Author Topic: PC422: Golden Chaos  (Read 7702 times)


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on: June 28, 2016, 03:17:03 PM
PodCastle 422: Golden Chaos

by M.K. Hutchins

read by Heath Miller

First published in Intergalactic Medicine Show #40

Being near Ingrid was the only good thing about living in a God-neglected frozen wasteland. Her face was round as the moon — a soft, pleasant face that suggested her cooking encouraged second helpings. Her face didn’t lie: light rye breads, sweet poached fruit, elk and wild onion stew that made my beard grow. Well, the bit of a beard I had. Ingrid always laughed and teased when she caught me finger-combing the handful of hairs sticking from my face. Her laugh — that was pure silver. For too long, she’d slaved away under Arbiter Elof’s guardianship. The day I signed a contract with Elof and became Ingrid’s betrothed was the happiest day of my life.

The next day was the worst.

Rated PG

M.K. Hutchins regularly draws on her background in archaeology when writing fiction. Her YA fantasy novel Drift was both a Junior Library Guild Selection and a VOYA Top Shelf Honoree. Her short fiction appears in IGMS, Podcastle, Daily Science Fiction, and elsewhere. A long-time Idahoan, she now lives in Utah with her husband and four children. Find her at on the web at and on Twitter @mkhutchins.

Heath Miller is an actor from Perth, Western Australia. Sometimes found in theatres, recording studios, comedy clubs, television sets, convention centres and YouTube videos – Heath currently finds himself living on an island off the coast of Maine with two improbably large cats, one improbably large dog, and a brace of regular sized chickens. You can follow him on twitter at @zaboots.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: July 19, 2016, 03:14:03 PM by Talia »


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Reply #1 on: June 29, 2016, 09:07:48 PM
I can't even begin to tell you how much this story meant to me. I have had AD/HD my entire life and had just crashed my car (again) before I listened to it: I identified immediately with Rob's character - distractable, generally well-meaning, and always skirting the line between crazy and genius.  My favorite scene was the one where Rob was digging for gold in the Chaos, and the narrator was held back by his grandmother from joining him.  Some of us are at home in the chaos, and you have to let us do our thing and trust we'll come and visit when we're ready.  Thank you so much for this story! MK, you have a new fan.


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Reply #2 on: June 30, 2016, 12:54:18 AM
Another one I can't stop thinking about.  An amazing world build that has room for so many more stories that I hope get written.  I love the distinct boundaries between the Diety Zones.  There could be some wild & crazy dynamics that would be fun to toy with.  Could there be any overlapping zones, like a Venn diagram, where multiple belief systems function simultaneously?  Is that maybe where the chaos came from?

I loved Rob's ponderings about the borders & the powers - do they berries stay frozen because of the god's power, or simply because he {Rob} believes they should?  I'd be off traveling with Rob, exploring.  Helping him catch the chipmunk to see what happens when it crosses back over the border.  I think I would have to walk with my eyes closed in the chaos, though, and that thought is a bit terrifying.  I'm familiar with the chaos, but it isn't my natural state. 

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." A.Einstein


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Reply #3 on: June 30, 2016, 05:22:22 PM
I loved this - Rob, the language, the narration, the tropey wise grandmother ... and Ingrid being described by her character and her skills, not her looks. (At least, I don't remember her being described physically except a brief mention of her face being a little plump.)

It's too bad the bad guy can continue his petty manipulations; the rest of the town hasn't been helped. But maybe that's just realistic. Or maybe ... it's a story for another day.


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Reply #4 on: June 30, 2016, 07:46:24 PM
Very nice. It's very uplifting to have a story with a clearly mentally disabled character who gets a happy ending. In most tales of this sort (Flowers for Algernon comes to mind, or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) the character tends to either be crushed by the cruelties or reality, or the ending is at best bitter-sweet. Here, we have Rob finding his own place and becoming independent. I also love the idea of him finding the place only he can understand. The brother is also very well done, with just the right mix of affection and frustration. Overall, great read.


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Reply #5 on: July 01, 2016, 05:14:05 PM
I love this story. I think it's my favorite so far in 2016. It also represents the first Escape Artists podcast I shared on my Facebook page.

The character of Rob is amazing. I love that a neuro-atypical person turns out to be the hero. That the things that make him different are what is needed to survive in The Chaos. I love that his musings allow for exposition, without it feeling like an info-dump.

I want to learn more about this world. It seems so fleshed out and real, something hard to do in a short story format. There is definitely room for more stories here.

Hopefully about the strange man who wanders The Chaos.


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Reply #6 on: July 06, 2016, 10:23:07 PM
wow. this was amazing.

(I secretly want Rob to become the God of the Chaos...)


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Reply #7 on: July 09, 2016, 10:16:42 PM
I loved the world building in this story, and I would love to see more stories set in this world– the concept of the gods creating civilization/order, and the chaos outside of that, was really cool and seemed like it could lead to a lot of great stories.

And as an autistic person myself, I liked the portrayal of Rob, for the most part (I am pretty sure he is meant to be autistic, although he may also have ADHD or both... I'm not sure his exact diagnosis really matters, though, especially in a fantasy story where none of those diagnoses even exist in the first place). It hit a bit close to home to see other characters, including the narrator, constantly refer to him as a burden and unable to be a productive member of society. I was glad that Rob's detractors were eventually proven wrong, though!

His storyline did hew pretty closely to the trope of the magical disabled person, where his disabilities were negated by his supernatural powers, but I appreciated how well-explained his magical-seeming abilities were within the story. It wasn't that his disability made him magical; it was that his inattention was, for once, an advantage, making him unaffected by the Chaos. So it was a particularly well-done example of the magical non-neurotypical person, and although he's a savant of sorts, he also was a well-drawn three-dimensional character. In general, I'd like to see non-neurotypical characters that don't fit these stereotypes and tropes, but I think it's also important to have interesting and fleshed-out characters that do fit these stereotypes, and this was a good example of that.

Minor issues with disability stereotypes aside, this was a beautiful story, in a fascinating world, and with characters I really liked. The descriptions of the Chaos were also really well-done and creative. And I, too, hope for Rob to become the God of Chaos!


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Reply #8 on: July 13, 2016, 01:46:07 AM
I love the relationship between the narrator and his brother. His mix of love and patience and exasperation felt very right, and I was impressed with how intentionally kind he remained throughout. Rob also was a great character, I love his curious, distractable mind.

The Chaos, and all the rest of the realms for that matter, were almost Douglas Adams-y in how outlandishly extreme they were. I'm with Rob, I'd love to know the answers to his questions about how the realms work! Rob's offhand comments of "you're making the trees triangles again" were super amusing.


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Reply #9 on: July 14, 2016, 03:27:47 AM
I fell in love with this story because almost everything Rob does reminds me of a child I work with who has autism. I can totally relate to the main character, Trigve's(?), experiences with Rob. The child I work with is also a day dreaming armature scientist, who doesn't quite understand things like personal boundaries, the emotions of other people, how to apologize, or say goodbye and he is seemingly oblivious to chaotic and potentially dangerous things. The line where Trigve says that he loves Ingrid all the more because she treats Rob like a person instead of a nuisance was one that hit particularly close to home for me. It was deeply gratifying to see Robs difference ultimately being  the thing that facilitated happy endings for his family and himself. That he was finally able to travel like he had always dreamed of was the best possible ending to this story that I can think of.
« Last Edit: July 23, 2016, 10:57:53 PM by Envieddead »


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Reply #10 on: July 18, 2016, 09:04:24 PM
I'm glad I'm not the only person who thought Rob might be somewhere on the autism-spectrum. And I liked that his condition wasn't somehow a symptom of some special gift (as is sometimes the case in fantasy works), but was a gift in itself in a way.


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Reply #11 on: July 19, 2016, 01:46:15 AM
I can see the Douglas Adams in the Chaos, but I was instead thinking of the shadow realms closer to the Courts of Chaos (and farther from Amber.)

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Reply #12 on: July 21, 2016, 05:09:14 PM
This was excellent. I listened to it at 2 a.m. driving through New Brunswick on my way to PEI and it kept me engrossed (and awake!) along a very long, boring stretch of dark highway. I absolutely want to know more about this world and Rob's travels through the chaos. 


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Reply #13 on: August 16, 2016, 03:18:31 PM

I loved this one so much.

I thought that Rob was probably autistic, yes, and I thought it was wonderful how his different manner of thinking was an asset in this set of worlds--he could easily make a living just carrying stuff across the chaos for trade (even without having to extract things from the chaos itself).  I found Rob very likable, even though he was often frustrating to be around, and I could at the same time understand our narrator's frustrations with his brother and I was glad that he still treated his brother like a person (which in the end turned out to be what saved him from doom!)

I love a story that applies science to fantasy worlds rather than pretending that they are oppositional.  Science and magic are not inherently contradictory--science is a method with which to understand the rules of the universe no matter what those rules actually are. So if those rules are magical and vary wildly from area to area, then that's all the more reason to SCIENCE THE HELL OUT OF THESE AREAS. 

Cool ending too with Rob headed off to make his own way in the Chaos.  SEQUEL PLEASE!


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Reply #14 on: August 16, 2016, 06:15:19 PM