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Author Topic: Pseudopod 237: Lights  (Read 6247 times)

Bdoomed

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on: July 08, 2011, 04:38:34 AM
Pseudopod 237: Lights

By Jack Westlake
Check out his blog at the link. “Lights” will be appearing soon in MURKY DEPTHS. magazine.

Read by Barry J. Northern. host of our honored companion in the horror podcasting fray, CAST MACABRE.


“The city’s shadows deepen, darken. The sky turns a thicker shade of grey, and then to black. The moon glows behind a cloud. I rest my head on the windowsill. Far away, two cats fight. A distant gunshot like a clapping of hands makes me snap my head up. I’m still not used to this.

And that’s when I notice the light on the other tower block.

My eyes widen. I stare. A red light blinks on, blinks off. Blinks on, blinks off. I wonder what it is. This new thing - this variation in my evening - hypnotizes me.

I watch it for hours. Blinking on, blinking off, over and over.”




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?


Sandra M. Odell

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Reply #1 on: July 09, 2011, 08:08:05 AM
Powerful and tense through out.  I appreciated that the story addressed rationing food, dealing with boredom, planning ahead, all of those little things that we think about when playing the "what if?" game.

Thomas's anguish over being a coward and not helping the woman on the street is well played out.  At first I was concerned that Sarah might actually be the woman having somehow found thomas out and now trying to lure him to her for revenge, but the story proved me wrong in a entertaining, hopeful/hopeless manner.


Sandra



Westlake

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Reply #2 on: July 09, 2011, 01:41:52 PM
Thanks, Sandra. I thought Barry's narration really brought Thomas to life. He even managed to give Sarah's character some shape, despite the fact that we never actually meet her. I'm proud of what I wrote, but I think Barry made it even better with his narration.

And Alasdair hit it right on the head, with his comments after the story.

I'd be interested to find out what other listeners thought - all feedback is good feedback. :)
« Last Edit: July 09, 2011, 04:45:43 PM by Westlake »



yaksox

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Reply #3 on: July 09, 2011, 01:56:24 PM
Great story, great narration.
I could see a couple of thin threads connecting the and the Borey story from 3 weeks ago. Communication was an integral part in both, and I thought the stories were going to come close in an odd way when it was mentioned that the two teens on the street were speaking but it was garbled.
The main thing was that these stories are set in post-apocalyptic worlds, but are about the modern condition, us & communication, us & technology.
I know it was morse code but it reminded me a lot of IRC.
Just before Sarah was signalling H E L P I was thinking this story was going to have a hell of a job pulling off a good ending but then Tom gets to the door and it ends, which was a bit of a surprise. Initially I was thinking it ended too soon but actually I think it worked quite well.



Sandra M. Odell

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Reply #4 on: July 09, 2011, 10:27:05 PM
Just before Sarah was signalling H E L P I was thinking this story was going to have a hell of a job pulling off a good ending but then Tom gets to the door and it ends, which was a bit of a surprise. Initially I was thinking it ended too soon but actually I think it worked quite well.

I thought the story ended at the perfect place.  We didn't need to know what happened to Thomas, didn't need to know if he made it to Sarah or not.  The conflict was less with the environment (though definitely a part of the story) and more with himself and overcoming his own fears and doubts.  Thomas wasn't a coward.  He was human.



Unblinking

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Reply #5 on: July 12, 2011, 02:21:39 PM
Really good story, well read.  It's hard to pull off a story with only one on-screen character, but this managed it.

I did sort of wonder how much the girl varied from her description.  It was sort of like an internet chatroom like that where your only representation of the other person is what they choose to represent.  Sarah could be an old man, or a very smart chimpanzee.  :)



Westlake

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Reply #6 on: July 12, 2011, 04:31:54 PM
Thanks for the comments, yaksox and Unblinking.

As for the chatroom thing - this did enter my mind when I was writing it, and in the early stages, the story very nearly went down the route of Thomas being a creepy guy who lies about himself (much like someone dodgy in a chatroom). I'm glad it didn't, though. I think this is storyline is stronger.



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #7 on: July 12, 2011, 08:12:34 PM
I quite liked this one. I enjoy horror that manages to balance being, well, horrible with an uplifting message, or even a (potentially) happy end. I thought the narrator's journey from cowardice to heroism was really striking and extremely well paced. The reader did an excellent job of conveying the narrator's querulous nature and growing resolve.

That said.

I was a little disappointed by the "OMG not the rape!" subtext. It's not that I have a problem with bad things happening to women in fiction - we were all over that in the Conan story over in Podcastle - it's that I get a little bored with the constant harping on rape as the worst thing that can possibly ever happen to a female human being. Frankly, in the horrible apocalyptic future the narrator inhabits, the woman whose rape he witnessed is lucky to be alive when she could just as easily have been turned into a monster or killed and eaten (and not necessarily in that order). Nothing's wrong with it, it's just... boring. I think I'd have rather the narrator witness a murder, if only to break the metanarrative monotony.

I just used "metanarrative monotony" in a sentence. I should win a prize or something.

Other than that, I have nothing but glowing words and happy feelings about this excellent story.

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kibitzer

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Reply #8 on: July 13, 2011, 03:16:41 AM
I just used "metanarrative monotony" in a sentence. I should win a prize or something.

Maybe you should be a writer or something!


Unblinking

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Reply #9 on: July 13, 2011, 02:06:13 PM
Thanks for the comments, yaksox and Unblinking.

As for the chatroom thing - this did enter my mind when I was writing it, and in the early stages, the story very nearly went down the route of Thomas being a creepy guy who lies about himself (much like someone dodgy in a chatroom). I'm glad it didn't, though. I think this is storyline is stronger.

Yes, I agree that this storyline is much stronger.  It was just something that passed through my head.  :)



Tirius

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Reply #10 on: July 13, 2011, 02:38:25 PM
I also really enjoyed this story.  I was actually expecting Thomas to encounter a similiar situation when he arrived at Sarah's building as what he witnessed in the street, but this time do something about it.  On reflection though I feel the abrupt ending after he leaves the building serves that purpose even better as he's not just dealing with the fear he felt in that same situation, but also the fear of the unknown.


Great story!



Westlake

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Reply #11 on: July 14, 2011, 10:55:20 AM
ElectricPaladin - thanks for the feedback. I hear what you're saying about the trope. I thought about it when I was writing the story, but decided to go with it because Thomas would've already seen a lot of death, murder etc. I needed an event that stood out a little from the rest. And in order to stay true to the thread of uncertainty running throughout the story, I wanted the woman's fate to be uncertain as well.

Oh, and I'm digging the 'metanarrative monotony' phrase. I may steal it...

Tirius - glad you liked the story!



Scattercat

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Reply #12 on: July 15, 2011, 10:42:12 PM
This being Pseudopod, I was waiting for horrible and out-of-proportion cosmic vengeance for his trespass early in the story.  I was pleasantly surprised to see some character growth instead; it's nice when horror can avoid the somewhat rigid trappings of the genre.  I find it interesting that, despite being the least specifically defined of the "genre" literature categories, horror can end up the most stiff and formulaic of all of them.

I don't have much to say about the story.  It was pretty good.  I know that's like the worst thing in the world to hear, but I neither disliked it nor was floored by it.  A solid listen that entertained me while it was there.  Decently above average.

The title, however, left me disappointed.  I saw it in my podcast list and was like, "Ooh, will it be a pun on the old meaning of 'lights,' i.e. 'umbles and sweetbreads?  That would be amusing.'  Then it turned out to be actual lights and I went, "Oh.  Well, okay."  Then I pined for viscera puns. 

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iamafish

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Reply #13 on: July 16, 2011, 06:10:33 PM
and no doubt wrote some for mirrorshards?


Scattercat

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Reply #14 on: July 16, 2011, 09:49:55 PM
and no doubt wrote some for mirrorshards?

Well, right now we're still in Small Gods Month, but I may well use it at some point.  Oddly, for all that I like puns, I don't tend to use them in my microfiction; it's too easy to add punch to a very short story by relying on jokes and gags, and if something is easy, suddenly I'm not allowed to do it unless I can think of a really good excuse.  (I don't understand why my brain makes decisions like this.)

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Fenrix

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Reply #15 on: September 22, 2011, 03:49:36 AM
Great characters and narration in this one. We're in a zombie world but focused on the individual impacts. I was pleasantly reminded of Stockholm Syndrome. It also ended at the best spot as there's a small but non-zero chance he'll save her. The hopeful can imagine he saves her, the cynics have the horrible death, and everyone gets the character development.

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


justenjoying

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Reply #16 on: January 08, 2012, 05:20:21 AM
Maybe it's just me, but here is yet another zombie story. I swear I've read 4 in 2 days. Having said that this story gave it the aftermath I've always thought about. If you could servive what would you do? He just got board and lonely, and was at the end willing to do anything for that human connection. It reminds me of (the spider story of the women in the window) in that he was willing to die for what he thought he had a connection with. I appretiated the meta zombie tropes with in this story. All in all it is slightly forgetable, though very much worth reading.