Podcast catchup

Spoken Lore has just begun reading the outlaw saga of Grettir the Strong–not a bad place to start in on the sagas. In my mind, I think of Grettir as the outlaw who was afraid of the dark, I think thanks to a line in an Auden poem that I’m probably overdue to reread.

Völsunga Saga remained mythic to the very end. I thought the saga was wrapping up, in the last few chapters–but there was still time for a woman to fight in man’s armor, for a man to be thrown into a pit of snakes–and to charm those snakes by playing a harp with his toes, for another woman to be trampled to death by horses (yes, trampled to death by horses–the characters in the saga seem pretty startled by this too), and for a king to unknowingly drink his young sons’ blood out of wine cups made from their skulls. Any one of the mythic elements of this saga could be a modern novel of its own, I think. (And many, of course, have been.)

I’m way insanely behind on my Escape Pod listening, but I did pull two out of my queue the past two weeks, both of which are arguably present-day time-travel-technology stories.

camillealexa‘s Flaming Marshallow and Other Deaths is about a world in which you can get knowledge of your future, or at least, the way in which you’ll die, via a simple blood test. Only you’re not allowed to take that test–available with a major credit card from kiosks at malls everywhere–until you’re sixteen. Personally, I think the story gets dead right the way this technology would be used: as one more way of determining teen–and probably adult, too–pecking order. I really liked this one.

I had more trouble with Paul E. Martens The Color of a Bronotsaurus, though it had a lovely starting place: a human bone is found alongside a dinosaur bone at an archeological dig, and dating techniques reveal they come from the same time period, and our intrepid scientist protagonist comes to the only logical conclusion–that the bone must have come from a time traveler. I love the passion for science shown here–of course the thought of being able to see dinosaurs in person would be hugely exciting to any paleontologist, and to many of the rest of us, too–but the actual scientists in the story rang less true. Each one of them comes to an initial intuitive conclusion about the origin of the bone: time travel (our protagonist), creationism, or a hoax, and not one of them budges from their position for the rest of the story, and all of them seem to believe that conclusions need to be drawn, and quickly. But in my experience (and in my interviews of scientists), that’s not how science works. Rather, all three of them would be saying–to each other and in the paper they’d write–okay, we have an unexplained phenomena here, clearly more research is called for. They might tenuously present the possibilities to the public, maybe–but the quick jumping to conclusions about preliminary findings is something that happens a lot in science reporting, but not so much in actual science.

I also had trouble with the relationship between the protagonist and his wife, but there’s not way to go into that without giving major spoilers. I do still love that starting place, though.

Now, I just need to find some time to start listening to podcastle, too. Clearly, it’s time to find some household chores to catch up on, or go for more long walks. 🙂 (I find I can listen to podcasts while walking, but not while running, which seems to do better with music.)

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