Tag Archives: podcast

Behind the Scenes: Why I Spared the One Brave Soul Between Me and My Undead Army

Let heroes break themselves against my army for sending a child to do their work.

Read and/or listen at Cast of Wonders!

On some level this tale speaks to ongoing social justice issues. Each new wave of a movement picks up on the issues the previous wave either caused or ignored. It’s fantastic, and infuriating, when teens and pre-teens step up to be the courageous activists and put themselves on the line while the adults — who have all the power — sit there, complacent and obstructive. Beyond that, this story was inspired by a tumblr post. The song VESSEL, by Devilskin, fleshed out the rest.

I’ve written lots of stories about tough love from the student’s side, drawing on my own experiences, but this time I wanted to focus on an older character, and thus, the teacher’s side. Tough love is really difficult to convey because it skates so close to abuse. In writing this villain, an objectively bad person, the task was to find good reasons for bad behavior.

Layla and Regan are both responding to an unjust world, but the nature of their responses puts them on opposite sides. Neither of them were taken seriously by the powers that be, and despite this, they never wavered from their paths; each going as far as to invite the other to join their cause. None of this would have worked if evil Layla fell flat.

By the end of the story, Layla’s forty years old. She’s absolutely committed to rebuilding the world, and — blasphemy of blasphemies — she’s having a great time! So often, villainous women and femme fatales are there to be sexy first and adversarial second. There’s some weakness at their core — like a longing for love, or a hatred for their rapist — that the hero (and by extension, the reader) can exploit. While the villain is there to be crushed, the villainess tantalizes like so much forbidden fruit —  she’s there to be tasted, split open, and conquered; or to demonstrate moral fortitude by abstaining.

Layla is impervious to all of this, because she’s happy.

She’s not a sidekick or an ingénue, she’s exactly where she’s supposed to be. She’ll cut down anyone who tries to stop her, and isn’t above betraying her teammates to advance her cause. Futhermore, she’s so settled in her power that she can recognize and lend aid to a kindred spirit, even if they wind up on opposite sides.

While Layla is driven by her cause, she’s not burdened by it. She was prepared to face down heroes at every moment, and it’s not her fault that no one showed until she was too big to stop. Similarly, no one took Regan’s warnings seriously, forcing her to face the threat herself and ultimately, that’s what got her the training she needed. By helping Regan become a viable threat, Layla gives Regan the respect that she herself feels entitled to; but she doesn’t sugar-coat what that means. She warns of the danger, and then lets Regan make her own choice. Both Layla and Regan position themselves to meet the enemy head-on, removing any question of the legitimacy of their victories. They take themselves, and each other, seriously.

I wanted to show the validating and enriching elements of an adversarial relationship. Men get that in fiction all the time. It’s someone else’s turn.

Finally, I realize (too late) that there are appropriative elements in the story — the most obvious being the Vessel of Mercy, a reference to kintsugi. The way I used the design has nothing to do with the art’s practice in our world, and the tale might have benefited from some in-world cynicism around the Vessel’s mythology, to draw attention to the ways in which conquerors and thieves steal history and context, as well as objects. For this, I apologize. I will be more considered in future.

If you liked this story, buy me a coffee!

Advertisements

Fear the Children – New Pseudopod Podcast!

Flash On The Borderlands XXVII: What’s The Matter With Kids Today? just dropped, featuring three pieces of flash fiction read by…

  • the indomitable, Andrea Subissati, who co-hosts of the Faculty of Horror podcast, a monthly show examining the academic side of horror movies
  • the incorrigible Big Anklevich who co-hosts at the Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine
  • and the irascible me, who lives here, and needs no introduction.

I sent two versions of this recording to Pseudopod, one that played the letter as perfectly normal, and another that cranked up the obsessive, manic pride of motherhood. They went with the second version.

Head over to Pseudopod, and ignore that thing scratching at the window.

UDI271: Audacity Is Way Better Than GoldWave

I recently did some voice work for a friend, which led to the purchase of a super-fancy Blue Yeti microphone. (The $25 gaming headset from Radio Shack is gone! Woo!) The Blue Snowball was also recommended, and is much cheaper; but it involved hiding in closets, under blanket forts, as a means to create a soundproof environment.

As far as software, I had previously been using a free version of GoldWave (since 2007 or so) and decided to replace it with Audacity. Audacity feels much more user-friendly to me, especially because I’m still at the novice-stage, and keep looking up what the effects terms mean and how to use them. Audacity is also open source, which is lovely. Because the voice work I did was so much fun, and I feel as though I learned a lot, I brushed the dust off my old radio play and I’m in the process of cleaning it up.

I leave unfinished projects on my desktop to remind myself that they still need work. Some of these might be better left in the trunk to moulder; but I’m tired of looking at the pieces waiting to be glued together.

Exasperation can be as useful a motivator as enthusiasm, I suppose.

Today I’ll be editing. There are tons of irrelevant, behind-the-scenes snippets I want to share, and so when I came across this file I was inspired to re-post with text.

For audio, click here.

C: “Why… does he care if he gets cut out? Can he just jump to another person, presumably not.”

Se: “All of this is a big metaphor for inner demons.”

C: “…Uh yeah, I got that.”

Se: “As far as Marron, there’s a couple things at play. He himself is also conflicted because if he’s her creativity, her artistic side, he certainly enjoys a bit of autonomy — to be free, to say all these things — even if Kara won’t actually let him do anything. So he’s afraid for his own existence, and he wants to maintain that. I don’t think he can jump bodies, but that’s not to say that another force in his position wouldn’t be able to. When some people have really strong personalities, the people around them will adopt THEIR turns of phrase, rather than vice versa… The other part is that on some level Marron does care about Kara. He’s part of her and genuinely wants what’s best for her. He just has a really strange way of going about it.

Sa:”He’s a crappy communicator.”

C: “He’s a guy!”

Se: “Ha! I think that’s the case with all of our inner demons. Even if they’re urging you to, say, suicide — they know that something hurts, and they really care about you and don’t want you to hurt anymore… They just have really terrible advice for how to deal with it because they’re not really human and don’t understand the parameters of human life. They don’t exist outside your psyche. So that’s what’s stressing Marron out in this moment.”

C: “Oh, yeah. That’s complex.  What you need is an actual actor.”

Burying the Coin on Podcastle!

My short story, Burying the Coin, is now available as a podcast!

Steampunk is about costumes and intricacy, alternate histories, inventions and boundless exploration that characterized the Victorian era. The costumes lead to gatherings, gatherings to shops and music, and finally to conventions and a revival in literature. Learning to write for this subgenre has been a fascinating challenge. I’ve learned about airships, 19th and early 20th century artillery, and a bit about how modern empires rise and fall.

This last part, the cracking apart of empire, resonated with me much more than the gorgeous clothes and sumptuous feasts. As lovely as those aesthetics are, it begs the question: who made this?  What kind of world produced this, and at what cost? I’ve always been fascinated by the why of things, and what lies beneath the mask — how did a person come to be the way they are, and what are they hiding?

Enter Karelia Nayar.

If this story’s world could be said to have a swath of people similar to the variety found in southern India, Karelia would be one of them. The world Karelia lives in is a kind of earth after the fall and rebirth of humanity — a far future, rather than a recent past. This might preclude the story’s classification as steampunk, but I’ll leave that up to you guys. Racism and sexism pop up occasionally; but they are absolutely dwarfed by the classism which is the beating heart of empire. There are other problems as well, but we’ll save those for the novel. That said, keep an eye out for the First Family of the Skies. They’ll be back in a big way.

I spoke a little about Karelia here, and in an interview with Fiona Skye. I wanted to write a swashbuckling, womanizing captain, who was also a woman. When I asked Karelia (or Kar to her friends) why she was so carefree, she told me it was because she never wanted to feel anything ever again. That led to this short story, Burying the Coin, where we learn how Kar earned her own ship, who taught her to fight and sail, and the events that made her close her heart forever.

My infinite thanks to Dave Thompson of Podcastle, and Amanda Fitzwater whose voice brought this story to life.

This short story is available in Podcast form, which you can either stream online or download from iTunes. Head over to Podcastle.org to hear it and the work of many other brilliant and insightful authors.

 

“You can’t truly hate a man without loving him first, and there’s always a trace of that love left over.”
— Joe Abercrombie

 

locket