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Author Topic: PC369: The Chimney-Borer And The Tanner  (Read 1805 times)
Ocicat
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Anything for a Weird Life


« on: June 24, 2015, 05:21:55 AM »

PodCastle 369: The Chimney-Borer And The Tanner

by Thoraiya Dyer

read by Pamila Payne


A PodCastle Original!

Hoping I’d steal their souls instead of hers, my birth mother hid me in a chimney-borer’s home.

I never did harm any of that happy family. They are peacefully dead of old age, by now. That’s something, at least, to be proud of. Even if I have so far failed to fulfill my pledge to skin a god.

It took a decade – far too long – for me to learn that Orfro wasn’t really my father. If golden jaguars could sometimes throw black cubs in a litter, I reasoned, why couldn’t yellow-haired people make black-haired babies? I hoped I’d get to look more like Orfroas I grew older. I was mesmerised by the white-blond curls, not just on his head, but across his shoulders and down his back. When he bent over to bore chimneys, the curls could be seen continuing on, disappearing between his buttocks into the loose, woven trousers he wore.


Rated R.

Thoraiya Dyer is an Aurealis and Ditmar Award-winning, Sydney-based science fiction and fantasy writer. Her short story collection, ‘Asymmetry’, and time-travel pirate novella ‘The Company Articles of Edward Teach’ are available from Twelfth Planet Press, while the first book in her ‘Titan’s Forest’ fantasy trilogy is forthcoming from Tor. Thoraiya is an archer and a lapsed veterinarian. Follow @ThoraiyaDyer or peruse thoraiyadyer.com.

Pamila Payne is a Los Angeles writer and voice actor. Her noir horror, vintage crime and drama can be found at vintagevice.com. Her most recent work was included in Exiles: An Outsider Anthology. She is available to hire for Audiobook narrating and all things spoken word.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: July 14, 2015, 10:05:33 AM by Talia » Logged
SpareInch
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« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2015, 03:23:03 AM »

That was kind of fun! Even if the Chimney Borer turned out to have almost nothing to do with the plot.

I'm not entirely sure I can visualise a bridge that shoots from a catapult, but I'm working on it. Smiley

I think I could definitely be convinced to read a novel in this world, so there's another success. Cheesy
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Unblinking
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« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2015, 12:18:23 PM »

Hm, I felt like there too many loose threads that I never gathered into a complete picture in my head.  Why hadn't she had a voice?  I know her mother took it, but why?  Why are these people different?  Why does pairing with a demon keep your soul from being pushed out?  I don't know, it didn't all really come together for me.

Also, I found the sex scene with her sister's husband disturbing.  The character's only reaction was being disconcerted at her soreness and didn't really seem to consider the ethics of having sex with her brother-in-law through deception.  Isn't that a kind of rape?  I mean, obviously he was a consentual participant in the sex (and admittedly the only one actually in motion during it) but he did not give consent to have sex with his sister-in-law.

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TrishEM
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« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2015, 04:33:06 AM »

I like the idea of the bridges shot from catapults, the more so as I recently read an article about Incan rope bridges:
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/ist/?next=/smithsonian-institution/inca-rope-bridge-built-span-national-mall-washington-dc-180955609/
It was a quite interesting world setup.

But I agree with Unblinking that this story is very problematic. There are unexplained loose threads (how did the soldiers know to come to the tanner's place and ask for her, if they'd caught/killed the witch?), but the main problem for me is the amorality of the protagonist. She's apparently so desperate to have a mother, and a place in her world, that she abandons the people who reared her without a word and follows her birth mother's every order, including the deception-rape (yes it is) of her sister's husband. Maybe she had been made that way by the lack of affection and attachment from her foster family; I might think that's just the nature of a witch in this world, except for her instant attachment to and love for her daughter, however badly it works out.

Then again, I'm not sure how much we're supposed to identify with or approve of the character, even though she's the protagonist. I think it might be better to think of it as a cautionary tale, as in here's why you shouldn't have any dealings with witches.
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danooli
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« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2015, 01:02:39 PM »


Also, I found the sex scene with her sister's husband disturbing.  The character's only reaction was being disconcerted at her soreness and didn't really seem to consider the ethics of having sex with her brother-in-law through deception.  Isn't that a kind of rape?  I mean, obviously he was a consentual participant in the sex (and admittedly the only one actually in motion during it) but he did not give consent to have sex with his sister-in-law.




It absolutely is rape. And that was the point that made.me not like the story very much.
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Unblinking
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« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2015, 12:16:37 PM »

I'm not entirely sure I can visualise a bridge that shoots from a catapult, but I'm working on it. Smiley

The way I understood the bridge is that it wasn't a catapult, but a ballista (i.e. catapult-sized crossbow) that launches a large spear with barbs on the tip to anchor it into the ground and a rope bridge tied to the back of it.  So, when you want to make a bridge you fire the ballista into the ground on the other side (would probably work best if the launcher is on a higher elevation so it can aim directly down into the earth, though maybe it could do the job by arcing.  When it's time to take the bridge down, the people on the receiving end could dig up the spear tip and then the rope could be reeled back in.

I don't know if this would actually work, practically speaking.  I think the biggest difficulty would be ensuring that the spear anchored well into the ground--you'd want to design a spearhead that would penetrate the ground effectively on entry, but would be very hard to pull back out, probably some kind of oversized barbs like porcupine quills.  It would depend largely on what kind of angle you could penetrate the ground with, and making sure the spear flew straight even with the bulky rope ladder screwing up the airflow.  I would think that each time a bridge was launched and pulled out, it would make that patch of landing area ineffective at taking new bridges because instead of packed earth it would have to be dug up to extract the spear, so I would think that this would make landing areas scarce as time went on.

Anyway, I'm sure there are tons of practical obstacles to making this system actually work with any reliability, but I think the idea at least makes sense on a conceptual level--good enough for me to buy it for the purposes of this story.
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SpareInch
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« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2015, 10:39:56 PM »

The way I understood the bridge is that it wasn't a catapult, but a ballista (i.e. catapult-sized crossbow)

Well, if we're going to be pedantic, a crossbow is, first and foremost, a bow. i.e. it has flexible arms, and the energy of the draw is stored in those arms. The Ballista, however, has rigid, spring loaded arms, with the energy stored in the two springs. Thus it is, first and foremost, a catapult, it being essentially two Catapultae lying on their sides, with a string linking the ends of their arms. Tongue

For the rest, They were shooting from tree to tree, so I understood that part to work much as it does when passing a line between ships at sea. You shoot  a weight on the end of a line (A ballista can shoot rocks as well as spears.) so that the line falls across the deck of the other ship, or in this case, bridging platform. The thing is that if there is too much weight, the shot won't get there, so you have to resort to the well known ploy of attaching a thin line to the weight and then using that to haul a heavier line across. Once you have one line across, you can make a bridge surprisingly quickly, but the description of the bridges being attached directly to the weight and rolling out complete with wooden flooring just seemed a bit Road Runner-ish in comparison to the rest of the story.

Bascule bridges might have worked, and needn't have been much heavier than the catapult system, all told. But on the other hand, perhaps the mental image of the bridges unfurling between trees was just too much fun to pass up. Wink

Edit: Actually, the barb thing would work if you were shooting it into a strong timber put there for that purpose. You could replace the timber when it got splintery.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2015, 10:44:03 PM by SpareInch » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: July 17, 2015, 07:22:15 PM »

Echoing others the rape scene was certainly disturbingly and no less in that its purpose was clearly to get the protagonist with child. I think that scene is a boig dividing line in the story, in that previously she felt very vivid, a child questioning why she is different from her family, being curious about the world, but once she makes contact with her birth-mother, all of really is snuffed out. She learns the trade and we get hints at what witchcraft means in this scenario. That's something I realized in considering the other response, as reaches "womanhood" for what the phrase is worth here she seems to be a mere shadow of the person we met before, and now I begin to wonder is that the way each witch is trained, a burning nugget of anger that their soul recalls and through life after life they are stalking the gods, are we to view the detachment the birth-mother pushes as merely useful, or was it fighting against the cycle witches go through, I think I'd like to see this world fleshed out further.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #8 on: August 03, 2015, 09:39:01 PM »

It's rare that I enjoy a story when I dislike most of the characters so much, but somehow this one managed to pull it off. I liked the main character before she found her birth mother, but liked her progressively less as she became more and more her mother's protegee. Her relationship with her daughter at the end almost started to redeem her for me, but then the guards came.

My interpretation, by the way, is that her mother told her to give away the baby so that she wouldn't do exactly what she did when attacked. Her body died, so her soul took her daughter's body by force, killing her daughter's soul in the process. Now she will grow up (again) with the full knowledge of what she has done. I would bet anything that she will give away her next child to prevent that from happening again.
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