EP164: The Right Kind of Town

By Christian Klaver.
Read by Cunning Minx (of Polyamory Weekly).

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In the civilized places closer to Hegemony space, you
don’t see many bodies in the street in the first
place. When you do, they’re always swarmed with
sheriffs, marshals, constables, morticians and the
like. Then the body gets moved fast, so as to not
ruffle the civilized folk. The rest happens behind
closed doors.

Some towns don’t ever get bodies in the street. The
only deaths are from sickness or accidents or old age.
But I don’t tend to get to those towns so much, since
they frown on my whoring profession. The towns I work
in, everyone carries a gun. Being a pretty woman in
my line of work, I carry two.

Rated R. Contains sex, violence, profanity, the quick, and the dead.

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Comments (21)

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  1. Jennifer says:

    I don’t know what to make of this one- a bit short and simplistic towards the end. It starts out interesting, though. And I loved Minx’s accent!

  2. Michele says:

    I loved the detailed level of description of the town, the desert and the people. I could almost visualize the setting and characters. The storry grabs you from the start and the narrator added to the experience with her reading.
    I look forward to hearing more from Christian Klaver in the future.

  3. Dom says:

    I loved this one. Very concise storytelling that was very Blade Runner.

  4. SethW says:

    It sounded to me me like the phone rang halfway through the authors effort and the story was never completed. What was written was very good.

  5. You had me at Browncoat.

  6. okay, I get to be the voice of dissent this time. I liked Firefly very much. This story, though, not so much. It seemed like the SF angle was simply grafted on and not integral to the story. Set it in a seaport – say, San Francisco – and the orbital frigate becomes a Chinese junk, and our heroine has been trained in martial arts by a wandering shaolin monk. However, the story remains essentially unchanged.

    So, I come to Steve’s ending comments. He mentioned that SF will fall back on genre types and story ends that are familiar. Perhaps, but those stories that are more science fiction than western (or detective, or romance, or whatever else) are those that have that one element that places the story square in the science fiction genre.

    To revisit Firefly, it isn’t the spaceship that makes it science fiction – it’s River Tam. Her abilities cannot be replicated purely within the western genre tradition.

    Thus, Firefly is science fiction with western trappings. “The Right Kind of Town” is a western with SF trappings. For me – and speaking only for myself – I prefer the former over the latter.

  7. Evo Shandor says:

    I did not like this one for the simple reason of it taking a 90 degree turn at the end. The narrator loves, adores and his head-over-heels for Freeman, then suddenly hates him for reasons I am still not sure of — she figures something out about Freeman and some kind of Nightwalker code?

    Then the deus ex machina of her super powers?!?!?!

    I did like the world building and think inverse vampires is a cool idea, but this story seemed really awkward in its execution: I love him, I hate him, he’s dead…huh?

  8. Audita Sum says:

    I really liked this one, if only because of the anachronistic combination of western and sci fi. I do find it hard to believe that the southern drawl of today would remain intact after thousands of years of space exploration, but I guess the accent does contribute to the overall tone of the piece.

    Anyway, a good story and a good reading.

  9. Bookman 12pt says:

    It was hard for me to sympathize with the MC. Especially after admitting that she chose her profession because she enjoyed it.
    It makes the plot seem trivial.

    There was too much Western and not enough space. The logic seemed flawed in terms of dialect.

    I did enjoy the voice very much. I could be my distaste for Space Westerns that turned me off to this story. The storytelling was well crafted. The ending tied in to the begining very well. The pace seemed good.

  10. gill_smoke says:

    If I were the minx, I’m not sure I would ever forgive you for letting my country of origin out. Not that there’s anything wrong with the state of Texas.

    That said I like the story and the way it was told. Though the ending seemed kind of tacked on. Still the action description was well done. I didn’t see the inverse vampire thing until I read the comment.

  11. Sushma says:

    I agree with Evo.

  12. Naum Nurgle says:

    The reading was like treacle flowing into my ears. A voice that left me steaming whilst driving on a cold and very wet Cape Town winter day.

    I loved this story. Was it Sci Fi; pah who cares, it had some lovely ideas and images of the other. The race absorbing energy through the sun, the alien mindset, the balance between conditioning, biology, and conflicting emotion (why can one not love and hate at the same time, or love but be driven by factors beyond emotion).

    But what has left me pondering is Tim comments that this story is not Sc Fi “To revisit Firefly, it isn’t the spaceship that makes it science fiction – it’s River Tam. Her abilities cannot be replicated purely within the western genre tradition.”
    Well its not that there are space ships in orbit here that make the story, its the conflict in the character due to her alien breeding, which as with river tam cannot be replicated within the western genre tradition, (or is the point that sholin’s are part of the western genre?) What do we Africans know any way.

    mmm in terms of one of the arguments against porn and prostitution as disempowering women; interesting critique on prostitution, a women who can snap necks if she wants to still choosing to act in a role that she asserts degrades her and is look down upon.

  13. I tend to agree with Tim and Evo. I don’t think that this was a very well crafted story. The main character fell in and out of love too quickly and without any lasting ramifications for me to really believe in or appreciate her feelings for this guy, yet percentage-wise this is what the bulk of the narrative was about. The twist that led to the ending was way too obvious and wasn’t really that original or interesting. About the only thing this story had going for it was the way that it began, with the introspective commentary on dead bodies and the way people treat them. Hooked me right away and got me interested…if only the rest of the story lived up to that kind of beginning.

    I also had issues with the flippant sexuality of this story and the message that it sends. That has more to do with my personal values and beliefs, however, than anything lacking in the story (and I wouldn’t want to force my values on anybody), but it still was a disappointment and made it difficult to enjoy it. Everyone in the sci fi genre currently seems to assume that promiscuity is perfectly ok and that moral codes restricting sexual expression are outdated and old fashioned. The thing that gets to me is when writers seem to operate on this assumption without questioning it–science fiction at its best is about asking questions, especially about society.

    One thing that this story seemed to lack that made it very weak was a “strange attractor,” a blend of the familiar and the original. The story felt like recycled Firefly without an authentically new or innovative take on any of those themes or ideas. Great for the fans who don’t mind a regurgitated multiverse, but for those of us who don’t start salivating at the word “browncoats,” it’s got to have something more.

    I thought that Steve’s comments at the end, about how sci fi tends to cut and paste from “real life” fiction and familiar, real life situations when it comes to portraying relationships, was very interesting. I both agree and disagree with his comments, and would like to take the thought one step further. Science fiction is about extrapolating worlds and technologies completely different from our own, but good science fiction doesn’t merely fall back on the familiar, everyday interactions we have with each other. Good science fiction examines how the strange and unfamiliar affects human relationships, extrapolating how our lives would be in this new world, and in doing so ends up showing what it is about being human that DOESN’T change and is ALWAYS familiar.

    A good example of this is Spin by Robert Charles Wilson: the world is going to end in fifty years and society gradually starts falling apart, but in everyone’s reaction to the end of the world you can see familiar themes and patterns. Mr. Wilson did NOT just copy and paste from “real world” fiction or from his own personal experience, he created a real, believable world and put real people in it, saying to himself “this kind of thing has never happened on this scale before, but if it did happen, how would people react to it?”

    I don’t think that science fiction needs to borrow much from other genres in order to create believable characters and relationships. Why learn from a secondhand source? Real life experience is enough to teach any writer what it means to be human, and if the world you create is deep enough, your story itself can be too.

  14. Ed from Texas says:

    After listening to this show, I knew I didn’t like it, but was struggling to put the why into words. I think Tim Callender captured my feelings about it very well.

  15. To Naum- I wish the story had played more on the fact that the main character was alien of some sort (grown in a vat, IIRC). Then the story would have become more compelling. Did she fall for the man despite her conditioning? Did she kill him because she had to, because of the Unwritten Law (or whatever)? Did she face the difficult choice of family/clan/species vs. love/lust/impulse? I think “This, My Body” was a better exploration of such themes.

    As for my comments regarding the juxtaposition of the kung-fu genre with the western, it is far more believable (acceptable?) to me because they are contemporary with each other. I could be wrong, but I don’t imagine the final frontier will resemble Tombstone, AZ in any form.

    Back to the main point – none of those conflicts I mentioned above were apparent to me. The characters never came to life. This isn’t necessarily a problem – Arthur C. Clarke comes to mind – but in that case, I want a compelling SF concept that challenges my intellect. Unfortunately, this was also missing in the story.

    If you can’t move my heart, appeal to my head. Both qualities were absent in this story, in my opinion.

  16. scatterbrain says:

    Somewhat enjoyable, but in the end, stylistically pointless. If I had a choice between preseving Friction(EP:144) or this, there wouldn’t be much internal discussion.

  17. I didn’t like this one nearly as much as God Juice, which it felt similar to, with the strong heroine and first person narration. This one moved a little too quickly and seemed like maybe it skipped a paragraph or two. Some interesting science notes about the physics of superhuman strength, but the whole “alien hooker guild” thing seems a little trite to me.

  18. Norm says:

    Not a big fan of the story. I got through it, but it seemed to leave more questions than answers. I felt the author was hiding info from his readers to have a sort of trick ending and that’s not cool.

  19. WillMoo says:

    Didn’t like this one at all. It was just western wrapped in a thin veil of sci-fi. The characters were thin with very little to make you relate to them.

  20. […] final Escape Pod offering this month is “The Right Kind of Town” by Christian Klaver, read by Cunning Minx. It’s a western set on another planet. […]

  21. Ryan B says:

    Great, great story. I can’t put my finger on any one thing that stood out as good, but I found it very entertaining.