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Author Topic: Pseudopod 238: The Talisman  (Read 3544 times)
Bdoomed
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« on: July 15, 2011, 12:12:22 AM »

Pseudopod 238: The Talisman

By Heather McDougal
Click the link to visit her CABINET OF WONDERS.

Read by Escape Pod alumni Heather Welliver. Click the link for the ADD Cast.

(hope no one has hay-fever with two Heather’s in the mix this week)

“They were moving toward her quite quickly, and she stopped, watching. Something was wrong; there were too many of them.

They were no longer yelling, or even talking, but moved down the hill with a curiously desperate stride, their arms flung up as they slipped and slid in the leaves, their anoraks glaring harshly in the monochrome of the forest. There were people behind them, large shapes in odd colors, moving more carefully but just as swiftly.

Eugenia felt a strange contraction in her stomach, and moved behind a small stand of trees to watch. The group of tourists slithered to the bottom of the ravine and began scrabbling to climb up the other side. Behind them, curiously threatening, came a group of other people: very large, broadly-built people with blurry faces, dressed in what looked like golf clothes. The Germans seemed to be terrified of them, and as they approached, neither slipping nor slithering, one of the young men began squealing a little as he clawed his way up the bank."




Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
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Scattercat
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« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2011, 04:54:30 PM »

Hey, I'm the King Under the Mountain for once!

Pity I didn't have strong feelings about this story.  It seemed very monster-of-the-week to me.  Like, you know how sometimes on Buffy or X-Files, they'd just have an episode that was apropos of nothing and didn't contain any significant character advancement?  This felt like one of those episodes.  Just a monster and a couple of gross-out scares and calling it a day.  I did like the image of the god slowly coming to life under the ministrations of the half-there monsters, and the story didn't overstay its welcome or take too long to get to the point, but the lack of connection to the characters made this one feel a little thin.  Like, there's no particular reason for the events to occur when or to whom they did, and the scary bits aren't particularly relevant to the characters' own internal conflicts.  I wouldn't say I disliked the story, but in a lot of ways a lukewarm reaction is even worse than active dislike. 
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kibitzer
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« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2011, 11:52:23 PM »

(hope no one has hay-fever with two Heather’s in the mix this week)

Ouch ;-) :-)
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dragonsbreath
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« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2011, 02:27:23 PM »

I was not sure where this story was going. Who was the other girl? How did the main character suddenly become invisible to the trolls? They did see her initially.

I am sorry, but I would like to the see the story at least try answer some of the questions before heading off on the bus.
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yaksox
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« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2011, 05:26:06 AM »

Who was the other girl?
A German.

How did the main character suddenly become invisible to the trolls? 
Because she was wearing an old-school kofta where as the others were wearing new-fangled koftas. The moral of this story was don't be brazen-faced and showy in your choice of kofta when travelling in a foreign country.
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Unblinking
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« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2011, 08:27:26 AM »

There were some interesting ideas here, but I agree with scattercat that it could've used a bit more character development.

I thought it was interesting that these half-creatures were apparently constructed to look like tourists in their golf clothes, apparently in the hopes that this would provide the camoflauge to wreak something upon tourists (vengeance, I guess?  Although I guess the making of the god implies different purposes).  Along that line, the only one not dressed as an obvious tourist is the one to be spared.

Yup, interesting, and a good length, but would've liked a little more connection with the characters.
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« Reply #6 on: July 19, 2011, 03:58:39 PM »

I agree that this story was a bit vague, character-wise. However, I think that apart from the obvious fact that short stories require brevity, I believe the lack of explanation made it more frightening.
The monsters were so unexpected, numerous and unstoppable as to bring to mind destructive forces of nature, such as topping a hill to find a tornado in the process of destroying the next valley. One is at the whim of the destruction, unable to escape and virtually helpless. The main character and the girl hiding in the ground are thrown together, just as would happen in a natural disaster. Their details pale in the face of the overwhelming force of the monsters/disaster.
Often, the unknown is much more terrifying than the known, though I found it very odd, even ironic that these monsters were obviously synthetic, and decidedly unnatural. Maybe I'm reaching here, but the monsters may represent human pollution, or even global warming, and only those who are willing to take action will survive.
Just a thought...
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2011, 08:19:35 AM »

Maybe I'm reaching here, but the monsters may represent human pollution, or even global warming, and only those who are willing to take action will survive.
Just a thought...

Hmmm... if that's the case, then the protagonist's survival is pretty arbitrary.  Global warming or pollution don't care what clothes you're wearing. 

To me, it seemed more that they represented the local population's anti-tourist attitude.  She was spared because she appeared at a basic glance to be a local.
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« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2011, 09:04:06 PM »

I hear you, Unblinking, but was there anyone in the story who was exposed to the monsters, apart  from the protagonist, who was not a tourist?
I'm playing devil's advocate, and I get that the protagonist was not dressed as a tourist, but was that was the real and only difference she displayed? She was certainly the only one the monsters didn't see, but was it truly clear that her clothes were the deciding difference? To me, she was the only person who actually made an intelligent effort to escape. It was not clear to me that her clothes were the only trait that set her apart from the victims.
Maybe the point of the story is more subtle than simply how she was dressed? Or maybe there was more than the one point to it.
I'd love to hear the author's thoughts on this.
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Scattercat
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« Reply #9 on: July 20, 2011, 11:27:24 PM »

It harped on her outfit a significant amount, and she didn't really do more to hide herself than the girl or the boy did.
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Unblinking
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« Reply #10 on: July 21, 2011, 08:27:37 AM »

I hear you, Unblinking, but was there anyone in the story who was exposed to the monsters, apart  from the protagonist, who was not a tourist?
I'm playing devil's advocate, and I get that the protagonist was not dressed as a tourist, but was that was the real and only difference she displayed? She was certainly the only one the monsters didn't see, but was it truly clear that her clothes were the deciding difference? To me, she was the only person who actually made an intelligent effort to escape. It was not clear to me that her clothes were the only trait that set her apart from the victims.
Maybe the point of the story is more subtle than simply how she was dressed? Or maybe there was more than the one point to it.
I'd love to hear the author's thoughts on this.

No, I don't believe we saw anyone else who was not a tourist.  It kept on focusing on her clothing and how she chose to wear the local styles rather than touristy crap.  And then when it focused on the odd semblance of golf clothes on the constructs.  When the first construct finds her, she doesn't know why she was spared.  But when the second construct finds her, it runs its hands along the symbols on her clothes as though it's reading them.  The child is saved because it's hidden behind the same clothing.

To me there was no ambiguity whatsoever that it was her clothing that saved her life, and judging by everything I heard in the story, I think that's what the author intended.
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NoNotRogov
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« Reply #11 on: July 21, 2011, 10:53:16 AM »

The other girl who escaped was the local girl in the green kofta, that had come to the forest trail with the young man who spoke to Eugenia on the bus and with another young woman, right?

The Germans all got eviscerated.

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Kanasta
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« Reply #12 on: July 21, 2011, 12:05:33 PM »

As it's called The Talisman, I assumed there was a special design on the traditional clothing that protected you from the monsters. And that when they grabbed her from above by the hair, that design was hidden, which was why she was visible to them. The intricate embroidery and pattern were mentioned a couple of times, so I thought they must have some significance.
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galacticus
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« Reply #13 on: July 22, 2011, 10:16:02 AM »

I also thought that the Author made it clear that the kofta was her "talisman".

I liked the story because it came across (to me) as an old european mythology. The monsters sounded very similar to golems in the sense that they seem human, but upon inspection they're obviously not.
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deflective
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« Reply #14 on: July 30, 2011, 09:06:42 PM »

i usually don't like extra information before the story.  it's much more interesting make the story stand on its own without knowing the author's influences or previous works.

this time was an exception.  knowing that this was a dream let me expect & excuse a lot of the story's weak points because it was all about an emotionally strong scene with just the bare minimum of supporting logic and narrative structure we normally expect from a story.
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Kanasta
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« Reply #15 on: July 31, 2011, 04:39:11 AM »

knowing that this was a dream

Was it? Totally missed that! Maybe that was when I was running my bath at the beginning  Grin
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Sgarre1
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« Reply #16 on: July 31, 2011, 02:41:56 PM »

Well, she said "inspired" by a dream.  I found it resonated nicely as a modern version of T.H. White's "The Troll", myself - White's work is meatier, to be sure, but the "prosaic slides into mythological while still staying prosaic" aspect brought it to mind.

“'It's poor judgment', said Grandpa 'to call anything by a name.  We don't know what a hobgoblin or a vampire or a troll is.  Could be lots of things.  You can't heave them into categories with labels and say they'll act one way or another.  That'd be silly.  They're people.  People who do things.  Yes, that's the way to put it.  People who do things.”
Ray Bradbury, “The Man Upstairs”
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yaksox
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« Reply #17 on: August 01, 2011, 11:29:24 AM »

Where's the new-thread starting person this week?

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Bdoomed
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« Reply #18 on: August 01, 2011, 12:57:58 PM »

Where's the new-thread starting person this week?

I have no idea what you are talking about! Cheesy
Joking aside, a thousand pardons, I got swamped with life these last few days and COMPLETELY overlooked the new PP that came out!  Anyway, the thread is up now! Tongue
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« Reply #19 on: August 01, 2011, 03:32:15 PM »

Hey, no problem - my very last useful act on Wednesday night last week was to set up the new episode ("Songs For Dead Hearts") on Wordpress.  I actually said, "well, maybe I could do this tomorrow night, I'm feeling a little funny" but I went ahead and did it anyway.  A few minutes later I had a minor dizzy spell and went to bed.

Thursday morning I woke up to a world spinning out of control.  Seriously, my eyes could not stop rolling in my skull.  Extreme nausea resulted, as might be expected.  A trip to the doctors (someone else driving, natch, as even light playing on my eyelids sent me spinning) confirmed that I had an inner ear infection.  The next two days were sheer hell (seriously - if a doctor ever says "Inner ear infection" to you, block out at least 4 to 6 days of uselessness) which consisted mostly of me groaning and keeping my eyes tightly shut or stumbling across a sea-pitched floor towards the bathroom.  I could not look at any computer screen (or even a circular fan) And through it all I thought "thank God I set Pseudopod up a day early".

Except when I'd recovered on Saturday night (slightly recovered as it turned out, Sunday proved I was still incapable of driving a car or walking in a straight line) I glanced at the page (glancing was all I was capable of) and... no episode.  So I went into Wordpress and it was showing as published and so I clicked over the page again and, voila, there it was.  I am still not stable enough, or care enough, to solve the mystery, although I am happy to see that, a day late and a dollar short, the new Pseudopod made it out.

And now I've used up my allotted stabilized time.  Wheeee......

"Sometimes it moves, growing bigger and smaller, broader and longer, throwing out octopus-like tentacles, snail's horns, or frog's legs. It becomes monstrous. It circles round to the right, then to the left, spinning wildly before my eyes for hours at a time.”
Camillo Boito, “The Grey Blotch”
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