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Author Topic: Pseudopod 030: Seller’s Market  (Read 5062 times)
Bdoomed
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« on: March 25, 2007, 12:50:31 AM »

Pseudopod 030: Seller’s Market


By Joel Arnold
Read by Matthew Wayne Selznick

“You were lucky,” I say, testing her. “To find a place so easily with this guy, even in this current housing market.”

Ellen nods again. I try to get her to look at me, but she won’t.

“He just showed you this house. Said it’s yours if you want it?”

Ellen yawns. “I’m tired,” she says. “I had a busy day.”

“Sounds like it.”

Then she snaps. “Look, what are you trying to imply?” Her eyes flash. “I got the house fair and square. It’s a nice house, and now you’re accusing me — ” She stops.

“Accusing you of what?” I ask.

Her eyes smolder. My heart races.

“You should thank me,” she says.

I leave the room.


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Jonathan C. Gillespie
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« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2007, 11:41:37 AM »

This tale had the same disturbing quality of the author's last piece, "Fetal Position", in that it relied on a subversive, gradually-revealed gross-out to shock the reader.

It did affect me on this level somewhat, but not enough, and the ending was too abrupt.  This just isn't my kind of story.  Perhaps if the cat and dog had simply gone missing, instead of turning up disembowled, the final shocker would have been more realized.  The problem is the final reveal is essentially reveals two and three, so much of the impact is lost, and the POV character's somewhat flat reaction doesn't help things along.

Matthew did a good job reading, as always, although I found the pauses between sections a little long -- had literally checked my 'pod the first time to make sure it was still playing.
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Thaurismunths
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« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2007, 12:38:18 PM »

I liked how the focus of the story was on the perceived affair, and with a little more misdirection I could have forgiven the how dry his horror was when he found the dead animals. He had almost no reaction at all to finding them, and didn't connect it at all with his wife's strange actions, not matter how totally improbable it would have been to find the dead and gutted dog in the attic.
I think, however, it was the over-long pauses really killed the mood. I had to check the first couple times to make sure the story hadn't been truncated, and after that I was just unsettled by them.
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Bdoomed
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« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2007, 03:05:58 PM »

It did affect me on this level somewhat, but not enough, and the ending was too abrupt.  This just isn't my kind of story.  Perhaps if the cat and dog had simply gone missing, instead of turning up disembowled, the final shocker would have been more realized.  The problem is the final reveal is essentially reveals two and three, so much of the impact is lost, and the POV character's somewhat flat reaction doesn't help things along.
true, but the fact that he's seen the dead animals in the attic adds to his horror at knowing what hes gonna find even before he sees it.  The impact is not supposed to be one of surprise, but rather the inevitable nature of the horror to come.  if the dog and cat merely went missing, at the end he'd find a dead dog, a dead cat, and a dead baby in his attic.  now tell me that would be better.  that would be pretty random to me, and make me wonder how he didnt notice the smell.  and lets say the dog and cat were not in the attic.  then what part would they play in the story? and you'd just be very confused by a random dead baby in the attic.
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Jonathan C. Gillespie
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« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2007, 03:10:36 PM »

I don't agree with you.  That's like saying the opening scene in Jaws doesn't work because we don't see the shark.  It's not necessary for the fates of the two animals to be thrust into our faces -- alluding to their unexplained, sudden absence would be enough for the reader to put the details together later, and it wouldn't detract from the ending.

Yes, it would have been better, IMHO, if he found all three at the end.

I realize that's a catch-22, given the smell quandry, and other issues, as the author then has to tackle the whole attic-as-sacrificial-site issue in a much different manner.  Maybe the sacrificial location could have been changed.  A shed out back, deep in the garden the woman was craving, would have been ironic and more practical.

Speaking of which, why didn't this guy call the cops when gutted animals turned up in his house?
« Last Edit: March 27, 2007, 03:15:53 PM by JCGillespie » Logged

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wakela
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« Reply #5 on: March 27, 2007, 08:27:05 PM »

I have a hard time that a mother would kill her fetus for a house.  She was acting strange, but it was secretive-strange, not crazy-strange.

And I agree that he should have been more freaked out finding an eviscerated cat in his attic.  I can't help getting creeped out just looking in the attic with a flashlight at night, and he's looking for something that decaying.  I think the discovery of the cat could have some more suspense. 

To add my two cents to the debate, I prefer the reveals the way they were written, and not all at once at the end.  In the latter case the author would have had to hint at some missing animals in the neighborhood, and it would have seemed to obvious.  I think knowing what's coming in this case is effective.  Though it might have been more so if the narrator also saw what was coming and struggled in vain to protect his baby.  I was thinking of Rosemary's Baby here.   

I liked the reading OK, but I didn't like the crazy guy voice at the end there.  Crazy people are scarier when they don't act like crazy people.

But I thought it was a neat and creepy idea.  And I like it that we never know the details of the sacrifices, never meet the real estate agent, and the ending with two loonies in the house. 

Now that I think of it, I'm wondering if there was some word play with the real estate agent's name.  I don't remember what it was, but it was mentioned several times, and it was unusual.  For some reason the Lord of Darkness always tries to fool us by spelling his name backwards or putting the stress on the wrong syllable.   
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Thaurismunths
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« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2007, 10:01:41 PM »

I think the problem with the dead animals wasn't that they weren't saved for the end, but rather that they were so casually found in the attic. There wasn't anything particular about the attic, and he wasn't particularly I could see three more fulfilling ways to play it out:
1) The cat is found in the attic and the hero thinks "maybe the rats got it?" The dog is found half-hidden under the porch and the hero thinks "Ok.. that's F'd up... maybe it was a wolf?" and the mother is caught in the bathroom/bedroom/etc with the baby-doll.
2) The cat is found in the attic and the hero thinks "WTF?" and tells wife who is unimpressed. The dog is found in the attic, wife is really dodgy about the whole thing, animal control is called. Baby is found in the attic, wife is found in a state of profound remorse.
3) Cat, dog, and baby are found stashed around the house, their guts are found on some kind of alter or circle of incantation in the attic.
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« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2007, 09:56:14 AM »

I thought the prose level of this story was excellent.  The author has a good ear for dialog, for narrative voice and a nice touch with descriptions.  Tonewise, it was delightful.

However, the story itself was full of plot holes and characters acting unbelievably, several of which have already been pointed out :

I have a hard time that a mother would kill her fetus for a house.  She was acting strange, but it was secretive-strange, not crazy-strange.

On top of that, which I also had a hard time with, I was bothered by not knowing how exactly this woman was getting the ladder to the attic, opening it up and getting the corpses up there, especially in the wake of a "miscarriage".  If I was supposed to think the real estate agent was placing the bodies, I didn't find the details that would make me think that.

I think the problem with the dead animals wasn't that they weren't saved for the end, but rather that they were so casually found in the attic. There wasn't anything particular about the attic,

I agree completely.  There was no reason not to make the placement of the animals carry symbolic meaning for the characters in the story.  If all the real estate agent cared about was the entrails (is he eating them?) then the body placement shouldn't matter (and she should have buried them in the garden as has been suggested elsewhere in the thread), but if there was a ritual she was completing, then the attic must be made to be significant as part of a ritual, and there must be some sign other than the bodies themselves that their location in the heaven of the house is significant (like maybe the altar Thaurismunths suggested).

It did affect me on this level somewhat, but not enough, and the ending was too abrupt....The problem is the final reveal is essentially reveals two and three, so much of the impact is lost, and the POV character's somewhat flat reaction doesn't help things along.

Yes, yes!   The reveal being reveals two and three.  I never would have put it that way, but it's exactly right.  You can hardly be bothered to care about the "locked in the basement" part because he doesn't let you breathe between "omg she sacrificed her own fetus" and "now she lives in the basement".  Ending is too rushed.

The worst misstep, though, for me, was the tossed-in Roger POV scene.  WTF was that?  First of all, Roger was way more interesting than the primary narrator, so you teased me with a character I was really interested in then left that whole thread dangling.  Second of all, the only thing that scene tells me is that the wife actually does screw around (and loves it) so why is she so scrupulous about not fucking the real estate guy?  It can't be because real estate guy is so terrible since, after all, the best friend seems to like him well enough to "want to move every week".  So what gives?  Why is she preferring to sacrifice her own progeny before sleeping with a guy?  I realize we're not in her POV, so maybe we can't have the exact answers, but her actions still have to make some modicum of sense.  And they completely don't.  She's like a black box plot agitator and not a person.  In fact, I felt that scene was thrown in to red herring me into sympathizing with the narrator and thinking the woman truly was being unfaithful, to which I cry, "Foul, Author".

Also yes, pauses between scenes way too long, though otherwise I liked the reading.
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« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2009, 07:26:45 AM »

The biggest distraction for me was the long, long pauses between sections.  Between every scene I had to check my iPod to make sure it hadn't run out of juice, or the headphone jack popped out, or something.

I found it hard to believe that any mother would give up her baby for a home, especially when that home is supposedly needed FOR the baby.  And at the end I don't understand why he stuck around with her.  Your wife gives up the baby as a blood sacrifice and you still want to keep her around?  Didn't understand that at all.

For me, there was just too much left unexplained.  Instead of giving me a sense of an iceberg, knowing that much more lies beneath the surface, it gave me the sense that there was only half a story.  Specifically the disemboweling of the animals--who was she sacrificing to and why, why put them in the attic, did she know the baby would be taken, who is this real estate guy, etc....
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« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2010, 03:41:46 PM »

Sorry, this one started promising, but totally fell apart for me by the end.  The characters act in completely incomprehensible ways.  It was totally unrealistic that the wife would enter into a quasi-Satanic pact and sacrifice her own child just to find a house in a down market was so absurd it made me laugh.  Just waaaaay too over the top.  Only a complete and utter lunatic would do that, and I never saw that established.

Likewise, for a guy so possessive, the husband remained almost entirely passive throughout the whole ordeal.  At the end, he returns to her almost immediately (like a possessive nut like him would forgive the ritualistic murder of his own child so quickly?!).

The story totally unravels for me.  None of the motivations are believable.
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« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2018, 06:28:12 PM »

Holy crap! Where did THIS story come from?! I’m 11 years late to the party. Yeeeeek.
Ellen.
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What a screwed up episode. Talk about an unrealistic narrator.
« Last Edit: July 31, 2018, 06:30:48 PM by Scuba Man » Logged

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