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Author Topic: PC281: The Wanderer King  (Read 1936 times)
Talia
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« on: October 11, 2013, 07:59:45 AM »

PodCastle 281: The Wanderer King

by Alisa Alering

Read by Amy Robinson

Originally published in Clockwork Phoenix 4, edited by Mike Allen.

We steer clear of the mines–that’s Fixer territory. The Wanderers are dangerous, too, ever since they came fighting back around Day 30. But there’s always been less of them–less in all, and less because they scatter through the woods on their business instead of fixing to the towns and mines.

We step along to the city, fitting the crown on all we come across. We sleep in the darkest part of the day when the sky dips to dark blue. At first, in the country, there aren’t many heads to try. But we come up on the city, and we slow. We even try it on Fixers because Pansy says the King is the King and it doesn’t matter whose body he’s in. “The King is for all,” Pansy says. “Anyone can carry the King.


Rated R: Contains Disturbing imagery and violence (welcome to the apocalypse!)

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
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WinBear
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« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2013, 08:56:35 AM »

Very imaginative story, but I found the pace of the narration too fast. I may relisten at 1/2 speed.
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Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2013, 11:30:15 AM »

There were a lot of really great things about this story. I liked that the crown actually worked for Pansy after she insisted it would. I liked how bad-ass the King was.

I particularly liked the way Alering used the metaphor of the knife at the end to illustrate how it felt for the main character to admit the truth to herself. That was very powerful.

However, I found myself a bit frustrated that some of the background of this story wasn't explained. I really wanted to know who the Fixers and Wanderers were. What do they stand for? Where did they come from? Why do the Fixers think the Wanderers deserved to die? I mean, I realize that information's not entirely necessary to understanding the main plot, but wondering about it distracted me from the story and I think a little of that background wouldn't have hurt.

I found the pace of the narration too fast.

For me, it wasn't so much the pace of the narration (i.e. the speed of the words themselves). It sounded like someone went through and digitally removed the pauses from between all (or most) of the sentences and phrases.

When I do narrations, I do edit the spaces between sentences - there are often many that are too long. However, I do make sure to leave some space between sentences. My general rule of thumb is: about a second between sentences, half to three-quarters of a second between phrases and about two seconds (plus or minus half a second, depending on context) for a section break.

(I also find myself having to take out breaks between the end of a piece of dialog and "he said" - and similar - tags. For some reason, those breaks often seem quite long to me, possibly because I'm mentally switching between the character's voice and the narrator's.)

It's important to give the listener a moment to digest each sentence before carrying on with the next one. In this case, I found myself having to go back and re-listen to things a lot more than usual, because a sentence would start right as the previous one ended. Slowing it down helped a bit, but like I say, it wasn't the speed so much as the pacing.
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"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
ToooooMuchCoffeeMan
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« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2013, 11:22:28 PM »

Very imaginative story, but I found the pace of the narration too fast. I may relisten at 1/2 speed.

That was my complaint too, but the pace of your posting was too fast for me to get here first. Smiley

Seriously, a more deliberate reading speed would have definitely benefited the story. Some of those sentences needed to soak for just a second to let the full horror of the situation develop. @Wilson Fowlie, I had no idea spoken word editing could be so persnickity, but your description perfectly captures the problem.

I was fine with the lack of fully explained backstory. You don't have the space in 3000 or 5000 words always to do that. As long as I get the sense the author has done the worldbuilding and has thought it all out, I don't need to have it all explained to me. Good worldbuilding can be sort of iceberg-like in that way. Full explication can quickly get tedious; I call it "I've suffered for my research - now it's your turn."
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MayBe
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« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2013, 05:12:30 AM »

I too found the pacing too quick, I loved the narrators voice and the story was off to a good start but I had to give up (I am usually very patient with narration and can forgive much) I just could not absorb the story. I may have to find my glasses and read it the old fashioned way.
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2013, 09:26:35 PM »

If I'd been on the ball and posted when I heard this, I too would have said the narration was too fast. I don't have the technical chops of Mr. Fowlie, I simply thought that the narrator was reading too fast (What, was the Podcastle staff feeling bad about all the long stories recently?)

But this was a good story, and the narrator's voice and delivery - excepting the speed - is good. It's an eerie, violent story. I understand the wish to have the background more completely explained, but the atmosphere of the story was such that I didn't mind too much.
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« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2013, 08:46:26 AM »

Generally I liked it.  The concept of the king contained within his crown to resurrect when it's placed on the right head is a really cool mythic idea.  I would've liked some more background to help me work out who the Fixers and Wanderers are.  I feel like I missed some key details and part of that was that I was trying to work out the meaning of things and the quick-seeming narration made it hard to have any time to process anything.

But I liked it anyhow.
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FireTurtle
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« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2013, 11:28:55 AM »

I listened to this about a week ago and my overall impression is "wow, that was...weird." No judgment against weird. I like weird.  But, like others here I found myself wrestling with the impression that there were a few crucial pieces of information about this world that I was missing. I am not one who wants everything laid out in a nice preface before the story -generally I skip those- but I do like having an inkling of who everybody is an WHY. I felt that was missing here. If this world has only existed in this state of chaos for 45 days, how did the Fixers and Wanderers get so organized? Did they already exist or are they a product of the apocalyptic circumstances? These are some of the questions I had while listening. The narrower narrative between the two women and the king was very interesting. I did find myself wondering if the king had anything to do with the Stag King/King Stag of Celtic origin. Which, also distracted me a bit. But, I am easily waylaid so it wasn't a story killer. Very interesting but ultimately frustrating story for me.
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bizbrig
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« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2013, 11:43:38 PM »

I wondered why the narration was so fast, and a bunch of words blurred past in my absence. Suspense built as I waited for her to breathe. But slight tonal shifts reminiscent of automated voice recordings made it clear that a bit too much liposuction had been done to the audio. That solved, I sat back and enjoyed the rest of the story. It was a fine tale, rich in weirdness. The choice of the name Fixers seemed especially nice. Thank you Alisa, Amy, and EA.
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Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2013, 11:25:20 AM »

... slight tonal shifts reminiscent of automated voice recordings made it clear that a bit too much liposuction had been done to the audio.

Hah, nice metaphor!
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"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
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« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2013, 07:52:53 PM »

I came here to post that the narration sounded off, glad I'm not the only one who thought so.

To me, it didn't just sound like the pauses between the sentences had been "liposuctioned" out (great phrase), but that each sentence had been recorded separately, then edited together by hand.  Is that something people do?  It felt like all the inter-sentence flow and tone, the rise and fall of whole paragraphs, had been lost.  It made the whole story really hard to listen to, though after about ten minutes I got more used to it.  Normally I don't mind worse-quality audio: background hiss, compression artifacts, vaguely underwater-ish sound.  This, though, kind of made my head spin.

As for "The Wanderer King" itself, I always enjoy a good antler-based intrusion of primal druidic magic into a near-future apocalypse scenario.  The two teenagers were believable and each strong in their own ways, and I felt for them in their struggle against an essentially overwhelming tragedy.

One thing that bothered me was that they just happened to find a someone who can activate (I guess?) the king's crown.  I know you don't want to explain everything, but by not giving us any information about why this particular dead woman reacted to the antlers and no one else did, we're left with no other conclusion than the two girls got lucky, which seems arbitrary and improbable.  Unless someone else has an explanation?  Maybe I missed it because my head was spinning.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #11 on: October 17, 2013, 04:38:47 AM »

One thing that bothered me was that they just happened to find a someone who can activate (I guess?) the king's crown.  I know you don't want to explain everything, but by not giving us any information about why this particular dead woman reacted to the antlers and no one else did, we're left with no other conclusion than the two girls got lucky, which seems arbitrary and improbable.  Unless someone else has an explanation?  Maybe I missed it because my head was spinning.

My interpretation is that it was destiny.  Maybe destiny is improbable, but I think it's no less probable than an antlered crown resurrecting a body and carrying the mind of a mythical deity--we have evidence of the latter, which makes "because, destiny" explanation easier to accept for me.
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Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #12 on: October 17, 2013, 04:15:16 PM »

One thing that bothered me was that they just happened to find a someone who can activate (I guess?) the king's crown.  I know you don't want to explain everything, but by not giving us any information about why this particular dead woman reacted to the antlers and no one else did, we're left with no other conclusion than the two girls got lucky, which seems arbitrary and improbable.  Unless someone else has an explanation?  Maybe I missed it because my head was spinning.

They may have been subconsciously drawn in the right direction by the pull of the crown towards its King.
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"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
evrgrn_monster
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« Reply #13 on: October 17, 2013, 10:42:16 PM »

Gonna echo what others have said about the narration. It made me a little dizzy how fast it was, and made it hard to concentrate on the story itself.

As to the story itself, I liked it well enough. I thought the idea of this world was interesting, and the Wanderer King herself was a great character. However, I felt a bit lost in all the different clan names, and the geography of the world. I would've liked more explanation of the rules of the land and how this society works. It's a shame, because I liked the characters, the action was well written, and the plot was simple, but effective. The setting was the only thing that was lacking, and since I kept losing footing as to where the characters were and all the different clans, it pulled the rest of the story down for me.
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Moritz
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« Reply #14 on: October 20, 2013, 10:43:13 AM »

This was another one of those "I'll need to listen to that two... or three times" stories, though mind you I often listen to Podcastle on my walk to work and I am often distracted by other stuff on the way.

I basically agree with the main criticisms - cool idea, some more exposition might be needed, etc.
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Alisa Alering
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« Reply #15 on: October 21, 2013, 08:43:54 PM »


I'm just stopping by to thank everyone for their thoughtful comments about my story. I was really pleased to hear that many of you cared about the relationship(s) between Pansy, Chool, and the woman who becomes the King. I've become quite fond of them myself.


It seems like a majority of comments have to do with the background for the Wanderers and Fixers. I'll just say that for me, the Wanderers and Fixers are two different clans who share a common geography, and who rub along together well enough in matters both economic and social--until they don't. Observing both the contemporary and historical world, it often seems like when tensions are high enough, it doesn't matter what is the spark that sets them two sides raging against each other. The particular grievance, which group was originally in the 'right'--I don't think that matters much to the people like Pansy and Chool who are caught up in the madness. I'm utterly terrified by this idea, so of course I wrote a story about it.


FireTurtle asked about the Stag King of Celtic origin, to which I have to say, "Nope, sorry." I am probably peripherally aware of such a figure but have not read or researched about it, and it wasn't (consciously) on my mind when I was writing.


Thanks to everyone for listening, and for taking the time to respond to the story!   
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #16 on: October 23, 2013, 08:43:15 AM »

Oh, I just realized this is the same author who wrote "Everything You Have Seen" in Writers of the Future XXIX, which I just read on my lunch break yesterday.   Grin
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Spindaddy
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« Reply #17 on: October 24, 2013, 09:45:16 PM »

This one was weird, but I liked it. I got the whole Fixers vs the Wanderers thing after a bit of thought. It seems to me like hte end of the world resulted in 2 kinds of people. People that wanted to "FIX" the world to bring it back to where it was or used to be and then other people that... wandered. From the description, it sounded like however the world ended, it sounded like someone named the King came along and showed people a way out, but the way must be sought out.

Anyway, the reading seemed odd, but I wasn't too put off. I think that because I was driving, I was concentrating more on driving and letting the words wash over me. I didn't give it two thoughts until I came here to post.
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Alisa Alering
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« Reply #18 on: October 25, 2013, 09:51:11 PM »

Unblinking/David, It is indeed the same author. I promise that I sometimes write stories that aren't about war. Embarrassed
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Devoted135
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« Reply #19 on: November 18, 2013, 08:20:28 PM »

I've let myself get so behind in commenting... Undecided

I remember spending a lot of time wishing for more backstory about the Wanderers and Fixers, but eventually settled on an explanation reasonably close to the one given by the author above (hi, author!). I also remember feeling particularly touched by the scene at the end when the narrator knew she wouldn't be able to follow her friend into the other world. Part of me hoped the King would see that she's changed, but I think it's better that it ended the way it did.

Regarding the "liposuctioned" audio: having accidentally done the same thing the first time I edited an audio recording... well, I learned my lesson and I'm sure that this narrator has done the same. I'd love to hear her read again. Smiley
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