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Author Topic: PC019: Galatea  (Read 18415 times)

eytanz

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Reply #20 on: August 07, 2008, 03:48:28 PM
I liked this story, not loved it. I felt that some parts of it worked very well - especially the beginning description of the bus ride full of people visibly dying in different strange ways - but I also felt that at points the storytelling got muddled and confused. I did like that the narrator felt that the city was rejecting her, while to a large part she was rejecting the city - it was interesting how she kept talking about having to isolate and protect herself from the evil outside but not realizing what that meant. However, it is also worth noting that the first time she opens herself up in the city to a fellow human being doesn't slow down her decomposition but rather seems to hasten it. I'm not sure if that was supposed to mean something, or whether the author was just trying to push the story to its conclusion and was not too concerned with a consistent message.

I also wondered about the way Julie lost her body parts without leaving a mess, no blood, no tissue, no flaps of skin etc. if she was made of clay it would have made sense, but from the start we knew that these people bleed. OK, maybe she has leprosy, but that was never mentioned. So how can she lose fingers just like that? And what about the wound, does the skin grow back together right away? When a surgeon amputates a limb, they have to leave some extra skin to cover the wound. So how exactly did this work with Julie? It was really frustrating that this was completely brushed over.

I must say, I feel this is a strange comment - why are you expecting realism on this one particular point? I think the story very much did *not* brush over this; by adding characters such as the transparent cross dresser, it made it clear that the ways people die when the city rejects them is magical, rather than realistic. And note that when she lost her leg, it was explicitly claimed that there was no wound but rather a cauterized stump, so the author was trying to make it clear that this is not the same as a disease or amputation, but rather a very clean (and therefore entirely supernatural) way of falling apart.

In fact, one of the things I liked about the story was that the fantasy elements were visible throughout, instead of having a realistic story that ends with a supernatural note - I feel that the latter wouldhave been far more cliche'd.



veganvampire

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Reply #21 on: August 07, 2008, 11:41:41 PM
This story didn't really work for me, but it's not too bad.

It was confusing on a few parts, especially the ending.  Also: was is actually the city rejecting people, or did Trent get it all wrong, and Galatea was the one killing people?

Let's say that when Trent "took" something from someone and put it on Galatea, she became greedy and slowly sucked their souls out of their bodies, leaving them to die.  Maybe Trent had already decided to ask Julie for a measuring cup.  Maybe he even told Galatea, and she started the process of killing her body to get her soul.

Just a theory, since the ending did seem incomplete.



Void Munashii

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Reply #22 on: August 08, 2008, 12:17:30 AM
This story didn't really work for me, but it's not too bad.

It was confusing on a few parts, especially the ending.  Also: was is actually the city rejecting people, or did Trent get it all wrong, and Galatea was the one killing people?

  That's basically my thought, except I don't think Trent got it wrong. I think Trent knew exactly what he was doing.

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csrster

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Reply #23 on: August 11, 2008, 07:13:54 AM
It's fascinating to read how divergent people's reaction to the ending of this story are. At one end of the spectrum are the "negative" interpretations which see Galatea as some kind of soul-sucking ghoul, and at the other end are the "positive" interpretations in which the narrator - through Galatea - finds herself and her place in the city through Galatea.

Now I  think that there is a measure of deliberate ambiguity in the ending, but looking at the language used by the author I don't really see how the "negative" interpretation can stand up. Here is the last paragraph again:

"I embrace them as I embrace myself, my creator, my creation.  I stretch from the bed, reaching for Trent as I reach for anyone who dreams, anyone who has hopes in this city.  I press my whole body against him, feeling him for the first time.  He welcomes me with warmth against the measuring cup of my breast.  I have never been alone. “Do you see now?” asks Galatea, the city, my companion in this body.
      Yes.  I do. "

It's all about being welcome, embraced, warm. Galatea is a companion, not a leech, competitor or parasite. The narrator has found herself and is whole and healed again. It's a warm fuzzy!

(As for what I thought of the story - I think I admired it more than I liked it, possibly because it doesn't speak to any of my personal experience in the way that, for example, it evidently did to Rachel S.)



eytanz

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Reply #24 on: August 11, 2008, 09:34:10 AM
It's fascinating to read how divergent people's reaction to the ending of this story are. At one end of the spectrum are the "negative" interpretations which see Galatea as some kind of soul-sucking ghoul, and at the other end are the "positive" interpretations in which the narrator - through Galatea - finds herself and her place in the city through Galatea.

Now I  think that there is a measure of deliberate ambiguity in the ending, but looking at the language used by the author I don't really see how the "negative" interpretation can stand up. Here is the last paragraph again:

"I embrace them as I embrace myself, my creator, my creation.  I stretch from the bed, reaching for Trent as I reach for anyone who dreams, anyone who has hopes in this city.  I press my whole body against him, feeling him for the first time.  He welcomes me with warmth against the measuring cup of my breast.  I have never been alone. “Do you see now?” asks Galatea, the city, my companion in this body.
      Yes.  I do. "

It's all about being welcome, embraced, warm. Galatea is a companion, not a leech, competitor or parasite. The narrator has found herself and is whole and healed again. It's a warm fuzzy!


Even though I myself got the "positive" interpretation, I think the negative interpretations are valid, for two reasons:

A - The narrator has shown herself before to have limited understanding of the world she lives in, and is thus unreliable. Perhaps she is simply wrong at the end.
B - There is a clear shift in attitude at the end; the narrator seems to undergo not just a change of circumstance but also of her outlook. This is entirely congruent with the positive interpretation, but it can also be read suspiciously. There are many stories - some have been on EP - where a character resists some sort of drug treatment only to discover, once the drug has applied, that they no longer understand why they resisted. Often, that gives out an ominous vibe, and I can see why people got it from this story too.



Void Munashii

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Reply #25 on: August 12, 2008, 12:16:40 AM
It's fascinating to read how divergent people's reaction to the ending of this story are. At one end of the spectrum are the "negative" interpretations which see Galatea as some kind of soul-sucking ghoul, and at the other end are the "positive" interpretations in which the narrator - through Galatea - finds herself and her place in the city through Galatea.

Now I  think that there is a measure of deliberate ambiguity in the ending, but looking at the language used by the author I don't really see how the "negative" interpretation can stand up. Here is the last paragraph again:

"I embrace them as I embrace myself, my creator, my creation.  I stretch from the bed, reaching for Trent as I reach for anyone who dreams, anyone who has hopes in this city.  I press my whole body against him, feeling him for the first time.  He welcomes me with warmth against the measuring cup of my breast.  I have never been alone. “Do you see now?” asks Galatea, the city, my companion in this body.
      Yes.  I do. "

It's all about being welcome, embraced, warm. Galatea is a companion, not a leech, competitor or parasite. The narrator has found herself and is whole and healed again. It's a warm fuzzy!

(As for what I thought of the story - I think I admired it more than I liked it, possibly because it doesn't speak to any of my personal experience in the way that, for example, it evidently did to Rachel S.)

  While I am reasonably sure the positivve interpretation is what was intended by the author, I don't see anything about that last paragraph which is truly incongruous with the negative view. She has lost herself to Galatea, so of course she understands the benevolence of Galatea. There are plenty of SF example where someone ceases to see the danger of becoming one of the "evil" group once they have been forced to join. "The Puppet Masters" and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" are the first two examples of this that come to mind (although Body Snatchers may not really apply here).

  I'm not saying that your view on this is wrong, just that to me the ending goes perfectly with the malevolent Galatea concept. Far from being whole and healed, the narrator has been devoured and lost; her body destroyed and her soul absorbed.

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Sandikal

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Reply #26 on: August 12, 2008, 02:54:43 AM

  I'm not saying that your view on this is wrong, just that to me the ending goes perfectly with the malevolent Galatea concept. Far from being whole and healed, the narrator has been devoured and lost; her body destroyed and her soul absorbed.


I agree with this viewpoint.  Galatea had been directing the artist to bring her certain objects and I'm pretty sure she told him who to get those objects from.  I think she needed the narrator's life force to bring her to life.  Why else would the artist put the narrator on the bed next to Galatea?

I also think Galatea and the city are two different entities.  Galatea was creation and the city was destruction.



stePH

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Reply #27 on: August 12, 2008, 03:53:06 AM
  While I am reasonably sure the positivve interpretation is what was intended by the author, I don't see anything about that last paragraph which is truly incongruous with the negative view. She has lost herself to Galatea, so of course she understands the benevolence of Galatea. There are plenty of SF example where someone ceases to see the danger of becoming one of the "evil" group once they have been forced to join. "The Puppet Masters" and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" are the first two examples of this that come to mind (although Body Snatchers may not really apply here).

Charles Wallace allowing himself to be taken in by IT in A Wrinkle in Time also comes to mind. 

And then there was this third season episode of Babylon 5 with alien centipede creatures that took over human hosts ... although in that case, a creature detatched itself from the host so that Dr. Franklin could be convinced by the no-longer-possessed former host that what the creature had said through him was still true.

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JoeFitz

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Reply #28 on: August 23, 2008, 04:42:55 PM
The introduction put me in mind to consider Saleem in Salmon Rushdie's Midnight's Children. One aspect of that novel was the body as geography and his life history as the history of his country. Pygmalion didn't help either - it brings to mind creepy guy in the basement building a woman.

Unfortunately, that more or less ruined this story.

As for the positive / negative readings, I think both are grounded in the text, which seemed more than a little cloying (i.e. love conquers all as stated above).



Windup

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Reply #29 on: August 29, 2008, 09:16:51 PM

I normally don't bother with a "meh" response, especially this long after the release date, but this did mark the first Podcastle story that really didn't work for me.  The surrealism that I had no trouble accepting in the service of silliness in The Ant King and Fourteen Experiments just didn't fly when applied to a more serious subject. And as others have mentioned, the lack of specificity in the city didn't help, either.  I never really did engage with the story, and though I saw the ending coming, by the time it arrived I really didn't care.

This was also the first time I had a problem with the intro.  Part of my suspension of disbelief issue arose from Rachel's description of her encounter with a subtle illness of mysterious origins, during which she took the perfectly sensible steps of seeking medical help, going through tests, etc.  That made it all the more jarring when the main character in the story reacted to body parts falling off by "putting them in a box" and nobody ever mentions seeing a doctor. 

By the way, Rachel, it's probably good that you left Iowa for California.  The nutritional problem you're supposed to have during the midwestern winter is obesity, not vitamin deficiency.  No wonder the medical practitioners you consulted were so confused....   :o

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Hilary Moon Murphy

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Reply #30 on: September 09, 2008, 01:49:01 PM
I think that this story works better as a book group discussion story than as a piece by itself.  It is profoundly ambiguous, which means that we can all argue with equal validation the positive vs negative viewpoints. 

For myself, I fall into the negative camp.  I see Trent as a profoundly charming villain who has found a way to keep the city appeased via his art.  I loved the line where he asked to borrow a cup of something, and listed roaches in the list of possibilities.  When he opened up to the narrator the reason that she was dying, I had high expectations that she would figure it out and through human contact, save herself.  Instead, we get a complete dissolution of body and soul, absorbed by art and rather dysfunctional relationship with Trent.  The heroine never got a chance to act on what she learned.  She was just consumed.  If that is not horror, what is?

It is interesting though how surreal elements can sneak up on you, and hit hard.  I am a caregiver for someone who is losing herself bit by bit to a rather nasty disease.  And it seems like the moment we have discovered one strategy for how to cope with it, that strategy becomes meaningless because the disease suddenly progresses and takes another part of her away.  Having the narrator in this story lose parts of herself in a seemingly random pattern until she can no longer care for herself felt like perhaps the truest metaphor of my Mother-in-law's disease that I have encountered.  Even the part where Trent turns the narrator into art hit too close to home for me.  When a sick person loses the ability to communicate, other people have a tendency to remake that person in their own minds.  When we look at her, are we seeing the real person?  The person who is struggling, who wants to make a difference, who wants to have a life with value, and who is losing that battle?  I don't know.

I didn't like this story, but boy... It sure gave me a lot to think about.

Hmm



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Reply #31 on: October 04, 2008, 10:37:31 AM
I wasn't crazy about it as a story, but it did sorta like the dream-like quality of it. I mean, where else but in a dream would you be so blase about body parts falling off?

Was anybody else besides me reminded of Jennifer Lynch's movie Boxing Helena?

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Reply #32 on: January 06, 2010, 07:06:24 PM
This one was an interesting idea, but I had trouble really believing it.  Yes, I realize it's fantasy, that's not the problem--it has to be self-consistent.  If people's limbs fell off when they moved to the city, I would venture to guess that they would move away!   Also, these plagues would be covered by the media, which would deter people from moving there in the first place.  The whole plot centered around her insistence to stay in the city where she didn't feel that she belonged even though she knew it was killing her.  It's hard to have much sympathy for her when she could solve everything by moving away.

Yes, I realize that it's a metaphor for feeling out of place when moving from rural to urban, but even a story based on a metaphor should be self-consistent.