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Author Topic: Pseudopod 197: Set Down This  (Read 31027 times)

Ben Phillips

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on: June 04, 2010, 09:31:06 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, 08:45:46 PM by Ben Phillips »



Millenium_King

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Reply #1 on: June 04, 2010, 11:02:15 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.

Visit my blog atop the black ziggurat of Ankor Sabat, including my list of Top 10 Pseudopod episodes.


Turnus

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Reply #2 on: June 05, 2010, 03:23:40 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.



Millenium_King

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Reply #3 on: June 05, 2010, 05:01:33 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.

Visit my blog atop the black ziggurat of Ankor Sabat, including my list of Top 10 Pseudopod episodes.


Scattercat

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Reply #4 on: June 06, 2010, 06:16:45 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, 06:18:40 AM by Scattercat »

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enigmatica

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Reply #5 on: June 06, 2010, 03:47:43 PM
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.



kibitzer

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Reply #6 on: June 07, 2010, 02:40:01 AM
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.


SanguineV

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Reply #7 on: June 07, 2010, 06:01:00 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.



Listener

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Reply #8 on: June 07, 2010, 12:59:03 PM
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.  ::)

Excellent reading.

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Jinmoonlight

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Reply #9 on: June 07, 2010, 02:25:39 PM
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, 05:15:49 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!   ;D

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DKT

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Reply #11 on: June 07, 2010, 05:46:42 PM
There is no MEH in TEAM!


JitteryWombat

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Reply #12 on: June 07, 2010, 08:24:20 PM
I will add my voice to the choruses of, "Keep experimenting, but this was not it." Give me narrative!



stePH

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Reply #13 on: June 08, 2010, 05:25:58 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, 10:27:56 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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Listener

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Reply #15 on: June 09, 2010, 01:24:42 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 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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Ben Phillips

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Reply #16 on: June 09, 2010, 08:46:11 PM
Hell, I forgot to credit the closing music.  Fixed now.



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Reply #17 on: June 10, 2010, 02:17:49 PM
Really not sure what to think about this.



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Reply #18 on: June 10, 2010, 06:13:13 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, 06:46:43 PM
I liked Alasdair's closing statements more than the story.

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Reply #20 on: June 14, 2010, 02:23:50 PM
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.



Nerraux

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Reply #21 on: June 14, 2010, 03:07:07 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.



Millenium_King

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Reply #22 on: June 15, 2010, 11:43:10 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.

Visit my blog atop the black ziggurat of Ankor Sabat, including my list of Top 10 Pseudopod episodes.


Nerraux

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Reply #23 on: June 16, 2010, 04:41:30 AM
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?



Unblinking

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Reply #24 on: June 16, 2010, 01:25:09 PM
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.