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Author Topic: PC244: The Very Strange Weird of Endart Sscowth  (Read 4298 times)
Talia
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« on: January 25, 2013, 12:19:05 AM »

PodCastle 244: The Very Strange Weird of Endart Sscowth

by Scott H. Andrews

Read by Eric Luke (check out his new podiobook Interference!)

Originally published in Space and Time.

“Please lend me your second copy of the _Chronicles_, O magnanimous lord of bound volumes,” cried the scholar standing in the street.

Endart Sscowth, the most prosperous bookseller in all Samech Tern, and by that token in the whole of Hyposudia, was startled from his reverie by the reedy voice.  His ruminations, as he walked homeward that evening, had been lavish with the parchment scent of antique books, the supple smoothness of age-worn buckram, and the vivid hues of many-lettered spines in piles, stacks, and teetering columns, all atop the bookshelves of Endart Sscowth.  Now this scholar had chased that vision from his mind.

“Your pardon, but I ceased lending my treasures long ago, after too many were returned with dents and creases.”

“Then I offer to buy it, O generous one.”


Rated PG.


Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: February 13, 2013, 08:49:07 AM by Talia » Logged
InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2013, 05:57:16 PM »

Well, I'm glad THIS has never happened to me.... being cursed into biblomania ... at least, not that I know of.... but how would I know the difference? Hmmmm

I am of course very glad that our neighborhood entity (I was going to say friendly, but that might be pushing it) is glad to act a library. I share the entity's contempt for those who collect but do not use, especially when it comes to books. Yes, volumes may be beautiful, but real wealth is the contents, not the trappings.
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chemistryguy
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« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2013, 11:35:56 AM »

High marks for Scott Andrews and Eric Luke.  I enjoyed this parable a whole, helluva lot.

Damned be those who collect books for collection's sake and never bother to read

Selfish bastard.  I hope he tasted good.
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Scattercat
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« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2013, 06:46:45 PM »

Eh, this one just didn't do it for me.  If someone is a collector of objects rather than knowledge, well, that's their fandom.  I've heard too much "Quit liking things I don't like!" arguments in fandoms to feel like it's worth getting het up over.

The guardian of the library was quite creepy (though I unfortunately fixated on it as a Beholder and never quite got rid of that image), but the story arc was massively unsatisfying.  "Look at this guy!  He doesn't lend his books!  Haha he got et!"  I feel like Endart had enough self-awareness (witness his self-imposed limit on buying new books) that some friendly guidance might have helped him get over his hangups and loosen up enough to be a pretty cool dude, but instead he gets devoured because he didn't immediately read the books he had no idea would be worth reading anyway.

I dunno.  It felt like one of those stories one writes as a 12-year-old nerd in which the bullies at your school have horrible things happen to them when the aliens land or whatever; a little too axe-grindy, and a little bit too self-blind in its choice of targets and execution.  I mean, don't get me wrong, I read the living hell out of my books, to the point that many of them have fallen apart after the thirtieth or fiftieth reread, but I don't hate on people who buy rare and expensive books because they look nice and/or impressive, any more than I'd hate on some dude for liking football.

EDIT: To clarify, I'm referring to the stories *I* wrote as a self-blind 12-year-old nerd with an axe to grind. :-D
« Last Edit: January 28, 2013, 09:08:51 PM by Scattercat » Logged

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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2013, 09:48:34 PM »

I've heard too much "Quit liking things I don't like!" arguments in fandoms to feel like it's worth getting het up over.


I don't agree that this is what's going on here. This is a case of someone who's missing the point of book ownership; who indeed misses the point of books. To use a terrible clique, he wants to have his cake and eat it too (no, not entirely fitting - you read a book and you still have it - unlike a cake).

It's not a case of "I don't like what you don't like". It's more that "you" are not doing it right (is that even a worse clique?).
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Scattercat
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« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2013, 10:51:42 PM »

But there ARE rare books, and many of them ARE lovely objects in their own right, and are highly collectible.  Endart clearly knew what he liked in his books and enjoyed them as objects.

Just because we love to read books doesn't mean people who don't are wrong, any more than the existence of collectible first-edition sealed-in-glass unreadable volumes means that mass-market e-books or paperbacks are crazy.
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« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2013, 12:53:57 PM »

Too message-heavy for me.  And as scattercat said, it seems overly judgmental of another type of fandom, for no other reason than "it's not us".   I try to be open-minded about other people's hobbies and tastes in things--I mean, I think a lot of us were shunned from social groups as a kid because of our niche interests.  So why be an a-hole and slam other people for having different niche interests.  I mean, I'm not saying that I think we should all be a fan of everything that everyone else likes, but I don't see any reason why we can't allow other people to like whatever they like--even though they're missing out on the awesomeness that we see in our own tastes, they would probably say the same about us.

There was one image I particularly liked in the story, where it took some laborious amount of time removing all of its monocles in preparation for eating him. I thought that was funny.

I would probably fail the beholder librarian's test as well, because my memory has never been very good at regurgitating quotes.  I could list hundreds of examples of what happens in stories, but very rarely could I quote what the words were.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2013, 03:51:02 PM »

I'm not really sure what to think of this one. I agree that it's heavy on message, light on characters and plot. But it did have some nice elements, such as the library books being impervious to the summons while being read. The MC's vows to not buy any more books reminded me of similar promises I've made to myself (okay, no more book purchases until I've read this list of 10 books that I already own...) so that was very relatable as well. But why did he get eaten? I mean this seriously: why?
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Scattercat
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« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2013, 07:03:36 PM »

But why did he get eaten? I mean this seriously: why?

Because, by the creature's measure, he wasn't appreciating the books correctly.  The creature struck me as the sort prone to eating people anyway, in addition to feeling that books should be read and enjoyed, and it could tell Endart was a collector rather than a reader, so it gave him a poser it knew he couldn't answer.
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Mitch
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« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2013, 11:22:42 PM »

My favourite book growing up was a fantasy anthology containing Ashton-Smith's The Weird of Avoosl Wuthoqquan. It was very entertaining to return to a story with the same tone, and read so well! I think I'd have enjoyed it more though if this version had not followed the original so closely.
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« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2013, 09:20:17 AM »

My favourite book growing up was a fantasy anthology containing Ashton-Smith's The Weird of Avoosl Wuthoqquan. It was very entertaining to return to a story with the same tone, and read so well! I think I'd have enjoyed it more though if this version had not followed the original so closely.

Ohhhh, is that why the apology to Ashton-Smith?
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benjaminjb
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« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2013, 12:21:49 PM »

"The Weird of Avoosl Wuthoqquan" by Clark Ashton Smith:
Quote
"Give, give, O magnanimous and liberal lord of the poor," cried the beggar.

Avoosl Wuthoqquan, the richest and most avaricious money-lender in all Commoriom, and, by that token, in the whole of Hyperborea, was startled from his train of reverie by the sharp, eerie, cicada-like voice.
vs.
"The Very Strange Weird of Endart Sscowth" by Scott H. Andrews:
Quote
“Please lend me your second copy of the Chronicles, O magnanimous lord of bound volumes,” cried the scholar standing in the street.

Endart Sscowth, the most prosperous bookseller in all Samech Tern, and by that token in the whole of Hyposudia, was startled from his reverie by the reedy voice.

I love rewriting older stories or borrowing bits of style, but that's a little too close for my comfort.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2013, 12:28:26 PM »

But why did he get eaten? I mean this seriously: why?

Because, by the creature's measure, he wasn't appreciating the books correctly.  The creature struck me as the sort prone to eating people anyway, in addition to feeling that books should be read and enjoyed, and it could tell Endart was a collector rather than a reader, so it gave him a poser it knew he couldn't answer.

Huh. Well, I feel sorry for him then. He thought he was buying those books honestly! (Or at least, thought there was minimal risk that he wasn't)

And I agree with benjaminjb, that is shockingly close!
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DKT
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« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2013, 12:51:59 PM »

"The Weird of Avoosl Wuthoqquan" by Clark Ashton Smith:
Quote
"Give, give, O magnanimous and liberal lord of the poor," cried the beggar.

Avoosl Wuthoqquan, the richest and most avaricious money-lender in all Commoriom, and, by that token, in the whole of Hyperborea, was startled from his train of reverie by the sharp, eerie, cicada-like voice.
vs.
"The Very Strange Weird of Endart Sscowth" by Scott H. Andrews:
Quote
“Please lend me your second copy of the Chronicles, O magnanimous lord of bound volumes,” cried the scholar standing in the street.

Endart Sscowth, the most prosperous bookseller in all Samech Tern, and by that token in the whole of Hyposudia, was startled from his reverie by the reedy voice.

I love rewriting older stories or borrowing bits of style, but that's a little too close for my comfort.

FWIW, it's not an uncommon practice for a pastiche to crib directly from the opening of the story it's, um, pastiching (is that a word?). I've done it myself, and I've also seen it done very often with pastiches. 

Frex: there's a recent anthology out now called Rip-Off with contributions from Scalzi, Resnick, Bear, Mary Elizabeth Robinette Kowal, Lavie Tidhar, Daryl Gregory, and others that basically takes the first sentence from a classic story and retells or writes a completely different story.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2013, 12:56:48 PM by DKT » Logged

benjaminjb
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« Reply #14 on: January 30, 2013, 02:07:38 PM »

To be clear, since Scott H. Andrews credits Clark Ashton Smith, he's innocent (in my eyes) of any plagiarism; and I don't want my comparative quotation to be seen as charging him with that.

But honestly, I'm not sure why Andrews chose this Smith story as a model. How different would it be if the main action of this story (man who hoards books is punished for not reading) was transposed into, say, Dickens? Marley could come to Scrooge and say "I wear the chains I forged in life," except it would go, "I wear the books I never read in life."

We could go on with other examples, but what I'm getting at is the oddly contradictory point about pastiche (that maybe only I hold), that if you're going to model someone else's work, I want to see some difference so that I know why you chose that work. Call it (Alan) Moore's Law (of Extraordinary Borrowing): the best re-workings will show us something new (and true) about the originals.

Or in question form: is this story better for being a pastiche?
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Mitch
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« Reply #15 on: January 30, 2013, 06:06:08 PM »


Ohhhh, is that why the apology to Ashton-Smith?

I'd say it's a safe bet.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2013, 06:11:07 PM by Mitch » Logged
danooli
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« Reply #16 on: February 01, 2013, 07:10:21 PM »

When this was released, I was almost through listening to Interference, and was SO into it, that everything else was put on the back burner.  I can honestly say that it was riveting. I really loved it.

The Very Strange Weird of Endart Sscowth was an enjoyable tale, but I also felt the message may have been a bit heavy. I don't want to be judged for the things I like to collect that I don't often use...like my 80's vinyl.  I certainly don't want some New Wave devil eating me if I buy some rare Siouxsie and the Banshees record and don't play it every day.  I can't imagine a world where I'd never play it ever, and I wonder if the bookseller really didn't intend to read his treasures.  (Unless it was stated and I missed it.)

Being unfamiliar with the Clark Ashton-Smith story, I wasn't distracted by any sense of deja-vu.  I thought it was well written, and a good length. And, of course, wonderfully narrated.
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benjaminjb
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« Reply #17 on: February 01, 2013, 09:32:57 PM »

I don't want to be judged for the things I like to collect that I don't often use...like my 80's vinyl.  I certainly don't want some New Wave devil eating me if I buy some rare Siouxsie and the Banshees record and don't play it every day. 
Oh, thank God--I'm the '80s New Wave vinyl soul-eater and I've been out of work so long! It's just been getting harder and harder to find '80s New Wave vinyl collectors to eat their souls. I don't work on the weekends, natch, so... how's Tuesday for being lured into a dark, record-filled cave? Does that work for you?
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« Reply #18 on: February 02, 2013, 02:54:27 AM »

Since I realized that I have not even the time lift to read the books that are still unread on my shelves, I found myself I that story, a collector, hoarding books without reading them. I think it is time to start throwing books away, to fight that strange feeling of "too many books to read, too little time"
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danooli
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« Reply #19 on: February 02, 2013, 11:44:17 AM »

how's Tuesday for being lured into a dark, record-filled cave? Does that work for you?
I am actually having a couple of teeth filled on Tuesday, sans anesthetic.  I just might prefer a dark, record-filled cave.  As long as the turntable was rolling.
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