Author Topic: PC306: Flash Fiction Special – Tales of Strange Inspiration  (Read 4667 times)


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PodCastle 306: Flash Fiction Special – Tales of Strange Inspiration

“Beauty and Disappearance, by Kat Howard, read by Ann Leckie.

Originally published in Weird Tales, 2010.

The statues were disappearing from the museums.

Not as a result of theft, petty or otherwise, nor from careless misplacement. This was quite clear, as soon as the disappearances began, because the statues were not disappearing in their entirely. Rather, only certain pieces were lost.

The open hand of an elegant marble woman, outstretched as if in welcome, gone. The laurel wreath and lyre of an ancient poet, vanished.

Art experts and detectives were called in, inquiries made, vandalism quickly ruled out. The statues were otherwise undamaged. There were simply pieces, small fragments of beauty, missing.

“A Duet in Reyes,” by Caleb Wilson, read by John Michnya.

Originally published in A Journal of Sein and Werden.

One Saturday evening around the turn of the century the composer Arnauld Reyes was walking home along Vi Tuba when a tentacle of wind licked his hat straight off his head and over the rail into the Magoro River. He watched the hat sink as the current whisked it south, and then decided that since his route home was through the market square he would purchase a new hat on the way. At the market, he browsed several hatter’s kiosks until he found a hat which was identical to the lost one, but for a dark red velvet band–which, he hoped, would set him apart from the crowd. He bought it, placed it directly on his head, and continued home. He did not notice that, as he walked, several dozen powdery pink moths emerged from beneath the band and crawled into his ears.

While Reyes slept that night, the moths chewed his brain, severing certain synaptic connections. When he awoke, his brain had been split into two separate minds. At first the composers noticed nothing amiss. They breakfasted–during which their housekeeper was either very attentive or strangely shy–and walked to Zarbigny Park, where they intended to work on a suite of rustic dances.

“Ten Cigars,” by C.S.E. Cooney, read by Anna Schwind, Graeme Dunlop, Amal El-Mohtar, Norm Sherman, Tina Connolly, Ann Leckie, M.K. Hobson, Dave Thompson, Wilson Fowlie, and Peter Wood.

Originally published in Strange Horizons, 2013. Read it here!

“Not much is known of Danaus Incendiarius, family Nymphaidae, order Lepidoptera,” writes popular entomologist Aurora Bismarck. “Mentions crop up through history, usually signifying the birth of a great statesman or the ratification of a peace treaty. They are dark gray, with a wingspan of six to eight inches, and black markings that look like roses in bloom. Once, on vacation in Edinburgh, I was privileged to see a swarm. Director Amy Riedel had just won Audience Choice Award at the film festival. Her friends were laughing, passing around champagne and cigars. Suddenly the room was full of rare Incendiarius butterflies . . .

Rated R. It May be Beautiful, but it ain’t Always Pretty.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: May 02, 2014, 01:04:12 PM by Talia »


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Beauty and Disappearance

Great story to start out our little trio of fantasy fiction. I've always been a fan of imperfect beauty, that idea that something truly beautiful has something something, some deep seeding melancholy that tempers and strengthens the smiles and laughter. Those dark rings around circling her shimmering eyes that tell of long sleepless nights and countless tears shed. I kept picturing walking through a museum of my own memories and experiences, the beauty hidden in the dark corners, the angels with the tattered wings. And of course Ann Leckie's voice was superb! 

A Duet in Reyes

This one left me a little confused but in a good way. I kept trying to picture what the two characters were going through, the way there different yet similar perspectives were driving them mad. The way they had to write it down, they had to have the rest of the world see what they say if only to prove to themselves they weren't completely mad. It sounds a lot like what drives my own flights of madness into writing and other creative projects, I want others to see the world through my eyes, see the people spinning and see them smile and the wonder of it all.

10 Cigars

This story was by far my favorite of the three. As an avid lover of cigars and pipes I can relate to the often misunderstood love and ritual that comes with smoking. The smell and taste of the fermented leaf, the way the woodsy and sweet palate lingers on your tongue. The relaxation and almost zen state of mind that only comes from spending a few hours slowly coaxing smoke from your bowl/cigar. But on the flip side there's that anxiety and fear, that ever present knowledge that you are doing something that is slowly killing you. The way you wake up in the morning with your mouth feeling like something died inside, that tightness in your chest from the smoke you spent hours sucking in. Yet still with all those things you look forward to the next one. Wouldn't it be better if they didn't carry the threat of cancer, but just of butterflies?

I especially loved the mention of the upset stomach after smoking, I've had several cases where the overdoes of nicotine while smoking has made for a less than pleasant exiting of my stomach contents.

It's not that I can't see the line, it's merely that I burned it away when I was 5...


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What a lovely collection of stories!

Beauty and Disappearance,

This was charming but like a nice sorbet, fleeting. I enjoyed it but somehow it left me with little impression. The reading and story telling were very nice

A Duet in Reyes,

I adore the title of this!

I had the hardest time actually picturing what our poor tortured main character was going through! I wanted to see two men, though I knew he was occupying one body with his divided mind. However, the idea of a world gone mad only made bearable by art.. THAT I comprehend all too well. The idea of a population set spinning by the music of a mad man charms me. I do feel sorry for him though.

And the third.. oh aaah the third. Easily my favorite.

Ten cigars.
1: ALL the voices!
2: As a long time smoker who has recently (4 years ago) switched to using an electronic cigarette I now only miss my cigars. Not for nicotine, as I get that but for "If heaven was a forest fire" the ritual of the cigar is a different beast then simple burning of leaf for nicotine. Cigars.. ah..
3: Each piece tied to the last and yet stood alone.
.. I could go on. This story was a dance, a melody, and beautiful if a bit terrifying as true beauty should be.

Oh, great and mighty Alasdair, Orator Maleficent, He of the Silvered Tongue, guide this humble fangirl past jumping up and down and squeeing upon hearing the greatness of Thy voice.
Oh mighty Mur the Magnificent. I am not worthy.

Conejo Gordo

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Weird and Pretty..kinda like lunch with Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  The imagery in "Beauty and Disappearance" was haunting, in
The Duet..." dizzying.  And ten cigars was like listened to an audio version of the Justice League assembling, not to mention lovely and mysterious prose.  These three little jewels provided me with a soundtrack for a drive to the Texas Hill Country on a cloudless day...perfect. Thanks, Guys.

Scott R

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Really, really enjoyed 10 Cigars.  There's some literary speculative fiction that's just...heavy, you know?  Unreadable, dense-- all thunderclouds, no storm.

10 Cigars is of the opposite kind.  It's evocative without being smarmy or melodramatic.  The image of the little girls passing around the cigar, and the confidence of the youngest that she was the only one who smoked it right is the bit that stands out to me the most.  Very well done.


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Beauty and Disapperance--I don't get it.  I was waiting for a story, but it never really seemed to happen.  It was a somewhat interesting bit of story notes, but I wouldn't call it a story.

A Duet in Reyes--I enjoyed it.  And I think it has at least a little bit of connection with reality in that I think that if the connecting tissue between the left lobe and right lobe of the brain is severed, then the person can still go on living and both lobes of the brain still function kind of normally on their own but because the two halves the brain can't sync up, they essentially become two separate persons.  I don't recall exactly what the effects of that are, but I think it's documented.  I don't think the "always looking away" and "always looking toward" was mentioned, but was a cool way to put the story together.  That detail kind of reminded me of playing games that use sprites for characters--like if you've ever played the original Doom all enemies always look towards you all the time because the game is incapable of showing you anything else.

10 Cigars--I don't get it.  I smoked a bit in high school to fit in, but figured out how not to inhale early on and didn't inhale until I got the hell out of that flyspeck town where I gave them up.  So I don't get smoking, and I certainly don't get cigars, other than noting how they're even smellier than cigarettes.  I don't have any nostalgia with them, and nothing really happened in this text that made me give a crap about anyone or anything in it.  I liked the presentation with all the readers, but not the text itself.


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Here's a vote for more triptychs! :D

Beauty and Disappearance: I don't think I would have liked this story if it was longer, but at this length I thought was was enigmatic and pretty.

A Duet in Reyes: I'll second the commendation of the title! The logic side of my brain kept arguing that people can't be both facing away from and toward the same set of eyes, but the art side of my brain kept telling me to shut up and listen. :P

10 Cigars: I love the full cast reading, that was like a walk down the PC hall of fame. :) I have zero nostalgia about smoking (actually, my lungs rebel at the slightest hint of smoke), but I found this one intriguing anyway. I never thought about how cigars really did used to be entwined in all the most important events of our lives. I'm glad that is going by the wayside.

Edit: *can't, not can!  :-\
« Last Edit: April 18, 2014, 06:14:51 PM by Devoted135 »

Just Jeff

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I agree with the strange in the title, but none of these worked for me.

Cutter McKay

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All three of these were beautifully written and image provoking.

In Beauty and Disappearance I really enjoyed the way the missing parts of statues sparked a whole fashion movement involving missing body parts. It's grotesque, ridiculous, and absolutely something our irritatingly fashion obsessed society would do.

In A Duet in Reyes, I loved the switch from "He" to "They" and how everything appeared opposite to the two personalities.

In 10 Cigars, I loved the full cast and all the many snippets of life in which a cigar can play a role.

However, I have to admit that I didn't understand the point to ANY of these stories. They were all just beautifully written conceptions with no plot and no point as far as I could tell. None of them had any kind of explanation or resolution to them, which just left me wanting.

Still, I'm all for flash trifectas running on PC, so keep them coming. :)

-Josh Morrey-
"Remember: You have not yet written your best work." -Tracy Hickman


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I really enjoyed having a little extra flash in my inbox. A sorbet trio as compared to a rich slice of dark chocolate cake, if you will. And I love cake. But, this was an excellent palate cleanser, especially given the Godzilla-length episode that just finished on Escapepod.

1) I loved the imagery here and how the fickle nature of beauty were exposed. Haunting.

2) Sort of Oliver Sacks meets Salvador Dali. I loved it. Even if the concept of an ever-twirling society was a bit nauseating...

3) This one seems to have been a hit or miss for some people. I was a miss. Some if the imagery was beguiling but it failed to unite into a whole in my mind. To much slideshow of weirdness for me.

Overall, wonderful as usual.

“My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it.”
Ursula K. LeGuin


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Reply #10 on: April 23, 2014, 10:44:58 PM
Oooh, shiny! A flash trifecta! (and speaking of flash, are we going to be damning the Dolphin anytime soon...? :) )

I don't have much to add except to say I enjoyed the pieces. The first two were eerie and lovely. The last was easily my favorite, both because of the full-cast reading and because of the way it made me think of the place of small rituals in our lives. I've never smoked a cigar, but my ritual/vice of choice is good tea. I really love tea, for the taste, yes, but also for the ritual of making it each morning. A few years ago, I quit caffeine for a while, and stopped having my cup each morning. I missed the caffeine for a few days, but I missed the ritual for weeks, and the place the beverage had come to hold in my life. I imagine cigars are rather like that, for people who enjoy them, and that's what I got out of this story.

Medical Microfiction: Stories About Science


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None of these really did anything for me.