Friday, May 17, 2013

Short story read aloud, week 10

To my podcast regimen (exhausting already), I've added Tina Connolly's Toasted Cake (actually added a while ago) and the old-style radio/comedy theater show The Thrilling Adventure Hour. I'm not sure it makes sense to review those show by show, but I may revisit that in the future. For now, though, they both come highly recommended.


Catherynne M. Valente, "The Radiant Car Thy Sparrows Drew": I don't know what to say. The story is told in snippets from an unknown narrator, interspersed with the surviving documentary clips from her trip to Venus to investigate the lost colony and the whale-creatures there that were milked. So there's a mystery with no solution--a few mysteries actually, including the last survivor of the colony,the lost documentarian, etc. But why wrap up that story in this form?

Escape Artists (Escape PodPodcastlePseudopod

Scott M. Roberts, "The Discriminating Monster's Guide to the Perils of Princess Snatching": A cutesy title for a decidedly non-cutesy story about a monster who kidnaps a princess from our world ("princess" = has great destiny), only this princess gets in the way of the usual routine: sacrificing destiny to a bigger monster who has allowed our main character monster to live a perfectly happy mainstream life with wife and kids (and flushing toilet, etc.). I honestly lost track at the end, partly because it was a long story and I rested my eyes. There is something a little long about this story and, judging from the comments, there were a few things that could have been made clearer. But I like the way this story tries to subvert certain tropes (even if those subversions aren't ground-breaking)--the princess is a cutter, the monster wants to protect his family.

Rae Carson and C. C. Finlay, "The Great Zeppelin Heist of Oz": A good example of how a humorous way of talking can carry a story pretty far. Here, The Great and Powerful Oz comes to the land and puts into play several different light-hearted schemes aimed at unseating one of the witches. (He continually talks about how this kingdom needs a male king.) But all of that is just a ruse: flying a mouse with a helium balloon isn't really about surveilling the witch's military, but about figuring out the wind currents. So there's a certain serious edge at the end here when we see everyone's schemes come to fruition,  but the stakes are so low that the story keeps its humorous tone. Also, with very distinct sections, the story can hop around between different POVs.

Ken Liu, "Good Hunting": The son of a demon hunter befriends the daughter of a fox-spirit, and they reconnect in Hong Kong after Western imperial powers build railroads that interfere with traditional magic. For instance, the fox-spirit can't become a fox anymore. Then, when the fox-spirit without magic becomes the mistress of a western man who has a metal fetish who starts to amputate her limbs, the demon hunter-turned engineer helps build a steampunk(ish) transformer body for her that can become a fox again. The story has a balance and structure that becomes clear when you read further on--the long section in the beginning of magic shows how the world could be, which comes again at the end when the magic is replaced with steam. But it still comes off as a longer story with many discrete sections, each of which is itself a little long.

Helena Bell, "Robot": Very much like Jamaica Kincaid's "Girl," this is a long series of instructions and thoughts from a senior citizen to her alien robot care-taker / body-snatcher. The form is great--there's something of Carole Maso's Ava in here, with the old woman remembering her life along with her instructions to the robot. But (as a trend) the story seemed a little long and unfocused. Did the robot really need to be an alien?

Cast of Wonders (Protecting Project PulpTales to TerrifyStarship Sofa)

Bev Vincent, "Silvery Moon": Eh, bof. A werewolf goes on a camping trip with some work acquaintances, kills his romantic rival, possibly eats or rapes or has sex with his romantic interest. As much as I like the werewolf idea of instability--there's some desires inside me that I can't entirely control--this story didn't really do much besides putting that idea through its paces.

David Thomas Lord, "In My House of Crafted Cards": Tales to Terrify seems to be in a little slump around here, with perfectly fine stories that revisit some classic monster (Vincent's werewolf story, now Lord's vampire story) without any particular interesting changes. So here, the author writes a story about a son and fiancee who get caught up with a vampire. It's a long story, with a story embedded (the fiancee tells the dad about the vampire) where the listener interrupts a few times to ask why this story has all this extraneous detail. Here, that comes off less as clever lampshading (pointing out the issues so that the reader can't) and more like a reasonable question.

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