Escape Artists
November 19, 2018, 06:41:06 AM *
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
News:
 
   Home   Help Search Login Register  
Pages: [1] 2  All
  Print  
Author Topic: PC289: Rumor of Wings  (Read 2834 times)
Talia
Moderator
*****
Posts: 2680


Muahahahaha


« on: December 05, 2013, 10:48:25 AM »

PodCastle 289: Rumor of Wings

by Alter S. Reiss

Read by M.K. Hobson

Originally published in Abyss & Apex.

When the shore-men of the Liassen dockyards saw the blinded ship by the first gray light of dawn, they turned their eyes away, and put their backs to their work. When sailors saw that ship, the deep gouges and angry red paint where its eyes ought to be struck them harder. They blanched as they turned away, or they walked back from the docks, spitting twice over each shoulder. One old veteran, deep lines in his face from wind and spray, fell to his knees, and pledged two fine bullocks to the sea, should he survive his next voyage.

There were few sailors who believed that a ship’s eyes would see it through storm and past reefs, but there were fewer who would be
willing to sign aboard a ship whose eyes had been put out, and with red paint, no less. That was the way of sailors–they might have no faith in charms and good omens, but they had infinite belief in curses and foul omens. Whoever owned the ship with the blinded eyes would get no crew at all, even after the eyes were repainted, without some showy exorcism: A half dozen priests in heavy robes, with flute and cymbal, or perhaps some mountain holy man, or witch, or tamed demon.

It was all more or less as Alaneth had hoped, but she could not feel any great satisfaction as a handful of the shore-men were coaxed
aboard by one of the port officers, and set to lowering a length of sailcloth over the ship’s prow, to cover those blinded eyes, so that the other operations of Liassen’s harbor would not be so greatly affected. She was close, but she had been close before. It was too much to believe that this time her leads would prove genuine, that what she sought would not slip through her fingers again.

Rated PG.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: December 27, 2013, 08:24:41 AM by Talia » Logged
Fennel
Extern
*
Posts: 4


« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2013, 07:06:04 PM »

Overall, I wasn't a fan of this week's story. I enjoyed how well the author built up the suspense, but I was disappointed to find that the fascinating suspense and world-building essentially led to the "big reveal" that the main character was really a dragon. I'd guessed that the character was some sort of winged beast--perhaps a gargoyle, harpy, or dragon, early on, and it seemed like the author was relying on the surprise of the revelation to carry the story's resolution. The main character, for all of her toughness, was pretty passive until she scuffled with the owner of the ship, a scene that, while exciting, didn't do anything to develop the world, her character, or the plot.
What I was left with was a beautifully written story, that, while a pleasure to listen to, didn't amount to anything memorable in the end.
Logged
olivaw
Matross
****
Posts: 268



« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2013, 06:00:06 PM »

Well, it's the story of the Selkie, or the Swan maiden, isn't it?
Traditionally, a man finds the creature's skin whilst she has transformed into a woman, and hides it away, so she is forced to become his wife. (Oddly, the focus of these stories is rarely on the cruelty of this theft and enslavement.)

So what happens when you try the same thing on someone big and strong enough to make you regret it?

That said, I'm sure a swan-woman or seal-woman, or anyone else, could be spurred to act just as desperately and ferociously as Alaneth did.

Logged
InfiniteMonkey
Lochage
*****
Posts: 483


Clearly, I need more typewriters....


« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2013, 12:39:14 AM »

I have to admit that the final answer of "Dragon" was not what I saw coming, so well done Alter Reiss!

The gull people were hilarious.

And of course it's always good to hear M.K. read.
Logged
danooli
Moderator
*****
Posts: 1511



WWW
« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2013, 06:25:59 AM »

I love the idea of the ships with eyes!  That's way cool. 

The story as a whole was good too, but if there's one thing I felt was missing, it was a reason to care about Alaneth.  Other than the fact that she was somehow no longer in possession of the object that she needs to take her true form, I don't really see a reason to sympathize with her.  And, since we don't know shy she didn't have the jade bracelet, we aren't really given a reason to know why it was taken from her.  Is there a good reason?  Is she, as her dragon self, a menace to humanity?

All in all, I thought it was a well told story that was read excellently.  Of course, M.K. Hobson could read anything to me and I would love to hear it.
Logged
Moon_Goddess
Palmer
**
Posts: 50



« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2013, 10:36:27 AM »

Entertaining enough, I do have to say that the idea of Gull people is one of the worst things I have ever heard of.

Please if there is any goodness in the universe no sane god has ever made Gull People.
Logged

Was dream6601 but that's sounds awkward when Nathan reads my posts.
DKT
Friendly Neighborhood
Hipparch
******
Posts: 4980


PodCastle is my Co-Pilot


WWW
« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2013, 10:59:26 AM »

SANE!

SANE! SANE!

SANE!
Logged

Unblinking
Sir Postsalot
Hipparch
******
Posts: 8660



WWW
« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2013, 11:56:00 AM »

Haha, like the outro suggested, Finding Nemo seagulls were my immediate connection that I thought of here.

I didn't particularly find her relatable either, but I didn't really find that a problem.  Early on, it was clear that she was a shifter just like the gull people, and from their example it was told that the shifters are just as slave to their animal natures as animals themselves, so I took it for granted that any apparent flaws in her character are due to her nature.  Then again, that could be used by shifters as an excuse to give in to their animal nature, but again that didn't hurt my enjoyment.

I didn't figure out it was a dragon, but it makes sense--we knew already that she was intelligent and aggressive, and that she had wings.  I was going to guess a falcon or something, but that would probably come with a different set of personality traits.

And even if we know it's a dragon, I didn't really see a problem with that.  I think I'd enjoy it on a second listen as well. 

To me, the most interesting way to look at the story, IMO, is from the man who stole the bracelet.  Apparently he's had dealings with shifters before, since he knows the significance of the bracelet.    He seems to think of them as animals with the potential for domestication or at least harnessing, and for most of the shifters he has dealt with, that may be true.  But he took a huge gamble when he tried such a trick when he didn't know the shape she would take, and thus didn't know her nature.  He had the hammer, but he didn't ever expect to use it, so when the moment came, he didn't.  For him, the hammer was a tool just like the domesticated shifters are a tool--he doesn't want to use it because the purpose of the hammer in this exchange is to NOT use it.  But he doesn't consider that the shifter might not be devoid of fear that the unuse of the hammer depends upon.
Logged
DoctorBob
Extern
*
Posts: 5


« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2013, 01:45:40 PM »

I had a strong positive reaction--I thought this was a tightly plotted jewel of a story with loads of hints and just enough reveal. The description of the defiling of the ships' eyes and the sailors' reaction at the opening made me want to dig for more background. Alaneth's "she had already decided to kill" was an elegant touch, a hidden in plain sight foreshadow given the intervening bits that had Alaneth seem defeated. For all that, the negative commenters have good points, even if I loved the portrayal of the gull people. Nice writing, Alter! Nice reading, M. K.! I guessed "dragon" only beats before that was revealed, and I agree with Unblinking that the slaver character is begging for development. He must have had an interesting backstory, given his confidence dealing with Alaneth.
Logged
Spindaddy
Peltast
***
Posts: 158


Small god of doughnuts


« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2013, 09:25:59 PM »

I liked the story, though the minute a jade bracelet was mentioned I knew 'dragon' would be her form. I was also hoping for more monologing by the ships captain. I wanted to know how he knew it had been stolen from her at least 60 years ago. Just how long do humans live in this story? I felt there could have been a lot more interesting reveals of the characters past or perhaps a bit more about the world.

Also... were-gulls. That would be awesome!

Logged

I'm not evil. I'm corporate.
Procyon
Palmer
**
Posts: 51


« Reply #10 on: December 11, 2013, 09:00:46 PM »

I had a fun time listening to this story, but I'm not sure it was because of all that much that was in the story.  The elements of the characters and setting created these cascading ripples in my brain that went off in totally different directions than the actual narrative went.  For example: the ship with blinded eyes.  It is a cursed ship?  A ghost ship?  Is the blinding a ritual to protect it from sea monsters?  Or to allow it to sail to realms beyond, to the land of the dead or beneath the waves to Atlantis?  Oh, it turns out those eyes were basically window dressing that's not important at all, oh well.

Or, take those sanity-wracking gull people, mostly ruffians but with a shrewd & intriguing yellow-eyed leader.  Does she need them to fly somewhere?  Or fly her somewhere?  Does she need their superhuman wind-sensing talent as crew for a single ship to sail into the eye of some dread typhoon?  Did gull people trespass against her and now she wants revenge?  Oh, it turns out she just wants them to burglarize a ship, something any number of salty-yet-fully-human sea dogs could probably do, oh well.

Which brings me to my problem with this protagonist: Alaneth doesn't really do anything.  I had no trouble sympathizing with her, clearly she had suffered some great yet not-totally-specified wrong. But all she does in this story is sniff out some thugs, hire them to steal her bracelet (the act of which we don't even see), and lunge across the table to kill the blackmailing sea captain.  I expected her to outwit him or use his ignorance about the jade artifact against him somehow, or I dunno, anything except just killing him.  It was like a tense hostage negotiation was resolved by a sniper taking the bad guy out just as things were getting interesting.

I feel like I'm getting too negative here, which I don't want to be because I did enjoy this tale.  It was frustrating, though, for so many evocative creatures, settings, and situations to... not live up to their potential. 

Also: loved the narration.
Logged
Unblinking
Sir Postsalot
Hipparch
******
Posts: 8660



WWW
« Reply #11 on: December 12, 2013, 09:51:10 AM »

Oh, it turns out those eyes were basically window dressing that's not important at all, oh well.

I might've misheard this, but I thought that the eyes were blacked out by Alineth herself to hinge on the superstition of sailors to keep the ship in harbor long enough for her to steal the bracelet.  I thought it was very important.

Quote
Which brings me to my problem with this protagonist: Alaneth doesn't really do anything.  I had no trouble sympathizing with her, clearly she had suffered some great yet not-totally-specified wrong. But all she does in this story is sniff out some thugs, hire them to steal her bracelet (the act of which we don't even see), and lunge across the table to kill the blackmailing sea captain.  I expected her to outwit him or use his ignorance about the jade artifact against him somehow, or I dunno, anything except just killing him.  It was like a tense hostage negotiation was resolved by a sniper taking the bad guy out just as things were getting interesting.

She did use his ignorance about the jade artifact.  He wouldn't have tried to pull this trick if he knew she was a dragon.

I don't necessarily that she doesn't do anything, but I do agree to some extent that she doesn't CHOOSE to do anything.  Like the gulls, she seems to be a slave to her animal nature.  She can make choices, but those choices are bound tightly by her nature. 

I was glad for the inclusion of the Captain character because he lends a character arc to the story.  He uses his knowledge and experience to get advantage in teh world, and this is just another step, but oh boy did he screw up this time.  He'd probably learn a valuable lesson from this experience if he didn't have a fatal case of being dead.
Logged
Procyon
Palmer
**
Posts: 51


« Reply #12 on: December 12, 2013, 11:33:29 AM »

Oh, it turns out those eyes were basically window dressing that's not important at all, oh well.

I might've misheard this, but I thought that the eyes were blacked out by Alineth herself to hinge on the superstition of sailors to keep the ship in harbor long enough for her to steal the bracelet.  I thought it was very important.

Ahh, you're right.  I just relistened to the opening and you're totally right.  This is what I get for letting my attention lapse for the moment when "her handiwork" was mentioned -- which also makes the "joke" the gull people were laughing at make way more sense.  (As an aside: I'm actually kind of paranoid about missing things when listening to audiobooks since I'm usually doing something else at the same time.  I make liberal use of the "rewind 30 seconds" button on my player, but it's still kind of hard to find exactly the point I think I might have missed, unlike a physical book where the page is its own visual cue.  Anyway.)  Therefore I must say "good job" to Alaneth for helping out her cause.

Which brings me to my problem with this protagonist: Alaneth doesn't really do anything.  I had no trouble sympathizing with her, clearly she had suffered some great yet not-totally-specified wrong. But all she does in this story is sniff out some thugs, hire them to steal her bracelet (the act of which we don't even see), and lunge across the table to kill the blackmailing sea captain.  I expected her to outwit him or use his ignorance about the jade artifact against him somehow, or I dunno, anything except just killing him.  It was like a tense hostage negotiation was resolved by a sniper taking the bad guy out just as things were getting interesting.

She did use his ignorance about the jade artifact.  He wouldn't have tried to pull this trick if he knew she was a dragon.

That's true, I wouldn't mess with a known dragon either.  I just feel like it, I dunno, retroactively sucked the tension out of the scene.  I get that this was her moment to release all her pent-up anger, but still came away from it thinking "all she had to do was rush him?"  Though, now that I think about it, "don't mess with dragons, even ones trapped soulless in human form for six decades, because their nubbly little teeth are still sharp enough to ventilate your neck sufficiently to sample the woody bouquet of your last glass of pinot noir" is kind of an awesome moral to leave us with.
Logged
evrgrn_monster
Lochage
*****
Posts: 356


SQUAW, MY OPINIONS.


« Reply #13 on: December 12, 2013, 10:50:01 PM »

This was a 'meh' story for me. I also felt like there were more opportunities to be had for a fun story outside of Alineth's brooding room; following the gull people as they stole into the ship, finding out what Alineth had to do to find out that the ship contained her bracelet, or where she had gone tracking it down, following the slaver...really any number of things that the author brought up, but then never followed up on. I actually got kinda bored in the middle, just waiting in the room with her and her watered down wine. I was hungry for more than just the last stop on her quest.
Logged

Devoted135
Hipparch
******
Posts: 1252



« Reply #14 on: December 13, 2013, 05:05:05 PM »

So many hints of so much awesome... this definitely left me wanting more. I wish it was a vignette in an anthology, because I would love to explore this world some more. I like Unblinking's interpretation of the dragon, gull, and (presumably) other shape-shifting people being constrained by their hidden natures. So, more? More! Cheesy
Logged
TrishEM
Matross
****
Posts: 175



« Reply #15 on: December 15, 2013, 02:48:59 AM »

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and I'd love to hear more. My biggest question, though, would be how Alaneth will change as a character now that she has her soul back. Will she now be capable of remorse, empathy, or thinking of other things beyond reacquisition and revenge?
Logged
Unblinking
Sir Postsalot
Hipparch
******
Posts: 8660



WWW
« Reply #16 on: December 16, 2013, 09:55:18 AM »

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and I'd love to hear more. My biggest question, though, would be how Alaneth will change as a character now that she has her soul back. Will she now be capable of remorse, empathy, or thinking of other things beyond reacquisition and revenge?

I doubt it.  I think those were inherent in her animal nature.  Having her animal body back I think will only make her more capable to act out her nature.
Logged
albionmoonlight
Matross
****
Posts: 213



« Reply #17 on: December 17, 2013, 11:09:37 AM »

I liked the world built here, but I agree with some of the comments about the story itself being not quite there.  I also did not have a ton of sympathy for the main character.

I would actually like a story in this universe that follows the captain--messing with forces that he does not quite understand.  He knows enough to know that a shifter is coming for the bracelet.  And enough to set up a fake.  But, clearly, not enough to really know who he is messing with.

I would have liked to follow him and see how he acquired the bracelet, and how he knew as much as he did.  And what life on his ship might be like.  I have a feeling that if we really got to know this guy, his death by dragon would be all the more satisfying.
Logged
Varda
Rebound
Hipparch
******
Posts: 2710


Definitely not an android.


« Reply #18 on: December 17, 2013, 11:22:21 AM »

I liked this story a lot, although I agree with the consensus that the story lacked much complexity beyond the interesting worldbuilding. I was engrossed all the way through, though, and only after the fact I felt like the story could have used one more thread or so to make the ending more memorable.

For me, the most interesting part of the story was the idea of the jade bracelet containing something that is both part of Alaneth's nature and birthright, and yet can be separated from her and denied to her. There was something especially perverse about the Captain's bargain in this light: that she work for him for an extended time period, doing things that maybe aren't too far outside her nature to do, but that she do these things in order to win back the right to be what she already is. I'll go ahead and Godwin this thread by saying it made me think of the problem of slavery and indentured servitude, and the inherent wrongness of making anyone devote a lifetime of labor to earn the bare minimum of human rights. It also reminded me of some of the ongoing problems with the way the poor are treated, which in many ways ends up being a similar denial of a person's metaphorical jade bracelet.

If there are dragons among us, I think we are in for a rude awakening one of these days.
Logged

Medical Microfiction: Stories About Science
http://rckjones.wordpress.com
DKT
Friendly Neighborhood
Hipparch
******
Posts: 4980


PodCastle is my Co-Pilot


WWW
« Reply #19 on: December 17, 2013, 11:24:21 AM »

I liked the world built here, but I agree with some of the comments about the story itself being not quite there.  I also did not have a ton of sympathy for the main character.

I would actually like a story in this universe that follows the captain--messing with forces that he does not quite understand.  He knows enough to know that a shifter is coming for the bracelet.  And enough to set up a fake.  But, clearly, not enough to really know who he is messing with.

I would have liked to follow him and see how he acquired the bracelet, and how he knew as much as he did.  And what life on his ship might be like.  I have a feeling that if we really got to know this guy, his death by dragon would be all the more satisfying.

So...The Sunshine Sea Baron?  Grin
Logged

Pages: [1] 2  All
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.21 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!