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Author Topic: Pseudopod 157: Wave Goodbye  (Read 10162 times)

Bdoomed

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on: August 28, 2009, 03:33:18 PM
Pseudopod 157: Wave Goodbye

By Felicity Bloomfield
Read by Donna Lynch

Before she finished her cutting I stood behind her, and circled her arms with my arms. As she sliced a carrot, I shoved at her hand. The knife slid into her wrist, and she swore. Blood dripped onto the neat pile of chopped beans.

She bound her own wrist, and threw the carrots and beans away. I peered around her as she looked at the chicken. It was pale and bloated, floating on the surface of the freezing water. Oil slimed the white skin.

Nunury tugged on my arm. “Mummy, why did you do that?”

I slapped her hand away. “Why did you lie floating for days after you drowned? Why didn’t she come sooner?”

Nunury’s eyes widened, ready to cry. I’d never yelled at her when we were alive. “I’m sorry,” I said, gathering her in my arms. “You know I’d never hurt you.”



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?


Scattercat

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Reply #1 on: August 29, 2009, 05:59:12 AM
I have to say that a horrendous pun was not the first thing I thought when I saw this title.  This really doesn't seem to be the right sort of story to have a yukyuk title.  It feels a little jarring.

I was reminded of "Dark Water," not just because of the drowning motif and the ghost with water powers, but because of the "vengeful spirit" theme so common to Japanese horror films, in which hideous revenge is visited, not on the deserving, but simply on those who get in the way, and even achieving that revenge isn't enough to let the spirit rest.  I wasn't quite sure where this story was going, and I can't quite say if that's good or bad.  It was hard to feel a lot of tension and suspense when our POV is behind the driver's seat, as it were. 

I was quite interested in Nunury's offhand remarks about what appeared to be the afterlife - "going home" - and for a while thought that mother and daughter would be separated at the end.  (Part of this was me still trying to tie "Wave Goodbye" into the story other than as a tidal joke.)  One can certainly see the shape of that in the way they pull against each other with their differing drives and instincts; I wonder if an earlier draft of the story might have included a scene of parting and separation?  I think I'd have preferred that.  It might have helped reinforce the ambiguous tone Alisdair alluded to in his closing remarks, the conflict between the recrimination of "You should do more to help disaster victims" and the horror of a mind unhinged by revenge.  It was still nice and subtle, but I couldn't help feeling a titch like a little kid being told not to suck his thumb or else the Scissor Man will come and cut it off.  Donate to charities... or else angry water spirits will drown you in your bedroom!  It wasn't overwhelming, but it was present for me.  I think that's what's keeping me from liking the story 100%.  (I'm at about 85%, maybe 86%.)

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Unblinking

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Reply #2 on: August 30, 2009, 02:07:54 PM
The message in this one was too heavy-handed for me.  To me, when a story has a message, the story should still come first, and the message come second, but this story had no other point other than to say "donate or die".  Because of this, it felt like it was just a 17 minute charity donation solicitation.  Granted, those commercials make me want to cry every time I see them, but that doesn't mean they make good stories.

Also, the reading clashed with the content, to me.  The narrator's words were filled with rage, and she claims to yell at her daughter at one point, but it's all delivered in a deadpan uninterested tone.  Monotone is good for an uncaring zombie character, but in a rage-filled revenant I would expect to hear some emotion.




Gia

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Reply #3 on: August 30, 2009, 05:01:38 PM
Vengeful spirits are good, but pointlessly and randomly vengeful spirits are not. "How dare rich people not be able to stop natural disasters. How dare Rosie not teleport over that very minute to save me. How dare everyone else in the world not make my problems the center of the universe." It just annoyed me.



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Reply #4 on: August 30, 2009, 11:54:08 PM
This is the first episode of any Escape Artists podcast that I could not finish.  Could not stand the narration style, and I've heard it many times before on these podcasts: Breathy, nasal, sentences don't end they just..trail..off...  In other podcasts the story was interesting enough for me to put up with the narration, but this time it was a perfect storm of annoyance and meh.  Sorry.  :(



gelee

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Reply #5 on: August 31, 2009, 03:36:37 AM
Grat story, and a fine reading. This was not "Donate or Die," nor was it "rich westerner should be able to stop tsunamis."  this was the story of a spirit of a woman driven utterly mad by the pain of her death and that of her daughter. Mad for vengeance against everyone who did not save her daughter, whether they could have or not.  I found this story deeply creepy and disturbing, which is exactly what I want from PP :)
I'd also like to point out that I found he understated delivery of the story to be perfectly n keeping with it's tone. Good show.   



Sgarre1

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Reply #6 on: August 31, 2009, 01:38:05 PM
I'm with gelee on this.  If the story was intended to be a guilt trip via ghost, the daughter wouldn't be in it.  In fact, the daughter being tied to the mother may be the only hope for redemption the mother has, she just hasn't recognized it yet - she still sees her dead daughter, not just her daughter, so they can't "go away" yet, until she can let go of this anger.

Why I liked "Wave Goodby" is that it works against a standard horror concept I've noted before - the idea behind revenant/revenge ghost stories is that somehow the Universe cares about ideas of human justice, that it wants your murderer found.  This concept is inherently conservative, albeit in a degraded form (As has been noted by others, EC Comics TALES FROM THE CRYPT plot 1a - ironic justice delivered by victim on murderer - is the last gasp of a Romantic worldview struggling against Realism, so "murder will out" but it takes a rotting corpse to do it, not angelic fury or "God" working through nature).  What's unsettling about "Wave Goodbye" is that it implies that rage, even "unjustified", is the driving force, and that it is not justice that continues after death, but the random forces that drive us.

Also agree on the reading - deliberately disconnected and "floaty" to plot/character intent.  The frission created by mentioning in a deadpan voice that she yelled seemed intentional.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2009, 01:26:38 PM by Sgarre1 »



eytanz

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Reply #7 on: August 31, 2009, 03:42:28 PM
I agree with Sgarre1's point about the daughter, except the optimistic part of it. I think the true victim of the story was the daughter, who is now trapped and denied an afterlife by her revenge-addled mother. The mother's victims, at least, get to move on. I think the story makes it very clear that what the mother is doing to the daughter is far worse than what the flooding (tsunami?) did, or the apathy of the West. The mother is incapable of seeing this, and will probably never be able to either.



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Reply #8 on: September 01, 2009, 05:24:18 AM
not one to break a trend, i agree with eytanz and, by the transitive nature of agreement, Sgarre1 & gelee.

during the first half of the story i thought that it was playing on the disproportionate punishment angle (often embodied by a gypsy curse, eg thinner & drag me to hell).  by the end i was reading it as allegory to the tsunami itself, an act of senseless brutality that strikes without warning.  social stability & technology insulates the first world from the majority of these things, we normally get some sort of warning at least.  this story feels like an expression of survivor's guilt.

the reading worked for me.  at first it had shades of n-words but once i got used to it it worked for a cold, dispassionate rage.  a mindset ready to relentlessly kill again and again and again.



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Reply #9 on: September 01, 2009, 11:14:47 AM
Well, not sure whether I liked this one. But that's because it was so unsettling -- which I guess means it worked? Pure rage/revenge is difficult to deal with when there's so many "tortured soul masquerading as bad guy" motifs in modern horror.

Boy, that sounded wanky.

The narration didn't work for me. Too flat for my liking.


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Reply #10 on: September 08, 2009, 02:34:06 PM
Vengeful spirits are good, but pointlessly and randomly vengeful spirits are not. "How dare rich people not be able to stop natural disasters. How dare Rosie not teleport over that very minute to save me. How dare everyone else in the world not make my problems the center of the universe." It just annoyed me.

That's where the story fell apart for me -- Rosie couldn't possibly have stopped the tsunami that destroyed the MC's home. And even if the technology existed (I think it's close to happening, but I'm not sure), Rosie isn't that kind of doctor. She doesn't have that kind of influence.

I'm not going to comment on the social implications of the story; I have far too much to say and I don't want to spend the time getting angry and worked up over it.

Suffice it to say the MC's relentlessness was extremely chilling and effectively-written to scare the crap out of me. Good job there.

The reading was a little too deadpan, I agree.

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Reply #11 on: September 12, 2009, 10:49:11 PM
Could not for the life of me stay focused on this story and ended up passing on it.  Twas the narration I'm afraid.   :(



wakela

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Reply #12 on: September 21, 2009, 11:39:02 PM
Good point about the daughter, eytanz.  I hadn't thought of it, but it seems perfectly clear and it makes the story much more horrifying.

At first I thought that this was another Heavy Handed Message story and I wasn't enjoying it.  But then I realized that the message was being delivered through the Unreliable Narrator, and a monsterous one at that.  Whether or not the author feels the West didn't do enough about the tsunami is irrelevant to the story; it's just the main character who feels that way. 

I think the story was well read in the sense that the voice was both ghostly and had an undercurrent of rage and blame (this increased the Heavey Handed Message factor), so it captured the main character very well.  But it was also a little monotone and droning and it made it harder for me to get into the story.

And I agree with scattercan about the pun in the title.  Am I missing something?  It is completely at odds with the tone of the story. 



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Reply #13 on: September 23, 2009, 05:44:18 AM
The thing that got me is that the ghost is torturing one of the people who cared enough to go there and try to do something.  She's mad that most of the world didn't care enough to even send a few bucks, so let's harass this women who went there and had to deal with the dead bodies of babies.  The narrator never mentions that the woman has probably spent a lot of time crying over the horrors she saw and is probably haunted by her own less literal ghosts.



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Reply #14 on: September 24, 2009, 03:22:03 AM
Like I said, very J-horror.  Think about The Grudge, or The Ring, where people who are completely innocent of the original crime and in some cases are actively trying to help are nonetheless subject to the torments of the angry spirit.  I think the jarring disconnect here is how human this ghost still seems, and the presence of the daughter a reminder that not all ghosts automatically end up like this solely as a byproduct of becoming ghosts (which seems to be the approach taken in the movies I mentioned).  It makes the excess of the woman's revenge seem all the more extreme and inappropriate.

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Reply #15 on: September 29, 2009, 06:58:51 PM
Perhaps a bigger message from this story is about global warming, which causes an uptick in severe weather events like hurricanes and typhoons (as well as droughts, heat waves, and floods) which kill scores of people, and which is primarily caused by the carbon emissions of the developed world, whose governments refuse to make real change. Not just that the doctor didn't get there in time, but that she didn't do something to prevent the event in question....was it a tsunami? I can't remember if that word was used. Perhaps also she could have done something (maybe not successful) to prevent the main character and her daughter from being so vulnerable, as people are in places where adequate infrastructure does not exist to warn people about impending disasters and evacuate them in time, or where such infrastructure is primarily controlled for a profit motive or hampered by government mismanagement.




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Reply #16 on: September 30, 2009, 10:45:50 PM
This was a good listen, made all the more enjoyable in retrospect after the extro. This malevolent revenant seems to beg the question of whether her blind rage is more "acceptable" than blind apathy or willful blindness.

The idea raised in this story, as a bit of a straw man argument, is that rather than taking pictures of dead babies, this person should have done something else. It is still a live issue that reporters, especially photo- and video- journalists face and a tension that exists for the obvious reason that in our media saturated world, media attention can drive an agenda. How much "aid" is sent to disaster A versus disaster B is a very subjective thing. This person's photos may well have resulted in more people sending aid, but probably also advanced her career, paid her bills and bought some high-fat, processed food. I don't think the story is as heavy-handed as it could have been and I was pleased that the author handled it this way.



Millenium_King

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Reply #17 on: June 08, 2010, 07:08:18 PM
Wow.  Photographer gets killed by a ghostly apparition of liberal, white, guilt.  ANOTHER message story.  I absolutely hated it.

Totally heavy handed.  I had zero sympathy for the ghost.  I kept hoping there would be an actual STORY here, you know, character change?  Like maybe our ghost learns that she's not the center of the universe?  That "rich western folk" didn't kill her?  That the cycle of life and death goes on and that disasters are just as natural as times of plenty?

But alas, instead we got 20 minutes of "unless you're a superhero with magic powers that lets you rescue drowning victims from half a world away, you deserve to die."

Alasdair's outro I also thought fell flat.  How about examining both sides of the issue here?  Instead, he talks about how the world should be some magic "better place" where disasters never occur?  How about realizing that death is just as natural as life, how about asking us to change what we can, but accept what we cannot?  Death comes to us all.  It's natural.  Don't build it up into a Terror.  We should help each other, but we should not be endlessly wracked with guilt because of those who die.  The circle of life turns ever onward.

Finally, this is the USS Abraham Lincoln:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Abraham_Lincoln_(CVN-72)

It is a Nimitz-class, nuclear powered supercarrier.  It costs over $500,000 per day to operate and is the equivilant of a floating nuclear reactor with a city stacked on top and an airport stacked on top of that.  It has more medical facilities than most US cities and enough firepower to level a country.  If that's not super-powers, I don't know what is.  This incredible machine was diverted from its trip to Hong Kong for nearly a WHOLE YEAR to help the victims in Indonesia.  And other ships went to help it!

On a personal level, as one involved in the US armed forces, I am deeply offended by any insinuation that the Western World did not do enough.  The author should be ashamed.

Conceivably, our "heartless" photographer's tax dollars went to fund the rescue operation.  I guess this is something our ghost and our author didn't care about.

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Alasdair5000

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Reply #18 on: June 09, 2010, 10:50:24 AM
Alasdair's outro I also thought fell flat. 
   Sorry this one didn't work for you.  To quote Ed Wood 'What did you think of my new movie?  You hated it?  You thought it was one of the worst films you've ever seen?  Well, you'll like my next one better.' Hopefully:)

How about examining both sides of the issue here?  Instead, he talks about how the world should be some magic "better place" where disasters never occur?
   I'm going to ask you politely, and once, to tone down what I'm seeing as an overly belligerent tone there.  If you want to discuss, in this thread, what the other side of the issue is, then I'd be interested to hear it.  I'm always interested in new perspectives (The moment where my wife pointed out how horrifically gender unbalanced pretty much every TV show we watch regularly is?  Utterly blew my mind, changed my view of them forever) and I'm more than happy to change my own view in light of evidence or experience, but if all you want to do is tell me how wrong you think I am, then that ground's already been covered.

How about realizing that death is just as natural as life, how about asking us to change what we can, but accept what we cannot?  Death comes to us all.  It's natural.  Don't build it up into a Terror. 

   My best friend died of leukaemia when he, and I, were both 17.  It was his third bout with the disease in, if I remember correctly, three years.  I know very well how natural death is.  I also know how capricious and random and pointless it is, something which was driven home to me eight years later when two school friends died in motorbike accidents less than a year apart.  Right now, my mother is in remission from a bout of lymphoma.  If she goes the next four years without it returning, then there's an above average chance she's in the clear.  If she doesn't, then it will have be treated again and the meatgrinder that 2009 was for my entire family will start all over again. 
   So yeah, death's natural.  It comes to us all and my own death holds very little fear for me.  The death of the ones I love though?  The loss of the people who make my life what it is?  That's a terror.

We should help each other, but we should not be endlessly wracked with guilt because of those who die.  The circle of life turns ever onward.


   Yeah it does, but for some people it's harder to move on from the endings than to embrace the beginnings.  At this stage in my life, I would count myself as one of those people.

   Incidentally, regarding the Abraham Lincoln, that's both an astounding piece of technology and a genuinely astounding of compassion and humanitarianism (Which, if it wasn't a word before, I appear to have just invented) and I have nothing but admiration for it.  I have friends in the armed services, law enforcement and medicine, I'm the son of a career nurse and I have the utmost respect and admiration for people doing those lines of work. 
    I also find it fascinating that what Warren Ellis called 'rescue fiction' hasn't taken off more.  This is the sort of stuff I grew up on, Gerry Anderson series like Thunderbirds and, to a lesser extent, Captain Scarlet following the groups of people who stand between us and the bad things and pick us up when the bad things happen.  Third Watch was pretty much rescue fiction I suspect, as was Trauma, a show absolutely no one but me liked and Ellis' own Global Frequency is a pretty much definitive example of it.  It's a fascinating genre and there deserves to be more of it.
« Last Edit: June 09, 2010, 12:36:02 PM by Alasdair5000 »



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Reply #19 on: June 09, 2010, 05:34:40 PM
Hello Alasdair!  Many apologies if I came across as belligerent; I was upset and heated when I wrote my response to this story, and my agitation I probably did not realize how inconsiderate I was being.

Alasdair's outro I also thought fell flat. 
   Sorry this one didn't work for you.  To quote Ed Wood 'What did you think of my new movie?  You hated it?  You thought it was one of the worst films you've ever seen?  Well, you'll like my next one better.' Hopefully:)

I did not so much think your in/outro was bad, so much as I was disappointed when you did not provide some badly needed balance to this story.  Usually you provide something of a counterpoint or deeper insight, but in this case you seemed to simply carry the author’s flag.


How about examining both sides of the issue here?  Instead, he talks about how the world should be some magic "better place" where disasters never occur?
   I'm going to ask you politely, and once, to tone down what I'm seeing as an overly belligerent tone there.  If you want to discuss, in this thread, what the other side of the issue is, then I'd be interested to hear it.  I'm always interested in new perspectives (The moment where my wife pointed out how horrifically gender unbalanced pretty much every TV show we watch regularly is?  Utterly blew my mind, changed my view of them forever) and I'm more than happy to change my own view in light of evidence or experience, but if all you want to do is tell me how wrong you think I am, then that ground's already been covered.

I realize the irony in criticizing you for being shallow, then providing my own shallow rebuttal.  I was just trying to shorten an already long rant.  Let me give you my counterpoint:  You suggest that in a “better world” there “shouldn’t be any” charities, because there would be no disasters.  You say “things should be better, for everyone.”  I think the major flaw in your reasoning here is that you are ascribing moral characteristics to a universe which has none.  You seem to describe the disasters as “bad” – but that is a theistic concept grounded in Western religious thought.  Nature’s actions are not bad: they simply are.  This is exactly what the revenant in the story failed to grasp.  Her death was not “bad” nor was it “tragic” and it certainly was no one’s fault: it simply WAS.  I had been hoping you would illuminate this, or a similar concept to our readers. 

Much of human suffering results from our outrage over the actions of a universe which makes no moral judgments – the universe makes no sense to us, only because we expect it to make sense.  I had hoped you would see the tragedy in the ghost’s selfishness and put it in perspective for us: natural disasters are bad to us humans, but to the cosmos they simply ARE.  The ghost needed to realize that her death was not the result of a moral judgment, and ergo it deserved no righteous retribution in return.  The ghost (and all of humanity) need(s) to accept that what we see as “natural tragedies” are simply part of Nature’s grand scheme – they are not cruel punishments upon us.  We should help the survivors, mourn the dead, but most importantly ACCEPT that the world is the way it is and that Nature both destroys and creates without holding one higher than the other.  To wish for a world without this cycle is to live in a state of denial and disharmony.  Ergo, we have invented superstitions like “gods” or “spirits” to explain how these terrible (to us) things happen.  We ignore the absolutely commonplace fact that life is just as meaningless as death – and, ergo, just as important.  One must realize that if everything is meaningless and unimportant, the reverse is also true – everything is just as meaningful, and just as important.  Your birth is on equal footing with the genesis of the Pleadies Cluster.  Your death carries all the cosmic weight of a supernova.

I do not mean to be rude here, but I felt your outro was solidly grounded in theistic, moral, Christian thought.  Where disasters are seen as negative, sinful and undesirable.  In a sense, they are actually positive, glorious and desireable:  they allow the cycle of life to continue, they make more life where there was none, and they provide the strife which is just as important as the peace.  But, in truth, they (and Nature) are none of these things: they simply ARE.  Ergo, it is absurd to judge them.

My best friend died of leukaemia when he, and I, were both 17.  It was his third bout with the disease in, if I remember correctly, three years.  I know very well how natural death is.  I also know how capricious and random and pointless it is, something which was driven home to me eight years later when two school friends died in motorbike accidents less than a year apart.  Right now, my mother is in remission from a bout of lymphoma.  If she goes the next four years without it returning, then there's an above average chance she's in the clear.  If she doesn't, then it will have be treated again and the meatgrinder that 2009 was for my entire family will start all over again.

I feel for you and your family, I truly do.  I am not here to offend, but only to offer counterpoint.  You view your friends’ deaths as “pointless” because your worldview demands everything have a point.  This ties into what I was saying earlier: disasters, to you, are bad because they MUST have a point.  And, since they are negative to humans, their point must be negative – their existence is negative.  Life does not have a “point” – life simply is.  Enjoy it while it is here.  Keep your friends memories in your heart and cherish them, but to not rail against “capricious” fate for taking them from you.  Simply accept that their lives are over now – neither for good, nor for bad, neither important to Nature, nor unimportant – but important to you.

This brings me to my final point:  in the universe, no thing is of greater or less importance than another.  No thing holds more or less value.  To Nature, the death of Jesus Christ was just as unremarkable as the birth of a gnat; the birth of Hitler just as remarkable as the death of a galaxy.  But in the Temple of your mind, your Will is absolute: you alone determine what is important and what is unimportant.  You alone determine what is Right, and what is Wrong.  Those things are not inherent, and they are not for Nature to decide.  If you declare the death of a thousand Indonesians in tsunami unimportant, then they are if you declare them important then it will be.  But only to you.  Not to the universe, not to Nature.

In this manner, we can see that the Will alone determines the shape of the moral sphere.  Man is center of his solar system, he is “heliocentric force on two legs.”  To allow the doctrines of others (be they Jehova or Christ, Zues or Olympus, Muhammad or Allah, Buddha or Lao Tzu) to determine or shape your course of action is utter folly.  Life and death are both opposite sides of the same coin.  Nature determines the result of the toss, but only you determine where, when and to who it is important.

Apologies for the length of this response: it turned out to be something of a dissertation on my world-view, rather than a plain rebuttal.

 
So yeah, death's natural.  It comes to us all and my own death holds very little fear for me.  The death of the ones I love though?  The loss of the people who make my life what it is?  That's a terror.

I am not a nihilist.  I do not hold that life has no value or purpose.  I will not for one moment pretend that the loss of one’s loved ones is irrelevant.  One should always fight to preserve himself and those who are so near and dear to him that they are a part of himself.  But one must also accept loss.  Failing to protect a loved one is a terror, but death itself?  Let that not be a Terror in your mind.  Be fearful of losing them whilst they are here, but once they are gone, just keep their memories close and accept.  Do not shout “Why did this happen?”  You will only drive yourself crazy – the universe has no answer.

Yeah it does, but for some people it's harder to move on from the endings than to embrace the beginnings.  At this stage in my life, I would count myself as one of those people.

I apologize if I have offended you: it was not my intent.  I just seek to remind you (and our ghost) that the endings are just as equal and important as the beginnings.

   Incidentally, regarding the Abraham Lincoln, that's both an astounding piece of technology and a genuinely astounding of compassion and humanitarianism (Which, if it wasn't a word before, I appear to have just invented) and I have nothing but admiration for it.  I have friends in the armed services, law enforcement and medicine, I'm the son of a career nurse and I have the utmost respect and admiration for people doing those lines of work. 
    I also find it fascinating that what Warren Ellis called 'rescue fiction' hasn't taken off more.  This is the sort of stuff I grew up on, Gerry Anderson series like Thunderbirds and, to a lesser extent, Captain Scarlet following the groups of people who stand between us and the bad things and pick us up when the bad things happen.  Third Watch was pretty much rescue fiction I suspect, as was Trauma, a show absolutely no one but me liked and Ellis' own Global Frequency is a pretty much definitive example of it.  It's a fascinating genre and there deserves to be more of it.

It really, truly is an amazing machine.  And the fact that it and its crew of thousands were diverted from their mission to Hong Kong (presumably, then a war mission in Iraq) to perform humanitarian aid is remarkable.  I think this is what made my blood boil about this story.  The West (America in particular) gets constantly criticized by people like our “ghost” who see only the “rich man’s rain” and not all the charity, humanity and aid so freely given.

Thank you for responding and for indulging me in my rant.  Apologies if I have seemed mean or heartless, again none of that is my intent.  I hope I have given you something to think about.

And don’t worry, I enjoy about 99% percent of your in/outros – one or two is bound to disappoint sometimes!

« Last Edit: June 09, 2010, 05:39:40 PM by Millenium_King »

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Reply #20 on: June 09, 2010, 06:44:12 PM
To allow the doctrines of others (be they Jehova or Christ, Zues or Olympus, Muhammad or Allah, Buddha or Lao Tzu) to determine or shape your course of action is utter folly. 

Millenium King, I appreciate you posting here, and I enjoy watching new listeners go through the backlog of stories. But I'm going to strongly suggest you stop trying to tell other people what they should think, especially when it comes into conflict with your own worldview. You are entitled to your opinion, and I respect it. I do not expect you to share my own, but I do expect you to be polite about it.

I'm also going to caution that you not try and fit stories into your own worldview, especially when they conflict with it. You're a writer, so I imagine you understand the importance of different perspectives and different voices (and I know you've commented before how much you enjoy the variety here at PP, which is one of my favorite things about it as well). But suggesting a story is stupid because it doesn't agree with your view of the universe is problematic, IMO.

I am not asking you to be uncritical of the stories. Criticism is good and is appreciated. But I am asking you to be a bit more thoughtful and polite in your reactions to these stories.

Thanks, and I look forward to reading more of your responses on these stories.
« Last Edit: June 09, 2010, 06:46:39 PM by DKT »



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Reply #21 on: June 09, 2010, 06:49:24 PM
Hello DKT -

No problem!  I totally agree.  I just want to stress that my above response is to Alasdair's request for comments re: his outro - not necessarily the story itself.  If this is something I should conduct over PM with him instead, I will happily oblige.  He suggested I post here, however, but I may be taking this thread off topic.

Ben has a thread here: http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?topic=3804.0 in which I specifically reiterate my criticism of this story.  Specifically, I do not mind stories that do not mesh with my world-view, but I felt this one was all message and no plot.  Even had it jived 100% with what I believe, I still would have disliked it.

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Reply #22 on: June 09, 2010, 07:04:05 PM
Wow.  Photographer gets killed by a ghostly apparition of liberal, white, guilt.  ANOTHER message story.  I absolutely hated it.

May I suggest you read more deeply, then.  There is an entire character, the child, which as far as I can tell exists in this story solely to point up what a monster (in the classic, irrational-monster sense) the POV character is.  Al points this out in the outro, as well, in a part I guess you may have missed.  It's true she is also a symbol of the guilt of which you speak, but see the above.  (It's an easy misunderstanding, to be fair. The point is a subtle one, and yes, the story deliberately pokes away at a controversial topic.)

You seem to describe the disasters as “bad” – but that is a theistic concept grounded in Western religious thought.

It seems to me a common sense judgment grounded in basic empathy for the (rational, selfish) needs of the victims, for whom the event was certainly not *good* by anyone's definition.  If Western religious thought embellishes this into something more elaborate, that's irrelevant to the point Al was making, which was, yes, still a bit of an idealistic where's-my-jetpack one.  That's why we love him.  But I don't see how uniquely Western or theistic it is.  Who on earth wants their homeland ravaged by a typhoon?  Accepting such things with dispassionate stoicism is for apathetic observers -- and maybe enlightened Buddhists or whatnot.  Ninjas maybe.  Evil priests.

Quote
Her death was not “bad” nor was it “tragic” and it certainly was no one’s fault: it simply WAS.

It was no one's fault, this is true.  But you have a very unusual take on the meaning of the word "tragic", here -- one which I daresay you'd have to do some careful cherry-picking to find a dictionary entry to support.  

I think I see what you're trying to say overall, and it's admirably philosophical -- just not really germane to a criticism of this particular episode as far as I can tell.  Just to be clear on that.

Okay, I'm going back to reading submissions now.



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Reply #23 on: June 09, 2010, 07:16:54 PM
No, it's cool to leave it here.

The specific bit I quoted may have been in reference to Al's intro, but I've noticed similar comments in regards to other stories you've listened to/commented on (like "The Blessed Days" as mentioned in the other thread you pointed out, and also "The Hand Your Dealt"). And in this story:

Wow.  Photographer gets killed by a ghostly apparition of liberal, white, guilt.  ANOTHER message story.  I absolutely hated it.

Totally heavy handed.  I had zero sympathy for the ghost.  I kept hoping there would be an actual STORY here, you know, character change?  Like maybe our ghost learns that she's not the center of the universe?  That "rich western folk" didn't kill her?  That the cycle of life and death goes on and that disasters are just as natural as times of plenty?

But alas, instead we got 20 minutes of "unless you're a superhero with magic powers that lets you rescue drowning victims from half a world away, you deserve to die."

I don't want to detract from Ben's thread, but I'll suggest that there's more happening in this story than the last sentence in the quote above. It's been a while since I listened to it, but IIRC, the ghost mother in the story is problmematic as a protagonist, and there's intentionality behind that, which makes her actions less-than righteous, and therefore something other than a manifestation of liberal white guilt.

Again, you're free to disagree, and we welcome that. I'm just asking you to be mindful of other people's opinions :)

ETA: Ben beat me to posting, and said a lot of it better than I could.


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Reply #24 on: June 09, 2010, 08:03:32 PM
Accepting such things with dispassionate stoicism is for apathetic observers -- and maybe enlightened Buddhists or whatnot.  Ninjas maybe.  Evil priests.

Hmmm...  I think I might actually be one of those things...


It was no one's fault, this is true.  But you have a very unusual take on the meaning of the word "tragic", here -- one which I daresay you'd have to do some careful cherry-picking to find a dictionary entry to support.

I agree with you.  I do have a different take on that word, and my world-view is certainly not for all.  I do not want to continue beating a philosophical dead horse, but Nature is truly awful in her tragic majesty.  We're all here until her next movement obliterates us.  In a sense, everything is horribly temporary and tragic - but that transitory nature also makes it beautiful.  The protagonist's death is sad to us, perhaps, but I simply do not think we should strive so very hard to find so much tragedy in death.  We find no tragedy in a sunset, after all.

Okay, enough of my philisophical mumbo-jumbo.  I wouldn't let it get to you, I'm mostly full of sh*t anyway haha.

I think I see what you're trying to say overall, and it's admirably philosophical --

Why thank you.

...just not really germane to a criticism of this particular episode as far as I can tell.  Just to be clear on that.

Well, my pseudo-philosophical ramblings, perhaps not.  But I want to revisit something you said earlier:  it is true that the child provides a counter-point to the mother (I still found the tormented woman to be a charicature).  But my main point is this: this story borders on plotless.  Without the allegory, without the message, it is nothing.  I think you and I may part philosophical company here (and elsewhere too, I imagine) but I prefer the message to take a distant, back-seat to the plot.  I think that, without the message, this story fails.  That's my primary criticism of it.

Okay, I'm going back to reading submissions now.

Oh...?  Close to anyone in particular...?

Thanks again, Ben, for indulging a lunatic like me.

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Reply #25 on: June 09, 2010, 08:08:25 PM
I don't want to detract from Ben's thread, but I'll suggest that there's more happening in this story than the last sentence in the quote above. It's been a while since I listened to it, but IIRC, the ghost mother in the story is problmematic as a protagonist, and there's intentionality behind that, which makes her actions less-than righteous, and therefore something other than a manifestation of liberal white guilt.

Again, you're free to disagree, and we welcome that. I'm just asking you to be mindful of other people's opinions :)

Agree.  I would like to apologize to you, Ben and to the author.  I came across a little harsh and personal on this one because I am closer to the subject matter than normal.  I felt the story had a deliberate bias and intentionally downplayed the woman who was suffering (which would have been the best way to provide a counterpoint to the ghost's tormenting).  Perhaps I am wrong, perhaps there is something deeper here, but I did not enjoy this one at all.  Again, apologies if I have come across as harsh - when you're as close to the USS Abraham Lincoln as I am, criticisms of "Western apathy" are pretty enraging.

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Reply #26 on: June 09, 2010, 09:01:28 PM
Hello Alasdair!  Many apologies if I came across as belligerent; I was upset and heated when I wrote my response to this story, and my agitation I probably did not realize how inconsiderate I was being.
   Hi:)  That's okay.


I did not so much think your in/outro was bad, so much as I was disappointed when you did not provide some badly needed balance to this story.  Usually you provide something of a counterpoint or deeper insight, but in this case you seemed to simply carry the author’s flag.
   Well, sometimes cheerleading an author is something I feel motivated to and this one pushed a couple of my buttons.  Plus I sometimes worry I go so far outside the ballpark that I need to tie the odd outro to the actual story:)

I realize the irony in criticizing you for being shallow, then providing my own shallow rebuttal.  I was just trying to shorten an already long rant.  Let me give you my counterpoint:  You suggest that in a “better world” there “shouldn’t be any” charities, because there would be no disasters.  You say “things should be better, for everyone.”  I think the major flaw in your reasoning here is that you are ascribing moral characteristics to a universe which has none.  You seem to describe the disasters as “bad” – but that is a theistic concept grounded in Western religious thought.  Nature’s actions are not bad: they simply are.  This is exactly what the revenant in the story failed to grasp.  Her death was not “bad” nor was it “tragic” and it certainly was no one’s fault: it simply WAS.  I had been hoping you would illuminate this, or a similar concept to our readers.

   Ah, Western religious thought.  That'll be the Anglican/Catholic/Spiritualist upbringing talking.  I'm actually working on approaching things from a different viewpoint to that.

Much of human suffering results from our outrage over the actions of a universe which makes no moral judgments – the universe makes no sense to us, only because we expect it to make sense.  I had hoped you would see the tragedy in the ghost’s selfishness and put it in perspective for us: natural disasters are bad to us humans, but to the cosmos they simply ARE.  The ghost needed to realize that her death was not the result of a moral judgment, and ergo it deserved no righteous retribution in return.  The ghost (and all of humanity) need(s) to accept that what we see as “natural tragedies” are simply part of Nature’s grand scheme – they are not cruel punishments upon us.  We should help the survivors, mourn the dead, but most importantly ACCEPT that the world is the way it is and that Nature both destroys and creates without holding one higher than the other.  To wish for a world without this cycle is to live in a state of denial and disharmony.  Ergo, we have invented superstitions like “gods” or “spirits” to explain how these terrible (to us) things happen.  We ignore the absolutely commonplace fact that life is just as meaningless as death – and, ergo, just as important.  One must realize that if everything is meaningless and unimportant, the reverse is also true – everything is just as meaningful, and just as important.  Your birth is on equal footing with the genesis of the Pleadies Cluster.  Your death carries all the cosmic weight of a supernova.
   Those last two lines in particular are fascinating and actually rather beautiful.  Thanks for that.

I do not mean to be rude here, but I felt your outro was solidly grounded in theistic, moral, Christian thought.  Where disasters are seen as negative, sinful and undesirable.  In a sense, they are actually positive, glorious and desireable:  they allow the cycle of life to continue, they make more life where there was none, and they provide the strife which is just as important as the peace.  But, in truth, they (and Nature) are none of these things: they simply ARE.  Ergo, it is absurd to judge them.
   True and like I say that's my upbringing.  I think the point that interests me about this is what happens when we don't try and ascribe meaning, when we try and accept what is.  That's actually rather alien to me.

I feel for you and your family, I truly do.  I am not here to offend, but only to offer counterpoint.  You view your friends’ deaths as “pointless” because your worldview demands everything have a point.  This ties into what I was saying earlier: disasters, to you, are bad because they MUST have a point.  And, since they are negative to humans, their point must be negative – their existence is negative.  Life does not have a “point” – life simply is.  Enjoy it while it is here.  Keep your friends memories in your heart and cherish them, but to not rail against “capricious” fate for taking them from you.  Simply accept that their lives are over now – neither for good, nor for bad, neither important to Nature, nor unimportant – but important to you.

This brings me to my final point:  in the universe, no thing is of greater or less importance than another.  No thing holds more or less value.  To Nature, the death of Jesus Christ was just as unremarkable as the birth of a gnat; the birth of Hitler just as remarkable as the death of a galaxy.  But in the Temple of your mind, your Will is absolute: you alone determine what is important and what is unimportant.  You alone determine what is Right, and what is Wrong.  Those things are not inherent, and they are not for Nature to decide.  If you declare the death of a thousand Indonesians in tsunami unimportant, then they are if you declare them important then it will be.  But only to you.  Not to the universe, not to Nature.

In this manner, we can see that the Will alone determines the shape of the moral sphere.  Man is center of his solar system, he is “heliocentric force on two legs.”  To allow the doctrines of others (be they Jehova or Christ, Zues or Olympus, Muhammad or Allah, Buddha or Lao Tzu) to determine or shape your course of action is utter folly.  Life and death are both opposite sides of the same coin.  Nature determines the result of the toss, but only you determine where, when and to who it is important.

And assign meaning as needed, or not.  Everything's relative, you shape the world as you choose and, like I say, I find the idea of changing that world view, of taking a step back attractive.  Stuff to think about.

Apologies for the length of this response: it turned out to be something of a dissertation on my world-view, rather than a plain rebuttal.

Nothing wrong with that.

I am not a nihilist.  I do not hold that life has no value or purpose.  I will not for one moment pretend that the loss of one’s loved ones is irrelevant.  One should always fight to preserve himself and those who are so near and dear to him that they are a part of himself.  But one must also accept loss.  Failing to protect a loved one is a terror, but death itself?  Let that not be a Terror in your mind.  Be fearful of losing them whilst they are here, but once they are gone, just keep their memories close and accept.  Do not shout “Why did this happen?”  You will only drive yourself crazy – the universe has no answer.

   Oddly a priest told me almost exactly the same thing last year.  It's a laudable ideal and, like I say, it's one that due to some of the things I've experienced, a worldview I suspect is cut off from me.

I apologize if I have offended you: it was not my intent.  I just seek to remind you (and our ghost) that the endings are just as equal and important as the beginnings.

Oh you haven't offended me.  You're clearly passionate about your beliefs and I wanted to find out why.  Thanks for laying that out, reminds me a lot of Taoism.

Thank you for responding and for indulging me in my rant.  Apologies if I have seemed mean or heartless, again none of that is my intent.  I hope I have given you something to think about.

And don’t worry, I enjoy about 99% percent of your in/outros – one or two is bound to disappoint sometimes!

   You certainly have:)  And hey, you didn't like two out of the two hundred I've done so far.  That's a pretty good batting average:)



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Reply #27 on: June 09, 2010, 09:30:31 PM
Thanks Alasdair!  I was just hoping I could give you something to think about.  I do not mean in any way to deride your world-view.  I certainly respect it.  Often, it's a good idea to take a step back and look at the big picture: it makes the little picture that much more important, eh?

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Reply #28 on: June 15, 2010, 04:23:40 PM
There is an entire character, the child, which as far as I can tell exists in this story solely to point up what a monster (in the classic, irrational-monster sense) the POV character is.  Al points this out in the outro, as well, in a part I guess you may have missed.  It's true she is also a symbol of the guilt of which you speak, but see the above.  (It's an easy misunderstanding, to be fair. The point is a subtle one, and yes, the story deliberately pokes away at a controversial topic.)

Ben hit the nail on the head here.  This struck me initially as a message-driven anti-American story, but the child throws a wrench in that view--she is also dead, also from the same country, same family, yet she is ready to forgive and move on.  Her light casts shadows across the mother's personality, who embodies a revenant quite well, an irrational rage not necessarily directed at the most logical of targets.  This is a viewpoint into the mind of a monster, killing for reasons she believes are justified, vision clouded by rage, but her daughter sees more clearly and realizes that they should just move on and get on with the afterlife.



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Reply #29 on: June 15, 2010, 04:32:23 PM
Quote
To Nature, the death of Jesus Christ was just as unremarkable as the birth of a gnat;

Interesting philosophy, but can you imagine if fiction followed this rule?  Many stories have centered around the death of Jesus, and many more were intentionally and metaphorically referencing the death.  While gnat-births have a shockingly low occurrence of stories based around them.  Is this species-ism, a disrespect for our insectile brethren?  Probably not, it's just that gnat birth isn't all that compelling to us humans.  Yes, we define tragedy and comedy, but we're also the ones reading the stories.  I can say that a natural disaster, because it is caused by Nature, is a beautiful thing, but my view is not going to be the same if my friends and family die in one, and I certainly won't feel that way as my lungs are filling with ocean water--which is the mental moment that the mother is stuck in and may be stuck in for a very long time.  This story and every other are irrelevant to Nature, but it's not irrelevant to humans.  The tragedy of death is a common theme in stories because it is a common theme in life--if I can't write a story about death as a tragic thing then I am shutting myself away from a very human point of view, one which most people can relate to from personal experience.



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Reply #30 on: June 15, 2010, 05:34:01 PM
While all that may be true, I think I thoroughly let my initial point run away from me and become muddled.  I am basically making two seperate points:

(a) While I appreciate Al's urging us toward charity and hoping for a world with no disasters, I was hoping he'd show a little of the "big picture" to put this "small picture" story in context.  I, personally, felt the ghost's real tragedy was clinging so tightly to life that she became a hateful, unreasoning revenant.  Not to dispairage Al or act like I can do his job better, but I would have pointed out the bigger picture if I had done the outro to help put things in perspective.  It's better not to hope for a world without disasters (since that would require Nature not to exist), it is better to hope for a realistic goal such as working to change what we can, and accepting that which we cannot... even death.

(b) As for the story itself, my real issue is not so much with the content of the message, but with the fact that there is virtually no plot there.  The best defense I have heard is that the child provides a sense of conflict with the mother, but the way I heard it, the mother was so much more powerful than the child and so heedless of her words, I never seriously considered she'd actually listen to her (and the child was not powerful enough to force her to listen) - ergo, no conflict.

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Reply #31 on: June 15, 2010, 05:56:38 PM
While all that may be true, I think I thoroughly let my initial point run away from me and become muddled.  I am basically making two seperate points:

(a) While I appreciate Al's urging us toward charity and hoping for a world with no disasters, I was hoping he'd show a little of the "big picture" to put this "small picture" story in context.  I, personally, felt the ghost's real tragedy was clinging so tightly to life that she became a hateful, unreasoning revenant.  Not to dispairage Al or act like I can do his job better, but I would have pointed out the bigger picture if I had done the outro to help put things in perspective.  It's better not to hope for a world without disasters (since that would require Nature not to exist), it is better to hope for a realistic goal such as working to change what we can, and accepting that which we cannot... even death.

(b) As for the story itself, my real issue is not so much with the content of the message, but with the fact that there is virtually no plot there.  The best defense I have heard is that the child provides a sense of conflict with the mother, but the way I heard it, the mother was so much more powerful than the child and so heedless of her words, I never seriously considered she'd actually listen to her (and the child was not powerful enough to force her to listen) - ergo, no conflict.

And I don't really disagree with either of those points.  And the second post about philosophy was more food for thought than any real argument:  I for one, can't wait until Jesus Gnat Superstar hits Broadway.  ;)