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Author Topic: PC303: The Wrong Foot  (Read 3306 times)
Talia
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« on: March 21, 2014, 07:10:16 PM »

PodCastle 303: The Wrong Foot

by Stephanie Burgis

Read by Renee Chambliss

Originally published in Daily Science Fiction. Read it here!

“You must know,” I began, “I’m not the girl you’re looking for.”
“Mm-hmm,” the prince murmured absently. “Very honored, yes, I understand, they all are. You needn’t tell me.”
“I didn’t,” I muttered.
The other man bit back a grin.
“Shhh!” Mama hissed. “Your Highness, may I offer you and your friend any–oh! Oh!” she squealed, raising both hands to her mouth. Her eyes misted over with tears of delight. “Oh, Sophia, it fits! It really fits!”
I stared. I blinked and stared again. But she was right. The glass molded to my foot as neatly–and as chillingly, for glass is a cold material–as if it had been made for me.
I regarded it as I would a poisonous plant that had thrown its tendrils through my bedroom window. The prince looked equally shocked, but more surprised than horrified. He stared at my foot. He wiggled the shoe. Nothing he did made any difference. The fit was absolutely perfect.


Rated PG.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: April 10, 2014, 07:39:26 AM by Talia » Logged
slic
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« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2014, 10:54:12 AM »

Wow!  I may gush a bit, but this episode was a spectacular bicycle kick goal from halfway: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weViOPghw1w
You know it's done on purpose, you know it's been tried and missed by many other talented people, and still all the parts come together perfectly and it's stunning!
I've really grown tired of the "story from a different angle" type whether it is "normal people" superheroes or fairy tales in real life or whatever.  But as I've heard/seen before, if a tired trope is handled right, it shines twice as bright.

The narration was excellent - subtly different voices for the characters, and, to me anyway, voices that suited the personality.  I really hope she can read again for Escapepod and/or Podcastle!

The story really, really worked for me.  This could have been a miserable, sad story, but the author chose a positive, powerful vibe.  And none of the characters motivations were weak or overboard.  I loved the Mother's "typical airy disregard for the facts", and feeling that she was doing what was best for her daughter.  I loved that the Queen was grabbing at the opportunity to get her son to marry (it wasn't said, but I felt her thinking was that it was for the good of the kingdom (or at least the monarchy).  I was worried about some awkward Prince and the Pauper type switch when Eliza turned out to be the real "Cinderella", but I loved it when she said - uh no thanks... as you can see much love for the story Smiley  I could go on, that there was no magic was great, the reference to the Fairy Godmother was geeky good, and so on, but I'll stop.

I did feel bad for the Marquis' daughter since I didn't think she really knew what she was getting herself into, but maybe the Prince will turn out to be a great husband.

I even liked the "The End" to finish the story Cheesy
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Just Jeff
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« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2014, 05:19:29 PM »

I'll second pretty much everything slic said, except I don't feel bad for the Marquis' daughter. I think it likely she'll be happy. She's gonna be a princess! How could having a bad husband dampen that?

I liked the protag early on, but my opinion of her got a significant boost because she didn't try to pin the marriage on Eliza.
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Moritz
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« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2014, 11:22:29 AM »

And here's someone who really didn't like the story. But let's re-start with something positive: I really liked the intro and the discussion of princesses and their roles.

I generally enjoy retellings of fairy tales, even weird postmodern ones. This retelling was problematic for me for two reasons. First of all, with all the real world references (Florence, reading Cicero) it didn't feel like a fairy tale that is out of space and out of time. Secondly, protagonist's description of her feelings and the general setting felt to modern for me. Now, don't understand me wrong, I am perfectly fine with a possible princess rejecting princesshood (is that even a word) for all the right reasons. It's just that the way it was brought across in the story felt to self-aware, as if it's a 21st century nerd put into a setting with princesses. It didn't really help that the reader, who was in general fine, sounded a lot like a 21st century American nerd and not like a fairy tale character (if that makes sense). Again, I am perfectly happy with the morality of the story, I just didn't appreciate the way it was told.
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Procyon
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« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2014, 08:00:02 AM »

I enjoyed listening to this -- in particular the voices from the narrator were great and made me smile. But the story itself sort of boils down to "what if, instead of nothing, Cinderella had a modest inheritance?"
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Scott R
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« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2014, 08:44:39 AM »

I enjoyed it. It runs a little cliche along the modern lines of bookish femme vs  ignorant brute, but like Dave said in the intro: charming.
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Scott R
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« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2014, 08:51:51 AM »

Also, the sub-story of Eliza is brilliantly done.

Chambliss' natration is quite good throughout, but is particularly powerful in the execution of the minor younger female characters. Eliza and the marquis' daughter were fantastically voiced.
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ChairmanDances
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« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2014, 09:53:04 PM »

The story didn't really do much for me.  Since the glass slippers had a mundane origin and weren't Fairy Godmother provided, there really wasn't any fantasy element at all, so a bit of a let down

I liked the range of voices in the narration but I noticed that the narrator would draw out the last word of sentences ("..missed very litttttle.",  "...well padded bosommmmm.") and after a few minutes it was hard to ignore.
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« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2014, 07:24:04 AM »

I found the story charming and amusing, if a bit over-reliant on "bosom" references.

However, I kept getting drawn to issues with the writing -- first of all, SO MANY ADVERBS (especially modifiers ending in -ly). Secondly, the word "gaze" felt overused, especially in the 2nd and 3rd act.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #9 on: March 26, 2014, 03:39:36 PM »

I really enjoyed this story! It was so amusingly aware of itself, which is usually so hard to pull off successfully. And of course the narration was great!

I debated with myself throughout the story whether I wanted Sophia to end up with the secretary or not. On the one hand, she is awesome and independent and it's refreshing that she doesn't need a man! On the other hand, how perfect are they for each other?! I think I would have been happy either way, but given the ending, I'm very glad that it was she who made the first move. Smiley
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Archer
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« Reply #10 on: March 26, 2014, 06:07:52 PM »

Stories like this are why I won't read romance. The heroine was perfectly fine.  Then she met The One True Man(tm) and suddenly her life wasn't fine anymore!  She needed The One True Man(tm) to be happy.

Gah. Do. Not. Like.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #11 on: March 26, 2014, 06:57:59 PM »

Stories like this are why I won't read romance. The heroine was perfectly fine.  Then she met The One True Man(tm) and suddenly her life wasn't fine anymore!  She needed The One True Man(tm) to be happy.

Gah. Do. Not. Like.

I can relate to where you're coming from re: romance novels, but I didn't read it that she wasn't fine anymore. Actually, I thought she would have been perfectly fine going to Florence by herself as planned. But, she decided that she liked him enough to invite him along. It's totally fair if that's not enough of a distinction for your tastes, but I was happy with the ending (given that she invited him, not the other way around).
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« Reply #12 on: March 27, 2014, 10:16:54 AM »

Stories like this are why I won't read romance. The heroine was perfectly fine.  Then she met The One True Man(tm) and suddenly her life wasn't fine anymore!  She needed The One True Man(tm) to be happy.

I did have some issues with that aspect as well.
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slic
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« Reply #13 on: March 27, 2014, 02:09:08 PM »

Stories like this are why I won't read romance. The heroine was perfectly fine.  Then she met The One True Man(tm) and suddenly her life wasn't fine anymore!  She needed The One True Man(tm) to be happy.
I did have some issues with that aspect as well.
I have the same take as Devoted135 - nowhere did the story indicate that her goals had changed or that she felt "incomplete" without him.
You can be a strong heroine and still be in love.  In fact, I think that is an area in storytelling that gets bad press.  It seems people will say "she's not a strong, decisive woman because she loves a man."
For me, one of the most memorable bits of Firefly was when Zoey is told to choose between Mal and Wash(both being tortured), and she chooses to free Wash (her husband) with absolutely no hesitation.

I didn't mention this before, but the story only has 2 male characters - the Prince who was a Boob (pun intended), and the Secretary, who was decidedly passive.  I don't recall a King even being mentioned.
I still love this story (listened to it again), "...there might even be some husbands who would encourage or share their wives' scholarly interests..." doesn't sound like she needed him to be happy, but rather knew her happiness would be more with him there.

I liked the range of voices in the narration but I noticed that the narrator would draw out the last word of sentences ("..missed very litttttle.",  "...well padded bosommmmm.") and after a few minutes it was hard to ignore.
Dammit, I didn't notice it at first, but I can hear what you mean.  Still a great reading.
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« Reply #14 on: April 02, 2014, 09:07:31 AM »

I thought the story was hilarious, one of the best I've heard recently, certainly one of the funniest.  I like in particular how the prince's lack of face recognition is explained--he wasn't looking at her face, which fed into much of the motivation of the story because she would not want a man who sees her as a pair of breasts that happen to have some other parts attached.  I loved how the real Cinderella character is also not interested.  The title is particularly clever, as it is both perfectly evocative of the subversion of the Cinderella trope, and also plays on the pun of "getting off on the wrong foot".  Beautifully done. Renee did a great reading as well.

I found the story charming and amusing, if a bit over-reliant on "bosom" references.

However, I kept getting drawn to issues with the writing -- first of all, SO MANY ADVERBS (especially modifiers ending in -ly). Secondly, the word "gaze" felt overused, especially in the 2nd and 3rd act.

There were a lot of bosom references, but I thought they fit well with the justification for why the prince didn't know her face, and the reasons why the prince was a turd of a romantic match.  He's basically a lusty 14 year old with a shload of money and enough power that no one can tell him to stop staring at boobs.

I enjoyed listening to this -- in particular the voices from the narrator were great and made me smile. But the story itself sort of boils down to "what if, instead of nothing, Cinderella had a modest inheritance?"

I think that's an oversimplification.  For starters, Cinderella herself was in the story as the cobbler's daughter, it's just that another woman with the same shoe size got tried first.  The Cinderella character wasn't interested in the marriage either.  Also, there were other things that were explored that I thought were worthwhile, such as how the hell did the prince decide that the shoe was the best way to find a woman who he'd supposedly fallen in love with?  It's not like they were at a masquerade party.  

Personally, I think the story succeeded at being funny while making me think about some of the dumber fairy tale tropes.  

Stories like this are why I won't read romance. The heroine was perfectly fine.  Then she met The One True Man(tm) and suddenly her life wasn't fine anymore!  She needed The One True Man(tm) to be happy.

Gah. Do. Not. Like.

That was the one part that bothered me some.  It's not that there's anything wrong with wanting a heroine to have a romantic interest in the end, and for certain she traded up in the exchange given what she values.  I don't have anything against an intelligent and capable woman also having a romance, also desiring romance.  But since the story in general takes great pains to overturn the typical fairy tale romance tale it seemed to me that getting together with him at the end of this particular story kind of overturned some of the theme that had been laid out so well before that.


The story didn't really do much for me.  Since the glass slippers had a mundane origin and weren't Fairy Godmother provided, there really wasn't any fantasy element at all, so a bit of a let down

Wait, wait, I thought there was still a fairy godmother but she was offscreen.  Else how would the cobbler's daughter have gotten the fancy dress and got her done up and her makeup done and all that?  Getting a woman prepped for a fancy ball in that day and age is a job that couldn't be handled only by the woman herself, just fastening her dress requires hands that could reach places hers couldn't.  

I'll second pretty much everything slic said, except I don't feel bad for the Marquis' daughter. I think it likely she'll be happy. She's gonna be a princess! How could having a bad husband dampen that?

I did worry about the fate of the marquis' daughter.  I think she's more well suited for it than our protagonist, for certain, but I'd worry that he'd beat her when he was in a temper, or for his own sexual desires--his reference to being rough in bed after the first time made me think that, and if he sees fit to give such a warning I think it means that he'd be really really rough and I don't think he'd stop if she said she didn't like it.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2014, 09:09:24 AM by Unblinking » Logged
Varda
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« Reply #15 on: April 02, 2014, 12:03:56 PM »

Overall, I really enjoyed this story, although I think my reaction to it was a bit different from what some of my fellow commenters experienced. For one, I had a tough time finding it humorous, although this wasn't a bad thing. It was just because the story did such a good job getting across the constant violation of this woman's personal space that I was pretty much cringing nonstop every time someone groped or poked or otherwise took away her bodily autonomy. It was a deeply uncomfortable portrayal, and extremely well done.

Given that, I'm going to side with the people who were concerned about the Marquis's daughter at the end. Sure, she's probably more cut out for the princess schtick in general, but by this point in the story, it's clear that the prince is more than just an ass--he's a sadist and a misogynist who has made reference to his desire to sexually abuse his future wife. Did you catch the part when he said he'd try to be gentle--the first time? Huuuuuuge red flag for domestic violence, especially once you factor in the power differential. No woman deserves to go into that situation unwarned, and I have to say that while I was glad the heroine got away, I was deeply disappointed she did so at the cost of sending another human being into that situation with no time to learn the truth and make an informed decision about her ability to cope with the ramifications. Unfortunately, this is also one of the reasons that there's such a big ongoing problem with domestic violence nowadays: the happily ever after exterior and the "not my problem" attitude that we naturally take when we briefly glimpse the dark side of men like this tends to enable abusers to keep on with their abuse for years and years.

Yeah, that's kinda a downer, but story-wise it was a small blip in an otherwise fantastic story, and overall I give this one a thumbs-up. :-)
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #16 on: April 02, 2014, 12:54:43 PM »

otherwise took away her bodily autonomy.

...This might not be an appropriate time for wordplay, but the phrase "anatomy autonomy" is now stuck in my brain.
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ChairmanDances
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« Reply #17 on: April 02, 2014, 09:48:06 PM »


The story didn't really do much for me.  Since the glass slippers had a mundane origin and weren't Fairy Godmother provided, there really wasn't any fantasy element at all, so a bit of a let down

Wait, wait, I thought there was still a fairy godmother but she was offscreen.  Else how would the cobbler's daughter have gotten the fancy dress and got her done up and her makeup done and all that?  Getting a woman prepped for a fancy ball in that day and age is a job that couldn't be handled only by the woman herself, just fastening her dress requires hands that could reach places hers couldn't.  


Nope - no magic, no fairy godmother.  When she brings the second pair of glass slippers to Sophia, Eliza admits to being the "genius" cobbler who created them after Sophia initially credits her father.  Eliza may be a Cinderella stand-in, but she's clearly not impoverished or downtrodden.  Her father is a cobbler and she works in the castle.  When we first see her she's working on Sophia's dress, so it's wouldn't be a stretch for her to make one for herself.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #18 on: April 03, 2014, 09:12:05 AM »


The story didn't really do much for me.  Since the glass slippers had a mundane origin and weren't Fairy Godmother provided, there really wasn't any fantasy element at all, so a bit of a let down

Wait, wait, I thought there was still a fairy godmother but she was offscreen.  Else how would the cobbler's daughter have gotten the fancy dress and got her done up and her makeup done and all that?  Getting a woman prepped for a fancy ball in that day and age is a job that couldn't be handled only by the woman herself, just fastening her dress requires hands that could reach places hers couldn't.  


Nope - no magic, no fairy godmother.  When she brings the second pair of glass slippers to Sophia, Eliza admits to being the "genius" cobbler who created them after Sophia initially credits her father.  Eliza may be a Cinderella stand-in, but she's clearly not impoverished or downtrodden.  Her father is a cobbler and she works in the castle.  When we first see her she's working on Sophia's dress, so it's wouldn't be a stretch for her to make one for herself.

Hmmm...  Well I missed that.  I liked it better with the fairy godmother existing but offscreen.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #19 on: April 04, 2014, 11:22:03 PM »

Overall, I really enjoyed this story, although I think my reaction to it was a bit different from what some of my fellow commenters experienced. For one, I had a tough time finding it humorous, although this wasn't a bad thing. It was just because the story did such a good job getting across the constant violation of this woman's personal space that I was pretty much cringing nonstop every time someone groped or poked or otherwise took away her bodily autonomy. It was a deeply uncomfortable portrayal, and extremely well done.

To clarify, I didn't think that the crap experience of having to try to avoid a situation where all your intellectual and anatomical rights are forfeit was what I found humorous.  Rather, the juxtaposition of all the fairy tale elements that a lifetime of Disney cartoons has taught me are what girls should desire, against the harsher realities that were more realistically a part of the time with forced marriages and lack of women's rights.  A dark humor, to be sure. 
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