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Author Topic: EP109: Squonk the Apprentice  (Read 19586 times)


  • Palmer
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Reply #20 on: June 12, 2007, 06:15:54 PM
I love hard SF.  I love Asimov, Clark, Heinlein, Niven and Varley.  Yet this story is probably my most favorite of the year hands down.  What an enjoyable tale that even us "adults" can love.  His style reminds me very much of Piers Anthony's Xanth and Douglas Adams combined, and I paraphrase, "Squonk found that pulling up a pine tree was as simple as well a dragon pulling out a pine tree" and other gems had be in stitches.  I laughed my entire drive into work.  Thanks for continuing to provide such elective stories that include the likes of  The House Beyond Your Sky and this.

I took Steve's warning at the beginning seriously but as I don't have any children it was necessary to regress my mental state sufficiently to capture the full wonder of this tale; luckily I'm a big child trapped in an adult's body so it wasn't too hard. 


  • Lochage
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Reply #21 on: June 12, 2007, 11:09:30 PM
When "The Boy Who Yelled Dragon" came on Escapepod, I listened to it with my 4 year old.  He liked it so much that listening to children-centered podcasts has become part of his nightly routine [pseudopod storynory has been a great source of these types of podcasts]

So I had high hopes for this podcast.  When I asked my now 5 year old what he thought of it, he said he didn't know.  When I tried a more direct approach, he said 'I told you daddy, I need to think about it awhile."

So I'm not sure what this young critic will have to say.  However, he did say he liked the racoon, and when I told him there was another Squonk story we could listen to, he immediately said he wanted to hear it, so I think the review will be favorable.


  • Matross
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Reply #22 on: June 14, 2007, 07:49:57 PM
However, he did say he liked the racoon, and when I told him there was another Squonk story we could listen to, he immediately said he wanted to hear it, so I think the review will be favorable.

I thought the Racoon character was great.  He was simply characterised by Squonk, and I loved the way he then lived up to that description.  It was neat.


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  • Hipparch
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Reply #23 on: June 15, 2007, 10:54:21 AM
I'm a fan of Chipchipticktick. Best line: "Nopethissoundslikefunwannaseewhathappensnext!"

How do you fight a bully that can un-make history?


  • Hipparch
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Reply #24 on: June 15, 2007, 12:00:03 PM
I don't think I really liked this story very much.  It's not that it was badly told or badly-written.  And there were some funny bits (which others have mentioned).  But it had that heavy-handed morality that some kids' stories have (in places... especially referencing the treatment of Slowfingers) and it didn't make me think.  Remembering the sorts of stories I read as a kid, I might still not have liked it, but then I was reading Star Trek novels at age eight, so maybe I'm the wrong person.

I guess I just didn't like it.  It wasn't what I was expecting, and it wasn't the sort of thing I would normally read.

Anyway, it's just one week, and like I tell my friends when they don't laugh at my jokes, "they can't all be home runs.  Sometimes you don't even get on base."

"Farts are a hug you can smell." -Wil Wheaton

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Russell Nash

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Reply #25 on: June 15, 2007, 12:23:32 PM
it wasn't the sort of thing I would normally read.

That's part of why I liked it.  My kids aren't old enough yet for a story like this.  I saw it as a relief from reading Dr. Seuss.

When I leave home to walk to school
Dad always says to me
Marco keep your eyelids up
and see what you can see

But when I tell him where I've been
and what I think I've seen
He looks at him and sternly says
You're eye sight's much to keen

Stop telling such outlandish tales
Stop turning minnows into whales


  • Peltast
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Reply #26 on: July 03, 2007, 09:54:56 PM

Thank you.  Thank you all so very much.  The Squonk stories are great fun to write, and I'm thrilled they've found such an appreciative audience.

(And those of you who didn't care for it, thank you for taking the time to respond.  Negative feedback is often quite valuable, however much my ego would prefer I ignore it in favor of the praise. :) )

There will very definitely be more Squonk stories.  And if I keep writing them well enough for Steve to buy them, you'll hear them on Escape Pod.  (Or its fantasy sibling -- that's not my decision.   :) )

-- Pete


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Reply #27 on: July 04, 2007, 03:23:55 AM
I very much enjoy these stories as well. 


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Reply #28 on: July 05, 2007, 04:27:55 PM
I am a little curious to know whether Squonk was named for the song or the creature, though.

Actually, I'm not familiar with either.

I think I first heard the word in deference to Pittsburgh's Squonk Opera.  It stuck in my head as a silly noise that a dragon hatchling might make, and that's how it found its way to Mrs. Tweedle-Chirp's lad.


  • Palmer
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Reply #29 on: July 07, 2007, 06:01:32 AM
I and my step-daughter have listened to both Squonk stories now, and we both love them!

I love the ridiculous humour in these stories, like Terry Pratchet: sometimes it just comes right out and surprises you into laughing.. Chipchipticktick being the prime example!

And .. not moving his head too much unless the tree wizard's hat falls off!

P.M. Butler - you should write kids books!

The narration by Stephen and Anna Eley was so funny as well. Is Alana's voice always that high? :)



  • Meen Pie
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Reply #30 on: July 09, 2007, 08:02:49 PM

Thank you.  Thank you all so very much.  The Squonk stories are great fun to write, and I'm thrilled they've found such an appreciative audience.

I hope I'm not too late to pile on the praise.  I don't have anything creative or unusual or insightful to say, but I do love these stories, and my daughter loves them too.  In fact, the Squonk stories and the Resnick dragon story are the only ones my daughter has been able to listen to without rolling her eyes and telling me that she's bored.  Well done.

Winner Nash's 1000th member betting pool + Thaurismunths' Free Rice Contest!


  • Matross
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Reply #31 on: August 20, 2007, 01:41:57 AM
I'll just add my post to list of praises for Squonk. The voice talent was very well done and I love the squirrel. Hope there are more to come. One thing is consistent about Escape Pod: variation. Variation of tone, subject, voice, structure, gravitas... Squonk is the sweet cherry on top of a pretty eclectic sundae of rusted robots, heart-breaking drama, ethical dilemma, superhero angst, magical mayhem, blood and guts, but it's not too saccharin, even by contrast.


  • Hipparch
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Reply #32 on: August 24, 2007, 02:41:52 AM
I find it interesting that things I would criticize about regular stories, I find charming in children’s stories. For example, some degree of predictability is part of the set of conventions for children’s stories. This isn’t because children are stupid. Instead, making stories slightly predictable is a subliminal part of teaching children to read critically. So when a kid listening to this story thinks, “Ah! Slowfingers could help Squonk get the flowers,” he is rewarded a few minutes later with the confirmation of his inferences.  The process of inference from a story and testing of that inference is what much science fiction attempts to do for adults, but in the world of SF, the rules of cause and effect can be alien and the inferences can be difficult. Although it’s not what the “science” part of SF is supposed to refer to, the hypothesis testing in science fiction is what makes it enjoyable for me, so much more so than the technology.

Hmm.. Now that I've read that, I'm more inclined to like this story. Yeah, the reader should be given enough such that they can either anticipate what might happen, or look back and see that all the clues were there after all. It was the opposite of what I didn't like about EP106: The House Beyond Your Sky.

I suppose having some "predictability" built into kids' stories, like having to overcome three related obstacles, and all that (Joseph) Campbellian archetypal hero stuff adds a bit of ritual to it, making it more comforting to hear, even if slightly scary stuff happens. You just know that the Third Billy Goat Gruff is going to open a can of whup-ass on that that Bridge Troll, but you're still curious to see exactly how it goes down.
I think what put me off while listening to Squonk the Apprentice was (sorry, Stephen and Anna) the exaggerated delivery. Sometimes it works (like when Robert Munsch reads his own work), sometimes it doesn't.

I might just start using "Stupid not-staying-on-my-head tree!" for a sig line. That absurdity was a high point for me, and still makes me chuckle.

I feed The Pod.
("planish" rhymes with "vanish")


  • Matross
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Reply #33 on: August 26, 2007, 10:39:22 PM
I have no problem with childrens' lit; I am an aspiring educator and have enjoyed writing children's stories on more than one occasion.  And for all I know, this could have been a fine children's story.

I wouldn't know; I had to stop the episode after about three minutes of the gratingly obnoxious reading.  I wanted to give the story a chance, but the presentation was just too unbearable.

El Barto

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Reply #34 on: September 28, 2009, 06:20:57 PM
In a recent intro Steve mentioned that the Squonk stories seem to be everyone's absolute favorites -- and he wondered whether that was because many people were skipping them. 

I wanted to say yes that is exactly right or it is at least for me.   I'm not interested in dragons or in children's stories so when these come up from time to time I usually just skip them.

(The few I have listened to I did not like at all but concluded that it would be ridiculous for me to post a comment on a particular story.  After all, I was warned!)

I would love for there to be enough great sci-fi and fantasy focused on kids for there to be a whole podcast just for them.   In a few years my little guys will be ready.


  • Sir Postsalot
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Reply #35 on: February 22, 2010, 05:40:33 PM
Not a bad story.  It had a lot of funny moments--why is it that squirrel characters are always the funniest of the bunch?  :)  The voicing on that was especially fun.

I liked the first one better for its originality--I'd never heard a dragon-raised-by-birds story.  But with that novelty worn off, this one just didn't seem to pack enough punch for me.  I'd probably feel differently if I had kids to play it to.


  • Sir Postsalot
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Reply #36 on: February 23, 2010, 12:40:16 AM
But really, what happened to the content warnings?  I got kicked out of my car pool!  Friday was my day to pick the music and this was the story I picked.  "Another Squonk story," I thought, "I bet they'll get a laugh out of it."  Well it was going along well until Squonk swore and then it got deathly quiet.  It seemed to be an isolated incident at first, so I decided not to stop the playback.  Then everything was going well again until the foul-mouthed Mr. Cheepideep starting letting loose.  I couldn't hit Stop fast enough!  To make matters worse, I have a MRS. Cheepideep in the carpool, and of course tactless Mr. Grumblebum the badger had to go and ask her if the story was about her husband.  She shot me a killing glare like I'd been the one to say it.  Most of my co-workers have kids and I've been forbidden to visit any of  their houses for fear that I'll be a bad influence on their cubs or hatchlings!  "Sorry," they say, "once a kid learns words like that, it's nearly impossible to get them to stop saying it.  We can't risk having them get kicked out of daycare."

A children's story, indeed!  You, sirs and madams, should be ashamed of yourselves.


  • Hipparch
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Reply #37 on: March 02, 2010, 07:52:02 PM
But thank you Unblinking for that thoroughly entertaining account.... :D