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Author Topic: PC408: Tumbleweeds And Little Girls  (Read 1927 times)
Ocicat
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« on: March 23, 2016, 12:02:28 AM »

PodCastle 408: Tumbleweeds And Little Girls

by Jeff Bowles

read by Julie Hoverson


A PodCastle Original!

They had the tumbleweed ambassador on the news a month before the big battle. The news guy and news girl said he was intelligent, and then a local representative of the Plains and Wildlife Service translated for him because tumbleweeds can’t talk and must sign everything by rolling and hopping and what not.

“We mean your people no harm,” said the Plains and Wildlife Service guy. He spoke kind of slow and choppy. I guessed he wasn’t actually, what do you call it? Fluent in tumbleweed?


Rated PG

Jeff Bowles was born and raised in high country Colorado. In 2015, he earned his creative writing M.F.A. at Western State Colorado University, where he studied under industry veterans and produced a thesis novel he’ll be publishing soon. His work has appeared in venues like Nashville Review, the world’s premier horror fiction podcast, Pseudopod, The Threepenny Review, and Spark: a Creative Anthology. He lives on the vast, wide-open plains of Colorado with his wife and his far too many strange ideas. Jeff talks about writing, life, the universe, video games, and geek culture on his Facebook page. You can check it out at facebook.com/JeffRyanBowles.

His short story collection “Godling and Other Paint Stories” is also available now on Amazon.

Julie Hoverson is the writer and producer of such audio dramas as 19 Nocturne Boulevard and Fatal Girl (both available at 19 Nocturne Boulevard.com), has now turned her hand to audiobooks and can be found on audible.com narrating such diverse pieces as Jake Bible’s Dead Mech Apex Trilogy (third book coming soon) and several novellas that are part of Brian MacLellan’s Powder Mage series, most recently MURDER AT THE KINNEN HOTEL.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: April 12, 2016, 11:10:01 AM by Talia » Logged
Lionman
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« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2016, 04:09:31 PM »

This story reminded me very much of the joke: Nate the Talking Snake.  (https://www.reddit.com/r/Jokes/comments/2q2iln/nate_the_snake/)

In my 'youth' this was a joke I could stretch out 10 or 15 minutes.  (I take after my father like that.)  And all this, for one punch line: The moral of the tale - It was better Nate than lever.

I felt very much the same way with this story.  I'm 10 minutes in wondering to myself, "This is Nate the Talking Snake, all over again.  So..where's the punch line?"  That, and the skill of the reader, were the only thing that kept me listening to it.  While the outro talked about it being a story that, perhaps while goofy, was meant to remind people not to underestimate the power of girls...it really felt like it came of first as a tongue-in-cheek joke, with a cheesy punchline.
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« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2016, 09:06:31 PM »

It was definitely silly and fun - in my neck of the woods, tumbleweeds were considered an invasive species worthy ONLY of fire, so I had to suspend a heapin' helpin' o' disbelief to see them as not-the-villains.

Made this more of a dusty, Southwestern version of Through the Looking Glass!
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« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2016, 08:04:36 AM »

This story reminded me very much of the joke: Nate the Talking Snake.  (https://www.reddit.com/r/Jokes/comments/2q2iln/nate_the_snake/)

The term for jokes like Nate the Talking Snake is: shaggy dog story.

(I'm not saying that Tumbleweeds And Little Girls is a shaggy dog story.)
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« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2016, 08:43:05 AM »

I found this one very fun.  The silly narrative voice, the tumbeleweeds, the little details like the potato cupcake based on shared knowledge about what one eats in the army, the narration, the weirdness of it all especially with the prairie queen being a blade of grass.

OK, the reveal in the ending was perhaps one of its less appealing points if you expect it to be a twist.  But I didn't think it was supposed to be a twist.  The tumbleweeds were mixing up words in almost every exchange and the unusualness of requesting only children for an army implied that it was probably a mistake.  So the reveal that this was a mixup didn't seem like it was really supposed to be a twist, it was supposed to be a foregone conclusion and, if anything, everyone in the story should've figured it when I did... but that's okay because without that sustained misunderstanding the story would lose a lot of its appeal and character.

One detail that even with the weirdness felt kind of out of place was the prairie queen's use of fire as her primary weapon, especially with her being a blade of grass.  Why would she risk burning down her whole domain to defend her borders?  And hiding in a shell of dry tumbleweeds when using fire as a primary weapon would be worse than having no shelter at all.  So I thought it was strange that the prairie queen didn't use something else instead of fire, fire seemed out of place in her setting.
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« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2016, 03:14:10 PM »

I mostly enjoyed it.  The premise and first part of the story reminded me of some of the whimsical fantasy I read a lot of in grade school, but then took a rather dark turn when the battle actually started.  Fun and enjoyable, particularly the narrator. 

I loved the matter-of-fact "because that's what you do when you're in the army".

I think unblinking hit it right on the nose, the shaggy dog punchline was kind of tissue thin at best, and to be honest doesn't work very well, since the tumbleweeds knew that they wanted pearls, but still went around collecting girls and bringing them to the army.  I could understand if PEOPLE were collecting the girls and bringing them to the tumbleweeds, but it didn't play out that way.
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leaveomelas
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« Reply #6 on: March 31, 2016, 10:07:22 AM »

I agree it was strange for them to have been collecting girls when they wanted pearls.  Add to the fact that little girls are dying by being burnt alive and all the humor left the story for me.
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Maxilu
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« Reply #7 on: March 31, 2016, 11:33:54 AM »



n my neck of the woods, tumbleweeds were considered an invasive species worthy ONLY of fire, so I had to suspend a heapin' helpin' o' disbelief to see them as not-the-villains.

Same here. I was outright rooting for the Prairie Queen, with her tall grass and wildlife and wilderness that has all but been destroyed in the last 200 years by Western encroachment.

But... If I flip the story around, if I make it the work of a young girl dealing with the loss of her father, and her mother's resulting depression, if it becomes about finding her power, then it's wonderful. When I was a pre-teen and young teenager, I made up stories to help me deal with life, though my stories were more likely to contain dragons and vampires and portals to alternate universes than sentient tumbleweeds. I see this story as a girl trying to figure out why her Mom didn't do anything for her birthday, and finding importance at an age where society dismisses girls out of hand.

This is far from my favorite story, buy it has it's charms.
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velocity
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« Reply #8 on: March 31, 2016, 11:26:25 PM »

It was strange that little girls were burnt alive in the midst of the war.  And the Prairie Queen wasn't completely wrong.  I didnt know what to make of this story. 
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« Reply #9 on: April 01, 2016, 09:23:24 AM »

I'm not saying it wasn't also a dark story, with the girls being burnt alive and stuff.  But darkness and humor are not mutually exclusive, at least for me.  The stakes of the war would've been much less convincing if no one died on the battlefield.

As for why the tumbleweeds collected girls when they knew they wanted pearls, I'm trying to remember exactly how the meeting with the tumbleweed at the door went. I think she had assumed the tumbleweed had come for her but maybe it was really coming for her mom's pearls, and when she seemed to volunteer the tumbleweed was like "oh, okay, well that seems like a big commitment when I was just hoping for some financing, but I'm not going to say no to a willing volunteer".
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« Reply #10 on: April 06, 2016, 01:32:01 PM »

This was a lot of fun. Great action and wry humor. This felt reminiscent of Baum's Oz books.

RE: the horrific bits with the death of her friends - I recall that she said her friend was melted. This would lend credence to it being an elaborate play with dolls and stuffed animals like Jen said in the beginning. Because a doll would melt, whereas a person would not.
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« Reply #11 on: April 06, 2016, 11:18:35 PM »

Long long time listener but first time poster. But, this story was fun. Pink sparkly uniforms. Pigtails & three ring binders. Flamethrowers on deer. Little girls who are melting. "it comes off like a banshee wail...like a great roarin throat sound loud as jet engines. I don't know why but the sound made us cry." Much giggles while listening to this story. A little bit Wizard of Oz mixed with Drabblecast maybe? Fun. Nice to see a fun Podcastle Original.
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« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2016, 07:50:55 AM »

This was a lot of fun. Great action and wry humor. This felt reminiscent of Baum's Oz books.

Glad I'm not the only one to think about Oz listening to this.

Fun with an edge — liked it.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #13 on: April 14, 2016, 09:55:30 PM »

I can appreciate what others are saying about how the accumulation of misunderstandings is necessary to buy the pearls/girls problem, and I actually liked the various jokes about "because that's what you do in the army." But for me, this one overstayed its welcome. I'd rather see it as a flash piece. Although, the idea of reinterpreting it as one girl's way of processing her trauma makes it at least a bit more appealing.
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« Reply #14 on: April 19, 2016, 11:35:27 AM »

I thought this was a bizarrely fun romp. Very strange, but GO PRECIOUS GIRLS!!!!
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Lisa3737
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« Reply #15 on: April 27, 2016, 06:53:10 PM »

This was an entertaining story; I very much enjoyed it.  And, the narration was EXCELLENT!!
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« Reply #16 on: May 02, 2016, 09:23:09 AM »

meh

or maybe even bleh

I suppose if you go sublevel and try to squeeze meaning out of it as an elaborate imaginary coping mechanism you can get there, but I prefer to read/listen for pure enjoyment/entertainment, not analysis. 
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« Reply #17 on: May 03, 2016, 09:33:38 AM »

meh

or maybe even bleh

I suppose if you go sublevel and try to squeeze meaning out of it as an elaborate imaginary coping mechanism you can get there, but I prefer to read/listen for pure enjoyment/entertainment, not analysis. 

I enjoyed it without analysis, but YMMV. Smiley
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eytanz
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« Reply #18 on: May 19, 2016, 06:01:48 AM »

I'm rather late to the party with this one, but I loved this story. For me, it worked precisely because it was so silly at points - it was a whole mess of incongruities, from the sentient tumbleweed, the inappropriate tone of the newspeople, the fact that the army included a corp of selfie-takers for no apparent reason, the fact that the blade of grass chose fire as her weapon, etc. etc. It was ridiculous and silly and extremely dark at points and it all worked together perfectly.

And, thinking deeper it struck me that maybe that's the point. I spent my late teens in the military, and while I wasn't in a combat unit, there were many things I saw and did that don't make a lick more sense than anything that happened in this story. Why is it that sending a bunch of 18 year olds into rifle fire makes so much more sense to us that sending a bunch of 13 years olds into flamethrower fire? Why does the idea of bright pink uniforms strike us as silly but the olive green uniform with a red and blue braid I wore for three years seem normal? Why does eating a potato cupcake for your birthday seem funny but having the same carrot & spam salad available in the mess hall for a week in a row seem acceptable (if disgusting)? I don't know the answers to these questions.
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JessyHere
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« Reply #19 on: April 06, 2017, 05:19:52 AM »

I liked the whimsical aspect of the little girl army, but as others have pointed out, I think that the tumbleweeds and the people are the bad guys in this story. They are the invaders, displacing the land's natural inhabitants.  (Just like in real life, says this misanthropic conservationist.)

I also want to note that the choice of fire as a weapon for the blade of grass makes sense to me.  Prairies are a fire dependent ecosystem. Prairie inhabitants would be able to bounce back after a fire, where the invaders would not.

Sent from my SM-G930V using Tapatalk

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