Author Topic: PC249: My Dignity In Scars  (Read 5798 times)


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on: February 28, 2013, 09:06:33 AM
PodCastle 249: My Dignity In Scars

by Cory Skerry

Read by Graeme Dunlop (of Cast of Wonders)

Originally published in Strange Horizons. Read it here!

I am never the first to know the demons have returned.

This time, I am at Ukaya’s house, trimming the hooves of her goats, because her joints are too swollen and stiff to wield a knife. The morning sun prickles my back and rough goat hair prickles my belly as I whittle off thin curls of hoof.

Ukaya tells me stories about my late father, who climbed a mountain at fifteen, and went on to sail foreign ships, dive for pearls, slay monsters, and rout a nest of bandits just to bring my mother back her wedding jewelry, all before I was born. At least, I think to myself, someone in our family made himself remarkable before he died.

Rated R. Contains some disturbing imagery.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: March 20, 2013, 01:54:08 PM by Talia »


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Reply #1 on: March 01, 2013, 03:32:52 PM
I enjoyed this story as it was going.  The demons creepy and dangerous enough that they would've fit in over at Pseudopod too, and the idea of dragging something kicking out of your own gut while it tears apart your insides is freaky.

When he pulled the demon out, it seemed like that was the main resolution, but then the story kept on going and it made me wonder if something else was coming.  Then it didn't, and it honestly left me a little confused about whether I might have missed something.

In the outro Dave mentioned cancer, which hadn't occurred to me while I was listening (the action itself was interesting enough that I didn't spend a lot of effort searching for metaphors), but it totally makes sense.  And the extended ending makes more sense too, if that's what they were going for.  He has fought the cancer into remission, and his wife is worn down from the emotional nature of such an unending recurrent battle, and they just make do as best they can.  He has won the battle, and they can live without it again for a while, but there will always be another battle and some day he will lose, but for now there is nothing to do but get the most out of each day as they can.

So, I think that my confusion over the ending keeping going really had more to do with me being a bit dense and not watching for metaphors, more than a flaw in the story.


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Reply #2 on: March 01, 2013, 04:09:27 PM
My input on this story was that if Steve hadn't brought into the outro the disucssion of relating the story to Cancer, it would have been a throw-away story to me.  Without the spin Steve put on it, I wouldn't have liked the story at all.  It wouldn't have even rated as high as 'meh' on my list.

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Reply #3 on: March 01, 2013, 07:54:47 PM
That isn't Steve, Steve's not had any front of house role with the company for several years now. Look around, you'll see a couple of threads telling you when he signed off. That's Podcastle co-editor Dave Thompson.


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Reply #4 on: March 02, 2013, 08:13:09 AM
The ending confused me. What “bloody work ahead”? Is there another demon or what?
But then, ohh, it’s about cancer. Thank you, Dave, on behalf of all of us who weren’t thinking too hard on this one. =)

I don’t know if this is just a personal failing of mine, but I found myself distracted at times by what seemed to be a lisp in the reading. But that aside, good reading, and another story that could arguably fit on Pseudopod as well as Podcastle. Funny how that happens.


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Reply #5 on: March 02, 2013, 12:38:26 PM
I also hadn't thought about cancer whilst listening, and agree that it does make perfect sense...

This was an interesting story that was ultimately a nice, if somewhat opaque fable. The world was pretty interesting, from what little was described.

I don't have much to say about it, except to relate that as I was driving home yesterday evening and listening as our hero excises the demon from his gut, my face must have been twisted in some grimace because I caught more than one of my fellow commuters glancing sideways at me...Excellent description and narration there.  Creepy, gross, and so very cool.

Edited to add...Dave, I, for one, am going to miss you terribly.  Luckily I am still listening to your narration of Greg van Eekhout's Norse Code and as I tweeted the other day, it's terrific.  If anyone ever wanted to hear Dave's impression of Asgardian wolves...check it out!  Best of luck with the imminent arrival of Captain Bilbo!
« Last Edit: March 02, 2013, 12:42:32 PM by danooli »


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Reply #6 on: March 05, 2013, 02:30:57 AM
Best. Narration. Ever. Just sayin'

As for the story, I was thinking cancer the whole time. Bleh. I was really happy when the demon looked like a demon because I'm really sick of cancer and I didn't want it muddying up my fantasy universe.  :P
(I work in the medical field). I think the world-building was excellent and I loved the vivid descriptions of the various ecological regions on the slopes of the mountain. I love a story that is an EXPERIENCE, the inner world of the narrator was rich and vivid, the world was rich and vivid and the secondary characters all felt authentic. Poor Yom. I hope she doesn't have to see Daddy filleted.  >:(

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Reply #7 on: March 05, 2013, 03:49:06 AM
I liked the vaguely African (to my ears) setting of this story. The author does a good job of world-building on a small level, I just suppose I was hoping for more story. Though the part about his cutting the demon out of him certainly held my attention.

Is it about cancer? I'm honestly not sure. I could see it either way. I think that's a valid interpretation.


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Reply #8 on: March 05, 2013, 04:03:42 PM
I must be sort of dense because I spent his whole trip up the mountain wondering what the demons might really be and cancer did not occur to me. Actually, it's probably less me being dense and more me being very lucky in how relatively little cancer has touched me personally.

I thought this was a very moving piece and I admire all of the character's tenacity in moving forward in life despite knowing that the demons would likely return again and again. I also agree that the world building was fantastic, and the narration further elevated an already great story.


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Reply #9 on: March 05, 2013, 06:25:43 PM
Is this where to discuss the request for submissions? I don't see a thread for it. I'm wondering whether the editors still prefer previously published stories.


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Reply #10 on: March 05, 2013, 06:42:12 PM
Is this where to discuss the request for submissions? I don't see a thread for it. I'm wondering whether the editors still prefer previously published stories.

Here's the thread for our Science Fantasy call for Submissions.

Reprints are preferred, but we're open to seeing originals too.


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Reply #11 on: March 08, 2013, 05:42:41 AM
I think the world-building was excellent and I loved the vivid descriptions of the various ecological regions on the slopes of the mountain. I love a story that is an EXPERIENCE, the inner world of the narrator was rich and vivid, the world was rich and vivid and the secondary characters all felt authentic.

This captures what I thought as well, really impressed with the way the author plunged me into this world with the physical descriptions and human interactions.  Loved it.


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Reply #12 on: March 08, 2013, 05:28:32 PM
First off, Graeme Dunlop is just an amazing reader and this story almost seemed to be custom tailored to his voice.

Where most here are reminded of cancer (and the analogy is very clear), my first thoughts were of the scars on my 5 year old daughter.  I have come to learn the significance of scars and the stories they can tell.  Her scar speaks of survival.  Two open heart surgeries have left a thick, white scar that runs the length of her ribcage.  It is her special scar.

Regardless of what the future holds for her, it will always be a part of what defines her.  It has been our hope that she never looks at them as shameful.


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Reply #13 on: April 03, 2013, 04:36:42 PM
Wow, fantastic reading. And I too loved the African (though it could have also been Caribbean) setting. And yeah, totally did not see the analogy to cancer until Dave brought it up.

ETA: Also, I am not a Thi--YIPE!!!!!

(heh, heh, little Viable Paradise humor there)
« Last Edit: April 03, 2013, 04:41:34 PM by LaShawn »

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Reply #14 on: April 03, 2013, 06:34:52 PM
I saw the analogy to cancer all the way through, and loved it. I really enjoyed the character's approach to his condition, living each day fully no matter what, even if it scared the people around him. I think this story handled the nuanced relationship between the "sick" and the "healthy" very well. The people around the narrator wanted him to be safe, even to the point that it would have made his remaining years - however many he turned out to have - hollow and passive. At the same time that he rejected their coddling, the narrator never rejected their love, even though it was problematic.

In short, this story was altogether awesome.

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Reply #15 on: May 30, 2013, 02:19:11 AM
Odd I definetly thought of cancer during it, thinking now, a few hours after finished this one up I think what I loved the best about this story was the lush scenery and that while the people lived in a literally magic world where demons can come from somewhere, the people didn't have any, that is just the world, the same way the mountain and its plants and trees and beasties is!


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Reply #16 on: July 11, 2013, 09:41:07 PM
The cancer analogy jumped out at me from the first time we learn that this is a recurring thing, but I liked it as a metaphor.  Demons are certainly more bad-ass though.