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Author Topic: PC298: The Shadowcrafter  (Read 2111 times)
Talia
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« on: February 18, 2014, 09:22:44 AM »

PodCastle 298: The Shadowcrafter

by Ken Liu

Read by Aki Gibbons

Originally published in Nine.

This story begins, as all of my creations do, in shadows.

No story is without its particular emphases and elisions, just as no woman goes about without her makeup.  Many women on our home island of Uchinaa (they call it _Okinawa_ here in Japan), and on the other islands that make up our Kingdom of Ruuchuu, copy the rumors of fashion in Nanjing and Beijing, in Kagoshima and Edo, and smother their faces with smooth creams and bright rouge, sweet-smelling powders and red lip wax.

But they do not understand the true secret of the art of enhancing a woman’s beauty, which now I will teach you.

A face is not a flat piece of paper.  Like the surface of our island, it has heights and depths, peaks and valleys.  That means shadows.


Rated PG. Includes war, and violence.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
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Unblinking
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« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2014, 10:08:03 AM »

This story didn't really catch my interest.  Maybe I would've been interested if it had been a visual medium so I could see her shadow sculptures, but described in text they didn't seem wondrous or magical or exciting in any way. 

A lot of the story in the second half, was in a very dull summary mode "This happened.  Then this happened.  Then that happened." and so on.  I wasn't really immersed at that point anyway, but that served to add distance.

I thought the reversal was reasonably good where her childhood friend embraced his homeland again because his superiors did not show Confucian ideals.  That opportunity for him to change was only provided because our protagonist's big moment had gone so wrong, so that was a neat way to switch things around.  But I didn't really get into the rest of it.
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ChairmanDances
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« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2014, 09:17:02 PM »

This came across as historical fiction with some fantasy elements tacked on and not really necessary for the story.  The plot was driven by politics - a small polity caught between two powers and the decisions made by its citizens.  The intervention of the spirits as the spark that set off the conflict was secondary - it could just as well have been the servants accidentally turning the sculpture that led to the insult.  Otherwise, I think that the story itself would be better suited to a longer format.  The development of the characters and their changing loyalties was too compressed in a short story format to really resonate.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2014, 04:26:26 PM »

Wow, where is everyone? I enjoyed this story, though I can definitely see where Unblinking and ChairmanDances are coming from. Personally, the pacing didn't bother me, possibly because I got caught up in the story very quickly. I was invested enough that I really felt her hurt when her childhood playdate came back changed, and I also felt nervous and indignant when the sprites decided they would "help" by playing a joke.

One element that I really liked was how each daughter retained the core gift of her maternal line, but its expression and outflow changed with each generation.
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Moritz
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« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2014, 07:31:42 AM »

Haha, I accidentally listened to this one again today and went like "what, another Okinawa based story in such a short timespan". In any case, it is in fact the second story within a few months with that location, which I find fascinating, because I know little about East Asian cultures. E.g. I wasn't aware that Okinawa was so different to "mainland" Japan, so thanks for that Podcastle.
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Spindaddy
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« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2014, 08:14:47 PM »

This one was interesting, but only because I too have no real knowledge of Japanese history. I was also hoping for some sort of Shadow-mancing death stuff where it ripped off womens faces, but alas, it was a love story.
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Varda
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« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2014, 08:28:21 PM »

I agree that the pacing was a bit slow, and that toward the end the story felt like it got bogged down in the local politics, which I didn't enjoy quite as much as the central love story. But I really dug the central love story--both the "friendship" phase showing how as children they grew into their love, and the adult reunion phase, particularly in how active the main character was in engineering a way to catch her lover's attention when he'd gotten caught up in other places and people.

I probably identified with it because it reminded me a bit of how I fell in love with my own husband. We were best friends for quite a while, with no attraction on either side. Then one day, he was telling me about a crush he had, and I felt ragingly jealous! I asked myself, "Wait, why are you jealous?!" And that's when I realized I'd developed a thing for him. A thing that's lasted for 10 years now. Smiley
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« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2014, 09:13:22 AM »

I agree that the pacing was a bit slow, and that toward the end the story felt like it got bogged down in the local politics, which I didn't enjoy quite as much as the central love story. But I really dug the central love story--both the "friendship" phase showing how as children they grew into their love, and the adult reunion phase, particularly in how active the main character was in engineering a way to catch her lover's attention when he'd gotten caught up in other places and people.

I probably identified with it because it reminded me a bit of how I fell in love with my own husband. We were best friends for quite a while, with no attraction on either side. Then one day, he was telling me about a crush he had, and I felt ragingly jealous! I asked myself, "Wait, why are you jealous?!" And that's when I realized I'd developed a thing for him. A thing that's lasted for 10 years now. Smiley

Congratulations on 10 years!  My wife and I will have been married for 10 years come June.
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Varda
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« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2014, 10:23:04 AM »


Congratulations on 10 years!  My wife and I will have been married for 10 years come June.

That's 10 years from the time we started dating - we've only been married for 6. Smiley Huge congratulations to you and your wife, though - that's a huge achievement! Cheesy
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2014, 10:25:25 AM »


Congratulations on 10 years!  My wife and I will have been married for 10 years come June.

That's 10 years from the time we started dating - we've only been married for 6. Smiley Huge congratulations to you and your wife, though - that's a huge achievement! Cheesy

We will have been together for 14 years come October.  Smiley
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kibitzer
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« Reply #10 on: April 03, 2014, 04:39:16 PM »

Well I loved this story, just loved it. I enjoyed the pacing, the characters, the storytelling -- everything, really! It had a poetic quality that I find deeply attractive.

The shadowcrafting was clever. Is that actually a thing or was it made up for the story? The nearest thing I can think of is shadow puppets but this is clearly superior. And I loved how it turned out that it was another aspect of her mother's spirit-talking ability (wish I could remember the right word -- it was also in Maxwell's Demon).

I don't quite get how this story can be described as "dull" but different strokes, as they say. No no no, not Gary Coleman!
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