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Author Topic: Pseudopod 340: Neighbourhood Watch  (Read 13554 times)

Bdoomed

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on: June 29, 2013, 04:18:44 AM
Pseudopod 340: Neighbourhood Watch

by Greg Egan

“Neighbourhood Watch” originally appeared in an Australian magazine, Aphelion, in 1986, and was reprinted in Karl Edward Wagner’s THE YEAR’S BEST HORROR STORIES XVI in 1988. The story is available to read at here

Greg Egan is an Australian author writing mainly hard science fiction, but he published a few horror stories in the 1980s. His science fiction novel THE ETERNAL FLAME, the second volume of a trilogy set in a universe with different laws of physics than our own, was published by Night Shade Books in the US in September 2012, and by Gollancz in the UK in October 2012.

Your reader this week, writer and singer Ron Jon Newton, has written and published children¹s books; scripts and screenplays for animation and live action; musical lyrics and libretti. He is a student of strange phenomena/parapsychology, horror and children¹s literature. He has created a blogsite of haunting microfiction (melding narration/music/sfx) The Spectre Collector and a blogsite of recordings regarding an ancient cannibal blood cult, The Fruits of Madness.



“Only at night, says the contract. After eleven, to be precise. Decent people are not out after eleven, and decent people should not have to witness what I do.

Andrews is seventeen, and bored. Andrew, I understand. This suburb is a hole, you have my deepest sympathies. What do they expect you to do around here? On a warm night like this a young man can grow restless. I know; your dreams, too, shaped me slightly (my principal creators did not expect that). You need adventure. So keep your eyes open, Andrew, there are opportunities everywhere.

The sign on the chemist’s window says no money, no drugs, but you are no fool. The back window’s frame is rotting, the nails are loose, it falls apart in your hands. Like cake. Must be your lucky night, tonight.

The cash drawer’s empty (oh shit!) and you can forget about that safe, but a big, glass candy jar of valium beats a handful of Swiss health bars, doesn’t it? There are kids dumb enough to pay for those, down at the primary school.

Only those who break the law, says the contract. A list of statutes is provided, to be precise. Parking offences, breaking the speed limit and cheating on income tax are not included; decent people are only human, after all. Breaking and entering is there, though, and stealing, well, that dates right back to the old stone tablets.

No loophole, Andrew. No argument.

Andrew has a flick knife, and a death’s head tattoo. He’s great in a fight, our Andrew. Knows some karate, once did a little boxing, he has no reason to be afraid. He walks around like he owns the night. Especially when there’s nobody around.

So what’s that on the wind? Sounds like someone breathing, someone close by. Very even, slow, steady, powerful. Where is the bastard? You can see in all directions, but there’s no one in sight. What, then? Do you think it’s in your head? That doesn’t seem likely.

Andrew stands still for a moment. He wants to figure this out for himself, but I can’t help giving him hints, so the lace of his left sand-shoe comes undone. He puts down the jar and crouches to retie it.

The ground, it seems, is breathing.”




PLEASE HELP PSEUDOPOD AND ANSWER A VERY SHORT DEMOGRAPHIC SURVEY AT THIS LINK. IT WILL HELP US IMMEASURABLY! and thank you!

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Listen to this week's Pseudopod.

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adrianh

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Reply #1 on: June 29, 2013, 09:06:26 AM
Bias warning: Huge Greg Egan fan ;-)

Loved this one. I'd read it before, so was familiar with the story direction - but still on tenterhooks during the final confrontation. Which is a credit to the reading as much as the writing. One of those times that my internal-voice for the story matched the reader's interpretation bang on - the bombastic style of the creature was nicely done, the side characters definitively drawn.

The intro also let me know that I'd somehow missed the second volume of Egan's clockwork universe series - so that's on order now too. Bonus ;-)



flintknapper

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Reply #2 on: June 29, 2013, 03:25:03 PM
Not that this story necessary reads as a commentary on the Zimmerman trials, but one cannot help but draw parallels between the two. I know this story was written well before the events of the Trayvon Martin case, but the horror of a neighborhood predator feeding on those who society deems to be committing acts worthy of punishment hits home at the moment... especially the way the monster has been directed to overlook specific white collar crimes, but to come down hard on juvenile delinquents.

The language and narration of the piece was extremely strong. I also particularly like the ending with good triumphing over evil. I do not know if it because what I have been reading has been particularly dark as of late or what, but this story's ending offered a refreshing change of pace.

I was not a big Greg Egan fan, but this piece (which I had never heard before) appears to have won me over. 



BlueGildedCage

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Reply #3 on: July 02, 2013, 03:02:04 AM
Hm, I wasn't such a fan of this one.  It was a good story and it was well read, but in some places I found it a bit... well, not quite tedious, but something not far off it.  Maybe it would have worked better on paper than as audio, for me?

"The way home is not the way back." ~ Colin Wilson


Scott R

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Reply #4 on: July 03, 2013, 01:26:38 PM
Really liked this one. Enjoyed the performance of the reader, and the wicked and evocative text. For me, the poetic and almost over-the-top imagery really made this piece;  I'm happy that David wasn't a pasty lamb of an innocent child but kind of a scrapper.



Unblinking

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Reply #5 on: July 03, 2013, 04:22:56 PM
Holy crap I loved this story.  Like pulling Pennywise the clown out of your lizardbrain and tying him on a leash that he can chew through just to protect your property.

The details of the monster were just different enough from other things I've seen to make it feel wholly original, especially his acting through the earth in furrows and producing the blood of burrowing creatures for coloring at some point.  Some kind of earth-elemental born of nightmares?

David kicked ass.  So awesome.  A childhood survivor of night terrors uses it to defeat the otherwise unstoppable monster.

And the narration.  You literally could not have found a better narrator.  His voice for the monster was particularly good, made me hate and love the monster all at once.  And he had really good voice differentiation, making his voice sound different for the boy and the monster and the woman without sounding like a parody of any of them.

Very well done!




Cynandre

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Reply #6 on: July 05, 2013, 09:57:03 PM
A Monster seeking to escape his Masters and getting his twisted revenge. A boy confronting his world (town) 's Monstrous creation and committing the ultimate self sacrifice.
This is how I saw it while my Fiance could only see Mrs. Bold's Death. I think there might be something wrong with one of us. ((yeah... me))  :)

I loved Ron Jon Newton's Voice.

The creature's Voice reminded me a bit of Tim Curry. ;)
 
« Last Edit: July 05, 2013, 10:02:27 PM by Cynandre »

Insanity takes it's toll. Please have exact change.


PrimerofinTheSequel

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Reply #7 on: July 08, 2013, 12:36:47 AM
Wow!!!

This is why I listen to Pseudopod/Escapepod/Podcastle - - - for an episode like this.

Creepy, gory, scarey, in-my-head terror.

Thank you.



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #8 on: July 08, 2013, 07:19:19 PM
STAND YOUR GROUND!

That's all I've got to say. When the nightmares come. When the monsters crawl out from under the bed. When corrupt authority bears down on you. When the sickness crawls inside you. You stand your motherf^cking ground.

In case you can't tell, I loved this story.

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Cynandre

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Reply #9 on: July 09, 2013, 12:33:09 PM
STAND YOUR GROUND!

That's all I've got to say. When the nightmares come. When the monsters crawl out from under the bed. When corrupt authority bears down on you. When the sickness crawls inside you. You stand your motherf^cking ground.

In case you can't tell, I loved this story.

I agree.

Insanity takes it's toll. Please have exact change.


evrgrn_monster

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Reply #10 on: July 10, 2013, 01:17:02 AM
I was not into this story in the beginning, but I cannot ever leave a story hanging no matter how uninterested I am, and I'm pretty happy I stayed on. The narration, as everyone else has stated, was so insanely perfect. Gravely, insidious, and yet still clear as a bell. My favorite bit was the description of the kid's skeleton popping out of his body while trying to run. Such a vivid image. Mrs. Bold's death scene was super graphic, almost distractingly so, but I didn't mind too much, since I was honestly rooting for that character to die. To me, she was simply a narcissistic, "good-ole" girl who put on a mask of purity for everyone else. I thought her dream scenes were strictly masturbatory; she was just so pleased with herself and the "good" she was doing to the neighborhood, she literally got off on it.

I actually was rooting for the monster to go free and take out all the people that had created it. Self righteous people who believed that the greater good was worth killing kids for deserve to have the same exit. They were the real criminals in the town, not these petty thieves and vandals. Not that I was wanting David to lose, just would've been cathartic to see the people who had made the beast in the first place get a taste of their own cruelty.

Also, anyone else reminded a little of the twist in Hot Fuzz?


Cynandre

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Reply #11 on: July 11, 2013, 12:36:49 PM
Also, anyone else reminded a little of the twist in Hot Fuzz?

~raises hand~

Insanity takes it's toll. Please have exact change.


Just Jeff

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Reply #12 on: July 12, 2013, 05:15:10 AM
I was all-in within the first minute. Fantastic reading of a great story. David didn't make a good first impression, but the scene in which he first bleeds...oh, my.



chemistryguy

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Reply #13 on: July 12, 2013, 12:29:53 PM
Loved the idea of a contract specifying which offenses were death sentences.  Loved the demon's solution to free himself.  Loved David's attitude.  Loved the ending.


benjaminjb

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Reply #14 on: July 12, 2013, 06:17:53 PM
I second, third, fourth, hundredth or whatever we're up to now: the narration was exceptional.

As for the story, I enjoyed it also; and the division of crimes into acceptable and unacceptable reminded me of Cabin in the Woods by way of something Scott Westerfeld said: everything the kids get into becomes criminalized by the older establishment. I like also how the magical and demonic narrator can act as de facto omniscient, dipping into various heads and giving their views (or so--always a question of whether we want to trust a narrator, especially one like this). Let's call it third-person malicious pov.



Textual

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Reply #15 on: July 13, 2013, 07:36:33 PM
Is anyone else getting a server error message when they try to answer the demographic survey?



Sgarre1

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Reply #16 on: July 13, 2013, 10:43:35 PM
I just clicked it and got no response so I guess this is Libsyn'd way of letting us know that the survey is over and I no longer need to include the link in episode postings



Lisa3737

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Reply #17 on: July 14, 2013, 12:06:00 AM
This was a FABULOUS story and equally fabulous narration!!



TimWB

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Reply #18 on: July 17, 2013, 08:51:14 PM
Agreed on the voice. He was top notch!



Scattercat

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Reply #19 on: July 18, 2013, 07:52:56 PM
Delightful reading.  Great story.  A very solid episode.  In particular, I loved the bit where the monster is crooning to his contract and his love/hate for it.

The only real issue I had was that the suburbanites had to carry the Idiot Ball in order for the plot to work.  They were also pretty uniformly and unappealingly loathsome, but that's just horror fiction, I guess; the egregiously horrible-for-no-reason people have to exist so they can get their comeuppance.

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Cheshire_Snark

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Reply #20 on: July 24, 2013, 03:10:23 PM
A bit late, but yes, I loved the monster's voice!



doctornemo

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Reply #21 on: September 22, 2013, 06:58:56 PM
A classic story from an underappreciated writer.
And what a tasty reading!



Sgarre1

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Reply #22 on: September 22, 2013, 07:11:34 PM
A classic story from an underappreciated writer.
And what a tasty reading!

More to come from Mr. Newton!



Unblinking

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Reply #23 on: June 24, 2014, 07:18:15 PM
I placed this story as my #20 favorite podcast fiction of all time:
http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2014/06/the-best-podcast-fiction-of-all-time-11-20/