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Author Topic: Pseudopod 192: The Radejastians  (Read 10847 times)

Bdoomed

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on: April 30, 2010, 04:19:19 PM
Pseudopod 192: The Radejastians


By David Nickle
Read by Erik Luke of Extruding America

There is a cathedral in the middle of Radejast. It addresses the approaching pilgrim as a fist of granite and slate and limestone, lifting black iron bells and arches and gargoyles to touch the dangled teat of the soot-cloud that ever hangs low over the land. Within: a forest of stone pillars, some carved with the likenesses of Radejast’s saints, some simply chiseled with the mark of its venerable religion — all surrounding the dome, so high and wide that when emerging from the pillars I stumbled beneath it, madly fearful that gravity might suddenly reverse, fling me from the floor, and smash me against the curved mosaics above the whispering gallery.

The Good News Happening Congregation’s hall was larger than Radejast’s cathedral by half again: a great circular space beneath a peaked roof, lit from high, clear windows on every side. Behind the pulpit stood a crucifix with a painted sculpture of Jesus Christ bound to it, bright lines of blood trickling down his slender limbs, from the crown of thorns he wore. Altogether, it was half-again taller than any similar icon in Radejast.




Listen to this week's Pseudopod.

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Millenium_King

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Reply #1 on: April 30, 2010, 05:03:44 PM
(emphasis mine)

"...all surrounding the dome, so high and wide that when emerging from the pillars I stumbled beneath it, madly fearful that gravity might suddenly reverse, fling me from the floor, and smash me against the curved mosaics above the whispering gallery..."
-The Radejastians (4/30)

Sound familiar?  It should:

...to look upon its desolate ruin is to doubt the normal configuration of earth and sky and to believe, instead, that the landscape has undergone an inversion and that a plummet into the nightmare infinites of an ultimate cosmic abyss is imminent."
-Ankor Sabat (3/19)

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Scattercat

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Reply #2 on: May 01, 2010, 04:26:27 AM
Okay, sure?

David Nickle also wrote "The Inevitability of Earth," which was also about flying and inversion.  Seems to be a theme of his.  And it's evocative; not surprising that other authors have picked it up, too.  I don't think there's a single actual word in common between those two examples otherwise...

Me, I'm more concerned about the apparently unavoidable recurrence of EVIL APPLES.  (Srsly, Pseudopod ppl.  What's with the apples?)

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kibitzer

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Reply #3 on: May 02, 2010, 02:15:07 AM
I liked this one very much. It allowed space for a slow-build and character development and did not feel the need to tie up everything with a neat bow (i.e. uncertain -- or deadly certain? -- ending).

Yes. Very enjoyable. I think as a listening experience, I like the longer stories.

Also, great reading; Erik has a wonderfully expressive voice. And a pretty good stab at accent, too. (What would I call it -- generic Eastern-European? Dunno.)

As for the gravity inversion? Meh -- these elder god entity thingys are always messing about with reality. Very careless.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2010, 02:16:40 AM by kibitzer »



Thomas

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Reply #4 on: May 02, 2010, 02:53:55 AM
well written, well narrated, a dark story of surrender and finality

AND a Gogol Bordello lyric reference!! Alasdair, i LOVE that song ..... a wonderful wonderful love song

Enjoy and be nice to each other, because "WE" is all we got.


MacArthurBug

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Reply #5 on: May 02, 2010, 12:18:59 PM
Okay, sure?

David Nickle also wrote "The Inevitability of Earth," which was also about flying and inversion.  Seems to be a theme of his.  And it's evocative; not surprising that other authors have picked it up, too.  I don't think there's a single actual word in common between those two examples otherwise...

Me, I'm more concerned about the apparently unavoidable recurrence of EVIL APPLES.  (Srsly, Pseudopod ppl.  What's with the apples?)

Perhaps one of the editors is deeply unsettled by apples, or had a childhood trauma involving an apple doll. Or perhaps it's the whole Eve/apple thing. I've noticed it in other podcasts too. Odd.


That said, I thought this was an interesting story. It unsettled me. Not a new favorite by any means- but a good show.

Oh, great and mighty Alasdair, Orator Maleficent, He of the Silvered Tongue, guide this humble fangirl past jumping up and down and squeeing upon hearing the greatness of Thy voice.
Oh mighty Mur the Magnificent. I am not worthy.


kibitzer

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Reply #6 on: May 02, 2010, 12:29:07 PM
BTW Al: if you're going to incorporate Police lyrics -- something to which I am not AT ALL averse -- how about trying "Darkness" (final track of Ghost in the Machine)? Or failing that, "Bring On The Night"? (track 4 of Reggatta de Blanc)  Or for a real challenge, "Canary In A Coal Mine"? (track 4 of Zenyattà Mondatta)

(totally off topic -- friend of mine mis-heard the lyrics to "Invisible Sun" (track 3 of Ghost in the Machine). Instead of "...of a statistic on a Government chart" he heard "...I'm just existing on a Government shark." WTF?)


Unblinking

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Reply #7 on: May 03, 2010, 02:47:07 AM
Will comment on the story later, but had to jump on the forums to say:
I should've known that Alasdair would listen to Gogol Bordello.  :)  I just them in concert last week and I think they may have been the best live music performance I've ever seen, lots of stuff off their old album, lots of stuff off their new. 

My first exposure to the band was "Start Wearing Purple" in the credits of Everything is Illuminated (which I highly recommend, and is one of the few cases where I enjoyed the book based on the movie more than I enjoyed the original book).



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Reply #8 on: May 03, 2010, 01:34:06 PM
A rather slower plot buildup than what I generally like, but I was really digging it, the characters, the events, especially the description of the church in the motherland.  I WAS really digging it until I stopped understanding what was happening entirely.  Right about the time that he confided in Victor.

So the Radejastians are a demon-worshipping cult that use apples as idols?  The woman he slept with had been one of their virgins, I think, but I didn't understand what that implied.  Someone's head turned completely around so it's apparently actually demons, not just cultists.  And I thought that he'd seen Victor dead, how was he at work the next day? 

Very confused.  But I liked the parts I understood, and the reading was top notch.



blueeyeddevil

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Reply #9 on: May 04, 2010, 11:47:22 AM
In general, I avoid horror stories, not because they scare me, instead because I think there's an inherent weakness in a genre that has a single emotion (stated in the title of the genre, no less) as its goal. Besides which, only four or five writers have ever managed to inspire fear and/or horror (there is an often unrecognized difference between these two emotions) for me. Most of the time I find what people call 'horror' stories to be really SciFi and/or Fantasy stories with guts and blood, and not really horrifying. 
This story isn't really scary, but it is one that firmly belongs in the camp of horror. I think this was almost hindered by being on Pseudopod. This is in no way meant as a slander on PP, it's just that the subtle building of tension and hints and tastes of true das unheimliche elements would have been so much more effective in a forum that didn't presuppose that the reader was there for creepy stuff. I plan to clear my head of any expectation and listen to this story again, I suspect it will grow to be a richer experience.
As for speculation on the nature of the Radejastians themselves and what they represent; the story is a bit like "Children of the Corn" except with less authorial vamping. The inclusion of what I think is fairly complex interplay between harvest/fecundity/fertility memes is interesting, as is the virginal closed-body disassociation changing into a post-virginal warping of flesh that is, in its own way, disassociative.

Pretty nice bit of verbiage, all told.




Listener

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Reply #10 on: May 04, 2010, 01:13:54 PM
I think this was a well-constructed, well-written tale that nonetheless managed to completely lose me and make me not understand when or where it was taking place.

TIME: Was it the first half of the 20th century? No, they have mobile phones and pancake houses.

PLACE: So they have pancake houses, which makes me think North America, but the only Radejast I can find in Google Maps is Radegast, which is in Germany. The names, I suppose, could be any Western nation, so maybe I could believe Germany, and the phrase "motorway" was used... but do they have German versions of IHOP? I've never been to Germany.

WTF FACTOR: So... Victor, Ruman, and the MC come from Russia or one of the former Soviet republics, and they had a dark, scary god. But now they're in (for lack of a better argument) Germany, where the people believe in a happy god. Okay. Except that there's some sort of succubus thing going on? Or did I miss a memo? And at the end Victor realizes what Ruman has done/has gotten himself into, and he goes to the House of Women Who Go to Church so he can kill them... except they kill him. And only the MC escapes, to be all emo about his friends being dead and these scary women.

So, yeah. I totally didn't understand what was happening at the end, but the story was well-written. And the narration was all right.

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Reply #11 on: May 04, 2010, 01:25:51 PM
Listener:  I think Radejast was completely fabricated to allow the author to make up a new culture.  I don't know what country they're in now, though I'd guess the US, I didn't see any hints that it was Germany.



Listener

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Reply #12 on: May 04, 2010, 01:33:31 PM
Listener:  I think Radejast was completely fabricated to allow the author to make up a new culture.  I don't know what country they're in now, though I'd guess the US, I didn't see any hints that it was Germany.

Okay, if that's the case I'd have needed clearer cues as to exactly where we were. What country, at least.

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Millenium_King

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Reply #13 on: May 04, 2010, 10:14:21 PM
My earlier comments aside, I ultimately found this a weak piece.

1.  The plot is thin and very little tension exists anywhere.  A sumary of this story would read: three men work together in a factory, two of them go to church, one sleeps with a woman and then they have a Halloween scare.  There is no overarching thrust to this story and what plot there is develops only after lengthy and tideous "slice-of-life" scenes at the factory, church and pancake house.

2. The characterization is poor.  As others have pointed out, the setting is vague and Radajast is equally so.  We know nothing of the Narrator except that he came from Radajast.  Family?  Friends?  Likes?  Dislikes?  Taste in women?  Past history?  Nothing.  A long story with very little characterization done.

3. The Narrator is totally passive.  He simply goes to work, follows someone else to church, follows a woman home and then follows someone else to the Halloween scare at the end.  I was most disappointed by how little interest he showed in anything and very disappointed that he had to follow someone else to the ending, rather than act himself.  A flat, dull character whose name I don't even really remember.

4. This story seemed too focussed on being clever (with points about culture, tradition etc.) and not focussed enough on just telling a ripping good narrative.  Story first, allegory, messages etc. later.

5. The writing itself was strong enough, a little sloppy in a few areas, but the story itself was vague.  If you mean to say something, just say it.  This story just hinted too much and ultimately that proved to be its undoing: who the heck even knows what the ending was about?  If it's a demon-cult, make that plain, being vague only hurts you and does not make the story more "clever."

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Reply #14 on: May 04, 2010, 10:21:26 PM
Since when does characterization come down to likes and dislikes?  Are we applying to join a LiveJournal fandom roleplaying game?

I've got a pretty clear picture of the setting and the characters, personally; I could write a story involving both without having to strain my imagination.

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Millenium_King

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Reply #15 on: May 04, 2010, 11:31:02 PM
Those were just examples, no need to be snarky.

Here's a challenge: write a bio of the main character that uses the text only as a basis and make it longer than a couple sentences.  I am not saying you are wrong - but that this guy was flat and boring.  I didn't even get a clear picture of how old he was, how long he'd been in America (was it America...?  Who knows?!) or why he was working where he was.  Again, those are just examples - but I literally knew nothing about him.

Not that a lack of characterization is necessarily a total negative, but this story was long with very little actual action that I think it was inexcusable for it to be so thin in the characterization department.  In other words, if it's not going to draw me in with the plot, then it had better draw me in with the characters.  I felt like it did neither.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2010, 11:41:09 PM by Millenium_King »

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Reply #16 on: May 05, 2010, 01:30:48 PM
I do agree that the main character seemed not driven by anything, just following others passively along.  Normally this would bother me, but it didn't in this story, maybe because I've felt that way from time to time that I'm just following others through life?  I don't know.  So I was enjoying it until I just couldn't follow the plot anymore.



blueeyeddevil

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Reply #17 on: May 05, 2010, 01:33:50 PM
As I said earlier, I think the subtlety of this story was ill served by appearing in a forum where people are looking for an overt scare.
To address some complaints about the story:
I think the tone of the story was perfect, if one reads Russian/Slavic literature, one finds this sort of understated dialogue and setting development everywhere. Moreover, there is a theme in post-soviet Eastern Bloc culture (any post-imperialist dictatorship, really) wherein there is often something shared but unstated about the past: massacres, 'disappearings,' droughts, food shortages, awful times where people did awful things just to get by. It appears both in literature and real life; profound experiences that are both defining and shameful that form unspoken bonds between people. The way they spoke of 'having the mark' flew under the radar for me as a sign of this sort of shared history, until about halfway through, when I realized it was much more of a 'mark of cain' sort of thing. It was a good use of context. 

So far as the, 'if its a demon cult, just tell us its a demon cult' complaint goes...no. Respectfully, I think this attitude is a little simplistic. It misses out on the context of both the area and the concepts involved. Think Dracula, think old cursed bloodlines, think gods of harvest who require, ironically, virgin sacrifice. One notable thing that both of the younger (and perhaps the older, though he never gets the opportunity to show it) Radejastians show is a sort of strange sexual irresistability, one that I think is fairly clearly supernatural. Looking for demons -something obviously capital E Evil- misses the point. The Radejastians aren't death worshippers, they are life worshippers, with all the madness that can possibly encompass. Life can be a terrible and insane thing.This isn't a story about monolithic concepts of good and evil clashing, this is about the reality-subverting power of an alternate paradigm.

As for the main character being somehow passive; this story is his story, how he as a man severed from his homeland comes to reclaim a part of his past, however horrific. The end of the story is the moment of choice, the place where he is no longer being swept along.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2010, 02:18:37 PM by blueeyeddevil »



Millenium_King

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Reply #18 on: May 05, 2010, 04:28:35 PM
I think the tone of the story was perfect, if one reads Russian/Slavic literature, one finds this sort of understated dialogue and setting development everywhere.

Respectfully, you seem pretty familiar with this type of literature and I think you are simply overlaying what you know about it onto this story.  Understated is fine, but vague and undefined is not.  The largest complaint here seems to be that the plot became unfollowable and that the setting was ill-defined.  I do not think that has anything to do with style - it has everything to do with vague writing.  Dracula, for example, is very concrete about it's setting.  I think the author was trying to be clever in remaining vague, but I think it hurt the story.  Grounding it somewhere real (even if Radajast remained a mythical homeland, which I am fine with) would have made the story stronger.

So far as the, 'if its a demon cult, just tell us its a demon cult' complaint goes...no. Respectfully, I think this attitude is a little simplistic. It misses out on the context of both the area and the concepts involved. Think Dracula, think old cursed bloodlines, think gods of harvest who require, ironically, virgin sacrifice.

Again, I refer you to what I said earlier: I can think of all those things, but the story does not conjure up anything more than vague images.  I think you are inserting those concepts because you are familiar with them, but for those of us who are not familiar, the story just looks vague.  This vagueness is my primary criticism and I do not believe it stems from style, I believe it is a legitimate flaw in this story.  I never felt the "eastern-bloc strangeness" evoked in anything but a passing way because of a lack of detail and, I think, a fear on the author's part of being too direct because it would not be "artistic."  Modern-lit's flaws on full display.

As for the main character being somehow passive; this story is his story... The end of the story is the moment of choice, the place where he is no longer being swept along.

I understood as much.  But it does not change the fact that he is flat, dull and passive - ie. boring.

Again, you are entitled to a different opinion, but I feel that this story gets too caught up in modern-lit fads, being artistic and clever and lacks some of the direct, concrete grounding that would have made it a strong piece.

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Reply #19 on: May 05, 2010, 04:52:50 PM
I don't know that the entire tradition of Slavic literature can count as a modern-lit fad...

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Millenium_King

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Reply #20 on: May 05, 2010, 08:30:19 PM
I don't know how much more clear I can be: if this was trying to invoke Slavic literature, it does so poorly.  There is nothing wrong with subtlety.  But there IS something wrong with being vague.  I, for one, believe modern-lit promotes vagueness and cleverness over story too much; this story falls right into that trap.

Again: I do not have anything against invoking a particular style, I just think this story does so poorly.

If that sounds familiar, it's because it's an argument you yourself have used before...!

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Reply #21 on: May 05, 2010, 10:06:11 PM
This thread is getting to the bleeding edge of heated debate and I do not have the words for how little inclination I have to police it.  Viewpoints vary.  Consider this the thread civility warning.



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Reply #22 on: May 06, 2010, 07:48:13 AM
Man, leave for a day and it all explodes.

Anyways, I liked this story.  The characters reminded me a bit of "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" which had the same passive character, experiencing the subtle horrors of the life he must endure, and, well, having a good day.

I didn't find this character flat at all.  Sure, he was outwardly flat, but his dark past left a lot to imagine and fill in for yourself.  The author didn't spoon feed you with details, but left them open to interpretation and imagination.  Granted, not everyone is going to like that sort of thing, but I did.

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Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


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Reply #23 on: May 06, 2010, 04:43:39 PM
Well written stuff.  I found it a bit on the subtle side.  There's a sweet spot in my mind between wondering what the heck is going on and feeling like I'm being hit over the head.  This story left me wondering a bit too much.  That said, I sure felt creeped out by the mood, and that is a very good thing.



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Reply #24 on: May 06, 2010, 11:43:11 PM
Count me among the confused.  I got the whole, foreign culture transplant motif, but ultimately, this one just descended into vagueness.  It failed to induce the creeping sense of horror of the un-named, I just couldn't buy the "normal world-view turned askew" idea (The Dark Level did this quite well IMHO), nor did it come straight out with a "BOO!"

This was more like sitting at my computer, hearing a spooky noise, one that gradually builds, and then I look over my shoulder and realize it's my friend wearing a sheet and saying "Woooooooooo!" 

Instead of "Wow!  Scary!",  I'm left with more of a feeling like:  "For goodness' sake, cut that out and put the sheet back in the laundry!"

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but whatever it was, this wasn't it.



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Reply #25 on: May 09, 2010, 06:45:11 PM
I had to listen to this one twice. It's the sort of story where casual comments made by the characters are supposed to clue you in to what is going on.

I think, it's partly about the all gods are/aren't the same comment made at the diner. Is this a different god? An aspect of the same god? I dunno. Personally, I felt this was left vague for a reason. Maybe he was the Anti-Christ?

The character's god was a bit like their families and had come over when the time was ripe and they were able to provide for it.

The narrator didn't know about his religion and wasn't able to tell he was engaging in a ritual to incarnate the god. Victor did. He went to kill the incarnation and was instead inhabited himself. What I felt was an interesting notion was that the interaction between the women and the waitress was a ritual--that it in some way replicated part of the ritual required to incarnate the god. Her eating the pancakes with the apple face of a god was part of the process.

I thought this was also a bit of a shout out to Lovecraft's The Festival with it's reference to a lonely man going back to the place of his ancestors to take part in an ancient festival around a solstice time.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2010, 11:44:13 PM by empathy44 »



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Reply #26 on: June 10, 2010, 09:43:35 PM
I liked the story and the reading. The reader actually did a good job with the dialog characterizations - usuall or nearly invariably I hate dialog voice characterizations but here they were actually good. I liked the prose and very much liked the pacing. I actually could really identify with the passive and somewhat synical but not bad hearted protaganist but for the life of me I can't figure out what happened once the two guys get to the house with the scarecrow and pumkin garbage bags.

Can anyone summarize for me what is going on in this final section?

BTW this story seemed to me to be set somewhere like Chicago with Romanian immigrants.



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Reply #27 on: June 10, 2010, 09:53:30 PM
I think they stumble on some sort of ritual and the one guy gets slammed into the ceiling by magic and killed.  I think.

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