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Author Topic: Pseudopod 262: Black Hill  (Read 6422 times)
Bdoomed
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« on: December 30, 2011, 09:24:56 PM »

Pseudopod 262: Black Hill

By Orrin Grey. Click his name to find out who killed him…
Orrin’s first collection is due out from Evileye Books sometime early next year. It’ll be called Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings and will feature ten of his stories, including the out of print, 22,000 word novella “The Mysterious Flame.” Also, Orrin is currently editing an anthology of horror stories that involve fungus. Get sporing…

Read by Rich Girardi

“There was a sound come up from the hole, like a gasp. The men figured we’d hit a pocket of gas and everyone backed off in case it was like to burn. Then the derrick shook all the way up and the ground seemed to slide a little under our feet. There come a noise from the hole like I ain’t never heard the ground make in all my years. When I was a boy, my pa’d known a man who worked a whaling ship and he said that whales sang to one another. He’d put his hands together over his mouth and blown a call that he said was as close as he could do to what they sounded like. This sounded like that call.

All the men went back another pace, not knowing if maybe we’d hit a sinkhole, or God knows what. There was another groan, then an old cave stink, and then the black stuff started coming up around the pipe like a tide. I’d seen gushers in my day, the pressurized wells that blew the tops off the derricks, but this weren’t the same. This weren’t no geyser; this were a flood, the oil pouring up from under the ground like a barrel that’s been overturned. Everybody was silent for another minute and then the men gathered ’round all cheered, ’cause they knowed we’d finally hit whatever it was we’d been aiming at.”




Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
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« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2011, 04:08:46 AM »

Brilliant reading and a brilliantly written story.  I thought it might have stumbled with the Lovecraft reference, but the realisation by the main character that the future of the world will be powered by the dead is breathtaking.

Gold - the sort of writing I aspire to one day produce.
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« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2012, 02:29:59 PM »

Wow. Now that was a reading. Thoroughly enjoyable. Like Robert said above, I enjoyed the part about the future powered by the unquiet dead. And the Lovecraftian feel was definitely there.
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« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2012, 04:29:41 PM »

In its conclusion, this one reminded me of Ep 226, The Sound of Gears. The execution, obviously, was quite different and contrasts that one by being more organic and having an embodiment of the... thing. Nicely done.
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« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2012, 05:14:00 PM »

Great story, well read!  I'll definatle be thinking about it when I am in North Dakota working with an independant oil company customer.
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« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2012, 04:39:38 PM »

Just damn. This one's got a great reading and a great take on The Call of Cthulhu without feeling like a derivative or a pastiche. It rather feels like it could be another of the second-hand accounts from that story. After listening to this one, go ahead and grab a copy of The Call of Cthulhu from the fine folks at the HPL Literary Podcast. They did a great reading of the story.

I'm calling it now. Orrin's going to make competition tough in the "Best of 2011" polls.



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« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2012, 05:46:05 AM »

I really liked this.
I almost feel like I have to apologise to Robert Mammone because I'm becoming increasingly aware of how my concentration levels effect my opinion of a story. Maybe last week's story was a little too dense for audio, or maybe it was because I was heavily distracted at the time of listening.

Anyway I was in a good zone of concentration for Black Hill. Narration was good but maybe a bit too fast. 
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« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2012, 02:16:20 PM »

I played in a 15 year campaign of Deadlands, the Origin award winning zombie steampunk spaghetti Western by Pinnacle Entertainment and a man I'm proud to call a friend, Shane Hensley.

This story could have walked out of the pages of those books.

Absolutely, positively BRILLIANT, made all the more so by the fact that - it's true.  Oil does rule our world. Oil IS the remnants of creatures long past.

Though, I will admit the image of Cthulhu with an oil derrick sticking out of his back makes me giggle.

Girardi's reading was fantastic. Her perfectly captured the tone of a man talking about events in the past that he didn't quite recognize the significance of while they were happening. The accent was perfect - just enough to richly flavor the words without covering them up.

This one's going in my nomination pile for 2011 top stories.
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« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2012, 01:48:27 AM »

Reading: Stunning.

Story: Great concept. However, as much as I love HPL, I thought this particular story would have been stronger without the Lovecraft element. The part with the guy shouting at the monsters in the pit seemed a bit hokey compared to the poetic descriptions of the graveyard world that runs on the dead. For me, that was the heart of the story, and the Lovecraft bit was a distraction. Subtlety wasn't HPL's strong suit, and I felt this one needed subtlety.

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« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2012, 11:49:50 PM »

Seconding JesseLivingston, really.  I loved the imagery (and have even used it myself on occasion), but the overt connection to the Cthulhu Mythos felt forced and took me out of the story.

Other than that, this is an episode I really enjoyed, and one which will likely show up in my "Best of 2011" list, if we do those, but I didn't care for that.  Cthulhu, after decades of spin-offs, roleplaying games, parodies, mash-ups, plushies, bumper stickers, and Christmas carols, is simply not scary anymore, and the oil monster WAS scary, or should have been.  The cognitive dissonance was just too much.
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« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2012, 02:05:05 AM »

Seconding JesseLivingston, really.  I loved the imagery (and have even used it myself on occasion), but the overt connection to the Cthulhu Mythos felt forced and took me out of the story.

Other than that, this is an episode I really enjoyed, and one which will likely show up in my "Best of 2011" list, if we do those, but I didn't care for that.  Cthulhu, after decades of spin-offs, roleplaying games, parodies, mash-ups, plushies, bumper stickers, and Christmas carols, is simply not scary anymore, and the oil monster WAS scary, or should have been.  The cognitive dissonance was just too much.

I felt that it worked. I think this added another layer to The Mythos with the world running on the corpses of the charnel houses of the eons was effectively blended.
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« Reply #11 on: January 08, 2012, 02:47:22 AM »

Why do I feel like ive heard this idea before?  Like... Almost exactly.  Don't get me wrong, this was a fantastic story, very well executed, but I swear it's been on Pseudopod already.  Man realizes gasoline is evil and subsequently fears vehicles.

Anyone know what I'm talking about?
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« Reply #12 on: January 08, 2012, 03:45:53 AM »

Well I, for one, let out (an exceedingly manly) giggle (a.k.a. loathsome tittering?) and became even more hooked on the story when the Necronomicon quote came up.  I wasn't expecting it, and I don't think it was over-explained.  I could imagine people not getting the reference and I love that.  I don't understand this concept that Lovecraft is some sort of cancer that takes over the whole story.  I've read my share of bad mythos fiction but referencing Lovecraft doesn't make this into bad mythos fiction.  It isn't overwrought, it doesn't drop trademark Lovecraft words all over the place, and the story maintains its own style and themes.  It doesn't read at all like the Lovecraft pastiche that most mythos fiction turns out to be.

I like the little tribute to Lovecraft, and I think the plushie-ization of Great Cthulhu has led to people discounting Lovecraft more than he deserves.  His racism and addiction to adjectives are good reasons for not completely idolizing the man, but he was a fine horror writer, and stories like Call of Cthulhu, Colour out of Space, and Music of Erich Zann (to pick some of my favorites) still hold up.  He had some scary/good ideas, but it seems a certain number of people dismiss anything that gains the "taint" of Lovecraft, even if only by reference.

I enjoyed the story overall, I'm going to listen to it again to make sure I like it when not just grinning because of my favorite Lovecraft quote.  But I didn't initially classify it as "mythos fiction" even if it technically is.  The references are there, and the ideas fit, but you could have a big underground monster without it being mythos.  That is just a slightly-more-fun explanation we can all infer from the presence of the Necronomicon and some talk about dreaming.  The mythos is there, but I didn't find overwhelming.
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« Reply #13 on: January 08, 2012, 05:58:17 AM »

Don't get me wrong, I adore Lovecraft, with all his faults. Actually, I don't even think it was the Lovecraft reference that bothered me, so much as it was the Lovecraft style. It followed a fairly standard Lovecraft arc: man hears foreboding talk about something from a friend, man gets involved with that something, man witnesses horrible death of friend when the something turns out to be a ravening monster, man ends up in the crazy bin.

Now, there's nothing wrong with that plot; it's just very familiar, and thus not quite as scary. My problem was that I liked the beginning and the end of the story so much that I felt the middle was a little lacking. The descriptions of the corpse-world were really very beautiful, and I wanted the story to be about just that, without the monster. I mean, thinking about our whole civilization running on dead things is fundamentally creepy. I felt like the monster was a distraction from that.

However, it should be noted that the only reason I felt let down by that part was because I liked the other part so much. It's probably just a case of me wanting to hear a different story than the author wants to tell. I try not to do that, but sometimes I can't help it.
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« Reply #14 on: January 08, 2012, 02:15:44 PM »

It's more that Cthulhu and the whole mythos are "known" quantities now.  In the original stories, they are bizarre and unexplainable and thus frightening.  In spinoff stories, it's just another familiar monster.  It would be like referencing, I dunno, Jason or Freddy or someone as the secret true monster in some story or other; it takes away from the frisson of fear for me.  Instead of, "My God!  All the dead things... What is it?  What's DOWN there!?" I think, "Oh, it's Cthulhu.  Or maybe Shub-Niggurath; she's kind of amorphous and blobby, like oil.  I hope it's not Nyarlathotep, because it's always Nyarlathotep." 

@Bdoomed - You're thinking of "The Sound of Gears," IIRC.
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« Reply #15 on: January 08, 2012, 09:55:38 PM »

I I hope it's not Nyarlathotep, because it's always Nyarlathotep." 

So you play the Call of Cthulhu pen&paper role playing game too, huh?

I tend to agree with you for any story which takes the over-explained systemization of the Mythos seriously, any reference to how various old ones are related bothers me, but I'm not sure Cthulhu is such a known quantity as Freddy or Jason.  And it isn't like the story specified, only that the Necronomicon presumably exists.

This story reminded me of the way Clark Ashton Smith used to drop Lovecraft references (although it's more Robert E. Howardish).  It doesn't tell us that beneath the ground lies the child of Hastur and Shubby or something, which would be offensive, but merely reinterprets one of Lovecraft's catchier verses.

Did anyone read "Night Gauntlet" in F&SF this year?  Because that is what I don't like, that this story avoids.
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« Reply #16 on: January 09, 2012, 02:11:22 AM »

I I hope it's not Nyarlathotep, because it's always Nyarlathotep." 

So you play the Call of Cthulhu pen&paper role playing game too, huh?

Only a couple of actual sessions, but I'm adequately familiar with it overall, yes.  I also have to be the Keeper whenever we play Mansions of Madness because Rich won't play CoC for real.
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« Reply #17 on: January 09, 2012, 12:28:10 PM »

I thought this one was reasonably good, but too similar to the Sound of Gears that also played here.  I like both stories, but they're so similar that listening to the one is pretty much equivalent to listening to the other.  That's not a complaint about the author or the story but something Shawn might want to consider, running two stories that are so similar.

I didn't really mind the Lovecraft tie-ins, and the explanation of all that dead matter holding on to its past is a powerful one.  In a pinch, I think I liked this one slightly better than the other story because I thought that the basis of it was explained more eloquently here, more convincingly.  The cars were creepy, but they didn't ring with as much truth as this does.  That might account for this one seeming less preachy as well.
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« Reply #18 on: January 09, 2012, 01:16:35 PM »

On the one hand, I enjoyed the juxtaposition of oil workers - not a community I associate with knowledge and lore - and Lovecraftian occultists. Of course it makes sense that anyone can have an intellectual streak, study knowledge man was not meant to know, and so on.

On the other hand, there were some significant holes that took me out of the story. Chief among them was that I didn't understand why the chief oilman was still involved with the story. I feel that the story rested on the laurels of "typical" Cthulhu stories, where the protagonist or someone in his environment is driven to discover. This story assumed the drive, but never provided a reason, which Lovecraft's stories were always careful to provide. The man is already incredibly wealthy. His wife may be gone, but his daughter seems to be safe, despite his fears. There are a plethora of potential motivations for continuing to be involved with the occult - revenge? His daughter's safety? Sheer obsession - but none of them are detailed, giving the character a lazy, "just 'cause" feel.

That said, I really liked the association of oil and death. It's bugged me for a long time. I mean, we're readers of speculative fiction! We know what happens to empires founded on death.

Unfortunately, this brings me to my final critique, which is that the Mythos stuff seemed tacked on. Something a little more necro-oriented - ghosts, zombies, dead gods, deadness - might have worked better with the themes the story had already introduced. Like the oilman's obsession, Cthulhu seemed present just because that's the sort of thing you see in stories like this, rather than having his presence explicitly justified.

Overall, though, I enjoyed the story. It was very well written and paced, even if I didn't like all of the narrative choices. The narration was, as usual, excellent and added a lot to the experience.
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« Reply #19 on: January 09, 2012, 07:15:35 PM »

Quote
That's not a complaint about the author or the story but something Shawn might want to consider, running two stories that are so similar.

Oh, I realized it, it just wasn't a big concern for me - the stories share similarities of concept, but differences of approach.  What sold me on "The Sound of Gears" was the characterization of the functionary who serves a monstrous evil, and tries to mitigate the damage caused by that force by preempting its actions, while realizing that nothing can completely stop it.  What sold me on "Black Hill" was the previously noted powerful final vision of a world yet to come - scaling new heights of expansion but powered by the dead.

In truth, one of the seemingly contradictory aspects of the variety of approaches, styles, forms and topics of horror fiction that I'm trying in PSEUDOPOD is the occasional "compare and contrast" opportunity, when possible (which is rare).  We have a story coming this autumn (yes, I said autumn) which is very similar in structure, and even in climax, to a story we ran this last summer.  I'll be interested in what people make of the differences in atmosphere and character roles as it plays out, not to mention the somewhat more ambiguous ending than its predecessor.

Plus, I just plain chuckled at being able to pitch "Black Hill" to potential readers as THERE WILL BE BLOOD meets Lovecraft!


“I am a child of the poisonous wind that copulated with the East River on an oil-slick, garbage infested midnight. I turn about on my own parentage.  I inoculate against those very biles that brought me to light.  I am a serum born of venoms.  I am the antibody of all Time.  I am the Cure.”
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« Last Edit: January 09, 2012, 08:55:54 PM by Sgarre1 » Logged
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« Reply #20 on: January 09, 2012, 09:35:38 PM »

Loved this story and the way it was read made it even better. I love stories that make me think about how it could fit into the world of H.P. Lovecraft. Thanks for a great story!
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« Reply #21 on: January 10, 2012, 11:01:31 AM »

Oh, I realized it, it just wasn't a big concern for me - the stories share similarities of concept, but differences of approach.  What sold me on "The Sound of Gears" was the characterization of the functionary who serves a monstrous evil, and tries to mitigate the damage caused by that force by preempting its actions, while realizing that nothing can completely stop it.  What sold me on "Black Hill" was the previously noted powerful final vision of a world yet to come - scaling new heights of expansion but powered by the dead.

Fair enough.  For me these stories were so incredibly similar that one of them seems pretty much redundant (though I'm not sure which one).  Tongue
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« Reply #22 on: January 10, 2012, 11:19:56 AM »

I also have to be the Keeper whenever we play Mansions of Madness because Rich won't play CoC for real.

If you don't mind losing an evening, go for the excellent "Arkham Horror" board game and it's now at least half dozen add-ons. It's a cooperative board game (you the players versus a randomly dealt GOO/Elder God/etc.) with options for individual goals as well.  Great game. I just wish it didn't take a bloody hour to set up and take down.
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« Reply #23 on: January 10, 2012, 11:57:22 AM »

Oh, I realized it, it just wasn't a big concern for me - the stories share similarities of concept, but differences of approach.  What sold me on "The Sound of Gears" was the characterization of the functionary who serves a monstrous evil, and tries to mitigate the damage caused by that force by preempting its actions, while realizing that nothing can completely stop it.  What sold me on "Black Hill" was the previously noted powerful final vision of a world yet to come - scaling new heights of expansion but powered by the dead.

Fair enough.  For me these stories were so incredibly similar that one of them seems pretty much redundant (though I'm not sure which one).  Tongue

They were seven months apart from each other!  Cheesy  I'm glad I got to hear both of them.

I always enjoy hearing Orrin Grey gracing the Pseudopod towers. Nice reading by Rich, too.
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« Reply #24 on: January 10, 2012, 12:06:38 PM »

They were seven months apart from each other!  Cheesy  I'm glad I got to hear both of them.

I always enjoy hearing Orrin Grey gracing the Pseudopod towers. Nice reading by Rich, too.

Indeed.  Which I guess, doesn't seem that far apart to me.  Different perspectives on time, I guess.  To a geologist, the evolution of humanity wasn't all that long ago, but a cicada would feel otherwise.  Smiley
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« Reply #25 on: January 10, 2012, 05:13:15 PM »

To a geologist, the evolution of humanity wasn't all that long ago, but a cicada would feel otherwise.  Smiley

I didn't see Devoted135 in this thread yet...
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« Reply #26 on: January 10, 2012, 06:49:02 PM »

I also have to be the Keeper whenever we play Mansions of Madness because Rich won't play CoC for real.

If you don't mind losing an evening, go for the excellent "Arkham Horror" board game and it's now at least half dozen add-ons. It's a cooperative board game (you the players versus a randomly dealt GOO/Elder God/etc.) with options for individual goals as well.  Great game. I just wish it didn't take a bloody hour to set up and take down.

Arkham Horror suffers from the Dice Problem.  The last time I played, I got zapped to another dimension randomly and spent the next four hours attempting to roll a 5 or a 6 whenever my turn came around.  25-30 minutes of waiting, one die roll, one sigh, and passing the turn on.
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« Reply #27 on: January 10, 2012, 08:47:52 PM »

Quote
For me these stories were so incredibly similar that one of them seems pretty much redundant (though I'm not sure which one).

And *that's* the part that I find interesting.  Not that you're obligated, but if you do any more cogitating on the subject and come up with something, please post if you are so inclined.
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« Reply #28 on: January 10, 2012, 08:59:17 PM »

I liked both Black Hill and The Sound of Gears. Black Hill had a pulpier Lovecraft tone. I loved the resonance with the drilling rig hitting home to the opening of the door in The Call of Cthulhu. The Sound of Gears, felt more like gritty noir to me. My preference lies with Lovecraft, although I dig gritty noir.

Choices like this make it difficult for me to narrow down to three stories for the "best of" nomination list.
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« Reply #29 on: January 11, 2012, 10:21:32 AM »

Quote
For me these stories were so incredibly similar that one of them seems pretty much redundant (though I'm not sure which one).

And *that's* the part that I find interesting.  Not that you're obligated, but if you do any more cogitating on the subject and come up with something, please post if you are so inclined.

Mostly, the wording of that was a joke.  If the stories are redundant, than they can only be redundant in combination, and so are both equally culpable for the redundancy.  Smiley  

Like I said, I think I like "Black Hill" just a fingernail-thickness better because it's explanation of the dead/ghostly matter building up in the oil seemed more convincing/eloquent than in The Sound of Gears.  

Just 2 days ago, I posted a Best of Pseudopod 2011 list, and this story was on it as an honorable mention, but "The Sound of Gears" is not.  As I was narrowing down the year's stories for the list, both this one and The Sound of Gears were on it til the very end.  But I was aiming to make the list one entry shorter, and so the choice came down to eliminating one of these or the other because I felt they were pretty much the same--if someone reads the list looking for a good sampling of Pseudopod, I figured it would serve them better to not have basically the same story twice in this collection of 8.  So I set the two on a metaphorical balance scale and measured very carefully to decide which one ended up on the list.  If this story had not been published (or had not been published until after the year's end), then "The Sound of Gears" would've been on the list instead.
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« Reply #30 on: January 11, 2012, 06:38:28 PM »

BTW - thanks for that best of list (which I will pimp where I can)!  And I was actually interested in your distinctions between the two, I wasn't being sarcastic or anything - so thanks for those as well!
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« Reply #31 on: January 11, 2012, 10:02:04 PM »

I am a huge fan of this story.  It's a great example of a Mythos story done absolutely correctly.  The desolate place, the slow build to otherworldly horror.  It was very well done.  Orrin's other story ("The Worm that Gnaws") is my all-time favorite story on Pseudopod.  And, like this story, the narration there was top-notch and really sold the story.

However, like "The Worm that Gnaws" I'm not sure how well this one would have done in text as opposed to being read aloud.  But I think this is a great success for the audio medium.  Great job Orrin!  Great job Pseudopod!
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« Reply #32 on: January 12, 2012, 02:30:37 AM »

I am a huge fan of this story.  It's a great example of a Mythos story done absolutely correctly.  The desolate place, the slow build to otherworldly horror.  It was very well done.  Orrin's other story ("The Worm that Gnaws") is my all-time favorite story on Pseudopod.  And, like this story, the narration there was top-notch and really sold the story.

However, like "The Worm that Gnaws" I'm not sure how well this one would have done in text as opposed to being read aloud.  But I think this is a great success for the audio medium.  Great job Orrin!  Great job Pseudopod!

Isn't it amazing how much a great narration adds to a story? It's very interesting to watch the EA "Best Of..." polls this time of year and consider the effect of the narration on how much people like it.
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justenjoying
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« Reply #33 on: January 15, 2012, 04:40:03 PM »

This was very similar to Terrible Lizard King in the way it ends. This is a much more stark story to say the least, but
I love the Horror in the everyday life, finding the dead things that is not only a part of our everyday life but what makes it
run for us. I won't mangle Alistair's outro, but suffice it to say it stuck with me as much as this story. Maybe there is a finer line
between dead and alive as we chose to see.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2012, 02:02:23 PM by justenjoying » Logged
JesseLivingston
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« Reply #34 on: January 16, 2012, 06:40:16 PM »

*SPOILER ALERT* Didn't "Terrible Lizard King" end with the boy eating the T-Rex?

I guess I'm missing the similarity, unless you mean the part about consuming dinosaurs?
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Jesse Livingston
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justenjoying
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« Reply #35 on: January 17, 2012, 01:22:27 AM »

more about the horror is all around us,
the boys relization that things run on dinosaurs and that we are made from the same stuff dinos were once made of.
before he eats the t-rex
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Scattercat
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« Reply #36 on: January 17, 2012, 10:02:24 AM »

In fairness, Orrin Grey was probably not inspired by this comic, as I was.
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JesseLivingston
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« Reply #37 on: January 17, 2012, 03:49:24 PM »

Nice! (the comic)

You're right. I should have gone back and listened to the story before I opened my big mouth.
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Jesse Livingston
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orrin
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« Reply #38 on: January 19, 2012, 02:51:45 PM »

First of all, thanks for all the very nice words about the story!

Generally, when I'm writing stories, even Lovecraftian ones, I tend to try to avoid overt references. Throwing out names like Miskatonic or Cthulhu or whatever. But in this case, I was writing this story specifically for the Historical Lovecraft anthology, and I thought that the "that is not dead which can eternal lie" line was just so appropriate for the theme of the story that I couldn't resist using it.
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orrin
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« Reply #39 on: January 19, 2012, 04:08:20 PM »

Also, for those of you who might be curious to see the story in print, in a stunning bit of serendipity the version of it that's going to appear in my forthcoming collection just went up as a stand-alone story for the Kindle on Amazon. It's got original art accompanying it, as well as some author's notes, and it's absolutely free for the time being, so check it out if you're interested: http://www.amazon.com/Black-Hill-ebook/dp/B006YZIF6G/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1327007091&sr=8-5
« Last Edit: January 19, 2012, 04:14:31 PM by orrin » Logged

Sgarre1
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« Reply #40 on: January 19, 2012, 08:04:32 PM »

I'll put a link up on the story page!
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JesseLivingston
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« Reply #41 on: January 19, 2012, 09:26:44 PM »

Generally, when I'm writing stories, even Lovecraftian ones, I tend to try to avoid overt references. Throwing out names like Miskatonic or Cthulhu or whatever. But in this case, I was writing this story specifically for the Historical Lovecraft anthology, and I thought that the "that is not dead which can eternal lie" line was just so appropriate for the theme of the story that I couldn't resist using it.

Well, that answers that. Hard to write a story for a Lovecraft collection without some mention of Lovecraft. Great work!
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Jesse Livingston
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