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Author Topic: Pseudopod 266: This Is Now  (Read 4942 times)
Bdoomed
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« on: January 28, 2012, 01:45:52 AM »

Pseudopod 266: This Is Now

By Michael Marshall Smith.
Click his name for his home page. The story can be read here at the BBCi Cult website. It originally appeared in THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST NEW HORROR 16 (2005), BY BLOOD WE LIVE (2009) and the author’s collection THIS IS NOW (2007).

Read by Steve Anderson.


“‘If you were seeing the fence for the first time, you’d likely wonder at the straightness of it, the way in which the concrete posts had been planted at ten yard intervals deep into the rock. You might ask yourself if national forests normally went to these lengths, and you’d soon remember they didn’t, that for the most part a cheerful little wooden sign by the side of the road was all that was judged to be required. If you kept on walking deeper, intrigued, sooner or later you’d see a notice attached to one of the posts. The notices are small, designed to convey authority rather than draw attention.

NO TRESPASSING, they say. MILITARY LAND.

That could strike you as a little strange, perhaps, because you might have believed that most of the marked-off areas were down over in the moonscapes of Nevada, rather than up here at the quiet Northeast corner of Washington State. But who knows what the military’s up to, right? Apart from protecting us from foreign aggressors, of course, and The Terrorist Threat, and if that means they need a few acres to themselves then that’s actually kind of comforting. The army moves in mysterious ways, our freedoms to defend. Good for them, you’d think, and you’d likely turn and head back for town, having had enough of tramping through snow for the day. In the evening you’d come into Ruby’s and eat hearty, some of my wings or a burger or the brisket - which, though I say so myself, isn’t half bad. Next morning you’d drive back South.

I remember when the fences went up. Thirty years ago. 1985. Our parents knew what they were for. Hell, we were only eight and we knew.”


This podcast uses these wind and pool sounds from from Freesound.

“Wind” by Batuhan

“Wind2″ by Sagetyrtle

“Pool shot” by Cameronmusic

“Ae.Billiard Ball Rolling” by Bunyi

“Pool balls” by Bsumusictech

“Pool Break” by AaHanson


Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
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kibitzer
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« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2012, 06:16:41 AM »

We seem to have a fairly cross-cultural audience but, in case you need it for the outro --> Jammie Dodgers.
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Millenium_King
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« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2012, 11:57:43 PM »

I really liked this story.  It really attacked from two fronts:  the horror of the monsters themselves, and the horror of life's inertia.  The monsters were well portrayed, asequately strange and the scenes where the boys were running from them were well paced and tense.

The second (perhaps, larger) horror was basically that of the failed "coming-of-age" story.  Normally, the story is one of a young man in a small town who grows, develops, changes and ultimately moves on to bigger and better things.  In this case, our lead actually regressed - less successful with women, less brave, less potential etc. - rather than growing.  In many ways, that trap is one we all can fall into.  Suddenly, twenty years are gone and all those childhood dreams are now not only impossible to reach - but, worse, we don't feel they are even worth reaching for anymore.
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« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2012, 09:42:10 AM »

I liked this story well enough.  The chronology was a little confusing at first, but once I got the time jumps sorted out, it went pretty smoothly.  The sound effects helped with this, as the howling wind and the crack of billiard balls helped differentiate the two main settings.

The type of setup reminded me rather of It in the way that it told two parallel stories of the same people, once in childhood and once in adulthood undergoing the same journey.  Like Millennium King said, one of the most interesting aspects of this is that it's kind of a reverse coming-of-age where he regresses as he ages, and so in that way it took a familiar core story and turned it around.

I wonder what the creatures inside the fence were?  I got the impression they were Fae, and that there's probably a circle of stones somewhere within the fence that they pass through.

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« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2012, 10:55:35 AM »

MM Smith's "More Tomorrow" is one of my favorite horror stories EVER, and so I really wanted to like this story.

But I couldn't.

The characterizations were good -- I really got into the heads of these guys as adults who kind of let their lives not really amount to very much. The story was interesting. But I was really disappointed by the fact that, in the present, these guys didn't actually do anything. All we know is that they jumped the fence as kids, and that they didn't have the balls to do it as adults.

So... no answers. I don't always NEED answers, but in a story like this I needed SOMETHING.

Also, there was the whole then-and-now style, which is pretty overused by now, although when this story was written, it wasn't... so I don't really hold it against the author, but it still gave me the forehead-wrinkle-of-"what, again?".
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« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2012, 03:54:34 PM »

Yeah, I felt a little let-down, too. The build-up was SO GREAT that I could hardly believe it when they just walked away from the fence at the end. Maybe if we had never seen what was behind the fence, it wouldn't have mattered so much. Then the story could just have been about failed aspirations and wasted lives. But because we saw the monsters, I felt like we needed some kind of resolution to what they might be.

Basically, this could have been a Stephen-King-type tale of childhood friends who brave the mysteries of life, and then try to do so again as adults, but realize they've lost something along the way. Not the story I wanted, but it would have been just fine.

OR it could have been an awesome thriller about weird fast-moving spider people who live in a fenced-off area of the Pacific Northwest. That's the story I wanted. I didn't want to know too much about the spider people (that would ruin the creeping dread), but I wanted them to at least make another appearance.

I guess I just didn't want the story to try to be both.
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« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2012, 05:57:53 PM »

The provenance of this story suggested that it was going to be good, and oh, so it was.

As others have mentioned, there was a great interplay between the mundane horror of becoming a nobody and the sharp edged hot terror of the monsters themselves.

And what great monsters they were. I loved the description of them as "tall women who take too small steps". It reminded me of Stephen King's "low men in yellow coats".

That technique of describing humanoid monsters in such a way that you think "well, those chaps seem a bit odd" and then telescoping it out so that you suddenly think "whoaa, what the fuck?" is really effective.
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« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2012, 06:18:42 PM »

And the description of spiders moving behind frosted glass was amazing!
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« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2012, 03:41:36 PM »

It was very well written, but almost painfully realistic. As others have said the characterization is amzing to the point that it reminds me a little too much of some friends of mine. It's scary because it hit home, but in the end it's just sad.
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Gary
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« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2012, 02:33:56 PM »

I think this may have been one of the most haunting stories to date!

Wonderful "bait and switch" by the author. There is this growing feeling of unease that seems initially to be all about what ever is behind that fence. In the end though, I didn't really care so much. I was more scared by the fate of the "Glory Days" monster.
 The horror of admitting out loud that the high point of your life has already happened, in fact happened long ago and that there's really nothing left but to trudge onward to the next day of just trudging onward to the next day.
Almost makes what ever happens to you "beyond the fence" seem preferable. At least there you'd be alive again for those few moments before you weren't!
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« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2012, 05:14:31 PM »

This was a complex story told simply. One part coming of age ritual (an event not limited to one's teenage years), one part unknown horror over the hill. The sound effects were the true kicker - that desolate wind and the cracking of pool balls made such stark scenes really pop!
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« Reply #11 on: February 10, 2012, 05:02:43 PM »

Loved this story. Loved it. I understand those who wanted a pay off, but this is a great example of the new horror. No blood & guts, we don't even get a good look at the monsters. But it's the disquieting element of it. The horror that the greatest moment of your life was not some triumph but a stupid move that almost got you killed at 15. An accident of being alive. And you've had nothing else since. That's horrific.
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Scattercat
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« Reply #12 on: March 11, 2012, 08:03:33 AM »

Slender figures?  Like a rake

I see what you did there, author.  >__>
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« Reply #13 on: March 11, 2012, 09:42:11 AM »

And here I am wishing now that Brian Lumley had agreed to sell me "The Thin People" (1987 - long before Something Awful or CreepyPasta ever existed)
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« Reply #14 on: March 11, 2012, 12:34:03 PM »

I was about to say that this reminded me of "The Thin People," which is a personal favorite. 

I'm actually fairly fond of the whole "Marble Hornets" scheme, for all its flaws.  The idea of a monster that only exists if you look for it is a fun idea.
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« Reply #15 on: March 13, 2012, 11:35:45 PM »

Slender figures?  Like a rake

I see what you did there, author.  >__>

Haha, good point. Although, I think the Rake was more of a stocky, dog-like figure.

If you like "Marble Hornets," check out "Everyman HYBRID." It's even better. Of course, it gets less scary the longer it goes on. The best Slenderman videos are always the first few.
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