Escape Artists

News:

News

ATTENTION: NEW FORUM THEME Please see here for details: http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?topic=13188.0

Author Topic: Pseudopod 343: Magdala Amygdala  (Read 15172 times)

Bdoomed

  • Pseudopod Tiger
  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 5305
  • Mmm. Tiger.
on: July 22, 2013, 04:42:57 AM
Pseudopod 343: Magdala Amygdala

by Lucy Snyder

“Magdala Amygdala” originally appeared in DARK FAITH: INVOCATIONS (Apex Book Company, October 2012) and has been selected for inclusion in the next volume of Ellen Datlow’s BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR anthology and recently won this year’s Bram Stoker Award. I wrote this when I was working the graveyard shift in a large computer data center. Third shift can do terrible things to your brain after a while, because often you just don’t get the right kind of sleep (if you can sleep at all during the day; I never got the hang of it), and it kills your social life dead. I felt disconnected and zombified, and my short-term memory was starting to slip. My story came out of that experience, specifically my wondering what if I’d been put on that shift precisely because I couldn’t be allowed around normal people.

Lucy Snyder is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of the novels SPELLBENT, SHOTGUN SORCERESS, SWITCHBLADE GODDESS, and the collections SPARKS AND SHADOWS, CHIMERIC MACHINES, and INSTALLING LINUX ON A DEAD BADGER. Her writing has appeared in publications such as Strange Horizons, Weird Tales, Hellbound Hearts, Chiaroscuro, GUD, and Dark Faith. You can learn more about her at her website.

Your reader this week – Eugie Foster -calls home a mildly haunted, fey-infested house in metro Atlanta that she shares with her husband, Matthew. Eugie received the 2009 Nebula Award for her novelette, “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast,” and the 2011 and 2012 Drabblecast People’s Choice Award for Best Story for “The Wish of the Demon Achtromagk” and “Little Grace of the House of Death”, respectively. Her fiction has also been translated into eight languages and nominated for the Hugo and British Science Fiction Association awards. Her short story collections, RETURNING MY SISTER’S FACE AND OTHER FAR EASTERN TALES OF WHIMSY AND MALICE and MORTAL CLAY, STONE HEART AND OTHER STORIES IN SHADES OF BLACK AND WHITE, are available as ebooks for the Kindle and other ebook readers, as are a number of my short stories. Links and more information at my website.



“I have excellent health insurance. There’s no bliss for me. What I and every other upstanding, gainfully-employed, fully-covered Type Three citizen gets is an allotment of refrigerated capsules containing an unappetizing grey paste. Mostly it’s cow brains and antioxidant vitamins with just the barest hint of pureed cadaver white matter. It’s enough to keep your skin and brains from ulcerating. It’s enough to keep your nose from rotting off. It’s enough to help you think clearly enough to function at your average white-collar job.

It is not enough to keep you from constantly wishing you could taste the real thing.”




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?


Moltenink

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 3
Reply #1 on: July 22, 2013, 11:59:31 AM
I enjoyed this story immensely. One of my favorite things to see in any kind of Zombie themed media ( can we call this Zombie themed?  I suppose as long as we aren't too picky the shoe seems to fit ) is the idea that the source of the outbreak is continually changing the afflicted into something greater and more horrifying then the hungry, plodding dead.  The idea that the final stage of this mutation is beyond what the average person will ever witness is something that really appeals to me.

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the blending of three very different creatures / Mythos into one story.  I suppose if I thought about it I would equate the reaction to that old Reese's commercial "Hey you got Peanut butter on my Chocolate!"  with the end result being just as pleasing as those delicious Hershey's treats.

Great Story.  Now excuse me while I find a vending machine.



flintknapper

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 323
Reply #2 on: July 22, 2013, 02:50:32 PM
Like what Molt said,

I enjoyed this one. I like the blending of different horror subgenres. I was actually convinced they were ghouls until the wings and such at the end.

This story also hit home for me, especially what Alasdair said at the end. In the real world my focus in archaeology has been the impacts of European Colonialism on Native Americans, particularly disease sweeps and their effects on population. I was a student (both undergrad and grad) of Ann Ramenofsky who wrote Vectors of Death, many years ago. It was the first time anyone went to great lengths to illustrate, through the archaeological record, the direct impacts of de Soto Expedition on the Native Americans living in the SE US. Short version is Hernando's group documented these large native American villages and extensive trade networks. However, by the time anyone got back to the area to see these things de Soto's men had described, it was gone. The population had been decimated. The old societies had collapsed and new cultures had formed in subsequent years.

Unlike the Coronado Expedition in the southwest, De Soto's force was relatively small and this loss was not the result of rampant warfare or even disease transmitted by the conquistadors. As part of their baggage train, they drove a large number of hogs through the area. Many of these hogs ended up wandering off. Most now believe that a disease jumped from the hogs to human carriers. The Native Americans having no exposure to the disease were decimated. Moreover once the disease jumped to human hosts it swept into areas which had no contact with European populations. It followed along the prehistoric Native American trade networks. It flared and then quieted down only to flare up and die down again and again. It continued until many of those networks of contact dissolved and society collapsed. It is from this societal collapse that the ethnogenesis of many of the eastern woodland tribes we know today occurred.

I guess what I am saying in way to many words is that like Alasdair and the author said, it wasn't one event. It was numerous events spreading across the landscape until the society could no longer sustain itself. When it did change, it was not the society as a whole that transformed, but rather the survivors, the fraction that had lived through the event and adapted, that shaped the new culture.   

Alright... I said way too much. Great story. Loved it. It was also one of the most cringe worthy episodes I think I have heard. The description of the brain licking/eating (whatever you want to call it) was almost too intense for me.



nathonicus

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 14
Reply #3 on: July 22, 2013, 06:23:54 PM
I really did not like this story, for precisely the reasons y'all liked it. Which I guess just goes to show we all have different taste! :D

But really, I was pulled in at first, then I started to get a bit bored during the middle, when I realized that it was just another take on eroticized vampirism, although milking it from a more disgusting angle (brain-sauce...mmmm!).  Then in the third act it shifts gears entirely, and instead of getting a story we get a giant, first-person info dump.

This third act is so wildly out of tune with the opening, pseudo-scientific descriptions of what all the survivors are going through, that it feels completely tacked on, as if the author was unsatisfied with the end and decided to go someplace "different" but didn't bother to rework the first part of the story to offer any sort of logical transition to the final revelation.

The narrator also seemed to be totally flat as a character, so I couldn't care less about her transformation at the end, or really, anything she was going through.  There was nothing left to her except not wanting to be discovered and her hunger, which just doesn't make for a very interesting character, especially in the first person.  Without some other elements of her personality coming through, I started to find her very obnoxious, as she only displayed neediness and fear of being caught.

I feel rather bad being so negative - after all, someone put some work into this - but the story just doesn't work for me.





ElectricPaladin

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1005
  • Holy Robot
    • Burning Zeppelin Experience
Reply #4 on: July 22, 2013, 09:59:14 PM
I loved this one! The narrator's slow slide into madness, the soft apocalypse, the virus-as-agent-of-darkness... it was great. This is exactly what I come to horror for. Thank you!

Captain of the Burning Zeppelin Experience.

Help my kids get the educational supplies they need at my Donor's Choose page.


Mouseneb

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 48
    • 差得远
Reply #5 on: July 23, 2013, 12:45:51 AM
Haven't finished listening to this yet, got so nauseous during the hotel room feeding scene I had to stop listening, and get off the bus one stop early. I do plan to finish it though, (can't bear the thought of missing Alasdair's outro!) just perhaps when I'm not on lurching public transportation. Or any transportation, for that matter. Ugh, matter... brain matter.... excuse me for a minute...

Every day is an adventure.


adrianh

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 752
    • quietstars
Reply #6 on: July 23, 2013, 09:25:14 AM
One silly minor thing that just threw me completely out of the story. The cerebrospinal fluid. If vampire lady is losing that she's:

a) In serious trouble medically and unlikely to survive for very long.

b) In crippling pain. Like worst-migraine-ever x 10 (as described to me by somebody who had lost CSF during a back operation.)

I know... I know... fiction... but it just killed my suspension of disbelief. That, and the potpourri of themes at the end left this one as a just-okay for me despite the lovely writing.



ElectricPaladin

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1005
  • Holy Robot
    • Burning Zeppelin Experience
Reply #7 on: July 23, 2013, 04:10:07 PM
One silly minor thing that just threw me completely out of the story. The cerebrospinal fluid. If vampire lady is losing that she's:

a) In serious trouble medically and unlikely to survive for very long.

b) In crippling pain. Like worst-migraine-ever x 10 (as described to me by somebody who had lost CSF during a back operation.)

I know... I know... fiction... but it just killed my suspension of disbelief. That, and the potpourri of themes at the end left this one as a just-okay for me despite the lovely writing.

Yeah, the medical thing that bothered me - though it didn't throw me out of the story - was this: if being a Type 2/Type 3 means that you stop making the right enzymes to repair your body without stealing them from others, how was the blood/cerebrospinal fluid of a fellow sufferer useful? I'd imagine that both women would end the... er... interaction with less of the juice they needed, given that digestive systems are not 100% efficient, rather than more.

Captain of the Burning Zeppelin Experience.

Help my kids get the educational supplies they need at my Donor's Choose page.


Moltenink

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 3
Reply #8 on: July 23, 2013, 07:11:05 PM
I think that the reason our brains went straight to that annoying fact center and started poking holes in the story is that early on the author established a set of rules based on medical facts that most people are familiar with, at least on some small level.  Those rules for the world are now set and we have established a certain plausibility level that the rest of the story MUST follow.

Now taken out of context of the story we are also all relatively familiar with the idea that Vampires regenerate injuries very quickly and that perhaps (depending on the kind of vampire) that ability is fueled by the consumption of blood.

We are also aware that zombies are full of blood.  It is a fact that when you dispatch the walking dead the act is often accompanied with fountains of gore.

Those two concepts on their own seem to make the symbiotic relationship work.  But like I said when you establish rules for a world you are writing in and then deviate even slightly from them... well its the same as painting bright neon circles around any plot holes you might have left.



Sgarre1

  • Editor
  • *****
  • Posts: 1211
  • "Let There Be Fright!"
Reply #9 on: July 23, 2013, 07:59:48 PM
While I understand the reasoning, in this case I don't agree - the ending, which was what sold me on purchasing it - is a wholesale eruption of the awful mythic into the rational world.  I love surrealism done right, even though surrealism and narrative rarely mesh well. YMMV, obviously.



kibitzer

  • Purveyor of Unsolicited Opinions
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 2228
  • Kibitzer: A meddler who offers unwanted advice
Reply #10 on: July 24, 2013, 02:44:37 AM
Alright... I said way too much.

Haven't noticed that's ever a problem 'round here. Please, feel free to say as much as you like :)


Moltenink

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 3
Reply #11 on: July 24, 2013, 02:32:52 PM
Oh for sure.  I enjoyed the story quite a lot.  Just playing devil's advocate. :)



Cheshire_Snark

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 62
Reply #12 on: July 24, 2013, 03:08:15 PM
I very nearly didn't make it to the end of this one (that'd be a first for me with Pseudopod) but I'm glad I did - even if I did, desperately, want to skip over the whole hotel-room scene.

I'd agree with above posts - the medical-esque aspects made parts of the story harder to believe (even as the descriptions of the process made me want to crawl out of my skin).

The segue into the Cthulhu-mythos right at the end redeemed this story for me - otherwise I probably would have dismissed it as a(n admittedly very effective) bit of gross-out porn. It raised some questions and I like that they're not answered: is the process of Archiving inherent in every sentient species created by the Great Old Ones? Is the virus something encoded into all species and triggered at a certain point? (Is this what the Mi-Go do before they get around to putting brains in cylinders??) Also - I hadn't heard of the concept of a soft apocalypse before, it's a really elegant term - thanks for sharing :)

(Apologies for the comments-blitz on the last few episodes, btw - I'm doing graphics for my dissertation and am catching up on podcast back-issues to fill the quiet).



Mouseneb

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 48
    • 差得远
Reply #13 on: July 25, 2013, 02:18:57 AM
I did finally finish listening to this one - not gonna lie, it's not one of my favorites here. I am glad to see I wasn't the only one who found this one extra-disgusting. Felt like a bit of a wuss for getting so grossed out, especially since I live in China and brains are actually on the menu here. Just not human brains... I hope. Seriously, all those type-3's should just move over here, they'd be just fine!

Every day is an adventure.


BlueGildedCage

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 12
Reply #14 on: July 25, 2013, 03:40:18 AM
Loved every cringe-inducing second of this!!  One of the things that I think makes horror so special is that it has so many sub-genres, so many levels.  It's been a while since a Pseudopod story had me drop what I was doing to stare in half-grin shock at my laptop. 

Like some, I also thought we were on the zombie/ghoul track until the wing scene.  I took that as a sort of final twist, which (for me at least) worked into what felt like a very elegant (and dark) ending.

Also, to put in a quick fem spin, I love that a woman wrote something as visceral as this.  Some folks don't expect that.  Here's to us turning heads in the horror genre!

Last, last thing:

Felt like a bit of a wuss for getting so grossed out, especially since I live in China and brains are actually on the menu here. Just not human brains... I

No way Mouseneb, I'm in China, too!

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


Mouseneb

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 48
    • 差得远
Reply #15 on: July 25, 2013, 03:50:31 AM
I'm in Haikou, Hainan. Whereabouts are you, BlueGildedCage?

Every day is an adventure.


Fenrix

  • Curmudgeonly Co-Editor of PseudoPod
  • Editor
  • *****
  • Posts: 3919
  • I always lock the door when I creep by daylight.
Reply #16 on: July 25, 2013, 11:47:49 AM
Really effective body horror by itself doesn't save a piece of work (see: Prometheus). But really effective body horror can support a good work being great (see: Alien). I think this story falls into the latter category, and think it was a good buy for PseudoPod.

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


evrgrn_monster

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 356
  • SQUAW, MY OPINIONS.
Reply #17 on: July 27, 2013, 04:50:25 PM
I did a little happy dance at the end of this story when I realized it was going the Lovecraft route. So satisfying. This story has one the best endings I've heard lately. It's a happy ending for our main character and anyone else who's on the "right" side of that particular fence.

I agree, it had its gross bits, but I think they really added to the flavor of the story. It's important for me for there to be a reason for violence, which is why I never quite got into the torture porn movie trend, and this violence had a reason.

There were three details that really stood out to me.
The scene of the man breaking the woman's skull across the ground, then looking up and making eye contact with our main character, and smiling at her like an old friend. That made me understand her quite a bit more. She saw herself in the monster, while everyone else around her saw themselves in the woman, like a normal person would. It must be truly horrifying to have the worst part of you, the part you want to hide from everyone else, acknowledge you like that.
The entire hotel scene was very graphic, but the fact that Lucy brought her own oyster knife? Man. Also, I was grocery shopping during this scene. I do not recommend grocery shopping through this scene.
The last thing that really stood out to me was that unlike a lot of monsters, in the end, the main goal isn't to destroy humanity, but to preserve it. Plus, not only to preserve it, but to keep the best of us, the best of humanity, and keep it eternal.

Overall, great story. Very much glad you guys picked it up.


Balu

  • Guest
Reply #18 on: July 28, 2013, 12:41:55 AM
Haven't finished listening to this yet, got so nauseous during the hotel room feeding scene I had to stop listening, and get off the bus one stop early. I do plan to finish it though, (can't bear the thought of missing Alasdair's outro!) just perhaps when I'm not on lurching public transportation. Or any transportation, for that matter. Ugh, matter... brain matter.... excuse me for a minute...

Me too. I've never turned off a Pseudopod story for being too disgusting before, but this one . . . eeeugh!

Puke-making is a perfectly legitimate part of the genre, of course, but it's a part I really dislike. I'm disappointed that this one went that way. Up until then I was really into it.





Cynandre

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 37
  • I May be Addicted to Words...
    • Cynandre
Reply #19 on: July 29, 2013, 06:57:38 AM
I found this one very interesting. Lovecraftian vampiric zombies... Would not want to be one, but still interesting.

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


Metalsludge

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 76
Reply #20 on: August 04, 2013, 11:12:07 AM
I feel like I read this one back in the day and promptly forgot it as it didn't make much of an impression on me. Yet, according to the notes, it's a relatively new story. Mmm....

As others here have noted, it does feel a bit familiar as yet another eroticized zombie/vampire story, which may explain my deja vu. I still recall the time period during the 90's or so when a flood of grim and gross out zombie and splatter porn stories (Two Book of the Dead anthologies and who knows how many other stories in other collections.) appeared on the scene. As a teen, I got exposed to one too many and got jaded fast. That said, this story ends strongly enough to elevate it from this now familiar territory.

The author seems to have been a relatively young person coping with a case of suddenly being disconnected from her usual social and life experiences due to an isolating and mind numbing job, something many people can surely relate to, and this shows throughout the story. The inspiration could have led to just another story whining about the workplace, but I actually think it was intriguing to get the viewpoint of the infected instead of those running away from them, though the middle does indeed drag a bit. And yes, the fun and suddenly poetic conclusion does just about redeem the whole story, whatever its flaws.

I liked the bits about having to pretend to be normal and to not be thinking about eating people. While none of us have been zombies, most of us can relate to situations where you have to pretend everything is cool, as there are dire consequences if you crack.





Scattercat

  • Caution:
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 4880
  • Amateur wordsmith
    • Mirrorshards
Reply #21 on: August 07, 2013, 07:10:20 PM
This was highly entertaining, I thought, and the ending shift seemed appropriate, though I think I could have done with less of a clinical beginning if we're going to go mythic.  When you open with what appears to be at least plausible science and then go straight into magical healing and thence to elder gods, it puts a bit of a strain on the reader.  That is, if you're going to have the Old Ones awaken at the end of your story, you don't need to generate a pseudoscience explanation of how smelling brain chemicals enables someone to read thoughts, y'know?  I dunno.  

Good story, anyway.

---
Mirrorshards: Very Short Stories
100 Words.  No more.  No fewer.  Every day.
Splinters of Silver and Glass - The Mirrorshards Book


Fenrix

  • Curmudgeonly Co-Editor of PseudoPod
  • Editor
  • *****
  • Posts: 3919
  • I always lock the door when I creep by daylight.
Reply #22 on: August 07, 2013, 11:10:00 PM
This was highly entertaining, I thought, and the ending shift seemed appropriate, though I think I could have done with less of a clinical beginning if we're going to go mythic.  When you open with what appears to be at least plausible science and then go straight into magical healing and thence to elder gods, it puts a bit of a strain on the reader.  That is, if you're going to have the Old Ones awaken at the end of your story, you don't need to generate a pseudoscience explanation of how smelling brain chemicals enables someone to read thoughts, y'know?  I dunno.  

Good story, anyway.

I dunno. There were plenty of (pseudo)science concepts worked into Lovecraft's works that were at least plausible for the time period. The first one that comes to mind is "The Colour Out of Space" where the creatures are invisible because they emit/reflect at a wavelength not found on Earth.

"Stubbornly refusing to grow cool, it soon had the college in a state of real excitement; and when upon heating before the spectroscope it displayed shining bands unlike any known colours of the normal spectrum there was much breathless talk of new elements, bizarre optical properties, and other things which puzzled men of science are wont to say when faced by the unknown."

This is the thing that kills everything around the farm which is part of the area that is flooded to become part of the new water resevoir for Arkham. Don't drink the water.

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


Cheshire_Snark

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 62
Reply #23 on: August 10, 2013, 09:57:00 AM
This was highly entertaining, I thought, and the ending shift seemed appropriate, though I think I could have done with less of a clinical beginning if we're going to go mythic.  When you open with what appears to be at least plausible science and then go straight into magical healing and thence to elder gods, it puts a bit of a strain on the reader.  That is, if you're going to have the Old Ones awaken at the end of your story, you don't need to generate a pseudoscience explanation of how smelling brain chemicals enables someone to read thoughts, y'know?  I dunno. 

Good story, anyway.

I dunno. There were plenty of (pseudo)science concepts worked into Lovecraft's works that were at least plausible for the time period. The first one that comes to mind is "The Colour Out of Space" where the creatures are invisible because they emit/reflect at a wavelength not found on Earth.

"Stubbornly refusing to grow cool, it soon had the college in a state of real excitement; and when upon heating before the spectroscope it displayed shining bands unlike any known colours of the normal spectrum there was much breathless talk of new elements, bizarre optical properties, and other things which puzzled men of science are wont to say when faced by the unknown."

This is the thing that kills everything around the farm which is part of the area that is flooded to become part of the new water resevoir for Arkham. Don't drink the water.

I remember having an archaeogeek moment of joy when he referenced Piltdown Man in "The Rats in the Walls" - because yes, that was an accepted part of human ancestry at the time and was only exposed as a fraud much later. Doesn't he also tie in the discovery of Pluto in to the end of the "Whisperer in Darkness"?

And yes, thanks to "The Colour out of Space" I'm always a little creeped out by oversize produce and quiet reservoirs.



Unblinking

  • Sir Postsalot
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 8729
    • Diabolical Plots
Reply #24 on: October 10, 2013, 07:13:40 PM
I generally liked this one, though I'll echo others in that I thought it was a little jarring when the mostly sciencey kind of explanation went into clear non-science--for me the switch came with the magical healing. 

I thought the tension of these creatures trying to exist in normal society while trying not to eat people was well portrayed, kind of gave me a sense of alcoholism but with extra moral problems when indulging will generally end up with someone dying.

Hmm... everyone is mentioning a Lovecraftian ending, and I have vague memory of reacting to that while reading, but the details of that have apparently left my brain.  So I guess I can't really comment on whether that worked or not.