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Author Topic: Pseudopod 347: Flash On The Borderlands XVI: Trial & Discipline  (Read 5592 times)
Bdoomed
Pseudopod Tiger
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« on: August 18, 2013, 03:03:22 AM »

Pseudopod 347: Flash On The Borderlands XVI: Trial & Discipline

"Passing Grade" by Paul DesCombaz

This story has not been published elsewhere.  Paul says, “This is the middle of the story. I have only a vague idea what happens before or after.”

PAUL DesCOMBAZ lives in Saint Paul, MN. “Passing Grade” is his second sale..

Read by Kyle Akers, the frontman of Antennas Up, an electro-pop rock band from Kansas City. A budding voice talent, he continues to expand his reading roles across several podcasts. Antennas Up’s new album “The Awkward Phase” is available on Spotify, iTunes and from antennasupmusic.com.

“This wasn’t cutesy time. You don’t get personal with the bad things coming for you. You don’t make sweet talk to nightmares. Just make it through to the other end. That’s your only job. Or something along those lines.”



“The Killing Machine” by Karen Runge

This story has never been formally published before, but an edited version was presented at the 2nd Open Reading for Beijing Writers (27 October), which is a small quarterly event I run, open to anyone in the Beijing area who writes creatively, in any form. Answer to question – something to say about story: When we are guilty of evil, do we deserve empathy? When we are victims of evil, are we capable of feeling empathy for those who have harmed us? Just how much punishment is too much? Where exactly do we draw the line between justice and cruelty?

KAREN RUNGE is a South African who has been living in China since 2008. She was first formally published in the South African Science Fiction and Horror magazine, ‘Something Wicked’ in 2007, twice in the South African ezine ‘iBhuku’ and she is a huge fan of the horror genre in all the forms it takes. Another short story of hers, ‘When Layla Wakes’, recently appeared in issue 17 (May-June) of Horrorbound. When she has trouble writing, she usually tries to paint.

Karen recommends the Something Wicked SF & Horror magazine Anthologies! Volume 1 is available for purchase at Amazon and also at Something Wicked’s website.

Read by Eve Upton


07:00AM

Broadcast:

Wake. The day is clean, white and waiting. Don’t look back on the things that happened yesterday, don’t think about what will happen later. Think for a moment about the life you lived before. Say your prayer of repentance before you get out of bed. Allow yourself to feel your guilt, savour it inside of you. It is yours, now. It belongs to you.




“Awaiting Redemption” by Maurice Broaddus

This story was bought by the Horror World web site. (comments on story “That people can claim a religious faith but use it strictly as a cover for their own cruelty (that has nothing to do with their religion)”)

MAURICE BROADDUS’ dark fiction has been published in numerous magazines, anthologies, and web sites, and he’s the author of the urban fantasy series, The Knights of Breton Court. He has been a teaching artist for over five years, teaching creative writing to elementary, middle, and high school students as well as adults. You can visit his site at MauriceBroaddus.com. His anthology, Dark Faith: Invocations, has just been released from Apex Books. His Knights of Breton Court trilogy has been released as an omnibus from Angry Robot books.

Read by Laurice White


“Serving was her religious duty, he told her, though she was too impure to read the Qur’an for herself.  She knew his kind.  For him religion was a tool he re-shaped into his own image to vent his cruelty and hate.  He probably knew less of the Qu’ran than she did.  His dagger sliced her Arizona Cardinals Super Bowl XLIII 2009 Champions shirt, still stiff with dried blood.  Wearing only her Nike running shoes, one size too small, she lowered her head, not allowed to cover herself.  He touched her in a familiar way, but she would not taste shame no matter how he tried to force feed it to her.  She never hid her scars.  They told the story of who she was, a map to her soul.”


Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
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flintknapper
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« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2013, 10:21:30 AM »

Passing Grade

The writing and narration was clear and concise. I love all the monsters especially the snake/ghost thing. The whole story gave off a buffy the vampire slayer or cabin in the woods vibe. That being said, the open ended conclusion really frustrated me. It reads, like the author admits, as the middle of a larger piece. There is no resolution or explanation. It left me wanting more.

The Killing Machine

It was perhaps the most beautiful prose of the three, but this piece was difficult to follow. It is horror but also speculative fiction which really pushes back at you. I wish I could offer more, but at points I literally could not make out what was going on.

Awaiting Redemption

This piece spoke to me. I was nervous going in when I heard the author was most well known for urban fantasy, a genre I often hesitate to read. However, this piece was not urban fantasy. Instead, as the author states, it is about religious zeal as a cover for our own inhumanity. This is a topic, I have recently been trying to write about in my own fiction. I think here Broaddus hit the nail on the head. I also find the third-world setting very dark in some subtle ways. One of the best images I get from the story is the franchise clothing. It is used up garbage from a culture alien to these people. Here the items feel out of place and yet familiar to my western mind at the same time. I am probably not articulating this correctly, but it certainly adds to the overall "dark fiction" label. Can I call it "African Gothic?" Also just as an aside, I could not get this author's website to load. The link may be broken at the pseudopod site or miswritten in the show notes.
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Sgarre1
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« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2013, 11:41:55 AM »

Thanks for the heads-up on the link but I checked it and it loads just fine on our end.  Don't know what the problem is.
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flintknapper
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« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2013, 02:23:36 PM »

Thanks for the heads-up on the link but I checked it and it loads just fine on our end.  Don't know what the problem is.

Hmm... yeah it is working fine now with me too. I do not know what happened this morning. My bad.
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Cheshire_Snark
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« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2013, 05:39:50 AM »

I really enjoyed the surreal/nightmarish quality of Passing Grade (and how it had that dream logic where all of this madness somehow makes perfect sense) and the gloriously weird sound design of the Killing Machine. I know adding extra SFX isn't really the done thing on Pseudopod but it worked really well for this story. It made me wonder (I should probably check the show notes...) if the story was written especially for broadcasting - how would the musical interludes be expressed in a printed story?
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Mouseneb
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« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2013, 07:00:10 AM »

The Killing Machine hit me so hard that I was in a daze through most of Awaiting Redemption. Which I think I would have also appreciated a lot, so I'll need to listen to it again soon.

About the Killing Machine though - hated and loved it all at once. Well done indeed. Psychological abuse leading the convicted to suicide as punishment for their crimes is horrific. Unthinkable. Way beyond cruel and unusual. And yet... are there crimes, are there times, when we are pushed so far that this seems not only doable but desirable?

I also really appreciated that the criminals/victims/wardens in this one were all women.

I am sorry though, that I did not plug my ears when I heard the instruction to do so Smiley
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Cheshire_Snark
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« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2013, 07:25:58 AM »

Oh! I didn't get that bit at the end of the Killing Machine. I was a bit dazed as well!

I had the same problem with Awaiting Redemption - the narrator was so soothing and nice after the madness of the Killing Machine that I just couldn't catch the story (I kept getting too chilled-out, nevermind the subject matter wasn't calming). It's on the re-listen list for when I'm cooking or doing something else un-distracting.

(Awaiting Redemption reminded me of I Am The Box, The Box Is Me in that regard - I tried to listen to that story maybe 3 times and never caught the end because the reader left me very blissed out).
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Sgarre1
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« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2013, 10:38:49 AM »

Quote
It made me wonder (I should probably check the show notes...) if the story was written especially for broadcasting - how would the musical interludes be expressed in a printed story?

No real mystery - exactly as you'd think.


"10:30AM-12:00PM

Intermittent Broadcast:

Your tongues are for confessing, not for speaking.  Save your tongue and do not speak.

Music Broadcast: Diamanda Galas

Note to broadcaster: Plug your ears

 

13:00PM

Broadcast:

Your body may be weak at this hour, but this weakness is a gift to strengthen your soul.  If you wish to strengthen your body, you may go now to the Dining Hall, and eat with the filth of your hands."
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Cheshire_Snark
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« Reply #8 on: August 23, 2013, 05:46:36 AM »

Fair enough! I had no idea Diamanda Galas was a real musician (as youtube now tells me); I was wondering if there had been a note saying "broadcast of garbled laughter and shrieking" and the sound engineer got to go nuts and make up some cool effects. Could you tell me what the song used in the performance is? I'm curious to see the music video... Smiley
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Sgarre1
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« Reply #9 on: August 23, 2013, 10:58:17 AM »

One of the reasons I smiled when I was reading the submission was because, as icing on top of the cake of it being a very powerful story, I owned copies of every piece of music mentioned in it!

The Galas piece was an excerpt from "Wild Woman With Steak-Knives", the entire side B of THE LITANIES OF SATAN - which I bought on vinyl in NYC in the early 1980s.
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Bdoomed
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« Reply #10 on: August 23, 2013, 08:00:34 PM »

Ohhhh yes, I remember reading The Killing Machine in the submission pile and thinking "oh this is going to be FUN in audio!" Awesome that Shawn already knew and had all the music! Cheesy
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Cheshire_Snark
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« Reply #11 on: August 28, 2013, 10:40:05 AM »

One of the reasons I smiled when I was reading the submission was because, as icing on top of the cake of it being a very powerful story, I owned copies of every piece of music mentioned in it!

The Galas piece was an excerpt from "Wild Woman With Steak-Knives", the entire side B of THE LITANIES OF SATAN - which I bought on vinyl in NYC in the early 1980s.

Thanks mate! I've added it to The List Of Stuff To Listen To - I'm looking forward to hearing what the rest of it's like!
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Moritz
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« Reply #12 on: August 29, 2013, 03:07:09 AM »

That track was really disturbing - listened to the podcast while hanging up clothes in the dimly lit rat infested attic... scary...

(and this is my first comment to pseudopod, as I finally managed to listen to all episodes up to now  Grin )
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kibitzer
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« Reply #13 on: August 29, 2013, 05:21:02 PM »

That track was really disturbing - listened to the podcast while hanging up clothes in the dimly lit rat infested attic... scary...

(and this is my first comment to pseudopod, as I finally managed to listen to all episodes up to now  Grin )

Good one to start on Smiley
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BlueGildedCage
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« Reply #14 on: August 30, 2013, 02:31:41 PM »


'Awaiting Redemption' was such a great story.  It had all the weight of religious tragedy, all the horror of genocide.  The prose was so beautifully sensitive, and I personally think the narrator carried it perfectly.  Religious themes are so sensitive; I love what this writer did with them, twisting them to true horror -- also sadly, not necessarily such a twist.  I also really felt what Alasdair said about them in terms of choices and how easily they are manipulated.  This story carries tough topics, regardless of how relevant and valid they are.  Incredible stuff.
 
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Moon_Goddess
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« Reply #15 on: September 01, 2013, 08:00:12 AM »

Ok, so hears the thing, I was driving home at like midnight, listening to the Killing Machine... 

It really got to me.   More than anyone horror story ever has.    It got to me twice in 2 different ways.    First was the SFX, the musical interlude.   Driving home late at night, in utter darkness with that song.     I kept looking along side the road for possible things moving.   But my rational brain took over, I'm in a car moving down the road, I'm very safe here.


Unless something is already in my car.

No that's silly, just keep driving.

But what if someone got in the backseat while I was away?   Was the car locked when I came back?     I didn't look in the back, they tell you to look in the backseat before getting in at night why didn't you look in the back!

Ok, to hell with this, I flipped on the light, Ok, the car is empty, I am safe in my car.   I can just keep driving and be fine.

I was just about this time that a large insect landed in the back of my leg.


After about 20 minutes of listening to happy pop music, I decided to venture back to the podcast.   This time I was able to listen to the story, and not just be freaked out by my own imagination.     

Listening to the story's content was worse.   I don't even wanna vocalize my thoughts there,  Let me just say I've been battling occasional suicidal thoughts before listening to that and it was moving.     


I'll admit I was still numb all thru the following story.  I should probably re-listen to it.
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Was dream6601 but that's sounds awkward when Nathan reads my posts.
Karen Runge
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« Reply #16 on: September 01, 2013, 11:22:47 PM »


Hi guys, thanks for all the feedback re The Killing Machine.

The idea for this story came from a very vivid dream I had of a woman climbing into a machine, followed by the sound of water splashing into metal.  It was completely random, extremely clear, and plenty disturbing.  It took about four months for me to find a way to turn what I felt there into a story, and I'm so glad it's been given the audience it has.

If you want to see what else I'm up to and getting out there, you can see my 'site' at karenrunge.wordpress.com.  It's not a blog, just more a place to keep track of everything I'm doing re writing and arts.

My boyfriend is an electronic music fan and hobbyist; he's the one who turned me onto Diamanda Galas etc when I asked him: 'What music do you know that would drive anyone absolutely bat-crazy if they had to listen to it for more than an hour straight?!'

It set my teeth on edge!

Thanks again!

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Mouseneb
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« Reply #17 on: September 01, 2013, 11:53:42 PM »

Hey dream6601, just wanted to say, hey. Been there. Hang on. It really does get better.

Karen Runge, thanks for the story. It was amazing. I will check out your site.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #18 on: September 03, 2013, 10:10:29 AM »

"Passing Grade" was okay.  Fun worldbuilding, interesting ideas, but it reads exactly as the author note suggests, as though the author has no idea what comes before or after.  I want to see what happens after.

I didn't like "The Killing Machine" at all.  That's actual music?  That people buy?  On purpose?  The music wasn't the reason I disliked.  To me it wasn't a story.  It was a description of a setting.  I want characters.  I want something to happen.  Not only that, but I felt like I "got" the setting within the first couple hundred words.  I kept listening to see if it would do something novel but it didn't really seem to for me.

"Awaiting Redemption".  Darnit, I knew this would happen for some of the stories when I was away from the forum for a while.  I have no memory of this story, has been too long since I listened.  So I'm afraid I can't comment.
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evrgrn_monster
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« Reply #19 on: September 03, 2013, 09:38:57 PM »

Passing Grade - I liked the idea of this story, but as flash fiction, it was a bust for me. I feel like the author would have done much better holding onto this piece and actually fleshing it out. At the point that it is now, it felt more like an outline of something pretty cool, but all-in-all a hollow piece. However, I'd love to be in the loop once this story actually gets the length I think it deserves. Give this one some teeth!

Killing Machine - Killing Machine was fantastic. I loved the progression from the broadcast to an actual scene, with the horrible music and sounds stuffed in for good measure; these kinds of stories really show what the medium of podcasts can provide like nothing else. Major handclaps for the sound person on this one; you did a freaking amazing job.

Awaiting Redemption - I agree with the rest of the forum. After the force that was "Killing Machine" I had a hard time holding onto this story. I liked several lines in it, and I felt like it had a powerful and profound message, but I feel like I need to actual sit down and read it to really get it.



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TheFunkeyGibbon
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« Reply #20 on: September 05, 2013, 05:52:44 PM »

Passing Grade - This wasn't a complete story and I felt it didn't really work at all for me. Flash fiction is short but it isn't just a few paragraphs from a large piece which is exactly what this felt like. The whole thing felt like it was crying out for a reason to care and once again we had the well worn and over-used trope of the non-ending. I am actively loathing this trope now. Sometimes a story needs proper closure, please.

Killing Machine - Killing Machine was simply phenomenal. One of the best things I've heard in many months. The world building was immaculate, creepy and utterly believable. I thought once the last announcement was made that would be the end of the story but instead it ramped up from there to a brilliant and effecting ending. Just brilliant, the sound, the writing all of it.

Awaiting Redemption - I enjoyed this but it wasn't amazing. Maybe following on from 'Killing Machine' it was cast in an unfair light. Of all of them though I thought that this would be the most interesting as a bigger piece.
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Scattercat
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« Reply #21 on: September 10, 2013, 11:45:44 PM »

Passing Grade
I really enjoyed this one, in particular the way everything started accelerating at the end.  I couldn't help thinking, though, that I knew who he should call.

The Killing Machine
I loved this one up until about 8/10s of the way through, when it started just openly exhorting everyone to kill themselves and then had an actual scene of it happening.  I loved the implication of it and was disappointed that it had to spell it out.  I honestly think it would have been better if that final scene were excised; not only does it not mesh stylistically, but it makes explicit (and thus less frightening) the whole purpose and function of the operation, whereas I was much more convicted and empathetic when I tacitly understood what the facility wanted from its charges.  That is, the reason I felt guilty was because the story didn't have to tell me; I knew what it meant, which means I understood all too well the forces driving the creation and maintenance of this place.  Once it steps outside of my head and starts trying to gross me out, I become distanced and am no longer receiving the full impact.

(And why am I not surprised that Shawn had a full playlist of atonal ambient/discord music?  :-P)

Awaiting Redemption
Ehh... by far the weakest for me.  It might have more resonance if I had the energy these days to think of religion with anything more than a sort of resigned, "Oh, yes.  That."  It felt a skosh torture-porny, and frankly her cutting her burn scar into a cross just struck me more as goofy than horrific.  The bad man was so egregiously, cartoonishly bad that I had little empathy for anyone in the story.  The most interesting part to me was the description of the girl's home village eating itself in its own version of religious mania; it gave her a little more complexity and lent a decently dark edge to her apparent adoption of her own faith-based revenge plans.  There was an awful lot of relatively flavorless breading around that particular McNugget, though.
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prohairetic
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« Reply #22 on: January 22, 2014, 04:02:41 PM »

Late listen to 347, loved the first tale, found Killing Machine quite engaging, but considered Redemption the worst Pseudopod story i've ever heard.

I've never been kicked out of story immersion harder and faster by a Pseudopod story.  For a story that was supposed to be about the use of religion by humans for their own ends, it sure was poorly researched and written.  Not to mention to the excessive use of done to death tropes.  The Muslim slaver characters were such poor stereotypes of poor stereotypes, it was laughable, even verging on racist.
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allegedparadise88
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« Reply #23 on: August 09, 2018, 01:55:24 PM »

The first music broadcast in Killing Machine was quite possibly the most horrifying thing I have ever heard. Bravo.
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Sgarre1
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« Reply #24 on: August 09, 2018, 02:49:03 PM »

Diamanda says "you are welcome":

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