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Author Topic: Pseudopod 108: The Teacher  (Read 14880 times)

Bdoomed

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on: September 18, 2008, 10:27:46 PM
Pseudopod 108: The Teacher

By Paul G. Tremblay

Read by Mur Lafferty

Days and weeks pass without another special lesson. We’ve had plenty of time to waste. Our first term grades are good and we lose ourselves in the responsibilities of senior year; of college recommendations and applications and social requirements.

On the first day of winter term the TV returns. Mr. Sorent doesn’t have to tell us what to do. We pull our chairs in tight and put away our books. Mr. Sorent says, “Lesson two, gang.”

There is a collage of clips and images, nothing in focus for more than a second or two, of car accidents. The kind of stuff some of us saw in driver’s ed. The images of crushed and limbless and decapitated bodies are intercut with scenes from funerals, and there are red-eyed family members, the ones who never saw any of it coming, wailing and crying and breaking apart.



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?


Void Munashii

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Reply #1 on: September 19, 2008, 05:13:27 PM
  Wonderfully read, and deeply disturbing. I need to listen to it again though, as it got me wondering when exactly it was that I became so cynical, and I think I may have missed something.

"Mallville - A Journal of the Zombie Apocalypse"
http://mallvillestory.blogspot.com


Sylvan

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Reply #2 on: September 19, 2008, 05:58:31 PM
Now THAT was "horror"!

I've felt disturbed and creeped out all day, now.

The only thing I feel I wanted that I didn't get was for some idea of the Teacher's motivation.  Mind you, it's a bit more scary -at times- when you don't have one.  In this case, though, I feel a tiny bit left out.  That's not a big criticism, mind you, just about the only one I could find.

This is definitely what horror should be like!

Yours,
Sylvan (Dave)



ieDaddy

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Reply #3 on: September 19, 2008, 06:36:22 PM
Imagery was disturbing - I just didn't get it.



bolddeceiver

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Reply #4 on: September 20, 2008, 04:27:24 PM
Quite disturbing, and pretty much good all around, though the reference at the end to Zeno's paradox bugged me, mostly because I can't stand that bit of idiotic "cleverness."  I see the point of including it, I just don't care for it.



Zathras

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Reply #5 on: September 20, 2008, 05:38:25 PM
Meh.

Seemed a bit over the top to me.  I know it's a short story, but the instant 180 just left me dry.



JoeFitz

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Reply #6 on: September 20, 2008, 09:20:37 PM
Didn't impress me much, sorry. A cynical, self-absorbed child in a cynical, self-absorbed world taking a class from a demented Mr. Chips.

A little supernatural in my PP, please.

Next please.



tazo

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Reply #7 on: September 21, 2008, 12:14:35 AM
Funnily enough I was driving to my job when I listened to this story.  My job?  SAT prep.  Today's class was at a high school.

Now, plot-wise, it's a bit confusing.  I'm not certain what exactly I'm supposed to think of everything.  The language of the story, however, was horrifically disturbing, and the setting felt pretty perfect (you are kind of a cynical self-absorbed bastard in high school).

And while the plot might have been a bit too murky for my tastes, it (and Alisdar's outro), reminded me of how much effect a teacher can have on students. 

It reminded me of the students I know I have actually reached and made a difference in the lives of, kids who'd be the first in their families to go to college. 

Made me want to be a better teacher, for certain.



600south

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Reply #8 on: September 21, 2008, 05:13:43 AM
So what was the course -- Nihilism 101?

i was waiting for Mr. Sorent to whip the point out of a hat in that last scene there... or maybe there wasn't one to whip out. but since he came to class on the last day all shaved and cleaned up, i expected something.

if anything, it pressed home to me that real life can serve up horrors as great (or greater) than any horror fiction.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2008, 10:47:25 PM by 600south »



Changwasteve

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Reply #9 on: September 21, 2008, 08:10:06 AM
Maybe someone can help me understand this story.

Is the teacher introducing the children to cold reality, or is he showing them how they can avoid facing evil and death by refusing to grow up?

Or is he simply giving them the choice?



Thaurismunths

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Reply #10 on: September 21, 2008, 09:03:22 PM
Imagery was disturbing - I just didn't get it.
Ditto.

I'm going to have to give this one another listen.
I feel like I should get it. There's significance to the "journals" each student kept and that the narrator's was blank/uncompleted at the end of the story.

How do you fight a bully that can un-make history?


evo.shandor

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Reply #11 on: September 22, 2008, 07:20:13 PM
I dug this story and Mur’s reading.

Though the very ending of the story confused me, what I took away from it was the teacher was standing in for life itself when viewed from a mature, grown-up perspective.  Life is brutal, unfair and full of things you’d like to know but never will.  They see the teacher as cool at first, then are hostile toward him, then just accept it.  Kind of like life.

As for the empty journal--I think the main character had already internalized this lesson from her experience with the two boys and the frog.  While others are pouring out their thoughts on the horrors they are seeing, she can’t because she’s seen something horrible and has never been able to express it, so she is “stopped up” in a way.  She had internalized it all and, like so many of us, is trying to either make sense or let go of these awful things.



ieDaddy

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Reply #12 on: September 22, 2008, 08:06:56 PM
she can’t because she’s seen something horrible and has never been able to express it, so she is “stopped up” in a way.

Sorry, just had the phrase "emotional constipation" pop into my head and had to share that thought with the world.  Please continue.



Dwango

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Reply #13 on: September 23, 2008, 09:05:34 PM
I've got mixed feelings about this story.  It was horrific, but it did not have a point that I could see.  I like it when there is a point that hits you just when you get to the end.

As I attempted to understand the piece, I had begun to come to the conclusion that the students were already dead.  I'd started to think we were seeing death scenes in the T.V.  The teacher was trying to inform them slowly of their own death.  I had believed the boy was here brother and he had passed on too.

I started doubting my conclusion with her encounter with the baseball players.  The mention of all the generic horrific imagery the teacher later exposed the student to blew up my theory.  I think this piece had more to do with becoming socially numb to all the terrible things in life.  Kids start out as selfish idealist who see everything from their own point of view.  Then they see the reality around them as they go through their teen years, their view of their family and the world becoming more realistic.  Finally, they just stop paying attention intentionally and become numb to the world's miseries.  Only the one girl couldn't accept it and went into denial, thinking she could save the boy by not seeing the ending.  I'm not sure if that was intended to be a bad ending or a good ending.

I still can't fit the half of half steps thing in, and the teacher's renewal.  This made it confusing for me.  I wish the teacher had turned into a monster and ate the class, that would be satisfying.



deflective

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Reply #14 on: September 23, 2008, 10:10:46 PM
the techniques that the teacher used seem similar to Darren Brown's (explained). it's a bit unsettling to read a story that contain these tricks, you gotta wonder if the writing is structured to target the reader.

i don't feel like i've got a handle on the story's message. something about being afraid of growing up (or the world in general) and trying to save your childhood? maybe?

while i didn't really enjoy the story i've spent more time thinking about it than usual. that's a success of some sort.



DKT

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Reply #15 on: September 23, 2008, 10:40:15 PM
I took the idea as what most people would call "the loss of innocence."  Although I don't really think it's innocence lost, I think it's more of idealism being lost, or maybe cynicism being born.  It's kind of like a coming of age story, except istead of giving you the sense that you can take on the world at the age of 18, it leaves you with bruises and scars and regrets and life-long doubts. 

Interesting listen, for sure. And it's always nice to hear Mur.


ellenscult

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Reply #16 on: September 24, 2008, 10:11:19 AM
Hiya all, Ellen-your-friendly-slushpile-reader here.

I've been following the comments on this week's story with interest, largely because I pushed to get The Teacher podcast here. No, it's not the usual supernatural horror fare, but I think it's one of the best-written short stories I've had the good fortune to read in a long time. Mur's reading really does it justice, and Alasdair's outro is awesome.

Now I know stories are open to interpretation, and this is a difficult one to pin down. It's undeniably creepy and unpleasant, but a number of commenters here seem to be asking what's its point? What's going on? So here's my take on it.

What's horror, really? (Bear with me here, or, yanno, skip to the next comment. Meh. *shrug*) Think about this for a minute: you're driving a car. It's winter. You hit a patch of ice, and the car spins. That's the kind of thing which makes your heart race, your adrenaline pump. Then imagine that it's dark, and as you spin, your headlamps catch the front of a truck, a really big rig, a split-second before it hits you. In that split-second, there's the horror. It comes from powerlessness, from the knowledge that pain and death are coming and that this is completely, utterly inevitable. There is nothing you can possibly do to make a difference.
 
The futility of action. The irrelevance and obliteration of hope.
 
Whatever lessons Paul Tremblay's teacher set out to teach his students, these are the ones which they take away with them. Maybe he wants to fire them up, get them mad at the injustice and random cruelty of the world around them, inspire them to make a difference. Or maybe not. But it's the random cruelty of the world, demonstrated lesson after lesson, frame after frame, in the videos the teacher shows, that destroys his students.

Innocence and childhood are lost, but they have no enlightened idealism to take its place. The shine is gone. Families are no longer a place of love, warmth, safety. Friends are the people you can be cruelest to. There's no capacity for trust, not any more, because anyone, everyone, the world, will do the most terrible of things for no reason at all. And this is all the more horrific when you remember that these students are the brightest and the best, the students who should be full of optimism, who should be getting ready to leave school and change the world.

With the video of the boy, Mr Sorent appears to be suggesting that all possibilities are present until one finally reaches an ending. While the boy is in flight, he isn't injured, dead. The wall isn't the inevitable outcome that it appears to be. And when he asks Kate to return to her seat so that they can watch the end of the video, he's closing off those possibilities, pointing out that the end of everything is death. But in her refusal to take the final step, Kate rejects his teaching, holding on to the moment of infinite possibility. After all the torture and torment and death she's seen, if she hangs on to the happier, friendlier days of her childhood, she won't die. She'll never reach that wall.

Upbeat, right?  Well, no. Because we, the readers, the listeners, we know death is coming. Some day that wall will hit Kate, just as it'll hit us. The car won't spin forever. The big rig will plow through you. The moment of infinite possibility is also the moment in which horror lives.

So, there you have it. My take on some of what's going on in this story, and why I think it's a great horror story.  Feel free to disagree. Remember, this is just my opinion: YMMV! (your mileage may vary)

Have a great day. Don't hit that wall.



Thaurismunths

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Reply #17 on: September 24, 2008, 10:37:21 AM
Hiya all, Ellen-your-friendly-slushpile-reader here.

... Hey! No fair!
Ben, Alasdair, what gives with hiring a smart, articulate, insightful slush reader? How are we supposed to ignorantly whine about 'not getting it' if she's going to pop in with such great answers?

How do you fight a bully that can un-make history?


Alasdair5000

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Reply #18 on: September 24, 2008, 12:20:05 PM
Ladies, Gentlemen, Mrs Ellen Allen:)  My best friend, and one of the sharpest critics I know. 



zZzacha

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Reply #19 on: September 24, 2008, 12:25:06 PM
Hiya all, Ellen-your-friendly-slushpile-reader here.
... Hey! No fair!
Ben, Alasdair, what gives with hiring a smart, articulate, insightful slush reader? How are we supposed to ignorantly whine about 'not getting it' if she's going to pop in with such great answers?

I second that! I started reading this thread with one thing on my mind: I read it and didn't really get it and I wanted to let the world know!
Now I dare not even say that. Even though I just did. Hey, you're right! There are infinite possibilities! I just did something even I dared not think about. Woo, look at me, being all philosophical.

Without kidding, I'm very very impressed by Ellen's reading of the reading and I get the story a bit better now. But I think I need some time to let it sink in, because it kinda swept me off my li'l feet.

Speaking of reading and li'l feet: YEAH! Mur! I love her voice! Woooooo :]

It is never too late to be what you might have been.


ellenscult

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Reply #20 on: September 24, 2008, 03:02:44 PM
... Hey! No fair!
Ben, Alasdair, what gives with hiring a smart, articulate, insightful slush reader? How are we supposed to ignorantly whine about 'not getting it' if she's going to pop in with such great answers?

*blush* Thank you! I can leave you to it if you'd rather... *hides back under a rock*  ;)

Ladies, Gentlemen, Mrs Ellen Allen:)  My best friend, and one of the sharpest critics I know. 

*big hugs*  Thanks, Al!

I second that! I started reading this thread with one thing on my mind: I read it and didn't really get it and I wanted to let the world know!
Now I dare not even say that. Even though I just did. Hey, you're right! There are infinite possibilities! I just did something even I dared not think about. Woo, look at me, being all philosophical.

Without kidding, I'm very very impressed by Ellen's reading of the reading and I get the story a bit better now. But I think I need some time to let it sink in, because it kinda swept me off my li'l feet.

Feel free to vent away - that's one of the things the board's here for! :) Not everyone has to like or understand or agree with every single story we do (thank goodness), though I must confess I like most of them. Then again, I'm fortunate enough to help pick the stories which end up here. Go me! I love this job! :D 

I'm glad I could help, though I'm not entirely sure I understand the story fully. There's an awful lot in there, which is one of the reasons I love it.



ellenscult

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Reply #21 on: September 25, 2008, 03:23:38 PM
Well, that killed the conversation! Sorry, guys!



Zathras

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Reply #22 on: September 25, 2008, 04:28:44 PM
Well, that killed the conversation! Sorry, guys!

I don't think it did.  I think that this one comes down to either making people think or making people shrug.

I fall into the shrugs.  (And the shrubs, but that's another story...)

For the record, I don't mind if PP makes me shrug.  There are enough stories that I really like to make it worth the shrugs.



DKT

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Reply #23 on: September 25, 2008, 05:13:37 PM
Well, that killed the conversation! Sorry, guys!

No, I appreciated your take on it.  It made me want to listen to the story again.  (Not that I didn't like it before, mind you, but just because I'd be curious to explore it a little bit more.)


MacArthurBug

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Reply #24 on: September 25, 2008, 10:03:15 PM
I reallly really liked this story. I gave me "the wiggans" and made me worry for the future of it's charactors. There were moments where I gign't fully "get" the thought experiment taking place in the classroom. I liked the ending to me it sparked of hope. Almost enough hope to overcome the futility of the rest of the classroom experience.  Is hoipe enough?  WOW! No, to me this was good.
Well, that killed the conversation! Sorry, guys!

NO! Feedback is WONDERFUL!  I like that you pushed for this story. And like Zathras said: I don't mind the storys that make me shrug. So what if one story isn't to my taste? One will come along thast IS. And that's fabulous, finding a new story that gets me a buzzing!

Oh, great and mighty Alasdair, Orator Maleficent, He of the Silvered Tongue, guide this humble fangirl past jumping up and down and squeeing upon hearing the greatness of Thy voice.
Oh mighty Mur the Magnificent. I am not worthy.