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Author Topic: PC291: Seasonal Disorder  (Read 6011 times)
Talia
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« on: December 19, 2013, 12:02:57 PM »

PodCastle 291: Seasonal Disorder

by Heather Shaw and Tim Pratt

Read by Christiana Ellis

A PodCastle Original!

I opened my freezer to get some ice for my first gimlet of the day and heard a tiny tapping sound coming from one of the ice trays. I thought about slamming the freezer door shut and running for my car in the driveway, tearing away to the southern hemisphere months early, but I still have some residual sense of responsibility, so I stood there and waited.

One of the ice cubes cracked, and a tiny bluish-gray hand broke through, grabbing the side of the tray. A creature about the size of a mouse but more-or-less human in form climbed out of the broken ice cube and flopped out to sprawl, panting, on top of a bag of frozen peaches I use to make blended drinks full of rum. “My queen,” it said. “You are needed.”

I sighed. “Why? The world has turned just fine without me lifting a finger for generations now.”

“The sun king.” The creature — you might call it an elf, some people do, or a sprite — rolled over and got to its feet, wobbling. “He… he…” Then the elf burst into tears. They’re delicate creatures in their way, my footmen and handmaidens, and they haven’t coped that well with unemployment. I hadn’t seen one in years, and I thought they’d all turned into snowflakes and icicles ages ago, but apparently a few of them were keeping the faith.

I picked the little beast up out of the freezer and put it down on the counter, then sat on a bar stool and pulled my light summer robe tighter around me, suddenly feeling a chill. I used to love chills, before I retired. Now I like it warmer. “Tell me,” I said.


Rated PG.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: January 17, 2014, 08:26:38 AM by Talia » Logged
HueItzcoatl
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« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2013, 02:24:40 PM »

Another Christmas story from the dynamic duo! Yay!

The story was a little short and really didn't feel like a Christmas type story. Seeing as this isn't Christmas week yet it probably wasn't intended to be received as such but with the title, I was sort of expecting more. I always like the idea of Gods contemplating the origins of there own existence. A chicken versus egg thought, but I've seen it done better in other stories.

All in all, not great, but not bad. Just normal.
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Procyon
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« Reply #2 on: December 19, 2013, 07:02:37 PM »

Cute and fluffy, but not entirely satisfying.  The Snow Queen sipping mai tais on a palmy beach brought a smile to my face, and the Sun King was at once deliciously pompous and a spoiled brat, taking his ball and going home now that humanity doesn't really need him as much anymore (thanks a lot, Edison). But I found the resolution to be a bit of a letdown.  I expected a little, I dunno, more out of the Queen than to just maintain her snarky demeanor while she puts the King in time-out like the exasperated parent of an eternal five-year-old.  The King was actually the more interesting character to me in that he's got plans, goals, feelings, and a reaction to the waning of Earth's mythologies and superstitions, whereas the Queen seemed like she just wanted to go back to bed.  I could've gone for a little more substance to her. 

So, the story was, for me, a little like a candy cane.  A nice treat, but leaves you hungry.
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chemistryguy
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« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2013, 08:21:33 AM »

I expected a little, I dunno, more out of the Queen than to just maintain her snarky demeanor while she puts the King in time-out like the exasperated parent of an eternal five-year-old.  The King was actually the more interesting character to me in that he's got plans, goals, feelings, and a reaction to the waning of Earth's mythologies and superstitions, whereas the Queen seemed like she just wanted to go back to bed.  I could've gone for a little more substance to her. 

Her demeanor was easy going, as she'd probably prefer it, but only up to the point where she was pushed.  Then she put it all into perspective.  The concept of a tiny blip of warmth/life compared with the expanse of cold, void that was her dominion gave me chills.   She is much, much more powerful than she lets on and the Sun King was given a very clear reminder.  It does go against the classical idea that the dark and light balance each other out, but her argument was sound.  We have an infinitesimally short time before we're gone.  The King was trying a bullshit move by trivializing life, and the Snow Queen called him on it.  Thumbs up for this one.

FYI: I'm sitting in front of a warm fire tonight Cheesy
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albionmoonlight
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« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2013, 04:11:25 PM »

I'll never look at my ice cube tray in quite the same way again.
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Just Jeff
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« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2013, 11:43:42 PM »

Still not a fan of Tim Pratt, but I enjoyed this as well as "The Christmas Mummy." Maybe the season has me less snarky.

Great narration!
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Varda
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« Reply #6 on: December 21, 2013, 09:16:59 PM »

Hey, a Solstice-themed story! This one caught me as a pleasant surprise as I, too, was expecting Christmas from the title, but since today is actually Solstice this suited my mood much better. I agree with ChemistryGuy's observations about the scale of death and winter compared to the brief existence of life. That was well-explored in this story, and I too got chills when the Queen got into her monologue and even pointed out that she could snuff out the sun itself. What I liked about this story was the reversal of having Winter/Death be the one who saved the day and championed the right of life to continue.

Also, the narration was amazing. It really brought the characters to life and added another layer of enjoyment to this one.
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danooli
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« Reply #7 on: December 22, 2013, 07:07:17 AM »

What I liked about this story was the reversal of having Winter/Death be the one who saved the day and championed the right of life to continue.

Also, the narration was amazing. It really brought the characters to life and added another layer of enjoyment to this one.

Two points I can agree with wholeheartedly.  I really liked this a lot.  The story not being a Christmas story is actually refreshing!  

The Winter Solstice was always my favorite, and it may be that this story has hit on some of the reasons why...While it does signal the onset of the coldest months of the year, the days are lengthening, and to me that is the optimism that people rarely focus on.  The spotlight this story shines on the strength of the Ice Queen over the Sun King does sort of force that point home.  

I live near a beach on Long Island that faces West, making it an absolutely ideal spot to watch the sunset. After high school and really up to about 10 years ago (I'm 40 now) me and a group of friends would gather at the beach every single day we could.  In the winter, when the sun goes down around 4:30, it was hard to make it there on time.  We always looked forward to the Winter Solstice since the sun would be setting a minute or two later every day.  Those minutes really count sometimes! Photo of a winter sunset at "my" beach, if you're interested: http://i.imgur.com/bZjVPRC.jpg

Lastly...all the talk of delicious rum has inspired me to bake my Yummy Butterscotch Rum Cake for Christmas, so my family thanks you for that!  Smiley
« Last Edit: December 22, 2013, 07:09:42 AM by danooli » Logged
Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2013, 08:13:41 AM »

One thing that bothered me was the fact that you can't move the Sun relative to any of the planets. The planets are all caught in the Sun's gravity well, where it goes, we go. In fact, the Sun is orbiting the galactic center even as we speak, dragging us along for the ride. Trying to move the Sun closer to Europa would be like trying to move your hips closer to your shoulders. It makes about as much sense and would be about as effective.
So having the anthropomorphic personification of Sol casually talking about things it should have a clue about but doesn't was a bit upsetting.
On the other hand, Christiana Ellis did a superb (as always) reading of this piece, and I actually pictured the Snow Queen looking somewhat like Space Casey.
In general I like Tim Pratt, although I'm beginning to think that maybe I like him more because he often puts some of his material up on his web site for free, so I can browse before buying and less because of literary prowess. I really did enjoy most of his short stories and the one novel I did buy, but lately it's been hit or miss. Not sure what this one is.

EDIT:
Having slept on it, I kinda like the idea of the birth-death-rebirth cycle re-imagined as a death-birth-death cycle and it coming about because the Snow Queen decided to allow the Sun God to have a little fun in the meantime, as long as it doesn't inconvenience her too much. It adds a nice bit of cynicism to the whole thing.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2013, 04:13:55 AM by Max e^{i pi} » Logged

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olivaw
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« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2013, 05:44:43 PM »

I thought the physics was addressed when the Queen reminisced about the Geocentric model - I assumed she was remembering the literal truth, rather than a human misconception. But then, I'm trained by Nobilis (the game) to expect a kind of wave-particle duality to mysticism and physics.
Moving the sun in a geocentric model would be equivalent, perhaps, to chucking a massive body (say a black hole) through the solar system to throw all the orbits about so that Europa ended up closer and stable, while all the other planets fly off on massively eccentric orbits.

Because otherwise they could have just moved Europa, leaving Earth where it was, and that would make for a less interesting and fantastic story.

Incidentally, I'm seeing a lot of parallels between the Snow Queen and Neil Gaiman's Death.
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evrgrn_monster
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« Reply #10 on: December 23, 2013, 07:44:05 PM »

I liked this story, though the end bummed me out. Ironic that the Snow Queen ended up in the position the Sun King wanted to be in - left on the cold, calm planet, alone with wee, little worms for what seems like an eternity. That being said, I enjoyed the character of the Snow Queen a bunch, which was probably why her self imposed exile made me so sad. Can we load up a space probe with some frozen coconuts and some Rumchata?

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Devoted135
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« Reply #11 on: December 24, 2013, 02:30:27 PM »

My favorite aspect of this story (other than the excellent narration) was the tension between the Sun King's arrogance and the Snow Queen's comfortable confidence. She is the more powerful, and thus she has no need for ego-boosting antics or the attention of others. It seems like she has allowed the Sun King to think he is the superior being for a long time, only bothering to correct him when she had no more patience for his petulance.
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Moon_Goddess
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« Reply #12 on: December 26, 2013, 09:33:41 AM »

I loved this story, I LOVED that it was solstice rather than christmas, I have always enjoyed any personification of winter.   I loved the fact she reminded him the expanse of cold I loved everything about this story.

One thing that bothered me was the fact that you can't move the Sun relative to any of the planets. The planets are all caught in the Sun's gravity well, where it goes, we go. In fact, the Sun is orbiting the galactic center even as we speak, dragging us along for the ride. Trying to move the Sun closer to Europa would be like trying to move your hips closer to your shoulders. It makes about as much sense and would be about as effective.

That's a rather inaccurate oversimplification of orbital mechanics.     The planets are not attached to the sun as you speak, the planets are zipping thru space at high velocity, they are also close enough to the sun that they are being dragged in.   These 2 effects together create an orbit.      I think I'll try this in Universe sandbox tonight to see what would happen but I"m pretty sure the solar system wouldn't simply slide to the left exactly how it is, what planets didn't fall in or escape will probably be in crazy eliptical orbits.
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« Reply #13 on: December 26, 2013, 10:31:50 AM »

I generally liked this one.  Yes, Winter does end up not doing a lot of action and chooses to maintain the status quo, but she does so because she is powerful and her ability to maintain the status quo and save our puny species is a manifestation of that power, even if the reason she did so is just so that she can enjoy Earth's physical pleasures.

I found the argument between them quite fun, and found her argument for why she is more powerful very compelling and convincing--even the sun has to stop sooner or later.  Some day she will end everything, including the sun.  But for now, she just wants to enjoy the good times.
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Fenrix
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« Reply #14 on: December 27, 2013, 08:30:11 AM »

Thank you, PodCastle, for soliciting and running this story. You put a smile on my face this morning.


The King was actually the more interesting character to me in that he's got plans, goals, feelings, and a reaction to the waning of Earth's mythologies and superstitions, whereas the Queen seemed like she just wanted to go back to bed.  I could've gone for a little more substance to her. 


No goals?!? I would love to realize the goal of trying to figure out every and best permutation of rum, simple syrup, fruit, and ice. And the evil sun king has tricked her into self-exile away from rum. What a heartless bastard.


One thing that bothered me was the fact that you can't move the Sun relative to any of the planets. The planets are all caught in the Sun's gravity well, where it goes, we go. In fact, the Sun is orbiting the galactic center even as we speak, dragging us along for the ride. Trying to move the Sun closer to Europa would be like trying to move your hips closer to your shoulders. It makes about as much sense and would be about as effective.

So having the anthropomorphic personification of Sol casually talking about things it should have a clue about but doesn't was a bit upsetting.


I think you missed the line where the winter queen said "I'm no astrophysicist, but..." I think you also missed the part where they were the anthropomorphic representations of the seasons and using magic. 

Also, hips to shoulders yields steady business. How many different Cirque shows are there both in Vegas and touring at one time?

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« Reply #15 on: January 02, 2014, 08:21:28 AM »


One thing that bothered me was the fact that you can't move the Sun relative to any of the planets. The planets are all caught in the Sun's gravity well, where it goes, we go. In fact, the Sun is orbiting the galactic center even as we speak, dragging us along for the ride. Trying to move the Sun closer to Europa would be like trying to move your hips closer to your shoulders. It makes about as much sense and would be about as effective.

So having the anthropomorphic personification of Sol casually talking about things it should have a clue about but doesn't was a bit upsetting.


I think you missed the line where the winter queen said "I'm no astrophysicist, but..." I think you also missed the part where they were the anthropomorphic representations of the seasons and using magic. 


I was about to say -- YOU can't move the sun, but an all-powerful Sun God probably could do whatever he wants.

I found the story pretty funny, though like others the ending fell down a touch because she decides to just stay there on Europa. I guess it's safe; we were warned back in 1984 to attempt no landing there, after all.
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Moritz
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« Reply #16 on: January 10, 2014, 10:20:16 AM »

I had difficulties liking this story because of the theme, as most of the reinserting pagan mythology into modern day settings feels kind of heavy handed to me. I guess it was a solid story otherwise, but it didn't really work for me.
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