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Author Topic: Pseudopod 367: Flash On The Borderlands XVIII: Pseudopod Forum 2013 Flash Contes  (Read 5872 times)
Bdoomed
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« on: January 04, 2014, 03:35:43 PM »

Pseudopod 367: Flash On The Borderlands XVIII: Pseudopod Forum 2013 Flash Contest Winners

PSEUDOPOD PRESENTS THE WINNERS OF THE ESCAPE ARTISTS FORUM’S FLASH FICTION CONTEST 2013

THIRD PLACE


“Whispers From The Trench” by Robert McKinney

Robert McKinney thinks about spaceships, dragons, and whatever falls in between. When not writing or rewriting, he fills his free time with TV marathons and hobbyist paints.
Read for you by Joel Nisbet.

“That’s when I saw them. Three shapes dressed in enemy kit, slogging from their lines in the pockmarked soil to allied trenches to the southwest. Each had air tanks strapped onto their backs and had faces blocked by masks and gas bottle tubing.”



SECOND PLACE

“The Violin Family” by James Douglas


James Douglas is quite happy to remain mysterious, although will confess to being ‘rather English’.
Read for you by Donna Scott
Donna Scott is a Comedian, editor, poet, blogger and Chair of the BSFA. She’s next appearing at Eastercon, where I will be hanging around the BSFA desk, and she should also be part of an anthology launch for Newcon Press. Check out www.donna-scott.co.uk for details of upcoming publications and appearances.

Music: Brice Catherin “Number 3: Version for violin and chamber orchestra” available at The Free Music Archive.

“There are four members of the violin family: the violin, the viola, the cello and the double bass.”



FIRST PLACE

“Mr. Flyspeck” by R.K. Kombrinck

can be read HERE.

R.K. Kombrinck is a writer and artist who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife and two sons. He is a founding cast-member of the popular horror podcast “Night of the Living Podcast.” He enjoys iced-tea (unsweet) and genuinely believes in Sasquatch. His collection, THESE LONELY PLACES is available HERE. You can hear him talk horror on the weekly Night Of The Living Podcast, and read more of my fiction HERE.
Read for you by Dani Cutler.

“She hadn’t been afraid, only curious and surprised. Something was sitting on the desk. It looked like a rat, or mouse. Three feet tall with orange fur and wild eyes. She remembered how it smiled at her. How it spoke.”




Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
« Last Edit: January 04, 2014, 07:52:54 PM by Sgarre1 » Logged

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?
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« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2014, 12:43:36 PM »

I'll kick things off by reiterating how much I love evil puppets, and this one does it in spades leaving enough room for uncertainty as to whether or not it's supernatural.

Probably the first that kicked this thing off was the Twilight Zone episode "The Dummy" which received an effective call-back episode in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And "Smile Time" was the best episode of Angel ever aired.
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« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2014, 06:25:53 PM »

Whispers from the Trench: Am currently studying WWI training trench construction and therefore able to visualise this whole story rather better than I probably wanted to.

The Violin Family: Ohhhh nope nope nope... Made the connection between baby & violin with a case of full-body goosebumps, just before the narrator confirmed my worst suspicions. Excellent, and creepy as hell.

Mr. Flyspeck: Aaaaaaaagh just when I thought it couldn't get any worse! (In the best sort of way). Oh, oh no. This leads me to the next question... What is the protagonist going to say to granddad when she sees him back at the home?

These stories are probably my favourites out of the Flash on the Borderlands I've heard thus far. Sometimes I find it hard to get involved in the shorter format but these were all spot-on, with the lovely sting in the tail that makes short-form horror fiction such a great thing to read. Well done and congratulations to all of the authors, I salute you.
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« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2014, 10:05:06 AM »

Whispers From the Trench:
In the contest I said:
"I enjoyed it, though yeah he's a crap watchman."

I enjoyed it again on the listen.  Had a real feeling of war about it, and the bleak outlook if you're trapped on the front lines--no matter who wins the war, you lose.  And with the progression of war tech during a war and suddenly realizing that your enemy is using something against you which you can't hope to combat.  Scary!


The Violin Family
In the contest I said:
"This one started slow, and I expected the reveal of him being made out of the bass, but didn't expect the final line.  Actually I didn't even get the final line until I read the comments, then went back, but I think that was just me being dense.  The final line makes the story.

The timeline is implausible, for her to have constructed the instrument so fast."

Yup, still the same reaction.  I think that the morning sickness was supposed to have driven her mad, yes, and then she murdered her husband and made him into a double bass.  But by the final line, she did all this within about, what, a month to the point where she can already play the instrument?  While puking all the time? 

Still, good stuff.


Mr. Flyspeck
Said in the contest:
"I enjoyed it.  Yes, I think it'd be stronger without the final line, but that didn't break it for me."

Yup, still well told, creepy and wrong.
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« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2014, 01:49:11 PM »

Whispers from the Trench: I couldn't get into it. I tried three times, and finally just gave up and let it play. I'm not a fan of war-related fiction, and having it start out in trenches before it hooked me killed it. But that's just me, and no reflection on the author. Smiley

The Violin Family: This is probably the best horror story I've heard in a very long time. It had ALL THE THINGS! The creepy, the twisted, the slow reveal, and the stunning final line. Bravo, Mr. Douglas. Bravo.

Mr. Flyspeck: This one was also extremely good. The horror in this one is subtle as the reader/listener works through all the implications, and is then left wondering, "What comes next?" Well done.

I listened to these on the way to work and was reacting aloud to it in my car. Smiley
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HueItzcoatl
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« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2014, 02:54:56 PM »

Whispers from the Trench:

Always a great fan of wartime stories especially ones with a supernatural element. This one was okay as far as stories are concerned, but the ending just killed it for me. I was expecting him to get up and start ripping tanks off zombies, but I suppose that's were the true horror comes in; you see the things that go bump in the night and just hope they don't see back.

The Violin Family:

Now this one was my favorite by far, that could just be because I have recently starting to learn how to the Violin and I am a little biased but so be it. I loved the imagery of the instrument made of a human body, and couldn't help but wonder if anyone had actually something with that aesthetic in mind. I'm not sure if other reader where creeped out by the baby thing at the end, but I smiled, I mean isn't that a beautiful metaphor for the creation of music? No? Well, maybe it's best that I don't have any children.

Mr Flyspeck:

This one did absolutely nothing for me. It was interesting that it turns out the grandfather was the one behind the puppet and the horror that she must have felt at the realization. But our elders are never the angels we visualize them as when we are children so the ending didn't really shock me.

All in all, it was a great batch of winners. Can't wait to see what other macabre things the forums spew forth.
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« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2014, 03:22:12 PM »


Mr Flyspeck:

This one did absolutely nothing for me. It was interesting that it turns out the grandfather was the one behind the puppet and the horror that she must have felt at the realization. But our elders are never the angels we visualize them as when we are children so the ending didn't really shock me.


I think this one was open enough that it wasn't necessarily the grandfather. Supernatural is not out of the question.
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« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2014, 10:56:41 AM »


Mr Flyspeck:

This one did absolutely nothing for me. It was interesting that it turns out the grandfather was the one behind the puppet and the horror that she must have felt at the realization. But our elders are never the angels we visualize them as when we are children so the ending didn't really shock me.


I think this one was open enough that it wasn't necessarily the grandfather. Supernatural is not out of the question.

Huh, I never considered that. It seemed pretty straightforwardly to be the grandfather to me.  I mean, sure, it could've been supernatural, but I don't think there was any reason to lean in that direction.
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« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2014, 11:32:12 AM »


Mr Flyspeck:

This one did absolutely nothing for me. It was interesting that it turns out the grandfather was the one behind the puppet and the horror that she must have felt at the realization. But our elders are never the angels we visualize them as when we are children so the ending didn't really shock me.


I think this one was open enough that it wasn't necessarily the grandfather. Supernatural is not out of the question.

Huh, I never considered that. It seemed pretty straightforwardly to be the grandfather to me.  I mean, sure, it could've been supernatural, but I don't think there was any reason to lean in that direction.

You could call her belief in Mr. Flyspeck as misdirection from the author, or self-delusion of the protagonist. I believe there is also an available interpretation that it is a malicious creature. First it tried to kill her as a child. Now it's trying to destroy her faith in her grandfather.
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« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2014, 09:48:38 AM »


Mr Flyspeck:

This one did absolutely nothing for me. It was interesting that it turns out the grandfather was the one behind the puppet and the horror that she must have felt at the realization. But our elders are never the angels we visualize them as when we are children so the ending didn't really shock me.


I think this one was open enough that it wasn't necessarily the grandfather. Supernatural is not out of the question.

Huh, I never considered that. It seemed pretty straightforwardly to be the grandfather to me.  I mean, sure, it could've been supernatural, but I don't think there was any reason to lean in that direction.

You could call her belief in Mr. Flyspeck as misdirection from the author, or self-delusion of the protagonist. I believe there is also an available interpretation that it is a malicious creature. First it tried to kill her as a child. Now it's trying to destroy her faith in her grandfather.

I can see the alternative explanation, I just don't feel like the text gives a sense of ambiguity in that respect.  YMMV, and all that.
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« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2014, 07:55:08 PM »

First off, I want to say I'm glad that most of you really liked "Mr. Flyspeck," and again thank those who voted for it.

I also love hearing people talk about it and dissect it. There's no greater joy than that for a writer.

Keep it going.  Wink
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« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2014, 01:49:45 AM »

I'm going to stick by evil puppet monster. If you couldn't tell by my forum avatar of Ratio Hornblower, it's a sweet spot for me.


I can see the alternative explanation, I just don't feel like the text gives a sense of ambiguity in that respect.  YMMV, and all that.


Emphasis in bold:

Quote

“Hello?” She felt stupid calling out. Grandpa’s nursing home needed his insurance papers. It would only take a few minutes to find them. They were in his room somewhere, in a box. There was no reason to think about anything unpleasant. But she did. She thought of the attic. The creaky wooden stairs that dropped out of the ceiling. The huge, wooden wraparound desk  against the wall. The bitter taste of pills on her tongue. The ambulance ride.

She thought of Mr. Flyspeck.

She’d been six years old, exploring the attic, looking for old toys. She’d heard a voice and looked up. She hadn’t been afraid, only curious and surprised. Something was sitting on the desk. It looked like a rat, or mouse. Three feet tall with orange fur and wild eyes. She remembered how it smiled at her. How it spoke.


The desk is against the wall in the attic. Possibly in a corner against two walls. When storing a desk in an attic, it would be unusual to put the opening to the wall. I think it would be reasonable to assume it's used for additional storage, so drawers would be accessible, rather than blocked. I find it perfectly reasonable to assume the open portion of the bend is facing outwards. The desk being against the wall eliminates much of the cover it can provide. If it's a "L" shape there's no good places to hide. If it's a "U" shape, turning the opening parallel to the wall would mean additional distance on trip to access the desk drawers. This alignment is plausible, but no less plausible than the opening of the "U" facing the room. Where would the grandfather be hiding from a first grader?
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« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2014, 09:48:01 AM »

The desk is against the wall in the attic. Possibly in a corner against two walls. When storing a desk in an attic, it would be unusual to put the opening to the wall. I think it would be reasonable to assume it's used for additional storage, so drawers would be accessible, rather than blocked. I find it perfectly reasonable to assume the open portion of the bend is facing outwards. The desk being against the wall eliminates much of the cover it can provide. If it's a "L" shape there's no good places to hide. If it's a "U" shape, turning the opening parallel to the wall would mean additional distance on trip to access the desk drawers. This alignment is plausible, but no less plausible than the opening of the "U" facing the room. Where would the grandfather be hiding from a first grader?

There is little enough description of the attic that I think much of the interpretation of the orientation and placement is strictly your expansion.  I pictured a typical cluttered attic with very poor lighting, plenty of places to hide, especially if there's something to draw the eye in the form of a bizarre little puppet and when the one being fooled is a naive child.  She really believed it was a creature so she was focusing on "Holy crap, there's a tiny little monster in the attic!".  If she had been an adult at the time I expect she would've spotted grandpa.
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« Reply #13 on: January 13, 2014, 09:55:36 AM »

The desk is against the wall in the attic. Possibly in a corner against two walls. When storing a desk in an attic, it would be unusual to put the opening to the wall. I think it would be reasonable to assume it's used for additional storage, so drawers would be accessible, rather than blocked. I find it perfectly reasonable to assume the open portion of the bend is facing outwards. The desk being against the wall eliminates much of the cover it can provide. If it's a "L" shape there's no good places to hide. If it's a "U" shape, turning the opening parallel to the wall would mean additional distance on trip to access the desk drawers. This alignment is plausible, but no less plausible than the opening of the "U" facing the room. Where would the grandfather be hiding from a first grader?

There is little enough description of the attic that I think much of the interpretation of the orientation and placement is strictly your expansion.  I pictured a typical cluttered attic with very poor lighting, plenty of places to hide, especially if there's something to draw the eye in the form of a bizarre little puppet and when the one being fooled is a naive child.  She really believed it was a creature so she was focusing on "Holy crap, there's a tiny little monster in the attic!".  If she had been an adult at the time I expect she would've spotted grandpa.


The type and location of the desk and Flyspeck was deliberately identified, as I emphasized. I offer the additional constraint of the contest's 500 word limit; considering that, the author is behooved to slice off everything that is irrelevant. The passing over of the connection is strictly your reduction.  Wink
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« Reply #14 on: January 14, 2014, 11:35:08 AM »

The type and location of the desk and Flyspeck was deliberately identified, as I emphasized. I offer the additional constraint of the contest's 500 word limit; considering that, the author is behooved to slice off everything that is irrelevant. The passing over of the connection is strictly your reduction.  Wink

Mayhap.  Smiley
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« Reply #15 on: January 14, 2014, 04:43:10 PM »


Mr Flyspeck:

This one did absolutely nothing for me. It was interesting that it turns out the grandfather was the one behind the puppet and the horror that she must have felt at the realization. But our elders are never the angels we visualize them as when we are children so the ending didn't really shock me.


I think this one was open enough that it wasn't necessarily the grandfather. Supernatural is not out of the question.

I suppose that it's not, but I didn't even consider that possibility when I was reading the story. Perhaps to me, even though it's not unexpected it's still far more terrifying to think my own family wanting me dead. As supposed to some strange phantom.
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« Reply #16 on: January 15, 2014, 09:56:45 AM »


Mr Flyspeck:

This one did absolutely nothing for me. It was interesting that it turns out the grandfather was the one behind the puppet and the horror that she must have felt at the realization. But our elders are never the angels we visualize them as when we are children so the ending didn't really shock me.


I think this one was open enough that it wasn't necessarily the grandfather. Supernatural is not out of the question.

I suppose that it's not, but I didn't even consider that possibility when I was reading the story. Perhaps to me, even though it's not unexpected it's still far more terrifying to think my own family wanting me dead. As supposed to some strange phantom.

That too.  It's much more horrible for the grandfather to have done it.
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« Reply #17 on: January 19, 2014, 01:31:47 PM »

I liked Mr. Flyspeck best as it's a disturbing idea to realize that one's family is creepy under the surface. After all, it's something so many poor folks have to deal with in real life. I could tell where the Violin Family was going from almost the start, so it lacked impact for me a bit.

The idea of creepy dolls and of odd relationships between ventriloquists and their dummies goes back pretty far. There seemed to be a spate of those in the 1940's with the film Dead of Night, and a radio play from the same period of the same name. There was another one from that period as well, though I can't remember it's name. I may have enjoyed the Twilight Zone one best though for it's sense of fear and dread.

Of course, there is always "Magic" with Anthony Hopkins, but it seems less well remembered for its quality than for its horrifying promotional materials which scared children at the time during the television promo, resulting in parents calling their local stations to complain. Children know dolls are creepy.  Cheesy
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« Reply #18 on: January 19, 2014, 04:31:52 PM »

Quote
There was another one from that period as well, though I can't remember it's name.

That would have been South African radio show THE CREAKING DOOR, episode "The Dummy".

It's one of my pet theories, never researched, that fear of dummies and dolls (see also as far back as Hoffmann's "The Sandman" and Olympia) that animate have some roots in the idea of the Kellipot (Qliphoth, kliffoth, klippot) from the Kabbalah - shells of life should be hollow but instead are occupied by some force.

MAGIC is an okay movie but, honestly, those commercials primed all us kids for a possessed dummy movie (see also DEVIL DOLL) and instead we got a psychological thriller.
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« Reply #19 on: January 20, 2014, 09:15:05 AM »

I liked Mr. Flyspeck best as it's a disturbing idea to realize that one's family is creepy under the surface. After all, it's something so many poor folks have to deal with in real life. I could tell where the Violin Family was going from almost the start, so it lacked impact for me a bit.

The idea of creepy dolls and of odd relationships between ventriloquists and their dummies goes back pretty far. There seemed to be a spate of those in the 1940's with the film Dead of Night, and a radio play from the same period of the same name. There was another one from that period as well, though I can't remember it's name. I may have enjoyed the Twilight Zone one best though for it's sense of fear and dread.

Of course, there is always "Magic" with Anthony Hopkins, but it seems less well remembered for its quality than for its horrifying promotional materials which scared children at the time during the television promo, resulting in parents calling their local stations to complain. Children know dolls are creepy.  Cheesy

I'm assuming you've heard Creepy Doll by Jonathan Coulton, if you haven't you should.
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