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Author Topic: Pseudopod 265: Biba Jibun  (Read 8375 times)
Bdoomed
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« on: January 20, 2012, 10:39:14 PM »

Pseudopod 265: Biba Jibun

By Eugie Foster.
Click her name for her home page, or visit her blog on the same site. This story originally appeared in issue #23 of Apex Magazine. Eugie’s newest story collection, RETURNING MY SISTER’S FACE AND OTHER FAR EASTERN TALES OF WHIMSY AND MALICE is published by Norilana Books and is available for Kindle, Nook and ePpub, iPad, PDF, Palm (PDB) and Sony (LRF).

Read by Kara Grace, who also read “Braiding The Ghosts” for PODCASTLE.


“‘When the train arrived, it was jammed with commuters: students, salarymen, and office ladies. I squeezed into the last car, and more bodies pushed in behind me. My stomach churned, assaulted by cloying perfume, stale cigarette smoke, and sour sweat.

I was so intent upon not being sick that at first I didn’t notice that somewhere between Shibuya and Harajuko stations, a man’s hand had settled on my leg. Surrounded by blank-faced commuters, wedged so tightly I couldn’t move, I had no idea who it belonged to. As the train jostled along, the hand slipped higher, burning a sweat-slick trail from knee to thigh. At the next juddering stop, my agitated insides heaved, and I shoved free from the car. I fled into the closest ladies? toilet to throw up. Stomach as empty and deflated as my spirits, I splashed water on my face, trying not to cry.

The door opened, and a girl in a school uniform identical to mine stepped to the sink beside me. She pulled a glittering gold bag embossed with distinctive Louis Vuitton monograms out of her schoolbag. After dumping an array of makeup on the counter, she proceeded to sketch in her eyebrows with a dark pencil.

‘I saw what happened, you know.” Her voice was low and rich. “You’re supposed to yell ‘chikan’ when they grope you. Everyone says train perverts make them want to puke, but you’re the first I’ve seen who really has. You must be new to Tokyo.’”




Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
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« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2012, 09:19:50 AM »

Oh Eugie Foster, how do I love the!  You've got me rooting for the Obake.

I keep thinking this is a podcastle story, but the sheer believable horribleness of everyone who was not Rini or Yuki (whose moralities are still a bit suspect) centers on why this is more horrific.  I'm pretty sure that even the guard protecting the women's-only car kicks puppies.  Despite the bad behaviors... I love love love this story and the feeling of gleeful triumph by the end which is indicative of many Eugie Foster stories. 
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« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2012, 01:05:37 AM »

Kara's reading really enhanced this one for me.
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« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2012, 05:37:16 PM »

While this one was an interesting tale, I felt that it amounted to the breaking down of a girl by taking away everything she loved and leaving her with...well...nothing. Her family is either dead, fled, or terrible. She has no real friends, only her mother, the hedonist rabbit spirit. This story suggests to me a rather bleak and lonely future for the protagonist.

Thanks.
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« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2012, 10:03:28 PM »

I saw it more as an awakening in Rinako of her true nature.  Instead of leaving her with nothing, she has been gifted everything, to become a confident, take-what-I-want woman like her mother.  And like her mother, she doesn't need anyone.  She's a free rabbit-spirit made to exploit the perverted male world in which she finds herself in.  And good for her Smiley
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« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2012, 10:41:55 AM »

she has been gifted everything, to become a confident, take-what-I-want woman like her mother.  And like her mother, she doesn't need anyone. 

See, I was bothered by that very message.  She learns in the story that she is just like her mother, that she has a powerful personality and is self-sufficient and able to take what she wants, to break the stereotype of the meek and subservient woman that she's expected to be.  Why are she and her mother the only women who seems to be able to assert herself?  The story answers this:  Because her mother is a demon, and she is demonspawn.

Maybe I'm reading too much between the lines, but it bothers me that there needed to be answer to the question of why she resists the rules set down for her by her society.  It couldn't possibly be that she's just a free-thinking humanspawn, could it?

I did listen all the way to the end, and I was interested all the way through.  It just seemed at the end that it was structured around the mystery of why she is the way she is, and the answer didn't satisfy me, so the story as a whole bothered me.  Which is pretty unusual for me; usually I like those of Eugie's stories that are not strictly retellings of existing myths.

The reading was fantastic, though, worth listening to it just for that alone.

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« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2012, 02:32:28 PM »

Quote
Maybe I'm reading too much between the lines, but it bothers me that there needed to be answer to the question of why she resists the rules set down for her by her society.  It couldn't possibly be that she's just a free-thinking humanspawn, could it?

That's a good way to look at it - I hadn't thought of it that way. I've read that compensated dating is pretty common, and the descriptions of the other girls in her school makes it sound like a lot of girls in her age group were rejecting social ideas about appropriate dress and behaviour.

Do you think the repeated phrase "people don't expect a rabbit to have sharp teeth" could be more broadly applied to non-magical girls who are still going against social expectations of demureness and propriety?

To me it seemed more like a story about an orphan and outsider who ends up having the magical protection a lot of kids in that situation would dream about. I know she's a lot older than just a 'little kid' but the dream of having something magical about you/knowing that your mother didn't just up and leave for a mundane reason is probably one that would linger on well into one's teens. It suited the fairy-tale aspect of the story.

I *loved* Yumi/Rinako's Mum's take on train perverts: Yes, they should get their own carriage! It's just enraging that the approved solution for chikan groping women is that the women should be segregated.  

Two tiny little quibbles - it's harajuku not harajuko, and Japanese alcohol consists of more than just sake! (but I know, I know, it's the most well-known...)

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« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2012, 04:08:59 PM »

I loved this story. The mix of fantasy and horror of the real was exquisite. The character's slow slide away from virtue - precipitated by the compounded misunderstanding and cruelty of everyone around her - was perfectly paced and brilliant.

A great story. All rabbit feet up.
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« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2012, 09:26:37 AM »

I really enjoyed the reading.

I think my problem with this story stemmed from the fact that, to me, it felt like a longer story that was abbreviated. We had the first two beats of the story with Yumi and Rinako, and the third beat... wasn't there. Instead we discovered that Rinako's beloved uncle was just another perverted salaryman. It really killed the story for me because there was no real foreshadowing. I guess, in retrospect, the reason Uncle was gone all the time was because he was booking telephone dates instead of being with his family (or maybe he really was working hard; I don't know).

I just feel like... I don't know... I wanted a better ending. Or at least a better climax before Rinako turns into an Obake for good.
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« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2012, 09:34:51 AM »

That's a good way to look at it - I hadn't thought of it that way. I've read that compensated dating is pretty common, and the descriptions of the other girls in her school makes it sound like a lot of girls in her age group were rejecting social ideas about appropriate dress and behaviour.

That's true, there were plenty of other girls that rejected the rules about appropriate dress and behavior (although it wasn't clear that others would go to the extent of stabbing gropers on the train.  So perhaps my reaction was overblown.  But I guess those other girls faded into the background because they never had names.  They were just the backdrop to the frontstage drama.  It would have been nice if we'd had at least some brief interaction with one more character in the age group who is not demonspawn, to allow me to compare and contrast what sets this girl apart and what doesn't.
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« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2012, 09:59:51 AM »

I loved this story. The mix of fantasy and horror of the real was exquisite. The character's slow slide away from virtue - precipitated by the compounded misunderstanding and cruelty of everyone around her - was perfectly paced and brilliant.

A great story. All rabbit feet up.


Haha, my feelings exactly.  Thank you, I was unable to put my feelings into words.

I enjoyed the story for the tale.  I didn't seek deeper meaning, perhaps I am a poorer listener for not needing to peel back layers of meaning for some underlying message.

It has been a while since I have truly enjoyed a story AND reading.  Thanks for bringing Eugie in again, she is one of my favorite authors here and the reading was perfect. 
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« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2012, 12:23:18 PM »

I enjoyed the story for the tale.  I didn't seek deeper meaning, perhaps I am a poorer listener for not needing to peel back layers of meaning for some underlying message.

Nah.  If you enjoyed the story, I certainly won't begrudge you for it.  Since I started writing, I've also developed an urge to analyze others' writing.  Which is good in that I think it helps me improve, and can help me appreciate stories where I can discern extra meaning.  But not good in that overanalyzing can really ruin a story!
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« Reply #12 on: January 26, 2012, 07:58:24 PM »

Better reader than Podcastle and other sites where readers/narrators usually mangle japanese, but still some mispronunciations. 3-syllable names have the emphasis on the FIRST syllable, not the second. "Shimatta!!" ("my goodness/god!" or just "holy crap!") is said quickly as "SHEEmahtah!", not "shih/shee-MAAAAtaaah". Abayo (rude form of goodbye) is is "ah-bah-YO", not ah-BAH-yo. Kitsune = Keets'-neh. Inari = EEnari (roll the R slightly so it sounds almost like a D). Japanese is not a language with syllables or words that can be drawn out sensually like english. They just end up sounding silly instead of erotic. You'll unlearn these bad habits just watching subbed/subtitled (japanese language with english text at the bottom of the screen) anime. Good story...but feels more like something that should be on Podcastle, in that there was no horror. Jya matta ne!
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« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2012, 04:34:08 PM »

I was too bothered by how it seemed like the author was slapping together random, faddish pop cultural references to Japan to actually get through this story. As someone who actually grew up in the culture, it left kind of a bad taste in my mouth. Good job for actually making an effort, I guess?

Some specific, finer points:
Nobody says "abayo" or "shimatta" anymore, it's seriously old-fashioned sounding.
Japanese dads, for the most part, wouldn't hold random tea ceremonies for guests.
Gyaru and Malice Mizer are really a 90s phenomenon (I guess if it takes place in the 90s, it's fine)

etc.
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« Reply #14 on: January 27, 2012, 04:40:00 PM »

I was too bothered by how it seemed like the author was slapping together random, faddish pop cultural references to Japan to actually get through this story. As someone who actually grew up in the culture, it left kind of a bad taste in my mouth. Good job for actually making an effort, I guess?

Some specific, finer points:
Nobody says "abayo" or "shimatta" anymore, it's seriously old-fashioned sounding.
Japanese dads, for the most part, wouldn't hold random tea ceremonies for guests.
Gyaru and Malice Mizer are really a 90s phenomenon (I guess if it takes place in the 90s, it's fine)

I got the impression that the story was definitely set in the 90s. Don't forget that the 'pods mostly play reprints.
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« Reply #15 on: January 29, 2012, 06:19:32 PM »

A fantastic narration and excellent story, though I found myself wishing everything hadn't been neatly kind of packaged up and tied into a bow with the ending. The protagonist walking away from the train station with the businessman having thrown himself under the train felt like a good place for it to end, since to me it seemed very clear who Umi was by then.
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« Reply #16 on: January 29, 2012, 11:28:11 PM »

Though on the serface it is a women enpowerment story, the only way to gain that power is to devalue herself. It is
possible for her to take controle of her situation, she lives in reaction to others atrocities everyday. It is not a happy ending,
but one that alot of women go through, if there is no win there is always getting back at. But I do believe there is anotherside
to using our bodies as a munipulation tool, a true loving of ourself and an empowerment that we are strong but don't need to
prove it. This reminded me of my highschool experience and I am proud to report I am no longer a victum to other's, and I
no longer am an animal of pray. I have grown into a strong self asurred person. Hopefully there is the same future for Rini.
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« Reply #17 on: January 30, 2012, 09:37:11 AM »

I was too bothered by how it seemed like the author was slapping together random, faddish pop cultural references to Japan to actually get through this story. As someone who actually grew up in the culture, it left kind of a bad taste in my mouth. Good job for actually making an effort, I guess?

Some specific, finer points:
Nobody says "abayo" or "shimatta" anymore, it's seriously old-fashioned sounding.
Japanese dads, for the most part, wouldn't hold random tea ceremonies for guests.
Gyaru and Malice Mizer are really a 90s phenomenon (I guess if it takes place in the 90s, it's fine)

I got the impression that the story was definitely set in the 90s. Don't forget that the 'pods mostly play reprints.

Looking at Eugie's site, it looks like it was first published in April 2011.  But it's possible that it was set in the 90s anyway.
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« Reply #18 on: January 30, 2012, 03:42:19 PM »

While this one was an interesting tale, I felt that it amounted to the breaking down of a girl by taking away everything she loved and leaving her with...well...nothing. Her family is either dead, fled, or terrible. She has no real friends, only her mother, the hedonist rabbit spirit. This story suggests to me a rather bleak and lonely future for the protagonist.
Thanks.

I agree, and I think that's why it worked as a horror story. Some commenters said they were bothered by the implication that the protagonist had to give up her humanity to become self-empowered, but I thought that was what made the story disturbingly effective. In a culture that has really messed-up values (Japanese, American, whatever--we all do), you have to give up your humanity to a certain extent in order to save yourself. You have to accept the hatred you feel for the thoughtless people who perpetuate the evils of the world, even though that hatred closes your heart and makes you less likely to fight those evils yourself. Your only other option is to ignore that hatred, or bury it, and that never turns out well.

It seemed like the tragedy of this story was the ease with which the protagonist let go of her belief in a better world and became a hungry demon only out for herself. I think, in some ways, that's the story of humanity: kids are born thinking a better world is possible, but the more they are abused by the world-as-it-is, the less they are willing or able to fight for the possibility of change. The horror, the horror.
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« Reply #19 on: February 01, 2012, 11:17:04 AM »

I agree, and I think that's why it worked as a horror story. Some commenters said they were bothered by the implication that the protagonist had to give up her humanity to become self-empowered, but I thought that was what made the story disturbingly effective. In a culture that has really messed-up values (Japanese, American, whatever--we all do), you have to give up your humanity to a certain extent in order to save yourself.

I guess to me, what bothered me is not so much that she gave up her humanity, but that I sensed an implication that the only way to take control of your life is to give up your humanity, that a woman who tolerates no abuse must be inhuman. 
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