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Author Topic: Pseudopod 254: The Blood Garden  (Read 2604 times)
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« on: November 06, 2011, 02:15:19 AM »

Pseudopod 254: The Blood Garden

By Jesse Livingston.
Click the link under his name to access Reconstruction Records, home to all of Jesse’s projects (including his podcast The Glamor Pet Radio Hour)! Jesse also writes reviews at Buzzine and Threeviewed.

Read by Chris Reynaga

“So twice five miles of fertile ground

With walls and towers were girdled round:

And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,

Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;

And here were forests ancient as the hills,

Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.



She was alone when she died.

Could I revive within me

Her symphony and song,

To such a deep delight ‘twould win me

That with music loud and long

I would build that dome in air,

That sunny dome! those caves of ice!

And all who heard should see them there,

And all should cry, Beware! Beware!

His flashing eyes, his floating hair!

Weave a circle round him thrice,

And close your eyes with holy dread,

For he on honey-dew hath fed

And drunk the milk of Paradise.”




Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
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« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2011, 10:43:28 AM »

Some stories manage to show you the monster and it thrills you. It is the culmination of all your fears and it drives you to your knees. Other stories show you the monster and everything falls apart. For me, alas, this was the latter. I just don't think I found the Blood Garden horrible enough to be worth the fact that it was just, you know, right there at the end. Manic weirdo slashing at animals in trees? Doesn't really horrify me. Weird, but not really horrible. So if that was the author's vision, I'd rather he'd kept the garden more vague.

That said, I did enjoy the characters. I liked how we got a dual vision of them - the POV character's embittered reflection, and then a scene that showed that while far from perfect, they are still sympathetic and human. It was an interesting bait-and-switch that I liked a great deal.
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« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2011, 10:16:41 AM »

Ahahaha!

A symbolic story about an argument as to whether a poem is symbolic or not in which the poem turns out to be literal and not symbolic at all.

That's a win, just for that.

I was irritated by the first part until we cut back to the friends, at which point they sounded like real people instead of the crude parodies of pretentious college kids they sounded like at the beginning.  That moment came just in time to redeem the story for me, because up until then I hadn't had any reason to think that the author wasn't being quite earnest about the portrayal in the opening scene.  Jolly good show; excellent timing.

I'd agree that the weirdo wasn't quite as awesome a reveal as it could have been, but it was decently creepy, I thought.  Interpreting "singing trees" to mean "torturing small animals hung in trees" is pretty twisted.  I wasn't disappointed by the slightly generic evil creature, though.  For me, the story is all about the meta-game regarding symbolism.
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« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2011, 01:29:56 AM »

Most of the time I dislike stories where there are no clear explanations or reasons for events; when magic or the supernatural are involved, however, I'm a bit more lenient...which is why I liked "The Blood Garden" more than I thought I would. The idea of a wandering garden full of slaughter and suffering fits right in, and because it seems the garden is summoned by desire (in this case the protagonist's desire to SHOW his pseudo-intellectual friends real life instead of just talking about it) reminds me very much of the Hellraiser mythos; the "gardener" is passing the torch to Matthew, a baptism of blood very much like a young British officer into Pinhead. I enjoyed it very much, and feel it fits perfectly into it's short story length. I DON'T need to hear what happens next, because I suspect some day I just might find out for myself; I just look into the mirror and say "Candyman...candyman...candyman...candyman...candy-"
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« Reply #4 on: November 08, 2011, 09:31:51 AM »

I'm not a fan of this one.  As a rule, I tend to like meta stories, but the entire point of this one seemed to be to poke fun at analyzing literature, which for me takes the fun out of the meta.  I can understand poking fun at an argument about whether all literature is symbolic, picking apart semantics to the point where there is no structure to look at, only the component particles.  But the point of this story seemed to be to say that there is no point, and that there's no point in looking deeper.  Okay, but I guess then I'll just think about the next story I listen to instead.

The reveal of the blood garden fell pretty flat for me.  It's creepy and weird but so utterly disconnected for me that it came off as entirely artificial.  It sort of reminded me of a Michelin tires commercial that came out last year, in which hordes of half-crushed animals with tiremarks across their bodies are screaming on a road through a dark and dreary forest.  But the commercial made me want to throw up, while this reveal mostly left me shrugging, because it seemed so disconnected from the real-life setting of the earlier scenes.

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« Reply #5 on: November 08, 2011, 01:38:10 PM »

I'm really glad someone else saw that advert, because I was a little worried I'd imagined it.
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« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2011, 09:31:57 AM »

Oh, a specific example i wanted to mention of how the story hangs a lantern on criticizing overexamination of details.  The other characters talk about how this one's mother died, but it seems that that probably doesn't mean anything, given the thrust of their discussion.
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« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2011, 09:32:23 AM »

I'm really glad someone else saw that advert, because I was a little worried I'd imagined it.

??  What advert?
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« Reply #8 on: November 09, 2011, 08:31:26 PM »

I've felt what Matthew feels, the isolation and powerlessness, frustration with your friends and loneliness and rage. Livingston evokes these emotions so well, and I'm in love with the image of the garden. I know the monster didn't work for some of you, but I really like the long fingers and the animals in the trees.  I guess I don't care if the monster is uniquely scary, because it is just a fantastic image, and the real horror is in Matthew's symbolic (for now) revenge.  Is he taking out his anger, or is he building it up?

I'm not aware of any such poem as The Blood Garden, but can any English Literature types confirm once and for all that it is a fictional poem?  I wish it was real though, I like Kubla Khan and the interjection of "She was alone when she died" presumably thought by Matthew makes Coleridge's poem more fitting, and more sinister.  (I'm not saying it is an improvement, but that I like the addition in this story.)  I'd have liked to see either more reference to Kubla Khan in the garden, though, or less of it and more focus on the fictional poem.

Oh, and Google doesn't seem to know about this story aside from at Pseudopod.  Is it an original story by any chance?
« Last Edit: November 09, 2011, 08:33:17 PM by Umbrageofsnow » Logged
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« Reply #9 on: November 10, 2011, 01:44:10 AM »

I'm really glad someone else saw that advert, because I was a little worried I'd imagined it.

??  What advert?

'But Alasdair, there was a little girl here, years ago. And she died...'

NAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

Ahem
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« Reply #10 on: November 10, 2011, 05:54:02 AM »

OK folks, what the hell are you talking about?? I can only imagine it's this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbK2mm8L848
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« Reply #11 on: November 10, 2011, 08:27:30 AM »

OK folks, what the hell are you talking about?? I can only imagine it's this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbK2mm8L848

That the one.  Really odd commercial, that.
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« Reply #12 on: November 10, 2011, 09:44:40 AM »

OK folks, what the hell are you talking about?? I can only imagine it's this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbK2mm8L848

Yeeccchh!!  Yup that's the one that I was referring to.  God that commercial is all kinds of disturbing and makes me never want to buy Michelin again.  It would be bad enough if the animals were dead.


And I hadn't realized that Alasdair was responding to me with mention of the advert.  I could hardly believe it was a commercial when I saw it.  I only saw it once I think, maybe twice.  I'm guessing that they got some angry letters and pulled it from the air!
« Last Edit: November 10, 2011, 09:52:58 AM by Unblinking » Logged

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« Reply #13 on: November 11, 2011, 04:46:33 PM »

I'm
I was irritated by the first part until we cut back to the friends, at which point they sounded like real people instead of the crude parodies of pretentious college kids they sounded like at the beginning.  That moment came just in time to redeem the story for me, because up until then I hadn't had any reason to think that the author wasn't being quite earnest about the portrayal in the opening scene.  Jolly good show; excellent timing.

But then the scene is returned to pretentiousness at the close with the display of overwhelming ennui. They acknowledge the death of the mother, are horrified as decorum dictates, yet never do they honestly consider reaching out to deliver comfort.

This brought to mind some of the delightful dialogue in Murder Party. Great little indie horror film. If you like the social satire in this story you owe it to yourself to watch that film.
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« Reply #14 on: November 14, 2011, 03:53:22 PM »

Hey, all. I wrote "The Blood Garden," and since it seems like discussion has wound down a bit, I thought I would put in.

First of all, I just wanted to mention that Chris' narration was just amazing. I know it's only polite for an author to compliment the narrator, but in this case, I was so impressed with his measured pacing and genuine feeling. I feel like I won the narrator lottery.

I'm glad people appreciated the symbolic/literal games that were going on in the story. Maybe I put too much of an emphasis on that. I wasn't actually trying to poke fun at people who analyze literature and art in detail, because I myself do that a lot and really enjoy it. I think I was more trying to use it to create a sense of mystery. When you put your mind in that space, you open yourself up to other people's thoughts and opinions, as well as their dreams and fantasies--both the people who wrote the things you're discussing and the people you're discussing them with. There have been plenty of times in my life where I haven't been able to open myself up like that because I was too preoccupied with my own personal problems. That's what I was trying to show (in an extreme case) with Matthew, the irony being that the poem catches up with him whether he wants to think about it or not.

The Hellraiser and Candyman comparisons are really flattering because I love both those movies. Thinking about it, I probably took a lot of ideas from the movie Pumpkinhead--my favorite creature flick / revenge fantasy, where the price of revenge is to become the demon yourself. Also, I totally stole the ending from Ray Bradbury's "The Scythe," a story which made an impression on me at a young age.

I'm glad that people picked up on the fact that the college kid characters were way more sympathetic than Matthew gave them credit for. They were definitely pretentious, but then again, they're college-age literature students, so it kind of comes with the territory. Essentially, it was Matthew's fault for judging them instead of getting to know them better. They could easily have given him some solace from his grief if he'd been willing to do that. He was really the most pretentious and self-absorbed of all, thinking that his pain mattered more than anyone else's.

Speaking of being self-absorbed, I'm going to stop talking about my own story now.

Jesse
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Jesse Livingston
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« Reply #15 on: November 14, 2011, 04:21:48 PM »

Jesse, Congratulations on the publication, and thanks for coming out to post. It can't be easy, as I have yet to see a universally loved story  Smiley I, for one, am predisposed to hate literature students. I'm an engineer, and all my college level literature teachers made an effort to drive out any appreciation I had for the written word.

Now I'm going to have to check out "The Scythe". My Bradbury consumption has been embarrassingly low, and I need to correct that.
« Last Edit: November 14, 2011, 04:23:45 PM by Fenrix » Logged

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« Reply #16 on: November 14, 2011, 05:03:16 PM »

Welcome, Jesse, welcome!  I genuinely like to see the contributors stop by.  Smiley
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« Reply #17 on: November 15, 2011, 01:25:33 AM »

Glad you were able to stop by, Mr. Livingston (I presume). Keep up the good work.
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« Reply #18 on: November 15, 2011, 09:42:19 AM »

"When we came to know the squatters better, we found them curiously likeable in many ways. Simple animals they were, gently descending the evolutionary scale because of their unfortunate ancestry and stultifying isolation. They feared outsiders, but slowly grew accustomed to us; finally helping vastly when we beat down all the thickets and tore out all the partitions of the mansion in our search for the lurking fear."

I felt this Lovecraft quote relevant to the discussion.
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« Reply #19 on: November 15, 2011, 02:49:04 PM »

Thanks, guys! I'm just thrilled to have a story on Pseudopod, so everyone could tear it to shreds and I'd still be happy. That rarely happens, though. The discussion on the forums has always been thoughtful and intelligent, in my experience.

Ahahaha!

A symbolic story about an argument as to whether a poem is symbolic or not in which the poem turns out to be literal and not symbolic at all.

Exactly. But then again, you could see the literal garden as symbolic, because Matthew is essentially tying his friends up with his refusal to give them a chance and cutting them apart with his anger and judgment. That was my thought, anyway.

I, for one, am predisposed to hate literature students. I'm an engineer, and all my college level literature teachers made an effort to drive out any appreciation I had for the written word.

Yeah, I actually started my college career as a Lit./Writing student, but I couldn't stand it, and soon switched to Visual Art. I love to read, and I love to write, but I hated studying it. This was partly due to where I was emotionally at the time, and that's largely where this story came from.

I'm not aware of any such poem as The Blood Garden, but can any English Literature types confirm once and for all that it is a fictional poem? 

Oh, and Google doesn't seem to know about this story aside from at Pseudopod.  Is it an original story by any chance?

Yup, the poem is 100% fictional. I actually wrote the poem first, but then decided that it would make a better story, leaving the poem itself to the imagination. This is my first published story, and I basically wrote it with Pseudopod in mind. I did just self-publish my first novel as an audiobook, though (it's just the first half... the second half is still being recorded, and I'm hoping to have it done by the end of the month):

http://jesselivingston.bandcamp.com/album/a-thousand-lifetimes-in-an-hour-i

It's a collection of horror stories based on dreams I've had, which tie together into a larger story by the end. If any of you guys want to hear it, you can download it free here:

http://www.mediafire.com/?wbkcchzotsovmrr

The poetry of William Baines makes another appearance in "The Brown Field," where you get to actually hear one of his poems.

Thanks again for all the commentary and analysis.

Jesse
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