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Author Topic: EP360: Follow That Cathedral!  (Read 8793 times)

Talia

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on: September 07, 2012, 01:14:04 PM
EP360: Follow That Cathedral!

By Gareth Owens

Read by Pip Ballantine

Originally appeared in Immersion Book of Steampunk

(Text to come).

Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #1 on: September 07, 2012, 07:23:30 PM
Wow... I really hate to say it, but I think that Steampunk has finally lost its charm for me.

At first, this story seemed to have it all. Sassy girl pirate, corsets, guns, airships, giant trains. But despite that, I didn't bother to finish it, Nothing in the first part of the story really jumped out at me and said "this story is going to be awesome." Instead, it seemed that it said "this story is going to be steampunk! Steampunk is awesome, right?"

And I replied, "actually, if you aren't going to be awesome on your own, I have better things to do."

I'm actually pretty sad about this. I enjoyed liking something so much that all it took was a flash of brass to get my gears going.

I'm not saying that steampunk has become tired for me, or that I feel that it's actively bad. It's just not enough to attract or catch my attention, by itself. This story didn't offer anything more than steaminess, and I passed it by. I'm sad, but I don't regret it.

I am the king under the mountain, and... I'm kind of bummed, actually.

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chemistryguy

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Reply #2 on: September 10, 2012, 11:14:32 AM





I have no strong opinion and I must post.


ElectricPaladin

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Reply #3 on: September 11, 2012, 03:02:34 AM
...At first, this story seemed to have it all. Sassy girl pirate, corsets, guns, airships, giant trains. ... I'm kind of bummed, actually.

I also felt that this story created all the trappings of wonderful adventure (or at least wonderfully suited to my tastes) but ultimately it laid a Fabergé egg.

Pretty on the outside, existentially hollow on the inside?

Jeez... the first time in forever that I skip a story and its a loser... I thought the universe would punish me for my lack of faith.

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Talia

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Reply #4 on: September 11, 2012, 03:45:04 AM
...At first, this story seemed to have it all. Sassy girl pirate, corsets, guns, airships, giant trains. ... I'm kind of bummed, actually.

I also felt that this story created all the trappings of wonderful adventure (or at least wonderfully suited to my tastes) but ultimately it laid a Fabergé egg.

Pretty on the outside, existentially hollow on the inside?

Jeez... the first time in forever that I skip a story and its a loser... I thought the universe would punish me for my lack of faith.

Aw give it a shot. Just cause a couple people don't like it doesn't mean you won't!



Listener

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Reply #5 on: September 11, 2012, 12:47:02 PM
I found the story exciting and fun to listen to, but ultimately not only did it not really cover that much new ground but it kind of felt like the author had a checklist and he was marking off points on it:

* corset
* ambiguous sexual preference by a female character
* Russians
* trains
* airships
* swords
* cool guns
* at least one person dead on the floor, killed before the story began
* good guy wins
* bad guy isn't killed at the end of the story, to leave the door open for a sequel

I'm sure there were more things on the list, but that's about all I can remember.

So, y'know, not what I would call a great episode or a great story, but I liked listening to it.

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chemistryguy

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Reply #6 on: September 11, 2012, 02:50:26 PM
I found the story exciting and fun to listen to, but ultimately not only did it not really cover that much new ground but it kind of felt like the author had a checklist and he was marking off points on it:

* corset
* ambiguous sexual preference by a female character
* Russians
* trains
* airships
* swords
* cool guns
* at least one person dead on the floor, killed before the story began
* good guy wins
* bad guy isn't killed at the end of the story, to leave the door open for a sequel

I'm sure there were more things on the list, but that's about all I can remember.

So, y'know, not what I would call a great episode or a great story, but I liked listening to it.

You forgot steam.  Lots of it.

But, yes, I concede, it was at least enjoyable to listen to on my ride to work.


Cutter McKay

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Reply #7 on: September 11, 2012, 05:42:58 PM
I don't read/listen a lot of steampunk, very little actually. That being said, I had fun listening to this story despite the fact that some of the banter between the protag and the antag felt like a fight scene between Sidney Bristow and Anna Espinoza in a bad episode of Alias.

However, even being very limited in my experience with steampunk, I could easily pick out all of the steampunk cliches this story was rife with. When the protag describes herself in a skirt and corset I recall thinking, Really? He couldn't come up with something more original? Though I admit I do like the image of a small chick in a short skirt with a huge gun. I think most (male?) fans of steampunk do. ;D

In all, this is not high on my list. But it was a fun listen.

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El Barto

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Reply #8 on: September 11, 2012, 10:42:33 PM
I very rarely give up on Escape Pod episodes but I gave up on this one pretty quickly, even though I was trapped on an airplane and had to read Skymall instead.   Between the lingo and the narrator's accent and the story not being engaging or interesting to me, I bailed.

Hopefully the story appealed to others.



SF.Fangirl

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Reply #9 on: September 11, 2012, 11:12:18 PM
Ho hum!  I agree with the consensus.  I'm not a fan of steampunk but I can enjoy a good steampunk story.  This, unfortunately, was all steampunk trappings without a good story.  It actually felt like it all steampunk description with not much else.  Additionally the lesbian flirting between the protagonist and her enemy seemed to be there to titillate and pander to the males in the audience, and I like to think that the men in this audience are better then that.



Dem

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Reply #10 on: September 12, 2012, 01:08:27 PM
I've found myself reading quite a lot of steampunk lately, reviewing submissions for an online mag, and this falls somewhere in the mid-range for me. Articulate enough not to need too much attention, but heavily reliant on steampunkery and mental images of little women with big guns (no innuendo intended!) wearing bustles (the women, not the guns). I couldn't find much of a plot to get excited about, and it certainly wasn't character-driven so, much like everyone else, I thought it was a bit ho-hum.

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benjaminjb

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Reply #11 on: September 12, 2012, 07:53:46 PM
I have a strong contrarian urge, but I'm with the (current) consensus on this: a quick moving adventure story that hit all the trappings of steampunk but left me feeling hollow.

What was most interesting to me, and what might still be a fun vein to mine, is the political science (and alt historical) angle of steampunk. If I'm remembering correctly, Tesla created this anti-gravity model and it was given to the Russian empire, which is opposed by some Trotskyite organization, while the Russian Orthodox Church may have taken on some of the tenets followed by the flagellant group that Rasputin belonged to at one point. But most of that is unnecessary for the story and could be easily changed. How much more interesting if we had heard more about why there's a Russian empire fighting a Trotskyite organization.

(Or am I saying that just because I recently saw a picture of young Stalin that makes him look like he plays in an indie band in Williamsburg: http://moufawad-paul.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-hotness-of-young-stalin.html)

However, I loved the title, which seemed to play both on the classic taxi line (follow that car/taxi) and on Fritz Leiber's classic, "Catch that Zeppelin" (which plays with alt history itself).



Anarquistador

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Reply #12 on: September 13, 2012, 08:58:53 PM
Yeah, Young Stalin was quite the looker. So many Russian babes must have been into him...

I thought the story was fun. Not great, but fun. And I'm also puzzling over the alternate history aspects of the story. As near as I can figure...

- the Great War never happened; or at least, happened in a more truncated or vastly different form that it did in our world. There is still a balance of power of sorts, and since there was no untold devastation and ruin in Russian, there was no impetus for the Revolution and the Communists are a mere fringe terrorist group (the fact that Lenin seems to have died before he could become a threat also must play a part).
- The United States continued its isolationist stance of the 19th Century. It seems to have evolved into more a commercial than military power, cornering the market on helium and forcing other nations to either pay exorbitant prices or rely on hydrogen.
-  Tesla must have won his battle against Edison and become a major player in the Industrial Age. Either that or he's a terrorist-funding rogue supervillian...

Does that seem right?

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InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #13 on: September 15, 2012, 07:11:46 PM
I was of two minds on this.

1) on the one hand, it was a jaunty little adventure piece featuring two kick-ass women I wouldn't mind meeting again, and I liked what little I could glean of the history. Sure, the science was nonsense , and at times it seemed like Nothing was in fact what was holding the story up, but it was enjoyable.

2) but on the other hand I heartily agree that it sounded like it was following a checklist of items, especially at the beginning. But I have a well-known Problem with Steampunk about which I have bloviated previous.



Fenrix

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Reply #14 on: September 16, 2012, 09:13:00 PM
It was a fun caper story. Pure escapism without profound thoughts. I also enjoyed the narration, as I did with Pip's reading of PseudoPod's The Engine of Desire. I have a soft spot for kiwi accents. I changed the voice on my GPS to New Zealand, and only half because the logic associated with that voice didn't spell out abbreviations like the basic voice does.

It made my drive better. Although I spent a decent amount of time thinking about "Stop the Pigeon" Not entirely sure why that bit of childhood bubbled up.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2012, 09:15:27 PM by Fenrix »

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Devoted135

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Reply #15 on: September 17, 2012, 01:58:11 PM
This story was like popcorn. It was light and enjoyable while listening, didn't take itself too seriously, and was over before I knew it. The perfect snack! Plus, anything that uses awesome, improbable Tesla tech gets my vote. Pip's enthusiastic reading didn't hurt either. :P



jwbjerk

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Reply #16 on: September 18, 2012, 01:53:25 AM
I also felt that this story created all the trappings of wonderful adventure (or at least wonderfully suited to my tastes) but ultimately it laid a Fabergé egg.

Pretty on the outside, existentially hollow on the inside?

That matches my feelings.  There was interesting stuff, but ultimately i found no hook to make me care about either of the characters, or the war they are in.  What are the stakes of the contest between the pirate and the russian?  The Steampunk Russia isn't presented as a Utopia, but i didn't get the feeling that any other empire was nicer.

It is the same sort of reaction i might have to a summer action movie.  I didn't regret the time spent, but there's nothing to stick with me.

Disclaimer: i have an antipathy for absurdly competent/lucky, amoral characters.  There's no nobility to admire, nor human weakness to empathize with.  I will say, i think Pixy had a more fetching personality than Phoenix from EP 355 "Grandmother"



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #17 on: September 18, 2012, 04:53:42 AM
I will say, i think Pixy had a more fetching personality than Phoenix from EP 355 "Grandmother"

That. Wouldn't. Take. Much.

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Cutter McKay

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Reply #18 on: September 18, 2012, 05:14:02 PM
I will say, i think Pixy had a more fetching personality than Phoenix from EP 355 "Grandmother"

That. Wouldn't. Take. Much.

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CryptoMe

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Reply #19 on: September 19, 2012, 05:52:38 AM
I have to agree with the general consensus, enjoyable fluff.

And while I did like Pip's reading, I have to quibble with the pronunciation of the word "datcha". It should be pronounced as spelled here (I don't know how it was spelled in the story), with both the "t" and the "ch" sounds enunciated. The way it was pronounced in the story sounded to me like "daha", which was wrong enough to drag me out of the story.



Myrealana

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Reply #20 on: September 20, 2012, 04:13:04 PM
I found the story exciting and fun to listen to, but ultimately not only did it not really cover that much new ground but it kind of felt like the author had a checklist and he was marking off points on it:

* corset
* ambiguous sexual preference by a female character
* Russians
* trains
* airships
* swords
* cool guns
* at least one person dead on the floor, killed before the story began
* good guy wins
* bad guy isn't killed at the end of the story, to leave the door open for a sequel

I'm sure there were more things on the list, but that's about all I can remember.

So, y'know, not what I would call a great episode or a great story, but I liked listening to it.

You forgot steam.  Lots of it.

But, yes, I concede, it was at least enjoyable to listen to on my ride to work.
This. 100%.

It occupied my ears while I drove to work, but did not engage my heart or mind.

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Umbrageofsnow

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Reply #21 on: September 22, 2012, 09:41:18 PM
Well I don't mean to pile on but...

you guys left something off your checklist:

* Nikola Tesla!

At least the clockwork robots got a day off. I am so sick of them.

And I'll leave it there, under the "if you don't have anything nice to say" logic.



Kaa

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Reply #22 on: September 26, 2012, 12:56:35 PM
In the end, I listened to this story strictly because of the narrator. I like Pip Ballantine, and I enjoy her readings. I don't particularly care for steampunk, so...yeah.

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Reply #23 on: September 28, 2012, 11:26:55 AM
I really enjoyed the story as a whole, only as I love a bit of alternate history. I found the start a little hard to follow, but once the story had landed I enjoyed the plot. The lead character annoyed me little, too many contrasts within herself. I did like the trains though, I'd really like one of those to take me to college -sorry high school if your American.



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Reply #24 on: October 09, 2012, 10:54:11 AM
I've registered solely for the purpose of disagreeing with the consensus here. This was one of the things I've most enjoyed on escape-pod. I *don't* read much steampunk, but when I heard that the train was called the 'Iron Tsar' I figured this was a reference to Michael Morcock's 'The Steel Tsar' and that the story was going to shamelessly utilize established genre tropes, and I had absolutely no problem with that.

This story was FUN, something that much modern SF seems to desperately lack. I thought the reading by Ms Ballentine was one of the best I've heard, read with great vigor. It also featured a female protag who wasn't dead or otherwise defeated at the end of the story (I find that I can generally predict the survival chances of a major character by gender, though this might be an accident of the particular series of fiction that I encounter, some of which is rather old).

Yes, it didn't introduce anything new, but how much spec-fic really does? It was a fun romp well told and I don't think we get enough of those. Everyone in here is saying that Bechdel-test passing stories featuring kickass action heroines are so much of a staple of steampunk that it's becoming old, so I guess I should be reading more steampunk. As I don't read much steampunk I found this a refreshing change from those stories where, say, a woman is put in a command position but can't handle it, or those where the 'threat' is a young woman who is trying to unseat an older male in some professional role (e.g. hitman) and tells him he's a dinosaur or an 'outdated model', but winds up dead at the end.

I enjoyed this much more than other recent escape-pod episodes, so I guess I need to start looking for 'steampod'.