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Author Topic: Pseudopod 268: Let There Be Darkness  (Read 5775 times)

Bdoomed

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on: February 12, 2012, 06:52:18 PM
Pseudopod 268: Let There Be Darkness

By Mike Allen.
Click his name to visit his website, DESCENT INTO LIGHT. Mike is also editor of the critically acclaimed CLOCKWORK PHOENIX anthology series and the long-running poetry journal MYTHIC DELERIUM. This story first appeared in Penny Dreadful, and was reprinted in the anthology THE BIBLE OF HELL and Mike’s poetry collection STRANGE WISDOMS OF THE DEAD. He is planning a collection of his horror stories, including this tale and previous Pseudopod submissions “The Button Bin” and “The Blessed Days”.

Read by Christiana Ellis, who recently read “Plus Or Minus” for ESCAPE POD.


“A day will come when the sun’s pale yellow stare starts to fill with the taint of blood.

Among the confused and tremulous hordes of mankind, amidst the endless processions of grand towers forged from metal stolen from the moon, I will walk. One knowing face, one unique being traversing the rivers of humanity that flood this world.”




Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
« Last Edit: February 20, 2012, 08:17:46 PM by Bdoomed »

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


Listener

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Reply #1 on: February 13, 2012, 01:58:28 PM
King, mountain, etc.

I couldn't finish this story. I got about six or seven minutes in, realized I wasn't really taking it in -- just words washing over me from my speakers -- and skipped ahead to the outro. It just didn't work for me. Sorry.

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Reply #2 on: February 13, 2012, 02:47:31 PM
I didn't make it to the end either. 

I think much of it is that I found the tense of the narration to be not at all compelling (what was it again, future perfect?).  "I will" do this, "I will" do that.  That and a quarter will get you a local phone call, buddy.  Funny that his 2nd person Button Bin was also mentioned, because I loved that story, but hated its 2nd person-ness--I liked the story despite that.  I am of the school that the story itself needs to be the most obvious thing about a story, if anything about the telling takes the forefront, than it's just a needless distraction from what's important.

Anyway, I got sick of this creature telling me about all the thing's it's going to do to exact it's revenge, and I didn't really care enough to keep listening.  It's not even clear to me that it's capable of any of what it says--they could be all empty threats.



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Reply #3 on: February 14, 2012, 03:18:22 PM
I must be on a completely different wavelength (I think that has been said before about me), but I was absolutely enchanted by this piece.  Not only did I finish listening to it, but I listened twice through immediately and plan on listening again today.  The memory of things to come as narrative device didn't hinder me, I felt it gave the piece an interesting nuance.  I particularly like the gradual shift from the one out to the infinite as the tale progressed, then our narrator invites the not very neat and kinda rambunctious infinite back home to play - the descriptions of the Father were really fantastic.  I was very enamored with this piece, but then again, I am oft cheered up by a little apocalyptic playtime : )



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Reply #4 on: February 15, 2012, 07:45:11 PM
a little apocalyptic playtime : )
That is a good tag for the story.  I have a soft spot for this sort of thing (prose poems in the spirit of Clark Ashton Smith).  It also reminded me of a novel I read years ago by the scientist and visionary Fred Hoyle entitled The Black Cloud  It has a similar trajectory, with the slow and worrying approach of the entity, first spotted as it blots out a whole section of the sky in its approach.  I won't give away the final chapters, but the scientists learned how to talk to the cloud and receive answers from it, and one of the researchers wants to go all the way--in effect to download the cloud's vast knowledge and experience into his own brain.  (It's not much of a spoiler to say that this project does not end well.)

In fairness, I think it is a very great challenge for any author to write about anything this vast.  Hoyle's (admittedly very science-fiction-y) solution was to supply characters whose intellect and yearnings could somehow engage with the cloud and not just be crushed by it (or wonder, fatalistically, why God hasn't deigned to explain his plan to us).  The part about a God that creates us deliberately as obtuse critters who'll wind up as lumps of fuel leaves the promise of "salvation if only you had listened" pretty hollow, more like a mean-spirited taunt than a true alternative we had the power to grasp. But I suppose that is some people's definition of cosmic horror.



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Reply #5 on: February 15, 2012, 07:57:56 PM
I didn't love this one.

I'm a big Jew, so stories based on the Christian mythos doesn't immediately tug my brainstrings. And, on top of that, this story was a little too... abstract for my tastes. I'm totally willing to buy into stories that are mostly atmospheric or plot driven, but this one had nothing that even remotely resembled a character.

Ok, I guess the narrator remotely resembled a character. Remotely.

But I can't deny that the story was extremely well-written. It achieved its goals admirably. I just don't think its goals are goals that I find particularly compelling.

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Sgarre1

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Reply #6 on: February 15, 2012, 10:19:56 PM
Quote
(prose poems in the spirit of Clark Ashton Smith)

I was thinking George Sterling when I bought it.



mythicd

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Reply #7 on: February 16, 2012, 01:43:38 AM
Quote
(prose poems in the spirit of Clark Ashton Smith)

I was thinking George Sterling when I bought it.

And I certainly thank you for doing so!

Hi, folks! I hung back and just watched the comments with the first two stories but decided to speak up with this one. For those who weren't into it, sorry it didn't work for you. For those of you who dig it, thank you so much!

I am of the school that the story itself needs to be the most obvious thing about a story, if anything about the telling takes the forefront, than it's just a needless distraction from what's important.

See, to my mind, the future tense of "Let There Be Darkness" is part and parcel of how the story has to be told, just as "The Button Bin" would be a radically different story if it wasn't in second person. "The Button Bin" is an internal monologue, a man talking to himself; "Let There Be Darkness" is a prophecy. So while I have no problem with your axiom, as I writer I think how the story is told is just as essential. And as a result some of my stories are relatively unadorned in how they unfold, while some experiment. I definitely grateful to Pseudopod for choosing to showcase some of my wackier efforts.

That doesn't mean you're wrong to dislike it. Your reading experience is yours, not mine.

so stories based on the Christian mythos doesn't immediately tug my brainstrings. ... I guess the narrator remotely resembled a character.

Fair cop! I wasn't really interested in creating a character when I wrote this. I was interested in apocalyptic carnage, hee.

One of the things I love about being in Pseudopod is that there's no sense of monologuing into a vacuum -- you actually have "readers"! And feedback! It's awesome. Thanks, all of you.

Mike Allen




jk_jackel

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Reply #8 on: February 16, 2012, 08:54:30 AM
I, on the other hand, really enjoyed the Christian analogies from this story. In fact when listening I took the Jesus metaphor of the main character a little too far and found myself imagining the character actually as Jesus (ignoring the fact that humanity had tall towers and scientists looking for small white holes) and found myself wondering, what if we got it all wrong? What if Jesus' father is on his way here to murder us all? Blasphemy I know, but an interesting thought.

I think that fact that the main character referred to her maker as Father and that she hinted he had created humanity added to this metaphor also.



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Reply #9 on: February 16, 2012, 03:04:03 PM
See, to my mind, the future tense of "Let There Be Darkness" is part and parcel of how the story has to be told, just as "The Button Bin" would be a radically different story if it wasn't in second person. "The Button Bin" is an internal monologue, a man talking to himself; "Let There Be Darkness" is a prophecy. So while I have no problem with your axiom, as I writer I think how the story is told is just as essential. And as a result some of my stories are relatively unadorned in how they unfold, while some experiment. I definitely grateful to Pseudopod for choosing to showcase some of my wackier efforts.

You might be right that future tense was the only way to tell this story.  I was put off enough by it, I'm not really sure what this was about.  If this is the only way to tell it, then it's not the story for me I guess.

On The Button Bin, though, I really disagree that 2nd was the only way to tell it.  If it were changed to 1st or 3rd while making no other changes I would like it more to some degree.  Some narrative styles just strike me as a gimmick, and 2nd person is one of those.  It doesn't make any sense to me because I should not need to be told what I have done, and if it conflicts with my actual life then it doesn't work very well (and how could it not conflict with the details of my life unless it was written about me... which would be weird).   I hadn't really thought of it as a monologue to himself, but even that doesn't really make sense to me--when I talk to myself I don't use 2nd person, I use 1st.

Anyway...  I still love that story, and it is still in spite of the 2nd person narration.  :)



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Reply #10 on: February 16, 2012, 08:22:28 PM
I also had trouble getting into the story, but I think it's because this one needed more than just a casual listen. It needed your full attention. There was a lot of cool imagery that came and went pretty fast. Also, let's not forget that it's basically a waking dream inspired by a song, so it's not going to make a lot of linear sense. Probably the best way to approach it is as a poem in the vein of Lovecraft's "Nyarlathotep."

What I really liked was the ending. The idea of a savior who doesn't know or has forgotten the significance of his Father's plan is pretty interesting.

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Reply #11 on: February 16, 2012, 10:43:11 PM
Awesome stuff. This one took that whole Lovecraftian subgenre thing and hit it out of the park.

The idea of that great devourer crawling through the stars towards us was awesome, the idea that it was our creator was terrifying, and the reality bending doom it had in store for us was truly horrific.

I disagree with some of the comments above about the tense. It really worked. Partly it was because it tied in to the religious prophecy vibe, but also just because  it ramped up the menace.

It achieved the same effect of "Whistle and I'll Come, My Lad". In almost every way that is a different story, but like this one it squeezed every drop of unease out of the relentless approach of a horror. That a type of fear has a flavour all of its own (as I think the outro mentioned) and when it's done well it reeeaally works.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2012, 10:51:55 PM by Balu »



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Reply #12 on: February 16, 2012, 10:50:53 PM
I particularly like the gradual shift from the one out to the infinite as the tale progressed, then our narrator invites the not very neat and kinda rambunctious infinite back home to play - the descriptions of the Father were really fantastic. 

Yeah, playing with perspectives in that way really worked. Great way of juxtaposing the mortal and the cosmic.

What was most unsettling about the Father was that it kept making me think of the prayers we had to say in school.

I wonder how much of this story was a conscious play on the Christian myth, and how much it just sort of bubbled up from the writer's subconscious along the way?



mythicd

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Reply #13 on: February 17, 2012, 04:51:13 AM
I hadn't really thought of it as a monologue to himself, but even that doesn't really make sense to me--when I talk to myself I don't use 2nd person, I use 1st.

So... say you lock yourself out of your car. You don't say to yourself, "Oh, you idiot, why did you do that?"

This is no secret, because I said this in several interviews after the story made the Nebula shortlist: I tried writing "Button Bin" several times and it didn't catch fire on the page until I attempted it in second person. For better or for worse, there you have it. Not to mention, because we're talking about the audio version, you're missing out on the wacky things I did with punctuation. (Wait till you see the sequel: it's four times longer, and it alternates between second and third person, present tense, no quotation marks, the works, heh, heh. Before Apex agreed to publish it, the feedback I got from beta readers ranged from "This is your masterpiece" to "I couldn't make it through this." And also, "You're sick.")

I'm certainly grateful for the praise you've given it regardless. And I'm so glad you liked my StarShipSofa piece, too!

I particularly like the I wonder how much of this story was a conscious play on the Christian myth, and how much it just sort of bubbled up from the writer's subconscious along the way?

The arrival of the Father and all He brings boiled up from ye olde subconscious -- more like erupted. The Christian mythplay came later, and was much more deliberate.

(Note: I edited this one to fix the quote tags - Eytan)
« Last Edit: February 17, 2012, 12:59:54 PM by eytanz »



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Reply #14 on: February 17, 2012, 05:21:20 AM
AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!  Run!  It's Galactus!  Someone call the Fantastic Four!

In all seriousness, I enjoyed this story and its weighty, lovecraftian pacing.  I felt, however, that its length worked against it.  A piece like this with a direct, almost plotless movement and unusual tense would benefit more - I think - if it were flash.

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Reply #15 on: February 17, 2012, 03:01:50 PM
I hadn't really thought of it as a monologue to himself, but even that doesn't really make sense to me--when I talk to myself I don't use 2nd person, I use 1st.

So... say you lock yourself out of your car. You don't say to yourself, "Oh, you idiot, why did you do that?"

Mostly I'd just swear a lot.  I'm trying to think of examples of me talking to myself, and come to think of it, I don't think I usually talk to myself ABOUT myself.  I usually talk to myself about other people or about the circumstances, in which case it's in 3rd person.  So I guess I can't say for sure whether I'd refer to myself in 1st or 2nd for sure.  I do know that I wouldn't tell myself a story about what I have done in several thousand words.  That doesn't make sense to me.

...Thinking on it more, I think I'd use 1st person, as in "Dammit, why didn't I check that I had my keys before I locked the door?"  *shrug*

This is no secret, because I said this in several interviews after the story made the Nebula shortlist: I tried writing "Button Bin" several times and it didn't catch fire on the page until I attempted it in second person. For better or for worse, there you have it. Not to mention, because we're talking about the audio version, you're missing out on the wacky things I did with punctuation. (Wait till you see the sequel: it's four times longer, and it alternates between second and third person, present tense, no quotation marks, the works, heh, heh. Before Apex agreed to publish it, the feedback I got from beta readers ranged from "This is your masterpiece" to "I couldn't make it through this." And also, "You're sick.")

And, hey, whatever it took to get the story written, I'm glad it happened, because I like the story.  Personally I think that is more indicative of what Mike Allen needed as a writer to get the story completed as opposed to what the story needed to make it the best for the readers.  If the writer isn't enjoying the process, then the result is going to be dull, and the result was not dull, so that definitely worked.  A fine distinction, perhaps,  and there's probably not much point in arguing about it, I'm not claiming it to be a provable truth, only my own opinion.  :)




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Reply #16 on: February 20, 2012, 05:00:42 AM
And I'm so glad you liked my StarShipSofa piece, too!

Mike, you wrote "Her Acres of Pastoral Playground," right? That's the StarShipSofa piece you're referring to, I think.  I haven't actually listened to the audio version yet, but I read it in Cthulhu's Reign a couple months ago, and it disturbed me no end. I still get chills thinking about it, and I'm not someone who scares easily at all. The scene where the guy hears his own screams still haunts me.

Anyone who hasn't read Cthulhu's Reign--you should. I bought it because I was curious to see what the authors would do with the premise of a world in which the Old Ones have already returned. What I didn't expect to find was one of the best and most inventive collections of Mythos stories I've read. Most Lovecraftian tales by other authors seem like pale imitations to me, but these stories, in forcing themselves out of the traditional Lovecraft mold, really opened up a whole other side of the Mythos and explored some genuinely horrifying territory. Mike's story is one of the best in the collection, in my opinion.

Anyway, thanks for writing that story. I personally liked it better even than "The Button Bin," and I think it deserves recognition.

Jesse Livingston
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Reply #17 on: February 20, 2012, 02:25:58 PM
And I'm so glad you liked my StarShipSofa piece, too!

Mike, you wrote "Her Acres of Pastoral Playground," right? That's the StarShipSofa piece you're referring to, I think.  I haven't actually listened to the audio version yet, but I read it in Cthulhu's Reign a couple months ago, and it disturbed me no end. I still get chills thinking about it, and I'm not someone who scares easily at all. The scene where the guy hears his own screams still haunts me.

Anyone who hasn't read Cthulhu's Reign--you should. I bought it because I was curious to see what the authors would do with the premise of a world in which the Old Ones have already returned. What I didn't expect to find was one of the best and most inventive collections of Mythos stories I've read. Most Lovecraftian tales by other authors seem like pale imitations to me, but these stories, in forcing themselves out of the traditional Lovecraft mold, really opened up a whole other side of the Mythos and explored some genuinely horrifying territory. Mike's story is one of the best in the collection, in my opinion.

Anyway, thanks for writing that story. I personally liked it better even than "The Button Bin," and I think it deserves recognition.

That's the story? BRB to download.

Y'all are trying real hard to jam another podcast on my list. Curses!

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Reply #18 on: February 20, 2012, 03:41:13 PM
And I'm so glad you liked my StarShipSofa piece, too!

Mike, you wrote "Her Acres of Pastoral Playground," right? That's the StarShipSofa piece you're referring to, I think.  I haven't actually listened to the audio version yet, but I read it in Cthulhu's Reign a couple months ago, and it disturbed me no end. I still get chills thinking about it, and I'm not someone who scares easily at all. The scene where the guy hears his own screams still haunts me.

Anyone who hasn't read Cthulhu's Reign--you should. I bought it because I was curious to see what the authors would do with the premise of a world in which the Old Ones have already returned. What I didn't expect to find was one of the best and most inventive collections of Mythos stories I've read. Most Lovecraftian tales by other authors seem like pale imitations to me, but these stories, in forcing themselves out of the traditional Lovecraft mold, really opened up a whole other side of the Mythos and explored some genuinely horrifying territory. Mike's story is one of the best in the collection, in my opinion.

Anyway, thanks for writing that story. I personally liked it better even than "The Button Bin," and I think it deserves recognition.

That's the story? BRB to download.

Y'all are trying real hard to jam another podcast on my list. Curses!

Yup, that's the story we were talking about.  It made it onto my Best of StarShipSofa list I posted a couple weeks ago:
http://www.diabolicalplots.com/?p=2503

And a link to the story on SSS:
http://www.starshipsofa.com/blog/2011/10/27/starshipsofa-no-209-mike-allen/

StarShipSofa has a lot of good stories that are worth listening to, and also many hours of nonfiction of varying quality.  My best advice is to remember that you don't need to listen to everything.  I tried to do that at the beginning and just got annoyed at some of the nonfiction and the huge amount of self-promotion, but I'm much happier when I just skip ahead whenever I get bored.



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Reply #19 on: February 20, 2012, 07:18:25 PM
The tense this story was written in kept me very engaged - the descriptions of what will be contrasted with the realities of the narrator's present.  And the imagery and vocabulary are positively luscious without that slightly jarring disconnect that I sometimes experience with Lovecraft writing where I feel like I need to stop and look up a word every sentence.

I find it really interesting that there's a gap in this timeline. We know the planet's reaction to the daughter revealing herself, and her father's reaction, but the middle ground of the immediate future - the critical WHY she reveals herself - is missing. Without that critical hinge of the narrative, the story takes a step up from future tense experiment to all sorts of interpretative possibilities which the daughter briefly touches on in what I think of as her Gethsemane ruminations.

This story's going to stick with me - there's lots to think about. :-)

Alea Iacta Est!


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Reply #20 on: February 21, 2012, 04:36:22 PM

Mike, you wrote "Her Acres of Pastoral Playground," right? That's the StarShipSofa piece you're referring to, I think. 

I did and it is! So glad you liked it.