Author Topic: PC315: Stranger vs. The Malevolant Malignancy  (Read 7345 times)


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on: June 13, 2014, 08:56:53 AM
PodCastle 315: Stranger vs. The Malevolant Malignancy

by Jim C. Hines
Originally published in Unidentified Funny Objects 2, edited by Alex Shvartsman.

Read by a full cast!
Rish Outfield as the Narrator
Dave Thompson as Stranger
Big Anklevich as the Tumor
M.K. Hobson as Scaramouche
Wilson Fowlie as Jarhead
Marguerite Kenner as Kelly Kane
LaShawn Wanak as Dr. April Alexander
Nathaniel Lee as Officer Conroy
and Tina Connolly as The Halloween Princess
C.S.E. Cooney, Steve Anderson, Rish Outfield, and Peter Wood as various inanimate objects, reporters, fans, etc.

Stranger shifted in the armchair and forced himself to make eye contact with his therapist: a decapitated head floating in an oversized jar of blue-tinged nutrient fluid. Long gray-blond hair drifted like tentacles. The base of the jar was decorated in a red and yellow floral pattern, reminiscent of the Hawaiian shirts Jarhead wore back in his full-bodied superhero days.

“In all my time on this planet, I’ve never killed anyone,” said Stranger.
“I’ve never _wanted_ to before.”

Jarhead’s voice emerged, slightly mechanical, from a speaker below his chin. “Given your history with Scaramouche, it’s no surprise she knows how to press your buttons.”

Jarhead was a former speedster, a superhero from the seventies whose career on the east coast had come to an abrupt end when his nemesis strung a high-tensile wire across the road at neck height. Only the hyperquick actions of Jarhead’s sidekick Robogirl had allowed him to survive . . . if you could call it survival.

“When do I get to talk? I’ve got traumas of my own, you know!”

Stranger did his best to ignore the taunts, which was difficult, considering they came from within his own bowel.

“It’s talking to you again, isn’t it?” asked Jarhead.

Rated R: Contains F-bombs, potty jokes, superheroes, and cancer.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: July 03, 2014, 05:00:54 PM by Talia »


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Reply #1 on: June 14, 2014, 03:04:19 AM
Really liked this one. The idea of a super hero being defeated not by a diabolical nemesis, but a very human condition is intriguing. While I thought the whole explosive gas scene was a bit childish (though true, as my mother who has IBS and leukemia has found out), the antagonistic yet respectful relationship between the Stranger and Scaramouche was actually touching. Much respect to the author and his fight with cancer, and a reference to Holmes and Moriarty is always welcome.

By Grabthar's Hammer...what a savings.


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Reply #2 on: June 14, 2014, 05:22:35 AM
Let me just say that I'm someone who, not all that long ago, lost someone whom I loved dearly, and who loved me in return, to cancer. And I've been damaged ever since.

And I thought this was an hysterically funny story, for which I am very thankful. I loved the fact the malignancy is not such much malevolent in the classic sense of the word, but rather is just a complete asshole (pun intended). Tasteless, self-centered, and no sense of decency. It would be like having an obnoxious frat-boy jammed up your ass.

(though I do what to say that a lot of the *melodramatic* Dying or Dead Loved One stories run here and on Escape Pod recently have NOT been so welcomed by me...)

So, Jim, thank you (we read Libromancer in our book club, and are going to read the Stepsister Scheme)!!!

And the full contact karate cast reading... Oh my. Excellent, but a special blue ribbon to M.K. as Scaramouche. She's always good with the villainous... or villainously sarcastic.

Then there's the final icing on the cake, getting Norm freakin' Sherman to read as Pooh and Satan..... *kiss* Beautiful!!!!


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Reply #3 on: June 16, 2014, 12:38:48 AM
This was a GREAT story, and the full-cast reading made it something truly special. The comedy worked great, especially in pointing out some of the more awful things about what it means to have cancer (toying with the tropes of bravery/heroism in the face of something that even the supervillains think is just a stupid, awful way to die). I also appreciated all the send-ups of famous superhero tropes (Superman in particular) in Stranger's character and back story. The twist and resolution was perfect. I love that Stranger found a way to take control of his situation and learn a new use for his power without cheapening his own fight with cancer.

And HOOOOLY CRAP, PODCASTLE--I did NOT see Norm's surprise reading coming AT ALL and it completely made my day!  :D :D :D Me and Mr. Varda were listening to the episode in the car on the way to Father's Day stuff with his family, and this sent us into "laugh until you cry" hysterics after an already very funny story! :P

Be careful, because you're only gonna encourage more rampant spontaneous flash fic in the feedback threads if you're not careful (and don't we all remember Graeme's "Conan in the Mall" reading a few months ago?)

Medical Microfiction: Stories About Science


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Reply #4 on: June 18, 2014, 03:14:42 PM
Awesome story.  I loved especially how even supervillains think that cancer is a stupid, ugly, pointless way to die.  I liked the offered solution that she provided and I liked the way that Stranger went in the end.  A cool twist to his superpower (we're made out of meat!) and I liked how in the end rather than hurting others to try to avoid his own mortality, he decided to come to terms with it and made the best of it.  Cancer is a thing that you can cope with, that you can put off, but there's no easy out at this point where you can just cure it so it would've felt like too much of a copout if he'd gotten a free pass out of it because fiction.  But in the end he made the most of it and even found a way to help other people.  I loved that. 

And I loved how the story could make the topic entertaining even while not downplaying its real life terribleness. 

Much respect to the author and his fight with cancer, and a reference to Holmes and Moriarty is always welcome.

Just to clarify, the author of this story was Jim C. Hines.   I think the story was a tribute to Jay Lake who recently passed away after years fighting cancer.  (They're both awesome people, I just thought it worth clarifying)


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Reply #5 on: June 19, 2014, 01:34:51 PM
I also really enjoyed the story and thought it was an interesting take on such a terrible disease.

I don't like ensemble casts, but the quality of this one was quite good anyways and it didn't detract too much. I think a superhero and alien-story would better have fitted Escape Pod, but I am not a supporter of strict genre boundaries, so I don't mind that it was run here. Actually, I am a bit behind with listening to Escape Pod, so this was a good chance to hear this excellent story "earlier".


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Reply #6 on: June 30, 2014, 09:42:30 PM
I really enjoyed this story and appreciated the grace and humor with which the author dealt with the subject material. And the full-cast reading! *Swoon*

My condolences to Jay Lake's family and friends, and all who considered him a friend through his brilliant writing.


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Reply #7 on: July 01, 2014, 01:41:36 AM
Okay, I guess I'll be the dissenting voice. I wasn't crazy about this story, although I did actually like the full cast reading.  I guess a talking butt tumor and extended fart jokes were just too crude for my tastes.

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Reply #8 on: July 01, 2014, 07:06:08 AM
Okay, I guess I'll be the dissenting voice. I wasn't crazy about this story, although I did actually like the full cast reading.  I guess a talking butt tumor and extended fart jokes were just too crude for my tastes.

I agree.

I find that humor, more than any other genre, is a question of taste.  This one didn't land with me.


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Reply #9 on: July 03, 2014, 10:22:03 PM
Enjoyed this one very much. Bigg voiced the... uh... malignancy perfectly! Gruff and crude.

Nice work everyone :)


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Reply #10 on: July 16, 2014, 12:47:15 PM
Big Aklevich stole every scene he was in. Nicely done!

Also, fart jokes are still funny, especially when they cause craters and your archenemy is trying to convince you to weaponize it. Also, it was placed at just the right time to defuse some of the intense morbidity that had grown to that point to remind us to stop and enjoy life. Nicely crafted tale.

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


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Reply #11 on: October 06, 2014, 08:53:49 PM
I named this as #8 in my fave Podcastle of all time: