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Author Topic: EP436: Into the Breach  (Read 1585 times)
eytanz
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« on: February 22, 2014, 02:22:03 PM »

EP436: Into the Breach

by Malon Edwards

read by Mandaly Louis-Charles

This story was first published in Expanded Horizons, Issue 40, July 2013
--
I’m off my bunk and into my jodhpurs, knee-high leather boots and flight jacket the moment the long range air attack klaxons seep into my nightly dream about Caracara.

Muscle memory and Secret Service training kick in; I’m on auto-pilot (no pun intended) and a good ways down the hall buttoning up both sides of my leather jacket to the shoulder a full thirty seconds before I’m awake.

And just so you know, the ever so slight tremble in my hands and fingers is not fear. It’s adrenaline. I’m cranked and ready to put my foot all up in it.

A door to the right opens and Pierre-Alexandre falls in on my right flank, his steps brisk like mine. Our boots echo down the long hallway as we make our way from the underground bunker at Soldier Field to the bunker at Meigs Field.

What you think we got? he asks.

My reptile mind—that wonderful, hedonistic thing of mine—notices how lovely his make-me-jump-up-and-dance-like-I-just-caught-the-Holy-Ghost-in-church dark skin looks in the red emergency scramble lighting.

And yeah, I know. I’m going to hell for that.

A door to my left opens and René-Bastien, better known as Pretty Boy, falls in on my left flank and matches our stride.

My guess is fifteen bogeys coming in hard and fast from the south, he says.

His flight jacket is only half buttoned and he’s not wearing his T.I. issued white tee-shirt (that’s Tuskegee Institute for those that don’t know). I flicker a glance at his beautiful, honey-hued, well-muscled chest and frown.

I bet he just left some police academy recruit in his bunk. Good-N-Plenty is going to smack him upside his head for entertaining unauthorized personnel after lights out. Lax discipline gets people killed. We’ve had enough of that, lately.

It don’t matter what we got, I tell them, throwing open the double doors leading to the enormous underground hangar at Meigs Field, as long as we finish what they start.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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slic
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« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2014, 05:00:14 PM »

I enjoyed the story - I like my alternate Earths really alternate and a city state in Illinois that has English and Kreole as its official languages - fantastic!  Primitive Iron Man-like suits was also funky.
I did find the flashbacks the most interesting part of the story, but they weren't really the story, just window dressing

I'm not sure of the death of the protagonist was a sacrifice or just bad luck.  Either way it seems not worth much, at best a small reprieve.  From the sounds of things, the city-state of Chicago is pretty much done for at this point.  They "won" the battle, but all they have left are 2 (junior-ish?) pilots.  Either way, I think rather than ending the story, the author stopped right before the most interesting part.  While sad, it isn't rare that someone who is loved dies and people have trouble dealing with it - whether you are a battle suit pilot or office worker.

I can appreciate the editor's outro, and how letting people suffering with real emotional pain know that there is hope.  But how about stories that talking about not sacrificing oneself? How about taking the healed bone and learning to run again for the joy of life rather than so you can dive in front of a bullet meant for the President of New Earth?
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Asomatous
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« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2014, 11:10:41 PM »

What a rich and vivid alternative world the author created! I must admit that my poor recollection of French did not prepare me for its use in the story. That is not to say I did not value or delight in its usage. I did. At points, I felt a little out of step with understanding the basic mythology underpinning the story because of unfamiliarity with creole. Shame on me for being so provincial.

I tend to concur with sllc regarding the post story commentary on the nobility of the protagonist's sacrifice. It seems clear that the Chicagoans were vastly outnumbered and had little chance to overcome the attackers. I took the protagonist's actions to be more grief and guilt driven than going out on his own terms. The bond that twins share may have heightened the protagonist's loss.

An aspect of the mythology of the establishment of the Chicago city-state that I found interesting was the notion that Illinois would not deplete Chicago's hidden treasure if they were freely given. Despite the young warriors' belief that the greed of their enemies would not permit this, there seems to be an elder's wisdom saying that the treasures upon which the city-state stands could not be diminished if taken away. I found this disconnect between young militants and elder wisdom to ring true. For me, this is part of made the story come alive. The exoskeletal suits were also super cool!
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Dem
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« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2014, 08:47:17 AM »

I thought this was an extraordinary story, not just for the close writing and lack of melodrama but also because it did end where it did. The character's story actually ended there and, unless I'm over-interpreting, it reminds us that we will all end in the middle of an episode and not know what happens next. The whole thing was undoubtedly lifted by the quiet, subtle narration, of which more please.
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ChicagoBurdman
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« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2014, 04:35:49 PM »

I think it is fitting that this story is what brought me to finally comment on an EscapePod episode. Malon Edwards is now on my radar as a writer with a focus on Chicago. There are many residents of Chicago that often joke about secession from Illinois. I can get behind a story where Chicago is heavily influenced by Creole/Haitian culture via John Baptiste Point du Sable rather than the other cultures that eventually took root, mixed with bad ass exoskeletons. 
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matweller
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« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2014, 05:18:29 PM »

I think it is fitting that this story is what brought me to finally comment on an EscapePod episode. Malon Edwards is now on my radar as a writer with a focus on Chicago. There are many residents of Chicago that often joke about secession from Illinois. I can get behind a story where Chicago is heavily influenced by Creole/Haitian culture via John Baptiste Point du Sable rather than the other cultures that eventually took root, mixed with bad ass exoskeletons. 

Thanks for stopping by! I passed your comment on to Mr. Edwards.
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Melsana
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« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2014, 10:56:12 AM »

Well, I guess so far I'm in the minority.  I really couldn't tell you what this story was about.  I found it confusing.  I thought I had at least some idea as to what was going on, but then the comments at the end didn't seem like they matched the story I listened to at all so I really have no idea. 

I guess I could never find a hand-hold to give me a jump point for understanding/relating to what was going on.  This is what I got from it, so tell me where I went wrong....

It was about two sisters... one died, the other was the narrator.  They lived in Chicago but were fighting the nation of Illinois.  I think she flew in a mechanical suit or something, it didn't quite sound like a plane, but had arms and legs... like an iron man suit?  And that is about where it ends... never could figure out the reason why... something about Gold and Uranium buried under the city? 

Maybe it was a cultural thing... I just didn't have a frame of reference to grasp what was going on.
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Thunderscreech
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« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2014, 11:04:07 AM »

I think it was basically West Side Story with mecha except the dance-fighting was in robot suits built by luxury car manufacturers.  Also the Jets were from Haiti instead of Puerto Rico and instead of falling in love with one of the Sharks, the protagonist was in love with her own sense of nostalgia.  

Hope that helps!
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slic
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« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2014, 01:07:13 PM »

... it reminds us that we will all end in the middle of an episode and not know what happens next.
You make a very good point, and it is a useful dramatic device.  But from my pov as the listener, I wasn't invested enough in the main character for that to be a "good" ending - too many loose ends.
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Dem
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« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2014, 01:22:22 PM »

... it reminds us that we will all end in the middle of an episode and not know what happens next.
You make a very good point, and it is a useful dramatic device.  But from my pov as the listener, I wasn't invested enough in the main character for that to be a "good" ending - too many loose ends.

Yep, that seems to be most people's view. I find the ends to be loose in a meaningful way so it makes me a happy listener Smiley
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DKT
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« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2014, 01:32:33 PM »

Yessssssssssssssssssss!!!!

So happy to hear this story at EP. A very well written tale by Malon Edwards, but particular kudos to Mat and Norm for finding Mandaly Louis-Charles to read it. Fantastic narration to match this story, and I look forward to hearing more from her.
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davidthygod
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« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2014, 02:37:53 PM »

First, the narration.  The narrator has an absolutely unbelievably beautiful voice, but I am not sure if it fit this story for me.  First, that incredible voice should never be asked to say shit-shells that many times.  Second, I really wanted to hear some of the harshness at times in the story, I wanted a little more edge in the arguments and the subtlety in the narration I think underplayed some of the angst and conflict.

Second, the story was good.  It did a good job of conveying the sense of loss and sacrifice, and I really like the setting and the post-apocalyptic Chicago descriptions.  I do agree with some of the comments about not having time to feel a significant bond with the protagonist for that ending to resonate but on the whole I liked the story and am interested in hearing more from this author.

Unnecessary Addendum - why did the Robot intro call me a "smart face" in the pre-story sales pitch.  Are we that afraid of offending.  The story has a non-stop barrage of shitbombs (literally).  Just say smartass, its ok, noone will care.  Now I will go join your MySpace page. 
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matweller
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« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2014, 10:07:44 PM »

Yessssssssssssssssssss!!!!

So happy to hear this story at EP. A very well written tale by Malon Edwards, but particular kudos to Mat and Norm for finding Mandaly Louis-Charles to read it. Fantastic narration to match this story, and I look forward to hearing more from her.
She was a hookup from the author, but I very much plan to beg her to read again the next time the opportunity arises.

Unnecessary Addendum - why did the Robot intro call me a "smart face" in the pre-story sales pitch.  Are we that afraid of offending.  The story has a non-stop barrage of shitbombs (literally).  Just say smartass, its ok, noone will care.  Now I will go join your MySpace page. 
Trust me, when I don't curse, it has nothing to do with fear of doing so. Wink
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Devoted135
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« Reply #13 on: February 26, 2014, 12:12:14 AM »

Whoa, I totally grew up about 15 minutes north of Park Forest, the suburb where the battle was taking place! Which I guess means that depending on where the border was I would be in Illinois rather than the seceded Chicago, which is weird, because my home town (Flossmoor) is definitely in Cook County... Hmm...

Wow, that was a beautiful narration! I love her accent, love her French, love it all! I had to concentrate really hard to follow this story, and I'm sure that there was much that I missed. However, I really enjoyed it and think that was a really interesting concept. It's definitely worth a second listen. Also, I can second what ChicagoBurdman said about people joking that Chicago should just secede from Illinois. It's hilarious and awesome that Malon Edwards has made a thing of alternate history revolving around Chicago. Tongue
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albionmoonlight
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« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2014, 10:46:25 AM »

"I hate Illinois Nazis"
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noeyesmcgee
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« Reply #15 on: February 26, 2014, 05:31:11 PM »

I think I am in the minority.  I have been a regular listener to escape pod for a few years now but this was not the best story.  The core of the story was good.  I liked the retelling the author made of her family but it was hard to follow.  the Creole  (french) accent along with the slang that seemed forced melded into the mech and weapons that just didn't make sense.  the idea that a nuclear winter (preceded from a nuclear war) wouldn't have completely obliterated Chicago while the Illinois national guard  had become the enemy and through all of this someone could find the ability to import European planes and advanced weapons that were equipped with M2 browning .50 cal. guns (which haven't been used on planes since the Korean war) was kind of silly.  I thought the core of the story had something to offer but I missed most of it trying to make sense of the science and tech.  This story would have been much better without all of the tech and the odd effort to explain a large alternate word in a short story.  Not the best choice of stories for me.  I wouldn't mind seeing more from this author I just don't think this one worked for me.  I also found it interesting that all of the characters were different candies.  I wonder if the author went to the grocery store and wrote the names down.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2014, 09:53:43 PM by noeyesmcgee » Logged
mb
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« Reply #16 on: February 27, 2014, 01:22:20 PM »

I did really struggle with this one, for two reasons:
first the narrator. although I agree that her voice is quite beautiful, I just felt that she was the most amateurish narrator I have listened to in ages. Now to be honest, maybe that is due to her accent, but be it what it is: I struggled with this. Not only did I feel that the style of narration did not fit the story (for moments I felt like I was listenting to some phone sex girl reading technical specificaion), it also felt to me as if the narrator was struggling with the story, as if she was stumbling over sentences, context or words.... Not sure, what it was...

Regarding the story itself, I didn't know where this was going, or what it was about. I saw the various themes, but they just didn't feel connected well enough... But maybe this was to do with the style of narration. Until I have read it, which I plan to do, the jury is out on this one.

Sorry
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danthelawyer
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« Reply #17 on: February 28, 2014, 01:54:22 AM »

I am so happy to be in the majority on this one, especially after the "Inappropriate Behavior" fiasco. I quite enjoyed this story, and enjoy it more the more I think about it. I didn't quite get how Chicago seceded from Illinois (and was majority Haitian-American?), but the backstory didn't really need to make sense to me because I felt secure that it made sense to the author. I think it was Hemingway who said that story you read should be like the 1/8 of an iceberg that sits above the water line, and Edwards seems to have accepted that theory -- though perhaps modifying it so maybe only half was unseen.

So many unexplained peculiarities that in the hands of another writer would have annoyed me, here just heightened my enjoyment of the strangeness: why are the mecha-suits all German? No Lockheed Martin, Boeing, SpaceX? Why have antiquated guns? Why is only Illinois, and not the rest of the U.S., fighting Chicago? What's this about buried treasure beneath Chicago? Who cares?

Please, more from the Edwards alt-universe!

(For reference, here's the Hemingway thing, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iceberg_Theory:

If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing.
—Ernest Hemingway in Death in the Afternoon)
« Last Edit: February 28, 2014, 01:57:58 AM by danthelawyer » Logged
Windup
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« Reply #18 on: February 28, 2014, 11:14:20 PM »

Although the narrator's voice was mesmerizing, this one just didn't work for me.

I know enough about air combat to know that when faced with a high-speed life-or-death struggle, most crew members find that training takes over, sense of time distorts, emotions disappear and concentration focuses on the very small number of things that keep you alive. So for me, any story that has people contemplating profound emotions and meaningful memories in the middle of an air battle starts with a very deep plausibility deficit, and this one never overcame it.

Similar problems with the flying power armor.  It's such a ridiculous idea from an engineering standpoint that it has to stay airborne on pure handwavium and Rule of Cool.  Unfortunately, providing details like the number of rounds carried just strains the illusion, leaving me thinking "OK, now where do they fit?"  And the maneuver at the end was just absurd. 

So anyway, blown out of the story by those problems, I never really connected with the characters or emotional themes, and pretty much landed with a thud.  Better luck next week... 
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tpi
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« Reply #19 on: March 05, 2014, 03:55:26 AM »

First, the narration.  The narrator has an absolutely unbelievably beautiful voice

Yeah, the voice was beautiful, but as a nonnative English speaker I wasn't able to understand what she was saying.
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