PC029: Dead Languages

By Merrie Haskell
Read by M. K. Hobson

“I have a confession,” Annabel said, steering the car into the snow-dusted mall parking lot. “I have involved us in a crazy scheme.

“Oh?” I asked, suddenly alert to my get-away options. Crazy schemes and Annabel had been getting me into trouble since I was six, when she convinced me to steal all the crayons from the art room to melt into a giant ball of wax.

“I’ve gotten you the lead in an independent short film.”

“What?” I shrieked. I admit: not my witty best, but I was trying to be discreet in wrapping my fingers around the door handle and calculating the car’s speed.

Annabel locked the car and smiled with a vague and friendly sort of evil. “There’s no need to thank me.”

Rated PG. Contains vampires, ass-kicking, and hijinx.

Please visit the thread on this story in our forums.

UPDATE: Several listeners were kind enough to point out that there were errors in today’s audio file. A revised file has been uploaded, as of 11:10 pm ET, Oct 17, 2008.

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29 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Jonathan said,

    October 17, 2008 @ 8:52 am

    That story was far worse than any Buffy episode. It started slow, progressed ploddingly, and ended. Joss Whedon had great dialogue. This had stilted, painful exchanges without humor. The only bright spot was the little reference to Streganone. She is Santa Claus in Northern Italy.

  2. 2

    A. Prins said,

    October 17, 2008 @ 11:47 am

    This story was fair. There were a few technical glitches, which were distracting. Not the greatest for audio, I think, but I’ve heard worse.

  3. 3

    Hyperion said,

    October 17, 2008 @ 5:33 pm

    I enjoyed the Hell out of listening to “Dead Languages,” although later reconstruction in my mind puzzled me as to why, since–not to be mean, but–the story resembles Buffy Tribute Fan Fiction more than High Fantasy. I’d call it “Schlock Fantasy.”

    I kept asking, “How? What? How?”

    (Three excellent questions.)

    I really don’t have anything against the story, but why did I enjoy it so much? I think the reason is M.K. Hobson. Her readings, while far from perfect, are perfect for what she’s doing, if that makes sense. She had a couple of messups in her reading, and her “Christian” voice sounded more like a girl doing a dumb guy impression than an actual attempt to believingly evoke a character.

    And…I don’t know if all that was on purpose, or kismet, but it worked so well! Hobson comes across so real, so much a real person, that it somehow translates into the story as well.

    I didn’t for a minute believe that any of the supernatural plotlines actually happened to “Lillian” (sp?), even in the context of the story. However, I did believe Lillian was real. I think she did get roped into making a vampire movie, sort of had a thing for Christian, and her mind constructed this fantasy.

    I know I’m getting all “meta” with that analysis, but that’s what M.K. Hobson does to me. She feels so real, that she can’t help permeating through the work she reads.

  4. 4

    mithrilwombat said,

    October 17, 2008 @ 10:34 pm

    The technical glitches had me checking my computer, and it was a little disappointing when I realized it was the actual audio file that had mistakes. However, I enjoyed the idea of an incantation that made people into what they were pretending to be. Something like that would mean I’d spend the rest of my life as an egomaniacal mad botanist (complete with the ability to engineer mobile flesh-eating geraniums), and that politicians would be upright pillars of society with absolutely no shady plots for subjugating the populace. I can really get on board with that sort of change.

  5. 5

    Carl said,

    October 17, 2008 @ 10:50 pm

    While not the best story I’ve ever read, I thought there were many things here that worked. The story’s tone, voice of the narrator and pace were all well done, in my opinion and all these elements allowed me to suspend my belief to the plot of the story. There were a few ideas that seemed far fetched without being properly backed, but all-in-all, I liked the piece. Personally, the few places where the reader mispoke didn’t subtract from the story or the ideas to me. I’m sure they were supposed to be edited out, but I attributed those to fitting with the narrator and her attitudes. The story gives fat people like me hope that we can one day slay ninja and vampires alike.

  6. 6

    Vanamonde said,

    October 18, 2008 @ 6:22 am

    Well the errors didn’t bother me and the story was fun, which was just what I needed on a boring commute.

  7. 7

    Randomtime said,

    October 18, 2008 @ 5:26 pm

    Whilst there were more than a couple editing glitches (a trend in escape artists podcasts recently) – this story was extremely nice, I liked the premise of everyone turning into what they pretended to be, but didn’t understand why reading a simple Latin sentence would make that happen..

  8. 8

    Old Man Parker said,

    October 19, 2008 @ 1:09 am

    Not as good as Buffy!
    Well, the story started out funny and clever, (I enjoy ninjas) then it plowed into an open grave of unexcitment and died.
    However, M. K. Hobson is a very good reader.

  9. 9

    SpaceCrazed » SF Tidbits for 10/18/08 said,

    October 19, 2008 @ 11:59 pm

    […] “Dead Languages” by Merrie Haskell, read by M. K. […]

  10. 10

    SpaceCrazed » SF Tidbits for 10/18/08 said,

    October 20, 2008 @ 2:13 am

    […] De La Rosa, Willow Fagan, Kristine Ong Muslim, and Laura Ellen Scott.Audio Fiction:@PodCastle: “Dead Languages” by Merrie Haskell, read by M. K. Hobson.@The Classic Tales Podcast: Part Two of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. […]

  11. 11

    Ellen said,

    October 20, 2008 @ 2:35 pm

    I loved this story! I thought it was very funny and entertaining. I like the idea of a reluctant hero.
    I especially enjoyed M. K. Hobson’s rich voice. I would like to hear more from her.

  12. 12

    Jon said,

    October 20, 2008 @ 3:46 pm

    If you have to correct an episode in the future it seems to make more sense to me that it be done as a new post rather than updating the existing file. That means that anyone who downloaded the original will get a new copy in their podcatcher. That would at least bring some people back to the website prior to listening. As it is now, almost everyone who had downloaded the bad copy would have only known of an updated version after they’d listen to the bad version.

  13. 13

    Me said,

    October 20, 2008 @ 8:47 pm

    (I don’t understand posts 9 and 10. Did something get missed out?)

    I really enjoyed this episode. The story was definitely a homage to Buffy-esque plots or I’m no vampire (the reference to people becoming who they are dressed up as at Hallowe’en is an actual episode plot) and perhaps wasn’t the best paced, but the dialogue was sparky and made me chuckle more than a few times.

    As others have said….the miss-speaks being left in. Is this a new escape artist style?

  14. 14

    Amaster said,

    October 21, 2008 @ 1:00 pm

    There were a few errors in the readings that could have been edited out, but it was otherwise a good story. If this had happened to me, I would have become a world-class computer programmer and been really happy about it.

  15. 15

    Libertas in Silico: free fiction online, to 20 Oct. « That, Which said,

    October 21, 2008 @ 3:24 pm

    […] “Dead Languages”, by Merrie Haskell, read by M.K. Hobson. Begins as a feminist commentary on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or perhaps a […]

  16. 16

    Audita Sum said,

    October 21, 2008 @ 4:38 pm

    Great story. Just like in tv, fat people are underrepresented in fiction. When they are, especially in fantasy, they’re usually evil stock characters– the greedy merchant, or the greedy inkeeper, or the boyraping Overlord.

    So thanks for this story.

  17. 17

    yicheng said,

    October 22, 2008 @ 5:32 pm

    I loved this story. Sure, it was derivative and not very groundbreaking, but it scores very high on the fun-meter. Hobson gets great kudos for her voice. I loved her inflections. IMHO, she made the story work.

  18. 18

    Blaine Boy said,

    October 24, 2008 @ 7:32 pm

    I think yicheng got it right. Not very thought-provoking (not that it needs to be), but superbly fun. M.K. Hobson as always is a fantastic reader. I didn’t notice too many audio problems because I was ACTUALLY LISTENING TO THE FRIGG’N STORY! Anyways… it’s nice to listen to something that is just for fun for once. When I was beginning to read, when I was about 4 that’s all I would read for (and getting out of nap-time to do so.) Every day when I got home, I would run to my room and snap open a book. I loved to read anything I could get my hands sometimes that would be little magazines or pamphlets or papers or just anything. Eventually, though, I would tire and slip into my bed. Reading became such a big deal for me as I got older that I would read up to 5 or even 6 books all at the same time. 1 was for before school, another for at school, 1 or 2 for after school, another 2 for before bed, and even 1 for over the weekends. Eventually, though, as schoolwork picked up, I had to tone down the reading. I still love it, though. Nothing will change that. It’s nice to just read for fun, I guess is my point. Sorry, for wasting your time with this needless rant, but I just can’t help myself sometimes. See you in the fantasy world.

    Yours faithfully,
    the Blaine Boy

  19. 19

    Siderite said,

    October 27, 2008 @ 1:36 am

    A bit off-topic, but am I the only one noticing that a person called Haskell wrote about dead languages?

  20. 20

    LittleLotus said,

    October 27, 2008 @ 1:53 pm

    First of all, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (series) is terrible. I know so many people who watch it religiously, including the Angel spin off. (If you have never seen the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), do its worth every moment). This story, however, is harder to listen to. I like the story line but I just want to scream get to the point! It is covered in great one liners, but that about sums it up.

  21. 21

    scatterbrain said,

    October 27, 2008 @ 6:47 pm

    I hate Buffy. Now that that’s out of the way on to the story.

    I enjoyed it, and I suppose we do need a few more fat feminist female supernatural warriors in fiction.

    Carol the Fat Feminist Barbarian? No, no, maybe not that one…

  22. 22

    ilyanassa said,

    October 30, 2008 @ 8:03 pm

    I thought this story was a rather unintentionally hilarious Mary Sue – the protagonist was standard issue smart fat girl with predictable capital-I-issues. Then she got put in a bustier (but she has angst about her fat! but everyone else thinks she HOTTT! but she can’t see it because of her Issues!), made into the only slayer, and has the unattainable hipster boy wanting to be her sidekick! Just by reading a bit of Latin. This belongs on a fan fiction forum, not on Podcastle.

    And I LOVE Buffy.

  23. 23

    Lucianno said,

    November 1, 2008 @ 1:57 pm

    Terrible pacing and dialogue. Between this and the werewolf bestiality story, I’m seriously considering dropping PC from my feed.

  24. 24

    DuckOfDoom said,

    November 1, 2008 @ 5:43 pm

    While the story itself was so-so, the world Merrie Haskell set up seems like a great premise for an anthology series. Can you imagine what it would be like to be the mom at a party full of 6 year old princesses? Or what a battle of the bands were like if every band were the greatest band ever? Or if you really did just cease to exist? Someone needs to set this up right now.

  25. 25

    Dave (aka Nev the Deranged) said,

    November 4, 2008 @ 6:38 pm

    Pretty amusing. The ending was too abrupt, with no resolution- this is the beginning of a story, not a story entire. But it’s an amusing beginning.

  26. 26

    Damned said,

    November 10, 2008 @ 4:30 pm

    Hideous. Podcastle certainly has better to choose from in their slush mountain than this piece of fan fiction dreck.

  27. 27

    World-building for Short Stories! « Rockblog said,

    March 20, 2009 @ 4:02 pm

    […] Merrie Haskell on Podcastle and on Escape Pod […]

  28. 28

    Sabre Runner said,

    March 27, 2009 @ 8:31 pm

    Buffy is a hot topic in almost any conversation. My thoughts: The first season is ok but not great, the second is pretty much gone from my memory but season 3 revs things up and it keeps getting better from there. Season 5 onwards are just plain awesome.
    And yes, Joss Whedon’s unique style is usually a kicker no matter what topic he is writing (i.e. Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse)

  29. 29

    TSS: Short Story Podcast Reviews: June 2012 | Fyrefly's Book Blog said,

    May 3, 2015 @ 1:32 pm

    […] Dead Languages by Merrie Haskell involves a woman who gets badgered by a friend into participating in an independent film about vampires and vampire hunters, only to have the special effects become a little too real. This story was great – very reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, not only in the obvious vampire hunter sense, but in particular the episode where everyone becomes their Halloween costumes. There are enough parallels that in someone else’s hands I might have been complaining about a rip-off, but Haskell’s version has enough unique little tweaks, and is funny enough that I thoroughly enjoyed it anyways. Listen to it […]

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