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Author Topic: PC304: Titanic!  (Read 3301 times)
Talia
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« on: March 28, 2014, 07:34:22 AM »

PodCastle 304: Titanic!

by Lavie Tidhar

Read by Ian Stuart

Originally published in Apex, 2013. Read it here!

10 April 1912

When I come on board the ship I pay little heed to her splendour; nor to the gaily–strewn lines of coloured electric lights, nor to the polished brass of the crew’s jacket uniforms, nor to the crowds at the dock in Southampton, waving handkerchiefs and pushing and shoving for a better look; nor to my fellow passengers. I keep my eyes open only for signs of pursuit; specifically, for signs of the Law.

The ship is named the Titanic. I purchased a second–class ticket in London the day before and travelled down to Southampton by train. I had packed hurriedly. I do not know how far behind me the officers are. I know only that they will come. He made sure of that, in his last excursion. The corpses he left were a mockery, body parts ripped, exposed ribcages and lungs stretched like Indian rubber, he had turned murder into a sculpture, a form of grotesque art. The Japanese would call such a thing as he a yōkai, a monster, otherworldly and weird. Or perhaps a kaiju. I admire the Japanese for their mastery of the science of monstrosity, of what in our Latin would be called the lusus naturae. I have corresponded with a Dr Yamane, of Tokyo, for some time, but had of course destroyed all correspondence when I escaped from London.

And yet I cannot leave him behind. I had packed hurriedly. A simple change of clothes. I had not dressed like a gentleman. But I carry, along with my portmanteau, also my doctor’s black medical bag; it defines me more than I could ever define myself otherwise; it is as much a part of me as my toes, or my navel, or my eyes; and inside the bag I carry him, all that is left of him: one bottle, that is all, and the rest were all smashed up to shards back in London, back in the house where the bodies are.


Rated R. Contains violence.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: April 17, 2014, 03:30:04 PM by Talia » Logged
slic
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« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2014, 04:00:40 PM »

An excellent reading!  I had started reading the story in on home page (I use my rather old PlayBook to listen to the stories while doing chores, and download the episode via the browser so I can guess what I'm getting myself in for), and felt a little disappointed - the prose didn't work for me.  But then I heard Mr. Stuart (Ian not Alsidair - and isn't that a bit cool with the father/son combo for Escape Pod and Podcastle?)  take those same words, and make them work really well.  I agree with our host that I want to head overseas just to hear this gentleman tell me all about Ghosts of York.

The story itself was pretty good, I enjoyed hearing the protagonist's viewpoint, and the story did a great job of keeping the tension on about what might happen.  We all know the ship is doomed, so now the question is how does the main character deal with it.  I was tickled with the Japanese reference and the possibility of hearing more about a Japanese understanding of the dualism or at least of the monster.  But then he burnt all the correspondence, so little hope of that.  I had suspected that it was Dr. Jekyll we were listening to, or at least a very similar Jekyll/Hyde type, so I was glad the reveal came before the end. 

And then it got exasperating - I really felt the reference to Jack the Ripper was unneeded, and actually hurt the story.  Aren't Jekyll and Hyde enough on their own?  Perhaps Dr. Jekyll got the idea for the potion studying werewolves?  Or maybe his uncle by marriage is Abraham Van Helsing?  It doesn't add to the story of how Jekyll will deal with the ship going down.
And then I got really irritated (not irradiated) when Godzilla took out the ship.  Maybe they should have had King Kong on a ship just behind them on the way to New York?

Does it make sense that the outro made me like the story less?  I had already been annoyed with the throwaway reference to Jack the Ripper and then Godzilla, but then Dave reminded me of all the other mashups I dislike - Abraham Vampire Hunter, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and so on.

I've already gone on enough - the prose evoked excellent imagery and the reading - outstanding!
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Scott R
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« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2014, 12:48:09 PM »

I enjoyed the reading quite a bit.

I was wary of the story. I'm not sure Jeckyll redeemed himself; that transition was a little too quick for me, given how much he's been looking forward to getting to America and letting Hyde escape.

So GRRM's quote at the end of the episode was apropos.
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l33tminion
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« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2014, 03:20:59 PM »

I really didn't like this story.  It seems to do a lot of work to set up its premise, and then doesn't deliver.  The most interesting thing about the story is that it has Dr. Jekyll and Godzilla facing off on the deck of the Titanic, but then the story ends pretty much immediately after that scene starts.  Also, Jekyll's change of heart at the end of the story seems sudden and anti-climatic.
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« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2014, 07:36:27 AM »

I don't usually like Lavie Tidhar stories and books, but I enjoyed this one. I figured out it was Jekyll/Hyde pretty quickly, but that didn't detract from my enjoyment of the story.

I really didn't like this story.  It seems to do a lot of work to set up its premise, and then doesn't deliver.  The most interesting thing about the story is that it has Dr. Jekyll and Godzilla facing off on the deck of the Titanic, but then the story ends pretty much immediately after that scene starts.  Also, Jekyll's change of heart at the end of the story seems sudden and anti-climatic.

I find these criticisms to be valid, but in counterpoint: Mr Hyde is pretty powerful, but Godzilla would crush him like a bug. Hell, I'm pretty sure Godzilla would win against The Incredible Hulk, too. Also, the change of heart -- what might have been interesting instead would be if Jekyll knew that too much of the serum would have killed him, so by giving the entire bottle (say it's 10 or 20 doses) to Godzilla, maybe that would've killed the monster. The people on the Titanic might still have died, but Jekyll would've gone out a hero.
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Unblinking
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« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2014, 08:25:31 AM »

This story had a lot going for it, and I was very interested to see where it was going, and then  dun dun DUNNNNNN the end.

Most disappointing to me was that Mr. Hyde never got let loose.  Maybe that's just me.  I've never read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, though I intend to sometime, though of course I'm familiar with them by spoofs and references in other culture.  Maybe if I'd read the original I'd be satisfied enough with that to be satisfied that Dr. Jekyll stayed himself to the end.

It also seemed that his change of heart at the end came out of nowhere.  He'd boarded this boat to evade police after Mr. Hyde committed murder, and he's been hiding the guy's crimes for decades.  He's going to a new world where he can let him loose.  He could make it there if he lets him loose now and... he doesn't.  Why?  Seemed like it was based on contemplating the nature of Godzilla but I didn't really see how that changed anything--Godzilla had not been shown here to have a dual nature, he's just a beastie as far as we can tell. 

So, not a hit for me.
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ChairmanDances
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« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2014, 09:59:26 PM »


It also seemed that his change of heart at the end came out of nowhere.  He'd boarded this boat to evade police after Mr. Hyde committed murder, and he's been hiding the guy's crimes for decades.  He's going to a new world where he can let him loose.  He could make it there if he lets him loose now and... he doesn't.  Why?  Seemed like it was based on contemplating the nature of Godzilla but I didn't really see how that changed anything--Godzilla had not been shown here to have a dual nature, he's just a beastie as far as we can tell. 

So, not a hit for me.

Agree.  I was enjoying it up to that point - it had the feel of a Kim Newman style mash-up taking place some time between Anno Dracula and The Bloody Red Barron and the narration was great.  Jekyll had obviously gone to some lengths to keep him (and Hyde) alive and seemed to be looking forward to the future and then suddenly...

Might have been interesting to see him take the potion and fight his way on to one of the lifeboats and see what happened from there.
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Moritz
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« Reply #7 on: April 03, 2014, 02:59:17 AM »

I generally don't mind mashups, but this one seemed to be a story just for the sake of having a big, funny mashup scene at the end. The whole build up didn't really help the story. Count me in as having ambiguous feelings about the outro. We don't need any more mashups just for their own sake, though I am fine with mixing genres if that gives us good stories.
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Moon_Goddess
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« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2014, 09:23:35 AM »

I enjoyed this...

Not really as a story so much just the "twist" feeling.

Boarding the titanic... "Oh, I know what's gonna happen"

Wait this guy is Dr. Jekel? "Oh, Ok, now I know what's gonna happen"

WTF Godzilla!   "Ok, wow I have no idea what's going to happen."

It was just fun, to be bounced around.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #9 on: April 13, 2014, 10:33:09 PM »

I was duly amused by all of the mashups and had an amused smile pretty much throughout the second half of the story. A nice, light story that the author was smart enough not to drag out so that it would wear out its welcome. Plus, the reading was of course fantastic.

Regarding the end: I have a theory that while Jekyll was perfectly willing to "cohabit" with Hyde (if you will), he wasn't really emotionally bonded to Hyde. In other words, when push came to shove, he preferred to die as himself and not as the monster. I haven't read the original though, so I'm not sure how this theory jives with that.
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Swamp
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« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2014, 06:53:07 PM »

I enjoyed this story.  It was light and fun and had a high coolness factor.  Not all fantasy stories need to be heavy and/or prosey (technical term).  I was kind of surprised it was from Lavie Tidhar.  Nothing against the author; it just seemed quite different in style.

Mashups, huh? Let's see - Historical Event: Mexican American War, Literary Figure: C. Auguste Dupin, Movie Sub-genre: Underground monster worms, ala Graboids from the movie Tremors (or the ones from Dune)
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Varda
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« Reply #11 on: April 23, 2014, 05:39:21 PM »

I just realized I'm extremely behind on my episode feedback, so how about a Feedback Blitz, yes? Smiley

Personally I really enjoyed this story for exactly the reasons Dave discussed in the host spot--mashups are fun! I didn't need anything particularly deep. I just needed Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde fighting Godzilla on board the Titanic. I have no regrets and no complaints. Would sail again.

Swamp, you've got the right idea! LET'S DO THIS!

Historical Event: the eruption of Mount Vesuvius / destruction of Pompeii
Literary Figure(s): Satan (Paradise Lost version) & Winnie the Pooh
Movie Sub-genre: buddy cop comedy (for the record, Winnie the Pooh is the wise, grizzled cop two days from retirement and Satan is the hotshot rookie replacing him)
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Devoted135
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« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2014, 01:46:38 PM »

Swamp, you've got the right idea! LET'S DO THIS!

Historical Event: the eruption of Mount Vesuvius / destruction of Pompeii
Literary Figure(s): Satan (Paradise Lost version) & Winnie the Pooh
Movie Sub-genre: buddy cop comedy (for the record, Winnie the Pooh is the wise, grizzled cop two days from retirement and Satan is the hotshot rookie replacing him)


LOL! I'm dying over here! Cheesy Cheesy

Historical Event: First European contact with Japan
Literary Figure(s): Asterix and Obelix (the French comic book characters)
Movie Sub-genre: Jumanji Tongue
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DKT
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« Reply #13 on: April 24, 2014, 02:05:26 PM »

Yeah, FWIW, the recent mash-up suggestions are more on the money for what I was hoping for than some of the other (more popular, but dare I suggest, less cherished) mash-ups. I haven't read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, or William Shakespeare's Star Wars. But my impression of them is that they are a pretty funny punchline, that get dragged on for hundreds of pages.

I can't remember exactly, but I think Ian's reading of Tidhar's story actually came in at 17 minutes or so.

Anyway, here's my newest contribution:

Historical Setting: A Salinas farm during the Great Depression
Literary Figures: George and Lenny (of Mice and Men), Bunnicula (Bunnicula)
Movie Sub-genre: Pineapple Express (Stoner Comedies)

I'm totally gonna write this one day...


Historical Event: the eruption of Mount Vesuvius / destruction of Pompeii
Literary Figure(s): Satan (Paradise Lost version) & Winnie the Pooh
Movie Sub-genre: buddy cop comedy (for the record, Winnie the Pooh is the wise, grizzled cop two days from retirement and Satan is the hotshot rookie replacing him)


*checks PC inbox*

*frowns*

Oh, right, submissions are currently closed. Well, see you in June!
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benjaminjb
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« Reply #14 on: April 24, 2014, 03:20:34 PM »

I love the game that Dave set up (and I too am late to both listening and commenting). But first, something that occurred to me when reading the comments here, particularly Unblinking's comment about being familiar with Jekyll/Hyde without reading the books, which helped explained (to me) why I cheered at the end when the Titanic gets attacked by a kaiju.

And that is: from our cultural/historical position, we know that Jekyll and Hyde are the same and we know how the Titanic ends up. But if you were one of the original readers of Jekyll and Hyde, you would probably have been completely surprised by the explanation that Jekyll and Hyde were the same person (which occurs... about halfway through or towards the end? I can't remember). It's like if Superman wasn't revealed as Clark Kent for issues and issues. Or it was like you got on a boat and didn't realize that the boat was going to sink--which is kind of the condition that we're in every day of our lives, not being able to see the historical arc around us. It's like that old joke about World War I--"How did they know there was going to be another when they named it?"

So, we know Jekyll and Hyde; we know Jack the Ripper; we know the Titanic--but when we reach the titanic kaiju, I'm thrust back into the position of being surprised by history.

Now, onto the game:

Historical Setting: French Revolution
Literary Figures: Tarzan
Movie Sub-genre: conspiracy thriller

OK, too much fun, one more:

Historical Setting: Haight-Ashbury Summer of Love
Literary Figures: The Beats
Movie Sub-genre: alien invasion

Ah, I have to go do work now, really:

Historical Setting: Roman Gaul
Literary Figures: Cthulhu
Movie Sub-genre: Sex farce
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Swamp
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« Reply #15 on: April 24, 2014, 10:11:40 PM »

I couldn't resist this one:

Historical Setting: McCarthy hearings
Literary Figures:  Atticus Finch and Hester Prynne
Movie Sub-genre: time travel love story

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Varda
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« Reply #16 on: April 24, 2014, 10:16:08 PM »

Anyway, here's my newest contribution:

Historical Setting: A Salinas farm during the Great Depression
Literary Figures: George and Lenny (of Mice and Men), Bunnicula (Bunnicula)
Movie Sub-genre: Pineapple Express (Stoner Comedies)

I'm totally gonna write this one day...
BUNNICULA?!! Yes. Yes, you should follow that impulse.



Historical Event: the eruption of Mount Vesuvius / destruction of Pompeii
Literary Figure(s): Satan (Paradise Lost version) & Winnie the Pooh
Movie Sub-genre: buddy cop comedy (for the record, Winnie the Pooh is the wise, grizzled cop two days from retirement and Satan is the hotshot rookie replacing him)


*checks PC inbox*

*frowns*

Oh, right, submissions are currently closed. Well, see you in June!

"But Officer Pooh...!" Satan danced from foot to foot on the edge of the molten slag oozing its way down the mountain. He hadn't escaped from Hell just to plunge into an inferno of another sort.

The Bear hitched his blue police shirt down over his fluff-stuffed belly, and fixed Satan with a stern eye. "I don't want to hear it, Rookie. That lava is a crime scene, and somewhere in it is our suspect. Now get in there. Now."

Without further adieu, the rookie dove in, and emerged a few minutes later, dripping with crystalizing rock and bearing the stiff, fossilized form of Pliny the Elder in his arms. "Sir, I'm afraid..."

"Oh, bother."
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benjaminjb
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« Reply #17 on: April 24, 2014, 10:19:23 PM »

"But Officer Pooh...!" Satan danced from foot to foot on the edge of the molten slag oozing its way down the mountain. He hadn't escaped from Hell just to plunge into an inferno of another sort.

The Bear hitched his blue police shirt down over his fluff-stuffed belly, and fixed Satan with a stern eye. "I don't want to hear it, Rookie. That lava is a crime scene, and somewhere in it is our suspect. Now get in there. Now."

Without further adieu, the rookie dove in, and emerged a few minutes later, dripping with crystalizing rock and bearing the stiff, fossilized form of Pliny the Elder in his arms. "Sir, I'm afraid..."

"Oh, bother."
Ha! I see Eeyore as the depressed police chief, with archangel Michael as the internal affairs tough guy.
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kitsune_chan
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« Reply #18 on: April 27, 2014, 09:15:13 AM »

This one was great fun, even if the time frames are a bit out.  Given that Hawley Crippen had been arrested on the steamship Montrose based on a telegraph tip-off roughly two years before the Titanic sailed, it is unlikely Jekyll would have felt that safe on the boat. I enjoyed it enough to suspend that disbelief.  I'm looking forward to hearing more from Tidhar.

On to the game.

Historical setting: Stalingrad 1942
Literary Figures: Blackadder and Baldrick
Subgenre: Spy thriller, possibly with a touch of Lovecraft.
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Fenrix
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« Reply #19 on: May 19, 2014, 05:14:51 PM »

Like Tidhar does, there's a lot of pathos under the sparkly stuff. There's some seriously good messages in there about civilization versus barbarism. There's also a very clever subversion of what we expect to see in a daikaiju story. We expect him to Hulk out and go out with a bang. Instead he makes a conscious decision to go with a whimper but a clear conscience.

Not that I didn't love the Daikaiju. Way better Titanic sinking story. And Ian Stuart delivered an amazing narration as always. All kinds of fun.

The one thing that disappointed me, was the missed opportunity. Shiva in Exile is nice and all, but you could have added another inception layer of subversion by playing Daikaiju as the closing music. That guitar riff played in my head anyway.



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