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Author Topic: Pseudopod 384: The Old Traditions Are Best  (Read 5194 times)

Bdoomed

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on: May 06, 2014, 10:55:03 PM
Pseudopod 384: The Old Traditions Are Best

by Paul Finch.

“The Old Traditions Are Best” was first published in Shades Of Darkness, 2008, and republished in The Mammoth Book Of Best New Horror #20, 2009. I think it’s important to remember that Cornwall is one of the prettiest and warmest corners of England, an idyllic rural peninsula surrounded by blue seas, with miles of white sand beaches, soaring cliffs, and inland green hills and rolling moors. It is a hugely popular holiday resort, famous for its traditional fishing ports and harbour towns, without a hint of cheapness or vulgarity – Padstow is a classic example of this.

PAUL FINCH is a former police officer and journalist turned full-time author. He first cut his professional teeth writing scripts for the British TV cop show, The Bill, but has since branched out into horror, fantasy and thrillers. He has penned numerous short stories and novellas across the genre spectrum. Several of his Dr Who audio scripts have gone to full audio production, two of his screenplays have been made into movies and his last two novels were official best-sellers during 2013. Paul is currently writing the fourth novel in his new cop thriller series from Avon Books (HarperCollins). The first two attained official best seller status in 2013, while the third, THE KILLING CLUB, will be published both in paperback and as an ebook on May 22 this year. Paul is also busy editing the TERROR TALES anthology series from Gray Friar Press, which includes creepy fiction and non-fiction from all corners of the UK – the next two titles due this year are TERROR TALES OF WALES, due for publication in April, and TERROR TALES OF YORKSHIRE, due in September. Full details of these and all other projects can be found on Paul’s official webpage WALKING IN THE DARK.

Your reader – Ant Bacon – is an actor and coroner’s officer from Manchester, England so he loves a bit of death and a bit of story telling – what else is there to know?! If anyone wants to say hello, though, he’s on twitter and always looking to up my followers: www.twitter.com/antbacon

The Nerdapalooza Tapes can be found HERE.



“‘Check this out.’ Russ read a selected passage. “In 1346, during the Hundred Years War, England’s king, Edward III, commenced a lengthy siege of the port of Calais. The French fleet was unable to break it, and thus launched a series of tit-for-tat raids on English coastal towns. One such was Padstow in north Cornwall, which was assaulted in the April of 1347. The town, denuded of defenders as the bulk of its male population was involved at Calais, could only offer resistance by carrying the town’s traditional spring-time symbol, the Hobby-Horse – or Obby Oss – down to the harbour, and threatening to invoke demonic forces with it. The French scoffed at this, but legend holds that, when they landed, the Obby Oss did indeed come to life and attack them. Several Frenchmen were borne away into the sea by it, before their comrades fled.”

Scott still wasn’t listening. He was too preoccupied with the incident earlier, and what, if anything, it might signify. As far as he understood, the ‘Safari Programme’, as the popular press scornfully termed it, was designed to provide short holidays for young offenders as an aid to their rehabilitation. It was supposed to be good for everyone: ease up pressure on the prison system, and show the offender that a different and more rewarding lifestyle was possible. But surely the people who actually lived in the place the offender was being taken to weren’t supposed to know about it? Surely the whole thing would be carried out as secretly as possible? This had worried Scott from the outset. Thoughts of mob vengeance were never far from a young criminal’s mind. Back in Manchester, he knew of one lad who’d been tied to a lamp-post and had paint poured over him. Another had been locked in a shed with a savage dog, and had almost died from his injuries.

Russ read on. “Owing to the infernal forces that allegedly worked through it on that long-ago spring day, the Padstow Oss has developed a reputation for defending the town aggressively, even cruelly. This is not entirely out of keeping with other hobby-horse legends. Scholars have suggested that the name itself, ‘hobby-horse’, derives from the old English word ‘Hobb’, which means ‘Devil’, though in the case of Padstow events have clearly gone a little farther than most. Even now, in modern times, the Padstow Oss has a disquieting appearance, and in a grim reversal of the role commonly played by fertility gods, is said to draw its power from violence rather than love.”

‘Didn’t know this place was so interesting,’ Mary said, taking a sip of lemonade.

Russ looked again at Scott, who hadn’t touched his own drink. ‘Just shows though, doesn’t it, Scott. You thought that bloke was having a go at you, but all he was doing was telling you about the history of the place.’”





Listen to this week's Pseudopod.

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


adrianh

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Reply #1 on: May 07, 2014, 10:11:51 AM
I liked it. Mostly because I live in Holiday Destination, Ruralshire, UK and the story environment seems terribly familiar to me ;-)

One thing I really liked was that there was an inversion in the way the victim and the town is normally portrayed in these kinds of tale. Normally it's the sophisticated out-of-towner outwitted by dark forces and the country bumpkins. This time it was the unsophisticated city dweller facing doom. Nice to see that stereotype of rural == stupid stomped on for a bit.



empathy44

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Reply #2 on: May 07, 2014, 08:54:04 PM
I'm a bit unsure about this one. I wasn't sure if the author wanted to indulge in a sort of fist shaking "Kids these days! Hoodlums! They deserve what they get!" kind of story. Or, if he was attempting to describe a world where kids are sacrificed every day for being what their world has made them?

The hobby horse could then be seen as a more ancient way of dealing with people who want what you've got; except now they are your own people.

Deeper depths seem to be there--if you think of him as an unreliable narrator. He reacts violently and unpleasantly to feeling scared; but lets it drop that other kids had been severely beaten up (so he maybe has good reason to be scared). He says he's thin and unhealthy because he choses to be (he likes drugs, cigarettes etc better than food). Why is it so easy for him to get the stuff? Are there no alternatives? Where are the people who are supposed to be keeping him from harm...taking him to the dentist?  

« Last Edit: May 07, 2014, 08:56:41 PM by empathy44 »



primerofin

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Reply #3 on: May 09, 2014, 12:39:03 AM
Nice solid story. I liked it.  Felt like it was a classic story.  Don't know if that is because it is  derivative of other stories (not a criticism, I don't have a wealth of knowledge to compare to other stores) or if it just mined a vein that works.

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bounceswoosh

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Reply #4 on: May 12, 2014, 04:30:35 AM
I think the villain was entirely too villainous. I guess he could have kicked a few puppies, too, just for good measure. But depicting a youth as essentially born evil - isn't that out of fashion?

Did anyone wonder if in fact it's not just this couple, but the entire "juvie holiday" program that's corrupt? Is this just a handy way of getting rid of troubled kids before they graduate to bigger crimes?
« Last Edit: May 12, 2014, 08:53:10 AM by eytanz »



zoanon

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Reply #5 on: May 15, 2014, 02:56:08 AM
I don't think the kid is the villain here, it was the couple taking him on the reform program.
the story didn't read at all to me like someone getting what they deserved. the whole town was  a trap for him, he is the sacrificial lamb as it were.



Unblinking

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Reply #6 on: May 15, 2014, 01:53:03 PM
If the dialect were a bit different I'd swear this was a Stephen King story about a sleepy little town. 

I don't know, I didn't really get into it.  I found the image of a parade puppet hunting him down about the least scary image I can conjure.  It was pretty obvious early on how it would end up.  Wasn't really anything that engaged me or surprised me in this.

Eh, on to next week.



adrianh

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Reply #7 on: May 15, 2014, 02:21:09 PM
I'm with zoanon in not finding the teenager villainous at all. Yes, he wasn't a nice person, but I thought the author did a good job of showing how that came about.

The villains, for me, were his guides and keepers. Consciously "Managing" the hobby horse by finding victims to sacrifice.



empathy44

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Reply #8 on: May 16, 2014, 04:07:33 PM
I'm with zoanon in not finding the teenager villainous at all. Yes, he wasn't a nice person, but I thought the author did a good job of showing how that came about.

The villains, for me, were his guides and keepers. Consciously "Managing" the hobby horse by finding victims to sacrifice.

It does make a better story this way, and by not making it thuddingly obvious it's more effective. As I said above, I wasn't sure it was subtle or really totally unsubtle.



DerangedMind

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Reply #9 on: May 18, 2014, 02:03:04 AM
I'm with zoanon in not finding the teenager villainous at all. Yes, he wasn't a nice person, but I thought the author did a good job of showing how that came about.

The villains, for me, were his guides and keepers. Consciously "Managing" the hobby horse by finding victims to sacrifice.

It does make a better story this way, and by not making it thuddingly obvious it's more effective. As I said above, I wasn't sure it was subtle or really totally unsubtle.

But, even then, the sacrifice had a choice.  The hobby horse didn't come after him until he made the choice to rob the village.

I think that if he had been 'reformed' he would have survived the trip...

It made me wonder if there may have been several potential sacrifices brought for the horse...



Thundercrack!

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Reply #10 on: May 18, 2014, 11:53:04 AM
I really liked this one. The mention of the shellsuit early on in the story, and a few other details, really brought to life the time and the place, for me. I believed in the characters, and the situation.

As Unblinking said, the "parade puppet" hunting Scott down is a really absurd image. Scott also found it absurd. But I think that only intensifies the horror. The objective ridiculousness of the thing working its way down the steep slope, head first, does not mean that it isn't a subjectively terrifying experience for its prey (and the listeners, putting ourselves in his position). Plus, there's a satisfying parsimony in having the "puppet" make the kill, rather than bringing in a more overtly supernatural entity.

Re: empathy44's "Or, if he was attempting to describe a world where kids are sacrificed every day for being what their world has made them?" -- in the context of the story, Padstow and Manchester are completely different worlds. Scott is as much a foreigner in Cornwall as were the 14th Century French invaders.

I think this may have had extra resonance for me because, coincidentally, I was reading about the Obby Oss (which was totally new to me), on Wikipedia earlier this week. I'd been led there after hearing about Stargazy Pie on the BBC News, curious to find out what that was all about. Before long, I was immersed in Cornish culture...

Finally, Alasdair's outro was also really good.



Unblinking

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Reply #11 on: May 19, 2014, 02:06:35 PM
As Unblinking said, the "parade puppet" hunting Scott down is a really absurd image. Scott also found it absurd. But I think that only intensifies the horror. The objective ridiculousness of the thing working its way down the steep slope, head first, does not mean that it isn't a subjectively terrifying experience for its prey (and the listeners, putting ourselves in his position). Plus, there's a satisfying parsimony in having the "puppet" make the kill, rather than bringing in a more overtly supernatural entity.

I hear you on something being absurd/terrifying all at once.  I've written a horror story about a malevolent penguin Christmas lawn ornament.  It's a hard balance to strike--in the case of hobbyhorse, for me personally, it landed squarely in absurd with barely a toehold in terrifying.  But, YMMV and all that.



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Reply #12 on: May 20, 2014, 06:47:40 PM
I liked this story, but I am a fan of classic fiction (perhaps my handle gives it away).  It built quite nicely.  My only critique, and it is not really a critique because the author couldn't really change it, would be with the name "hobby horse".  I understand that it comes for old English/Germanic "hob" as in hobgoblin, but the name was just too 'cute'.  That's the problem with writing stories based on myths, legends, and folklore: you don't get to pick the names.



Unblinking

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Reply #13 on: May 22, 2014, 01:55:56 PM
Beware the hobby horse!




Sgarre1

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Reply #14 on: May 29, 2014, 12:41:31 AM





Richard Babley

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Reply #15 on: May 29, 2014, 09:20:18 PM
Thanks for the pics of hobbyhorses.  What do you know, they are demonic!



Fenrix

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Reply #16 on: June 06, 2014, 03:27:02 PM
I'm not sure that this was a sacrifice thing. Mallecho in the Flash showcase the week following this episode is clear about the sacrifice to keep the monster at peace. However, this could just have been the villagers using the monster to clear out some of the inexorable recidivists from the system.

The pictures that Shawn posted remind me of a Pet Shop Boys show I saw a couple weeks back. It was some of the most surreal shit I think I've ever seen. They had a couple support dancers wearing steer skulls for a few songs and it was seriously creepy. Their capering and the unnatural shapes made the whole thing vaguely uncomfortable. Loved it. If you get a chance, go see them for the stage production, even if you care not a whit about their music.

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


The Far Stairs

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Reply #17 on: June 28, 2014, 09:17:06 PM
It struck me that this story took place in a world without rules, where good people aren't necessarily rewarded and bad people aren't necessarily punished. People just do what they do and sometimes come up against malevolent, implacable forces that destroy them.

Oh, wait. That's our world.

The ideas and mythology were very cool, but I didn't find anything very scary about it.

However, this could just have been the villagers using the monster to clear out some of the inexorable recidivists from the system.

How funny. The Inexorable Recidivists is the name of my band.

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doctornemo

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Reply #18 on: July 09, 2014, 02:11:44 AM
I appreciated the leisurely pace of this one, gradually adumbrating the setting, the backstory, and the protagonist's fate.

Reminded me of a less uneasy Thomas Ligotti story, given his puppet obsession.



doctornemo

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Reply #19 on: July 09, 2014, 02:14:18 AM
Speaking of hobby horses, don't forget Lawrence Sterne's advice:

Nay, if you come to that, Sir, have not the wisest of men in all ages, not excepting Solomon himself,—have they not had their Hobby-Horses;—their running horses,—their coins and their cockle-shells, their drums and their trumpets, their fiddles, their pallets,—their maggots and their butterflies?—and so long as a man rides his Hobby-Horse peaceably and quietly along the King's highway, and neither compels you or me to get up behind him,—pray, Sir, what have either you or I to do with it?