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Author Topic: Pseudopod 162: Suicide Notes, Written by an Alien Mind  (Read 11804 times)

Bdoomed

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on: October 02, 2009, 06:35:17 AM
Pseudopod 162: Suicide Notes, Written by an Alien Mind


By Ferrett Steinmetz
Read by Phil Rossi

He had been trained, as all of us had, to assemble his rifle by touch - but to our dismay, we discovered that Private Sperling could do it in near-silence. He pushed the parts together with delicate care underneath the stiff, thin sheets of his bunk bed, the click of pins and bolts so muffled that none of us heard a thing in the cramped confines of our modular shelter.

In our defense, we were doped up on Lithium. But even if we hadn’t caught the faint scratching of the cleaning brush, plunging in and out of the bore like an obscene masturbation, we should have heard him crying. Afterward, Sperling’s bed was a smear of stains - grease on the sheets, tears on his pillows, blood on just about everything else.

We didn’t know the Decharai had made contact with him.



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Bdoomed

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Reply #1 on: October 02, 2009, 06:35:44 AM
I haven't listened yet, but I just wanted to say, awesome title.  Can't wait to hear it.

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


deflective

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Reply #2 on: October 02, 2009, 07:32:52 AM
a story has to be exceptional to live up to a title like this, i wasn't disappointed.  we get so few action sequences in short stories so it won me over almost immediately.

and anybody in high school during the eighties knows you can't go wrong using duran duran to close. =)



Bdoomed

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Reply #3 on: October 02, 2009, 07:34:09 AM
i've listened to the beginning of this one and it immediately grabbed me too :)

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 #4 on: October 02, 2009, 08:58:31 AM
I really enjoyed the rationale behind the reason for the suicides, even if I did spot it coming ahead of time.  It was solid and very clearly logical.  I didn't enjoy the presentation quite so much.  Lots of blood'n'guts without a lot of clarity.  I was kind of disappointed that it ended pretty much exactly as I'd expected.  I mean, you open up with a first-person POV and another character going "crazy" due to some pervasive threat, and it's pretty clear how the ending is going to come about.  I most enjoyed the moments of self-doubt, when the protagonist wonders, "Is this my fear, or am I already being controlled?"  That was very interesting to me; I'd have liked the end a lot better if he hadn't seemed to "know" he'd been mind-controlled.  I am, perhaps, overly jaded, but reading the thoughts of a crazy person intent on murdering his best friend doesn't really scare me.  Reading the thoughts of a person who doesn't know if he's crazy or if he should kill his best friend and is doing it anyway because of a chain of logic that seems to make sense, that scares me.  I was more creeped out by "Connie, Maybe" than I was by this; that one had me laughing all the way to the last line, when I got quiet.  This one was pretty much a done deal from the opening scene and I listened only to see if it turned out differently than it looked like it was going to.

I'm a titch confused by the fact that he "quietly drew [his] knife" after a previous thought that he should make sure, go and see if everyone else was as flawed as he.  Going to be a sleeper agent would be somewhat interesting, but he's not going to get very far if they catch him slitting his buddy's throat right away.  (And even so, the story OPENED with a sleeper agent "going off," so that's not even a new wrinkle in the fight against the Decharai.)

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Kaa

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Reply #5 on: October 02, 2009, 07:05:15 PM
I'm about halfway into this, but I wanted to comment and ask for more Phil Rossi. :)

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lateral

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Reply #6 on: October 02, 2009, 11:13:52 PM
Really loved the juxtaposition of friend/foe at the end. Don't really agree with Scattercat as I am not so sure the aliens were evil after all. Considering the humans were on their planet to begin with.
As I see it a being accepting all that happens without intervening, harming no other creature and subsisting on minerals alone is quite buddha-like.

Being confronted with a living embodiment of something so superior would certainly instill a bit of self doubt in most men's minds.

Then again, can I be sure these thoughts are my own?



Scattercat

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Reply #7 on: October 03, 2009, 05:31:32 AM
I don't recall saying the aliens were evil.  I didn't pass any judgment on them at all, in fact.

I think it's safe to say that they are inimical to humanity on that planet, and that humans acting under their influence were "crazy" from the point of view of a normal, unexposed human.  (Self-destruction that doesn't serve the greater good of your species is pretty much the clearest, sharpest example of insanity from a pragmatic standpoint.)

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MacArthurBug

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Reply #8 on: October 03, 2009, 12:09:05 PM
Really strange story. Great narration

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Reply #9 on: October 03, 2009, 11:37:17 PM
Considering the humans were on their planet to begin with.

Actually they weren't!  This adds a good bit of complexity to the story.  The humans and the Decharai were trying to colonize the same planet, and the natives had already been appropriated as shock troops by the Decharai.  So, from a "who was here first" perspective neither one of them really had a right to be there.  Nice, messy ethics.



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Reply #10 on: October 04, 2009, 05:44:10 AM
I won't bore you all with my ruminations but this was a story that gave me a lot to think about my notions of kindness, madness, evil, interactions with completely alien cultures etc. Great story, great title, and I love a bit of SF mixed in with my horror anyway.

Oh and can I join in saying Pseudo/Escape Pod definitely need more Phil Rossi narration. Speaking of which, when's he going to put out another of his own audiobooks?



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Reply #11 on: October 04, 2009, 10:11:38 PM
I thought it was well written and well read. I thought it belonged more on Escapepod than here.

Tales of war rarely work for me. I can see why others will love this, but it will not be one that will recall months from now. As I said, war tales are not my thing.



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Reply #12 on: October 05, 2009, 07:18:02 AM
I thought it belonged more on Escapepod than here.

Interestingly, I was just thinking the current Escape Pod story ("Ode to Katan Amano") would have worked just as well or better on PseudoPod.  I'm not complaining; I like my horrific science fiction and my science-fictional horror.

I liked the story and the narration.  I rather appreciated that the Muslim guy sounded like he came from the heart of rural Americana.

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kibitzer

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Reply #13 on: October 05, 2009, 11:04:26 AM
(sigh) Again, I am out of step with the crowd. I liked this one, no question, but it's nothing new. Nicely done, though.


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Reply #14 on: October 05, 2009, 06:24:35 PM
I really liked this story.   Nice balance of action, world details, and character relaitionships. Wonderful story idea: fighting beings that we're so morally inferior too that we want to destroy ourselves.  The reading was top notch.
good job all together



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Reply #15 on: October 05, 2009, 06:32:50 PM
I don't know if there is really any mind control in the story.   I know they all talk about mind control. But from the main character's own experience, It seems to be more that humanity is such crap compared to the enemy we're fighting that we just can't take it.  Not though control, just our shortcomings shone to us relative to moral perfection.
   Or maybe my mind is being controlled.



Kaa

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Reply #16 on: October 05, 2009, 06:40:57 PM
I'm reminded just a little bit of The Sword of Shannara. As I recall, in that story the sword had the unique power of making anyone who wielded it face the absolute truth about themselves.

Perhaps the aliens in this story are a bit like the Sword; after facing the truth of what Humanity is/stands for, no one is able to live with themselves.

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Bdoomed

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Reply #17 on: October 06, 2009, 06:57:43 AM
I thought it belonged more on Escapepod than here.

Interestingly, I was just thinking the current Escape Pod story ("Ode to Katan Amano") would have worked just as well or better on PseudoPod.  I'm not complaining; I like my horrific science fiction and my science-fictional horror.

I liked the story and the narration.  I rather appreciated that the Muslim guy sounded like he came from the heart of rural Americana.
I agree, I was thinking this as I was listening to "Ode to Katan Amano".  The story probably would have been received better over here.
That said, this story did work very well here at Pseudopod.

As for the story, I finished listening to it, and I loved it all the way through!
I loved the unreliable narrator.  For all we know, the "orders" for them to invade the "alien base" were set up by the Decharai.  We cannot take much in this story as being truth.  This is especially re-iterated at the end, when he believes/knows his thoughts are his own.

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


Unblinking

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Reply #18 on: October 06, 2009, 08:47:21 PM
I'm reminded just a little bit of The Sword of Shannara. As I recall, in that story the sword had the unique power of making anyone who wielded it face the absolute truth about themselves.

Perhaps the aliens in this story are a bit like the Sword; after facing the truth of what Humanity is/stands for, no one is able to live with themselves.

Good comparison, and that's one way to read it.  Another way would be that the alien is altering his perceptions to believe that his race is inferior.  I tend to lean towards the latter, because the alien claims to love them all, yet is driving them to destroy each other.  When he first met it, it claimed to have no concept of death, yet it does die, and presumably others have died before it, so it seems that that too is a lie.



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Reply #19 on: October 06, 2009, 08:56:10 PM
This story was amazing.  At the moment I'd say this is the favorite Pseudopod I've listened to so far (out of about 100).  I'm sharing a link to this one with lots of people because it is just so damned good.

Unreliable narrators, when done well, make one of my favorite story elements, and this story does them very well.  Others mentioned that the ending was predictable in the fact that he would turn in the end, and I don't necessarily disagree, but it worked.  Of course he'll be turned, he's a grunt sent against an alien with psychic dominance abilities.  What did surprise me is the fact that he actually seemed to kill it.  I say "seemed" because with such an unreliable narrator, who knows if that happened.  I think it did die because of Roland's apparent perception, but that too could have been altered.

While the charm was a good story element, I don't feel it was the deciding factor.  I think that alien underestimated the influence of muscle memory and training.  It controlled the man's mind, but his military training, in the absence of conscious control, did what it wanted to do.  Just like I don't have to consciously think about every step I take when I walk, a trained soldier's reflexes would take over in the situation.

I like that the protagonist both failed and succeeded.  He managed to kill the thing, even as it turned him.  The ending was a mixture of good and bad, which I loved.

Amazing.  :)



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Reply #20 on: October 12, 2009, 09:41:03 AM
"Well written and effective" seem to be words that I use a lot in feedback for PP stories I like, and this is certainly one of those. It also had more depth than the standard PP story, which I appreciated.



Cerebrilith

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Reply #21 on: October 13, 2009, 02:40:28 PM
I like the twist of this story in that it uses normal humanity as the true horror that needs stopping.  The setting also felt like it had more depth to it then the typical horror story, which I liked.



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Reply #22 on: October 14, 2009, 07:42:27 PM
I liked this story, but I found one thing strange.  Why with an advanced civilization that goes from planet to planet can not drop a bunker buster on the mountain?  These are military personel and they couldn't launch a simple missle miles away from the telepathic influence?  Other than that Phil Rossi's reading was great and the story had a lot of emotional impact.  I do however think this would have been a better fit for Escape Pod. Heck if it had a woman protag with the "humans are bad", undertone this could have even been Pod Castle.   ;D Dodging the flaming arrows now. 



Bdoomed

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Reply #23 on: October 14, 2009, 10:28:12 PM
I liked this story, but I found one thing strange.  Why with an advanced civilization that goes from planet to planet can not drop a bunker buster on the mountain?  These are military personel and they couldn't launch a simple missle miles away from the telepathic influence?  Other than that Phil Rossi's reading was great and the story had a lot of emotional impact.  I do however think this would have been a better fit for Escape Pod. Heck if it had a woman protag with the "humans are bad", undertone this could have even been Pod Castle.   ;D Dodging the flaming arrows now. 
woah there man.  Watch your comments dude, keep it light.  While I don't like to interject like this, and I have no real attachment to PC, I take offense to that comment.  I would think that stupid, baseless prejudice of PC would have died out already.

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Reply #24 on: October 15, 2009, 07:03:00 PM
Excellent story, and a great reading.  One of my favorite episodes, guys.  This is the kind of tale that makes me want to sit down and write something . . . well, not as good as "Suicide Notes," but certainly ripping it off. 



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Reply #25 on: October 30, 2009, 12:54:02 PM
I don't really think the title related very much to the story. I mean, I understand it, but I didn't really like the title.

The story was good, and the ending was good, but I was reminded too much of some of the old war movies I've seen, but dropped onto another planet.

Phil Rossi's reading was very dramatic and very in the moment.

I think the story overall was good but something about it bothered me -- not the subject matter, but the story itself.

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lowky

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Reply #26 on: October 30, 2009, 01:18:57 PM
I don't really think the title related very much to the story. I mean, I understand it, but I didn't really like the title.

The story was good, and the ending was good, but I was reminded too much of some of the old war movies I've seen, but dropped onto another planet.

Phil Rossi's reading was very dramatic and very in the moment.

I think the story overall was good but something about it bothered me -- not the subject matter, but the story itself.

you came close to my feeling.  It reminded me too much of Thin Red Line, which focused more on everything but the war movie that it told us it was supposed to be.  Same thing here, it was less about the action and more about how they felt about said action.  If you talk about how you feel about the action, we really need more action than just the last few minutes of the story to have any.


wakela

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Reply #27 on: November 18, 2009, 12:20:15 AM
The ideas in this story were every bit as thought provoking as other commenters have said.  And reading the comments has given me a greater appreciation of the story.  Now I wonder if the Decharai were even aware that they were in a war.  But I thought the story was too long, and the military characters too cliche (can we please have one high-level officer who knows what's going on?  I know they are out there).  The friendship of Christian and Muslim seemed a little forced and remarking on it in the far future was as illogical to me as remarking about my friendship with a Jew or a Japanese or a Black person.  I also couldn't get past the lack of futuristic, or even modern, weapons.  We have sites on our own planet that have been nuked and are now vibrant cities or ecosystems -- heck if the ozone layer was so thin the planet was being bathed in radiation anyway.  There are also poison gas, robotic drones, bunker busters...

But again, the idea of aliens that effortlessly dish out enlightenment and that necessitates humans killing them is well worth the price of admission.  A better fit on Escape Pod, IMHO. 



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Reply #28 on: December 15, 2009, 11:22:52 PM
But again, the idea of aliens that effortlessly dish out enlightenment and that necessitates humans killing them is well worth the price of admission.  A better fit on Escape Pod, IMHO.

I kind of agree. My final opinion was "this is a neat science fiction story that happens to have a bad ending." For me, that doesn't make it horror. You can do horror with nothing more than telepathic aliens, but somehow this story failed, for me, to be horror.

I think it was in the tone. The only thing that was really horrible was the end. The rest felt like a classic science fiction war story - not my scene, but I can appreciate the subgenre well enough - so the "horror" element (the bad ending) felt merely tacked on.

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Reply #29 on: June 03, 2010, 12:30:23 AM
This was a solidly written "Space Marines Kill Aliens" story.  I liked it on that level, but felt it really fell apart upon closer inspection.

1. Why not just chain up the soldiers as they slept?  Automated systems could release them if the aliens attack at night.

2. Why not just keep the soldiers in orbit?  Or better yet - why not just attack the aliens from orbit with bombs or chemical weapons?

3. Why not clear out the alien's mountain with heavy ordinance?  I am aware that they didn't use nukes because of the radiation, but have you ever heard of a bunker-buster bomb?  They use them in Iraq against Al-Qaeda deep in caves and can penetrate hundreds of feet of rock.  Surely in the future it would be easier to just drop a few dozen even more powerful versions of the bunker-buster onto the aliens' redoubts rather than sacrifice thousands of lives.

4.  In Starship Troopers, they hypnotize the soldiers so they can achieve their objectives.  Surely counter-conditioning might help?

5.  Entering caves?  Without flamethrowers?

6.  Why not use robots?  We have predator drones already.  Nothing better is available in the future?

Anyway, fridge logic aside, I liked this one.

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Reply #30 on: June 04, 2010, 04:56:15 AM
Phil Rossi rocked! That was a really fine reading.



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Reply #31 on: June 02, 2014, 06:13:05 PM
I put this as #40 on my Best Podcast Fiction of All Time:
http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2014/05/the-best-podcast-fiction-of-all-time-31-40/