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Author Topic: PC242, Giant Episode: A Memory of Wind  (Read 2561 times)
Talia
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« on: January 11, 2013, 12:25:45 AM »

PodCastle 242, Giant Episode: A Memory of Wind   

by Rachel Swirsky

Read by Ann Leckie

Originally Published at Tor.com. Read it here!

I began turning into wind the moment that you promised me to Artemis.

Before I woke, I lost the flavor of rancid oil and the shade of green that flushes new leaves. They slipped from me, and became gentle breezes that would later weave themselves into the strength of my gale. Between the first and second beats of my lashes, I also lost the grunt of goats being led to slaughter, and the roughness of wool against calloused fingertips, and the scent of figs simmering in honey wine.

Around me, the other palace girls slept fitfully, tossing and grumbling through the dry summer heat. I stumbled to my feet and fled down the corridor, my footsteps falling smooth against the cool, painted clay. As I walked, the sensation of the floor blew away from me, too. It was as if I stood on nothing.

I forgot the way to my mother’s rooms. I decided to visit Orestes instead. I also forgot how to find him. I paced bright corridors, searching. A male servant saw me, and woke a male slave, who woke a female slave, who roused herself and approached me, bleary-eyed, mumbling. “What’s wrong, Lady Iphigenia? What do you require?”

I had no answers.


Rated R: Contains Violence.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: February 01, 2013, 03:49:58 PM by Talia » Logged
chemistryguy
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« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2013, 11:53:42 AM »

I've still got 30 minutes to go but I'm enjoying the hell out of this one.  I was very concerned by how it started out, but I'm glad I hung in.  It's empowering and written/narrated in a most excellent manner.  I'll be forgoing my usual Pandora to finish this out on my trip back home.
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« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2013, 01:33:00 AM »

I confess that I didn't know this aspect of the Troy cycle (nor did I know that this is where the name Hermione comes from). I really liked how how well fleshed out all of the characters were, and they way Iphigenia's memories blow out of her like wind. It's a nightmarish family situation, but is well done. I especially liked the description of Helen - "Don't look at her directly"
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2013, 03:49:25 AM »

I liked this one a lot.
The mishmash hodgepodge of scenes bothered me at first, but then I realized that its purpose was to give me, the listener, a sense of what it is to have a patchwork of memories.
This particular narrative was quite intriguing to, since it shed a lot of light on the opening scene of the Iliad. As we all know (what, you didn't read it?) it opens at the end of the Trojan war, after 10 years of siege, Achilles and Agamemnon are having a little hissy fit over who gets the girl. (Not Helen, a different girl. Well.... two girls. You should really read it yourself)
Every time I read that I kept thinking to myself: "Really? This is the problem? This is going to get thousands of people killed? Briseis just some girl. Why can't you just let her go and pick another one? I mean, you guys are all about the killing and raping...." but this shows the history that Achilles and Agamemnon have. Agamemnon is a real dick, and Achilles has a bone to pick with him. And so the gods are able to use that and start the whole epic song.
The ending of this was a foregone conclusion, what with the narrative hints and the fact that it's a Greek tragedy, but that wasn't important. It's all about the journey, and the journey this time was epic.
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« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2013, 10:02:52 AM »

My reaction was on par with my usual reaction to Giants (and to some degree, Swirsky stories).  It's just so looooonnnngggg.  The story seemed to be assuming that I had some knowledge of and that I cared about the Iliad.  Maybe I'm just not part of the audience because neither of those is true.  I did actually read the Iliad a few years ago, but that too was a real slog, that I don't think I really got anything out of and I don't think any of it stuck in my memory. 

I did listen to the whole thing to give it a solid chance, but it just didn't do much for me.
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« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2013, 12:55:09 PM »

I read this over at... I think it was at Tor?  It was somewhere, anyway, and really good.

And I normally don't care for the Greek myths overmuch.  Just not my favorite flavor.  So top marks for making it enthralling and highly enjoyable.

And I also want a cookie for not making *any* immature "wind" jokes.  :-(  It's like manacles on my soul.
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« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2013, 02:10:38 PM »

A Giant Episode of empty talk, words flying by like wind, so boring
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« Reply #7 on: January 20, 2013, 08:32:31 PM »



And I also want a cookie for not making *any* immature "wind" jokes.  :-(  It's like manacles on my soul.

What kind of cookie takes away the pain of Soul Manacles? Surely not your average cookie. Maybe you need Baklava?

Anyhow...Story was eh, ok. I found myself disliking overmuch the flashbacky stuff. I don't like hearing over and over and over that "I am all windy and stuff now and I don't remember anything---but here's what I remember." By the end I was kind of like..."Just get on with it and be the wind already, we all know thats what happens so skip to the good part."
This is highly uncharitable of me because I think it was a well written piece that filled in a gap most admirably. I actually liked seeing Helen's ennui the best. It so sucks when everyone wants you because you are heart-stoppingly perfect. I so get that.  Roll Eyes But, it was an interesting aspect to the whole thing.
Part of my negativity MAY be stemming from the fact that I spent a goodly portion of the story trying to actually remember the Iliad and such from freshman lit that I took *cough cough* years ago. And I cant remember diddly boo. How irritating. I can't still quote Simpsons episodes from that time, though.  Cheesy
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« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2013, 02:51:07 PM »

For once I know almost as much about the relevant mythology as Max! Cheesy I read the Iliad (of my own volition, thank you) in college, and always liked it better than the Odyssey. I like the ideas in this story very much. It's nice to fill in reasons for the various unexplained personal rivalries, and like others I was particularly taken with this portrayal of Helen.

I must say that I liked the execution less, for many of the reasons others have already given. Also, every time the narrator told me that "I" did something it completely threw me out of the story. I had to re-remember who "I" was supposed to be, because there was no way that I was going to ever relate to her total jerk of a father. It got to the point where I was talking back to her, telling her "no, I didn't!" every time she tried to tell me what "I" had done to her.
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« Reply #9 on: January 24, 2013, 04:10:55 PM »

I had a mixed reaction to this story. On the one hand, it was beautifully written, wonderfully paced, and thematically interesting. I enjoyed the wind-girl's rage at her father as an element that tied the developing narrative together. I also liked the idea of the girl becoming the wind that she was sacrificed for.

So, what bothered me?

I thought the story was morally flat. This happens a lot to stories that focus on groups of historical victims. In the end, this story said: "ancient Greek women - pitiful, or really pitiful? And those ancient Greek men... evil, or really evil?" The thing is, "Grek women were pitiful and Greek men were evil" is neither uplifting nor interesting. I would have rather a story that added some nuance. Show me someone exhibiting real strength in the face of evil, rather than flailing blindly and failing pitifully. Show me someone exhibiting real compassion in the face of their culture's values. Those are interesting to me.

And, for that matter, if you're going to write a class of thinking being as nigh-unrelentingly evil, it would be nice for them to at least get magical powers, or hideous physical strength, like vampires or orks or something.

Perhaps I took this a little personally because I've always been fond of Odysseus and his story about not really wanting to go to war, not wanting to commit his men when he did, and ending the war to get home. I know it's not exactly the sweet and gentle love story that it's sometimes presented as... but I liked that a lot better than Odysseus-as-extension-of-Agamemnon. In much the same way as my critique above, I feel like it sucked a lot of the potential dimensionality out of the story.

So, in the end, I'll give it three Zeppelins out of five. Solid, entertaining, but much of the nuance was lost on me.
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« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2013, 09:58:18 AM »

I must say that I liked the execution less, for many of the reasons others have already given. Also, every time the narrator told me that "I" did something it completely threw me out of the story. I had to re-remember who "I" was supposed to be, because there was no way that I was going to ever relate to her total jerk of a father. It got to the point where I was talking back to her, telling her "no, I didn't!" every time she tried to tell me what "I" had done to her.

I'm usually the first person to speak out against second person, but in this case I didn't mind that part--at least the subject of the "you" was clear, she was one character who was monologuing toward another character, rather than just being 2nd person for stylistic purposes.
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #11 on: January 28, 2013, 11:14:49 AM »

I'm usually the first person to speak out against second person
And the third person isn't even there.


Sorry, couldn't resist.
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« Reply #12 on: January 28, 2013, 03:30:17 PM »

I'm usually the first person to speak out against second person
And the third person isn't even there.


Sorry, couldn't resist.

Ha!  Love it.
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DKT
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« Reply #13 on: January 28, 2013, 04:43:22 PM »

I'm usually the first person to speak out against second person
And the third person isn't even there.


Sorry, couldn't resist.

He said.

 Grin
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« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2013, 12:28:50 PM »

I was going to skip this because I had read the story a while back on Tor, but the intro MK was fascinating, and then when I heard that Ann was the narrator I tossed my hands up and said, Oh okayyyyy. And I'm glad I did. Rachel did a wonderful job retelling the story. Now I want to brush up on my Greek myths.
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« Reply #15 on: June 23, 2014, 07:48:06 PM »

So, I have a habit of hoarding PC Giant Episodes for long drives, road trips, that kind of thing. I really love getting into a long story when I've got no other distractions and no interruptions. Now for some reason or other, this episode has languished at the bottom of my queue for over a year now. I usually prioritize older episodes but somehow this one just got skipped or something.

Anyway, as a result, I just heard this episode for the first time a couple weeks ago, and wow. I couldn't get it out of my head, and listened to it again, in all its Giant Episode glory. My husband heard it too, and *he* couldn't get it out of his head either. It's gone straight to the top of my internal Best Stories I've Ever Heard, Ever list.

So I was surprised to see so little discussion on its story thread. Therefore, I'm necrothreading this sucker to give this story the wordy analysis it deserves. Smiley

What really made this story stand out to me was how its very structure reflects the theme, and how careful and consistent Rachel Swirsky is in its construction throughout. For example, early on, Iphigenia loses the word for "flower", and for the rest of the story she never uses this word (it's most apparent in the way she marvels over the nice-smelling decorations woven into her hair for her wedding--they're flowers, but having forgotten about flowers, she takes a childlike delight in them as if seeing them for the first time)

In fact, her disintegrating memory creates a telescoping effect through the whole thing. As she loses more memories, she dwells more and more obsessively on the ones remaining to her, and they by extension become symbols of what is happening to her in the present, as she is being led to her death. By the end of the story, all the walls between past and present have been broken down and flow together, so that you get a collage effect of all the symbols and motifs that have been gradually popping up throughout. It's just brilliant.

And that gradual paring away of her memory down to just a few iconic images is what allows Iphigenia to finally see what's so morally screwed up about the whole situation. The scenes involving Helen showcase this perfectly. At first she's a proud, cold, bitchy woman who selfishly starts a war, and the MC sees her this way because her view of Helen is clouded by all the surrounding history and commentary from her family. Only at the end does she see through it and understand how all the women are pawns who are trapped by their own superlative beauty into the fate laid out for them.

It highlighted something interesting to me about war stories like the Iliad--how brutal things can happen in a sentence or two (like the sacrifice of an innocent women) while great amounts of time are spent dwelling on the feats of warrior men. The important things get lost or obscured in the noise created by the men the "camera" is following around, if you will. So the deletion of her memories paradoxically allows her to see things more clearly than anyone else caught in the system.

This is especially true of Iphigenia's mother Clytemnestra, who is married to the man who murdered her son and her previous husband, and who wants to just bury this fact. It makes perfect sense from the point of view of survival, but it's just fucked up when you step back and realize that this is the morality that lies just beneath the surface of the otherwise decorous royal household. In some ways, this story captures and indicts our own culture of violence that allows violent men and rapists to destroy the lives of others and yet get on with being well-respected members of the community without having to answer for their crimes. I love that moment when Iphigenia loses her ability to self-censor and just lets EVERYONE have it, because ALL of them, excuses aside, could have stopped the whole machine from crushing her against her will: her father, her mother, the soldiers, the household members, Achilles, her uncle, the priests. Only Helen even made an effort to prepare Iphigenia for the truth of the world she lived in.

Anyway, I could go on, but I'll stop there. Great story from start to finish, and GREAT reading. It's going to stay with me for a long time.
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