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Author Topic: Pseudopod 526: The Great American Nightmare  (Read 1513 times)
Bdoomed
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« on: January 21, 2017, 03:19:55 AM »

Pseudopod 526: The Great American Nightmare

by Moaner T. Lawrence.

The Great American Nightmare” is a PSEUDOPOD original.

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” – Plato

They who can give up essential liberty for temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Benjamin Franklin

In addition to being a regular contributor to the world’s largest horror publication, Rue Morgue: Horror In Culture & Entertainment (and a member of their Rue Crew) MOANER T. LAWRENCE is also a regular contributor to Germany’s largest horror publication, VIRUS. He last appeared on Pseudopod with “Bad Newes From New England” and can be followed on Twitter, Facebook, Wattpad, and a new wordpress called The Horror In Blog.

Your narrator – John Bell – is an Award winning writer/producer of radio commercials as well as all-around go-to voice talent. Has written/produced 160 episodes of the comedy podcast, “Bell’s in the Batfry”. Catch Bell’s in the Batfry at the usual subscription locations (iTunes, et al) and/or at the link.



Info on Anders Manga’s album (they do our theme music!) can be found here.



“The sky over 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was clear and blue at 12:00PM EST on Friday, January 20th, 2017. At 12:01, a fleet of Secret Service byakhee swarmed over the abstract visage of what was once The White House. Faster and faster, they beat their jet black wings, until the unholy force tore a hole in the sky. It became a swirling vortex, and the composer Erich Zann, considered missing for over 120 years, began conducting a chorus of six-foot albino penguins, alongside the United States Marine Band to a discordant rendition of Hail, Columbia. Opposite the band, a crowd of three million attendants held fast to a double-reinforced security railing, or anything else they could grab onto, so as to bear witness to the spectacle before them without being sucked into the portal forming above.”




Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
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« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2017, 09:15:21 AM »

I'm sharing the hell out of this episode! I have friends & fren-emies who can benefit from this tale. As a Canadian, I'm trying to figure out what my Southern neighbour is up to...
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« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2017, 11:30:57 AM »

Question & Opinion Request: which do you find more repugnant, human evil or chaotic evil?
..
...
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This story has many quotes that I enjoyed.  Grin
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Unblinking
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« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2017, 10:26:09 AM »

I'm afraid that I found this episode extremely irritating rather than entertaining.

Foremost is that I am just so tired of dealing with the long run up to, the election, and the inauguration, and the results even so soon after inauguration day.  Whenever I turn on the TV or go to any social media I find out what fresh hell we are dealing with on any given day.  When I go to my fiction podcasts, I'm fine with heavy topics, but I really really really don't want to listen to any stories that include Donald Trump as a character right now.  I am fatigued from constantly having to hear about him everywhere else that I would rather have the stories here be about literally any other person more than that specific person.

Another is that I felt like this was based on the statement of false equivalence I've heard about Clinton and Trump being both so bad it doesn't matter (and in this case, adding the independent chaotic evil candidate because the other two are already so evil I guess).

Another is that, one of the recurring themes of Lovecraft's elder gods is that they are not only all-powerful, we are only as safe as we are because they basically don't consider us significant enough to be worth bothering with most of the time.  This Cthulhu wasn't all-powerful, and also cares about our opinions and the popular vote and whatever and... to me those changes are big enough that it didn't really seem like Cthulhu at all.  What's the point of having Cthulhu in a story where Cthulhu lacks all of the traits of being Cthulhu?

Another is that, with the bible-pushing duck dynasty folks in the story, their sole stated goal was to get schools to teach the bible.  Cthulhu's response is that the only book allowed will be the necronomicon, and that answer somehow converts these folks to chant "Rl-yeh! Rl-yeh! Rl-yeh!".  That makes no sense.  They know the necronomicon is not the bible, their sole demand was literally met with complete denial of their demand in that not only would the bible not be taught, no one would even be allowed to have bibles.  That was a total miss for me, and was super important to the flow of the story, since those guys played an important role.

But the biggest thing of all is that, I'm not really looking forward to seeing an entire thread dedicated to arguing American politics, especially right now.  Because, hey, politics are actually on-topic for this thread.  Have fun with that, moderators!




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MLawrence31
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« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2017, 07:15:46 PM »

     First, let me thank you for listening. I appreciate your commentary and presenting me the opportunity to learn from my failures and better my craft. Unblinking, you have brought up every single facet of The Great American Nightmare that troubled me while I wrote it. At the end of the story, we close with the men in duck camo, and I get why you feel the way you do about them. However, you're forgetting Cheri. Cheri continued serving C'thulhu after 238 people died. She is just as ambitious as the men are ignorant. Cheri and the men in duck camo are almost the same person - they're Americans who want to make their country a better place. What makes them different is that they have different views on how to accomplish that. In the end, in the face of a second American Civil War, they unite, and stop something worse than chaotic evil.
     With regard to my C'thulhu-LITE/Washington D.C.-friendly version of C'thulhu: C'thulhu, like Devil's Night, has become an institution. There's Cow-thulhu, C'thulhu slippers, etc.. In The Call of C'thulhu - we don't necessarily know that much about C'thulhu other than that he's alien, big, and his presence inspires nightmares. We know there's a terrible cult, but there's no guarantee that C'thulhu is everything the narrator says C'thulhu is. At the end of the day, since we were playing with a horror-comedy I decided to start making The Great Old One progressively weaker after he signed the contract.
     To the matter of my contaminating your entertainment with Donald Trump, I do apologize. I wish I could write him out of everything you and I have to watch, let alone The White House. That said, every writer has their own style and quirks. One of my bigger ones is that I believe that horror has a responsibility to inform. I'm not the great Aesop, but I do do my best to not write stories without morals. I believe horror writers are like lighthouses, and that it is our duty to shine a light on things that can (or will) hurt us. Please consider that almost everything of note in horror comes from something political - Godzilla (radiation and the danger of nuclear weapons); The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (McCarthyism and The Red Scare); Dawn of the Dead (Consumerism); and The Twilight Zone (Censorship and The Age of Protest).
   But why did I feel the need to do a story on Inauguration Day? Why did I have to time the release for the day that you and over 250,000 other listeners would probably be looking to escape reality? ...Alasdair once said that life isn't something that happens, it's something that's happen-ing, and it's happening at you all the time. I know that we're called Escape Artists Inc., but there are things we simply cannot escape. If there's an infomercial about starving African children at 4AM, whether we cut a check, sign up for the peace corps, or change the channel - it doesn't change the situation. No one gets out of life alive. Donald Trump is the President of the United States of America. With this particular story I felt my job (my life's work) is to make you, and the rest of the audience laugh - because laughter is a good medicine against fear; pensiveness a good balm for surety; and I felt we could all use a laugh after being bombarded with politics for the last two years. I do apologize to those I have failed, but, on the bright side, there's 525 other episodes and 527 won't be written by me.

Your Obedient Author,
Moaner T. Lawrence

P.S. For the record, I wasn't happy with either nominee. I would have taken almost any other thing as a nominee: A Stop Sign; Skeletor; The thing that steals one sock from your dryer at a time; Oprah; Matt Damon; A squirrel on crack; Davy Jones; and Groot!
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Unblinking
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« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2017, 10:47:29 PM »

Hi Moaner,

In my experience as a writer, it's usually not super productive to explain to readers why they are wrong about your story. Smiley  

Quote
At the end of the story, we close with the men in duck camo, and I get why you feel the way you do about them. However, you're forgetting Cheri. Cheri continued serving C'thulhu after 238 people died.

I am not forgetting that.  That has nothing to do with my complaint about the duck camo guys.

My complaint about the duck camo guys was that I don't find this exchange at all plausible:
DCG: We want the bible taught in schools!
Cthulhu:  Nope!  Necronomicon all the way down!
DCG: R'lyeh! R'lyeh! R'lyeh!

Cthulhu's response makes sense, but why would the duck camo guys support the candidate who has shot down their one and only demand as if he was their hero?


Quote
but there are things we simply cannot escape

No kidding.  I've been reading all day about the EPA and USDA being forbidden to share their data, which is only the latest in a string of horrible garbage, 5 days into the administration.  But I've got enough reading about Donald Trump to do just to keep track of exactly how far of a plunge into dystopia we have taken, that yes I could do without it in my fiction just now.

Quote
I do apologize to those I have failed, but, on the bright side, there's 525 other episodes and 527 won't be written by me.

Thank you for that, I think.  In any case, this is not a thread to talk about all 527 episodes, it is a thread to talk about this specific episode, and that's what we're doing, right?


Quote
P.S. For the record, I wasn't happy with either nominee. I would have taken almost any other thing as a nominee: A Stop Sign; Skeletor; The thing that steals one sock from your dryer at a time; Oprah; Matt Damon; A squirrel on crack; Davy Jones; and Groot!

For the record, there are other people I would've liked to see, but Bill Nye and the others didn't run for president.  I also don't think that 5 days into Hillary Clinton would we be seeing gag orders on entire departments of the government, though neither are my favorite people in the world.

Oh good, we're having that political discussion now, apparently.  

I think that I should just tap out of this thread, but I felt like I should respond since you were addressing me directly.  

« Last Edit: January 24, 2017, 10:51:18 PM by Unblinking » Logged
MLawrence31
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« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2017, 07:38:46 AM »

Unblinking I wasn't addressing you to contradict your statements. I was trying to clarify my intentions because you nailed the EXACT things that also troubled me while I wrote the story. So, thank you, again, because if you feel this way about this episode, chances are there are others who feel this way too. I read your comments and thought, "Oh good! Someone else sees
it that way too!"

To the men in duck camo, I misread what you said, sorry. They didn't have a sole demand - they wanted to know what C'thulhu's solution was to their issues. I painted these characters within the boundaries of what I perceived to be horror comedy. For the purposes of humor, Cheri and the men are mostly two-dimensional. No rational, sane person would join a C'thulhu cult or campaign, right? Another reason I went with horror comedy (instead of traditional horror) is because current events are so insane that they border on the slapstick. But it's definitely food for thought if I do another story involving those men.

For the record: My responses are solely to explain what was running through my head - because A. I want everyone to know me, and feel comfortable telling me when they think I've screwed something up. Which... knowing me... is very possible... B. These threads afford me the opportunity to discuss what everyone else felt. I really like that.
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Unblinking
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« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2017, 10:40:44 AM »

Unblinking I wasn't addressing you to contradict your statements. I was trying to clarify my intentions because you nailed the EXACT things that also troubled me while I wrote the story. So, thank you, again, because if you feel this way about this episode, chances are there are others who feel this way too. I read your comments and thought, "Oh good! Someone else sees
it that way too!"

To the men in duck camo, I misread what you said, sorry. They didn't have a sole demand - they wanted to know what C'thulhu's solution was to their issues. I painted these characters within the boundaries of what I perceived to be horror comedy. For the purposes of humor, Cheri and the men are mostly two-dimensional. No rational, sane person would join a C'thulhu cult or campaign, right? Another reason I went with horror comedy (instead of traditional horror) is because current events are so insane that they border on the slapstick. But it's definitely food for thought if I do another story involving those men.

For the record: My responses are solely to explain what was running through my head - because A. I want everyone to know me, and feel comfortable telling me when they think I've screwed something up. Which... knowing me... is very possible... B. These threads afford me the opportunity to discuss what everyone else felt. I really like that.


Hey Moaner, thanks for your reply.  Sorry if I was a bit extra cranky in the last couple posts.  Current events have got me pretty tense and it was hard to separate this story from them, to me.

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MLawrence31
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« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2017, 07:23:21 AM »

No need to apologize Unblinking. You are not alone. We are all in this together.
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Observer
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« Reply #9 on: January 28, 2017, 03:24:12 PM »

I thought the piece was campy enough, and applaud the author for doing their best to tread a neutral line instead of boring us with a thinly veiled polemic.

However Pseudopod, like the rest of the entertainment industry, is completely tone deaf when it comes to timing. Specifically when it comes to recognizing that the public is tired of hearing about politics, and neither wants nor needs more "creatives" to chime in and give us their zany take on things. This criticism is usually met with pretentious lectures about 'the arts', 'awareness raising', or 'the responsibility of having a platform', but these tired shibboleths hold zero value for an already exhausted listening public.

Luckily, it will be another four years before this boorish mistake can be made again.

(But it will be made again. Like clockwork)

 
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Sgarre1
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« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2017, 06:45:17 PM »

Well, we were gonna run it 7 years ago but... Tongue

All joking aside, since you've essentially dismissed any possible response by defaulting your subjective position to that of the greater populace (I mean, it's being fairly heavily "liked" and reposted, so obviously not ALL of the "public" shares your view), AND putting aside the fact that our default launch day, Friday, happened to fall on Inauguration Day this year, and the story opens with the Inauguration (as some can attest, we regularly hold purchased stories for months so as to podcast them during the specific season they take place in)....

I guess the next obvious question to your statement (can't really call it an argument) is - If not now, when?

Trying to guess when your potential audience might be tired (or recovered from) a popular topic is a sucker's game called "Not Trusting Your Audience" (see routine "I'm tired of zombies but enjoyed this story" posts, anytime we run a zombie story) and since trying to "protect" your audience from Satire Exhaustion (I think "The Arts" probably covers that, though, so...it's a zero value shibboleth - sorry, just mirroring tone) is the sucker's game of a coward, it's really hard to grasp exactly what you're going for here: sounds like the story didn't contain anything that offended you enough to critique it on those points, so instead you've only got critiquing its timing as an angle with which to register your annoyance that we ran it at all? If so - well, as we always say, there's another one next week...and after that...and after that...and years from now, who'll even remember? (to paraphrase John Balance)
« Last Edit: January 28, 2017, 10:10:31 PM by Sgarre1 » Logged
SemaphoreRaven
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« Reply #11 on: January 29, 2017, 09:56:27 PM »

I made it ten minutes in before I realized I just couldn't listen to this one. I'm going to have to agree with Unblinking and Observer here - the timing is awful and I don't want to hear anything about elections right now. The wound is much too fresh. Maybe I can listen to this in a decade or so when I can look back at the Trump years ago say, "Remember that shitshow?" But right now, I just can't handle it.
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Unblinking
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« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2017, 09:58:36 AM »

No need to apologize Unblinking. You are not alone. We are all in this together.

On further examination, I realized that there have been some political satire stories that I've read recently that I didn't feel the same reaction to, and I thought it worth examining what the difference was.

A couple examples:
"A Trump Christmas Carol" by Roz Kaveney, Laurie Penny, John Scalzi, and Jo Walton at Uncanny
http://uncannymagazine.com/article/trump-christmas-carol/

"How to Talk To Your Children About the Bowling Green Massacre" Elizabeth Miller Coyne at McSweeney's Internet Tendency
https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/how-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-the-bowling-green-massacre



I think the difference, for me, is rooted in a few things:

1.  If the story is clearly rooted in CURRENT politics I want it to say something clever or interesting about CURRENT politics.  

Since this story started on inauguration day 2017, and was also published on inauguration day 2017, it doesn't get more clearly about current politics than that.  The references to Clinton and Trump as having run in this same election back that up as well--it's an alternate reality but the visible differences were probably only a year or so ago.

I spent much of the time listening to the story trying to pick out what it was saying about current politics.  The only thing that I got any sense of was what I mentioned before--the false equivalence, that either Clinton or Trump would be equally bad, hence why a clearly evil third party candidate actually succeeds here.   But the false equivalence is a statement that I've gotten very tired of in this election cycle--the two candidates were unequivalent in every respect.

It's not that I'm opposed to statements of equivalence, I still like the Southpark episode where they are voting for a new school mascot, and because of some joke nominations they end up having to vote between a giant douche and a crap sandwich, and when one of the characters doesn't see the point in voting his friends chide him for not being involved in the process.  I've felt that before to some degree, but in the case of Southpark though they may have been referring to specific candidates at the time, I don't remember who since they weren't characters in the story, and so it felt like a more general feeling about elections, than about specific candidates.

2.  As an offshoot of #1, it probably needs to published in a quite timely manner for it to still be as relevant at the time of publication, if related to current politics.  

In the case of the Uncanny story it was published near Christmas, appropriate for A Christmas Carol parody, and was published between the election and inauguration.  In the case of McSweeney's it posted the day after the relevant comment it is satirizing was made.

Though this one referenced the current election cycle I felt like it was written a long time ago and so didn't comment much about it--audio publications have a disadvantage in that respect in that it takes time to find narrators and do the audio editing and stuff, you can't just write it up and post it the same day.  (Maybe it was written more recently than that, since the timeline branched early enough for Cthulhu to be a major player in the election year, maybe it's just that anything that might seem relevant didn't happen because of the split)

3.  On the subject of political discussion on the forum, one reason (which is not necessarily fair to EA but is how I feel) is that I value this specific forum for the discussion, and feel the moderation policy is well-handled in keeping things like current events generally out of story threads, and so when I saw some version of current events in the story I was dreading where that thread would go (which it hasn't, unless you count my own ramblings, and I hope I haven't annoyed anyone too terribly much).  This is contrasted with, say, Uncanny or McSweeney's--I don't care what their commenters say, they could have YouTube commenters for all I know, I don't really know or care, so I don't care where their discussion thread goes.  But because I value EA comment threads highly in my estimation of places on the Internet, EA comment threads are of much more concern to me personally.

« Last Edit: February 04, 2017, 10:21:34 AM by Unblinking » Logged
Acth99
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« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2017, 04:49:34 PM »

Hi - I just wanted to say that while I have been in a perpetual state of anxiety/gibbering terror since November - I really enjoyed this one. Thanks!
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Metrophor
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« Reply #14 on: February 15, 2017, 02:13:24 PM »

....I'll be honest. I'd vote for him.
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« Reply #15 on: February 15, 2017, 03:21:40 PM »

The joke seems a bit too obvious for me. I mean, it could have been delivered with biting satire and just enough creepiness to be haunting, but instead it fell a bit flat for me as it just seems to run on shout outs to the mythos and even an in-joke or two for fans and associates. Nothing wrong with that sort of thing to a point, but I'm not sure it can form the backbone for a story that goes on this long. Yeah, I'm sure lots of mythos fans did some shares of this one to the tune of "LOL, they elected Cthulhu in the story." but the lesser of evils joke about electing Cthulhu was old years ago. The insertion of a fanzine at a press conference, and literal shout out of "Murrica" felt so...internetty in the worst way as well, underscoring what I'm concerned about in the story's execution.  

If we must go there for presidential fears, I would suggest taking on The Great Wall of Mexico, by John Sladek. Aside from predicting our current wall building from way back in 1973, it includes a very creepy president, and features just the right mix of satire and genuinely disturbing details. Admittedly, it's a bit long for Pseudopod though.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2017, 03:23:30 PM by Metalsludge » Logged
Scuba Man
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« Reply #16 on: February 28, 2017, 10:07:24 AM »



P.S. For the record, I wasn't happy with either nominee. I would have taken almost any other thing as a nominee: A Stop Sign; Skeletor; The thing that steals one sock from your dryer at a time; Oprah; Matt Damon; A squirrel on crack; Davy Jones; and Groot!


I AM GROOT, OF THE GOP. Hell, yeah!  Smiley
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MLawrence31
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« Reply #17 on: February 28, 2017, 12:20:56 PM »

If Groot were POTUS State of the Union addresses would be so much shorter. Smiley
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« Reply #18 on: April 25, 2017, 03:53:22 AM »

....I'll be honest. I'd vote for him.

I also @Metrophor sir.
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« Reply #19 on: July 03, 2017, 05:40:01 PM »

I tried to like this episode, I really did, but it just didn't happen. I absolutely despised it. Not necessarily because of a certain political opinion or belief, but because the story didn't have a resonance to me. The characters didn't seem to work out and the actual story line seemed to fall flat. Cthulu, to me, isn't a figure that presents chills and terror. It's like when you're in elementary school and your art teacher tells you to create a "new" monster by mixing two or more existing animals together. This is nothing against the writer, but I've also found Cthulu to be extremely overrated in the horror universe. I will go out on a limb and give the creator some artistic congratulations, but this one didn't seem to last the test of time.

That being said, when a publisher purchases and runs a story with any political opinion, that publisher is taking a risk. From previous stories that pseudopod has run, I know what their beliefs are because I've never seen them publish a story of the opposite belief - even in extreme metaphor. I think that can somewhat reflect on the editor and narrator, which I can respect both, but when they only select stories in which they believe matches closest to their political choice, one has to wonder how fair they are actually being.

We can easily tell that this story is a reflection on Presiden Trump, even though he is not the president in this story. It also shows us the thinking of the American voters, however abstract it is. In this story, I was mostly only presented with the wishful thinking of the writer. What the writer believes in politically and what they think other people believe in.

At this point, I really don't care for the "modern American political" stories that are published in a genre other than nonfiction. Not due to this story, but I now take extra care to avoid stories that pseudopod runs that may be a political piece, especially understanding what pseudopod's stances are, even if they believe they are flat across the board.

3/10 rating
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Fenrix
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« Reply #20 on: July 04, 2017, 10:59:34 AM »


That being said, when a publisher purchases and runs a story with any political opinion, that publisher is taking a risk. From previous stories that pseudopod has run, I know what their beliefs are because I've never seen them publish a story of the opposite belief - even in extreme metaphor. I think that can somewhat reflect on the editor and narrator, which I can respect both, but when they only select stories in which they believe matches closest to their political choice, one has to wonder how fair they are actually being.

At this point, I really don't care for the "modern American political" stories that are published in a genre other than nonfiction. Not due to this story, but I now take extra care to avoid stories that pseudopod runs that may be a political piece, especially understanding what pseudopod's stances are, even if they believe they are flat across the board.


One of the editors here. Not going to respond to the comments about the story, as that stands on its own as a piece very distinctly of the moment, but instead respond to the editorial critiques. There's actually a broader set of political beliefs on the editorial staff than you will probably believe.

Fiction tends to skew towards social and civil liberty issues, as things like fiscal policy tends to make for unengaging reading. And there is, quite honestly, a significant disparity between the volume of quality social conservative fiction we receive in our submissions pile and the volume of quality social liberal fiction. Stories on either side that favor didacticism over good storytelling will rarely make the cut.

Faith is something that lamentably gets a poor treatment far more often than it does not. Stories where someone tries to prove that God doesn't exist (or destroy faith) by trying to force Them into intervening will rarely make the cut.

We're always looking for quality stories, and I think our back catalog shows we don't shy away from pushing buttons. Tell your conservative horror author friends to not self reject and send us their best work.
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