Author Topic: PC397: In the Woods Behind My House  (Read 3459 times)

Talia

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on: January 06, 2016, 03:20:04 PM
PodCastle 397: In the Woods Behind My House

by Nicolette Barischoff

read by Steve Anderson

A PodCastle Original!

He had never talked about the griffin out loud before. He didn’t even think he’d had words to talk about her. She had always been something he’d go into the woods to watch, this silent, padding thing that sometimes stopped to cock her head at him, if he stood still enough, or took something he fed her into her curved black beak.

He had only touched her a handful of times, on the smooth, downy part at the top of her head, and she had watched him every time with hunting gold eyes, her lion’s tail lashing patiently. He’d never even tried to bring home any of her old scattered feathers or broken-off claws. He hadn’t even known, until he talked about her, if he thought she was real.


Rated PG-13 for some language.

Nicolette Barischoff got her start in speculative fiction last year with a story in Crossed Genres’ anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction From the Margins of History. Her work has since appeared in Accessing the Future (The Future Fire), The Journal of Unlikely Academia (Unlikely Story), and Angels of the Meanwhile (forthcoming). She spends a lot of time advocating for body positivity and gender equality. CBS New York has called her activism “public pornography.” She has spastic cerebral palsy, and sometimes writes about disability. She blogs at nbarischoff.com, and can be reached on Twitter as @NBarischoff.

Steve Anderson has narrated stories for all three Escape Artists podcasts (including a Parsec Award-winning story for PseudoPod). He narrates audiobooks and produces online videos out of a home studio at SGAcreative.com, and he writes and performs live history programs on tour at GreatTalesLive.com.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: January 26, 2016, 10:01:49 PM by Talia »



Ibn Daniel

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Reply #1 on: January 07, 2016, 12:32:53 PM
A charming and interesting idea for a story, but unfortunately ruined for me by an incredibly whiny, passive, and gutless main character.

He was almost falling apart and on the verge of crying at the idea of these MEAN BOYZ touching his griffin. Oh no! They have noisemakers and Airsoft rifles! Whatever shall I do?! I was expecting them to find the griffin, one of BAD KIDS to screw with it, and then either he or the griffin slaps the BAD KID, then he bonds with the griffin more and maybe earns the respect of the other kids and his crush. Instead he whimpers inside the house, desperately afraid to talk with them face to face. But he still gets noticed by the girl because of his special sensitive nature. Also, lying about other things is not the solution, they would call him on his shit and he'd be back where he started.

Maybe I was confused about the size of the griffin, I thought it was lion or tiger-sized, not something that had to worry about a bunch of 9th graders. If it was the size of a housecat, then maybe, but the main character still should have grown a spine.

I did like the description of the griffin in the woods hunting. I spent a lot of time exploring the suburban woods behind my house when I was young, and liked the idea of a (semi?)magical creature that environment.



Tango Alpha Delta

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Reply #2 on: January 09, 2016, 05:42:12 PM
I, too, had some problems with the character's choices, but none of this sounded any less plausible that the irrational turmoil my own kids put themselves through. Angst is angsty.

It didn't seem to me that Princess Zelda noticed Our Hero because of his sensitive nature as much as because of her own. Since this was his story, and not hers, I was satisfied with her providing the reveal that she did, though from the first mention of her, I kind of hoped we were going to see more of her, and after their conversation at the bus stop, I was hoping to see more of her side of things. (Maybe she has seen more Griffins or other creatures?)

I was also waiting for some indication of the size of the griffin; I decided that it must be somewhere between "housecat" and "Shetland pony" - big enough for Our Hero not to dismiss the notion of someone riding on her, but small enough that three teenaged morons could realistically hurt her.  I was kind of happy it didn't turn into a bloodbath, though having the griffin swoop at a couple of screaming teenagers through a hail of airsoft rounds might have been fun!

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CAL

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Reply #3 on: January 18, 2016, 07:20:03 PM
I love this story--the author takes the boy through a complicated set of emotions that are nonetheless universal, but using this beautiful metaphor of the griffin to make the situation fresh and interesting. The details are accurate and really ground the story, both in familiar reality and the fantastical aspects of the griffin and the forest. The conflicts are so true here--the poignancy of a kid who is caught between childhood and adulthood, facing the ugly choices we all end up facing eventually. Terrific!



FeloniusMonk

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Reply #4 on: January 20, 2016, 12:32:40 AM
I really enjoyed the story and the reading.

I had a persistent feeling that this was something of a side story, like we were following a secondary character, someone who's struggles would form part of the backdrop to the real main character's adventures. To be honest I feel like this was an alternate POV chapter to Princess Zelda's ongoing quest to protect magic and mystical creatures from the danger's of our world.



Unblinking

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Reply #5 on: January 21, 2016, 03:17:17 PM
Was the kind whiny and made bad choices?  Sure.  But they were the kind of bad choices and whininess that made sense for a kid his age.  I remember making similar bad choices that didn't involve griffins.  What I liked about the story in large part is that it felt pretty true to how something like this might go down, rather than sugar-coating with nostalgia.

I did think it was a little weird that he was so afraid of them hurting the griffin and not the other way around, but I don't think it's implausible.  Throw a pack of teen/preteen boys trying to show machismo for each other, with enough forewarning for them to grab air rifles and firecrackers, put them together with a mythical wild animal out of sight of adults, and I don't think it's implausible that they'll cause some damage.  They could shoot the griffin in the face with an air rifle, or break one of its legs or a wing, or hit it with a bottlerocket, that kind of thing.  The most likely RESULT of that will be that either the griffin will run in startlement, or it will tear some guts out. I don't think it's too likely the griffin will be killed, but it could be injured.  Whether it's injured or scared away by firecrackers or something, it's probably not going to come back, which would be a major loss for the protagonist.  And if kids die in his backyard, probably witnessed by other kids, even though adults won't believe it's a griffin, there's still going to be a lot of hard questions to answer, and a lot of adults poking around those woods, which will probably mean the griffin won't come back.

I did think the ending was the weak point of the whole thing, the rest of the story was very engaging for me, but it kind of ended with an ellipsis...



Not-a-Robot

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Reply #6 on: January 21, 2016, 06:13:16 PM
Really well written.  The kid didn't annoy me.  I thought that it captured reality for kids so well that there was a humor to it.  Kids have very poor umderstanding of the power of animals, so I imagined a normal lion-sized griffen. 



FireTurtle

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Reply #7 on: January 29, 2016, 09:44:47 PM
I  found the whininess grating but realistic. really, nothing more can be said about that.

As far as injury potential goes: my interpretation while listening was that he wasn't actually concerned about injury OF the physical being of the griffin, but instead the griffin's trusting nature and special bond. A psychological injury, as it were. For even if the griffin did Great Bodily Harm to the teenage swagger idiots, I think the MC's main regret would be the betrayal of trust and secrecy that would end his relationship with the creature.

Relationships are SO HARD, especially at that age when peer pressure can pull you in directions you don't want to go but feel like you must in order to survive. If you're lost in a sea of hormones, a relationship with one person can seem like a leaky life-boat that can be scuttled for the Good Ship Popularity. Even though, of course, The Good Ship is basically something designed by William Golding.

It thought it was a very well-written metaphor for that phase of growing up.

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


Tango Alpha Delta

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Reply #8 on: January 30, 2016, 04:47:18 AM

As far as injury potential goes: my interpretation while listening was that he wasn't actually concerned about injury OF the physical being of the griffin, but instead the griffin's trusting nature and special bond. A psychological injury, as it were. For even if the griffin did Great Bodily Harm to the teenage swagger idiots, I think the MC's main regret would be the betrayal of trust and secrecy that would end his relationship with the creature.


THAT is something I hadn't picked up on - but fits very nicely with the theme of the story.

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Devoted135

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Reply #9 on: February 26, 2016, 01:58:43 AM
Most of the decisions made by the main character were fairly incomprehensible to me. How old was he supposed to be? I have a hard time reconciling the language used by him and his "friends" and the relative immaturity of his actions. I volunteer with 6-12 graders on a weekly basis, but maybe they are just in a different demographic than these kids.

Aside from all of that... how cool would it be to be friends with a griffin!?!