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Author Topic: Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites  (Read 11017 times)
Bdoomed
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« on: July 10, 2008, 09:54:23 PM »

Pseudopod 98: Among the Moabites

By Michael Hartford

Read by KJ Johnson

The first time Wilson saw them was when he opened the medicine cabinet one groggy morning in search of aspirin and his toothbrush. Between the familiar can of shaving cream and the plastic tumbler that held his toothbrush, lying on his crushed and twisted tube of toothpaste as if it were a luxurious pillow, were two tiny people. They were no bigger than his thumb, and a little pinker, lounging in a tangle of spindly limbs. One of them lifted its head from the toothpaste and he slammed the door shut.

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.
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« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2008, 10:37:33 AM »

This struck me as a dark Podcastle story more then what I look for in a Pseudopod story, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
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« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2008, 05:14:44 PM »

Liked the story, but I don't exactly get it.
Was the author trying to show that the man was no better than the Moabites?
What was their fascination with watching fornication?
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« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2008, 08:17:36 AM »

What is a "moabite"?  I'm not sure I got that from the story.

That said, I found it interesting how it started out with erotic overtones in a contemporary urban fantasy way but then those same elements became horror once the point-of-view of the protagonist shifts from benevolent God to Devil.

While the story was interesting, I wasn't pulled in by it too strongly.  I also had to wonder if I was "getting it".  Was the point that the human is the monster?  Were the little creatures monsters?  Was the lack of humanity evidenced towards a relatively helpless and small creature the source of the horror?

As I said, the story was interesting -it engaged me and made me turn it over in my head- but I kept finding myself trying to classify the tale's genre and ferret out it's fundamental essence.

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Cerebrilith
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« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2008, 09:09:20 AM »

While the story was interesting, I wasn't pulled in by it too strongly.  I also had to wonder if I was "getting it".  Was the point that the human is the monster?  Were the little creatures monsters?  Was the lack of humanity evidenced towards a relatively helpless and small creature the source of the horror?

I think that it's intentionally unclear who the "monster" is.  To some extent the little creatures are strange and foreign invaders in the humans home and cause him a great deal of anxiety though if the little creatures didn't look so human then neither the regular human in the story or the listener would have any problem exterminating them right away.  But because they looked like people we feel much more sympathy for them then we otherwise would.

My guess is that a lot of the horror of this story comes from the devolution in the treatment of the little creatures that the human has.  It's awful when we go from loving and caring for something to actively trying to kill it.  When the human sees the things as other it creates a feeling of alienation.  I think it plays on how humans in the real world can so easily kill people of another race or culture because they don't share our values and we go from thinking of them as people to thinking of them as vermin.
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« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2008, 09:52:37 AM »

My guess is that a lot of the horror of this story comes from the devolution in the treatment of the little creatures that the human has.  It's awful when we go from loving and caring for something to actively trying to kill it.  When the human sees the things as other it creates a feeling of alienation.  I think it plays on how humans in the real world can so easily kill people of another race or culture because they don't share our values and we go from thinking of them as people to thinking of them as vermin.

That makes sense and, indeed, I got that impression; to me, it just didn't hit me terribly hard.  Maybe it was because of how the little critters killed animals and tormented the main character -but not in a way that I was particularily scared for his life- that made me think they somewhat deserved it.

As you say, however, I do also see that the cloak of humanity that the critters wore definitely helped them slip in past a normal person's defenses.  You don't want to exterminate a little human, after all.  But an animal?  No problem.

I guess that was part of the horror.

The squirrel and sparrows that died were seen as worth more than the little, naked critters.  Perhaps that was an intentional parallel, too.

Hard to say.
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deflective
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« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2008, 11:32:04 AM »

What is a "moabite"?  I'm not sure I got that from the story.

neither did i so i looked it up.

apparently this story is a commentary on scripture. the moabites were driven from (a portion of) their homeland by amorites just before the israelites' arrived from their exodus to settle on the land which the moabites were driven from. i got the idea that it's seen as god driving the moabites out to make room, their incestuous origins given as a motivation.

so, this is supposed to give us a god's eye view of the conflict. i was surprised by Wilson's bipolar change of heart after little more than distasteful sex & a dirty look but it makes more sense now.
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coyote247
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« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2008, 05:29:59 PM »


I liked the shift from loving caring god to vengeful angry god to coldly indifferent god.

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« Reply #8 on: July 14, 2008, 07:55:19 AM »

Great narrator.

I would file this more under "weird" than "horror", but I don't really want to open that can of worms again.

I found the story interesting and suspenseful, and for the most part well-written.  I wonder if at some point Wilson became an unreliable narrator; when the moabites busted his groove with Natasha, suddenly he thinks they're evil?  Suddenly they have no consciousness/intelligence and they're just as Adam and Eve pre-apple?  Kind of makes Wilson out to be a bit of a dick.

I was thinking "Adam and Eve" literally a second before the narrator said it.  Good timing.
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« Reply #9 on: July 14, 2008, 12:02:20 PM »

Of course, if it was from the little people's perspective the story might have been called "Among the Brodingnagians."
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Sgarre1
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« Reply #10 on: July 16, 2008, 08:51:24 PM »

I really liked this story. Really.  It was amazingly well-written, really tight, everything weighed perfectly for effect.

The reading was also quite good.

But, yet again, not horror.  As said by someone else, yes, "weird" would probably cover it.  And the turn from benevolent to tyrannical God was compelling but it struck me as a really well done, modern Fantasy tale and, so, shouldn't this be on Podcastle (I don't listen to Podcastle or Escape Pod)?

Yes, little beings are creepy.  Maniacal or crafty little beings are scary (see "Prey" by Matheson or "Battleground" by King).  I could even buy the idea of of a murderous "Giant" set on wiping out the little beings as kinda scary (kind of a hard sell but it could be done - "The Borrowers" as horror story) but this didn't seem to be evoking any kind of scary or creepy tone, just matter-of-fact.

An excellent story.  Not a horror story.  But an excellent story!

Thanks For Listening
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Julio Cortazar, “Julios In Action”, AROUND THE DAY IN EIGHTY WORLDS


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JoeFitz
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« Reply #11 on: July 16, 2008, 09:41:22 PM »

This didn't work for me. Perhaps because I kept thinking of Stephen King's Battleground. The little people seemed oddly unable to deal with problems - they understood how to trigger a gas explosion but were stymied by a door and window panes? No fires in their culture? Didn't make sense.

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errant371
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« Reply #12 on: July 17, 2008, 11:11:28 AM »

What is a "moabite"?  I'm not sure I got that from the story.

neither did i so i looked it up.

apparently this story is a commentary on scripture. the moabites were driven from (a portion of) their homeland by amorites just before the israelites' arrived from their exodus to settle on the land which the moabites were driven from. i got the idea that it's seen as god driving the moabites out to make room, their incestuous origins given as a motivation.

so, this is supposed to give us a god's eye view of the conflict. i was surprised by Wilson's bipolar change of heart after little more than distasteful sex & a dirty look but it makes more sense now.

Indeed.  If you knew what the Moabites were before the story, you would have probably 'gotten it' much easier.  The story is less a comment on the evil of the humonculi and the narrator than it is a comment on the nature of the Old Testament God.  By recasting the bibilical story in this way, the author has done (in my opinion that is) a fantastic job of commenting on the motivations of dieties in general (and it is also a sly way of "taking Yaweh down a couple of pegs" by adding human motivations and desires a la Classical mythology).

All around, a great story, the best I have heard so far (which hasn't been long, I admit).

I do agree with Listener, this story was more "Weird" than "Horror", although those two catagories tend to overlap greatly.
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« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2008, 05:46:48 PM »

I interestingly heard this just after reading Aimee Bender's "End of the Line" (in Willful Creatures, 2005, and a must read imo), which also deals with the relation between ordinary humans and unexplained little folks, and while they're two very different stories, I felt like they also had a good deal in common.  In both, the large human's sense of identity revolved around his treatment of and power over the miniatures, and his dehumanization of them.  I have to say, I thought Bender's was the stronger story, but that's not to say that this story was not compelling, just that Bender is pretty hard to beat.
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« Reply #14 on: July 18, 2008, 06:07:36 PM »

Man- the only thing worse than a weak story is a really good story with a weak ending.  Maybe it was just me, or maybe I missed something, but I thought Wilson's smirk- the message that man is but an animal, or Moabite, with the mask of civility- was jarring and abrupt.  I think a slower realization of this idea would have worked better.  Maybe I just wanted to hear more of this story because it was so well written.  Maybe I just really wanted an all-out war between Wilson-god and the lesser Moabite minions.

Wilson banging a dumpy office chick while the creepy, beady-eyed little imps got locked outside: IMO, a very uninspiring ending. 

Wilson opening his fridge right afterward for a turkey sandwhich and triggering a huge metal trap to slam down on him: sweeeet.
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« Reply #15 on: July 18, 2008, 10:53:14 PM »

This was... weird.  Sorta liked it, the reading was good. I think it got a little too heavy handed or something because I just couldn't bring myself to love it.
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« Reply #16 on: July 20, 2008, 02:39:53 PM »

Man- the only thing worse than a weak story is a really good story with a weak ending.  Maybe it was just me, or maybe I missed something, but I thought Wilson's smirk- the message that man is but an animal, or Moabite, with the mask of civility- was jarring and abrupt.  I think a slower realization of this idea would have worked better.  Maybe I just wanted to hear more of this story because it was so well written.  Maybe I just really wanted an all-out war between Wilson-god and the lesser Moabite minions.

Wilson banging a dumpy office chick while the creepy, beady-eyed little imps got locked outside: IMO, a very uninspiring ending. 

Wilson opening his fridge right afterward for a turkey sandwhich and triggering a huge metal trap to slam down on him: sweeeet.

Yeah, that woulda been a cool ending. }:0D

It was ok... Maybe if the author was trying to make a parallel, this is why the story suffered, but had it just been a story, it might have ended different and been better. If Wilson is supposed to be God, then I don't like what it is saying about God, but I don't see God as being anything like Wilson.

In kinda related story, my friend at a mill I worked at (and nearly lost too many limbs at, so I don't work there anymore) kept having his ear plugs turn up missing. Somehow they figured out that a rat/mouse was taking it. So, they put up a mousetrap with some cheese, and what do you know, nothing. He put an earplug in place of the cheese, SNAP! No more mouse. Maybe he should sell his earwax as mouse bait...
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errant371
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« Reply #17 on: July 21, 2008, 01:26:06 PM »

Wilson banging a dumpy office chick while the creepy, beady-eyed little imps got locked outside: IMO, a very uninspiring ending. 

Wilson opening his fridge right afterward for a turkey sandwhich and triggering a huge metal trap to slam down on him: sweeeet.

I compeletely disagree with you.  The ending was excellent.  The Moabites looking in through the window at their former paradise, Wilson looking out at the beings he has forcefully removed from his house.  This is the kind of ending that a story of this sort needs.  Dark, depressing, unnerving.  A "huge metal trap" would have cheapened the whole effort.  Besides, the story makes clear that the creatures are not really all that intelligent.  For them to gain revenge in such a manner would be not only cheesy, but completely destroy the verisimilitude the author has created. 

The whole story works because Wilson is a dick.  His completely dickness is nicely summed up by the ending.  A statement about God, I don't know, I am not the author, but if it is, wow, what a statement!
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« Reply #18 on: July 21, 2008, 03:21:44 PM »

I thought the ending was pretty chilling.  A trap might have raised the gore factor some, but the ending wouldn't stay anywhere near as long with me as Wilson's grin.
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eytanz
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« Reply #19 on: July 21, 2008, 04:27:45 PM »

Man- the only thing worse than a weak story is a really good story with a weak ending.  Maybe it was just me, or maybe I missed something, but I thought Wilson's smirk- the message that man is but an animal, or Moabite, with the mask of civility- was jarring and abrupt.  I think a slower realization of this idea would have worked better.  Maybe I just wanted to hear more of this story because it was so well written.  Maybe I just really wanted an all-out war between Wilson-god and the lesser Moabite minions.

Ah, but I think you missed the message of the story. It's not that man is just an animal with a mask of civility. It's a story about how man equates strength with morality. Wilson gets to be god to the little thingies for no reason other than he's bigger. He is a benevolent god when they please him, and a vengeful one when they displease him - but their behavior does not change, only his own perception of it. What right does he have to judge them? Just that he's stronger than them.
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