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Author Topic: Pseudopod 342: Riding Atlas  (Read 9222 times)
Bdoomed
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« on: July 19, 2013, 02:32:21 AM »

Pseudopod 342: Riding Atlas

by Ferrett Steinmetz

“Riding Atlas” was first published at Three-Lobed Burning Eye and can be read here. Some people think the medical facts in this must be wrong. I ran it past two doctor pals of mine and a paramedic. It seems incredible, and Ryan IS playing very fast and loose with safety, but you could actually do this. Kind of. Please don’t. And if you do, don’t mention me.

Ferrett Steinmetz lives in Cleveland with his wife, a well-worn copy of Rock Band, two boxes of bees, and a friendly ghost. He’s been nominated for the Nebula, much to his continued astonishment, and has published over twenty-five stories since rebooting his writing career five years ago. Ferrett blogs regularly about puns, polyamory, and politics at his blog FERRETT - that’s two “R”s, and two “Ts”. He usually has a few upcoming stories, so if you liked this one, there’s probably more like it at his site.

Your reader this week - Chris Reynaga - is a multiple award-winning writer with stories appearing Cemetery Dance, The Drabblecast, and The Book of Cthulhu 2. You can enter his magical reality at CHRIS REYNAGA’S MAGICAL REALITY.



“They were naked, now, on a dirty mattress.

‘Neither of you have eaten or drunk anything for twenty-four hours?” Ryan asked, hauling equipment into the room: sloshing plastic buckets, packs of hypodermic needles, coils of tubing, straps. “And no drugs in your system? This is a pure trip. Just two bloods commingling. Any impurities will stop Atlas from getting inside you.’

Stewart didn’t answer. He was too distracted by all the naked couples. The attic floor was covered with bodies, lying belly to swollen belly on bedbug-blackened box springs. Their arms were thrust out above their heads, ears resting on their biceps; they clasped hands like lovers, each couple’s circulatory systems knitted into a single bloodstream.

Stewart felt his arms itch where the needles would be inserted, anticipation and fear churning into a sour mix in his gut. But Tina was ready, as she always was for things like this. She’d dragged him here, telling him they had to do this now, before they outlawed consanguination just like they’d outlawed LSD.”




Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
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jpv
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« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2013, 12:40:53 PM »

Well that was different.

I liked how they author described everything; the little details made it really easy to picture things as the narrator was experiencing them, even when it wandered off into the strange.

The consanguination (love that word!) is a neat idea. It's one of those things that I've always wandered if it could work (given the need / want to do it in the first place), but would never personally try. A similar idea (direct blood transfusion) found it's way into my NaNoWriMo last year and I got a fair few disbelieving comments on it. Also, the 'don't try this at home' disclaimer is highly amusing.

I sort of wander though how they would disconnect though? Hooking directly into the veins, it seems like that would get complicated.
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2013, 12:26:52 PM »

I came into this story disinclined to like it. I haven't liked a single Ferrett Steinmetz story thus far, and not only did I truly despise his fairy unicorn story on Podcastle (I can't recall the name), but I thought his author's note was particularly arrogant and obnoxious. So, I admit it, I was sitting through the first half of this story just waiting for Steinmetz to piss me off.

I was pleasantly surprised.

This was a neat, gritty, and surprisingly high-concept tale. I liked it.

My only beef was that I got a little sick of how often Steinmetz felt the need to drive home just how dumb and boring and conventional the main character was. Having a dumb and boring and conventional person to kick around seems important to him. I understand why the main character had to be a fairly conventional person - to provide contrast to his surroundings and make his eventual conversion mean something - but... it's hard to connect to a story when the author clearly dislikes the character that intensely, you know?
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flintknapper
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« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2013, 12:42:44 PM »

This is a great piece. It is not my favorite Steinmetz. I think Run is better. However, this is a great story nonetheless.

One of the things Ferrett does extremely well in all of his stories is express time. His characters experience some extremely arduous and time-consuming (physical and mental) journeys. He imparts these on the reader, but you never feel like the narrative is dragging.

I looked at this piece as a science fiction commentary on the counterculture of the late 60s and early 70s. Finding one's identity and experimentation can be terrifying times. That being said, the science fiction elements could have easily placed this one in Escapepod, but given the graphic nature and horrific undertones... I got to say I am happy with its placement on pseudopod.
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adrianh
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« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2013, 03:50:40 PM »

Liked this rather a lot. Narration and story both.

Olaf Stapleton mashed up with Lovecroft with a side order of William S. Burroughs.

Pleasantly disturbing ;-)
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BlueGildedCage
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« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2013, 11:57:14 AM »

Thankfully I'd never heard of this writer before, so was able to go in untainted by expectations. (Although am horrified to hear he wrote stories about... what was it... fairy unicorns??  *shudder*)  This was pretty fantastic.

Not sure what his inspiration was, but a few things crossed my mind while listening to it.  Above all it had me thinking about that well-known idea that if a couple is in trouble, the intimacy of going on holiday together will either make or break their bond.  In a far more dramatic way, it seems that this is what it was about for the protagonist and his gal in terms of their relationship.  Bed bugs and all.  This made it easy for me, at least, to relate to on a 'realistic' level.  The rest is all great true-horror imagination, which is the fun that keeps horror fans fed.

Part of me wishes we'd been given a bit more background on what exactly this Atlas Beast is all about, but then again maybe the mystery is just as good.



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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2013, 02:30:34 PM »

Although am horrified to hear he wrote stories about... what was it... fairy unicorns??  *shudder*

Come on, man. Don't go all macho on us. It's a lousy story, but not because it's about faeries and unicorns. Faeries and unicorns are perfectly valid subjects for stories.
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« Reply #7 on: July 23, 2013, 01:54:31 AM »

Hi guys, am I crazy?  I'm hearing audio for our host's welcoming intro, but nothing after that.  This makes me sad, but like I said, hopefully not crazy.  Any ideas?  I usually have no trouble at all.  Smiley
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« Reply #8 on: July 23, 2013, 07:00:29 AM »

Hi guys, am I crazy?  I'm hearing audio for our host's welcoming intro, but nothing after that.  This makes me sad, but like I said, hopefully not crazy.  Any ideas?  I usually have no trouble at all.  Smiley

I noticed that the narration was significantly quieter than the rest of the presentation. I had to pump my car's speakers up to 30, and my phone up to 80%, to hear it clearly while driving. Normally for intros/outros I can do 15-20 and 70-75%, respectively.
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Sgarre1
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« Reply #9 on: July 23, 2013, 07:23:44 AM »

I suggest trying a re-download - there were audio issues with this episode that lead to the delay.  It was tweaked and posted, but I believe Graeme then did a second tweak to bring up bass levels, so I'd say try a re-download -  but, yes, regardless, it is quieter than the host intro.

Shawn
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« Reply #10 on: July 23, 2013, 09:40:33 PM »

Although am horrified to hear he wrote stories about... what was it... fairy unicorns??  *shudder*

Come on, man. Don't go all macho on us. It's a lousy story, but not because it's about faeries and unicorns. Faeries and unicorns are perfectly valid subjects for stories.

Meaning that I, personally, me, shudder at Fantasy themes.  No need to call this up or take this personally.
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« Reply #11 on: July 23, 2013, 09:42:29 PM »

It was tweaked and posted, but I believe Graeme then did a second tweak to bring up bass levels...
Shawn

Yup, I did.
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notquiterandom
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« Reply #12 on: July 24, 2013, 05:47:02 AM »

I suggest trying a re-download - there were audio issues with this episode that lead to the delay.  It was tweaked and posted, but I believe Graeme then did a second tweak to bring up bass levels, so I'd say try a re-download -  but, yes, regardless, it is quieter than the host intro.

Shawn

Thank you so much!
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notquiterandom
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« Reply #13 on: July 24, 2013, 05:48:14 AM »

Hi guys, am I crazy?  I'm hearing audio for our host's welcoming intro, but nothing after that.  This makes me sad, but like I said, hopefully not crazy.  Any ideas?  I usually have no trouble at all.  Smiley

I noticed that the narration was significantly quieter than the rest of the presentation. I had to pump my car's speakers up to 30, and my phone up to 80%, to hear it clearly while driving. Normally for intros/outros I can do 15-20 and 70-75%, respectively.

Thanks for your help.  Smiley
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Cheshire_Snark
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« Reply #14 on: July 24, 2013, 09:09:00 AM »

I got a very different feeling from the story than the above commenters, and also differed from the outro's comments --

To me it seemed like the bedbugs were a metaphor for how tiny humankind was; as the bedbugs are to the humans in the attic, so the humans are to the Atlas Beast (but even more so). The end of the story, where all of the Consanguinated were reduced to the basic need to reproduce and try to fill the emptiness, seemed to re-emphasise the point.

The mechanics of the consanguination process were really interesting, but the real twist of the knife seemed to be in the self-delusion of the narrating character: he's had this epiphany about the ultimate meaning of the universe, and it's filled him with all of these wonderful feelings and a sense of awesomeness; but looking at him from the outside all the listener sees is bruised, bedsore-covered strangers crawling over eachother on stained mattresses in a filthy forgotten attic room. To me that seemed to be the main horror of the story.

Thoughts?
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« Reply #15 on: July 24, 2013, 11:18:55 AM »

I got a very different feeling from the story than the above commenters, and also differed from the outro's comments --

To me it seemed like the bedbugs were a metaphor for how tiny humankind was; as the bedbugs are to the humans in the attic, so the humans are to the Atlas Beast (but even more so). The end of the story, where all of the Consanguinated were reduced to the basic need to reproduce and try to fill the emptiness, seemed to re-emphasise the point.

The mechanics of the consanguination process were really interesting, but the real twist of the knife seemed to be in the self-delusion of the narrating character: he's had this epiphany about the ultimate meaning of the universe, and it's filled him with all of these wonderful feelings and a sense of awesomeness; but looking at him from the outside all the listener sees is bruised, bedsore-covered strangers crawling over eachother on stained mattresses in a filthy forgotten attic room. To me that seemed to be the main horror of the story.

Thoughts?

Honestly, I found the horror somewhat lacking, I just hate "oh this story isn't X enough for me" conversations with a fiery passion. I suppose I'm so inured to the idea that a character could be having a subjectively transcendent experience, despite outward signs of squalor, that I'm willing to give his insight the benefit of the doubt.
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« Reply #16 on: July 25, 2013, 08:27:01 AM »

To me it seemed like the bedbugs were a metaphor for how tiny humankind was; as the bedbugs are to the humans in the attic, so the humans are to the Atlas Beast (but even more so). The end of the story, where all of the Consanguinated were reduced to the basic need to reproduce and try to fill the emptiness, seemed to re-emphasise the point.

That was my reading of the bed bugs too.
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evrgrn_monster
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« Reply #17 on: July 27, 2013, 11:35:04 AM »

Its not that I particularly disliked this story, because I think I did, but I can't really make up my mind. Part of it came from my dislike for pretty much all the characters; the guy was whiny and annoying, and the other two characters were very much in the hippie "holier-than-thou" camp, which I never find to be engaging. That being said, there were good attention to detail and the narrative itself was interesting, though I think there was a bit too much focusing on the sores and the accusations of being drugged. I wanted a bit more of the experience of actually finding Atlas, as opposed to listening to the main character keep complaining.

The narration was solid though. I loved the way he said Atlas, with an "Ah" instead of a hard "A." Made it seem more alien for some reason.
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« Reply #18 on: July 27, 2013, 06:26:11 PM »

Finally got to listen to this and found myself very engaged in the story.  Like the first of Steinmetz's stories I heard, I was struck by the darkness and pain of it.  Really felt myself wrapped up in it.
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« Reply #19 on: August 01, 2013, 12:32:47 PM »

This seemed to me to be almost a thought exercise into how one could worship a Lovecraftian horror.  Not just the nihilistic "We're all doomed anyway" stuff you tend to get from cultists in most of the pulp lit, nor the "acts just like a normal religious person except the deity is even more overtly horrifying than most mainstream religions" that you get when the author hasn't thought about it much, but actual sincere devotion and adoration of a cosmic, universe-devouring god of pain and hunger.  And I think it worked really well; if I ever do roleplaying again and need cultists worshiping something horrid, I'm definitely taking a page out of this book.
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« Reply #20 on: August 01, 2013, 05:59:37 PM »

I came into this story disinclined to like it. I haven't liked a single Ferrett Steinmetz story thus far, and not only did I truly despise his fairy unicorn story on Podcastle (I can't recall the name), but I thought his author's note was particularly arrogant and obnoxious.

Sir, I respectfully suggest that your memory has betrayed you (though not about the unicorn one).

(Yes, yes, terrifying that I actually remember this, I know. Maybe there is some magic in me after all, I guess?)
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« Reply #21 on: August 02, 2013, 09:10:17 PM »

I really enjoyed the sideways slip into Lovecraftian cosmic horror. I remember on the "Ol' Dagon Dark" story, some commenters noted that the title gave away the Lovecraftian outcome; here, with no hint that we might end up contemplating our cosmic (in)significance, it was a pleasant surprise to find the atlas opened to Arkham country.

That said, as much as I enjoyed the craft with which Ferrett Steinmetz put us in the head of a guy which was not a comfortable fit now--but whose issues, frankly, I think I could identify with in my past--I can't say I loved it since so very little happened beyond this drug-like experience and realization. In other words, I'd have liked it twice as much at half the length.
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« Reply #22 on: August 07, 2013, 07:03:38 PM »

I came into this story disinclined to like it. I haven't liked a single Ferrett Steinmetz story thus far, and not only did I truly despise his fairy unicorn story on Podcastle (I can't recall the name), but I thought his author's note was particularly arrogant and obnoxious.

Sir, I respectfully suggest that your memory has betrayed you (though not about the unicorn one).

(Yes, yes, terrifying that I actually remember this, I know. Maybe there is some magic in me after all, I guess?)

I know! I was just chatting with Scattercat, and he reminded me how much I loved the giant squid story. It's true! I though that one was brilliant.

I think your memory is kind of awesome. Me, I have a terrible memory. I kind of drift through life, misplacing anything that hasn't been relevant for a while. My wife finds it annoying; me, I think I have the temperament for immortality.

But yes, I withdraw my earlier comment. I was incorrect. More truthfully, I have an extremely up-and-down relationship with Ferret's stories. I love the giant squid, hated the faery unicorns, and thought this one was quite good, but not extraordinary.
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« Reply #23 on: August 08, 2013, 12:20:28 AM »

I guess you just make an impression, sir. I hope immortality treats you well Smiley

I seem to recall you totally digging Devour too (and I don't feel quite as embarrassed about remembering that one, as I read it).
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« Reply #24 on: August 08, 2013, 12:59:15 AM »

I guess you just make an impression, sir. I hope immortality treats you well Smiley

I seem to recall you totally digging Devour too (and I don't feel quite as embarrassed about remembering that one, as I read it).

Devour was him too? I loved that one.

Man... I need to keep better track of my authors.
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« Reply #25 on: October 10, 2013, 02:35:17 PM »

Ferrett Steinmetz has become one of the major authors that I watch for short stories from because he so consistently hits the right mark, with good speculation, compelling characters, great imagination--to an extent that he's on a par with Tim Pratt who I've cited as my clear favorite short story writer for years.  But this one I found quite lackluster, easily my least favorite Steinmetz story.

The whole thing read like a journal about a first trip on any kind of hallucinogen.  Which is okay, I guess, if you couldn't already find accounts of those from anyone who has taken a hallucinogen--it's not like they'd be hard to find.  While the telling was convincing enough that I could believe that this was a real experience, I just didn't care.

It really didn't help that the main character just irritated the hell out of me.  If you need to go through a hallucinogenic experience that you really don't want to take to save a relationship because you think she might leave you, maybe you need to reconsider her investment in your relationship. If she's that easy to lose, let her go.  Obviously it's easier to say that from the outside--I'm sure that breaking up wouldn't be easy, but it was just so clearly the right thing to do here, to me, that the whole story's motivations didn't work, and when nothing much happened other than the drug trip... bleh.

I'll still watch for the next Steinmetz story closely, as this is the only time I've felt disappointed that I can remember.
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Sgarre1
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« Reply #26 on: November 15, 2013, 03:01:41 PM »

Got a (brief) mention on the Human Echoes Podcast

http://humanechoespodcast.blogspot.com/2013/11/hep-62-dont-cut-rope.html
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kcc1982
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« Reply #27 on: November 17, 2013, 11:13:42 AM »

There is something wrong with the audio from this episode. Even when I stream it directly from the page.
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Bdoomed
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« Reply #28 on: November 17, 2013, 03:01:33 PM »

There is something wrong with the audio from this episode. Even when I stream it directly from the page.

How so?
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« Reply #29 on: November 17, 2013, 05:18:20 PM »

Seems to occur when I advance it. The audio gets really muffled and its barely even audible.
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« Reply #30 on: December 13, 2013, 10:17:00 AM »

This story just didn't work for me, and I ended up ditching it about 10 minutes in.  I found the writing style to be good, but the topic and approach was making me feel uncomfortable (I don't especially like needles...)  And, the thought of a story that seemed like it was going to be all about an experience getting high wasn't something that especially appealed to me.

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« Reply #31 on: July 29, 2017, 09:09:27 AM »

This is my alltime favorite Pseudopod story and every now and then I come back to listen to it again.
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