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Author Topic: Pseudopod 92: The Sloan Men  (Read 20764 times)

Bdoomed

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on: May 31, 2008, 03:22:52 AM
Pseudopod 92: The Sloan Men

By David Nickle

Read by Cunning Minx

Mrs. Sloan had only three fingers on her left hand, but when she drummed them against the countertop, the tiny polished bones at the end of the fourth and fifth stumps clattered like fingernails. If Judith hadn’t been looking, she wouldn’t have noticed anything strange about Mrs. Sloan’s hand.

“Tell me how you met Herman,” said Mrs. Sloan. She turned away from Judith as she spoke, to look out the kitchen window where Herman and his father were getting into Mr. Sloan’s black pickup truck. Seeing Herman and Mr. Sloan together was a welcome distraction for Judith. She was afraid Herman’s stepmother would catch her staring at the hand. Judith didn’t know how she would explain that with any grace: Things are off to a bad enough start as it is.


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.

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


600south

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Reply #1 on: May 31, 2008, 06:35:26 AM
I've definitely heard this story somewhere before... argh, where was it? At first i could've sworn it was Pseudopod (since it's the only horror audio i listen to). I never saw it on "The Hunger" either. Does anyone know if there's another audio version of it floating around somewhere?

oh and yeah, it's a great story  :)

(trivia: "Mrs Sloan" was played by Margot Kidder in the TV version)
« Last Edit: May 31, 2008, 06:40:08 AM by 600south »



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Reply #2 on: May 31, 2008, 11:22:48 PM
This was an excellent story with a truly romantic ending.  The only thing that struck me as odd was why Herman let Judith persuade him to meet his parents.

It would've been nice to see more of Herman, to get a more direct impression of what kind of guy he was, though.



bolddeceiver

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Reply #3 on: June 01, 2008, 07:31:27 AM
Oooh, that was a Pseudopod story if I've ever heard one.  I don't think I've had a PP story's creeped me out this much since Crab Apples.

I think what made this so affecting to me was the idea of one's perceptions, one's thoughts, and even one's emotions being made not one's own.  The part about taking Herman home to meet Mom and Dad was just horrifying, espescially the fact that she'd thought it had gone pretty well.

And then oooh the end.  Not sure yet what to say about that.  I can't quite get to "How touching" phase; I can't get over what Herman did.  Not the basis for a healthy relationship.  Modified Stockholm, anyone?



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Reply #4 on: June 03, 2008, 02:51:47 AM
Really liked this one.  I thought it interesting that Mrs. Sloan was unable to break away on her own, and could only do so with the solidarity of another woman.  If all women banned together I wonder what they could make of this world.  Couldn’t do any worse….   


bolddeceiver

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Reply #5 on: June 03, 2008, 06:17:22 AM
Really liked this one.  I thought it interesting that Mrs. Sloan was unable to break away on her own, and could only do so with the solidarity of another woman.  If all women banned together I wonder what they could make of this world.  Couldn’t do any worse….   

Wow, your comment suddenly makes the story read to me as a total allegory of "post-feminism" -- the women both fight against oppression, but in the end the woman of the younger generation chooses to return to the monster (literally) that so mistreated her, totally giving up all that she achieved with the aid of the woman of the older generation...

Wow, I'm reading WAY too much into this.



eytanz

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Reply #6 on: June 03, 2008, 06:20:29 AM
I also really liked this story. I was effective, well-written horror, with a twist ending I didn't see coming. I liked how it started straight into the weirdness, and gave the (false) normal memories as flashbacks, rather than spending ten minutes giving us a normal relationship then introducing the truth.

Really liked this one.  I thought it interesting that Mrs. Sloan was unable to break away on her own, and could only do so with the solidarity of another woman.  If all women banned together I wonder what they could make of this world.  Couldn’t do any worse….   

I feel that message was actually a bit undermined by the ending. One thing the story teaches us is that Judith is not a typical woman. She seems to have a lot more resolve than Mrs. Sloan ever did - she was able to keep working, and able to convince Herman to visit his parents against his wishes. And in the end, well, she turned out to be somewhat insane. I think it's possible that the strength she had (and was able to provide Mrs Sloan) came from the same place her final decision came, and that a normal woman would have been just as trapped as Mrs Sloan did.

(Note - bolddeceiver posted while I was writing that; I think that's also an extremely interesting reading. Though I guess one question is - at the end, did the monster(s) have any power left? Or were they helpless? I had the feeling that the story ended up with Judith as the dominant one).
« Last Edit: June 03, 2008, 06:24:04 AM by eytanz »



bolddeceiver

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Reply #7 on: June 03, 2008, 05:57:37 PM
The fact that she sticks around after that kind of violation (both physical and emotional) implies to me that he must still have some power over her, even if it's not supernatural...

From the ICD-9 description of "battered person... syndrome" (code 995.81):

"In lay terms, this is a reference to any person who, because of constant and severe domestic violence usually involving physical abuse by a partner, becomes depressed and unable to take any independent action that would allow him or her to escape the abuse. The condition explains why abused people often do not seek assistance from others, fight their abuser, or leave the abusive situation. Sufferers have low self-esteem, and often believe that the abuse is their fault. Such persons usually refuse to press criminal charges against their abuser, and refuse all offers of help, often becoming aggressive or abusive to others who attempt to offer assistance. Often sufferers will even seek out their very abuser for comfort shortly after an incident of abuse."

(my emphasis)



eytanz

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Reply #8 on: June 03, 2008, 06:07:22 PM
I agree that that's the most realistic interpretation. But given some elements of her character (like the utter ruthlessness she exhibits cutting the roots and how she doesn't only end up staying but commits murder without apparently caring much), I find it entertaining to consider the possibility that she's basically a psycho. Basically, this allows us to interpret the story is as: monster picks mate, and initially is strong enough to dominate her, but then she turns the tables on him. In this light, the ending isn't about her still staying with the monster because he wants her too, but rather she is staying because he is now totally powerless and therefore the ideal boyfriend for her.

I'm not saying that that's how the story should be read, just that I find it a fun possible reading, and that the story actually is compatible with it.



deflective

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Reply #9 on: June 03, 2008, 06:59:01 PM
One thing the story teaches us is that Judith is not a typical woman. She seems to have a lot more resolve than Mrs. Sloan ever did - she was able to keep working, and able to convince Herman to visit his parents against his wishes. And in the end, well, she turned out to be somewhat insane. I think it's possible that the strength she had (and was able to provide Mrs Sloan) came from the same place her final decision came, and that a normal woman would have been just as trapped as Mrs Sloan did.

funny, i kinda thought it was Herman that wasn't as strong as his father since mrs Sloan had all this success piecing together what's actually happening. of course that could have just come from experience.

the murder at the end seemed extreme, a typical over-the-top shock twist that might come out of creepshow. nothing we previously saw of Judith suggests she would be capable of so cold an act. stop her sure, but cold blooded murder? maybe that's why the tv show was filmed in winter. it was just so cold.




The fact that she sticks around after that kind of violation (both physical and emotional) implies to me that he must still have some power over her, even if it's not supernatural...

interesting that you find the idea that she could consciously choose to stay more unsettling than mind controlling bug men. we have a pretty well defined culture of victimhood in our society, actions that don't fit the mold are readily explained away with psychosis.



DKT

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Reply #10 on: June 03, 2008, 08:47:55 PM
Wow. That was a great, gripping story.  I'm kind of going with eytanz's read.  There was something about Judith that made her more than Mrs. Sloan.  She was able to keep her job, she convinced Herman to let her meet his parents, and at the end, after all the damage she'd done to the Sloan men (and Mrs. Sloan), she was able to call home.  I'm going to have to listen to it again, but I get the impression by the end of the story, she was the one in control. 

Really liked this one.  I thought it interesting that Mrs. Sloan was unable to break away on her own, and could only do so with the solidarity of another woman.  If all women banned together I wonder what they could make of this world.  Couldn’t do any worse….   

Have you read any of Brian K. Vaughan's Y the Last Man?
« Last Edit: June 06, 2008, 10:54:50 AM by Russell Nash »



cuddlebug

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Reply #11 on: June 03, 2008, 09:01:32 PM
Wow. That was a great, gripping story.  I'm kind of going with eytanz's read.  There was something about Judith that made her more than Mrs. Sloan.  She was able to keep her job, she convinced Herman to let her meet his parents, and at the end, after all the damage she'd done to the Sloan men (and Mrs. Sloan), she was able to call home.  I'm going to have to listen to it again, but I get the impression by the end of the story, she was the one in control. 


Actually, I didn't 'read' it like that at all. I felt a sense of menace and insanity from Judith in the very end, but not based on a certain inherent strength but rather because she was in the presence of the Sloans' power again, a deception that still gets hold of her and one that she falls for again, one she does in fact not have the strength to fight, a feeling or illusion of some kind of love towards Herman, induced by his crying and apparent weakness (we women always fall for that, the vulnerable man) whether real or imagined or as I believe feigned.

But I have to listen to it again, would be too weird if we have such completely different takes on this story.

Great story though, whichever interpretation is more appropriate.



deflective

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Reply #12 on: June 03, 2008, 09:16:31 PM
I felt a sense of menace and insanity from Judith in the very end, but not based on a certain inherent strength but rather because she was in the presence of the Sloans' power again, a deception that still gets hold of her and one that she falls for again, one she does in fact not have the strength to fight, a feeling or illusion of some kind of love towards Herman, induced by his crying and apparent weakness (we women always fall for that, the vulnerable man) whether real or imagined or as I believe feigned.

that was one long sentence.

certainly, this is the explanation that makes the most sense. we know that Herman can influence her to physical extremes. it just isn't as interesting as the possibility that she made the choice herself (which, oddly, is the more horrifying interpretation).

i'd like to believe she didn't actually kill mrs Sloan at the end. it did say the flat of the blade. that way it fits better with the more interesting interpretation.



cuddlebug

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Reply #13 on: June 03, 2008, 09:30:24 PM
I felt a sense of menace and insanity from Judith in the very end, but not based on a certain inherent strength but rather because she was in the presence of the Sloans' power again, a deception that still gets hold of her and one that she falls for again, one she does in fact not have the strength to fight, a feeling or illusion of some kind of love towards Herman, induced by his crying and apparent weakness (we women always fall for that, the vulnerable man) whether real or imagined or as I believe feigned.

that was one long sentence.


Sorry about that, bad habits and all that. Must be a German thing, we like doing that, long sentences. My profs an uni tore out their hair by the handful (?) when reading my papers. That's why I am staying away from the 'Forum Crit Group' or whatever it's called, don't wanna be responsible for all you nice people going bald because of me.



cuddlebug

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Reply #14 on: June 03, 2008, 09:45:34 PM
certainly, this is the explanation that makes the most sense. we know that Herman can influence her to physical extremes. it just isn't as interesting as the possibility that she made the choice herself (which, oddly, is the more horrifying interpretation).

i'd like to believe she didn't actually kill mrs Sloan at the end. it did say the flat of the blade. that way it fits better with the more interesting interpretation.

Of course, well, if my interpretation just wasn't interesting enough, I'll have to rethink that. Lets see, maybe Mrs Sloan was the one in control all along. She was so sick of her life with Mr Sloan, she wanted to get out, commit suicide by manipulating Judith into killing her. After years married to Mr Sloan she might have developed (gotten infected with) similar powers, grown her own root cellar somewhere, who knows.

Interesting enough? ... completely *bonkers*, I know, but maybe a little more interesting?  ;)



DKT

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Reply #15 on: June 03, 2008, 09:56:23 PM
Wow. That was a great, gripping story.  I'm kind of going with eytanz's read.  There was something about Judith that made her more than Mrs. Sloan.  She was able to keep her job, she convinced Herman to let her meet his parents, and at the end, after all the damage she'd done to the Sloan men (and Mrs. Sloan), she was able to call home.  I'm going to have to listen to it again, but I get the impression by the end of the story, she was the one in control. 


Actually, I didn't 'read' it like that at all. I felt a sense of menace and insanity from Judith in the very end, but not based on a certain inherent strength but rather because she was in the presence of the Sloans' power again, a deception that still gets hold of her and one that she falls for again, one she does in fact not have the strength to fight, a feeling or illusion of some kind of love towards Herman, induced by his crying and apparent weakness (we women always fall for that, the vulnerable man) whether real or imagined or as I believe feigned.

But I have to listen to it again, would be too weird if we have such completely different takes on this story.

Great story though, whichever interpretation is more appropriate.

I could be completely wrong.  It wouldn't be the first time :)  However, I found it interesting that Mrs. Sloan didn't fall prey to the Sloan Men's powers, yet Judith did.  Also, their powers, or influence, or whatever, seemed mighty depleted, which is why I took that the Sloan Men, specifically Herman's dad, couldn't control his wife any longer. 

That said, I'm not sure how Judith is controlling them.  But I still buy it. 

Also, I meant to mention this before, but what's this about a TV movie/episode?  Did I completely miss a link somewhere?


deflective

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Reply #16 on: June 03, 2008, 10:39:57 PM
Must be a German thing, we like doing that, long sentences.

there's a surprisingly strong german presence here, are short stories culturally popular? short stories and long sentences would make for an efficient sentence to story ratio.

keeping off topic for a moment, my natural tendency is toward long sentences as well. this writing style, without capitals, forces you to be exceptionally clear to make sense. short, single topic sentences in concise paragraphs. it doesn't always work out and can wind up backfiring but it keeps you mindful of your writing.

kinda like those martial art movies where they train with weights tied to their limbs. in theory, you'll be faster & stronger once the weights come off.

Lets see, maybe Mrs Sloan was the one in control all along. She was so sick of her life with Mr Sloan, she wanted to get out, commit suicide by manipulating Judith into killing her. After years married to Mr Sloan she might have developed (gotten infected with) similar powers, grown her own root cellar somewhere, who knows.

Interesting enough? ... completely *bonkers*, I know, but maybe a little more interesting?  ;)

excellent! it all makes sense now... except... i can't shake the feeling that my sudden acceptance of your insane ramblings stems from something not wholly in my own mind. it must be that you have developed your own root cellar! a cyber root cellar. dammit, where's my shovel?


Also, I meant to mention this before, but what's this about a TV movie/episode?  Did I completely miss a link somewhere?

yeah, it's linked from the top. odd, it's the only story i've seen that uses underlining like that. almost like it's been pre-accented for verbal performance.



birdless

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Reply #17 on: June 04, 2008, 12:30:17 AM
Very interesting takes... I wasn't exactly sure which way to go with it after I listened to it, but the most horrifying option to me is that Judith was actually in love with this monstrosity.



cuddlebug

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Reply #18 on: June 04, 2008, 07:47:16 AM
Lets see, maybe Mrs Sloan was the one in control all along. She was so sick of her life with Mr Sloan, she wanted to get out, commit suicide by manipulating Judith into killing her. After years married to Mr Sloan she might have developed (gotten infected with) similar powers, grown her own root cellar somewhere, who knows.

Interesting enough? ... completely *bonkers*, I know, but maybe a little more interesting?  ;)

excellent! it all makes sense now... except... i can't shake the feeling that my sudden acceptance of your insane ramblings stems from something not wholly in my own mind. it must be that you have developed your own root cellar! a cyber root cellar. dammit, where's my shovel?


A shovel? ... in my cyber root cellar? Come on, you can do better than that.



deflective

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Reply #19 on: June 04, 2008, 08:32:55 AM
to be fair, i was thinking of digg.com as the shovel and using it to crash (dos) the root cellar's server. i didn't actually say this because it seemed too geeky for the room.

edit: now that it's actually on the screen it seems way too geeky.

« Last Edit: June 04, 2008, 10:09:01 AM by deflective »



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Reply #20 on: June 05, 2008, 12:25:20 PM
This was, I believe, my favorite Pseudopod yet.  And not just because it was a very well written and performed story, but because of the way I heard it.  Lemme 'splain....

I generally listen to podcasts during my commute.  I listen to them in order by release date. This one started just as I was getting to work. So I heard Alasdair's intro and the first few sentences of Minx's reading, then had to turn off the iPod and go inside the building.  So I rewound back to the beginning of the story.

Some 8 hours later when I came back to the car to drive home, I had forgotten whether this was PodCastle, PseudoPod, or Escape Pod. I knew it was one of those, but not which one.

So I had the unusual experience of trying to figure out which way the story was going to go without the cue of which 'cast it was from.

Had it been Escape Pod, I'm sure that root cellar would have had an alien ship in it.  But when it didn't, I thought, "This kind of sounds like a fantasy," and thought maybe they'd find the real Harold and Mr. Sloan down in that root cellar, free them, and then vanquish the shape-shifting demonic entities that had taken over their lives.

When that didn't happen, either, I was left with it being PseudoPod, and I figured that Mrs. Sloan's missing two fingers had been sacrificed to ensnare the last two girls Harold had brought home.  Whoops, no.  So...maybe Mrs. Sloan is the real monster, here, and...well, no.  Oooh, or maybe it was all some sort of sick initiation and Judith was about to lose one of her fingers, and...no. Hmm.

The ending totally surprised me, and not just because I wasn't sure which podcast I was listening to.  In my estimation, that's one of the signs of a good story.

Maybe Steve should make a feed of just the stories from all three podcasts without the intros and outros so we don't have the cue of knowing it's sci-fi, fantasy, or horror to begin with, and therefore color our expectations of where the story's headed. :)

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Loz

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Reply #21 on: June 06, 2008, 06:00:24 AM
When I listened to this yesterday I did enjoy the story but found it a failure as the central character wasn't developed enough as her own character sans the Sloany influence to make much sense of why she turned on Mrs Sloan at the end. I felt the story needed more on her parents, explaining why their behaviour towards her made her stay with Herman even knowing full well what he was. Of course, we don't know exactly what ramifications her action in the root cellar had, is Herman now forever crippled so she can devote her life to nursing him, feeling she's not a whore because she's going to nurse him, will he recover and either punish her or take her as his wife?

An interesting but, for me, not an entirely successfully told story.



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Reply #22 on: June 06, 2008, 11:24:03 AM
Must be a German thing, we like doing that, long sentences.

there's a surprisingly strong german presence here, are short stories culturally popular? short stories and long sentences would make for an efficient sentence to story ratio.
A quick fingertip count (maybe it's accurate) gives me four people with a German connection.  Two are ex-pats living in Berlin, one Australian and one American (me).  One is a German student who lives in a different German town every 10 months or so.  The last is a German living in, I think, England.  Not a very homogenic representation. 

I do, however, think we have three Dutch folks who live in Holland.  This gives a much more solid representation from a much smaller country.  (European cup: Go Orange!)
 
Also, I meant to mention this before, but what's this about a TV movie/episode?  Did I completely miss a link somewhere?

yeah, it's linked from the top. odd, it's the only story i've seen that uses underlining like that. almost like it's been pre-accented for verbal performance.

Here's links to the series and the episode on IMDB.



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Reply #23 on: June 06, 2008, 03:21:43 PM
Very interesting takes... I wasn't exactly sure which way to go with it after I listened to it, but the most horrifying option to me is that Judith was actually in love with this monstrosity.

Men are monsters and women are weak and have to band together for strength to chop down the evil phallic penis roots to break free of their control.  Was a  ::) for me until the end, which made it a different type of story - a love story.  That was the real twist, not just the shovel scene.



deflective

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Reply #24 on: June 06, 2008, 07:14:15 PM
A quick fingertip count (maybe it's accurate) gives me four people with a German connection.... Not a very homogenic representation. 

my own quick count has close to 10% of the comments here coming from people who have gone out of their way to identify a connection to germany. presence is as presence does =p