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Author Topic: Pseudopod 159: Reservation Monsters  (Read 9888 times)

Bdoomed

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on: September 11, 2009, 05:14:19 AM
Pseudopod 159: Reservation Monsters

By Jim Bihyeh
Read by Ben Phillips

“When I was your age, I ran away from school all the time. The tribal police would gather all us kids up from the hogans and the cabins, haul us to the boarding schools, cut our hair, tell us not to talk Navajo, feed us flour with bugs in it. All that crap you hear about now in documentaries. I ran away to my auntie’s house near Canyon de Chelly. She was a seer and a hand trembler. The Navajos around there, if they couldn’t sleep or they were sick, they sent a runner to my auntie and she came with her rock crystal and her corn pollen and went over their home until her hand trembled like she was holding on to an electric fence. And she saw things. Visions no one else could see. The sort of visions you’re seeing now. The things that cause sickness. Death. Things that have to be dealt with. Things that have to be sung and prayed over, so the person can be healthy again.”


Listen to this week's Pseudopod.

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Kanasta

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Reply #1 on: September 14, 2009, 02:31:56 PM
I liked this although I could see the final revelation coming a mile off; that aspect was not particularly original. However, it was well-written; a nice coming-of-age story and what it lost in originality on the plot side, I felt was really made up for by the details about the Navajo and their mythology, ec. Very enjoyable.



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Reply #2 on: September 15, 2009, 05:52:07 AM
I kept seeing the drifter as a future Kenny, who came back to help him understand what was happening.  There is absolutely nothing in the story to support that, and I'm pretty sure the author didn't intend to give that impression.  It was just a thought that stayed with me the whole way through.



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Reply #3 on: September 15, 2009, 06:37:36 AM
I think the drifter is a bit of a problem in that way.  He's basically Handy Exposition Man and there's never really a good justification given for WHY he's got all the exposition.  (Maybe he just came from the Exposition Exposition.  I understand it's not a conventional convention.)  Is he really just Mom's psychic brother who never got talked about at the family reunions?  That feels like a bit too glib of an answer.

Anyway, other than the niggling "What's up with that?" regarding where, exactly, Mister Eyes came from, I enjoyed this story and the images it evoked.  That's why I haven't really piped up on it; it's hard to say much beyond "Hey, cool" for stuff that you liked but that wasn't super-awesome.  And the mysterious drifter didn't seem quite as egregious as Last from "Heretic by Degrees" over in Pod Castle, who DID prompt me to comment.  I have a niggling question about where he came from, but he served very well within the narrative and didn't put the action on hold for a long tangent of backstory.

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Russell Nash

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Reply #4 on: September 15, 2009, 07:55:22 AM
The Drifter seemed like a human form of a spirit guide.  I have no doubt he's not a normal human.



Sgarre1

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Reply #5 on: September 15, 2009, 01:17:28 PM
I assumed he was Coyote, just following his trickster nature - that is to say, he gives the boy what he needs to solve the immediate problem, but the choice the boy makes after solving that problem (implied homicide) and its reprecussions (jail time, possible death sentence) will probably be a much bigger problem for him in the future.  That Coyote, always stirring up trouble!
« Last Edit: September 24, 2009, 05:44:16 PM by Sgarre1 »



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Reply #6 on: September 15, 2009, 03:38:55 PM
I kept seeing the drifter as a future Kenny, who came back to help him understand what was happening.  There is absolutely nothing in the story to support that, and I'm pretty sure the author didn't intend to give that impression.  It was just a thought that stayed with me the whole way through.

LOL that reminds me of the Southpark episode where there was a "future" Stan and a "future" Butters who come back in time to tell them how they screwed up their lives, but it turns out that they're just employees of a company that hires itself out to scare kids into behaving.



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Reply #7 on: September 15, 2009, 03:40:03 PM
(snip)
He's basically Handy Exposition Man and there's never really a good justification given for WHY he's got all the exposition.  (Maybe he just came from the Exposition Exposition.  I understand it's not a conventional convention.) 
(snip)

I agree, but I wouldn't have come up with such an entertaining way to say it.  :)



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Reply #8 on: September 15, 2009, 03:43:12 PM
I assumed he was Coyote, just following his trickster nature - that is to say, he gives the boy what he needs to solve the immediate problem, but the choice the boy makes after solving that problem (implied homocide) and its reprecussions (jail time, possible death sentence) will probably be a much bigger problem for him in the future.  That Coyote, always stirring up trouble!

That's good thinking, I hadn't thought of that while I was reading the story, but I could buy into that view.

I generally liked the story though the "big" discovery was quite predictable.  What kid hasn't had monsters under their bed, so a story starting with that drew me in and made me care about the kid.  The characters were well-developed, which kept me listening.  My only small nit was that I would've liked to know where the heck the hitchhiker came from, but Sgarre1's comment makes total sense, and that would explain how he could see things he shouldn't've been able to see, so it ties in well.

I liked that the title "monsters" wasn't referring to the obvious monster-under-the-bed variety, so that title made the story all the better.  Good show!



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Reply #9 on: September 22, 2009, 09:27:54 PM
I kept seeing the drifter as a future Kenny, who came back to help him understand what was happening.  There is absolutely nothing in the story to support that, and I'm pretty sure the author didn't intend to give that impression.  It was just a thought that stayed with me the whole way through.

Same thought crossed my mind, mainly because the drifter was half-Navaho like Kendrick.

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Reply #10 on: September 24, 2009, 03:37:33 PM
Yeah, the Drifter's features were very reminscient of Coyote - gleaming teeth, wide smile...I think Bihyeh might have even said it was a smile like a coyote or something like that. Even the way he sat for some reason reminded me of Coyote (although I dig the interpretation Russell and stePH came up with).


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Reply #11 on: September 24, 2009, 05:02:41 PM
Yeah, the Drifter's features were very reminscient of Coyote - gleaming teeth, wide smile...I think Bihyeh might have even said it was a smile like a coyote or something like that. Even the way he sat for some reason reminded me of Coyote (although I dig the interpretation Russell and stePH came up with).

I just want to say, mine was a feeling.  I knew it was wrong, so it's not an interpretation.  It was something that came into my head and wouldn't leave.



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Reply #12 on: September 29, 2009, 11:03:51 AM
AmerIndian stories are always slightly mystical to Aussies. Well, this one anyways.

Nice story, liked it very much.


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Reply #13 on: September 29, 2009, 02:38:24 PM
Yeah, the Drifter's features were very reminscient of Coyote - gleaming teeth, wide smile...I think Bihyeh might have even said it was a smile like a coyote or something like that. Even the way he sat for some reason reminded me of Coyote (although I dig the interpretation Russell and stePH came up with).

I just want to say, mine was a feeling.  I knew it was wrong, so it's not an interpretation.  It was something that came into my head and wouldn't leave.

And I said the "thought crossed my mind".  Didn't mean that I thought I was right.  I just wondered as I kept listening to the story.

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Bdoomed

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Reply #14 on: September 29, 2009, 05:11:46 PM
This one felt very similar to Fourth-Person Singular.  Or at least the same concept told differently.  For some reason I couldn't keep my attention on it in the first half of the story, but it grabbed me again after a bit and I enjoyed the rest.

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


JoeFitz

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Reply #15 on: September 30, 2009, 10:58:02 PM
I enjoyed this story quite a bit. I'm glad the author was able to provide a jarring splash of life on "the Rez" with some traditional story elements.

For me, the drifter was unquestionably Coyote, but that's only because I've heard/listened to a few Coyote and Raven stories (thanks to CBC Radio) and also because the intro mentioned that it was a story from an anthology of Coyote stories.

I agree with Sgarre1's assessment of his role in the story, too. From what I've learned, that's a fairly typical role.



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Reply #16 on: October 05, 2009, 09:25:02 PM
Excellent story!



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Reply #17 on: June 07, 2010, 09:35:58 PM
I have managed to listen to all 3 "Coyote Tales" here on PP in absolutely backwards order.  That being said, I did not really enjoy "The Dreaming Way" (school shootings are horrific enough, the story felt like a Navajo Obi-Wan Kenobi come to teach Harry Potter magic, etc. etc.) but I loved "Love Like Thunder" since it was so different and original.

I also loved this one.  A very, very, very classic story (ghost of someone wrongfully dead returns to the world of the living to expose its murder - I'm pretty sure some guy named Shakespeare wrote something similar? Nah).  But incredibly interesting because of the Navajo perspective.  I totally loved the imagery of the monster.  Very unique - but, I'm a sucker for unique looking grotesques.

I certainly hope the "Coyote Tales" anthology gets published.  I will certainly buy one.


My sole criticism of this piece seems common to most of this author's works: the action scenes felt a little weak.  I think, after listening to this one and "Love like Thunder" I am getting closer to knowing why: (1) too much detail crammed in slows the scene; (2) book-isms where a name would do ("the white man" or "the father").  BTW - did the father have a name?  That would have made the fight scene less awkward.

Other than that, this piece was wonderful and well worth the listen.  Cheers to PP for producing it.

Excellent reading by Ben, BTW.

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Jim Bihyeh

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Reply #18 on: June 09, 2010, 12:55:52 PM

It’s great to hear that you liked the Coyote Tales, overall. I’m really honored that you gave them your time and that they might have given something back to you.

And I can’t tell you how flattered I am that you thought about my work as a gift to your wife (I write these stories for my wife, mostly, so I can see the appeal). I do appreciate your vote of confidence in the stories, and I'll keep you in mind as I guide the tales to publication.

I wanted this story to read “classic,” so I’m glad you took it as such and accepted it on those terms. I had a LOT of fun creating the bed-monster (of course, it was disturbing fun, but that’s the strangest, sweetest kind).

You raise valid points about the action sequences. I’ve been working on shaving detail and eliminating those damn stuttering articles from the nouns since I read your critique.

I’ve got a couple more Coyote Tales to finish before I start shopping them around to publishers. I’ll try to keep the action leaner and meaner.

Are there any authors you’d recommend who write excellent action scenes? I grew up pretty exclusively on Dean Koontz and Stephen King, so I could be missing out on something here.

And make no mistake – Ben is The Man.


The way you walked was thorny, through no fault of your own. But as the rain enters the soil, the river enters the sea...


Bdoomed

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Reply #19 on: June 10, 2010, 01:33:10 AM
I'm sorta getting the feeling that the Coyote Tales are becoming the Union Dues of Pseudopod.  They aren't there yet but I can see it happening :)

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 #20 on: June 10, 2010, 06:37:57 AM
It’s great to hear that you liked the Coyote Tales, overall. I’m really honored that you gave them your time and that they might have given something back to you.

And I can’t tell you how flattered I am that you thought about my work as a gift to your wife (I write these stories for my wife, mostly, so I can see the appeal). I do appreciate your vote of confidence in the stories, and I'll keep you in mind as I guide the tales to publication.

Please do!  My wife is actually about a quarter Chocktaw and has always had a soft spot for Native American stories.  Coyote is one of her favorite characters.  I have to be honest, the actual Native American stories I've heard involving coyote tend to be a lot more...  risque?

I wanted this story to read “classic,” so I’m glad you took it as such and accepted it on those terms. I had a LOT of fun creating the bed-monster (of course, it was disturbing fun, but that’s the strangest, sweetest kind).

I also happen to have a HUGE soft spot for grotesque, unique monsters.  This one was wonderful.

You raise valid points about the action sequences. I’ve been working on shaving detail and eliminating those damn stuttering articles from the nouns since I read your critique.

I’ve got a couple more Coyote Tales to finish before I start shopping them around to publishers. I’ll try to keep the action leaner and meaner.

Are there any authors you’d recommend who write excellent action scenes? I grew up pretty exclusively on Dean Koontz and Stephen King, so I could be missing out on something here.

Well, Robert E. Howard is pretty venerable in that regard - but his stuff is pulpy and can be overwrought too.  He's got a magic that's tough to bottle.  I might suggest Bernard Cornwell who wrote The Winter King trilogy.  If you like action, sword-fighting and great historical fiction, I cannot recommend that series enough.  Utterly fantastic.

I thought about sending a PM, but I thought I'd just ask here since other people might want to know (if you don't mind answering):  Where did you get all the details on Navajo culture?  Your descriptions of reservation life seem pretty real and visceral to me - I'm wondering if that came from experience?  Sorry if this is too personal.

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Jim Bihyeh

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Reply #21 on: June 10, 2010, 01:58:49 PM
I thought I'd just ask here since other people might want to know (if you don't mind answering):  Where did you get all the details on Navajo culture?  Your descriptions of reservation life seem pretty real and visceral to me - I'm wondering if that came from experience?  Sorry if this is too personal.

I get my details partially by absorbing: I grew up on the Navajo Reservation (and all those crazy details can be read in the upcoming book, "Navajos Wear Nikes." It's a pretty funny number. An anthropologist from the Southwest said it read like a combination of J.D. Salinger and Joseph Campbell...)

I also get details by reading and interviewing Navajo leaders and speakers.

So the details come by lived and verbal experience.


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« Last Edit: June 10, 2010, 04:51:26 PM by Bdoomed »

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Reply #22 on: June 10, 2010, 06:17:09 PM
A nice solid piece. Classic story with nice details and a good reading. Interesting narrative nicely paced.



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Reply #23 on: June 11, 2010, 02:15:10 PM
I assumed he was Coyote, just following his trickster nature - that is to say, he gives the boy what he needs to solve the immediate problem, but the choice the boy makes after solving that problem (implied homicide) and its reprecussions (jail time, possible death sentence) will probably be a much bigger problem for him in the future.  That Coyote, always stirring up trouble!

Yeah, the Drifter's features were very reminscient of Coyote - gleaming teeth, wide smile...I think Bihyeh might have even said it was a smile like a coyote or something like that. Even the way he sat for some reason reminded me of Coyote (although I dig the interpretation Russell and stePH came up with).

I recall a description of him that involved a coyote that cemented that for me. This was a deliberate turn of phrase and a hint. Plus the implied supernatural nature of him knowing things he shouldn't be able to know. I think based on the author's silence to this line of question cements that this interpretation is correct :)

The monster was fantastic.

I would be satisfied if Jim Bihyeh's stuff became something of a serial. And big thumbs up to Jim for hanging around these parts to chat with folks.

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Reply #24 on: June 15, 2010, 01:47:39 PM

Are there any authors you’d recommend who write excellent action scenes? I grew up pretty exclusively on Dean Koontz and Stephen King, so I could be missing out on something here.


Robert Jordan has a lot of action sequences and though he certainly has his flaws, I never remember being annoyed by an action sequence, they seemed to flow pretty naturally.