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Author Topic: PC334, Giant Episode: Quartermaster Returns  (Read 2760 times)

Talia

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on: October 23, 2014, 04:46:01 AM
PodCastle 334, Giant Episode: Quartermaster Returns

by Ysabeau S. Wilce

Read by Roberto Suarez

Originally published in Eclipse 1, Edited by Jonathan Strahan. Check out Prophecies, Libels, & Dreams – Ysabeau S. Wilce’s new collection coming soon from Small Beer Press!

When Pow walks into the hog ranch, everyone turns to stare at shim. At the whist table, the muleskinner gurgles and lets fall his cards. The cardsharp’s teeth clatter against the rim of his glass. The cowboy squeaks. At the bar, the barkeep, who had been fishing flies out of the pickle jar, drops her pickle fork. On the bar, the cat, a fantastic mouser named Queenie, narrows her moon-silver eyes into little slits. At the pianny, Lotta, who’d been banging out Drink Puppy Drink on the peeling ivory keys, crashes one last chord and no more.

Even the ice elemental, in the cage suspended over the whist table, ceases his languid fanning. He’s seen a lot of boring human behavior since the barkeep brought him from a junk store in Wal-nuts to keep the hog ranch cool; finally a human has done some- thing interesting. Only Fort Gehenna’s scout doesn’t react. He wipes his nose on a greasy buckskin sleeve, slams another shot of mescal, and takes the opportunity to peek at his opponents’ cards.

The bar-room is dead silent but for a distant slap and a squeal—Buck and the peg-boy in the back room exercising—and the creak of the canvas walls shifting in the ever-present Arivaipa wind.


Rated R. Contains lots of alcohol, some death, and some undeath.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: November 14, 2014, 01:13:35 PM by Talia »



albionmoonlight

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Reply #1 on: October 24, 2014, 01:37:48 PM
I didn't realize that Weird Western was a sub-genre, but I have liked every story that has had that setting, so I guess I like it.  (Which is funny because I don't really like standard Westerns that much).

I thought that the story did a great job playing with the idea of death and giving us a humorous take on the thoughts and feelings of the undead.  It never occurred to me before to look at the Crypt-Keeper and think "Man, that dude must be thirsty."

One quibble--I would have liked the story better had it ended with Pow putting his face up to get the rain.  The post-script just seemed to take away from the narrative punch.  It may be that, in the context of this larger universe and the other stories set there, this post-script makes sense.  But, as a stand-alone story, I thought that this was punchier without it.



InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #2 on: October 24, 2014, 02:42:54 PM
I had a strong reaction that went "Ewww!!! EAR!!!!" (you know when) just before he seemed to *eat his pet*!!! DON'T EAT YOUR PETS!!!!

So, yeah, I was glad when the gila monster popped back up at the end.

I enjoyed the various colorful characters and the fact that the story turned into an extended disgusting drinking contest. I liked the small stakes, and the fact that greater matters lurk in the background and the future for some of these characters.



Dwango

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Reply #3 on: October 30, 2014, 02:00:23 PM
This was a great story, especially the angle on the zombie needing water so badly.  I was expecting him to start eating people and was glad he did not, though I agree he should not eat his pet.  The historian angle was interesting as well, as it refutes the existence of water vampires, but there are other monsters in this world.  So, one fantasy is ridiculous while another is totally acceptable.  What a great angle on our own scientific sensibilities and snobbery.  Overall, a great and interestingly twisted story, but I'm a sucker for weird westerns.



Matencera Wolf

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Reply #4 on: November 01, 2014, 09:39:46 AM
It started very interestingly with the old western saloon being crafted around me, making me feel as if I was sitting in the corner on a rickety old stool watching them converse with one another.
The only flaw for me was the reading, I found it very monotone and after the slow pace of the saloon was left behind, I found myself losing interest quickly as the story seemed to speed up, but the voice stayed emotionless.

I think this is a story I would rather read myself, and hope to see more from the author.

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SpareInch

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Reply #5 on: November 03, 2014, 01:03:23 AM
I didn't realize that Weird Western was a sub-genre, but I have liked every story that has had that setting, so I guess I like it.  (Which is funny because I don't really like standard Westerns that much).

I thought that the story did a great job playing with the idea of death and giving us a humorous take on the thoughts and feelings of the undead.  It never occurred to me before to look at the Crypt-Keeper and think "Man, that dude must be thirsty."

One quibble--I would have liked the story better had it ended with Pow putting his face up to get the rain.  The post-script just seemed to take away from the narrative punch.  It may be that, in the context of this larger universe and the other stories set there, this post-script makes sense.  But, as a stand-alone story, I thought that this was punchier without it.

Yeah, I thought the epilog was a bit unnecessary too. The only part of it I can recall is that the new QM went on to become a reviled figure later in her career, but frankly, I think between the Goody-Twoshoes act and the hints about her ambition and that she was some sort of magic user, I already had the idea that she wasn't as perfect a young officer as she made out.

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Varda

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Reply #6 on: November 05, 2014, 12:48:04 PM
This was such a great, effective story. I thought the use of language was nothing short of masterful, especially everything leading up to the final drinking contest, underscoring just how badly poor zombified Pow needed liquids of all sorts. I listened to this story while out on a run, and I had to stop and find a water fountain halfway through this story because it got to me so bad psychologically. :P Pow's whole story fits nicely into that grey area between humor and horror. A man drowning in the desert because he was trying to rescue a barrel of beer, who then has a drinking contest involving that very same beer is really sick and twisted and hilarious... so naturally I loved it.

For me, the historical framing device worked great. I loved the sense of scope it gave the story, how some of the players go on to be notorious and important in other ways. And I especially liked Dwango's observation that the postscript is funny because in the same breath, it writes off one fantastic element while introducing several others.

Anyway, the important thing here is that the pet lizard didn't actually get et. :) Great story, great narration, just enjoyable all around.

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Unblinking

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Reply #7 on: November 06, 2014, 01:24:56 PM
This one took a while to really get my interest--I think the point where it really hit was when he drank most of a tub of washwater and was finally satisfied for a little while. Up until then he was talking about being thirsty, but I wasn't really convinced there were stakes worth caring about.  But when it got to that point I realized that his thirst was really an enormous thing that would become a major problem if not from him murdering people for their juicy innards than at least in him depleting all of their water resources.

After that, though, I was interested, and kept interest in it throughout.  Come to think of it, I think I even had a dream last night where we found out where the scout got the drinking charm.  As the drinking game went on I was just kind of waiting for the inevitable finish given the details so far so I was pleasantly surprised when the scout wasn't so easily beaten--and how even Pow has limitations to how much he can drink.

There were a few strange parts.  Like the lieutenant, when explaining why she brought Pow back, says that it's because of the pocket-change inkwell and only mentions the payroll a while later--the payroll that's worth more than everything else in the entire base put together.  That's a weird way to approach it that didn't really make sense to me.  Like bringing someone to court with the accusation of "This person stole a candy bar from me." and going through half the trial before adding "and ALSO stole one million dollars from me."  So before the big payroll is mentioned she's claiming it's a matter of principal to make Pow pay for it even though others are willing.

I thought the epilogue didn't do much but kill the ending. 

Overall, really fun story.  In the sequel, Pow eats everyone and wanders the desert killing any travelers he finds.  He is out there to this day, and if your car overheats in the Arizona dessert, you'd better watch out.



Devoted135

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Reply #8 on: November 11, 2014, 04:08:46 AM
There was definitely a strong ick factor with this one, yet somehow Pow manages to be a fairly sympathetic character. Weird westerns are generally good but not great in my enjoyment scale, but this was toward the front of the pack for the ones that I've heard.



UnfulredJohnson

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Reply #9 on: November 25, 2014, 08:57:09 PM
This was so slow to start that I stopped after ten minutes. This is not like me. I normally stick things out, but on this occasion I felt an hour was too much of a commitment. Also maybe the pace of the narration was a tad slow.