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Author Topic: PC340: Your Figure Will Assume Beautiful Outlines  (Read 3078 times)
Ocicat
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« on: December 06, 2014, 06:18:14 PM »

PodCastle 340: Your Figure Will Assume Beautiful Outlines

by Claire Humphrey

Read by Sue Brophy

Originally published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, November 2013. Read it here!

“How’d you like a match next decadi?” said Mr. Karinen. I’d been sparring with his lads since Plum-day, my knuckles scuffing open and seeping into my wraps. My Da poured vinegar over them until they finally healed over into dark pink scars.

“Yes, sir!” I said. “Which I’ll do you and Da proud.”

“No doubt of it, Valma, no doubt of it. There’s one thing, though, you see. The Provosts, they won’t allow lasses in the ring. There’s lasses among the Provosts, not that you can tell them for such without a hair on their heads. Why they can do magic but not fight, I don’t know, but it’s the Provosts’ law to make and ours to live under. But I know just the fellow who will help.”

Hanno Jalmarinen, charm-master, lived behind a copper-worked door at the end of a long alley. He measured me up and down with his little pale eyes and then made me stand still for a half-hour while he did mysteries about me, and then he went to his workbench and muttered over a bit of metal for a moment. Two hundred soldats, it cost Mr. Karinen, and I thought it a vast sum indeed, but when I put on the charm Mr. Karinen said it was excellent work.

The charm was a fine copper ring to go about my littlest finger, flat enough that it would not be felt beneath my wraps, let alone my gloves. “Mind you never take it off,” Mr. Karinen said. “And keep it secret. The Provosts have laws on everything.”


Rated R. Contains violence, sports, alcohol, and burlesque.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
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Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2014, 07:00:26 PM »

One sport you may have forgotten, Dave: Quidditch.  Wink
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« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2014, 10:45:43 AM »

Aha. Good call on Quidditch Smiley

I was thinking more about stuff that happened in secondary world fantasy, as opposed to contemporary fantasy. There's gotta be some urban fantasy series where a protagonist is a boxer in his/her spare time, right?  Wink

But really, I'm sure I'm missing a few. Pratchett comes to mind. But few authors are as willing/able to dedicate chapters to a sport the way Rowling can.

(In science fiction, it doesn't seem as much of a blind spot.)
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Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2014, 11:22:06 AM »

I was thinking more about stuff that happened in secondary world fantasy, as opposed to contemporary fantasy.

Ah, that makes sense; fair enough.

But really, I'm sure I'm missing a few. Pratchett comes to mind. But few authors are as willing/able to dedicate chapters to a sport the way Rowling can.

True.

As you say, Pratchett did dedicate an entire book to it (but only the one, with very little mention of any kind of sport – other than witch games, perhaps – in any of the other books).

I wonder if it's simply because sports in the real world are really on the periphery of the lives of most fantasy writers.
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« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2014, 11:50:27 AM »

It could be? But I suspect there's also something about investing so many words into developing a game (including rules), when you're trying to keep the overall economy of words/length relatively low and tight. Unless the story is centered around the game, of course. Or, your name is J.K. Rowling Smiley
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bounceswoosh
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« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2014, 11:22:19 PM »

This story was eight levels of awesome.
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SpareInch
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« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2014, 08:28:48 AM »

I liked this. It was about a boxer, but not about boxing. That was nice, because I was bracing myself for blow by blow ringside reports, but thankfully they didn't appear.

Instead, a thoughtful tale about gender, sexuality, equality and acceptance.

The 'Girls can't box' side of it reminded me of the British boxer Jane Couch who had to fight abroad because the boxing authorities in the UK wouldn't let her fight as a professional.

The gender and Gender Identity stuff was handled pretty well too. The author wasn't writing about Gender Disphoria, but it wasn't magic out of existence either. The main character clearly always wanted to take the ring off, and I found the comment about being sick of standing up to pee pretty telling in that regard. Also, the myth of changing gender as a 'cure' for Homosexuality or Lesbianism was neatly kicked in the balls. Here were two women who wanted to be together as two women. If one of them had to disguise herself as a man, that was only because of stupid rules about who can or can't be a boxer.

No problem with the girls deciding to find a way to bring back the male alter ego at the end either. Even when people are happy with their gender and sexuality, that doesn't mean they have no desire to explore other sides of their character. This story touches on a very wide spectrum of individuals when it plays with gender in the way that it does, and I think it does it fairly well. To do better would have meant making it a much bigger part of the tale.

I suspect I just made all that out to be a bigger part of the story than it really is, but that was what I saw from my perspective, anyway. Wink
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« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2014, 10:11:17 AM »

I really enjoyed SpareInch's insightful analysis of this story. Smiley Good stuff, my friend--you always make me appreciate things on a whole new level. Smiley

I also found this story refreshing and happy as a woman-centered adventure story. Sports stories tend to bore me unless REALLY well done, because they tend to be SO much about machismo and dudes-getting-the-girl and basically just one big giant affirmation of patriarchy (even, and perhaps especially, if they're "underdog fulfills his dreams" stories). But this one was entirely different. In this one, a woman gets to fight her way to the top because she's the best, gets to show sexual agency, and at the end runs away into the sunset with her new love to a place where they both can be happy and valued. That was so, so awesome, and I loved it to death. Cheesy I could read a whole novel in this world and be very happy indeed.
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« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2014, 10:17:16 AM »

I liked the themes and the gender discussion, the use of the charm, the same-sex romance that couldn't be started while she was wearing the charm.

I didn't get into the story as much as I might've, simply because I'm not really into sports.  And boxing is the sport I understand the least--not the most boring sport, mind you, golf wins that prize, but the one I understand the least.  I spent a great deal of effort when young to AVOID getting punched, I have no idea what possesses people to go seek out that treatment, no matter their gender.  It's dumb to restrict women from doing it while allowing men to do it, but that doesn't mean that I understand why anyone would want to do it in the first place.
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bounceswoosh
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« Reply #9 on: December 12, 2014, 10:21:55 AM »

You don't box in order to get hit. You box in order to challenge yourself. (I don't box, but I've done a lot of martial arts sparring.)
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« Reply #10 on: December 12, 2014, 11:08:52 AM »

You don't box in order to get hit. You box in order to challenge yourself. (I don't box, but I've done a lot of martial arts sparring.)

Sure, you're not trying to get hit.  But you are putting yourself in a situation where you are consenting to being punched in the face, is what I mean.  I don't get that.

I'm  overweight and not very athletic but I participated in high school sports, even though I sucked at them, including football.  So at least when I was young and relatively spry I wasn't averse to sports, or to contact sports.  It's boxing in particular that I've never understood.

I'm not saying that anyone needs to convince me, or that there's anything wrong with wanting to box.  I just don't understand it, like I don't understand many things--only relevant in this particular case because that lack of understanding interfered with immersion.
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Fenrix
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« Reply #11 on: December 12, 2014, 02:25:05 PM »

How about that narration? Just damn. Really elevated the story to the next level.


I liked this. It was about a boxer, but not about boxing. That was nice, because I was bracing myself for blow by blow ringside reports, but thankfully they didn't appear.


I would have been really happy with a bit more boxing. I require some weird in my boxing stories, which this would have satisfied. Robert E. Howard did some great stuff with weird boxing stories. He writes some really compelling action. However, I'm not sure I could really recommend them since portions of each story haven't aged as well.
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« Reply #12 on: December 13, 2014, 05:44:48 AM »

Robert E. Howard did some great stuff with weird boxing stories. He writes some really compelling action. However, I'm not sure I could really recommend them since portions of each story haven't aged as well.

Conan Doyle also wrote quite a few "Tales From The Ring"; here's one example.
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« Reply #13 on: December 13, 2014, 08:33:39 AM »

This was fun, I really enjoyed the gender roles and the fact that the same sex romance was just accepted and not even remarked upon or had excuses made for it really. That was refreshing.

I certainly love that a woman (even if she was disguised as a man) was triumphant in the ring, but also did have losses. Valma/Valmo was a fun character Smiley

I think a well represented sport in fantasy stories (urban fantasy at least) is roller derby!  Of course, I may be basing that solely on Glitter & Mayhem...and my current obsession is certainly roller derby so I see it everywhere (since i am looking for it!)
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« Reply #14 on: December 14, 2014, 04:52:39 PM »

Lovely avatar pic danooli Smiley
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albionmoonlight
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« Reply #15 on: December 15, 2014, 09:54:20 AM »

I liked the themes and the gender discussion, the use of the charm, the same-sex romance that couldn't be started while she was wearing the charm.

I didn't get into the story as much as I might've, simply because I'm not really into sports.  And boxing is the sport I understand the least--not the most boring sport, mind you, golf wins that prize, but the one I understand the least.  I spent a great deal of effort when young to AVOID getting punched, I have no idea what possesses people to go seek out that treatment, no matter their gender.  It's dumb to restrict women from doing it while allowing men to do it, but that doesn't mean that I understand why anyone would want to do it in the first place.

I've never boxed or wrestled.  But the sense I get is that people are attracted to it because it is a pure "person v person" sport.  No balls to bounce funny.  No equipment to give one person a big advantage.  No teammates to help you out or let you down.  Just you and another person and a simple set of rules.  One of you wins; one of you loses.  No excuses.
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danooli
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« Reply #16 on: December 15, 2014, 10:30:46 AM »

Lovely avatar pic danooli Smiley

Thank you, kibitzer!  Cheesy
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Fenrix
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« Reply #17 on: December 15, 2014, 01:44:32 PM »


Robert E. Howard did some great stuff with weird boxing stories. He writes some really compelling action. However, I'm not sure I could really recommend them since portions of each story haven't aged as well.

Conan Doyle also wrote quite a few "Tales From The Ring"; here's one example.


I will add that to the queue.
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TrishEM
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« Reply #18 on: December 21, 2014, 07:20:22 PM »

I'm happy Valma got to run away with her lover in the end, but a bit annoyed at her lack of guilt at the damage she left in her wake -- jail for her boss, plus losing the money and time he put in on training/supporting her, plus breaking up her family -- good thing her Da is so supportive. Also, her recklessness in taking off the ring in public places may have contributed to the charm-maker's getting caught and, presumably, hanged. At the end, she and Amandine are talking about saving up money to buy another change charm, not out of necessity for boxing/self-support but basically as a sex toy -- but what about saving to pay back Mr. Karinen the 200 soldats he spent on the charm for her?

Not to say that this made it a bad story, at all -- in fact, this bit of self-centeredness gave the story a bit more traction for me than it otherwise might have had, made me think a bit more about it; certainly Valma felt like a real character to me, if not very self-reflective. Benno felt real too, with the teasing during training and then the anger after his dad was jailed. I also really liked how textured and complex and wide the world felt.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #19 on: January 01, 2015, 05:17:35 PM »

Gah, so behind again! I enjoyed this one, though I have to admit that TrishEM raises some excellent points about Valma's character flaws. But I agree, that just made her (and her world) seem that much more real and immersive.
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