Escape Artists

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Voting has started for the Podcastle Flash Fiction contest. Anyone who has made at least one post should be able to see the stories down in the Arcade.

New groups are posted every two days through the end of April.

Author Topic: Pseudopod 071: The Intrusion  (Read 4584 times)

Bdoomed

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on: January 04, 2008, 09:43:34 PM
Pseudopod 071: The Intrusion

By Joel Arnold

Read by Ben Phillips

Okay, this is where it gets tricky. Confession time. The night I cheated on my wife -

No - let’s save that for later.

The night Mary wakes up and screams “I can hear him! Make him stop!”

“Honey, it’s nothing. Go back to sleep.”

She sits up staring blindly as I turn on the bedside lamp, “No, I heard him. I saw him. His shadow - like he was over me, breathing.”

“Settle down. You were having a bad dream.”

“No,” she insists. The bed shakes with her tremors. “No.”

“You were dreaming.”

She starts to cry.




Listen to this week's Pseudopod.

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


eytanz

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Reply #1 on: January 04, 2008, 11:23:57 PM
See, dear narrator, the part where you cheat on your wife isn't really the part where you appear to be the biggest asshole. The part where you find yourself waking up with a knife to her throat but don't bother warning her is.

One thing that bothered me about this story - why were the robbers identified as "black men"? There's absolutely no physical details on them at all - other than their race. Which is made reference to more than once. In a context that made it feel a simple as - black men = criminals. Now, you could say that since this was a 1st person narrative, it could reflect the narrator's bias rather than the story's. But I don't think that's the case, since, well, there's nothing in the story pulling in any other direction. I'm not saying that the men needed to be white or something. Just that I don't see why even specify a race for them.



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Reply #2 on: January 08, 2008, 01:41:36 PM
I think Ben did a good job reading the story -- he really is quite talented with accents.  And also he did a good job with the way the narrator related his wife's voice to the reader.  But toward the end, in the climax, it sort of fell down a bit, as if he was getting a little bored with the material.  I think the matter-of-fact delivery contributes to that.

Alasdair... were you ill this week?  Just wondering.  You sounded ill.  (Does that line make me sound stalkerish?  I hope not.)

As for the story... well... I think the scariest part wasn't the supernatural part.  It was the fact that all of us can imagine what we would do if we were robbed, and the way this dude was treated by the robbers, plus the fact that he was naked at the time, is really extremely scary.

At least I know if it was my basement, I'd have time to get some sort of blunt instrument, because there's so much detritus scattered around that the robbers would trip and fall on their asses.

The supernatural aspect, I think, might not have actually been necessary.  If I had written the story, I might have made the narrator into the monster.  And maybe he was.  Maybe the thing that split from him WAS just another part of his personality.  I don't know.  But the way the author did it was effective, and the story accomplished what the author set out to do, I think.

One thing that bothered me about this story - why were the robbers identified as "black men"? There's absolutely no physical details on them at all - other than their race. Which is made reference to more than once. In a context that made it feel a simple as - black men = criminals. Now, you could say that since this was a 1st person narrative, it could reflect the narrator's bias rather than the story's. But I don't think that's the case, since, well, there's nothing in the story pulling in any other direction. I'm not saying that the men needed to be white or something. Just that I don't see why even specify a race for them.

I was thinking about that, and perhaps the reason was "so Ben could use his accent powers"?

I'm guessing the author used that characterization because, given the surfeit of black criminals in contemporary televised fiction, it's something people can identify with.  I do think the story would've been just as strong if they'd been white, or Asian, or Latino, but because the stereotype has been beaten into our heads by the media, I think the author used it BECAUSE it evokes vivid images and feelings.

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eytanz

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Reply #3 on: January 08, 2008, 01:56:23 PM
One thing that bothered me about this story - why were the robbers identified as "black men"? There's absolutely no physical details on them at all - other than their race. Which is made reference to more than once. In a context that made it feel a simple as - black men = criminals. Now, you could say that since this was a 1st person narrative, it could reflect the narrator's bias rather than the story's. But I don't think that's the case, since, well, there's nothing in the story pulling in any other direction. I'm not saying that the men needed to be white or something. Just that I don't see why even specify a race for them.

I was thinking about that, and perhaps the reason was "so Ben could use his accent powers"?

I'm guessing the author used that characterization because, given the surfeit of black criminals in contemporary televised fiction, it's something people can identify with.  I do think the story would've been just as strong if they'd been white, or Asian, or Latino, but because the stereotype has been beaten into our heads by the media, I think the author used it BECAUSE it evokes vivid images and feelings.

But that's just perpetuating the stereotype, no? And note that I don't think he should have made the criminals white or asian or latino. I think he could have just left out any racial characterization. There was no other description, after all. Maybe, the stereotype being what it was, we would still imagine the men as black. But then that would come from us, not from the story.

I have no issue with a story about black criminals. There are many criminals who are black, and they can be in stories just like anyone else. What I'm objecting to is using the racial description of "black" as shorthand for "criminal". I think the fact that this is an effective shorthand in our society means we should be more careful about it, not less.



DKT

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Reply #4 on: January 08, 2008, 04:39:46 PM
As for the story... well... I think the scariest part wasn't the supernatural part.  It was the fact that all of us can imagine what we would do if we were robbed, and the way this dude was treated by the robbers, plus the fact that he was naked at the time, is really extremely scary.

Yep, that's exactly why this story freaked me out.  The supernatural part was freaky but the robbery was terrifying.  I don't have much to add about the stereotypical black men.  At first I just tossed it off to the POV of the protagonist, but what eytanz is saying makes sense.  It's mentioned several times, not just once or twice, and it does seem to be perpetuating a stereotype. 


Alasdair5000

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Reply #5 on: January 09, 2008, 10:24:17 PM
I
Alasdair... were you ill this week?  Just wondering.  You sounded ill.  (Does that line make me sound stalkerish?  I hope not.)


Normal vocal service, quite definitely resumed this week:)  Not so much out from under the weather (Because the weather's crap here at the moment) but definitely feeling better.

And yeah, in a long, long list of great readings, this (And to my mind, I am Nature) are real stand outs for Ben.



gelee

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Reply #6 on: January 09, 2008, 11:16:16 PM
I, too, thought this might be a sort of "Kafka" thing.  Is it really seperate from him, or is this just him externalizing his own nutso behavior?  I'm not sure, but the description of the attack, and his subsequent behavior certainly drew a cringe from me, maybe because I have daughters of my own.  That, and there have been a lot of home invasions in the news in Atlanta lately.  Ben did a great job of delivering the story.  This definatley qualifies as a scary story.
Yeah, the specificity of "black" attackers really jumped out at me.  I guess that I noticed it is a good thing.  I dismissed it as the "I" guy's POV, but it certainly stood out.
Also, glad to hear you're feeling better, Alisdair.  I thought about asking too, but I also thought it might come off a bit odd.



contra

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Reply #7 on: January 13, 2008, 09:13:49 PM
But that's just perpetuating the stereotype, no? And note that I don't think he should have made the criminals white or asian or latino. I think he could have just left out any racial characterization. There was no other description, after all. Maybe, the stereotype being what it was, we would still imagine the men as black. But then that would come from us, not from the story.

I have no issue with a story about black criminals. There are many criminals who are black, and they can be in stories just like anyone else. What I'm objecting to is using the racial description of "black" as shorthand for "criminal". I think the fact that this is an effective shorthand in our society means we should be more careful about it, not less.

Well I felt that they were black so that in the darkness he could mistake the shaddow self forthe criminal.  Hes its weak and cliche to use 'black people' as the evil thing that causes whatever... but I think to play off the fear that they were experiancing latino or white people would not have been as believable.

As it was said its cliche, stereotyping and so on, but it also does happen.  And this story was playing off fear.

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Mike---Glasgow.  Scotland.-->


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Reply #8 on: October 13, 2009, 07:31:48 PM
So the story pretty much went like this:
"I raped my wife, but that's okay because I did it for my daughter.  I'll probably kill them both soon, but none of it's my fault.  The robbers did this to me."

Ick.  Rape and (future) murder justified by this prick who was only robbed in the first place because he's a horndog idiot.  He justifies raping his wife to get that ghostly image back inside him, but after that act, he is shockingly unconcerned about his family's well-being.  He's going to wake up some day with his wife dead already and his own stupidity and inaction will be little consolation.  If he cared what happened to them he would either commit himself or go somewhere far, far away where a brief lapse of control wouldn't put them in danger. 

Ick.



Millenium_King

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Reply #9 on: July 30, 2010, 08:53:31 PM
I can't really fault this one: it was solidly told, easy to follow and kept me interested.  However, it's just as tough to compliment it: there just weren't any parts that stood out for me.  I cannot help but wonder if this would have been a better story without the literal personification of the man's "other self."  The "ghost" made it drift away from reality when, I felt, the strong ties to the realm of possibility are what made this one work.

Likewise, I was not a particular fan of the language.  Nothing bad, but again, nothing impressive.  Worth the listen, but not the first I'd really recommend to anyone or listen to again.

Great reading by Ben.

EDIT: I wanted to add my take on the race of the robbers.  The narrator mentions at some point "a world I knew nothing of" (I'm paraphrasing).  It was my take that the robbers were black because the narrator lived in something of a "typical, white suburban neighborhood" and their race provided contrast and a physcical example of the "world he knew nothing of."
« Last Edit: July 30, 2010, 08:57:57 PM by Millenium_King »

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