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Author Topic: Pseudopod 88: The Guardian  (Read 12660 times)

Bdoomed

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on: May 03, 2008, 05:25:06 PM
Pseudopod 88: The Guardian

By Michael Anthony

Read by Dani Cutler

She clutched the bag to her chest, felt the contents poking against her breasts through the plastic. She had been fortunate to find it, hidden in a hollowed-out cabinet in a back room. The rest of the store had long since been plundered. She swallowed a ball of spit and crawled along the tile, worming toward the back.

She heard yelling outside, the boys backtracking. She crawled faster, her knees scraping against broken glass. If they caught her they might not kill her, but they’d do nasty things to her. The gangs had found her sister once and had given her the Big Belly. A little monster had squeezed out from between her legs, wiggling and twitching for a few moments before going limp. She remembered burying it, shuddering. The next day she had buried her sister–

“Someone’s here!”




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?


Tango Alpha Delta

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Reply #1 on: May 04, 2008, 04:24:31 AM
Whoa.... I'm going first for a change!  w00t!

I liked this one a lot (enough to suggest to Anarkey that she might want to give it a listen).  Dani's reading was the perfect voice for the story, and I was really taken with what turned out to be in the bag.  I'm sure it will have struck others differently, but I found it to be extremely poignant for the silliness.  (Does that make sense?  I suppose I don't have to worry about spoilers, but...)

Man... now I'm all hungry.


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Kaa

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Reply #2 on: May 04, 2008, 07:06:12 AM
I listened to this on the way home from work on Friday and when it was finally revealed what was in the bag, I said, "You have got to be kidding me!" aloud to...the empty car.

But then it occurred to me: with all the adults gone, it makes sense that the kids would make talismans out of anything left over from the old world.

People always say "Well, you know how cruel children can be."  This story takes that to its logical conclusion, I think.  So, while I can't say I exactly liked the story, I did enjoy listening to it.  It seems that the setting has some more stories lurking about in it, too.

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eytanz

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Reply #3 on: May 04, 2008, 11:24:05 AM
"Worlds where adults die out mysteriously and kids form gangs" is, it seems, as much a sub-genre as zombie stories or werewolf stories. I wonder if Lord of the Flies was the first, or whether you can go back to the 19th century or earlier with this.

Anyway, a good example of a well-told action story, both in the writing and in the reading. It did verge into cliche at some moments - I literally stopped the iPod and cursed (inwardly, I was in public) when the rat bit her ankle just as her pursuer was about to give up - but overall well done.



cuddlebug

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Reply #4 on: May 04, 2008, 06:02:37 PM
A good story and most of all an excellent HORROR story. There was a feeling of menace unparalleled in any other PP episode so far, at least to my mind. Maybe it just struck a very personal chord since this story reminds me very much of a certain recurring nightmare I have had since I was a teenager. (I am sure some of you have recognized aspects in PP stories which bring back images from your nightmares? Maybe that is how the story was conceived the first place.)
   
Anyway, good story. I am always very intrigued in stories that deal with social change, hypotheses on how these changes influence people’s thinking, values and behavior. Literature that deals with the way children structure a society that has to work without direct adult intervention are fascinating and this one certainly was pretty convincing.  … and I have to agree with eytanz, it did remind me a lot of Lord of the Flies too.

(... and what was in the bag made complete sense to me, actually).





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Reply #5 on: May 04, 2008, 09:46:34 PM
great frikkin story. 



Tango Alpha Delta

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Reply #6 on: May 05, 2008, 02:30:09 AM
Sayyyyyy... do you suppose that was what was in the briefcase in Pulp Fiction?


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Bdoomed

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Reply #7 on: May 05, 2008, 03:41:50 AM
Sayyyyyy... do you suppose that was what was in the briefcase in Pulp Fiction?
By Nash i think you are RIGHT!

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 #8 on: May 05, 2008, 02:20:47 PM
My first Podcast :) Thanks to Alasdair for the cool intro, Dani Cutler for giving Tolia a voice, and to everyone else for listening.

-Michael



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Reply #9 on: May 06, 2008, 05:22:59 PM
Sayyyyyy... do you suppose that was what was in the briefcase in Pulp Fiction?



  That would explain the golden glow.

  I enjoyed this story, and while the twist wasn't totally unexpected (something was obviously up after the reaction of the Deadboys), that it was cereal was worth a laugh.

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Reply #10 on: May 06, 2008, 05:52:19 PM
This was great.

I was expecting, as I suppose everyone was, something of great significance to the masses, like a crucifix, a Koran, a pinnacle, or some other praised object.  I was pleasantly surprised as the author showed that HOPE can be packaged in a million different ways - the only requirement being that you believe in its power.   
 


eytanz

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Reply #11 on: May 06, 2008, 05:57:58 PM
This was great.

I was expecting, as I suppose everyone was, something of great significance to the masses, like a crucifix, a Koran, a pinnacle, or some other praised object.  I was pleasantly surprised as the author showed that HOPE can be packaged in a million different ways - the only requirement being that you believe in its power.   
 

Except, of course, that it doesn't actually help.



Void Munashii

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Reply #12 on: May 06, 2008, 08:14:54 PM
This was great.

I was expecting, as I suppose everyone was, something of great significance to the masses, like a crucifix, a Koran, a pinnacle, or some other praised object.  I was pleasantly surprised as the author showed that HOPE can be packaged in a million different ways - the only requirement being that you believe in its power.   
 

Except, of course, that it doesn't actually help.

  Indeed it probably made things worse.

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Tango Alpha Delta

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Reply #13 on: May 07, 2008, 12:25:48 AM
This was great.

I was expecting, as I suppose everyone was, something of great significance to the masses, like a crucifix, a Koran, a pinnacle, or some other praised object.  I was pleasantly surprised as the author showed that HOPE can be packaged in a million different ways - the only requirement being that you believe in its power.   
 

Except, of course, that it doesn't actually help.

  Indeed it probably made things worse.

Thus the comparison with religion.

(TAD looks down, shrieks, drops the flaming turd from his hand, and runs away in a zig-zag pattern to avoid the well-deserved response to THAT.)

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DKT

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Reply #14 on: May 07, 2008, 04:57:53 AM
This was great.

I was expecting, as I suppose everyone was, something of great significance to the masses, like a crucifix, a Koran, a pinnacle, or some other praised object.  I was pleasantly surprised as the author showed that HOPE can be packaged in a million different ways - the only requirement being that you believe in its power.   
 

Except, of course, that it doesn't actually help.

  Indeed it probably made things worse.

Thus the comparison with religion.

(TAD looks down, shrieks, drops the flaming turd from his hand, and runs away in a zig-zag pattern to avoid the well-deserved response to THAT.)

Soiled yourself again, eh, TAD?


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Reply #15 on: May 07, 2008, 03:41:53 PM
Great story, one of my Pseudopod favourites so far this year. I'm a big sucker for post apocalyptic, so this was right up my street.



JoeFitz

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Reply #16 on: May 10, 2008, 09:00:16 PM
While the story was well-read, I just felt like it's an idea done to death. And I don't think it was used to any interesting effect here.



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Reply #17 on: May 12, 2008, 10:12:12 AM
This was great.

I was expecting, as I suppose everyone was, something of great significance to the masses, like a crucifix, a Koran, a pinnacle, or some other praised object.  I was pleasantly surprised as the author showed that HOPE can be packaged in a million different ways - the only requirement being that you believe in its power.   
 

I expected some kind of medicine or similar.  Didn't even think it might be religious; she found it in a drugstore, right?

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Reply #18 on: May 16, 2008, 03:20:01 PM
This was great.

I was expecting, as I suppose everyone was, something of great significance to the masses, like a crucifix, a Koran, a pinnacle, or some other praised object.  I was pleasantly surprised as the author showed that HOPE can be packaged in a million different ways - the only requirement being that you believe in its power.   
 

I expected some kind of medicine or similar.  Didn't even think it might be religious; she found it in a drugstore, right?
The whole time, from the first oblique reference to the final reveal, I couldn't help but think how ridiculously obvious it was that she had found... a bottle of Captain Morgan.

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Chodon

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Reply #19 on: May 16, 2008, 03:30:22 PM
This was great.

I was expecting, as I suppose everyone was, something of great significance to the masses, like a crucifix, a Koran, a pinnacle, or some other praised object.  I was pleasantly surprised as the author showed that HOPE can be packaged in a million different ways - the only requirement being that you believe in its power.   
 

I expected some kind of medicine or similar.  Didn't even think it might be religious; she found it in a drugstore, right?
The whole time, from the first oblique reference to the final reveal, I couldn't help but think how ridiculously obvious it was that she had found... a bottle of Captain Morgan.
At least that wouldn't have cut the hell out of the roof of her brother's mouth when he ate it.  Ouch!

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Reply #20 on: May 16, 2008, 04:01:33 PM
This was great.

I was expecting, as I suppose everyone was, something of great significance to the masses, like a crucifix, a Koran, a pinnacle, or some other praised object.  I was pleasantly surprised as the author showed that HOPE can be packaged in a million different ways - the only requirement being that you believe in its power.   
 

I expected some kind of medicine or similar.  Didn't even think it might be religious; she found it in a drugstore, right?
The whole time, from the first oblique reference to the final reveal, I couldn't help but think how ridiculously obvious it was that she had found... a bottle of Captain Morgan.


Ohhhhhhhhhhhh.  Now I really want some coconut flavored Captain Morgan's...


Void Munashii

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Reply #21 on: May 17, 2008, 12:28:54 AM
This was great.

I was expecting, as I suppose everyone was, something of great significance to the masses, like a crucifix, a Koran, a pinnacle, or some other praised object.  I was pleasantly surprised as the author showed that HOPE can be packaged in a million different ways - the only requirement being that you believe in its power.   
 

I expected some kind of medicine or similar.  Didn't even think it might be religious; she found it in a drugstore, right?
The whole time, from the first oblique reference to the final reveal, I couldn't help but think how ridiculously obvious it was that she had found... a bottle of Captain Morgan.

  A bottle of Captain Morgan probably would have been more helpful.

  Didn't they state at one point before the reveal that it was box shaped though?

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Sgarre1

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Reply #22 on: July 07, 2008, 11:43:36 PM
Not much to say about this.  The "important object that turns out to be something mundane" is old hat.  I guess setting it in a CLOCKWORK ORANGE/WARRIORS world somehow worked for a lot of people.  If there had been more grimness and gloom in the surroundings, and hope in the object that only we realize wasn't going to help in the end, it might have had a chance as a bitter pill but, naw, even then, it's one of those stories where you can hear the "laughing trombone" musical cue at the end, although that's not what the writer intended.

Another quasi-sci-fi tale.  I know scaring modern readers is a tough job but can't we even get some attempts?

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Void Munashii

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Reply #23 on: July 09, 2008, 12:32:27 AM
I guess setting it in a CLOCKWORK ORANGE/WARRIORS world somehow worked for a lot of people.  gloom in the

  I didn't see the setting as being similar to either of those movies, I view it more as a "Fallout" or maybe a "Jeremiah" type of setting. I saw it being post-apocalyptic more than just a grim future.

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Sgarre1

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Reply #24 on: July 09, 2008, 02:58:24 AM
Quote
I didn't see the setting as being similar to either of those movies, I view it more as a "Fallout" or maybe a "Jeremiah" type of setting. I saw it being post-apocalyptic more than just a grim future.

Six of one/half-doz for me.  I was picking it up from one of the previous positive comments (from the outside boards):

Quote
Mari Mitchell  - May 2nd, 2008 - This reminded me of the movie “Warriors”

and the whole "Georgies", "Deadboys" gangs thing.  I didn't think it was that well-developed and once you realize it's in service of a punchline, well, it doesn't really matter, does it?

This was great.

I was expecting, as I suppose everyone was, something of great significance to the masses, like a crucifix, a Koran, a pinnacle, or some other praised object.  I was pleasantly surprised as the author showed that HOPE can be packaged in a million different ways - the only requirement being that you believe in its power.   
 

I expected some kind of medicine or similar.  Didn't even think it might be religious; she found it in a drugstore, right?
The whole time, from the first oblique reference to the final reveal, I couldn't help but think how ridiculously obvious it was that she had found... a bottle of Captain Morgan.
At least that wouldn't have cut the hell out of the roof of her brother's mouth when he ate it.  Ouch!

You got that, brother!  Thanks for making me laugh!

And, Thanks For Listening

“As each wave of technology is released. It must be accompanied by a demand for new skills, new language. Consumers must constantly update their ways of thinking, always questioning their understanding of the world. Going back to old ways, old technology is forbidden. There in no past, no present, only an endless future of inadequacy.”
Richard Kadrey, “Genocide” (1989)
« Last Edit: July 09, 2008, 03:01:34 AM by Sgarre1 »



Myrealana

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Reply #25 on: August 06, 2008, 07:51:07 PM
Once again, I was struck bu how Not-Horror this story seemed to me.

Sure, it was about a terrible dystopian future, but is that horror?

At the end, I found it just sad. Three people died to bring a sick kid a box of sugary cereal. That's not scary, it's pathetic.

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BethPeters

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Reply #26 on: May 01, 2009, 11:13:24 PM
  Drabblecast did this story this week if you want to revisit the awesomeness. 
The narration and sfx/music compliment it nicely.

I listened to it on Pseudopod today also.  Big difference having a female narrator. 

Aside from the rat thing, which was kind of an eye-rolling moment, I didn't have issue with cliches or anything.  Sure, dystopian/apocalyptic is a world that stories operate in a lot, but stories can still be successful when they are set in that world. 

I take more of an issue with "done before" when it's a story with big ideas/speculation at it's center rather than characters or action, like this story.  Great story
« Last Edit: May 01, 2009, 11:15:03 PM by BethPeters »



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Reply #27 on: October 20, 2009, 06:38:19 PM
(snip)
At the end, I found it just sad. Three people died to bring a sick kid a box of sugary cereal. That's not scary, it's pathetic.

To me that's where the horror lies in this story, that these poor kids are risking their lives for something meaningless.  Then again, maybe the placebo effect will kick in!

I didn't see the twist coming, and I enjoyed the journey it took to get there.  I'm a sucker for a story about a quest, and to have the object of the quest suddenly revealed as Cap'n Crunch was a great moment for me.  :)



Millenium_King

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Reply #28 on: July 21, 2010, 12:08:11 AM
This one gets a negative reaction from me.  From a technical point of view, it is quite lacking.  Essentially, it's one long action sequence - which is fine - but I did not find any of the action handled well.  From weird perspective wobbles ("they ran toward them" - how about they ran toward her?); to inappropriate digressions (her uncle, the captain - I thought this was tense?); to out-and-out errors (the "mutie" grabbed her arm - yet she dodged it?  Don't you mean grabbed AT her arm?) - it was just amatuerish in feeling.

Plot wise, it was weak.  Girl finds MacGuffin, narrator withholds information about MacGuffin to build false tension, girl is rescued by versimillitude shatteringly friendly Deus Ex Machina (the "Dead Boys" gang who, unlike the others, are chivalrous for some reason?).  Final revelation is that the heretofore purposely undescribed MacGuffin turns out to be useless - a bad way of manufacturing false tension and a good way to leave the reader feeling cheated.  In my opinion, it would have been a stronger story had it opened with the girl taking the cereal from the shelf and describing it.  She may not have known what it was, but the readers would have.

See Robert Bloch's "Notebook Found in a Deserted House" for a good way to use the uninformed perspective of a child to instill horror in the reader.  He may lack the worldly knowledge to know it's a trap - but we do not.  So we cannot help but feel the dread he does not.  That could have worked with this story too.

I have a real personal dislike of the speculative fiction story which leaves itself intentionally vague.  It opens with a vague train of thought about a vague item needed for a vague purpose for a vague little boy.  In speculative fiction especially, directness is called for.  The story will stand if you tell it well, regardless.  Some people call the vague approach "immersive" - I regard it as a good way to make sci-fi and fantasy inaccessable and confusing to most audiances.

Finally, I want to remark that this story brings absolutely nothing original to the table.  It's essentially a total remake of "The Underdweller" by William F. Nolan (1957).  A disaster has killed all adults, leaving the world run by children.  This concept was famously re-used in the ST:TOS episode "Miri" (1966).  All of those things, of course, are based on their granddaddy "The Lord of the Flies" (1954).  To say this is well-worn ground is an understatement.

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