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Author Topic: Pseudopod 86: The Wild Y  (Read 30204 times)

CammoBlammo

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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!



Anarkey

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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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Anarkey

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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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CammoBlammo

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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.



Anarkey

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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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alllie

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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 »



Troo

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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.

Trudi Topham,
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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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Troo

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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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eytanz

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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.



Troo

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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.

Trudi Topham,
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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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Troo

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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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eytanz

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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.



Anarkey

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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  :-*  :)

Trudi Topham,
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Tango Alpha Delta

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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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Anarkey

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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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Bdoomed

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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.



Tango Alpha Delta

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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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Drabbler

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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. 



Loz

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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.