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Author Topic: PC231: Unpossible  (Read 4551 times)
Talia
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« on: October 23, 2012, 12:46:03 PM »

PodCastle 231: Unpossible

by Daryl Gregory.

Read by PodCastle’s own audio engineer, Peter Wood.

Originally appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction, October 2007.

Two in the morning and he’s stumbling around in the attic, lost in horizontal archaeology: the further he goes, the older the artifacts become. The stuttering flashlight guides him past boxes of Christmas decorations and half-dead appliances, past garbage bags of old blankets and outgrown clothing stacked and bulging like black snowmen, over and around the twenty-year-old rubble of his son’s treasures: Tonka trucks and science fair projects, soccer trophies and summer camp pottery.

His shoulder brushes against the upright rail of a dissassembled crib, sends it sliding, and somewhere in the dark a mirror or storm window smashes. The noise doesn’t matter. There’s no one in the house below him to disturb.

Twenty feet from the far wall his way is blocked by a heap of wicker lawn furniture. He pulls apart the barricade piece by piece to make a narrow passage and scrapes through, straws tugging at his shirt. On the other side he crawls up and onto the back of a tilting oak desk immovable as a ship run aground.

The territory ahead is littered with the remains of his youth, the evidence of his life before he brought his wife and son to this house. Stacks of hardcover books, boxes of dusty-framed elementary school pictures—and toys. So many toys. Once upon a time he was the boy who didn’t like to go outside, the boy who never wanted to leave his room. The Boy Who Always Said No.


Rated PG.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
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chemistryguy
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« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2012, 01:58:38 PM »

When I was a kid I often looked for the passage to Narnia in the back of our closet and in the dark recesses in the basement.  Never found it, but that never shook my faith that someday it might appear.

This story pays homage to all of us who never felt the need to totally grow up despite taking on all the responsibilities of adulthood.  Good luck getting to the place where the wild things are or wherever your desired destination may be.
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Gamercow
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« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2012, 06:45:39 PM »

What a wonderful follow-up to our childhood favorites.  Truly this is best described by the term "bittersweet" for me. How many stories did you spot?  I got:

Narnia books
Phantom Tollbooth
Where the Wild things are
Wizard of Oz
Peter Pan
Alice through the Looking Glass
and a few others that escape me at the moment.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2012, 08:44:38 AM »

The story really needed to get to something interesting much earlier.  Early on it was just a fanatic riding his bike, fiddling with some weird controls.  Maybe it's because I know some bike fanatics who never want to talk about anything but the new carbon-fiber bike they bought, and how it's so awesome, and then the next day when it gets stolen from the grocery store when they went in to buy something.

Finally when Dorothy showed up, it finally got somewhere, but even then I didn't really dig it (so does her house just get flung in traveler's paths as an enforcer every day?  Must cause lots of wear and tear!).  I liked the line about having many happy endings already, and I think it was a worthwhile theme to take the happy endings you can reach, and be content with those you have already passed. 

While I can see how it can be seen as a fitting tribute to all the awesome childhood escape tales, it got to the point where it just seemed more like the author namedropping to make the story more popular rather than serving the story itself. 

I think that part of the reason I didn't really care for it is that it never reaches what it feels like it's promising.  While that's part of the theme, it's frustrating to me to read a story about parallel childhood worlds in which none of them are ever shown onscreen.
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Kaa
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« Reply #4 on: October 26, 2012, 02:06:01 PM »

If I opened my closet tomorrow morning and there was a cold breeze redolent of pines and snow, and maybe just a hint of goatiness...I wouldn't even say goodbye to anyone. I'd be in Narnia as fast as I could manage.

This story reminded me of that. So I really enjoyed it in spite of the message.
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danooli
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« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2012, 08:43:38 AM »

I'm a bit sad.  I hope I wouldn't stink up a magical place with my adultness.  I promise I'm really just a 12 year old inside my 38 year old frame.  Wink

I loved the nods to favorite childhood stories.  Good story.

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Cutter McKay
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« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2012, 04:33:13 PM »

Well, I liked this one. It was a fun nostalgic exploration for me. I actually got excited when I realized the second guy was the kid from Where the Wild Things Are. I grew up on that book. Sadly, I couldn't place the main character, assuming he is the adult version of some other children's tale character. Anyone want to point that one out for me?

I loved it when the two men fought and tumbled down the hill, just as they probably would have done as boys. There was no reason for it, and there wouldn't have been back then either. It was just fun.

And I loved the idea that their lives crumbled because they selfishly clung to their magical gateways rather than passing them on to their own children. Fantastic.
I got:

Narnia books
Phantom Tollbooth
Where the Wild things are
Wizard of Oz
Peter Pan
Alice through the Looking Glass
and a few others that escape me at the moment.

Wasn't the trolley car from Mr. Rogers?
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« Reply #7 on: October 31, 2012, 04:33:49 PM »

While I can see how it can be seen as a fitting tribute to all the awesome childhood escape tales, it got to the point where it just seemed more like the author namedropping to make the story more popular rather than serving the story itself. 
I felt that way too. But you know what? I don't care. For 20 minutes I got all nostalgic over my childhood fantasies (both those I consumed and those I invented) and thoroughly enjoyed this story because of that.
To me this story was as much about namedropping to make it popular and revive childhood fantasies, as well as sending a little message. Not the old "grow old but not up" or even "everybody has to grow up sometime" but something a little closer to home.
For me the message was "Grow up, or don't grow up, either way is fine. But stories are meant to be shared." Even if they're just made up stories, or actual gateways to a magical land, it doesn't matter. Stories are for sharing. And isn't that what Escape Artists is all about?

I got:

Narnia books
Phantom Tollbooth
Where the Wild things are
Wizard of Oz
Peter Pan
Alice through the Looking Glass
and a few others that escape me at the moment.

Wasn't the trolley car from Mr. Rogers?
Yup. When it started wiggling I saw it. Right there in front of my eyes. BTW, King Friday sends regards.
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Cutter McKay
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« Reply #8 on: October 31, 2012, 05:39:23 PM »

"Grow up, or don't grow up, either way is fine. But stories are meant to be shared."

Exactly.
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« Reply #9 on: October 31, 2012, 06:53:22 PM »

Yup. When it started wiggling I saw it. Right there in front of my eyes. BTW, King Friday sends regards.

Please. King Friday XIII would never send "regards." "Felicitations," perhaps. "Salutatory acknowledgement," perhaps. But "regards"? I think not. Smiley
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« Reply #10 on: October 31, 2012, 10:47:15 PM »

I liked this story, but I was a little disappointed in the end. I thought that the two guys would realize the only way they could reenter the world of make-believe as villains for the new children to defeat.
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Cutter McKay
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« Reply #11 on: October 31, 2012, 11:42:06 PM »

I liked this story, but I was a little disappointed in the end. I thought that the two guys would realize the only way they could reenter the world of make-believe as villains for the new children to defeat.

Now that would be an interesting twist on things...
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #12 on: November 01, 2012, 08:31:51 AM »

I liked this story, but I was a little disappointed in the end. I thought that the two guys would realize the only way they could reenter the world of make-believe as villains for the new children to defeat.

Cool idea!
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OldBaldGuy
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« Reply #13 on: November 05, 2012, 08:34:37 PM »

Was catching up on Podcastle back episodes on my walk yesterday - how I loved this story!  Like the adult characters, I'm in my 50's and I've experienced a major loss within the last year (Dad, 91 - miss you, Old Man).  I don't think I can sum up the inner/emotional journey I've been on since he died, but this story really captures a piece of it that I haven't been able to articulate for myself until now.  It's not just the loss, it's the shift my world has made since then, the change in family dynamics, the change in the way I view my own life story, the reviewing of what I'm doing with my life, the weight of other inevitable lifetime changes and losses.  There was something very healing for me about how the author sneaks up on acknowledgment and acceptance of the substance and weight of years of life experience, how he makes it more than just the recent tragedy and the minutiae of adult miserableness (mortgage payments and sexual frustration) - like those scores of happy endings (including the double-entendre that is not getting past my stinking adult).  I loved the weight and substance the author gave to all those beloved childhood stories, making them more tangible than imaginary... but I especially loved "we aren't meant to hoard them.  We have to give them away" (can't remember exact quote).  I loved the life-spanning bridge from one's own childhood to a new generation of children, even if not one's own - a bridge to carry one past personal tragedy.

heh- I've used the word "weight" so many times in this comment; oddly enough I didn't experience this story as "heavy" - rather it filled me with lightness, hope, reassurance.  Life, after all, after loss.  Thank you, Podcastle, for running this one.
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« Reply #14 on: November 06, 2012, 09:09:34 AM »

I couldn't get into this story. After the shattering of the mirror/storm window, I realized that I wasn't connecting with the story at all and had to move on.

Was that a nod to "The Neverending Story", where there's the storm and the window in the school attic shatters?
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Fenrix
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« Reply #15 on: November 11, 2012, 04:14:04 PM »

I thought I got a hint of Oliver Twist with Dorothy saying that "there are no second helpings, little boy."

One nit that I feel obligated to pick is about Dorothy. If we're talking about storybooks here, Dorothy moves to Oz permanently. In Baum's creation, she permanently settles as a Princess of Oz when she brings her aunt and uncle to Oz with her to live. Dorothy would never be an embittered person trying to recapture her youthful world of adventure, as she never had to leave in the first place.

However, within the context of the story, it works. I guess. Also, Han shot first.
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« Reply #16 on: November 12, 2012, 01:03:58 PM »

I thought I got a hint of Oliver Twist with Dorothy saying that "there are no second helpings, little boy."

One nit that I feel obligated to pick is about Dorothy. If we're talking about storybooks here, Dorothy moves to Oz permanently. In Baum's creation, she permanently settles as a Princess of Oz when she brings her aunt and uncle to Oz with her to live. Dorothy would never be an embittered person trying to recapture her youthful world of adventure, as she never had to leave in the first place.

However, within the context of the story, it works. I guess. Also, Han shot first.

I actually didn't know that.  All the more reason I should reread the rest of the Oz books.  Maybe the author of this story hasn't read all those?  Or possibly it's an alternate Dorothy who was refused entrance like Narnia visitors are after reaching a certain age.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #17 on: November 12, 2012, 04:07:48 PM »

Catching up on podcasts... Wow, did I love Mr. Rogers back in the day. Smiley

Like others, I love the message of:
"Grow up, or don't grow up, either way is fine. But stories are meant to be shared."

and that was enough to pull together an otherwise weak story. It was fun looking for all of the easter eggs though.
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Umbrageofsnow
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« Reply #18 on: February 20, 2013, 07:28:16 AM »

I loved this story.  And I was the only one to nominate it or even honorably mention it for Best of Year.  It's okay little story, we'll just move on with our lives now. You'll always have a fond place in my heart and in the Best-of-Year polls of my imagination, but it's time to pass the love on to "Urchins While Swimming."
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Ocicat
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« Reply #19 on: February 20, 2013, 12:03:44 PM »

If it's any consolation, if I was allowed to nominate, I would have given this one of my best of the year nods as well.  Smiley
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