Kick Ass Stories You Should Really Check Out: Part 7! Cats!

Our pal Kit hits us up with some more Kick Ass Stories You Should Really Check Out!

“What greater gift than the love of a cat.” Charles Dickens

It has been way too long since I did one of these, lately I’ve unfortunately found my day to day life taken up with moving house, work and good old video games. There hasn’t been much space for listening to stories. However, I did promise cat stories last time to add a little more cheer to my series and dammit I will deliver on that. The cat part at least, not all of these stories are necessarily the happiest. Screw it, next time I’ll just do ‘Weird as hell and not in the good way’.

Anyway, I (like most of the internet) like cats. I have two of them (Mako and Bolin for any of you Korra fans out there) and they bring me a lot of joy. And dead birds. But mainly joy. I’m aware this is a bit off topic for the stories but I wanted to mention them anyway.

Right. Back to the stories. Technically I’ll be covering four of them in this article, however three of these are covered in the same episode of the Drabblecast where they do one of their ‘Trifectas’ – three short stories in one episode and another story which instead covers a tiger of sorts, but big cats still count!

 

The Cat with Blue Fur

cats1

I let out a low whistle. Genetically modified blue-furred cats were the latest craze. According to rumour, they could talk, use tools, and even do a passable version of the Macarena.”

Going back many an episode of the Drabblecast they announced a competition set by a dad who makes up stories about a cat with blue fur for his kids. These didn’t have to be kids’ stories but he wanted to see what other people could do with the idea. There were three categories – Comedy, Fantasy and Horror, this is what he ended up with:

 

Meow Meow Bang Bang: Ever wanted to hear a story about talking cat gangster in a 1920s style setting trying to pull fish based shenanigans? Well you do now. This one’s a lot of fun; it’s short, silly and sweet. It’s a story full of the tropes and clichés you’d expect and very much written for kids to enjoy as well. I’d call it the second best of the three in this episode.

Author: Oliver Buckram

Nine-Lived Wonders: This is a story about the relationship between a child and his dad as the child grows up into an adult. The dad makes up stories about the Cat with Blue Fur every night while they’re young and the stories stay with them while they grow up. This is a very nice story, very much done to put the guy commissioning this episode directly into one. It’s my favourite of the three and well worth listening to.

Author: Rachel K. Jones

Seven Things That Are Better In Blue: This takes the idea in a different direction. Somebody uploads a picture of a cat with blue fur to facebook which goes viral. Incredibly viral. Soon everyone is obsessed with things being blue which usually aren’t and it begins to affect people’s day to day lives. This story became way too pretentious for me. It’s the only one today, probably since I’ve started writing these short story reviews I actually don’t recommend. I’ll leave it there, unless that quick summary sounds like your kind of thing then stop the episode when you get to this part. Don’t worry; move along, nothing to see here.

Author: Jason K. Jones

Link: http://www.drabblecast.org/2014/12/19/drabblecast-345-cat-blue-fur-trifecta/

 

The Man Who Drew Cats

cats2

This is a full one story episode. It tells the tale of a stranger who arrives in a village, he’s an artist who draws pictures and sells them on to make a living, and damn is he fantastic at it. His drawings are the most vivid, wonderful things that people have seen and he finds his place amongst the village folk.

But not everyone is quite so nice in the village. Eventually village drama reaches the man’s ears and he does something about it. What he does best. He draws.

 

 

I’ll leave the description at that. This is a great story, its stakes aren’t as ridiculously high as they are in many other stories, but the very real issues this story brings up provoke an emotional response which heightens the story’s impact.

This one is well worth a listen to, I seriously recommend it.

Author: Michael Marshall Smith

Link: http://www.drabblecast.org/2013/05/23/drabblecast-283-the-man-who-drew-cats/

Kit

 

 

Kick Ass Stories You Should Really Check Out: Part 6! Everything Sucks

Our pal Kit hits us up with some more Kick Ass Stories You Should Really Check Out!

“But that was life: Nobody got a guided tour to their own theme park. You had to hop on the rides as they presented themselves, never knowing whether you would like the one you were in line for…or if the bastard was going to make you throw up your corn dog and your cotton candy all over the place.” – J.R Ward, Crave

So it’s Friday night, I’ve just passed my probation at work (yay!) and guess how I’m going to spend it… being super cool and awesome by writing another Kick Ass Stories! Clearly I’ve been distracted lately in writing these, but hey, these are fun, right? So let’s bring them back on that wonderful high notes: Everything sucks!

I’ve picked two really good, but unfortunately really depressing stories this week. Each of them puts you in a situation you think you’ll be fine in when actually, you really won’t. Our first story will take on the idea that we all watch or listen to shows or films and think ‘pffft, if that was me I’d have pulled the trigger/not stood there like a moron/RUN SIDEWAYS (looking at you Prometheus)’ when in many of those situations yes, we’d freeze up and probably die. The other one looks at what happens when our faith is put to the test and how the truth of the matter may even be worse than you thought possible.

Right. Procrastinating done. Onto the article!

 

Becca at the End of the World

“So hi. My name is Becca Martin. I have been bitten by a damn zombie. My mom is going to be taping this because we don’t know if anyone has any data on what happens exactly and, like, mental changes… and also I just wanted to talk. I’m sixteen. I’m going to die in probably about an hour.”

We all know the scene. A couple are in a zombie film, running from the hordes, and suddenly one of them does something plain stupid. They go back for that one character nobody likes, try to get that photo they dropped or just get unlucky and trip. Crunch. That’s right, they’re bitten. So what’s the right thing to do? Clearly put a bullet in their eyes ASAP. Often, this does eventually happen, but not until there’s been a long drawn out death scene with lots of last regrets and ‘NO! THEY’RE GOING TO BE FINE!’

We’d all just finish it, right?

Well, would you? Would you really? And if you did, can you imagine how hard it would be? This story is great, Becca has been bitten. We don’t know how, we just know she has been and both she and her mum know they can’t do anything. They set up in an old school room and film Becca’s final hour in an attempt understand what happens when somebody changes. The plan is for Becca’s mum to finish things when the time comes. And that’s the plot. You don’t get to see what happens after or the rest of the world. It’s irrelevant. What is relevant is what matters, the fact that in a zombie apocalypse we’ll lose people we love.

It ends with her mum’s choice: do I kill my zombified daughter?

Of course you’ll have to read or listen to it to find out!

BATEOTW

Author: Shira Lipkin

Audio: http://www.drabblecast.org/2014/02/08/drabblecast-b-sides-39-becca-end-world/ (members only)

Written: http://www.apex-magazine.com/becca-at-the-end-of-the-world/

 

The Star

“It is three thousand light years to the Vatican. Once, I believed that space could have no power over faith, just as I believed that the heavens declared the glory of God’s handiwork. Now I have seen that handiwork, and my faith is sorely troubled. I stare at the crucifix that hangs on the cabin wall above the Mark VI Computer, and for the first time in my life I wonder if it is no more than an empty symbol.”

Faith: something we all have in one way or another. Not necessarily in religion, it could be in a political party, sports team or that George RR Martin won’t kill off your favourite character.

This is a story about somebody’s faith being tested to the brink. Set 800 years in the future our protagonist is part of a research team exploring the universe. As they travel the universe their faith in God is put to the test.

The story focuses on their discovery of a small planet is the Phoenix Nebula. An ancient, advance and peaceful race lived in this solar system who have died out. Before they died they managed to create a beacon, containing a record of their entire history before their sun exploded into a white dwarf. Dealing with this is the ultimate test of faith.

There’s of course a little more to it than this, but I won’t give away the ending. The story asks what is better – a God who allows death and destruction or to be in an uncaring universe where catastrophes happen for no reason other than being the result of a reaction or equation?

Of course I have no answer for that, and the chances are you have your own opinion on it already anyway.

This story was first written by Arthur C Clarke and is heralded as a bit of a classic. I’d recommend listening to the Drabblecast version. Norm delivers it brilliantly as usual and really brings it to life more than just text on a screen can.

the star

Author: Arthur C Clarke

Link: http://www.drabblecast.org/2011/12/24/drabblecast-227-the-star/

 

Hope you enjoy both of those! I’ll try to come back with something a little more cheery next time! There’s been a fair bit of death and things not being so great on these lately… How about cats next? Yeah… cats… the internet definitely doesn’t have enough of them!

Kit

Kick Ass Stories You Should Really Check Out: Part 5! Death, or Lack Thereof

Our pal Kit hits us up with some more Kick Ass Stories You Should Really Check Out!

Over the last few weeks I’ve been a little tied up by real life (and not in the fun way!) so these stories have taken a bit of a backseat. I’ll be bringing a couple back today though, with two of my absolute favourites. There’s no theme on these other than personal preference. The first is a Superhero tale, focused more on the Super and less on the Hero really. It’s effectively a Superman story but of course goes by a different name. So you’ll be learning about the Last Son of Tomorrow as opposed to the Last Son of Krypton. It focuses on what it would be like on a more individual level to be Superman (or Not-Superman as the case may be), his connection to humanity and in this version of events immortality.

Then there’s The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward. This is the (unfortunately) final part in the Mongoose series which I absolutely love. It again takes things in a different direct. My only issue with it is that right now it is the final part and looks like it’ll stay that way as things are. Still, what can this story offer than the other two haven’t? Minor spoiler warning, but its mad scientists and zombies. Because yeah, the series clearly isn’t awesome enough already.

As I said before, I’ve been a bit busy offline (mainly with coursework) but so this will be a shorter review. I’ll be back with more next time when I pick up some nonstandard zombie stories. Less about the slow-mo action shots and exploding heads and more well.. let’s just say at least two of them are VERY unique.

 

The Last Son of Tomorrow

“He coughed nervously. The questions stopped. Everyone was quiet. Everyone was waiting. “I’m John,” he said. “I’m here to help.” And for the next sixty years, that was just what he did. It was the least significant period of his life.”

As a Superman fan (apparently there aren’t that many of us these days) I really enjoyed this. The main character John is as close to Superman as copyright will allow so that’s how I choose to see him myself. It isn’t about the heroics as most superhero tales are but much more about the man. As you can tell by the quote above the heroics barely get a look in really. Hell, he considers them insignificant in the grand scheme of things, which you really get to see as he learns he’s immortal.

The story starts with our hero John living an apparently normal life, he drinks beer with his mates and is just getting by when he sees an accident in front of him. He then refuses to help on the off chance someone may see him, and lets his dad die while he rushes in to save their dog. Wait, no… that sounds like a terrible Superman story. Of course he saves the day.

As the story progresses we get to see John’s interactions with people change, until they seem to be not really people from his perspective any more.

The main focus of the second half is how he tries to deal with his immortality, that it seems he’ll live forever and what on earth he should do with himself.

This is one of those questions that rarely gets a look in with immortal heroes (with some notable exceptions – Dr Manhattan for example). And I like the idea that his heroics, where he fights his arch rival and saves the day aren’t what matters when he exists forever. It’s well worth a read.

And on a personal I’m going to use this article as a chance to say Batman vs Superman? Not too excited about that one, you’re currently looking at a C- DC, try harder next time.

Finally, this story is behind a pay wall on the Drabblecast. It’s worth paying, $10 a month and you get a load more stories. But I’ll put a link to a text version if you’d prefer too.

tomorrow

Author: Greg van Eekhout

Link: http://www.drabblecast.org/2014/07/16/drabblecast-b-sides-48-last-son-tomorrow/

Text: http://www.tor.com/stories/2009/05/last-son-of-tomorrow

 

The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward

“Looking away from the light that showed the Charles Dexter Ward was no longer entirely dead was as hard as opening a rusted zipper. But Cynthia did it, and didn’t let herself look back. She pulled Hester a little further down the corridor and said, “Now we really need to know how she killed him. And whether it’ll work a second time…””

Now we reach the last part of probably the best series I’ve picked up on these podcasts. The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward. The story follows Cynthia, a Doctor and scientist who has committed some horrific experiments in her time. She’s haunted by them as they follow her everywhere and leave her kicked out of each job she picks up. Until she gets an offer to join a vessel of other scientists, seemingly indifferent about her past.

We get to see more of this fantastic universe, we get to know the Archamers (crazy space scientists) and some of the even shadier sides to this fantasy setting. It’s a two part story as always, the first is far more suspense and build up which it executes brilliantly, you’ll be gripped and hold on to each sentence. The second half is a mad rush where after you’ll wonder how the last hour and a half flew by so quickly.

I’m going to have to hold back before I say much more or I’ll spoil well, everything. If you’ve listened to the other two then I’m sure I don’t need to say much more to get you interested than: space scientists and space zombies.

I really hope there is a fourth story to the series one day. Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette again leave hints to weird and wonderful sounding space monsters I would love to know more about.

2

Author: Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette

Link: http://www.drabblecast.org/2012/08/31/drabblecast-254-the-wreck-of-the-charles-dexter-ward-pt-1/

And http://www.drabblecast.org/2012/09/06/drabblecast-255-the-wreck-of-the-charles-dexter-ward-pt-2/

 

Kit

Kick Ass Stories You Should Really Check Out: Part 4! Agency

Our pal Kit hits us up with some more Kick Ass Stories You Should Really Check Out!

 

“What do we do when we’re threatened by something totally alien, unable to combat it? We freak the fuck out. There’s little else we can do if one is to take the nihilistic view that humans are worth very little in the grand scheme of the universe….” Norm Sherman

That’s right. This time the article starts with a quote. Because I.

Before we get started, going forward please post any suggestions you have for themes for me to select stories for. Also, if you want some recommendations on themes or ideas you want to see explored, I’ll see what I can find for you!

Anyway, we’re on two stories this week, as they’re both pretty heavy in content and intensity. We’re looking at agency this time, There are many stories, from the Matrix to Bioshock Infinite out there where these ideas are explored, containing plot twists where it turns out everything was planned out from the start, or tiny choices made at the beginning of a story matter much more than we would think.

The first story this week looks at how control over the future can be a burden, and that there may not be a right answer to a question. On top of that, the universe doesn’t actually care which option we pick. The second story looks at the other side, asking if we really control you own life.

 

The Cold Equations

“I didn’t do anything to die for… I didn’t do anything…”

This story presents us with a surprisingly unique and haunting antagonist, as two strangers face up against the fact that, to the universe, you are completely insignificant. The story begins with the pilot of a cargo spaceship transporting medical supplies to an outreach planet on the frontier of human occupied space. Six people will die without these supplies, but due to limited resources, and the remoteness of the destination, the ship carries just enough air and fuel reserves for the trip, specifically calculated for one pilot alone to make the trip successfully (with a very small amount extra in case of calculation error). Half way through this journey, the pilot notices one of the gauges on his dashboard ticking. He is not alone, as someone has stowed away on his spaceship. There is not enough fuel or air for both of them, and, unless something changes, they will soon be dead, eternally drifting through space in a metal coffin.

At this point, you’d think a quick air lock later and boom, problem solved, stowaway dies in the vacuum of space. Except the stowaway is an innocent teenage girl, who snuck abroad the ship hoping to visit her brother on the outreach planet. She has no idea about the fuel situation on the shuttle. We go from there.

Agency here is shown by the pilot facing an impossible choice. Whilst he technically has multiple options there is only one that will save both his life and the men dependant on him. There are times in our lives where we’ll be in a situation where there is no right thing to do. Even worse, it isn’t because something evil is making us do it, nor do we gain anything by doing it. This story makes us face up to not only that, but also the universe’s complete apathy towards us. The universe runs on a series of equations (maybe just one very complex equation if Stephen Hawking gets his way!) where we are nothing more than an X to be. Sometimes, the X is too large and the equation doesn’t balance. In this case, the only option is to reduce X and take something away before the calculation is done.

You really feel for both the pilot and the girl. She has made a simple mistake, based on a misunderstanding. The sort of mistake we all make while we’re growing up and do something we know we probably shouldn’t but think we can deal with the consequences. He is a man faced with an impossible choice he has to make. He’ll have to live with whatever decision he makes for the rest of his life. Agency is something he really doesn’t want. If something made the call and executed it for him then he wouldn’t be responsible for the consequences, but no, it’s his call to make and he has to make it. Sometimes control over our own destiny might be the last thing we want in the moment.

Listen to the end and you’ll find out the alternate ending to this story, personally I massively prefer the one they kept.

This story is chilling, reminding you of your own insignificance in the grand scheme of things and that, sometimes, we have to make truly horrible choices. And I love it. This story is fantastic and well worth the time.

 

the cold equations

Author: Tom Godwin

Link: http://www.drabblecast.org/2013/07/15/drabblecast-289-the-cold-equations/

 

Hollow as the World

“…Joshua had never existed.  All the interesting things in his life had come at someone else’s behest.  His whole life had been a game, and not even a particularly well-designed one.  Another scared teenager.  Selfish.  Passive.  Predictable.”

Were you ever a socially awkward teenager, self-hating, with no idea how to deal with your emotions towards your romantic interest, and maybe even with a love for videogames? I was! If you were as well, then a warning: the main character in this story will be very relatable, and not in a way you may feel comfortable with.

This is a modern horror story, making use of modern culture, even videogames. You’ll find Portal in this and Not-Minecraft, also known as Stonehewn (and even a reference to My Little Pony… of course…). It’s similar to the use of televisions in The Ring, and I’m sure there’s many a metaphor to be found about our relationship with videogames in modern society. Luckily, It handles it very well. I named the second game Not-Minecraft because Stonehewn is Minecraft on steroids. It is the same game, but with perfectly realistic graphics, the function for your character to play itself and a load of other… interesting features.

As mentioned before, this is a story about an awkward, slightly self-loathing teenager named Joshua. He is in love with his best friend Lydia, and they’re both videogame addicts. It isn’t the case that he’s been ‘friendzoned’. He has no clue how to handle his feelings towards her, and is completely afraid to act on them, despite her signals that he should (this hit a little close to home when I think back on me 10 or so years ago). After trying Stonehewn, Lydia vanishes for a week, becoming a total addict to it (I may have done something like this myself on Minecraft when trying to build a floating airship on Survival mode). One week later she dies. She has left him a note, reading ‘Joshua: a dangerous mirror. This reveals Truth.’

Joshua picks up her old computer and boots up her copy of Stonehewn. He decides to break it, blaming it for her death. This story really makes you think about the control we think we have over our lives. It raises the question about whether or not the decisions we make our really our own, or if the games we play and the movies we watch really control us, instead of us controlling them. Games and other art do that affect the way we feel and the things we think. Therefore, while we may make in-game decisions, these have no real impact outside the game. The only way they may do is the affect they have on us internally, as they alter how we think and behave.

That’s at least one way to read into the story. You may take something else away from it. In my case I think it is a cool way to look at things, but actually so what? When it comes down to it life is actually pretty damn awesome.

hollow as the world

Author: Ferrett Steinmetz

Link: http://www.drabblecast.org/2013/08/14/drabblecast-292-hollow-as-the-world/

 

Thank you for reading! As I said before, please suggest any ideas you may have for themes and I’ll try to pick two or three stories that fit! If you want a recommendation, I’ll try to give it!

Kit 

Kick Ass Stories You Should Really Check Out: Part 3! Cybernetic Armour, Feral Vampires and Mythological Bad-Assesery (With a Dash of Romance)

Our pal Kit hits us up with some more Kick Ass Stories You Should Really Check Out!

Well it’s the time of the year where love and romantic themes are shoved down your throat wherever you go. It’s a day where you’ll find one half of the internet covered in soppy messages, hearts and flowers, while the other half complains about soppy messages, hearts and flowers. What it also leads to is writers using it as a lazy excuse for a theme for their material. With that in mind, you’ve guessed what this article’s theme is: Romance! Though each of these stories is great, even if romance isn’t your thing.

This will probably be going up on the site after Valentine’s Day itself. Sorry I didn’t get it up in time but I was busy eating bacon and playing video games inside a fort. I’m sure you all understand.

Romance is in nearly all of our literature in one way or another, be it an action hero winning the heart of the beautiful reporter they barely know, the loving old parents in a kid’s book, or the relationship that starts off so happy and joyful but ends in ruin and then there’s is also Twilight (unfortunately a fair bit of romance is kind of crap, so the less said about Twilight, the better). It has, of course, featured in some of the stories I’ve mentioned before – Another End to the Empire and Tom the Universe are both excellent and well worth checking out (also, read my previous articles with them in if you haven’t already.. go on, do it now…).

We’ll be covering a range of genres today, and to start we have Power Armour – A Love Story. Yes, it’s a love story, but if that isn’t your kind of thing then it has power armour, a dystopian future, time travel and assassins. I’m pretty sure at least one of those things should appeal to you! Then After the Cure – A Post-Post-Apocalyptic setting (is that the actual term for it? If not, it is now!), Vampires, dealing with the psychological trauma of having eaten people and, yes, a bit of romance. Finally another physical book – The Song of Achilles – Achilles, Ancient Greek myths, wars, gods and romance. Sounds like a pretty fun Friday night!

 

 

Power Armor: A Love Story

“I don’t mean to scare you, Mira, but where I come from there are . . . secret police. Unlike anything you can imagine. Cyborgs. Shapeshifters. I’d have no chance against one of them. Unless . . .” He showed the hint of a smile. “In the same lab was something else we’d been working on. This armor.”

Set in the modern day the story follows Anthony Blair and his attempt to save earth from the dystopian future he escaped from. This is a very dangerous possible future he must prevent, with incredibly high tech cyborgs and assassins, and he’s certain that at least one has been sent after him.

Believe it or not this is really the most romantic story we’ll check out this week. It does have a lot of cool sci-fi concepts, although these are used far more to drive the plot along, or as metaphors to communicate the story’s themes.

For those of you capable of feelings outside of apathy, whiskey and rage (yes, you can skip this part Adam) hopefully you’ll find this as adorable and lovely a story as I did. This is where some implied spoilers crop up, so skip forward a paragraph if you’d prefer to!

This story really emphasises the idea that you can meet someone in the strangest of situations, and that loving someone will mean you’ll have to let your defences down, meaning that those you care most about can hurt you more than anyone else. It also shows that actually this really is a risk worth taking.

If you, your partner or anyone really wants a good romantic story then they should check this out. If you feel like you’ll be forced to listen to something romantic but prefer sci-fi, this should provide enough mech suits and dystopian ideas for you to enjoy!

power armour

Author: David Barr Kirtley

Link: http://www.drabblecast.org/2013/02/14/drabblecast-272-power-armor-a-love-story/

 

 

After the Cure

“I was shot with the cure in the dark. Later, someone would tell me it was a Tuesday, but before the tranq dart I didn’t know such a thing existed. It was either day or night, hungry or sated, alive or dead.”

This story has some warnings:

  • If you don’t like horror, specifically feral vampires – move along.
  • If you don’t like graphic descriptions of gore – move along.
  • If you want a romantic sparkly vampire – seriously, move along.
  • The first 10 minutes of this recording is promoting a sponsored episode of the Drabblecast they eventually do (which one day I’ll include in one of these). You may want to skip this.

Right, with that out of the way, onto the review. This is a story about both a girl who’s survived a vampiric apocalypse and society, as it tries to rebuild itself. Vampires in this world are wild and feral. They live on instinct, eating and feasting on anyone they find. Anyone who survives a bite becomes one of them. Mankind has been fighting back though and they’re beginning to win, having developed a cure. The cure returns people from this monstrous state back to human, letting them return to a normal life. Well, that’s the theory at least.

In a world trying to rebuild itself we find that though Vale, our main character, survived the apocalypse, she didn’t make it through ‘pure’. She was turned into a monster and spent years hunting people, tearing flesh from bone. Now, she’s back to normal but life is not easy, as although the cure was meant to erase all her memories of her time infected, it hasn’t. To make matters worse, she was infected for so long that most of her pre-infection memories have gone. She barely knows who she was and, without name or identity, has to face a society where, just a short while ago, someone would have shot her on sight and many still might.

The story is focused on Vale coping with this trauma, trying to find a way for herself in this world, while dealing with the monster she feels is still inside her. She has killed and everyone knows it. It doesn’t matter to most people that she had no control over herself, or even a concept of self, at the time. It’s a very introspective tale, more of the narrative dealing with what she thinks of herself and her feelings.

I like how the story explores what might happen after a monster-based apocalypse and how society might fair. There’s plenty of fantastic stories set during an apocalypse, but if mankind wins, it either ends at that point. We just assume society rebuilds itself, all of the monsters die, or they return to normal with no apparent side effects.

There is some romance in this story, with Vale trying to rebuild some kind of life for herself (obviously, or it wouldn’t be on this list!). However, I feel that here the romance is a plot device within a horror story. If you want a short mushy tale, then scroll back up and click the link to Power Armour. If you want an excellent story, about someone trying to find their place in a dark world where monsters still roam, with no guarantee she’ll find anything or anyone, then this will be more your thing.

after the cure

Author: Carrie Ryan

Link: http://www.drabblecast.org/2014/08/02/drabblecast-33-cure/

 

 

The Song of Achilles

“Name one hero who was happy.”

I considered. Heracles went mad and killed his family; Theseus lost his bride and father; Jason’s children and new wife were murdered by his old; Bellerophon killed the Chimera but was crippled by the fall from Pegasus’ back.
“You can’t.” He was sitting up now, leaning forward.
“I can’t.”
“I know. They never let you be famous AND happy.” He lifted an eyebrow. “I’ll tell you a secret.”
“Tell me.” I loved it when he was like this.
“I’m going to be the first.” 

Achilles. We all know the name, and the story of the invincible god-touched man who led the charge at the battle of Troy. There will be some small spoilers in this review, as I’ll assume that most people know the basics of this legend. If you do want the spoiler free summary though:

This book is excellent. Based on the myth, but from a different point of view (Yay! Perspective again!), it contains a very sweet love story as well. If you want some ass kicking, and one of the greatest heroes in any legend, then this is for you. If you want a love story about somebody who cares deeply for someone else then this is also for you.

Right, onto the details. This is a story where Achilles, although a huge element, is not our protagonist. This is the story of Patroclus. He always plays a huge part in the legend, being depicted as either Achilles’ closest friend or lover. This book portrays their relationship as a romantic one and shows us Patroclus’ side, instead of Achilles’, which most interpretations run with.

The book begins with their youth. As a child, Patroclus is innocent and caring, qualities that stay with him as he grows up. He acts as a moral guide to Achilles when he can, while supporting him as he fulfils the prophecies that will make him a hero. At the beginning, Achilles is faced with a choice – pursue a happy and simple life, or become one of the greatest heroes there has ever been, but at the price of his happiness.

Achilles is idealistic and hopeful, wanting to take on the world and make it his own. Patroclus deeply cares for Achilles and thinks the world of him. He shows us the side of Achilles the legends don’t speak of, his carefree and forever optimistic side. Achilles always expects things to work themselves out, largely thanks to the support of Patroclus, who helps him deal with the difficulties he faces.

There’s action as well. We see Achilles and Patroclus both kick ass on the battlefield, and also try their hands at the political games played at war. Their relationship has everything, from an awkward first love, the disapproving parent, and heated arguments as the relationship gets strained under the pressure of both prophecy and war.

I really enjoyed this book and do highly recommend it. If you’re a fan of mythology, or a fan of romance, this book holds up as a fantastic read.

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Author: Madeline Miller

Link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Song-Achilles-Madeline-Miller/dp/1408821982

 

Kit

 

Kick Ass Stories You Should Really Check Out: Part 2! Perspectives

Our pal Kit sometimes write for the site! This is one of those times.

First things first, I’ve updated the title of this series; it goes to show that a lack of proof reading will lead to poor wording! Also, there’s a fair chance I’ll occasionally chuck in the odd written short story if I feel one fits in with an article’s theme, though I’ll keep written books to no more than one per article.

As I mentioned in my last article, a few small spoilers will have snuck into this one too. They’ll be on the three stories I mention – The Wish of the Demon Achtromagk, Tom the Universe and The Sword in the Stone, along with a hinted spoiler for the anime/manga Death Note (so skip the next paragraph if you’d rather avoid this one).

With that out of the way on to the theme to this week’s article. We’ll be taking a look at perspectives. Each of these stories are from the perspective of something that isn’t exactly human. Perspective is a fun concept to play with so seeing a story from something else’s really turns a plot on its head. Another End to the Empire, a story I discussed in part one, shows what you can do by seeing the world from the villains’ point of view. I’d also point people in the direction of the Death Note that does the same thing, albeit in a far more serious tone. SPOILER: yes, Light is the bad guy… it doesn’t matter if you try to excuse his actions or not, he is the villain. Though, going by how many fans support him, it says a lot about how perspective and a strong charisma affect an audience’s opinion.

Which is why, as mentioned before, for this article I’m picking stories that take a look at the world from the eyes of non-humans instead of looking at the direct change in moral perspective so much. One of these – T.H White’s The Sword in the Stone is a book. There is a Disney adapted film, but it’s been so long since I’ve seen I won’t be taking into account in this article!

 

The Wish of the Demon Achtromagk

“The demon Achtromagk, Prince of the Endless Plains, and Duke of the Wastes of Tomorrow, opened a portal to our universe, freeing it to perform feasts of flesh and debauchery, to bask in fire and know heat, touch flesh and know pain, and bathe in blood and know lust – except for one, slight miscalculation…”

This is one of my all-time favourites. There are many stories out there where a human gets trapped in an otherworldly or alien body that makes little to no sense for them. You may come across the stories where the horror gets trapped in a human body instead. This takes things in a different direction entirely. The Cthulian horror Achtromagk is hell-bent on taking over our dimension and bathing it in the blood of the innocent, whilst he rules upon a pile of corpses just like you’d expect. His plans are just a little disrupted when he accidentally transfers himself into a body a hell of a lot smaller, weaker and cuddlier than he was expecting.

This is a much sweeter story than you may expect. Its fun to see something we’d usually fear so much be reduced to something so opposite to its nature, then struggle with the physical and emotional limitations that come with this change.

The perspective shift in this story is more there for the plot’s sake, and to have fun, rather than any deeper meaning. There is the idea that who we physically are has a large impact on our personality, and there is a bit of a nature vs nurture thing going on. Either way it’s a story I prefer to enjoy on a surface level, rather than for any deeper meaning! After all, if I was to do that to every story I’d be here all day, and would probably be considering doing this as legitimate study, rather than as a bit of fun.

Norm Sherman, who hosts The Drabblecast, naturally gives a great performance for each voices in this story. I’ll probably not talk about his voice work too often as otherwise it would just be “Norm Sherman, who hosts The Drabblecast, naturally gives a great performance for each voice in this story” on repeat… see? I’m doing it already!

A lot of this story’s horror, oddly enough, ends up being much more relatable and potentially real than that implied at the outset. Focusing the horror on just one little girl throughout from a threat that feels very real for many kids is effective. That being said, it shouldn’t ruin your enjoyment as an adult (I’m assuming you are one here!).

This story also won the Drabblecasts People’s Choice Award for 2011.

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Author: Eugie Foster

Link: http://www.drabblecast.org/2011/08/17/drabblecast-214-the-wish-of-the-demon-achtromagk-drabble-my-hot-spot-by-jessica-broughton/

 

Tom the Universe

“I was a little confused during the Planck epoch (first 10^-43 seconds after the Big Bang), but sometime during the Grand Unification epoch (up to 10^-35 seconds), I figured out what had happened. By the end of the Inflationary epoch (10^-32 seconds), I’d analyzed the previous universe and simulated in my mind all that had ever happened that I cared to see.”

The idea of a normal person being elevated to God has been in many works of fiction. This story takes the idea and puts a scientific spin on it (pseudo-science of course, but this is fiction we’re talking about) and so we see the tale of Tom, the man who becomes his own universe. Not in an egotistical way, but quite literally accidentally becomes a universe. This story focuses on Tom’s relationship with his fiancé, along with a couple of different possible futures based on the story’s early events. If you knew everything that was going to happen without your intervention (on a cosmic scale here) what would you do?

Without too big a spoiler this story shows that there times when some things may be better left unknown, or at least moved on from. The context of the universe as a perspective is such a unique choice that it stays an interesting and novel idea throughout. The author manages to have fun with the writing, using the context to draw parallels with current scientific theories of the big bang, along with a little humour word choice. There are some serious points made about the nature of relationships, and the use of perspective in this plot provides an ‘all knowing’, if not quite all powerful, point of view playing around with the traditional third person omniscient narrator perspective.

Ultimately this story could be delved into a lot more than I have here and I’d be pleased if anyone could get back to me with their thoughts on it!

 

Author: Larry Hodges

Link: http://escapepod.org/2011/04/28/ep290-tom-the-universe/

 

The Sword in the Stone

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“EVERYTHING NOT FORBIDDEN IS COMPULSORY.”

Some spoilers here for the Sword in the Stone, The Once and Future King, and generally King Arthur!

Finally, The Sword in the Stone, written by T H White. Where to start with this one? This is the story of King Arthur as a boy, up until he draws the sword to become the rightful king of England (because clearly this is a fair a politically sound way to elect a ruler). This is also the first non-audio book I’ve mentioned, however it is both one that was very special to me growing up, and is a book with making huge points on perspectives and this is my article so I’ll do what I want with it! I’m sure people have written very long essays on this story before, however I’ll keep it to a couple of paragraphs!

In this story, Merlin teaches Arthur the ways of political ideologies. This is quite a lot to pack in, considering this is a book kids can easily read and enjoy! Arthur is transformed into various animals and sees things from their perspectives, each representing a political stance, and experiences that way of life. Each ideology is unsubtle and taken to the extreme, with communist ants, anarchist geese and so on. Arthur endures his time as each animal and then relates back to Merlin what he has learned. White doesn’t do much to hide his opinions of each ideology or his lack of fondness for some of them. Is this an issue, or can one go with it, even if they disagree?

Politics aside, this is a book a kid can read – the story itself is full of fantasy and fun. For those who deeply care about historical, or even mythological, accuracy, I warn you not to think too hard on the subject (there’s a cameo from another of Britain’s heroes that very much doesn’t tie in to the usual Arthur mythos!).

This book covers Arthur’s childhood and how he is shaped to become the King we all know. Check out the rest of The Once and Future King to see what happens! In places the book may seem a little silly or immature for adult reading. However, this is not a theme that carries on throughout the series. In each book of The Once and Future King Arthur grows older, along with the target audience of the book. This is up until the final book/epilogue, The Book of Merlin, where the plot takes place around a debate of the very politics Arthur learned as a child.

The language throughout the book can feel a little outdated, but this is a book written in the 1930s so that’s to be expected. The morality and ethics of the characters, even the “good” ones, aren’t what we’d expect by today’s standards. This is, however, a book set in the fifth or sixth century, so that does fit with the time.

There is of course the Disney adaptation, that honestly I may have seen once but don’t really recall. From what I’ve seen it’s a pretty accurate, if abridged, set of events so of course you should try it as well!

To stop myself waffling on much longer I’ll close things off here. This really is a wonderful little story and well worth reading, by itself or better yet as part of The Once and Future King. The good news here is the whole series is only 639 pages for five books. That’s a breeze compared to Game of Thrones or Harry Potter (both of which are, of course, excellent as well!). Give it a read, or if you’re feeling lazy check out the film!

 

Author: T H White

Link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sword-Stone-Essential-Modern-Classics/dp/000726349X

 

Kit

Kick Ass Stories to Listen to You Should Really Check Out Part 1!

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Our pal Kit sometimes write for the site! This is one of those times.

I’ve been meaning to get into the habit of writing more for this site, unfortunately until now inspiration has escaped me for something a bit more unique I can produce on a regular basis. I’ll still thrown in the odd rant or review of whatever takes my fancy but I wanted something a bit different for what I hope will be a bi-weekly endeavour! This is why I’ve set my sight on short stories I listen to, I really enjoy and find they fit into my day to day life incredibly easily, be it something to put on when I have to walk to the shops or put on in the background when I’m tidying the house I’ve found that short story podcasts or audio books help pass the time so much quicker.

Traditionally this would be more my brother’s shtick than mine so if you’re reading this Jonny then I hope you don’t mind me having a crack at it!

Now, the way this will work is every other week I’ll provide a short review or discussion of two or three short stories or one audio book. These are likely to not exactly be ‘up to date’ so if you’re into this sort of thing you may well have come across them before. Also, I won’t provide a score for any of them, purely because if I’m commenting on what could add up to a lot any numerical score could easily lose meaning over time. I’ll provide links where I can to these in the hope you’ll check them out and enjoy them yourselves! Most short stories are 30 minutes – an hour, though some can go on to three or four.

The websites I’ll link to provide this content for free and really are amazing. You’ll see most of them crop up each week so please support them if you can. Some do have the option to pay to get extra stories, though I’ll let you know if you’d need to pay to hear it in each review.

I’ll try to keep things general every time but some slight spoilers are inevitable to slip through.

So with this intro I’ll keep each review fairly short today and without further over explaining myself I’ll start today with three of my favourites!

 

Mongoose

This is the one that really got my addiction to listening to short stories started. It’s a two part sci-fi adventure based loosely on Lovecraftian lore that in a short space of time manages to create a wonderful and fascinating universe. Set in the future, it follows an adventure of Izreal Izzary and his ‘Cheshire Cat’ Mongoose who are pest controllers of a sort accepting a job on a spaceship to deal with an infestation of low level otherworldly monsters. Well, otherworldly pests but of course things don’t go to plan.

The story itself is engaging and fun and exciting, the characters feel very fleshed out and characterisation given to the adorable little tentacled horror that is Mongoose is fantastic and the otherworldly monsters described in the story are left crystal clear in your imagination and are truly fantastic. There’s a lot that’s only mentioned in passing during this episode that you just wish they’d explore and you’re left wanting much more from this universe.

It’s a good thing there are two great sequels to this story, but those are for another time.

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Written by: Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear.

Part 1 Link: http://www.drabblecast.org/2010/07/03/drabblecast-170-mongoose-part-i-by-sarah-monette-and-elizabeth-bear-drabble-the-monkeys-by-chris-munroe/

Part 2 Link: http://www.drabblecast.org/2010/07/10/drabblecast-171-mongoose-part-ii-by-sarah-monette-and-elizabeth-bear/

 

Another End of the Empire

Imagine you are the evil overlord Morgash, Emperor and feared tyrant. Imagine you have your very own oracle. Imagine she prophesises a chosen one will soon be born in your empire and this will lead to your fall. What would you do? Kill everyone born in the coming months? Seek them out and destroy them? Go into hiding? Or… Heavily invest in and make great efforts to improve the lives of the average citizens and try to make them happy?

This one is a lot of fun and I’m sure has the potential to inspire a Dungeons and Dragons game of some description. It’s only half an hour long and kept me smiling throughout. Needless to say it’s a very different take on a common fantasy scenario and well worth a listen to if you like your fantasy and want to try things from the villain’s perspective.

Written by: Tim Pratt

Link: http://podcastle.org/2010/01/26/podcastle-88-another-end-of-the-empire/

 

Captain Confederation

The amount of bureaucracy and red tape we all have to deal with in our day to day lives is ridiculous and one thing comics tend to step around is how much worse it would be for a super hero (unless you’re She-Hulk). Not Captain Confederation though. No fly zones, having to apply to get the best super hero jobs in each city and so much more keep getting in the way of his work! This is the story of how he deals with it when he’s had enough!

This is another quick and easy one so it doesn’t require all of your attention if you need to multitask, I recommend it if you like your super heroes but some sick part of you wants to see them struggle and get infuriated by day to day things. It pokes a lot of fun at the genre and makes jokes of some common tropes we’re used to seeing. Much as I enjoyed it I wouldn’t say this amongst the best short stories I’ve ever listened to but for super hero fans it’s a good bit of fun.

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Written by: Jim Robb

Link: http://www.drabblecast.org/2014/11/23/drabblecast-343-captain-confederation/

 

Kit