Author Topic: Pseudopod 150: Break the Vessel  (Read 14939 times)

Russell Nash

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on: July 13, 2009, 09:35:32 PM
Pseudopod 150: Break the Vessel

By Vylar Kaftan
Read by Ben Phillips

Even a god has human needs, if he resides in a living body. He must breathe the purest air possible. He must consume fresh food, and sleep on good bedding. And he must excrete. Some priests say that this is not truly the god’s need, since it results from the mortal body he occupies. I say this need is as important to a god as any man, because even gods create things they wish to be rid of.

In this incarnation, Aki prefers a mid-morning session. We meet in our chamber–a narrow aisle, with gold-leaf handholds on each side. I attend him with my box of soft cloths, jintilla oil, and incense. He dismisses his other attendants with a wave. They drift behind tall stone pillars fifty paces away, giving him privacy.


Full text available online at Transcriptase

…along with many other fine stories.


Listen to this week's Pseudopod.



Bdoomed

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Reply #1 on: July 13, 2009, 10:40:43 PM
aw i was just gonna post this! iTunes for some reason kept "error"ing on pseudopod and escape pod all day today so i thought the feeds were down

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


Russell Nash

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Reply #2 on: July 14, 2009, 06:15:18 AM
The ep was up three days ago.



Bdoomed

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Reply #3 on: July 14, 2009, 06:20:29 AM
! wtf i just got it today! :(

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


Russell Nash

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Reply #4 on: July 14, 2009, 07:04:20 AM
Subscribe to the rss for the blog.  I got it on Friday.



Portrait in Flesh

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Reply #5 on: July 14, 2009, 01:28:48 PM
Plus Al's saying it's for July 20th...the space-time continuum's broken, people! 

THE END TIMES ARE HERE!

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Bdoomed

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Reply #6 on: July 14, 2009, 04:41:47 PM
this is the pure evil that is PP 150.  it's quietly epic in its sinister ways.

makes me afraid of what PP 200 is going to do to us...

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


gelee

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Reply #7 on: July 16, 2009, 12:58:22 AM
Excellent story. Loved the juxtaposition of the vulgar and the divine. Apparantly, this sort of thing really went on in some cultures.



Listener

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Reply #8 on: July 16, 2009, 12:48:46 PM
Two poop stories within ten episodes? AWESOME.

The only thing that really horrified me about the story was that, for a moment, I thought Numa was actually going to eat Aki's poop. I would place this more under fantasy than anything else, but I guess poop = horror?

The concept of two characters -- master and servant -- conversing through a whole story is always a good one, though I kind of felt that Numa was far too powerful, just because he deals with Aki's poop. I also think "shit-covered shards" was a cop-out; no foul language is used through the rest of the story, so why did we need it at the end? Numa's been with the temple for most of his life, right? When would he have learned that kind of language?

Pretty good story.

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Sgarre1

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Reply #9 on: July 16, 2009, 01:10:40 PM
I'm guessing "systematically burning people alive who you've brainwashed into believeing they are gods" and "cutting out a guy's eyes and tongue for trying to help the man he's been trained to help all his life", not to mention the way religious dogma crushes/enslaves original thinking and freedom = horror.

I thought the use of "shit" at that point was actually rather deft choice by the writer, as it isn't only a curse word but the most base expression for the material (and "crap" would have felt too modern) - at that point in the story, Aki has renounced his godhood and so his "fecal matter" is now, again, just "shit", like any human produces (and ends up causing his demise.  And, I guess to be didactic, I would point out that "breaks the vessel" (of shit) at the same point he's also "breaking The Vessel" (of Godhood).

I don't have any problem with Numa knowing the word - I would imagine everyone else in the temple (including Numa) "shits" but Aki is divine, so he "defecates".



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Reply #10 on: July 17, 2009, 12:34:01 AM
Quote
I would place this more under fantasy than anything else, but I guess poop = horror?

We looked at the piece, but I think one of it's primary intents is to disturb the reader/listener. (Maryanne Mohanraj's definitions of horror and erotica have always stuck with me since I heard them at a reading in Oakland in 2005 -- they're the only two genres primarily defined by the attempt to evoke a specific emotion, rather than other formal constraints.)



Zathras

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Reply #11 on: July 17, 2009, 01:43:26 PM
Finally listened to this one, listening to The Undoing right now.

I would prefer to see stories like this on Podcastle.  Rachel already weighed in, and I appreciate that.  It's not that I don't like the story, I really enjoyed it.  I'm with Listener on the Shit comment.  It took me out of the story entirely.



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Reply #12 on: July 17, 2009, 03:34:55 PM
I couldn't finish this one. I have a strong aversion for scatological descriptions, and the detailed descriptions of excrement were too difficult for me to listen to.

Not a comment on the story, this is my own prejudice.



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Reply #13 on: July 17, 2009, 05:13:36 PM
Quote
I would place this more under fantasy than anything else, but I guess poop = horror?

We looked at the piece, but I think one of it's primary intents is to disturb the reader/listener. (Maryanne Mohanraj's definitions of horror and erotica have always stuck with me since I heard them at a reading in Oakland in 2005 -- they're the only two genres primarily defined by the attempt to evoke a specific emotion, rather than other formal constraints.)

Can you link me to those? I'm curious.

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Reply #14 on: July 17, 2009, 05:13:55 PM
I couldn't finish this one. I have a strong aversion for scatological descriptions, and the detailed descriptions of excrement were too difficult for me to listen to.

Not a comment on the story, this is my own prejudice.

The descriptions were a little graphic and disturbing, but I overcame them.

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Sgarre1

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Reply #15 on: July 17, 2009, 05:57:19 PM
Quote
(Maryanne Mohanraj's definitions of horror and erotica have always stuck with me since I heard them at a reading in Oakland in 2005

It sounds like she's paraphrasing Doug Winter's famous essay about the Horror genre from 1982.



Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #16 on: July 18, 2009, 12:06:05 PM
That's quite possible (that she was quoting someone else). She gave her definitions at a reading I attended, off the cuff in response to a Q&A, so there's nothing to link.



Sgarre1

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Reply #17 on: July 18, 2009, 03:54:19 PM
To be fair, Winter's essay is only about horror, not Erotica.



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Reply #18 on: July 20, 2009, 03:16:42 AM
It didn't feel like "horror" to me while listening to it either, but I do get Sgarre's perspective.



Bdoomed

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Reply #19 on: July 20, 2009, 04:14:50 AM
well i dont think it really felt like horror either, that doesn't mean i did not enjoy it though.  I was kind of surprised at the descriptions at first but the story tamed later on and I really enjoyed it.  Might've done better elsewhere but I'm not complaining! :)

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


DarkKnightJRK

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Reply #20 on: July 20, 2009, 08:05:27 AM
well i dont think it really felt like horror either, that doesn't mean i did not enjoy it though.  I was kind of surprised at the descriptions at first but the story tamed later on and I really enjoyed it.  Might've done better elsewhere but I'm not complaining! :)

Yeah, the languished descriptions of, whether it's of a diety or not, a man's daily shits was a bit disconcerting. But hey, someone's gotta do it (he is kind-of this world's equivilant of a plumber), and if he can find a way to make it an important job, then he's a far better optimist then I am.



Bdoomed

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Reply #21 on: July 21, 2009, 01:45:55 PM
yeah... that guy was very optimistic... even when his hands and eyes were taken.  "they let me live!"

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


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Reply #22 on: July 22, 2009, 09:21:06 PM
Despite of all the excrement I did like this story, but it definatley belonged on PC.  There was no horror elements or anticipation of horror for me just a good story.  Even the fantasy elements (a crap collector really enjoying his job) was a stretch.

Both characters grew from begining to the end of the story which is something that helped to overcome all the crap ;).   When Aki broke the vessel he finally became an independent man he was meant to be when he was given up to the temple.  The crap master began to question his faith, struggling within himself to find answers for his god.  Even though in the end he fell back upon his faith he was growing throughout the story.



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Reply #23 on: July 27, 2009, 04:05:39 AM
I think the definition of Horror could stretch to include this one, if, as Rachael said, the primary purpose was to disturb.

Wherever it appeared, I liked it.


600south

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Reply #24 on: July 27, 2009, 01:11:47 PM
I was also thinking "where's the horror?" until about halfway through. And it didn't disappoint. A horror story doesn't have to be horrific all the way through. The ending here made me gasp, and that's good.

But I agree... way too much detail on the pooping. I was wondering whether the author's real interest was in storytelling or coprophilia.



Sgarre1

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Reply #25 on: July 27, 2009, 03:26:21 PM
I love how Pseudopod can, week after week, have people eviscerated, tortured, children raped, etc. but include details about fecal matter, completely supported by both the real-world plot and symbolic/thematic framework of the story, and people freak.  What's the name of the kid's book - EVERYBODY POOPS?

I'd take "Break The Vessel" over skin burrowing insects or "my criminal psychiatrist is raping me" stories any day.



Ben Phillips

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Reply #26 on: July 29, 2009, 09:29:41 AM
I appreciate everyone's tolerance of my coprophilia.  Where can a freak like me go for support if not to horror fans?  I don't expect everyone to understand.  :_-(



umamei

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Reply #27 on: August 21, 2009, 09:15:25 AM
I'm just catching up on my fiction podcasts after a prolonged and unplanned break from listening/reading, and this was one of the first that popped up in my iPod.  I agree with the previous assessments that this wasn't all that horrific of a story.  I differ only in my assessment that detailed descriptions of poop don't bother me.  Needles are a totally different story, as are flies in my coffee.  But poop... meh, whatever.

All that aside, this was still a really good story.  I don't mind seeing it appear somewhere in the Escape Pod franchise, and as a listener to all of the podcasts, I don't really care which one.  It has elements of fantasy that I like, but wasn't really all that fantastical.  Now if the god had actually done something supernatural, as opposed to just chitchat about his supposed divinity with the help, I could place it firmly in the fantasy genre.  But this was more just a story of doubt and faith, divinity and humanity.  There was a point in my life where these issues would have horrified me, or at least disturbed me in much the same way Seven of Nine's struggle with individuality did on Voyager.  At this point in my life, it just fascinates me, and I suppose fascination and horror aren't really that far apart from one another.  (Like watching a car wreck happen--you just can't look away, are horrified by the damage done, but somehow, it's just *fascinating* as wrong as that is.)



Russell Nash

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Reply #28 on: August 26, 2009, 07:46:25 AM
What a bunch of crap!!

I just couldn't believe someone else hadn't said that yet. 

I liked this one.  The crap didn't bother me.  The younger of my two kids has only been out of diapers for a year and a half.  Once you've dealt with that for over four straight years (My son was just getting out of diapers when my daughter was born), Nothing short of poop eating is going to skeeze you out. The description did get boring.  I stopped it, came here, read the first few comments, and decided to keep listening.  Glad I did.



Unblinking

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Reply #29 on: August 26, 2009, 04:52:13 PM
I really liked this story, probably one of the best I've heard so far--I'm getting caught up on back issues, so I haven't read them all, but so far the only one that tops it in my mind is "The Greatest Adventure of All."

I can't say I enjoyed the poop descriptions, but they were in character, and served to characterize, so they didn't bother.  The word "shit" didn't bother me either, as I have no doubt he knew the word already, and it was appropriate to escalate the profanity at the climax of the story.

Podcastle would've been a good enough home for this also, though it didn't turn out to be particularly fantastical in nature.  But I think it fit in just fine here.  For me the horror was what organized religion can do to a society (by claiming this man's existence makes the sun go up and down), and to an individual (robbing children's lives from them and then murdering them in a terribly painful way just as they reach their prime).

Good show, and well read as well.  Keep it up!



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Reply #30 on: August 28, 2009, 06:57:44 PM
This is right up there with The Great and Secret Show



JoeFitz

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Reply #31 on: September 16, 2009, 01:20:04 AM
The "poop" was well handled. It reminded me instantly of the scene in the movie, the Last Emperor, where the attendant smells the output of the little prince. The description was well-handled and sufficiently clinical that it did not disturb me at all.

The genre discussion I find interesting, because although subtle, it strikes me that the horrific element is the devout priest whose job it is to help a God poop. Interesting that such a "menial" task is performed by such a highly-educated, highly-ranked priest. And yet, the story itself proves that God does his best thinking when he is pooping. What better occasion than to have a gifted person to attend to the God? Such a person is trapped in a golden cage of their own making - he feels and believes earnestly that he is privileged to have God crap on him. The narrator used the word "intimate" in a very pure way. Rings a bit like Job, to me. To believe that being crapped on by a God is a blessing? That's got to be some type of horror.

That being said, I could agree that this story could have appeared on any one of the Escape Artist feeds.

For what it's worth the "shit-covered shards" also did not work for me. It was too jarring and brought me out of the story.



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Reply #32 on: May 06, 2010, 10:53:28 PM
Apparently nowhere in the sacred texts did they instruct that it's down the block not across the street.

I'm not sure I would have sought this story out, but I'm not unhappy that I was exposed to it.

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Reply #33 on: June 07, 2010, 10:41:33 PM
So I'm wondering if someone didn't just read the submission guidelines then say "Nothing overly scatological in nature? I'll show them!"

All kidding aside, this was a very brave story.  It is almost impossible to categorize genre-wise (I am convinced Podcastle would have rejected it - not enough of a fantastic element) and the subject matter?  Well, let's say most editors would not have had the stomach for it.  Har har.

I totally enjoyed the story.  The culture felt believable and the temple felt real.  The interaction between the characters was well handled and the writing was tight.  This story didn't have the AKSHUN I usually like, but it was subtle without being boring.

Praise to Pseudopod for taking a real risk on this one, Praise to Ben for the excellent narration and praise to the author for writing something really brave.

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Listener

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Reply #34 on: June 08, 2010, 01:53:45 PM
So I'm wondering if someone didn't just read the submission guidelines then say "Nothing overly scatological in nature? I'll show them!"

Y'know, now that I think about it, didn't this and that first Flash trifecta that started off with a story about poop-babies come out relatively close to each other?

I wouldn't consider this story overly scatological -- yes, it was about the guy who takes care of the god's poop, but the story isn't about the poop itself. That's just a consequence. It's like when I worked at the Office Depot copy center -- I was exposed to a LOT of different types of paper, so when I read books I unconsciously figured out what kind of paper they were, sort of in the back of my mind. It wasn't about the paper, but the paper was part of my life. Well, the god's poop is part of this guy's life.

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Millenium_King

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Reply #35 on: June 08, 2010, 06:19:26 PM
I wouldn't consider this story overly scatological -- yes, it was about the guy who takes care of the god's poop, but the story isn't about the poop itself. That's just a consequence. It's like when I worked at the Office Depot copy center -- I was exposed to a LOT of different types of paper, so when I read books I unconsciously figured out what kind of paper they were, sort of in the back of my mind. It wasn't about the paper, but the paper was part of my life. Well, the god's poop is part of this guy's life.

Haha - oh, I know!  I was just making a (lame) joke.  I squirmed a little during the description, but like I said, I definately thought it worked, it was unique and it was brave - both on the part of the author and on the part of the editor for picking the story.  This one might make my top 10.

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Reply #36 on: July 21, 2010, 01:12:35 PM
Great story, horrible, horrible. Never heard/read anything quite like it. The bit about "shit-covered shards" was jarring, I thought. But that could be quite appropriate considering god has just thrown his poo at his priests...