Author Topic: PC277 / 710: A Hollow Play  (Read 18554 times)

Talia

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on: September 12, 2013, 12:38:36 PM
PodCastle 277: A Hollow Play

by Amal El-Mohtar

Read by Tina Connolly (of Toasted Cake). Check out Tina’s upcoming novel Copperhead, the sequel to Ironskin!

Originally published in the Glitter & Mayhem anthology, edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Michael Damien Thomas, and John Klima.

Dear Paige,

So, I’m here, but Anna’s not , and I awesomely left Memoirs of a Space Woman at home in spite of knowing I’d have two hours to kill, so I figure I’ll just keep writing to you.

Cabaret! I have no idea what to expect. Have you ever been to a cabaret show? I wasn’t sure how to dress for it either—when I asked Anna she just laughed and told me to use my imagination—so I’m wearing the red top you gave me, the button-down one with the sleeves that flare out and curl from the elbows. I can’t believe I still have it—it’s been, what, ten years, three moves? It’s not fitting so great now—since I started taking derby more seriously (I’m EMILY THE SLAYER now! Strong like Buffy!) my arms have gotten huge, and you should see the butt on me—but it’s still pretty and I love it, and it still matches my favourite earrings best.

I should probably tell you more about Anna, since obviously there’s more to her than being trans and my co-worker. She’s really great, and really cute—she just cut her hair short last week and dyed it bright orange-red, so she looks kind of like Leeloo from The Fifth Element. She’s vegan(sometimes I swear she likes the fact that I’m not, because it gives her an excuse to play “Meat is Murder” on loop in the cafe for the duration of my lunch break, which no one notices, because it sounds like every other Smiths song except the good ones, which she refuses to accept no matter how many times I explain it), an amazing cosplayer, and getting into burlesque. She hasn’t performed in public yet, just for friends in her living room, but she’s been developing this number that involves a chef’s hat, mixed greens, and oversized serving implements.

We’re not dating or anything. I’ve only known her for about a month, though it feels like way longer—and I refuse to entertain a crush, because she’s been in a closed poly triad for a while and they’re kind of going through a rough patch that she hasn’t told me much about. So I’ll tell you more about this cabaret thing instead.


Rated R: Contains Cabaret, Roller Derby references, and F-bombs. Let’s dance!

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: December 14, 2021, 09:00:22 PM by Ocicat »



danooli

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Reply #1 on: September 12, 2013, 01:15:41 PM
Holy cow. I loved this so much. the beginning was sweet and I loved the developing friendship between Emily and Anna. The scenes at the cabaret were fun and made me think of The Eolian from The Name of The Wind....
The reveal between Lynnette and Emily of who she and Kel are and where they came from was well done...

What really floored me was the reveal that Paige chose to cut ties with Emily and was seemingly living happily without her "best friend". Literally floored me as I sat down on my kitchen floor when I heard that.  Without going into details, I am the Paige to my childhood best friends Emily. I cut off all ties with her, even knowing that action would be hurtful, because of a toxic turn our relationship took. I don't quite feel guilty enough to reestablish a friendship but...it certainly dredged up some interesting emotions.

I am so SO happy that Emily and Anna have each other. <3

Tina Connolly's one of my favorite narrators and this story just adds to her awesomness. Paired with the beauty of Amal El-Mohtars writing makes this really special.



zoanon

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Reply #2 on: September 12, 2013, 02:10:39 PM
damn.... Walking around my new school in my new town to keep from crying. I wish I could know the one I left is happy without me, but I can't give him up.

this was a good story, I want to know what happened between Paige and Emily, I guess I'll have to listen again for hints.




Moon_Goddess

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Reply #3 on: September 12, 2013, 05:17:46 PM
Oh my god... I was supposed to be at work early today and I was listening to this story in the car on the way to work.

Next thing I know the story is over and I'm in the parking lot I can't even go in cuz I'm just sitting there crying.

About the past, and friends and lost opportunities, and   I'm going to have to listen to the outro again, I didn't even hear it.

I want to say more about this story but I just can't, I don't even know how to speak of it.

I dearly love that this story dealt with trans characters without it being a trans story.    AWESOME.

This story touched my life in ways that are so personal that I'm still wrapping my head around it.   Thank you thank you.

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heyes

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Reply #4 on: September 12, 2013, 11:00:34 PM
For me this story was hard to listen to because there was a high pitched noise in the background that was distracting from the story to the extent that I couldn't pay attention to the narrator. There was a break in the distracting noise at the beginning, but then it came back again and I had to abandon it.

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Melsana

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Reply #5 on: September 13, 2013, 07:28:04 PM
For me this story was hard to listen to because there was a high pitched noise in the background that was distracting from the story to the extent that I couldn't pay attention to the narrator. There was a break in the distracting noise at the beginning, but then it came back again and I had to abandon it.

I had the same problem.  I got through about half of it before it starting causing too much of a headache for me to keep listening to.  It was an interesting story up to that point so I hated having to switch to listening to something else.  Maybe I'll be able to finish it in small spurts of listening.



InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #6 on: September 15, 2013, 06:09:23 AM
The high-pitched whine was noticeable to me as well, though only at the beginning and end.

This story didn't affect me as much as others, and I think that's because I'm bit more thick-skinned than Emily, and a lot of her personal awkwardness doesn't really speak to me. I'm not saying she isn't believable. I think there's not enough distance between the narration and the narrator for me to completely sympathize, if that makes any sense.



FireTurtle

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Reply #7 on: September 15, 2013, 09:31:48 PM
Oh, now that was quite enjoyable despite the previously mentioned high whiny noise. I really enjoyed the exploration of different kinds of love and relationships. I was especially struck by how deftly one-sided relationships are portrayed as relationships that are primarily with the self, and secondarily with the other. That sounds really like a bad college essay I might have written, but I simply don't have the literary savvy to say what I'm trying to say. Very interesting exploration of love and relationships. Very. Not tear-inducing for me but I rarely cry at stories. (commercials, yes, stories no, explain that one!)But, very memorable and hit that deep soft spot in my crusty soul where I hide the feelings away. That's just what good fantasy should do.

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jtollert

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Reply #8 on: September 16, 2013, 08:13:01 PM
I'll try again, but I also abandoned the story due to the noise.  That was on top of the engine noise in the car.



Moritz

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Reply #9 on: September 17, 2013, 07:05:08 AM
I had a couple of issues with the story.

First of all, using fairies or changelings as metaphors for LGBT issues is in my opinion an overused trope and will just let me roll my eyes. Then I didn't like the use of the gender-neutral "they" in this case, because although I use it myself in phrases which are unspecific ("when someone smiles at me I try to smile back at them"), I found it really irritating when combined with a name. The whole story was too full with gender and sexual issues, in my opinion, e.g. every character with a speaking role was LGBT, as if they are an insular community, which is a portrayal I do not like.

Finally, I had problems connecting with the characters, because they kind of annoyed me. They were people I would walk away from if I met them, maybe because I try to stay away from people who are difficult.

Oh and I had to listen to the story twice, because I mixed up the characters the first time I listened and didn't pay my full attention.



jenfullmoon

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Reply #10 on: September 18, 2013, 09:27:07 PM
What really floored me was the reveal that Paige chose to cut ties with Emily and was seemingly living happily without her "best friend". Literally floored me as I sat down on my kitchen floor when I heard that.  Without going into details, I am the Paige to my childhood best friends Emily. I cut off all ties with her, even knowing that action would be hurtful, because of a toxic turn our relationship took. I don't quite feel guilty enough to reestablish a friendship but...it certainly dredged up some interesting emotions.

I don't know if it's "happily." But (a) clearly Paige wanted to cut ties with Emily, so all Emily could really do was learn to accept that, and (b) at least Emily knew that Paige was happy and alive, rather than wondering if Paige had OD'd in an alley somewhere. Under those circumstances, it would probably be easier to deal with the truth than usual. God knows I've been friend-dumped out of the blue enough myself to know how this routine goes, and this story has a lot more than you get when it happens IRL.

I do kind of think that giving up your best friend (when ahem, she already gave you up) is kind of a cheat for a sacrifice, though. It's like giving up your favorite fruit for Lent when it's not in season during Lent anyway, or something like that. If I were the Mean Gods Of Dictating Sacrifices, I probably would have buzzkilled that one as a "not enough." But then again, I just finished reading a book (The Wishing Thread) that talks about the magic of sacrifices as being something that you want to keep and it hurts you to give up....but in Emily's case, she can't really "keep" Paige anyway, so it's still easier to sacrifice your hope of her. But maybe I'm biased on the topic.

My favorite moment of this was the John Cage "this has been going on for 4 minutes...OHHHHHHHHHHHHH...." without ever flat out saying "four minutes, 33 seconds." Adorable geek moment.

What does Lynette do about shoes? I want to know.



bizbrig

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Reply #11 on: September 18, 2013, 10:39:10 PM
I really loved the way Tina Connolly voiced this piece. It more than made up for the occasional noise on the recording. Bravo!



yicheng

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Reply #12 on: September 19, 2013, 05:48:45 PM
Count me as another one that had audio troubles, although it was still listenable.

As for the story, to be honest, I had a hard time with this one.  I found the protagonist to be whiny, self-absorbed, and a too-stereotypical "special snowflake" emo kid.  While I realize that this is a LGBT story, the problem is that if you took the lesbianism out, it leaves a rather weak story which is basically about a teenager getting over her/his first crush.  I also found the whole concept of having a "loss" in order to open the "secret fairy portal" to be rather contrived and ire-inducing.  The first thing that came to mind was the Buddhist parable of the Mustard Seed:  http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/mourn.html.  Basically, the take away is that every single person in the world suffers loss, and it's only the extremely young, ignorant, or sheltered that imagine themselves somehow unique because of it.  Are we to assume that the protagonist's loss is somehow so profoundly great that only she was uniquely suited for the task?  If the metric is the quantity of suffering, the fairies could have literally walked down the street and stopped random people.



evrgrn_monster

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Reply #13 on: September 20, 2013, 01:56:43 AM
This gets a mixed review from me. There was a lot to like in the piece. For one, there was a great, easy-going flow from one scene to another, none of which felt rushed or unnecessary. I also enjoyed pretty much everything about Lynette and Kel's mythology, although I am still a bit mystified about exactly why they were kicked out in the first place. I was listening to this at work though, so I'll be the first to admit that this may have been me being distracted by paperwork. The narration was great too; Tina always knocks these things out of the park.

However, I too got the "special little snowflake" vibe from Emily, and found her to be more annoying than someone I could empathize with. (This is coming from a kid who hung out with the goths, gays, and outcasts in a tiny school on a military base, and therefore probably would know where this character was coming from.) I don't feel like she grew at all in this story; she simply switched her journal over to another person in the end. She doesn't change or learn how to be better or how to cope with people leaving. She remained static, and that just left a bad taste in my mouth.

I actually felt the most for Anna, who was just trying to show a new friend a nice night out on the town, and instead was given a bitter reminder that the person she loved didn't love her enough, only to see them fly away. Then, she has to go to work with the person that caused it the next day? Man, that has got to be absolutely awful.


Moritz

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Reply #14 on: September 20, 2013, 06:45:59 AM
@ evgrn_monster: I totally agree with your points.



Spindaddy

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Reply #15 on: September 21, 2013, 12:49:51 AM
I liked the story, but mainly b/c I was listening to it on the way home after a long day of corporate drudgery and I wanted nothing more than to believe there is magic out there somewhere beyond spreadsheets and TPS reports.

One of the things that captured me early on was the journal writing. I enjoy stories that switch back and forth between journal entries or letter. I also liked the story because it reminded me of the hard lessons of learning to let go of the past, not being able to change someone I loved and to try to fit in with some completely different people. I didn't mind the LGBT themes in the story, but mostly because they seemed to be part of the background rather than central to the story. Honestly, I think the characters could have been of any orientation and the story would still be as good.

Emily was a bit on the annoying side, but I guess I saw her more as someone desperate to escape from depression without having a lifeline in a friend. I know what its like to have no one that 'understands' you like a best friend and to then lose that person suddenly with no explanation. I also felt sorry for Ana.

Most I want to know about the bird feet.

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evrgrn_monster

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Reply #16 on: September 22, 2013, 06:44:39 PM
Most I want to know about the bird feet.

I love how we're all like, yeah, this story was pretty cool, but can we please talk more about feet?  ;D


rlzack

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Reply #17 on: September 24, 2013, 02:18:18 PM
I enjoyed this one. Not a great story, but definitely worth the time to listen. Yes, the audio quality was not perfect. But that didn't distract me.

Quote
she simply switched her journal over to another person in the end

I think you missed something here. It was not Emily who was writing at the end, it was Anna. Or did I miss something? I hope I didn't miss something, because the fact that Anna is now writing a journal was very significant to me - it means that Emily is affecting others, hopefully in good ways. And since she seems to have been so bad for Paige (enough so that Paige terminated the friendship), that gave me hope for Emily.



quasidoza

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Reply #18 on: September 25, 2013, 04:49:44 PM
Lost about what Emily sacrificed, was it the self delusion that life continues without her and indeed improves.

The 'they' lost me as well, I kept thinking of multiple personalities or conjoined twins.

Being from, and being comfortable in, London I found the description of Emily's feeling when there odd - everyone is an outsider.

Nice flow of story and narration but I didn't connect with it.



Rindan

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Reply #19 on: September 26, 2013, 06:19:38 AM
I found the story okay.  It had some nice imagery and the narration was pretty good.  If it had been about a theme that did it for me and had a protagonist that I liked, I think I would have really enjoyed the writing style.  There was some stuff that didn't do it for me though.  I found the protagonist to be too much of an emotional mess to like.  Her sacrifice seemed pretty minimal compared to destroying a real relationships, but apparently worked because she was so self absorbed that it really was horrible for her.

The LGBT theme, which is something I am all for, was kind of hamfisted.  It seemed... I don't know, too explanatory?  The metaphors were all without even a hint of subtlety.  Maybe it was speed at which it all rolled out and is kind of dumped on your lap that got to me.  More than the kind of hamfisted nature of the LGBT theme, I am just bored to death of LGBT coming of age stories.  I can assume from all the LGBT stories I have read in sci-fi and fantasy that if you are gay you are going to feel like an outsider, have some really awkward unrequited love, maybe get over your childhood crush (or not), maybe find true love in the end (or not), and then apparently drop dead never having reached the relationship maturity of a 16 year old.  Why can't two gay men or women have an adult relationship?  If it has to be about relationship dysfunction, at least give them adult problems, not a crumbly mess of emo feels.  Yes, I know that is a painful and awkward time, but there is a solid half century of life that comes AFTER that time that seemed to be ignored.  I want a gay or trans Indiana Jones or Hon Solo chasing tail, awkwardly running to and getting stuck with former lovers, all the while rocking some high adventure.  Please, no more LGBQ coming of age stories.

Moderator's Note: I have moved follow-up discussions from this post over to the 'About PodCastle' board, here. Please respond there if you must.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2013, 12:47:35 PM by Talia »



Myrealana

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Reply #20 on: September 29, 2013, 01:42:57 PM
For me this story was hard to listen to because there was a high pitched noise in the background that was distracting from the story to the extent that I couldn't pay attention to the narrator. There was a break in the distracting noise at the beginning, but then it came back again and I had to abandon it.

Me, too. Tried the story three times, but I can't listen past the whine.

If it's possible to post a version with corrected audio, the effort would be appreciated.

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Devoted135

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Reply #21 on: September 29, 2013, 09:59:02 PM
I agree with the "special snowflake emo kid" crowd, but there were a number of vignettes within the story that I really enjoyed. In particular, the whole scene in the cabaret (and the preceding letter about trying to figure out what to wear) was a highlight for me.



Scribblor

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Reply #22 on: October 02, 2013, 12:10:23 PM
The LGBT theme, which is something I am all for, was kind of hamfisted.  It seemed... I don't know, too explanatory?  The metaphors were all without even a hint of subtlety.  Maybe it was speed at which it all rolled out and is kind of dumped on your lap that got to me. 

This was my problem with the story, too. Not the LGBT theme itself, just the single paragraph where it was introduced. It felt, as you say, hamfisted.

It almost seemed to be shoving it into the reader's face ("I've been doing a lot of roller derby lately and my POLYAMOROUS friend has invited me out to see some CABARET with a TRANS friend. THIS IS A THEME, alright?"), which personally I thought hurt the story and took me a while to get back into it. I felt like it could have been introduced more subtly, in a way that didn't seem as though it was the defining trait of the characters at that point.


Talia

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Reply #23 on: October 03, 2013, 12:49:11 PM
FYI, I have moved the bulk of the "LGBT" discussion to a separate thread.
If anyone feels they continue to have things to say on the topic please take it there.

Thanks guys. :)



Raj

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Reply #24 on: October 15, 2013, 06:58:31 PM
I loved this story, and not just because I'm the child of immigrants who's travelled across a sea to live in Glasgow (although from Northern Ireland, rather than Canada in my case, and I quite happily let slide almost all of my [few] youthful friendships when I did so) :).

I didn't find Emily annoying at all.  I found her to be a sympathetic character; we've all been outsiders at times, and Emily was coping with that in her own way.  It was giving up her coping mechanism that was the loss, and I think that's a huge thing to do (as, thankfully, do the Mean Gods Of Dictating Sacrifices ;)).

Quote
she simply switched her journal over to another person in the end

Like rlzack, I understood it to be Anna who was writing in the journal at the end, implying that that friendship can be mended, which left the story on a hopeful note to me.

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Reply #25 on: October 16, 2013, 02:11:37 PM
The story had some good elements.  I like the details of the nature of the magic door, especially, and the dynamic that the attempted sacrifices created when some members of the relationships sacrificed their love to try to make it through and ultimately failed.  In a large part that reminded me of the core element of Catch-22 in which the only way to get out of the service is if you file some kind of paperwork asking to be declared insane, but only sane people would fill out the paperwork so it's a self-defeating system.

I didn't really care for the main character.  In particular, I found the scene where she writes in her journal about all of her friends to be overly long and uninteresting--the one where she is explaining all their variations of trans--to me at least, the tone of that seemed like she was infatuated with the mystique of the lifestyle of her newfound friends and couldn't stop talking about it.  Which is a totally valid and real perspective that I'm sure happens all the time.  But I found it very dull to listen to at length.  Your friends are trans, polyamorous, etc, good for you and good for them:  can we get to the story please?  That scene just served to remind me that we hadn't really gotten to any story to speak of.  I didn't really see any motivation for it until the point when the stakes of the portal are explained which  I think was about halfway through.

Does anyone else have an interpretation for what the title means?  My interpretation is that her "sacrifice" was the hollow play, a bluff.  And it really annoyed me that her sacrifice worked.  The magic as described should only work if you are giving up something that you can't bear to part with.  But the fact that she is giving up her friend to find said friend means that her attempt at sacrifice is a hollow one, and it should never have worked.  I was gratified, at least, that she didn't magically become besties with her disappeared friend again, that at least she didn't get what she aimed at with the hollow sacrifice.  But even if you take into consideration that she didn't really get her friend back, from that perspective she gave up her unfulfilled longing and got closure in return, also a hollow sacrifice. 

I wonder what the author meant by that title because every time I see the title, it does draw the story to mind, but only because I felt that her sacrifice was hollow, and so the title seems to confirm what I thought was a weak turning point.



eytanz

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Reply #26 on: October 20, 2013, 03:39:53 PM
So, I'm catching up on my podcastle backlog, which is far larger than I like, and I've finally listened to this story. On the negative, I did notice the audible humn in the background that definitely made the physical listening process less pleasant. On the plus side, I absolutely adored this story. I haven't been as lucky as Emily - the one time I abruptly lost a friend it was because they were very much not ok - but I've had two occasions in my life when I packed up and crossed an ocean to live somewhere new, and in both cases, both maintaining existing friendships and starting new ones was a challenge, and that really spoke to me here.

I see that some people don't quite believe that Emily's sacrifice was meaningful, and I see where that interpretation comes from, but for me, thinking back on the people who are no longer in my life because either they left me behind or I left them, the price is always real, even if it isn't always difficult to pay it.
« Last Edit: October 20, 2013, 08:36:30 PM by eytanz »



amalmohtar

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Reply #27 on: October 20, 2013, 08:19:29 PM
Hello everyone! Thank you so much for your responses, and most especially to Tina for reading this out.

Quote
I wonder what the author meant by that title

Multimedia time!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZIODI3yhfw

"A Hollow Play" is a lyric taken from "My Body is a Cage" by The Arcade Fire -- the song Lynette sings at the end during the ritual. The full line is "It's a hollow play, but they'll clap anyway."

The song itself is kind of obviously thematic, but perhaps less obviously, it's relevant to everyone in the story in one way or another, depending on how far you want to stretch the interpretation.

(I'm totally happy to answer any other questions anyone has, by the way, but don't want to intrude further on what's your discussion as listeners without express invitation. Cheers!)



danooli

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Reply #28 on: October 20, 2013, 10:15:10 PM
...don't want to intrude further on what's your discussion as listeners without express invitation. Cheers!

By no means do I presume to speak for everyone, but I always love it when the author joins in the discussion.



Just Jeff

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Reply #29 on: October 21, 2013, 03:12:24 PM
This one had me at "McKillip," who does not get referenced nearly as often as she deserves.

While I had quibbles with some of the story, both the climax and last scene worked so well for me that I put the quibbles out for the night and locked the door behind them.



Jen

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Reply #30 on: October 21, 2013, 06:58:29 PM
I loved this. It might be because all my friends keep moving away, but I could really identify with Emily... I'm sure I'd be just as lonely if I moved to another country. In my opinion all the fairy and LGBT stuff was secondary to the story of Emily trying to fit in, and that part was very well written. I thought the end was great too, both happy and sad. Sometimes you need to let go of old friendships to get new ones, but that doesn't mean it won't hurt...

P.S. This story wouldn't have been so good without a kickass narration!



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Reply #31 on: October 23, 2013, 01:48:00 PM
but for me, thinking back on the people who are no longer in my life because either they left me behind or I left them, the price is always real, even if it isn't always difficult to pay it.

Giving up a valued friend would certainly be a major price.  But that had already happened before the story began--to me the end was like she was trying to give up something she didn't have anymore and pretend it's a sacrifice.



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Reply #32 on: October 23, 2013, 07:08:46 PM
She was giving up her illusions, which is always painful.



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Reply #33 on: October 23, 2013, 07:39:03 PM
She was giving up her illusions, which is always painful.

Ah, I see what you're saying.

I still think it's a hollow sacrifice, FWIW, and shouldn't have been accepted.  Like saying "I will give up my alcoholism!"  A sacrifice being painful doesn't mean you're giving up something valuable, and the way I understood the magic was described was about the value not the pain.



danooli

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Reply #34 on: October 23, 2013, 10:39:22 PM
She was giving up her illusions, which is always painful.

Yes, her illusions and hope. She gave up the hope of ever having her best friend in her life again. She loved Paige and she gave her up.  Before the ritual, she hadn't yet really done that since she was writing in the letter-journal.



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Reply #35 on: October 24, 2013, 01:54:53 AM
Yes, her illusions and hope. She gave up the hope of ever having her best friend in her life again. She loved Paige and she gave her up.  Before the ritual, she hadn't yet really done that since she was writing in the letter-journal.

But all her hope was doing was tearing her apart with anxiety.  What's the value in that?  Now she can grieve the friendship and try to move on--the "sacrifice" has let her reach a better place and have an opportunity to heal and move on.   



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Reply #36 on: October 24, 2013, 05:40:05 AM
Doesn't mean that she enjoyed it or that she wanted it to happen.  Illusions can be very comforting, and by sacrificing her friendship, she has foresworn any attempts to approach Paige and try to resume where they left off. 

As in the story, when the spirit-girl offers to bring her to Paige; she could have gone then and not made the sacrifice.  Instead, she's - perhaps wisely - leaving Paige to her own devices and moving on to other realms.  Even if that's what would be best for her from our dispassionate viewpoint doesn't mean that it's not a cost on her part, and the fact that her opportunity to rekindle the friendship and perhaps win Paige's heart was illusory doesn't mean she won't also feel the pain of loss when that chance is blocked forever.



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Reply #37 on: October 24, 2013, 06:53:55 AM
Yes, her illusions and hope. She gave up the hope of ever having her best friend in her life again. She loved Paige and she gave her up.  Before the ritual, she hadn't yet really done that since she was writing in the letter-journal.

But all her hope was doing was tearing her apart with anxiety.  What's the value in that?  Now she can grieve the friendship and try to move on--the "sacrifice" has let her reach a better place and have an opportunity to heal and move on.   


Is there a rule that says that sacrifices can't be ultimately good for you? The rule was that you had to give up some core aspect of your identity, which she did - she went from thinking of herself primarily in terms of her friendship to Paige, to having to think of herself in independent terms. That's a big, traumatic change for her. The fact that the new person she is becoming will probably be a happier person doesn't mean she didn't give something up to become her.

I have a friend who had started smoking at a young age, and when he was in his mid thirties, had realized that it was really hurting him - he was often out of breath, and he was giving up other things financially to afford the cigarettes. But it took him several months before he was able to quit, because for him, smoking was a strong part of his identity. He just never pictured himself without a cigarette in his hand. To me, as a lifelong non-smoker, the equation seemed very simple. Smoking had actual, objective, negative consequences, and no positive consequences I could see. And indeed, a few months after he had quit, his breathing problems had stopped, he had more money for other activities, and he claimed to no longer miss it at all. But the struggle he went through to decide to quit was real, and just because it was clear to me what the right decision for him was, doesn't mean that from his point of view, he hadn't made a real sacrifice, giving up what for him was a strong connection to his past.



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Reply #38 on: October 24, 2013, 01:41:14 PM
Even if that's what would be best for her from our dispassionate viewpoint doesn't mean that it's not a cost on her part, and the fact that her opportunity to rekindle the friendship and perhaps win Paige's heart was illusory doesn't mean she won't also feel the pain of loss when that chance is blocked forever.

I get where you guys are coming from.  At the same time, I don't agree.  Everything that the character's did was in-character, but the fact that the magic door actually opened for this particular sacrifice bugs me.  And I think that's not going to change.  *shrug*

Is there a rule that says that sacrifices can't be ultimately good for you?

Maybe not.  But to me, it is implied.



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Reply #39 on: October 24, 2013, 10:58:59 PM
Just thought I'd share two bits from the story's text to add to this facet of the discussion, since I know things fly by fast in audio:

"...What is the cost?"

Lynette considered her for a moment longer before answering. "It is... An elaboration of the usual shedding of a form. For us, to open the way, we must give up a whole person. A sacrifice, if you will."

Emily stared at her. "What, you mean—you have to kill someone?"

Lynette shook her head. "Not kill. Give up. Relinquish. But it only works if the person is precious, beloved. For me—if I were to cut out my tongue, I might be able to open the way back. I would be giving up who I have become here, my art. Once on the other side I might easily choose a different form, one with a tongue, perhaps one with a more beautiful voice—but I would lose Lynette Byrd, whom I have come to love, and I would never have her again. That is IF the sacrifice is deemed sufficient. ...The magic must be cruel, to work. It must feel like the tearing of a page."


(Oho, see what I did there, punning on -- um, nevermind.)

Then, from Emily's perspective, writing to Paige:

So this is the last I'm writing to you in here. I'm giving you up—sort of—to find you. It may not work. It may not be enough. But I told Lynette that I'm giving up years of myself in here, too—the me who is best friends with Paige, who is happy and secure and confident, who can see friendships come and go because at her core is this one, this unshakeable soul-twin sister-friend who'll never leave her.

So long as I've been writing in here I've felt like I could still be that person, because by writing to you I am conjuring you, I am keeping you in existence, and if you exist, so do I. And maybe if I find you—if Lynette can find you—she said Peri magics include carrying people through the air, so—if you're in trouble, if you're hurt—I can't even think about that but I have to trust to something, that this will be okay, somehow. That I can still be some kind of me even without you.

I love you. I'm giving you up.


Destroying the journal is a symbolic act, but one with really profound resonance for her. She has poured YEARS of herself into it, and giving it up -- the correspondence with Paige which requires her to be friends with Paige -- qualifies as giving up a self. Not only because she's functionally ending a period of her life where she had this certainty informing it, but also because the things she wrote will never inhabit another person; in never having reached Paige, all the things she's lived and observed and articulated in that journal are gone for good. She doesn't get to keep them herself, and she doesn't get to give them to anyone but the river and the Peri Border Agency.

Also, FWIW, the way I imagined the sacrifice in question working for Emily is that glimpsing Paige is part of it. While this isn't stated outright, my thought was that if Emily DID ask Lynette to bring Paige over, the gate would shut, Kel would still be stuck in one form in this dimension (though that form might be somewhat altered), and Emily wouldn't have her journal. It was an Orpheus-not-turning-back moment, and she didn't turn back. She THOUGHT she was giving Paige up in order to find her, but in fact she was giving her up in order to have the chance to KNOWINGLY give her up. Coz that's how this magic works.

I'd also point out that Emily's sobbing and shattered by the end of this, so, y'know, any notion that this sacrifice is good for her rather than excruciatingly painful is kind of a false dichotomy. She's gained absolutely nothing from this transaction; in fact, from her perspective she's lost even more, considering the terms on which she and Anna part right before the ritual. By the end of the story she doesn't even get to know yet that Anna's writing to her in a tiny journal.

That's how I meant it to be, anyway. :) Obviously reception varies and has nothing to do with intentions!



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Reply #40 on: October 25, 2013, 02:07:25 PM
Destroying the journal is a symbolic act, but one with really profound resonance for her. She has poured YEARS of herself into it, and giving it up -- the correspondence with Paige which requires her to be friends with Paige -- qualifies as giving up a self. Not only because she's functionally ending a period of her life where she had this certainty informing it, but also because the things she wrote will never inhabit another person; in never having reached Paige, all the things she's lived and observed and articulated in that journal are gone for good. She doesn't get to keep them herself, and she doesn't get to give them to anyone but the river and the Peri Border Agency.

I get where you were going with that, and other people seem to be okay with it, it just seemed false to me.

For me the title just keeps reminding me of this as well, even though that's not what you intended by the title.  I see the title "Hollow Play", and I think "Oh yeah, that's the story about the bluff sacrifice that somehow works".  It's possible that if I hadn't already had that association in the title that I wouldn't be reminded me of my interpretation of it every time I come back to this story thread.

Also, FWIW, the way I imagined the sacrifice in question working for Emily is that glimpsing Paige is part of it. While this isn't stated outright, my thought was that if Emily DID ask Lynette to bring Paige over, the gate would shut, Kel would still be stuck in one form in this dimension (though that form might be somewhat altered), and Emily wouldn't have her journal. It was an Orpheus-not-turning-back moment, and she didn't turn back. She THOUGHT she was giving Paige up in order to find her, but in fact she was giving her up in order to have the chance to KNOWINGLY give her up. Coz that's how this magic works.

Now THAT, I dig.  Part of the issue I'd had with it from the beginning (whether I articulated this well or not) is that although she does end up losing her friend in the end, at the time of the sacrifice she doesn't KNOW that she's cutting ties forever--she's trying to cheat the sacrifice and apparently there is the opportunity for this cheat to work.  

As I was listening to the story, though, I didn't think that was a possibility.  As far as I could discern, once the door is open the door is open.  Sort of a no-takebacks kind of situation, you know?  It would've helped me get into the ending, a lot, if it were clear that the door COULD shut after it opens if she went back on the sacrifice--maybe by mentioning a time where such a thing had happened before or something.  Anyway, I like the story more with your comment in mind, though taking the story in the wild as it were, I wouldn't have heard that.

I'd also point out that Emily's sobbing and shattered by the end of this, so, y'know, any notion that this sacrifice is good for her rather than excruciatingly painful is kind of a false dichotomy.

I don't think I made that dichotomy, though maybe you're referring to someone else.  Grieving sucks.  There's no two ways about it. And grieving the loss of a friend who hasn't actually died is not so different in many ways from grieving a death. But grieving is, in the long run, a beneficial process that allows you to heal.  So, yes, it is both painful and beneficial.  If I said anything that contradicted this statement previously, I didn't intend to.  

She's gained absolutely nothing from this transaction;

I disagree.  She thinks at the time of the transaction that she has gained nothing, sure, I can buy that.  But she has been living in constant anxiety and denial and dull but constant emotional pain for quite some time, wondering why her friend has made herself unreachable.  Without the intrusion of magic in her life, I get the impression she could go on with this indefinitely, maybe ruining future romantic relationships, overshadowing everything in her life.  With the magic she has gotten rid of the ongoing and indefinite poisonous anxiety and doubt, and traded it for a period of intense but healthy grieving.  Of course she'll remember her friend for the rest of her life, but I feel that she can reach a healthy equilibrium in regards to the severed connection, allowed the wound to heal rather than picking at the festering cut on a daily basis.  And I think that even if you ignore the inclusion of the letter from Anna which she knows nothing about yet, but which supports the idea that her life will go on and she can find happy times and new relationships in the absence of the old ones.

So, I'd say she's gained everything from this transaction.  She's gained an entire open future, rather than a claustrophobic and doubt-ridden kennel she'd penned herself in.



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Reply #41 on: October 25, 2013, 09:49:11 PM
Quote
As far as I could discern, once the door is open the door is open.  Sort of a no-takebacks kind of situation, you know?

Ahh, I see what you're saying. Yeah -- my comparison of it to visa applications was meant to reflect the Admit One nature of each sacrifice but didn't really go into the specifics as much as it could have (blast that wordcount limit!).

I guess another way to look at it, though, is a deterministic one: the door opened because the fact that Emily would knowingly make the sacrifice was already known to the magics.

Quote
I'd say she's gained everything from this transaction.  She's gained an entire open future, rather than a claustrophobic and doubt-ridden kennel she'd penned herself in.

That's such a positive interpretation! And yet she has no closure. She doesn't know why her best friend of 10 years has dropped her, and she no longer has the reasons of her friend being depressed or in trouble. Paige is happy and has severed ties without a word of explanation -- Emily's chosen to accept that, but I can't imagine she won't still wonder and question and beat herself up about whether she was at fault or could have done something differently, etc. Ultimately she gained knowledge that led to questions she's given up the right to ask of Paige, but she'll keep asking them of herself. And she's also gained the knowledge that even the most solid bedrock of friendship can be eroded, which will make it that much harder to trust new friendships.

Man, I kind of prefer your interpretation, actually!




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Reply #42 on: October 25, 2013, 10:44:14 PM
I guess another way to look at it, though, is a deterministic one: the door opened because the fact that Emily would knowingly make the sacrifice was already known to the magics.

That makes some sense too, but that honestly just didn't occur to me as I was listening.

And yet she has no closure. She doesn't know why her best friend of 10 years has dropped her, and she no longer has the reasons of her friend being depressed or in trouble. Paige is happy and has severed ties without a word of explanation -- Emily's chosen to accept that, but I can't imagine she won't still wonder and question and beat herself up about whether she was at fault or could have done something differently, etc. Ultimately she gained knowledge that led to questions she's given up the right to ask of Paige, but she'll keep asking them of herself. And she's also gained the knowledge that even the most solid bedrock of friendship can be eroded, which will make it that much harder to trust new friendships.

I'd say she has SOME closure, though certainly not a complete closure.  She knows that Paige isn't dead.  She knows that Paige chose to leave of her own volition (barring an amnesia scenario, but that's unlikely enough that I don't consider it a major possibility).  She knows that, whether or not Paige had a good reason for wanting to cut ties, Paige did not do her the respect of talking to her about it.  I think it's likely that they were just growing apart and Paige was the first to recognize it, or Paige had some kind of philosophical conflict with her friend that made her feel they couldn't coexist anymore apparently in some way.  Regardless, though, it's clear that the rend is irreperable, and it is out of her control, and she has no evidence that it was her fault. 

I've had best friends that just kind of drifted away when I was still more into the relationship while they were.  I've had best friends that the relationship ended with a major conflict.  It hurt.  It still hurts when I dwell on it.  But in the end I have my happy memories of the times that we had together and those are still worthwhile.  I have new friends now and a new community, and my life is not broken without them.  Mine were obviously not the exact circumstances as this story, and perhaps not to the same degree--she will probably take longer to heal than I did, but I believe she will heal now that the cut is clean.

Maybe I've been around enough people in 12 Step Programs, but I guess I take to heart the serenity prayer "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference."  I'm not what you would call a religious person, but that is a sound philosophy, to me.  In this, she cannot change the loss of that friendship, so all she can do is accept it.



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Reply #43 on: October 30, 2013, 10:26:29 PM
omg - the whining, THE WHINING!  :P (and I'm not referring to the audio quality)

I think one of the reason I like Psuedopod and Escapepod is that whiny characters like this usually have their heads explode, get eaten or both.

I'm seeing a new genre' here ... "grim-whine" ("whine-dark"?)



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Reply #44 on: November 19, 2013, 08:41:20 PM
Wow...love, love LOVE this one!

I didn't see the main character as whiny...just full of feels that she could only convey through a journal. And I looooooved the Caberet scene. I'm pretty sure I would not have gotten the John Cage reference either, so I felt the MC's awkwardness. And Tina did an awesome reading, even though there was that weird tiney sounds.

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Reply #45 on: November 25, 2013, 12:50:21 AM
I now that I am extremely late to the party here.  I also saw that this episode has been discussed extensively, including the LGBT issues involved.  So, I'm going to keep my comments just to my own reactions.  I did, after all, register for the first time because I loved this story.  It hit a lot of things that really resonated personally with me.

I listened to this episode a few days ago while driving.  I quickly squealed in delight!  In "Recognizing Gabe", while I understood where the story was going, I was horribly frustrated with how all of the verbiage was the author, not the people in the story, dancing around the fact that we were dealing with a transgendered character.  Lots of needless drama.  In this story, the fact of the trans, poly, and queer aspects of the family were introduced, piece by piece, without any frustrating hinting and dancing around of the issue.  It was normal and simply part of life.  Additionally, what they had, including with the disfunctions, is very similar to what I would like in a family myself.  Except for the whole "returning to Faerie and leaving me behind" part.  I'd rather my own family not do that.  Though I can actually understand abandoning people in order to pursue a dear dream.

Paige abandoned her friendship with Emily, which felt like a gut punch.  I've been there, though only with lovers, not with a best friend.  I began crying, though (as much as is safe while driving in a construction zone), with the way Anna reached out to re-establish her relationship with Emily through the journal.  This is a mode of communication that she hates, yet she paid enough attention to understand that this would touch Emily deeply.  And there was also enough time to allow both of them some healing for their wounds.

Two days after listening to this, I met a new friend who understood poly and trans* identities well enough to almost instantly read me.  I did not meet him at a cabaret, merely a geek convention... where we are less obviously exotic, but possibly just as strange as the people at the Spangled Cabaret.



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Reply #46 on: January 23, 2014, 05:46:10 PM
I really liked the characters here, as they felt real. I didn't love the story as much as And Their Lips Rang with the Sun or the Honey Month, but I'm glad it ran here. I also love the emotion Tina poured into the narration.


I'd also point out that Emily's sobbing and shattered by the end of this, so, y'know, any notion that this sacrifice is good for her rather than excruciatingly painful is kind of a false dichotomy. She's gained absolutely nothing from this transaction; in fact, from her perspective she's lost even more, considering the terms on which she and Anna part right before the ritual. By the end of the story she doesn't even get to know yet that Anna's writing to her in a tiny journal.


Thanks for explaining the last epistolary scene. On the page, this probably would have been clearer, but in audio I was a bit confused by the right turn it took by shifting to a new journalist. I rewound to the beginning of the letter and wasn't any better off, but it hooks back two scenes before so my rewinding didn't help with that. This said, I'm still not sure what this scene brings to the overall story.

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Reply #47 on: February 06, 2014, 08:52:02 AM
If anyone would like to give the story a read as opposed to a listen, as of yesterday it's now available online for free: http://www.apexbookcompany.com/2014/02/free-fiction-from-apex-a-hollow-play-by-amal-el-mohtar/



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Reply #48 on: December 14, 2021, 09:01:05 PM
This story has been re-run as PodCastle 710: TALES FROM THE VAULTS – A Hollow Play