Author Topic: PC337: Thirteen Incantations  (Read 5297 times)

Talia

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on: November 14, 2014, 01:16:44 PM
PodCastle 337: Thirteen Incantations

by Desirina Boskovich

Read by Tina Connolly

Originally published in Realms of Fantasy, February 2011.

Elisabeth had been curious about the Victorian house for years.  Once she was inside, it won her over.  The house was filled with ephemera, harvested from a lifetime of travel: copper plates, ceramic vases, Persian rugs in burgundy and yellow, eclectic art pieces.  Window shelves held glass bottles in turquoise and blue.  Crystals dangled over the kitchen sink, spinning rainbows from light.  Potted plants grew lush.  Nothing matched.  It was a mishmash of beloved things that formed a charmingly incoherent whole.

The two girls sat in Ana Celina’s room.  Ana Celina’s gray cat rubbed at their ankles, demanding affection.  They talked about college; it was all anyone talked about these days. Elisabeth was going to a state university three hours away.  Ana Celina was headed to a school in London.  “I need a break from Neve,” she explained.

“Neve?”

“My mom.  Come on.  I’ll introduce you.  She’s probably down in her secret lab.”  Ana Celina rolled her eyes.

Elisabeth followed Ana Celina through the house–down the stairs, past the kitchen, to a closed door.  Ana Celina knocked, then paused, waiting for the muffled “come in.”

Ana Celina opened the door and fragrance rushed out like the surf.  Fleeting florals, ripe fruits, fresh greenery, ancient spices: each scent struggled to make itself known.  Stunned, Elizabeth gazed around the room.  It was large, and filled with shelves. Each shelf was lined with trays.  Each tray was packed with finger-sized vials.


Rated R. Contains Young Love.

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Reply #1 on: November 17, 2014, 03:23:09 PM
I liked the characters, but I didn't feel like the story did anything i didn't expect of it from the get-go.  I figured Ana Celina would split in the end and leave her friend to grieve the relationship--it felt like that kind of story and it was.  Smell is the most effective sense for evoking memories, and I like the idea of the scrapbook of perfume, but the descriptions of all the different scents didn't do much for me--If I'd been reading in text I would've skimmed over them.




jeffy

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Reply #2 on: November 18, 2014, 07:07:54 AM
Aw, I really enjoyed this one.

Connolly's narration was a perfect fit for the nostalgic wistfully innocent tone of Boskovich's story.

I'm not a particularly olfactory person, but Boskovich's words about smells fully engaged my mental sensorium bringing to life the emotions of Neve's memories and the two girls' lopsided friendship. The ending may have been unsurprising for me as a listener, but that made Elisabeth's longing and ultimate disappointment even more poignant. Maybe I'm just a big sap for tearing up in the grocery store listening to this story, but I'm okay with that.



albionmoonlight

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Reply #3 on: November 18, 2014, 04:29:07 PM
As someone who grew up in a "normal" family (2 kids, house in the suburbs), and who is now the father in a "normal" family (2 kids, house in a different suburb), I always bristle at the unchallenged assumption in a lot of stories that "normal" families are boring, or pointless, or somehow lesser than the cool alternative that the story is about to celebrate.

So this story was really awesome because it tackled that tension between normal-white-bread-suburban and cool-and-free-and-different head on.  Our narrator had an overly simple view of the world, and she was not entirely trustworthy.  As we saw near the end, she was greatly underestimating her Mom's ability to understand her.  And we also got to see the good and the bad and the complexity of Ana Celina and her mother and their life.

Basically, one of the things teenagers have to learn as they come of age is that people and reality is not as simple as a dichotomy between lame and not-lame.  The world and the people in it are complex and all come with a mix of good, and bad, and lame, and cool.  And this story explores that.

I liked it a lot.



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Reply #4 on: November 19, 2014, 01:06:46 AM
As someone who grew up in a "normal" family (2 kids, house in the suburbs), and who is now the father in a "normal" family (2 kids, house in a different suburb), I always bristle at the unchallenged assumption in a lot of stories that "normal" families are boring, or pointless, or somehow lesser than the cool alternative that the story is about to celebrate.

Thank you!  Someone else like me.  I'm from a small town family of five, and am now the Father in a small town family of four. I also expected the usual "interesting is no commitments" message here.  I was happy to see that was not the case.

The thing I find so frustrating about a character with a point of view that "normal families" are boring is the unspoken belief that commitment and stability are default states.  In a chaotic universe they are not.  If it seems like something is stable, you had better bet that someone is working their ass off to let you feel that way.  You have to fight real hard to win stability. 

I wonder if the narrator realized her own parents could have had interesting potions brewed from their relationship.  The mother and father keep their prom picture up for a reason.  I wonder what she'd smell there?  I wonder if she followed their relationship along if she'd see why Dad was in the garage and Mom was at church all the time. I also wonder if her father and his clean garage could surprise her as much as her understanding mother if she gave him a chance.  The older I get, the more my own parents continue to surprise and inspire me. 
« Last Edit: November 19, 2014, 01:09:35 AM by Zieborn »



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Reply #5 on: November 19, 2014, 01:22:06 PM
As one who had struggled with Normality his whole life, I think one has to recall that the narrator is a teenager. Remember how hard it was to figure out the balance between having to conform (which seemed the point of the middle school years, from 11-13) and finding your uniqueness (which seemed to be increasingly celebrated by my peers the older I got...until I realized that I had landed back at "normal" again)?

This narrator had the added wrinkle of being interested in someone of the same sex, which subtly seems (to me) to drive her desire to get away from her "normal" family. She doesn't think mom will understand, and wishes to be part of Ana Celina's more Bohemiam world because she thinks it will be easier to find acceptance there.

For me, that dynamic made the story less about whether Elizabeth & Ana Celina would stay together or at least share that first love, and more about whether Elizabeth would be able to share her secrets with another person.

I thought the surprising part was the understated way her mother expressed her acceptance, and how that pointed Elizabeth toward her future. Sometimes the craziest thing we have to come to terms with is how normal we actually are.

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Reply #6 on: November 20, 2014, 09:28:07 PM
Sweet, poignant and affecting. Simply beautiful. I echo that Tina is a perfect fit for this narration. Wonderful :)


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Reply #7 on: November 20, 2014, 09:33:03 PM
I just have to say, we work really hard to match narrations with stories. Sometimes we're more successful than others. I thought Tina would be a perfect fit for this, but when I heard the narration come in...well, she outdid herself and exceeded all my expectations.


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Reply #8 on: November 21, 2014, 06:50:52 AM
I liked it. It was very pretty, charming, and sweet. Being a teenager is really shitty, being a queer teenager has certain challenges under the best of circumstances, and being a queer teenager in a backwards backwater is nigh unto the shittiest. I thought the descriptions were evocative and lovely and kept me listening.

That said, I do generally like more to actually happen in my story. Why couldn't they have been space pirates or elves?

Ah... but that's my damage. I am firmly in an escapist mood from about mid-November to the end of February, every year. It's the weather.

I liked this story, even though it was slow and predictable. There are stories that we all know how they're going to end because the happened to all of us and it always ends the same way - so really, that's not a criticism. This one had the added benefit of gorgeous prose, which made it even more of a pleasure to listen to.

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Reply #9 on: November 21, 2014, 01:27:48 PM
I just have to say, we work really hard to match narrations with stories. Sometimes we're more successful than others. I thought Tina would be a perfect fit for this, but when I heard the narration come in...well, she outdid herself and exceeded all my expectations.

I agree, great choice of narration!

But, honestly, certain readers are always a great choice for any story.  Tina is one of them. :D



Devoted135

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Reply #10 on: December 02, 2014, 03:19:44 AM
Beautiful, evocative story paired with the perfect narrator. :) I enjoyed the descriptions of the different perfumes. Now, where can I order some?



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Reply #11 on: December 11, 2014, 02:25:41 PM
Just now catching up on feedback. :) I absolutely loved this story. Like others have said, the sensory details were amazing and evocative. For some reason, it made me think of a childhood friend I used to hang out in the woods with all summer, way back in the day. We'd climb this tree with some books and just hang out there in silence for hours. Granted, I wasn't in love with her like the characters in this story, but I guess that's the power of sensory details--taking you back to a place and time so strongly.

Given that, those first loves are the best/worst, aren't they? Everything feels so huge and monumental at that age, like it's all a one-time deal. And in the story, it's multiplied even further by the dimension of being a queer teen who is just coming to terms with her identity, and even more terrified of rejection as a result. I was so moved by her mother's response at the end, maybe because she did exactly what I kept wanting for Elisabeth the whole story - for someone to hug her and tell her it was going to be okay.

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Reply #12 on: December 11, 2014, 04:44:28 PM
This. This is why I love PodCastle and fantasy fiction. Not all fantasy has to be big action, giant fantasy. Fantasy can be a subtle thing, a deft and tender weaving of reality that displays ordinary life in new and special ways.

I'm not saying all fiction has to be "feel good" for me to love it or I'd never have made it through Game of Thrones.  ::) But, I think its infinitely more difficult to tread off the beaten path to vastly understated fantasy and redemtively flawed characters, particularly teenagers. I felt for everyone in the story. There is an inevitable loss that comes with growth and it was nurtured and displayed here most kindly.

Excellent narration, also.


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


UnfulredJohnson

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Reply #13 on: January 21, 2015, 01:48:19 AM
Great story. Best I've heard in a long time. For some reason unrequited love stories always resonate far more strongly with me, than the grand explosive romances of hollywood, I wonder why that is ::). And it was cook just right here. Beautiful descriptions, and a kind of anti-climatic ending that I just loved the shit out of. I did not expect it. Desirina Boskovich has a new fan.



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Reply #14 on: January 28, 2015, 06:21:22 AM
I adored this story. Just a beautiful gem of a story. I thought it resonated a lot with the themes of two of last year's Hugo nominated stories, both "Selkie Stories are for Losers" and "The Water that Falls on You From Nowhere". On the one hand, the youthful unrequited love and finding one's identity and the really lovely tone of the story that reminded me a lot of "Selkie Stories", on the other hand, the coming out to family hesitancy of "Water". And all three stories have this wonderful, magic realism thing going on, with one fantastical element that is subtle and not given a backstory or an explanation, which is something I just love in my fantasy fiction.



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Reply #15 on: July 20, 2015, 08:23:13 PM
Ahhhh...so much of this story. I helped pick it out back during my tenure here, and even listening to it again, the mother's comforting words towards the end reduces me to a blubbering mess. So love the imagery and sensory detail.

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