Author Topic: PC139: To Follow the Waves  (Read 44183 times)

eytanz

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Reply #50 on: January 26, 2011, 04:48:02 PM
Ok, so I'm coming late to this one and there is a *lot* of fanscinating stuff in this thread already. Let me start by saying the important bit: I loved this one. Brilliantly written, and after a shaky 4-5 minutes as the narrator got into the pacing, beautifully read. I love Amal Al Mohtar's writing, and this story was no exception.

I found Dave's intro and outro a bit unintentionally hilarious in the sense that it felt like he was trying to win a bet that he can say the word "steampunk" as many times as possible.

That said, I always though that steampunk is a geopolitically defined sub-genre - that it's not about a time period, and it is not about a technology, but that it's about alternate British Empires in Victorian days. Asking "why isn't steampunk more diverse" is the same asking "why aren't there more Westerns set in medieval France" or "why are there so few Icelandic sagas that feature African Americans". I guess I have no problem with calling this story steampunk, but I wonder why there is a need for that - is there anything inherently wrong about defining a sub-genre in such a narrow way? I guess I don't see the value of encouraging diversity *within* a sub-genre, when it can just as easily (and more profitably) be encouraged by allowing for a diversity of sub-genres (or, in other words, why do stories about the 19the century Middle East have to sit under a label created for stories about English people? Don't they deserve a label of their own?)



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Reply #51 on: January 26, 2011, 05:35:27 PM
...(or, in other words, why do stories about the 19the century Middle East have to sit under a label created for stories about English people? Don't they deserve a label of their own?)

"Gempunk"?  :P

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Reply #52 on: January 26, 2011, 08:14:28 PM
... there is a *lot* of fanscinating stuff in this thread already.

If that wasn't a deliberate pun, it should have been. :)

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amalmohtar

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Reply #53 on: January 26, 2011, 10:11:03 PM
Eytanz: Thanks so much for the kind words! You ask a really great question, and this is my take:

I think "Western" and "Icelandic Saga" are geopolitically bounded in ways that "Steampunk" is not. "Steampunk" is already riffing on "Cyberpunk," which is not, so far as I'm aware, particularly localised. But your question about why we ought to bother expanding genre labels instead of creating new labels really interests me.

I think there's as much interest in diversifying Steampunk as there is because it's very, very easy to let those reconstructions of British Empire be racist, classist, imperialist nostalgia. That's problematic for someone who, like myself, would really like to enjoy the awesome airships and fascinating technology and pretty gears and stuff without seeing myself in the Exotic Oriental Girl Who Is a Plot Point. When so much of a genre becomes indulgence of colonial pipe dreams, I think it behooves us to write against it and reclaim it. In fact, I think there's an increasing tradition of Steampunky Westerns where Aboriginal people can rewrite their histories in such a way as to engage with the crappy representation they've dealt with in Westerns for years. This is a pretty great article on the subject from one woman's perspective: http://beyondvictoriana.com/2010/11/21/beyond-victoriana-50-overcoming-the-noble-savage-and-the-sexy-squaw-native-steampunk-monique-poirier/

I recommend Beyond Victoriana for just about anything touching on this subject, really. Ay-Leen is far more eloquent than I can hope to be in a poorly thought-through forum post. :) http://beyondvictoriana.com/about/

Also, where the 19th Century Middle-East is concerned? It helps to write against a genre from the inside, I think, when representations of Arabs and the Middle-East are as dire as they are right now. That label for stories about English people has too frequently featured the Middle-East of the 19th Century, appropriating its stories and people for its own ends -- so I think there's important work to be done in reversing those representations before acquiring a label of their own.




amalmohtar

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Reply #54 on: January 26, 2011, 10:17:08 PM


"Gempunk"?  :P
[/quote]


AHAHAH! Oh man, if I wrote something popular enough to breed a new "-punk," I don't know WHAT I'd do. Beam fit to draw sunflowers, I guess.



eytanz

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Reply #55 on: January 26, 2011, 10:57:00 PM
Eytanz: Thanks so much for the kind words! You ask a really great question, and this is my take:

I think "Western" and "Icelandic Saga" are geopolitically bounded in ways that "Steampunk" is not. "Steampunk" is already riffing on "Cyberpunk," which is not, so far as I'm aware, particularly localised. But your question about why we ought to bother expanding genre labels instead of creating new labels really interests me.

I think there's as much interest in diversifying Steampunk as there is because it's very, very easy to let those reconstructions of British Empire be racist, classist, imperialist nostalgia. That's problematic for someone who, like myself, would really like to enjoy the awesome airships and fascinating technology and pretty gears and stuff without seeing myself in the Exotic Oriental Girl Who Is a Plot Point. When so much of a genre becomes indulgence of colonial pipe dreams, I think it behooves us to write against it and reclaim it.

I entirely agree with your sentiment here. But I'm not sure that expanding the genre label is the right way to address this concern. Victorian England is interesting precisely because, to quote the mission statement of Beyond Victoriana (which I read following your link, and now I'm quite excited about reading more from that site) - "[it] was a time of intellectual achievement, innovation, and geopolitcal expansion. At the same time, that greatness came at the expense of slavery, oppression, social inequality, and racism." Stories that romanticize this period, either by ignoring the downside, or worse, by embracing the inequality inherent to it, are problematic. But the way to address that seems to me to be to write stories that acknowledge and tackle head-on this dichotomy. There's a lot that can be done in stories *about* Victorian England. To fix Steampunk, the focus should be shifted not outwards, but rather inwards, towards the parts of the English Empire that are not as easy to adore.

Which isn't to say that I think stories shouldn't be written about non-England settings. Of course they should - and I very much want to read them. And those stories, hopefully, can help people see beyond the stereotypes and propoganda. But if I were to choose, I wouldn't want to see steampunk be more diverse - I would like to see steampunk fit comfortably as one part of a diverse speculative literature.



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Reply #56 on: January 27, 2011, 02:01:28 AM
That's problematic for someone who, like myself, would really like to enjoy the awesome airships and fascinating technology and pretty gears and stuff without seeing myself in the Exotic Oriental Girl Who Is a Plot Point. When so much of a genre becomes indulgence of colonial pipe dreams, I think it behooves us to write against it and reclaim it.

Have you heard or read PodCastle 90: Biographical Notes to “A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with Air-planes” by Benjamin Rosenbaum, by Benjamin Rosenbaum? This seems to fit the bill to me -- i.e. non-Colonial, non-racist.


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Reply #57 on: January 27, 2011, 02:50:08 PM
Eytanz: Thanks so much for the kind words! You ask a really great question, and this is my take:

I think "Western" and "Icelandic Saga" are geopolitically bounded in ways that "Steampunk" is not. "Steampunk" is already riffing on "Cyberpunk," which is not, so far as I'm aware, particularly localised. But your question about why we ought to bother expanding genre labels instead of creating new labels really interests me.


I don't have a problem with Steampunk without Victorian England.  I kind of have trouble grasping a steampunk without the steam, though.  Because then you're just left with "punk", and that's something different entirely, and is certainly not "steampunk".  I know there was an automaton in this story, which is certainly steampunk, but since it never had any effect on the tale it didn't strike me as a genre-defining moment.  (I know you explained your ideas about stones and electrical impulses, but the stonework still feels like 100% magic to me)

As you said, "steampunk" is already riffing on "cyberpunk", but imagine if we took the "cyber" out of "cyberpunk".  No more VR, no more "jacking in", and instead of having awesome virtual action sequences and espionage, those same characters are probably going to be sitting on the computer looking up porn, chatting on Facebook, or discussing stories on a podcast forum.  Likewise, if VR technology exists in a story world, but VR is never used by the main characters nor does it affect anything they do, then I'd hesitate to call the story cyberpunk.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2011, 02:55:29 PM by Unblinking »



yicheng

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Reply #58 on: January 27, 2011, 04:46:18 PM
Someone mentioned something about having a Western in France.  I just wanted to poke my head up and say that much of Akira Kurosawa's work (7 Samurai, Yojimibo, etc) were a direct influence on the Spaghetti Western movie genre.  So, really, modern westerns are actually American Samurai movies.   ;D




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Reply #59 on: January 28, 2011, 02:51:58 AM
Someone mentioned something about having a Western in France.  I just wanted to poke my head up and say that much of Akira Kurosawa's work (7 Samurai, Yojimibo, etc) were a direct influence on the Spaghetti Western movie genre.  So, really, modern westerns are actually American Samurai movies.   ;D

Indeed, and in fact The Magnificent Seven is an obvious remake of The Seven Samurai, and A Fistful of Dollars is a remake of Yojimbo (so is the Bruce Willis movie Last Man Standing, and it actually credits Kurosawa for the story.)

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Reply #60 on: January 28, 2011, 08:56:36 AM
Indeed, and in fact The Magnificent Seven is an obvious remake of The Seven Samurai, and A Fistful of Dollars is a remake of Yojimbo (so is the Bruce Willis movie Last Man Standing, and it actually credits Kurosawa for the story.)

Last Man Standing is one of my favourite movies ever, I watch it several times a year. If you see Yojimbo the source is completely obvious, but DAMN it travels well into gangs and Prohibition. LMS has a fantastic soundtrack, too.


amalmohtar

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Reply #61 on: January 28, 2011, 12:35:45 PM
Oh, by the way, for anyone interested, the anthology's now available for purchase. Y'all have GOT to read Shweta Narayan's story!
« Last Edit: January 28, 2011, 11:16:35 PM by eytanz »



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Reply #62 on: January 28, 2011, 01:32:53 PM
The reading was very good. The confrontation between Nala and Hessa made up for a somewhat slow expository section.

I enjoyed the story and the setting. The concept of "but that can't happen, I was never taught how to do that, no one's ever done that" isn't new, although combining it with... what would you call it? "Sex by surprise"?... isn't something I've heard much of.

I get the feeling that the author had Morena Baccarin a la Firefly in mind when she wrote Nala, though I could be wrong. That's certainly who I saw, though.

If there's one thing I didn't like about this story, it's that it appeared in an anthology that I have a story that was perfect for it, and I never even heard of the anthology until today. Darn it.

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stePH

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Reply #63 on: January 28, 2011, 03:13:39 PM
Last Man Standing is one of my favourite movies ever, I watch it several times a year. If you see Yojimbo the source is completely obvious, but DAMN it travels well into gangs and Prohibition. LMS has a fantastic soundtrack, too.

I'd not yet seen Yojimbo nor A Fistful of Dollars when I first saw LMS (still haven't seen Fistful). All I knew, was that I thought it was awesome.

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Reply #64 on: January 28, 2011, 05:20:50 PM
Oh, by the way, for anyone interested, the anthology's now available for purchase. Y'all have GOT to read Shweta Narayan's story!

Sweet! Thanks, Amal.

I've updated the PodCastle page and the front page of this thread.


amalmohtar

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Reply #65 on: January 28, 2011, 10:22:17 PM

I get the feeling that the author had Morena Baccarin a la Firefly in mind when she wrote Nala, though I could be wrong. That's certainly who I saw, though.

If there's one thing I didn't like about this story, it's that it appeared in an anthology that I have a story that was perfect for it, and I never even heard of the anthology until today. Darn it.

Hah! I adore Morena Baccarin, especially in that role, but no, didn't think of her at all. Nahla's a lot more severe-looking and angular in my head, and has darker skin.

As to the story and the anthology... There's going to be a second one! :) http://upstart-crow.livejournal.com/442166.html

You should totally send her something!

Sweet! Thanks, Amal.

I've updated the PodCastle page and the front page of this thread.

Hooray! Thank YOU!



eytanz

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Reply #66 on: January 28, 2011, 11:22:01 PM
So, I need to start with a mea culpa - earlier, I tried responding to the announcement of the anthology with a question. I did it when I was in a hurry. And what I didn't notice is that instead of clicking "quote", I clicked "modify". Because I'm a mod and can modify other people's posts. So I actually inserted my question into Amal's post, which A - is really rude, and B - must have looked really weird to everyone who saw it. My sincerest apologies.

Now that I've gotten that off my chest (and fixed the original post), here is the actual question regarding the anthology:

Does anyone know if there are plans for an e-book version? I prefer them to physical books these days, partially because I've run out of shelf space in my flat, and partially because it's easier for me to always carry my Kindle with me.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2011, 11:41:52 PM by eytanz »



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Reply #67 on: January 28, 2011, 11:23:59 PM
I agree!  I'm trying to keep my "real book" purchases down in an effort to make future moving efforts easier.



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Reply #68 on: February 01, 2011, 06:00:22 PM
Eytanz: No worries! I didn't even see it. :)

Does anyone know if there are plans for an e-book version? I prefer them to physical books these days, partially because I've run out of shelf space in my flat, and partially because it's easier for me to always carry my Kindle with me.

I have this info now; you can order an e-book on the same site, just specify that you'd like it in e-book format, as here: http://www.torquerebooks.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=3034

Looks like the e-book is $6.99.



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Reply #69 on: February 06, 2011, 10:27:56 PM
This is an okay story, but I do not agree with the insistence that it counts as steampunk.

The ending seems a little rapey to me. But the solution to rape is not "rape 'em right back." Tit-for-tat doesn't seem right with rape scenario. On the other hand, who is to say it doesn't work in the story culture? But it left me feeling uncomfortable and the other girl seems exceptionally sadistic and empathy-free.

Since some parts read a bit like erotica or a bad romance, I am happy for the dark turn towards the end. It made things a bit more interesting.

And there really is no argument that there is a scientific basis for the dream stuff.  Crystals holding dreams is about the most MAGICAL thing I've ever heard.  Until I read a bit further and read about dreams carved into crystals stealing the nocturnal willpower of distant persons and forcing them to do things against their will.  That is nothing but pure MAGIC.  Which is fine for a fantasy story.  But it was driving me a bit crazy that there was a claim this was scientifically justified.
------------

So those were my thoughts about the story in general, now about the great Steampunk Definition debate.

There is a steam automaton in the background of one scene that is irrelevant to the story. That is the ENTIRE SUM OF TECHNOLOGY in the story. The argument that "steampunk things are happening in other parts of the world" is irrelevant. Just as stories which might as well take place at the grocery store do not become Science Fiction if you declare that said grocery store is located on a space station. It takes more than hydroponic tomatoes to make science fiction. And however we want to define steampunk, I think that it takes some amount of "steam" (a.k.a. anachronisticly advanced microprocessor-free technology) elements. (Punk is an altogether trickier subject, the term itself is widely abused.)

While cyberpunk is a sub-genre of attitude and philosophy as well as aesthetic, steampunk seems to be entirely about setting. Much like definitions of planets must either exclude Pluto, include far too many things to be useful, or be applied unevenly, a useful and fairly applied definition of steampunk must exclude some border cases. It seems unhelpful to classify anything with a zeppelin or a tophat somewhere in the story as steampunk. No technology is relevant or central to this story, all the elements work by plain and simple magic. I agree that steampunk need not be confined to Victorian England, but you can't just set something in the 1800s and declare it steampunk by theoretical (irrelevant) time period alone. And if we want to talk feelings, this story has a very magical, standard-fantasy feel. It has a lot in common with Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela, from a setting and feeling point of view, although that even feels more "punk" to me than this story.

Dragons don't make Fantasy, Fantasy sometimes makes dragons.  I like that quote.  This should be true in any subgenre. But I still don't see a definition of steampunk that gets this story included. Unless it is overbroad. Like Pluto is only a planet if way way too many things are. So better to define Pluto as not a planet, for the term to have any meaning.

And honestly, both wikipedia and I consider Steampunk a sub-genre of Science Fiction, not Fantasy.  Magic is all well and good, and Steampunk generally isn't trying to be hard, but things tend to be approached from a rational angle.

-punk made sense with "Cyberpunk" and has been misused and abused ever since, and has increasingly been appended to things that are much less literary movements and much more trends of setting.

Am I ranting too much off topic here?



eytanz

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Reply #70 on: February 07, 2011, 12:46:55 AM
The ending seems a little rapey to me. But the solution to rape is not "rape 'em right back." Tit-for-tat doesn't seem right with rape scenario. On the other hand, who is to say it doesn't work in the story culture? But it left me feeling uncomfortable and the other girl seems exceptionally sadistic and empathy-free.

I don't think there's anything "rapey" about the ending to the story, because:

1. Hessa did not rape Nala. Not all non-consensual sex is rape, just like not all killing is murder - you can't accidentally or inadvertently rape someone. rape requires some sort of volition on behalf of the perpetrator.

2. Nala does not want to "rape Hessa back". She says that she wants to dominate Hessa, and inflict on her the kind of treatment she suffered, but Hessa consents to this (at least at the time of the end of the story), and agrees to train Nala in the skills she needs.



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Reply #71 on: February 07, 2011, 04:36:58 PM
And honestly, both wikipedia and I consider Steampunk a sub-genre of Science Fiction, not Fantasy. 

I see your steampunk is a sub-genre of SF, and raise it with SF is a sub-genre (along with all fiction) of Fantasy.

I'm not being completely serious. You're not going to hear Raymond Carver's "Cathedral" on PC. But I think when you have people like China Mieville, Tim Powers, and Alan Moore writing steampunk, suggesting steampunk, by definition, is SF but not fantasy, is really a difficult position to defend.

And for the record, Wikipedia actually defines steampunk as "a subgenre of Science Fiction, Alternate History, and Speculative Fiction" - the latter which encapsulates fantasy.)


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Reply #72 on: February 10, 2011, 01:48:41 AM
So, I'm going down the archives of Podcastle while Pseudopod slumbers in its coffin and this was one of the first ones I listened to.

I really enjoyed the language in this story and found it suitably sultry and erotic.  Most of the scenes where Hessa was longing after Nahla kept me riveted: it's really interesting, as a man, to read what a woman finds attractive about another woman.  Furthermore, I felt the dream sequences were "sexy" without being purple or using awkward metaphors.  This sort of thing is difficult to write, so my hat is off to the author.

My only gripes include: the beginning was too slooooow and the description of the dream-rocks went on too loooooong.  I found myself saying "magic, got it" (points to anyone who gets the reference) and wanting the story to move on.  An interesting concept, but a bit slow in the execution.  Of course, I am first to admit my personal bias is toward front-loaded, old-fashioned "pulp" so anyway...

The last point I want to bring up, and that I don't think anyone has brought up so far, is the rather serindipidious nature of Nahla's sexuality.  I kept thinking to myself that it was an awful big coincidence that she just happened to like women too.  She never once complained about the fact that she was being dream-raped by another woman.  It kept me thinking about how this scenario would have played out had one or the other been a man.

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Reply #73 on: February 10, 2011, 03:13:22 PM
The last point I want to bring up, and that I don't think anyone has brought up so far, is the rather serindipidious nature of Nahla's sexuality.  I kept thinking to myself that it was an awful big coincidence that she just happened to like women too.  She never once complained about the fact that she was being dream-raped by another woman.  It kept me thinking about how this scenario would have played out had one or the other been a man.

Yup, that had crossed my mind too, and was one of the contributing factors to my conclusion that the final scene was only a dream that the narrator constructed for herself.  If Nahlia had been heterosexual, the dream would've been a fizzle, therefore she wasn't.



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Reply #74 on: February 10, 2011, 05:08:47 PM
Not meaning to be critical at all, or imply the rightness or wrongness of any particular answer, but here's a question to ponder:  Would you have considered it serendipitous or conveniently coincidental if one had been male and the other female?  Or would that have been "normal" or "expected"?

Like I said, I'm not trying to imply that there's a right answer to that, or that finding the attraction serendipitous is wrong or bad or whatever.  Just...suggesting looking at it from another angle for a moment, and pondering what you might see.

Editing to clarify--I'm not asking how it would have played out if one of them had been a man.  I'm asking why one would be unsurprising and normal, and why another would be perceived as unusual to the point it seems conveniently coincidental.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2011, 05:12:07 PM by hautdesert »