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Author Topic: Pseudopod 280: The Meat Forest  (Read 3535 times)
Bdoomed
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« on: May 04, 2012, 11:24:37 PM »

Pseudopod 280: The Meat Forest

By John Haggerty.
This story first appeared in Shock Totem #3, published a year ago.

John Haggerty is a writer living in Northern California. His stories have appeared in Confrontation, The Los Angels Review and The Santa Monica Review, among others. He is currently at work on a novel about greed, gambling, religion, sex and death set in the deserts of Nevada. It’s a comedy!


Read by Corson Bremer. Corson has been in the business of communication for almost thirty years, spanning two continents, and as a stage actor, writer, director and voice talent, he has participated in more than 100 stage plays, readings and radio drama productions. These skills also fueled a 9-year career in radio as a presenter and as a writer, producer and voice talent for commercials, branding, audio books and video games (including RED STEEL 2).

He would like interested parties to check out the Voice Artists United Network (VAU) website (click name for link - also on Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace), where he’s an admin. It’s dedicated to very serious VO professionals. That doesn’t mean just “stars” or the very experienced VO’s, it’s for people who have already made and/or are making a real effort to break into the industry. We welcome people as members if they have a “web presence” showing that they work in or are MAKING A BIG EFFORT to work in VO (like their own voice acting website or profile on the web… even if it’s just a free one on Voice123.com or Voices.com or Bodalgo.com). Check it out and tell your friends!


“Dmitri laughed in my face. ‘Who is going to stop me? I do what I want.’ He looked out into the drizzly evening. ‘I can get you out of here. Do you want to go?’

‘What? Out of the camp? How?’

‘How do you think?’ He nodded toward the gray forest that crowded the perimeter, where the electrodes got too weak to keep it out. ‘Through that.’

‘Through the forest? I thought it was impossible.’

Dmitri tilted his head up. Beneath his jaw were tattoos of two men’s heads, done with red and black ink. Their faces were contorted in an expression of horror; their eyes closed. He pointed to them. ‘Do you know what they mean?’ he asked. I shook my head. ‘I’ve gotten through it twice. The only man in New Russia. I’ll take you.’ He paused, looking me up and down. ‘It’s probably a lost cause. I don’t think you’ll make it. But if you’re interested, come to my hut tonight.’

I looked back out at the forest. It wavered in and out of focus in the rain, gray and silent. When I turned back around, Dmitri was already gone.”




Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2012, 01:16:09 AM »

I am the King Under the Mountain, and this is the first post on this thread.

Why is meat so creepy?

Oh, I know why. Because nobody likes to think about the fact that meat is what we are all made of. You, me, everyone you know or will ever know is made of meat. You're someone's delicious, and for a lot of people - for me, definitely - that's deeply disturbing.

Anyway, this story hit all my buttons: terrible choices, the horror of one's own acts, evil carnivorous forests, and Russians. I couldn't have done it better myself, to be honest with you. This one wins four and a half bloody zeppelins out of five.
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« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2012, 02:42:17 AM »

You have a button for evil carnivorous forests? Weird.
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Pirvonen
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« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2012, 02:05:11 PM »

For days now I have been picturing the society that runs these gulags. No matter what the ruling class is called, whether it is The Councilors or The Owners, I am imagining the small lives of the small people in their everyday worries in the "free" part of the society, feeling the background anxiety but doing nothing about it -- only the criminals or the revolutionaries feel strongly enough to take things into their own hands. The ones to exploit the current system to their own advantage, the others to turn the system to a more advantageous one for general exploitation.

Good atmosphere work.
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zoanon
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« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2012, 03:28:01 PM »

I love carnivorous forests!
this one's all good to me, I liked the foreshadowing at the beginning when the political is describing the flesh of the newly dropped prisoner; it made me think the other prisoners were the ones that were going to eat him, but no  Cheesy

Za zdorovje! everything eats.
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« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2012, 08:29:39 PM »

I guess it was just the accent but I was reminded a little of that old '70s Russian movie, Stalker.

Good story.
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« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2012, 08:43:48 AM »

Woohoo, good to be listening again.  I am still without iPod, but I took a car trip this last week and burned an MP3 CD with my missed EA and Drabblecast episodes so that I can at least get caught up again.

I enjoyed this one a lot.  It seemed like it took place in a more-or-less real Russia from the past when Communism first arose, but with the addition of the meat forest to serve as the bars of a prison camp.  This made it seem all the more real and immersive.

I figured very early on that they were going to eat the boy, and once they mentioned the people who live in the forest I figured that the boy would be the toll.  Dmitri said from the beginning that he was being paid to transport the politico but he never said why he was taking the boy along, and so I was considering that, and my first thought was that the boy is self-carrying foodsource in a food-scarce environment.  But the fact that I saw this coming didn't spoil my enjoyment at all.  I still enjoyed seeing it unravel, seeing the discussion between Dmitri and the politico, seeing the attack of the forest, and the arrival at the forest people's camp, and the final choice that the politico has to make.

I really like John Haggerty's Corson Bremer's voice in general, but his voicing of Dmitri knocked this story out of the park.  Loved it!

The one thing that I'm not quite sure I get is, why didn't the politico foresee the sacrifice of the cow?  Is he truly such an idealist that he can't see what's in front of his face?  He had, what, a day to consider why the boy was coming along, and I don't think he even considered the question.

edited, to refer to the correct reader
« Last Edit: May 16, 2012, 09:07:43 AM by Unblinking » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2012, 09:15:58 AM »

This was great. Great story, great narrator. Cheesy
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Jeff C. Carter
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« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2012, 01:40:48 AM »

Very nicely done!

I thoroughly enjoyed the story and it's production.  I imagine one of the real world giant fungal colonies mutating in the Chernobyl Exclusion zone.  I appreciated that the boy/cow had to die because he was so purely idealistic.  What a dark, well crafted story!
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jhaggerty
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« Reply #9 on: May 15, 2012, 02:59:38 PM »

Thanks to everyone for your kind words. It's nice to know that people enjoyed this story. I wrote it a few years ago so it was fun to revisit it.

And I'd like to offer a round of applause to reader Corson Bremer, who did a great job with a piece that can't have been easy to perform. My thanks and congratulations on a job well done. And thanks to the whole pseudopod crew for giving my giant fungal mat a place to rest its hyphae for a while.
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« Reply #10 on: May 20, 2012, 05:41:37 AM »

Thanks to everyone for their appreciation of the story and my voice work.  It's a wonderful and chilling story with lots of atmosphere which was both a challenge and a pleasure to read for you.  I'm glad the accents worked to bring out the effect.  Thanks!

I hope to help bring out a few chills sometime soon!

Corson
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« Reply #11 on: May 21, 2012, 08:26:19 AM »

Thanks to everyone for their appreciation of the story and my voice work.  It's a wonderful and chilling story with lots of atmosphere which was both a challenge and a pleasure to read for you.  I'm glad the accents worked to bring out the effect.  Thanks!

I hope to help bring out a few chills sometime soon!

Corson

Thanks for stopping by Corson!  And I hope to hear more voicework from you soon.  Smiley
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« Reply #12 on: May 31, 2012, 06:47:24 PM »

One of my favourite family of questions: When we are looking down the barrel, what do we do? Ultimately, how strong do our ideals and morals have to be in order to overcome the bottom line: stay alive? What are we capable of when we are taken away from societal restraints? Horrifically illustrated in Heart of Darkness, The Walking Dead and now The Meat Forest.

The Gulag (though not sure if this was a forced labour camp or just a prison) and forest were very vivid even though there wasn't all that much description. I would have loved this story on paper; the narration gave this thing life. Great job equally to Haggerty and Bremer alike.
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eytanz
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« Reply #13 on: June 03, 2012, 04:26:46 PM »

Catching up on stories, after a few weeks where I was too busy to do much listening. I thought this was an excellent exploration of the dark side of the human soul.

The one thing that I'm not quite sure I get is, why didn't the politico foresee the sacrifice of the cow?  Is he truly such an idealist that he can't see what's in front of his face?  He had, what, a day to consider why the boy was coming along, and I don't think he even considered the question.

What made you think he didn't forsee it? He knew to ask about the cow back at the camp, and he almost warned the boy before meeting Dimitri at the food drop. He wasn't ignorant, he was wilfully blind to his complicity in the sacrifice, pinning all on Dimitri until Dimitri forced him to participate in the exile camp.
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« Reply #14 on: June 03, 2012, 06:53:45 PM »

While I approve of the narrator being the focus of the moral conundrum, it was a little odd to me that Dmitri left it up to him to make the choice at all, given that Dmitri was basically chivvying the narrator along through the meat forest in order to get his payday.  Dmitri didn't strike me as the type to make sacrifices as part of a broad statement about choice and morality.  That is, I see that Dmitri thinks the narrator is a hypocrite, but I don't see Dmitri caring enough about the abstract hypocrisy as to risk the narrator (obviously internally conflicted) killing himself to save the boy and thus depriving Dmitri of his payment.
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eytanz
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« Reply #15 on: June 03, 2012, 07:59:59 PM »

While I approve of the narrator being the focus of the moral conundrum, it was a little odd to me that Dmitri left it up to him to make the choice at all, given that Dmitri was basically chivvying the narrator along through the meat forest in order to get his payday.  Dmitri didn't strike me as the type to make sacrifices as part of a broad statement about choice and morality.  That is, I see that Dmitri thinks the narrator is a hypocrite, but I don't see Dmitri caring enough about the abstract hypocrisy as to risk the narrator (obviously internally conflicted) killing himself to save the boy and thus depriving Dmitri of his payment.

I don't think there was a doubt in Dmitri's mind as to how the choice would go. But I think he was thinking more long term - he didn't just want the payment from delivering the narrator out. He wanted to ensure that the narrator is the kind of person who could actually succeed in his political aims, while also demonstrating his control of the situation. His earlier insinuations as to the narrator keeping in touch implied to me that Dmitri wants to pull the narrator's strings for quite a while yet.
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jhaggerty
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« Reply #16 on: June 04, 2012, 03:29:29 PM »

Thanks for everyone's comments. I've enjoyed reading them. In answer to some of the questions:

The narrator has been in the camp long enough to have heard the stories about escape attempts, and what one needs for them. So he understands Dmitri's plans for the boy from the beginning. This is the main factor in his initial reluctance to participate. But I think that he allows himself to indulge in some magical thinking--that they will be able to walk straight through the forest, that the exiles won't be as bad as the stories say, that he will be able to come up with some alternate solution, etc. etc. His desire to get out of the camp is so strong that deceives himself about the consequences of his decision--oh, it can't possibly get that bad. I know I've done this myself, though the result has never been quite so disastrous.

And yes, Dmitri has taken the narrator's measure, and is certain of the choice he will make. He forces the decision on the narrator to ensure his complicity in the crime, to demonstrate his point about the true nature of the narrator's idealism, and, as eytanz perceptively points out, to create a pathological bond between them that he hopes to exploit in the future.

I am finishing up my first novel right now, and I was considering, for my second, to expand this story to novel length. This would be the first chapter. The remainder of the book would involve the narrator's attempts, on his return to civilization and the revolution, to redeem himself somehow--to try both to absolve himself of his sins and to escape Dmitri's grasp.

Anyway, thanks again to everyone for listening and commenting. My short time here at Pseudopod has been a lot of fun.

John
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« Reply #17 on: June 04, 2012, 03:34:17 PM »

You have a button for evil carnivorous forests? Weird.

Don't you? I mean, doesn't everyone?
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« Reply #18 on: June 12, 2012, 11:24:33 AM »

The one thing that I'm not quite sure I get is, why didn't the politico foresee the sacrifice of the cow?  Is he truly such an idealist that he can't see what's in front of his face?  He had, what, a day to consider why the boy was coming along, and I don't think he even considered the question.

What made you think he didn't forsee it? He knew to ask about the cow back at the camp, and he almost warned the boy before meeting Dimitri at the food drop. He wasn't ignorant, he was wilfully blind to his complicity in the sacrifice, pinning all on Dimitri until Dimitri forced him to participate in the exile camp.

Hmm... I'm trying to remember exactly why I got that impression. 
I think it was because the narration seemed to see into his head pretty clearly, and none of the narration indicated that he understood this aspect until the very end.  So I interpreted that as meaning that he DIDN'T understand that until the very end. 
This may not be what others would conclude from the same text, nor what the author intended, but that's how I interpreted it.
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« Reply #19 on: June 13, 2012, 11:30:13 AM »

The one thing that I'm not quite sure I get is, why didn't the politico foresee the sacrifice of the cow?  Is he truly such an idealist that he can't see what's in front of his face?  He had, what, a day to consider why the boy was coming along, and I don't think he even considered the question.

What made you think he didn't forsee it? He knew to ask about the cow back at the camp, and he almost warned the boy before meeting Dimitri at the food drop. He wasn't ignorant, he was wilfully blind to his complicity in the sacrifice, pinning all on Dimitri until Dimitri forced him to participate in the exile camp.

Hmm... I'm trying to remember exactly why I got that impression. 
I think it was because the narration seemed to see into his head pretty clearly, and none of the narration indicated that he understood this aspect until the very end.  So I interpreted that as meaning that he DIDN'T understand that until the very end. 
This may not be what others would conclude from the same text, nor what the author intended, but that's how I interpreted it.

The thing is, I think that what you're bolded is not true - there are quite a few strong hints in the narration that he understood it. To which you may counter, yes, but they are hints, not an explicit mention, and thus ambiguous, and I'll agree to that. And I'd agree that even despite those hints, your interpretation is a valid one. But I don't think you can deny the fact that it was the narrator, not Dimitri, who first mentioned the need for a cow (though it's true that he never says what he believes the cow is for).
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