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Author Topic: Pseudopod 316: The Persistence Of Memory  (Read 7300 times)

Bdoomed

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on: January 11, 2013, 09:14:57 AM
Pseudopod 316: The Persistence Of Memory

By William Meikle.

“The Persistence of Memory” originally appeared in the collection DARK MELODIES (Dark Regions Press 2012). “Think of happy popular piano players/singers - Russ Conway, Liberace, Fats Waller, Fats Domino. And think of what’s behind the smiles.”.



William Meikle is a Scottish writer with fifteen novels published in the genre press and over 250 short story credits in thirteen countries. His work appears in many professional magazines and anthologies and he has recent short story sales to Nature Futures, Penumbra and Daily Science Fiction among others. He now lives in a remote corner of Newfoundland with icebergs, whales and bald eagles for company. In the winters he gets warm vicariously through the lives of others in cyberspace, so please check him out at William Meikle.com. His Dark Regions Press collection DARK MELODIES (2012) is available now in hardcover and paperback - check it out here.

Your reader this week - Christiana Ellis - was last heard here reading PSEUDOPOD 268: Let There Be Darkness.



“Betty woke with a start, heart pounding so loud in her ears that it took several seconds to realize a different sound had brought her so rudely awake; someone was playing the piano in the dining room beneath her.

She sat up in bed, gasping for breath, adrenaline jolting through her like fire.

‘George?’

It couldn’t be her husband, for he had been dead these three years now. But whoever was downstairs knew exactly what to play to get her heart racing; the old songs from when the sun shone and life was good.

‘I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places.’

Her heart refused to slow. The playing reached a crescendo for a final chorus and sent vibrations all through the old house, dust mites bouncing on the floorboards. The last chord rang and echoed in the still night. Then everything was quiet.

Betty stayed sitting upright in bed, straining to hear any sound of movement from below, waiting for the scrape as whoever had been playing stood from the piano stool. But there was nothing, just her heavy breathing that slowly returned to something approaching normal. She would not get any further sleep; that was for sure. She stepped out of bed, wincing at the cold that seeped from the floorboards, and pulled on her old dressing gown. When she got to her bedroom door she stood still for a while, listening, hearing only the slight rush of wind from outside and the far off sound of a car on the main road. She was already starting to dismiss the piano playing as the last remnants of a dream.

‘What else could it be?’”



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« Last Edit: January 12, 2013, 07:37:24 AM by Bdoomed »

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Scumpup

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Reply #1 on: January 14, 2013, 08:43:08 PM
I liked it very well right up until the piano "ate" the old woman.  That was such a cartoonishly funny image that it took me entirely out of the story.



Scumpup

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Reply #2 on: January 14, 2013, 08:49:20 PM
Now I've got it!  The end of the story reminded me of the end of this
http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Music_Hath_Charms 
Kermit the Frog sketch I saw on Ed Sullivan when I was a child.  I shall now always picture the piano in "The Persistence of Memory" with eyebrows just like that.



chemistryguy

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Reply #3 on: January 15, 2013, 11:45:57 AM
I liked it very well right up until the piano "ate" the old woman.  That was such a cartoonishly funny image that it took me entirely out of the story.

Yeah.  You just know there's going to be problems when an octogenarian uses public access internet to research dark rituals, but the ending seemed way off from the rest of the story.


Scattercat

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Reply #4 on: January 15, 2013, 04:41:56 PM
I think it kind of needed that over-the-top note, though.  Without the sheer o_0-ness of a piano eating someone, it would be just a bland ghost story that never quite achieved the lyrical nostalgia it was aiming for and ended with a standard drag-you-to-hell ending.  Making it more about the egregious, out-of-place piano helped make this more than some kind of occult PSA.  Don't Do Black Magic, Kids!

I felt like the backstory about the ghost ship was shoehorned in there, but there was just no graceful way to include it, starting where the story did and with the particular voice and tone it chose.  I don't know that the backstory really even needed to be there; a little speculation about the roughness of the wood or a particular carving on it might have served just as well, especially with the additional note of the image of the burning man on the boat in the occult tome she found.

Still, the story did a good job inserting subtly unsettling angles early on; the piano was creepy from the get-go, well before it should have been, so clearly the language was doing something right.

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Scumpup

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Reply #5 on: January 16, 2013, 02:18:21 AM
I never got a strong impression that the piano itself was important until it ate the old lady.  I was operating under the belief that the old woman, her grief, and (maybe) her husband's ghost were the topic.  The piano seemed to be only a prop that allowed the dead husband to make himself known.  The story suddenly becoming that of the evil, old woman-eating piano was jarring.



Scattercat

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Reply #6 on: January 16, 2013, 07:51:42 AM
Trust me, it was in there.  It was kept understated, which was all to the good, but it was there.  Mostly in the way the piano's noises are described.

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lowky

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Reply #7 on: January 17, 2013, 02:56:02 PM
I liked it.  I am really digging the ghost stories on Pseudopod lately.  I thought it less the Piano ate her and more it was the angry spirits from the ship that the Piano had originally been on. 


Fenrix

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Reply #8 on: January 17, 2013, 09:26:32 PM
I liked it.  I am really digging the ghost stories on Pseudopod lately.  I thought it less the Piano ate her and more it was the angry spirits from the ship that the Piano had originally been on. 


You would be shocked at how few ghost stories get subbed. Then take the 20% of those which are good, and you wind up with a really tiny number.

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


lowky

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Reply #9 on: January 18, 2013, 05:31:34 AM
I can imagine, look at horror movies its all Saw 2000 and Hostel 24.  Though watched a good one tonight, Don't Be afraid of the dark.


Unblinking

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Reply #10 on: January 18, 2013, 02:34:51 PM
I enjoyed this pretty well, though the old lady ignoring the origin story of the piano seemed out of character--she was trying to learn how all this stuff worked and she ignored what seemed to be obviously the most pertinent information.

Anyway, I didn't find the ending cartoonish at all, it was plenty creepy.  I wasn't entirely sure whether the ghosts in the wood were imitating her husband, or whether her husband was really there and was really only interested in the piano and they were using him as a lure, or what, but I didn't think that the openness there hurt the story any.



Sgarre1

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Reply #11 on: January 19, 2013, 12:10:18 AM
Quote
You would be shocked at how few ghost stories get subbed. Then take the 20% of those which are good, and you wind up with a really tiny number.

Yeah, ghost stories as a subgenre are tough for modern writers for a number of reasons - they're generally seen as "played out" as fear figures (and have been, to some degree or another, since the 1920s) mostly because the two popular conceptions of them are now problematic - either they're "restless souls denied heaven", something the general public doesn't believe in much anymore, or they're "etheric recordings in an endless loop" which most see as not-very-promising from a storytelling standpoint, even though marvelous things have been done with that conceit (STONE TAPE, etc.).

Even when malevolent they're not particularly "active/physical" so it requires a deft and subtle writing touch that most don't have, and at this point some other story theme than the simple "it was a g-g-g-ghost!".  The subtle Aickman/Campbell approach, full of symbolism and psychological resonance is even tougher to write and tends to be unsatisfying to a good portion of readers regardless, who don't want ambiguity in their horror. (check out Campbell's "At Lorn Hall" on the NIGHTMARE MAGAZINE podcast - http://nightmare-magazine.com/issues/issue-2-nov-2012/ - really good stuff with a great story conceit).

But ghost stories will always be there because they are one of the cornerstones of horror stories - everyone's eventual death personified and walking abroad, interacting with the living world.  I'm satisfied we do a nice variety of them - now what I'd really like to see are more well-done monster stories (a very hard sub genre to write- at least to my satisfaction) and conte cruels (perhaps the whole world is too glibly cruel now for those to even work, who knows?).



FeloniusMonk

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Reply #12 on: January 20, 2013, 10:10:57 PM
I was so surprised by the piano nomming that I went back and listened to the story again, this time more carefully.
Paying more attention the story transformed from a slightly naff tale of loneliness to a really creepy tale of the demonic, particularly the fact that the music becomes bait, trailed in-front of the old lady.
I love this story after my second listening,



Scumpup

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Reply #13 on: January 20, 2013, 11:50:34 PM
I never do second listenings.  Alas, I don't have unlimited time for listening to stories.  I have more than a few podcasts I am following, many of which have dozens of back episodes I'd like to catch up on.  If a story doesn't grab me immediately, or tell me the story the author really meant to tell me, I just have too many other things I want to hear to go back and listen again.  I'm willing to accept that maybe I'm just too dim to have got what this story was really about.  Most likely you guys are correct about it.  But I have all of Wormwood waiting, a huge backlog of drabblecasts, most of Pseudopod's library and most of Escape Pod's and the list goes on...



kibitzer

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Reply #14 on: January 21, 2013, 02:00:33 AM
I was so surprised by the piano nomming...

That, quite literally, made me LOL! Thanks for brightening a dismal Monday :)


williemeikle

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Reply #15 on: January 21, 2013, 08:56:31 AM
>the music becomes bait

That was the intent, although i might not have done enough to show that.

I'm glad it was generally well received, and glad that Pseudopod did such a nice job with it.

I've got numerous other ghost stories I might submit... and also numerous monster ones. :-)

Willie



lowky

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Reply #16 on: January 22, 2013, 04:00:11 AM
>the music becomes bait

That was the intent, although i might not have done enough to show that.

I'm glad it was generally well received, and glad that Pseudopod did such a nice job with it.

I've got numerous other ghost stories I might submit... and also numerous monster ones. :-)

Willie


Please do i really enjoyed this


Balu

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Reply #17 on: January 23, 2013, 10:14:03 PM
What a great ghost (or demon?) story.

I particularly liked the that vicious little twist of the music turning out to be bait.

Great pacing, too. These things always work so much better when you feel a genuine sympathy for the character. I felt bad for her when she spent her life savings on that hand of glory, let alone what happened next . . .



Listener

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Reply #18 on: January 24, 2013, 02:21:14 PM
I liked it.  I am really digging the ghost stories on Pseudopod lately.  I thought it less the Piano ate her and more it was the angry spirits from the ship that the Piano had originally been on. 


You would be shocked at how few ghost stories get subbed. Then take the 20% of those which are good, and you wind up with a really tiny number.

I actually wrote a novella-length ghost story recently, but due to its subject matter, I don't think it's appropriate for PP. It may never actually see the light of day; I really don't know. However, I have another, shorter ghost story that I'm currently subbing to first-run markets before sending it to PP. It is hard to write a ghost story that doesn't feel derivative.

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startrek.steve

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Reply #19 on: January 24, 2013, 04:23:20 PM
Wheres Episode 315?



Scattercat

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Reply #20 on: January 24, 2013, 04:32:16 PM
Wheres Episode 315?

It's coming up RIGHT BEHIND YOU!

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Bdoomed

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Reply #21 on: January 25, 2013, 12:37:40 AM
315 was last seen leaving the local mall after a movie viewing with some friends.  She never made it home.  If you have any information on the whereabouts of episode 315, please contact your local police station.

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


kibitzer

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Reply #22 on: January 25, 2013, 01:19:23 AM
Wheres Episode 315?

Honestly, it's on its way. We know y'all are waiting for it and we'll release it as soon as we can. :)


Fenrix

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Reply #23 on: April 04, 2013, 11:28:35 PM
I liked the subtle sweetness of this one, followed by the horrible reversal. Also, there were a ton of great crunchy details that added depth to the whole thing, like the daily rituals and the setup of the final ritual.

On a second round through the story I focused on the setup, and I thought it was well built and foreshadowed without being too heavy handed. I suspect that the husband and the previous owner were both taken by the demons of the piano. It may feel as if they're being drug down by the dead but appear to the rest of the world like a stroke.

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


DruidPrince

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Reply #24 on: April 24, 2013, 03:58:51 AM
OK I'm playing catch up...lots and lots of Pseudopods to listen to, and I'm loving it! When time allows I'm commenting on the forums.

This one I found touching. A gentle beginning with a warm nostalgia and deep pity for a lonely old woman longing not just for the past but (of course) the man she has lost. Stretching her belief system past it's limits by researching a way to bring the dead spirit back to life. Falling (pulled by a demon perhaps) headfirst into the abyss (a piano) leaving us questioning who the spirit truly was or if her husband was, in life, evil and drawing her to hell with him. I don't know, the story was thought provoking at least and I found myself almost enjoying the horrid outcome at the end.

Nicely done!

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