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Author Topic: PC375: The Child Support Of Cromdor The Condemned  (Read 3904 times)
Ocicat
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« on: August 04, 2015, 02:10:25 PM »

PodCastle 375: The Child Support Of Cromdor The Condemned

by Spencer Ellsworth
read by Graeme Dunlop


A PodCastle Original!

Cromdor the Calderian, thrice-cursed, thrice-condemned, (I’ve forgotten the rest, but believe you me, there is thrice-more) had nearly finished his tale when the traveler slipped in. As he had for the last ten days and ten before that, Cromdor had a packed house. Course, “packed house” is relative—last winter a mudslide tore away half the common room, and Yargin had been rebuilding when he fell through the thatch and died on that floor. Damned if Greta, his daughter, didn’t ever try to stop his goats from getting in, or doing their business in the corners.

So’s only the old folks came. A fine summer night, and we’d have sunlight until midnight, and stories to go with it, but the young ones were mostly down at the church,praying for the holy warriors on their mission in Ursalim, worshipping the new Bleeding God. Don’t the weather matter? The crop? How’s one god gonna keep track of all that?

Point being, the traveler stuck out.


Rated R.

Spencer Ellsworth lives in Bellingham, WA, with his with and three children. He works as a teacher and administrator at Northwest Indian College, and his work has appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction, Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and many other places. He has been trying to get a story past Podcastle ever since Rachel Swirsky’s tenure as editor, and victory is sweet. You can read his blog, listen to his band and find links to his stories at spencerellsworth.com.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: August 25, 2015, 01:34:23 PM by Talia » Logged
bounceswoosh
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« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2015, 11:04:58 AM »

I'm not sure where I fall on the Conan spectrum, but I liked this story.
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literatish
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« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2015, 01:10:51 PM »

I've been listening to PodCastle since 2008 and I have never, ever commented on a story. This one, though, put me in touch with a profound anger that I rarely give myself leave to acknowledge. Needless to say, I loved it.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2015, 12:19:57 AM by literatish » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: August 14, 2015, 12:56:50 PM »

I really enjoyed this story! I only kind of wish it had had a less silly title, since most of the story actually played the premise pretty straight. Cromdor was less a caricature than a pretty faithful description of a sad old man who can't leave his adolescent, irresponsible man-child-hood behind.

Except for the running around in just a loincloth and a sword, I guess.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this story. It was a great send-up of Conan. I loved how the story took a really balanced approach - Comrdor wasn't so much malicious or cruel - as he repeated, he wasn't a rapist - he just didn't think about the consequences of his actions or suspect the motivations of other peoples' actions. He really did symbolize everything both appealing and problematic about Conan and his artistic descendants. There's nothing wrong about wanting to slide into a comfortable adolescent fantasy of heaving bosoms and arcs of blood gushing from the wounds of faceless antagonists who only exist to show how awesome I am the main character is. That's fine. But on the other hand, these stories really do have a very niche appeal, and they shouldn't be the only thing out there. They shouldn't be foisted on people who might find them really distressing or prefer a different kind of story, because in the real world actions have consequences, and living like that will lead a trail of human wreckage behind you, whether or not you meant to be cruel.

So, an excellent story. 10/10, would listen again.
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« Reply #4 on: August 16, 2015, 02:39:46 PM »

I've listened to this story at least three times, so I had to come back make a more significant comment.

This story does an excellent job of addressing what I'll call the tragedy of male strength. I was particularly struck by the moment when Greta says, "Cromdor won't be getting out of bed for days," and he presently appears in the doorway. Cromdor is many, many times stronger than every woman he's ever bedded or impregnated. Whether or not he *should* run away and leave those women to deal with the problems he's caused them, and whether or not he ever *has* raped a woman, the fact is that he can. Easily, with no consequences to himself. Naturally, the women he's encountered throughout his life are aware of that. That's the tragedy of male strength.

I was also really amazed and enchanted by the depictions of female power. The Frostmother hypnotizes the men into suckling like babies! Wonderful! I loved that they all agreed an adult mother Frosthand was impossible to kill, though the other large one (possibly an adolescent, but I assume the male of this family group) had been killed outside the cave. As for story the tentacled god-beast that eats female virgins, I'm not going to lie, the image was very disturbing, but I felt it was very powerful and necessary to the story. It seemed to me it was implied that the beast drew power from an unacknowledged sexual energy specific to females... What a weird idea to throw in so briefly. I hope the blond girl Cromdor describes didn't end up destroyed, caught in some kind of sexual-psychic crossfire magic that killed the monster. I'd rather imagine she got to be queen, and wanted Cromdor as her king.

Finally, in response to ElectricPaladin, I don't think Conan is really a niche story, since the character is still very popular. As you said, most people love vicariously living that warrior life for a few hours. I'm actually a big fan of Conan -- I think the world building in Robert E. Howard stories is great and the adventure is top-notch, and I may have done some reveling in the machoness too. It helped that I was too young to understand the limiting nature of my own femaleness when I first encountered some Conan comics, in all their grizzly, muscle-bound, three-color glory.
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2015, 02:51:22 PM »

Finally, in response to ElectricPaladin, I don't think Conan is really a niche story, since the character is still very popular. As you said, most people love vicariously living that warrior life for a few hours. I'm actually a big fan of Conan -- I think the world building in Robert E. Howard stories is great and the adventure is top-notch, and I may have done some reveling in the machoness too. It helped that I was too young to understand the limiting nature of my own femaleness when I first encountered some Conan comics, in all their grizzly, muscle-bound, three-color glory.

Hm. I'm not sure we disagree. What I meant to say was that Conan does well what Conan does well, and there's a lot of room for other kinds of stories. The problem with science fiction and fantasy has been that Conan-style sword-and-sorcery (well, Conan is technically blood-and-sandal, but whatever) has tended to edge out other voices. In other words, the problem isn't that Conan exists, the problem is that he exists in a context where other voices aren't being heard. By "niche," I meant that there's a time and place for that kind of fiction, that it should be viewed as having a particular market - which can certainly include some female readers, as well as any other kind of reader who doesn't resemble the main character - rather than being the default "this is fantasy."
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« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2015, 10:10:34 AM »

Hm....

I'm generally kind of lukewarm on the  Conan stories I've heard.  I see where they're problematic and I see why some like them, but I don't really hate them or love them myself.  I appreciated that this story made a Conan-like character into a more fleshed-out real person who is just trying to live as the fantasies that his legends tell.  I liked it better than Conan stories, but perhaps my lukewarm reaction to Conan stories also leaves me in the middle between those that Rachael said would love this story at either end of the reactions to Conan.

I did think the title was a horrible choice for the story, giving it a modern comedy feel rather than playing it pretty much straight.
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« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2016, 10:19:26 AM »

I'm kind of surprised their aren't more comments on this one!

This story was perfect. Every time I thought, "Oh, here we go, here's where we go into the preachy part" or whatever, it never did. It was the perfect commentary on Conan stories; not preachy, not heavy handed, but just...real. Like others have said, I was expecting something a lot more jokey, based on the title.

Spencer's author's note at the end was one of the best author's notes I've ever heard. Really sweet and added to my enjoyment of the story.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #8 on: March 11, 2016, 04:16:07 PM »

Apparently I neglected to comment on this when it ran. Hm, I do remember it, so that says to me that it was unique and well-written. I also remember that I liked how the story wasn't pure pastiche, but actually explored Cromdor's feelings about having a kid and about getting older. In the spectrum of the (few) Conan and Conan-esque stories I've read, this is definitely in the top half!
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bounceswoosh
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« Reply #9 on: July 04, 2016, 09:22:37 AM »

Just read this in this month's issue of Lightspeed. It held up well to a second exposure. I may even have liked it better the second time around.
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« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2016, 04:31:42 PM »

I learned about PodCastle some months ago, and have been going backwards through the archives (resisting the temptation to just listen to everything Graeme Dunlop has narrated in one fell swoop, so that I have jewels like this to look forward to periodically.) I really loved this story, and am excited to learn that I'll get to hear a different narrator read it for LightSpeed this month!

Reading the comments, I realize that I'm not the target audience because I have never read a Conan book in my life and completely missed the reference. I think that probably says something about Ellsworth's talent, that even missing a major allusion I still loved the story.

I was struck by literatish's term "the tragedy of male strength." It reminds me of the concept of Toxic Masculinity. Literatish, if you still exist on the forums, I'd like to hear more.

I was also struck by how Cromdor was not, as I expected from the silly title, a total buffoon a la Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. I thought it was really cool how his "redemption" didn't just come from showing his softer side, which can be a bit of a cliche, but also in utilizing his strength to stand up for what is right. It was unexpected; I thought that he was going to turn out to not be very strong after all, just a chauvinist old braggart.

All in all, kudos to Ellsworth for writing something fascinating and now.
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« Reply #11 on: July 13, 2016, 09:24:37 PM »

Not sure how I didn't comment on this before. Great story, great narration, and holds up as both literary criticism and a self-contained story. As a Howard fan, this enhanced my experience with his works.
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bounceswoosh
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« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2016, 10:31:04 AM »


Reading the comments, I realize that I'm not the target audience because I have never read a Conan book in my life and completely missed the reference. I think that probably says something about Ellsworth's talent, that even missing a major allusion I still loved the story.

TBH, I've never read a Conan book in my life (I watched Conan the Barbarian an embarrassing number of times, though). But I think the trope of the solitary, womanizing super warrior is well enough established that you don't need specific Conan exposure to appreciate the story.
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« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2016, 09:52:41 PM »

BY CROM! ... errr... I mean BY CARN!

Great story. I like that Cromdor was fairly true to Conan, but a more modern sort of version of Conan, a older, bitter sort of warrior. I enjoyed it!

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