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Author Topic: PC 258: The Discriminating Monster's Guide to the Perils of Princess Snatching  (Read 9542 times)
Talia
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« on: May 02, 2013, 07:16:18 AM »

PodCastle 258: The Discriminating Monster's Guide to the Perils of Princess Snatching

by Scott M. Roberts

Read by Dave Thompson

Originally published in Intergalactic Medicine Show.

I let her see my fangs.

The princess dropped the box-cutter.  She had just cut herself—shallow slashes that cried tiny, scarlet pearls.  Her blood smelled as sweet as cotton candy, but it was the scent of her destiny that had led me to her.  Spicy and cloying, the princess’s destiny made my mouth water, set an itch and tingle in my skin.  I inhaled it and let the city, with its bloated trash bags and filthy humans and miles of steaming asphalt, fade, fade, fade into the darkness.  The princess’s destiny was like Christmas morning: cloves and oranges, nutmeg explosions and cinnamon arias.  All bright; all clean.  A song in my sinuses, on the back of my throat, as pure as a child’s kiss, as sweet cream.

I bumped my nose against the window.  The twinge of pain brought me back to reality.  The city, the humans, the asphalt, all that.  And more, now: the stench of the princess’s mother downstairs, sucking on vodka and painkillers, stinking of booze and vomit.  

The window wasn’t locked; I rubbed my nose with one hand and opened it with the other. “Hello, princess,” I said.


Rated R: Contains violence and some drug references.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: May 22, 2013, 07:36:47 AM by Talia » Logged
InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2013, 07:01:18 PM »

Well, I liked it. I like that the "princess" achieved "agency" at the end. With a nice twist. Though I think she was a little hard on the monster.

Though I am curious just why they need to suck down destinies on Bald Mountain. Really, what does he get out of it? And was this her destiny?
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LadiesAndGentleman
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« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2013, 06:51:23 AM »

So the set up of this story had me right away.  I loved the mash-up of fairy tale and contemporary life. The mix of dark and mundane felt brand new.

The first thing that threw me out was the title.  It sounds more like a G-rated romp, which is what part of this story is, but the rest of it, especially the end, is enormously bleak.  Seriously.  The monster's family is this happy-go-lucky sitcom.  The idea of them adopting Mercedes seemed the most comforting of all possible endings.  I'm not disappointed this ending didn't come to pass, but I didn't feel prepared to have the monster's family taken away like that.  It was just so sudden.

Then there's the magic system.  Like Infinite Monkey, I was also curious why the monster(s) had to apparently feed on destinies at Bald Mountain.  While some explanation was given as to what a destiny was, I don't remember learning why and how it was eaten.
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chemistryguy
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« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2013, 11:48:32 AM »

If I were a being that consumed the destinies of those bound for greatness, I'd probably make it a point to be on the lookout for one who's destiny consisted of destroying me.

That being said, excellent story.  Great reading, Dave, welcome back.

I, as did LadiesAndGentleman, assumed that this would be a G-rated romp based on the title.  It certainly had its whimsical portions.  All in all a well paced story.

The ending did confuse me a bit.  I was shocked to see the monster's family disappear and I was left wondering exactly what kind of powers Mercedes has in the end.  Worth another listen to try to piece it together.
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psyque
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« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2013, 11:54:56 AM »

I am ready for a sequel at any time, now!
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jdarksun
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« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2013, 07:13:33 PM »

Loved this story, right up until the end where Vren exchanged one demonic master for another. You took away his kids, "princess". You're just as bad as the monster that wanted to eat your destiny.

Awesome reading Dave!
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MacArthurBug
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« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2013, 02:17:37 AM »

WOW! What a fun ride of a story. Every time I tought it was going one way it went another. I was grumpy at our spoiled little princess every step of the way. She stole the monsters family! What a jerk! The neat little world spun out clean and without seams. No, I didn't like the ending. I wanted to scold the princess. None the less I LOVED this story. Quite a bit of fun, thank you. Also, it was very well read, it's so good to have Dave back!
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« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2013, 07:17:29 AM »

This story felt longer than it was. It also felt like two or three stories melded into one -- the monster chasing the princess, the monster bringing the princess home and reverse-stockholm-syndrome-ing her, and the journey to the mountain in which the son defies the father. I guess there's your three acts, right?

If I had a problem with the story, it was the ending. The bit where the princess makes Vren her servant felt tacked-on, like we had to deal with even MORE drama after the good guys win the day. Not saying I don't think the princess had a good idea, but still... I'm a little brow-wrinkly over it.
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« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2013, 01:43:13 PM »

How can you not love Vren and his family? Seriously, they couldn't be more adorable. And I love that Mercedes was not your typical "princess", I wonder which namesake the author was thinking of here.

The ending was the least charmed bit for me. I like that Vren is now helping Mercedes to protect princesses instead of kidnapping them. But seriously? Taking away his family was a low blow, and I'd love to read a sequel where she's the antagonist who has to learn her lesson in having mercy on others.
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Corydon
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« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2013, 08:37:04 PM »

How can you not love Vren and his family? Seriously, they couldn't be more adorable.

He's a bit like Tony Soprano, isn't he? He has a beautiful wife and kids, is charming and appealing... and is an utter sociopath. Vren, like Tony, is a trap for the unwary. That's why I'm not concerned about Mercedes enlisting him for 200 years of service: maybe the (temporary) loss of his family will teach him a lesson about empathy.

It was a fun story: just to double down on TV analogies, the kickass princess/ charismatic monster vibe reminded me of Buffy and Spike. Good stuff.
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #10 on: May 09, 2013, 01:42:11 PM »

I liked this story, and even the ending. It had a sort of Monsters-Inc.-Children-laughing-is-better-than-children-screaming childishness to it, but it did seem to fit with the lighthearted story. I like the gradual transformation of Vren from evil child hunting monster who devours children (he wanted to sink his fangs into her neck, the actual child, not the destiny) to a Tony Soprano family man who only does it to make a living (or get his family out of debt) to ultimate protector of children everywhere from evil child hunting monsters who want to devour them. He's completely reformed! No 12 step program or anything!
And Dave was the perfect narrator for this. He has the right voice, and he brings the tired but dedicated family man father figure into the story. I could tell, he was emotionally invested in Vren, and therefore so was I. It's good to have you back, Dave!

If I were a being that consumed the destinies of those bound for greatness, I'd probably make it a point to be on the lookout for one who's destiny consisted of destroying me.

Vren himself said that he had no idea what Mercedes' destiny was, only that he could sense it. And we learn at the end that Balgaroth was not nearly as good at scenting destinies as Vren. So if  Vren doesn't know what her destiny is, how would Balgaroth?
« Last Edit: May 10, 2013, 05:31:11 AM by Max e^{i pi} » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: May 09, 2013, 02:10:37 PM »

I loved this one. Like quite a few others, I was expecting a G-rated romp and got this instead, but it was a nice surprise. When you expect Squonk and get something deeper, it's a good thing.

The only thing that threw me at all was that I kept trying to hear the monster's name and couldn't make it out. I don't know if it was the audio or listening in the car or what, but I couldn't decide if it was Bren, Friend, Grin, Ren, Vren . . . or substitute an 'a' or 'i' for the existing vowel sound in any of those. I had to rewind more than once because I went off on a mental tangent trying to figure out the main character's name. Just my own hang-up probably, and one that could have been cured by a quick visit to the text. I guess that's just one of the drawbacks of audio.

I predicted what her destiny was pretty much right from the get-go. I don't know why, but the first thing I thought was, "Her destiny is to end the destiny-stealing." And even having guessed that, I enjoyed it.

Good narration by Dave, too.
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bounceswoosh
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« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2013, 10:23:03 PM »

Loved the story.  Loved, loved, loved the reading, especially the voice of the supervillain.  Not sure how I feel about the ending, but not sure how I would have done it differently.  I agree that the girl being adopted was the obvious answer, but it would have been too pat.

Somehow I felt that the Princess and the younger son could have fallen in love and run off together.  That's where I thought it was going toward the end, and I had to keep reminding myself they were too young for that.
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Scott R
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« Reply #13 on: May 10, 2013, 09:33:45 AM »

Hi, folks!  Scott M. Roberts here, author of the 'Discriminating Monster's Guide to the Perils of Princess Snatching.'  Thanks for all the comments.  

Quote
I am curious [...]why they need to suck down destinies on Bald Mountain.  [...]what does he get out of it?  And was this her destiny?

It's never explicitly explained in-story why Golgorath needs destinies.  I'll note that the effect of eating destinies is hinted at when Golgorath is killed and Mercedes bathes in the destinies that escape his body.  Shortly after his death, she turns Bald Mountain into a thriving grove of ash trees, similar to the one that was behind Vren and Greta's home. 

The secret there-- and alas, apparently not clear enough in the text (bad writer!  no treat!) -- is that Mercedes gained enough magic power from Golgorath's death to preserve Greta, Zash, and Sojet somehow.  This is hinted at in the ash trees; in Mercedes sucking on her hair; and in the play of moonlight and shadow in the grove.  (Also, Greta's no slouch when it comes to magic-- she tells Vren to come and find her, implying that she'll be around somewhere to be found).

And yes, it was Mercedes' "destiny" to destroy Golgorath. 

Quote
The first thing that threw me out was the title.

:wince:

Yeah, Lois Tilton of Locus Online had the same comment-- the title sets an expectation that the story doesn't deliver.  Sorry about that.  When the tale was originally published in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Edmund Schubert and I went back and forth for quite a while about what to call it.  In the end, I decided to go with the original title, which is how it remains.

I suppose I could make some lame argument about how it's an artistic feint to cleverly subvert reader expectation...but nah.  I just couldn't think of anything more fitting.  I suck at titles.

Quote
I assumed this would be a G-rated romp...

I was completely surprised when it got an 'R' rating.  Violence and drug use?  Okay, it's violent...but does mentioning vodka and heroin addiction get you an R?  

Quote
I am ready for a sequel at any time now

How about a series of novels?  Smiley

Quote
You took away his kids "princess".

I admit to being taken back by the shellacking Mercedes is taking.  Definitely my fault for not making what happened more explicit in the text.  

Greta and Vren were indebted to Golgorath because he took Greta's destiny (mediocre though it was) and transformed her into a giantess so that she and Vren could marry and have a family.  When Golgorath was killed, the universe righted that particular bit of tampering.  Mercedes used her power to preserve Greta and the boys, though not restore them to Vren, who she (rightly!) mistrusts.

SO...while Vren and his family are very sympathetic (happy to see that worked out for a lot of you), Corydon has the right of it.  He's a monster.  I considered going the adoption route, as has been suggested here, and giving them a Disney happy ending...but I didn't think that would be satisfying for me personally.  Vren has been stealing children from their families for centuries.  He has been an instrument in not just their deaths, but their complete annihilation from the universe.  

He hasn't earned happiness in my opinion, despite his protestations about being a Changed Monster.

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Good narration by Dave, too

Yes, a thousand times!  He did a wonderful job.

Quote
I felt that the Princess and the younger son could have fallen in love and run off together. [...] I had to keep reminding myself they were too young for that.

Again, something I probably wasn't clear about.  Mercedes is between 12-14 years old.  Zash (the older boy) is comparatively as old, though much more sheltered.  Zash is in love with her, and indeed, was trying to run off with her.  That's why Mercedes tells Vren not to be angry with Zash when they meet up at the bar-- because Prince Zash was trying to rescue her. 
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Fenrix
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« Reply #14 on: May 10, 2013, 02:48:43 PM »

Another reason Mercedes Lannister deserves the flogging she's receiving is that she destroyed her prince to punish his father. Pretty callous.


Quote
I assumed this would be a G-rated romp...

I was completely surprised when it got an 'R' rating.  Violence and drug use?  Okay, it's violent...but does mentioning vodka and heroin addiction get you an R? 


I was going to pile on about the title, but you already covered that. Thanks for sharing. As to the rating, Mercedes being a cutter and starting the story out there alone pushes it to at least PG-13. There's probably also a piece about context. Considering movie ratings, a specific depiction will get one movie an R and another a PG (Jaws is rated PG) based upon context and what specific items are shown.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2013, 02:52:08 PM by Fenrix » Logged

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Scott R
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« Reply #15 on: May 10, 2013, 04:13:50 PM »

Well-- I don't think Mercedes would see what she has done as destroying Zash to get revenge on Vren. She even implies that Vren isn't good enough for his family.  There is no evidence in my opinion that she's destroyed anyone but Golgorath.

She is certainly keeping him from them, though. And it's absolutely true that Greta wants him to come find her.

The implication of Mercedes' oath with Vren is that she'll restore them after his service.

Quote
And I love that Mercedes was not your typical "princess", I wonder which namesake the author was thinking of here.

Missed this earlier.

There is no princess real or fictional on whom Mercedes is based. I love Buffy now (but hadn't seen it until just last year-- a year after this was published.)

Interestingly, my family and I just returned from a weeklong vacation at Disney. Where they call every girl under the age of 60 "princess". I wasn't sure whether to be pleased or whether to check them for talons and fangs.
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bounceswoosh
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« Reply #16 on: May 10, 2013, 09:57:19 PM »


There is no princess real or fictional on whom Mercedes is based. I love Buffy now (but hadn't seen it until just last year-- a year after this was published.)

From the start, I pictured Mercedes as Isabelle Hodes from Weeds.  Make of this what you will.
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Scott R
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« Reply #17 on: May 14, 2013, 07:34:42 AM »

Quote
I pictured Mercedes as Isabelle Hodes from Weeds

I've never seen Weeds, but I looked up the character, and am delighted.  I don't generally include a lot of description of my characters' physical characteristics, unless they are extraordinary ("Tall as God, ugly as Satan"...).  I definitely did NOT want to describe Mercedes as physically beautiful, ala princess tradition.

One of the things I like about InterGalactic Medicine Show is that they provide an illustration for each published story-- you can see the artist's take on Greta, Mercedes, and Vren here. (Scroll to the bottom of the page)  James Owen, the artist, matched my imagination of Greta almost exactly.  

I'd always imagined Mercedes as a bit older, and a lot more Latina-looking, but what Owen conjures works pretty well.

I am grateful we only see Vren's back and nose.  Sometimes illustrations work against the text, and in my opinion, the extent of Vren's ugliness is best left to the imagination.
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DKT
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« Reply #18 on: May 14, 2013, 09:19:50 AM »



Quote
I assumed this would be a G-rated romp...

I was completely surprised when it got an 'R' rating.  Violence and drug use?  Okay, it's violent...but does mentioning vodka and heroin addiction get you an R? 


I was going to pile on about the title, but you already covered that. Thanks for sharing. As to the rating, Mercedes being a cutter and starting the story out there alone pushes it to at least PG-13. There's probably also a piece about context. Considering movie ratings, a specific depiction will get one movie an R and another a PG (Jaws is rated PG) based upon context and what specific items are shown.

Sorry, getting to this a bit late. But yeah, the attempted suicide helped put it into the R-rating for me. Should've mentioned that in the rating itself. Sorry!

Also, thanks to everyone for the compliments on the reading Smiley I knew I wanted to read this one as soon as I read it (being a loving, devoted, terrifying monster just fit so well, I guess), and I'm glad people seemed to dig listening! And particularly pleased Scott liked it Smiley

I should update my audiobook narration page Smiley
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« Reply #19 on: May 14, 2013, 09:16:54 PM »

This story troubled me.  In part, it was the disconnect of the title, but more than that, I had a hard time parsing the disparate bits.  The story works awfully hard to make Vren likeable, and it was disconcerting (if gratifying) that the story doesn't let him off the hook for his decisions.  I do have to admit that I did not fully grok what, exactly, Vren and Greta bought from Golgoroth; I thought it was something to keep Vren in check, not to give Greta potency.  (I assumed she was some sort of Nordic valkyrie-type creature, based on the remarks about her familiarity with magic and oaths.)  Thus, I think I was misled because I gave a lot more weight to her pronouncements than I guess I was supposed to, assuming that she was a mythic being and knew what she was talking about.

I was somewhat startled by Mercedes.  Honestly, she was awfully thinly drawn in the first bit, and I don't know that we really saw enough of her inner life that her transition from trapped-rat lashing out to joyful partner-in-crime to ice-cruel goddess made sense to me.  I did like that she does not make anything like the noblest or kindest decision at the end (and frankly I would guess that enslaving Vren for two hundred years is going to come back to bite her, because she's going to piss him right the hell off by the end of it).  I was reminded of when Frodo offered Galadriel the Ring; "Instead of a Dark Lord, you would have a Queen..."  And it made sense; she'd just eaten all of the destiny of a tyrannical dark lord, after all.  That can't be good for the moral digestion.  (Though she did swear an oath not to harm Vren's family, so presumably that still binds her.) 

Anyway, I found the decisions to be narratively satisfying, but because they clashed with some of the tone and trappings, they kind of came out of left field at the end and startled me.  If I'd had to predict, I would have guessed that Mercedes would have bound Vren in some way after she defeated Golgoroth (that part, at least, was obvious from early on) and the story would have ended with Vren metaphysically gelded but free; having Mercedes wielding untold world-warping power to enslave and punish Vren works, but it doesn't seem to fit with Mercedes' earlier characterization (even her characterization during the flight/fight through the shadows before the climax) and it doesn't really resolve (for me) the threads of uneasiness and repressed conflict hinted at during all the domestic scenes.  (That is, it seemed like we were moving toward Greta finally leaving Vren with the little one, possibly "for his own good," rather than Greta et al being the "perfect life" bait that is withheld from him.)
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