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Author Topic: PC294: Sand Castles  (Read 5632 times)


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on: January 17, 2014, 01:29:54 PM
PodCastle 294: Sand Castles

by Desirina Boskovich

Read by Dave Thompson

Originally published in Realms of Fantasy. We miss you!

“We’re on a journey,” Radley says.

“We have a map,” Audra says. She speaks quietly, barely above a whisper, but I have no trouble hearing her, even in the noisy bar.

“Yeah,” Radley says. “We have a map.”

“But what we don’t have…”

“Is a car,” Radley finishes.

I’m amused, but not surprised. Artists—this is about all you can expect. “So exactly where is this map leading you?” I ask.

“Somewhere on the Gulf of Mexico,” Audra says. “A beach.”

“There’s one outside, you know.”

“We need this particular beach.  Because of the sand,” Radley says.   


“Because we need it,” Audra says. And they won’t say anything more.

Rated R. Contains some drug use. HELLO, COLORADO!

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!


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Reply #1 on: January 17, 2014, 02:16:12 PM
Nice atmospheric story, but I can pinpoint the exact sentence where I figured out everything including how it was going to end: where Audra says she lost her mother and couldn't find her way home. (I think it was the odd wording that crystallized the realization.) And that was too soon. It made the rest of the story a checklist for me.


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Reply #2 on: January 17, 2014, 10:13:29 PM
Before I say anything else, I'll say I liked this story.  Also: excellent narration, DKT. Captured the after-college chillout-exterior-surrouding-a-heart-of-existential-dread quite well.

Now, I was going to write that it reminded me a lot of another PodCastle tale read by DKT: As Far As You Can Go. The similarities were evident: two friends, slightly adrift and aimless, going on a roadtrip that one of them kind of doesn't want to be going on.  Substitute crumbling strip malls and cheap hotels for post-nuclear ruins and you're basically there. 

But as the story kept going, the strangeness of Audra unfolding, the growing fascination and infatuation of the narrator, I started to be reminded of another story: Lovecraft's "The Shadow over Innsmouth." Maybe it's because that one was being talked about over in the Phoenix on the Sword thread. Only where Lovecraft offers us otherworldly horror and repugnance lost beneath the waves for eons, "Sand Castles" offers us its inversion: otherworldly beauty and love. Traces of ancient races, scattered relics and maps, a tale too bizarre to be believed -- yet must be, the eyes and skin of those whose ancestry is (possibly) partially non-human, a narrator who in the end seems to want to join the other world. The parallels are totally there!

And the fact that I'm citing all these other stories and pieces of stories that "Sand Castles" reminded me of may lead you to the conclusion that its plot is formulaic and that all these similarities are the box-checking that ToooooMuchCoffeeMan mentioned. I can understand that. Yet the telling of this tale really worked for me. The characters' idle conversations, their pointless arguments, the hostilities and attractions that bubble up in the confines of an endless road trip -- they all rang true to me. Same with: questioning your whole life, living with an embarrassing family after college, desperately wanting to believe in something, anything that will give meaning to your life.

Even though I knew how this one was probably going to end, I still wanted the story to take me there.


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Reply #3 on: January 21, 2014, 03:20:03 PM
I didn't really get into this one.  It seemed like it was just another roadtrip movie, about stoner friends seeking out a half-heard myth, and one of them probably drowning in the ocean at the end.  I know there were strong hints about Audra's origin, but to me it seemed like that was just the narrator trying to rationalize in retrospect the drowning of his unrequited love.

It seemed like most of the story rather than focusing on Audra's origin was focused on the unrequited love angle, which didn't really interest me.  Don't get me wrong, I've been there, had a big case of that in high school and a big case of that in college.  But those stories would be boring as hell to tell anyone because the thing about unrequited love is that nothing happens and nothing continues to happen for a very long time.  At the end I appreciated that he dived in after her but I felt it was a little too late at that point to really make up for the lack of interesting movement in the rest of the tale.  That was really the first point at which I was interested in what happened next, and I said to myself "Aw dammit, that's not the end is it?"  Cue the end music.

I'll concede that it's also entirely possible that I was just in too foul of a mood to be able to give it a decent chance.  I listened to most of the middle of the story on my commute home yesterday, when I was stewing about an offhand dog euthanasia joke one of my co-workers made during the day.  You wouldn't think you'd have to ask people to not make dog euthanasia jokes, especially when your target audience has three dogs, right?  Wrong, apparently.  This person's an engineer, and I've worked with some engineers who say things they shouldn't because they simply don't know better either from lack of experience or because they're neuro-atypical.  But this engineer is by far the most social engineer in the office, and he sure as hell should know better.

I feel like my opinion of the story would PROBABLY have been similar, but it's possible that if I listened without my grumpypants on, that that might not be the case.  *shrug*  I wasn't interested enough in what I heard to find out.


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Reply #4 on: January 21, 2014, 08:30:59 PM
I enjoyed this story.  I particularly liked the fact that we really never do know whether the story is a departure from consensual reality and Audra is returning/attempting to return to the mystical world from where she came or rather if the story captures the existential angst of a young woman who just doesn't feel like she belongs in the world and escapes into the waves.  To me, the best modern fantasy straddles that border and leaves the audience wondering whether there was truly something more than the reality.


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Reply #5 on: January 21, 2014, 09:27:27 PM
DAVE!!! THAT INTRO!!!!!  :D :D :D

Seriously, it had me in tears--the good kind! Since over-the-top superlatives are the name of the game, I'm going to officially call it The Funniest Podcast Intro I've Heard This Year.

I haven't even finished the story yet, but just had to say it while it was on my mind. The greatest Podcastle narrator, indeed!

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Reply #6 on: January 22, 2014, 12:47:43 AM

Wow, thanks! I thought, you know, the intro was pretty okay.


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Reply #7 on: January 22, 2014, 12:04:34 PM
dog euthanasia joke

That's an oxymoron.  There's really nothing funny at all about dog-end-of-life situations.  :(

Regarding Sand Castles...I liked the story, up to the end.  I guess, unlike SomebodyElse, (welcome, by the way!) the vague ending was unsatisfying to me. At least for our narrator.  (Was his name Matt?) I would have liked a bit more closure. (What about the parks, man?)

That said, I enjoyed the journey taken to get to this beach.  Radley and Audra remind me a lot of some of my friends, so I believed them as characters.


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Reply #8 on: January 22, 2014, 03:15:07 PM
dog euthanasia joke

That's an oxymoron.  There's really nothing funny at all about dog-end-of-life situations.  :(

Exactly! Hence my foul mood.


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Reply #9 on: January 23, 2014, 02:02:12 AM
Anyone else notice how Dave's hyperbole usage seems to be following a hyperbolic curve?  ;D

Anywho, I finished the episode, and you can count me with the people who loved it. I'm generally a sucker for buddy road-trip stories and elegantly told coming-of-age tales, and this story brought everything that I love. It's all about the random conversations, loving descriptions of ratty hotel rooms, and long walks through unfamiliar towns with your best friend/crush and a six-pack of cheap beer. It's pretty much my idea of Heaven. It's a bit cliche to say that the journey is more important than the destination, but that was true for me with this story. About halfway through, I found myself thinking, "Heck, I don't even CARE what happens if or when they get to the beach! I don't even care if there's a fantastic element! On with the meandering road trip!"

Given that, I was thrilled to come here and read the insights of my fellow forumites. I especially loved what Procyon had to say about it, and particularly the connection with "Shadow Over Innsmouth". It really IS like "Innsmouth" on Prozac, now that you mention it, with a sympathetic, kindly embrace of the other.

Even though I knew how this one was probably going to end, I still wanted the story to take me there.

Beautifully said!! That sums up my feelings exactly. And ain't that what life's like, anyway? Even though we know how our own stories will probably end, what I really want is the trip. :)

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Reply #10 on: January 23, 2014, 04:28:46 AM
I saw where this seemed to be going from pretty early on, but I enjoyed the journey. I was a little worried that the storytelling guy's selfish desire was going to derail Audra's quest, but apparently not. She kissed the key and put it around her neck and went into the waves, apparently confident and at peace (I caught no hint at all of the existential angst that one of the commenters posited.).
I'm not sure whether storytelling guy (did we hear the character's name? probably I just missed it) thought he was saving Audra from suicide, or whether he finally believed in the legend and wanted to join her in that magical pink-quartz palace, and we didn't hear whether he caught up with her or not, but I'm okay with that.
Radley's dream seems both sweet and a little lame, which actually fits pretty well.


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Reply #11 on: January 24, 2014, 02:00:05 AM
I love hopping on the forum for stories that we all have conflicting opinions on. Super fun reading.

That being said, this did not do it for me in the slightest. Part of that is that the old pals on a road trip angle is boring for me, unless it's a horror movie, in which I can handle it only if it comes hand in hand with cheesy gore time. The other part was that the main character came off as whiny and dull to me. Sure, he had some initiative at the end going after Audra, but the rest of the time, he was less concerned with her and more concerned about whether or not she liked Radley. It didn't seem like he was even interested in seeing if she liked him either. He just holds her hand, and then ignores his buddy who invited him on the trip in the first place. I would not like having this guy as a friend.

This is one of the first times that I felt like I needed a real ending, not the vague one we were left with. The main character was so vague and unmotivated to begin with, so it would've felt like something had actually gotten accomplished if we had known what the consequences of his actions were. As it was, I don't really know the point of this story, because I don't feel like he grew, at least not enough to be satisfying.


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Reply #12 on: January 28, 2014, 02:22:36 PM
This was a pleasant story with believable characters. The ennui of former art students is effectively drawn.

I'm glad I wasn't the only one thinking of Shadow Over Innsmouth. It's as if the author replaced the bulging eyes and tiaras with a pointed elfin chin and hemp jewelry. And included happiness. Bonus points to the author for successfully resisting the urge to use the word "elfin" in any of their descriptions.

I also thought of this comic: (spoiler tags to minimize screwing with the page size)
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Anyone else notice how Dave's hyperbole usage seems to be following a hyperbolic curve?  ;D

I would say it more closely resembled an inverted parabolic curve with an offset, but we never do the pedantic thing around here.

« Last Edit: January 28, 2014, 02:24:18 PM by Fenrix »

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


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Reply #13 on: February 03, 2014, 04:36:50 AM
This one didn't do it for me, but these sorts of road-trip buddy stories have an uphill battle with me. To be honest, between the "ennui of former art students" (thanks Fenrix!) and the magical-realism-but-nothing-explicitly-fantastic elements, this feels much more like a Selected Shorts story than a PodCastle story. In other words, I expect to find it in a more traditional literary setting rather than in a straight up fantasy setting.

That said, a couple friends getting high/drunk as they make their way across the coast line doesn't really pique my interest. I did think it was hilarious that there was a reference to how the narrator hadn't seen his former roommate in sooo long. Then sooo long turned out to be approximately two months. :D


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Reply #14 on: February 15, 2014, 01:03:25 PM
I loved this one a lot more than I thought I would from the title.  The opening was odd enough to intrigue me, and like others, as soon as Audra mentioned the first bits of her backstory, it was immediately clear how the story was going to go.  However, by that point I was confident enough in the quality to happily go along for the ride.  Tons of fun little young-adult gooberish details, from the World Park Master Plan to the roller-coaster emotions to the oddly meandering conversations.  Lovely all around.

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Reply #15 on: April 10, 2014, 08:43:46 PM
Aaaaand here I am, trudging up from the rear. I didn't want to like this one, but I was drawn into it against my will. And that says something, considering I found it in the slush.

However, after listening to Dave's awesome read, I was struck with something I hadn't picked up on my initial reads: What about those parks? Assuming that the myth is true, and I'm going to say it is because MY REALITY ROCKS, that would mean that all over the world, cities and other places would suddenly become replaced with...parks.

Imagine. You're sitting in your high rise apartment, finally settling down with a cup of tea and a nice book to read, because work at the office was hell, and all you want to do is relax, when all of a sudden, BOOM, no more apartment, no more bedroom, no more collection of Stevie Wonder vinyl. Just you and your astonished cat Mittens falling through the air with thousand of others towards a pristine parkland far as the eye can see with perfectly clipped trees and cute little ponds. And all because of some idealistic art school asshole....WHAT A JERK!!!

(Other than that, I liked the story.)

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Reply #16 on: April 22, 2014, 11:54:45 PM
I really liked this one.  Like other, I saw where things were going, but enjoyed the ride.  Great reading by Dave!

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Reply #17 on: September 14, 2014, 11:45:48 PM
This seems fairly mild overall, something I listen to while mowing the lawn and didn't feel like if I missed a word here for there while dodging tree limbs I was missing much but it was still enjoyable. Now a good 6 years out of college I still feel that ennui of what do I want to do and how and why should I do it, I suspect that never goes away. It felt very meandering, which I'm sure was intentional you never find Atlantis on an easy to find path. It felt like a quest, but instead of having to actually solve puzzle they just kept going. Finally in a mexican village where no-one speaks their language, they still communicate and get food and a bathroom and finally onto their beach. That feels like a reality breaking point, but if we assume that slowly but surely they were divorcing themselves from reality from the father's house to the beach, it then makes sense that at the final end they would find a breach, sand and pink stretching into the ocean and infinity and there they could build something, whatever, the desired. I quite enjoyed this, even if maybe its not something I would normally have read all the way through.