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Author Topic: Pseudopod 295: Just Outside Our Windows, Deep Inside Our Walls  (Read 5898 times)
Bdoomed
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« on: August 17, 2012, 10:00:56 PM »

Pseudopod 295: Just Outside Our Windows, Deep Inside Our Walls

By Brian Hodge.

“Just Outside Our Windows, Deep Inside Our Walls” was first published April 2010 as a digital short by Darkside Digital, the e-book division of Delirium Books (click link for website). In 2011 it was reprinted in the two premier year’s-best anthologies: THE BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR Volume 3, edited by Ellen Datlow, and THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST NEW HORROR #22, edited by Stephen Jones.

Brian Hodge is the author of 10 novels, and 4 collections of short fiction, drawn from over 100 stories, novelettes, and novellas. His first collection, THE CONVULSION FACTORY, was named by critic Stanley Wiater as one of the 113 best books of modern horror. “As Above, So Below,” the anchor novella of the second collection, FALLING IDOLS, was selected for THE CENTURY’S BEST HORROR anthology, as 1998’s contribution to the top works of the 20th century. His most recent book is the collection PICKING THE BONES, released in 2011 by Cemetery Dance Publications, and he’s gradually releasing his backlist titles in e-book formats, and in a few cases hardcover reissues, so look for those now and throughout the next several months. He lives in Colorado, and is working on his next novel, next collection, and other projects. His website can be found by clicking his name in the byline, and he also blogs at WARRIOR POET.

Your reader this week is (mod note: me!) the Brian Lieberman, our very own Bdoomed on the forums. Brian is an aspiring game journalist. He blogs at MUSINGS AND RAMBLINGS.



“She seemed not to have heard me even though I knew she had, and I started to feel bad for asking it at all. While at first I’d found her not very nice to look at, I began to wonder if I wasn’t wrong, because now it seemed I’d only been misled by a trick of light and her annoyance. I wondered, too, if she might jump from the window, or lean forward and let herself fall. In that other world three floors down, the neighbors’ house was ringed with square slabs of stone to walk on. Nobody could survive a fall like that.

“I draw,” I told her, volunteering a distraction to save her life. “Want to see?”

I’d sneaked up some old ones, at least, even if I couldn’t make new ones.

“Later, maybe,” she said, and pulled away. Like before, her hand went to the bottom of the window, lingering a few moments, but as she moved back into the room she again left it open.

That night after the lights were out I lay in my bed and imagined her doing the same. I fought to stay awake as long as I could in case there were other songs to hear, or a repeat performance of the first one. Barring that, it seemed possible that she might cry instead, because that’s what I’d done the first night they’d moved me up here, but just before I fell asleep I wondered if the reason I hadn’t heard anything from her was because she was lying in the dark listening for some sound out of me.”



Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2012, 01:44:10 AM by Bdoomed » Logged

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hilmera
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« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2012, 06:18:24 PM »

I've been following all three Escape Artists podcasts for a while now. I've also begun listening to all the EA podcasts from their beginnings but it's slow going. There are many, many stories to get through and the objective fact is that there are hundreds of hours of audio to listen to and only a limited amount of time each day in which to listen to them without dropping a little too far out of society.

While I've been burrowing into both ends of the corpus of Escape Artists releases, I've considered Pseudopod to be my least favorite of the productions. This has been mostly because of my preconceived opinion of horror. Of the three genres, the most vigorously flogged horror movies and stories have always pissed me off with their fascistic, bullying desire to torture and kill the archetypes they don't like and frighten their audiences into conforming to an explicit dogma that is anti-technological, anti-reform, anti-education, anti-human-rights, anti-fun, etc.

I've been happy that Pseudopod hasn't been rehashing story lines from Saw and Criminal Minds, but it wasn't until I listened to #295 today that the tentacular model of the Pod fully slotted in for me right next to the other two. Pseudopod's been slowly wearing down my defenses recently, with #s 291 and 292 slowly tricking me into thinking of horror as just another regular kind of speculative fiction, fully capable of being entertaining. I've also been somewhat meh about the other two pods recently. Ultimately it may simply be due to especially happy brain chemistry today.

Suffice it to say that #295 was acceptably horrific as well as being far enough off the beaten path to finally banish all my preconceptions. The prose is well written and transparently read. Children are locked away and sent away and escape. Heads roll, limbs have to be placed just so for reconstitution, and in the end, the most horrible thing happens: things return to something that is almost normal.
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Fenrix
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« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2012, 08:07:20 PM »

Suffice it to say that #295 was acceptably horrific as well as being far enough off the beaten path to finally banish all my preconceptions. The prose is well written and transparently read. Children are locked away and sent away and escape. Heads roll, limbs have to be placed just so for reconstitution, and in the end, the most horrible thing happens: things return to something that is almost normal.

Come for the cake, stay for the noisome blasphemy.

I can't wait to listen to this episode full of DOOM.
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Unblinking
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« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2012, 08:54:58 AM »

Suffice it to say that #295 was acceptably horrific as well as being far enough off the beaten path to finally banish all my preconceptions. The prose is well written and transparently read. Children are locked away and sent away and escape. Heads roll, limbs have to be placed just so for reconstitution, and in the end, the most horrible thing happens: things return to something that is almost normal.

Hooray!  I love a well-written horror story.  You just have to find the kind that appeals to you.

Glad to have you here, and glad that you found one that really appeals to you!
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chemistryguy
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« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2012, 06:43:43 AM »

While I've been burrowing into both ends of the corpus of Escape Artists releases, I've considered Pseudopod to be my least favorite of the productions. This has been mostly because of my preconceived opinion of horror.

I hear you.  I'm pretty regular listening to the other EA podcasts, but I have to be in a special frame of mind to listen to Pseudopod. 

For the most part, however, my concept of what constitutes horror writing has been pleasantly shifted. 

This week's episode was disturbingly suspenseful.  Or is is suspensefully disturbing?  Anyway, it had my attention locked for my morning commute.

There was no explanation with regards to the girl's songs.  Was she singing in a long forgotten language, or communicating with beings living in some nearby Lovecraftian dimension?  Or was there nothing mystical about it at all, but seemed magic because it caught the ears of the love-smitten boy?  Did she so quickly accept his explanation of his powers because she knew magic herself, or was it just that she was so desperate that she'd grab onto this possible escape without question? 

And why didn't he just draw a bridge across their two windows instead of breaking her into pieces except to freak me out?
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« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2012, 08:42:37 AM »

And why didn't he just draw a bridge across their two windows instead of breaking her into pieces except to freak me out?

Because his power was very specifically limited.  He could only work by rearranging the materials at hand.  That's why he could dissect someone or rearrange their face but he couldn't make dinosaurs.  If he didn't have sturdy bridge-building materials at hand he wouldn't be able to build a bridge.



...I thought I commented on this story yesterday, I guess I just replied to a comment.  This one was nice and creepy throughout.  The reveal of his power and the confinement it caused in him was very interesting.  The dismantling of the girl to haul her across on the rope was creepy but consistent with the characters and the speculative element explained.

I don't think I really get the ending.  I guess he drew her parts within him, a kind of pseudo-cannibalism?  Weird.

And, wait, why does cutting the heads off of people in the park kill them, but not the girl?

His dreams of the magic show were the creepiest part for me,especially how his victims would dance at the end to show how everything was happy and awesome.
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BrianHodge
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« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2012, 05:06:38 PM »

Thanks for the great comments thus far. To clear up a few gray areas wondered about…

Quote
There was no explanation with regards to the girl's songs.  Was she singing in a long forgotten language, or communicating with beings living in some nearby Lovecraftian dimension?  Or was there nothing mystical about it at all, but seemed magic because it caught the ears of the love-smitten boy?

No reason to overthink this. She's just making shit up.  Wink Roni too is an imaginative kid, and I figured that, given her background, she'd be the type to retreat to her own fantasy world when it suited her.

As for the singing, in this aspect of Roni I thought of her as a kind of proto Liz Fraser (of the Cocteau Twins) or Lisa Gerrard (whom I saw perform with Dead Can Dance a couple nights ago). That is, she sings in glossalalia … made-up words and syllables to convey feeling and emotion rather than any specific linguistic meaning. And then, of course, to seem more sophisticated than she really is, she mythologizes it to her admirer.

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Did she so quickly accept his explanation of his powers because she knew magic herself, or was it just that she was so desperate that she'd grab onto this possible escape without question?

She's still young enough to be open to the possibility.

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And why didn't he just draw a bridge across their two windows instead of breaking her into pieces except to freak me out? … Because his power was very specifically limited.

Right you are, Unblinking. In a way, this is an echo of something in an earlier novella called "As Above, So Below":

Let me tell you about hope, middle child in a family of bastard triplets, trapped between faith and charity.

Hope is the carrot of many colors, dangling from the stick before us, and we terrestrial mules plod diligently along after our goals only occasionally wondering why we’re no closer. A good day is when we look up high enough to still enjoy the sun. A bad day is when we look lower and see how much the carrot has rotted.

Hey. Hey. Let me tell you what magick isn’t. It’s not the conjuring of carrots out of nothing. It’s learning how to bend the stick.


Quote
I don't think I really get the ending.  I guess he drew her parts within him, a kind of pseudo-cannibalism?  Weird.

Some things just work better when they're left open for interpretation rather than spelling every last thing out verbatim, and to me, this is one of them. Did he shrink her down? Did he take her to another dimension within himself? Did he recombine her with himself on the quantum level? That's up to you.

In the end, what it really comes down to is the loss of childhood's magic.

Quote
And, wait, why does cutting the heads off of people in the park kill them, but not the girl?

I saw this mostly as a distinction of time, care, and intention. With the people in the park, he did it quickly, crudely, and out of anger, or at least resentment. With Roni, he's doing it with great care and affection.

It's also a matter of duration. With Roni, he's putting her back together again right away. The park people aren't getting that courtesy!

Quote
His dreams of the magic show were the creepiest part for me,especially how his victims would dance at the end to show how everything was happy and awesome.

That segment was the first part of this that I wrote. It just sort of happened, and it was only later that the rest of the story grew around it.

Again, thanks for the feedback!
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hilmera
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« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2012, 09:55:05 PM »

And, wait, why does cutting the heads off of people in the park kill them, but not the girl?

He did it in the condensation of his breath on the glass. He couldn't remake the lines the way he could with pencil on paper.
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Unblinking
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« Reply #8 on: August 22, 2012, 07:39:07 AM »

Hi Brian!  Thanks for stopping by, always good to see the author of a story round these parts!

Your explanations, especially about why the people in the park died but she didn't, make sense.  Have a good day, and I'm glad your story made it onto the cast.  Smiley
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« Reply #9 on: August 23, 2012, 05:38:32 PM »

Great to see Hodge Here, (Great Story) I'm not going to say he bats  750 or a 1000% every time at bat but then again, I'm a grumpy old fart who goes to sleep at night knowing the horrible reality of Sturgeon's Law, And I wake up in a fouler meaner mood.

But I have to say he's put out some of the finer stories the field has to offer. And that's a pretty Dog Gone Good thing to say about someone in my book.

I haven't listened to enough PseudoPod (YET) to know how Hard Hitting you let the stories get. But I'm thinking castration is not the most major of sins around here(LOL) Plus it's done so the male can hit those high singing notes(what a scary true past that is)  So I'm going to suggest another Hodge story for future considerations in another one of his Stoker nominee's

"The Alchemy of the Throat"  

A Powerhouse of a story as I recall. And more Hodge is just a Good Damn Thing in my Book(Sequel)

Thanks to all who Rocked n Rolled on this.(Or rapped if thats your cup of noodles)

« Last Edit: August 23, 2012, 05:41:08 PM by Midas » Logged
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« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2012, 06:44:09 PM »

Wow, great job on the reading, Brian and on the writing, Brian! This is when the 'cast is at its best: a solid reader and a spooky story.

Good match in voice, I heard the young boy and the disheartened man. The voicing of the female (hard to do sometimes for a guy) was not at all distracting. Keep at it Brian. Uh, and the other Brian as well. Yeah, you guys.

No sound effects needed. I've listened to it twice already and look forward to many more listens.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2012, 06:48:15 PM by chickenfog » Logged
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« Reply #11 on: August 31, 2012, 10:10:32 PM »

Read this one in a "Best of" anthology and really enjoyed it.  Though I do think that its relative level of horror is strongly dictated by the context; if you put this in a fantasy anthology, it would seem perfectly apropos.  Not even unusually dark.  :-)

Still, a very good story, and I second all the praise for the reading.  I don't always sit through the audio versions of stories I've read, but I stayed with this one.
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Bdoomed
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« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2012, 12:13:38 AM »

^__^ Thank you all for the compliments!

I had a lot of fun reading this story, though my girl voice needs some polishing...
As a constant doodler, I would love to have that kind of power! I thought the story was very imaginative and very fun.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2012, 12:42:03 AM by Bdoomed » Logged

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« Reply #13 on: September 03, 2012, 07:44:06 AM »

well, that was cool.  Great story and great reading.  I have to admit that I feel so foolish, having avoided Pseudopod for all these years because I thought I was too wimpy...this tale was creepy, yes, but it was also entertaining and gripping. 
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« Reply #14 on: September 04, 2012, 08:35:50 AM »

well, that was cool.  Great story and great reading.  I have to admit that I feel so foolish, having avoided Pseudopod for all these years because I thought I was too wimpy...this tale was creepy, yes, but it was also entertaining and gripping. 

Pseudopod has a lot of flavors, more than Baskin Robbins even.  Smiley
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« Reply #15 on: September 05, 2012, 08:13:45 AM »

I've been catching up on the summer episodes and I have to say this was the best one for quite a while stretching back. I liked that it stayed vague re what had happened to the girl via her family.

And a nice surprise to come here and find that it was Tiger doing the narration!
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« Reply #16 on: September 09, 2012, 07:32:02 AM »

This was the best of the year, in my opinion. Great story.
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BrianHodge
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« Reply #17 on: September 13, 2012, 10:06:44 AM »

Continued thanks for the great feedback. It really is gratifying. And major props to Brian L, for such a wonderfully nuanced reading. I've also had stuff read by actor John Glover and needs-no-introduction Joan Jett, and your work here is right up there with theirs.

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I had a lot of fun reading this story, though my girl voice needs some polishing...

You pulled it off anyway, more through attitude than timbre.

Ever try digital voice manipulation, just for fun? On an audio short-short that I did called "Extract," that's on my web site, I worked it up with a full backdrop of sound design, etc. I also ran one kid-dialogue line of my own and one spoken by my wife through Logic Audio's Vocal Transformer plug-in, that lets you alter pitch and formant separately. I thought it worked fine in context just for a quick dash of seasoning. For a full presentation, probably not.

Quote
So I'm going to suggest another Hodge story for future considerations in another one of his Stoker nominee's "The Alchemy of the Throat"

Thanks for the nod on that one. I admit I'd like to hear how it turn out, although it would be a long one. The word count is more than half again as much, so it would easily break the hour mark.

Quote
Though I do think that its relative level of horror is strongly dictated by the context; if you put this in a fantasy anthology, it would seem perfectly apropos.  Not even unusually dark.

They turn out how they turn out. I'm always more concerned about being true to the characters, and the story or novel as it seems to be unfolding, rather than forcing it into some preconceived notion of tone. Someone who goes to the same place where I work out and train in Krav started reading my work. Her observation, awhile back: "You don't write horror, you write magical realism." Now, to be sure, she's not read everything, or even most of it yet, but, as with your comment here, I found it to be a really interesting take.
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« Reply #18 on: September 13, 2012, 11:09:37 AM »

You pulled it off anyway, more through attitude than timbre.

Ever try digital voice manipulation, just for fun? On an audio short-short that I did called "Extract," that's on my web site, I worked it up with a full backdrop of sound design, etc. I also ran one kid-dialogue line of my own and one spoken by my wife through Logic Audio's Vocal Transformer plug-in, that lets you alter pitch and formant separately. I thought it worked fine in context just for a quick dash of seasoning. For a full presentation, probably not.

I would rather a reader read it without alterations rather than do after-effect pitch alteration.  Whenever I've heard that it sounds very androgynous.  Which is fine if it's supposed to sound androgynous, not great if it's supposed to sound female.
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BrianHodge
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« Reply #19 on: September 13, 2012, 05:55:53 PM »

Yeah, at least we didn't gender-switch for those one-off lines. It really is fun to mess around with for a quick, isolated effect, but I can easily imagine an entire reading done that way soon turning some combination of weird, cheesy, and creepy. Bad-creepy, not good-creepy. Cheesy
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