Author Topic: Pseudopod 381: Scarred  (Read 3086 times)

Bdoomed

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Pseudopod 381: Scarred
« on: April 12, 2014, 01:15:52 AM »
Pseudopod 381: Scarred

by Damien Angelica Walters.

“Scarred” originally appeared in Fireside Magazine Issue 2, released in August 2012.

DAMIEN ANGELICA WALTERS‘ short fiction has appeared in Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and her debut novel, INK, was released in December 2012 by Samhain Horror. As Damien Angelica Walters, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Apex, Shimmer, Shock Totem, Strange Horizons, Daily Science Fiction, Nightmare, Drabblecast, and the anthologies GLITTER & MAYHEM and WHAT FATES IMPOSE. A collection of her short fiction will be released later this year from Apex Publications. She lives in Maryland but you can find her online at Damien Walters.

Your reader – Becky Stinemetze – works in marketing in San Antonio, Texas. She is married and has two dogs that are practically her children. She loves to cook, go to concerts, and of course do voice over work. She hopes to to one day be a full time voice over artist. If you wish to contact Becky about any voice over work of any kind or if you just want to follow her antics; you can find her on Twitter at @Becky_J or read her blog at beckystinemetze.com.

SLINGERS by Matt Wallace can be purchased here



“Violet carved her hate into her flesh one name at a time.

Her skin was riddled with scars, some barely visible, others dark and ruddy. The oldest, the first name, was on her right ankle, right above the knobby bone. It revealed a halting progress, with many gaps in between the lines and curves.

He suffered for a long time.”





Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
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davidthygod

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Re: Pseudopod 381: Scarred
« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2014, 11:10:15 AM »
I really wish this was longer.  I wanted more backstory on the voice in her head, and I wanted to understand the killing mechanism a little better.  Once she does her little body engraving bit, what happens?  What does the victim see and feel?  How are they killed?  Does she feel anything?  Whats the gap between revisits?  What triggers the need to kill?  Where did the voice come from originally?

I filled in my own answers of course, but this story succeeded in the basic premise of making me want more.  Good job.
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The Far Stairs

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Re: Pseudopod 381: Scarred
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2014, 12:38:25 PM »
This story had an interesting premise I hadn't heard before. I love when that happens instead of just another zombie story. Points for originality!

One gentle, constructive note for the narrator: the narration was mostly fantastic except that the voice of the male character bothered me. It sounded a little bit like Scooby-Doo, if you get what I mean. I think female narrators don't necessarily have to lower their vocal register when they read male characters, just as male narrators don't have to raise theirs for female characters. It often comes off sounding a bit cheesy and distracts from the story.

That's all!
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TrishEM

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Re: Pseudopod 381: Scarred
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2014, 04:48:31 AM »
I thought this story was great. A real twist on "cutting" -- and how she uses that as a cover for the much darker story of what's really happening. I didn't feel any need for explanation of the mechanics of what was happening or why; I thought the story spoke for itself. I was really impressed by what I thought was the ending, at first -- the self-sacrifice she resolved upon to stop playing god -- and then the heartbreaking final twist turned it around again! Wow.

Unblinking

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Re: Pseudopod 381: Scarred
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2014, 08:34:00 AM »
This one had a pretty big hurdle to overcome for me with the self-cutting.  When I was a teenager (wow, half a lifetime ago, weird to think that) I had a close friend who cut herself.  She showed me, and told me not to tell anyone, and I didn't know what to do.  On top of the visceral, personal reaction, I feel like self-cutting is a misunderstood behavior by most people at the best of times, most people assume it's an attempted suicide which is really a different thing entirely.  So I'm very wary of stories that confuse that even further by adding in supernatural elements to an already misunderstood thing.

I think it did well portraying addiction, the urge to do something you know is terribly destructive but  every fiber of your being seems to be reaching for it and some details rang particularly true to what I'd heard from that friend, about the pain not being as much as expected and etc.  I wouldn't say I like it, but I think it was a reasonable metaphor, and there was plenty of scary and truth about it.

The ending... didn't really seem to match the metaphor that the rest of the story was working along.  In the sense of the events of the story it made enough sense, I guess, it's like a parasite that moves on when it's host becomes unsuitable which she does when she contemplates suicide.  But in the metaphor of self-cutting, addiction, all that, I lost the thread there.  Losing the thread right at the end of a story is frustrating.

In the end, I'm of two minds about it.

DerangedMind

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Re: Pseudopod 381: Scarred
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2014, 03:05:07 PM »
Wow.  This was an fascinating, dark story. 

I found myself wondering, right until the end of the story, whether it was real, or whether it was in her head.  I don't think it would have mattered to me which it was, but I was happy that it was actually resolved.  I was actually expecting that it was in her head...

albionmoonlight

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Re: Pseudopod 381: Scarred
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2014, 11:36:41 AM »
I have a friend who engaged in self-abuse as a result of childhood trauma.  I thought that this story did a great job of capturing that sense of being compelled to do something that you know is wrong and harmful.  And how that desire to hurt yourself can be temporarily sated, but it never really goes away.  The annoying voice is a great metaphor for that.

Unblinking makes a interesting point about the ending not quite fitting the metaphor of the story.  I think it does if you take the lesson to be that the cycle of abuse/self-abuse does not really end.  Even if this narrator can stop it in herself by killing herself, there will be other abused children who will turn to the same self destructive behaviors.  So, from the perspective of our narrator and her personal metaphor, she should have died.  But, if the author is trying to make a larger point about the evils of self-abuse more broadly, then I think that the ending conveys that.  It makes sense that the parasite left her for another abused girl.

The Far Stairs

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Re: Pseudopod 381: Scarred
« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2014, 01:21:07 PM »
I think cutting is more of a coping behavior that doesn't necessarily have a negative impact on someone's mental health. It's more of a need to feel external pain that matches unexpressed internal pain. (I've done it before, and that was my experience.)

I apologize if I'm misremembering the story, but the people whose names she carved into her skin died, right? That would suggest that the parasite is really a supernatural entity rather than a metaphor for a psychological process.

HOWEVER, I could see an interpretation where she's not actually killing people in real life but killing her connection to them in her mind. That would suggest a much more pernicious process in which she's increasingly isolating herself and heading toward some kind of breakdown.

I dunno. The parasite jumping to the little girl at the end suggests a purely supernatural interpretation to me. It's hard to say. Maybe the cutting was just a conceit to hang the supernatural elements on. If that's true, the story still gets points for originality.

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Unblinking

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Re: Pseudopod 381: Scarred
« Reply #8 on: April 28, 2014, 09:06:16 AM »
Unblinking makes a interesting point about the ending not quite fitting the metaphor of the story.  I think it does if you take the lesson to be that the cycle of abuse/self-abuse does not really end. 

The cycle of abuse is one thing, but where it broke down for me is that the girl wouldn't have cut herself if the main character hadn't cut herself in a particular way.  Up until then, it had been running with the metaphor.


I think cutting is more of a coping behavior that doesn't necessarily have a negative impact on someone's mental health.  It's more of a need to feel external pain that matches unexpressed internal pain. (I've done it before, and that was my experience.)

It's certainly a coping behavior.  Whether or not is has an impact on your mental health might be debatable, but only because it's a symptom that your mental health faring very badly.  It's a sign that you need help, right now, right away, because you are literally destroying your body in very tangible ways to cope with mental stress.  That's a sign that something is seriously wrong.



I apologize if I'm misremembering the story, but the people whose names she carved into her skin died, right? That would suggest that the parasite is really a supernatural entity rather than a metaphor for a psychological process.

Sure, in the body of the story, there was definitely a supernatural entity that was converting her cutting into death on other people.  There's evidence for that.

But that doesn't mean that, thematically, the effect of the cutting isn't a metaphor for what an actual cutting person would be going through.  I mean, like Stephen King's Carrie, Carrie's TK powers are indisputable in the body of the story, but that doesn't mean that thematically they aren't meant to represent something in real life. 

The Far Stairs

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Re: Pseudopod 381: Scarred
« Reply #9 on: May 03, 2014, 12:42:07 PM »

I apologize if I'm misremembering the story, but the people whose names she carved into her skin died, right? That would suggest that the parasite is really a supernatural entity rather than a metaphor for a psychological process.

Sure, in the body of the story, there was definitely a supernatural entity that was converting her cutting into death on other people.  There's evidence for that.

But that doesn't mean that, thematically, the effect of the cutting isn't a metaphor for what an actual cutting person would be going through.  I mean, like Stephen King's Carrie, Carrie's TK powers are indisputable in the body of the story, but that doesn't mean that thematically they aren't meant to represent something in real life. 


Good point!
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Fenrix

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Re: Pseudopod 381: Scarred
« Reply #10 on: May 29, 2014, 11:49:32 AM »
This was a great story. It could have ended a couple times, but I feel quite satisfied with the whole package.

One item that really impressed me is that this is an effective story about cutting without a significant amount of body horror. It can be used effectively for this purpose (e.g. PP034: Bliss) but I think it's even more powerful without the need to elicit a squirm.

Something else to add more unreliability to it, its said she carves names into her flesh. They don't necessarily have to resemble a written language, but instead a series of hesitation marks and cuts can be a surrogate for language. Morse code in scars.
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Re: Pseudopod 381: Scarred
« Reply #11 on: May 29, 2014, 05:05:00 PM »
It was a good story, it had me hooked until she started naming all of the people involved with her that died.  Suddenly I started think, "How many people died in my high school" (1) and I went to a big high school.  Wouldn't somebody have noticed that people close to her up and die, father, BF, BFF...?  Wouldn't someone notice that all their names are carved on her body?

By then I was out of the story and just couldn't get back in.  The author could have addressed that by saying a detective who was asking questions was also there.

Or maybe I am knitpicking or missed something...

Just read Fenrix's comment, true, but I was thinking actual names unless otherwise stated... too many years following protocols I guess...