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Wednesday

Napowrimo day 8



The napowrimo challenge today is to write a love poem to an eggbeater.
It occurred to me that the love didn't have to be between me and the eggbeater. It could include another utensil. a bowl springs to mind. Then I decided to make the poem a cinquain, which has a pattern of 2-4-6-8-2 syllables per line.

I didn't want to take it too seriously.



Wire frames
Bend in and out
In graceful curves, twin balls
That fill my bowl change the mess to
Smiles

Meanwhile, its Camp Nanowrimo, and April is a much easier month than busy November to do such things. So there are a few challenges around for writers to enjoy at the moment.

Cheers 


Monday

Listen Up: The Red Priest's Vigil

"The Red Priest's Vigil"
By Dirk Flinthart
Narrated by Graeme Dunlop
Here at PodCastle  256

This is a story I don't mind hearing over again a few times. The setting is tight, confined to an inn where the priest, who dresses in red, comes because a friend is dying there. The story, though, is not told from his point of view but from that of the innkeeper who is writing a letter to explain the outcome of a plot he is involved in.

It turns out that the red priest knows some martial arts, so there is a lot kicking of arse, but behind all the fighting, there is a textured world and a lot of sadness. Not everything is explained but there is a sense that it all makes sense to the characters, and it's precisely because it feels like there is more to be gleaned here that I like to hear the story again despite all the fight scenes.

After the narration the author's explanation of how he came to write the story is just heartbreaking.

An aside, "The Red Priest's Vigil" was originally published in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, which shows what good taste they have, so go ASIM.




Wednesday

Listen Up: The Giant Who Dreamed Of Summer

The Story: The Giant Who Dreamed of Summer
By: Jess Hyslop
At: Cast Of Wonders
Narrated by M K Hobson

Listen or download Here
Read it Here





It's wonderful to find a new source of great fiction stories. Cast Of Wonders specializes in young adult fiction that creates a sense of wonder. It's fantasy that seems to do the trick. CoW editor Marguerite Kenner commented while guest hosting at PodCastle that: "Young people aren't oblivious or immune to sex or violence, but it's less their centre of their world than exploration, self discovery, inquiry and navigating the passage of time."

That insight into the nature of YA literature, and the promise of fantasy, naturally lured me to CoW to find more.

The first story I looked at was "The Giant Who Dreamed of Summer". The giant is a frost giant, not a fierce giant who tries to end the world, but one of a tribe who follow the snow and cannot live under the heat of the sun when the snow melts and the world turns green. And yet he wants to see summer.
 You can read this story, but it's really one of those that's best heard aloud, especially when the reader is a good one like M K Hobson.

Listen up:The Queen and the Cambion

The story: The Queen and the Cambion
By: Richard Bowes
Read by Wilson  Fowlie
At: PodCastle

Another beautiful story. I'm getting rather fond of PodCastle. I like it's floating castle logo, the castle drifting through the air or, possibly, space, with its bit of earth trailing roots below it, and the theme music from Shiva In Exile - which is a great name, too, and I like the range of fantasy stories that turn up.

At first I thought I was not going to like this story much. Another Arthurian tale, another historical mix, a what if someone met so-and-so theme. If you want my attention for a story like this, you had better do something special.

Which it does. It's a kind of low key story and it's really about the relationship between Queen Victoria and Merlin. Maybe it's not deep, but it has nice moments: When the young Victoria first meets Merlin, she needs his help. When she is old it is she who has the power to help him.

As a bonus the podcast's M.K. Hobson reads us a quote from T H White in The Once and Future King, the one where Merlin tells Arthur that the cure for sadness is to learn something.

A cambion, by the way, is a human-demon  offspring which Merlin, famously, was.

Enjoy.


Monday

Listen Up: A Better Robert E Howard story


Waterfront Fists is a gem of a story, all the more because it comes as a surprise from Robert E Howard.

Robert E Howard is mostly famous for his stories about Conan the Barbarian. For some of us, the Conan stories are hard to cope with as the big oaf doesn't seem to realise that if a woman is running away from him she probably doesn't want him. He is a thug of the 'see, want, have' variety. This kind of takes the glamor off his sword and sorcery tales.

"Waterfront Fists" is far more plausible. There's not sword and sorcery. Instead, it's a contemporary (to Howard) story about a sailor, Steve Costigan, who is very good at boxing, (Howard had a passion for  boxing) and whose rough diamond instincts get him into trouble. His friends try to warn him how soft he is around girls, but he doesn't believe them.

The narration is superb, with a rough, tough voice that sounds like it's seen the kind of life that Costigan lives. Lines like,'"Your remarks is highly insulting, Bill," I said with my well known quiet dignity,' sounds like the kind of bombast the character is capable of when Jim Philips narrates it.

You can find it at Projecting Project Pulp, which I have a fondness for. Just click here: Waterfront Fists



Thursday

Listen up: something fun and something serious

Funny how things come in phases. For instance, when I met one six fingered baby at work, I promptly met another one within the week, and then never again (so far).

This week I had a couple of coincidences in my reading. I'd been listening to the Moby Dick Big Read for a while. It was kind of fascinating what with Moby Dick being a book that, as one critic said, everyone thinks is great but no one wants to read. The audio version was a great idea but I kept falling asleep and missing bits and then having to go back over it to try and make sense of the story. While I was doing that the list of SF podcasts to choose from got longer and longer.

So I picked a couple of stories that sounded good, by which I here mean amusing. A version of Kij Johnson's story Spar, in which the F word is replaced with the word bacon sounded like it would be fun and I really wanted to know what Kate Baker, the Clarkesworld narrator, would sound like when she was being funny: Clarkesworld podcasts are usually so serious. So I had a bit of a laugh at Spar's characters licking their bacon, and Kate Baker sounded serious as usual although she says she could barely keep from laughing all the way through it. Maybe my earphones could be better.

Still, it was funny-weird because  the Starshipsofa story, Andy Duncan's On 20468 Petercook, which was a generally amusing story and read exactly right by Dennis M Lane, had a section in which the two characters amuse each other by playing sausages and mash with an old Asimov story. They explain the game in the course of the story. The story is dedicated to Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, which duo you can find on youtube.

Two word substitution game stories in my first hit for weeks.

Of course, Clarkesworld remains mostly serious and had another Aliette de Bodard story, this time not about revolution but about the aftermath of invasion in which refugees had gone to live in the country of the victors. The first generation of migrants just want to blend in and stay alive, the next generation wants to bring the truth to public attention. Mother and daughter have an argument that's very similar to a father and son argument in my latest bookgroup book: Catfish and Mandala: A Vietnamese Odyssey by Andrew X.Pham. The father says his son should just keep his head down and work hard, but the son sees this as grovelling and doesn't want to. Whether the weight of the past will free the daughter in de Bodard's story or just drive her insane is something readers will have to speculate on. You can hear The Weight of a Blessing at Clarkesworld.

So here's a mix of stuff to amuse and stuff to think about. Enjoy.




Tuesday

Listen Up: Springtime for Deathtraps

Anyone who has played roleplaying games such as AD&D, Runequest, GURPS, or even the computer versions such as Skyrim and the evergreen NetHack, gets struck by the ludicrousness of the whole dungeon crawl situation. Why do these things exist?

Of course, while you're playing, you're concentrating on keeping your character alive, but between episodes of excitement you start to see that it's a bit silly. If you are of creative disposition you start to make up reasons for it, unless you're playing NetHack in which case a pause while you think will somehow cause your  character to die, possibly of starvation if you don't do something to find food soon - and when you do it's probably poisoned so you die anyway. I don't play NetHack myself.

"Springtime For Deathtraps" is set in a world where the presence of lost temples full of traps to guard a hidden wealth is taken for granted and the occupants of this world have to learn to live around it. They might, for instance, buy a trap-laden temple for the express of storing their wealth. If they accidentally locked the key in with the wealth they might have to call in the greatest living trap expert to retrieve the key. Enter Xnab and his group. The task of retrieving the key is going to be difficult even for Xnab because this particular temple was designed by the world's greatest trap expert EVER!

It's a bit of fun, and very welcome too amid so many beautiful but grim stories.

Find "Springtime For Deathtraps" by Marjorie James and read by John Cmar at Escape Pod