Author Topic: Pseudopod 287: Final Girl Theory  (Read 15554 times)

Bdoomed

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Pseudopod 287: Final Girl Theory
« on: June 22, 2012, 09:14:22 PM »
Pseudopod 287: Final Girl Theory

By A.C. Wise .

The story was first published at ChiZine but the link to the actual story has expired.

A.C. Wise was born and raised in Montreal, and currently lives in the Philadelphia area. Her work has appeared in publications such as Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, and ChiZine, among others. In addition to her writing, she co-edits the inimitable Journal of Unlikely Entomology. Links to the author’s website and the Journal can be found by clicking their names.


Your reader this week is John Meagher. He is the writer and narrator of Tales of the Left Hand, a continuing fantasy series offering “swashbuckling, intrigue and a dash of magic,” (just click the link - you know you want to). In addition to producing Left Hand, John has narrated several audiobooks, most recently Crown Imperiled by Raymond Feist. In his secret identity, he’s a graphic designer living in Northern Virginia with his wife and two cats.



“The woman screams. The screen dissolves in a mass of spinning color, and the opening credits roll.

You know what the worst part is? The opening sequence has nothing to do with the rest of the film. It is what it is; it exists purely for its own sake.”



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THE HORROR IN CLAY





Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
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Red Dog 344

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Re: Pseudopod 287: Final Girl Theory
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2012, 03:13:37 PM »
Our hero (?) has a chance to get past his obsessive but superficial crush on Ms. Linden but lapses into mere fandom, clutching the string of beads (which he will take out of the dresser drawer frequently, we are told).  From fetish to fetish, and at least the beads can't make eye contact, talk back, and make him uncomfortable.  Added pathos if she's being hunted down by dark Satanic forces and all he can think of is which of her trinkets he can steal as souvenirs.

Or... our hero is forced to confront what the cult film has meant personally to the actress* and has to re-imagine her as a person and not just an object of desire.  He says "Sorry."  Moment of personal growth?

Or... I missed the point of the story and someone can explain it to me.

* Check out the entry on IMDB, Lou Cipher and Beel Z. Bub did some really interesting work later on.  Pixar has optioned Kaleidoscope 3D for the IMAX screen.

Kaa

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Re: Pseudopod 287: Final Girl Theory
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2012, 12:08:35 AM »
Or... I missed the point of the story and someone can explain it to me.

And me. It was ... interesting. In that I kept expecting there to be an end, and I was left wanting. Or maybe, like Red Dog suggests, I just missed whatever point there was.

This reminds me of a piece that ran on Escape Pod or Pseudopod a while back. I believe it was a review of a TV show that didn't exist? Maybe someone else remembers the exact title and/or episode number.
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Scattercat

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Re: Pseudopod 287: Final Girl Theory
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2012, 01:20:11 AM »
Does this help?

The woman in this story, having experienced true horror (Her line, "All of it," presumably answering the unspoken question "How much of it was real?" Recall the conversation with Kevin and the protagonist's sense of superiority to those who are titillated by the idea of the sadistic sexual content "actually happening.") is not empowered by it, but is left permanently victimized and permanently fetishized by her role as the survivor.  Instead of taking up a weapon and facing the monster, her own power (the beads) is first used BY the monster to abuse other women, then later taken up by herself (or possibly a doppelganger, the monster in another guise) to further abuse women, and finally appropriated by the voyeuristic male gaze (personified in our protagonist) as a fetish object.  She doesn't get to keep them; one way or another, they're used against her.  (Compare, respectively, reactionary anti-feminist politics, women who distance themselves from the "bad girls" or who say, "but I'm not really a feminist," and male "white knights" who like to talk about how much they enjoy dating "empowered" women.  In each case, the point is missing or misused.)  

The story is in some ways a counterargument against the idea that the "final girl" in horror film idiom is secretly feminist; in this story, the whole horror fandom is indicted in exploiting her, leaving her broken and in pain, and it is implied that there is something fundamental about this exploitation that makes it inevitable (the language about infection, about how even those who say they don't obsess about Kaleidoscope can't help but focus on it, even if only subconsciously.)  Our protagonist, for example, in confronting her, comes to realize that even though he "loves" her, his need for her is just as damaging, just as dehumanizing as the crude sexual objectification he derides in his fellow fans.

Consider the opening scene.  A kaleidoscope is a lens for fragmenting and reorganizing one's perceptions.  The opening of "Kaleidoscope" suggests making an abused woman herself into our "lens" for viewing what follows.  However, in the end, all this does is dehumanize her in another way.  No one ever sees her as a person who has been damaged, who is struggling to survive; she is always a symbol of something else, even to those who want to take her side, who want to "reclaim" her.
« Last Edit: June 24, 2012, 04:37:37 PM by Scattercat »
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Red Dog 344

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Re: Pseudopod 287: Final Girl Theory
« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2012, 03:51:19 PM »
Thanks for clarifying.  I knew I didn't "get" the title, but I'm glad to see that I was right to focus on the beads as the key element.  I think this story needed more dialogue and (for example) a Scattercat character to help put some things on the table for the non-initiated (less initiated?).

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Re: Pseudopod 287: Final Girl Theory
« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2012, 02:28:04 PM »
This reminds me of a piece that ran on Escape Pod or Pseudopod a while back. I believe it was a review of a TV show that didn't exist? Maybe someone else remembers the exact title and/or episode number.

Just for you, Kaa, I did some digging and figured out which episode that was.  I believe that it was "Eight Episodes" by Robert Reed, Escape Pod 107, one of the 2007 Hugo nominees.
http://escapepod.org/2007/05/24/ep107-eight-episodes/

That episode didn't come to mind as I was listening to this one, but I can definitely see why it came to mind for you.  The scenes describing in detail the scenes of the movie in particular.  In both cases they succeeded in achieving a level of detail with an analytical eye so that I could really believe that the movie/TV show they're describing is really real.  And at some level they were both interesting, or at least as interesting as reading a review for a movie you've never seen and never will see can possibly be.  Especially since this movie sounds like the kind of tortureporn flick that is pretty much the only subgenre of movies that I categorically avoid.  The TV show of the EP episode at least sounded like something I might watch once for weirdness sake.

I was annoyed that the title was never expanded upon within the body of the story.  Scattercat's explanation makes sense, but the fact that I had to come to the forum to find out what the theory refers to means that, to me, the choice of the title is an epic fail.  And even scattercat's explanation gives the general idea but it's still not really clear what the "theory" is here.

The film scene descriptions were at least interesting on some level, if not what I would call a compelling narrative.  The narrative itself between them, I never got any interest in, and it just kind of trailed off at the end.  Maybe if the theory had actually been explained in the story, then I could've seen how the central idea tied in around it, but because it failed to do anything with its title.

Interestingly enough, the VERY NEXT story I listened to after this one was Lightspeed's "The Cristobal Effect" which stars a parallel-world traveler who goes to other worlds to influence and collect art that never was, centering around later James Dean films, but it also mentions a Hitchcock film called "Kaleidoscope", and I immediately wondered if it was the same.  Although that one does center around a serial killer, none of the rest of the description seems to match:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_unproduced_Hitchcock_projects
There was also a 1966 crime film of the same name, but which matches the description even less:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaleidoscope_%28film%29

Kaa

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Re: Pseudopod 287: Final Girl Theory
« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2012, 02:59:56 PM »
This reminds me of a piece that ran on Escape Pod or Pseudopod a while back. I believe it was a review of a TV show that didn't exist? Maybe someone else remembers the exact title and/or episode number.

Just for you, Kaa, I did some digging and figured out which episode that was.  I believe that it was "Eight Episodes" by Robert Reed, Escape Pod 107, one of the 2007 Hugo nominees.
http://escapepod.org/2007/05/24/ep107-eight-episodes/

Thanks, Unblinking. That is, indeed, the one I was thinking of. I can't believe it was 5 years ago.

And yeah, that's what sparked the memory. The detailed descriptions of a movie that never was, but with the same loving attention to detail that your more rabid Firefly fans display with gusto.

Suddenly I'm also reminded of an Escape Pod episode where the protagonist goes to a video store and manages to find copies of movies that never existed. He falls in love with a girl that works there, but of course, the store itself is disappearing as the rift between realities closes. That one bears a small resemblance to this one, as well.
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Unblinking

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Re: Pseudopod 287: Final Girl Theory
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2012, 04:19:39 PM »
Suddenly I'm also reminded of an Escape Pod episode where the protagonist goes to a video store and manages to find copies of movies that never existed. He falls in love with a girl that works there, but of course, the store itself is disappearing as the rift between realities closes. That one bears a small resemblance to this one, as well.

That's an easier one to recall the title, "Impossible Dreams" by Tim Pratt.  Lots of people reacted very strongly to that one; it seems like that one is many people's favorite Escape Pod episode ever,
http://escapepod.org/2007/05/10/ep105-impossible-dreams/

Oddly that one was ALSO a 2007 Hugo nominee (the same year as "Eight Episodes") and also reprinted in EP for Hugo Month.

This story didn't make me think of Impossible Dreams, but the Lightspeed episode that I mentioned in the last post did very strongly, since they both delved into traveling into parallel worlds to find movies that were never made.  :)

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Re: Pseudopod 287: Final Girl Theory
« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2012, 04:24:51 PM »
Apparently, 2007 was a good year for me, Hugo-wise. :)
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Scattercat

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Re: Pseudopod 287: Final Girl Theory
« Reply #9 on: June 26, 2012, 11:50:03 AM »
Well, *I* liked this story, anyway.
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Re: Pseudopod 287: Final Girl Theory
« Reply #10 on: June 26, 2012, 02:00:21 PM »
Well, *I* liked this story, anyway.

Indeed.  :)  I'm not saying it was badly written by any means, just not my kind of story.  (And I still say it's an epic fail of a title)

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Re: Pseudopod 287: Final Girl Theory
« Reply #11 on: June 26, 2012, 05:12:41 PM »
The author's own response to having this story air on Pseudopod was to post a long, fictional interview about Kaleidoscope on her blog, so PP readers following this thread should have a look.  It's the June 22, 2012 entry, for anyone picking up on this thread when it is no longer fresh.

http://www.acwise.net/

This makes me think that "Final Girl Theory" may become part of a novel-length project and what we are seeing is maybe one facet of a story told in fragments from many different points of view.  That's one way to talk about the unbearable.  Anybody else read Sven Lindqvist's A History of Bombing?

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Re: Pseudopod 287: Final Girl Theory
« Reply #12 on: June 27, 2012, 05:21:53 AM »
Thank you for posting the link!

ThomasTheAttoney

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Re: Pseudopod 287: Final Girl Theory
« Reply #13 on: June 27, 2012, 02:08:17 PM »
Slow.  The breathless narration, like every line was the climax, ground away at my attention.  It was a long episode with basically no action. 
The plot:
    An absurdist nudie movie is described. 
    Rather than making the movie interesting, we are told that everyone, just EVERYONE found it terribly interesting. 
The action:
   A guy sees a lady,
   He stands still.
   He runs across the street.
   He talks to his pharmacist friend, gets the lady's address.
   He go to the lady's house.
   She brings him a cup of coffee.
   They talk briefly.

But wait, in that tiny amount of action, we have to slow it down further for a long description of a coffee mug. 
The coffee is "scaldingly black" 
I think a sunset or something is blood red.

The whole story sounds like a "before story" in college sophomore english.  The "scaldingly black" stuff is the kind of stuff that is praised in high school AP english, then rightfully discourage in college because it does not advance the story, it just amuses the author.

And this story was after Kill Screen, which was good, even though it is mainly a guy watching a video game.  But in Kill Screen, the descriptions are solid.  The game is made interesting without the story telling us that everyone thought it was interesting.

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Re: Pseudopod 287: Final Girl Theory
« Reply #14 on: June 27, 2012, 04:21:18 PM »
Loved it. Not at first, but it definitely grew on me. The art of this story, after all, is how the listener is drawn in, made to identify with the common feelings, desires, lusts, emotions of the characters and tv audiences worldwide.

This way the protagonist was projected on to the listener paved wonderfully for the way the story ended. Definitely with a whimper. A common shame at being less than perfect knights in shining armor, at having desires and lusts. The ending left us not with a closure, but with a need to reflect upon our humanity -- or else to stifle, suppress, repress, deny all urges of having a mind capable of self-conceptualising.

Slow? Good grief. The pacing of the narration was perfect.
No action? Good grief. I can't get enough of stories that are not constant bang-bang-rattatatta-aargh go go go GO GO!!!! but instead take their time to get atmospheric and gripping.

Now, if the film was made in an all-male cast I might consider wanting to view it.

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Re: Pseudopod 287: Final Girl Theory
« Reply #15 on: June 27, 2012, 05:45:37 PM »
The whole story sounds like a "before story" in college sophomore english.  The "scaldingly black" stuff is the kind of stuff that is praised in high school AP english, then rightfully discourage in college because it does not advance the story, it just amuses the author.

Speaking as an English major who has taught high school and middle school English classes... uh, no.  You are pretty much objectively incorrect.  So there's that to consider, anyway.

Plot and action are not the same thing.  Language is a tool that can be used in many ways; spare and direct is but one style among many, not the One True Way that apparently I was supposed to be indoctrinated in during those 70+ hours of literature and creative writing courses.
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Re: Pseudopod 287: Final Girl Theory
« Reply #16 on: June 27, 2012, 07:54:15 PM »
Slow.  The breathless narration, like every line was the climax, ground away at my attention.  It was a long episode with basically no action. 
The plot:
    An absurdist nudie movie is described. 
    Rather than making the movie interesting, we are told that everyone, just EVERYONE found it terribly interesting. 
The action:
   A guy sees a lady,
   He stands still.
   He runs across the street.
   He talks to his pharmacist friend, gets the lady's address.
   He go to the lady's house.
   She brings him a cup of coffee.
   They talk briefly.
So? Action isn't everything. Some of the best scenes in Tarantino movies are the eating scenes, where nothing of circumstance is happening.
While I didn't love this story, there was a lot going on.  I thought it was pretty intense, finding out that the movie you love, the movie that is rumored to be true, is not only true but also horrific. The mise-en-scene has blended into reality, suddenly the illusion of reality is reality. What was possibly real is real. The story doesn't need action, NO story needs action, per se. Issac Asimov's Foundation series has so little action that one might think it would be completely useless, but its plot and the implications of Psychohistory are astounding.
I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
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Re: Pseudopod 287: Final Girl Theory
« Reply #17 on: June 27, 2012, 11:51:39 PM »
I also have to disagree with Thomastheattoney. I found the similarity between this and kill screen interesting in that both are one kind of text but the story is about another kind of text. For me, with kill screen, it didn't really work because there's just not enough depth in an 8bit (or whatever it is) computer game.
The current story had more going on outside the description of the film. All up, I found it interesting but not entirely my cup of tea. There were moments the description of the film section where it started to sound a bit like Intro to Communication Studies: Semiotics in Film, but it didn't last too long thanks to switching back to the real world.
Also there were part of the conversation in the lounge room that sounded a bit overdone - as people have alluded to - the kind of detail that would fit in a novel length story, but perhaps is more than necessary in a short story.

What I did connect with was the sense of (uncertainty? deflation? I don't know how to describe it, and therefore, is worth pursuing) when the guy meets the woman he'd been fixated on for so long. That kind of coming face to face with your idols thing. More could be done with that.
I also liked the description of the woman as she was then too. Very easy to see.

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Re: Pseudopod 287: Final Girl Theory
« Reply #18 on: June 28, 2012, 01:35:19 PM »
So? Action isn't everything. Some of the best scenes in Tarantino movies are the eating scenes, where nothing of circumstance is happening.
While I didn't love this story, there was a lot going on.  I thought it was pretty intense, finding out that the movie you love, the movie that is rumored to be true, is not only true but also horrific. The mise-en-scene has blended into reality, suddenly the illusion of reality is reality. What was possibly real is real. The story doesn't need action, NO story needs action, per se. Issac Asimov's Foundation series has so little action that one might think it would be completely useless, but its plot and the implications of Psychohistory are astounding.

It's a fair point.  There's no reason that a story can't have plot movement AND layers of other things atop it.  These elements need not be mutually exclusive.

I don't know that Tarantino movies are a great example.  Sure, nothing much may happen in the eating scenes, and nothing much of circumstance might be happening, but never are those scenes presented to the viewer as a complete product.  They are part of a complete product, a product which (knowing Tarantino) involves plenty of action, and probably 3/4 of the cast dying violently.  I suspect that scenes like that in Tarantino movies are  meant as a counterpoint to emphasize the action even more.
--On the subject I've seen two Tarantino movies to date: Pulp Fiction, which I hated.  and Inglorious Basterds which I thought was really good.  But, given everything I've heard about all of his other movies, I do not think that any one of them could be called lacking in action.

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Re: Pseudopod 287: Final Girl Theory
« Reply #19 on: June 28, 2012, 04:38:16 PM »
If you don't have character development, you need action or a thought provoking idea. 
Exposition is not action, development, or idea.  It is a crutch.
This story was in no insignificant portion, exposition.
No thought provoking ideas here.  If there was an interesting idea, all the thinking is done by excessive discussion.
Certainly no action.
Character development?  The test for character development is: take a character from the novel and put them in a different situation.  How will they respond?
An example is, take the character and put them in a checkout line.  The bill is $12.43.  The character only has a $10.   What do they do?
With these characters?  The most developed character is the pharmacy guy.  I feel I could write his action or his inner dialogue, but not the other characters.

Try to write what the final girl in that situation that does not involve her being whipped with those boring beads.

What are your favorite character development tests?  I only remember the checkout line.  I have forgotten the usual other tests.