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Author Topic: Pseudopod 394: Summer Girls  (Read 5651 times)

Bdoomed

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on: July 12, 2014, 07:15:33 AM
Pseudopod 394: Summer Girls

by Caspian Gray.

“Summer Girls” first appeared in Black Static #35, which was their July/August 2013 issue.

CASPIAN GRAY currently lives with a tall man and a small dog in Columbus, Ohio, where he’s a copywriter for a used car dealership. He has previously worked as a funeral director’s apprentice, a pet nutritionist, and an English teacher to Korean immigrants living in Japan. His fiction has appeared in places like Interzone, Nightmare Magazine, Odyssey, and ChiZine.

Your reader – Robert A.K. Gonyo – is a voiceover artist residing in Queens, New York; when he’s not at the mic, he’s directing, acting, or playing music in New York’s off-off-Broadway theatre community. He produces and hosts a podcast on off-off-Broadway, Go See a Show!, available on the web and on iTunes. You can follow his work, and contact him for voiceover gigs, at ROBERT GONYO.com.

Kameron Hurley can be contacted at the following link: Kameron Hurley.

Matt Wallace’s Slingers can be found here!



“Something brushed his leg. For a moment he felt the sensation of fingers closing on his ankle. Dan started, then floundered away, panicked as a little kid at the first touch of seaweed. He composed himself in case Kayla was watching, but she was treading water further out, eyes on the horizon. Dan swam out to her, accidentally swallowing a mouthful of salt water, then splashed water on her back to get her attention. Kayla turned, pulling long strands of hair out of her eyes.

_The dead girl_, Dan signed. This was one of their home-signs, a single gesture not rendered in his bastardized ASL.

Kayla cocked her head. _Too early_, she signed. _The dead girl won’t be here ’til August._

_She touched me_, Dan signed. _She touched me._

Kayla swam closer to him. They treaded water, looking out over the dark waves for her bobbing corpse. There was no sign of her.

_Let’s swim back._”





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?


Unblinking

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Reply #1 on: July 14, 2014, 02:01:56 PM
Hmm...  Well, I was generally enjoying the story, up until the end.  I thought the element of the dead girl that everyone just kind of took for granted was pretty cool for the reasons Alasdair stated about it being horrific how easily we can get used to things.  I liked his friend, and I though the relationship between them was interesting.

And then the end totally lost me.  I mean, I get that he wanted to get hot and heavy with Kayla, and I remember being a teenager so I remember what it was like, but still dude you gotta consider the situation at the Wendy's there.  Kiss someone and they don't respond at all, kissing harder is not the way to go, and then when she gets mad about you only thinking about sex then you mention skinny dipping.  I was a pretty stupid teenager when it came to girls but wow.

And then he decides he's had enough with living women and it turns out he just wants a passive sperm receptacle who also happens to be bloated with decay.  Well, uh, I hope they're very happy together.  Blech.

A happy ending for all, I guess, because Kayla didn't end up romantically entangled with this tool.



Listener

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Reply #2 on: July 16, 2014, 11:43:16 AM
I agree with Unblinking, mostly.

I enjoyed the relationship between Dan and Kayla -- and, having been Dan (although not with a deaf friend but with friends who have other forms of differently-abled-ness), I understand why he was so pissed at the end. Still, I never would have had sex with a corpse. Talked to her, sure, but sex? Nah.

The story kept me interested the entire way. I enjoyed it.

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SquidDNA

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Reply #3 on: July 16, 2014, 12:28:50 PM
I'm just going to say that this is the most terrifying story I have ever heard on Pseudopod and leave it at that.



albionmoonlight

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Reply #4 on: July 16, 2014, 01:02:44 PM
I thought that the story did a great job of hinting at the sexuality under the surface from the very beginning.  And it slowly got more and more pronounced.  Very careful and tight writing.

And, for the reasons Aldistar stated, I thought that the idea of the dead girl just being a thing that people got used to was pretty terrifying.

If "I tried to stick my tongue down her throat at Wendys, and she got pissed for some reason" does not capture awkward teenage male sexuality, then I do not know what does.  Cringe worthy--in a good writing sort of way.



jackanapes

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Reply #5 on: July 17, 2014, 07:38:48 AM
I was really intrigued by this story and Kayla's side which so rarely gets any type of fictional (or even non-) representation. I was very pleased that Caspian Gray chose to reveal the Deaf Culture side of the cochlear implant debate.

I was confused by the ending and the meaning of the dead girl's presence in the story. Is the author comparing deaf and dead people, or the relationships able-bodied person of the hearing world is capable of having with either deaf or dead girls? Is the dead girl just another outsider like Kayla, at once ignored and a "quaint" spectacle for the community? Like Dan, is the dead girl a potential predator of some description?
I was very much surprised by the ending of implied or suggested necrophilia. For me, it really didn't correspond to the rest of the story. I'd love to hear the author's own description or discussion of this work.

This story of a dead girl, a somewhat rebellious deaf teenage girl, and a lustful boy appears very strange combination with Alistair's remarks that "we can tolerate almost anything, and the only thing we lose in doing so is realizing how much of ourselves we're losing by doing it," which underlines the horror of "a community that has learned to accept that a dead girl appears in its waters, except and worse, be slightly bored by that fact." I'm very much confused and somewhat dismayed by this statement because I can't help but wonder if these remarks, and even possibly the story itself, are meant to conflate the deaf and dead girls' situations. If so, that pisses me off in a way I cannot begin to describe, and if not, the dead girl seems very much extraneous to Dan and Kayla's story. Their angst ridden and complex relationship could have easily existed on its own to make an interesting and emotionally charged story, albeit hardly a horrific one.

Is Alistair implying that by "tolerating" deafness, for example by refusing the cochlear implant in reverence to the supposed superiority of the hearing/non-signing world, disguises a greater loss of identity and humanity somewhere? Deaf and proud crips, like myself, will not tell you they've "lost" identity or humanity, they've found both outside what is considered expected, normal, quaint. Does this mean that getting used to deafness or impairment is something "awful" and that to stop seeing it as something awful, to be ashamed of, as something that must be "fixed", we lose something of ourselves? Somehow I doubt it, as Alistair seems like a lovely guy - I can't help remaining somewhat apprehensive of such statements in the context of this story.

As someone of "differently-abled-ness" (I prefer disabled, "crip," anything but "differently abled" or "handicapable" ) although not Deaf or hard-of-hearing, I greatly sympathize with Kayla's character. Kayla is just on the verge of discovering what it means to be part of Deaf Culture, part of a community and identity, instead of being "damaged" or "lacking" by not being able-bodied. In Gray's story, from Kayla's, and to a lesser extent Dan's, points of view, deafness is not loss, it is very much socially ingrained difference in opposition to an implicit expectation. There is very much the 'crip stare' in this work - the fact that everyone around you feels entitled to gawk because you're signing, you use a wheelchair, or have some kind of visible impairment, or any visible difference from the norm at all. I love that this aspect of everyday disabled life is included. There is so much going on here that implies loss and tragedy only appear from a specific point of view, usually from the outside. In fantasy stories, disability of any kind usually ends up as a stereotypical and superficial form of horror, the left hand of darkness, the one-armed man, the blind man who sees your horrible future, (the list goes on and bloody on). I remain intrigued by this story, even if the author really did mean to conflate the dead girl and Kayla, because this is still a definite departure from the outright depiction of 'cripple' as monster, which remains a much-used device in horror and fantasy fiction.

Apologies for the length of this post - I really got into this story. I'm happy this turned up on Pseudopod.



Richard Babley

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Reply #6 on: July 17, 2014, 08:02:04 AM

I was confused by the ending and the meaning of the dead girl's presence in the story. Is the author comparing deaf and dead people, or the relationships able-bodied person of the hearing world is capable of having with either deaf or dead girls? Is the dead girl just another outsider like Kayla, at once ignored and a "quaint" spectacle for the community? Like Dan, is the dead girl a potential predator of some description?
I was very much surprised by the ending of implied or suggested necrophilia. For me, it really didn't correspond to the rest of the story. I'd love to hear the author's own description or discussion of this work.


I think that the author wanted to draw parallels between the dead/deaf girl, and play with the irony/confusion of the fact that deaf can sound like dead, if the person speaking has a particular type of "deaf accent".  Or signs that say "caution deaf child", can be misinterped as the deaf child being a spectel in tourist areas where people only may be seasonally.  But I mainly agree that it was a strong story that could have done well without the addition of the dead girl.  I would also like to point out that the medium of presentation (audio) is also, well for lack of a better work, ironic, all things considered.  This is somewhat like a song popular in the 1990s in Germany named "Musik nur, wenn sie laut ist".  It's about the isolation that deafness brings to many and I have always wanted to share it with friends, but there are language barriers and hearing barriers to overcome.  Plus the singer can't really sing, Germans just love him for his lyrics.  The chorus goes:

"She only likes music if it's loud, it's the only thing that she hears.  She only likes music if it's loud, when it drives into her stomach.  She only likes music if it's loud, when the floor benieth her quakes, then she forgets that she's deaf."
-Herbert Grönemeyer

« Last Edit: July 17, 2014, 08:03:37 AM by Richard Babley »



Unblinking

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Reply #7 on: July 17, 2014, 01:54:15 PM
This story of a dead girl, a somewhat rebellious deaf teenage girl, and a lustful boy appears very strange combination with Alistair's remarks that "we can tolerate almost anything, and the only thing we lose in doing so is realizing how much of ourselves we're losing by doing it," which underlines the horror of "a community that has learned to accept that a dead girl appears in its waters, except and worse, be slightly bored by that fact." I'm very much confused and somewhat dismayed by this statement because I can't help but wonder if these remarks, and even possibly the story itself, are meant to conflate the deaf and dead girls' situations. If so, that pisses me off in a way I cannot begin to describe, and if not, the dead girl seems very much extraneous to Dan and Kayla's story. Their angst ridden and complex relationship could have easily existed on its own to make an interesting and emotionally charged story, albeit hardly a horrific one.

I'm not sure if the story was trying to conflate the dead girl and the deaf girl, but I at least didn't think that Alasdair's comments were attempting to make that relationship.  I think he was referring specifically to just the dead girl and the fact that she had become such a commonplace site in this community that spotting her for the first time on a father-son fishing trip is just another step on coming-of-age. 



caspiangray

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Reply #8 on: July 17, 2014, 02:16:54 PM
I'm not super comfortable talking about my stories in a public forum, so I'll keep this brief:

The dead girl is not meant to be a comment on Kayla, but on Dan. (The similarity between the words "dead" and "deaf" was not really relevant to me as I was writing, but that doesn't preclude it from being significant to readers now if they find substance there.)

From my perspective, Dan is a budding predator. Kayla is a cool kid who probably doesn't think of herself this way, but she's in an incredibly vulnerable position, and Dan is one of the ONLY people she considers a friend. Dan has not consciously DECIDED that Kayla is vulnerable and he can take advantage, and yet that is exactly what he ends up doing: pushing her boundaries, ignoring her verbal and nonverbal cues, and expecting that his desires will be fulfilled—that she is going to "pay him back" for the hard work of being her friend. Unblinking is exactly right: what Dan actually wants is "a passive sperm receptacle," and the dead girl conveniently has no desires of her own that might conflict with what Dan wants.

A lot of teenage boys are like this (to a greater or (HOPEFULLY) lesser extent) at some point in their lives, and most of them grow up to be good men who care about women and are capable of forming adult relationships. That doesn't stop them from damaging other people on their journey to becoming "good men," and I think it's too bad that we tend to adopt an "ends justify the means" attitude of excusing teenage horrorshows.

At least in Dan's case, it's kinda hard to come back from corpse-fucking.

Thanks to everyone for your thoughts and kind words on my story; SquidDNA, you made my day.

Haha, also this is what a writer considers "brief."



Alasdair5000

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Reply #9 on: July 17, 2014, 02:35:04 PM


This story of a dead girl, a somewhat rebellious deaf teenage girl, and a lustful boy appears very strange combination with Alistair's remarks that "we can tolerate almost anything, and the only thing we lose in doing so is realizing how much of ourselves we're losing by doing it," which underlines the horror of "a community that has learned to accept that a dead girl appears in its waters, except and worse, be slightly bored by that fact."
The entirety of the outro refers to the dead girl and the fact that a dead, decomposing child regularly appearing in the waters of this coastal community is so common place that the reality-breaking horror of that event is now simply common place. What I was referring to the villagers losing was their humanity and a sense of proportion or compassion and how this extends through the end of the story with the way that the relationship between Dan and the dead girl is progressing. There was no comment intended, at any point, implicit or explicit on Kayla whatsoever.

Is Alistair implying that by "tolerating" deafness, for example by refusing the cochlear implant in reverence to the supposed superiority of the hearing/non-signing world, disguises a greater loss of identity and humanity somewhere?
No. Not at any point at all.





albionmoonlight

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Reply #10 on: July 20, 2014, 02:10:25 PM
Happy to hear from caspiangray.  I love the chance to hear from an author about his thoughts on his work.

That Dan was drawn as a budding predator really interests me.  I commented above about his actions as awkward teenage male sexuality.  Which makes me wonder why I did not see him as a predator, but as the much more benign awkward teenager.  I tend to get caught up in the perspective of a first-person narrator, sometimes not being able to see them objectively. Which I think is what happened here.

The comments on this thread have really gotten me thinking about the story again.  And I am seeing it from lots of different perspectives now--all of which have depth and complexity.  It's a really, really good story.



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Reply #11 on: July 23, 2014, 12:18:50 AM
Just joined the forums after lurking for a while to comment on this post!  I think it's a great story about how horror can be masked in the mundane, and even if you get used to something (like the dead girl) that underlying darkness doesn't go away. 

What Dan's developing mindset reminded me of is that one description of the 'friendzone':  Guy expects that if he puts in enough friendship coins eventually sex will be the prize.  It seemed to me that he viewed learning to sign and the effort he put into Kayla should be rewarded with sex/romance, even if that's not what she wants.  Once she's rejected him you really get that dark line of thinking from him: he doesn't want something good for her like joining the deaf school because it'll make her 'better' than him and less isolated, that she'll eventually come around even if she made it pretty clear that, uh, no, not interested in coming around.  Then when the dead girl washes up it occurs to Dan that...well, he can have the prize without putting the friendship coins in.  *shudder* 

I think it was a cool choice to have it through Dan's POV, exactly because his sort of...sexually entitled/awkward attitude is so common and it was interesting to see just how those thought patterns happened. 



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Reply #12 on: July 24, 2014, 06:03:55 PM
I was glad to see caspiangray's comment that Dan was specifically supposed to be a budding predator. While listening to the story, I was thinking about what a creeper Dan was, and I couldn't decide if that was intentional or not. Quite a good story.
And Alasdair's comments about horror becoming mundane (and, in turn, causing people to lose their humanity) after constant exposure was spot-on. I think that happens far too often.



blazingrebel

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Reply #13 on: July 29, 2014, 09:46:25 AM

To me (and I beg pardon from the author if this interpretation goes against what he intended) Dan just seemed too naïve, young and dumb in the ways of the world to be viewed as a threatening predator. He seemed like a real goof ball. To me a menacing threat would of had Dan use manipulation and charisma to reach his diabolical ends. I am thankful of course Dan didn't because I would NOT have wanted to have experienced that or been forced to view that from the point of view of Dan. As the story stood I could be left with a degree of sympathy for him in the way he obviously didn't have a good role model in his life to teach him about girls and dating. To me I viewed the communication limitations Dan and Kayla had as adding to the ambiguity of how each of them exactly saw the friendship or relationship (in Dan's eyes) forming. So at the end I was left totally creped out that its obviously crossed his mind to find romance/satisfaction with the dead girl. But like Aldistar mentioned the story left it ambiguous for me who was the real predator as the dead girl does seem to smile.

I also wanted to thank Aldistar for his editorials (can I call them that?) at the end of each story. To me he either will explain to me a new horror I hadn't noticed which increases my appreciation of the story. Or he will touch on something universal about the human condition that transcends the horror genre and helps the story reach discussion points like those in literature. I appreciate Aldistar probably donates a lot of time to the podcast. And the hosts of Podcaslte and Escapepod don't do something similar, so Aldistar for me is a BIG part of what makes pseudopod for me my favourite on Escape Artists.



SpareInch

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Reply #14 on: July 29, 2014, 10:34:32 AM

...I viewed the communication limitations Dan and Kayla had as adding to the ambiguity of how each of them exactly saw the friendship or relationship (in Dan's eyes) forming.

The language barrier was an excuse!

An excuse to himself as much as to anyone else. He could tell himself that it wasn't his fault if he made Kayla do something she didn't want to, it wasn't his fault. She hadn't understood, or she hadn't made herself clear.

Oh, and I also belong to The Disabled Community. I'm blind. And I AM NOT Differently Abled. I have 4 senses where I used to have 5. One sense has been DISABLED.

I only mention that because I know how hard it can be to communicate. and it is hardest of all when the blind and the profoundly deaf try to speak to each other. I understand Kayla's argument that her sister should be given the choice re the implant, (I'm not even going to attempt to spell it.) but given the information about it only working when it is done young, I think that is also an excuse. Actually withholding that choice so she can have a sister just like herself.

Anyway... That's a lot, given that I had no intention of posting on this topic. This is the first time I have EVER used underlining in a forum post, so if I screwed it up, do let me know.  ;D

Fresh slush - Shot this morning in the Vale of COW


blazingrebel

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Reply #15 on: July 29, 2014, 11:07:05 AM

The underlines worked  ;D

That didn't occur to me, but to think Dan would have used the language barrier as an excuse adds a whole level of creepiness to the story!!



bounceswoosh

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Reply #16 on: July 30, 2014, 03:32:06 AM
I think his naivete makes it more realistic. There's a lot of talk in some communities about how the lack of portrayals of female sexual agency can lead to both young men and young women ending up in unfortunate situations. The boys don't realize they should be seeking anything beyond grudging acceptance. The girls don't know what they could be holding out for. It's complicated, but I think you can be both naive and a budding predator. F2f



bounceswoosh

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Reply #17 on: July 30, 2014, 03:33:13 AM
Oops. Cf the pickup artist community



Unblinking

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Reply #18 on: July 30, 2014, 01:37:56 PM
I think his naivete makes it more realistic. There's a lot of talk in some communities about how the lack of portrayals of female sexual agency can lead to both young men and young women ending up in unfortunate situations. The boys don't realize they should be seeking anything beyond grudging acceptance. The girls don't know what they could be holding out for. It's complicated, but I think you can be both naive and a budding predator. F2f

Yes, I think that's true, and I think this story worked well in that respect.
« Last Edit: July 30, 2014, 06:39:41 PM by eytanz »