Author Topic: PC360: 21 Steps to Enlightenment (Minus One)  (Read 4113 times)

Talia

  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 2682
  • Muahahahaha
on: April 21, 2015, 11:39:15 AM
PodCastle 360: 21 Steps to Enlightenment (Minus One)

by LaShawn M. Wanak
read by Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

First published by Strange Horizons. Read it here!

When a spiral staircase appears in front of you, don’t panic. Just know that if you place your feet on that first step, it shows commitment. You can’t go back. You can only go up and up and up until you reach the very top.

Watch your step. That’s the main thing to remember. Some people think they can race to the top, or take the steps two at a time. All it takes is one stumble, one slip, and soon you’re tumbling, arms pinwheeling, shins banging, down, down, down.

You don’t want to be rejected by a spiral staircase. It’s painful.


Rated PG

LaShawn M. Wanak was formerly Associate Editor at Podcastle. She stepped down to focus more on her writing. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter, as well as her blog, The Cafe in the Woods. “21 Steps to Enlightenment (Minus One)” is her second story in the Escape Artists family. Her story “Future Perfect” can be found at Escape Pod.

Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali lives in Houston, Texas with her husband of twenty-five years and three children. By day she works as a breast oncology nurse. At all other times she juggles, none too successfully, writing, reading, gaming and gardening. She has self-published one novel entitled An Unproductive Woman, has published a story at Escape Pod and has a story upcoming in the An Alphabet of Embers anthology. Khaalidah also reads slush at Escape Pod where she is on a mission to encourage more women to submit science fiction stories.

Of her alter ego, K from the planet Vega, it is rumored that she owns a time machine and knows the secret to long youth.

You can catch her posts at her website, www.khaalidah.com, and you can follow her on twitter, @khaalidah.

 
Visit PodCastle’s Facebook page!


Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: May 14, 2015, 02:09:02 PM by Talia »



raetsel

  • Peltast
  • ***
  • Posts: 116
    • MCL & Me
Reply #1 on: April 22, 2015, 07:10:31 AM
I am the King under the mountain!

Been long time since I've been able to say that. Is it even still a thing round here?

What a brilliantly inventive story. I love the idea of epiphanies being presented as physical objects materialised in the real world, but what made this story for me was the character of the mother and, to paraphrase the story, she was her own spiral staircase and a staircase for others.  There is, to my eyes, no judgement of anyone in this story whether they take the staircase or not and that is another aspect that was refreshing and made me enjoy the story all the more.

Great narration again. Completely naturalistic like a friend was talking to you in a café.

The story also got me thinking that in a way its a nice metaphor for the podcasts from Escape Artists. A story appears before you and you start climbing up. You don't know where it will lead though sometimes you can get a glimpse of what is at the top. The climb might sometimes be arduous but often the view at the top is breathtaking.

Finally an odd quirk of the English language is that what we call spiral staircases aren't actually spirals at all but helices. A spiral widens or tightens, a helix has a constant diameter.



kibitzer

  • Purveyor of Unsolicited Opinions
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 2228
  • Kibitzer: A meddler who offers unwanted advice
Reply #2 on: April 23, 2015, 12:48:50 AM
The story also got me thinking that in a way its a nice metaphor for the podcasts from Escape Artists. A story appears before you and you start climbing up. You don't know where it will lead though sometimes you can get a glimpse of what is at the top. The climb might sometimes be arduous but often the view at the top is breathtaking.

Nice!! I like it :)


Unblinking

  • Sir Postsalot
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 8729
    • Diabolical Plots
Reply #3 on: April 24, 2015, 03:51:17 PM
As a whole this story didn't win me over.  I didn't find the central metaphor particular appealing, and the title and the numbering of the chapters implied to me that the numbered things were instructions as in a self-help book, but they didn't actually take that format.

But I did find one particular scene very effective.  The funeral scene where the dad picks up Nana's body and carries her up, and the aftermath where the mom leaves the dad.  There was so much solid character interaction in that scene, and imagining him walking up there amidst the sermon and in front of the whole congregation and carrying her up, the daughter following after, that was extremely effective.  Would make an excellent illustration in the hands of a talented illustrator--backs of the heads of the congregation, all in funeral garb, empty coffin, spiral staircase with the man carrying cilmbing up it, the daughter the only other active member running up to the front so she won't miss her chance, preacher in the pulpit oblivious of all of this even though all of the heads are turned not to him but to the people on the staircase. 

For me spiral staircases make me think of summer on a lake.  Since before I was born an uncle had a cabin on a Minnesota lake that was converted from an old Boy Scout lodge.  Most of it is a big open space, but there's an upstairs loft area that was added in for a bedroom and has a tightly spiraling stair leading up to it.  When I was a kid I was terrified of falling off of it so I would sleep downstairs on a couch.  When I got older and could work up the courage to climb it, that was a small rite of passage for me. 



ctjhill

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 6
Reply #4 on: May 05, 2015, 12:01:54 PM
Although the structure of this story felt a little loose, the emotional depth in it really worked. There were a couple of times during the funeral scene when I felt like I could start crying, but I didn't because I was on the bus at the time. The way the narrator's family situation is gradually revealed was well done, and it's interesting that her mother is always central, even though by the end it sounds like her father was around more, or should have been.

The imagery of the staircases was interesting, the way they could be made of all different things. Metaphorically they could relate to a number of different things; new technology, personal motivation, life experience. I guess you see what works for you. 

I liked the idea of something that seemed very profound and magical becoming a little mundane. I also liked that it didn't seem to change people's lives or society that much.



Ariadnes-thread

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 32
Reply #5 on: May 06, 2015, 07:01:59 AM
I liked this one, and I'd been meaning to pick it up since Dave mentioned it on the podcast a while back, so I'm so glad you guys ran it! I thought this was a great mix of humor and emotional depth-- the funeral scene, as others have mentioned, was incredibly touching-- but on the other side of things, I listened to this story a few weeks ago now and every once in a while I still think of the meat staircase and giggle a bit to myself. Well done!



Anyanwu

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 12
Reply #6 on: May 09, 2015, 10:32:39 PM
This story reminds me of the poem by Langston Hughes:
Mother to Son
BY LANGSTON HUGHES
Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.



HeartSailor

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 47
    • My Hobby
Reply #7 on: May 11, 2015, 07:30:42 PM
This story reminds me of the poem by Langston Hughes:
Mother to Son

Perfect!

What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous.  Thomas Merton


cwthree

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 52
Reply #8 on: May 11, 2015, 11:19:43 PM
This story reminds me of the poem by Langston Hughes:
Mother to Son
BY LANGSTON HUGHES
Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
I was coming in to say the same thing - you beat me to it, and I'm glad to know I wasn't the only one.



Devoted135

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1252
Reply #9 on: June 19, 2015, 02:33:16 AM
I'm sooo behind on posting, but not behind on listening. As a result, it's been weeks since I listened to this one and I only vaguely remember it. (Interesting, since I remember the story from the previous week quite well.) However, I do remember liking the imagery and atmosphere created by the story.

That poem is simply gorgeous, thank you for posting it. :)