whatever sympathies I had for Amy drained away as she killed her dog (and all the other pets in the area). If this had been part of a prelude or origin story, it might have been servicable. But as it is, we're just left with two people we don't like and their senselessly murdered pet.
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