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Author Topic: Pseudopod 95: No Tomorrows  (Read 18998 times)

Bdoomed

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on: June 21, 2008, 05:54:54 AM
Pseudopod 95: No Tomorrows

By Steve Cooper

Read by Alasdair Stuart

Six months ago, it was all sugar and no shit. Six months ago, in a private Istanbul club called Imshi, I’d snorted coke out of the shallow belly button of an ex-Soviet farmer’s girl, reared on Georgian corn, marinated in Belorussian vodka, garnished in best Turkish blow. Say what you want about the Eastern Orthodox Church, the college of bishops really knows how to throw a party.

The fat commission on that job, though, was running low, and now I was in Leeds, in a filthy hole of a club called Tiggers, leaning back against the bar with a little plastic bottle of water and watching the crowd. The boys were thin hungry jackals and the girls were glittering, animated sausage-meat. The place was slaughterhouse-romantic.

I’d come to meet a man on borrowed time. Horton had been borrowing time since 1673, and I had come to loan him a little more.



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?


Chivalrybean

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Reply #1 on: June 21, 2008, 10:23:37 PM
I really didn't follow this story... I didn't get it.

I found the bit about seeing the guy with the mouths creepy, and a story more about that aspect would have been more interesting.

Other than that part, nothing really clicked with me.

The Space Turtle - News that didn't happen, stories to entertain.


600south

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Reply #2 on: June 22, 2008, 04:15:26 AM
I enjoyed it -- loved the writing style (very tight, no wastage) and the narration too.
but it was yet another example of a story that ended right as i was starting to get into it. just as i was beginning to understand the main characters, their relationship between the narrator and his sister... boom, Pseudopod theme music. Cue sound of needle scratching on record. sometimes i wonder if short stories are the hardest form to master; if writers should just use short stories as teasers and save their real work for longer forms. because i'd definitely read a novel or novella by Steve Cooper.



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Reply #3 on: June 22, 2008, 07:35:08 AM
I got it.  kind of.  I think a little more exposition would have helped.



Yossarian's grandson

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Reply #4 on: June 22, 2008, 08:22:18 AM
I agree. There's a pretty cool story in there somewher (what with the ' Chronomancers' and all), but it all sort of rushed by and then stopped. Too bad, I'd like to know more about this world.



Chivalrybean

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Reply #5 on: June 22, 2008, 01:49:47 PM
I enjoyed it -- loved the writing style (very tight, no wastage) and the narration too.
but it was yet another example of a story that ended right as i was starting to get into it. just as i was beginning to understand the main characters, their relationship between the narrator and his sister... boom, Pseudopod theme music. Cue sound of needle scratching on record. sometimes i wonder if short stories are the hardest form to master; if writers should just use short stories as teasers and save their real work for longer forms. because i'd definitely read a novel or novella by Steve Cooper.

I'm a short story writer (I have three, working on fourth) and I really try to include a complete story. For one, I built a world, and there is a ton too it, but in the story, only what I need shows up. I don't mention the entire reason why the main event happens because the reader doesn't need to know. It would be a whole different story to explain it. So, my guess is when a story reveals a lot of interesting bits of a world, then ends, it is because the writer had so many things to write about. But instead of writing five stories, they shoved bits of every idea into one. Then the plot got lost instead of cutting out the bits that were total extra information that did nothing for the plot.

(I'm no expert, I just listen to podcasts by experts {;0)

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SteveCooperOrg

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Reply #6 on: June 23, 2008, 12:32:14 PM
Hi, Guys. It's the author here.

Thanks for your thoughts, everyone. I just wanted to say that I appreciate all your thoughts so far; they're helping me figure out what worked and what didn't, and why. It's absolutely invaluable to get feedback from you all. I'd love to hear more of what you thought, good and bad. The praise is great for my ego. The criticism is great for my writing. ;)

600south said: "sometimes i wonder if short stories are the hardest form to master." Well, I think he's right. Or rather, the shortness of the form means you can only do certain things, only put so much in. In writing a genre piece, you have to put in plot, character, and your genre ideas all in a few thousand words. Complexity in one area ultimately forces you to be simpler in other areas.

I've tried to put some big genre ideas into the story -- chronovores, chronomancers, watchers, the idea that corruption can become visible to those with eyes to see. That, and several locations and relationships makes it very dense. I think I should have given some of it more space to breath, so to speak. More space for some of the stuff to unfold. Especially, as 600south says, the relationship of the brother and sister.

Chivalrybean wrote: "my guess is when a story reveals a lot of interesting bits of a world, then ends, it is because the writer had so many things to write about." Again, spot on. There's a lot more in my head about these characters and what they can do. I wonder whether there's a novels-worth in it. There's certainly another episode, or a longer short story, or a novella.

Can I also say a massive thanks to the pseudopod crew, especially Al Stuart for his amazing reading.

    Steve



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Reply #7 on: June 23, 2008, 08:37:46 PM
Just listened to it on my way to work.  Good stuff.  I liked the banter between Ethan and Horton, and then Ethan and Sonya.  The writing came off pretty tight and didn't waste time, plus there was some good humor in it.  And Alasdair did a bang-up job reading it.

Some of it did feel rushed (could of used more of the brother/sister releationship).

Steve, if you wrote more, I'd read more.


SteveCooperOrg

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Reply #8 on: June 23, 2008, 09:13:35 PM
thanks, DKT! I'll get writing, then! ;)



eytanz

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Reply #9 on: June 23, 2008, 09:17:46 PM
I really enjoyed this story, and honestly, I didn't feel it was rushed. I mean, I see why people think that, but I didn't feel that myself when I listened. What I did feel was that there were some gaps I would have liked filled, especially towards the end. What was the sister doing there? Was she a corrupt cop, or was the murderer guy cooperating in a legitimate sting? Was the guy who sent Ethan on the hit honest about the motive (the granddaughter) or was that a lie and the hit was really because he knew the guy was cooperating with the police? And so forth.

Still, a fun story even if it left me a bit confused as to everyone's motives. And I'd be very glad to hear/read more from this world.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2008, 10:30:01 PM by eytanz »



SteveCooperOrg

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Reply #10 on: June 23, 2008, 11:25:20 PM
Hi, Eytanz.  I've tried to answer a few of your questions in a seperate document (didn't want to post anything here that might be considered a spoiler.)

http://www.stevecooper.org/documents/no-tomorrows-extras.pdf




Chodon

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Reply #11 on: June 24, 2008, 12:49:15 AM
First of all, Steve, I have to give you a ton of credit for coming on here to see what people thought of your story.  It takes a ton of strength and confidence to be able to take criticism, especially about something as personal as something you created (like a story).  Bravo, and more power to you!

I have to jump on the bandwagon started by 600south and chivalry bean.  I liked the characters, I liked the world, and I liked the individual interactions.  I didn't really have a clue what was going on though.  A little more clarification would have been helpful.  I know sometimes it's important to "show, not tell", but with complex ideas my simple mind sometimes just needs to be told the stuff that's totally foreign.

Also, for some reason I had a hard time keeping the characters straight.  Maybe it's just me and my simple mind, but I had a hard time keeping track of who was who.  Maybe a second listen would help that.

Keep up the good work and I look forward to seeing more of your writing!

Those who would sacrifice liberty for safety deserve neither.


eytanz

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Reply #12 on: June 24, 2008, 07:13:45 AM
Hi, Eytanz.  I've tried to answer a few of your questions in a seperate document (didn't want to post anything here that might be considered a spoiler.)

http://www.stevecooper.org/documents/no-tomorrows-extras.pdf



Hi Steve - thanks for that! That certainly answers the questions I've had.

Looking forward to reading about the further adventures of Ethan and Sonia :).
« Last Edit: June 24, 2008, 08:40:00 AM by eytanz »



Alasdair5000

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Reply #13 on: June 24, 2008, 07:18:51 AM
I should also point out that Steve's dedication to linguistic accuracy is such that he had a Greek colleague record, phonetically, how to say the Greek line in the story and send it to me.

I am in awe.

Also, frightened.



errant371

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Reply #14 on: June 24, 2008, 02:00:53 PM
I really enjoyed this story, and honestly, I didn't feel it was rushed. I mean, I see why people think that, but I didn't feel that myself when I listened.

I agree with eytanz, I did not find the story rushed.  It had just as many words as needed.  Of course, I would prefer a tightly written story that feels rushed to one with excessive verbiage.  Your miliage may vary.  Fascinating world Mr. Cooper has constructed and I would definitely look for more of his work if it were out there.  One note about the end though; if any part of the story was rushed it was the very end.  Horton just seems to drop out of the picture all together (unless I am mistaken and missed something).  Doesn't he have any opinion on what to do or has he become the 'third wheel' and ignored by Ethan and his sister?  The ending would feel more complete and symetrical if there was at least some mention of Horton at the end.  All in all though, a great little romp.

Write more in this world Mr. Cooper, I think you have a winner.

What part of 'Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn' didn't you understand?


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Reply #15 on: June 24, 2008, 04:17:53 PM
Of course, I would prefer a tightly written story that feels rushed to one with excessive verbiage. 

I'm completely with you there.  I'd much rather have a story going at breakneck pace than a story that was making me pull out my hair in boredom.


SteveCooperOrg

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Reply #16 on: June 24, 2008, 05:18:56 PM
Horton just seems to drop out of the picture all together [...] Doesn't he have any opinion on what to do or has he become the 'third wheel' and ignored by Ethan and his sister?

I have plumbed the archives for the answer. This is the final scene from an earlier draft, after the fight in the church. The blue text is the part that was omitted from the final draft. Looking back, I don't really see why I left this out. Anyway, hope this makes it clearer...

Quote from: SteveCooperOrg
My sister and I were sitting in a cafeteria a few streets from the
church. We'd convinced the dealers that I was Falkirk, and the deal
had gone off smoothly. Afterwards, we had woken Horton, who had
stormed off, but since he had no passport, spoke no Turkish, and was
covered in blood, and since I had the hotel room key, I was pretty
sure I'd get a call from him soon.

Now, though, it was just Sonia and me in the cafe.
The booths were
upholstered in sticky bottle-green vinyl and the tables were
puke-colored plastic.  The air- conditioning rattled, and for some
reason, the walls were covered in Stalin-era socialist posters.  The
proprietor looked a little like old Uncle Joe, too - square-headed and
suspicious, as though anyone who stayed here had to be hiding
something, because they couldn't be here for the sour, tar-thick
coffee.

"Sorry about everything," I said.

She didn't say anything.

"Look, Sonia.  I don't think I'm going back to the UK."

"No?"

"No.  I'll get my money wired to me and go travelling.  Want to come
with?  Help me spend it?  We'll see the world together. Better than
staying here, maybe."

She looked up from her coffee. "No can do, little brother.  I'm going
to stay here, try to clean up some of this mess."

I nodded.  "Well, you call me when you can."

"Of course."

I stood and picked up my bag.  Uncle Joe flinched at the sudden
movement.  "So long, Sonia."

She stood, and hugged me.  "Take care, little brother."

I waved to her one last time, and leaving my sister behind, I went out
in the street to hail a taxi.



SteveCooperOrg

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Reply #17 on: June 24, 2008, 05:31:07 PM
Also, for some reason I had a hard time keeping the characters straight.

I can totally understand -- many of the names have a very similar form; in fact, I just noticed that absolutely every name in the story is a trochaic foot; HOR-ton, STRAN-ton, ETH-an, FAL-kirk, SON-ia. That's great if I decide to write a poem, but not so great for creating distinctions. Also those first three names all end in a 'ton/thon' like sound.

I worried about this, but some of my early readers told me they liked the names and that I should keep them. So I left it in.

Then, the day after I submitted it to pseudopod, I saw a poster for Horton Hears a Who!. Which made me wish even more that I'd changed the names.

So, if it helps you to remeber;

* Ethan is the turkish/english guy who can see weirdness.
* Stranton is the lovely old drug baron.
* Horton is the lovable cartoon elephant.



DKT

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Reply #18 on: June 24, 2008, 05:45:41 PM
Actually, I thought of your Horton and related it to Horton Hears a Who and thought it was a nice touch.

I liked that bit that you cut out about Horton in the cafe.  If you ever do more with this story, I hope it goes back in :)


eytanz

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Reply #19 on: June 24, 2008, 06:11:57 PM
I liked that bit that you cut out about Horton in the cafe.  If you ever do more with this story, I hope it goes back in :)

I agree. I actually figured that Ethan had killed Horton with the blow to his head, but I sort of am glad that it isn't.

But a question - why does Horton need a passport? Or a plane ticket, for that matter? Can't he just walk into an airport, waltz through security, and board any random plane he wishes? I actually thought about that when Ethan first told him, on the way to Turkey, that he was dependent on him.



SteveCooperOrg

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Reply #20 on: June 24, 2008, 11:34:19 PM
Why does Horton need a passport? Or a plane ticket, for that matter? Can't he just walk into an airport, waltz through security, and board any random plane he wishes? I actually thought about that when Ethan first told him, on the way to Turkey, that he was dependent on him.

I've updated the FAQ document that I started earlier. There are now two new questions about what happened to Horton, and why he now needs passports and such. It explains quite a bit about chronovores and chronomancers and such. Possibly a spoiler amount, should I ever turn this into more stories...

    http://www.stevecooper.org/documents/no-tomorrows-extras.pdf



eytanz

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Reply #21 on: June 25, 2008, 11:05:02 AM
Thanks again for the additional information!

One thing I like about this story is that it felt well-worked out; i.e., that when there were things I didn't understand, I didn't feel "huh, the author didn't think things through", but rather "I'm sure there's an answer to this". I'm glad to see that was right...



errant371

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Reply #22 on: June 25, 2008, 02:46:37 PM
I have plumbed the archives for the answer. This is the final scene from an earlier draft, after the fight in the church. The blue text is the part that was omitted from the final draft. Looking back, I don't really see why I left this out. Anyway, hope this makes it clearer [...]

Acutally, it does.  I think I can see why you cut that part of the scene; the sentence seemed somewhat akward.  Thank you for the wonderful story, and keep developing this world.  The characters are great (and somehow reminded me of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels/Layercake, it was the very natural swearing I think, and the way the narrator pulled it off).

What part of 'Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn' didn't you understand?


SteveCooperOrg

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Reply #23 on: June 25, 2008, 02:52:01 PM
Thank you for the wonderful story, and keep developing this world.  The characters are great (and somehow reminded me of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels/Layercake

Thanks!  I'm pondering a novel, and the current codename is 'Lock, Stock,and two smoking pentacles' ;)

The other big movie influence -- the off-kilter narrator -- was 'kiss, kiss, bang, bang'. Fantastic movie -- check it out if you haven't seen it.
« Last Edit: June 25, 2008, 02:57:26 PM by SteveCooperOrg »



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Reply #24 on: June 25, 2008, 04:38:35 PM
Overall I liked the story and found it interesting, but I had some issues:

* Sonya showing up was a bit of deus ex machina.
* Why was Horton ghostly?  Too much chonovore-ing?
* Why is Ethan on such good terms with Stratton?  Did I miss a throwaway line in the open?

The writing was very sharp and descriptive.

The reading had more verite because it was read by someone with the appropriate accent, but I feel it was rushed in places and would've benefited from a few pauses.  Also, Alasdair has a good knack for humorously world-weary characters and making sure the humorous qualities of stories are perceived in the reading.

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Ben Phillips

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Reply #25 on: July 01, 2008, 07:16:29 AM
I also noticed the lack of resolution regarding Horton, and my trenchant analysis consisted of:  well, he was kind of a dick, so do we care?  :)



DKT

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Reply #26 on: July 01, 2008, 06:03:07 PM
I also noticed the lack of resolution regarding Horton, and my trenchant analysis consisted of:  well, he was kind of a dick, so do we care?  :)

YES! 

I mean, c'mon.  We've had loads of stories about dicks here that we care about for one reason or another.  ;)


Loz

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Reply #27 on: July 01, 2008, 09:31:20 PM
I enjoyed that, though I eighth or ninth what everyone else said about the lack of explanation for any of it, and the sudden ending, it reminded me of some of the shorter Michael Moorcock stories broadcast on Starship Sofa earlier this year.



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Reply #28 on: July 01, 2008, 10:54:17 PM
Thanks for the comments, guys.

Yeah, I definitely need to work on finding the balance between providing enough explanation and cack-handed infodumping. Some of that info is explained in the PDF mentioned above, but really that's not the right place for it, is it? The right place is in the story. Storytelling should never happen in an appendix.

Again, I'm really grateful for your feedback.



wakela

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Reply #29 on: July 04, 2008, 12:53:44 AM
Sorry I'm late to the party, but I wanted to say how much I enjoyed the story.  The characters were interesting, funny and world-weary --  but not in the dry, Dekard-from-Bladerunner way that I am so tired of.

Quote from: eytanz
One thing I like about this story is that it felt well-worked out; i.e., that when there were things I didn't understand, I didn't feel "huh, the author didn't think things through", but rather "I'm sure there's an answer to this". I'm glad to see that was right...
Yes.  It felt rushed in a fun, roller coaster way.  I want to know more the same way I want more donuts.  But your shouldn't eat all the donuts in one sitting.  It's best if you save some for later.  I would love to read more stories about the chorovores, -nauts, -mancers, -philiacs, etc. 

And, Alasdair, great, great reading.  It really added to the humor and characterizations. 



Tango Alpha Delta

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Reply #30 on: July 04, 2008, 03:03:12 AM
I'm avoiding the possible spoilers on principle (and because page loads are interfering with my sound card tonight for some reason), so this may be redundant commentary... but that beats just saying, "Yeah, I liked it, too, and thought the same thing as everyone else!" right?


Anyway, I was waiting for some more detailed explanation of what happened after Ethan goblet-smacked Horton.  I guessed that the combination of ingredients/blow to the head/distraction with bullets caused Horton to lose whatever magic "transparency" he had.  But I was waiting for more of a denouement than even the "blue text" Steve posted.

-Did Sonia still go through with the sting, with Ethan playing Falkirk?  Or did they buy the drugs and let the guys go?
-Wasn't Falkirk still distinctly dead?  She'd still have to deal with the fallout from that, wouldn't she?


I guess a lot of my questions stemmed from the fact that I wasn't sure what was really at stake.  Ethan's mission was to take out Falkirk, so good for him; but it felt like with so much else going on, there was something larger I was supposed to be paying attention to.

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Reply #31 on: July 07, 2008, 02:33:19 PM
Ditto!

I would like some mo' pleeeeeeeeaaaze!!! =)

Very l4yercake-like.

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SteveCooperOrg

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Reply #32 on: July 08, 2008, 08:19:29 AM
Might I recommend the work of Mike Carey?

I'm 2/3rds through his first novel, The Devil You Know, which is about a London exorcist and the mystery of a dead girl he's hired to exorcise. I think if you liked my stuff, you'll go for Mike's.

Mike Carey is the author I want to be when I grow up. ;) He also wrote for hellblazer. Check out an interview (pdf) in Hub Magazine.

Aaand finally, since I mentioned Hub; Hub will soon be podcasting Pseudopod's host Al Stuart's miniseries, Pantheon. Looks like it's going to be fun. So watch out for that, too.



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Reply #33 on: July 16, 2008, 01:00:25 AM
Another miss for me, but then I'm not the target for this at all.

Quick observations

- for being hundreds of years old, the chronomancer guy has almost no personality The line about Greek was about it.

- the writer has, set-up in the main character, an absolutely perfect reason/ excuse to always have the world around the protagonist be eerie, except (IIRC), outside of using this to explain why he can see the chronomancer, this is only set-up as a childhood thing (with the faces in the skin guy as a nice topper) and not used to any effect later, or did I miss something?

- This one's a pet peeve with these kinda stories so feel free to just consider it something I always want to know. It's more something that gets fleshed out with a series, but I'd like some little inkling as to how much of this is perceivable to the real world? Sensitives and sorcerers and no ones the wiser?  Do the hoods hire the chronomancer through the protagonist know what they're getting or do they just think he's an uncannily adept hitman?  If the  criminals know, how well known is it all? Or is this full scale parallel world where magic... (and that ellipsis would be where I bail on this kind of story).

Thanks for listening
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Thomas Moore
« Last Edit: July 17, 2008, 02:30:59 AM by Sgarre1 »



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Reply #34 on: July 17, 2008, 02:20:39 AM
Thanks so much for explaining the story! Unfortunately, I heard chronovore as carnivore. It still worked (and was pretty creepy) but it makes a lot more sense as chronovore.

I liked the setting and the pacing, etc. I recognized the Ipsum Lorum text (why do graphic designers call it "greek text"?) but didn't get much beyond "3 feet" from the Greek.

Great PP!



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Reply #35 on: July 18, 2008, 12:04:57 AM
Am I the only one who is wondering about the books he mentions at the end of the podcast?  I heard Mike Resnick, but I couldn't for the life of me understand the title of the story.  The plot intrigued me, something about alien acheologists learning about human culture...  What is the title?



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Reply #36 on: October 23, 2009, 07:28:27 PM
This one had some interesting character interactions, a rich world with lots of interesting things (that I didn't really understand).  But in the end, I have to say it didn't really suit my fancy, for a few reasons:

1.  Too much I didn't understand, with the chronomancers, chronovores, why is Horton ghostlike, why does his ghostiness go away at the end, all of that.

2.  Horton is too powerful.  Nothing really serves as an obstacle to his progress (this is the same complaint I have about Superman by the way).

3.  The protagonist does nothing throughout the story. Horton drives everything, the protag just kind of follows along, even trying to just stay out of the way in the end climax.

4.  The appearance of his sister is just out the blue and seems to be intended to carry more weight than it did with me.



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Reply #37 on: July 15, 2010, 11:03:15 PM
No clue what this one was about.  It just blabbed on and on and on and on.  There definately seemed to be a plot (something about hitmen going to kill somebody, ummm, related to dealing meth?).  But there was positively no thrust to this story.  It just wandered around.  The supernatural elements were confusing and I had no idea why a "chronomancer" or a body writhing with mouths suddenly appeared.  Heck, I had no idea what the significance of the protag's sister suddenly appearing was either.

I am willing to admit that there might be answers to these questions in the text, but the story simply did not grip me enough to make me notice (or care about) them.

I think this story would have benefitted from a more vigorous, direct style.  Rather than beating around the bush with vague conversation with "grandpa-like" old men, it would have been better if the scenario of two hitmen travelling to Istanbul was simply made plain.

Again, I don't really think there was a problem with the concept for this one.  I'm not even sure if the plot had any holes.  The truth is that it simply failed to hold my interest, making any other considerations I have about it secondary.

Visit my blog atop the black ziggurat of Ankor Sabat, including my list of Top 10 Pseudopod episodes.