Author Topic: EP474: In Coppelius’s Toyshop  (Read 13357 times)


Thunderscreech

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Reply #1 on: December 30, 2014, 10:02:37 PM
Loved it, that was Ho-Ho-Horrifying! 

Sorry, sorry...  I couldn't help mys-sorry!  I know, that's bad, but it was a Holiday episode.  How could I resist? 



bounceswoosh

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Reply #2 on: December 30, 2014, 10:56:19 PM
Deeply creepy. I dare not comment on genre.



benjaminjb

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Reply #3 on: December 31, 2014, 03:20:37 AM
As obvious as a Twilight Zone episode and just as enjoyable!

Though I have to wonder about the name Coppelius: seems like a reference to ETA Hoffmann's "The Sandman," and there's a few other threads to pull at there: Coppelius terrorizes a little boy in the Hoffmann story, while here the anti-hero protag terrorizes little children; and both stories are full of questions of animate creatures vs. inanimate objects.

But that seems more like a gentle echo, not like something that really helps us read this story, so I'm left with my first impression: we all know he's going to get it, and we all want him to get it, and he gets it--and the getting is good.



ToooooMuchCoffeeMan

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Reply #4 on: December 31, 2014, 12:29:15 PM
Meh.

-Not sf.
-Nothing unexpected happens.
-No character arc to speak of.
-The story depends on the protag being dumb. (Why does he keep blindly wandering around the store long after it's clear that he's in a non-Euclidean space?)

Happy new year to all and sundry, regardless.



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Reply #5 on: December 31, 2014, 04:58:32 PM
Well, that was creepy. But in a good way, like a well-told campfire ghost story.
As soon as he realized that the stairs were turning and getting narrower I realized where he was. And when he picked up the piece of wood to wave around, the conclusion of the story became obvious. But it was still fun to hang on for the ride. Sometimes it's more about the journey and less about the destination.

There's something that fascinates me about the creepiness of toys. It has something to do with clowns. Those fake smiles... the vacant stares... I try to keep the creepiness among my son's toys to a minimum, but I am not in charge of all the toys his various relatives buy for him. So we have Creepy Duck (a regular rubber ducky for the bath, only patterned like a soccer ball) and Creepy Puppy (it's an image on one of his undershirts of an extremely cute puppy with human feet). I vetoed Creepy Monkey (a puppet that will murder us in our sleep).
But on the other hand, that creepiness has a very strange allure. I like to read stories and watch the occasional movie with creepy toys. It's weird.

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adrianh

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Reply #6 on: January 01, 2015, 09:13:57 AM
Cute — and Nathaniel just nailed the asshat protaganist in the reading.

However, for me, the being lost-in-the-story section hammered the strangeness in so much that I could see the conclusion coming as soon as he had the chat about Rapunzel with the kid and entered the wall of the store.

Still fun though — and the guy not really understanding his fate was a nice touch too.



AirWreck

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Reply #7 on: January 02, 2015, 03:21:43 AM
I remember reading this originally in Asimov's oh-so-long ago and it haunted me for a long time. It took me awhile to realize that I was experiencing it again when EscapePod played it. It seemed like a horrible end for the narrator to be lost in time, probably forever, trapped in the hell that is a toy store at Christmas. And I don't think he deserved it. Most of the story seemed to be trying to tell us he is an over-the-top bad person and that he needs to be punished. But he does very few actions that are actually bad, and most of it are thoughts, not deeds. I get overwhelmed in crowds with overstimulation. I would be cranky too.

The punishment did not fit the crime.



Varda

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Reply #8 on: January 02, 2015, 06:07:06 PM
I just have to say that this might be my favorite Nathan Lee narration of all time. It might even have nudged out his reading of "Punk Voyager" in my brain. Just absolutely nailed it, dude!

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Smokey

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Reply #9 on: January 02, 2015, 08:59:53 PM
At first, I was worried that the protagonist's abrasive attitude would get watered down by the end, and it would turn into some sappy bonding experience story. I was very pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a fantastic horror story instead.

I definitely don't think that the punishment was deserved, though. Lets take a look at what happened: A guy wants to get into bed with his coworker. He asks around to make sure that she doesn't have kids, because he clearly doesn't like kids. They make plans for a date, and when he shows up at her door, he's surprised with this kid that he now has to deliver across town. When he gets to the meeting place, the kid's babysitter is late, and he has to wait. Then some girl from a toy store steals the kid away, without even letting this guy know. He has to venture into the store to search for the kid, where he ends up getting lost and trapped forever as a toy. Sure, the guy might have been a bit of an asshole, but that's a cruel punishment for the crime.

Either way, I'm definitely checking out more of Connie Willis.



Devoted135

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Reply #10 on: January 03, 2015, 04:40:49 AM
Okay, that was very creepy. I'm definitely in the "punishment did not fit the crime" camp, and would add that for such a short story it somehow still felt too long. Lots of pausing to describe everything in way more detail than I needed. At least Nathan's narration was great!



Arachnophile

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Reply #11 on: January 03, 2015, 10:01:21 PM
Once the protagonist tells Coppelius at the escalator that he's going to harm the kid, it's pretty clear that he's doomed.  Nonetheless, this one got me.  The description of the protagonist wandering around the store, unable to ever get back to where he just was, is eerily similar to one of my recurring nightmares. Probably didn't help that I listened to it while walking my dog in the dark and freezing rain.  Nice work all.



AirWreck

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Reply #12 on: January 03, 2015, 11:40:24 PM
I definitely don't think that the punishment was deserved, though. Lets take a look at what happened: A guy wants to get into bed with his coworker. He asks around to make sure that she doesn't have kids, because he clearly doesn't like kids. They make plans for a date, and when he shows up at her door, he's surprised with this kid that he now has to deliver across town. When he gets to the meeting place, the kid's babysitter is late, and he has to wait. Then some girl from a toy store steals the kid away, without even letting this guy know. He has to venture into the store to search for the kid, where he ends up getting lost and trapped forever as a toy. Sure, the guy might have been a bit of an asshole, but that's a cruel punishment for the crime.

Yes! The kid was effectively stolen into the store without any thought of checking for the guardian of said child. He's probably going to be turned into a helper elf for Santa Claus. (See "Elf Employment" on PodCastle)

And you nicely summarize a lot of my thinking about why the protagonists acts the way he does.



slic

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Reply #13 on: January 04, 2015, 05:59:46 PM
I'm surprised at the general tenor of the earlier posts.  The direction of the story became apparent very early on, agreed, but I enjoyed it because it was a masterpiece (master class even) on how to tell this type of idea based story.  I think Ms. Wills shows why she is a Grand Master of the genre.  It's not just that he is trapped/punished, but it starts off with a common peeve we all have - he gets lost in a crowded store and can't seem to navigate where he wants.  And, by the end, all the "background" that we take as descriptive is tied back to the protagonist.  Like a great piece of music or a terrific comedy routine, it all ties back together.

I definitely don't think that the punishment was deserved, though...hey make plans for a date, and when he shows up at her door, he's surprised with this kid that he now has to deliver across town. When he gets to the meeting place, the kid's babysitter is late, and he has to wait...Sure, the guy might have been a bit of an asshole, but that's a cruel punishment for the crime.
Yes! The kid was effectively stolen into the store without any thought of checking for the guardian of said child.
On the face of it yes, but I inferred that Coppelius had a bit of Santa-like magic in him and he knew all the other naughty things our self-absorbed, hurtful, jerk protagonist had done.  Certainly, he got stuck with an annoying, brief task(suck it up buttercup), but the woman's mother is in the hospital.  Maybe his threat was hyperbolic, but he is ready to abandon a child in a crowded toy store - not cool.



SpareInch

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Reply #14 on: January 05, 2015, 03:31:31 PM
Meh.

-Not sf.
-Nothing unexpected happens.
-No character arc to speak of.
-The story depends on the protag being dumb. (Why does he keep blindly wandering around the store long after it's clear that he's in a non-Euclidean space?)

non-Euclidean space? That sounds like science talk to me. So it must be SF!

YAY!

Also, there was something eerily similar to time travel.

That dealt with, I just wanted to say that one department store in my home town has an animatronic window display every December. Walking past the window in question last month, I found Brian Blessed's voice shouting in my ear. I had thought they had just paid him to do some voice work for the show, but...

Has anyone seen Brian lately?

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JackSpellman

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Reply #15 on: January 05, 2015, 05:32:59 PM
I comment pretty infrequently, but I had to come on to vent about Connie Willis, possibly the most overrated writer currently working in speculative fiction. This story, very much like her crazy-makingly tedious novels Blackout and All Clear, features a thunderingly obvious plot that takes for-frickin'-ever to get to the end, obtuse characters lacking any behavioral motivation congruent with real life, unlikable, whiny children, and a love of repetition (Jeebus, how many times did she have to mention the song?) that makes me wonder whether Willis is paid by the word.

So, no, I didn't care for it. Terrific narration by Nathan, though.



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Reply #16 on: January 05, 2015, 06:07:24 PM
I didn't care for it.  From the first wrong turn it was pretty clear he was going to be wandering in there forever and from the mention of harming the kid it was obvious his bad behavior was being punished.  From that point it seemed like the story just went on forever without really adding anything new to the basic premise, even though some of the creepy details like the stalking stuffed panther were pretty cool.

Count me as one who didn't think the punishment fit the crime.  Mind you, the punishment doesn't actually have to fit the crime for the story to work okay, but the difference between crime and punishment was so extreme it was hard to think it was anything but ludicrous--sure he's an annoying whiny selfish person but he does actually try to take the kid where he's supposed to, and when the kid gets abducted by a store employee he spends a long, long time looking for him.  Even when he threatens to go the game, he doesn't end up doing so even when he finds the ground floor again. 

In contrast, the mother handed her only child over to a man she barely knows on any kind of personal basis and seems to take for granted the safety of the child.  He doesn't know her well enough to know she has a kid, so I find it hard to believe that she knows him well enough to have even the slightest idea of whether he might harm the child.  I get that she has to go to the hospital and doesn't have the time at this very moment to bring the kid to the toyshop, but she could bring the kid to the hospital and hit the toy store tomorrow, or her sister could meet her at the apartment, or she could see if she could drop him off to her sister herself.  Handing her son off to her date that she hardly knows is seriously the worst possible choice.  It would be better to just leave him in the apartment alone to wait for the sister. 



hardware

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Reply #17 on: January 07, 2015, 12:00:15 AM
I thought it was fun enough, it had a nice push to it although the protagonist seemed to take an awfully long time to realize something was wrong, in fact in the end I decided that it was part of the joke. Yes, the punishment was harsh, but hey - santa judges you on a binary scale, so why shouldn't Coppelius .... altogether, a twisted little tale for the holidays, which is my kind of holiday spirit.   



Chairman Goodchild

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Reply #18 on: January 07, 2015, 12:24:06 PM
I remember reading this originally in Asimov's oh-so-long ago and it haunted me for a long time. It took me awhile to realize that I was experiencing it again when EscapePod played it. It seemed like a horrible end for the narrator to be lost in time, probably forever, trapped in the hell that is a toy store at Christmas. And I don't think he deserved it. Most of the story seemed to be trying to tell us he is an over-the-top bad person and that he needs to be punished. But he does very few actions that are actually bad, and most of it are thoughts, not deeds. I get overwhelmed in crowds with overstimulation. I would be cranky too.

The punishment did not fit the crime.

The punishment did not fit the crime, and in horror stories, it often doesn't.  I do agree with you that the protagonist seems shoehorned into the role of the bad guy, when he had a date who covered up having a child, then pawned the the kid on him with no warning at all, and then the woman who agreed to take the kid from him didn't show up, causing him to miss a basketball game he'd already paid for.  And to top it off, apparently the kid did run away from him too.  If I were in his position, I damned well would have been feeling cranky and taken advantage of too.  

I liked it, tho.  It was a airy, goofy, albeit dark piece that was a good Christmas episode.  
« Last Edit: January 08, 2015, 09:48:54 AM by Chairman Goodchild »



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Reply #19 on: January 07, 2015, 01:32:58 PM
And to top it off, apparently the kid did run away from him too.

I figured he was abducted by Coppelius--whether with ill intent or not.



benjaminjb

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Reply #20 on: January 08, 2015, 12:59:06 AM
I see the phrase "punishment fit the crime" being tossed around, and even though it's just a cliche, it rubs me the wrong way just a little. I grew up on The Twilight Zone, so I love an ironically appropriate punishment or twist of fate as much--nay! more--than the next man. People who are ugly inside forced to look ugly outside? Love it. Woman who kills her mean guardian forced to take care of his last invention--a replica of him that will never die? Super.

So, sure, if you look at this story, it might seem like the punishment (being locked in the toyshop) doesn't fit the crime (seeing women as objects of his pleasure, toys). What's the relationship between a womanizer and a giant cat that hunts me? Well, high school me says the answer is a word starting with "p"--in the first case, it's something he hunts, in the second case, it's something that hunts him. And that's not the only connection between punishment and crime. Here's a guy who hates children forced to become object of merriment for children. Here's a guy who doesn't like children--whose sole goal in most of the story is to go watch other people play a game--forced to take part in a game/toy that's not of his own making.

Which is funny to me since that's often the situation for people who aren't playing on what Scalzi rightly calls the lowest difficulty setting.

So, yeah, I think the punishment does fit the crime in the horror story sense of being an ironic inversion.

I also think, and this could just be me, that the word "crime" in that cliche is throwing people off. I mean, some of the responses here seem to me to be (to paraphrase), "hey, it's not illegal to want to sleep with women." (What an interesting speculative premise that would make, eh?) But horror stories are often extra-legal in their scope of punishment: someone gets away with something and is not punished by society, but is punished by the forces of good-and-evil.

Which makes this story doubly interesting to me because (it's been argued that) horror can seem awfully regressive: teens running off to have sex get the knife; people who buy more house than they need (oh, the devil of easy loans) get the ghost; etc. In other words, like certain strands of comedy, horror often ends with a defense of the status quo: "that deep dark well that no one gets their water from--you should listen to tradition and not get your water from there." And yet the guy getting punished here is representative of a certain status quo.



FireTurtle

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Reply #21 on: January 08, 2015, 03:23:53 AM
I cannot believe you people motivated me to pause "Agent Carter" in order to reply to this thread.  ::)

Why is everyone assuming that the scorned women in this scenario have no agency? I am terrible with names so hang with me here. But, the woman he was going to the basketball game with is friends with the woman he dumped, correct? And the woman he dumped insisted that she lived alone, no kids. This woman also knows that children are his "deal breaker". So....they go on a couple of dates, then she "springs a kid" on him with all sorts of convenient excuses and then the other friend never shows up to get said kid. Did no one else see this as a classic set-up? To me, it was obvious that they set him up. Did he still get sucked into the dark place of faux FAO? Yes. Was that part of it? Probably not, but..maybe. Who is to say? Anyway, I had to chime in with my alternate theory of events.

I did find being lost in the store quite horrifying. It's definitely a fear of my own. That being said, this guy was a royal jerk who viewed everyone else in the universe as a tool to achieve his own satisfaction. I'm thinking that being stuck as part of a mechanism that gives others joy would actually be fitting in a darkly justified way.

As far as the panther is concerned, I think this guy was also the mouse from the mechanism. Every time it tried to escape the black cat leapt out, much as the panther appeared when he was going to actually fog the right direction to get "out" of the store.

I loved the creepy off-kilter Twilight Zone vibe. It was refreshing. Not something I would care to partake of in bulk, but just like the palate cleansing lemon sorbet of stories. So, what's next? ;D

“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 #22 on: January 08, 2015, 04:22:44 PM
Why is everyone assuming that the scorned women in this scenario have no agency? I am terrible with names so hang with me here. But, the woman he was going to the basketball game with is friends with the woman he dumped, correct? And the woman he dumped insisted that she lived alone, no kids. This woman also knows that children are his "deal breaker". So....they go on a couple of dates, then she "springs a kid" on him with all sorts of convenient excuses and then the other friend never shows up to get said kid. Did no one else see this as a classic set-up? To me, it was obvious that they set him up. Did he still get sucked into the dark place of faux FAO? Yes. Was that part of it? Probably not, but..maybe. Who is to say? Anyway, I had to chime in with my alternate theory of events.

I definitely saw the agency of the women in the story, though I found that made the mother less relatable than the selfish protagonist because whether or not she is aware of the trap being set, she doesn't come out of it looking awesome.  Either she has given her only son to the custody of an a-hole with questionable motivations and known untrustworthiness, or she has used her son as  a vital component in a trap that still involves putting him in custody of the a-hole.



albionmoonlight

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Reply #23 on: January 08, 2015, 07:21:36 PM
I wonder if anyone else was trapped in the toy shop against his will?  Or if all of the other people working there were doing so of their own volition.



FireTurtle

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Reply #24 on: January 08, 2015, 07:37:26 PM
Why is everyone assuming that the scorned women in this scenario have no agency? I am terrible with names so hang with me here. But, the woman he was going to the basketball game with is friends with the woman he dumped, correct? And the woman he dumped insisted that she lived alone, no kids. This woman also knows that children are his "deal breaker". So....they go on a couple of dates, then she "springs a kid" on him with all sorts of convenient excuses and then the other friend never shows up to get said kid. Did no one else see this as a classic set-up? To me, it was obvious that they set him up. Did he still get sucked into the dark place of faux FAO? Yes. Was that part of it? Probably not, but..maybe. Who is to say? Anyway, I had to chime in with my alternate theory of events.

I definitely saw the agency of the women in the story, though I found that made the mother less relatable than the selfish protagonist because whether or not she is aware of the trap being set, she doesn't come out of it looking awesome.  Either she has given her only son to the custody of an a-hole with questionable motivations and known untrustworthiness, or she has used her son as  a vital component in a trap that still involves putting him in custody of the a-hole.

I chose to believe that the young boy was not her son (because no one remarked on his existence before then) and that he was a participant in the deception rather than a victim.

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