Author Topic: PC254: Sundae  (Read 18688 times)

Ocicat

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on: April 03, 2013, 05:38:44 PM
PodCastle 254: Sundae

by Matt Wallace

Read by Dave Robison (of the Round Table Podcast)

Originally published as a Kindle eBook.

Perhaps the greatest warrior the world had ever known was entombed in a brown cardboard box in the attic. The box was scrawled “Kenny’s Room” in bright red Sharpie pen and stuffed into a dust-covered corner one Spring-cleaning with several others. Some contained toys the children had outgrown, others contained electronics that were working but hopelessly out-of-date. All of them were quickly forgotten about.

Inside the cardboard box filled with other unwanted toys, Sundae lay in his miniature steamer trunk. The trunk’s once-fine leather was cracked and peeling all over, its many stamps painted with their images of post card lands dulled and faded by age. Sundae himself had not faired much better through the years (it had been almost a century since he was created in Magda’s workshop).

One of his eyes was missing, and the tear left by its departure had been sewn shut to keep the fluff from leaking out. A large patch of fur covering his right breast and shoulder was dark and brittle. He’d taken a tumble into a roaring fireplace while grappling with a particularly nasty beast back in the 70’s. The cover he’d fashioned from leather scraps for his left ear, to protect the pressed metal button that was the source of all Stenz bears’ power, looked worn and awkwardly stapled on.

There were other punctures and tears and rips. Some had been sewn like his eye, some closed hastily with masking tape that was now brown and furling at the corners.

Rated R: Contains violent Teddy Bears. Been a while since we did that!

Special thanks to Alasdair Stuart – our Guest Editor and Host this week!

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: April 24, 2013, 02:51:23 AM by Talia »



Kaa

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Reply #1 on: April 03, 2013, 07:21:39 PM
Damn you, Matt F'n Wallace. Damn you. I was just FINE up until Silver.

I invent imaginary people and make them have conversations in my head. I also write.

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chemistryguy

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Reply #2 on: April 04, 2013, 02:57:12 PM
Pardon the overused meme, but I just couldn't shake the idea that Chuck Norris would be proud to hug this teddy bear.

That out of the way, the story was off-the-scale dramatic, but fun with the help of Dave Robison.  I had a hard time taking this one seriously, except for Silver...

Damn you, Matt F'n Wallace. Damn you. I was just FINE up until Silver.

...and the scene where Sundae is frustrated in his inability to protect the girl from her own father, may he rot.

This story also makes me want to revisit another teddy bear tale


DKT

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Reply #3 on: April 04, 2013, 03:12:32 PM
Oh! That's not even one of the ones I was thinking of! Thanks for pointing it out.

Also worth noting:

Teddy Bears and Tea Parties
The Behold of the Eye (This was voted listener's favorite several years ago, if memory serves...)

Didn't realize Teddypunk (God forgive me) was such a thriving subgenre! A few more and we'd have ourselves collection!


chemistryguy

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Reply #4 on: April 04, 2013, 05:56:31 PM
Teddypunk

I love this term.

I have yet to check out Teddy Bears and Tea Parties or The Behold of the Eye, but now I think I must.

Also, a very big congrats on the new addition to your family!


raetsel

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Reply #5 on: April 04, 2013, 06:01:16 PM
One of the best PodCastle stories I've heard in the last year and that is a pretty high bar.

This story was a tremendous epic tale that pushed so many of my emotional buttons, but never in a cheap trick sentimental way it earned the right to go where it wanted to. Here is a hero and story with real heart. Listening to the final few minutes driving home I had tears rolling down my cheeks. Those bittersweet tears of sadness and vicarious, pride if you will. Knowing that Sundae had done his duty and done it with a smile on his face.

The reading was exquisite but then Dave is an extra-ordinary narrator with a voice like silk sliding over a gravel path.

Finally Alasdair's outro. What an inspiration. This is the completion of the triple-threat. Story, narration and hosting.

Needless to say I bought a copy of the story for my partner's kindle immediately.

Bravo, Podcastle! Bravo!
« Last Edit: April 06, 2013, 12:52:04 PM by raetsel »



DKT

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Reply #6 on: April 04, 2013, 06:14:00 PM
Teddypunk

I love this term.

I have yet to check out Teddy Bears and Tea Parties or The Behold of the Eye, but now I think I must.


All very different stories, but highly enjoyable. Tea Parties is easily one of my favorites from DC (and I LOVE DC).


Also, a very big congrats on the new addition to your family!

Thank You!!!  ;D


eytanz

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Reply #7 on: April 04, 2013, 07:51:56 PM

Also, a very big congrats on the new addition to your family!

Congratulations indeed! (I haven't yet heard the episode - I'm about a month behind - so I'm glad I had a look at the thread and noticed this :) )



DKT

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Reply #8 on: April 04, 2013, 08:12:09 PM

Also, a very big congrats on the new addition to your family!

Congratulations indeed! (I haven't yet heard the episode - I'm about a month behind - so I'm glad I had a look at the thread and noticed this :) )

Thanks, Eytan  :D


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Reply #9 on: April 04, 2013, 10:04:12 PM
Wow, that wrecked me.  I was listening on my way home from work tonight, tears streaming down my face. I loved it, and when I got home, I hugged the stuffed bunny I've slept with since I was 5.  He's a rather small bunny, but I do now wonder if he's had anything to do with keeping me safe at night for all these years.

I felt so much empathy for the characters in this story.  Esther, Silver, Harper and, of course, Sundae...for such a short story, I fell in love with them.  Their pains were mine, their deaths stung.

The narration of this hero tale was spectacular and may be a large reason why I was so touched by this story. I am grateful Sunny Bunny is still around, I may have a nightmare of that dragon voice tonight.



BlueLu

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Reply #10 on: April 05, 2013, 03:06:55 PM

I really wanted to love this story as much as Alasdair, but I found it a bit rambly.  I also found I was constantly comparing it to The Wish of the Demon Achtromagk (mentioned above)—another story about a kick-ass Teddy Bear who protects children—and this story was always coming up second, perhaps because Achtromagk deals with a bear's(?) relationship to one child, while this story tries to cover Sundae's protection of numerous children.

There were some images I loved—the bear’s creation by the old German woman, his relationship to the dog, the importance of tucking children in properly—but I didn’t find myself as emotionally engaged as I wanted to be.

I also wish the depiction of the evils of television had been a bit more...subtle?

There are times when I don't like a story will argue to the death that it's because the story itself is flawed.  This time, though, I completely realize that it's a matter of taste and that this story is perfect for many people--just not me. 

Great reading, though, and I agree with everybody about Alasdair's epic outro. Although...I don't think Matthew Broderick was in The Graduate.

Lena


InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #11 on: April 06, 2013, 12:38:32 AM
What more is there to say except this?:



InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #12 on: April 06, 2013, 12:48:12 AM
Actually, there's a lot more to say:

Damn you, Matt F'n Wallace. Damn you. I was just FINE up until Silver.

Right there with you.

And actually, after the brutal story on Escape Pod this week.. really, didn't need any more child rape. Not that it wasn't handled well in the story, but.... still.

Also... am I the only one who sees the dark irony in a story about a teddy bear being marginalized in a world full of screen... debuting as a Kindle book?


I don't think Matthew Broderick was in The Graduate.


He wasn't (I'm not even sure how old he was when it was made) - but he was in "The Freshman", and I'm pretty sure that's what he meant.

Good luck with the job Alasdair. I hope you have better luck than me....



Just Jeff

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Reply #13 on: April 06, 2013, 12:56:25 AM
Great story well voiced. My only complaint is the temporal shifts sometimes tripped me up. (Scene breaks often fade when a story goes from print to audio.)

While Silver's death was sad, that was trumped by my delight at Sundae having a comrade in arms for several years.



InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #14 on: April 06, 2013, 01:13:54 AM
Oh! That's not even one of the ones I was thinking of! Thanks for pointing it out.

And here I thought you meant:

Edward Bear and The Very Long Walk



Mav.Weirdo

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Reply #15 on: April 06, 2013, 12:43:55 PM
What more is there to say except this?:

I'll mention that drawing is "sweet halloween dreams" by *begemott on deviantart



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Reply #16 on: April 07, 2013, 12:18:25 AM
I’m really tired of stories that continually jump between flashback and present day, especially when it’s not immediately obvious that the narrative has made that jump. I’m starting to hate that structure.

But even so, I loved this story (even though I also love my glowing screens), and the narration was amazingly epic; there seemed to be many sentences that I’m sure would just seem ridiculous in print, but here in audio, even they were rendered with all the gravity that this fluffy warrior deserved. (See, there’s an example of the type of sentence I’m talking about.)

And it goes without saying that Alasdair’s endcap was great; in fact, all I need to say about that is Alasdair did the endcap. Listen to it. And buy his book.



Cutter McKay

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Reply #17 on: April 08, 2013, 08:52:43 PM
Great story well voiced. My only complaint is the temporal shifts sometimes tripped me up. (Scene breaks often fade when a story goes from print to audio.)

I had trouble with that as well. But this has been a common complaint in all the Escape Artists forums, and really, except for the stories they themselves narrate, they have little control over it, so I've leaned to just accept them as-is.

The story was awesome. Silver was by far my favorite part, picturing a warrior teddy bear astride a dachshund, (I conjured the dog from toy story for some reason) was beautiful and awesome and hilarious at the same time. Though I didn't shed any tears when Silver died because it was a logical progression in the tale, Silver earned his rest, and he and Sundae had their moment together. Just awesome.

In the current Pseudopod flash fiction contest we've had many monster-under-the-bed stories, some good, some lacking, but none that could stand up to this. Yes, those are flash, with much less room to work, but this is how to do it right.  ;)

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Reply #18 on: April 09, 2013, 02:17:37 PM
I quite enjoyed this story, though I got a little teeth-grindy when we got to the child rape.  That's probably an artifact of my work with unfiltered slushpiles; whenever anyone needs to add DEPTH to their story, they go right for the rape button and it's just tiring.  I still don't think this story quite justified its use, either - mere hitting would have been quite enough - but my eye-rolling is probably more extreme than most.

I was struck while listening that, other than being a teddy bear, this was a straight-up sword and sorcery tale straight out of the early days.  The hero is crowned champion of light, battles a variety of monsters, and sacrifices himself against his final foe; the reminiscences, the other characters, everything would remain almost unchanged if you replaced Sundae with a grizzled swordsman, the parents with kings and queens, and the houses with a variety of goofy continents with apostrophes in their names.  I'm still not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, honestly.  On the one hand, I do enjoy a straight-up adventure story now and then; on the other hand, I felt like the correspondence was a little too close, that the story could have worked with its own viewpoint a little more thoroughly.



Wilson Fowlie

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Reply #19 on: April 09, 2013, 04:23:08 PM
I'm still only partway through this story, but then I saw this today and had to share.

"People commonly use the word 'procrastination' to describe what they do on the Internet. It seems to me too mild to describe what's happening as merely not-doing-work. We don't call it procrastination when someone gets drunk instead of working." - Paul Graham


Brynn

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Reply #20 on: April 10, 2013, 12:25:59 AM
The reading just kicked this up about twelve hundred notches!

I thought the story was clever, and it really worked to create visuals for me.

I also loved how realistic the story was as far as self-defense techniques against monsters in the dark. It is very true that you've got to be meticulously tucked beneath the blanket for maximum protection. The fact that I am alive today proves this.
« Last Edit: April 10, 2013, 01:38:20 AM by Brynn »



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Reply #21 on: April 10, 2013, 12:08:37 PM
Alright, allright, so this story actually has drawn me to comment for the first time.  I haven't seen the print edition of this story, but somehow I don't feel like I would have been quite as thrilled as I was by Dave's reading.  As has been said previously, the voice lended a very suitable, and I feel much needed, gravity to the story. 
I have to second the eyerolling when we got to the rape part.  but Silver, and the end itself, totally caught me off guard.  I have to say, though, dang you for it being on when PodCastle was in the drive to work rotation, instead of the drive home?  It was slightly embarrasing to come in to work with my eyes all red and puffy.



Devoted135

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Reply #22 on: April 10, 2013, 01:59:54 PM
Fantastic narration! Seriously, let's just give him the best narration award for 2013 now okay? :)

I really enjoyed this story, heart-breaking as it was. It didn't have me crying (Silver got to live a great, full life after all), but I definitely mourned for Sundae when he made his last heroic sacrifice. I love that his creator was an old German woman, that rooted this story firmly in the fairy tale tradition for me. Terrible things happen in fairy tales, but in the end the good children always win and the villain is eventually destroyed. Now if only things worked that way in the real world...



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Reply #23 on: April 10, 2013, 03:35:33 PM
Ouch! Critical hit, right in the feels.

I was never really a teddy bear aficionado, but I suspect that my Blankee (from which I kept a tattered corner for years after I was too old for such silliness) was not mangled and threadbare from me dragging it across the floor everywhere I went, but because it was smothering dragons while I slept.

Sniff. Thank you, Blankee. Rest easy, your task is complete.

Great narration, and Alasdair's outro was pitch perfect, as always.



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Reply #24 on: April 11, 2013, 09:31:52 AM
The whole way through this story I had an image running through my head of a piece of artwork I keep bumping into on the internet...



This is just how I imagined that final epic battle.

(Btw the drawing is by begemott on deviant art and has made it into a good little demotivational poster)



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Reply #25 on: April 12, 2013, 02:20:13 AM
Excellent story, extremely well read, and dammit Mr Wallace, Silver made me tear up on my drive home.



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Reply #26 on: April 12, 2013, 07:28:30 AM
I, myself, though a long time listener, have chosen this story to finally break onto the forum about. I don't have anything new to add (pretty much agreeing with all the above comments), but just had to say what a privilege it was to experience this story. I have just recently become a father for the first time, and I think the story has struck an extra cord with me for that reason. Thank you so much!

P.S. Congrats Dave!



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Reply #27 on: April 13, 2013, 09:23:45 PM
For once I'm glad this is allergy season because it was a good excuse for tears while I was listening to this episode. The part with Sundae and Silver had me sobbing.

The narration is superb and hit the right note every time -- Sundae and Silver thundering into battle and Sundae by his friends side as he died. Damn, I'm crying just thinking about it.

This might edge out Edward Bear and the Very Long Walk from Escape Pod as my favorite bear story.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2013, 09:33:11 PM by Mack46 »



JDoug

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Reply #28 on: April 13, 2013, 10:26:39 PM
I liked this alot  ;D



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Reply #29 on: April 16, 2013, 08:43:21 PM
This story hit me harder than expected, right at the heart of my smaller child-like self.  Instead of analyzing the story and breaking down its individual parts (like an adult would), I chose to just listen and absorb the story (as a child would), and WOW!  The imagery and descriptions brought everything to life for me and I still wonder how I made it home during my commute, as I wasn't seeing the road and traffic around me, but instead was seeing Sundae riding Silver in the heat of the chase, or Esther's imagination land, or Harper peering down at Sundae.  This brought to mind all that I now know I had forgotten.  I remember the untold and unwritten rule of bedsheets being a shield against the darkness of the night.  I remember wondering how my toys would be in different locations in the morning and not 100% sure that my thrashing in bed was the reason.  The child-like part of me appreciates this tale as truth and love.  The adult part of me appreciates this tale as welcome memory and wistfulness.   

I will now have to find the stuffed animals and dolls I've packed up and stuck in a closet, to ensure they and their magic is shared with other children, now that my belief has waned and I can no longer hear them talk to me.

Well, I may have to keep a couple... just in case.



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Reply #30 on: April 18, 2013, 10:28:50 AM
What more is there to say except this?:


That is EXACTLY what I was thinking of when we got just a few paragraphs into this story!  It also made me think of the ragged old bear I had as a child.  There's so much for a PodCastle listener to identify with.

Of course, I don't remember my teddy bear having a button in his hear...but, it may well have been gone by the time I received him.  A sign of a job well done, I like to think.

Failure is an event, not a person.


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Reply #31 on: April 20, 2013, 11:02:08 AM
I very rarely post but.....dammit.....I was crying on the motorway (freeway for those on the other side of the pond)! Probably my favourite Escape Artist story in the years I've been listening...
Wish I still had my teddy but at 48 he's long gone....but I'll cuddle my faithful tabby happy in the knowledge he watches out for me in the darkness......



benjaminjb

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Reply #32 on: April 20, 2013, 04:02:15 PM
A) Congratulations to Dave and hope everything is going well with the family. (I'm late to listening, so only catching up now.)

B) I enjoyed the story, though in the back of my head I had this episode of 99% Invisible about the creation of the teddy bear and the also-ran toy, billy possum (http://99percentinvisible.org/post/13210762740/episode-40-billy-possum).

C) I perfectly enjoyed the "several episodes in the life" structure, where we get to see the lives of different children and how Sundae does or doesn't protect them for a while. And who doesn't love a heroic death? But as interesting as it was to see some of those fights between innocence and experience--the old woman who holds onto some innocence despite the horror she's been through, the child whose imagination of escape is quashed by the abuse she can't escape, the children who move too early into digital pastimes--I wasn't quite comfortable with how easy the story switched between those.

I mean, being cyberbullied is bad (if that's what happened to the older daughter in the story), but just having access to digital entertainment? As a child of the 80s, I'm very loathe to say "pre-packaged entertainment kills off imagination and innocence."

Also, the idea that children are innocent and imaginative sometimes gets under my skin; for all that I don't love Ender's Game, it does get right that children are far from innocent.

So a fine story that starts from a premise I find distasteful (children=innocent) and includes a current cliche that I find maddening (digital/pre-packaged entertainment kills imagination). Let's say a solid B and you can dance to it.



Cutter McKay

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Reply #33 on: April 20, 2013, 04:13:40 PM
Let's say a solid B and you can dance to it.


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Reply #34 on: April 23, 2013, 06:14:43 PM
A) Congratulations to Dave and hope everything is going well with the family. (I'm late to listening, so only catching up now.)


Thanks, sir! :)


Talia

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Reply #35 on: April 30, 2013, 03:51:08 AM
I'm super far behind on all my podcasts currently, just listened to this one tonight, and completely adored it. Really beautiful.

I was struck while listening that, other than being a teddy bear, this was a straight-up sword and sorcery tale straight out of the early days.  The hero is crowned champion of light, battles a variety of monsters, and sacrifices himself against his final foe; the reminiscences, the other characters, everything would remain almost unchanged if you replaced Sundae with a grizzled swordsman, the parents with kings and queens, and the houses with a variety of goofy continents with apostrophes in their names.  I'm still not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, honestly.  On the one hand, I do enjoy a straight-up adventure story now and then; on the other hand, I felt like the correspondence was a little too close, that the story could have worked with its own viewpoint a little more thoroughly.

I would argue that this works perfectly with the childhood motif running through the story. It's supposed to be simple and straightforward, because it's an allegory of sorts for what goes on in a child's mind. The magic isn't in the button. It's in the child's belief. A bit Tinkerbell-ish, I suppose.

Lastly:



She's about a month shy of turning 30. :)




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Reply #36 on: April 30, 2013, 03:30:09 PM
It wasn't a complaint that it was straightforward, Talia, but that it was too much like a sword'n'sorcery tale.  I'd have wanted to see more differences between this and Beowulf, y'know?  Surely turning the barbarian warlord into a teddy bear would have some sort of impact on things, but it hewed pretty much to the genre line all the way through.  Which was fine, since that was clearly part of the goal, but it was not as interesting (to me) as exploring the differences might have been.



Talia

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Reply #37 on: April 30, 2013, 03:54:56 PM
Yeah, I get that, but I'd suggest generic sword & sorcery works well to reflect how a child would would imagine the fights going down. I mean I'm sure there some exceptions, but most kids would just be happy to see their teddy hack an Evil Creepy Nightmare Monster to death with a sword, all hero-like.



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Reply #38 on: May 08, 2013, 09:18:14 PM
I know I'm late for commenting on this episode. This story (and Dave's excellent, emotive, powerful reading) brought me to tears many times over during my commute. This story felt as if Matt thought about the narrator's vocal inflections when he wrote this, and Dave had the awesome reading chops to pull it off.

My main take away is that it feels good to be the hero of the downtrodden, regardless of cost or aggravation.

Thanks to PodCastle for bringing this phenomenal reading of an outstanding story to us.

More please!



Mouseneb

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Reply #39 on: May 21, 2013, 01:28:10 AM
You guys know I listen to these while on the public bus, right? In China? If they weren't staring at the strange foreign girl already (they were) they for sure started when I clenched my fists, stopped breathing, and choked back tears.

I know I'm way behind on listening to these but I had to stop by and say how much I loved this. It kinda seems tailor made to impact people like me. Mine was a bright blue bunny rabbit, not a teddy bear, but that bunny saw me through some hard times and I loved the salute to the stuffed animals that comforted and guarded us when we were young - however imperfectly.

The only thing I didn't love about this story was the complete rejection of technology - I'm a technophile and a bibliophile all at once and for the past few years that's meant that most of the books I've consumed have come through those glowing screened devices.

But I did also totally LOVE the outro, fantastic endcap to a fantastic story. Thanks you guys so much for making this.

Every day is an adventure.


Moritz

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Reply #40 on: May 22, 2013, 11:20:21 AM
What more is there to say except this?:
 (snip picture)

I always knew there was a story behind this picture, and Sundae was this story. As someone who grew up with a Steiff-Toy - a rabbit though -  I loved that the protagonist also had a button in his ear.



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Reply #41 on: May 22, 2013, 01:25:31 PM
This reminded me very strongly of Edward Bear and the Very Long Walk.  To me, the other story pulled it off better.  This one wasn't bad, but I didn't have the very emotional reaction to it that the story seemed to be aiming for.  It lost me some when the bear turned out to not be substantial against anything physical, at that point it seemed too explicitly just a regular teddy bear in a regular kid's imagination rather than a fantasy warrior.

I had various stuffed animals, but the one which served as my primary protector was my Pooch Patrol:

I was also a firm believer in tucking the covers under me on all sides, because then the monsters couldn't get me.



LaShawn

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Reply #42 on: July 11, 2013, 06:52:14 PM
This was based off the picture of the teddy bear battling a dragon over a sleeping kid's bed wasn't it? Lovely story. Wasn't all that interested at first but I was drawn in both by the story and the wonderful narrator (he gave me a shudder when he did the dragon's voice. brrrr...) And of course, the ending was poignant indeed, but I found Alasdair's outro far more poignant.

On a side note, I had a stuffed kitty ever since I was little. I kept it in my bedroom dorm in college, and up to now, it's in my son's room. We were going through his toys a couple of weeks ago, and he was like, "Meh, this cat is old. We can toss it." And I was like NOOOOOOOOO!!!

So now it's back in my office. And after this story, I think it will be there to stay.

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Ken Schneyer

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Reply #43 on: July 31, 2013, 06:01:19 PM
Dammit, I cannot, CANNOT drive while I'm crying. Beautifully written, beautifully performed. The Velveteen Rabbit meets Pale Rider meets Sampson between the pillars.

The inability of the mythic hero to battle in the age where souls are cold is familiar; American Gods is only the most prominent example in the last few decades.  It was a favorite theme of Bradbury's.  But I've never cared how old a trope was if its execution moved me, and this one did.