Author Topic: PodCastle Miniature 49: Dead Letter  (Read 2944 times)

Heradel

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PodCastle Miniature 49: Dead Letter
« on: April 16, 2010, 08:07:29 PM »
PodCastle Miniature 49: Dead Letter

by Samantha Henderson
Read by Sarah Tolbert

The dream jerks me awake and I stare at the rough plaster ceiling.  My body is filmed with sweat, and the pattern of cracks above me looks just like Nevada.

The dream leaves me hollow.  An empty place like the inside of a drum stretched tight, a hollow place echoing with short sharp cries of dread or despair.

The dream forces tears from me eyes, crawling slowly, thick like worms, drying into sticky crusts of salt.

I blink once, twice, and emerge from the shadow of the dream.  The pit of of my stomach aches, as if punched, once, twice.

I blink three times and I’m out of it.  Out.

Rated PG for Waking Dreams (Not the Idealistic Kind)
« Last Edit: April 16, 2010, 09:31:07 PM by DKT »
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eytanz

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Re: PodCastle Miniature 49: Dead Letter
« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2010, 09:10:15 PM »
I found this one a bit underwhelming. Not bad, by any means, but I didn't get much out of it. Some of the details I found confusing - what was the significance of the cracks on the ceiling? - but mainly this was a character introduction without a plot.

I will probably get disagreement from Scattercat here, but flash fiction seems to me to work best when it does not feel like an excerpt from a larger work. This felt like the author started a novel, created a main character, then stopped.

Scattercat

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Re: PodCastle Miniature 49: Dead Letter
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2010, 05:14:27 AM »
Actually, eytanz, I agree with you in this case.  I don't think this story wrapped up well enough; it needed to either be shorter or much longer.  (And the longer version would have just ended up veering toward "Flat Diane," which already won all those prizes forever and ever the end.)  It was long enough that it lost the hard punch of the ending/title mashup, but it was too short to really let us get involved in the character's dilemma.  We ended up with a large dose of awkward half-showing (in which she 'shows' her power by telling us about times she used it) and then quickly bringing up the mailman news story and trying to rush the ending.  I got restless and a little bored while listening.  Moreso than just the usual ADD kicking in, I mean.

However, I maintain that the proper phrasing should not be "feels like part of a larger story/work/world," which is awesome, and should instead be "feels unfinished," which is not.

(And I think the cracks on the ceiling were just there to help set the mood.  I agree that the description of them went on a little too long for them to be so completely irrelevant to anything.)
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Unblinking

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Re: PodCastle Miniature 49: Dead Letter
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2010, 01:54:51 PM »
I'm with you guys, it felt unfinished.  Ending on a pun with the "dead letter" thing might have been funny if it were a funny story, but it's not.  And besides that, it just felt very familiar to a Pseudopod story I heard a while back (I forget the title) about the guy in the bunker who gets newspaper clippings of people he kills with his mind.  Both times a mysterious employer, killing people you never see, not really understanding why you're doing it.  Different medium but very similar to me.  I didn't like the ending of that one with the implied Bush assassination political ending, but I did like the dialog between him and Dave.

Talia

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Re: PodCastle Miniature 49: Dead Letter
« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2010, 03:10:05 AM »
You know, I am not sure I agree it felt unfinished.

I strongly suspect I need to listen to it again. I think its one of those stories where the significant plot details are suggested rather than overtly stated.

The language was wonderful, and I got kind of a creeping sense of dread from it. But I do believe I will relisten, and listen carefully. (I was driving while listening before, and that can be distracting.. :P).

mbrennan

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Re: PodCastle Miniature 49: Dead Letter
« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2010, 11:56:57 PM »
Wasn't engaged.  I'm a hard sell on a story which mostly features a character being apathetic; when the narrative starts describing the cracks in the ceiling, I kind of check out.

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Re: PodCastle Miniature 49: Dead Letter
« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2010, 01:33:29 PM »
Wasn't engaged.  I'm a hard sell on a story which mostly features a character being apathetic; when the narrative starts describing the cracks in the ceiling, I kind of check out.

I thought so at first, too, but then all of her descriptions of the cracks tied in with the background of her story, so even though she's trying not to think about her tasks they're still invading even the most innocuous thoughts.  It bugged me as I was listening, but later on it seemed more justified.

mbrennan

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Re: PodCastle Miniature 49: Dead Letter
« Reply #7 on: May 05, 2010, 06:33:54 PM »
I thought so at first, too, but then all of her descriptions of the cracks tied in with the background of her story, so even though she's trying not to think about her tasks they're still invading even the most innocuous thoughts.  It bugged me as I was listening, but later on it seemed more justified.

You have a point -- but for whatever reason, that trope is so firmly ingrained in my head as one of the archetypes of an apathetic character, it really started me off on the wrong foot with the story.  (I don't know; I must have had a scarring experience with some piece of woe-is-me litfic at some point in the past, that prominently featured ceiling cracks in its description.  Or something.  All I know is, I hear that and think, "oh, this is one of THOSE stories.")

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Re: PodCastle Miniature 49: Dead Letter
« Reply #8 on: May 05, 2010, 07:42:39 PM »
I agree with you there.  The author managed to find a way to make the crack gazing a part of the story, but that doesn't mean it's not crack gazing. 

The story didn't wow me in any case, just a different perspective.  :)

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Re: PodCastle Miniature 49: Dead Letter
« Reply #9 on: May 05, 2010, 08:24:17 PM »
mbrennan, I'm curious as to why you see this character as apathetic? It's a pretty different vibe than what I got from this character - apathy to me is someone who doesn't care and this character very much seemed to care (to me, at least) about what she was doing and about the effects of her actions. (Which isn't to say my interpretation is more valid than yours, of course. But I'm curious).
« Last Edit: May 05, 2010, 08:27:21 PM by DKT »

mbrennan

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Re: PodCastle Miniature 49: Dead Letter
« Reply #10 on: May 05, 2010, 09:54:49 PM »
I suppose "apathetic" might not be the right word, since I agree that she cares.  Maybe "inertia" would be better, as it's the lack of action that put me off: her helplessness to do anything to change the situation.  She seems to have resigned herself to this state of affairs, and while if spun just a bit harder in that direction it could work as horror, I'm not a big fan of horror.

It might have stood a better chance with me if it hadn't begun with the narrator waking from a dream.  But the story took long enough (especially for flash) to tell me what the dream was and why it mattered, that by the time it got there I'd already had a profound "I don't care" reaction.

In general, it's pretty firmly Not My Kind of Story.  Started in all the wrong ways, such that it would have had to have a REALLY phenomenal ending to overcome that opening handicap.

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Re: PodCastle Miniature 49: Dead Letter
« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2010, 03:48:27 PM »
Wow, I did not expect so many "meh"s.  I really liked this one, it did a good job of showing the shadow of the beast without showing the form.  The MC had to keep doing the sketches, or something horrible would happen.  The fact that it was kept vague as to if their actions were the cause or result made it that much more interesting to me.  How do you break out of that cycle?  Do you even dare try to find that place in Nevada?  Do you WANT to?  Intriguing stuff.
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