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Author Topic: Pseudopod 92: The Sloan Men  (Read 20765 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.



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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.



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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.



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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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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



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Reply #25 on: June 09, 2008, 01:46:07 PM
Good reading.  Chilling story -- the turning of Mrs Sloan from evil to good was very, very skillful.  But I didn't really go for the twist ending.  Didn't resonate with me.

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Reply #26 on: June 11, 2008, 02:33:54 AM
Good reading.  Chilling story -- the turning of Mrs Sloan from evil to good was very, very skillful.  But I didn't really go for the twist ending.  Didn't resonate with me.

Phew! It took me ten minutes of reading, but I finally found someone with the same reaction I had.

In my case, I had to stop listening right toward the end of the scene in the root cellar. I spent the rest of the day wondering what Mrs Sloan was up to --- she seemed pretty eager to get Judith underground and chopping up the roots, but she didn't seem so eager to keep going once she started. Judith, though, grew more and more eager to keep going, yet she'd only had the afternoon (as opposed to Mrs Sloan's decades) to turn against her man. I figured there was a twist coming: Mrs Sloan was actually the source of the magic (?) and she was about to turn Judith into one of the naked girls in the photo. I half expected the root cellar to be the sort of cellar deranged people have in Austria.

Next day, I get a chance to listen to the end of the story. It turned out that Mrs Sloan must have simply been tired after hacking the roots for a while. When she got home, though, her strength returned and she was about to continue the hacking on her husband, but Judith decided it was time to leave the men alone and stopped Mrs Sloan. Then she rings her mum with the apology and soliloquy about loving someone even after you're not in-love any more.

Man, was that a let down. I can understand the love story. Unfortunately, it completely deflated the horror we were all sensing --- I mean, who was waiting for the tense stand-off when the men confront the women about what they tried (and presumably failed) to do?

I think it's beautiful that she chooses to stay with her weirdly hirsute man and his eight inch navel. I think it's sad she stayed with him when he was so willing to deceive her.* I just hope he's able to put his ways behind him for the good of the relationship. Experience tells me, though, it won't happen. There's plenty of room here for a sequel.

--
*On the subject of being deceptively sexy, I posted this to the Drabblecast forum recently. It's not related, but I kept thinking about it when I heard this story.



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Reply #27 on: June 13, 2008, 10:17:16 PM
Was there any point to mentioning that Judith's prior relationship had been with a woman, and how "relationships like that don't normally last long in their circles", and how proud the women were to still be with each other?  That all just seemed... odd, and never had any payoff.



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Reply #28 on: June 14, 2008, 11:43:27 AM
Was there any point to mentioning that Judith's prior relationship had been with a woman, and how "relationships like that don't normally last long in their circles", and how proud the women were to still be with each other?  That all just seemed... odd, and never had any payoff.

The "not lasting long" part, I agree with, but the relationship with a woman part meant one of two things to me:

1.  The author was trying to show that such things are normal and not a big deal, which always comes off as slightly pretentious because the majority of the west regrettably still can't handle "love : love :: human : human, not just man : woman".  (I've tried to make this point in stories and I always, always fail.  I wish I didn't.)

2.  Judith was lesbian or bisexual, but Herman's powers made her attracted to him even though she generally wasn't attracted to men.

I'm going to go with the latter.

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Reply #29 on: June 15, 2008, 06:36:14 PM
Was there any point to mentioning that Judith's prior relationship had been with a woman, and how "relationships like that don't normally last long in their circles", and how proud the women were to still be with each other?  That all just seemed... odd, and never had any payoff.

The "not lasting long" part, I agree with, but the relationship with a woman part meant one of two things to me:

1.  The author was trying to show that such things are normal and not a big deal, which always comes off as slightly pretentious because the majority of the west regrettably still can't handle "love : love :: human : human, not just man : woman".  (I've tried to make this point in stories and I always, always fail.  I wish I didn't.)

2.  Judith was lesbian or bisexual, but Herman's powers made her attracted to him even though she generally wasn't attracted to men.

I'm going to go with the latter.

Where the first just comes across as lame when an author tries it.  I think the second adds an extra layer to the story.  It also shows us that maybe at the end Herman's power is stronger than we thought it was.



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Reply #30 on: June 15, 2008, 07:46:50 PM
Where the first just comes across as lame when an author tries it.  I think the second adds an extra layer to the story.  It also shows us that maybe at the end Herman's power is stronger than we thought it was.

Hence why I went with the latter.  *grin*

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Reply #31 on: June 16, 2008, 10:02:51 AM
Where the first just comes across as lame when an author tries it.  I think the second adds an extra layer to the story.  It also shows us that maybe at the end Herman's power is stronger than we thought it was.

Hence why I went with the latter.  *grin*

Good choice



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Reply #32 on: June 24, 2008, 12:47:12 PM
What I loved about this story (apart from the Lovecraftian eldritchness of the Sloan men) was the ambiguity of the ending. People here are arguing about whether Judith was "really" acting under the influence of Herman or "really" being her own psycho self. But there is no such thing as "really". All that exists are our interpretations and in this case both interpretations are consistent with the rest of the story. That level of uncertainty is what makes this story truly horrifying.



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Reply #33 on: July 02, 2008, 12:31:51 AM
Stories like this are why I listen to Pseudopod. 

This story goes on for a long time with no actual monsters and nothing happening beyond two women talking in a parlor.  Even the photographs -though weird- aren't really proof that the boys are monsters.  But my creepy meter was pegged at maximum the whole time.  I found myself wondering what I would do in such a situation and I have no idea.  We thought that Mom was being overly judgmental of the girl her boy brought home, when in reality she was sizing her up to see if she would help kill him. 

I have to admit that some of the magic was lost for me when they found the roots.  I liked it more when the whole thing was psychological.  But the author brought some of the magic back with the ending.

Great reading, too. More from Minx.

Good creepy details: Herman was described as having a "hairless head," not bald.  This was shortly after revealing that Mrs Sloan had bones protruding from her fingertips, and it set the Weird Family mood very effectively without over doing it. 
That the 8-inch belly button was about an inch "on cold days" was horrible for some reason.  Very biological without being overtly disgusting. 

New interpretation: Judith isn't just psycho, she is full on batshit loony tunes.  The story is told from her POV, and there isn't any physical evidence that the boys are monsters.  She could have gone nuts, killed her future in-laws, crippled her boyfriend, and is now pulling a Misery. 

Minor nitpick:  IIRC, it's tha-LI-do-mide, not tha-li-DO-mide



wakela

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Reply #34 on: July 02, 2008, 12:33:51 AM
Quote from: Listener
because the majority of the west regrettably still can't handle "love : love :: human : human, not just man : woman".

Unlike the East where homosexuality is so cool and out in the open?



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Reply #35 on: July 02, 2008, 05:52:31 AM
I don't think that was his point.  That line- and that whole random mentioning in the story- seemed out of place and strange as well.



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Reply #36 on: July 02, 2008, 02:51:20 PM
Hi! It's the author here with a couple points to raise. The first one being: thanks to everyone who's taken the time to listen to and comment on this story of mine. Feedback is food for writers, and I'm feeling very well-fed just now.

The second being: sorry for sticking my authorial nose into such an interesting discussion, but I have to correct one misinterpretation that seems to have persisted, vis-a-vis Judith's lesbian past.  Judith doesn't have one. She isn't gay. Mrs. Sloan was/is gay. Here's the passage that should set that straight (as it were):

"I was living in Toronto with a friend at the time, had been for several years. As I recall, she was more than a friend -- we were lovers." Mrs. Sloan paused, obviously waiting for a reaction. Judith sat mute, her expression purposefully blank.

Mrs. Sloan went on: "In our circle of friends, such relationships were quite fragile. Usually they would last no longer than a few weeks. It was, so far as we knew anyway, a minor miracle that we'd managed to stay together for as long as we had." Mrs. Sloan gave a bitter laugh. "We were very proud."

"How did you meet Herman's father?"

"On a train," she said quickly. "A subway train. He didn't even speak to me. I just felt his touch. I began packing my things that night. I can't even remember what I told her. My friend."


So. Mrs. Sloan's gay. Judith's not. Hopefully, this makes the revelation a little less awkward; but I'll certainly cop to it being an awkward bump in the story, and with benefit of hindsight, perhaps not an entirely necessary one. When I wrote this story back in the early '90s, I wanted to make the violation of Mrs. Sloan's autonomy that much worse, and I thought that having Mr. Sloan and his pheromonal root cellar literally rewire her sexuality as well as her mate selection would do that. I'd also hoped it would contribute to another level of tension between Judith and Mrs. Sloan (yes, that kind of tension). But it may have been a bit much; and looking back, it makes me cringe to realize that the gay woman gets it at the end -- something that's been tagged as a particularly nasty cliche in horror since the story's first publication, and that I would have liked to have avoided in the writing.
 
But what's done's done. And I am, again, very grateful to hear so many takes on this story from the Pseudopod listeners. And stoked to have the story read so well by Cunning Minx. I'm with wakela there: more Minx.

David Nickle



« Last Edit: July 02, 2008, 06:21:26 PM by David Nickle »



Russell Nash

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Reply #37 on: July 02, 2008, 07:40:57 PM
David,

I am always so happy when the author shows up in our threads.  Thank you.

We were wondering about the ending.  Any clues or are we supposed to wonder?



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Reply #38 on: July 02, 2008, 08:50:40 PM
I kind of like people wondering about the ending, so don't want to say too much. Except that in general the story's about coercion and choices, and Judith has dealt with the coercion quite successfully. So what's left... ;)



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Reply #39 on: July 03, 2008, 08:32:35 AM
For what it's worth, I thought the handling of Mrs. Sloan's sexuality fell under the category of interesting character development.   Once I started thinking about it after reading this thread I thought it makes a informational way station between Scary Mrs. Sloan and Hero Mrs. Sloan.  We go from bone-fingered weird to lesbian-when-she-was-young unusual/interesting.  And like other parts of the story, it wasn't so much that she was a lesbian, but how she revealed it that was odd. 



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Reply #40 on: July 07, 2008, 10:14:42 PM
For the record, it wasn't that she used to be a lesbian that I thought was odd or out of place.  It was the comment that "those sorts of relationships usually didn't last in our social circles" that I thought was odd.  It made her into a sort-of-not-really lesbian, or someone who doesn't even respect lesbian relationships.  But perhaps I'm too indoctrinated in actual gay/lesbian culture.  Those relationships are pretty, well, normal in my social sphere.



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Reply #41 on: July 10, 2008, 02:54:21 AM
Excellent story! Excellent.

Pretty much everything I would have said has been said already (including the mispronunciation of Thalidomide) but I'm happy that between this and "Sons of Carbon County" there does seem to be some intelligent, actually scary horror showing up on Pseudopod.

Ambiguity in an ending is good if the story is well written.  I fall on the side of people who feel that's she's either still in thrall or, alternatively, that her "love" is actually just a realization that she's got the upper hand and wants nothing more than to care for a helpless monster.  Maybe, it's a little of both.  I don;t actually see much of a reason for her to kill Mrs. Sloan unless she was about to kill Herman (I can't remember).

I can't really accept that she actually "loves" him, in the generally understood sense of the word, because for that to work we'd have to actually have experienced more of him to understand why she'd feel that way.  And the story works better with him being a cypher.

Special kudos for "...I do" being the last thing said.  A phrase that has undone many a love affair...

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.

A sharp reading!  Excellent.

Thanks for listening

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Gustave Flaubert – MADAME BOVARY
« Last Edit: July 10, 2008, 02:56:04 AM by Sgarre1 »



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Reply #42 on: July 25, 2008, 10:38:30 PM
I agree completely with the comment on ambiguity. When character motivations are extremely cut and dry, I can find it boring, or even condescending, on a deconstructive level. The 'love' found at the end of the story flushes that character with a complexity that was completely unexpected. I only wish it was longer.



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Reply #43 on: August 20, 2008, 03:25:33 PM
I am far behind on PP episodes, but I've finally listened to this one.

I was not prepared for what seemed to be a rather sudden change in Mrs. Sloan from disapproving mother to co-conspirator.

I also agree with Ocicat that Mrs. Sloan's ambiguous information about her previous sexuality left me kind of flat. It wasn't clear to me that Mr. Sloan's seductive power necessarily forced her into a type of sexual desire that was unnatural to her. Her foggy recollection of her "friend" being also a lover, and the comment that such relationships didn't last among her circle lent more of a feeling that it was one of those It was just an experiment when I was back in college than an actual lesbian relationship. If the intention was to make Mr. Sloan's power seem greater and more insidious, then it would have been better to make her less wishy-washy about that previous relationship.

Other than that, I liked this story. It was creepy, creepy, creepy - and that's pure horror to me. I liked that no one explained if these men were aliens, or demons, or mutants, or whatever. They just were, and these women wanted out - well, at least for a while.

I also liked the twist at the end. It really fit Judith's character completely.

"You don't fix faith. Faith fixes you." - Shepherd Book


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Reply #44 on: October 21, 2009, 06:20:02 PM
I really enjoyed this story, uber creepy.  The loss of free will is one of the scariest possible things for me, and the sparse descriptions of the Sloan Men's anatomy was uber creepy.

My interpretation of the ending was that Herman had control of her again, despite the loss of the roots. 

The one thing I would've changed more was to play up the moment when Judith hits Mrs. Sloan with the shovel.  It came out of nowhere and then with the scene break a moment later, and with me driving on my commute, I totally missed the  sentence.  I had to go back and listen to it after finishing the story, totally unsure of what I'd missed.  If 2 or 3 more sentences had dealt with the action and its aftermath, I might've caught it on the first go.  That being said, if I'd read the story instead of listened to it, I don't think I would've had that problem.



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Reply #45 on: February 14, 2010, 08:41:35 AM
Good story and good reading. The description of the body parts that can only be seen when looked at directly were very compelling imagery. The vegetation waving without a breeze was a particularly nice touch and its connection to the root cellar was reminiscent of a shoggothian type of vegetation.

I also agree with Ocicat that Mrs. Sloan's ambiguous information about her previous sexuality left me kind of flat. It wasn't clear to me that Mr. Sloan's seductive power necessarily forced her into a type of sexual desire that was unnatural to her. Her foggy recollection of her "friend" being also a lover, and the comment that such relationships didn't last among her circle lent more of a feeling that it was one of those It was just an experiment when I was back in college than an actual lesbian relationship. If the intention was to make Mr. Sloan's power seem greater and more insidious, then it would have been better to make her less wishy-washy about that previous relationship.

I think the implication was that the "Lesbian Until Graduation" style relationship was the norm, but an actual out lesbian relationship was not the norm. She never defined what her typical circles were. I took this portion of the story to illustrate the supernatural power the Sloan men can have over women.

The part I had the biggest disconnect with was Mrs. Sloan wearing bones on the outside of her skin. Is that medically possible? But I just took it as weirdness in a horror story and went with it.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2010, 04:27:53 PM by Fenrix »

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evo.shandor

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Reply #46 on: February 17, 2010, 01:44:44 PM
Pic of a Sloan man from the cover of the collection this story is in:



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Reply #47 on: July 17, 2010, 12:21:17 AM
I liked this one.  I was, for the most part, loving it.  It was a highly successful "slow boil" type story which nevertheless held my interest.  However, my opinion of it dropped toward the end.  The descent into the root cellar was good, but would have been better served a little shorter (it went past simply tense to "get on with it already").  Likewise, the denoument went on too long.  Once she hit her mother-in-law with a shovel, we all knew what would happen.  Playing the "getting in bed willingly with the monster" schtick straight was fine, but once we knew it all the air went out of the balloon.  Would have been nicer to make the ending a little faster - or rope in one last twist.

The language was good, had good use of metaphor.  But, again, not very memorable.

EDIT:  I knew I'd seen this concept somewhere before.  "First Anniversary" - an Outer Limits episode.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Anniversary_(The_Outer_Limits) - very, very, very similar story, just with the woman being the grotesque monster not the man.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2010, 12:34:12 AM by Millenium_King »

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