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Get your 500 word fantasy stories ready! We'll be open for submissions through the month of March, and starting the voting sometime in early April. Full details on Podcastle's website

Author Topic: PC309: Underbridge  (Read 6985 times)

Talia

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on: May 02, 2014, 01:06:57 PM
PodCastle 309: Underbridge

by Peter S. Beagle

Read by John Michnya

Originally published in Naked City: Tales of Urban Fantasy, edited by Ellen Datlow

The legendary rain of the Pacific Northwest was not an issue; if anything, he discovered that he enjoyed it. Having studied the data on Seattle climate carefully, once he knew he was going there, he understood that many areas of both coasts get notably more rain, in terms of inches, and endure distinctly colder winters. And the year-round greenness and lack of air pollution more than made up for the mildew, as far as Richardson was concerned. Damp or not, it beat Joplin. Or Hobbs, New Mexico. Or Enterprise, Alabama.

What the greenness did not make up for was the near-perpetual overcast. Seattle’s sky was dazzlingly, exaltingly, shockingly blue when it chose to be so; but there was a reason that the city consumed more than its share of vitamin D, and was the first marketplace for various full-spectrum lightbulbs. Seattle introduced Richardson to an entirely new understanding of the word overcast, sometimes going two months and more without seeing either clear skies or an honest raindrop. He had not been prepared for this.

Many things that shrink from sunlight gain power in fog and murk. Richardson began to find himself reluctant enough to leave the atmosphere of the UW campus that he often stayed on after work, attending lectures that bored him, going to showings of films he didn’t understand — even once dropping in on a faculty meeting, though this was not required of him. The main subject under discussion was the urgent need to replace a particular TA, who for six years had been covering most of the undergraduate classes of professors far too occupied with important matters to deal with actual students. Another year would have required granting him a tenure-track assistant professorship, which was, of course, out of the question. Sitting uncomfortably in the back, saying nothing, Richardson felt he was somehow attending his own autopsy.

And when Richardson finally went home in darkness to the warm, comfortable apartment that was not his own, and the company of the sour-smelling old gray cat, he frequently went out again to walk aimlessly on steep, silent Queen Anne Hill and beyond, watching the lights go out in window after window. If rain did not fall, he might well wander until three or four in the morning, as he had never before done in his life.

But it was in daylight that Richardson first saw the Troll.


Rated R. Contains Trolls, and Adult Themes

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« Last Edit: May 23, 2014, 01:31:55 PM by Talia »



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Reply #1 on: May 05, 2014, 03:02:58 PM
I liked it.  The characters felt very authentic to me all around, and I can understand where everyone was coming from even when I knew that the human sacrifice was not going to end well for our protagonist.  A rational person can't expect to give a live human to a beast and expect that beast to not start thinking of live humans as food--even without the supernatural element.  And with the supernatural element, it seemed that the troll was perhaps taking on aspects of that which it devoured, so if you give it a live human it's not going to go unchanged.



hilmera

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Reply #2 on: May 06, 2014, 02:21:44 AM
I read this in Jonathan Strahan's recent anthology, and the reading is pretty much how I remembered the voices I heard in my head when I read it the first time around.

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Reply #3 on: May 06, 2014, 12:52:43 PM
I certainly enjoyed the story, as well as the reading. It made me yearn to hear Podcastle buy and reprint Beagle's "Professor Gottesman and the Indian Rhinoceros", which is a similar story to this but, to my mind, better. Although I might be seeing it through the rose-colored glasses of memory, because it was in the first Year's Best Fantasy and Horror anthology I ever read, back in (I believe) the 90s.

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Marsman1

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Reply #4 on: May 06, 2014, 09:25:56 PM
I really liked this peice of fantasy about a guy who we wonder if he is seeing a troll or an old beetle car. I thought the mental game he played with himself was very intreging, i also thought that the ending was very creepy. We can see just how far he fell after finding out he didn't have a job. Well so much for his survival. Great Story though, keep up the good work!



primerofin

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Reply #5 on: May 09, 2014, 12:46:10 AM
I liked this a lot.  I enjoy stories that are set in an apparently 100% realistic world, then just one thing goes wild.

Leaves me optimistic (or terrified) that something like that could actually  happen to me.

I used to visit (not attend) an Ivy League college campus (for the girls, no other reason) and the buildings were covered with gargoyles.

Man they were creepy (the gargoyles, not the girls).

There were times I thought they moved.
There were times they looked familiar.

This story struck the right chord for me.

homo not so sapien


Varda

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Reply #6 on: May 13, 2014, 09:30:20 PM
What, no-one's shared a picture of the actual troll statue in Seattle yet?

Here ya go!

(ETA: I was tickled when I realized what this story was about. I have a friend that's obsessed with this statue. I will be sending her this episode, pronto.)


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Reply #7 on: May 20, 2014, 06:04:47 PM
Oh wow, the statue really exists? That makes this story even more awesomely creepy. As a former academic, the descent and ultimate downfall of the main character was both realistic and scary at the same time. There's a special blend of desperation that is bred by having thrown bad years after good in the pursuit of becoming ever more unemployable.

Don't feed the troll! :o ;D



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Reply #8 on: May 20, 2014, 10:01:10 PM
As a Seattle resident and frequent visitor to Fremont and the Troll, I can say that all the local color was quite authentic.  I've never actually seen the troll get up and move around, but it wouldn't surprise me all that much. 



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Reply #9 on: May 21, 2014, 01:39:09 PM
As a former academic, the descent and ultimate downfall of the main character was both realistic and scary at the same time. There's a special blend of desperation that is bred by having thrown bad years after good in the pursuit of becoming ever more unemployable.

Don't feed the troll! :o ;D

This story scared me as a current academic (but in scientific research).  I enjoyed it, that part where they are trying to get rid of the post doc TA so they do not have to give him a steady job and pay him more, that is exactly how I feel.



InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #10 on: June 02, 2014, 12:51:58 AM
As a Seattle resident and frequent visitor to Fremont and the Troll, I can say that all the local color was quite authentic.  I've never actually seen the troll get up and move around, but it wouldn't surprise me all that much. 

By and large, yes, it was (he even got the PPC right). However ....

<nitpick>

Fremont Ave. is *west* of the Troll, not east.

The only thing you can buy down at the ferry dock are tacky t-shirts. No fisherman's wives to be found.

No sane person would stroll under the Viaduct at night. Nor can you just walk there from Queen Anne.

It's REALLY hard to avoid Fremont if you're coming from Queen Anne and going to the University. Not impossible, but very very out of the way.

Gasworks Park never takes an article (i.e., it's never The Gasworks Park)

I've never heard an outsider describe our atmosphere as "terminally friendly". We're polite, yes, but.... there's a thing much debated here called "the Seattle freeze" that supposedly makes it almost impossible to make friends here. I suspect Seattleites (most descended from already reserved Scandinavian and Asian cultures) look askance and wary at aggressive attempts at friend-making. Plus there are a lot of engineers.

</nitpick>

Not that the last bit would have changed the story at all. And I did like the story. Even after it took a turn to Pure Evil.

(trying to catch up, really I am)



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Reply #11 on: June 02, 2014, 06:11:23 PM
I've never heard an outsider describe our atmosphere as "terminally friendly". We're polite, yes, but.... there's a thing much debated here called "the Seattle freeze" that supposedly makes it almost impossible to make friends here. I suspect Seattleites (most descended from already reserved Scandinavian and Asian cultures) look askance and wary at aggressive attempts at friend-making. Plus there are a lot of engineers.

I've usually heard that to describe Minnesota, as in "Minnesota Nice", though a lot of what seems to get that term tends to be more "Minnesota Passive-Aggressive" but that doesn't look good in marketing print.



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Reply #12 on: June 04, 2014, 12:18:22 PM
I've never heard an outsider describe our atmosphere as "terminally friendly". We're polite, yes, but.... there's a thing much debated here called "the Seattle freeze" that supposedly makes it almost impossible to make friends here. I suspect Seattleites (most descended from already reserved Scandinavian and Asian cultures) look askance and wary at aggressive attempts at friend-making. Plus there are a lot of engineers.

One of my very close friends just moved to GA from Seattle. He said the freeze was alive and well. He and his wife didn't have a lot of friends (and she's from there) until two of our mutual high school friends moved to Seattle as well.

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albionmoonlight

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Reply #13 on: June 25, 2014, 12:32:24 PM
Horribly behind on my Podcastle listening.  But just wanted to chime in to say how much I enjoyed this.  The realistic horror of career failure juxtaposed with the supernatural horror of the Troll made for a super engaging story.  I found the career stuff terrifying and the troll stuff pretty fun, which is I think how the author probably intended it.



Fenrix

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Reply #14 on: March 07, 2015, 01:46:46 PM

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


Varda

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Reply #16 on: March 31, 2015, 06:53:59 PM
Congratulations to Peter S. Beagle and John Michnya on PC 309: Underbridge winning the 2015 Fishy award for best Podcastle Episode!



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Reply #17 on: March 31, 2015, 06:55:51 PM
HOIST THE FISHY, ME HEARTIES!!!


Varda

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Reply #18 on: March 31, 2015, 06:59:29 PM
AWWW YEAAAAAAH BEAGLE!

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Reply #19 on: April 01, 2015, 05:44:47 PM
Oh good, someone bumped this so now I can talk about it without feeling like I dredged up something so old.

Great story!

Okay, go with me on this one. When the homeless guy said something to the effect of, "a troll doesn't care what he starts out being made of", followed by the final descent of Richardson, I thought it was going to end with Richardson becoming a troll.

I was thinking, the Troll was already a troll, but Richardson has now descended into the level of being a troll himself. A troll doesn't care what he starts out being made of, even if he starts out as being made of a regular old academic.


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Reply #20 on: April 01, 2015, 09:13:34 PM
Oh good, someone bumped this so now I can talk about it without feeling like I dredged up something so old.

Dredge away, dude!  It's fun seeing old stories I've forgotten bump up to the top with new comments.  Story threadomancy is encouraged, in fact, no matter how moldy the oldie.