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Author Topic: Pseudopod 359: Face Change  (Read 6208 times)
eytanz
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« on: November 10, 2013, 02:45:06 PM »

Pseudopod 359: Face Change

by Jeff Hewitt

“Face Change” is making it’s debut on Pseudopod. “The main adage of therapy is that the patient must want to change, but we all know change isn’t easy. How far would you go to make the change that you want?”

JEFF HEWITT is a police dispatcher who lives and works in the American South, and has written two self-published novels. He has been married to nursing student Megan Hewitt for four years. His website, www.jeffhewitt.net, is where listeners can find samples of his other works, and especially his second novel AT THE END OF ALL MAGIC, available on his website and Amazon.

Your reader this week – ANSON MOUNT – plays Cullen Bohannon in the hit AMC series HELL ON WHEELS. Anson lives in New York city and he teaches in the MFA Acting program at Columbia University. He can be seen in the upcoming film NON STOP with Liam Neeson which opens in February and in ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE, and will join John Travolta’s heist movie, THE FORGER alongside Jennifer Ehle. He is also working on finishing his book THE STRAIGHT DOPE: A PRACTICAL PHILOSOPHY FOR THE PROFESSIONAL ACTOR. We also give special thanks to his audio producer BRANAN EDGENS, who worked very hard on this episode!



“‘I’m going. Thank you for trying as hard as you could, all the same.’ Dr. Adler looked at John’s hand, and something flashed in his eyes.

‘Just a minute! Just a moment! Let me get something for you.’ John watched the doctor stand up and run to his office closet. After digging for a moment, he came back with a DVD in a cardboard sleeve and a slick, black case.

‘These go together. I’ve heard good things, and when I got one in the mail as a sample I knew I had to save it for someone special. I think you’re that person, John.’ Dr. Adler handed John the items. The solid-looking case weighed very little, surprising John.

‘”The Face-Changing System for Success in Life and Business,”‘ read John aloud. He cocked an eyebrow at Adler.

‘I know how it sounds. Most of these systems are a bunch of malarkey, but I really have heard good things from colleagues. It’s not for everyone, but I think you’re just the man for it.’ John tried to hand it back, but Adler refused.

‘Try it out. If you don’t like it, bring it back to me, or give it to a friend. Good luck, John.’”



Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2013, 09:31:27 PM by Bdoomed » Logged
jhewitt
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« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2013, 11:14:31 PM »

Just wanted to extend my humble thanks to everyone at Pseudopod and Escape Artists for debuting my first fiction sale! It was a real honor. I think Anson did a terrific job as the reader. He really imparted a lot of character into my story, and I think his portrayal of Brent was perfect. Alistar's thoughts after the episode made me think about my story in new ways, too. Again, thanks so much everyone!

I hope everyone who listened enjoyed as much as I did.
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Unblinking
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« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2013, 09:41:28 AM »

Eeeuuugh, the slicing of the face was squicky--in the best possible way.

I liked it.  I thought it hit a good tone in the salesman speak so that it felt both like an authentic infomercial on some level but also like a horror story. 

I do wonder what OTHER people see when they watch that DVD.  After all, it's pretty clear early on that this guy is cracked--if for no other reason than he shows absolutely no surprise when his DVD starts talking to him on a personal level.  Is it really a box of faces?  Does the therapist know that he has given him a box of faces?

I think it's fairly ambiguous whether this is all a supernatural horror thing, or whether it's a complete psychotic breakdown horror thing.  But I think that ambiguity works in this case, and it's good horror well told either way.

Just wanted to extend my humble thanks to everyone at Pseudopod and Escape Artists for debuting my first fiction sale! It was a real honor. I think Anson did a terrific job as the reader. He really imparted a lot of character into my story, and I think his portrayal of Brent was perfect. Alistar's thoughts after the episode made me think about my story in new ways, too. Again, thanks so much everyone!

I hope everyone who listened enjoyed as much as I did.

Hi!  Welcome to the forums, Jeff, and I hope you stick around both for this thread and maybe for others.  Like you, my very first fiction sale was to Pseudopod, that in 2009.  I love that the staff here are happy to publish stories by debut authors when they find a story they like.  Smiley
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Cheshire_Snark
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« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2013, 12:30:06 PM »

I loved the voicework in this one!

At first I thought that the shrink may have had an evil motivation - perhaps he was a Dr Lecter type, and provided a box of cheap plastic masks, a straight razor, a semi-personalised DVD and an aerosol-based hallucinogen delivery system...

...but at the end, when the protagonist took the job offer and ran with it, the only interpretation that I could go with was something along the lines of the Lament Configuration, upgraded for the TV generation. Damnation via infomercial, rather than by puzzle box.

The end made the story for me. I was prepared for the above non-supernatural result, the story ending with the faceless protagonist found slumped in his bathroom by the psychiatrist, who collects all the evidence before leaving - I'm impressed that the story was brave, took the twist/out-there/faustian pact ending, and made it work really well.

Congratulations on your first story sale, Mr. Hewitt - here's looking forward to many more.
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« Reply #4 on: November 12, 2013, 01:17:05 PM »

The end made the story for me. I was prepared for the above non-supernatural result, the story ending with the faceless protagonist found slumped in his bathroom by the psychiatrist, who collects all the evidence before leaving - I'm impressed that the story was brave, took the twist/out-there/faustian pact ending, and made it work really well.


I still didn't entirely discredit the alternate non-supernatural result.  He could have hallucinated a happy ending as he bled out on the bathroom floor.  I think the supernatural result is probably what I'd lean more towards, though.
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Moon_Goddess
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« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2013, 09:13:03 AM »

I think the very biggest horror aspect of this is I finished it and sat there thinking.

I'd do it....

I mean not everyone who changes their face has to steal faces right, There's got to be some other method of payment, but like even if I do it's not killing, they'll live.

I think it's one of the few moments in my life I've noticed my morality slip....   It's pretty appealing.
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jhewitt
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« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2013, 01:18:08 PM »

Great responses! Thanks everyone for the feedback, I really appreciate it. Positive is nice, but I'll also take constructive if you want to offer it!

Unblinking: Congrats on your own sale to Pseudopod, even if it's a bit late! I never, personally, considered the non-supernatural option, but when you mentioned the protagonist's lack of reaction to the fact the DVD was talking to him, it struck me as a keen observation. It makes me wonder about myself, actually, that the idea that it could be a mundane break with reality never occurred to me. That's also a cool bit about fiction, of course. Great to see other ideas being kicked around, I love it! I'm glad to enjoyed the story! I will say in the first draft the face-slicing bit was more explicit, but my readers suggested that focusing on the less physical aspects of the horror might serve it better. I believe I agree, in the post analysis. Though, ugh! Body horror!

Cheshire_Snark: I agree! Anson's reading really, really blew me away. His voice work oozed character. It was like encountering my own story for the first time! The comparison to the Lament Configuration strikes me as especially apt. I'm glad you enjoyed the ending! I think I trend more the supernatural and existential types of horror rather than mundane. It strikes me as especially scary that you could, more or less, blunder into something evil. As for the doctor's motivations...I may have to revisit that idea in the future.

dream6601: It's one of the oldest and, I think, scariest themes in horror: what would you do for what you want? People are capable of some pretty amazing things, given proper motivation.
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Moritz
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« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2013, 12:01:16 PM »

I really liked the story - reminded me a bit of Requiem for a Dream meets Hellraiser, and sometimes rather predictable, but why not? The writing was solid (I only didn't like that "horror face" sentence), the narration was awesome, and I loved the overall story. And that comes from someone who only likes about 40% of the escape artists stories (!).
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jhewitt
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« Reply #8 on: November 16, 2013, 01:19:03 AM »

Thank you kindly! I really appreciate the feedback. I agree that the "horror face" was a bit weak. Hopefully I'll continue to impress and delight with future offerings. Cheesy
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« Reply #9 on: November 21, 2013, 04:12:20 PM »

Thank you kindly! I really appreciate the feedback. I agree that the "horror face" was a bit weak. Hopefully I'll continue to impress and delight with future offerings. Cheesy

Let's hope so!  Authors who don't feed the furnaces of Pseudopod Towers.
(kidding, we will love you either way)
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Kaa
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« Reply #10 on: November 22, 2013, 08:44:33 AM »

I enjoyed this one as well. I saw the whole Faustian ending coming, but it didn't interfere one bit with my enjoyment of the story, although I did squick rather a lot when he sliced off his own face. That was . . . let's just say, "ew." Smiley But it was just enough without being too much.

Well written and narrated. I look forward to hearing more from you, Jeff. Smiley
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albionmoonlight
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« Reply #11 on: November 22, 2013, 09:56:44 AM »

This is a great update of the deal with the Devil story in several ways.  As Alistar and others have noted, the technology of the self-help DVD fits right into our time.  I also really like that the road that leads to Hell in 2013 is self-worship.  Self-improvement.  And the unspoken idea that every single one of us deserves the very best things in life.

When the Devil speaks to us today, he is not going to say "I will offer you money and power beyond that of other men, and beyond what you could get otherwise."  He will say "I am just here to give you the money and power that is rightfully yours.  Because people just need to see how special you are."  It is a subtle distinction, but a critical one, I think.

Can't believe that this was your first published story.  Reads much more polished. Great job living the dream, man.  Here's to many more.
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evrgrn_monster
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« Reply #12 on: November 23, 2013, 12:15:22 PM »

I enjoyed this piece. Thought the descriptions were delightfully gruesome, and the premise and ending itself really leaves this story open for more exploration in other pieces the writer might like to do.

There were a few things that I would've like expanded a bit more in this story; what, if any, the therapist had to do with the face switch program, what would've happened if John had said no, and what the other faces in the box looked like. Those are just little questions that floated in my brain after this one closed, and since the author is floating around, thought I should go ahead and put them down.

Still, a fun listen! Great story.
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Moon_Goddess
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« Reply #13 on: November 25, 2013, 09:28:09 AM »

This is a great update of the deal with the Devil story in several ways.  As Alistar and others have noted, the technology of the self-help DVD fits right into our time.  I also really like that the road that leads to Hell in 2013 is self-worship.  Self-improvement.  And the unspoken idea that every single one of us deserves the very best things in life.


Wow it's fascinating how much you got out of that that I missed.    Oh it's there, I agree with your points, I just missed it.    I focused so much on the idea of replacing my face looking different, looking better, prettier, etc.   That while I do think better things would happen to me if I looked different, they aren't so much the end goal to me as just the change of the face itself.   

I was ashamed to admit this in my first post on this thread but as I listened to the story I ran my nail along my skin feeling where the cut would go..

So to me the biggest horror is how shallow I am not the deal with the devil.
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Varda
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« Reply #14 on: November 30, 2013, 08:23:26 PM »

I'm really impressed that this was the author's first published story. Great one! It was, incidentally, also my first Pseudopod episode, so that's pretty cool. Cheesy The whole creepy, interactive info-mercial reminded me a bit of Requiem for a Dream, specifically the plot line involving the lonely old lady slowly losing all sense of reality and how it blends with the game show/info-mercial thing on her TV. I love how info-mercials seem to operate in their own reality, where everyone on-screen is way too excited about juicers or diet pill or whatever, and the whole production has a way of drawing people into to the fake reality. That, to me, was the horror of this story, the way the video made cutting off your own face seem like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Nice.
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jhewitt
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« Reply #15 on: December 02, 2013, 12:20:22 AM »

Thought I'd pop back by and say thanks to everyone for the feedback and kind words!

I'm very flattered that many of you felt this was an especially strong first entry. Many, many thanks. I may have to steal "delightfully gruesome" for a cover blurb if I ever do an anthology. Y'all are my first real feedback from an audience that has no stake in hurting my feelings Wink So far it's been great! However, if you could have made a change, or something stuck out as especially out of tone or style, please let me know! I'm a police dispatcher by trade so I'm more or less completely immune to abuse at this point!

All of the thoughts on the updated "deal with the Devil" have been very nice. It's been awesome to see what everyone gets out of the story, and how it effected them. I like to see how many different ideas everyone has, and how they compare and contrast with what I had in mind. As I mentioned before, I think it's an interesting look into my own head in that I wrote it "straight" in my mind, with no thought that the main character was experiencing a psychotic break or that the therapist had a more direct hand in it. Having had some contact with mentally ill people, this is probably not far from what a bad experience would be like. I think it's a neat idea that it might be mundane OR supernatural, and that's why engaging with the audience has been so fun for me.

I may have to revisit our friends in a future story. Perhaps Brent and his new handyman could be stalked by someone with a missing face, who survived the attack...
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« Reply #16 on: December 02, 2013, 11:33:07 AM »

I'm very flattered that many of you felt this was an especially strong first entry. Many, many thanks. I may have to steal "delightfully gruesome" for a cover blurb if I ever do an anthology. Y'all are my first real feedback from an audience that has no stake in hurting my feelings Wink So far it's been great! However, if you could have made a change, or something stuck out as especially out of tone or style, please let me know! I'm a police dispatcher by trade so I'm more or less completely immune to abuse at this point!

Trust me, if people had things they wished were changed, they would say them.  One of the reasons I have spent improbable amounts of time around this forum is that all criticism of the story itself is welcome.  If people don't like a story, they are not shy about it.
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jhewitt
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« Reply #17 on: December 03, 2013, 12:24:53 AM »

I'm very flattered that many of you felt this was an especially strong first entry. Many, many thanks. I may have to steal "delightfully gruesome" for a cover blurb if I ever do an anthology. Y'all are my first real feedback from an audience that has no stake in hurting my feelings Wink So far it's been great! However, if you could have made a change, or something stuck out as especially out of tone or style, please let me know! I'm a police dispatcher by trade so I'm more or less completely immune to abuse at this point!

Trust me, if people had things they wished were changed, they would say them.  One of the reasons I have spent improbable amounts of time around this forum is that all criticism of the story itself is welcome.  If people don't like a story, they are not shy about it.


Glad to hear it! I'll try not to let the generally positive reception go to my head, then. Cheesy
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Whaletale
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« Reply #18 on: December 05, 2013, 11:57:26 AM »

I loved this story! I think it's the first time in a while that a gruesome description had me recoiling in my chair and looking away from my computer screen in horror! My stomach went for a loop when I imagined a man standing before the mirror slowing peeling his face off top-down while carefully cutting away the "bits" that held the skin to his skull.

Excellent job. I look forward to the next one  Cheesy
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benjaminjb
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« Reply #19 on: December 05, 2013, 12:12:01 PM »

I'm just catching up with stories now, so my recollection is a little hazy, but I enjoyed the story, with its dark hucksterism, and the reading.
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