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Author Topic: Pseudopod 390: Party Games  (Read 4998 times)

eytanz

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on: June 20, 2014, 11:54:56 AM
Pseudopod 390: Party Games

by Richard Farren Barber.

“Party Games” has never previously been published. “I am fascinated by the black/white viewpoint children often have upon life. Something is either wrong or it is right – with children there are no mitigating circumstances. This makes it so much more shocking when a child discovers that not everyone plays by the rules. Life really is unfair.”

RICHARD FARREN Barber was born in Nottingham in July 1970. After studying in London he returned to the East Midlands. He lives with his wife and son and works as a Development Services Manager for a local university. He has had stories published in Alt-Dead, Alt Zombie, Blood Oranges, The British Fantasy Society Journal, Fever Dreams, The Horror Zine, Murky Depths, Midnight Echo, Midnight Street, Morpheus Tales, Night Terrors II, The House of Horror, Siblings, The 13 Ghosts of Christmas, Trembles, Terror Scribes and many others. His work has been broadcast on BBC Radio Derby and Erewash Sound. His first novella “The Power of Nothing” was published by Damnation Books in September 2013. His second novella “The Sleeping Dead” will be published by DarkFuse in August 2014. His website is Richard Farren Barber.

Your reader – Tina Connolly – lives with her family in Portland, Oregon. Her stories have appeared in Lightspeed, Tor.com, Strange Horizons, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Her first fantasy novel, IRONSKIN (Tor 2012), was nominated for a Nebula, and the sequel COPPERHEAD is now out from Tor – the final book in the series, SILVERBLIND, comes out this October. Her fiction and narration has appeared on all three Escape Artists casts. She has also contributed voicework to many other projects, including the recent anthology from John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey, THE END IS NIGH. She runs the Parsec-winning flash fiction podcast Toasted Cake, and her website is Tina Connolly.com.

Info on “End Is Nigh” can be found at the Amazon link (music under the promo is “Meet me at the place” by Glass Boy, available at: Free Music Archive).

Please donate what you can to help Talliston House survive!



“As Helen walked to the front of the hall she could hear them whispering behind her back. The sound of their voices crashed on her shoulders like a wave. She couldn’t make out anything they said – a couple of times she thought she heard her name within the tidal brush of noise, but she ignored it.

‘I’m ready,’ she called.

‘Put on the blindfold.’

The voice came from so close to her ear she thought the woman was standing directly beside her. Helen was tempted to open her eyes and look, but she wasn’t a cheat.

She shook her head. ‘No.’

‘You have to put on the blindfold.’”




Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2014, 08:39:49 PM by Bdoomed »



The Far Stairs

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Reply #1 on: June 21, 2014, 06:00:19 PM
This one had a creepy atmosphere, but I didn't understand what was going on. That lessened the enjoyment for me.

Jesse Livingston
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Fenrix

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Reply #2 on: June 21, 2014, 06:28:49 PM

This one had a creepy atmosphere, but I didn't understand what was going on. That lessened the enjoyment for me.


I took it as a version of Blind Man's Bluff gone widdershins.

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


kibitzer

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Reply #3 on: June 22, 2014, 10:06:32 PM
People just don't use the word "widdershins" enough.


Unblinking

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Reply #4 on: June 26, 2014, 02:23:09 PM
I don't get it.

I got the general sense of the party game but I didn't understand how it ended up, and some of the details on the way made no sense to me--like how she would be nonchalant about there being barbwire in the party game closet.



zoanon

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Reply #5 on: June 28, 2014, 03:02:15 PM
I am also confused.
was this just a party? a test? a right of passage?
she failed that much is obvious.
I need to listen again.



The Far Stairs

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Reply #6 on: June 28, 2014, 09:33:55 PM

This one had a creepy atmosphere, but I didn't understand what was going on. That lessened the enjoyment for me.


I took it as a version of Blind Man's Bluff gone widdershins.

That's a good interpretation. I guess I just need more context to enjoy a story. Maybe it's sleep deprivation, but I'm distressed by how little I've understood several of the most recent stories. This one, "Jack the Ripper's Bedroom," and "The Dog's Paw" felt like trying to see through mud. I'm all for bizarre ideas and characters, but I think good stories generally need a straightforward narrative to be effective. Even if you're describing esoteric and elliptical events, you should do so in simple terms, as though you're telling a campfire tale and trying to hold people's attention.

That's why I loved "The House, the Garden, and the Occupants" so so very much.

Jesse Livingston
Head of Historical Archives
The Far Stairs
www.athousandlifetimes.com


The Far Stairs

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Reply #7 on: June 28, 2014, 09:35:34 PM
People just don't use the word "widdershins" enough.

"Widdershins" is one of the best words there is. It's also one of the creepiest ideas I've ever heard.

Jesse Livingston
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The Far Stairs
www.athousandlifetimes.com


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Reply #8 on: June 30, 2014, 12:08:21 PM

This one had a creepy atmosphere, but I didn't understand what was going on. That lessened the enjoyment for me.


I took it as a version of Blind Man's Bluff gone widdershins.

That's a good interpretation. I guess I just need more context to enjoy a story. Maybe it's sleep deprivation, but I'm distressed by how little I've understood several of the most recent stories. This one, "Jack the Ripper's Bedroom," and "The Dog's Paw" felt like trying to see through mud. I'm all for bizarre ideas and characters, but I think good stories generally need a straightforward narrative to be effective. Even if you're describing esoteric and elliptical events, you should do so in simple terms, as though you're telling a campfire tale and trying to hold people's attention.

That's why I loved "The House, the Garden, and the Occupants" so so very much.


I don't think it's just sleep deprivation, same thing for me.  I think there have just been a lot of that kind of story, whatever "that kind" means.



bounceswoosh

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Reply #9 on: June 30, 2014, 01:14:47 PM
I've enjoyed these less straight forward stories. To use a fraught term, they seem more .. literary?



Metalsludge

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Reply #10 on: June 30, 2014, 07:43:56 PM
With all these hard to fully grasp stories lately, I can feel our first Robert Aickman story about to arrive at pseudopod, just to finish confusing everybody. :)

I have mixed feelings about such stories. Are vague stories automatically more literary? I'm not sure they are. But in weird fiction, a bit of mystery can be helpful in creating atmosphere and even be fun. Then again, I personally think it works better when the story contains hints of unresolved mystery, rather than a mysteriously confusing whole. For example, some Le Fanu stories have mysterious characters or elements that we never get a full explanation of, while we can still get the general idea of what happened. Who or what are the caretakers that keep introducing Carmilla to new victims? We never find out, but we still understand the overall story and can enjoy speculation on the details.

In fairness to the stories mentioned of late, I think that most of them are pretty clear if you look past the confusing details and stick with the story basics. In most cases, what you feel the story is about is probably what it boils down to. (Though I did cheat a little and googled one of the stories to make sure I had the right idea.) I think that the authors could have been a touch clearer though, without losing that "literary" feel that seemingly raises a macabre work above the slush pile these days.



Richard Babley

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Reply #11 on: June 30, 2014, 10:59:38 PM

I have mixed feelings about such stories. Are vague stories automatically more literary? I'm not sure they are. But in weird fiction, a bit of mystery can be helpful in creating atmosphere and even be fun. Then again, I personally think it works better when the story contains hints of unresolved mystery, rather than a mysteriously confusing whole. For example, some Le Fanu stories have mysterious characters or elements that we never get a full explanation of, while we can still get the general idea of what happened. Who or what are the caretakers that keep introducing Carmilla to new victims? We never find out, but we still understand the overall story and can enjoy speculation on the details.

In fairness to the stories mentioned of late, I think that most of them are pretty clear if you look past the confusing details and stick with the story basics. In most cases, what you feel the story is about is probably what it boils down to. (Though I did cheat a little and googled one of the stories to make sure I had the right idea.) I think that the authors could have been a touch clearer though, without losing that "literary" feel that seemingly raises a macabre work above the slush pile these days.


I think that many people confuse the two, and think that clarity is too sterile to be literary.  I disagree and find that many of the great authors are perfectly clear yet remain extremely literary.  Kurt Vonnegut Jr. is a good example of an author that tried to fight against the "clear writing is not literary."  But even Tolstoi and Dickens were perfectly clear and extremely literary, among more.  

My personal opinion is that great literature should be both.  A great author will always find a way to be artsy fartsy without sacrificing clarity of message.



bounceswoosh

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Reply #12 on: July 01, 2014, 01:39:13 AM
I don't think I'm confusing the two. Some clear stories are good. Some aren't. Some opaque stories are good. Some aren't. I was thinking more that these "unclear" stories are perfectly clear - they just don't have a plot and/or a moral.  They're vignettes or character studies. Stories don't have to be "gotten" to be good.



Sgarre1

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Reply #13 on: July 01, 2014, 04:06:25 AM
The only thing I'll note here from an editorial perspective is please keep in mind that there is always a low-level experiment going on at Pseudopod regarding what styles and approaches to fiction will work in *audio* presentation - so any reaction to this or recent stories (vis-a-vis "good/bad" or "successful/unsuccessful") should be viewed through a lens that acknowledges that these were stories written to be read on the page first and foremost, and our decision to choose to present them in audio may not be presenting them in their optimum medium.

Certain styles and approaches to fiction work better in audio than others, but that shouldn't be seen as reflecting on any style or approach's worth as good fiction.  I have a bit of an accumulated experience with this but some of the basic points should be obvious - the approach of straight-ahead plotted genre pulp tends to work best, as it is the closest to the oral storytelling tradition, with carefully crafted first-person narratives similarly successful as this parallel the dramatic monologist tradition. But that's not going to stop us from experimenting with other approaches - I'm still very proud of the achievement of last year's "Red Rubber Gloves" as proof that dense, repetitive post-modern prose can work in audio, if thoughtfully handled.  As always, just wait long enough and things will change.  Sometimes you want to wrestle and sometimes you just want to hear a story.

As for Aickman - yeah, it would be a wonderful "get" that I haven't pursued yet.  I know what two stories I'd go for already, and they would be the least abstruse ones to my mind (although gems like "Larger Than Oneself" or "The Stains" would be wonderful as well, how could I seriously justify presenting those in audio when, for example, it took three very close readings of "The Stains" on my part before I picked up the "hidden/but not really once you see it" hint of the main character's alcohol problems?  I honestly couldn't justify it.).  And having said that - 400 is coming up and is already a nice surprise, with a further possibility of it being an even nicer surprise (not Aickman!) - we shall see.  Also, we do have a very Aickmanesque (to my mind) story coming up in a month or so!



Richard Babley

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Reply #14 on: July 01, 2014, 07:45:46 AM
I have a bit of an accumulated experience with this but some of the basic points should be obvious - the approach of straight-ahead plotted genre pulp tends to work best, as it is the closest to the oral storytelling tradition, with carefully crafted first-person narratives similarly successful as this parallel the dramatic monologist tradition. But that's not going to stop us from experimenting with other approaches - I'm still very proud of the achievement of last year's "Red Rubber Gloves" as proof that dense, repetitive post-modern prose can work in audio, if thoughtfully handled.

I agree, you definitely shouldn't stop experimenting.  I won't stop listening because of post-modern fiction styles.  I critique because I am opinionated, but that doesn't mean that I don't enjoy the stories on some level.  If I didn't enjoy them; I wouldn't be here.  When I started listening to EA, the first stories I heard were "Pearls in the eyes", "Black Swan Oracle" and "As I wish to be restored".  All of which blew me away.  Unfortunately I haven't yet written on the forums for those.

But "straight-ahead plotted genre pulp" is a great misunderstanding of the point I was trying to make, and that is my fault.  Keep in mind that the definition of "great literature" is highly subjective when it comes to style, otherwise we wouldn't categorize Joyce and Hemmingway (neither of which are my favorites) both as great artists.

One could call stories like red riding hood "straight-ahead plotted genre pulp", but we generally don't.  We classify them as classic fairy tales.  Why?  It is because they are built on many layers of meaning.  There is the plotted story,  in the Gebruder Grimm version: girl follows path, girl strays from path, wolf eats grandmother, wolf eats girl, woodcutter saves grandmother and girl.  This story is extremely understandable and clear on the first level of meaning, but if you peel that level away, you get a symbolistic level:  Girl is wearing red as a representation of passion or blood.  Blood in the story represents a passage into womanhood.  The wolf represents temptation, the path is christian values, the grandmother is wisdom, the woodcutter is forgiveness or redemption.  The wolfs eyes,  ears and mouth are physical features representing sexual desire and temptation because he is in bed.  The bed also represents a sexual area.

It's a very clever story with many different levels of interpretation, depending on the reader, and that is what has given it staying power over a thousand years.  That's what I enjoy in a story, understanding it on one level right away, and then going back and finding the second and third levels of meaning.

If a story starts on the symbolistic or metaphorical level and stays there, I feel as if I am floating in space, twirling around with no clear place to grab onto, no clear place to stand on and view the story from, giving me a literary version of motion sickness.  Which is nice sometimes in a way that spinney rides at fairs are nice:  Enjoyable but too much makes me unpleasantly dizzy.

But these are, of course, are all my opinions of art and are highly personal, and that's why we have such a large spectrum of style.

Please keep in mind that Little red ridinghood is an overstatement of the case for clarity, I just wanted an example that everyone would know.  I toyed with using "The Catcher in the Rye", (which would have been a knockout example) but not everyone here has read it.

One more thing:  Aldaister's outro to "Dog's Paw" was spot on: these highly metaphorical stories are my version of stepping out of my literary comfort zone so-to-say, which is also another reason why I am here.  Keep doing what you are doing, because you are doing it well.
« Last Edit: July 01, 2014, 08:34:03 AM by Richard Babley »



albionmoonlight

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Reply #15 on: July 03, 2014, 07:02:45 PM
I certainly didn't totally "get" this story as a lot of people have noted.

But I really enjoyed the metaphor as explained in the outtro.  As a parent of an elementary school age kid, I am already dreading sending him out into the world.  His mom and I have basically controlled much of his life thusfar, and as a result, his life has been fair and has been nice.  I am not looking forward to having to explain things like how the real world is pretty unfair and pretty mean.

As a kid, I knew that kids could be cruel.  And I suffered at the hands of it.  But I also accepted it.  I am having a harder time accepting it as a parent sending my kids into that world.



Fenrix

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Reply #16 on: July 18, 2014, 05:03:33 PM
I went back through this one again, and there's some truly weird worldbuilding elements that are easy to miss the first time around. The little coil of barbed wire brought home from no-man’s land. The time spent in a gas mask under her school table. These details don't quite fit WW2 Britain, much like everything else doesn't quite fit in this world, so the weird is compounded.

I also liked how the mother was dreading the party. Was her daughter being sent as a sacrifice? Or is this a rite of passage into something monstrous? You can become one of the monsters if you cheat and catch one of your tormentors?

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