Author Topic: PseudoPod 671: Only Unity Saves the Damned  (Read 513 times)

Bdoomed

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PseudoPod 671: Only Unity Saves the Damned
« on: October 27, 2019, 04:22:17 AM »
PseudoPod 671: Only Unity Saves the Damned

Author: Nadia Bulkin
Narrator: Karen Bovenmyer
Host: Alasdair Stuart

“Only Unity Saves the Damned” first appeared in Letter to Lovecraft in 2014. We discovered this in the collection She Said Destroy released by the excellent Word Horde.



Show Notes
Click the link to pick up the collection She Said Destroy released by the excellent Word Horde.



“Dude, are you getting this?”

Rosslyn Taro, 25, and Clark Dunkin, 25, are standing in the woods. It’s evening—the bald-cypresses behind them are shadowed and the light between the needles is the somber blue that follows sunsets—and they are wearing sweatshirts and holding stones.

“It’s on,” says the voice behind the camera. “To the winner go the spoils!”

They whip their arms back and start throwing stones. The camera pans to the right as the stones skip into the heart of Goose Lake. After a dozen rounds the camera pans back to Rosslyn Taro and Clark Dunkin arguing over whose stone made the most skips, and then slowly returns to the right. Its focus settles on a large bur oak looming around the bend of the lake, forty yards away.

“Hey, isn’t that the Witching Tree?”

Off-camera, Clark Dunkin says, “What?” and Rosslyn Taro says,

“Come on, seriously?”

“You know, Raggedy Annie’s Witching Tree.”

The girl sounds too shaky to be truly skeptical. “How do you know?”

“Remember the song? ‘We hung her over water, from the mighty oak tree.’ Well, there aren’t any other lakes around here.

And First Plymouth is on the other side of the lake.” The camera zooms, searches for a white steeple across the still water, but the light is bad. “‘We hung her looking over at the cemetery.’”

The camera swings to Rosslyn Taro, because she is suddenly upset. She is walking to the camera, and when she reaches it, shoves the cameraman. “Bay, shut up! I hate that stupid song. Let’s just go, I’m getting cold. Come on, please.” But Clark Dunkin is still staring at the tree. His hands are shaking. Rosslyn Taro calls his name: “Lark!”

The camera follows Clark Dunkin’s gaze to the tree. There is a figure standing in front of it, dressed in a soiled white shift and a black execution hood. The figure reaches two pale, thin hands to the edge of the hood as if to reveal its face. And then the camera enters a topspin, all dirt and branches and violet sky, as the cameraman begins to run. Rosslyn Taro is heard screaming. Someone—the cameraman, or possibly Clark Dunkin—is whimpering, as if from very far away, “oh, shit, oh, shit.”

And then the video abruptly cuts to black.




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erachima

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Re: PseudoPod 671: Only Unity Saves the Damned
« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2019, 06:14:47 PM »
Never has a story more clearly declared "the author has lived in, but is not from, Nebraska."

I did enjoy it as quality generic small town horror, but that personal authenticity play failed badly. The town landscape belongs hundreds of miles East, and the thematics are all not only disconnected from Nebraska's actual history with trees, but deeply--and hilariously--dissonant against them.

Fenrix

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Re: PseudoPod 671: Only Unity Saves the Damned
« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2019, 01:10:57 AM »

Never has a story more clearly declared "the author has lived in, but is not from, Nebraska."

I did enjoy it as quality generic small town horror, but that personal authenticity play failed badly. The town landscape belongs hundreds of miles East, and the thematics are all not only disconnected from Nebraska's actual history with trees, but deeply--and hilariously--dissonant against them.


New member, here is your official and final reminder of The One Rule.

It sounds an awful lot like you're policing someone's personal experience growing up in Nebraska. And it sounds like you're making cheap digs instead of the thoughtful critiques that you intended.

Several (far too many) of my development years were in rural Illinois, several hundred miles east, and I thought this captured the small town midwest beautifully. As did our Assistant editor who lives just over a hundred miles east. I'm sensitive to regionalism, particularly in areas where I have significant familiarity. And frankly, fiction has a tendency to under-represent the midwest and the south, two of my favorite regions. All this to say that I have a pretty high bar for regionalism. If you want to blame it on anyone, blame it on me for never having been to Nebraska. Hopefully one of the other 670 free episodes will surpass your quality threshold.
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erachima

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Re: PseudoPod 671: Only Unity Saves the Damned
« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2019, 06:23:25 AM »
The thematic dissonance is because every tree in Nebraska is an artifact of modern technology. They are as primeval and timeless as the Panama Canal or transcontinental railroad, and were thrown down in straight lines by the tens of thousands in the same spirit of American industrial expansion and methodical modernist stapling down of nature.

I did, as I said, enjoy the story regardless. But I would have enjoyed it much more if I were less familiar with the region, since my mind wouldn't have been constantly attempting to wire the metaphors the opposite way to what the author wanted.

Fenrix

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Re: PseudoPod 671: Only Unity Saves the Damned
« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2019, 12:27:31 PM »

The thematic dissonance is because every tree in Nebraska is an artifact of modern technology. They are as primeval and timeless as the Panama Canal or transcontinental railroad, and were thrown down in straight lines by the tens of thousands in the same spirit of American industrial expansion and methodical modernist stapling down of nature.

I did, as I said, enjoy the story regardless. But I would have enjoyed it much more if I were less familiar with the region, since my mind wouldn't have been constantly attempting to wire the metaphors the opposite way to what the author wanted.


I'm not sure there's more than a handful of "primordial" woodlands in the continental United States, particularly east of the Rockies. Also, "old" for the US is very contextual, and may not match with a European perspective. One of the impressions I was left with from this story was about manufactured haunts, much like our entire environment is manipulated for our convenience and efficiency -- including the trees along fencelines and property lines as windbreaks and shade.

If we're going to apply close reading techniques, it is worth noting that the phrase and concept "Cosmic Tree" is introduced in dialogue from a character of debatable reliability. The only use of "primordial" is modifying "story" and not the environment.

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Scuba Man

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Re: PseudoPod 671: Only Unity Saves the Damned
« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2019, 03:11:20 PM »
I work with young adults like this all semester. The story was well narrated. The characters were over-the-top, angst-riddled, self-absorbed teenagers.  Those parents... the adults in the story (who remained in town)? Heh, some of them attended our Parent-Teacher interviews a couple of weeks ago.

The story wasn't my cup of tea. Perhaps it hit too close to home for me. I'm glad I moved out of my birthplace ASAFP. No regrets, eh.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2019, 03:14:14 PM by Scuba Man »
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Re: PseudoPod 671: Only Unity Saves the Damned
« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2019, 04:08:14 PM »
Not my cup of tea either.  To me, it simply went on too long.  Then again, I might have reacted differently if I’d read the story.  When I was listening, though, I lost interest.