Episode 63: The Search For Olympia by Matt Astleford

Will’s girlfriend just dumped him, and he’s floundering for a purpose in life. Then he finds one. In the strangest of places. Now, Will is on a quest to save a beautiful maiden in a far away land. But he has no idea what is actually awaiting him…bloopers

Also, Rish and Big talk stalkers, Titanic (not in reference to Avatar), and 80’s music.

Special thanks to Liz Mierzejewski, Nicole Suddeth, and Abbie Hilton for lending their voices to today’s story.

Right click HERE to download the episode, select Save Link As, and save the file to your hard drive.


Related Links:
Abbie Hilton’s Cowry Catchers
Music in today’s episode was Ethereal Awakening, Forever And Ever, and Inside A Cocoon by Divinity Project and Hey Girl by Mel’s.
Some sound effects were provided by freesound.org.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.


10 Responses to “Episode 63: The Search For Olympia by Matt Astleford”

  1. I loved the idea of this story and the way it started. I loved that he was having an old-fashioned quest in modern America, and the object of the quest was not air-headed Princess Peach, but a porn star. Sure, his search was a little under-handed, but he’s not a stalker. Why? Because his intention is to find her and speak to her, and presumably, she would then have a chance to say “Yes” or “No.” A stalker is someone whom you have told in unambiguous terms, “I’m not interested. Please stop pursing me.” and the person continues to pursue. That, or the pursuer never gives the object of his affection a chance to say yes or no (he just WATCHES). That is a stalker.

    But I digress. I was disappointed in what happened when he found Charlotte. For me, the story disintegrated into a boring male fantasy that does injustice to women, particular those who work in the sex industry. If you listen to these women, read interviews with them, you find that those involved in legitimate porn shoots are usually happy. They’re not little lost lambs in need of rescue, and they’re not nymphomaniacs who are just in it for the sex. They like sex and have a sense of humor about it, but mostly they’re savvy business people who have calculated their income in porn vs others fields available to them. They’ve found that porn pays better at this point in their lives. Sure, they are abused by some outfits. But it’s not usually sexual or psychological abuse. It’s stuff like inadequate health coverage, baby-sitting services, or PTO. They are no more and no less abused than Wal-Mart employees. But men want to rescue something, and there is this powerful image of the good girl lured into a life of debauchery, still wearing her tattered rags of purity. The little lost lamb isn’t clever or savvy or a good business woman, but she sure does make men’s hearts go thump thump.

    I was hoping our hero would find something less cliché at the end of his quest.

    I should probably re-listen, because I was confused by how he got a newspaper clip about a hotel room and then expected her to still be there waiting for him. I thought it was explained by the twist of it being where she had committed suicide, but then he was surprise that she was dead. Hmm, maybe I missed something by listening on my commute.

    Overall, a nice story. The guy was definitely creepy with little ability to imagine Charlotte’s own interests. I was expecting an ending where he realized how presumptive and self-centered he was.

  3. The guy, despite all attempts by the author, was definitely creepy. I’m thinking Charlotte, as a ghost, lost all perspective. The only sentient part of her was the nonsensical, make-bad-decisions take-stalker-home-to- meet-mommy part.

    Of course, you’re right about the double standard. I followed at least one guy around school back in high school, drawing their faces on my book covers, imagining what I would do if they actually spoke to me. And there was the one guy who told me he underwent hypnosis just to forget me. Yeah.

    On another note… I remember writing a poem in 6th grade, and it was actually published by a young writers magazine. It was a while ago. Probably a Stylus-asaurus chipped the rock out for printing it. Then in 7th grade, the first specfic I ever wrote – The Killer Dog. It was about a killer dog. I wish I still had a copy *sigh*.

  4. Oh, I forgot to comment on first story! It was about a silverfish (yes, the insects). The silverfish had great adventures in the carpet and drainage system. I can’t remember much else about it. That was in 7th grade. I started stories as young as 3rd or 4th grade (in fact, that’s when I began creating the fantasy world that would house my first novel), but the silverfish story was the first one I finished. I also wrote a number of religious parables at about the same time, which usually involved the protagonist dying horribly. I consider these my first attempts at horror. They were well-received by my church and school, and two were published (though one not until college).

  5. STORY: The subject matter was very Gary-Stu-ish — guy has a good life, gets dumped, falls in love with nude model online, actually meets her, and WHAM they’re soulmates. It’s like an OMC fanfic story where a new guy comes to Hogwarts and instantly catches Hermione’s or Ginny’s eye.

    But beyond that, I was very disappointed in the writing style. We were told everything and shown very little until the ghost-sex-attempt near the end. Charlotte’s whole backstory? Who’s telling Will about that? Her? Is he just divining it from the collective unconscious? Overall, everything between the breakup with Amy (Amy?) and the scene at the end where Old Will is in the motel came to us from our good friend Captain Exposition.

    I get that. There’s a lot that needs to be dropped on readers to fully understand stories the right way — Podcastle episodes “Hell is the Absence of God” and the prologue of “The Annals of Eelin-Ok” suffered from this — and it really slows down stories. Especially audio stories. But it also violates the #1 rule — show, don’t tell. There was WAY too much telling in this story.

    I do think that the concept of falling in love with a ghost is a cool one, but that’s not what happened here. Oh, and by the way, the whole “you can’t change what you look like when you’re a ghost” was actually just addressed on last Friday’s “Medium” — just a coincidence, but used to great effect in both stories. It was probably the part of the story I liked most (this story).

    The 80s references were amusing, but too much attention was drawn to them and it made them kitschy instead of clever.

    And, finally… look, I’m not going to lie to you, Marge, there are actresses whose work I enjoy greatly. And if I should come across one of them in my travels, I will say, very politely, “hello. I just want to tell you I enjoy your work, and I think you’re quite beautiful.” We’ll probably shake hands and maybe take a photo together, and then move on. That’s it. The trope of living out one’s fantasies of having a famous lover died right around the time “Notting Hill” came out. When I saw that’s the direction that this story was going in, I was really, really disappointed. Until the motel scene, I held out hope that Olympia was going to be some sort of fantastical creature, not just a girl who committed suicide.

    Which, by the way, was handled with all the delicacy of an after-school special.

    PRODUCTION: Fine. No complaints.

    COMMENTARY: Big’s point about Elise was a good one. Rish’s comments about stalking were also quite on-point — women are pretty much trained to be afraid of men, and in some countries (I read a lot of “Free Range Kids”) it’s becoming so bad that every man is automatically a pedophile if he’s within arm’s reach of a child. Kids are now being told that, if something’s wrong or if they’re lost, go to someone who looks like a mom. It’s an EXTREME double-standard — if I’m out with my kid and I come upon a lost child, of COURSE I’m going to help that child. And then the police will likely be afraid I’ve abducted both kids and I’ll have to explain myself. It drives me up the damn wall.

    Anyway. So as you can tell, I didn’t really like the story very much. I think it had some potential, but it needs a lot of rewriting, too.

  6. Sexy ghost… I think I’m being typecast. In a good way.

    Better than, “We have the hairy lunch lady voice to do… Liz!” Although that would be fun, too.

    In fact, it’s all good :)

  7. The production was at the same high standard to which we’re accustomed.

    Hearing that this is the author’s first published story, I hope he keeps writing.

    This had a big male fantasy element to it. Your ex calling back to make up after ditching you. You being so completely uninterested and so into someone else that you don’t even feel a little vindictive about saying, ‘not interested’. Her immediately cursing you again.

    And there was an adolescent fantasy element to the story: for example, an interest in the same narrow swath of pop culture references being the basis or the evidence of a deep soul connection.

    But having those elements isn’t a crime, I think. Though it did affect how much I empathized with the protagonist. I guess that’s no different from life, though. Everyone has their own narrative frames of reference. The important thing is to express them coherently.

    I think this author is on the right track to doing that. As to his particular fantasies? Well only life and time will tell.

  8. I’ve got to be honest, this story was painful for me to listen to. It wasn’t that Will was creepy; although I certainly think he was, that wasn’t the thing that made him unlikeable to me. It was that he was just so terribly awkward and bad at life. This is basically how it ran down to me: a guy goes through a breakup, timidly gets into internet porn (because he’s never done that before?) and instantly becomes obsessed over the first model giving the camera a sexy eye. Then, because he sees one picture of this nude model where she isn’t leering at the camera (or, perhaps, he sees her with a partner and feels jealous), he takes his obsession to the next level and tries to find her. In order to…. what? What exactly did he have in mind?

    I guess the part about this story that bothered me the most was the pathetic nature of the whole quest. The mechanics of selling sex is so elementary: strippers are tipped more when they flirt (i.e. when the customer gets his ego flattered, when he gets this small voice in the back of his mind that says, “Hey, I might get with this girl”). Advertisements selling sex (geared toward men) really, really often include a sexy woman giving the camera a look that says, “I don’t want to be with this loser in the photo with me, I want you instead.” Porn is no different. And yet the main character completely deludes himself into thinking he has a chance with someone he regularly beats off to.

    So, after being bothered by this for awhile, I got to thinking of why this was irking me so much. Because, conceptually, I genuinely think it’s a pretty neat idea – creepily stalking a nude model could make for a good story, and yet I was not overawed by this one.

    Basically, I think the story would have worked out a lot better if there was some character development. The elements of a good story are all there, it’s so close! If only the focus was taken off the action of the story as it progressed – we get it, we understand it’s a quest. Cute, awesome, 80s references. Will’s creepiness, the male-fantasy bits, even the obsession – totally relateable, aren’t we all creepy, obsessive and stalkerish sometimes.

    The true tragedy in the story wasn’t that he failed to get the girl. It was that he didn’t learn anything, he didn’t grow the heck up. Charlotte’s ghost, which could have been a glaring metaphor for everything wrong with the little fantasy he cooked up for himself, just kind of fizzles away, symbolizing a “lost opportunity” or something. Like he ever had a chance with her. The poor guy deluded himself so diligently, inventing this ideal woman from some online porn images, that he tries to kickstart his life by going on some cliche quest. Cut him a break! Let him banish the stupid ghost already, rather than holding onto the memory until he’s 80 or whatever. Let him learn to look at porn in a healthy way – additionally, let him go out and meet some real people and find happiness, the end of his quest, in something tangible and meaningful.

    Will’s behavior reminds me of this guy I know who, after breaking up, went out and binge drank – not because he was compelled to drown his sorrows, but simply because he heard that’s what people do when they break up. It’s just immature. Sure, you can go out and drink after a breakup. Sure, you can go on comic book-esque quests. But if there’s no real emotional drive behind it – if it’s just something you invent for yourself – it fizzles out. You realize, Oh, that was dumb, and move on with your life. Which Will could have done. Arguably, he should have done that – god, something at least should have changed about the poor guy. But, in the end, nothing actually happened. And he remained a pathetic, deluded 80-year-old dude with a wife who’s dumb enough to have him.

    Alright, sorry about the rant :/ Really, I was surprised that this story struck such a nerve with me. Additionally, I agree with Abbie as well – I was annoyed at the negative portrayal of the sex industry (yeah negative things do happen, as in any workplace, but it’s definitely not a given just because it’s porn), and I found the image of a porn star as a damsel in distress to be downright puritanical. Again, though, if only Will realized that this was just a stupid little fantasy, even this could have been acceptable to me…

    All in all, though, I do think the basic ideas behind this story are rock solid. I would advise the author to keep writing – keep putting out the creative stuff – but put a little more meaning in there, think of what you’re trying to SAY with your story.

  9. Geez, guys, get a forum already.

  10. Cambodia Carl Says:

    Is that the 21st Century equivalent of “Get a room?”

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