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Author Topic: PC266, Giant Episode: The House of Aunts  (Read 7271 times)
Talia
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« on: June 26, 2013, 02:37:54 PM »

PodCastle 266, Giant Episode: The House of Aunts

by Zen Cho.

Read by Nina Shaharuddin, part of the Bright Club, whom you can see at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Originally appeared in Giganotosaurus on December 1, 2011. Read the text there.

To the women of my family.

The house stood back from the road in an orchard. In the orchard, monitor lizards the length of a man’s arm stalked the branches of rambutan trees like tigers on the hunt. Behind the house was an abandoned rubber tree plantation, so proliferant with monkeys and leeches and spirits that it might as well have been a forest.

Inside the house lived the dead.

The first time she saw the boy across the classroom, Ah Lee knew she was in love because she tasted durian on her tongue. That was what happened–no poetry about it. She looked at a human boy one day and the creamy rank richness of durian filled her mouth. For a moment the ghost of its stench staggered on the edge of her teeth, and then it vanished.

She had not tasted fruit since before the baby came. Since before she was dead.

After school she went home and asked the aunts about it.

“Ah Ma,” she said, “can you taste anything besides people?”

It was evening–Ah Lee had had to stay late at school for marching drills–and the aunts were already cooking dinner. The scent of fried liver came from the wok wielded by Aunty Girl. It smelt exquisite, but where before the smell of fried garlic would have filled her mouth with saliva, now it was the liver that made Ah Lee’s post-death nose sit up and take interest. It would have smelt even better raw.

“Har?” said Ah Ma, who was busy chopping ginger.

“I mean,” said Ah Lee. “When you eat the ginger, can you taste it? Because I can’t. I can only taste people. Everything else got no taste. Like drinking water only.”

Disapproval rose from the aunts and floated just above their heads like a mist. The aunts avoided discussing their undeceased state. It was felt to be an indelicate subject. It was like talking about your bowel movements, or other people’s adultery.

“Why do you ask this kind of question?” said Ah Ma.

“Better focus on your homework,” said Tua Kim.

“I finished it already,” said Ah Lee. “But why do you put in all the spices when you cook, then? If it doesn’t make any difference?”

“It makes a difference,” said Aunty Girl.

“Why do you even cook the people?” said Ah Lee. “They’re nicest when they’re raw.”

“Ah girl,” said Ah Ma, “you don’t talk like that, please. We are not animals. Even if we are not alive, we are still human. As long as we are human we will eat like civilised people, not dogs in the forest. If you want to know why, that is why.”


Rated R for vampires, and their extended families.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: July 18, 2013, 08:11:05 AM by Talia » Logged
LadiesAndGentleman
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« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2013, 07:58:46 PM »

While the accents in the narration were hard to follow at first, I genuinely enjoyed this story.  Its balance of humor and drama was believable and I really enjoyed the way Ah Lee interacted with her aunts.  Even when they argued, they all seemed so close!
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evrgrn_monster
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« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2013, 10:57:33 PM »

If you had told me this morning that I would have enjoyed a high school romance story about a somewhat angsty teenage vampire, I would have gently returned you to the insane asylum you obviously escaped from, but here I am, it is night, and I loved this story. I felt so invested in this character and her relationship, not just with the boy, but with her aunts. It was just so sweet and gently told. There were so many little details that made this story work for me; the way the aunts cooked, the fixation with teeth, the semantics of addressing the undead. Overall, this giant episode sure didn't feel like an hour and a half to me. You guys really knocked it out of the ballpark.

I could see how the accents could be confusing, but as a half Asian, I was completely into the way the aunts talked. That little uplifting note at the end of each sentence is completely how my mom and her friends talk, and they are also so very matter of fact, which may have been another reason why I enjoyed this story so much. The only complaint I have is that the recording sounded a little tinny and I had to turn it all the way up on my speakers to be able to understand.

« Last Edit: June 27, 2013, 07:23:20 AM by evrgrn_monster » Logged

Father Beast
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« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2013, 05:35:03 AM »

I tried to listen to this 3 times, and failed each time. No matter my level of concentration, I kept missing chunks of words because I didn't understand them. I don't know if it's the accent, or the sound quality, or some combination, or something else, but it looks like I'm never going to hear this story.

Incidentally, I had the same problem with Starship Sofa #200.
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LadiesAndGentleman
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« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2013, 06:46:43 AM »

I tried to listen to this 3 times, and failed each time. No matter my level of concentration, I kept missing chunks of words because I didn't understand them.

Hm.  I'm pretty sure if I sat down and read a text version of this story, I'd see I had missed bits and details in it, but I've discovered that's true with a lot of stories I hear rather than read. Saying that, yes, I did have to start again when I first listened to it.

If you had told me this morning that I would have enjoyed a high school romance story about a somewhat angsty teenage vampire, I would've have gently returned you to the insane asylum you obviously escaped from, but here I am, it is night, and I loved this story.

Just goes to show that Young Adult paranormal romance has a lot more potential for appeal than critics give it credit for.
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Moritz
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« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2013, 01:38:50 PM »

Loved the setting and the plot, finally a teen-angst vampire story that I am not ashamed to have listened to/ read. I read it on a commute to and from a conference abroad where there were some Chinese speaking English, so I had no trouble getting into the accent - but the audio quality was not very good and that made it difficult to listen.

I got a bit confused about the protagonist's name at times because I heard it as "Ali"...
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Frungi
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« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2013, 11:51:43 PM »

I love hearing different accents, but I honestly cannot understand much of what this reader is saying. The accent is just too thick. I do plan on giving it another try, but just wanted to voice my frustration here.
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ToooooMuchCoffeeMan
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« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2013, 04:32:51 AM »

I'm really sad that I can't enjoy this story as much as I think it deserves. The sound quality is muddy. That, by itself, would be okay; and the heavy accents, by themselves, would be okay. But the two of them combined make it too difficult for me to follow.
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Frungi
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« Reply #8 on: June 28, 2013, 07:05:17 PM »

I'm sorry, really, but I had to skip this one. I tried. I just can't enjoy a story that I can't understand; there were whole chunks where, even after rewinding a couple of times, I couldn't even make out half the words. And I usually enjoy listening to exotic accents...
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sandchigger
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« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2013, 09:56:26 AM »

I'm afraid I'll have to agree with the majority here. Between the reader's accent and the poor sound quality (mostly the quality I think), I just couldn't understand what was being said well enough to follow along.
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Cynandre
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« Reply #10 on: June 29, 2013, 05:04:26 PM »

Because of my Family background, the accent quickly became understandable for me even though I did have to go back a few times. That is mostly because of the noise on the Bus and construction being done on most of the route.  

I enjoyed this story a lot more than I thought I would with or without the pontianak/vampire aspect. It was about Family, Love, Caution, and Trust which was all I needed. Thank you.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2013, 07:32:40 AM by Cynandre » Logged

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chemistryguy
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« Reply #11 on: July 01, 2013, 01:30:21 PM »

I'm afraid I'll have to agree with the majority here. Between the reader's accent and the poor sound quality (mostly the quality I think), I just couldn't understand what was being said well enough to follow along.

Me too.  It might be clearer if I had a set of headphones on, but I listen to the vast majority of these podcasts in route to work.  After playing around with radio setting for 5 minutes I had to bail out Sad
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #12 on: July 01, 2013, 02:21:06 PM »

Yeah, I tried listening to this several times.
I think mostly it's the poor sound quality and the fact that the narrator reads so fast. As a general rule I like it when the accents spice up the story a little bit, add that extra bit of reality to it. And in this case the accent isn't too hard to follow, but coupled with the speed of the narration and the poor sound quality... I had to give it a miss.
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MacArthurBug
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« Reply #13 on: July 03, 2013, 06:42:06 PM »

I'm going to give this another go. I turned it on in the car (where I listen to most of my stories on long pretty drives) And the tin can quality combined with thick (cool, but thick) accent drove me away. I need headphones. It seems I'm not the only one which is comforting, since generally when I have a complaint I'm alone or mostly alone in it.
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evrgrn_monster
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« Reply #14 on: July 03, 2013, 11:07:09 PM »

I actually just put the story on my iPhone without the headphones in, then turned it all the way up. Easy to hear in my room and helped with the tinny quality.
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Frungi
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« Reply #15 on: July 04, 2013, 01:02:22 AM »

I actually just put the story on my iPhone without the headphones in, then turned it all the way up. Easy to hear in my room and helped with the tinny quality.

Huh… wouldn’t that make it more tinny?
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Devoted135
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« Reply #16 on: July 04, 2013, 01:29:00 PM »

Tried to listen on my computer speakers and totally failed. Put it on my ipod and managed to get all the way through. I agree that the accent or the sound quality would have been manageable, but having both made it a pretty steep barrier.

On to the story. Well, what can I say? I guess that when a story is as long as this, I hope that it will be awesome enough to justify its length. Unfortunately, I found myself not caring about any of the characters or about what happened to them. I'm not usually against "slice of life" stories, but they aren't usually this long! Also, the flashback at the end was annoying. Anyway, it just simply wasn't for me, but as always ymmv.
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evrgrn_monster
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« Reply #17 on: July 04, 2013, 03:04:47 PM »

I actually just put the story on my iPhone without the headphones in, then turned it all the way up. Easy to hear in my room and helped with the tinny quality.

Huh… wouldn’t that make it more tinny?

Dunno why it worked. Just went with it with so I could get my story fix.  Cheesy
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Djinndustries
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« Reply #18 on: July 07, 2013, 08:46:07 PM »

This was one of the best readings I've heard in a while as the editor (casting agent?) picked the perfect reader for the story. Her accent was perfect for the content and her cadence was spot on for Malaysian/Singaporean English. I don't think any other reader has read for both tone and pacing with such aplomb. Hats off to Nina!

On the other hand, the quality of the recording did make it really hard to get into the story at first and I did have to switch to headphones. That said, I'm not sure if US-based listeners would find the rapidfire Malaysian English to be particularly intelligible even if the recording were more clear. I've come to find that our brains turn off the moment someone uses 't' instead of 'th' or throws any non-English sounds into conversation (such as intensifiers, lah, loh, wor, etc, let alone foreign words like walau).

Great choice, casting agent!
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #19 on: July 08, 2013, 01:19:04 AM »

I've come to find that our brains turn off the moment someone uses 't' instead of 'th' or throws any non-English sounds into conversation (such as intensifiers, lah, loh, wor, etc, let alone foreign words like walau).

That is not true for everybody, and I don't think it's true even for most people. These days people are much more exposed to other people from different parts of the world with different ways of talking. With very little effort they can be understood. That is why the folks here at Escape Artists can allow themselves to use narrators from all over the world, otherwise it just wouldn't work. Sometimes it still doesn't work, but usually because of technical problems.
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