Escape Artists

Pseudopod => Episode Comments => Topic started by: Bdoomed on July 10, 2008, 09:54:23 PM



Title: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: Bdoomed on July 10, 2008, 09:54:23 PM
Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites (http://pseudopod.org/2008/07/10/pseudopod-98-among-the-moabites/)

By Michael Hartford (http://michael.cartwheelmedia.com/wpm/)

Read by KJ Johnson

The first time Wilson saw them was when he opened the medicine cabinet one groggy morning in search of aspirin and his toothbrush. Between the familiar can of shaving cream and the plastic tumbler that held his toothbrush, lying on his crushed and twisted tube of toothpaste as if it were a luxurious pillow, were two tiny people. They were no bigger than his thumb, and a little pinker, lounging in a tangle of spindly limbs. One of them lifted its head from the toothpaste and he slammed the door shut.

This week’s episode sponsored by Audible.com, who has extended their generous offer of a free audiobook download of your choice (http://www.audiblepodcast.com/pseudopod) from their selection of over 40,000 titles.

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Listen to this week's Pseudopod. (http://media.rawvoice.com/pseudopod/media.libsyn.com/media/pseudopod/Pseudo098_AmongTheMoabites.mp3)


Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: Cerebrilith on July 11, 2008, 10:37:33 AM
This struck me as a dark Podcastle story more then what I look for in a Pseudopod story, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.


Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: Thaurismunths on July 12, 2008, 05:14:44 PM
Liked the story, but I don't exactly get it.
Was the author trying to show that the man was no better than the Moabites?
What was their fascination with watching fornication?


Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: Sylvan on July 13, 2008, 08:17:36 AM
What is a "moabite"?  I'm not sure I got that from the story.

That said, I found it interesting how it started out with erotic overtones in a contemporary urban fantasy way but then those same elements became horror once the point-of-view of the protagonist shifts from benevolent God to Devil.

While the story was interesting, I wasn't pulled in by it too strongly.  I also had to wonder if I was "getting it".  Was the point that the human is the monster?  Were the little creatures monsters?  Was the lack of humanity evidenced towards a relatively helpless and small creature the source of the horror?

As I said, the story was interesting -it engaged me and made me turn it over in my head- but I kept finding myself trying to classify the tale's genre and ferret out it's fundamental essence.

Yours,
Sylvan (Dave)


Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: Cerebrilith on July 13, 2008, 09:09:20 AM
While the story was interesting, I wasn't pulled in by it too strongly.  I also had to wonder if I was "getting it".  Was the point that the human is the monster?  Were the little creatures monsters?  Was the lack of humanity evidenced towards a relatively helpless and small creature the source of the horror?

I think that it's intentionally unclear who the "monster" is.  To some extent the little creatures are strange and foreign invaders in the humans home and cause him a great deal of anxiety though if the little creatures didn't look so human then neither the regular human in the story or the listener would have any problem exterminating them right away.  But because they looked like people we feel much more sympathy for them then we otherwise would.

My guess is that a lot of the horror of this story comes from the devolution in the treatment of the little creatures that the human has.  It's awful when we go from loving and caring for something to actively trying to kill it.  When the human sees the things as other it creates a feeling of alienation.  I think it plays on how humans in the real world can so easily kill people of another race or culture because they don't share our values and we go from thinking of them as people to thinking of them as vermin.


Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: Sylvan on July 13, 2008, 09:52:37 AM
My guess is that a lot of the horror of this story comes from the devolution in the treatment of the little creatures that the human has.  It's awful when we go from loving and caring for something to actively trying to kill it.  When the human sees the things as other it creates a feeling of alienation.  I think it plays on how humans in the real world can so easily kill people of another race or culture because they don't share our values and we go from thinking of them as people to thinking of them as vermin.

That makes sense and, indeed, I got that impression; to me, it just didn't hit me terribly hard.  Maybe it was because of how the little critters killed animals and tormented the main character -but not in a way that I was particularily scared for his life- that made me think they somewhat deserved it.

As you say, however, I do also see that the cloak of humanity that the critters wore definitely helped them slip in past a normal person's defenses.  You don't want to exterminate a little human, after all.  But an animal?  No problem.

I guess that was part of the horror.

The squirrel and sparrows that died were seen as worth more than the little, naked critters.  Perhaps that was an intentional parallel, too.

Hard to say.


Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: deflective on July 13, 2008, 11:32:04 AM
What is a "moabite"?  I'm not sure I got that from the story.

neither did i so i looked it up (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moab#Biblical_Narrative_.28through_the_conquest_by_Israel.29).

apparently this story is a commentary on scripture. the moabites were driven from (a portion of) their homeland by amorites just before the israelites' arrived from their exodus to settle on the land which the moabites were driven from. i got the idea that it's seen as god driving the moabites out to make room, their incestuous origins given as a motivation.

so, this is supposed to give us a god's eye view of the conflict. i was surprised by Wilson's bipolar change of heart after little more than distasteful sex & a dirty look but it makes more sense now.


Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: coyote247 on July 13, 2008, 05:29:59 PM

I liked the shift from loving caring god to vengeful angry god to coldly indifferent god.



Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: Listener on July 14, 2008, 07:55:19 AM
Great narrator.

I would file this more under "weird" than "horror", but I don't really want to open that can of worms again.

I found the story interesting and suspenseful, and for the most part well-written.  I wonder if at some point Wilson became an unreliable narrator; when the moabites busted his groove with Natasha, suddenly he thinks they're evil?  Suddenly they have no consciousness/intelligence and they're just as Adam and Eve pre-apple?  Kind of makes Wilson out to be a bit of a dick.

I was thinking "Adam and Eve" literally a second before the narrator said it.  Good timing.


Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: Schreiber on July 14, 2008, 12:02:20 PM
Of course, if it was from the little people's perspective the story might have been called "Among the Brodingnagians."


Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: Sgarre1 on July 16, 2008, 08:51:24 PM
I really liked this story. Really.  It was amazingly well-written, really tight, everything weighed perfectly for effect.

The reading was also quite good.

But, yet again, not horror.  As said by someone else, yes, "weird" would probably cover it.  And the turn from benevolent to tyrannical God was compelling but it struck me as a really well done, modern Fantasy tale and, so, shouldn't this be on Podcastle (I don't listen to Podcastle or Escape Pod)?

Yes, little beings are creepy.  Maniacal or crafty little beings are scary (see "Prey" by Matheson or "Battleground" by King).  I could even buy the idea of of a murderous "Giant" set on wiping out the little beings as kinda scary (kind of a hard sell but it could be done - "The Borrowers" as horror story) but this didn't seem to be evoking any kind of scary or creepy tone, just matter-of-fact.

An excellent story.  Not a horror story.  But an excellent story!

Thanks For Listening
“In the twentieth century nothing can better cure the anthropocentrism that is the author of all our ills than to cast ourselves into the physics of the infinitely large (or the infinitely small).”
Julio Cortazar, “Julios In Action”, AROUND THE DAY IN EIGHTY WORLDS




Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: JoeFitz on July 16, 2008, 09:41:22 PM
This didn't work for me. Perhaps because I kept thinking of Stephen King's Battleground. The little people seemed oddly unable to deal with problems - they understood how to trigger a gas explosion but were stymied by a door and window panes? No fires in their culture? Didn't make sense.



Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: errant371 on July 17, 2008, 11:11:28 AM
What is a "moabite"?  I'm not sure I got that from the story.

neither did i so i looked it up (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moab#Biblical_Narrative_.28through_the_conquest_by_Israel.29).

apparently this story is a commentary on scripture. the moabites were driven from (a portion of) their homeland by amorites just before the israelites' arrived from their exodus to settle on the land which the moabites were driven from. i got the idea that it's seen as god driving the moabites out to make room, their incestuous origins given as a motivation.

so, this is supposed to give us a god's eye view of the conflict. i was surprised by Wilson's bipolar change of heart after little more than distasteful sex & a dirty look but it makes more sense now.

Indeed.  If you knew what the Moabites were before the story, you would have probably 'gotten it' much easier.  The story is less a comment on the evil of the humonculi and the narrator than it is a comment on the nature of the Old Testament God.  By recasting the bibilical story in this way, the author has done (in my opinion that is) a fantastic job of commenting on the motivations of dieties in general (and it is also a sly way of "taking Yaweh down a couple of pegs" by adding human motivations and desires a la Classical mythology).

All around, a great story, the best I have heard so far (which hasn't been long, I admit).

I do agree with Listener, this story was more "Weird" than "Horror", although those two catagories tend to overlap greatly.


Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: bolddeceiver on July 18, 2008, 05:46:48 PM
I interestingly heard this just after reading Aimee Bender's "End of the Line" (in Willful Creatures, 2005, and a must read imo), which also deals with the relation between ordinary humans and unexplained little folks, and while they're two very different stories, I felt like they also had a good deal in common.  In both, the large human's sense of identity revolved around his treatment of and power over the miniatures, and his dehumanization of them.  I have to say, I thought Bender's was the stronger story, but that's not to say that this story was not compelling, just that Bender is pretty hard to beat.


Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: goatkeeper on July 18, 2008, 06:07:36 PM
Man- the only thing worse than a weak story is a really good story with a weak ending.  Maybe it was just me, or maybe I missed something, but I thought Wilson's smirk- the message that man is but an animal, or Moabite, with the mask of civility- was jarring and abrupt.  I think a slower realization of this idea would have worked better.  Maybe I just wanted to hear more of this story because it was so well written.  Maybe I just really wanted an all-out war between Wilson-god and the lesser Moabite minions.

Wilson banging a dumpy office chick while the creepy, beady-eyed little imps got locked outside: IMO, a very uninspiring ending. 

Wilson opening his fridge right afterward for a turkey sandwhich and triggering a huge metal trap to slam down on him: sweeeet.


Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: MacArthurBug on July 18, 2008, 10:53:14 PM
This was... weird.  Sorta liked it, the reading was good. I think it got a little too heavy handed or something because I just couldn't bring myself to love it.


Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: Chivalrybean on July 20, 2008, 02:39:53 PM
Man- the only thing worse than a weak story is a really good story with a weak ending.  Maybe it was just me, or maybe I missed something, but I thought Wilson's smirk- the message that man is but an animal, or Moabite, with the mask of civility- was jarring and abrupt.  I think a slower realization of this idea would have worked better.  Maybe I just wanted to hear more of this story because it was so well written.  Maybe I just really wanted an all-out war between Wilson-god and the lesser Moabite minions.

Wilson banging a dumpy office chick while the creepy, beady-eyed little imps got locked outside: IMO, a very uninspiring ending. 

Wilson opening his fridge right afterward for a turkey sandwhich and triggering a huge metal trap to slam down on him: sweeeet.

Yeah, that woulda been a cool ending. }:0D

It was ok... Maybe if the author was trying to make a parallel, this is why the story suffered, but had it just been a story, it might have ended different and been better. If Wilson is supposed to be God, then I don't like what it is saying about God, but I don't see God as being anything like Wilson.

In kinda related story, my friend at a mill I worked at (and nearly lost too many limbs at, so I don't work there anymore) kept having his ear plugs turn up missing. Somehow they figured out that a rat/mouse was taking it. So, they put up a mousetrap with some cheese, and what do you know, nothing. He put an earplug in place of the cheese, SNAP! No more mouse. Maybe he should sell his earwax as mouse bait...


Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: errant371 on July 21, 2008, 01:26:06 PM
Wilson banging a dumpy office chick while the creepy, beady-eyed little imps got locked outside: IMO, a very uninspiring ending. 

Wilson opening his fridge right afterward for a turkey sandwhich and triggering a huge metal trap to slam down on him: sweeeet.

I compeletely disagree with you.  The ending was excellent.  The Moabites looking in through the window at their former paradise, Wilson looking out at the beings he has forcefully removed from his house.  This is the kind of ending that a story of this sort needs.  Dark, depressing, unnerving.  A "huge metal trap" would have cheapened the whole effort.  Besides, the story makes clear that the creatures are not really all that intelligent.  For them to gain revenge in such a manner would be not only cheesy, but completely destroy the verisimilitude the author has created. 

The whole story works because Wilson is a dick.  His completely dickness is nicely summed up by the ending.  A statement about God, I don't know, I am not the author, but if it is, wow, what a statement!


Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: DKT on July 21, 2008, 03:21:44 PM
I thought the ending was pretty chilling.  A trap might have raised the gore factor some, but the ending wouldn't stay anywhere near as long with me as Wilson's grin.


Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: eytanz on July 21, 2008, 04:27:45 PM
Man- the only thing worse than a weak story is a really good story with a weak ending.  Maybe it was just me, or maybe I missed something, but I thought Wilson's smirk- the message that man is but an animal, or Moabite, with the mask of civility- was jarring and abrupt.  I think a slower realization of this idea would have worked better.  Maybe I just wanted to hear more of this story because it was so well written.  Maybe I just really wanted an all-out war between Wilson-god and the lesser Moabite minions.

Ah, but I think you missed the message of the story. It's not that man is just an animal with a mask of civility. It's a story about how man equates strength with morality. Wilson gets to be god to the little thingies for no reason other than he's bigger. He is a benevolent god when they please him, and a vengeful one when they displease him - but their behavior does not change, only his own perception of it. What right does he have to judge them? Just that he's stronger than them.


Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: goatkeeper on July 21, 2008, 05:36:58 PM
hehe I was totally joking about the cheesy fridge-trap ending.


Ah, but I think you missed the message of the story. It's not that man is just an animal with a mask of civility. It's a story about how man equates strength with morality. Wilson gets to be god to the little thingies for no reason other than he's bigger. He is a benevolent god when they please him, and a vengeful one when they displease him - but their behavior does not change, only his own perception of it. What right does he have to judge them? Just that he's stronger than them.


I felt like the message extended one step further than this though.  He was able to carry out his judgements on them because he was bigger, clearly, but he judged them based on criteria/ethics that he himself did not even abide to.  He called them savages but he himself was no different- carnal/fleshly- in fact, they even inspired/ignited this in him.  So it's not just about God being whoever is strong enough to boot you out of the Garden of Good and Evil- it's about the hypocrisy of civility. 

For me, I just wish we had a few more moments with the characters and this world before the hammer fell.  If anything it proves it was an effective, great story.


Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: errant371 on July 23, 2008, 09:28:31 AM
hehe I was totally joking about the cheesy fridge-trap ending.


Ah, but I think you missed the message of the story. It's not that man is just an animal with a mask of civility. It's a story about how man equates strength with morality. Wilson gets to be god to the little thingies for no reason other than he's bigger. He is a benevolent god when they please him, and a vengeful one when they displease him - but their behavior does not change, only his own perception of it. What right does he have to judge them? Just that he's stronger than them.


I felt like the message extended one step further than this though.  He was able to carry out his judgements on them because he was bigger, clearly, but he judged them based on criteria/ethics that he himself did not even abide to.  He called them savages but he himself was no different- carnal/fleshly- in fact, they even inspired/ignited this in him.  So it's not just about God being whoever is strong enough to boot you out of the Garden of Good and Evil- it's about the hypocrisy of civility. 

For me, I just wish we had a few more moments with the characters and this world before the hammer fell.  If anything it proves it was an effective, great story.

Indeed.  This was a morality tale disguised as a horror story.  But is was not a tale of the morality of man; it was a tale of the morality of God.  I think the author hit the nail on the head.  You guys are both right.  I love it when a story ends up being so multi-layered.  Especially when it is creepy.


Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: Stalinsays on July 25, 2008, 05:32:53 PM
I would agree. Creepy in its action, a must. Heady in its overall presentation, another must. I think I would pin this my favorite story so far of 08.


Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: Unblinking on October 22, 2009, 04:18:15 PM
I wish I had known what Moabites were before I listened to the story, it added layers of meaning.

I had been going to say that this story was okay, but the philosophy of you forumites hashing out the symbolism was really cool, so any story that can inspire all that must be pretty good after all.  Especially the stuff about the "hypocrisy of civility" and all that. 

I couldn't really relate to Wilson throughout.  His whole change of heart is based on them scaring away a girl, but what did he expect, really?  He watched them have sex like it was no big deal, so why didn't he expect the same.  And really, if looking at teeny weeny people screwing is hard to draw your eyes away from, imagine 2 humans the size of skyscrapers doing it--can you blame the little folk forwanting to take a look?  Talk about bringing the thunder! 

In the end, though, I thought the little people were too easily thwarted.  They really can't figure out how to break glass?  He attributed it to their stupidity, but he had no real reason to think them stupid.  He just assumed they were because they didn't communicate with him (and he didn't even try, other than handing them food).


Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: Millenium_King on July 14, 2010, 04:25:00 PM
This one gets a strong positive reaction from me.  I won't go quite so far as to say I loved it, but I certainly liked it a lot.  The story started with a bang (thank God!  How I enjoy it when authors dispense with the faddish "slow-boil") and kept my interest rivetted throughout.  I loved the transition from man-to-Jehova-to-man.  A great metaphor.

I guess I expected a more horrific ending (the scene where the Lilliputians tie down Gulliver springs to mind...) and so I was initially disappointed by its subtlety.  Upon reflection, I enjoyed its understated ending more and more so I think this story could definately be called a rousing success.

All that being said: the lack of a visceral punch and intense horror prevents me from adding this to my top 10.  Likewise, the concept behind this story was (obviously) less than original.  Like I said, that's certainly not bad (and handled very, very, very well here) but the lack of original concept coupled with a lack of intense horror has kept this one away from my list.

Excellent story, though.  And another excellent reading.  I would have liked to hear Al make the obvious comparison between this and Swift's work, but I liked the outro nonetheless.

Finally, it's my opinion (and my opinion only) that the little people were not real and that our protagonist was just losing his mind a little.  He acted nonchalantly toward them (for example: never inviting over a scientist or trying to communicate with them).  I saw them as figments of the imagination of a man coming to grips with his own mortality as retirement age drew nigh.

Mod: fixed tag.


Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: Sgarre1 on July 14, 2010, 07:44:45 PM
Quote
faddish "slow-boil"

Glad I was capable of introducing you to a term for a concept you dislike but you're using it wrong if you think it a fad.  Fans of M.R. James (1904),  Robert Aickman (1950) and Ramsey Campbell (1964) would have good giggle at that.  Most modern genre writers prefer the "start with a bang" style anyway (which I referred to as "pulpy" but, unlike you, not in a derogatory sense - it's a great way to tell a certain kind of story).  It's just another way of telling stories man - you don't have to like it or think it works, but really, "faddish"?  That's just too easy.  C'est la vie, indeed!

“The best thing to do is to loosen my grip on my pen and let it go wandering about until it finds an entrance.  There must be one – everything depends on the circumstances, a rule applicable as much to literary style as to life.  Each word tugs another one along, one idea another, and that is how books, governments and revolutions are made – some even say that is how Nature created her species.”
Machado de Assis, “Those Cousins From Sapucaia”


Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: Millenium_King on July 14, 2010, 10:24:29 PM
Ah, but I think you missed the message of the story. It's not that man is just an animal with a mask of civility. It's a story about how man equates strength with morality. Wilson gets to be god to the little thingies for no reason other than he's bigger. He is a benevolent god when they please him, and a vengeful one when they displease him - but their behavior does not change, only his own perception of it.

Great point.

What right does he have to judge them? Just that he's stronger than them.

I might say that "rights," like morality, stem from might as well.

I think I like this story all the more after considering that point.  It's the oldest (and truest) lesson after all.  Besides strength and might, what can you base morality on anyway?  Faith, perhaps?  Really makes you think.


Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: Millenium_King on July 15, 2010, 04:52:09 PM
Glad I was capable of introducing you to a term for a concept you dislike but you're using it wrong if you think it a fad.

FYI - I have been using the term "slow boil" before you "introduced" me to it here.  There might even be some older posts that I've made which reference the term.  I recall first hearing it with regards to the movie "The Village" back in 2004.

Fans of M.R. James (1904),  Robert Aickman (1950) and Ramsey Campbell (1964) would have good giggle at that.  Most modern genre writers prefer the "start with a bang" style anyway (which I referred to as "pulpy" but, unlike you, not in a derogatory sense - it's a great way to tell a certain kind of story).

Hmmmm.  You might want to be just a little less presumptuous.  You'd be surprised what my opinion of "pulp" is.

It's just another way of telling stories man - you don't have to like it or think it works, but really, "faddish"?  That's just too easy.  C'est la vie, indeed!

Beyond the fact that most lit classes these days encourage slow characterization rather than a "pedal to the metal" approach, I was specifically referring to the school of "all-about-me" critics, writers, directors, producers (and sometimes *shudder* writer-directors) etc. etc.  who promote this approach.  Formost amongst them is M. Night Shyamalan.  You might not find this trend a fad, but I think there is a case to be made.


Title: Re: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites
Post by: Sgarre1 on July 15, 2010, 09:57:37 PM
Quote
FYI - I have been using the term "slow boil" before you "introduced" me to it here.  There might even be some older posts that I've made which reference the term.  I recall first hearing it with regards to the movie "The Village" back in 2004.

Yup, you're right, my mistake - it seems to have cropped up a lot since I used it as a model distinction for "Eyes of the Crowd" (more on which below) but, mea culpa.

Quote
Hmmmm.  You might want to be just a little less presumptuous.  You'd be surprised what my opinion of "pulp" is.

Well, this was just poor phrasing on my part.  Your assumption that my use of "pulpy" -  as a model distinction (for the "front-loading" you enjoy) in the "Eyes Of The Crowd" discussion - was meant by me as derogatory (from the comment in Pseudopod 173: Bophuthatswana "Some people call that "pulpy" but c'est la vie"), when I meant no such thing.  "Pulpy" is good, fun and the best way to tell some stories -"pulpy", just like "slow boil", is another flavor of genre approach, nothing more, nothing less.  As opposed to the derogatory modifier "faddish".

Quote
Beyond the fact that most lit classes these days encourage slow characterization rather than a "pedal to the metal" approach, I was specifically referring to the school of "all-about-me" critics, writers, directors, producers (and sometimes *shudder* writer-directors) etc. etc.  who promote this approach.  Formost amongst them is M. Night Shyamalan.  You might not find this trend a fad, but I think there is a case to be made.

For the first part - although it's been at least 10/15 years since I checked, they'd already seemed to have made a distinction between lit classes and genre classes in most writing curriculum.  And even in those Lit classes, Raymond Carver is still taught as an exemplar of compression.  As to the second, I don't know what a discussion about approaches to writing short genre fiction has to do with modern critics, directors, producers and writer/directors of film.  So, I guess I still don't see the supposed faddishness.  Blackwood's "The Willows" (1907) starts with long, descriptive scene setting of The Rhine and character detail, many pages before anything of note happens, and it still works a treat (and we all know who's favorite story that was).  So, no, still don't see it as anything distinctly "new" (I mean, I get that you don't like it but nothing beyond that), sorry.