Author Topic: Pseudopod 339: The End-Of-The-World Pool  (Read 4307 times)

Bdoomed

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Pseudopod 339: The End-Of-The-World Pool
« on: June 22, 2013, 08:41:27 AM »
Pseudopod 339: The End-Of-The-World Pool

by Scott M. Roberts

“The End-Of-The-World Pool” was first published in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show #12, May 2009. Ray Bradbury’s SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES was a direct influence on this story.

Scott M. Roberts is a man who has done despicable things with a spoon. In addition to tableware debauchery, he writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror. His work has appeared in Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, Writers of the Future, Podcastle, and in the monstrous anthology, MONSTERS AND MORMONS. Scott lives in northern Virginia with his family and a motley troupe of wizards, detectives and crazy persons. Online, he inhabits The Lord Of All Fools.

Your reader this week - Mark E. Phair - is the author of "THE PASSION OF THE SPARKLEPIRES: FIFTY SHADES OF DA VINCI” now available on Kindle HERE.



“The pool was as warm as sweat. Evan kicked away from the surface, algae shifting and bumping against his bare legs. Even with his mouth squeezed tight, he could taste the foulness of the water, like it had seeped through his ears to touch the back of his throat.

Down!

There’d been no squares edging the poolside, advertising the depth. It could be ten feet, twelve feet, a thousand feet deep. Evan couldn’t sense the bottom or the surface. All around him, floaties and foulness and warm water, like piss. He was swimming through a toilet, that’s what, and maybe he’d gotten in the bend without realizing it, and what if someone flushed?

Evan opened his eyes. Light blurred above him, at the end of the angle of his skinny body. And below him, more water, darker and deeper. He stretched his arms, kicked his legs, and pushed on. Pushed in, he thought, through slick, sweaty water.

The water grew cooler the deeper he swam. He kept his eyes open, despite how they burned. The light above dwindled, and then was gone, and the water didn’t end. That wasn’t right — where the pool was dark and deep, that was where the bottom had to be. Covered by a layer of muck, maybe; maybe inches of decaying leaves blown into the pool during the winter. But water and quiet surrounded him instead.

Quiet. He couldn’t hear Dad and Uncle Hector banging on the deck. He couldn’t even hear the bubbles when he let some air out of his lungs. Evan swiped at the water, edging deeper. His fingers touched sand. Sand. At the bottom of a pool.

Something touched him back.”




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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?

flintknapper

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Re: Pseudopod 339: The End-Of-The-World Pool
« Reply #1 on: June 22, 2013, 10:31:23 AM »
The relationship between the two boys was believable and well written. I also enjoyed the ending. All to many horror stories would have ended with them going into the pool.... which I sometimes like, but to see them survive was a refreshing change to the old formulat of "the lure of the unknown."

The narration was similarly enjoyable. At some points, I thought the delivery may have been a little rushed, but the narrator actually sounded young which added to the overall presentation of the story... and by young I mean 20s.

Lastly, the thing that sticks with me the most is the blows to the nuts. Every boy learns it after an event just like the one portrayed in the story. I took a similar blow from a friend at the age of 12 while we were fighting. Dudes dont hit dudes in the nuts. Period.



adrianh

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Re: Pseudopod 339: The End-Of-The-World Pool
« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2013, 04:48:06 PM »
The relationship between the two boys was believable and well written.

Agreed. Especially the well written bit. The relationship was very economically drawn in the text, but it was enough to raise a vivid picture in my head of the kids - and memories of how important those childhood friendships are.

Metalsludge

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Re: Pseudopod 339: The End-Of-The-World Pool
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2013, 10:27:07 AM »
I liked the line about how the kid comes to his senses and remembers that, amid all the romantic allure of the pool, he and his buddy have not been around long enough to have ever loved a woman and can't really really relate to the forlorn romanticism of Poe's poem, as such. The "Wait a minute...we are just kids!" moment was amusing for me and rang true.

Otherwise, the story rises above its simple plot by drawing on what its like to be so young, on vacation during summer, and to have the kind of friendship one forms at that age. I would like to have heard about what was left after the pool draining though. Anything at all? Oh well.


Bdoomed

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Re: Pseudopod 339: The End-Of-The-World Pool
« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2013, 01:38:55 PM »
I imagine nothing was left in the pool, that what he encountered down there was only available to him in the murky depths of the pool.  Without water, without those conditions, it doesn't exist
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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Re: Pseudopod 339: The End-Of-The-World Pool
« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2013, 09:56:32 AM »
Did anyone else assume the title was referring to a betting pool.  As in, we all chip in 5 dollars and guess how the world will end, and whoever is right gets all the money.  Which would be kind of silly, since you only get the money after the end of the world...

Anyway, the characters of the story felt real to me, and I could root for his goal to stop his friend from diving in and then was impressed when he dived in to pull him out.  It was a simple plot but the story was well told enough that that was fine.

I imagine nothing was left in the pool, that what he encountered down there was only available to him in the murky depths of the pool.  Without water, without those conditions, it doesn't exist

I think that's probably true.  The thing down there relied on the murk.  I don't think it's dead either, but has moved through murkspace to lurk somewhere else.

evrgrn_monster

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Re: Pseudopod 339: The End-Of-The-World Pool
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2013, 10:20:54 PM »
This was great. I concur with everyone that the characters were incredibly well written. I especially was drawn to the dialogue between the characters. It was a ton of fun. Also, happy ending in horror? How novel! I was really rooting for these two though, so it was a great choice.

Did anyone else feel sorry for the beast living in the pool? To me, she seemed to be lonely and sad, and thought these boys actually wanted to stay down in the pool with her. She didn't seem that malevolent to me, besides the whole stealing the boys away forever thing. If she were truly evil, wouldn't they have been drowning the entire time?

Oh, and great job to the narrator. He seemed youthful and determined the whole time, and really kept me engaged.

Scott R

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Re: Pseudopod 339: The End-Of-The-World Pool
« Reply #7 on: July 02, 2013, 07:49:42 AM »
Howdy, folks!  I'm Scott M. Roberts, author of The End-of-the-World Pool.  I'm really pleased that you enjoyed it.  Pool is one of my favorite pieces.

If you're interested, I wrote up a story-behind-the-story for Intergalactic Medicine Show.  It is posted here.

On to some of your points and questions!

Quote
I also enjoyed the ending...

So glad to hear it.  The reason I am consistently drawn to write horror is opposite the reason that most people expect of horror: it is, generally speaking, a profoundly moral, and triumphant genre.  At least the horror that I enjoy is.  Whether the protagonist wins or not, horror speaks to the reality of evil and good (or at least, the unthinkable and the human) not just as abstract ideas, but as tangible, effective forces.  Horror allows us to face both depravity and goodwill almost barefaced.

Of all the genres going, it is the most cathartic.

Quote
The relationship between the two boys was believable and well-written

I grew up with kids like Grant and Evan-- both real-life, and in fiction.  I can't thank Ray Bradbury enough for Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Speaking of Bradbury, and dread, the most terrifying thing I ever read was written by Bradbury in Dandelion Wine.  It's a short passage; the protagonist's mother is crossing behind some homes and is thinking about the quasi-mythical Lonely One: the stranger who comes to town to terrorize women.  And as she's walking through this abandoned space, her dread is palpable.  Bradbury draws the scene perfectly, from the creaking boardwalk to the imagery of the trail, to the mother's emotions.

It is an exquisite kind of terror that I recommend highly.

Quote
I would like to have heard about what was left after the pool draining, though.  Anything at all?

:nod:

I wrote a couple epilogues for what the boys found in the pool after it was drained.  One pins a definite substance to the mystery; the other just rambles.

Spoiler: Epilogue 1 (click to show/hide)

In the first drafts, there was a lot more text referring to the half-born child haunting the boys.  As I continued to edit the story, the less I liked that angle, and the more I focused on the boys' relationship.  I wound up liking the open-ended mystery more than the resolution.

Spoiler: Epilogue 2 (click to show/hide)

This one-- save for the line about tearing a hole in the end of the world and stuffing it full of summer-- is just me rambling.  By this time, the ending as you've heard it was in place.  I was quite satisfied with the direction the story had taken, and with the way that Evan saved Grant, and Grant restored summer to Evan.  This ending was extraneous.

Funny story-- after he'd accepted Pool, Edmund Schubert, IGMS's editor, asked if I'd include something clearly indicating what was in the pool.  I hemmed and hawed and said what I said above about loving the murk and mystery.  We settled on that.

That's what I remember, anyway.  Edmund may have a different story to tell.  If he says ANYTHING about penguins and a late-night fondue party in New Orleans, remember that he is a filthy liar.  :-D

Quote
Did anyone else assume that the title was referring to a betting pool?

Ha!  I suck at titles.  At least this one is accurate.  Unlike another story I've had podcast...

Pool's original title was Slime King.  I entered it in the Codex Writers Halloween Contest (a private contest between members of the online Codex writers group) under the title, Three Minutes, Forty-Two Seconds With Annabelle Lee.  Which sounds like a really short porno movie.  (It took second place against James Maxey's Where Their Worm Dieth Not, a really fantastic piece of super-hero fiction...)

It was submitted to IGMS under the title 'Horseplay at the End-of-the-World Pool'.  Edmund requested that we drop 'Horseplay' because he thought that it implied the story was going to be more of a romp than it actually was.  I agreed, and the present title stuck.

Thanks, y'all!

Scattercat

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Re: Pseudopod 339: The End-Of-The-World Pool
« Reply #8 on: July 08, 2013, 05:01:07 PM »
Interesting.  I read this story in an anthology somewhere a while back, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  However, if you'd asked me then what was in the bottom of the pool, I'd have answered, unhesitatingly, "Evan's discovery of his homosexuality."  Per the text of the story, it will destroy the innocent joy of summers with Grant; it will separate him from his father forever; he fears letting Grant see it at all because of what it might do to him.  The sensuous language of the story, the heightened emotional bond, and even the joke-that-falls flat about it maybe being a "mer-man" all just screamed adolescent sexual angst to me, and I thought everything was frightfully subtle and well-done.  It reminded me of "A Separate Peace," both with the idyllic surface with ominous undercurrents, the motif of jumping into a pool, and the subtle hints of homoeroticism.  (I consider all of that to be a compliment, by the way.  I read and loved "A Separate Peace" in high school, but because it was a Christian high school, nobody mentioned the sexuality issues at all, and I didn't even realize it until I read an interview with John Knowles in which he addressed the themes of the book briefly.)

I even attributed the brief description of the mermaid as female but with a grotesquely misshapen lower half to be more about Evan's perception of his (or perhaps women's) troublesome genitalia.  Gotta admit that
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
never occurred to me in the slightest.
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evrgrn_monster

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Re: Pseudopod 339: The End-Of-The-World Pool
« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2013, 07:17:22 PM »
Interesting.  I read this story in an anthology somewhere a while back, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  However, if you'd asked me then what was in the bottom of the pool, I'd have answered, unhesitatingly, "Evan's discovery of his homosexuality."  Per the text of the story, it will destroy the innocent joy of summers with Grant; it will separate him from his father forever; he fears letting Grant see it at all because of what it might do to him.  The sensuous language of the story, the heightened emotional bond, and even the joke-that-falls flat about it maybe being a "mer-man" all just screamed adolescent sexual angst to me, and I thought everything was frightfully subtle and well-done.  It reminded me of "A Separate Peace," both with the idyllic surface with ominous undercurrents, the motif of jumping into a pool, and the subtle hints of homoeroticism.  (I consider all of that to be a compliment, by the way.  I read and loved "A Separate Peace" in high school, but because it was a Christian high school, nobody mentioned the sexuality issues at all, and I didn't even realize it until I read an interview with John Knowles in which he addressed the themes of the book briefly.)

I even attributed the brief description of the mermaid as female but with a grotesquely misshapen lower half to be more about Evan's perception of his (or perhaps women's) troublesome genitalia.  Gotta admit that
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
never occurred to me in the slightest.

That just blew my mind.

Scott R

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Re: Pseudopod 339: The End-Of-The-World Pool
« Reply #10 on: July 09, 2013, 06:27:49 AM »
Quote
Interesting.  I read this story in an anthology somewhere a while back, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Pool was included in the first InterGalactic Medicine Show Awards anthology.  I'm pleased you liked it.

Quote
However, if you'd asked me then what was in the bottom of the pool, I'd have answered, unhesitatingly, "Evan's discovery of his homosexuality."

Far be it from me to insist that my intentions are the only righteous and correct interpretation of my story.

At best, story telling is a messy business.  You're not really dealing with a single character or multiple characters' personalities-- you're filtering all those things through the lens of the author himself, and the reader as well.  Even simple concepts can mean vastly different things to people of different backgrounds.  This is just to say that, even as an author, I'm not terribly inclined to say that my story must MEAN one thing alone.

If you find utility in thinking that Pool is a big metaphor about finding the door out of the closet, I'm not going to argue much about it.

Given that, may I never be so cliche!  There's a persistent school of literary thought that every story involving two young males must perforce be about at least one of them discovering their homosexuality. I think it's a disservice to young people everywhere if the author doesn't make that intention explicit.  I think it's even a bit cowardly to code it.  

I *hated* 'A Separate Peace.'

Pool is a story about borders and transitions (earth/water, death/life, childhood/adulthood)-- a liminal story, indeed, as most stories about preteens are.  That covers  a lot of ground, and I'm content to leave it at that.  I think that if you start trying to nail down this-or-that-metaphor, you're going to run up against plot details that grind the metaphor to powder.  Also-- I'm no longer in school, and therefore, feel no compulsion to engage in academic wankery for free.  :)

Just Jeff

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Re: Pseudopod 339: The End-Of-The-World Pool
« Reply #11 on: July 12, 2013, 12:09:46 AM »
Early on I found myself wishing this was flash fiction. In what may be a first, there was a point where it could have ended and I would have been delighted, but I was afraid the rest of the story wouldn't live up to the beginning. Thankfully, it did.