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EP184: As Dry Leaves That Before the Wild Hurricane Fly

By Mur Lafferty.
Read by Christiana Ellis (of Christiana’s Shallow Thoughts, et al.).

Special Closing Music: “Chiron Beta Prime,” by Jonathan Coulton.

Comet and Cupid were fifteen, and took after their father, both spending the most time in the workshop tinkering with Father’s tools. Christmas was coming soon and they were preparing their yearly trip to the same orphanage that had cared for them. With nine children to raise on his own, Claus could no longer adopt, but he still found it very important to care for the children in any way he could. So he took a load of toys to the children every year, with his children helping him distribute.

Their siblings sat around their great sitting room, some crowding on sofas, some sitting on chair cushions or arms, and Rudolph, the baby at eleven, sat at his father’s feet. He was an imposing man with a barrel chest and wild white hair and beard. When he would get excited about a project, his blue eyes would twinkle and he’d look like a madman.

Rated G. Contains Santa revisionism and aerial combat.

Comments (38)

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  1. Kurt F. says:

    What a great Christmas present. Thanks Santa Steve!

  2. Simeon says:

    Wow, I could not agree less. In the spirit of the season, I will use “bah humbug” in place of the expletives currently dancing in my head.

    Generally, when I do not like a story I remain silent unless I have either constructive criticism or can think of something funny that is not mean-spirited. However, this story was special.

    Was this story actually written, or has someone invented a Steam Punk generator where you just input your basic plot outline, and fills out your work with words and phrases like “Queen Victoria”, “Nikola Tesla”, “petty coat”, “zeppelin”, “clock-work”?

    BAH! HUMBUG!

  3. Herbwoman says:

    I absolutely LOVED this story. It’s such a wonderful take on the Santa legend. It had a much different flavor from last year’s “City Talkers”.

    What I took away from it was the twist on the legend. The steam punk aspect was just a splash of Bailey’s in a sweet cup of hot chocolate :-)

    Thanks for another great Christmas story Mur!

  4. Enlighten Up says:

    I really enjoyed this tale! I agree with Herbwoman, that the steam punk aspect was just a small element, not the basis.

    You rocked it again, Mur!

  5. Mainframe says:

    A fun holiday romp brought to us by two incredibly talented ladies.

    A great story and a great voice performance.

  6. scatterbrain says:

    My best Christmas present; what more can a man ask for, but a revisionist steampunk fairytale, presented by the risen-from-the-ashes Steve Eley, along with a kick-ass song from Jonathon Coulton? More and more Escape Pod, that’s what!

  7. L33tminion says:

    That story woudn’t necessarily be so good, but for the redeeming fact that it was TOTALLY AWESOME.

  8. Stumo says:

    I enjoyed it. Yes, there were weird steampunky bits (the one that surprised me most was the mention of a laser) but it was fun, you were never quite sure what’d happen next, and cleverly put together so that the various santa stories were hinted at without being pushed down your throat.

    Oh, and Steve, Welcome Back. We did miss you

  9. Ralph says:

    Welcome back Steve!

    We missed you! Can’t wait to hear this new podcast when I get home!

    Moondog2010

  10. Ralph says:

    !Welcome back Steve!

    We missed you! Can’t wait to hear this new podcast when I get home!

    Moondog2010

  11. BooGaarr says:

    Thanks Steve and Mur!

    Hope you and yours enjoy the holidays!

    Hope your doing better Steve. Look forward to more stories!

  12. Niel Crafford says:

    Welcome back Steve, what a great feeling seeing Escapepod in my inbox this morning. You sound good, I hope you feel it too.

  13. Owen Ball says:

    Happy Christmas Steve, Welcome back!

  14. Arkle says:

    I liked this one. Not quite as good as Merry Christmas from the Heartbreakers, but better than Citytalkers (in my own personal opinion; simply a matter of taste nothing more).

    Also, was I the only one who couldn’t help but think that this would make for an awesome Christmas movie? If I saw this in theatres I’d be like, “Yeah, take THAT A Christmas Story! &%^$ you and your b.b. gun!”

  15. Alain Briancon says:

    Welcome back Steve!

    I enjoyed the story. It moved nicely and captured enough of the parallel universe of that Mr Claus (yes, i mean as compared to our universe’s Santa) to make engrossing. I could hardly wait for the red nose equivalent.

    I would have preferred Edison rather than Tesla as the “bad guy”. I understand the need to connect with the old continent, so consider that a neat pick. The drama would have been heightened with Hydrogen rather than Helium in the Zeppelin (and more aligned with the time, anyway).

    That being said, this story was not tossed out at the last time. Mur did spend a good time thinking about this one I reckon and it shows. I especially like the fact that the kids are boys and girls and not interchangeable. I can’t wait for next year’s edition.

  16. john says:

    if there hadn’t have been the promise of “jet packs” I wouldn’t have listened.

    that said, I’m generally unhappy about having to weird wire my brain to make the characters NOT reindeer. the part about Mrs Claus dying after giving birth to what I thought was a four legged Rudolph was an image that I don’t want think about EVER again. it was only revealed AFTERWARDS that it was about Homo Sapiens not Rangifer Rarandus. thanks for the disturbed image.

  17. Duellist Origins says:

    I’m becoming more and more uncertain about the christmas story being picked solely due to Mur Lafferty writing one. It seems a bit insular to me.

  18. Abbie says:

    This was really clever, and I liked it a lot – perhaps my favorite Mur story ever. Great job!

  19. Sabre Runner says:

    It was a cool story. Nice take. Probably winks more to people with more christmas spirit in their veins.

    On another note, a local podcast called Sideshow interviewed Scott Siegler if anyone wants to hear: http://sideshow.co.il/?p=449

    And where legends come from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinterklaas

  20. Janne says:

    Nice to have Escape Pod back, but this was one of the weakest stories in the whole history. I tuned out about half-way, since I just couldn’t bring myself to care about the characters or the plot.

    Meh.

    Oh well, I’m sure the next one is awesome :-)

  21. MikeV says:

    Yes, this story has all the icky sweetness and stock characters of any other yuletide story out there, but this bought out the ten-year old in me — jet packs, dirigibles, lasers and Tesla?

    This was one strange fun story.

  22. Brave Space Monkey says:

    You lost me at “Telsa”. Not that I was enjoy the story up until than. Once Telsa from drawn into the mix, I just turned off my iPod.

    Sorry, this story didn’t work for me, so much so I stopped it half way through.

  23. LaShawn says:

    Not only was this the first Escape Pod Christmas story I’ve heard, but also my first Mur Lafferty short story. It turned the whole Santa Clause myth on its ear and gave a new spin to it that I found delightful. It was wonderful to see the “kids” come into their own, especially Rudolph–I loved how the myth of his own story gets a new spin in this one. Santa Clause as mad scientist? Charming! Great story, Mur!

  24. LaShawn says:

    Oh, and by the way, welcome back, Mr. Steve. Hope you had a wonderful rest and a great holiday.

  25. Vance M. says:

    Great present Xmas morning. I remember listening to it on my way to see my family. Thanks Dude.

    I guess Steve is an Elf working at Santa’s workshop…who knew ? ; )

  26. AnnB says:

    Shaggy reindeer story? Long story, little payoff.

    Re: comments at the end about “how legends get started” – the notion that Ring Around the Rosy” arose from the Plague, while appealing as folk history, has pretty much been debunked. Even wikipedia agrees….

  27. Sushma says:

    I must be one of the few people who had a tepid response to this story. The pacing was too slow, and you saw what was coming a mile away. It reminded me of lame-ish movies like Wild Wild West, which labor over their period details to no good effect, since they ignore what life was really like in the Victorian age- where were the servants? the primitive lavatories and all those nasty details (if we are talking details) that make Dickensian, well Dickensian. Like Simeon said, humbug.

  28. [...] talk goals, starting over, and 2009. I had a story published at Escape Pod! We also talk about the ISBW [...]

  29. [...] talk goals, starting over, and 2009. I had a story published at Escape Pod! We also talk about the ISBW [...]

  30. Jennifer says:

    I think I agree with Sushma. Yeah, slightly more novel to have steampunk, non-reindeer kids and Tesla (is there some TV Trope for “throw in Tesla and all the geeks think it’s cool?”, but you pretty much knew where it was gonna go.

    Or maybe I just wasn’t into the reader’s voice. It was kinda flat. I hate to diss, but…yeah, I was “meh.”

  31. [...] #107 (”Goals”); Adventures in Science Fiction Publishing #71 (Bear McCreary);   Escape Pod #184 (”As Dry Leaves That Before the Wild Hurricane Fly,” a fantastic steampu…; Escape Pod #185 (”Union Dues — All About the Sponsors,” another solid entry in [...]

  32. I enjoyed the hell out of this story. I am loathe to admit that I even got a little teary at the end when Comet dove over the railing after Rudy. I’m kind of miffed that Tesla didn’t have a lightning coil weapon rather than “laser missiles” (lasers? the hell?), and there were a couple of sentences that could have used some cleaning up. But minor editorial issues aside, this story was clever, charming, exciting, and even a bit heartwarming. Mur’s stuff is hit and miss with me, even within the same series (I’m pretty sure I’m current on all her listenable fiction), but this one was a home-run as far as I’m concerned. She seems to have a gift for Xmess themed stories, I really liked Citytalkers too. I guess that explains the tradition.

    Welcome back, Steve! EP is off to a great start for the new year.

  33. [...] year, EP featured Mur’s story, As Dry Leaves That Before The Wild Hurricane Fly; which turns some of the well known Christmas legends on their proverbial ear. I really liked this [...]

  34. [...] the return of Escape Pod’s standard-length fiction, “As Dry Leaves That Before the Wild Hurricane Fly” is an action-packed Christmas story continuing the Mur Lafferty/Escape Pod/Santa Claus [...]

  35. Blaine Boy says:

    First off, it really is great having you back Steve. You really did deserve that break and we thank you for coming back (we as in the entire community here). Second, I want to thank Anna Eley because we all know how much she supports you. So thank you Anna; from what we hear from Steve, well… it just sounds like he’s really lucky to have you.

    Moving on to the story… I thought it was great. I knew it was a Christmas story so I just went into that sort of frame of mind. Like, I got rid of all my preconceptions and my usually sarcastic wit and just listened. I loved how it played off the old legends and gave them a new and fun twist. So, it was a great way to restart EP.

    Happy New Year ‘Scapers!

    Sincerely,
    The Blaine Boy

  36. Vellan says:

    While I wanted to like this story…I just couldn’t. I had to turn off the part of my brain that asks questions just so I could listen to the end.

    One of the things not immediately clear to me (and maybe I just wasn’t listening closely enough) was that Tesla was meant to be ‘the bad guy’. I thought that he’d been appointed to the post previously held by Father because he was, perhaps, a better inventor. And I couldn’t understand why Tesla (and his mooks) would turn up and immediately try to kill a dozen children. It’s not the lawless Wild West. It’s Victorian England. There are laws! Massacres are generally frowned upon. And seeing as Tesla had i) the post, ii) the stipend and iii) the property, why should he care if the previous tenants got away? He’d already won. The idea that he would kill people in order to prevent them from stealing things they had created just didn’t seem realistic.

    Further to that, the anachronisms didn’t help. The plot didn’t flow logically for me, and instead of feeling a warm Christmas glow, I was left with a dissatisfied WTF?

  37. Raven says:

    That podcast was totally awesome!!!Even though I’m 9, I still think this AWESOME!!!!!!!!!

  38. [...] As Dry Leaves that Before the Wild Hurricane Fall by Mur Lafferty [...]