Author Topic: Pseudopod 200  (Read 8907 times)

Bdoomed

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Pseudopod 200
« on: June 25, 2010, 02:01:39 PM »
Pseudopod 200

In which we present, for your pleasurable unease, two classic tales of suspense and woe by two of the masters.

Oil of Dog
By Ambrose Bierce
Read by Ben Phillips

One evening while passing my father’s oil factory with the body of a foundling from my mother’s studio I saw a constable who seemed to be closely watching my movements. Young as I was, I had learned that a constable’s acts, of whatever apparent character, are prompted by the most reprehensible motives, and I avoided him by dodging into the oilery by a side door which happened to stand ajar. I locked it at once and was alone with my dead.



The Horror of the Heights
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The thirty-thousand-foot level has been reached time after time with no discomfort beyond cold and asthma. What does this prove? A visitor might descend upon this planet a thousand times and never see a tiger. Yet tigers exist, and if he chanced to come down into a jungle he might be devoured. There are jungles of the upper air, and there are worse things than tigers which inhabit them.



Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?

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Re: Pseudopod 200
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2010, 02:13:17 PM »
Awesomely terrible stories. Great choices, and I loved the idea of a double-feature for episode 200. I especially loved the dichotomy of the choices.

I'd never read the Bierce before and that was really disturbing, with an excellent reading by Ben.

I also loved the Doyle, especially trying to imagine how people must have thought of it when they read it, lo those many years ago.

Congrats to everyone at PP - may your fires continue to fuel the engines of our unease for many, many more episodes to come!

FrankOreto

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Re: Pseudopod 200
« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2010, 02:39:25 PM »
Congrats Pseudopod!
I'm looking forward to the next two hundred.
Horror of the heights is one of my personal favorites.   But with it's dependence on technology I think the story really belongs on escapepod.  Just joking. Great stuff. 
Thanks for two hundred episodes worth of hard work.

Fenrix

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Re: Pseudopod 200
« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2010, 03:03:27 PM »
I have only listened to Oil of Dog so far, and I'm really impressed. Time to add more Bierce to my reading list.

Thank you for two hundred episodes.
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kibitzer

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Re: Pseudopod 200
« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2010, 09:24:25 PM »
Awesome to hear Ben back reading again!

kibitzer

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Re: Pseudopod 200
« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2010, 11:35:03 PM »
That Bierce story was very fine indeed. I don't believe I've read any of his stories before and it sounds like I should rectify that. The casual way the protagonist refers to the horrors he witnesses and perpetrates is quite chilling.

As for Doyle, well... I've read his work repeatedly and extensively (although certainly not all). I can't tell you how many times I've read and re-read all the Holmes stories. Holmes remains my greatest literary hero.

Doyle was very prolific and wrote on a wide variety subjects. One short story collection includes "Tales Of..." the Ring (i.e. boxing), the Camp (military), Pirates, Blue Water, Terror, Mystery, Twilight and the Unseen, Medical Life (he was a qualified physician) and Long Ago.

Great readings by both Ben and Al, and what a wonderful way to celebrate 200 with our two favourite pseudopod-ians.

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Re: Pseudopod 200
« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2010, 04:53:57 PM »
"Dog Oil" was utter brilliance. I enjoyed (and was disturbed by) every second of it. Brilliant reading by Ben of a great story by a great writer.

"The Horror of the Heights" didn't do much for me, I'm afraid. The beginning and the end were quite good, but we simply know too much about the skies and what's in them for me to be able to be sucked into this (for what it's worth, I was listening to the story in an airport, while waiting to board a plane). But my main problem is that about 75% of the story has nothing to do with the horror of the heights but is rather a guy writing about how he's a great pilot and how being a pilot is cool. Maybe if I was into stories of aeronautical daring-do I would have been more interested in this; but instead this invoked in me the same feeling that I had back in my military days, whenever I met an airforce pilot, which was "god, he's so full of himself. I wish he would shut up and go away already".

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Re: Pseudopod 200
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2010, 09:56:09 AM »
Hey guys, this is my first time posting!

Just gotta say congrats on reaching 200 episodes, that's quite an achievement.

I loved these two stories! I haven't read anything by Doyle outside of sherlock holmes, but now I think I will.

Thanks to everyone involved in making Pseudopod awesome, I am looking forward to the episodes to come.

MacArthurBug

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Re: Pseudopod 200
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2010, 01:53:19 PM »
Ben AND Al reading? 200 is my new favorite number. 

"Dog oil" was strange, dark, and awful. I think I need to give it another listen.

"The Horror of the Heights" I know Holmes quite well, but this side of Doyle is new to me. Frumulous strange fabulous stuff. The descriptions of what could be are wonderful.

A constant supply of these older stories could get .. well.. old. But sprinkled like this? They're absolutely perfect.
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Re: Pseudopod 200
« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2010, 06:04:28 PM »
I feel like a gushing fanboi, but...

Could there be a better host than Al? Your outros in this one were simply wonderful. I don't know how you manage it but you come up with something different yet apropos every time, and the genuine warmth you feel for horror -- and, I suspect, fiction in general -- shines through.

Well done, Mr Stuart.

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Re: Pseudopod 200
« Reply #10 on: June 28, 2010, 01:37:42 AM »
Ah, Ambrose Bierce.  The most cynical bastard ever to live.  I love him for his unrepentant, unrelenting misanthropy.  I'm also a big fan of his habit of dry understatement.

The other story... I could have sworn I'd read a deeply similar story in one of my Weird Tales collections, complete with the daring aviator and the jellyfish in primary colors and suchlike, but in that story they actually kidnapped the dude and kept him on a pastel gravity field and they were sentient and tried to communicate and then there was a pogrom and the Evil Jellyfish came to kill him and he jumped back in his plane and hoped it would start before he hit the ground and the end was OH NO he crashed and they found his bloodstained notebook and etc.  I guess someone was just plagiarizing Doyle?  I dunno.  I liked it 'cause I tend to like the old style of writing with its blithely unconnected essays about the glories of Science! and the joyful destiny of Mankind and so on, but it def'nitely wasn't a favoritest favorite of favorites.  Also, the very last bit of his notebook was just lovely.  A real sense of impending doom there.  Otherwise kind of par for the course for that sort of thing.

Bierce is da bomb, though.
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Re: Pseudopod 200
« Reply #11 on: June 28, 2010, 03:49:25 AM »
Well, that was quite a nice surprise!

Great reading by Ben! "Oil of Dog" is one of those stories that once you've heard it, it never leaves your head...for all the reasons Al mentioned, but here's a few others: Bierce wasn't just the dryest, most acerbic writer at the time, he was also the damn funniest.  For those who enjoy black humor, "Oil of Dog" succeeds at being grimly funny as well as horrifying - Bierce can see the increasing industrialization of America, and the hypocrisy of proto-capitalist culture, the willingness (in fact, need) to turn everything into product, including people and their lives...and babies...and dogs, all while maintaining a civilized, cultured facade....and Bierce realizes the only way to condemn such cynical exploitation is to magnify it, exaggerate it and turn it back on itself.  And in the end, the American Myth of "Redemption Through Travel" means our young narrator can move away and relate the terrible events as just another part of his history.

Erik Bauersfeld (for my money one of the top 5 dramatic audio readers of horror fiction during the pre-internet age) did a performance of "Oil of Dog" on THE BLACK MASS, a KPFA radio show out of San Francisco, in 1964.  For those who would like to hear it, an mp3 can be downloaded here (and please don't deny yourself the other pleasures offered - sound can be a bit spotty at times, as these were broadcast in the 60's, but the Lovecraft, Bierce, Dunsany, Poe and De La Mare are outstanding):

http://www.kpfahistory.info/black_mass_index.html

Notorious dark-humor monologist, downtown NYC off-off-off Broadway crackpot and late-in-life David Letterman repeat guest Brother Theodore also included a slightly altered version of "Oil of Dog" (retitled "Tears From A Glass Eye") as part of his stage show, and it made it onto the first side of his 1955 album AN ENTERTAINMENT OF SINISTER AND DISCONCERTING HUMOR.  Someone has kindly mp3ed this obscure treasure and while you may have to listen to most of Side A (yes, it was one of those grammy-phone wax recordings) to get to his take on the tale, everyone should hear a little of Brother Theodore's dark wisdom sometime in their life (he also performed pieces by Clark Ashton Smith and Gustav Meyrink):

http://cosseyedcyclops.blogspot.com/2008/12/music-brother-theodore.html

As for "Horror Of The Heights" - I enjoyed it on this listen more than I did when I read it years ago.  Partially because I had read it then expecting a horror story, when really its more of a monster story or a weird tale, a strange creature or unknown world uncovered, than a story attempting to scare you.  As one gets older and reads more widely, it's nice to revisit older works and realize that you and your understanding of what consititutes good writing can only get wider and more inclusive, that there are very few concrete approaches to fiction that apply across time, and that its always better to look for what you can get out of older works instead of judging them harshly by your own blinkered perspectives.  What struck me on this reading were Doyle's wonderfully lyrical descriptions of the aerial vistas, alien and beautiful (Al's reading really sold these parts - good job - and the writing itself reminded me of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's memoir WIND, SAND AND STARS or Beryl Markham's WEST WITH THE NIGHT), and the entertaining "of-the-period" details on aviation and its history - you can really feel the rush of pride and joy over man's achievements in these realms, and feelings of justifiable assurance that these advancements will continue (specific details of the piece, like aerial jungles - what a great term! - aside).  Something I always find rewarding about reading older works are these "of the time" details that provide a nice dose of humility regarding our modern age's own assurance in its technological fetishism. 

So, congrats Pseudopod, two simply wonderful stories.  I'd actually enjoy it if older, public domain works were made the occasional, but scheduled (say bi- or tri- monthly) event to provide a nice contrast and bit of history.

Thanks for listening.

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Re: Pseudopod 200
« Reply #12 on: June 28, 2010, 08:40:33 AM »
Congratulations, Pseudopod, on turning 200!  And a great doubleheader episode to celebrate. 

The name Ambrose Bierce rings a bell, but I'm not sure from where.  I don't think I've read any of his work before, but this was an excellent one.  The nonchalant manner of telling made it all the more true, especially the fact that the townspeople apparently knew of the human harvest as they emptied their neighborhood and took their sweet time doing anything about it.

Doyle is a familiar name of course, though I've never read any of his work either.  Twas cool to hear a story by him that was not a Holmes story.  I quite liked this one.  I tend to like hearing speculative stories from olden days, to hear the differences in technology and prediction, and I tend to like the epistolary style favored by previous times.  At first, in this one, I was skeptical about how convincing the air monsters would be, since civilians routinely fly the heights these days.  But then I decided that it didn't have to make sense in our current context--if I viewed it as a parallel world alt-history, at which the only branching point is what happens when planes fly too high, I could get into it quite well.

Good show, and here's to 200 more (and beyond)!

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Re: Pseudopod 200
« Reply #13 on: June 28, 2010, 09:22:01 AM »
The name Ambrose Bierce rings a bell, but I'm not sure from where.  I don't think I've read any of his work before, but this was an excellent one.  The nonchalant manner of telling made it all the more true, especially the fact that the townspeople apparently knew of the human harvest as they emptied their neighborhood and took their sweet time doing anything about it.

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge mayhap?
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Re: Pseudopod 200
« Reply #14 on: June 29, 2010, 07:48:11 AM »
Al, I love your outros so much. They really ad a lot to the podcast. That's what I love about Escape Artists. You guys clearly love what you're doing and put so much into making sure we enjoy it, too.

I -loved- both of these stories. At first, I didn't think I'd like the Doyle one, but it was really really well done. No wonder he's such a legend.

Here's hoping for episode 400 to be just as interesting...

I really should go donate more money to you guys.
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Re: Pseudopod 200
« Reply #15 on: June 29, 2010, 08:49:46 AM »
I preferred "Oil of Dog". The other was way too slow, and not as horrific as I'd expected after the yuckfest of OoD. I do love me some Sherlock Holmes, though.

I had a similar early genre fiction experience, except mine was SF. I was... eight? I think? And my dad had had an accident at work and was hospitalized pending minor surgery on his foot (the scar is still pretty angry, even 25 years later). My mom picked us up from camp and took us to the bookstore because "we're going to be at the hospital for a while". I don't remember what I was reading casually at the time, but I saw some Star Trek novels and asked if I could get them. They were "My Enemy, My Ally", "How Much For Just The Planet", and "Dreams Of The Raven". From then on, I was hooked on SF books.

I've only been around PP for the last 150 episodes, and I'm glad I took a chance after listening to EP for a few months.
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Fenrix

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Re: Pseudopod 200
« Reply #16 on: June 29, 2010, 09:37:31 AM »
I've only been around PP for the last 150 episodes, and I'm glad I took a chance after listening to EP for a few months.

There's some gems in the first 50 if you haven't wandered back that far. I'm sure several of us would be happy to make some recommendations.
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Re: Pseudopod 200
« Reply #17 on: July 04, 2010, 02:13:06 AM »
Two excellent choices, and I wholeheartedly agree with Sgarre1 about the occasional public domain story.
Congratulations on reaching episode 200, and I wish you many many more.

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Re: Pseudopod 200
« Reply #18 on: July 08, 2010, 05:13:13 AM »
Happy 200th to PP!

Lovely way to mark it too, with great readings of great stories.

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Re: Pseudopod 200
« Reply #19 on: July 08, 2010, 11:44:33 AM »
First time posting here, greetings all.

I loved the Bierce, despite being a lover of short horror fiction I'd never heard of him before. Amazon brought me his collection of short stories next day, and I'm loving it.