Author Topic: PC381: The Vandalists  (Read 4179 times)


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on: September 17, 2015, 02:53:52 PM
PodCastle 381: The Vandalists

by Natalia Theodoridou
read by Ian Stuart

First published in Spark: A Creative Anthology Vol. IV.

It always starts the same way.

First, a tiny feeling of unease.

You breathe.

Then, the sweating. Your forehead, your palms, your back. It’s from the heat, you say, I should open a window, but the windows here are not designed to open. You turn on the air-conditioning until it’s blasting polar temperatures in your office. You breathe. You try to imagine you are inhaling fresh air. You’re choking. Your hands are trembling slightly. Then your cheekbones go numb. Your lips too. Your palms. Your field of vision is narrow, it turns into a long, dark tunnel. Through the tunnel you try to find the pills you’ve never admitted you keep in the top right drawer of your desk. You find them. You swallow two. Now the walls are shaking. A flame flares up right in the center of your chest and spreads to your entire body. You enter the tunnel and search for the door. You find it. You are looking for the escape exit. You find that one too–thank you, you say, to no-one in particular. You climb the stairs to the roof. Your breathing is quick, your head light. Like a feather, you think, because that’s the first cliché that comes to your mind and you love your clichés, treasure them. The buzz in your ears is blocking out all other sound. You open the roof door and emerge under the blinding sky. Your jacket feels tight. You take it off. Your tie is flapping around your neck like a noose. You loosen it. You walk to the edge of the roof. You bend your knee, plant it squarely on the cement. The thought crosses your mind–to jump, just so you can escape this panic. But with that thought the buzz recedes. Through the tunnel you look at the city sprawled under your feet, a forest made of concrete. The wind freezes the sweat against your skin. You think you hear the distant roar of a lion..

Rated R for adult themes, disturbing imagery.

Natalia Theodoridou is originally from Greece, but is currently based in Portsmouth, UK. She is recovering from a PhD in Media and Cultural Studies (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London). Her writing has appeared in Clarkesworld, Crossed Genres, Strange Horizons, and elsewhere. If you’d like to find out more, you can visit, or just come say hi @natalia_theodor on Twitter.

Ian Stuart is the golden-voiced father of the equally golden-voiced Alasdair Stuart.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: October 07, 2015, 02:41:04 AM by Talia »


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Reply #1 on: September 19, 2015, 05:09:45 PM
This one didn't really work for me. It was beautifully written, but ultimately failed to resolve into sense. It was just... pretty words, but not coherent. The perspective switch in the middle also just plain confused me and took me out of the story. That said, I thought the story had a really promising beginning, it just got tangled up thereafter.

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Reply #2 on: September 20, 2015, 12:11:08 PM
I have to admit, I found this one a little hard to get a handle on too. It was engaging enough to keep me attentive, but I didn't feel fully rewarded for that attention.

On the other hand, we got glimpses of a surreal London, which then got buried under a mountain. Do you think they could arrange a mountain for the real London? Nobody would miss it. Honest. :D

Incidentally, did anyone else find that the mountain creeping up on the city reminded them of The Watchers in William Hope Hodgson's The Nightland?

Fresh slush - Shot this morning in the Vale of COW

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Reply #3 on: September 21, 2015, 10:47:09 AM
And now Podcastle presents... Modern Art.


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Reply #4 on: September 21, 2015, 11:00:08 AM
I wasn't a fan of this one.  I think it was the second person perspective in the beginning.  It felt very accusatory (you love your cliches...) and condescending.  It put me on my guard, but then again second person always puts me on my guard, because  I so rarely react like the author wants me to.  When the author used a cliche (with the quickness and dexterity of a magician) in the second part, I almost laughed.  I thought that the second part was very misanthropic, using terms such as "the human soup", and the flecks of social commentary were lost on me.

P.S.  I have a response for the Yeats poem.  It comes from the lyrics of a song by Wilco:  

"And if the whole world is singing your song,
and all of your painting have been hung,
just remember, what was yours is everyone's from now on.

And that's not wrong or right,
you can struggle with it all you like,
but you'll only get uptight."

That said, It was very confidently written, and I like that podcastle took a chance on it- the more types of stories the better.  
« Last Edit: September 21, 2015, 11:27:45 AM by Not-a-Robot »


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Reply #5 on: September 21, 2015, 12:52:17 PM
I'm a member of the "It didn't really work for me" group as well.

This type of story -- which relies on imagery, symbolism and beautiful language rather than conventional plot and character -- always faces an uphill battle with me. I thought quite a bit about how to parse some of the symbolism, which I took to be mostly about the difficulty of adapting to a period of rapid social and technical change, but in the end, I didn't feel the effort was worth the payoff.

Better luck next week...

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


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Reply #6 on: September 21, 2015, 01:12:43 PM
I should add that as a Mage: the Ascension fan from way back, I really wanted this story to be good at the beginning. I love the idea of hardened reality terrorists, attacking the consensus with random acts of weirdness. But then the Vandalists failed to materialize as characters, and the perspective shifted, and the whole thing stopped making sense...

Which I guess is an argument that the story itself was an act of reality terrorism. Except that I'm still in my bathrobe making breakfast. My reality was not rattled.

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Reply #7 on: September 21, 2015, 05:00:27 PM
I didn't get this one at all.  I was following along in the beginning, and for instance thought it was interesting the mention of how the Vandalists' actions were labeled as terrorism, since that is such a buzzword that is rarely applied with any intelligence or consistency.  Some time shortly after that I lost any real sense of what was going on other than "wow, lots of weird stuff happening". 

I am hoping one of the next commenters will be someone who loved the story so that they can explain what they drew from it!  Because I want to know, but I don't have the mind for this particular story.


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Reply #8 on: September 24, 2015, 04:55:49 PM
Okay, so I really LIKED this one!
Which quit surprises me. Escape Artists have run a few of these "surrealist, abstract" stories across their podcasts before and they have always left me feeling "lost and bored" at best and "just annoyed" at worst.

Some how, "The Vandalists" managed to wade into that genre of nonsensical reality while keeping me TOTALY engaged in "what will happen next".
For me apparently, there is a fine line between total randomness and good story telling and this story manages to walk that tightrope magnificently. Bravo!


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Reply #9 on: September 28, 2015, 03:04:43 AM
Hm, I'm sorry to say I'm in the ??? ??? ??? group.

Surrealism usually isn't my thing, and neither is second person. I did like the opening quite a lot, but by the time I got over the next section being in second person we had another perspective change. I never did figure out how it all tied together except that the mountain was getting closer. That said, I'm glad that PodCastle is willing to take a chance on stories like this every so often, so please don't stop just because we're all mystified!


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Reply #10 on: October 01, 2015, 10:30:26 AM
I'm going to echo pretty much what has been said. The writing itself was very well done and I really enjoyed the setting; a city where the unexpected is now not only expected, but embraced (other than the ending, of course). That said, it didn't really come together as I had hoped it would. I was still left at the end unsure about exactly what was going on and how exactly the three characters were connected, other than in passing.

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Reply #11 on: October 18, 2015, 02:17:36 PM
Once again, when anything can happen, it isn't particularly interesting when anything does.

Or, as my daughter said recently, limits make a story interesting.