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Author Topic: PC278: Nor the Moonlight  (Read 4435 times)
Talia
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« on: September 19, 2013, 09:25:36 PM »

PodCastle 278: Nor the Moonlight

by Andrew Penn Romine

Read by Cheyenne Wright

Originally published in Broken Time Blues: Fantastic Tales of the Roaring 20s, edited by Jaym Gates and Erika Holt

I sat on a stool at the Café de Lune that last night in Paris, gulping _marc_ and sewing my right arm back together below the elbow with a needle and some of the last of the _fil vitalitié_. The surgical thread glimmered like quicksilver in the dim electrics of the café, and the bloody flaps of muscle and flesh of my severed arm knitted together as the healing magic did its work. Sensation returned to the tips of my fingers like the buzzing of bees, and I flexed them into a fist.

The robber had burst into my café waving his knife, surprising me as I locked up for the night. But he’d made the error of assuming I was just another veteran of the Great War, wrapped in a fisherman’s net of scars. He didn’t know I’d already died once before, that I had been raised from the charnel fields of Compiègne gifted with the heart of a bull and the sinewy limbs of dead men.

His body cooled in the cellar as rain sheeted the cobblestones. I traced the ancient gouges on the wooden counter, rubbing feeling back into my right hand. Chill wind rattled under the door, and I regretted the killing. Most of the desperate men loitering along the Rue Daguerre in the dark hours were afraid of me. This man must have been a recent refugee from the war-poisoned countryside.

A shadow appeared at the door, and for a moment I feared police. Tatters of the Central Commune’s authority still held sway within the city, although the horrors of the Great War had shattered the power of France’s People’s Republic. So much for Lenin’s promises of aid. France languished, and Paris with it.


Rated R: Contains some Disturbing Imagery. It’s art!

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: October 11, 2013, 07:56:50 AM by Talia » Logged
chemistryguy
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« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2013, 09:45:42 AM »

I almost pulled out of this one near the start, but I'm glad it didn't.  This story goes some strange places, none of them more so than the ending.  I'm having a hard time explaining my reaction other than to say that it was like I was there experiencing it all. 

It was painful to listen to, and yet I'm thankful you guys occasionally run stories that hit you hard and don't ask for forgiveness.
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Moritz
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« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2013, 12:03:19 PM »

This one didn't really work for me. Maybe it was the ridiculousness of Picasso being a flesh sculptor, maybe it was the whole topic of body modification which doesn't really interest me.
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flintknapper
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« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2013, 12:57:18 PM »

First off, impressive. This story had some great description. The mixing of history and fantasy was amazing. It was some parts sci-fi, some parts fantasy, and some parts horror. I could have seen this piece being run on any of the escape artist podcasts.

But it isn't just the nod to historical setting. It is a period piece with fantastical elements. The writing style and character dialogue feel right at home in the 1920s. Some of the description, I thought, was invocative of Lovecraft even though the story itself did not necessarily have a lovecraftian theme.

Now for the bad news, there was way to much here. The author would give me some fascinating tidbit of the setting and my mind would fixate on it. Meanwhile, I would miss the next two descriptions and action sequence. As an audio piece this was a failure. There was a ton crammed into this 30 minute story. This is something that for me to get everything out of it, I would really need to sit down and take it slowly. As it stands, I am not sure I followed the ending other than to say the Frankenstein bits fell away and the girl fell to her death.

That being said, I plan to re-listen to the story. I am not giving up on it by a long shot.
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Shawn
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« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2013, 10:39:10 AM »

I agree that this didn't work as well as audio.

Posted by: flintknapper "and the girl fell to her death." - I think the bird person was a man.
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bounceswoosh
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« Reply #5 on: September 23, 2013, 09:30:29 PM »

I liked this story. I didn't like the reader's mispronunciation of French in the dialog with the love interest.  Dragged me right out of the story.
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #6 on: September 24, 2013, 09:46:54 PM »

It's interesting that both Escape Pod and Podcastle had stories that took place in postwar hellscapes. Right down to the handkerchiefs.

I really liked the mismash of alt-history and sorcery. And I for one thought the idea of Dark Sorcerer Picasso was a stroke of genius, connecting his collage and Cubist ideas in painting and sculpture to literally creating such works in flesh. Also liked the horrible vision of post-War France, after all the players in World War I completely exhausted themselves in mindless destruction.

If there was a loose floorboard in the place for me, it was the narrator's boyfriend's complete despair. Yeah, I know, your world's had the shit kicked out of it, but that's no reason to sew on wings and jump out a window.

And it's always good to hear Cheyenne. Was he going for Southern this time?
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Rindan
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« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2013, 12:36:29 AM »

As it stands, I am not sure I followed the ending other than to say the Frankenstein bits fell away and the girl fell to her death.

Yeah... you missed some stuff.  The protagonist's girlfriend wasn't his girlfriend, it was his boyfriend.

Personally, I liked the story.  I liked the semi-post-apocalyptic feel of this screwed up semi-magical world.  I like the fantastically damaged protagonist.  He isn't a particularly noble hero.  The story opens with him killing someone and feeling only mildly bad about it.  The rest of the action is him chasing after a lover which, while not an entirely selfish act, isn't exactly selfless either.  I think this is a damaged guy with some layers.  I really like that that this had a gay man in it that had a relationship and that wasn't another freaking gay coming of age story.  Yes yes, sorting out your feels when you are gay and growing up is confusing, but looking at the literary field you would never guess that a gay man (or woman for that matter) ever gets past the romantic age of 14.

I'll will agree that the story feels a bit incomplete in that it introduces a fascinating world and a character that has some damage that needs more explaining.  I could see this being an epic novel about our damaged protagonist traveling across the wasted world for some purpose, but I was pretty happy with the snippet that I got.
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rlzack
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« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2013, 09:28:56 AM »

This one didn't work for me. Mostly because of the production, I think. In print, when a character is speaking a foreign language, there is some visual cue (normally italics). But with the audio, I just felt like I was not understanding some of the words or sentences - there was no indication that this was a different language. And repeating the few seconds didn't help. And I don't speak French, so there was just nothing to grab onto for me.

As for the story - I don't really want to make a judgement. I couldn't understand enough of the details to say one way or another. I got just the broad strokes of the story, and that is rarely enough to base anything on. So...
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quasidoza
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« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2013, 01:21:26 PM »

Liked the world, liked the writing but not much of a romance fan.

One thing that doesn't usually jar with alternative history is knowing if someone was famous in reality but it did here.  Using a real people does give more depth, I can see Pablo being a bit of a dick.
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evrgrn_monster
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« Reply #10 on: September 26, 2013, 10:33:45 PM »

I straight up did not like this story. It may be one of my least favorite PodCastle has run in a while, in fact.

To start with, I thought it was completely arbitrary that the boyfriend character was, in fact, a man. I don't begrudge anyone for thinking that he was female, because he read like a female character. Unlike the great story EscapePod ran a bit ago, "Thirty Seconds From Now", I felt like the author made the character gay just to shock, or to add a layer to the tragedy in this piece, not because he was actually gay. To be honest, it felt like the story was written with a female needing to be rescued, but then the author said, wait, wait, wouldn't it be just extra sad and unexpected Elaine (no idea if that's the correct spelling) was actually a man? And then, he just went through and just changed the pronouns.

Now, I am all for depressing pieces, but I felt like this story was just piling it on. Sam was unlikable in pretty much every way to me. I felt like there were reasons being hand-fed to me regarding why I should feel sorry for this guy, but I couldn't. There was nothing redeemable. Sure, he goes to save the old boyfriend, but I don't believe he did it for entirely selfless reasons. I just didn't understand some of the self imposed agony in this story. Why didn't Sam want to just move away from Paris, if he loved his boyfriend that much? It's obvious something in the city is making him horribly, terribly sad. If Sam really loved Elaine, and wanted to spend their lives together, why not take the leap and go somewhere new and carve out happier lives together? Sam is selfish, and frankly, he deserved to have been left for the promise of a better life with a more loving man.

These issues just turned me off. I listened to the end, hoping for a satisfying ending, but then Elaine, of course, is a twisted wreck of his former self and flings himself tragically from the window, taking a piece of his old lover away with him forever. I wasn't expecting a happy ending, persay, but I just didn't get the point of all this suffering. It was actually kind of boring listening to how much desolation, agony, and sadness was crammed into this story.

End rant!

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Shawn
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« Reply #11 on: September 26, 2013, 10:41:03 PM »

Nor do I like noir.
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DKT
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« Reply #12 on: September 26, 2013, 11:08:03 PM »

I thought it was completely arbitrary that the boyfriend character was, in fact, a man. I don't begrudge anyone for thinking that he was female, because he read like a female character. Unlike the great story EscapePod ran a bit ago, "Thirty Seconds From Now", I felt like the author made the character gay just to shock, or to add a layer to the tragedy in this piece, not because he was actually gay. To be honest, it felt like the story was written with a female needing to be rescued, but then the author said, wait, wait, wouldn't it be just extra sad and unexpected Elaine (no idea if that's the correct spelling) was actually a man? And then, he just went through and just changed the pronouns.

I'd like to avoid the "Why did this character need to be gay" conversation, if that's at all possible. I don't think your intent is to demand that gay characters be in stories only if they're being gay serves as a plot point, but suggesting that his sexuality is "arbitrary" is getting into waters we've been before on this forum - particularly when trying to assign a motive to the author - and I'd prefer to steer the discussion away from that, if possible.

If Alain or Sam pissed you off, or annoyed you, that's fair enough. Please feel free to share it! But let's not go down the "I don't think he had to be gay" route.

Thanks Smiley
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evrgrn_monster
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« Reply #13 on: September 27, 2013, 12:02:44 AM »

I thought it was completely arbitrary that the boyfriend character was, in fact, a man. I don't begrudge anyone for thinking that he was female, because he read like a female character. Unlike the great story EscapePod ran a bit ago, "Thirty Seconds From Now", I felt like the author made the character gay just to shock, or to add a layer to the tragedy in this piece, not because he was actually gay. To be honest, it felt like the story was written with a female needing to be rescued, but then the author said, wait, wait, wouldn't it be just extra sad and unexpected Elaine (no idea if that's the correct spelling) was actually a man? And then, he just went through and just changed the pronouns.

I'd like to avoid the "Why did this character need to be gay" conversation, if that's at all possible. I don't think your intent is to demand that gay characters be in stories only if they're being gay serves as a plot point, but suggesting that his sexuality is "arbitrary" is getting into waters we've been before on this forum - particularly when trying to assign a motive to the author - and I'd prefer to steer the discussion away from that, if possible.

If Alain or Sam pissed you off, or annoyed you, that's fair enough. Please feel free to share it! But let's not go down the "I don't think he had to be gay" route.

Thanks Smiley

Ah, of course, I understand. To be honest, my feelings are a bit conflicted, as I don't want to say, oh this is a way a male character should act, and oh, this is the way a female character should act, which upon reading my previous comment, I think I come off as. I couldn't tell you exactly where or why my feathers happened to get ruffled on this one on those notes, so I'd be more than happy to just strike those comments off. I don't want to open any can of worms, for sure.
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Shawn
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« Reply #14 on: September 27, 2013, 12:52:55 AM »

DKT - just noticed your link/tag line with "spiritual noir", made me want to erase my comment and suck-up, but... The romanticization of gloomy urban despair often strikes me as somehow false and this story was no exception (though this story probably doesn't fit a strict noir paradigm). As with most criticism I recognize this as an opinion and I am now given the opportunity to use the most recent thing I've learned here at podcastle - YMMV.

Unnecessary disclosure: this is a problem for me with the forums - I always feel bad after actually offering an opinion, obviously it's never needed (nor is it unwelcome - if its not meant to offend), but I do want to take part in this community which has become ensconced in my weekly routine over the years.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2013, 12:56:06 AM by Shawn » Logged
quasidoza
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« Reply #15 on: September 27, 2013, 12:59:38 AM »

... why my feathers happened to get ruffled ...
Wait you have feathers?  Were you upset with the portrayal of winged people?  Grin.

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evrgrn_monster
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« Reply #16 on: September 27, 2013, 08:51:35 AM »

... why my feathers happened to get ruffled ...
Wait you have feathers?  Were you upset with the portrayal of winged people?  Grin.



Why yes, could you not tell from my picture? I am a legendary potoo, native to South America and great impersonator of tree stumps.

Upon further examination of my feelings on this piece, I think my main problem with Alain (thank you for the correct spelling) was that he had all the tropes of the stereotypical damsel in distress, stuck in her tower awaiting rescue from her once scorned love. The only thing that made him different was that he was male, and that is not different enough. My ire is mostly built towards the main desire of the story being centered around a weak love interest, someone who cannot fix themselves and flits from person to person, hoping that someone else can help them as they are too fragile to do anything on their own. Trope wise, this character is almost always female, which I have always found annoying. When I found myself annoyed within this story, I assumed it was because I kept hearing Alain as female, but I think it was really because I highly dislike this type of character, who just happens to be female in the majority of fantasy that uses the "helpless beautiful lover stuck in a high tower" as the main crux of the story.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2013, 08:53:17 AM by evrgrn_monster » Logged

DKT
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« Reply #17 on: September 27, 2013, 08:57:32 AM »

DKT - just noticed your link/tag line with "spiritual noir", made me want to erase my comment and suck-up, but... The romanticization of gloomy urban despair often strikes me as somehow false and this story was no exception (though this story probably doesn't fit a strict noir paradigm). As with most criticism I recognize this as an opinion and I am now given the opportunity to use the most recent thing I've learned here at podcastle - YMMV.

Unnecessary disclosure: this is a problem for me with the forums - I always feel bad after actually offering an opinion, obviously it's never needed (nor is it unwelcome - if its not meant to offend), but I do want to take part in this community which has become ensconced in my weekly routine over the years.

No worries, Shawn. I'm happy you're here and sharing your thoughts Smiley That's what these forums are here for, and I enjoy reading people's different takes on the stories we offer here (even if they differ from my own).

(I suspect the stuff I write and call "spiritual noir" is very different from what you might imagine - it has less to do with hats and long coats and private detectives and more to do with things being gray instead of black and white. Though I personally like typical noir quite a bit, too.)
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Devoted135
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« Reply #18 on: September 29, 2013, 05:15:45 PM »

Hmm, I'm so conflicted on this story. On the one hand, I think that post-war Paris is a fascinating setting and that the author did a pretty good job of capitalizing on that opportunity. Picasso as a flesh-sculptor feels right to me, he was a pretty crazy guy even in real life. On the other hand, two of the three main characters were whiny and seemingly unable to have any agency in their own lives, which makes me less engaged and more just annoyed at them.

Potential Hunger Games spoiler: now that I'm thinking about it, I dislike them the same way that I really disliked Katniss by the end of the trilogy. Yes, she was completely debilitated by PTSD and I get how real that is, but come on! She had no agency at all by 1/3 into the third book and was just used as a broken pawn for the rest of the series! Okay, sorry. /end rant


Regarding the terrible butchering of every French word in this story, I now know how yicheng feels when Mandarin words get mispronounced. I had to pause and finish listening later when I was less mad about it. Come on guys, you wouldn't do that to a story with Spanish in it.
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Scribblor
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« Reply #19 on: October 02, 2013, 06:42:13 AM »

I'm afraid I had the same reaction to this, but even more strongly. I couldn't get through it. There have been a couple of other stories recently where the reader has used such an unconvincing accent (usually an English one) that I can't get past it and have to stop listening. And this story had the double whammy of an unconvincing English accent and an unconvincing French accent. I was shocked when I realised Alain was a man, because the pronunciation had me convinced he was female.

I wish I'd been able to tough it out because I enjoyed the writing, but I made it about ten minutes in and had to stop. Sad
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