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Author Topic: PC072: The Exit Sign  (Read 12835 times)
Heradel
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« on: September 30, 2009, 11:11:55 AM »

PodCastle 072: The Exit Sign

by Ursula Pflug.
Read by (of Christiana Ellis).

You and I were different. Making love on sprawling landings we learned that one way of life wasn’t better than another, and that we all shared the same ultimate misery, doomed to be born and die in this building. Who’d made this place? Had we built it ourselves generations ago when we still had legs to run from something fierce and predatory that circled our tower, waiting for travellers: the jumpers, the fliers, those with the twisted bed sheet ropes?


Rated R. for sex and dismemberment in enclosed places.

Edited to fix Christiana's URL -- Rachel.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2009, 11:33:19 AM by Rachel Swirsky » Logged

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l33tminion
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« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2009, 08:17:25 PM »

This was probably my least favorite PodCastle story, although I am a fan of surrealism in general.

It's kind of an impressive feat to craft such a strange setting, than turn it into something so hit-you-over-the-head dull.  Let me see if I get this straight:  The upper class invents everything good, but also everything bad, destroys the planet, and has lost touch with their spirituality.  The lower class is hearty and honest, but also violent, dirty perverts, whose lack of mobility (isn't it clever, symbolizing a lack of figurative mobility with a lack of literal mobility?) is their own fault.  But maybe their children will escape from the situation they're in with enough communication / love / friendship / interbreeding.

If you base your stories on stereotypes, they should at least be interesting stereotypes or have interesting implications plot-wise.

I liked the exposition at first, but then it started to feel like details were just being crammed in ("oh by the way I forgot to mention") without any regard to the flow of what little plot there was.  And a lot of the plot felt like I was being told "this interesting thing happened" without the telling being actually interesting.

Ugh.
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eytanz
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« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2009, 09:47:11 AM »

Very occasionally, a story comes out where the use of second person overcomes the annoyance and pretentiousness of that device to contribute something really worthwhile to the narrative. This was not such a story.

Indeed, annoyance and pretentiousness were the two main impressions I got from this otherwise extremely uninspired (and uninspiring) piece. It's basically a bland, cliche'd, and uninteresting story that thinks it has something to say, and this lack of self-awareness is its weakest point.
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Kaa
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« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2009, 12:09:53 PM »

Yeah. I guess I'm NOT one of those people who likes surreal romances.

Next?
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eytanz
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« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2009, 12:17:51 PM »

Yeah. I guess I'm NOT one of those people who likes surreal romances.


I love surreal romances. I hated this story. Don't judge the genre by this one example of it...
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Kaa
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« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2009, 12:22:15 PM »

I love surreal romances. I hated this story. Don't judge the genre by this one example of it...
I think it's more the "surreal" part than the "romance" part that turned me off. Smiley
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« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2009, 12:25:30 PM »

M.K. Hobson's introductions never fail to make me grin.
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eytanz
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« Reply #7 on: October 01, 2009, 12:31:31 PM »

M.K. Hobson's introductions never fail to make me grin.

You know, I should have pointed this out, especially given the negativity I've heaped so far on this thread - the introduction was really, really great.
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Kanasta
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« Reply #8 on: October 01, 2009, 01:11:37 PM »

I also did not enjoy this story, for pretty much the same reasons given above. Plus, I was annoyed by a lack of internal logic- eg, at one point we are told about people jumping from the upper storey or escaping with knotted bedsheets; the next we are told there are no windows. Or, there are windows downstairs- so why do you need an Exit sign? And how do windows go rusty? Why haven't the grenades just destroyed the whole building? How come the protagonist's stairwell doesn't get bombed, if that's where the grenades get thrown?Also, at first, we are told nobody can travel between stories, but actually all you need to do is crawl down some stairs. Another annoyance I have with this type of story is the constant use of generalisms and a lack of concrete examples, as in the descriptions of the abusive relationships on the lower storey. I just couldn't visualise what was actually being discussed; even surrealism needs some kind of reality and solidity to it (IMHO). This kind of symbolic tale can be told well - just look at Gormenghast- but this was symbolism without substance. Finally, the narrator was good, but the way the story was written made it difficult for her to put much life into the reading, so every sentence ended on a melancholic dying fall. Sorry, but the whole story was depressing and rather irritating.
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Rachel Swirsky
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« Reply #9 on: October 01, 2009, 01:40:55 PM »

There are a bunch of stories that take place with the conceit that the entire world is a building with no outside. I call them house stories. I admit to an unreasonable love for the genre. My favorite example is Tad Williams -- one of the worlds in his Otherworld series takes place in an enormous house with shifting architecture where tribes of men have grown and fallen.

I think this story is one of that genre, which is why I personally didn't have visualization trouble -- I had a framework to put the prose into. But maybe other people were seeing something different?
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Kanasta
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« Reply #10 on: October 01, 2009, 02:03:18 PM »

For me, it was not so much the house idea that I had problems visualising, it was how life actually worked. I found this story had too much "tell" and not enough "show". There was a lot of generalisations about how relationships worked, what the people were like, but very few actual examples of stuff happening. In the moments when something real happened, it was pretty evocative - eg the narrator's description of her mother preparing for the dinner party and the green glasses catching the light - I found that powerful and got a really strong sense of emotion and place- but I found that those moments just didn't come often enough.
Too much of the story was like the passage describing relationships on the lower storey, which talks about how the women think they have found something different, but then glance themselves in the mirror and realise they are the abuser, etc- I find this manner of writing passive and uninvolving, and feel that it gives the impression of high-mindedness without having the depth to back up that affectation. I would rather hear a recollection of a real incident, or see something genuine being played out. In a similar way, apparently everyone has no legs, but it doesn't actually seem to affect them in any real way. Apart from having problems with stairs, everything goes on the same - from having dinner parties to playing the piano. Now I'm not saying that those with no legs can't live a fulfilling life, but I do think that a whole society where nobody has legs might encounter a little more difficulty than not being able to get downstairs easily. When I visualise these people, they have legs, because there is nothing to make me believe they don't, apart from the narrator's original assertion. I do understand it's a fantastic story, and I'm not demanding utter realism from a surrealistic piece but there is an intrinsic lack of truth and depth.
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AliceNred
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« Reply #11 on: October 01, 2009, 05:31:48 PM »

I did not care for this. I wish I could express what it was but others have and that may have to do for now.
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« Reply #12 on: October 01, 2009, 07:27:54 PM »

Both this story and its narration annoyed me to the point I felt compelled to register on the forum and spill my gall.

To my ears it felt as if there weren't a story being told, but that one was being lectured with the indulgent, wallowing drivel of a mewling, immature and overly self-righteous soul.  While I prayed that this was just a phase in the story, the grating tone continued throughout its entirety, without variance and without a note of hope for something better.  The examples of the various forms of abuse the building residents inflicted upon themselves and others became gratuitous - the author simply pushing one emotional button after another to try and get a sympathetic reaction from the reader/listener.

I want to give Christiana Ellis the benefit of the doubt and listen to other readings by her before I let my opinion become set.  With this story, though, I don't find myself hoping for much better.
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wiz
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« Reply #13 on: October 01, 2009, 10:19:56 PM »

There's an interesting story to be told in this universe.  I hope to hear it some day.
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Scattercat
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« Reply #14 on: October 02, 2009, 03:42:02 AM »

I was pretty underwhelmed.  It reminded me of "Secret Life," by Jeff VanderMeer (PodCastle #46, for reference.)  Except... "Secret Life" was fascinating in its internal logic and interwoven stories, full of hints and nuance and things left unsaid, whereas this story just sort of thudded things down in front of you like a cafeteria lady presenting your Meatloaf Surprise.  I think the general consensus thus far of "Too much telling, not enough showing" holds very true for me.  I love surreal stuff and I love symbolism, but if you explain your symbolism to me in the darned story, it takes all of the fun out of it.  I don't really need you to tell me that the Exit Sign actually is your child, who is made of two worlds coming together, you see, just like this relationship you've been telling me about (but not showing) for fifteen minutes.  I got that, thanks.  Pretty clear. 

Have you ever had to explain the punchline of a joke?  Not very funny after that, is it?  There's probably a reason for that.
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« Reply #15 on: October 04, 2009, 07:00:20 PM »

I hate to join the tide, but this one was really just... well, I hesitate to just say "dreadful" and leave it at that.

The characters and people in the setting felt as though they were constructed to set a scene, not as any kind of response to their situations. Dull city Sad
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ajames
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« Reply #16 on: October 04, 2009, 07:16:47 PM »

Great intro, great outro, and I enjoyed the reading. The story had some memorable moments and flashes of brilliance, but I have to say I agree with most of what has been said about the story already.

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« Reply #17 on: October 05, 2009, 04:07:34 PM »

I was pretty underwhelmed.  It reminded me of "Secret Life," by Jeff VanderMeer (PodCastle #46, for reference.) 

Yes, "Secret Life" ... I'd forgotten the title and was going to say that this story put me in mind of the one that was a bunch of vignettes set in an office building.


I didn't like that story either.
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« Reply #18 on: October 12, 2009, 06:29:34 AM »

Couldn't decided if I liked this or not. The world inside a house/building idea was interesting. The MC was interesting. Overall- though the chain of conciousness telling was a little to loosey goosey for me
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« Reply #19 on: October 12, 2009, 02:33:45 PM »

Should I go against the tide and say I loved it?  Nah.  M K Hobson did a great job with the intro and Christiana Ellis as usual did a great job telling this story.  I couldn't tell why I hated this story so much, maybe it was that there were too many bad stereotypes.  Maybe it was that there was no clear direction or plot.   Whatever it was I can't place a finger on it and say ah-ha that is what is wrong with it.   Now the "House" stories never bother me, I sort of liked Secret Life but this one just fell flat.

Two thumbs, with sparkling green glass pins under the finger nails, down
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