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Author Topic: Pseudopod 87: A Place of Snow Angels  (Read 6661 times)

Bdoomed

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on: April 25, 2008, 10:05:54 PM
Pseudopod 87: A Place of Snow Angels

By Matt Wallace

Read by Elie Hirschman

Joshua was seven when he saw the white city.

It was his first deep trek across the Mojave tundra with Dedimus, hours spent listening to the snowreaver’s hover jets pulverize powder and ice, his tiny nostrils filled with the tonic ozone smell of its ionized plasma engines and he could barely move in the half-dozen layers of insulation Mida added to his parka., and somewhere under all of that Dedimus preaching, always preaching, about Joshua’s bond to the ever-growing winter, his future, his responsibility. By the time they reached the Santa Monica coastline, Joshua’s ears were ringing and he was hungry, and despite the arctic chill he found he was sweating.

They stood on the shore and looked west. At first there was just the ocean, slow moving and rough-hewn gray, like unfinished sheets of steel. The frost shifted in heavy curtains above them. Then morning broke and the tide changed. Twenty miles off the coast, the white city blazed as pure and broad as the horizon itself. There were walls rising higher than any structure Joshua had ever seen. There were parapets. There were stalactite spires that stabbed the frosty fog billows.

Joshua never saw anything like it, not in pictures or among the small holographic images Mida used to teach him.

“Who lives there?” he’d asked Dedimus.

“No one,” the old man told Joshua. “That is the fata morgana, an illusion created by the cold. Like any worthy opponent, winter tricks your eyes, draws you into falsehoods.”


This week’s episode sponsored by Audible.com, who has extended their generous offer of a free audiobook download of your choice from their selection of over 40,000 titles.


Listen to this week's Pseudopod.

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jodymonster

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Reply #1 on: April 26, 2008, 12:46:41 AM
Matt Wallace is always great to hear.  Though I began the story thinking, "This would be a lot scarier if it weren't springtime all around me," by the end winter had taken up residence in my head again.   
There were so many visuals that I loved in this story- snow dragons and griffins, Josh sitting on a snow ridge watching a carefully calculated storm, his father(figure)'s arm "candy-striped with blood and sugared with broken glass" reaching out of a wall of ice, and of course the place of snow angels itself.  Speaking of imagery, I'm going to have the image of tiny wolfhound fetuses growing from bloodstains on the snow for days.  I wish I had a dog like that.


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DarkKnightJRK

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Reply #2 on: April 26, 2008, 09:03:15 PM
Honestly, the thing that came to mind was, "This is on Pseudopod?" I didn't really see much horror, more sci-fi and fantasy elements--not a bad story, but I think it would have fit better in Escape Pod or even Podcastle.



JoeFitz

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Reply #3 on: April 26, 2008, 11:47:53 PM
No horror? A mad scientist cooks up a genetically engineered supernatural child to control the weather as if it were a toy, and also a self-healing "dog" that cannot easily be killed because its blood will grow into adult creatures?

I agree that it could have been on Escape Pod, but I would not think the whole genetic engineering, superpowers and climate change angle would fit well on PodCastle.



Thaurismunths

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Reply #4 on: April 27, 2008, 12:23:32 AM
Cutest Dog Ever!

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Void Munashii

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Reply #5 on: April 27, 2008, 03:50:51 PM
Honestly, the thing that came to mind was, "This is on Pseudopod?" I didn't really see much horror, more sci-fi and fantasy elements--not a bad story, but I think it would have fit better in Escape Pod or even Podcastle.

  I felt that way about "The Wild Y", but not about this story. I do think it would have worked just as well on Escape Pod, but it did not feel out of place here at all. I do not think it would work on Podcastle because, so far at least, they seem to be focusing  on more of the fairytale-esque fantasy of dragons, talking snakes, etc.

  Supernatural abilities feature in a lot of horror; "Carrie" is the first example that comes to mind, and I think Joshua's destruction of the farm is analogous to that.

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Listener

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Reply #6 on: April 28, 2008, 12:23:16 PM
Honestly, the thing that came to mind was, "This is on Pseudopod?" I didn't really see much horror, more sci-fi and fantasy elements--not a bad story, but I think it would have fit better in Escape Pod or even Podcastle.

I agree on the latter, although it did have horror elements -- dog vs. evil Chinese dudes in snowsuits, and dog that spawns more dogs when it bleeds.

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Listener

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Reply #7 on: April 28, 2008, 12:25:23 PM
Did not so much care for the reading, though it was better than his last one.

Liked the story, though I didn't really FEEL the dramatic tension.  Oh, it was there, but it didn't grip me.  I think Joshua was too disconnected from it in some ways.

The "temperature inversion" was a throwaway bit of SF that I suppose we can all imagine happening, especially if we've seen the trailers for "The Day After Tomorrow" (IIRC).  It was just science-y enough to not need explanation.

Much better than last week's, but still doesn't hold a candle to my favorite PP ever, "Brothers".

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DKT

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Reply #8 on: April 28, 2008, 03:31:36 PM
Loved this story but then I love most everything Matt Wallace does. 

Great imagery and despite what some others have said, some really creepy things going on.  The fetuses in the blood and snow and the climatic scene in particular.  It was a more subtle kind of horror, and although it could've worked on EP, so could have "Oranges, Lemons, and Thou Beside Me," and I'm glad both the stories ended up here on PP instead.  I love a bit of SF in my horror. 


bolddeceiver

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Reply #9 on: May 01, 2008, 12:30:05 AM
The horror really didn't come across to me because, while I knew that on a logical level this was a very bad thing for humanity as a whole, the narration did too good of a job of selling the boy's perspective on it for me to have too much of a negative reaction.



eytanz

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Reply #10 on: May 01, 2008, 06:54:13 AM
The horror really didn't come across to me because, while I knew that on a logical level this was a very bad thing for humanity as a whole, the narration did too good of a job of selling the boy's perspective on it for me to have too much of a negative reaction.

Yeah, I agree - this did feel like a surprising choice for PP, but (unlike The Wild Y), it was a pretty decent story nonetheless, so I didn't really care.

Not a great story, though, because A - the ending was pretty predictable, and B - the fact that Dedimus had no idea at all how to raise a kid, let alone a superpowered kid, was hammered in so much that the middle of the story got a bit boring.



Coyote

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Reply #11 on: May 03, 2008, 06:57:04 AM
When I first saw this episode sitting in my "Podcasts" list, the first thing I noticed was the time.

Now, just because a story is short, doesn't mean that it's not good, but I typically prefer longer episodes to shorter ones, just because there's more time to tell the story.

However, I was greatly surprised at how well I enjoyed this one. It left me wanting more, but not in the "well... shucks" sense.

As for whether it is appropriate for Pseudopod or not, well, I think that when it began to get into the twisted innocence - how easy it was for him to destroy Dedimus - it sent a chill up my spine. All that power with none of the sense of responsibility just makes me shiver.

My favorite part of the whole episode was probably Alistair's amazing outtro. Thunder Cats, Princess Bride, Sarcasm, Paint, it had it all.

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Void Munashii

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Reply #12 on: May 08, 2008, 11:56:13 AM
When I first saw this episode sitting in my "Podcasts" list, the first thing I noticed was the time.

Now, just because a story is short, doesn't mean that it's not good, but I typically prefer longer episodes to shorter ones, just because there's more time to tell the story.

  I've noticed for a while that Pseudopod episodes seemed to be a bit shorter than EP or PC. There are a lot more episodes coming in in the 20-30 minute area compared to the 30-40 minute range that EP and PC seem to do. I'm not sure if this is just indicative of the length or short horror fiction, or if it just happens to be that the only good stuff being submitted happens to be shorter.

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Cerebrilith

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Reply #13 on: May 10, 2008, 12:58:52 PM
This didn't feel like horror to me either.

Also, if you have the technology to create the super-dog and god-child, why don't you have the technology to just fix the weather or whatnot yourself?



Deaf Leper

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Reply #14 on: May 14, 2008, 03:01:22 AM
I'll take any story from Matt Wallace, anywhere I can get it. Having said that, my problem with the story isn't that it didn't exactly feel like horror. I agree that it didn't, but I think it fit into the genre as much as it would have into sci-fi or fantasy. My issue is that I couldn't quite understand Joshua's relationship to the world around him. Was he a savior? Or was the freezing of the planet something he willed to happen? Was he hunted because he was a chosen one of prophecy, or because he was the cause of the destruction?
I just didn't quite get it, but I enjoyed listening to and thinking about it.

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Sgarre1

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Reply #15 on: July 06, 2008, 12:26:15 AM
These are the kind of stories that make me feel, at 40, like I'm a cranky old man.

Not good.  In a way, worse than "Wild Y" because that, at least, was attempting to be vaguely OTT and comedy-pulpish (although it failed miserably).  But this story is direly serious about... nothing at all.

First of all, SF, not horror, because of it's overall fascination with the genetically engineered child and his amazing powers and the future they live in, etc etc.  Occasional disturbing images do not a horror story make.

Second, not even SF but comic book, which, as a life-long comic fan, I use in the derogatory sense here.  Corners cut, assumptions about basic personality made (he's a snowboarding superkid in the future that's just like you, pretty much, except for the weather control powers and the genetically engineered pet), fetishization of "marvelous elements" over character and content.

It just struck me as something written by someone who watched too many episodes of DRAGONBALL Z and read too many X-MEN comic books and took them seriously as source material, instead of the fun, disposable junk they are.  The "mean old mentor" character talks like he's from a fantasy novel even though this takes place in the future.

And, of course, the central character is a "golden boy".  In an attempt to make the "golden boy" character more interesting (since it'/s been around forever), the cliched directions are A - make him reluctant ("I never asked to be your savior" - the emo kids just love that!), B - make him inept (good for comedy), C - make him a mistake (They read the prophecy wrong!!!  one of those "last minute twists" that everyone thinks they thought of first) or D - make him far worse than the evil guys controlling him or the good guys trying to save/stop him ever realized (the trick is to make him seem blank and uninteresting at first, then you can use him to solve the problem of "how do I get rid of the bad guys?" problem when he goes all Caligula).

Well, "Golden Boy" here just strikes back at his surrogate dad and goes off on his own.  He's kinda A. but even then, who knows, or cares?  Because he's not interesting or believable as a character.  Everything happens to him until he decides to walk.  The best line in the whole thing was his realizing that his powers, when finally tapped into, were far too easy to use when they should have been large and ominous. Good moment - but still too comic bookish.

I don't read much/any sci-fi and this type of story is the reason why.  Is this the sub genre of SF that's replaced "space opera" as it's nadir?

It also just seemed like a set-up for a novel I don't want to read that can then be pitched as a movie for teenagers I wouldn't want to see.  Y'know, the mentions of Matt Wallace's "Failed City" thing had me kinda interested, the editors said it was good and the title was promisingly loaded with potential. But if Matt Wallace considers a story like this a passable submission, I'll probably pass.

Thanks For Listening.

“A serious adult story must be true to something in life. Since marvel tales cannot be true to the events of life, they must shift their emphasis towards something to which they can be true; namely, certain wistful or restless moods of the human spirit, wherein it seeks to weave gossamer ladders of escape from the galling tyranny of time, space, and natural law.”
H.P. Lovecraft



 
« Last Edit: July 06, 2008, 12:29:46 AM by Sgarre1 »



Myrealana

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Reply #16 on: August 06, 2008, 07:46:01 PM
Honestly, the thing that came to mind was, "This is on Pseudopod?" I didn't really see much horror, more sci-fi and fantasy elements--not a bad story, but I think it would have fit better in Escape Pod or even Podcastle.
I agree there.

I enjoyed listening to the story, but it didn't seem any more like "horror" than any other end-of-the-word fiction.

Quote from: Coyote
As for whether it is appropriate for Pseudopod or not, well, I think that when it began to get into the twisted innocence - how easy it was for him to destroy Dedimus - it sent a chill up my spine. All that power with none of the sense of responsibility just makes me shiver.
Now, if had gotten to that point sooner, and spent more time on it, it could have been a horror story.

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Unblinking

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Reply #17 on: October 22, 2009, 06:44:50 PM
Eh, this one was OK.  It was just so emotionally disconnected that I really didn't give a crap what happened to anyone.    On top of that, the protagonist never had any significant obstacles to his progress.  It was clear from the beginning that nobody would stop him, and lo and behold, no one did.  That doesn't provide much tension for my tastes.

The one element that'll really stick with me when the rest fades isn't even that relevant to the plots, the self-spawning dog.  That was so COOL!  I want one of those!



Millenium_King

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Reply #18 on: July 21, 2010, 01:12:05 AM
This one gets a lukewarm response from me.  I cannot fault its approach to speculative fiction (I prefer directness - and this one certainly is, the reader is never unsure as to what is going on).  However, I think it trips over some over-written (as opposed to over-wrought) sentences.  The description of the rifle, for example, is crammed in and - ultimately - unecessary.  A better tactic would have been to just mention the sizzling, electric blasts the rifle fired - we would understand it's a raygun, we don't need a description of its energy-cell in the midst of an action scene.

I just didn't feel drawn in to this one, the plot felt unfocussed.  There was a lack of specific threat, I think, which makes the story feel unweildy.  The ending was predicatble and, ultimately, I just couldn't feel drawn in.

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