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Author Topic: PC312: Enginesong (A Rondeau)  (Read 2954 times)
Talia
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« on: May 23, 2014, 08:38:04 AM »

PodCastle 312: Enginesong (A Rondeau)

By Nathaniel Lee

Read by Bob Eccles (Check out his book Tiny Terrors!)

Originally published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Read it here!

I missed all the excitement the day the trains walked away. Just up and stomped away on great metal feet, to hear Eddie Hartford tell it.

“Trains ain’t got legs,” I told him. I had a pair of jackrabbits dripping on my belt, my hunting rifle on my shoulder, and a powerful thirst tickling my throat, so might be it came out harsher than it ought. Young Edward was always a sensitive soul, though, least when it came to slights against his manhood.

“What do you know, Bose? You wasn’t here. I’m telling you they walked away, and I dare you to find a man who’ll say different.” He tossed his head, hair flashing like copper, looking more like his mother than ever.

The town seemed in an awful tizzy, that was certain. I could see little knots of folks here and there, whispering rushed and dark like the ghost of a river. I could also see the marks in the dust, enormous circles pressed in the ground, as if God had dropped His pocket change. They were six, maybe eight inches deep, even in the hard-packed dirt along the thoroughfare. If I was to speculate on what a train’s footsteps might look like, I’d probably have speculated something near enough to that for spitting.


Rated PG. Ride those rails!

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
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primerofin
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« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2014, 07:28:26 PM »

fun. enjoyed it.  would  have liked the trains to  have been more involved. A grown-up version of Thomas and Friends is a nice concept.
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« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2014, 07:45:55 AM »

Can't say this was one of my favorites.  As I said last week, Weird Westerns aren't normally my stories of choice, and this one just didn't grab me.  However, when I read it on BCS to refresh my memory, I enjoyed it a lot more than I did listening to it.  Maybe I didn't give it the attention it needed during the audiocast.

> “You ever seen a train being built? You ever looked inside to see how they’re put together? Love is a made thing, too, and fashion, and cities and towns, but show me the man who can control any of those things to his liking.”

I loved this line.

I found it interesting how the things that Bose needed (his dad, the trains) literally walked out on him.  He struggled and took care of his sister when his dad left.  But he had thoughts of leaving, just walking away, but his sister kept pulling him back.  And when the trains left, his fear was that the town would die.  He had the choice to walk away with his sister but ended up choosing to leave (in essence dying) so that she could survive.

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slic
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« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2014, 09:47:24 PM »

Solid story.  In a strange way it reminded me of the West Wing or BSG - in that we see a character doing what needs to be done for no better reason than they know it needs to be done.  I really do hope the cultural pendulum swings back to where people find comfort and pride in the work they have to do and stop sitting and pining for what they don't have.  Don't stop dreaming or striving, just stop whining.
> “You ever seen a train being built? You ever looked inside to see how they’re put together? Love is a made thing, too, and fashion, and cities and towns, but show me the man who can control any of those things to his liking.”

I loved this line.
Completely agree - lines like this kept me listening to the end, and gave me enough cover to look past how the trains simply came alive all of a sudden.
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Richard Babley
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« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2014, 12:55:22 AM »

Two weeks, two weird westerns.

I mentioned that last week's story was fun, but superficial.  This weeks was definitely not superficial.  The premise of the story was that the trains got up and simply walked away, which was absolutely ludicrous, but it worked.  I have spent some time thinking about why it worked, maybe it was the humor, maybe it was that every single character had an unwavering belief in the occurrence.  I think it was because the story was actually a tall tale set in the west and not a "weird western" in the typical sense (or at least the impression I had of wws).  A tall tale asks you to believe something from the outset that is unbelievable and uses that event to achieve its motives, which is exactly what made this tale so effective.  This was one of my favorite stories that I have listened to on Pod Castle so far. 

I just have one question:  Why was this published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies?  I am not a reader, and I thought that it was a mag for future world or off-world stories. Can someone clarify this?               
« Last Edit: June 02, 2014, 05:53:02 AM by Richard Babley » Logged
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« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2014, 09:53:21 AM »

I really liked most of this story.  Great beginning, I really felt for the character, and the confrontation with the train was tense and terrific. 

Not a fan of the ending.  Ooh, I said at the beginning, a posse story where you're hunting down the runaway trains, how cool!  And then at the ending--oh, it ends with a metaphor.  How nice...   It's not even that it was a terrible metaphor.  But in my mind at least, the trains going live were the speculative element of the story, and by the best I could tell were the only speculative element that was going to enter into it.  Then at the end when he turns into a train it just felt like a cheat, a deus ex machina to resolve the story without actually having to come up with something that fit the world as it had been described to resolve the very difficult risk of the town drying up with lack of train transportation.  It's a cheat that fits the theme, but still a cheat.

I just have one question:  Why was this published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies?  I am not a reader, and I thought that it was a mag for future world or off-world stories. Can someone clarify this?               

Their submissions page says this:

Quote
Secondary-World Setting: We want stories set in what Tolkien called a “secondary world”: some other world that is different from our own primary world in some way. It could be different in terms of zoology (non-human creatures), ecology (climate), or physical laws (the presence of magic). It could be set on Earth but an Earth different from our primary world in terms of time (the historical past) or history (alternate history). It could have a “pre-tech” level of technology, or steampunk technology, or magic as technology, or anything else that’s not advanced or modern technology. However, the setting should contain some element that is in some way fantastical.

They explicitly forbid contemporary and future tales, even if there is a second world involved (so a story like Coraline would not fit because Coraline starts in the real contemporary world).  A Weird Western kind of tale fits right in.
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« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2014, 09:55:26 AM »

Also, it would be kind of nice if you repodcast something, that there at least be a longer stretch of time between the two. 
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Richard Babley
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« Reply #7 on: June 02, 2014, 01:28:03 PM »

Thanks for the information, I am not a BCS reader, but because of this story I may have to look in.

something that fit the world as it had been described to resolve the very difficult risk of the town drying up with lack of train transportation.  It's a cheat that fits the theme, but still a cheat.


I'd have to most respectfully disagree sir.  I did not find it a cheat at all.  Sometimes there is no great answer to resolve a situation, this has happened many times in the US.  One of the best examples is "Life on the Mississippi" by Twain, he names several booming towns that had prime Mississippi coast in the 1800s.  The problem was that the river would still make tons of cut-offs, and some towns and cities would go from prime shipping real estate to a 25 mile off the path backwater literally overnight.  Sometimes you just have to let it go and make the best of it by leaving or staying and changing. 
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eytanz
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« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2014, 01:56:41 PM »

Also, it would be kind of nice if you repodcast something, that there at least be a longer stretch of time between the two. 

Why? I'm pretty sure most Podcastle listeners don't subscribe to BCS. And one of the advantages of the fact PC keeps its archives up forever is that if you want a longer break before you listen to it, nothing stops you from putting it aside and returning to it after a while.
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« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2014, 08:42:15 AM »

I'd have to most respectfully disagree sir.  I did not find it a cheat at all.  Sometimes there is no great answer to resolve a situation, this has happened many times in the US.  One of the best examples is "Life on the Mississippi" by Twain, he names several booming towns that had prime Mississippi coast in the 1800s.  The problem was that the river would still make tons of cut-offs, and some towns and cities would go from prime shipping real estate to a 25 mile off the path backwater literally overnight.  Sometimes you just have to let it go and make the best of it by leaving or staying and changing. 

I don't disagree with anything you're saying, so I'm not entirely sure I follow you when you say you disagree with me.  Yes, the situation as set up had no great resolution, that's why I thought it was a cheat to resolve it with <metaphor> that had not apparently been possible by the story that came before it. 
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #10 on: June 04, 2014, 08:49:10 AM »

Why? I'm pretty sure most Podcastle listeners don't subscribe to BCS. And one of the advantages of the fact PC keeps its archives up forever is that if you want a longer break before you listen to it, nothing stops you from putting it aside and returning to it after a while.

Personal preference.  I'm not saying that Nathaniel was wrong to submit it so soon or that Podcastle was wrong to run it so soon.  But if it had run in a year or two later, I might say "Oh, this story that had the cool walking train thing, cool" rather than "Seriously?  Didn't I just hear this story like 5 minutes ago?"  I realize the 5 minute thing is completely inaccurate in any objective sense, but I had a backlog that kept me from hearing it in BCS until maybe late March, and also I'm pretty sure that having a baby in the house causes time dilation.

I think it's cool when a story is podcast simultaneously with a print-only release like a John Joseph Adams anthology, because it gives me a sneak peek at the antho and entices me to buy it if I like the story.   But two podcasts of the same story within a few months of each other in time tends to lower my enthusiasm rather than raise it.

Sure, I could set it aside and listen later.  But that's not likely to happen since I'm always running kind of behind on the queue of podcasts I listen to anyway, without adding in loopback queues.

But, yeah, personal preference is at the root of it.  Just providing feedback on it, YMMV and all that.
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Richard Babley
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« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2014, 01:05:52 PM »

I don't disagree with anything you're saying, so I'm not entirely sure I follow you when you say you disagree with me.  Yes, the situation as set up had no great resolution, that's why I thought it was a cheat to resolve it with <metaphor> that had not apparently been possible by the story that came before it. 

I was just trying to be polite/funny with the disagreeing thing.  I should have been more clear about that.  Wink.   I just thought it wasn't a cheat, other than that I also find your analysis very good. 
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Varda
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« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2014, 08:00:52 PM »

It was impossible for me to hear this story without thinking of one of my favorite, favorite songs, "Trains" by Porcupine Tree--probably because the song features musical elements of human voices imitating trains, which is where the story ends.

That derailment aside! Great story. I've enjoyed watching this one grow up from a wee little baby drabble to its final form. I was all ready to pull my favorite line, but DerangedMind beat me to it in the second post. I'll add that I loved Dave's comments on this story being a love letter to those who take up the burden of duty for the sake of the people they love. On another level, I think this was a story about oppressive power structures, especially because of its weird Western setting, where the trains may symbolize the people who are REALLY low on the social ladder--perhaps local Native Americans or other PoC, forever locked onto a track that dictates their lives may only go one direction, so that the whole machine keeps moving. There was something beautiful in their empowerment, how one day they just up and leave and refuse to play that game anymore, and disappear into the wilderness to seek their own fortune.

But the tragedy for Bose is that nothing else has changed for those who haven't left. The same power structure is there, and it dictates that a sacrifice is necessary to begin with. This is why, for me, the magical realism of the ending works extremely well. The magic isn't "trains with legs". It's "trains can become like people, and people like trains", the ability to exchange destinies because of a system that demands someone play the role, or else everyone perishes. It's all about, "Who would take my place if I did?" It's not a good, fair, or just system, but given that, Bose achieves something noble in recognizing that someone has to pay the price, and refusing to make anyone else face that same decision.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #13 on: June 05, 2014, 08:55:37 AM »

I don't disagree with anything you're saying, so I'm not entirely sure I follow you when you say you disagree with me.  Yes, the situation as set up had no great resolution, that's why I thought it was a cheat to resolve it with <metaphor> that had not apparently been possible by the story that came before it. 

I was just trying to be polite/funny with the disagreeing thing.  I should have been more clear about that.  Wink.   I just thought it wasn't a cheat, other than that I also find your analysis very good. 

No worries.  I just read your comment where you said you disagreed, and by the end I wasn't sure if you actually did.  Just wanted to ask a little more.  Smiley
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #14 on: June 08, 2014, 09:25:16 PM »

While I liked the description of the town and its inhabitants, I wanted to hear more about why the trains had feet.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #15 on: June 11, 2014, 11:55:30 AM »

The thing that I was most struck by with this story was its atmosphere. Something about the language set me firmly in mind of a time and place where trains can grow feet and no one would bat an eye. Is it possible for a story to be both a tall tale and an extended metaphor for how the world runs on the sacrifice of noble men and women? Because to me, this story is both. Smiley
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« Reply #16 on: June 12, 2014, 08:50:26 AM »

Is it possible for a story to be both a tall tale and an extended metaphor for how the world runs on the sacrifice of noble men and women?

Yes.  Smiley
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FireTurtle
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« Reply #17 on: June 20, 2014, 12:45:51 PM »

First, my polite applause to our own Nathan for quite a good story.

Second, my thoughts. Somehow I pictured the train feet as something Babba Yagga-esque. Like large chicken legs that just appeared and allowed them to trundle off into the bush. I thought the imagery of the wild trains whistling into the night sky was arresting. It was an interesting inversion that the trains sought the peace and emptiness of the wilderness when they were "created" to bring civilization to those self-same places. The humans and the trains were seeking an experience the opposite of which was available to them.

I liked the ending. To become what we most desire from the world is something so archetypal, it was nice to see it modernized in this way.

Anyway, I know I'm late to the board but I wanted to add my $0.02
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« Reply #18 on: July 02, 2014, 12:02:15 AM »

While I liked the description of the town and its inhabitants, I wanted to hear more about why the trains had feet.

Quite simple -- they wanted to go where they wanted to go, not where the rails went, so they grew feet.  Elementary!
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