Author Topic: Pseudopod 285: Kill Screen  (Read 16310 times)

Bdoomed

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Pseudopod 285: Kill Screen
« on: June 08, 2012, 03:14:54 AM »
Pseudopod 285: Kill Screen

By Chris Lewis Carter.

The story was First Published in Murky Depths #18, which was released in October, 2011.

Chris Lewis Carter has been featured in over a dozen publications – both online and print – including Murky Depths, Niteblade, Word Riot, Nelson Literacy 8, and Pseudopod 252: The Cord. He is currently working on his first novel, and is the lead writer for Rival Threads: Last Class Heroes, a video game scheduled to be released for iOS, Windows, and Mac in 2012. His website can be found at the link under his name, above.

Also, please check out Chris’ kickstarter campaign for a new fantasy series (click the link), CAMP MYTH.


Your reader this week is Josh Roseman (aka Listener on the forums, click his name to visit his website). Josh is a writer, web developer, and 100 percent human being. He’s been published in Asimov’s, and heard here on Pseudopod as well as on Escape Pod and StarShipSofa. His most recent publication is “Greener” in the April/May 2012 issue of Asimov’s.


Your “lost souls” this week were:

Jacquie Duckworth - Jacquie is an actress and co-founder of Corporate Improv Solutions, a training company that uses improvisational theater techniques to improve employee communication, sales, and customer service skills. Contact her at Info@CorporateImprovSolutions.com.

Mark E. Phair - Mark is a familiar voice to Pseudopod listeners (please see Pseudopod 267: Mentor and Pseudopod 239: The Line).

Jesse Livingston - Jesse’s work has been featured on Pseudopod and The Drabblecast. All of his music, as well as his first novel A THOUSAND LIFETIMES IN AN HOUR, can be found at Reconstructionrecords.com (just click the link under his name).



“I finish cataloging his junk. It’s nothing but shareware for ancient computers, old printer drivers, and a dozen of those America Online discs. I should charge him for making me dig through this mess. ‘Sorry, kid. Even if this stuff didn’t reek, you don’t have anything worth… Hmm?’

At the bottom of the box is a jewel case with no insert. The CD inside has the words Mr. Plott’s Bad Game written in black marker.

‘All right, let’s make a deal.’ I pop open the register, and the sound finally catches his attention. ‘Five bucks for the entire thing.’”




Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?

Sylvan

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Re: Pseudopod 285: Kill Screen
« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2012, 06:53:30 AM »
I just listened to "Kill Screen" on my drive in to work this morning (coming in early for a huge project) and, sitting here an hour later, I can still hear that creepy, 8-bit dirge in my mind.

Yes, this is a story that we've seen before, but the author -not to mention brilliant voice cast- made it really potent and powerful. The spare sound effects really worked to good advantage, here, in bringing the listener into the story in a way that I'm not sure simply reading it could accomplish.

But as for the read, it's excellent despite being well-trodden paths of horror. The idea of the game (or movie or book or comic) killing the player (or watcher or reader or collector) is an old one. So it falls to the author to craft the story in such a way as to make it seem new and relevant. That is accomplished extraordinarily well especially since I can see that horrible, old video game in my mind's eye thanks to the simple yet evocative descriptions.

And, yes, I could even see the horrible images that flashed up on the screen when he unlocked his various "achievements" in trying to find the lost souls.

Disturbing and elegantly scary.

Thank you!

Yours,
Sylvan

Just Jeff

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Re: Pseudopod 285: Kill Screen
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2012, 05:00:34 PM »
With regrets, I deleted it at the first scream. It hurt.

I usually listen to podcasts while walking or doing yard work or cleaning the house. There is a limit to how loud I'll play audio on earbuds. Normally that's not a problem, but when I hear there will be multiple readers, I get concerned. The odds of them being recorded at the same level are low. When there's sound effects or ambient sound, that also ups the likelihood of deletion (although the midi track on this story was low enough not to cause me too much trouble). When a voice is heavily distorted for effect, I usually delete the story a few seconds into it, as it's not worth my focus to sort out what's being said. (I do that for work. I don't want to do it for recreation.)

I understand the desire to up production values, and these enhancements have been showing up more and more on Escape Artists podcasts. I just wanted to let you know they often lead at least one listener to delete podcasts unfinished.

chickenfog

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Re: Pseudopod 285: Kill Screen
« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2012, 11:49:25 PM »
Not one, two listeners who don't finish the 'cast.

That "music" in the background made this entire show into mere noise.

A good horror story needs a good reader and the best noise reduction you can afford. Why would you go to all this trouble and then add noise? Is it b/c you don't have faith that the story itself is scary enough?

I would love to hear this story...and only this story, read by one person w/ no extra sound.

phillColeman

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Re: Pseudopod 285: Kill Screen
« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2012, 06:17:01 PM »
I disagree, I thought that the music in the background and the screams made this one of the most memorable stories I've heard on Pseudopod.  I don't think it would work for every story but in my opinion, this fitted the story perfectly.

As mentioned, it isn't the most original of stories but as a modern updating of a reasonably well trodden path, I enjoyed it.
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TomorrowHill

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Re: Pseudopod 285: Kill Screen
« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2012, 10:36:14 PM »
Hey everyone,

Chris Lewis Carter here. Thank you all so much for checking out Kill Screen, and for the kind words about the story. While I'll be the first to admit it's not exactly a unique concept, I've always been a sucker for a good haunted video game story. Has anyone else watched that haunted Majora's Mask cart footage on youtube? I remember seeing that when it was first released and thinking, "This is the single scariest thing I have ever seen in my life, and it was produced by altering one of the most kid-friendly games on the planet. Wow!" So I wanted to try and capture that vibe of harmless 8-bit nostalgia-meets-freaky horror. The image that kept leaping to mind as I was writing this piece was the NES version of Maniac Mansion. Any fans of that game here? Hamster in the microwave FTW!

So yeah, I think it's definitely a fair point to address the audio production on this episode. It's different, there's no doubt about it, and I think the added effects are something you'll either love or hate - there's not much room for middle ground. Personally (and I guess there's no way to say this without sounding biased, but it's my honest opinion), I love the extra layer of video game-ness that all of the sounds add, and feel that it really makes this episode of Pseudopod stand out as something unique. If nothing else, you've got to hand it to the Pseudopod crew for really going for it, and I'm beyond appreciative for them involving so many different readers and ideas. Sure, it's not fun to hear that some of you weren't able to enjoy (or even finish) the podcast because of the production route, but I'm still grateful for all of the time and effort they've put into the piece. For my money (does that expression still work for a free podcast? Hmmm...) that slightly digitized scream is flat-out terrifying, and will stay with me for a while. That has to count for something, right?

Again, thanks so much to everyone for your support. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.

-Chris-

PS - Oh, I might as well shamelessly promote my latest project before I go. If a new series about a summer camp for young mythological creatures sounds like something you (or your kids, or a friend, or your dentist) might be interested in, why not check out the Camp Myth kickstarter campaign at http://kck.st/JfqrpP. The finish line is just a few yards away! :)           

Scattercat

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Re: Pseudopod 285: Kill Screen
« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2012, 12:07:08 AM »
It was a well-done rendition of a very familiar trope.  I enjoyed it, and I thought the music was a nice touch (although I would have preferred it if it faded to the background after a short time; after five minutes or so, it started to grate on me.)  I do have to say that the character in this story appears to have not played any of the games he collects; the effects described were really banal in terms of video games messing with your head.  It made his shocked and terrified profanity feel a little silly.  Even the computer crash sounded more like an actual error than an eerie supernatural occurrence. 

I mean, has he never heard of Eternal Darkness?  That game not only went all twisty and weird, with blood running down the walls and other visual effects, but it would also spawn monsters that turned out not to be there, or start damaging your character for no reason only to reveal that as an illusion.  It also went more meta, and would pretend to do a hard reset, to delete your save file, and even had a fake "The End!  To be continued..." splash screen that would pop up in certain situations.

The games that came to mind for me were Ben Croshaw's indie adventure games.  The series started with "5 Days a Stranger," followed by "7 Days a Skeptic," "Trilby's Notes," and "6 Days a Sacrifice."  The first one is pretty basic stuff if you've ever played such games, but by the time you get to "Trilby's Notes," it's managed to spin into an epoch-spanning Lovecraftian metaplot that has a really nice twist ending.  Highly recommended overall.  (My favorite is "Trilby's Notes," which, among other things, periodically replaces all the Examine text with "It hurts..."  "It hurts!"  "It hurts it hurts it hurts".  Creeped the living heck out of me the first time that happened.)
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kibitzer

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Re: Pseudopod 285: Kill Screen
« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2012, 03:37:43 AM »
I LOVE the games trope here. I have been terrified by many games (I'm easily terrified) including, but not limited to, the following: Descent I, System Shock 2 (still my Gold Standard of involving, scary FPS), Dead Space (1 and 2), Amnesia and, most recently, Alan Wake. Games that get you in then scare the living... err... waste ... outta ya are fantastic. And on that score alone, I loved this story.

I'll say nothing about the FX but this: Jacquie Duckworth's screams chilled me to the bone.

Kaa

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Re: Pseudopod 285: Kill Screen
« Reply #8 on: June 10, 2012, 06:58:51 PM »
I liked the story, but I agree that the music was distracting after it was established. I thought it should have faded to a low background so I didn't have to struggle to hear the reader over the constant 8-bit dirge. As soon as I heard the first scream, I knew where the story was going to end, but that didn't diminish my enjoyment.

Just please keep in mind that not all of us listen to these in a completely quiet environment, so music or sound effects that actually drown out the reader are...detrimental to the enjoyment of the story.
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Juliasd

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Re: Pseudopod 285: Kill Screen
« Reply #9 on: June 10, 2012, 08:12:15 PM »
I am sitting in a brightly lit room with tons of windows that show my bright, cheerful garden blooming outside and I am currently scared out of my skin.  While I completely understand the fact that the music was a bit annoying and the screams were hard on the ears, I got used to it enough that it became like that terribly creepy music in Silent Hill and the children's laughter that eventually just gets under your skin. 

Before listening to this story, I was commenting to a friend that scary stories don't really get under my skin anymore.  This one did and, while I'm now worried that it'll get dark soon, I also appreciate it. 

lisavilisa

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Re: Pseudopod 285: Kill Screen
« Reply #10 on: June 10, 2012, 11:45:07 PM »
Over the course of a year there are many Pseudopod stories that interest me, a few that gross me out, more than a few that haunt me, and maybe once every few years one that scares me shitless so that I run into the house from out of my car where I was listening to the story on the way to my boyfriends house.

Well done Chris Carter, well done.

zoanon

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Re: Pseudopod 285: Kill Screen
« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2012, 12:07:22 AM »
chilling.... loved it.
the sound effects worked for me, they were grating yes, but that seemed integral to setting the scene.
that said, what with the bone chilling horror and grating music, I have never been so relieved to hear the pseudopod outro music.

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Re: Pseudopod 285: Kill Screen
« Reply #12 on: June 11, 2012, 10:05:40 AM »
I agree that the music in the background did get distracting after a while, although I had no problem with the screams. (I'm glad they didn't use the ones that I recorded, though.)

I enjoy classic latter 20th century technological horror, which to me this was most like -- I think for me horror was shaped by Michael Marshall Smith's "More Tomorrow", which is about a guy who has a crush on a woman and finds her on a newsgroup, being more and more injured as the story continues. The final line will ALWAYS stick with me. Similarly, while the trope of "bad guy comes out of video/computer game to kill player" isn't exactly new, it still is satisfying for me to read. If anything I think the story took too long to get started -- the scene with the guy in the used game store was a bit soapbox-y and detracted from the story (although as a former game store employee I totally understand Daniel's opinion).
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benjaminjb

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Re: Pseudopod 285: Kill Screen
« Reply #13 on: June 11, 2012, 01:15:45 PM »
I listened to this on my morning walk with my dog, and the screams do wonders to wake one up. I also enjoyed some of the MIDI tinniness to the music and voices. (Though I can see the point other people have made about the mix: the reading may have been easier to hear clearly if the music was less loud.)

That said, I don't want to be mean to the author (who clearly recognizes this as a well-worn premise) or the editor (who perhaps pulled this from the slush pile and thought, "I've been looking for an excuse to pull out my old 8-bit music emulator!"), but, ho-hum. I love our spec fic tropes--I love call-backs, revisions, allusions, re-workings. But "haunted video game"--no matter how many screams you wake me up with while I'm walking the dog--just doesn't do it for me anymore. (Unless you've got some really fabulous reworking of the trope--the video game saves people's souls or something.)

Fenrix

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Re: Pseudopod 285: Kill Screen
« Reply #14 on: June 11, 2012, 02:03:50 PM »
That said, I don't want to be mean to...the editor (who perhaps pulled this from the slush pile and thought, "I've been looking for an excuse to pull out my old 8-bit music emulator!")

I think my reaction was "this is a well crafted and creepy story that is aimed nicely at the comfort zone of our prime demographic". For many geeky folks, video games are comforting like a fuzzy blanket. Horror is quite effective when it crawls under the blanket with you and insists on being outside spoon.

I can't wait to hear what Graeme and Shawn and Josh and the other audible contributors did to add another dimension to the story.

If you didn't like this one, wait a week. I'm sure the next one or the one after that will push your buttons.
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benjaminjb

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Re: Pseudopod 285: Kill Screen
« Reply #15 on: June 11, 2012, 08:04:50 PM »
Quote
I think my reaction was "this is a well crafted and creepy story that is aimed nicely at the comfort zone of our prime demographic".

You make it sound so reasonable and rational. My imagining of the editorial response was meant as gentle joshing.

Out of curiosity, do y'all ever chart the pos/neg responses of the various stories to see what stands out? This digital humanities kick has to have some practical benefit, eh?

Kaa

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Re: Pseudopod 285: Kill Screen
« Reply #16 on: June 11, 2012, 08:24:24 PM »
In my humble opinion, it would be a mistake to chart that. Because we who comment represent a small, self-selected cross-section of the total listenership. Newbies who comment generally do so because they felt strongly enough to go through the trouble. So they probably either loved it or hated it, so it skews the ratio.

On the other tentacle, I could be full of it. :)

Either way, I know that I trust the editors to pick quality stories that vary widely enough that I keep coming back, even though I don't like some of the stories. As someone said above, "Come back next week."
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Re: Pseudopod 285: Kill Screen
« Reply #17 on: June 11, 2012, 09:14:35 PM »
Many thanks for all your comments - they have been scraped, phoneme cracked, sifted and fed into the Genretron-5000 to enable real world story selection algorithms to be generated...

(if it's any ironic indication, I had to look up how to spell "algorithm" correctly) 

benjaminjb

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Re: Pseudopod 285: Kill Screen
« Reply #18 on: June 11, 2012, 09:44:30 PM »
Quote
As someone said above, "Come back next week."

Yeah, that's one thing I like about being subscribed to all three Escape Artist podcasts, though I don't think they should use that in the promotional material: "Escape Artists: if you don't like it this week, maybe you'll like next week's story better!"

As for charting pos/neg reviews, there is the self-selection bias (although I guess I'd rather chart extreme feelings rather than lukewarm feelings); but I think it might be hard to separate out the positive from the negative reviews. I mean, I said the story was a little unoriginal and the production was interesting. Is that a positive or negative review? Even I can't tell this late at night.

Quote
real world story selection algorithms

I worry that our story selection algorithm might be... haunted!

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Re: Pseudopod 285: Kill Screen
« Reply #19 on: June 11, 2012, 09:58:29 PM »
Quote
I think my reaction was "this is a well crafted and creepy story that is aimed nicely at the comfort zone of our prime demographic".

You make it sound so reasonable and rational. My imagining of the editorial response was meant as gentle joshing.

Out of curiosity, do y'all ever chart the pos/neg responses of the various stories to see what stands out? This digital humanities kick has to have some practical benefit, eh?

You're not hurting my feelings. The slush pits make us strong. Or at least resilient.                   ;)

I use the discussions on the forums as a mechanism to hone why a story gets rejected. I'd say half the stuff I pass through is "fuck yeah" stuff (like this story was for me) and the other half is stuff that's well crafted but doesn't push my buttons. I think Shawn does a good job with story selection and production ideas. Some stories (like anything written by Orrin Grey) and production choices (the Cormorants story) get pretty consistent positives. Some stories and production choices are going to get strong reactions both positive and negative. I think reactions of any type are a net benefit. Overwhelming positives means PseudoPod scored. Passionate disagreement means conversation wins.

Quote
real world story selection algorithms

I worry that our story selection algorithm might be... haunted!

Your worries are likely well founded.
All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”