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Author Topic: Pseudopod 298: The Long Road To The Sea  (Read 2567 times)
Bdoomed
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« on: September 07, 2012, 08:33:27 AM »

Pseudopod 298: The Long Road To The Sea

by James L. Sutter

“The Long Road To The Sea” first appeared in CATASTROPHIA, edited by Allen Ashley, published by PS Publishing in September 2010.

James L. Sutter’s short fiction has appeared in such venues as Escape Pod (“Overclocking”) and Podcastle (“Ties of Silver”) - woo, triple crown! - Starship Sofa, Apex Magazine, and the #1 Amazon bestseller MACHINE OF DEATH. His first novel, DEATH’S HERETIC (it’s a dimension-hopping Middle Eastern fantasy story about an atheist forced to work as a problem-solver for the goddess of death) was ranked #3 on Barnes & Noble’s Best Fantasy Releases of 2011, and is currently a finalist for the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel. His anthology BEFORE THEY WERE GIANTS pairs the first published short stories of speculative fiction greats with new advice and instructional critiques by the authors themselves. He’s also a co-creator of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and the Fiction Editor for Paizo Publishing, and has published dozens of roleplaying game products. He lives in Seattle with 4 roommates and a fully functional death ray. Visit his website by clicking the link under his byline credit above! Quick! Now!

Your reader this week is the Bill Ruhsam, who you may know from Podcastle #42: De La Tierra.



“After enough time had passed for everyone to get unloaded and settled, Mischa gave the order, and the real work began. Throwing open the back doors of the largest truck, he quickly prepped the surgery, then let Colville’s mayor know he was ready.

The first corpse was a young man, maybe twenty or twenty-one, who’d fallen beneath a thresher and bled out before the other field hands could even send for help. One arm was a mangled mess from the crushed collarbone down, but the convoy had been expected and the family had the sense to keep him cold in the cellar.

Mischa accepted the corpse with respect and ceremony, then firmly ushered the hard-faced locals back outside and shut the truck doors, limiting the people in his workshop to himself, his protégé Andrew, and Jimmy to help with the lifting.

Beneath the harsh battery-powered lights, they began. Able to tell at a glance that nothing in the tangle of bone and fiber was worth saving, Mischa and Andrew broke out scalpels and began the process of removing the tattered arm, tying off what veins they could and cauterizing the rest with a hot iron. Taking one handle each, they used a set of bolt cutters to shear through the protruding bone with a sound like a tree being limbed.”



Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
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Atras
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« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2012, 09:07:24 AM »

First, I want to say I'm sorry, in general I *hate* this kind of complaint, but:
This is not horror!  It could be questionably ethical sci-fi/fantasy, but the story is hopeful, charming and surprisingly bright in the resolution.  I had to get that off my chest - I would have preferred this story on Escape Pod, here I was waiting for the other foot to drop the whole time, only to have Alistair talking about the Walking Dead before it happened.

That said, I really liked it.  The fact that this caravan had figured out how to live in the post-apocalypse world, sounds like they learned to thrive, actually, was appreciated.  I think there could have been some opposition to the re-animation in the story, it seems unlikely that would be so readily accepted, even in that world.

If someone wants to get a Walking Dead fix, do yourself a huge favor and check out the Telltale Games Walking Dead game.  Three Episodes are out already, and it might just be the definitive take on Kirkman's Zombie Apocalype.  It is fantastic so far, and brutal, and borderline sadistic and wonderfully terrible.  I think it is a good few steps ahead of the TV show, and only lagging the comics due to the smaller amount of story to work with.
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Fenrix
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« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2012, 08:17:36 PM »

Can't have every story end in misery. Gotta keep you on your toes. Also, it may have elements of a love story, but love at what cost?

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Bdoomed
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« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2012, 12:24:46 AM »

That girl creeped me out. I only imagined that woman at the end of Saun of the Dead on the tv show who was saying that she still loved her husband, even though he was a zombie.
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« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2012, 11:35:52 PM »

Was this in a "Year's Best" antho at some point?  I know I've read it somewhere before, but the book it came out in doesn't sound familiar at all.

At any rate, this story bothered me immensely, and thus was a highly successful horror story.  Sure, the zombies weren't horrifying in the traditional sense, but the underlying creeping horror of what exactly they are is just brilliant.  My favorite aspect of this story is that it's told from the "point of view" of Jimmy, like a normal tight third-person POV, but with this flat, distant tone to all the narration.  It keeps it unclear what, if anything, is going on in Jimmy's head, and sets up that deliciously, horribly ambiguous ending.  When you can weave the very mechanics of your story into the theme, you're doing something very right.
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Fenrix
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« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2012, 09:47:40 AM »

Was this in a "Year's Best" antho at some point?  I know I've read it somewhere before, but the book it came out in doesn't sound familiar at all.

The story was originally published in Catastrophia from PS Publishing, in a somewhat longer form. Don't know of anywhere else for this story.

Also congrats to James Sutter for the Escape Artists Hat Trick with this one for publishing a story in all three podcasts!
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Moby Click
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« Reply #6 on: September 09, 2012, 11:38:21 PM »

I think this story thoroughly deserves its horror tag. The hopefulness of the ending is all in the interpretation, and frankly it horrified the fuck out of me! The thought of keeping zombies as drones is such a questionable one. What do those who come back become and, more worryingly for me, what does it say about those who would (partially) resurrect their dead loved ones? Devoted family members, yes, but something else too, I think. Nobody wants their friends and family to die, and hey, they can be alive when it suits us and unfeeling when we need a tree moving under heavy gunfire *shudder*. It's like having your loved ones stuffed and propped up in the front room, only less creepy. And more creepy. I felt for the girl, who fell firmly on one side of the fence and suffered for it.

This was a Pseudopod that really got me thinking. I may go back and listen again, keeping an ear out for that tonal aspect to the horror that Scattercat mentioned. It passed me by the first time around.

Atras has a good shout on the episodic Walking Dead game. It's horror in the visceral, terrifying sense, the creeping dread sense and, most wrenchingly for me, the heartbreaking dilemma sense. I can count on the fingers of two fingers the other games that have affected me in the same way (Half-Life 2 and Gears of War 3 for those keeping score), and The Walking Dead tops them both with ease. I cried at points in all three.

Bdoomed, this story reminded me of Shaun of the Dead, too. My wife thinks it's the scariest zombie film ever purely because of those last 5 minutes.
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Josh_Finney
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« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2012, 01:03:08 PM »

Too sleepy to post a proper critique, so I'll keep it simple: Fucking BRILLIANT!
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Jameslsutter
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« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2012, 01:20:32 PM »

Hi everyone!

Thanks so much for all the kind words! For the folks who asked, this is indeed the first time the story's been reprinted, which is extremely exciting--this story remains one of my favorite pieces, and it's nice to have it someplace where folks can listen to it for free. Smiley

Also, regarding the horror element--in truth, I wasn't sure if it was horror, either! I thought it was something of a long shot, but since I mostly write science fiction and fantasy, I figured this was my best shot to try and complete the Escape Artists trifecta, so I crossed my fingers and sent it in. I'm relieved to see that folks enjoyed it!

Thanks again!
« Last Edit: September 11, 2012, 01:24:11 PM by Jameslsutter » Logged
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« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2012, 08:26:12 PM »

I figured it out.  I read this back when I was only a junior slusher at Escape Pod.  (Where my verdict was that I liked it, but that it wasn't a very science-y science fiction story and that it was a little over our length limits.)  I think Pseudopod is a better home for it, honestly, and if I'd been AE then, I might have said as much.  :-)
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zoanon
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« Reply #10 on: September 17, 2012, 04:08:36 PM »

horrible enough that I had to stop half way through to come to terms with what was happening before I could continue.
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lisavilisa
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« Reply #11 on: September 17, 2012, 07:24:15 PM »

horrible enough that I had to stop half way through to come to terms with what was happening before I could continue.


I love that on pseudopod that is a huge compliment.
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Moby Click
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« Reply #12 on: September 17, 2012, 10:21:55 PM »

horrible enough that I had to stop half way through to come to terms with what was happening before I could continue.


I love that on pseudopod that is a huge compliment.

Amen! Don't think you could consider that a good restaurant review...
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« Reply #13 on: September 21, 2012, 11:31:09 AM »

I enjoyed this story reasonably well.  As scattercat pointed out, I liked how this story took what might otherwise be a standard close-3rd viewpoint and told it in such a flat way from Jimmy's POV that it totally made sense.

The usage of dead in this world reminded me somewhat of the their use in the third book of Death Gate Cycle series titled "Fire Sea" by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, using the raised dead primarily as a source of labor.  Though in this case they were much more intelligent--though they didn't seem capable of initiative, they could learn new things and handle reasonably complex instructions, unlike the one's in Fire Sea, which tended to wander off and do whatever they did in life unless you had someone to watch them and keep them on task constantly.  Also, these ones didn't seem to come with a cost other than creepiness.

Also, regarding the horror element--in truth, I wasn't sure if it was horror, either! I thought it was something of a long shot, but since I mostly write science fiction and fantasy, I figured this was my best shot to try and complete the Escape Artists trifecta, so I crossed my fingers and sent it in. I'm relieved to see that folks enjoyed it!

Congrats on the Trifecta!  Good choice to submit it.  I tend to use very broad boundaries when deciding where to submit something--the editors can decide if its close enough or not.  Smiley
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« Reply #14 on: September 21, 2012, 01:34:58 PM »

I really liked this story! It gave me the impression that Herbert West had somehow come about during a normal (non-zombie) apocalypse. I was grateful for that, and the fact that creating zombies represented a boon rather than a malevolent act made it both creepier than I had anticipated. I would love to see a continuation of this story, or even expand the world into a series of short stories!

Keep it up, I was thoroughly impressed!
« Last Edit: September 21, 2012, 01:49:13 PM by NickAlmand » Logged

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