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Author Topic: EP458: If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love  (Read 20764 times)

eytanz

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on: August 14, 2014, 12:40:30 PM
EP458: If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love

By Rachel Swirsky

Read by Christina Lebonville

This story has been previously published in Apex Magazine
---

If you were a dinosaur, my love, then you would be a T-Rex. You’d be a small one, only five feet, ten inches, the same height as human-you. You’d be fragile-boned and you’d walk with as delicate and polite a gait as you could manage on massive talons. Your eyes would gaze gently from beneath your bony brow-ridge.

If you were a T-Rex, then I would become a zookeeper so that I could spend all my time with you. I’d bring you raw chickens and live goats. I’d watch the gore shining on your teeth. I’d make my bed on the floor of your cage, in the moist dirt, cushioned by leaves. When you couldn’t sleep, I’d sing you lullabies.

If I sang you lullabies, I’d soon notice how quickly you picked up music. You’d harmonize with me, your rough, vibrating voice a strange counterpoint to mine. When you thought I was asleep, you’d cry unrequited love songs into the night.

If you sang unrequited love songs, I’d take you on tour. We’d go to Broadway. You’d stand onstage, talons digging into the floorboards. Audiences would weep at the melancholic beauty of your singing.



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



wintermute

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Reply #1 on: August 14, 2014, 02:53:12 PM
About halfway through, I was thinking this was OK. Silly, kinda nice, but not deserving of a Hugo nomination.

And then it got real. I was literally crying during the second half.

Wow, that was amazing. Well done Ms Swirsky.

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l33tminion

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Reply #2 on: August 15, 2014, 02:50:16 AM
I heard this before on Starship Sofa, so I knew what to expect.  And it still got to me.

Not a usual sci-fi story, but a very good choice.



Schrodingrr

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Reply #3 on: August 15, 2014, 11:54:40 AM
Oh, swell. Thank you, Rachel Swirsky, for turning me into a sodden, snotty pile of blubbering wreckage. At work. >.<

This sentence serves no purpose, so you don't have to read it if you don't want to.


albionmoonlight

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Reply #4 on: August 15, 2014, 12:57:09 PM
Having read several "If you X then I will Y" books to my kids, I thought I had a sense of this as a silly diversion story.  She really captures that tone well.

Then, wow.

The ability to somehow change tone without actually changing tone was amazing.  This was almost more of a poem than a story.  It was that carefully crafted.

I also liked the length.  Sometimes, you can say what needs to be said in ten minutes.  Those ten minutes will stick with me longer than most 40 minute stories that I've heard.

Great job.



Thunderscreech

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Reply #5 on: August 15, 2014, 02:02:56 PM
If you give a mouse a cookie...   there will be blood.



KP Duty

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Reply #6 on: August 15, 2014, 08:02:44 PM
Maybe I missed the neat twist because I was too busy thinking up snarky responses.

  • If you turned into a dinosaur because of a transmogrifier instead of magic, the story would belong on Escape Pod instead of PodCastle.
  • If you give a fantastic writer an insipid children's book as inspiration, she'll write an insipid story with bigger words.

This story put me so in the mood of the dopey "If you give a mouse a cookie" books that I've read to my kids a million times (and that have been used in other forms (particularly television commercials) so often as to have become hacky), I was completely turned off. Maybe, maybe if she'd hooked me in the first two or three if...thens, I'd have liked it more.

We have frequent family reading nights. Fortunately, my nine-year-olds can now read the Mouse/Cookie books to themselves on reading night while I enjoy something aimed at grownups. Or at least something less formulaic that's written for kids. I loved the two Squonk the Dragon stories that ran in 2006 and 2007, for example.

Fortunately, this wasn't my introduction to Swirsky and I've enjoyed several other things she's written, so she gets a mulligan.



eytanz

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Reply #7 on: August 15, 2014, 09:38:12 PM
Maybe I missed the neat twist because I was too busy thinking up snarky responses.

  • If you turned into a dinosaur because of a transmogrifier instead of magic, the story would belong on Escape Pod instead of PodCastle.
  • If you give a fantastic writer an insipid children's book as inspiration, she'll write an insipid story with bigger words.

I'd never suggest that you don't think up snarky responses. But once you're done thinking them up, you might also think better than posting them. Especially the tedious "this belongs on podcastle" one - if nothing else, this story belongs on Escape Pod because it's a Hugo nominee, and for Hugo nominees, genre is irrelevant.



KP Duty

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Reply #8 on: August 15, 2014, 10:04:21 PM

I'd never suggest that you don't think up snarky responses. But once you're done thinking them up, you might also think better than posting them. Especially the tedious "this belongs on podcastle" one - if nothing else, this story belongs on Escape Pod because it's a Hugo nominee, and for Hugo nominees, genre is irrelevant.

Your second point is fair. It's a Hugo nominee and it belongs on Escape Pod because of that, although I wonder where it would have run had Escape Artists bought the rights if it weren't a Hugo nominee and I think that's a reasonable point for discussion. I'm not sure I understand your "you might also think better than posting [snarky responses]" admonishment as it relates to my comment about it being inspired by an insipid children's book. I'm curious, if I'd said:

"It's a real shame that she appears to have been inspired to write this story by an insipid children's book. I usually enjoy her work, but this one fell flat for me because if followed a childish formula."

instead of following the same childish formula she did in her story, would you still have advised me to think better than posting it? No snark, same sentiment.



adrianh

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Reply #9 on: August 16, 2014, 07:55:49 AM
I loved it.

I completely missed the reference to the children's book. Is it a USAian one? (I'm in the UK).

Immediately expected a this-is-not-SF thread on the forum. Called it (and just don't flipping care ;-)





bounceswoosh

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Reply #10 on: August 16, 2014, 04:03:57 PM
I'm not familiar with the children's books. I was also in tears by the end. Well done.

I can't blame KP Duty or anyone else for giving up on a story midway through, but in this case you definitely miss the whole point of the story, abd your impressions aren't going to have much in common with those of people who did finish it.



KP Duty

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Reply #11 on: August 16, 2014, 04:48:19 PM
I can't blame KP Duty or anyone else for giving up on a story midway through, but in this case you definitely miss the whole point of the story, abd your impressions aren't going to have much in common with those of people who did finish it.

I actually didn't give up, I lost interest but kept listening. I realized that eytanz's reaction to my post was similar to my reaction to the story. That is, eytanz found the "Escape Pod/PodCastle" line I opened with (which was meant mostly in jest) so tedious, the rest of my point was ignored. I felt the same way with this story. I hated the opening lines so much, I didn't give the rest of the story a chance.

Fortunately, the story is so short I gave it a second listen--coincidentally on the day my paleontologist sister returned to the country from several months doing field work--and I still don't think it's particularly strong. I imagine that "my love" became a scientist because he wants to increase human understanding through science. If he were a dinosaur who could kill his attackers (even if the protagonist felt shame about being happy about their deaths later), would she really still love him? The shift from peaceful researcher to violent killer is such a radical character shift, I doubt most relationships could withstand it.

Yes, she's in pain. Yes, she wants him back. Still, it's a silly premise.



eytanz

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Reply #12 on: August 16, 2014, 05:23:57 PM
KP Duty - my comment was entirely about the tone of your post, not its content. I ignored the rest of your comment because I had nothing of interest to say about it, not because I was distracted by the part I did address. As to your question, if you had formulated it the other way, I would have had no issue with it.



skeletondragon

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Reply #13 on: August 16, 2014, 05:41:14 PM
I was profoundly affected by this story and it's taken me awhile to formulate my thoughts on it.

This is a very queer story, not that it could only apply to queer people, but that it will certainly resonate with them. The narrator and her love are declared to be a woman and a man respectively, but the violent assault is at least partially propelled by homophobia and transmisogyny, suggesting that they are not gender-conforming. As soon as that paragraph began, I inwardly went "ohh. i get it now". Until that point, like most people, I thought this was a mediocre lighthearted parody, since the whole thing does read fancifully, indeed reminiscent of the children's book If You  Give a Mouse a Cookie.

However, once it is placed into context, the first part of the story re-resolves itself into an eloquent expression of a feeling that is instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever feared for the life of their loved ones in the way that all queer people are forced too.  It is a yearning for their great inner strength to be transformed into outward, for the rest of the world to see them with the awe and wonder that you see them with, that they deserve.

This is in fact one of the most serious and realistic stories we've had on EscapePod in a long time, because of the thing that makes people question whether it belongs here at all - that it is told in hypothetical. It is a story about how and why an ordinary person would come up with a story about being in love with a dinosaur. I am surprised that for many people that was not an easily relatable feeling.



SpareInch

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Reply #14 on: August 17, 2014, 11:03:49 AM
This is a very queer story, not that it could only apply to queer people, but that it will certainly resonate with them. The narrator and her love are declared to be a woman and a man respectively, but the violent assault is at least partially propelled by homophobia and transmisogyny, suggesting that they are not gender-conforming.

Teeny weeny, Itty Bitty Nit Pick here, but whenever abuse, hatred and discrimination against the Trans Community is discussed with the Trans I speak with every day elsewhere on The Internet, we use the term Transphobia.

A rather larger Nit Pick is that if you are right, and the victim is referred to as Shemale because he is Trans, then surely the attackers would have only known this because the victim was either TRULY Shemale, i.e. a Pre Op M to F Transsexual, or because they Read their victim as a Transvestite, even though En Femme. If this is so, If The Victim was M to F Trans, then the proper pronoun should be SHE.

True, The Victim could have been F to M Trans, but then the Shemale comment makes no sense. I have never heard of anyone having F to M "Bottom" Surgery, i.e. Hysterectomy and Penis Construction, but not the "Top" Surgery, i.e. Double Mastectomy.

In short, as a Trans piece, I find this story badly researched.

Fresh slush - Shot this morning in the Vale of COW


bounceswoosh

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Reply #15 on: August 17, 2014, 01:25:35 PM
I thought the piece specifically said the attackers yelled a lot of things in their rage that didn't pertain to the victim. I found this part confusing. There is a lot of variety in gender expression - the victim could be a man who presents as a man, identifies as a man, but wears some feminine signifiers - eye liner, jewelry, something like that.

Or maybe you're right and the author screwed up the pronouns.




lisavilisa

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Reply #16 on: August 17, 2014, 03:13:10 PM
I thought the piece specifically said the attackers yelled a lot of things in their rage that didn't pertain to the victim. I found this part confusing. There is a lot of variety in gender expression - the victim could be a man who presents as a man, identifies as a man, but wears some feminine signifiers - eye liner, jewelry, something like that.

Or maybe you're right and the author screwed up the pronouns.



"They’d grasp each other for comfort instead of seizing the pool cues with which they beat you, calling you a fag, a towel-head, a shemale, a sissy, a spic, every epithet they could think of, regardless of whether it had anything to do with you or not, shouting and shouting as you slid to the floor in the slick of your own blood."



Windup

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Reply #17 on: August 17, 2014, 07:13:55 PM
Wow.  Just, wow.  I was sucked in initially by the playful tone of the early paragraphs, which intensified the gut-punch effect of the middle, which left me ready to appreciate the transcendence at the end. I was run completely through the emotional wringer in about ten minutes.  Well done, Ms. Swirsky, well done.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2014, 12:20:08 AM by Windup »

"My whole job is in the space between 'should be' and 'is.' It's a big space."


benjaminjb

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Reply #18 on: August 17, 2014, 07:51:41 PM
I thought the piece specifically said the attackers yelled a lot of things in their rage that didn't pertain to the victim. I found this part confusing. There is a lot of variety in gender expression - the victim could be a man who presents as a man, identifies as a man, but wears some feminine signifiers - eye liner, jewelry, something like that.

Or maybe you're right and the author screwed up the pronouns.



"They’d grasp each other for comfort instead of seizing the pool cues with which they beat you, calling you a fag, a towel-head, a shemale, a sissy, a spic, every epithet they could think of, regardless of whether it had anything to do with you or not, shouting and shouting as you slid to the floor in the slick of your own blood."

What I love about that paragraph is that we don't learn much about the love: any of those could be true or false. As if the hate and violence of that group didn't illuminate anything about the person killed; or as if any otherness would fit for a spasm of violence that is just looking for a excuse.



InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #19 on: August 18, 2014, 06:26:09 AM
This is a very queer story, not that it could only apply to queer people, but that it will certainly resonate with them. The narrator and her love are declared to be a woman and a man respectively, but the violent assault is at least partially propelled by homophobia and transmisogyny, suggesting that they are not gender-conforming.

I would say that it has more to do with racism. Men often accuse other men of being gay while beating the living shit out of them, absent any evidence of sexuality.

I'm curious to hear what was in Rachel's mind.

And thanks for pointing out that it was in Starship Sofa - I knew I'd heard it before (the title alone is unforgettable)



skeletondragon

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Reply #20 on: August 18, 2014, 03:07:50 PM
This is a very queer story, not that it could only apply to queer people, but that it will certainly resonate with them. The narrator and her love are declared to be a woman and a man respectively, but the violent assault is at least partially propelled by homophobia and transmisogyny, suggesting that they are not gender-conforming.
I would say that it has more to do with racism. Men often accuse other men of being gay while beating the living shit out of them, absent any evidence of sexuality.

There's no reason it can't be both. Queer people of color face nightmarish rates of violence.  But again, there are multiple ways to read the story and I believe the author left it purposefully ambiguous.



wintermute

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Reply #21 on: August 18, 2014, 06:10:45 PM
A rather larger Nit Pick is that if you are right, and the victim is referred to as Shemale because he is Trans, then surely the attackers would have only known this because the victim was either TRULY Shemale, i.e. a Pre Op M to F Transsexual, or because they Read their victim as a Transvestite, even though En Femme. If this is so, If The Victim was M to F Trans, then the proper pronoun should be SHE.

True, The Victim could have been F to M Trans, but then the Shemale comment makes no sense. I have never heard of anyone having F to M "Bottom" Surgery, i.e. Hysterectomy and Penis Construction, but not the "Top" Surgery, i.e. Double Mastectomy.

In short, as a Trans piece, I find this story badly researched.

I suspect it's rather realistic for (possibly transphobic*) bigots to not care about the proper terminology while beating someone up.

*Well, OK. The fact that they're using "shemale" as an insult basically means that they're transphobic as well as homophobic, racist, etc. The question is whether their attack is motivated by transphobia or if that's just something they think is humiliating.

Science means that not all dreams can come true


albionmoonlight

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Reply #22 on: August 18, 2014, 07:52:17 PM
Not that I think it matters too much, but I am pretty sure that the author was taking more from The Runaway Bunny than the If You Give a Moose A Muffin series.

The Runaway Bunny is more touching story and deals with the idea of trying to protect and be with those close to you, so it would seem to fit more.



RDNinja

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Reply #23 on: August 19, 2014, 10:12:00 AM
I read this story when it came up for Hugo voting, and it fell really flat for me. It has no plot, no character arc, and steals its structure from a children's book. It seems to be nothing more than a violent revenge fantasy against bigots, and the way the author threw in every kind of epithet she could felt emotionally manipulative, as if she's just trying to get as many people as possible to take the bigots' attacks personally so they can share in the joy of bloody retaliation.



Devoted135

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Reply #24 on: August 20, 2014, 03:17:32 AM
Me while listening: Cute... Repetitive... No apparent plot... BAM! Wham!

I totally get why this was nominated, and I believe that Rachel succeeded admirably in what she seems to have set out to do. I like that she purposefully left out all salient details about "my love" so that the story can be applied to any number of situations at the discretion of the reader.