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Author Topic: Pseudopod 309: The Strange Machinery Of Desire  (Read 9863 times)

Bdoomed

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on: November 24, 2012, 02:13:53 AM
Pseudopod 309: The Strange Machinery Of Desire

by Justin A. Williams

This story previously appeared in STUPEFYING STORIES VOLUME 3, Dec 2011,

Justin A. Williams has also had work appear in NECROTIC TISSUE and TWISTED FAIRYTALES Volume 2.

Your reader this week is Brian Rollins. Brian lives in Colorado with his wife, two kids, and a Great Dane. When he’s not voice acting, he’s in community theater. When he’s not doing that, he works as a web developer to actually pay the bills. Brian writes reviews for the Sci-Fi blog Bureau 42 and voiced a variety of characters for the MMORPG AlterVerse. This year, he is also going for his 3rd attempt at finishing a NaNoWriMo book. You can find out more about him on his website: THE VOICES IN MY HEAD.



“Beside them, a young man—a boy really—was having disks of black metal implanted in the skin of his forearms. Zeljko looked on, his mind spinning with a strange mixture of fear, revulsion and excitement. The excitement moved toward arousal, and he was suddenly self-conscious. He turned away, and walked back into the main area of the club.

She was there again, the woman from earlier. She was gazing at a graffito-painting on one sooty wall. It depicted a man-figure, placed on a conveyor belt and fed into a great factory-machine as he struggled and writhed. He emerged from the other end a grotesque but fascinating mix of skin and steel.

‘I don’t know why he looks so unhappy,’ the woman said as she gazed at the figures contorted features. ‘Eventually, we’ll all be like that. Everything a mix, no difference between flesh and metal, no distinction between the workers and the machines they operate.’”



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?


Unblinking

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Reply #1 on: November 26, 2012, 02:44:08 PM
This story felt very familiar, like I've seen it before, but I'm sure that I haven't.  This deja vu wasn't bad, it kind of meshed with the story to give it an inevitable, implacable edge.

I quite enjoyed this story, from the very beginning when he was comparing the club scene to his factory life.  Usually far-reaching metaphors like that just seem artificial to me, but in this case they totally made sense.  I can totally see that comparison, and both working in a factory and going to a club are similarly appealing to me.

I'm not sure exactly what the author intended, but the setting that I had in mind was a Russia in 1950s or 1960s which had never had the revolutions of the early century that happened in our timeline, and in which the tsarist governments have found new ways to control the people, but in the end those machines ended up controlling everybody including the government officials.

Quite good!



TheTrueBrian

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Reply #2 on: December 04, 2012, 07:48:45 PM
Glad you liked the story, Unblinking. It was a fun read for me.

One of the things that struck me was the seductive nature of the mechanical beast that is industry. It promised to free us from so much toil and hard work, but in truth, brought us the opposite. Our individuality and independence was the cost for these new "freedoms."

By making the seduction a literal thing, Williams wraps it up quite nicely.

And I couldn't get "Borg Queen" out of my head, either. Easily one of my favorite Sci-Fi villains.

Brian, Narrator:
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Fenrix

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Reply #3 on: December 04, 2012, 10:02:17 PM
The imagery I couldn't get out of my head was the meat grinder chair from NiN's "Happiness in Slavery" video.

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


Unblinking

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Reply #4 on: December 05, 2012, 02:25:36 PM
And I couldn't get "Borg Queen" out of my head, either. Easily one of my favorite Sci-Fi villains.

Yes, same here.  Loved that movie.  Loved that villain.
Part of the memorability of that villain for me did not come from the movie at all.  I went to it with my friend Josh, when I was a teenager, and after the movie he pointed out that it must be no coincidence that my mom's name is val-BORG (emphasis his).  She goes by Val, but yes her official name is Valborg.  I think we laughed for hours when he pointed that out.  I still laugh when I think of the Borg Queen because of the association...



Scumpup

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Reply #5 on: December 05, 2012, 02:35:53 PM
The Russian, at least I think it was supposed to be Russian, accent the reader affected was a turn off for me. I have a wife and two adult stepchildren from that part of the world, as well as an Ellis Island's worth of in-laws and friends.  I hear Russian accents on a daily basis. When Americans and Brits try to do a Russian accent, more often than not the result comes out as Boris Badenov.  Rollins' isn't the worst attempt I've ever heard; I'll give him that much.
The story itself was interesting enough, though, that I listened to it all the way through.  The melding of human and machine is something that has been done so often that it seems kind of a tired idea to me. I hoped the story would break some new ground.  While listening, I was passingly reminded of The Borg, The Strogg, Tetsuo the Iron Man, and a whole lot of bad comic books.  This story, other than a vague Soviet Union flavor, had nothing I hadn't seen or heard before.
Overall, it wasn't terrible. Basically, a workman-like job of presenting, once again, the fusion of man and machine with just enough sex to keep us titillated.



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #6 on: December 05, 2012, 05:29:03 PM
This one didn't thrill me, but it was neat and moderately horrible. I like the idea of a story that plays around with the modern world and how it personifies technology and objectifies humanity, but this one was a bit heavy-handed. It wasn't bad, however, just unsubtle, and sometimes a little unsubtle horribleness is fun.

My only beef with this story is an old pet peeve of mine: unspeakableness. This story wandered into unspeakableness in terms of the industrial-bondage-sexiness. After a few vague descriptions, the narration dropped into "and other unspeakably weird stuff."

Look, I know I've already outed myself as... knowledgeable about BDSM ;D (it was back in that story about the kinky ghost house). Let me tell you, there are only so many things one can do, sexually, and all of them are quite speakable. Furthermore, many of them can be described in ways that would definitely evoke the feelings this story was trying to evoke - and I say that as an exceedingly sex-positive person. Blood play, electrical play, fire play, cupping, pony play, littles... there's some weird stuff out there, and that's assuming we don't wander into the world of the truly gross. The thing is, these things are horrible (and sexy, if you're into that sort of thing) in the details, not the vagueness.

Personally, whenever I read about unspeakably weird sex acts, it doesn't horrify me. It leaves me wondering "what are they talking about? Needles? Bondage?" I get distracted - and a little bit annoyed - trying to figure it out.

Frankly, the problem is that writers want to include deviant sexuality and maintain a PG-13 rating. Frankly, that's bullshit. If you're going to do sex, do the sex! You don't need to write porn, but don't halfass it!

Ahem.

Anyway, I basically liked this story, but it hit a pet peeve, and then I ranted for a while. The end.

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chemistryguy

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Reply #7 on: December 05, 2012, 07:37:28 PM
My only beef with this story is an old pet peeve of mine: unspeakableness. This story wandered into unspeakableness in terms of the industrial-bondage-sexiness. After a few vague descriptions, the narration dropped into "and other unspeakably weird stuff."

...and then she brought in a meat grinder and a car battery...


ElectricPaladin

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Reply #8 on: December 05, 2012, 08:54:59 PM
My only beef with this story is an old pet peeve of mine: unspeakableness. This story wandered into unspeakableness in terms of the industrial-bondage-sexiness. After a few vague descriptions, the narration dropped into "and other unspeakably weird stuff."

...and then she brought in a meat grinder and a car battery...

See! That would have been awesome! Give me something to hang my nightmares on, man!

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danooli

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Reply #9 on: December 05, 2012, 09:57:16 PM

...and then she brought in a meat grinder and a car battery...
you were THERE?!?!?  :o



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #10 on: December 06, 2012, 12:29:15 AM

...and then she brought in a meat grinder and a car battery...
you were THERE?!?!?  :o

Yeah. I was the one in the steampunk getup and the green cravat.

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Unblinking

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Reply #11 on: December 07, 2012, 02:25:29 PM
Frankly, the problem is that writers want to include deviant sexuality and maintain a PG-13 rating. Frankly, that's bullshit. If you're going to do sex, do the sex! You don't need to write porn, but don't halfass it!

Even explicit but unimaginative sex can be hard to sell.  I've managed to sell one of that variety (with a robot) but it's not easy.

It's also possible that the author doesn't know what the details of "unspeakable" sex would be, and is trying to evoke it without knowing the details.  I don't know what most of the things you mentioned are.  And I'm pretty content with my ignorance at this point.  :)



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Reply #12 on: December 15, 2012, 06:18:35 AM
I've got to agree: this was a solid, well-written story, but neither the plotline (The Siren/Medusa) nor the theme (Machines rob us of humanity!) are exactly unfamiliar.  A decent entry, but I spent the whole story with a sense of deja vu.

I have to agree with ElecPal's complaint about "unspeakable" things, which was either a cop-out or a not-entirely-successful attempt to cover up the author's lack of kinklore.  I also found the "dream" made the story seem repetitive rather than providing foreshadowing.  I'd hoped that the reveal would be something other than "It wasn't a dream!" but eh. 

The ending was unsatisfying for me.  Having him physically remove the arm in question was appropriate, but I found the theme was hammered (heh) home just a couple of times too many for me to enjoy it.

Others may have thought of Star Trek.  I thought of Oingo Boingo.

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