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Author Topic: PC320: Baba Makosh  (Read 2565 times)
eytanz
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« on: July 21, 2014, 11:48:31 AM »


PodCastle 320: Baba Makosh


by M.K. Hobson
Read by Eric Luke


Originally published in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

It was cold and growing colder, and the moon was rising, and Hell was nowhere to be found. Comrade Blotsky and Comrade Lvov were quarreling bitterly.

“Dunce! You’ve read the compass wrong, as always!”

“I didn’t read the compass wrong! Commander Tchernov said we mustn’t trust the map! Blockhead!”

This had been going on for quite some time. While they quarreled, the sky had faded from ice-blue to bruise-purple, and the moon had risen cold as a ball of clenched snow. Dark pooled in low hollows beneath the ink-stroke birches and shadows moved within the frosty mist. Stag-like shapes that moved like men.


Rated R: Contains Soldiers, War, Devils, and Hell.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: August 07, 2014, 09:35:06 AM by Talia » Logged
ytsi
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« Reply #1 on: July 23, 2014, 12:25:28 AM »

I enjoyed this story. It makes me happy whenever I encounter stories that feature well-researched Slavic mythology. I just really, really wish the narrator hadn't given every character in the story a crappy fake Russian accent. There's absolutely no reason to do it! Everyone in the story is Russian, and everyone is speaking the same language, so there's no need to use accents to distinguish the Russians from anyone else. I, as a native Russian speaker, found the cheesy accent very jarring. I can forgive the pronunciation mistakes he made in some places, but the accent should just not have been attempted.
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DoctorBob
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« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2014, 09:32:03 AM »

Awesome story! This one had me at Bolsheviks and going to hell. I loved how the ruthlessness of the Commander contrasted with the equally dangerous but more human ruthlessness of the Winter King. The repeated pairing of opposites--human vs. god, man vs. nature, communist vs. merchant, weak vs. strong--made this a powerful work. M. K. has outdone herself, which is no small feat. I can't stop thinking about it. Bravo, bravo!
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2014, 11:26:31 AM »

I'm listening to this right now, and I know I've heard this story before. Since the other two respondents didn't mention this, I'm guessing it wasn't on Escape Pod. Probably Starship Sofa.

Well, it is good enough for a second listen. I too liked the integration of Russian tradition and revolutionary folly. And the way it ended as well. Don't mess with what you don't understand.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2014, 03:46:53 PM »

I found this one quite slow to get to the parts that interested me.  I really sat up and took notice when the commander arrived and revealed himself to be an envoy of the god of thunder.  From then on, I was enthralled, but that was pretty late in the story comparatively for a hook.  I liked the conflict between the two gods, I liked how the commander who is vile and evil in a variety of ways has actually done a great service for the Earth herself and Earth is the one who sustains all the rest of us by providing us with rich soil to grow food.  I thought the philosophical discussion of whether the powerful oppress the weak or vice versa was really enjoyable, and the answer can change depending on what you use as a measure of "strength" which can mean many different things.

Overall, good stuff, but took a while to really get me.

I'm listening to this right now, and I know I've heard this story before. Since the other two respondents didn't mention this, I'm guessing it wasn't on Escape Pod. Probably Starship Sofa.

I haven't heard it before, so definitely not Escape Pod (or a dozen others I could list).  I don't listen to StarShipSofa anymore, so that's a possibility.

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DKT
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« Reply #5 on: July 24, 2014, 05:13:35 PM »

I'm listening to this right now, and I know I've heard this story before. Since the other two respondents didn't mention this, I'm guessing it wasn't on Escape Pod. Probably Starship Sofa.

I just asked Hobson about this, and she said it has not been to her knowledge. So if you think of where you'd heard it, please let us (and her) know Smiley

(And again, FTR, I really have no issues with repodcasting stories. I think our general audience is different enough from other podcasts.)
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Tango Alpha Delta
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« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2014, 09:37:38 PM »

Ok, wow!

You'll be spared a mini-dissertation because I don't like typing from my phone, but this tale spoke to a lot of ideas & conflicts that I struggle with on a daily basis. The tension between technology and tradition, the never-ending battle between the strong and the weak, and (subtly, MK, you clever and brilliant storyteller!) the true subversive power that a woman holds even in a society that ignores and erases her.

I have to admit, the essay you guys ran last week affected me deeply, and I kept noticing the way the freaking *title character* kept getting her narrative overrun by all of these men...the husbands battling jealously to own her, the scurrying rat-soldiers only interested in what she could feed them, and the Colonel's disdain. (Tovarish polkovnik ne ochen simpatichno!)

But that's where I felt the brilliance of the piece came through, because Baba Makosh really came through, and she illustrated the central puzzle of the theme - the strong and the weak aren't necessarily who you think they are, after all!

I'll second Doctor Bob's praise!
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #7 on: July 24, 2014, 11:22:14 PM »

I'm listening to this right now, and I know I've heard this story before. Since the other two respondents didn't mention this, I'm guessing it wasn't on Escape Pod. Probably Starship Sofa.

I just asked Hobson about this, and she said it has not been to her knowledge. So if you think of where you'd heard it, please let us (and her) know Smiley

(And again, FTR, I really have no issues with repodcasting stories. I think our general audience is different enough from other podcasts.)

I didn't think for a second I'd heard it on PodCastle. And I don't think I heard it on StarShipSofa. In fact, I've come to the conclusion that I may not have heard it all.

Turns out that it was featured in the Nov.-Dec. free e-version of F & SF that I get on my "device". Which means I probably read it there. So, M.K., your story was so well-written that I remembered to well enough to think I'd had it read to me.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2014, 09:36:13 AM »

I quite enjoyed this story! MK Hobson never fails to bring it. Smiley It was cool to learn a bit about the old Slavic gods as well.

(subtly, MK, you clever and brilliant storyteller!) the true subversive power that a woman holds even in a society that ignores and erases her.

I'm working on a theory that Baba Makosh was actually orchestrating the whole story from the moment the advance team showed up at her table:

She took a liking to our narrator because he still remembered the old ways, but held no love for any of the other men. She also wouldn't mind a break (not a permanent one, mind) from her winter husband because he's been pretty short-tempered lately. So she doesn't interfere with the battle and lets the Commander think that he's won. In fact, she plays into exactly what he expects of her, lulling him into complacence so that he lets her ask the narrator to play. This gives her the chance to bring down the mountain around all of them, saving only the narrator. She gets an early spring and some amusement seeing her winter husband brought down a peg. Pretty clever!
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albionmoonlight
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« Reply #9 on: August 26, 2014, 08:10:28 AM »

I'm working on a theory that Baba Makosh was actually orchestrating the whole story from the moment the advance team showed up at her table:

She took a liking to our narrator because he still remembered the old ways, but held no love for any of the other men. She also wouldn't mind a break (not a permanent one, mind) from her winter husband because he's been pretty short-tempered lately. So she doesn't interfere with the battle and lets the Commander think that he's won. In fact, she plays into exactly what he expects of her, lulling him into complacence so that he lets her ask the narrator to play. This gives her the chance to bring down the mountain around all of them, saving only the narrator. She gets an early spring and some amusement seeing her winter husband brought down a peg. Pretty clever!

I like that.

Most stories, even most great stories, have a narrative arc that readers instinctively understand.  Even if you don't know what will happen in detail, you still develop a sixth sense about where characters might be going, when and if a twist might happen, what details might come back later . . . that sort of thing.

So, I LOVE it when a story is able to completely and totally surprise me.  The Commander being an envoy of the Sky God was one of those moments.  I had no idea it was coming, but when it did, it made perfect sense, fit the flow of the narrative, and took this from "pretty good" to "totally kick ass" in my mind.
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eclecticengineer
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« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2014, 02:35:21 AM »

This may be a bit too late to make it into the comment reading but here I go anyway.

I recently finished a semester of studying Russian Culture, so I had some fun seeing where I could recognize echos of that class in this story. For example, it is often the youngest son of three that takes the religious path. Compare how in this story it is Budovkin (Who I will acknowledge isn't related to the other two scouts but this otherwise fits well) that still follows the old ways of the Slavic gods to Alexei in "The Brothers Karamazov" , who is a priest. I also did like how the modern Commander re-purposed aspects of the old ways of the Slavic gods, mirroring how the real life Soviets tried something similar ideologically when talking about the corner shrine in most Orthodox Christian households.

Honestly I could probably think of a few more connections like that if I really thought about it, but right now I kinda want to re-read "Heart of a Dog" by Bulgakov. Heck I would love to see Bryusov's "Republic of the Southern Cross" on an Escape Artist podcast someday. I love to read about this era of Russian history, so this story was a treat for me.
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Sgarre1
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« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2014, 06:20:43 AM »

Done! (that was easy)

http://pseudopod.org/2012/01/09/pseudopod-263-the-republic-of-the-southern-cross/

(we've also done Andreyev & Sologub)
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