EP190: Origin Story

By Tim Pratt
Read by: Stephen Eley
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All stories by Tim Pratt
All stories read by Stephen Eley
Special closing music: “Skullcrusher Mountain” by Jonathan Coulton.

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He didn’t call himself The Aerialist at first. The newspapers came up with that later. He called himself Kid Kangaroo of all things, because of the jumping from rooftop to rooftop, even though I made fun of him, called him “Joey,” made jokes about dingoes. Nobody knows his secret identity but me, and I only found out because I snuck into the treehouse one night to smoke a cigarette and found him changing out of his leotard and tights and domino mask. He was only fifteen. I still remember what he said: “Don’t tell anyone — if my identity is discovered, you and mom and dad could be used against me.”

Rated PG. Contains sibling rivalry and comic book deconstruction.

Comments (27)

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  1. Ed from Texas says:

    Now this is more like it!

  2. RedSunTzu says:

    I like how the evolution of the Aerialist character is a metaphor for the changing trends in comic books.

  3. Ray says:

    First: good to hear from you on the intro and outro, Steve. I’ve not caught every episode of late, but I know you’ve been on hiatus as host.

    Second: simultaneous congratulations, thanks, and good luck to the new managing editor. Escape Pod looms large in the brief history of podcast fiction; I expect Mr. Tolbert will prove worthy of the honor and challenge he’s been given.

    Third: very good story. I wish the twist had come a little closer to the end, because I had a good idea where things were headed once the narrator lost his family, but this was excellent to that point and decent after. Actually, it kind of reminds me of the “Iron Man” film: a fresh and engaging origin story in the first half, and standard formula thereafter.

  4. Awesome story. Loved the reveal at the end.

  5. V says:

    Favorite. superhero. story. EVAR.

    Welcome back.

    Dammit, I want to see this guy in the Union Dues universe now. Crossover madness! ( :

  6. Stumo says:

    Steve, good to hear your voice.

  7. Gordy2shoes says:

    Loved this one. This is the type of stuff that make comics and superhero stories great. I’ve heard Neal Adams say that “Comics are America’s mythology.”
    Fantastic work.
    p.s. Jonathan Coulton rocks or soft rocks me.

  8. DrCrisp says:

    I’m with RedSunTzu, the description of how comic books morphed (please, no Power Ranger lawsuits) thru the 70s was funny. It sounded a lot like Union Dues and I kind of thought, “Oh, another one”. And then that delightful little twist with the pause and then, “the real police”. That was so cool!

  9. phignewton says:

    i wannna monkey ponny!

  10. Brave Space Monkey says:

    Did you really like it? Me, I had a hard time not turning it off, in fact at one point I had turned it off. After reading the comments I though maybe It would get better… It didn’t. I saw the brother-turned-bad guy, early on. But he never seemed evil, or dangerous enough to be a real treat.

    Which I guess is my rant: Bad guys aren’t bad guys anymore. It seems writers are pulling their punches, or simple don’t have what it takes to write truly bad evil-doers. (The Joker in the “dark knight” being the exception). Too many villains have their sharp edges wrapped in nerf padding or are simply “misunderstood”. Maybe the problem is that our heroes are so impotent that a real bad-guy would simple wipe the floor with them.

    Give me a bad guy with teeth, real teeth, pointed and sharp, ready to tear our hero’s flesh from bone. Some one that whom it will take more than sticks-and-stones to defeat. A monster in thought and dead!

    Just mu $.02.

  11. Brave Space Monkey says:

    sorry last line should read “deed” not “dead”.

    being able to edit post would make this monkey a bit happier about use this dump keyboard…

    Anyways back to trying to bang-out “Hamlet”.

  12. Nice to hear your voice again Steve! Though I must say it is nice to have Jeff D’s voice to put with his Union Dues stories now! 🙂

  13. scatterbrain says:

    Listening to Tim Pratt is like being smacked across the face with a bout of literary ecstasy consisting of a mixture of awesomeness and pure thrill.

  14. Blaine Boy says:

    While I do not agree with everything you said there Brave Space Monkey, you’re right that villains aren’t so villainous. What’s the ending to every superhero story out there? The good guy wins. At least in stories like The Dark Knight or even the Matrix there is that sort of ultra sacrifice. I actually did not see the evil “police” and brother turn evil for a while there, but I probably should have. “What can I say? We’re brothers.”

    Mr. Eley, its great to have you back. I hope that your newly chosen administration does well. Most especially, I hope that you are happy with what is happening in your life and your work. Many thousands of us have come to expect your voice telling us the goings on in our little fantasy worlds, so our intergalactic space voyage would be quite lost in the void with you to captain the ship. I have started to ramble a bit too far out of normal boundaries so I’m just going to shut up now.

    The Blaine Boy

  15. Gunhead says:

    Dear Steve

    Again this podcast proves, that great personality and love for detail is the best thing to elevate such a controversial genre like SciFi to the level it deserves and keep it relevant, active and appealing in a world of masspleasing multimedia monopolies.

    It´s really good to hear your voice again, Mr. Eley… well, you accompany me since two years now and give me inspiration and motivtion to stay curious about what´s going on out there… and in there too.
    Usually I am not the fanboy-type, I try to choose my “heroes” very carefully, but I already consider you family.
    May you and the whole EP-team keep this amazing dream machine alife.
    I try to contribute my part and spread the word.

    My best wishes to you all

  16. Calculating... says:

    I loved this one! it serves as a reminder to myself that i need to think about the choices i make and how those choices affect everyone else.
    this was great, it made you feel like you were a part of the story. Loved this one!

  17. Seraph says:

    One of the best stories yet !

  18. Mace says:

    Excellent story.

  19. Wordhound says:

    Longtime listener, first time caller.

    Nice retro fun here. My favorite parts were the misdirections of our expectations and the Aerialist’s own compromises. The misdirections? Classic comic style. The compromises? Very Alan Moore. I think by the end, neither brother really has any high ground to hold.

  20. Bingorage says:

    Really great story and reading.

  21. This story was a heaping helping of kickass, with a liberal dash of awesome sauce. And not the least of which was that, gawds-damn, Steve, it’s good to hear your voice on the cast again. Guest stars are nice, I guess, but EP wouldn’t be the same without you at the helm.
    The story was pretty excellent, too ^_^

  22. JennyM says:

    Sorry, but there’s no story here, just a long expanse of exposition. Why do you think there’s a narrator? It’s to try to make the events mean something significant to the participants. But all we really get here is a life story, with no central point to it. The main character does not go through any particular journey, just reacts to his immediate circumstances.

    Non-plot based stories can work, if they’re original or funny or full of memorable characters. But I struggled to find anything original here. The Union Dues stories, for a start, have already covered this kind of ground in great detail.

    Super-hero stories only work when, well, they’re stories. Just the fact of talking about super-heroes from a more ordinary, real-life, perspective is not enough. Besides, The Watchmen did it much better over twenty years ago.

    Tim Pratt is clearly a very good writer. But, Steve, I think once again you need to exercise more editorial control and recognise a weak idea (albeit written well, masquerading as a story.

  23. LaShawn says:

    I loved this story, but it was definately elevated by your reading, Mr. Steve. Wonderful work!

  24. besucher says:

    Isn’t this stoy like Stephen King’s The End of the Whole Mess? The guy talking about his brother… And the end is like the end of the film Unbreakable. Interesting mix, of course, but I can’t get away from the thought that I know these story-elements already…

    Mr Eley’s voice added a lot to the story, I enjoyed it very much.

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  26. MasterThief says:

    If Watchmen and Dr. Who got together and made a baby, this is the one they’d abandon on Jeff DeRego’s doorstep.

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