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Author Topic: Pseudopod 86: The Wild Y  (Read 30203 times)

Bdoomed

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on: April 18, 2008, 04:35:49 AM
Pseudopod 86: The Wild Y

By Teej Grant

Read by Ben Phillips

Paul Toland liked it best as high up as he could squirrel himself beneath the bridge, right up there at the nexus, where with superstructure of the bridge itself sliced in to connect with the finished concrete of the street. Here, with his bag of belongings, his bottle, and his razor, he felt safe and content. A small voice from his earlier life told him that this was only a primitive retreat to the womb fantasies that everyone had somewhere in their subconscious; he told the small voice to shut the hell up.

Paul was younger than most of the residents under the bridge and in somewhat better condition (though certainly no poster boy for Health & Fitness Magazine), so he had little to fear from the rest of them. In fact, he was sort of like their king. As long as those damned spike-haired, body-pierced punkers stayed on their own turf, anyway.

Tonight was a sweet one. Late May, nighttime temperature hovering around seventy, almost too warm, but with a frisky and teasing wind to alleviate any discomfort, bringing with it the salty taste of the Bay. It was moonless and quiet, too. By four a.m., Paul was in a deep sleep that was unbroken by even the dreams that tended to haunt his nights.





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?


Listener

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Reply #1 on: April 18, 2008, 11:34:08 AM
Purple prose abounded, at least in the first few minutes.  Not enough uses of the word "said".  The plot was okay, but I don't really consider it a horror story.  The sex felt forced and silly.  The twist wasn't unexpected.

Ben did an admirable job given the source material.

I give it a "meh".

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Kaa

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Reply #2 on: April 18, 2008, 02:44:35 PM
I agree somewhat with Listener.  The story had some problems. The Expository Dump(tm) was a bit forced, and if you noticed (like I did) her rather pointed belaboring of the point that only men possess this Wild Y, the ending was visible from at least a parsec.

And yeah, the sex scene? Egregious and unnecessary.  It felt like..."I was supposed to have 2500 words, but I've only got 2200. I know! I'll write a sex scene!"

The only horror in this comes from the thought of having a president that's a dangerous, psycho lunatic, who....

Uh. *ahem*  Never mind.

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Listener

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Reply #3 on: April 18, 2008, 04:38:02 PM

Quote
The only horror in this comes from the thought of having a president that's a dangerous, psycho lunatic, who....

Uh. *ahem*  Never mind.

I wouldn't worry.  It doesn't look like Hillary's going to get the nomination.

*see what I did there?* :)

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Kaa

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Reply #4 on: April 18, 2008, 04:51:11 PM
I wouldn't worry.  It doesn't look like Hillary's going to get the nomination.

*see what I did there?* :)

Oh, yes. Very subtle. :)

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DarkKnightJRK

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Reply #5 on: April 19, 2008, 01:44:23 AM
The only horror in this comes from the thought of having a president that's a dangerous, psycho lunatic, who....

Uh. *ahem*  Never mind.

Yeah, that was most definately the most subtle political slam I've ever heard in fiction. EVER.

</sarcasm>

Don't get me wrong, I love me some political slams, but they're like fine spices--you only need a little to go a long way.



Kaa

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Reply #6 on: April 19, 2008, 01:49:06 AM
Yeah, that was most definately the most subtle political slam I've ever heard in fiction. EVER.

</sarcasm>

Don't get me wrong, I love me some political slams, but they're like fine spices--you only need a little to go a long way.

Amusingly, the most egregious one I've seen in a while was another Escape Artists story. I can't remember if it was Escape Pod or Pseudopod, but it was the one where the president was a werewolf.  That one was as subtle as an anvil.

[Edit] Pseudopod 042: Full Moon Over 1600.  http://forum.escapeartists.info/index.php?topic=901.0
« Last Edit: April 19, 2008, 02:03:13 AM by Kaa »

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deflective

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Reply #7 on: April 19, 2008, 07:55:44 PM
this was almost campy enough for me to unconditionally like it. almost =)

Quote from: Kaa
And yeah, the sex scene? Egregious and unnecessary.

completely, this was what pushed it through to camp for me. for a couple moments it was so over the top i didn't have to worry about suspending my disbelief. unfortunately the rest of it took itself too seriously. i'm reminded of listening to infected, the promo is so outrageously over the top that i thought it was spoofing itself. didn't really work out that way.

i thought it would turn out that the woman was a wild y, having sex in the mental space that she was just using a borrowed body. it works alright as an attempt to assuage her guilt though, letting a guy have sex one last time as a man.

Quote
The only horror in this comes from the thought of having a president that's a dangerous, psycho lunatic, who....

i have a harder time with the idea that the checks & balances in government would allow such frivolous use of resources. talk about the ultimate organ donor.


i was also wondering what president has ever had a wife that looks 25? and what city has senior citizens as most of its homeless?



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Reply #8 on: April 20, 2008, 09:07:32 AM
This is the second scifi podcast I have listened to recently that was about a male shapeshifter tricked into becoming the president's wife. The punchline in both was the horror men apparently feel at the idea of being female. Get over it boys. It's not that bad.



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Reply #9 on: April 20, 2008, 02:04:18 PM
This is the second scifi podcast I have listened to recently that was about a male shapeshifter tricked into becoming the president's wife. The punchline in both was the horror men apparently feel at the idea of being female. Get over it boys. It's not that bad.

I don't think it was the horror of being female... I think it was the horror of being stuck married to a sadistic & abusive male.

I know that thought sends shivers through MY spine!

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Reply #10 on: April 20, 2008, 06:50:36 PM
I am usually pretty good at suspending disbelief, but the science here just set off my "OH PLEASE" receptors.  Most of the genetic traits that express as our recognizable features are developmental -- they are triggered as a creature grows.  Even if you could magically change someone's genetic material, your body isn't going to remake itself to match -- it took 18 years or so to make it in the first place.  You completely redraw the blueprints of a house, you still have the same house, unless you want to tear it down and build it new.  If you're gonna tell a shapeshifting story, go ahead and make it a totally out-there mechanism -- don't try to couch it in really, really bad "science."
« Last Edit: April 20, 2008, 08:28:40 PM by bolddeceiver »



eytanz

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Reply #11 on: April 21, 2008, 04:42:16 PM
I didn't find anything horrifying about this story except the combination of really bad science and many plotholes (here's one - the actor is in prime position to cause real trouble for the president at the end, simply by waiting for a public appearance where he/she can say something really damaging (say, mention something about the president's secret gay lover). One of the rules of spindoctoring is that you make sure that the person in the spotlight doesn't have an ax to grind. If you take a guy who doesn't have much to live for, tell him he has a superpower that can make his life perfect, then take it away, do you really want to take the chance he'll fear retribution enough to not take you down out of spite? And here's another - if you were mounting this sort of operation, why the hell would you care about whether the victim signs a contract? Indeed, such a contract is a paper trail, and thus a potential liability. Sheesh).

Mostly, I think this story suffered for being in Pseudopod - if I were to read it in a general anthology/magazine, I may have been misled into thinking this was a wish-fulfillment story and then the twist in the end would have had some bite, even if it was a campy silly one. But here, I spent the entire story knowing it's going to end badly, and making up scenarios of how it all goes horribly wrong. The end result was sort of an anticlimax compared with some of the scenarios in my head (for example, that this really was some part of an assassination attempt, or that the president wanted to pretend to be dead and the actor was supposed to provide the body, etc.)



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Reply #12 on: April 21, 2008, 05:41:00 PM
I rather enjoyed this.  Yeah, the science was a bit sketch, and I didn't care for the sex scene.  I also felt the ending was a bit vague.  I had to come to the forums to figure out that it was the first lady he would be replacing, rather than some random female victim.
I thought it was fun, if not terribly deep.



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Reply #13 on: April 22, 2008, 04:11:47 PM
I liked this at first, especially the opening on the homeless man.  When the punks were brought up, I thought I was going to get a completely different kind of story than the one I got.  What I got was okay, but when the secret service showed up and we found out Paul was an actor, it started to lose me.  You knew what was going to happen at this point -- or close enough.  After that, it started falling into cliches that climaxed with the ridiculous sex scene. 

And pretty much everything eytanz said, but especially this:
Mostly, I think this story suffered for being in Pseudopod - if I were to read it in a general anthology/magazine, I may have been misled into thinking this was a wish-fulfillment story and then the twist in the end would have had some bite, even if it was a campy silly one. But here, I spent the entire story knowing it's going to end badly, and making up scenarios of how it all goes horribly wrong. The end result was sort of an anticlimax compared with some of the scenarios in my head (for example, that this really was some part of an assassination attempt, or that the president wanted to pretend to be dead and the actor was supposed to provide the body, etc.)

I kept trying to figure out how Dave or Moon over Parador could be turned into a horror story.

Hrm.  Now that I think about it, desecrating feel-good movies' plots to generate horror stories might be an interesting writing exercise.


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Reply #14 on: April 25, 2008, 12:59:59 AM
This is the second scifi podcast I have listened to recently that was about a male shapeshifter tricked into becoming the president's wife. The punchline in both was the horror men apparently feel at the idea of being female. Get over it boys. It's not that bad.

I don't think it was the horror of being female... I think it was the horror of being stuck married to a sadistic & abusive male.

I know that thought sends shivers through MY spine!

Almost missed that it was the first lady he killed (there was a quick reference to 'the first couple')- I assumed the first time I listened to it that it was a hussie/intern/prostitute he killed while coked out ("he's a man of many passions.")  I think that would have been a more believable angle- they would have still been worried about the investigations going on with a missing lewinski-type so they would have needed to transform him to cover it up, but nobody would ever believe the hussies crazy rantings.
He/she now has plenty opportunity to cause a stir and uncover this technology with the first lady platform- unless they really keep him/her away from the public, and then they might as well have just left her dead and covered it up somehow else rather than wasting a rare shapeshifter type on it.

And yes, the sex scene should have never happened.




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Reply #15 on: April 25, 2008, 12:40:48 PM
Man, I don't know what I can say about this episode without being perceived as descending into frothing hyperbole.  Guh.  Hated it.  You can so totally do better, Pseudopod.

Besides the huge amount of ridiculous science fudging that has been extensively documented by prior posters (I like the way bolddeceiver laid it out particularly), the completely unbelievable wish-fulfillment sex with gorgeous woman in the middle that has also been eyerolled upthread (by Listener first), and the ridiculous assumption that the world could ever work this way from a political standpoint (eytanz documents a couple of the misses here but nowhere near all of them) I, like allie above, can't believe the editors thought it was a good idea to run a story whose punchline was "HA HA! You're a woman.  And that's horrible!  See how horrible that is?"

As to TAD's counterargument that it was a female subject to an abusive male and not just merely a female, I think you fell for the smokescreen, my friend.  The final scene is not one of the president coming after the protag with a baseball bat, is it?  We've already established that said mc is a live in the present kind of guy, with no thought for his future, and his horror, at the ending, is looking a mirror (ohhhh, staring in the mirror, nice cliché moment you got there).  So I call foul on the ostensible theme of "but it's the horrible situation, not the double x chromosomes, honest!" ploy.

And I have an exhibit B to add to the story's general misogynistic roots in the form of a barely characterized secret service agent who does not approximate any real life woman but serves just fine in the stereotypical sexy ball-breaker role complete with penis (I mean, Wild Y chromosome) envy. 

Ugh. 

I realize that it's horror's place to be transgressive and talk about taboos.  I'm ok with that.  Unfortunately, sexism falls into the all too common category, not the transgressive one, so really, you totally failed me on this one.  Also, since the woman-hating is clearly part of the theme instead of the dialog or the mc POV (unlike the leprechaun story), this is definitely the worst of all worlds.

I am sad.  But also angry.  I miss Mur.

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eytanz

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Reply #16 on: April 25, 2008, 01:03:02 PM
I, like allie above, can't believe the editors thought it was a good idea to run a story whose punchline was "HA HA! You're a woman.  And that's horrible!  See how horrible that is?"

Actually, if I may offer a weak counter-position, I think the intended horror was supposed to be derived from two sources:

1. The first was that the guy lost his superpower, which was clearly presented as THE AWESOMEST SUPERPOWER EVER(tm). It is not only shapeshifting, but it also cures diseases, makes you immortal, and the process of shapeshifting offers a high better than any drug or sex. But now it was taken from him, since he no longer has a Y chromosome. Ignoring the utter stupidity of this, however, this is still not an effective counter-argument, since it basically amounts to saying that being a man is better than being a woman since men get cool superpowers and women don't. So I'll move on to:

2. The second element of horror is the unwitting gender change. Not the gender that was changed into, but the process of change. This one is the only aspect of it I find mildly redeemable. Being a woman is in no way a bad thing. Nor is being a man. Changing from one to the other against your will can be. If I were to wake up tomorrow and discover I turned female overnight (and have no way to turn back), it would be pretty traumatic. I think every woman I know would feel the same if she were to suddenly be male. So, I think it's valid to interpret the ending as horror without ascribing to a misogynistic world view.

That said, while I think (2) is a valid defense of the story, I don't think it's a sufficient defense. Whether the story is inentionally misogynistic or not, it is certainly ambiguously so. And it is certainly nowhere near a good enough story to make its flaws forgivable. Also, I don't think there is any way around the following argument:

And I have an exhibit B to add to the story's general misogynistic roots in the form of a barely characterized secret service agent who does not approximate any real life woman but serves just fine in the stereotypical sexy ball-breaker role complete with penis (I mean, Wild Y chromosome) envy. 

There have been stories on PP I liked, and stories I disliked, but this was the first story whose acceptance I felt was an outright editorial misjudgement.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2008, 01:04:58 PM by eytanz »



Anarkey

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Reply #17 on: April 25, 2008, 03:08:25 PM
Actually, if I may offer a weak counter-position, I think the intended horror was supposed to be derived from two sources:

Well, now, if you're going to out and out say that your counterargument is weak it's not terribly sporting of me to dismantle it, is it?

Still, a couple of notes to you re: where the horror really lies. I'm not going to pretend I know what the author intended.  I'm not making any argument that the author is a sexist jackass (nor that Pseudopod's editors are sexist jackasses, btw).  The story comes across as pretty damn sexist but I'm not going to infer anything further than what we have recorded in mp3.  Whether it's innocently or accidentally sexist, or whether it's supposed to be undermining a sexist horror trope through the use of camp or whatever, I can't really say.  I have my suspicions, naturally, and they include the idea of "if this was a joke, it was a really badly executed one."  But I'm making no claim as to intent. 

One of the things that muddies the waters about where the horror lies is all the other crappy stuff that has happened to him besides being girlified.  I see those other crappy things (the suddenness and unexpectedness of the gender switch to the protag, the fact that he's being sent off to be some psychotic madman's bitch, the loss of his mighty supahpowahs, and so forth) as the extra cymbal crashes on the horror of his fate (being made a girl), whereas you and TAD argue one or more of those other things as the primary drumbeat, downplaying the 'Oh noes! Girl!' aspect.  Since the gender switch is plot required to make any of the subsequent points, I think you have both been sidetracked from the main point, but there's certainly room for interpretation.  As you so rightly point out, even taking one of these other misfortunes as the primary thrust of how horrible his situation is, you can still end up in 'wow, that's pretty sexist' territory.

Arcwise, this story begins with a man who is a hopeless alcoholic and ends with his complete horror at being transformed into a woman.  The story says, essentially, 'homeless drunk male' > 'First Lady of the nation'.  Which I find bogus.

My argument about the misogyny of the setting is supported by the depiction of the other female of the plot, a secret service woman so powerful she's practically running the country, who has a whole cadre of dark-glasses-wearing lackeys to do her every bidding and can behave as unprofessionally as she likes with no consequences, but who would still prefer to be the boy.  You admit there's no way around this, and I accept that (and agree!), but I wanted to reiterate it, because it's the clincher for me.  I find it not only bogus but offensive.

There have been stories on PP I liked, and stories I disliked, but this was the first story whose acceptance I felt was an outright editorial misjudgement.

Completely with you there, and this was what I meant when I said I missed Mur.

I have to say that I have read and heard stories that I thought had a sexist angle and still enjoyed them, even loved them.  This is not a complete dealbreaker for me, though you'd better do everything else PERFECTLY, if you're going to build such an obviously sexist world and expect me to go there.  This story had many other failings.  If someone tells me they really, really loved "The Turner Diaries" I'm going to think they're racist assholes, because really, the work has no redeeming quality and is one of the poorest  examples of its genre.  If someone tells me they love the "Left Behind" series I'm going to know their worldview is a bit looney and PMD skewed because those books are one of the worst examples of their genre and if they aren't pushing your philosophical buttons, there's nothing worthwhile there.  I said earlier that I don't think Psuedopod's editors are sexist jackasses, and I don't, but I'm struggling, because this story had lots of other flaws, and if they selected it anyway, what exactly about it were they so in love with?  It's hard to believe this is the best thing in their slushpile.  I'm leaning, perhaps, toward the interpretation that one of the editors has a gender switch bulletproof kink (storywise, not sexually) that made the sexist overtones of this story invisible to them because the other gender switch stories we've seen on PP haven't been all that great either.  If that's the case, I recommend that editor give any further gender switch stories to another reader to check for quality and rampant sexism before publishing them. 

BTW, if anyone has a desire to read a story that uses all these themes and has a far greater squick factor and is, IMO, done well instead of poorly, I recommend Ann Leckie's "The Snake's Wife".  It's unfortunately too long for Pseudopod, but it's good horror.

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Reply #18 on: April 25, 2008, 03:30:24 PM
1. The first was that the guy lost his superpower, which was clearly presented as THE AWESOMEST SUPERPOWER EVER(tm). It is not only shapeshifting, but it also cures diseases, makes you immortal, and the process of shapeshifting offers a high better than any drug or sex. But now it was taken from him, since he no longer has a Y chromosome.

Interesting.  I never really thought of it that way.  It does bring an interesting new angle to the story, but somehow I think the author didn't think of this either, preferring to focus on the gender/switch angle.

That does bring up an interesting point, though... will new weapons be developed that can inject female DNA into a squad of Wild-Y soldiers, thereby rendering them killable?

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Reply #19 on: April 25, 2008, 03:56:43 PM
Wow.  Sometimes this forum makes my brain stretch.  I never would have come up with this on my own:

The story says, essentially, 'homeless drunk male' > 'First Lady of the nation'.  Which I find bogus.

but seeing Anarkey write it, I want to bang my head onto my desk over and over for not picking that up.  It's pretty horrible. 

Initially, I didn't get that the whole thing was a sexist gender change "Oh my GOD it SUCKS to be a woman!"  I just thought the guy was tripping because he was going to (probably) end up getting beaten to death/strangled by the president.  Which didn't work at all for me horror-wise, at all.


2. The second element of horror is the unwitting gender change. Not the gender that was changed into, but the process of change. This one is the only aspect of it I find mildly redeemable. Being a woman is in no way a bad thing. Nor is being a man. Changing from one to the other against your will can be. If I were to wake up tomorrow and discover I turned female overnight (and have no way to turn back), it would be pretty traumatic. I think every woman I know would feel the same if she were to suddenly be male. So, I think it's valid to interpret the ending as horror without ascribing to a misogynistic world view.


Also, I'd add that this type of horror is (IMO) is covered more effectively in the early PP Flash piece "Her Shoes."


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Reply #20 on: April 25, 2008, 06:57:00 PM
Well, I'll be the guy to say that I didn't really find this story sexist.  To me, it was clear that the guy was horrified because of the sudden gender change-shock and more so the loss of the sweetest, best piece of luck-superpower ever-- not "Oh my god- I'm a woman?! ewwy!"

You can construe the YY power that woman couldn't have as a sexist, "men-are-better" message the way you can find offensive metaphor in all sorts of stuff that wasn't intentional.     

I think there were a few weak points to the story but sexism wasn't one of them and you guys are being a bit harsh to the PP editors.  Overall I enjoyed it.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2008, 07:00:53 PM by goatkeeper »



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Reply #21 on: April 25, 2008, 09:14:01 PM
Well, I'll be the guy to say that I didn't really find this story sexist. 
...
I think there were a few weak points to the story but sexism wasn't one of them and you guys are being a bit harsh to the PP editors.  Overall I enjoyed it.

I fully believe you didn't find the story sexist.  On the other hand, I'm not certain I can credit the "I didn't find the story sexist therefore it wasn't" argument, specially without textual support of any kind, and given that I've provided quite a lot of textual support for my position, which is that the story definitely is sexist. 

Unless you're positing yourself as an authority on sexism, and believe sexism can never occur without your noticing it, asserting it doesn't exist because you can't see it is a dubious counter.

Perhaps you can shore up your credibility with me by giving me an example of a story you have found sexist.  Then at least I'd know you recognize that stories can be sexist and that you have a sample set which you are using to compare this story to. 

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Reply #22 on: April 26, 2008, 03:36:09 AM
I was completely unimpressed with this story. The horror of being a woman? Sorry, but you'd have to give me at least a minute or two alone before that became "horrible". I get that the idea was that the horror was being the woman the president liked to kill, or that making the "wild Y" a woman ended the chance of transformations, but a minute or two to make the leap would be nice.

And what the heck was that really very silly sex scene in the frickin' chair? I realize that a short, short needs a bit of an info dump, but add to the superpower that the transformation was orgasmic, nearly instantaneous and well, impossible ('cuz the brain is like made of cells with DNA, too). The thing that killed it was not all of that, but the secret service guy who says "i'll never get used to that."

I'm glad that I don't love every story, but I think this one is my least favourite story, ever. Now that we've hit bottom, onward and upwards, please.

Oh, and perhaps this can be the end of the president-is-some-inhuman-entity-but-nobody-really-cares stories. A life-sucking vampire presidential candidate, a suicidal head, a werewolf and a homicidal maniac. Thanks, but no thanks.



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Reply #23 on: April 26, 2008, 05:54:17 AM
Well, I'll be the guy to say that I didn't really find this story sexist. 
...
I think there were a few weak points to the story but sexism wasn't one of them and you guys are being a bit harsh to the PP editors.  Overall I enjoyed it.

I fully believe you didn't find the story sexist.  On the other hand, I'm not certain I can credit the "I didn't find the story sexist therefore it wasn't" argument, specially without textual support of any kind, and given that I've provided quite a lot of textual support for my position, which is that the story definitely is sexist. 

Unless you're positing yourself as an authority on sexism, and believe sexism can never occur without your noticing it, asserting it doesn't exist because you can't see it is a dubious counter.

Perhaps you can shore up your credibility with me by giving me an example of a story you have found sexist.  Then at least I'd know you recognize that stories can be sexist and that you have a sample set which you are using to compare this story to. 
I'm not positing myself as anything, not asserting anything, I'm not interesting in establishing credibility with you or providing textual support to try to sway others opinions about this.  Sorry, I'm a boring forum debater.  I don't use the forums for that.  I'm just saying that I liked the story ok and that I didn't find it sexist.  I admitted that it could be construed as sexist if that's really what you want to construe.



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Reply #24 on: April 26, 2008, 01:34:38 PM

As to TAD's counterargument that it was a female subject to an abusive male and not just merely a female, I think you fell for the smokescreen, my friend.  The final scene is not one of the president coming after the protag with a baseball bat, is it?  We've already established that said mc is a live in the present kind of guy, with no thought for his future, and his horror, at the ending, is looking a mirror (ohhhh, staring in the mirror, nice cliché moment you got there).  So I call foul on the ostensible theme of "but it's the horrible situation, not the double x chromosomes, honest!" ploy.


The counterargument has been made several time since this remark, but I hope to defend my feminist honor a bit.  True, I was engaging in a bit of apologetic rationalization in order to sooth my reaction to the more overt stereotypes in the story.  I didn't mean to imply that the story was without sin, just that the frisson of horror wasn't supposed to come from a sense of "Oh, how horrible it would be to be a female (aren't they nasty)", but rather from "Oh, how horrible that I'm about to go to bed with a slavering, hairy beast of a man."

FWIW, I would rather be a homeless drunk that, say, Laura Bush.  Does that make me a sexist, or does it say something about W?

You've probably noticed that I don't like to dive into the negative; I usually don't comment at all if I don't have anything positive to say.  This story's problems are well documented, and the only positive I could come up with was the above rationalization.  I would hope that faint and flaccid defense would not be equated with praise.

I just don't want to be tarred with the Feather of Chauvinism simply because I didn't sign the petition to go back in time and remove it from existence.  :)

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Reply #25 on: April 26, 2008, 08:22:40 PM
Well, I'll be the guy to say that I didn't really find this story sexist. 
...
I think there were a few weak points to the story but sexism wasn't one of them and you guys are being a bit harsh to the PP editors.  Overall I enjoyed it.

I fully believe you didn't find the story sexist.  On the other hand, I'm not certain I can credit the "I didn't find the story sexist therefore it wasn't" argument, specially without textual support of any kind, and given that I've provided quite a lot of textual support for my position, which is that the story definitely is sexist. 

Unless you're positing yourself as an authority on sexism, and believe sexism can never occur without your noticing it, asserting it doesn't exist because you can't see it is a dubious counter.

Perhaps you can shore up your credibility with me by giving me an example of a story you have found sexist.  Then at least I'd know you recognize that stories can be sexist and that you have a sample set which you are using to compare this story to. 

First of all, I have to make a big admission --- I missed that Paul (it was Paul, wasn't it?) was turned into a woman. I don't know how I did that. Something didn't make sense at the end, and I did relisten to the ending a couple of times to figure out what I missed. Still didn't get it. Man, am I embarrassed.

Anyway, now that I've thought about the story in that light, I'm not sure the story relies on the category 'sexism', although there are people doing sexist things in the story. The story could have worked equally well if it was about a female president who had killed the First Man. Or if the First Lady had found the President receiving favours from White House interns and killed him, necessitating his substitution with a woman with 'Wild Second X Syndrome.'

The horror comes from the juxtaposition of the promise of permanent youth, good looks and the whole James Bond lifestyle with a fundamental and irreversible change of identity. Paul's identity had been wrapped up in glitz and glamour, and I suspect there was a yearning to get some of the excitement back. He was Paul Tullman! He was finally getting his life back. He gets some of those things (being First Lady isn't all bad), but Paul Tullman has always identified as a man too. Gender identification is one of the most fundamental parts of a person's self image.

The chase: becoming a woman isn't, I presume, a horrible thing. But it is if you identify as a man.

Let's extrapolate the story further. If Paul were to survive his term as First Lady, and he were able to leave the former President safely, I wonder what he'd do? Would the former First Lady find herself a girlfriend? Or would she have been driven to suicide long before she got there?

Or perhaps I just need to go listen to the story again!



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Reply #26 on: April 27, 2008, 12:18:18 PM
The counterargument has been made several time since this remark, but I hope to defend my feminist honor a bit.  True, I was engaging in a bit of apologetic rationalization in order to sooth my reaction to the more overt stereotypes in the story. 

Thank you for this, TAD.  You didn't have to go back and clarify, but I'm glad you had the guts to do so.  You're firmly ensconced in my Set of Good People.



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Reply #27 on: April 27, 2008, 12:25:59 PM
Anyway, now that I've thought about the story in that light, I'm not sure the story relies on the category 'sexism', although there are people doing sexist things in the story. The story could have worked equally well if it was about a female president who had killed the First Man.

Actually, that's not the same story at all, because it's missing the part where this good-looking and powerful male, followed around by a set of willing and loyal amazons who restrain the replacement female (soon to be converted to First Man) as necessary, jumps the bones of said female replacement and repeatedly tells her how much he wishes he was her, even knowing he's packing her off to a terrible fate.  Which would never work as horror, ever.   So no.  Not buying the old 'it would be the same story if the genders were switched' line.

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Reply #28 on: April 27, 2008, 12:59:16 PM
Anyway, now that I've thought about the story in that light, I'm not sure the story relies on the category 'sexism', although there are people doing sexist things in the story. The story could have worked equally well if it was about a female president who had killed the First Man.

Actually, that's not the same story at all, because it's missing the part where this good-looking and powerful male, followed around by a set of willing and loyal amazons who restrain the replacement female (soon to be converted to First Man) as necessary, jumps the bones of said female replacement and repeatedly tells her how much he wishes he was her, even knowing he's packing her off to a terrible fate.  Which would never work as horror, ever.   So no.  Not buying the old 'it would be the same story if the genders were switched' line.

Fair call. Simply swapping the genders wouldn't work. Having said that, though, I consider a lot of that stuff merely a mechanism to get to the horror, which I've already discussed. I think the same premise could lead to the same conclusion if the genders were reversed, but the story would take a very different path to get there.

I suspect the story could be much stronger for it. Cripes, skipping the jumping of the bones would do that just by itself.



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Reply #29 on: April 27, 2008, 10:02:33 PM
Fair call. Simply swapping the genders wouldn't work. Having said that, though, I consider a lot of that stuff merely a mechanism to get to the horror, which I've already discussed. I think the same premise could lead to the same conclusion if the genders were reversed, but the story would take a very different path to get there.

I suspect the story could be much stronger for it. Cripes, skipping the jumping of the bones would do that just by itself.

There were ways to treat the themes and questions and events in this story without coming off sexist, yes, I agree.  Honestly, I think all the negative reaction to the sex scene is people sensing the absurdity of the world setup, the falseness of the antagonist female character, because in general this audience is not prudish.  The sex scene doesn't fit because it's sexist, positing that any woman would find this homeless alcoholic irresistible because of his spectacular 'wild Y', if you just wash him and shave him first.  So I credit anyone who felt the hollowness there with seeing through the veneer, even if they don't claim it as sexism the way I do. 

And there's no shame in just allowing the story setup to go past unexamined (provided one's lack of examination isn't causing one to make declarative statements about the lack of sexism in the story, and provided one is not making unexamined editorial choices).  My position is not that everyone should have noticed this, even though it's blatant (though, of course, I think the editors should have noticed.  Their job is different.)  Lots of complicated things are going on while one listens to/reads a story.  It just so happens I'm not the sort of audience who is either willing or able to disconnect the critical thinking part of my brain during stories, which may mean that I'm not the right sort of audience for Pseudopod anymore.

I had some podcast time yesterday and I found myself avoiding Pseudopod's new offering and gritting my teeth at the thought of trying to listen to it.  In the absence of an 'oops, we made a mistake' from the editors, I can only assume they didn't make a mistake, and that to them this wretched story (flawed in numerous ways discussed here besides the misogyny) is exactly what they want to put out.  Mind you, I'm not calling on the editors to make any kind of statement here.  They hardly ever do, and I appreciate how they allow the forum conversations to proceed unimpeded.  They're not answerable to me, and I don't think they should be.

Still, I don't want to hear another story like this one.  I trusted the editors' discernment.  Now I don't.  I wish I could say, as Steve does (and I find clever every time), different words in a different order next week, but it's not as simple as 'I don't like this story'.  I can get past stuff I don't like.  I don't like that this story could be chosen.  And if it's not a mistake (even a 20/20 hindsight mistake), then it's probably time for me and Pseudopod to take our separate ways.  Hiatus.  Vacation.  See other podcasts/listeners.  Something like that. 

If you are a regular listener of this podcast, and you know I value and trust your judgment (you know who you are!), and a particularly excellent Pseudopod you think I would like to hear comes around, feel free to PM me.  I need another filter layer between me and this podcast, though, and I'm not going to listen to anything that's not specifically recommended to me as worthwhile.  Thanks.

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Reply #30 on: April 28, 2008, 12:15:14 AM
Now that I have thought about this story for a while and read the forum I think it wasn't just that the story was so openly sexist, I think it was a deliberate hit at Hillary Clinton, an uppity women who some people wish had been killed by her husband and whose surrogate was repeatedly killed in this story. (The character Toland wasn't the first Wild Y to be used to replace her and be killed again.)

I think there was a political subtext in the choice of this rather poor story. I wonder if the editors are even aware of why it appealed to them.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2008, 12:58:17 AM by alllie »



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Reply #31 on: April 28, 2008, 09:57:42 AM
Has anyone paused to consider that the horror of becoming a woman, to a man, is in this instance not just a gender reassignment and loss of powers one, but also this:

He's become a married woman.
Husbands like to have sex with their wives.
Not a great many men like to have sex with other men.

I'm not saying this story is homophobic. But I am saying that perhaps in the clamour to shout out about the percieved sexism, the more obvious source of personal horror is being overlooked.

I'm also not standing up to defend this story in any way, other than it's obviously done something right by causing such an uproar.

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Anarkey

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Reply #32 on: April 30, 2008, 11:34:10 AM
I'm also not standing up to defend this story in any way, other than it's obviously done something right by causing such an uproar.

Meh.  Zidane headbutting Materazzi during World Cup caused an uproar, too and I wouldn't call that doing something right.  I'd call that making poor choices and going down in flames.

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Reply #33 on: April 30, 2008, 11:41:37 AM
So it's the end of PseudoPod because they ran one story you didn't like?

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Reply #34 on: April 30, 2008, 11:58:43 AM
So it's the end of PseudoPod because they ran one story you didn't like?

As much as it's a shame that Anarkey will no longer be posting commentary on PP stories, I'm pretty sure the podcast will go on without her listening.

And I fail to see the point in arguing with someone over their choice of what podcasts to listen to.



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Reply #35 on: April 30, 2008, 12:18:02 PM
That's not what I said at all. Anarkey was decrying the fall of civilisation as we know it simply because she didn't like one story. I was suggesting that, perhaps, that may be an overreaction.

It's clear that the majority of listeners who also happen to post on the forum didn't like this particular story (because let's face it, PP has thousands of subscribers, but only ten or so posters are active in this thread). Is it the end of PP? No. Is it worth getting into such a huge tizz over? No. Is it worth picking fights with total strangers for? No.

My initial suggestion was that, perhaps, there was a different angle to the horror (or, at least, attempted horror) within this story than the one people appeared to be latching on to. That part of my post was ignored, and instead my statement that courting controversy is never a bad thing was pounced upon and inflated with much hyperbole. So I called Anarkey on that. I'm not really expecting a rational response, as she seems to expect a personal apology from the editors for running one story which she thought was rubbish.

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eytanz

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Reply #36 on: April 30, 2008, 01:08:20 PM
That's not what I said at all. Anarkey was decrying the fall of civilisation as we know it simply because she didn't like one story. I was suggesting that, perhaps, that may be an overreaction.

She hasn't exactly been decrying the fall of civilisation. She's been saying she's done with PP. And if you look at other recent PP threads, you'll see this isn't a reaction to just one story. This story provoked her strongest reaction, but she hasn't been enjoying the majority of PP stories for a while.

Quote
Is it the end of PP? No. Is it worth getting into such a huge tizz over? No. Is it worth picking fights with total strangers for? No.

I still don't get where you get the "end of PP" thing. Is it worth getting into a "huge tizz" about it? I don't know, but her response is certainly sincere. She is genuinely upset about this story. These forums are for people giving their feedback, and that includes strong negative feedback. Her reaction should be just as welcome here as everyone elses.

I do agree that she's been a bit over-aggressive with some people who disagree with her, but that's not the same as picking fights.

Quote
My initial suggestion was that, perhaps, there was a different angle to the horror (or, at least, attempted horror) within this story than the one people appeared to be latching on to. That part of my post was ignored,

My guess is because she didn't have anything to say about it. Your suggestion is a valid reading of the story, but her criticism has never been that it's not possible to interpret the story differently than she has.

Quote
and instead my statement that courting controversy is never a bad thing was pounced upon and inflated with much hyperbole.

I have two reactions to this, in no particular order:

1. I notice one person reacting with extreme hyperbole here (let me quote: "End of civilisation", "end of PseudoPod", "pounced upon and inflated with much hyperbole"). It isn't Anarkey.
2. That statement in your original post was a bloody stupid statement (and that's not hyperbole. That's what I feel about it).

Quote
So I called Anarkey on that. I'm not really expecting a rational response, as she seems to expect a personal apology from the editors for running one story which she thought was rubbish.

So, you're making posts expecting irrational responses from people you believe to already be overly upset and prone to aggression. Remind me who it was that was picking fights here?
« Last Edit: April 30, 2008, 01:12:25 PM by eytanz »



Anarkey

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Reply #37 on: April 30, 2008, 08:37:00 PM
Is it the end of PP? No. Is it worth getting into such a huge tizz over? No. Is it worth picking fights with total strangers for? No.

What is worthwhile will naturally vary from person to person.  Pseudopod is something I value.  In the past, I have seen it as meaningful and pleasurable.  I am saddened that this is no longer the case.  I find it worth my while to express in detail why this is so disappointing to me.  It's possible my data point could be useful to someone else somewhere along the way.  Even if it's not, I gain from thinking critically about the story, about my reactions to it, then organizing my thoughts well enough to post on the topic.  For me, it's worthwhile.  If it is not worth your while to read what I have posted, then don't.  To suggest what is worth my while and what isn't, even if it is not worth yours, is patronizing.  Please don't.

I'm not really expecting a rational response, as she seems to expect a personal apology from the editors for running one story which she thought was rubbish.

I have no idea what would constitute a 'rational response', and am not pretending that I am offering one.  However, I will correct the record on one small thing, which is my expectation of personal apology.  I was quite specific about not expecting that.  If I may quote my own self, I said: "Mind you, I'm not calling on the editors to make any kind of statement here.  They hardly ever do, and I appreciate how they allow the forum conversations to proceed unimpeded.  They're not answerable to me, and I don't think they should be."  To be clear, I also expressed some wish to understand where the editors were coming from and what they were thinking when they chose this story.  That was not a request for an apology.  It was the hope that if I better understood their choice it would fire my mirror neurons and I'd be all 'oh, I can see where one might do that' and be able to put the whole thing to rest.  I can understand fuckups, for example, we all fuckup.  I can understand 'Yeah, maybe I didn't think that one through the way I should have.'  And because I want to like Pseudopod, I said that if I knew it was just an error I could get past it.  But I have nothing.  And this story, in the absence of any other context that mitigates it, crosses a line for me.  I'm done.

Everyone has those lines.  Whether it takes one story or twenty, there's a point beyond which people aren't willing to flex any further.  I've reached mine.  If you think it's worth mocking me for my low threshold of resistance, feel free to carry on (though eytanz, who has read many a post of mine, astutely notes that I have been expressing dissatisfaction with Pseudopod's offerings for a while now).

I'm not asking that Pseudopod change one single little thing.  I'm not asking for any kind of accommodation.  Perhaps I should have slunk away without saying anything, but I kind of felt I owed PP some honesty and I thought the editors could take it.  If someone tells me they're crying over their beers because I won't be listening/commenting anymore, I'll probably feel guilty.  My guess is they'll be doing little tapdances, instead, since I've been pretty consistently brutal in my critiques (though I do try to praise when I can).

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Reply #38 on: May 01, 2008, 10:49:53 AM
Brutal critiquing's a good thing though, Anarkey. I wouldn't imagine anyone will be tapdancing at the loss.

It strikes me that I've simply misinterpreted a few of your words, for which I apologise.

And to clear up another misunderstanding, the person I was accusing of picking fights was eytanz, not you.

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Reply #39 on: May 01, 2008, 11:38:42 AM
And to clear up another misunderstanding, the person I was accusing of picking fights was eytanz, not you.

I certainly misunderstood that part. And I didn't realize I was picking a fight (well, not with the message you responded to. I sort of was with my next message, though I viewed it more as rising to the bait). Anyway, my apologies for any percieved or real fight-picking.



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Reply #40 on: May 01, 2008, 11:57:49 AM
It strikes me that I've simply misinterpreted a few of your words, for which I apologise.

And to clear up another misunderstanding, the person I was accusing of picking fights was eytanz, not you.

Apology accepted, and thank you for offering it.  Misinterpretation is common in the forums, acknowledging one has misinterpreted, much less so.

FTR, I thought you were accusing me of picking fights also, though I didn't directly address what I thought in my post.

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Troo

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Reply #41 on: May 02, 2008, 12:03:20 PM
That's always the downside of being a newbie. Until I get to know everyone's "voice" (and they mine), misunderstandings abound.

Still, I love you all really  :-*  :)

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Reply #42 on: May 03, 2008, 04:01:36 AM
But, Anarkey, you need to consider carefully before you leave: the rest of us might welcome you back later... but Pseudopod might just eat you out of spite.   :o

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Reply #43 on: May 03, 2008, 12:43:00 PM
But, Anarkey, you need to consider carefully before you leave: the rest of us might welcome you back later... but Pseudopod might just eat you out of spite.   :o

I look forward to the day when the pod will consume me.

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Reply #44 on: May 04, 2008, 06:13:30 AM
That's always the downside of being a newbie. Until I get to know everyone's "voice" (and they mine), misunderstandings abound.

Still, I love you all really  :-*  :)

awwwwwww yay we're all one big, happy, dysfunctional family!  *big smile*

i gotta say i loved the idea of this story.  it gave me the same 'ooh i wish i could do that' feeling as a lot of superhero comics/movies/etc.  That feeling kept me going through the whole story, even tho the sex scene was completely unnecessary, and the ending was ... ehh....
it kept me entertained, which is what i at least ask for!

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


Loz

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Reply #45 on: May 05, 2008, 10:10:30 AM
Can I just start with a shout-out to <I>Crossing the Border edited by Lisa Tuttle which is an excellent but hard to find anthology of gender-splicing short stories?

Mostly, I think this story suffered for being in Pseudopod - if I were to read it in a general anthology/magazine, I may have been misled into thinking this was a wish-fulfillment story and then the twist in the end would have had some bite, even if it was a campy silly one. But here, I spent the entire story knowing it's going to end badly, and making up scenarios of how it all goes horribly wrong. The end result was sort of an anticlimax compared with some of the scenarios in my head (for example, that this really was some part of an assassination attempt, or that the president wanted to pretend to be dead and the actor was supposed to provide the body, etc.)

This has been an on-off problem for me with Pseudopod since it's beginning. It's happening less and less these days, but at the start I was hearing a number of stories which didn't work for me precisely because of the assumptions I bring to a horror podcast that I didn't to a science-fiction podcast that also broadcasted horror. There seemed to be an unwritten rule that if you gave a horror story a happy ending it turned into science-fiction or fantasy, likewise give a science-fiction story an unhappy ending, it became horror.

Give this story a part two where our betrayed heroine fights off her murderous husband and somehow gets her own back on the secret service and it's now a science-fiction story. As it stands, I have to agree with others that, in order to read this as horror, you have to make some prejudicial opinions about the difference between the two sexes. Bizarrely I was reminded of the remake of 'The Stepford Wives' which tried to soften a misogynistic premise by having the men use their robotic wives as nothing more than vacuum cleaners and cash dispensers, cooks in the kitchen but no mention of whether they were whores in the bedroom. To me this story was trying to avoid deliberately saying 'look, I'm cutting this guy's dick off! He's going to be forced to kiss another man! And as a woman he'll automatically be too weak to fight back' in order to try and avoid being accused of sexism or homophobia but ended up saying it accidentally.

Taking the story at face value, I was left bemused as to why it was felt necessary to keep using these 'wild y' men to replace the President's wife. Why not have her 'die' in a car accident and then use them for more useful infiltration and espionage, indeed, Why Not kill the President and replace him with a 'wild y' doppelganger who doesn't like doing drugs and strangling women? You've had Presidents die on the job before, what's so special about the wife that she's irreplaceable, even to the degree of putting her above the national interest?

For a better take on the same sort of idea I'd recommend people head over to Starship Sofa and check out one of their recent audio delights from a month or so back, when they broadcast the short stories for (IIRC) the Nebula. Unfortunately the website is down right now, so I'll try and get you a better link when they recover.



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Reply #46 on: May 06, 2008, 02:43:45 AM
Taking the story at face value, I was left bemused as to why it was felt necessary to keep using these 'wild y' men to replace the President's wife. Why not have her 'die' in a car accident and then use them for more useful infiltration and espionage, indeed, Why Not kill the President and replace him with a 'wild y' doppelganger who doesn't like doing drugs and strangling women? You've had Presidents die on the job before, what's so special about the wife that she's irreplaceable, even to the degree of putting her above the national interest?

This is a major plot hole. I think that deserved a little lip service - the President is the President and that's what the President wants or something. Perhaps that was the real "horror." Be very afraid: the President has the power to get whatever he wants, even if it is an endless supply of reincarnated "wives" to have sex with and kill.



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Reply #47 on: May 07, 2008, 12:27:12 AM
Taking the story at face value, I was left bemused as to why it was felt necessary to keep using these 'wild y' men to replace the President's wife. Why not have her 'die' in a car accident and then use them for more useful infiltration and espionage, indeed, Why Not kill the President and replace him with a 'wild y' doppelganger who doesn't like doing drugs and strangling women? You've had Presidents die on the job before, what's so special about the wife that she's irreplaceable, even to the degree of putting her above the national interest?

This is a major plot hole. I think that deserved a little lip service - the President is the President and that's what the President wants or something. Perhaps that was the real "horror." Be very afraid: the President has the power to get whatever he wants, even if it is an endless supply of reincarnated "wives" to have sex with and kill.

No wonder Hillary wants the job so badly.

(TAD looks down, shrieks, and... hey, didn't he do this in the LAST thread he posted to?  What a jerk!)

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Reply #48 on: May 07, 2008, 04:09:24 AM
what's all this about apologies?   This is Pseudopod-
"The stories presented here are intended to disturb you. They are likely to contain death, graphic violence, explicit sex (including sexual violence), hate crimes, blasphemy, or other themes and images that hook deep into your psyche. We do not provide ratings or content warnings for specific stories. We assume by your listening that you wish to be disturbed for your entertainment. If there are any themes that you cannot deal with in fiction, that are too strongly personal to you, please do not listen."

Even if sexism was intended in this story, which I don't think it was- nobody owes anyone an apology or explanation. 

This story has the most comments in Pseudopod history- so it obviously was very effective at "hooking into your psyches"- for the good or bad.

I thought it was a great story (aside from the random sex scene, like everyone else) with a great read by Ben, brought to us free.  I think some people here need to get over themselves. 



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Reply #49 on: May 07, 2008, 08:50:44 AM
< gasp! > You're right! Okay everyone out of the comment threads, we must stop discussing all the stories immediately!

Erm, did you miss the bit about how our feedback is wanted so the editors can get a feel for what the listeners like? The Pseudopod T&C isn't there as a blanket to allow the presenting of any old crap, otherwise each week we'd get just ten seconds of white noise followed by a request for our cash. And quite often I find the conversation after a story that is unpopular with forum members more interesting than the story itself.



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Reply #50 on: May 07, 2008, 06:08:18 PM
First off I didn't like this story.  Like Bdoomed I was intrigued by the idea and could skip over the crap science just like I do with comic book movies.  The rest of it just bored me. 

I'm on the side that didn't see a huge amount of sexism.  It, at least, wasn't as hammered in as the man-hating in PP083.

The sex scene is another issue.  The "reason" I thought the women jumoed him was simply to seal the deal.  She used the weak will of this man, who hasn't had quality sex in a long time, against him.  Make it so he won't ask questions and will just go through with it.  I think it was poorly written and that the agent would have flirted with him instead. 



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Reply #51 on: May 08, 2008, 03:36:24 AM
First of all, I have to make a big admission --- I missed that Paul (it was Paul, wasn't it?) was turned into a woman. I don't know how I did that. Something didn't make sense at the end, and I did relisten to the ending a couple of times to figure out what I missed. Still didn't get it. Man, am I embarrassed.
I didn't catch on to that either.  It confused me equally, and I had come to the conclusion that they were simply going to frame him as a look-alike who did the bad things.

The only sexism I got from this story - even now knowing its end - is the way the secret service agent was written.  To be very fair, there is a lot more misogynist territory that could be explored given the combination of that agent with a very lonely man-turned-woman.  I honestly feel like this was a less-than-successful attempt at horror: the promise of eternal health granted then taken away. 

I am just now exploring Psuedopod and liking enough of it.  I had grabbed a few episodes to listen to at work.  I can see the point of view that it may have taken on a different context if showcased somewhere else.  On the flip side, a number of the more recent episodes I listened to were of a common "normal person goes crazy" theme.  I was actually happy to hear a story try something outside of those lines.



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Reply #52 on: May 27, 2008, 05:51:40 AM


Maybe I'm way behind on this one - in fact, I AM way behind on this one - but I felt like making a post and weighing in a little because I just listened to the story for the first time today.  I'll admit that I was in the boat that didn't catch the "sex change" angle at first.  In fact, I didn't catch it until I read this thread, which (I'll admit) makes me feel a little dumb.  My initial listening was something like, "Oh, cool, the Wild Y absorbs the new DNA and he's no longer wild Y, he's just whatever DNA it absorbed instead!" which seems pretty neat, all in all, though not quite the kind of thing that would garner instant screaming.
 
The sex scene is another issue.  The "reason" I thought the women jumoed him was simply to seal the deal.  She used the weak will of this man, who hasn't had quality sex in a long time, against him.  Make it so he won't ask questions and will just go through with it.  I think it was poorly written and that the agent would have flirted with him instead. 

This, actually. I heard it as exactly this - she wasn't fooling around because she likes having sex with this newly 25-year-old hunk of a former bum but rather because she wanted to get him to sign up.  The second time around, I caught her saying that about "At least you'll have the memory of these two times..." before the second injection.

In terms of the immediate horror inherent in the idea of waking up a woman, well... It would horrify me.  I don't mean that in the sense that it's somehow WORSE to be a woman, but rather in that I, myself, am male.  I have lived this long as male, and it's a core element of my personality, my behavior, my self-identification.  Your gender defines how you fit into society and the way you see yourself.  Part of the horror is that the protagonist has opened his eyes and found that one of his fundamental traits is changed - even if he doesn't immediately make the connection of no longer having a Y chromosome,  it's still a bit of a shock.

Imagine, the most incredible, orgasmic feeling of all your life washing over you, the anticipation of being the goddamn PRESIDENT, and then hearing the people talking about what had happened, slowly making the connection, then opening your eyes, still coming down from the high of the transformation, and finding out that your worst suspicions were true?


...At least, that's how I read the horror of the ending.  I didn't quite feel that way, listening to it, since (as I mentioned) I missed the whole YX -> XX change thing, but it seems like that might be the intention.

I didn't hear too much misogyny in the story, but that doesn't mean that it wasn't there and I didn't notice it.


This:
I honestly feel like this was a less-than-successful attempt at horror: the promise of eternal health granted then taken away.

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Reply #53 on: May 28, 2008, 02:04:29 AM
Oo good stuff. The twist ending was unexpected. The reading was good. This is a writer to watch.

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Reply #54 on: May 31, 2008, 11:14:03 PM
My goodness.

When I evaluate any media artifact, I'm asking myself two questions.  1. What is it supposed to be?  2. Is it a good example of what it's supposed to be?

This story is supposed to be, and is, fairly mindless pulp, deliberately replete with all the cliches that entails.  "Pulp", as I think of it, is a story not designed to improve with analysis.  For example, I (and I daresay also the author) was fully aware of how ridiculous the sex scene is, and I can only apologize that my comic delivery wasn't up to snuff if that part of the recording didn't have the intended effect.  The plot is, yes, littered with gaping plot holes that it makes no attempt to address or apologize for.

Regarding the horror reaction of the protagonist at the end:  I also share the opinion that no one would take it well if unexpected, and unexpectedly irrevocable, gender change were abruptly imposed upon him or her.

Regarding sexism in the story in general:  This is a very valid critique.  I doubt it was truly the intent of the author to shock you using these James Bond adventure story cliches of cardboard cutout women.  When I bought the story, I saw that stuff blending right in with the outlandishly over-the-top pseudoscientific premise (which, you may note, is self-awarely ridiculed by one of the protagonist's comments) and the other cheerfully included cliches.  I (obviously quite foolishly) had no idea anyone would take especial offense.

While my hope was that this story was going to be received in the shallowly amusing light it was intended, it's a fine commentary on our listenership that neither the weak premise & plot nor the (intentionally or not) ingrained sexism flies.  So, kudos to you.  And as always, my sincere thanks for all the feedback.



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Reply #55 on: June 01, 2008, 12:01:26 AM
Mostly, I think this story suffered for being in Pseudopod - if I were to read it in a general anthology/magazine, I may have been misled into thinking this was a wish-fulfillment story and then the twist in the end would have had some bite, even if it was a campy silly one. But here, I spent the entire story knowing it's going to end badly, and making up scenarios of how it all goes horribly wrong.

This is a very interesting dilemma, and one endemic to the horror genre.  Although I treat genre considerations with the traditional Escape Artists editorial disdain, taking as axiomatic the assumption that genre-mongering is a counterproductive waste of time, it remains that with the stories most true to horror genre expectations we generally have to deal with an anticipation of endings perhaps best summarized by the Texas Chainsaw Massacre tagline:  Who will survive, and what will be left of them?

This again supports the philosophy of avoidance of slavish adherence to genre, if only to keep you guessing a little more.  And maybe I should indulge it more noticeably, since as another poster astutely notes (sorry I can't seem to locate your post to quote it -- this thread is pretty long!), with standard genre lines cheerfully underemphasized, my personal predilection for tragedy has been the main distinguishing feature of Pseudopod as compared with Escape Pod, and even that can't be adhered to slavishly without descending into stagnation.  Consistency vs. unpredictability is a fine line to walk.

In general, the only response I can come up with to complaints of "good story, wrong genre" is:  blame the author for deciding to send it to me instead of Escape Pod or PodCastle.  :)  (Disclaimer:  The above is a flagrant cop-out.)



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Reply #56 on: July 05, 2008, 11:30:27 PM
I won't waste anyone's time with too much of a "me too" but I agree with pretty much every negative comment.  Silly, waste of a time story seemingly written with a high-schooler's understanding of gender relations.

Ben's comments above, about his definitions of pulp and how it relates to Pseudopod, help me to realize that I shouldn't expect as much out of Pseudopod as I do.  I want there to be a source for quality horror audio that I can go to and, if not enjoy every story (unlikely even under the best of circumstances, as I'm a grumpy old fool), at least have a good chance of getting something out of the stories that I may not have liked.

I don't feel particularly enthused by knowing some (I'm giving the benefit of the doubt and the history of better stories) of these offerings have passed editorial muster with "mindless" and "not designed to improve with analysis" being bottom line standards (I'm adding to this comment in retrospect because I do not want it inferred that Pseudopod stories have to meet these standards, just that these are "bottom line", that is to say, that these critiques are not considered valid).  Maybe Escape Artist should start a "humor pod" or "frivolity pod" for these kinds of things.  WEIRD TALES (not the new version, the "in it's day" version), UNKNOWN, THE HORROR SHOW, etc., pretty much any high-water mark in horror publishing, all of these publications had great stories and a lot of filler, this was necessity of the publishing format, frequency, page count, etc. But we don't have to read the filler now because the great stories (mostly) have been culled for us.  Maybe Pseudopod should go to bi-weekly or fill the occasional gap with readings of some older public domain titles.

And, yes, no need to get into the genre shell-game but this, to me, was pure sci-fi with an unhappy ending.  And, since I've already (finally) listened to next week's, that one was as well.

I appreciated the shout-out to "The Immortal" television show, though.

Thanks for listening

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Peter Shapiro from “Club Culture” review, The Wire # 143, January, 1996
« Last Edit: July 05, 2008, 11:33:56 PM by Sgarre1 »



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Reply #57 on: August 04, 2008, 07:48:15 PM
Having just gotten around to listening to this story, I find myself in agreement with the general opinions expressed here.

The pseudo-science was detailed enough that I listened and said to myself Huh? The story would have been better off with less detail to be picked apart there.

Also, I was struck by the notion that turning a man into a woman is inherently horrible. Yes, The President is apparently a sadistic killer, but that wasn't what the author pointed out to us - it was the higher pitch in Paul's voice that he uses to convey the horror.

I'm going to have to go with a distinct thumb's down on this one.

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Reply #58 on: August 10, 2008, 05:15:03 PM
Also, I was struck by the notion that turning a man into a woman is inherently horrible. Yes, The President is apparently a sadistic killer, but that wasn't what the author pointed out to us - it was the higher pitch in Paul's voice that he uses to convey the horror.
yes, that is horrible!  Nothing against the ladies here, but imagine believing that you are going to impersonate the president of the united states and find out that instead you have been transformed permanently into a sadistic president's wife?

Im sorry, for some inexplicable reason i find turning a man into a woman against his will horrifying. 

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


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Reply #59 on: August 10, 2008, 05:24:59 PM
Also, I was struck by the notion that turning a man into a woman is inherently horrible. Yes, The President is apparently a sadistic killer, but that wasn't what the author pointed out to us - it was the higher pitch in Paul's voice that he uses to convey the horror.
yes, that is horrible!  Nothing against the ladies here, but imagine believing that you are going to impersonate the president of the united states and find out that instead you have been transformed permanently into a sadistic president's wife?

Im sorry, for some inexplicable reason i find turning a man into a woman against his will horrifying. 

Also he was about to be turned into the most powerful man in the world, and he becomes that man's next victim instead.  I'm sure that if he was supposed to be urned into a guy on death row, but instead got turned into Hillary Clinton right after she won the presidency (alternate history) he would have been thrilled.





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Reply #60 on: October 09, 2008, 10:31:01 PM
Good story.  Just goes to show that, no matter what makes you special/unique/elite/awesome, there's always a person or group lying in wait... to screw you.



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Reply #61 on: October 20, 2009, 08:49:46 PM
Well, I don't want to wake up the argument that got going here, so I'll try to stay mostly out of that territory.

I didn't hate the story, but it was definitely sub-par.  Mostly my reasons can be summed up as follows:

1.  The way the scientific premise was explained, I thought he could ONLY become other men.  The Y chromosome is the agent of change, so suddenly changing to a woman was outside of the realm of the possible, based on what I had heard before.

2.  The ending was needlessly unclear as to what happened.  I had to listen to it 3 times to guess he'd become the first lady.  A high pitched voice could mean many things, such as him being turned into Michael Jackson, or being placed in a room full of helium.  Why not be totally clear that a sex change had occurred.

3.  To add on to #2, the reason for the scream is unclear.  Many people have commented that they think it's because he doesn't want to be a woman.  That wasn't how I read it at all, but since the story doesn't TELL you the reason, any answer is correct.  I read it that he was screaming because he was afraid he would be strangled and quite possibly raped by the President, his new husband.  But I don't think it's sexist to be horrified by an unexpected sex change.  Even my own interpretation is kind of weak.  The first lady could get an interview with the press if she wanted to, and could out the President's abusive ways--easy peasy.  It would be unpleasant, but would be less unpleasant than being strangled to death.  But even if I'd interpreted the horror as being due to the sex change alone, that's not sexist in my view.  I have wondered what it would be like to be a woman, and if there were a way that it could happen in a reversible Ranma 1/2 sort of way, then that would be intriguing.  But waking up and unexpectedly finding your penis gone?  I can honestly say that would scare the crap out of me.  Much like a woman waking up with a new appendage between her legs would be rather horrified.

4.  What's the point of the contract?  He's not allowed to tell anyone, and it's all done in an effort to cover up the President's felonies.  Not only that, but they intend the signer to be murdered.  They don't even want anyone to know this gene exists, and they insist on a paper trail?  WTF?

5.  Possible sexism aside, ethics aside, why the hell would the government take an  infinitely useful attribute like this wild Y and just throw it away?  This guy would be the perfect assassin!  He has extreme longevity, he's in peak physical condition, and he can exactly mimic the appearance of another.  Not only that, but these people are in extremely short supply.  They've already thrown away 2 of these, by the sound of it, there may only be a handful more in the entire world.  What a frivolous use of them!

6.  The sex.  I wasn't bothered by the awkwardness of the sex scene itself, or even the premise that he gives in so easily because of the sex.  What bothered me is that she had sex with him as part of her governmental obligation, not only that, but under the supervision of a squad of other government employee witnesses.  That reduces her character to nothing more than a political prostitute paid on taxpayer money.  Neither she nor the squad monitoring the room really had any problem with that?



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Reply #62 on: January 29, 2010, 09:42:51 PM
Put me in the boat with the people who missed what happened. I lstened to it twice, and still missed it. I shrugged and moved on and appreciated the story for the diversion that it was. Beats the hell out of watching a queue refill and drain every couple minutes in silence or listening to corporate radio.

Now that I have thought about this story for a while and read the forum I think it wasn't just that the story was so openly sexist, I think it was a deliberate hit at Hillary Clinton, an uppity women who some people wish had been killed by her husband and whose surrogate was repeatedly killed in this story. (The character Toland wasn't the first Wild Y to be used to replace her and be killed again.)

I think there was a political subtext in the choice of this rather poor story.

I felt the political subtext was jarring and unnecessary. The president was clearly identified as a Democrat, so this supports the concept that it was crafted as a dig at Bill. But if it was, it's over a decade late to be topical. I think there's been some sensitivity to this story that's not entirely deserved. I didn't take much of anything away from the story other than the diversion.

Also, I'd add that this type of horror is (IMO) is covered more effectively in the early PP Flash piece "Her Shoes."

Yours Shoes was definately a nice piece of flash. Same story but better. I don't think I'm saying that because I actually got that one.

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Reply #63 on: July 21, 2010, 11:32:23 PM
This one gets a negative response from me.  At first, this story seemed to be a non-humorous retelling of the movie "Dave" (1993) in which a common man must impersonate the president.  But I knew there had to be a twist somewhere and that our unfortunate protagonist would not wake up as the president.  With the repeated hammering of the XY and XX chromasone dispairity, I called the ending long before it plodded along.

The sci-fi elements of this story felt a little ham-fisted and unrealistic.  There were numorous "lampshade hangings" but it just did not stop me from wanting to shout "DNA does not work that way!"  By the end, it had become a major sticking point with me and made me enjoy the story even less.

Finally, the language was weak.  Lack of effective metaphor, too many pronouns close together, rambling sentences etc.

EDIT: Forgot to mention that the sex scene was not only completely out of left field, but also totally superfluous - I mean, like he wasn't going to agree to based solely on the "fountain of youth" serum??  Secondly, after they finish she gets the contract from a compartment in the chair?  That was lazy writing.  It felt like the sex got crammed in, then the writer needed to invent somewhere for her to get the contract from quickly.  Couldn't it just have been nearby?  Or folded in her pocket.

Also, when they finish, all the Secret Service goons enter the room, but - am I wrong here? - isn't she still naked?  Even "Ms. Erotic Assassin Stereotype" would have AT LEAST put her underwear back on, right?  I know they were watching, but it just felt so weird and forced.

Finally, to cap it all off, the sex scene was dull and poorly written.  It basically read: "They did it.  He liked it.  A lot."
« Last Edit: July 21, 2010, 11:38:29 PM by Millenium_King »

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Reply #64 on: July 22, 2010, 12:05:27 AM
Apologies for the double-post, but I usually post first, then read other people's reactions second so mine isn't colored.  I wanted to comment on an area Sgarre1 brought up:  pulp.  I'll be first to go on the record to say that I like pulpy stories.  My top three authors of all time are none other than Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and the venerable H.P. Lovecraft.

I am not sure I agree with Ben's definition of "pulp" as I certainly believe an analysis of a story like "The Call of Cthulhu" or even "Red Nails" (Conan!) can improve with analysis (for example - just what comments is "Red Nails" making about modern, encapsulated, civilized society?)

I think of a good "pulp" story as one which takes the "Rule of Cool" and runs with it.  The story is supposed to be fun first, and serious literature later.  Likewise, the story should maintain a serious penchant for being over the top - often in both language, characterization and plot.  That being said, I don't think the "pulp" label is enough to excuse glaring plotholes and exploitation-style sex scenes that seem pretty much tacked on.

In short, I think this story took itself far too seriously to be considered pulp.  A pulpy telling of it may have been possible, but this definately was not it.

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