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Author Topic: Pseudopod 197: Set Down This  (Read 21773 times)
Ben Phillips
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« on: June 04, 2010, 04:31:06 PM »

Pseudopod 197: Set Down This

By Lavie Tidhar

Read by Elan Ressel, voice actor for hire

Closing music:  "Mourning of the Storm" by The Secret Life

On my brother’s computer, a video file shows an American fighter plane pinpointing a group of men in Iraq.
 
‘Do it?’ the pilot says.
 
‘Confirmed.’
 
‘Ten seconds to impact.’
 
Where the men have been there is a huge explosion, and black smoke covers the grainy grey streets. ‘Dude,’ the pilot says.
 
I have no faces and no names to put to the men. The black smoke must have contained the atoms of their flesh, their bones (though bones are hardy), vaporized sweat, burnt eyebrows and pubic hair and nose hair (unless they used a trimmer, as I do), in short, the atoms of their being. Later, I think, one could find, lying in the street, a tooth or two, the end of a finger that had somehow survived, fragments of bone, a legless shoe. These men are nothing to me. They are pixels on a screen, a peer-shared digital file uploaded from sources unknown, provenance suspect, whose only note of authenticity is that young pilot’s voice when the smoke rises and he says, quietly – ‘Dude.’



Listen to this week's Pseudopod.

« Last Edit: June 09, 2010, 03:45:46 PM by Ben Phillips » Logged
Millenium_King
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« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2010, 06:02:15 PM »

I hated this story.  Sorry, I don't know how else to say it.

I'll keep this review as apolitical as possible and also try to keep from editorializing, but no promises (haha).  Basically, I started listening to this one, noticed it was only 19 minutes long and thought "Oh good!  Short = powerful!"  The story starts at 0:50 and by 4:13 I decided to start timing just how long the narrator would keep blabbing on, describing youtube videos of the Iraq war.  By 9:19 I gave up, because I realized that's all this "story" was about.

It was totally plotless.  About 3/4 of it involves some unnamed narrator describing youtube videos to us (which I could have accomplished by visiting youtube.com, typing in "Iraq war" and reading the summarries aloud).  The other 1/4 of it was the (supposed) atheist narrator fretting about whether he was somehow "possessed" by the atoms of some dead Iraqi and (maybe) the atoms of an American soldier too.

In the end we get a wonderful message about how we're all part of the same whole and "in it together" (so to speak) with a "clever" dung-beetle metaphor.  I'll reiterate my previous stance here: I hate stories that are all about pushing some sort of grand, cosmic revelation on the reader.

I am already aware that we all are made up of each other.  We all come from the same pool of eternal, indestructable matter, after all.  As Carl Sagan said, "we are all made up of starstuff."  For every part of dead Iraqi someone might have in him or her, there are billions of particles of newborn star, dead galaxy, shit, rapist and victim, Helen of Troy, George Washington, the pyramids, alien suns, Jesus and Muhammad, T. Rex and Trylobyte.  This story trivialized the awesome majesty of an infinite and incomrehensible cosmos with some weak message that wasn't even brave enough to just say "Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together and love one another!"

Or maybe that wasn't its intended message - and if it wasn't, I don't care in the least.  All this "story" consisted of WAS a message and if I wanted a message, I'd go elsewhere.
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« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2010, 10:23:40 PM »

I don't know if this story is horror, but I don't know that it isn't horror.  Either way,  I'm glad that Psuedopod continues to cast a wide net when looking for stories to bring us.
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« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2010, 12:01:33 AM »

I don't know if this story is horror, but I don't know that it isn't horror.  Either way,  I'm glad that Psuedopod continues to cast a wide net when looking for stories to bring us.

As negative as my review was, I totally agree with this sentiment.  I don't know what genre this was (modern-lit?) - but I really like PP for casting a wide net...  even if what they catch isn't always agreeable to my pallette.
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« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2010, 01:16:45 AM »

What a fascinating use of negative space.  I love the story around the edge of the story, the story of the narrator and his brother and their struggles. 

Dude.

ETA: Alasdair pretty much nailed the rest of the thoughts I had while listening.  Al is cool.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2010, 01:18:40 AM by Scattercat » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2010, 10:47:43 AM »

I had to restart this about 5 times, because it just couldn't hold my interest, or do much other than make me scratch my head in puzzlement.  What, exactly, was the point here?  He watches videos that may or may not be real so much that he may or may not be psychologically/spiritually warped by them, and we're all just dung beetles needing to dig our way out of the sh*t together?  Huh?  Is that it?  This just had so many narrative disconnects that, at some point, I was wondering if perhaps it was supposed to be a glimpse from inside the mind of a schizophrenic.
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« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2010, 09:40:01 PM »

I loved this story -- contemplative, thought-provoking, interesting. I guess it's one of those polarising ones -- love it or hate it. I liked the way it was arranged and basically carried through a couple of thought processes on seeing funny / disturbing images. It had me from the get-go. Also, I'm happy to class it as horror.

Great stuff guys. It's interesting and different choices that keep me coming back.
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« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2010, 01:01:00 AM »

I can describing everything that story provoked in me as: "meh". I am not sure what was meant to be "thought-provoking" about it, it seemed to be a pretty tame take on "war isn't nice", "there are uncensored videos on the internet" and "we are all in this together". None of these was presented in a way that really pushed the boundary beyond what is available in an average newspaper*, let alone approached horrifying.

I can see why pseudopod would carry it, it certainly hints at horror (and might horrify some people). But I don't think it any more horrifying than the front page of a newspaper*.

* The content and message seemed to be about on par with opinion pieces in the newspaper to me which is why I kept coming back to them as a comparisson medium. That said, the story was much more disconnected than most stories in the news.
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« Reply #8 on: June 07, 2010, 07:59:03 AM »

Didn't like it. If I wanted to read a series of blog entries about the horrors of war and the information culture, I'd go read a blog. And that whole dung beetle metaphor at the end was a little sticky, pardon the pun. Though I guess any creature that lays its eggs in poo deserves what it gets.  Roll Eyes

Excellent reading.
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« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2010, 09:25:39 AM »

For what this was, it was well written. 

However, this is the exact kind of story I like least; obscurely written and with a message.  I'm fine (mostly) with stories that have a meaning or social commentary, but that is all this story had to it, except of course there wasn't really a story at all, it was just the message.  And whatever that message was it didn't settle into my idea of horror. 
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« Reply #10 on: June 07, 2010, 12:15:49 PM »

I enjoyed this because it showed me how young people (I was born in 1946) respond to technology and how it can affect them subconsciously.  This, to me, was an excellent example of a post-modern version of what Henry James and James Joyce did with "Stream of Consciousness."  The "War on Terror" has become such mash-up of extremes (Internet communications included) that this type of writing is quite appropriate for "making sense" of the whole affair.  Sadly, as a writer myself, I still use the worn plot devices to attempt to capture this reality, and I am quite enthusiastic when I can hear (read) an author with a fresh and startling view of a topic so complex.  Bravo!   Grin
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« Reply #11 on: June 07, 2010, 12:46:42 PM »

There is no MEH in TEAM!
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« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2010, 03:24:20 PM »

I will add my voice to the choruses of, "Keep experimenting, but this was not it." Give me narrative!
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« Reply #13 on: June 08, 2010, 12:25:58 PM »

This one bored the shit out of me; pointless, but at least it wasn't too long.
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« Reply #14 on: June 08, 2010, 05:27:56 PM »

What a fascinating use of negative space.  I love the story around the edge of the story, the story of the narrator and his brother and their struggles. 

That was my thought.  I waited on edge for hints as to the narrator's identity, and when the story ended I didn't know what to think.  I still don't.

I loved/hated this.
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« Reply #15 on: June 09, 2010, 08:24:42 AM »

What a fascinating use of negative space.  I love the story around the edge of the story, the story of the narrator and his brother and their struggles. 

That was my thought.  I waited on edge for hints as to the narrator's identity, and when the story ended I didn't know what to think.  I still don't.


I think the narrator was a youngish German guy messing around on his brother's computer -- the name of the zoo sounded Germanic to me. I don't think his identity was so important so much as the type of person he was.
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« Reply #16 on: June 09, 2010, 03:46:11 PM »

Hell, I forgot to credit the closing music.  Fixed now.
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« Reply #17 on: June 10, 2010, 09:17:49 AM »

Really not sure what to think about this.
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« Reply #18 on: June 10, 2010, 01:13:13 PM »

Yeah. Took a lot of effort to listen to this one. I agreed with the above, pp should try different forms, it just that this piece was shallow and uninvolving. An attempt to exploit sensational subject matter that just trivializes the substance... good for getting into topical anthologies I guess though. Wasn't narrative, wasn't a story, wasn't interesting. Left me feeling cheap.
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« Reply #19 on: June 10, 2010, 01:46:43 PM »

I liked Alasdair's closing statements more than the story.
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« Reply #20 on: June 14, 2010, 09:23:50 AM »

Anyhoo, on to the story itself.  This one I found terribly boring, but I stuck with it to the end.

The main reason was that the device of telling us about these people that "might" exist took any emotional impact out of it for me.  Obviously fiction is fictional, but while reading I want to suspend disbelief while reading.  If the fiction is constantly explicitly pointing out to me "This story is completely made up." then it has spent a lot of team intentionally weakening its own impact.

Not only that, but the message here was much to bludgeon-esque for me about the inhumanity of war and the availability of everything on the internet.  If there had been a compelling story to support these messages, then that would've been fine.

The writing on a sentence level was very good, as always, from Tidhar, but overall it just didn't do it for me.
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« Reply #21 on: June 14, 2010, 10:07:07 AM »

I mentioned this one to the hosts of Citizen Radio as a story their fans would appreciate and also an author that might make for an interesting interview on a future episode of their show.

Brilliant story, well executed! I'm in your debt for exposing me to such a good author.
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« Reply #22 on: June 15, 2010, 06:43:10 PM »

I mentioned this one to the hosts of Citizen Radio as a story their fans would appreciate and also an author that might make for an interesting interview on a future episode of their show.

Brilliant story, well executed! I'm in your debt for exposing me to such a good author.

I feel like I might be opening up a can of worms with this one, but I simply could not resist: this is exactly why I despised this story.  It's a message piece, more fit to an outfit whose agenda is to make a political point, not an outfit whose agenda is to provide great fiction.
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« Reply #23 on: June 15, 2010, 11:41:30 PM »

So, great fiction should not also be socially relevant? I think that qualification would knock out 2/3 of everything people consider classics. Why should anybody else's feelings about a piece ever influence yours anyway?
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« Reply #24 on: June 16, 2010, 08:25:09 AM »

So, great fiction should not also be socially relevant?

No, but if the message is all I can see, then I rarely like it.  If I want to hear one-sided political arguments without a plot I'd go find a political blog.
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« Reply #25 on: June 16, 2010, 11:02:54 AM »

You're right that the anti-war theme is a bit heavy-handed, but I think if you let the theme consume you, you miss the actual horror of the message. The fact that the guy's brother is catalogging horrifying footage in the same way he does music videos makes this scary. That's what Alisdare is saying at the end--the overwhelming amount of information and footage trivializing the most horrifying events is in itself more horriffic. It's not blood and guts horror, but it's significanly deeper than just liberal propaganda.
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« Reply #26 on: June 16, 2010, 12:56:48 PM »

So, great fiction should not also be socially relevant? I think that qualification would knock out 2/3 of everything people consider classics. Why should anybody else's feelings about a piece ever influence yours anyway?

No, no - that's never been my point (although, apologies, I realize it seems that way sometimes).  My point is that I despise what I call "message stories" - ie. stories which are all message and no plot.  Take away the social commentary of this one, and what are you left with?  Nothing.

Now, for example, take away the social commentary of a story like "The Disconnected" or the Star Trek episode "Let that be your Last Battlefield" or the Twilight Zone's "The Obsolete Man" and what are you left with?  A still gripping tale about a dystopian future with a lot of tense action to keep you interested.

So even if I 100% agreed with the message, I would still dislike the story because it's ONLY a message.
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« Reply #27 on: June 16, 2010, 01:15:21 PM »

You're right that the anti-war theme is a bit heavy-handed, but I think if you let the theme consume you, you miss the actual horror of the message. The fact that the guy's brother is catalogging horrifying footage in the same way he does music videos makes this scary. That's what Alisdare is saying at the end--the overwhelming amount of information and footage trivializing the most horrifying events is in itself more horriffic. It's not blood and guts horror, but it's significanly deeper than just liberal propaganda.

In the 1st Century AD there was a viking king whose nickname was "Child Lover" because, unlike his fellows, he refused to kill children on raids.  The other vikings thought this was pretty funny and rather odd.

My point is that violence on a horrific scale has existed throughout all of history and, in the past, this kid would not have been just looking at images - he would have been doing the real thing.  And he would have been doing it without the modern "rules of engagement" - he would have actually been ostracized if he DID NOT rape, loot, pillage and butcher children.  The fact that he watches videos and it is looked upon as deviant is actually reassuring to me, not horrific: look at how much progress we have made.

Supposed "desensitization" from watching videos of violence is not horrific to me.  It's no more scary than depictions of the Victorian women who would get all "a'flutter" over the murders and rapes reported in the police blotter.

Finally, my point is that if the "message" of this story IS the horror.  If the message does not scare you - the story fails.  This is unlike something like "The Forgotten" or "Jurassic Park" or heck, even "Friday the 13th" where even if the horror itself is silly when viewed in the abstract (Dinosaurs?  Janitors?  Who is really afraid of that?) the story still works because of the tense action, pacing and tight plot.  "Set Down This" lacked all three of these things.

Again, this is just my opinion and I understand why others liked this story, but it failed for me.
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« Reply #28 on: June 16, 2010, 02:25:42 PM »

The action in this story is very internal; this is not a story about the war or the effects of YouTube on attitudes of youth, but rather the story of a young person trying to understand and assimilate the world around them, which in this case includes a collection of horrifying videos on his brother's computer.  That is, the message is certainly present, but the story is about how this character came to understand that message, his ideological arguments with his brother, and coming to terms with his brother's choices.  (I got the strong impression that the brother had gone to join up with the military and possibly died as a result of his fascination with these videos, hence the protag reviewing them all on "[his/her] brother's computer.")  That sort of thought and contemplation is very hard to convey without just writing a blog entry, and one of the reasons I liked this story so much is because almost the entirety of the plot and character is left out, outlined by the order of the videos, the way they're described, the images they summon up.

It reminds me of the abstract paintings that are all one color, or that appear to be random splatters of paint.  I don't like those kinds of paintings, but I understand that it takes a careful artistic hand to know what to put on the canvas to achieve the desired effect, and I do like stories that are equivalently pared down or that approach their plots sideways in that way.

Is the anti-war message present?  Oh, indubitably, and quite strong.  Is it the only thing going on?  I would say no, not at all.  The story didn't create a pro-war and an anti-war monster and have them fight it out, but neither did it just present us with a paragraph that said, "War is bad because people get hurt.  Please stop fighting wars."  The former might still have a "gripping tale" in it of two monsters fighting, but without its thematic underpinnings, it would fall rather flat; the latter wouldn't be a story, but if well-written enough could still be quite moving and powerful.  (I think of political speeches or thoughtful essays I have read.)
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« Reply #29 on: June 16, 2010, 06:48:52 PM »

The action in this story is very internal; this is not a story about the war or the effects of YouTube on attitudes of youth, but rather the story of a young person trying to understand and assimilate the world around them, which in this case includes a collection of horrifying videos on his brother's computer.  That is, the message is certainly present, but the story is about how this character came to understand that message, his ideological arguments with his brother, and coming to terms with his brother's choices.  (I got the strong impression that the brother had gone to join up with the military and possibly died as a result of his fascination with these videos, hence the protag reviewing them all on "[his/her] brother's computer.")  That sort of thought and contemplation is very hard to convey without just writing a blog entry, and one of the reasons I liked this story so much is because almost the entirety of the plot and character is left out, outlined by the order of the videos, the way they're described, the images they summon up.

It reminds me of the abstract paintings that are all one color, or that appear to be random splatters of paint.  I don't like those kinds of paintings, but I understand that it takes a careful artistic hand to know what to put on the canvas to achieve the desired effect, and I do like stories that are equivalently pared down or that approach their plots sideways in that way.

Is the anti-war message present?  Oh, indubitably, and quite strong.  Is it the only thing going on?  I would say no, not at all.  The story didn't create a pro-war and an anti-war monster and have them fight it out, but neither did it just present us with a paragraph that said, "War is bad because people get hurt.  Please stop fighting wars."  The former might still have a "gripping tale" in it of two monsters fighting, but without its thematic underpinnings, it would fall rather flat; the latter wouldn't be a story, but if well-written enough could still be quite moving and powerful.  (I think of political speeches or thoughtful essays I have read.)

Read "The Things they Carried" or "All Quiet on the Western Front" or watch "Platoon" or "Full Metal Jacket" or even "Rambo: First Blood" to see how it's possible to do both.
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« Reply #30 on: June 16, 2010, 09:38:32 PM »

I loved "The Things They Carried" quite a lot when it came down the pike in college; I think this story did a similarly good job of conveying the emotions of wartime.  It just conveyed the emotions of someone at home and far from the war rather than the emotions of someone at the war.  I think there are stories to be found in both places. 
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« Reply #31 on: June 17, 2010, 04:27:09 AM »

I liked Alasdair's closing statements more than the story.
This was my reaction also.

I don't object to stories with a message per se: even if it's a message I disagree with, if it's engagingly presented, I'll read it.  If it's well-presented, it'll make me think, perhaps reassess my own position.

This one started, and I waited for the story to kick in and, while I was still waiting, it ended.

It was a well-written meditation on war, dehumanisation, desensitisation, and those things can be horrifying: but that's not the same as horror fiction.  In another context, this might have worked better for me - as I say, it's a well-written meditation - but when I was expecting horror fiction, it didn't.
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« Reply #32 on: June 17, 2010, 08:37:56 AM »

one of the reasons I liked this story so much is because almost the entirety of the plot and character is left out,

Coincidentally, that's the main reason I didn't like the story.   Grin
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« Reply #33 on: June 21, 2010, 11:23:47 PM »

I'll try this one again after these comments.  I love Tidhar's writing but this one just couldn't keep me engaged. 
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« Reply #34 on: June 22, 2010, 08:36:26 AM »

I nearly stopped listening to this nine minutes in; noticed it was half way through and decided to continue listening, but gave up after eleven minutes. I kept waiting for the set-up to turn into plot, but eventually decided that apparently the story was all set-up, with no actual plot to follow. I found it rather hamfisted in its anti-war worthiness, and I got very bored.
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« Reply #35 on: June 29, 2010, 11:25:06 PM »

Ummm, where's the horror?

I was going to write a very harsh criticism of this story, but it's just not worth the time or effort.
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« Reply #36 on: June 30, 2010, 12:11:28 AM »

Ummm, where's the horror?

I was going to write a very harsh criticism of this story, but it's just not worth the time or effort.

Apparently it was worth the bother of signing up.
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« Reply #37 on: June 30, 2010, 08:18:50 AM »

Ummm, where's the horror?

I was going to write a very harsh criticism of this story, but it's just not worth the time or effort.

In the time and word count of the second sentence you could've written something specific about why you didn't like it.  Just sayin...
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« Reply #38 on: July 01, 2010, 01:09:38 AM »

I've had an account on here for a while, just never felt the need to comment before.

There have been other stories on here that I didn't care for, but this one was so bad I
was compelled to say something. After re-reading the vitriolic paragraph I had typed
I thought it would be better to just delete it and move on. Here's the short version.
 
19 minutes of dead air would have been preferable.
I kept waiting for something to happen, then it was over. 
No story, no characters, no plot, just some "author" stroking their ego from atop a soap box.
Left-wing anti-war drivel with an existential cherry on top, oh the horror, THE HORROR.
If I wanted to hear that I could just tune in to MSNBC, CNN, or FOX.
I guess my real point is I come here for entertainment, not politics or second rate philosophy.

I've loved horror since I was a small child, hell you could say I'm a fear junkie, but this just felt insulting to me.
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« Reply #39 on: July 01, 2010, 01:35:50 AM »

Ummm, where's the horror?

I'll grant you that the story was a little slow - definitely not my favorite, though it managed to overcome my usual dislike for nonstories by being striking and well written in other ways - but I don't agree with your totally negative characterization. Let me see if I can answer your question with a few examples, all in my opinion and from my point of view, of course:
  • The narrator's experience of having this moment stuck in his memory, of feeling trapped by the small trauma of witnessing a stranger's death.
  • The narrator's identification with someone who is caught in circumstances beyond his immediate control who has become a killer.
  • The narrator's growing discomfort with his own obsession.
  • The horrifying ease with which a human life can be snuffed out by impersonal, mechanized death machines.
  • The narrator's brother's behavior - collecting movies of people in danger and dying, for fun - and the fact that people do this in the real world. I mean, wtf?
  • War.

The story had flaws, certainly, but I think "where's the horror" is a bit of a simplistic objection. There was plenty of horror all over the place.

I'd also challenge your assertion that the story is "left-wing anti-war drivel." The narrator - and by extension, the author (yes, this is a flaw in my book, too, but that's not what I'm talking about right now) - didn't talk about whether or not the war is good, justified, or otherwise worth it. The author was just drawing out the horror of war. War is horrible. War is horror. Since when is pointing out that war is horror political? Because I've got to say, if pointing out that war is bad and people get hurt and people die is a "left-wing" thing to do then our government would be full of Democrats and Sociopaths.

But it's not. Right-wingers will also admit that war is bad, painful, and deadly. Republicans don't think war is just dandy. The question is not "is war bad?" but "is the badness of war worth it in this case?"

Anyway, to respond to your last point: entertainment, politics, and philosophy have always been closely tied together. Good art does a lot of things: I don't go anywhere expecting to be "just" entertained. Now, if you weren't in the mood to be enlightened, educated, or challenged, that's all well and good, but it's hardly the story's fault that it caught you at a bad time. Perhaps you should have just turned it off and listened to it when you were in a different mood?

If you never want to hear stories that do anything but entertain, well... probably the Escape Artists podcasts aren't for you. Their mission is to run a wide variety of stories, from the purely entertaining to the complex and artistic to the challenging and topical.
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« Reply #40 on: July 01, 2010, 10:50:49 AM »

Anyway, to respond to your last point: entertainment, politics, and philosophy have always been closely tied together. Good art does a lot of things: I don't go anywhere expecting to be "just" entertained. Now, if you weren't in the mood to be enlightened, educated, or challenged, that's all well and good, but it's hardly the story's fault that it caught you at a bad time.

I think that's a really unfair remark to make.  First of all, the OP did not find that this story "enlightened, educated, or challenged" - he found it "second rate philosophy."  It seems to me that he felt it was something of a polemic (and I agree) where the author's opinion and the narrator were indistinguishable (you seem to agree with that too).

Saying that you hated it because it was "too political" is a legitimate criticism.  It's like being told you're going to be shown a movie about the Iraq war, but instead of putting on Jarhead, they show you Farenheit 9/11.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with saying (in your opinion, of course) that it was a load of drek more concerned with making a political point than telling a story.  It's not so much that people are just ignorant and don't "want to be challenged" it's that they don't want to be lectured.
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« Reply #41 on: July 01, 2010, 11:00:49 AM »

A point: the OP called it "politics and second-rate philosophy."  As ElectricPaladin pointed out, this story made no political points.  The closest thing to a political point in here is "War is bad," which is hardly political unless one is so involved in one side of a political debate that everything is political. 

As for philosophy, well, given that the story was mostly just a series of images and a description of the narrative constructed by the protagonist about those images, it's hard to claim a philosophy for it beyond "anti-war."  Again, as EP pointed out, nobody sane is in favor of war qua war. 

Anger about "left-wing" political points seems misguided to me.  The narrator constructs the images in a certain way; this tells us something about the narrator.  Does it tell us anything about the author?  Not necessarily.  It rarely pays to assume that sort of thing.
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« Reply #42 on: July 01, 2010, 11:12:12 AM »

A point: the OP called it "politics and second-rate philosophy."  As ElectricPaladin pointed out, this story made no political points.

That is, politely, just your opinion.  In my opinion, and that of the OP, there is a political statement being made here - and it is a decidedly Left-wing and/or pacifist one.  For example, the author/narrator never once considers that the war is justifiable.  This lack of a rounded viewpoint, coupled with the lovely "can't we all just get along?" dung-beetle metaphor, points to a very strong political message about the Iraq war specifically.  Even the most ham-fisted war movie will present characters who look at the war from a different perspective from the protagonist (Full Metal Jacket leaps to mind).

Again, you may not see a political point being made, but a lot of people clearly did.  Making that sort of criticism is legitimate.

Anger about "left-wing" political points seems misguided to me.  The narrator constructs the images in a certain way; this tells us something about the narrator.  Does it tell us anything about the author?  Not necessarily.  It rarely pays to assume that sort of thing.

A lot of people, including myself, found the author and the narrator virtually indistinguishable.  In a lot of ways, the narrator felt like an author-insert.  Again, that is a legitimate criticism to make.
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« Reply #43 on: July 01, 2010, 11:19:31 AM »

Anyway, to respond to your last point: entertainment, politics, and philosophy have always been closely tied together. Good art does a lot of things: I don't go anywhere expecting to be "just" entertained. Now, if you weren't in the mood to be enlightened, educated, or challenged, that's all well and good, but it's hardly the story's fault that it caught you at a bad time.

I think that's a really unfair remark to make.  First of all, the OP did not find that this story "enlightened, educated, or challenged" - he found it "second rate philosophy."  It seems to me that he felt it was something of a polemic (and I agree) where the author's opinion and the narrator were indistinguishable (you seem to agree with that too).

Saying that you hated it because it was "too political" is a legitimate criticism.  It's like being told you're going to be shown a movie about the Iraq war, but instead of putting on Jarhead, they show you Farenheit 9/11.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with saying (in your opinion, of course) that it was a load of drek more concerned with making a political point than telling a story.  It's not so much that people are just ignorant and don't "want to be challenged" it's that they don't want to be lectured.

Here's where I disagree with you - I didn't find the story to be polemic. The story didn't have a political orientation. The story didn't say "war is bad and therefore the Republicans are wrong." The story just said "war is bad." I don't understand how talking about the horrors of war and empathizing with the soldiers, civilians, killers, and victims of war is partisan.

And, no, I don't think "too political" is legitimate criticism. "Too political" is content-free criticism. By itself, it's meaningless.

Does "too political" mean it was more concerned with making a political point than telling a story? That's a weird statement about the author's intent. You don't know and can't judge the author's intent.

Does "too political" mean you felt preached at and lectured to the detriment of the story? Well, yes, that's valid. And I admitted as much in my response. Of course, this is subjective - one person's lecture is another's spirited discussion. That's why absolute statements like "I came here to be entertained" are invalid, because they imply that, as an objective fact, stories should only entertain, and that's just not true. Stories do a lot of things.

Here's the thing: in my experience people almost never complain that a story was "too political" unless they disagree with the story's politics (or what they imagine the story's politics to be). "Too political" is usually a shorthand for "the story challenged my beliefs and that makes me angry." If you want to criticize a story, talk about what the story actually did or didn't do.

For example, in my listening, this story was generally bland, nothing happened, and there was almost no character development. These are comments that reflect the story's qualities.

"Too political" doesn't.
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« Reply #44 on: July 01, 2010, 11:52:50 AM »

Here's where I disagree with you - I didn't find the story to be polemic. The story didn't have a political orientation.  The story didn't say "war is bad and therefore the Republicans are wrong." The story just said "war is bad." I don't understand how talking about the horrors of war and empathizing with the soldiers, civilians, killers, and victims of war is partisan.

That's fine, you are free to disagree.  But a lot of people did see a political message (and the same political message at that).  Their interpretation is different from yours - but it is still valid.  I think I clearly articulated in my earlier posts why I think it has a message, but that's just my opinion.  If you didn't see what I saw, that's fine.

Tying in with what you said later "...in my experience people almost never complain that a story was "too political" unless they disagree with the story's politics..." I might not be remiss in saying that in my experience, people will say "there was no partisan message here" if they agree with the message.  The street goes both ways.

Does "too political" mean it was more concerned with making a political point than telling a story? That's a weird statement about the author's intent. You don't know and can't judge the author's intent.

What???  Are you saying that anyone who said Platoon or W or Wallstreet or Rendition or In the Valley of Elah or An American Carol were lousy because they were "more concerned with making a political point than telling a story" are offering unfair criticism?

That's why absolute statements like "I came here to be entertained" are invalid, because they imply that, as an objective fact, stories should only entertain...

If I said "I came here to be entertained" - that's just my opinion.  It's not an objective fact about the universe.  Some people prefer stories to entertain first and harass us with messages second.  You don't have to agree, but there's nothing wrong with saying "I want to hear an entertaining story - and this one wasn't it because the message gets in the way."
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« Reply #45 on: July 01, 2010, 12:10:30 PM »

That's fine, you are free to disagree.  But a lot of people did see a political message (and the same political message at that).  Their interpretation is different from yours - but it is still valid.  I think I clearly articulated in my earlier posts why I think it has a message, but that's just my opinion.  If you didn't see what I saw, that's fine.

Tying in with what you said later "...in my experience people almost never complain that a story was "too political" unless they disagree with the story's politics..." I might not be remiss in saying that in my experience, people will say "there was no partisan message here" if they agree with the message.  The street goes both ways.

Fair enough.

What???  Are you saying that anyone who said Platoon or W or Wallstreet or Rendition or In the Valley of Elah or An American Carol were lousy because they were "more concerned with making a political point than telling a story" are offering unfair criticism?

I'm not familiar with most of those, and I've only heard of - not seen - W and Rendition.

And no, I'm not saying the people are lousy. I'm saying their criticism is invalid. There's an important distinction there.

If I said "I came here to be entertained" - that's just my opinion.  It's not an objective fact about the universe.  Some people prefer stories to entertain first and harass us with messages second.  You don't have to agree, but there's nothing wrong with saying "I want to hear an entertaining story - and this one wasn't it because the message gets in the way."

There's nothing wrong with saying "I want to experience an entertaining story." I've said that to myself while shopping for books, picking which movie to see, or deciding which podcast to listen to.

There's nothing wrong with saying "For me, in this story, the message got in the way of the story." It's happened to me. A story with a strong message and a weak setting, weak characters, or weak craft might produce this reaction.

However, these are not what the OP said. The OP said "I guess my real point is I come here for entertainment, not politics or second rate philosophy."

And I responded "If you come here for entertainment that is only entertainment, you're coming to the wrong place." Because Escape Artists don't aim to only entertain. Have you ever heard the founder, Stephen Eley, talk about why he founded the podcasts in the first place? His mission to preserve fantastic literature and help establish it as a mode of literary expression that's just as meaningful and important as any other genre? That's what these podcasts are about, so if stories that do more than terrify, titillate, or amuse are not your thing, you're in the wrong place.

The day that the Escape Artists start being a place for only entertainment is the last day I listen. Thankfully, I don't think that day will ever come.
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« Reply #46 on: July 01, 2010, 01:25:38 PM »

What???  Are you saying that anyone who said Platoon or W or Wallstreet or Rendition or In the Valley of Elah or An American Carol were lousy because they were "more concerned with making a political point than telling a story" are offering unfair criticism?

I'm not familiar with most of those, and I've only heard of - not seen - W and Rendition.

And no, I'm not saying the people are lousy. I'm saying their criticism is invalid. There's an important distinction there.

Haha - apologies if I phrased that poorly: I mean to say a LOT of people (including prominent critics) disliked some of the movies I listed because they quote "came across as thinly veiled agitprop."  I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree, because I can't see how saying "This was lousy because it was more concerned with making a political point than telling a story" is invalid criticism.

And I responded "If you come here for entertainment that is only entertainment, you're coming to the wrong place." Because Escape Artists don't aim to only entertain. Have you ever heard the founder, Stephen Eley, talk about why he founded the podcasts in the first place? His mission to preserve fantastic literature and help establish it as a mode of literary expression that's just as meaningful and important as any other genre? That's what these podcasts are about, so if stories that do more than terrify, titillate, or amuse are not your thing, you're in the wrong place.

Okay, that's fine.  I'm glad that's why PP was founded.  But it does not invalidate his criticism.

One thing that drives me completely crazy about the message boards here is this:

Someone will post their reaction to a story, be it "I hated this" or "This was too political" or "The message was dumb" or just "meh."

Then people will jump all over that person, not disagreeing with him or her, but saying "You're not allowed to make that sort of criticism.  That sort of criticism is invalid."

Of COURSE it's valid.  ANY criticism is valid.  It's that person's subjective reaction to the story.  If PP didn't want to hear people's reactions, they wouldn't have message boards.  You're free to disagree with people's opinions, but saying someone shouldn't be allowed to subjectively criticize a story (and all criticism is subjective) is absurd.

I'm not trying to call you out or anything, but we should all be free to give our opinions.
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« Reply #47 on: July 01, 2010, 01:41:28 PM »

I think the issue is sticky because "valid criticism" is a term its extremely difficult to define. We talk about things being "too political" or "not rabidly warmongery enough" or whatever, but these are things that are only true for a certain subsection of people, and for others its completely and utterly untrue, so it comes across as "invalid criticism."  Especially if a person is vaguely hostile in tone when making one's initial criticisms.

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« Reply #48 on: July 01, 2010, 02:40:04 PM »

I suppose so.  I just feel like I see a lot of "you're not allowed to hold that opinion" around here, as opposed to "our opinions differ."  I think someone can have a stupid opinion about a story, but not an invalid one.
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« Reply #49 on: July 01, 2010, 02:53:41 PM »

I suppose so.  I just feel like I see a lot of "you're not allowed to hold that opinion" around here, as opposed to "our opinions differ."  I think someone can have a stupid opinion about a story, but not an invalid one.

I'm pretty sure more of it is the percieved tone of how its said rather than what's actually said. Unfortunately with criticisms like the ones we've been discussing, its VERY easy to come off as hostile or derogatory. And those are the tones that are gonna bug people.
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« Reply #50 on: July 01, 2010, 03:02:37 PM »

Sure.  But people are entitled to snark too.  I can't speak as an editor, but as an author I want to hear every, single opinion - even the dumb or negative ones.  I can sort out what's a good review and what's just mean; we shouldn't encourage people to self censor.
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« Reply #51 on: July 01, 2010, 03:19:46 PM »

I suppose so.  I just feel like I see a lot of "you're not allowed to hold that opinion" around here, as opposed to "our opinions differ."  I think someone can have a stupid opinion about a story, but not an invalid one.

Ok. I guess for me "invalid" is a nicer and more accurate way of saying "stupid." Stupid has a lot of baggage - it's an insult - while invalid merely means "does not apply" or "does not compute." I'd be offended if someone told me my comment was stupid, but not if someone told me it was invalid. Stupid is an attack on my thoughts, invalid is a response to my words.

At least for me. your mileage may vary.

Anyway, a better explanation might be this: for me, when you're talking about a story you're talking about the story, not your politics or the story's politics. The questions at hand are "how did you enjoy the story?" "why did you like it?" "why didn't you like it?" "what was interesting?" "what was boring?" "if you were the writer, what would you have done differently with the same inspiration?"

I think you can see how "I didn't agree with this story and it bothered me" is only barely a valid response to any of those questions, and not a very interesting one at that.

Or, to make it a metaphor, if I were to hold out an orange and ask your opinion of it and you were to respond "I don't really like orangutans," your comment would be invalid.

That's where I'm coming from, anyway.
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« Reply #52 on: July 01, 2010, 03:48:00 PM »

I would take "your opinion is invalid" to be a way of saying "you don't have the right to that opinion", not "this opinion isn't interesting and/or relevant". If anyone called my opinions stupid I would be a bit miffed. If anyone called my opinions invalid I would be seriously pissed off.

Also, regarding the following:

Anyway, a better explanation might be this: for me, when you're talking about a story you're talking about the story, not your politics or the story's politics. The questions at hand are "how did you enjoy the story?" "why did you like it?" "why didn't you like it?" "what was interesting?" "what was boring?" "if you were the writer, what would you have done differently with the same inspiration?"

I think you can see how "I didn't agree with this story and it bothered me" is only barely a valid response to any of those questions, and not a very interesting one at that.


It seems to me that if anything about a story bothers someone, that is both a valid (in any sense) and interesting response to "how did you enjoy the story?". It may not tell you much about the story, but story criticism is always about both the story and the reader. If nothing else, the more you know about the reader, the easier it is to interpret their responses.

Full disclosure: I did not listen to this story, and probably will never do so. So I can't comment on this particular one. But it seems to me that for any story that expresses a political stance, the question of "what reaction does this story elicit from people who disagree with its politics" is a relevant, interesting, and informative one.
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« Reply #53 on: July 01, 2010, 04:20:33 PM »

I totally agree with the above.

I might also add that a politically charged story is going to draw politically charged reactions.  Far from dissuading opinion-based responses, one might argue that it is actually trying to elicit them.
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« Reply #54 on: July 01, 2010, 04:49:02 PM »

Ok, good point and good point. Let me have another crack at this.

Yes, the story is political. It's talking about a big issue - a war - so that's political. What the story isn't is partisan. The story does not, itself, espouse a political opinion. I stand by what I said earlier about this issue: if we live in a country where admitting that war is bad is seen as a "left wing" thing to do, then I don't want to know the right wing. The story has succeeded beyond all my original expectations: I am now well and truly horrified.

Moving on... I never meant to say that someone isn't allowed to have an opinion. That's my least favorite thing in the world. If I said something that implied that, I clearly got carried away and argued myself into a corner. Let me try again:

*Ahem*

You can say you didn't like the story because of what you perceived as its politics. That's great. You rock that opinion all you like. I find your opinion boring and not worth discussing. If you later on develop an opinion of interest, I'll discuss it with you in great detail.
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« Reply #55 on: July 01, 2010, 05:20:21 PM »

Yes, the story is political. It's talking about a big issue - a war - so that's political. What the story isn't is partisan. The story does not, itself, espouse a political opinion. I stand by what I said earlier about this issue: if we live in a country where admitting that war is bad is seen as a "left wing" thing to do, then I don't want to know the right wing. The story has succeeded beyond all my original expectations: I am now well and truly horrified.

I think I addressed this already, above.  I disagree with you: I do not think the story is merely saying "war is bad" - it is also implying that this specific war is not only bad, but also unjustifiable.

As a counter-illustration: suppose the story had been exactly the same, but we replace "war" with "abortion."  Suppose the kid had graphic videos of partial-birth abortions on his computer.  Would you say a story like that is not attempting to be partisan and pro-life?

Anyway, I understand that a lot of people did not see any partisanship in this one.  I did.  Others did too.

You can say you didn't like the story because of what you perceived as its politics. That's great. You rock that opinion all you like. I find your opinion boring and not worth discussing. If you later on develop an opinion of interest, I'll discuss it with you in great detail.

Definately fair enough.
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« Reply #56 on: July 01, 2010, 05:38:55 PM »

As a counter-illustration: suppose the story had been exactly the same, but we replace "war" with "abortion."  Suppose the kid had graphic videos of partial-birth abortions on his computer.  Would you say a story like that is not attempting to be partisan and pro-life?

That's an interesting question. After some thought, I would say no, the story is not partisan. The story is examining the phenomenon of abortion, pointing out it's grim side. That doesn't make the story anti-abortion. As someone who believes abortion should be legal, I could listen to that story and say "wow, that was interesting and grim and my understanding of the darker side of abortion is deepened but I still think it's worth it." Abortion is bad - I've spoken to women who've had abortions, and none of them have described it as a good thing, a great or fun experience - but I think it's better than the alternative. War can be the same way.

I'll throw the same question back at you - are you actually saying that dwelling on the horrors of war is partisan? Are you really saying that it is/should be true that only people of a certain set of political beliefs can look at war's dark side and contemplate whether or not it's worth it? Are you saying that right-wingers aren't allowed to empathize with the other side in a military conflict?
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« Reply #57 on: July 01, 2010, 05:56:50 PM »

That's an interesting question. After some thought, I would say no, the story is not partisan. The story is examining the phenomenon of abortion, pointing out it's grim side. That doesn't make the story anti-abortion. As someone who believes abortion should be legal, I could listen to that story and say "wow, that was interesting and grim and my understanding of the darker side of abortion is deepened but I still think it's worth it." Abortion is bad - I've spoken to women who've had abortions, and none of them have described it as a good thing, a great or fun experience - but I think it's better than the alternative. War can be the same way.

The fact that you concluded you "still think [abortion] is worth it" (emphasis mine) implies that you would think such a story was implying abortion was not worth it.

I'll throw the same question back at you - are you actually saying that dwelling on the horrors of war is partisan? Are you really saying that it is/should be true that only people of a certain set of political beliefs can look at war's dark side and contemplate whether or not it's worth it? Are you saying that right-wingers aren't allowed to empathize with the other side in a military conflict?

I think you are missing my point a little: showing the horrors of war is not partisan, but dwelling on the horrors of a particular war to the exclusion of all else is partisan.

Suppose I made a 19-minute film called "Wal-Mart" and all I showed for the entire period was children working in sweat-shops.  Would you still consider that non-partisan?  Never once showing the good Wal-Mart has done (with regard to Hurricane Katrina, low-priced pharmacueticals, rejuvinating Chicago neighborhoods etc.).  My point is that if all you show is the negative of something, you move beyond simply asking questions to implying a viewpoint.
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« Reply #58 on: July 01, 2010, 06:10:30 PM »

Suppose I made a 19-minute film called "Wal-Mart" and all I showed for the entire period was children working in sweat-shops.  Would you still consider that non-partisan?  Never once showing the good Wal-Mart has done (with regard to Hurricane Katrina, low-priced pharmacueticals, rejuvinating Chicago neighborhoods etc.).  My point is that if all you show is the negative of something, you move beyond simply asking questions to implying a viewpoint.

That's a really interesting question. I'd say that this is, in fact, one of the qualities of artistic expression that separates it from more mundane forms of expression. If I'm a politician or a newscaster, I need to stay "balanced" to avoid voicing an implicit opinion. I need to give both sides a fair say. I don't feel this is so in art. In art, you can say "I want to give voice to a certain opinion" or "I want to explore a certain doubt" or "I want to express how I feel about something."

So, if your 19-minute film "Wal-Mart" was presented as a documentary, than I'd say it was making a partisan statement. If your 19-minute film "Wal-Mart" is following 19 minutes in the life of a character who was a worker in a sweat-shop, then I would say it's not partisan. It's art.

Here's a question for you, then: how would you have done it differently? You have 19 minutes of air-time. You want to tell a story about someone who feels haunted by the war. What do you do?
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« Reply #59 on: July 01, 2010, 06:56:24 PM »

Quote
So, if your 19-minute film "Wal-Mart" was presented as a documentary, than I'd say it was making a partisan statement. If your 19-minute film "Wal-Mart" is following 19 minutes in the life of a character who was a worker in a sweat-shop, then I would say it's not partisan. It's art.

QFT; a work of art is different from a piece of political writing because it is subject to interpretation.  I can quite enjoy and even be moved by a work of art with a message I disagree with, and I can find an intriguing portrayal of a point of view interesting even if I don't share that point of view. 

However, not to disregard the interesting discussion, the post that sparked this exchange was written in a derisive, dismissive, and frankly belligerent tone.  It identified the story as "left-wing" and on that basis discarded it.  That is the sort of criticism and response that is unhelpful to anyone and is discouraged on this forum.  Disagreeing with a story is fine; interpreting a story's theme or message and discussing your reaction to that is fine.  (I do that all that time, as with "Fulgurite" or "Bride of Frankenstein.")  What's not conducive to conversation is to be snide, rude, or otherwise shut down discourse, but to remember that we are, in fact, discussing art here, and thus discussing objects whose meaning is unclear and which will always be subject to interpretation and redefinition due to the different lenses with which we view them. 
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« Reply #60 on: July 02, 2010, 12:58:46 AM »

I thought this was one of the best stories in Pseudopod history. No lie. It was a great example of finding horror in the everyday (the last story that did it this well was "Bophuthatswana"). I didn't see an anti-war message, just one person's horror at witnessing death and suffering--and at how commonplace and pervasive death and suffering have become in a global culture.

There was a point in my life when I realized that tides of violence are constantly sweeping the earth and that it is only by sheer luck that I was born in a place where it is relatively safe to live; ever since then, a great black fear has preyed on the edges of my mind, telling me over and over, "You're not any better than those people in other countries who are having their homes destroyed and their loved ones killed. This could easily happen to you one day." I don't feel guilty for being privileged, nor do I worry all that much about those people in other countries. What I do feel is utterly terrified in a cosmic sense. How can any of us sleep at night knowing what a violent and self-destructive species we are? To a large extent, that's why I read horror stories; they allow me to face a little bit of that fear in a safe environment. But every once in a while, a story comes along that taps into this real-life horror and makes me feel less alone. If I had grown up a hundred years ago, I could probably have maintained the illusion that the world is a basically good place where bad things sometimes happen but everything eventually works out for the best. It's impossible for me to do that nowadays. The unending barrage of awful news from all corners of the world has taught me that any small happiness is a rare and fragile thing. Unless we go and live alone in the woods, we're pretty much forced to digest horror after horror every day. I wonder what kids growing up today think about the world. Do they have any hope? Or do they just resign themselves to cataloging the horrors the way the narrator's brother does in this story?

To me, this story was about the gnawing anxiety of being alive and awake in the 21st Century. Everywhere you look, there's something terrifying to witness. It's on TV, on your computer, at your school, and in your family. It's not just war, it's life in general. The dung beetle metaphor at the end didn't seem preachy to me because it didn't offer any sort of solution. The author wasn't saying, "We should be like the dung beetles." It just seemed like a desperate escape fantasy: "If only there was a way we could fly away from all this shit." I wish there was.

I would take a hundred more stories like this.
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« Reply #61 on: July 02, 2010, 01:15:35 AM »

This much ado about nothing is why I self censored my first post.

I only posted my opinion because I was asked for it by one person, and snidely dismissed due to my post count by another.
As far as my comments being rude or combative I'll just counter with the argument that my critique of this tripe was art itself (after all it did
evoke an emotional response) and you are just unable to understand or fully grasp it.

I suppose I should have said this "story" is more like a diary or journal entry than an actual story, which would be fine if anything actually happened in it.
I've read plenty of books and short stories that used that style to great effect, here however it's used simply to drone on about people's desensitization
to violence and thinly veiled leftist anti-war sentiment.

Had this story been right-wing pro-war flag waving I may have got a chuckle out of it due to the political incorrectness of that stance,
but in the end I would have still found it preachy and boring. Yes, war IS bad, it should be the final option at all times, and when that time comes
it should be fought to be won as quickly and as decisively as possible.

Art is subjective, one man's masterpiece is an other man's brush cleaning cloth, yet strangely enough both opinions are valid and accurate.
With that said here is a quote from the front page of this web site.
Pseudopod
You’ve found the world’s premier horror fiction podcast. Pseudopod  brings you the best short horror in audio form, to take with you anywhere.

WARNING: This is a podcast of horror fiction. The stories presented here are intended to disturb you. They are likely to contain death, graphic violence, explicit sex (including sexual violence), hate crimes, blasphemy, or other themes and images that hook deep into your psyche. We do not provide ratings or content warnings for specific stories. We assume by your listening that you wish to be disturbed for your entertainment. If there are any themes that you cannot deal with in fiction, that are too strongly personal to you, please do not listen.

No where here is art for arts sake mentioned, what is mentioned? Horror fiction and entertainment. This story contained neither in my opinion.
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« Reply #62 on: July 02, 2010, 02:07:39 AM »

Quote
I didn't see an anti-war message, just one person's horror at witnessing death and suffering--and at how commonplace and pervasive death and suffering have become in a global culture.

and

Quote
To me, this story was about the gnawing anxiety of being alive and awake in the 21st Century. Everywhere you look, there's something terrifying to witness. It's on TV, on your computer, at your school, and in your family. It's not just war, it's life in general. The dung beetle metaphor at the end didn't seem preachy to me because it didn't offer any sort of solution. The author wasn't saying, "We should be like the dung beetles." It just seemed like a desperate escape fantasy: "If only there was a way we could fly away from all this shit." I wish there was.

Thank you very much, Jesse Livingston!  Couldn't have put it better myself. except to add that the story is also specifically about realizing one's growing apathy, through repetition, towards images of real violence (disassociated from their human context), in a culture in which images of real violence (disassociated from their human context) are fast becoming the next big fascination on a large scale, and also the realization that the step after that is enjoyment of said commodity - apathetic sadism, essentially.  This isn't an anti-war story as far as I'm concerned and I'm happy to see someone else realize that.

Thanks for listening.

“In this image (watching sensual murder through a peephole) Lorrain embodies the criminal delight of decadent art.  The watcher who records the crimes (both the artist and consumer of art) is constructed as marginal, powerless to act, and so exculpated from action, passive subject of a complex pleasure, condemning and yet enjoying suffering imposed on others, and condemning himself for his own enjoyment.  In this masochistic celebration of disempowerment, the sharpest pleasure recorded is that of the death of some important part of humanity.  The dignity of human life is the ultimate victim of Lorrain's art, thrown away on a welter of delighted self-disgust.”
“Carnival of Crime: The Writing of Jean Lorrain (1855-1906)” by Jennifer Birkett, introduction to SELECTIONS BY JEAN LORRAIN in THE DECADENT READER
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« Reply #63 on: July 02, 2010, 08:34:47 AM »

Hi disk2,

This much ado about nothing is why I self censored my first post.
Which is all well and good except you came off quite snobbish (probably the wrong word) while doing it.

Your opinions are valid, however I'd like to point you in the direction of our One Rule.  Most of your post is fine, if not a little hostile, but please refrain from being a dick about it.  I refer specifically to:
I'll just counter with the argument that my critique of this tripe was art itself (after all it did
evoke an emotional response) and you are just unable to understand or fully grasp it.

And calling the story "tripe" wasn't very respectful either.

Carry on.
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« Reply #64 on: July 02, 2010, 08:38:53 AM »

I only posted my opinion because I was asked for it by one person, and snidely dismissed due to my post count by another.
As far as my comments being rude or combative I'll just counter with the argument that my critique of this tripe was art itself (after all it did
evoke an emotional response) and you are just unable to understand or fully grasp it.

Since I was one of those who asked for a fuller opinion, I'll just say that I appreciated the more detailed expansion of it.   
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« Reply #65 on: July 02, 2010, 08:44:49 AM »

Here's the thing: in my experience people almost never complain that a story was "too political" unless they disagree with the story's politics (or what they imagine the story's politics to be). "Too political" is usually a shorthand for "the story challenged my beliefs and that makes me angry." If you want to criticize a story, talk about what the story actually did or didn't do.

I disagree.  Take the Escape Pod story "Pervert", which to me was a pretty transparent message story telling me that it's harmful for society to suppress someone's sexual orientation.  I don't disagree with that message in the slightest, but the message was still simply too much like a lecture to me.  I like a story that carries a message, but I hate a message that carries a story, and that's a "valid" opinion. 

And regarding calling someone else's opinion "invalid" or "stupid" I'd say that neither of them are a great resolution.  The One Rule here that I've heard of is not to insult other people whether that be the author or other forumites, and both of those sound like insults to me.  I don't have to agree with everyone's posts, but why can't I just say "I disagree" instead of saying that there's something inherently wrong with your opinion.
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« Reply #66 on: July 02, 2010, 08:48:24 AM »

I'll throw the same question back at you - are you actually saying that dwelling on the horrors of war is partisan? Are you really saying that it is/should be true that only people of a certain set of political beliefs can look at war's dark side and contemplate whether or not it's worth it? Are you saying that right-wingers aren't allowed to empathize with the other side in a military conflict?

I don't think "partisan" or "political" are the word I would use, because as you said, anti-war isn't really one side of the fence or the other.  I would however say that the story is too message-heavy, the series of events serving only to try to convince me that war is hell.  The basic message is pretty hard to argue against, but since the story seemed to do nothing but deliver that message, I'd still say it's too message-heavy.
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« Reply #67 on: July 02, 2010, 04:39:03 PM »

I think the story takes as given that war is hell, and then asks, "So what does it mean to us that the war is omnipresent, that we can flip over to YouTube and see a thousand snippets of film direct from combat?"  The same questions arose with the omnipresence of the big news networks and television, with people sitting at their dining room table watching men dying in Vietnam.  Now, we can not only watch, but we can participate.  We can edit, splice, dub, and collect.  The narrator is viewing a groomed and selected collection of videos on his brother's computer, videos culled from the farthest reaches of the world and the very front seat of horror, videos of men dying violently and painfully, and saved them under "Funny War Videos."

Holy crap, dude. 

That's the horror here; not that we are desensitized to violence or that war is bad, but that GIVEN that war is bad, what does it say about the character in the story and humanity in general that his response to the horrific images was to construct them as he did?  He had freedom to react in any way, and he reacted that way.  Did he choose that?  Why?  Did he not choose that?  If not, what influenced him to do that?

We're all connected now, more so than ever before in history.  We are involved.  We are participants.  Do we realize that?  What are we doing with that power?  This story is the dark side of the (overhyped) "Twitter Revolution" in Iran, to me. 
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« Reply #68 on: July 04, 2010, 02:17:53 PM »

Exactly!
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« Reply #69 on: July 06, 2010, 03:58:06 PM »

I think I've mentioned this all before, but the idea that "Oh no! Everyone is desensitized to violence!" is pretty hum-drum to me.  As I have pointed out: less than 400 years ago, young men the narrator's age would have been ridiculed and even ostracized if they had NOT engaged PERSONALLY in terrible violence (vikings, for example, who did NOT kill children on raids were considered eccentric at best).

The fact that the biggest horror one can dredge up is 24-hour news networks and youtube videos just says to me that the 21st century world has made a LOT of progress in a very short time period.

It's also interesting to note that everyone here has been saying "war is bad" as a given.  As it was some Law of Nature.  "War is bad" is NOT a given.  That's a culturally-based statement.  Hundreds of years ago, death in battle was the highest achievement a man could aspire to.  Now war is a dirty word.  Again: progress.

To come back to the story: it all felt whiny and preachy to me.  Message heavy and overly focussed on, what I see as, not really a big deal (watching violent videos).

This whole discussion has boiled down to whether this story was "political" or "partisan" - I agree with Unblinking: either way, it's way too heavy handed in its message.

Some people may not agree - but that's totally fine.  Some people obviously do not think it's too heavy handed.  Everyone opinions differ.
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« Reply #70 on: July 06, 2010, 04:16:39 PM »

I think I've mentioned this all before, but the idea that "Oh no! Everyone is desensitized to violence!" is pretty hum-drum to me.  As I have pointed out: less than 400 years ago, young men the narrator's age would have been ridiculed and even ostracized if they had NOT engaged PERSONALLY in terrible violence (vikings, for example, who did NOT kill children on raids were considered eccentric at best).

Your point is...?

I don't know - the fact that the world sucked even more four hundred years ago does not erase the horror of the now. Maybe the story is just ahead of it's time Wink.

The fact that the biggest horror one can dredge up is 24-hour news networks and youtube videos just says to me that the 21st century world has made a LOT of progress in a very short time period.

It's also interesting to note that everyone here has been saying "war is bad" as a given.  As it was some Law of Nature.  "War is bad" is NOT a given.  That's a culturally-based statement.  Hundreds of years ago, death in battle was the highest achievement a man could aspire to.  Now war is a dirty word.  Again: progress.

I'm not sure which point you're making here. Are you claiming that "war is bad" is not a given - it's a culturally biased statement - and therefore not true? I'll grant that it's a biased statement, albeit one that I'm willing to defend. Or, are you again arguing that there's been progress?

To come back to the story: it all felt whiny and preachy to me.  Message heavy and overly focussed on, what I see as, not really a big deal (watching violent videos).

This whole discussion has boiled down to whether this story was "political" or "partisan" - I agree with Unblinking: either way, it's way too heavy handed in its message.

Some people may not agree - but that's totally fine.  Some people obviously do not think it's too heavy handed.  Everyone opinions differ.

That's fair, though let's not forget that we're here to express, consider, and debate opinions. At least, that's what I'm here for.

Anyway, I'm pretty puzzled by the first half of your post. Are you writing that war isn't as bad as we're all keyed up to believe, or are you writing that we've made progress and therefore it's a dead issue, not worth talking about? The first is an interesting statement, though possibly growing beyond the scope of this particular message board. I won't jump down your throat for it - there are some pretty major political scientists who will talk about how war is an unavoidable necessity and we'd be happier as a world if we just got used to/over it - though I do disagree. The second, though, is a bit... well... I don't know how to put this. Above you told me you'd like me to call your opinions stupid when I don't like them, but I'm still not comfortable with that Tongue.

Okay, okay, that was silly.

I feel that "we've made a lot of progress" isn't a good reason to criticize or silence social commentary. By that logic we should immediately cease all social commentary. After all, "a lot" is such a subjective term and we've certainly made at least some progress on pretty much any issue you can name. Where do you draw the line? At what point have we made enough progress - short of solving the problem altogether - that we should stop commenting on it?

And if we do, how are we expected to ever solve the problem the rest of the way?
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« Reply #71 on: July 06, 2010, 05:20:42 PM »

No, no: all I'm saying is that nowadays the cultural view is that "war is bad" and that it used to be "war is fantastic."  Some people (myself included) might call that progress.

I do not argue that societal progress is not necessary, but I'll return to what I stated earlier: this story feels "whiny."  Given the massive amount of real horror and death being visited in the world today (Africa for example - where many young men are still taught "war is fantastic") - the existential whining of some nameless teenager about some youtube videos feels petty to me.

On the other hand, if the story had created a realistic character and gotten me (the reader) immersed in his existential angst and struggle with the impersonal nature of modern warfare (Jarhead, comes to mind) then I would have actually enjoyed the story.  But that is not what this story does.  It makes some social commentary, then expects us all to stand in awe of the revelation.

That may not be your viewpoint, and that is fine.  But again, my problem with this story, and all "message" stories is that the success or failure of the story rests with the success or failure of the message.  If the message lands with impact on the reader, the story is a success.  If it does not, the story fails.  Hence: these sort of stories are highly subjective and base their success on societal commentary, rather than effective plotting, character arcs and tension.

There is nothing wrong with societal commentary, but this story is so built around it that the characters are nameless and faceless and the plot: wholly non-existent.  In my mind, it's lazy, boring and (as many have pointed out) reads like a journal entry.  In general, these sort of stories are only appreciated by those who agree with the message.  In contrast, ANYONE can enjoy a story which makes social criticism, so long as the criticism does not overwhelm the story.  In my opinion, the criticism of this story not only overwhelms the story, it beats it completely to death.
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« Reply #72 on: July 06, 2010, 09:14:13 PM »

Quote
I think I've mentioned this all before, but the idea that "Oh no! Everyone is desensitized to violence!" is pretty hum-drum to me.  As I have pointed out: less than 400 years ago, young men the narrator's age would have been ridiculed and even ostracized if they had NOT engaged PERSONALLY in terrible violence (vikings, for example, who did NOT kill children on raids were considered eccentric at best).

I don't necessarily see a connection between one and the other, and I think you're simplified reduction dodges the point.  This isn't about the act of violence, it's about the observation of the act of violence, the mediated experience, and how mediation tends to turn everything into "entertainment" by reducing it to a spectacle.  The brother "collects" scenes of real people dying.  As I imlied in my statement, I don't  think "war is bad" or even "this particular war is bad" are the main point of the piece.  The author could have used "Jackass"-styled deliberate style self-abuse, or even YouTube-posted "beatdowns", but neither would have been as powerful (they don't involve death) and the current war provides not only a good example of this phenomena, but makes larger sense as the population's attraction to the culture and idea of combat always increases when a war is actually in effect.  Your example of violence in the past is true, but in no way engages the actual point I was making.  We have now "advanced" to the point where the things we made great efforts to reduce (successfully or unsuccessfully) in the last century (war is probably impossible to completely eradicate, but post WWI, when anyone with half a mind realized just how vast, horrible, wasteful and stupid the modern iteration of war was, and how easily it could occur, worked to reduce those circumstances) are now routinely recorded and those recordings are treated as commodities to be consumed at our leisure.  You don't have to think that's horrifying, you can just as easily, as many do, shrug and say "so what?", but I think your'e being deliberately obtuse if you can't see how others might find that horrifying.

Quote
this story feels "whiny."  Given the massive amount of real horror and death being visited in the world today (Africa for example - where many young men are still taught "war is fantastic") - the existential whining of some nameless teenager about some youtube videos feels petty to me.

Given the massive amount of violence and suffering in the world, any "horror" topic pales in comparison. It's an asinine argument, in my opinion  (find one of those Africans and see if they care a whit about Lovecraft's cosmic horror).  Given the widespread existence of systemized rape and genital mutilation in the Third World, would a story about the rape of a middle-classed, teenage American girl seem "whiny"?  Howabout a story with someone discovering the growing popularity of videos of these rapes and mutilations that occur in the Third World, amongst American youngsters?  "Whiny"?

It's obvious that the style and content of the story were not to your tastes.  Given your statements, I'm absolutely sure there are a number of Pseudopod stories upcoming in your archive listening that will not be to your tastes, which is actually a good thing and to be expected.  These arguments on the boards are not an attempt to change your opinion, but I do believe that occasionally you underestimate stories that you dont particularly like for formal/structural reasons.  I believe the intent was for the story to read "like a journal entry" and for the characters to be nameless and faceless.  Plots are in the eye of the beholder, especially when you move out of standard story structure into something like this. Call it "experimental", and thus not something you like on principal, if that serves.

Thanks for listening.

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Adam Gopnick from the review of “The Old Devil: A Life Of Kingsley Amis” published in The New Yorker, April 23, 2007.
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« Reply #73 on: July 07, 2010, 01:31:19 PM »

Quote
this story feels "whiny."  Given the massive amount of real horror and death being visited in the world today (Africa for example - where many young men are still taught "war is fantastic") - the existential whining of some nameless teenager about some youtube videos feels petty to me.

Given the massive amount of violence and suffering in the world, any "horror" topic pales in comparison. It's an asinine argument, in my opinion  (find one of those Africans and see if they care a whit about Lovecraft's cosmic horror).  Given the widespread existence of systemized rape and genital mutilation in the Third World, would a story about the rape of a middle-classed, teenage American girl seem "whiny"?  Howabout a story with someone discovering the growing popularity of videos of these rapes and mutilations that occur in the Third World, amongst American youngsters?  "Whiny"?

I think you missed my point: the story is "whiny" because it focusses on the topic, not the character.  I believe I pointed that out earlier.  Had it made me feel the character struggling with his existential angst, I would have been impressed.  But instead, it just reads like a lecture that attempts to inflate, what some might consider, an unimpressive societal problem into a world-spanning horror.  Ie. "whiny."

It's obvious that the style and content of the story were not to your tastes.  Given your statements, I'm absolutely sure there are a number of Pseudopod stories upcoming in your archive listening that will not be to your tastes, which is actually a good thing and to be expected.  These arguments on the boards are not an attempt to change your opinion, but I do believe that occasionally you underestimate stories that you dont particularly like for formal/structural reasons.  I believe the intent was for the story to read "like a journal entry" and for the characters to be nameless and faceless.  Plots are in the eye of the beholder, especially when you move out of standard story structure into something like this. Call it "experimental", and thus not something you like on principal, if that serves.

Thanks for listening.

“It is a very good thing to have a built in bullshit detector, but a bad thing when the bullshit detector crowds out the rest of your brain; that’s why they call it being narrow-minded. You quickly reach the stage where anything ambitious, complicated or merely foreign gets spat on along with the things that are generally phony. Pretense and ambition are different words for the same thing, and a writing without pretense pretty soon becomes a literature without ambitions, content to congratulate itself on it’s own insularity. Blimpishness is not a step away; it is all you have left.”
Adam Gopnick from the review of “The Old Devil: A Life Of Kingsley Amis” published in The New Yorker, April 23, 2007.

As politely as I can manage: if you believe I am being narrow-minded, please feel free to state it outright.  I would appreciate it if you left your pretentious quotes at home.

If I take your lead and call this story "experimental" in style, then you would do well to remember that experiments sometimes fail.  I believe this one has.  I might also, very politely, ask you not to make sweeping generalizations about people you know very little about.  I have enjoyed experimental stories in the past, just not this one.
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« Reply #74 on: July 07, 2010, 01:54:00 PM »

Given the massive amount of violence and suffering in the world, any "horror" topic pales in comparison. It's an asinine argument, in my opinion  (find one of those Africans and see if they care a whit about Lovecraft's cosmic horror).  Given the widespread existence of systemized rape and genital mutilation in the Third World, would a story about the rape of a middle-classed, teenage American girl seem "whiny"?  Howabout a story with someone discovering the growing popularity of videos of these rapes and mutilations that occur in the Third World, amongst American youngsters?  "Whiny"?

This. Yes.

I grew up with parents who are controlling to the point of abuse, but they never hit me or raped me. Does that mean that it would be "whiny" for me to write a story about dealing with controlling parents? Would it be "whiny" for me to seek therapy and write about my experiences? I was fed, clothed, and loved. Nobody hurt, raped, or mangled me. There are children in third world countries being sold into sex slavery - how dare you feel bad about your mother throwing out your fantasy novels and RPG character sheets to the point that you had to carry them with you everywhere you went! What's wrong with you?

Pain is relative. That's the point of art - it allows us to understand someone's experience out of context with the rest of the world and experience the world through unfamiliar eyes. It's silencing to say "I judge your pain as 'whiny' because someone else's pain is worse."
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« Reply #75 on: July 07, 2010, 04:53:44 PM »

I would appreciate it if you left your pretentious quotes at home.

Hey there, if you are talking about the quote at the end of his post, he always (or almost always, I don't know) puts quotes at the end of his posts.
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« Reply #76 on: July 07, 2010, 05:04:24 PM »

Given the massive amount of violence and suffering in the world, any "horror" topic pales in comparison. It's an asinine argument, in my opinion  (find one of those Africans and see if they care a whit about Lovecraft's cosmic horror).  Given the widespread existence of systemized rape and genital mutilation in the Third World, would a story about the rape of a middle-classed, teenage American girl seem "whiny"?  Howabout a story with someone discovering the growing popularity of videos of these rapes and mutilations that occur in the Third World, amongst American youngsters?  "Whiny"?

This. Yes.

I grew up with parents who are controlling to the point of abuse, but they never hit me or raped me. Does that mean that it would be "whiny" for me to write a story about dealing with controlling parents? Would it be "whiny" for me to seek therapy and write about my experiences? I was fed, clothed, and loved. Nobody hurt, raped, or mangled me. There are children in third world countries being sold into sex slavery - how dare you feel bad about your mother throwing out your fantasy novels and RPG character sheets to the point that you had to carry them with you everywhere you went! What's wrong with you?

Pain is relative. That's the point of art - it allows us to understand someone's experience out of context with the rest of the world and experience the world through unfamiliar eyes. It's silencing to say "I judge your pain as 'whiny' because someone else's pain is worse."

I guess I'm just not effectively conveying what I mean to say:

The author of this story does not effectively characterize the protagonist. Therefore, the existential angst comes across as whiny, rather than poignant.

I did not see the "relative" nature of the protagonist's pain in this piece.  That is precisely why I felt it failed as art.

You are free to disagree, but I just hope I am making my point clear.
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Millenium_King
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« Reply #77 on: July 07, 2010, 05:05:24 PM »

I would appreciate it if you left your pretentious quotes at home.

Hey there, if you are talking about the quote at the end of his post, he always (or almost always, I don't know) puts quotes at the end of his posts.

Yeah, I know.  But the one he used seemed a little spot-on.  I'm just saying.
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Sgarre1
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« Reply #78 on: July 07, 2010, 08:43:51 PM »

Quote
I think you missed my point: the story is "whiny" because it focusses on the topic, not the character.  I believe I pointed that out earlier.  Had it made me feel the character struggling with his existential angst, I would have been impressed.  But instead, it just reads like a lecture that attempts to inflate, what some might consider, an unimpressive societal problem into a world-spanning horror.  Ie. "whiny."

Well, your actual statement was:

Quote
On the other hand, if the story had created a realistic character and gotten me (the reader) immersed in his existential angst and struggle with the impersonal nature of modern warfare (Jarhead, comes to mind) then I would have actually enjoyed the story.

Which I ignored because, despite your pushing the point yet again, I don't believe "modern warfare" (like Jarhead) is the point, it's the videos showing violence (they just happen to be war videos) and the fact that they were collected.  In your suggestion, you were asking for another story, then unhappy you didn't get it.

But, sure, got it.  No more fruitful discussion there, then.

Quote
As politely as I can manage: if you believe I am being narrow-minded, please feel free to state it outright.  I would appreciate it if you left your pretentious quotes at home.

If I take your lead and call this story "experimental" in style, then you would do well to remember that experiments sometimes fail.  I believe this one has.  I might also, very politely, ask you not to make sweeping generalizations about people you know very little about.  I have enjoyed experimental stories in the past, just not this one.

I don't believe you are being narrow-minded.   I would have said so if I thought so.  The quote (which isn't in itself pretentious, although I may certainly be pretentious in using it, that's subjective, although I'd wear it as a badge of honor at this point in my life) was included because it lays out a clear pattern by which the effort to reach the highest of goals (critical judgement of creative work) can go astray through the best of intentions, and I felt it summed up nicely the danger in holding up experimental texts to standards they aren't attempting to emulate.  And that related to the discussion.  I apologize if you took it personally, but it was meant as a summation (which was why it was spot on).

As for "sweeping generalizations", I did say "if that serves".  If it doesn't, you're free to ignore it.  But if you feel that that doesn't mitigate it being a sweeping generalization, again, I apologize for insulting you.

May I also ask you, in turn, to not make sweeping generalizations/reductions in your interpretation of the SUPPOSED intent of stories (whether "Set Down This" as "war is bad", "Wave Goodbye" as "white liberals should feel guilty for not helping the Third World enough" or "The Undoing" as "Torture is bad") in the future?  You're more than welcome to your opinion, and we want to hear those opinions (you're obviously a thoughtful individual), but none of these stories would have passed muster if they'd been that simplistic and it's an insult to both the writer and the editors to suggest so. Maybe none of these stories succeeded in getting it's point across to you and, if so, that's a failure on the writer's part - this isn't meant as a statement that your opinion is wrong - but, instead, suggesting that the story was intending only to convey a puerile message (and especially in the case of "Wave Goodbye", when other readers can point out in-story elements that seriously undermine that reductive assumption, all it takes is giving the writer a little credit and not reading in "reactionary" mode) at which it failed or succeeded, isn't very productive or, as I said, respectful to the author.  "Set Down This" was cast with the expectation that it would not be for everybody.  But one can dislike a story without resorting to rhetorical, reductionist strawmen to be easily knocked over.  Classic stories as varied as "Duel", ""The Small Assassin" and "The Shunned House" may be critiqued for various elements, but "Truck drivers are mean", "Babies are evil" and "A Giant Elbow is scary" (respectively) aren't honest summations of those stories.

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« Last Edit: July 07, 2010, 08:52:53 PM by Sgarre1 » Logged
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« Reply #79 on: July 07, 2010, 10:53:28 PM »

Dude.  Giant elbow means giant piledriver.  Talk about The People's Elbow!  I'm scared already...
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Millenium_King
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« Reply #80 on: July 08, 2010, 01:15:56 PM »

May I also ask you, in turn, to not make sweeping generalizations/reductions in your interpretation of the SUPPOSED intent of stories (whether "Set Down This" as "war is bad", "Wave Goodbye" as "white liberals should feel guilty for not helping the Third World enough" or "The Undoing" as "Torture is bad") in the future?  You're more than welcome to your opinion, and we want to hear those opinions (you're obviously a thoughtful individual), but none of these stories would have passed muster if they'd been that simplistic and it's an insult to both the writer and the editors to suggest so.

Politely: not a chance.  If I feel a story is "simplistic" or "peurile" enough to be reduced to a single sentence, then that is my critique of the story.  As for "SUPPOSED intent" - all I can give is what I suppose the intent was.  There is no "objective" intent (we can argue literary crit schools later) - hence, I can only give my subjective interpretation of what I saw as the intent.

I don't subscribe to the school of thought that giving a bad review instantly means I think the author and editors are colossal idiots.  They obviously felt the story succeeded, but I did not.  I don't mean to go on a rant here, but this is a topic which absolutely drives me nuts: if you like chocolate icecream and I say I hate it, that is not an insult to you.

Maybe none of these stories succeeded in getting it's point across to you and, if so, that's a failure on the writer's part - this isn't meant as a statement that your opinion is wrong - but, instead, suggesting that the story was intending only to convey a puerile message...

I'm sorry, but again (and I'll qualify this for the 1000th time) in my opinion all those stories conveyed was a "peurile" or "simplistic" message.

(and especially in the case of "Wave Goodbye", when other readers can point out in-story elements that seriously undermine that reductive assumption...

I did not agree with their assessment.  I likewise did not agree that the "in-story elements" they pointed out "seriously undermined [my] reductive assumption."  For example: some people felt the dead white woman was not a cardboard cutout; I did not.  Some people felt the little girl added tension; I never considered her a serious obstacle.

...all it takes is giving the writer a little credit and not reading in "reactionary" mode) at which it failed or succeeded, isn't very productive or, as I said, respectful to the author.

The point I think you're missing is that, while it's totally possible for a writer to attempt a story which transcends an otherwise simplistic message - it's also possible for a story to fail at transcending that message.  Am I not justified in saying "this story failed to transcend its message?" Is that an invalid critique?  You seem to be implying it is.  You furthermore seem to be implying that such a critique amounts to calling the author a moron.

"Set Down This" was cast with the expectation that it would not be for everybody.  But one can dislike a story without resorting to rhetorical, reductionist strawmen to be easily knocked over.  Classic stories as varied as "Duel", ""The Small Assassin" and "The Shunned House" may be critiqued for various elements, but "Truck drivers are mean", "Babies are evil" and "A Giant Elbow is scary" (respectively) aren't honest summations of those stories.

Going back to what I said above: those three stories effectively transcend their otherwise simple themes.  "Set Down This" et al, do not (in my opinion).

Again: you may feel this story transcendantly dealt with huge themes, but I did not.

EDIT:

I just wanted to add that I apologize if I am coming across as a jerk.  It is possible I am misinterpreting your point, but this is one of those subjects that drive me crazy.  If I do not like a story, then I simply say so.  In the past, others have also insinuated that this is tantamount to insulting the author and editor personally - that is absolutely not what I mean and it bugs me when people imply such (again, apologies if I am misinterpreting you).

I frequently find myself unable to enjoy a story within the constraints it has set up.  To me, a story fails or succeeds.  Period.  I don't give it much leeway based on style. Ie. "This is an 'experimental' story, so I'll judge it from a different perspective."  You seem to have an ability to appreciate a broader variety of literary styles - which is not a talent I share.  As the famous saying goes: "I don't know art, but I know what I like."  I certainly appreciate your viewpoint and have been pleased in the past with the spirited defense you have put up in the past regarding certain stories which may not have been suitable for everyone's palette.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2010, 02:23:13 PM by Millenium_King » Logged

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gelee
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« Reply #81 on: July 08, 2010, 03:35:55 PM »

If I might make a suggestion, maybe you could just tone down some of the negatives a smidge.  A lot of your story feedback comes across as either blithely dismissive of other peoples opinions or very strongly reactive.  Specifically, I've noticed several instances where you use the phrases "I don't care," or "I hate X."  That kind of language is off-putting at best, and discourages real discussion of the story.  Instead, we end up talking about how you said something, rather than what you said, or why you said it.
If you're sincere in not wanting to come off as a jerk, that might be a good place to start.  I'm just about ready to write you off as a Troll, but every now and then you'll point out something really interesting or insightfull and I start reading your posts again.  You're obviously a bright person, and I'm interested in hearing what you think about these stories, but I'm having a hard time hearing past the passion of your negativity.
Sure, writers miss the mark.  Sometimes stories don't work for part of the audience, and that's a totally valid thing to talk about.  This particular story didn't work for me, either, but there are better ways to say that than "I hate this story," or "If that was the intended point and I missed it, I don't care."  Hostility, real or percieved, doesn't advance the discussion at all.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2010, 03:39:07 PM by gelee » Logged
Millenium_King
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« Reply #82 on: July 08, 2010, 03:59:04 PM »

I appreciate your feedback, thanks.

However, I am beginning to feel that I am de-railing this thread.  Unless someone has any specific questions for me regarding this story, I think I'm going to politely "close the book" on my review of it and ask that anything else be sent PM to me.
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Fenrix
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« Reply #83 on: December 29, 2010, 02:47:18 PM »

Yes, the story is political. It's talking about a big issue - a war - so that's political. What the story isn't is partisan. The story does not, itself, espouse a political opinion.

This is a significant part of why I enjoyed the story, unlike the terrible "Dubya is a werewolf" story. I thought it did a good job of being political but not partisan screed. I think the author was thought provoking while not being ham handed.

Hell, I forgot to credit the closing music.  Fixed now.

Good pick. It fit well.
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Umbrageofsnow
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« Reply #84 on: January 21, 2011, 05:07:13 PM »

I think the narrator is sort of snapping towards the end, and the implication is that that might be the correct response to witnessing these sorts of things. The horror of the story lies in why we don't.

I would consider this horror, although I could see why some people don't.  I will add (a bit late) my voice to the chorus of people who are extremely glad Pseudopod is willing to take risks like this. 

As to how much I liked it, I'd say I'm in some kind of weird zone of liking this about as much as I possibly can while still not liking it enough to recommend to anyone else.  It's right at that limit of "glad I read it" and "want to make my friends read it".  I don't quite like this enough to pass it around to the people I regularly email podcasts to, but I don't "want an hour of my life back" or anything.  (I listened to the podcast 3 times for this one.)  Could have used a little more to the story, but I did actually enjoy it.

I would also like to say that I REALLY like the music at the end, I like the standard music too, but this just seemed so appropriate for this episode.  All chaotic and high tech.  Very much like the story and/or our world today.

This may be my own personal biases, but did anyone else get the impression that his brother may have been dead, and going through his computer and musing on the files was part of figuring out who he really was, as a man?  I'm reading a lot into the "negative space" story here, but why weren't there any interruptions, even with sleeping and getting up in the middle of the night to be haunted by dead imaginary people.  Most brothers want to use their computers to watch youtube (or play diablo or whatever) by themselves at some point.  You'd think he would have got kicked off or interacted with him during the course of several days...
« Last Edit: January 21, 2011, 05:13:23 PM by Umbrageofsnow » Logged
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