Escape Artists

News:

News

ATTENTION: NEW FORUM THEME Please see here for details: http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?topic=13188.0

Author Topic: PC331: Drowning in Sky  (Read 3619 times)

Talia

  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 2682
  • Muahahahaha
on: October 03, 2014, 04:48:39 PM
PodCastle 331: Drowning in Sky

by Julia August

Narrated by Abra Staffin-Wiebe (of The Circus of Brass and Bone)

Originally published in Fantasy Magazine‘s Women Destroy Fantasy! Special Edition, Edited by Cat Rambo

Ann tracked the seabed rising for days, or hours, or minutes that felt like months, before the jolt of the ship knocking against the harbour wall jarred her eyes open. Water sloshed in the hollows of the hold. The salted ribs of the ship were singing, as were the tin ingots stacked twenty deep at her back. Under the nasal whine of wood and metal Ann heard the slow, deep hum of earth and stone.

She didn’t need the sailors to tell her they had arrived. She flattened her shoulders against the ingots and took a breath. Then another. Her lap was full of dust. The limestone slab that had weighed down Ann’s knees at the start of the voyage was only a pebble. Ann rolled it between her palms. She could hear Tethys scratching at the wooden walls.

If she got up, she could get out. She could bury herself in the earth, her hands and her head and her humming ears, and she could damp down her hair with dirt and never, ever go to sea again. Tethys had promised, she told herself. Ann had walked up and down the distant shore, and Tethys had crept over the sand on a skim of foam, and Tethys had promised.

The trapdoor opened. Ann crushed the pebble between the heels of her hands and experienced a flush of clearheaded energy. Tethys broke all Her promises. But not this one.

 
Rated R. Contains sex. With Gods.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: October 23, 2014, 04:42:10 AM by Talia »



ElectricPaladin

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1005
  • Holy Robot
    • Burning Zeppelin Experience
Reply #1 on: October 07, 2014, 02:17:15 AM
I was very happy to see Silky McRapeface (ie. Arachne) get hers in the end. And her little city, too. Ok, maybe that was a bit excessive, but you know... gods. They're gonna do what they're gonna do. After you're done rebuilding your city and burying your children, try to elect some archons who don't abuse the laws of hospitality, ok? Zeus doesn't approve of that shit.

I was a little frustrated by the main character's lack of drive, action, or clarity. It takes a lot for a story to hold me if it's about the main character gearing up for action - in fact the only other story to pull it off is the Series That Must Not Be Named, which weirdly enough also involved a little rape - and I don't think this story quite pulled of it off... but then again, it didn't categorically fail. I was a little bored, but I didn't turn off the story and listen to the radio instead, so I can't roundly condemn it. I just think that the long middle section where Ann is struggling against incoherency and lassitude could have been handled a bit better.

The one thing that really bugged me was actually the worldbuilding. I mean... are people with random godlike magical talents just that common around here? It seemed that everyone who learned about Ann's power was just "oh, yeah, that's cool, I wonder how we can manipulate you." Nobody was like "holy shit - zombies!?" And when Ann learned that Spiderbutt MacConsentissues had the power to weave magic cloth and steal life from people via sex, she was just... vaguely intrigued. If the world was that weird, well... I would have liked to see it hinted at elsewhere in the story. You know "the city you came from was destroyed, just like the city that was destroyed by a rain of flaming flatware twenty years ago." Something to give me an idea of where these powers fit into the setting.

Overall, though, a fun listen. Not quite as good as I hoped it would be from the intro, but fun.

Captain of the Burning Zeppelin Experience.

Help my kids get the educational supplies they need at my Donor's Choose page.


bounceswoosh

  • Matross
  • ****
  • Posts: 305
Reply #2 on: October 07, 2014, 04:03:36 AM
I enjoyed it. But the intro of Tethys at the start made me expect that it would have a bigger role, and I'm not sure why it was there at all.



ElectroSquid

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 14
Reply #3 on: October 07, 2014, 08:14:27 AM
I enjoyed this but I felt like I was missing something. My reaction was similar to ElectricPaladin's I think. As I was listening, I was thinking, is it just me? Maybe I am not aware of some background information that the writer has taken for granted. Is the story based on another story or an already existing mythos? Because, if it isn't then I felt like some of the world details should have been left out and others expanded upon.



ElectricPaladin

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1005
  • Holy Robot
    • Burning Zeppelin Experience
Reply #4 on: October 07, 2014, 01:36:24 PM
You know, looking back, I think I also had a problem with the way the story handled the fact that Arachne raped Ann, repeatedly. I don't know about you, but if I had a moment of clarity after weeks of being in a drugged/ensorcelled stupor and some person who had been groping me throughout that period admitted that also she had been stealing my life force, my response would not be a mild "oh, don't do that again." If I could make earthquakes, that's when the earthquakes would start, then and freaking there!

I kind of think that this was a case of gender biases biting this story in the butt. I think if Arachne had been a man, we would have all immediately been creeped out, rather than some of us (so far, me) being a little creeped out and it taking us (again, me) a day to realize it.

Not only was it creepy, and increasingly souring the experience in my memory, but I can see now how it really took me out of the story. Ann's reaction to being repeatedly violated lacked emotional reality. It sucked away some of the vitality of the story, making it two-dimensional and a little porny.

Captain of the Burning Zeppelin Experience.

Help my kids get the educational supplies they need at my Donor's Choose page.


bounceswoosh

  • Matross
  • ****
  • Posts: 305
Reply #5 on: October 07, 2014, 10:14:26 PM
I agree with you. And it bugs me that I was able to forget about the rapeyness by the time I got to the end of the story.



Father Beast

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 516
Reply #6 on: October 08, 2014, 10:40:21 AM
I'm afraid I'm not a big fan of stories where the main character is in a haze. it sort of makes me feel as if I'm watching the movie through a room filled with smoke.

I never was clear on what Ann was. a god? a person with powers? someone who had previously studied various magics, like Arachne? a demigod?

Without that, the story comes down to: Powerful woman comes to city after a bad breakup, gets captured by local wizard, shakes her chains and breaks new city.

It's ok, but lacks the clarity I would need to really enjoy it.



albionmoonlight

  • Matross
  • ****
  • Posts: 213
Reply #7 on: October 09, 2014, 10:09:04 AM
Not a ton to add here.  Not a bad story, but it left me feeling like I was missing something. Like I got 75% of it, but that 25% of it was fuzzy in my mind. Perhaps this is one of those stories that works better read than listened to.



InfiniteMonkey

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 483
  • Clearly, I need more typewriters....
Reply #8 on: October 09, 2014, 09:13:55 PM
I did like the way the author constantly used water-adjectives to subtly (or maybe not subtly?) foreshadow the city's doom - the conversation "swam" in a "flood" of sound in the banquet hall "awash" with decorations of a lagoon with towering waves.

I suppose it's not nice to fool mother nature.

Though I'm not convinced Ann is a god. Oh, sure, she's connected (and obviously powerful), but her divinity is in question. Perhaps a demigod.



Unblinking

  • Sir Postsalot
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 8729
    • Diabolical Plots
Reply #9 on: October 20, 2014, 02:10:56 PM
I didn't get this story. 

For most of the story I'm just waiting for the Arachne manipulation reveal to finally come about.  It was pretty clear to me she was trying her damndest to manipulate Ann and having limited effect--(i.e. being surprised that she had woken despite having no one near her room to watch for her waking).  If you're going to try to set a trap and manipulate people, choosing a name besides Arachne would kind of make sense.

And then, yeah, like ElectricPaladin said, the reaction to the reveal of the raping was pretty muted.  I guess I was a little slow to absorb the drugged wine thing, and had just thought that Ann was kind of directionless and boring person rather than being rendered that way by the hemlock.  So as I was listening I had just kind of thought that she'd both consented to the sex--Ann didn't seem passionate about it, just seemed to take it as a matter of course with everything else, but I thought that was just how she was.

I was interested when the reveal of Ann having spawned the zombie army was revealed but that was very late in the story, after I'd spent most of the rest being very impatient with Ann for not taking some action against the one who was trying to manipulate her. 





Devoted135

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1252
Reply #10 on: October 21, 2014, 04:03:45 PM
I'm going to have to go with the consensus here. Dissociated main character plus druggy rape plus lack of contextualization in the world made this one a miss for me.



UnfulredJohnson

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 55
Reply #11 on: November 05, 2014, 01:34:08 AM
I found the sex at the start jarring. I didn't get why it was happening and I became annoyed, and I am ashamed to admit I tuted loudly to myself and was ready to explain it away as just some kind of badly done lgbt/diversity tag on. But the the story played out and it turns out sex was her power or whatever. Still It was all a bit blurry. But then the mc was in a kind of a haze so I guess it all fit.

I loved how powerful she was the end though. How she she shrugged off all those spells without even trying or knowing. I also loved the zombie implications. My first time encountering a zombie apocalypse type scenario in fantasy, and I was quite excited when I read the line about the dead rising. I was hoping for a zombie fantasy tale. Still, the story was quite good. I did enjoy the strange god like characters. The origins were enticingly obscure.

If this were the opening chapter in a fantasy novel I would definitely read on. Slow start strong finish.

I did not find it 'rapey' at all. Which is a word I hate. It's thrown about too easily these days, and I think it's is too frivolous a word to be used to complain about something like that.

Overall. Great story.



ElectricPaladin

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1005
  • Holy Robot
    • Burning Zeppelin Experience
Reply #12 on: November 05, 2014, 07:35:49 AM
I did not find it 'rapey' at all. Which is a word I hate. It's thrown about too easily these days, and I think it's is too frivolous a word to be used to complain about something like that.

Drunk and/or drugged - and presumably, therefore, enchanted - people cannot consent.

If you have sex with someone who can't consent... you've raped them.

That's all. You can say it didn't bother you, or you interpret the events of the story differently, but I don't think that any of the commenters here have made that accusation lightly or frivolously.

Captain of the Burning Zeppelin Experience.

Help my kids get the educational supplies they need at my Donor's Choose page.


Varda

  • Rebound
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 2710
  • Definitely not an android.
Reply #13 on: November 05, 2014, 11:05:06 AM
I did not find it 'rapey' at all. Which is a word I hate. It's thrown about too easily these days, and I think it's is too frivolous a word to be used to complain about something like that.

I don't think it's thrown around too easily at all--in fact, it's very likely not thrown around anywhere near enough as it deserves, considering the prevalence of rape and how underreported it is. So I'm with Electric P here: nobody's made the observation lightly that a drugged/magicked woman is by definition incapable of consent and therefore experiencing rape in this story.

Given that, I didn't feel like this story was trying to write that off or suggest Ann wasn't being date raped, especially given the reveal at the ending that Arakhne uses sex as a form of vampirism. Even the understatedness of Ann's reaction to this was, to me at least, in keeping with how some women deal with sexual assault--trying to write it off, in the short term, as less than it really was. It reminded me very strongly of a friend of mine who dealt with her rape like this, calm at first, only to experience worse fallout and anger later, when she could give herself permission to face what had happened to her. But as the city is literally falling into the sea around Ann as she leaves, I think her body language makes it clear she's very much Not Happy with what happened to her in the city. I think the attempted murder also cast the date rape into a lesser light by comparison.

Medical Microfiction: Stories About Science
http://rckjones.wordpress.com


UnfulredJohnson

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 55
Reply #14 on: November 05, 2014, 01:10:09 PM
Yes it's fine to take issue with rape in fiction if its not dealt with correctly. I was just saying the word 'rapey' is frivolous, at least to my ears. It seems to me to making light of a serious matter. So I  don't like it. Thats all.

 
There was a bit where the spider lady mentioned that the mc shrugged off every spell and charm she cast about her. So maybe she was also immune to the magical seduction or whatever it was. I dunno it didn't seem very clear to me. I was under the impression that the haziness was due to her own long voyage away from the earth and her power source, and not because of some charm. So to me it wasn't all that clear. Also she was pretty much a god, do the same rules apply? Do gods experience ptsd? I kind of got the impression she was beyond it or something or somehow detached from humanity at the end.But like varda says maybe that just her way of coping.



ElectricPaladin

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1005
  • Holy Robot
    • Burning Zeppelin Experience
Reply #15 on: November 05, 2014, 02:21:28 PM
I'm not going to rehash the entire earlier conversation, but I will note that both Varda and UJ have made their points eloquently, and I am satisfied that they are reasonable responses (though I still don't think the story handled the assault very well from a narrative standpoint, even if some people have reacted in this way to sexual assault in real life).

Captain of the Burning Zeppelin Experience.

Help my kids get the educational supplies they need at my Donor's Choose page.