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Author Topic: PC398: Flower of Flowers, Bird of Birds  (Read 2291 times)


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on: January 13, 2016, 04:37:33 PM
PodCastle 398: Flower of Flowers, Bird of Birds

by Alicia Cole

read by Rajan Khanna

Originally appeared in Demeter’s Spicebox #3, on Delinquent’s Spice, edited by Nin Harris.

Where the ylang-ylang trees twist scented like slumber, in the village of my grandmothers, strange birds nest.  With long grey necks sinuous as river serpents, they rattle their beaks at women washing in the estuary.  To steal such a bird’s eggs, it is said,will curry the favor of Mulangu.  This lure, and the sweetness of the fowl when roasted, has led to a gradual decline of the race. Though once proud, surrounded by sharp-beaked sentinels, the king bird has grown sorrowful and lazy with his people’s deterioration andno longer snatches at thieves’ eyes.  In my grandmother’s day, only a strong ghali-ghuchi woman would harvest the eggs without fear.  After many seasons of loss, even my mother could succeed at such a task.

Rated PG.

Alicia Cole is a working artist in Atlanta, GA.  She works for Studio No. 7 and WonderRoot, and performs with the Atlanta Radio Theater Company.  She’s a writer, editor, and interviewer, with work forthcoming in Torn Pages Anthology and Asimov’s, among other publications.  She’s an active member of HWA and SFPA.

Alicia also runs Priestess & Hierophant Press. Their current publication is Darkly Told: An Audio Chapbook, a collection of dark/horror poetry by Alicia, with audio recordings by C.S.E. Cooney, and an original score by Memory Splice.  “Rat Catcher”, a track from the audio chapbook, has been remixed by Memory Splice, Changes, and Stephane Badey, on Spain’s TFB Records, and is available here.

Rajan Khanna is an author, blogger, reviewer and narrator. His first novel, Falling Sky, a post-apocalyptic adventure with airships, was released in October 2014 followed by a sequel, Rising Tide, in October 2015. His short fiction has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and several anthologies. His articles and reviews have appeared at and and his podcast narrations can be heard at Podcastle, Escape Pod, PseudoPod, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Lightspeed Magazine. Rajan lives in New York where he’s a member of the Altered Fluid writing group. His personal website is and he tweets, @rajanyk.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: February 01, 2016, 05:49:55 PM by Talia »


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Reply #1 on: January 17, 2016, 03:18:49 AM
I am King Under the Mountain! It's good to hear Rajan again, he always delivers a great narration.

This also marks me being 100% caught up with the entire PodCastle catalog. For a few more days, at least, although it's a lot easier to stay caught up once you've completed the back catalog. I'll have to think about my favorite episodes of all time. Now to continue my slow puttering through the Escape Pod back catalog while adding completion of Cast of Wonders. But I've officially listened to well over half of the catalog. It's taken years, but it's definitely effort worth making.

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”

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Reply #2 on: January 17, 2016, 05:55:36 PM
 :-\ Even with my eyes closed, I didn't get caught up with this narrative.  I'll have to try it again a later date. I even tried to transpose my Hawaii experience over this story.  No good.  I regret that.  :-\
« Last Edit: January 17, 2016, 06:05:26 PM by Scuba Man »

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Reply #3 on: January 21, 2016, 03:18:42 PM
This was one of those that, while I enjoyed listening to the flow of the words, it had kind of a lullaby effect on me and I... don't recall anything about the story itself other than that reaction.  :/

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Reply #4 on: January 25, 2016, 04:13:28 PM
The richness of the writing worked against the narration, I felt. Like other commenters, I had trouble staying focused on the story. I listen to podcasts while at work, doing repetitive and usually undemanding tasks. But that work still takes up part of my mind's operation, enough that when a story is filled with rich and sensuous language it calls for a degree of attention that I'm not fully able to give. This story worked better as text for reading, or else would require a dedicated listening to without other distractions.


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Reply #5 on: January 29, 2016, 06:40:42 AM
I liked this one a lot. The lushness of the language really helped to immerse me in this exotic environment, while still feeling it was simply the natural home of the protagonist. The focus on all the sensuality of the experiences made it feel solid and real.
I also liked the plot elements: No one knew why the magic-weak mother bore a son instead of a daughter, but eventually the mother and her mother were able to accept that change had come and would continue to work its will upon their world, and their place was simply to deal with that. I liked the fairy-tale-style repetition of seeking a proper bride for the son, leading up to the matter-of-fact recognition that it's the king bird who should be his mate.
It all just seemed really fitting, working together in a satisfying way.


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Reply #6 on: January 29, 2016, 07:56:33 AM
Count me in with those who couldn't quite follow the first time they listened. It was worth giving it a second try. Beautiful fairy tale like story with quite a different outcome than I expected.
Also, it broadened my horizon. I know little about African geography, history, or culture and actually plan on doing some reading up on it this year.  I don't even know the differences between Ghana, Gambia, and Gabon. For example, when I listened to this story, I thought the sound of the names, the location (Comoros), the ocean and the islamic greating were for sure a sign it has to be in Indonesia! Well, in my European ignorance I was of course wrong. Time to learn some more.


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Reply #7 on: January 29, 2016, 09:56:55 PM
Totally lost. Not entirely the story's fault. I got distracted by something at the beginning and after that the story kept sliding away from me until quite near the end when I managed to latch on again. I enjoyed the ending, despite feeling as though I'd walked in at the very end of the movie. There was a lot of beauty in the language and  I liked that much of it took place at night. I love night. That sounds random, but I think darkness has a beauty of its own.

“My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it.”
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Reply #8 on: February 16, 2016, 12:28:35 PM
I feel those saying they lost the plot mist the point, I got lost in a beautiful, dreamlike and slightly nonsensical place and came back feeling like I'd had a holiday.


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Reply #9 on: February 26, 2016, 02:56:16 AM
This one was not my cup of tea, but it was a pleasure to hear Rajan Khanna narrate again.