I mentioned this awhile back, but it got posted yesterday: at Podcastle, my story “Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, in the City Beneath the Still Waters” is up. This story was originally published in the UK magazine Postscripts.
I’ve only been able to listen to a little of it so far, but I really like the voice they selected. The reader is a black woman, Laurice White, and while she doesn’t specifically speak with a New Orleanian accent, she does such a phenomenal job that these minor differences are just that — minor. There’s character there, which captures both Tookie’s quiet introspection and his strength and humor; it also captures Miss Mary’s weariness and spunk. I wasn’t hoping for a voice actor (although it seems Ms. White actually is!), but a reader who could properly convey the spirit and cadence of the story, and I think Podcastle managed to find that.
The only thing that bugs me is that I think they speeded up the recording. A lot of the natural pauses (which are also part of Southern speech) seem to have been truncated, making the flow of the reading oddly choppy and run-together. On the other hand, the thing is 68 minutes long, so without that it might’ve been even longer. Compromises, compromises…
Anyway, I’m glad that this story is finally publicly available. It was a story that I wrote to comfort myself, quite frankly, after witnessing the losses and horrors inflicted by Hurricane Katrina on the only city I love as much as New York. Quite frankly, the things that happen in this story are easier than what really happened, because in reality there was no speculative/liminal component involved in the still ongoing human-made disaster of the storm’s aftermath — just the ever-present monsters of classism, racism, greed, incompetence, and plain old inhumanity. The monster I wrote into the story can be fought by one man; it’s going to take a lot more to kill the attitudes that contributed to the deaths of nearly 2000 people, the displacement of tens of thousands more, and the fact that it’s been more than 5 years and some people are still in FEMA trailers… and the goddamn levees still aren’t up to code.
So think of this as a modern fairy tale. Fairy tales hint at the real horrors of reality — like sexual violence and murder, poverty and child neglect, and worse — while also providing solutions. And if those solutions are simplified for the sake of catharsis — we hit it with our collective axe — they also suggest realistic solutions. We have to act. We have to work. We cannot simply sit around and wait for things to get better. We have to demand leadership that actually gives a damn about everyone. We have to remember that the monsters are in us, and if we want the world to get better, those monsters cannot be suffered to live.
So go take a listen, and tell me what you think of the story.