Author Topic: PC385: Where Monsters Dance  (Read 9991 times)

Talia

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on: October 13, 2015, 12:48:10 PM
PodCastle 385: Where Monsters Dance

by Merc Rustad
read by Tina Connolly


First published in Inscription Magazine in March 2015.

It hurts your eyes to stare at the hole. You look away, shaking, and as soon as you do, the memory blurs, fuzzily distorting until you aren’t sure what you were just looking at.

One thing’s always clear, though: Ashley.

You wipe your sweaty palms on your jeans and step into the woods. There, not a yard inside the dark tree shadow, you see a glimmer of color. A red thread–it matches Ashley’s favorite wool sweater. It’s caught on a branch and unravels deeper into the woods.


Rated R for explicit domestic violence and transphobia

Merc Rustad is a queer non-binary writer and filmmaker who lives in the Midwest United States. Favorite things include: robots, dinosaurs, monsters, and tea. When not buried in homework, Merc likes to play video games, watch movies, read comics, and wear awesome hats. You can find Merc on Twitter @Merc_Rustad or their website: http://amercrustad.com.

Tina Connolly is the author of the Ironskin trilogy from Tor Books, and the Seriously Wicked series, from Tor Teen. Ironskin, her first fantasy novel, was a Nebula finalist. Her stories have appeared in Lightspeed, Tor.com, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and many more. Her narrations have appeared in audiobooks and podcasts including Podcastle, Pseudopod, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and her Parsec-winning flash fiction podcast Toasted Cake. She lives with her family in Portland, Oregon, and her website is tinaconnolly.com.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: November 03, 2015, 08:12:28 PM by Talia »



Father Beast

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Reply #1 on: October 14, 2015, 10:50:05 AM
This was interesting. It starts out as the story of a girl dealing with a terrible life with the aid of her monster. Then halfway through the story, it turns into a remake of Labyrinth with her evil stepdad playing David Bowie. I was expecting her to make some self affirming statement in order to win.

This really does exist on many levels. I was thinking about how these creatures are called monsters, but her stepdad is the real monster. But then I realized that we are in a culture where what you are is not identified by how you act, but how you self identify. By that definition, her helpers really are monsters, and her evil stepdad Really Is a king.

I may be back with more, this is a story which makes me think.



Ariadnes-thread

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Reply #2 on: October 14, 2015, 09:36:53 PM
I loved this story. I loved everything about this story, to the extent that I'm not sure if I can even express how much I loved it. There were points in the story (like when the wolf appeared) that I expected it to change directions and become less awesome, but every time that happened, it just became more awesome.

I loved Monster (who kind of reminded me of Bing Bong from Inside Out, in the best way possible). I loved the overturning of fairy tale tropes, especially how the "Big Bad Wolf" was actually on Red's side in fighting against the much more realistic (and also much more mundane) evil of the abusive stepfather. In the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale, the Big Bad Wolf is a pretty obvious metaphor for a rapist and/or kidnapper, but for someone like Red who has undergone real-life abuse, there's no need for metaphors and cautionary tales to let her know about the evils in the world, because she has a real-life villain in her life who abused her and abused her mother and maybe even killed her mother (that was the implication, right?).

I also loved Red and Ashley's relationship, which was close and loving while also being believably teenaged. And I loved the narrative voice and the tone of the story; usually stories told in the second person seem kind of gimmicky; it's a hard perspective to pull off well, but here it was done perfectly. And the monsters were wonderful. So was Tina Connolly's reading. I could go on and on about things I loved about this story; it was just so good.



FireTurtle

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Reply #3 on: October 15, 2015, 03:27:00 AM
What Ariadnes-thread said. I just loved it. I want to listen to it every night. I want my daughter to read it when she is old enough. My intended comment was just this:
Thank you.

PS Monster reminded me of Sully(sp?) from Monsters, Inc.


“My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it.”
Ursula K. LeGuin


Maxilu

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Reply #4 on: October 15, 2015, 09:08:44 PM
I'll admit it, I cried.

I love the interplay between monsters and humans. As trite of a concept as it is, I especially loved the "humans are the real monsters" aspect of the story. Red's stepfather is perfect as the False King, and I can't think of any worse weapon than a knife made up of unkind words.

I'd like to know more about how the human world and the monster world interact. Red found Monster because she running from a horrible situation as a child. From Terra's reaction, I wonder if she, too found a monster. Vanessa, seems like she never will. Do monsters only come to those that need the most protecting? Or perhaps those who are willing to believe.

I also love Sköll's guest appearance as the Big Bad Wolf.

Anyway, it had me wondering what my monster is like. Off to do some doodling, to see if I can figure it out!



danooli

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Reply #5 on: October 15, 2015, 09:26:47 PM
That was phenomenal. Layered indeed. I am not ashamed to admit that I cried when Monster was shot.

I don't know why I didn't expect the stepfather to be the "King" but I didn't. That was just one of the many twists in this story (I also expected the Wolf to be a bad guy) that made it so enjoyable for me.  Tina's reading of it was another tic in the awesome column.

This one will be a contender for best of 2015.



Maxilu

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Reply #6 on: October 15, 2015, 10:41:34 PM




PS Monster reminded me of Sully(sp?) from Monsters, Inc.
That's kinda funny. I was picturing My Pet Monster from the '80s.



Moritz

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Reply #7 on: October 25, 2015, 12:02:11 PM


PS Monster reminded me of Sully(sp?) from Monsters, Inc.



Me too!

I needed to listen to this twice to really get into it, but was rewarded with a great story the second time. Awesome reading, too.



bounceswoosh

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Reply #8 on: October 25, 2015, 01:10:50 PM
Add me to the list of people who cried when Monster got shot.



Not-a-Robot

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Reply #9 on: October 28, 2015, 07:17:16 AM
*Shakes fist in the air.

Damn you Merc, now I have to eat every bad word I have ever said about the 2nd person perspective.  
Excellent story and kudos on getting me to enjoy 2nd person.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2015, 07:22:03 AM by Not-a-Robot »



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Reply #10 on: October 28, 2015, 04:41:45 PM
Solid story.  Took a lot of very familiar fairy tale elements and wove them into a very heartfelt modern story.  I didn't see the stepfather being the king, but when that was revealed my reaction was "Of COURSE he is, why didn't I see that?" 

What others said about the people being the real monsters and etc, because being a monster is about what you do not what you look like.

Well done.






PS Monster reminded me of Sully(sp?) from Monsters, Inc.
That's kinda funny. I was picturing My Pet Monster from the '80s.


Me too!  I think that might've even been the intent, the colors were the same I think?


*Shakes fist in the air.

Damn you Merc, now I have to eat every bad word I have ever said about the 2nd person perspective. 
Excellent story and kudos on getting me to enjoy 2nd person.

I loved the story, but I still hate 2nd person and have only thought it justified in stories that were intentionally mimicking Choose Your Own Adventure style.  :)



Maxilu

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Reply #11 on: October 28, 2015, 06:19:18 PM






PS Monster reminded me of Sully(sp?) from Monsters, Inc.
That's kinda funny. I was picturing My Pet Monster from the '80s.


Me too!  I think that might've even been the intent, the colors were the same I think?


I think there might be a bit of a generational gap here. I'm a child of the 80's, so My Pet Monster is my go-to big, furry, scary looking guy. I can see how those who were born in the 90's or 00's would go for Sully.

Now get off my lawn, you damn kids.



FireTurtle

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Reply #12 on: October 28, 2015, 06:36:00 PM






PS Monster reminded me of Sully(sp?) from Monsters, Inc.
That's kinda funny. I was picturing My Pet Monster from the '80s.


Me too!  I think that might've even been the intent, the colors were the same I think?


I think there might be a bit of a generational gap here. I'm a child of the 80's, so My Pet Monster is my go-to big, furry, scary looking guy. I can see how those who were born in the 90's or 00's would go for Sully.

Now get off my lawn, you damn kids.


I'm a child of the 70s. So  :P to that theory!

“My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it.”
Ursula K. LeGuin


Moritz

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Reply #13 on: October 29, 2015, 08:19:55 PM
I think there might be a bit of a generational gap here. I'm a child of the 80's, so My Pet Monster is my go-to big, furry, scary looking guy. I can see how those who were born in the 90's or 00's would go for Sully.

Now get off my lawn, you damn kids.


I was born in 1980! I actually still have my Pet Monster. It has a weird backstory. I saw the commercial on TV and wanted to have one, so a friend of the family who is a bit... weird went to a toy store and tore the monster out of the "cage" package and then bought it for me. I was a bit shocked, because I wanted to read its name on the packaging and all. The next week, the toy store was gone, there was no commercial for Pet Monsters anymore, and this was in the '80s, so no internet. Other toy stores didn't have them... (this was in Germany, and I think they only sold them there for about a month or so?!) So I named it "Pet Monster". I've never seen any other Pet Monsters later, none of my friends had any, and I am really surprised that they are so famous.



Not-a-Robot

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Reply #14 on: October 29, 2015, 08:45:17 PM
I was born in '83, but I wasn't picturing either, because the monster changes in the story.  I did have a clear picture of the wolf though- for some reason he had suspenders under his suit and was constantly hooking his thumbs in them.
« Last Edit: October 30, 2015, 10:49:28 PM by Not-a-Robot »



Gary

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Reply #15 on: October 31, 2015, 02:02:36 AM
"Where the Wild Things Are" meets the teen angst of "Twilight".
Sadly, I am only a fan of one of those and blending the two together did not make them both better.



Father Beast

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Reply #16 on: October 31, 2015, 10:50:35 AM
"Where the Wild Things Are" meets the teen angst of "Twilight".
Sadly, I am only a fan of one of those and blending the two together did not make them both better.

Don't forget "Labyrinth".



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Reply #17 on: November 02, 2015, 04:44:35 PM
"Where the Wild Things Are" meets the teen angst of "Twilight".
Sadly, I am only a fan of one of those and blending the two together did not make them both better.

Don't forget "Labyrinth".

Yeah, Labyrinth seems a much better analog than Twilight.  I could definitely see this as a mashup of the childhood otherland of Where the Wild Things are and the teenage Otherland of Labyrinth, as the character is growing up and awkwardly trying to find their way back to that world.  Maybe a hint of American McGee's Alice, with the title character revisiting a childhood wonderland and finding it twisted and strange.



Devoted135

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Reply #18 on: November 05, 2015, 02:38:14 AM
Wow, 2nd person and at least one foot in the surreal. And yet I still enjoyed it! It has to be a pretty awesome story to get over those two hurdles for me!

The relationships (both good and bad) were so strong that they yanked on you and really made you care. I wanted to wonder how Ashley and her stepfather were successfully traveling to and from the world of Red's imagination, but then I decided not to worry about it. Well done. :)



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Reply #19 on: November 05, 2015, 03:17:03 PM
I wanted to wonder how Ashley and her stepfather were successfully traveling to and from the world of Red's imagination, but then I decided not to worry about it. Well done. :)

Having analogs of real-life people in a person's imagination is a pretty common element of portal stories.  :)  Makes sense, when you consider that a world that comes from your imagination is based on the mind that was formed from your real-life experiences, so it's not unreasonable for a person's wonderland to include elements of their life, including versions of those people in their life.  Or, looked at another way, if the wonderland is kind of an Augmented Reality experience of the imagination, the two may not be separate at all, one is only an interpretation layer laid atop the other.




Gary

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Reply #20 on: November 05, 2015, 07:13:50 PM
"Where the Wild Things Are" meets the teen angst of "Twilight".
Sadly, I am only a fan of one of those and blending the two together did not make them both better.

Don't forget "Labyrinth".
Yeah, Labyrinth seems a much better analog than Twilight.

The setting did have a bit of the Labyrinth feel. It was the "wallowing in teen angst" bit that turned me off.
The teen relationship just seemed "soap opera-ish" and a little forced. That's just the way it struck me though and clearly I am an outlier. After all, "Twilight" made a boat-load of money for someone.



Devoted135

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Reply #21 on: November 06, 2015, 03:59:16 AM
I wanted to wonder how Ashley and her stepfather were successfully traveling to and from the world of Red's imagination, but then I decided not to worry about it. Well done. :)

Having analogs of real-life people in a person's imagination is a pretty common element of portal stories.  :)  Makes sense, when you consider that a world that comes from your imagination is based on the mind that was formed from your real-life experiences, so it's not unreasonable for a person's wonderland to include elements of their life, including versions of those people in their life.  Or, looked at another way, if the wonderland is kind of an Augmented Reality experience of the imagination, the two may not be separate at all, one is only an interpretation layer laid atop the other.


True, I wouldn't have batted an eye if it was purely an imaginary world in Red's head. But I got the (perhaps mistaken) impression that the real Ashley and stepfather were in this world, seeing and interacting with her monsters. I like the idea of it being an Augmented Reality though.



Not-a-Robot

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Reply #22 on: November 25, 2015, 01:13:04 PM
"Where the Wild Things Are" meets the teen angst of "Twilight".
Sadly, I am only a fan of one of those and blending the two together did not make them both better.

Well, you caught the allusion to Where the Wild Things Are, but I find the comparison to Twilight simply because they deal with similar themes, unfair.  If you didn't like the subject matter, there a plenty of other coming-of-age stories you could have compared it to.  This story jumped through literary hoops, bending second person perspective to its own will.  That, in itself, is a commendable achievement regardless of subject matter.    
« Last Edit: November 25, 2015, 01:15:13 PM by Not-a-Robot »



shanehalbach

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Reply #23 on: March 03, 2016, 03:41:26 AM
O.M.G. you guys. This might be one of the best stories I have ever heard in my entire life.

This is the story I have been trying for 6 years to write. Now that I see it in the flesh I guess I should give up and go home, because I have not once ever been even *close* to writing something this amazing.

I loved the way every little thing just came back and doubled in on itself. Nothing wasted. I love the way it was both a horror story and a fairy tale and a coming of age tale and a magical realism tale and basically like all the tales you can tell all at the same time. I had to stop the story when I got to work and I was so happy when I looked down and saw I was only half way through. "You mean I have that much more yet to hear??" I thought about just walking around or something and not going inside so I could keep listening.

Ugh, oh man. I love this story so much that I hate it, because it's just too perfect.

(My first thought was of Labyrinth as well,  so I'm so glad ya'll discussed that already.  ;D)


NoMeDigas

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Reply #24 on: May 10, 2016, 06:04:35 PM
I wonder if I'm the only one who thought that Monster was going to be the false king, having gone bitter after Red's rejection? But the actual false king made a lot of sense.