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Author Topic: PC273: Excision  (Read 2515 times)
Talia
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« on: August 15, 2013, 08:37:32 AM »

PodCastle 273: Excision

by Scott H. Andrews

Read by Jen Rhodes (of the Anomaly Podcast)

Originally published in Weird Tales.

We started immediately.  Scolast Giazla had a series of rabbits she’d infected by treating their grafts with offal.  I selected the most advanced sample, a brown spotted one with a cat’s striped forepaw, to perform the control.

I closed my eyes and pressed my palm to the rabbit’s warm shoulder. I focused on the weak energies simmering in its body, and the spherical image of its vita appeared in my mind.  A foreign strand wriggled across the round core:  the necrotia from the infection.  I reached my mind forward to grab it, but I couldn’t get a firm hold.  I tried twice, with no success.

We couldn’t use the control animal again or we would compromise the trials.  So I extracted all the remaining vita to extinguish the rabbit.  The rush of energy swirled in my head.  I felt a pang of shame as I remembered the Nüthren exumancers in their white shrouds. Those savages had no laws forbidding the draining of vita from living beings, even humans.  We only used vivomancy to save peoples’ lives.

I prepared the first trial with the hot water bath.  The feverish rabbit fell unconscious after a minute in the water.  Scolast Giazla lowered her knobby hand to its shoulder, above the septic graft.  The sinews quivered in her wrist.  She finally broke contact with a strangled gasp.


Rated R. Contains Surgery.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: September 10, 2013, 07:37:44 AM by Talia » Logged
LadiesAndGentleman
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« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2013, 11:24:12 PM »

I enjoyed this story a lot.  I was worried the ending would be false and happy, but no.  It dove right into the darkness, into the grim reality surrounding contemporary medicine. The development of "miracle" cures is incremental and often thankless.

My only disappointment is that I certainly saw Scolast Giazla's betrayal of her profession coming and couldn't figure out why the heroine didn't.  Ah, well.  The main character seemed to be recovering from her own trauma with death.
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Moritz
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« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2013, 08:13:44 AM »

eargh, I shouldn't have listened to this while eating dinner....

I really liked the writing and the reading. I am not a hundred percent sure if this story really fits the science fantasy label. It is very scientific in the sense that they actually talk about the scientific method and about ethics of science, it was almost too heavy handed for my taste actually. I was wondering a bit how much it was fantasy then. This wasn't fantasy in space but rather modern thinking in a fantasy setting maybe. I am not even sure how to classify this, and I do love my labels on things.

The setting worked but it's not a world I would need to revisit, maybe because it was so depressing.
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Cutter McKay
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« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2013, 06:26:49 PM »

I really liked this one. The unique setting, the implications of a much larger world with the war and the different types of people, the mysterious disease, the fact that people in this world have animal parts grafted to their bodies to replace limbs (how cool is that?? Cool)... and yet, none of that was ever directly touched upon. It's there, but it's not the story. Leaving me clamoring for a tale about the guard with the bear arm, or a battle between the animal-grafted soldiers and the life sucking enemy. But none of those are this story. And that's fantastic.

I also love how it wasn't a directly happy ending. It's a victory, sure, she can save children's lives now. But it's a minor battle in a much larger war. And still we're left with the hope that she will still find the adult cure in the future. She did it once, she'll find the way... eventually. This is my favorite aspect of this story. The small victory in the face of a much larger problem. Expertly handled.

In all, one of my favorite PC's in a long time.
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flintknapper
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« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2013, 09:15:43 AM »

It is a tale that begs for more stories placed in the unique setting. I want to read or listen to the implication of this grafting technology on the battlefield or the applications of it for elective surgery. I feel like the author teased us. Here he gives us only hints of the greater world. He could/should write a lot more in this setting.

The tale he does spin in the world is exceptionaly good. Like many, I thought this was going to go for the bleakest ending imaginable when the reality of the situation involving her mentor and her mentor's son was revealed. So, I was pleasantly surprised that the revalation did not stop heorine on her goal to save others.

The writing was clear and concise. The narration was also strong. Great Sci-Fantasy piece, I thought the magical and scientific elements were perfectly fused. No complaints here. I could see this story getting a nod for best of 2013 on Pod Castle.
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evrgrn_monster
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« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2013, 10:01:09 PM »

I'm sure every author wants to hear this: please, please write more about this character and this world. I will buy your book, Mr. Andrews, and I will read it in about 2.5 seconds.

I was a huge fan of this piece. Although I was a bit confused about all the new words and elements of this fantasy world, I was quite willing to forgive and continue to suspend my disbelief. Don't know if this was because of the sad, but likable main character or the tense mood, but either way, it left me all in all pretty satisfied. The nonchalant way the author talks about bear arms and war with life sucking beings would have, in pretty much any other story, driven me crazy with its vagueness, but here it just whetted my appetite for more story.

As an echo to the intro, we just don't hear about the healer at all. As an avid roleplayer, I stand as a witness for the lowly cleric, who no one wants to play, but everyone wants in the party. I've often bitten the bullet, and taken the spot, and then had a fantastic experience with this essential character. This story reminded me of why, sometimes, it's not the fighter or the wizard who saves the day, it's the diligent person in white off to the side handing out band-aids and heal spells who pulls it all through.

Great piece. (Great narration too! An excellent mix of tired, but determined.)
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2013, 03:58:41 AM »

This story made me feel sad and a little bit angry.
Mind you, that's a good thing. Any piece of fiction that can get me so emotionally immersed in the story that I actually feel for the characters is a win.
And yeah, the child in me who grew up on Disney movies wanted a happy ending, but the adult in me knew that sometimes life sucks and shit happens. You take what you can and make the best of it.
An excellent story, by all accounts.

And people, what made this fantastical science was that they were using the scientific method. They applied the scientific method to R&D of a magical phenomenon. It doesn't get much better than that.
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Moritz
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« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2013, 05:18:53 AM »

(...)

And people, what made this fantastical science was that they were using the scientific method. They applied the scientific method to R&D of a magical phenomenon. It doesn't get much better than that.

True, but I was wondering if the scientific method really fits the setting and genre. For me it didn't feel quite right within that frame. I think a reason was not that the scientific method was used, but that within such a setting they explicitly talked about it. I am not sure that e.g. alchemists who use experiments would explicitly talk about their method in such way, would they?
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2013, 07:21:11 AM »

(...)

And people, what made this fantastical science was that they were using the scientific method. They applied the scientific method to R&D of a magical phenomenon. It doesn't get much better than that.

True, but I was wondering if the scientific method really fits the setting and genre. For me it didn't feel quite right within that frame. I think a reason was not that the scientific method was used, but that within such a setting they explicitly talked about it. I am not sure that e.g. alchemists who use experiments would explicitly talk about their method in such way, would they?

It depends a lot on who wrote the alchemists in question.
Furthermore, in my experience alchemy is usually part of steampunk which is a subgenre of science fiction. Despite the fantastical elements involved. So alchemy is already, by the rule of transitivity, science fiction.

And secondly, why wouldn't the scientific method fit the frame? The scientific method is just a tool that you use. It's true that mostly people with magical abilities tend to use the trial and error form of R&D ("It didn't work and I still have all my limbs in their original configuration! this one isn't too bad!"), but why can't they use the scientific method? It's a much more methodical tool, and provides easier-to-reproduce results.
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Moritz
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« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2013, 08:53:18 AM »

Weird, I wouldn't place alchemy into the steampunk genre, especially because it's a historical practice connected more to the middle ages. I don't see it as mostly steampunk, so that use of transitivity - which I also wouldn't agree upon - doesn't really work. I mean, I have a colleague who actually took alchemy classes in high school (well, she's from an obscure country). Whatever, alchemy was just an example, I might as well have said thaumaturgy.

My point is that the way they talk about SM in this piece is rather self conscious and I didn't find that it fit the setting. As you mentioned, of course it makes more sense to use trial and error, and humans have done so for millennia, but not in such an explicit way that sounded like straight out of a 20th century textbook.
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CJ Black
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« Reply #10 on: August 21, 2013, 10:28:05 PM »

Good evening, all!

This is my first time posting as I just signed up a few minutes ago.  I was familiar with Podcastle but I just recently started downloading and listening to the episodes.  I wanted to comment that I truly enjoyed Excision.  I thought the mixture of science and magic blended perfectly and I didn't mind that the ending wasn't HEA.  We all know life isn't like that most of the time and this ending gave the story the perfect amount of realism.  I started listening to it on my way to work then just had to finish on my lunch.  I'm going to look for more works by this author. Keep writing!

Peace ~
CJ
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Devoted135
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« Reply #11 on: August 22, 2013, 10:26:38 AM »

I loved this story when the Dunesteef ran it quite a while back, and I loved it again here! Smiley The author presents such a wonderfully rounded, fleshed out world without seeming to go any lengths to do so. And how cool are animal limb grafts?!

For me, this story is the perfect blend of science and fantasy. Unlike last week's story which featured a character traversing through physically close but never actually intersecting science and fantasy realms, here the science and fantasy co-exist and work intimately with each other. Just as in our own world, soldiers' wounds are infected and it's up to the healers to figure out what to do. Only instead of developing antibiotics, they develop methods of magical extraction. I love it!


As for people thinking the dialog seemed like they were focusing too much on their protocols... um, walk into any research lab that's troubleshooting a new experimental setup and get back to me on that. Wink
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #12 on: August 23, 2013, 01:24:28 AM »

Well, THAT certainly ended on a downer.

It's a interesting take on medicine and magic, though.
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danooli
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« Reply #13 on: August 24, 2013, 05:30:55 AM »

The nonchalant way the author talks about bear arms and war with life sucking beings would have, in pretty much any other story, driven me crazy with its vagueness, but here it just whetted my appetite for more story.

I think this sums up what I liked the most of this story, and others have said the same sort of thing.  That was so cleverly done!

Loved this story and the reading.  Fantastic.
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Chuk
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« Reply #14 on: August 30, 2013, 11:02:54 AM »

I liked this story a lot and the reading was suitable. I always like an interesting magic system (although magical 'life-force' is a bit of a minus, to me, mostly because it was considered to be an actual thing for so long in the real world), loved the scientific research bits, and the actual resolution was sad but with a grain of hope. I would be interested in seeing more, if there is any.
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chuk
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« Reply #15 on: September 02, 2013, 02:51:00 PM »

Absolutely fits the science fantasy category in my mind. If magic did exist, I think this is pretty much how doctors would be. Scientists are just wizards that have to learn math after all. Clark's third law etc.

I liked the intensity of the story. The characters were absolute badasses without even picking up a weapon. They took risks for something they believed in and persevered. That's heroism, however tragic it might have turned out.
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FireTurtle
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« Reply #16 on: September 10, 2013, 10:44:07 AM »

Oh, yay! A medical story!

Mostly, I have The Love for this one. I mean, who doesn't love animal-part grafting? And the use of magic to treat magical infection precluded my brain going "Na-ah! That's not how we do it in real life!" which was quite a relief. The emotions felt real to me although the setting was quite fantastic.

There is a reason why doctors aren't supposed to treat family in this day and age and this author did an excellent job of articulating that conundrum in a unique and slightly more palatable way. And, I would really like a couple of extra arms, and maybe some horse legs.  Grin
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bizbrig
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« Reply #17 on: October 11, 2013, 11:23:57 AM »

Aggressively sad. Well done, but not for me.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #18 on: October 14, 2013, 09:44:19 AM »

I generally liked this one, though more for the portrayal of magical modern medical science as being the standard practice.  It seems like magic and science are often portrayed as being conflicting, but there is no scientific axiom that magic cannot exist--it's just that using the scientific method in our world has disproved (or at least not supported) enough things that are declared "magical" that science is often seen as being an opposing force. Even in our world there are enough things that are magic-like that we only call non-magical because we understand how they can work, like electricity, or the Internet.

If this sort of thing were possible, they would absolutely be examined with a scientific mindset to understand the effects of a procedure and eventually they will no doubt have rules determining when it is likely to work and when it is not likely to work, and reasons why these likelihoods are as they are.

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