Author Topic: PodCastle Miniature 77: The Tome of Tourmaline  (Read 5314 times)


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on: December 17, 2013, 12:16:04 PM
PodCastle Miniature 77: The Tome of Tourmaline

by Ken Liu

Read by Wilson Fowlie (of the Maple Leaf Singers)

Originally published in Daily Science Fiction. Read it here!

“Come, come!” the attendants at the gate of Tourmaline call to you. “Come and bathe your feet.”

The water is refreshing, ice cold, straight from the glaciers on top of the mountains far to the west. You wash away the dust of your long journey across the desert, and marvel at the streets lined with twenty-foot slate slabs, the centers slightly depressed from centuries of traffic. You squint at the bright blue murals depicting rearing elephants and leaping lions in smooth jade and lapis lazuli.

When you stand up, the attendants hand you a towel and point you to the center of the city.

“But I haven’t told you why I’ve come,” you protest.

“All visitors come here for the Tome,” they tell you.

Rated PG.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: January 10, 2014, 01:57:57 PM by Talia »


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Reply #1 on: December 17, 2013, 06:57:56 PM
Really? Nobody else has come to heap praise on this piece?  I know, busy time of year and all that.  But I enjoyed this story very much.  It's probably my favorite Ken Liu story to date.  I thought he pulled off the different venues and the personal introspection of the reader/universal protagonist very well.  This is also another great example of how lucky we are that Podcastle exists.  If I had seen this story in print, I might not have enjoyed it as much, but to hear it made all the difference.  Of course, it was Fowlie so it's kind of a gimme.

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Reply #2 on: December 19, 2013, 12:11:29 AM
You can count me in!  I also enjoyed this one a lot. We're all living the greatest story ever, even if we would change a few things here and there.

Additionally, I will also agree that this was a kick-ass production of the story.  Another stellar narration by Mr. Fowlie!
« Last Edit: December 20, 2013, 01:07:57 AM by danooli »


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Reply #3 on: December 19, 2013, 01:22:08 AM
I enjoyed this piece. Ken Liu is always a good listen; he's not my favorite that you guys run, but he's always really solid.

Do have to say, that ending was perfect and the narration was spot on. The time jumping had me a little confused on first listen, but after I went back and gave it another go (the benefit of mini-casts!) it worked much better.


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Reply #4 on: December 19, 2013, 03:00:56 PM
I didn't realize what was going on for the first half of it, and I was actually getting bored.

I started to turn it off but I notice how short it was, and I was like, oh well I'll just let it finish.

I'm glad I did, it was just after this that it clicked what was happening and I was like.   Oh wow, that's cool.   Nice ending.

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Reply #5 on: December 19, 2013, 07:19:01 PM
Stories that try to be about "the greatest book in the world" or "the greatest painting in the world," or "the most horrible secret in the world" and things like that set themselves a high level of difficulty because whatever the story shows to the reader cannot, by definition, be as amazing as the story sets it out to be.  So you either show us something less than impressive.  Or you find a way to not show it to us.  And neither of those is very satisfying.

I think that this story nailed that challenge as well as I have seen it nailed.  I in no way felt cheated by the story or that it sold out showing us the greatest story.  And I also felt satisfied by it.  Just some really good storycrafting by a very talented writer.


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Reply #6 on: December 19, 2013, 09:09:17 PM
I agree, this is pretty much the best execution of this concept that I can remember reading. I did spend about half the story trying to remember where I had read it, but it must have been on DSF. I liked it then, and I like it now! :)

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Reply #7 on: December 19, 2013, 11:35:52 PM
Like Evergrn, though I typically enjoy Ken Liu stories, he's far from my favorite EA regular. But I have to agree with every here, this is a great story. This story does two things right that I find are very tricky things to pull off in writing:

One) The "Best story ever" tale, which as Albionmoonlight pointed out is rarely satisfying. Liu nailed it here. The only other versions of this type of story that I've enjoyed are Tribute, by Tenacious D, and The Greatest Science Fiction Story Ever Written, by Eric James Stone.

And two) telling a story in second person. We've discussed this before in other areas of the forums, but second person is a tough sell because the reader tends to argue against being told what they are doing, especially if the actions are contrary to what the reader would normally do. But here, I'm told what I'm doing, but it's vague and general enough that my mind didn't argue with the story.

And I love the abrupt ending. Now I feel the need to go out and make something of myself... Beating Assassin's Creed 3 is an accomplishment, right?

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Reply #8 on: December 20, 2013, 05:14:58 PM
Count me in with those that really liked it, though I was wondering where it was heading in the beginning, but then it reminded me of the work of Italo Calvino and that got me convinced.


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Reply #9 on: December 23, 2013, 10:59:38 PM
A slightly ghoulish bit of me was wondering... if Escape Artists really had closed shop this year, which stories would they have chosen to leave as their final works? And Tome of Tourmaline looks like it would have fit the bill nicely.
(Also I misread it as 'Tomb of Tourmaline', and so had epitaphs in my head.)

Very glad it wasn't needed for that purpose, and to hear it read anyway.


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Reply #10 on: December 27, 2013, 01:25:20 AM
Great story, great story-within-a-story, great moral.

And I love the abrupt ending. Now I feel the need to go out and make something of myself... Beating Assassin's Creed 3 is an accomplishment, right?

I know, right?  It's not often a story makes me want to get up off my couch and do!, make!, be!, etc.!  How often we fall short in making our own story the greatest possible.  *goes back to sleep, hoping the book of my life will skip this particular section*


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Reply #11 on: December 27, 2013, 02:28:08 PM
I'll be the voice of dissent on this one.  It was cute and as well executed as it could be, but didn't feel like it anything new to me, and I found the ending a bit on the "here is an important lesson you should  learn from this afternoon special, kids" side.  It wasn't bad, but wasn't that good either.

ETA:  Thinking on it further, it's kind of funny how speaking in a meta sense, since this story was supposedly the story of my life, then any criticism of it could be considered a criticism of my life.  Like watching a preview for your own biography movie and saying "I wouldn't go to the theater to see that, but I might rent it."
« Last Edit: December 27, 2013, 02:30:34 PM by Unblinking »


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Reply #12 on: March 24, 2014, 03:56:33 PM
So I just watched the Lego Movie, which I consider to be the greatest story ever told (or among the greatest), and Ken's story captures that feeling I had while watching the movie. So perfect.

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