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Author Topic: Pseudopod 355: The Chair  (Read 5954 times)
Bdoomed
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« on: October 12, 2013, 12:45:03 PM »

Pseudopod 355: The Chair

by Leah Thomas

"The Chair" is previously unpublished.

LEAH THOMAS currently lives and teaches ESL in Taipei, Taiwan, where she frequently loses battles of wits against her students and her stories. A graduate of Clarion 2010, her work has appeared in Asimov’s, Ideomancer, Daily Science Fiction, Weird Fiction Review, and Futuredaze: An Anthology of YA Science Fiction.

Your reader this week – Justin Riestra – works on a critical care unit and writes gross stories. He’s currently working to get a website up.



“Gus accidentally crushed his wife’s cochlea during breakfast.

The spiraling piece of inner ear was almost the exact same shade of beige as the tablecloth his Great Aunt had given them at their wedding; Gwen couldn’t have expected him to spot it when he set down the jar of marmalade. She should have left the cochlea in her earhole where it belonged, but she had taken to removing it while she slept and only jamming it back into the side of her skull again moments before stumbling out the door on her way to the unemployment office.

The dislocated eardrum emitted the strangest sound as it was flattened, like the squeaking of fingertips against dry teeth.

The naked bones of Gwen’s knuckles clicked when she lifted the jar. Although neither of her eyesockets — one an echoing black hole, the other occupied by a myopic, amber-irised eyeball — were framed by brows or lids, and although she could not afford a crinkled forehead, Gus could read the expression on her skull as easily as he could any face with a complete set of features. Had her tear glands not been on layaway, she might have wept. Had her nose been more than a few strips of cartilage, she may have sniffled.”



Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
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flintknapper
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« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2013, 02:01:57 PM »

I loved this story. It really had of real life analogs. The baby at the end was for some reason unexpected for me. I did not see that coming. I am not sure why not, but I thought she must have a gambling problem.

Overall, the story was really sad. The selling of ones own parts to pay for college and then not being able to get a job afterwards to get it back. it is horrible. I actually liked that our "hero" in this was a blue collar joe that just happened to have a wife that went to college. You can see his love for her and his want to give her everything. He just cant afford it.
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zoanon
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« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2013, 10:30:21 AM »

why do they have to sell their body parts? what makes them so valuable?
the doctor was rich and therefore "complete" are people built rather than born? but then that woman got her ovaries back so she could have babies...
this long legged, cat headed "baby" is the most horrifying thing I have heard of in a long time.
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« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2013, 08:29:18 AM »

Eeuugggh.  So creepy!  And I mean that in the best possible way.  I felt bad for these people, the story of a couple saddled with crushing debt and wanting to start a family.  I felt really bad for her even as I saw both of their choices tear them even further down.  Her insistence on doing the work herself and her pride at her own workmanship doesn't see that she looks like a mockery of a human being--if she'd actually finished putting herself together that way then I have no doubt she would've ended up in the uncanny valley.  When she looks like a skeleton it's easier to feel for her, but she has all the human parts but they're all kind of askew, it becomes more difficult. 

I should've seen the baby coming.  There were plenty of hints, with her obsession, with it showing that she has some basic but clearly limited abilities with mancing her own body.  I, too, thought it was a gambling problem.  When the baby shows up on the scene, that is a great horrific reveal, it crooning to its mother with all of its monstrous bits.  For some reason the most horrifying of them was the fingers that moved independently of each other like a ball of worms.  Eugggghh.

And like the best speculative stories it works both if you take it strictly literally and if you consider it as a metaphor.

Damn!  Well done.


why do they have to sell their body parts? what makes them so valuable?

I gather that for the most part, bodies are just status symbols.  I think that the ovaries were the only ones mentioned which mancers did not duplicate (presumably as an incentive to pay off debt)


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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2013, 08:35:08 AM »

One thing I did wonder about this story:  why is reproduction the last hostage of the debt?  As the ones owed the debt, isn't it better for your interest if your debtors reproduce so that debt can be passed on?
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DAstronomer
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« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2013, 01:39:02 PM »

Not my favorite story, but it has potential. I did enjoy the social commentary, but the unreality of having functioning human beings without vital organs (no skin is a very bad thing for a chordate) pulled me out of the story. However, the metaphor of selling yourself piece by piece to finance education and children is well made. I think that the horror at the end is spawned more from how far she goes & what she does to have a child, rather than the unnatural creature she creates.
That being said, I caught myself being somewhat frightened when my cat mewled at me in a very childlike way after I listened to the story....
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« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2013, 08:22:32 AM »

I think that the horror at the end is spawned more from how far she goes & what she does to have a child, rather than the unnatural creature she creates.

I would say that both things are horrific.  Yes, that she has literally torn herself apart to have a baby, but also that she's made a baby that's one step sideways from a Lovecraftian horror but her perceptions have become so skewed to survive that she doesn't even realize it.
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DAstronomer
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« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2013, 12:33:27 PM »

I think that the horror at the end is spawned more from how far she goes & what she does to have a child, rather than the unnatural creature she creates.

I would say that both things are horrific.  Yes, that she has literally torn herself apart to have a baby, but also that she's made a baby that's one step sideways from a Lovecraftian horror but her perceptions have become so skewed to survive that she doesn't even realize it.

A fair point. After all, it's not like she has to see the baby, or listen to it cry, "Mama"....
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jdarksun
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« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2013, 01:25:36 PM »

Loved this story (like everything on Pseudopod).  So creepy, so interesting.
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Moritz
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« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2013, 10:50:45 AM »

woa, that was a gross one. I kind of have the feeling that is the first gross out one in a long time...

In any case, I thought it was kind of a "one shot horror" one, even if I also liked the social commentary.
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Sgarre1
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« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2013, 11:42:49 AM »

Quote
I kind of have the feeling that is the first gross out one in a long time...

You missed "The Pit"?
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Moritz
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« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2013, 11:45:31 AM »

No, but four months is a long time  Cheesy
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #12 on: October 23, 2013, 08:33:14 AM »


A fair point. After all, it's not like she has to see the baby, or listen to it cry, "Mama"....

Well she does, after a fashion--she does still exist in minimal fashion and the mancy allows her to see and hear.

I wonder if her freakishly skewed perception is partially due to her seeing and hearing only through mancy for such a long time?  Our sense are the window through which we see and try to understand the world.  If you see through someone else's eyes, do you live in the same world as you would with your own eyes?  If you see through mancy, do you live in the same world as those who don't?  I assumed on first listen that she didn't see the child she had made as monstrous because of her desperate love, but I wonder if part of it is the medium of her sight--perhaps through mancy-sight the child is truly beautiful, and through mancy-hearing the child sounds perfect .
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evrgrn_monster
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« Reply #13 on: October 24, 2013, 10:27:42 PM »

Okay, this one was horrifying. I thought the descriptions were grotesque and utterly effective.

This hit me on a personal level. My husband and I are currently trying to have a baby, and so far it has been nothing but unsuccessful and frustrating. I felt for Gwen, and at the end, the most terrifying part of this story was actually understanding the lengths someone is willing to go when they want to have a child.

Major kudos to the narrator. I jumped out of my chair when he said "Mama" in the creepy baby voice. Chills!
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Cheshire_Snark
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« Reply #14 on: October 27, 2013, 06:03:23 AM »

I agree! The "maaaaamaaaaaa" noise (I wasn't sure if it was "maaamaaa" or "faaatherrrrr") just made my skin crawl. Well done to the narrator for the amazing voice work. I also loved the slightly twangy accents of the wife and doctor.

BUT as someone who's just finished an MA, is looking for work, and is working out if she can ever afford to have children (considering the loss of income if I take time off to raise them, and the long waiting time/associated costs of adoption, nevermind the inherent body horror if I decide to grow my own) - this story hit really close to the bone.
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Scattercat
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« Reply #15 on: October 29, 2013, 01:03:25 AM »

The problem I have right now is that since becoming a parent (just over 20 months now), I've become irritatingly susceptible to anything tragic or sad involving babies.  Even horrible shitty stories or movies will still make me tear up and need to go hug my baby if there's any "Awww" moments.  So while I liked the distressing final image, I'm left wondering if I liked it more than I should because of that increased sensitivity.

Regardless, while the symbolism was a little on-the-nose for my taste, the creepy images were solidly entertaining.
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Djinndustries
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« Reply #16 on: October 29, 2013, 01:34:11 AM »

BUT as someone who's just finished an MA, is looking for work, and is working out if she can ever afford to have children (considering the loss of income if I take time off to raise them, and the long waiting time/associated costs of adoption

The best advice I heard about having kids was that you're never ready for them, you never think you can afford them, but you are and you do.

Some other advice was from a columnist replying to the concept of "not wanting to bring kids into this terrible world" where he said something to the effect of "having kids is like putting another soldier on the side of Right in the war against humanity". I like this idea that my humanism needs soldiers to go up against the tides of idiocy.

And, finally, there's the opening montage in Idiocracy. For some reason I can't find the full thing on YouTube, but basically it shows a well-educated couple and, for the sake of PCness,...another kind of couple. The well-educated couple never breeds and the ...not...couple...breeds (and inbreeds) at a dramatic rate. Here's the first bit of the opening: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icmRCixQrx8

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Cheshire_Snark
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« Reply #17 on: October 29, 2013, 02:35:06 PM »

Ohhhhh dear....
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Scattercat
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« Reply #18 on: October 29, 2013, 09:48:47 PM »

Whereas I would say that you should not have a child you are ambivalent about.  If you don't want children, or are iffy on having children, then don't have them.  There's no need to do so.  (We're not going to run out of people anytime soon, and the Idiocracy scenario is only a problem if you've never heard the phrase "regression to the mean.")  Children take a lot of time and effort, and they require you to restructure your life to fit them in.  If you're not prepared for that or don't think you'd enjoy them despite that, then don't give a child a half-hearted parent.

At least the baby-thing will have one truly dedicated parent to care for it.
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« Reply #19 on: October 30, 2013, 09:51:10 AM »

At least the baby-thing will have one truly dedicated parent to care for it.

If there's enough of her left to survive!
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