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Author Topic: Pseudopod 92: The Sloan Men  (Read 20772 times)

Listener

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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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CammoBlammo

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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.



Ocicat

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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.



Listener

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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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Russell Nash

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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.



Listener

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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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Russell Nash

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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.



wakela

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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?



goatkeeper

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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?



David Nickle

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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... ;)



wakela

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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. 



Ocicat

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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.



Myrealana

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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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