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Author Topic: PC438: Defy the Grey Kings  (Read 8061 times)

Talia

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on: October 18, 2016, 02:38:56 PM
PodCastle 438: Defy The Grey Kings

by Jason Fischer

read by Wilson Fowlie


First appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies #180.

There are many ways to kill an elephant. When that mountain bears down on you, shaking the earth and screaming for your blood, show no fear.

Only without fear will you see the truth. They are quick, even draped in chain and iron, but you are quicker by a whisker. They fight like devils, but it only takes three people who know what they are doing to bring an elephant down.

They are afraid of you.

All elephants can die.


Rated R, for frequent and bloody violence.



Jason Fischer is a writer who lives near Adelaide, South Australia. He has a passion for godawful puns and is known to sing karaoke until the small hours.

He has won an Aurealis Award (for this very story!) and the Writers of the Future Contest, and he has been shortlisted got other awards such as the Ditmars and the Australian Shadows. He is the author of dozens of short stories. His first collection “Everything is a Graveyard” is available from various vendors.

His YA zombie apocalypse novel “Quiver” is now available via http://www.tamsynwebb.com/.



Wilson Fowlie has been reading stories out loud since the age of 4, and credits any talent he has in this area to his parents, who are both excellent at reading aloud. He has been narrating stories for more people than his own family since late 2008 and has narrated for PodCastle, Escape Pod and Pseudopod, as well as StarShipSofa, Protecting Project Pulp, Crime City Central, Tales To Terrify, Beam Me Up, Cast Macabre, Dunesteef Audio Fiction magazine and the Journey Into… podcast. In real life he’s a web developer and also the director of a community show chorus called The Maple Leaf Singers.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: November 10, 2016, 01:55:20 PM by Talia »



Frank Evans

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Reply #1 on: October 20, 2016, 05:18:29 PM
I finished this sitting at my desk with a headphone hidden in my ear because I didn't want to wait for the trip home to find out how it ends. I really, really liked this one. The premise is fantastic, the story very well written. The narration was also excellent. I hope there's more from this universe coming at some point.



Eisenheim

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Reply #2 on: October 20, 2016, 08:28:24 PM
I really enjoyed this. Wonderfully written, evocative, well-parceled world building, but the end really soured me on the main character. It's realistic, but I would have preferred a defensible anti-hero instead of someone whose greatest ambition is to perpetuate the cycle of oppression and violence.



Tango Alpha Delta

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Reply #3 on: October 21, 2016, 12:51:26 AM
I really enjoyed this. Wonderfully written, evocative, well-parceled world building, but the end really soured me on the main character. It's realistic, but I would have preferred a defensible anti-hero instead of someone whose greatest ambition is to perpetuate the cycle of oppression and violence.

I'm torn on that last point - while I agree that the cycle is bad, when you look at it from the POV of the oppressed, it is defensible. At least in the sense of the word that means you can make a rational defense of their position. From the POV of the revolutionary, the revolution is the "ends" - and the Grey Kings taught them the means.

In the real world, of course, I like to think I favor the non-violent revolutionaries, and those with a plan that extends past the end of the existing system. But for the sake of such an enjoyably brutal story as this one, I can suspend my personal values for the sake of pulling for the viciously oppressed.

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DoWhileNot

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Reply #4 on: October 21, 2016, 12:55:10 AM
I finished this sitting at my desk with a headphone hidden in my ear.

Yeah, I was a bit late for work because I was sitting out in the parking lot listening to this.  Wow.



Wilson Fowlie

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Reply #5 on: October 21, 2016, 05:23:25 PM
I would have preferred a defensible anti-hero instead of someone whose greatest ambition is to perpetuate the cycle of oppression and violence.

I'm torn on that last point - while I agree that the cycle is bad, when you look at it from the POV of the oppressed, it is defensible. At least in the sense of the word that means you can make a rational defense of their position. From the POV of the revolutionary, the revolution is the "ends" - and the Grey Kings taught them the means.

If he's anything like me, I don't think it's the violence so much as the oppression that Eisenheim is concerned about. That bit at the end where Ghost says,
Quote
Above all, I picture their bones in the plazas. Outside of their ruined city, I imagine our villages, huts made from their rib-cages and covered with stretched skin. I see their tusks used for ornaments and trade, but most of all, I dream of the day when those grey killers are fastened into the ploughs, urged on by a whip in a human hand.

That's more than just the violence necessary to overthrow your oppressors; it goes right back out the other side to being the oppressor. Whether or not it's possible for revenge to be just, it's not any kind of 'justice' (or even, in my opinion, reasonable revenge, if such a thing can exist) to visit the horrors your ancestors experienced onto the descendants of those who perpetrated them.

And the fact that many elephants in the real world are treated this way makes it even more disturbing.

"People commonly use the word 'procrastination' to describe what they do on the Internet. It seems to me too mild to describe what's happening as merely not-doing-work. We don't call it procrastination when someone gets drunk instead of working." - Paul Graham


Tango Alpha Delta

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Reply #6 on: October 23, 2016, 02:51:44 PM
Very true.

It makes for an interesting and uncomfortable allegory, to be sure. We see plenty of examples of oppressors and the oppressed reversing roles in our world; sometimes leading to perpetual cycles of violence... less often evening out to a survivable compromise.

I  hadn't considered that line about how real elephants are treated - I probably should have.

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Not-a-Robot

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Reply #7 on: October 23, 2016, 09:33:41 PM
Grimdark, both grim and dark.

Okay, so I tried it: George RR Martin, Joe Abercrombie... made it through several books that I didn't like in the grim hope that they would get better. They didn't.

But this, this was good, interesting, with character not making dumb decisions designed to simply enhance the cruelty of the world (with the exception of the elephant killing a highly experienced member of his team for one small mistake).

And then it ended with the perpetuation of the violence/slavery cycle and I went... ugh...

But it's grimdark, so I guess that's the point, right?



arkouda

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Reply #8 on: October 26, 2016, 07:00:42 PM
This story was well-written and evocative - the action was well-described especially, I thought, and easy to follow, but it was a bit too much Robert E Howard for my taste. I was disappointed with the main character in the end, like other commenters (although I suppose I can see it as a plausible reaction to his traumatic life), but even earlier I kept thinking: this story does a disservice to elephants AND humans. This is some weird elephant behaviour; I wonder if there's a place in this world where the female and juvenile elephants live in peaceful and cooperative family clans like they do in real life, staying as far away from these bulls as they can.

In general it gave me a vibe of "I made this interesting animal sentient and hyper-violent so that I could imagine fighting them as a badass opressed underdog!! I'm so cool!!". Which just isn't something I'm personally into.



Just Jeff

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Reply #9 on: October 29, 2016, 03:41:20 AM
I enjoyed this immensely. Doesn't strike me as grimdark though. Is the protag morally ambiguous, or just willing to get down and dirty in order to fight for first his own freedom and later that of his species? Grim and violent, absolutely, but grimdark?



Tango Alpha Delta

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Reply #10 on: October 29, 2016, 03:39:18 PM


In general it gave me a vibe of "I made this interesting animal sentient and hyper-violent so that I could imagine fighting them as a badass opressed underdog!! I'm so cool!!". Which just isn't something I'm personally into.

I read that as a subtle allegory to how humans *could* live in peaceful communities if we didn't allow our worst instincts to rule us. Perhaps a bit too subtle to be intentional?

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DerangedMind

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Reply #11 on: October 30, 2016, 01:43:05 AM
I finished this sitting at my desk with a headphone hidden in my ear.

Yeah, I was a bit late for work because I was sitting out in the parking lot listening to this.  Wow.


Me too.



DerangedMind

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Reply #12 on: October 30, 2016, 01:47:21 AM
I wasn't expecting to like this one.  I'm not sure why, but I went into it with a bad attitude.  But, I was quickly drawn into the world, and found myself immersed in the story, and loved it.

People have talked about the violence of the story.  And yeah, it was violent.  But it didn't seem gratuitous.  The violence that was there seemed integral to the story.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, and would love to see a prequel to it, showing the elephants coming to power.



Myst

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Reply #13 on: October 30, 2016, 09:02:29 PM
I would have preferred a defensible anti-hero instead of someone whose greatest ambition is to perpetuate the cycle of oppression and violence.

I'm torn on that last point - while I agree that the cycle is bad, when you look at it from the POV of the oppressed, it is defensible. At least in the sense of the word that means you can make a rational defense of their position. From the POV of the revolutionary, the revolution is the "ends" - and the Grey Kings taught them the means.

If he's anything like me, I don't think it's the violence so much as the oppression that Eisenheim is concerned about. That bit at the end where Ghost says,
Quote
Above all, I picture their bones in the plazas. Outside of their ruined city, I imagine our villages, huts made from their rib-cages and covered with stretched skin. I see their tusks used for ornaments and trade, but most of all, I dream of the day when those grey killers are fastened into the ploughs, urged on by a whip in a human hand.

That's more than just the violence necessary to overthrow your oppressors; it goes right back out the other side to being the oppressor. Whether or not it's possible for revenge to be just, it's not any kind of 'justice' (or even, in my opinion, reasonable revenge, if such a thing can exist) to visit the horrors your ancestors experienced onto the descendants of those who perpetrated them.

And the fact that many elephants in the real world are treated this way makes it even more disturbing.

I don't think it goes too far especially when you take into consideration that these are just his dreams. Ghost was tortured by his master and all he knows violence. His reaction of anger and hate seems perfectly reasonable to me.  It's not really about justice it's about someone in pain and only knowing one way to make the pain a tiny bit less.

Mike



Lisa3737

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Reply #14 on: November 06, 2016, 01:58:14 AM
Whew!  Not sure I'll look at elephants in quite the same way after this story.....



Fenrix

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Reply #15 on: November 06, 2016, 04:20:00 PM
This story kicked ass, and the narration was perfect.

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


Unblinking

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Reply #16 on: November 29, 2016, 02:49:57 PM
For some reason I wasn't expecting to like this one either, but I thought it was quite good. 

I thought it was fitting that elephants oppression would never have worked without the humans active participation--while elephants are powerful, they are at a long-term disadvantage to humans because lack of tool-making appendages.  But as an individual human, if you rebel by yourself you are rising up against the whole system, not just the elephants, and if each person is just trying to survive they participate in the system to do so. 

I can see why some were bothered by the fantasies of turning the tables on their oppressors, but I guess that made sense to me given where the story originated.  I'm not saying it's right, or just, or that I think that new world would be any better really than the one that came before. But I think it's a realistic dream of a violent revolutionary.  And I think it's an apt angle for the story to end with that fantasy of elephants being oppressed so that we might consider whether we are okay with that, and compare and contrast it to the treatment of elephants in our world--is it okay for elephants to be treated that way as revenge?  In our world there wasn't even a revenge factor, so how can we forgive ourselves for that?




That Hirschman Guy

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Reply #17 on: December 08, 2016, 10:23:51 PM
Never in all my imaginings of the vast possibilities throughout the multiverse did I consider that somewhere there must be a world where elephants are the dominant species, cruelly subjugating humans beneath their wrinkly flappings and huge smashing feet.

This is a great tale with a whole set of rules as to caste, honorable behavior, and a whole separate universe with its fixed systems which so differ from ours.



Devoted135

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Reply #18 on: January 23, 2017, 08:09:56 PM
I had a hard time suspending my disbelief, but by about halfway through I was completely sucked in. The violence was very disturbing, but I could see why the author had put it in. In a surprising turn, by the end of the story the elephants were so completely disassociated from our real-world elephants that I basically forgot about any connection with our own world.

And of course, I loved Wilson's narration!