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Author Topic: Pseudopod 135: The Duel  (Read 15069 times)

Bdoomed

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on: March 27, 2009, 03:02:17 PM
Pseudopod 135: The Duel

By Michael James Macfarland

Read by Kris Johnson


“A what?! What did you say? A duel?”

“You heard me, Vanderbilt. D-U-E-L. Duel.”

“You mean like with pistols… ten paces, turn and fire? That kind of duel?”

“Something like that,” John Lawrence affirmed, hands planted on his hips, the breeze blowing casually through his stylish hair, making him look like a young Michael Douglas, right down to the ass-shaped cleft in his chin. Twenty years old and living life like it was a goddamn movie. That was Lawrence all right. This was just the latest example of his madness.

A duel.


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Boggled Coriander

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Reply #1 on: March 28, 2009, 04:19:20 AM
I enjoyed this story.  Excellent reading. 

But I'll admit that I think I missed something pretty significant in the ending.  Were John Lawrence's fiance and the girl Trey had hooked up with (and barely remembered) the same girl?  I guessed that they were midway through, but if so, why was hookup girl (sorry, I'm blanking on names) described as looking quite distinct from the fiance?

If the girl Trey hooked up with wasn't John Lawrence's fiance, why did the story dwell on her so much?

I'm pretty sure they were the same character and that was the source of John Lawrence's rage, but I still feel like I'm missing something here.

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Reply #2 on: March 28, 2009, 02:26:41 PM
They were different girls.  The duel was because Lawrence blamed Trey for losing his fiance.  I liked this story all the way until the end.  I was left feeling unsatisfied.

Nice end quote, Al!



Boggled Coriander

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Reply #3 on: March 28, 2009, 03:33:12 PM
So the whole duel really was over the cheating thing?

That seems kind of anticlimactic.

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Listener

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Reply #4 on: March 30, 2009, 12:30:47 PM
Another great reading from K.Johnson.

I get the feeling that, after the author finished writing this, he said "wow, the whole 'duel over stolen girlfriend' thing is played out. How else can I incorporate 'cheating'?"

The concept of the entire fraternity being behind a duel, though, isn't believable to me. I was in a fraternity and the worst thing that would happen would be some sort of disciplinary hearing and possibly a brother being drummed out. These guys are obviously some sort of sub-group within the fraternity, which I can believe, but still... fraternities as a whole are on such thin ground these days with everyone on the lookout for misconduct that they'd never, EVER pull this for fear of being thrown off campus.

The author did a pretty good job keeping the action going; a Thunder-in-Paradise-style (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunder_in_paradise) action sequence isn't easy to write in prose form. I've tried to write boxing scenes for a story I've been reworking for some time and it's really difficult to get it right.

The whole thing with Terri seemed a bit tacked-on, as if we need to see that Trey is a good guy with the same fundamental problems as most college students, so we can root for him even more as John prepares to kill him.

It was also hard to keep track of all those white-bread old-money names because they all seemed to run together. It was like the first time I saw Gosford Park, where I was never quite sure what each person was named. Took me three or four viewings to get them all straight.

All that is not to say I didn't like the story. I just was poking holes in some of it is all. I liked it well enough.

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DKT

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Reply #5 on: March 30, 2009, 03:53:55 PM
I'm conflicted about this one. I loved the conceit: the fraternity brothers dueling on boats in a lake. I completely bought it and the writing and action and pace of all that really worked for me. And the reading was great.

But everytime Trey stopped the action to ponder why would John would kill him felt like I'd been splashed with cold water, and then made to just sit there soaking for a while. All that went on way too long for me. Especially with the cheating payoff. That part, I couldn't buy. I wish the payoff had been more understated and not as built up, more of a MacGuffin. and I wish that less time had been devoted to that part of the story, because it was really, really distracting to a cool duel piece.


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Reply #6 on: March 30, 2009, 04:57:36 PM
I liked it, despite the plot holes. I thought it worked pretty well, and the reading matched my image of the character exactly.



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Reply #7 on: March 30, 2009, 11:10:28 PM
Really liked this.  Excellent, concise writing.  Excellent, nuanced reading.



eytanz

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Reply #8 on: April 02, 2009, 01:52:40 AM
Ok, I've never been in a duel situation, but I know enough about human psychology that I find it really unbelievable that someone who is in a high-adrenaline situation, afraid for his life, would keep getting distracted by trying to figure out details of a puzzle that isn't going to help him directly. It's just not how people are wired. The opposite would work - if there was some benefit for him to work out the history but he kept being distracted by the duel, then it would be exciting and stressful. As it is, it was just slow, unbelievable, and a waste of a really cool duel concept.



RKG

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Reply #9 on: April 08, 2009, 04:27:00 PM

I wonder if it is significant that Trey was shot in the back?   The author makes the point clearly that he was not facing Lawrence when he was shot.  Lawrence evens asks him to turn around and he doesn't.  Does this maybe mess with the self-defense claim?

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DKT

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Reply #10 on: April 08, 2009, 06:46:19 PM

I wonder if it is significant that Trey was shot in the back?   The author makes the point clearly that he was not facing Lawrence when he was shot.  Lawrence evens asks him to turn around and he doesn't.  Does this maybe mess with the self-defense claim?


Didn't Trey lose his gun? Even though they could probably find bullet holes in Lawrence's boat, I'd imagine without a gun the self-defense claim is going to be shot. (Cue Zathras)


RKG

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Reply #11 on: April 08, 2009, 06:53:13 PM

I wonder if it is significant that Trey was shot in the back?   The author makes the point clearly that he was not facing Lawrence when he was shot.  Lawrence evens asks him to turn around and he doesn't.  Does this maybe mess with the self-defense claim?


Didn't Trey lose his gun? Even though they could probably find bullet holes in Lawrence's boat, I'd imagine without a gun the self-defense claim is going to be shot. (Cue Zathras)

Yeah - that too.  I kinda like the idea that Trey was smiling because he knew that.

rkg  101010


MacArthurBug

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Reply #12 on: April 08, 2009, 08:58:07 PM
humm..  I'm actually having a hard time thinking of a comment that dosn't go "meh"

There were okay moments in this tale, overall, it fell flat for me, I was not in the target audience for this one. Well read though.

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Loz

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Reply #13 on: April 09, 2009, 07:24:31 PM
Didn't really care who won or lost this one, stories of over privileged rich kids and their toys don't really move me unless they are Lex Luthor and/or Bruce Wayne.



Zathras

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Reply #14 on: April 10, 2009, 01:04:43 PM
Didn't Trey lose his gun? Even though they could probably find bullet holes in Lawrence's boat, I'd imagine without a gun the self-defense claim is going to be shot. (Cue Zathras)

::groan::

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Reply #15 on: April 12, 2009, 09:17:42 PM
didn't understand why   he shot  trey in the back  too.  it blows the selfdefense  plea.


I thought  the  blonde  girl   trey   hooked up with and  amanda white  are the same  girl  too.   why else   ,  but   the  stole-girlfriend-duel-to-settle-score  or duelforgirl  plot is used



csrster

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Reply #16 on: May 26, 2009, 07:53:24 AM
Not a bad short story, although not really what I would call horror. Part of the subtext of the story seems to be the trope that there is in America an old-money elite which is
a) amoral
b) bonded through secretive and exclusive fraternities (_not_ your standard college frat-houses, more like Skull And Bones), and
c) has the influence and money to get away with anything, including murder.




eytanz

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Reply #17 on: May 26, 2009, 08:30:11 AM
subtext?



Hysteria

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Reply #18 on: May 30, 2009, 08:04:58 PM
I liked this story...I know intellectually that fraternities are on thin ice disciplinary-wise, but it's always seemed that the frats are the ones who do most of the rule-breaking and suffer the least consequences for it. Obviously, someone who has actually been in a frat is going to feel differently.  It'd be interesting to find out if the author was in a frat or not.

As far as Lawrence trying to figure out why Trey wants to kill him, I thought it was appropriate.  The whole boat duel offered some quiet moments, and I can see trying to figure out why someone was trying to kill you...maybe if you can figure it out you can work it out with them without them trying to kill you.



csrster

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Reply #19 on: June 03, 2009, 07:43:20 AM
subtext?
Wrong word. Backstory? Actually I think I just meant to say that the story is based around that particular trope. The question, of course, is which college these guys were attending. My guess is Miskatonic U.



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Reply #20 on: August 31, 2009, 09:37:12 PM
I liked the premise of the story, a boat duel, more as a hypothetical question "What would you do?"

But I agree with others that I find it hard to believe the whole frat was against it.  And also hard to believe that he would disappear completely into thought trying to figure out the puzzle while in the middle of the duel--that's just stupid.  And the reason was pretty weak, guy cheats on test and then gets upset at another guy when girlfriend finds out?  Hmm  maybe you shouldn't've cheated on the test, genius.

At the beginning I was really having trouble not thinking of The Skulls, which I thought was a low quality movie.  But the boats made it more interesting.



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Reply #21 on: September 01, 2009, 08:12:24 AM
I know a bit about boats on lakes, and I find the whole duel stupid.  Not that it's in the story, but that the frat boys would think it would work.  [Edit]This is me trying to separate the writer from his characters.  For all I know he was thinking, "what dumbass idea would a bunch of rich frat boys come up with?"[/edit]  Boats are relatively slow.  The lake was big.  Shooting from a boat is hard.  I would have taken the gun with more bullets just so the other guy only had six shots, and then I would have just kept as far away from him as I could, while making as many big waves as i could. 

The story kept it interesting and tense.  I would have been trying to figure out why the guy was after me, too.  I just think the protagonist had to be pretty stupid not to be able to stay alive in that situation.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2009, 09:32:26 AM by Russell Nash »