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Author Topic: Pseudopod 401: The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife  (Read 2679 times)
Bdoomed
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« on: August 31, 2014, 09:00:53 PM »

Pseudopod 401: The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife

by Dave Beynon.

“The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife” was published in Oct 2013 in the anthology TESSERACTS SEVENTEEEN: SPECULATING CANADA FROM COAST TO COAST COAST, edited by Colleen Anderson and Steve Vernon (Edge Publishing). The story is in the exact middle of the anthology – I like to think of it as the delicious, chewy centre of the book. “Manitoulin Island is the world’s largest freshwater island. It has a timeless, rugged beauty and I’d encourage anyone to visit if they have the chance. While the island boasts a number of lighthouses, each one the stuff of postcards, you’ll never find the one where William Jones so diligently kept the light burning. Misery Bay has no lighthouse.”

DAVE BEYNON lives in Fergus, Ontario with his wife, two kids and a golden retriever. He writes speculative fiction of varying lengths and genres. His work has appeared in the anthologies TESSERACTS SEVENTEEEN and EVOLVE TWO. His story, “The Last Repairman” will appear in the near future on Daily Science Fiction. In 2011, Dave’s unpublished time travel novel, THE PLATINUM TICKET, was shortlisted for the inaugural Terry Pratchett First Novel Prize. His website is davebeynon.com and he can be followed on twitter @BeynonWrites

Your readers – Wilson Fowlie – says if you’re in the Vancouver, Canada area – or even if you just love a good show chorus – check out The Maple Leaf Singers, the group he directs. You can find them at the link or the Maple Leaf Singers Facebook page.

Also, Saladin Ahmed could really use your help.



“You’re too early,” said the owner. “No one drinks until eleven.”

The oiler pointed to William, leaning over a dram of rye whiskey.

“What about him? He has a drink in his hand.”

“He’s a special case. Mind your own business. No booze ‘til eleven.”

“I’ve never met a special case before,” the oiler said to William. “What makes you so special?”

The oiler smelled of stale sweat and grease. His trousers and shirt were filthy with weeks’ worth of spilled oil. A tattoo peeking from beneath one rolled-up shirt cuff caught William’s attention. “Show me that.”

He gestured at the tattoo with his glass, sloshing rye onto the table.

“You’re wasting good whiskey,” the oiler said, dragging back a chair. “May I?”

William nodded and tapped the cuff of the oiler’s shirt. “Show me that.”




We mourn the loss of Larry Santoro. Please visit http://www.cancer.org/ and http://www.imermanangels.org/ to learn more about cancer support.


Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2014, 12:53:38 AM »

This one was actually a big miss with me.

Things I didn't like:

1) I am actually kind of bored of the idea that dead people want to cause harm to others just because they're dead. What's-her-bucket was devoted to her husband - why would death make her want to deliver some kind of asphyxiating dirt-kiss? Zombie stories I can get, because they usually include some explanation of the method of revivification as imparting some anthrophagic imperative, which means that it makes sense when dearly departed Aunt Susie tries to nom on your noggin. In this case, however, the jar o' magic goo was supposed to bring her back to life. Obviously, it didn't, which resulted in a horrible parody of life, but... the story didn't do the work. Why does horrible parody of life = eat her husband?

2) This one is going to get me in trouble... I'm a bit over "mysterious and Asian magic" as an explanation for everything. It's pretty lame. I think that relying on such a simplistic "oh they're foreign so they're magical" trick is kind of a crutch, and I prefer things that are a little more complicated. Stories like The Prince of Flowers get a free pass because they do more to make the character's entire situation (being a kleptomaniacal museum employee) interesting and consistent with the "exotic" magic that eventually shows up. Here, it felt kind of lazy.

So, overall the story was kind of predictable and under-written. What was there was good, and I appreciated the details that established the characters and fixed us in the time period. They were well conceived and well accomplished. Overall, however, this won't be much more for me than another zombie/ghost/oops horror story, consumed and forgotten.



Relatedly, Anthrophagic Imperative is the name of my new cover band.
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kristin
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« Reply #2 on: September 01, 2014, 07:15:45 PM »

I was unimpressed with the story. I didn't like that it was set in early 1900's but the characters talked like present time.  It was also predictable very monkey paw to me.
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blazingrebel
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« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2014, 05:10:36 AM »


I might be being unfair.. But I was a little disappointed with the stereotype of Asian women portrayed in the story. Especially the scene where she is requesting him to lay with her so she fulfil the duties of the bed. It just seemed very submissive. It made me roll my eyes.
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2014, 08:29:43 AM »


I might be being unfair.. But I was a little disappointed with the stereotype of Asian women portrayed in the story. Especially the scene where she is requesting him to lay with her so she fulfil the duties of the bed. It just seemed very submissive. It made me roll my eyes.

Hm. She didn't strike me as overall very submissive - note how she laughed at his pitiful attempts to learn Chinese. They had such a harmonious marriage that there don't seem to have been any opportunities for her to assert herself. In fact, I read her seducing him as assertive, and thought it was a nice change of pace (having her initiate it was also one of the few ways to make an arranged marriage/mail order bride situation become sexual without pinging our modern-day rapedars - so good on that). Overall, I thought that the character was, to the extent that she had any depth at all, a departure from the submissive Asian mail order wife fantasy trope.

But... I don't disagree that the whole Asian thing was a mess in this story in other ways.
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Fenrix
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« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2014, 08:44:42 AM »


1) I am actually kind of bored of the idea that dead people want to cause harm to others just because they're dead. What's-her-bucket was devoted to her husband - why would death make her want to deliver some kind of asphyxiating dirt-kiss? Zombie stories I can get, because they usually include some explanation of the method of revivification as imparting some anthrophagic imperative, which means that it makes sense when dearly departed Aunt Susie tries to nom on your noggin. In this case, however, the jar o' magic goo was supposed to bring her back to life. Obviously, it didn't, which resulted in a horrible parody of life, but... the story didn't do the work. Why does horrible parody of life = eat her husband?


One of the things I really liked about this story was how honest and tender the relationship was presented, moreso considering its awkward start. The Chinese immigrant experience was frequently unpleasant[1], as they were considered subhuman, and I liked that this story did not try to whitewash all of the unpleasantness of the time out. The development of their relationship is the core of the story. While I am not the biggest fan of the cursed item screwing people with no hope of redemption, I found the ending both familiar and well executed. I thought the tension was well developed and I loved the closing scene. Mei's final kiss was both tender and cruel.


[1] Once the rail was substantially complete and the Chinese immigrant population tried to move into mining, union platforms frequently involved excluding the Chinese workers. This was either through subtle means such as protection rackets, blatant means such as protectionist laws, or through good old fashioned lynching. Considering these obstacles, many Chinese immigrants moved unopposed to laundry and restaurants, because that merely displaced women in the work force (an interesting data point about the contemporary attitudes towards women).

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SpareInch
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« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2014, 08:54:14 AM »

The Romance part was OK, but hardly a big wow, whereas the zombie part...

Well...

Zombies... I'm just fed up to the back teeth with zombies!

Even Chinese sauces don't make them any more palatable. Tongue
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« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2014, 07:04:32 PM »


I might be being unfair.. But I was a little disappointed with the stereotype of Asian women portrayed in the story. Especially the scene where she is requesting him to lay with her so she fulfil the duties of the bed. It just seemed very submissive. It made me roll my eyes.

I was able to suspend my disbelief (and not roll the eyes) at the woman with glowing blue eyes.  I've purchased property in the areas that the story takes place (Owen Sound [the "big smoke" in the area], Georgian Bay, Lake Huron [Ontario, Canada]).  The area is indeed isolated, with sudden weather changes that can sink ships.  Submissive, stereotypical, Asian wife?  It didn't come across like that (perhaps I had too much of the zap put on me about a horror story taking place in Lake Huron region).  The protagonist seemed to be a decent human who valued the woman.
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Moritz
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« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2014, 05:40:17 PM »

I was quite wary of the whole "import bride" topic at the beginning of the story*, but I think it was done well. I am not sure why the wife was Chinese, because the horror part of the story - zombie wife in an abandoned location - was played rather straight.

* had a schoolmate who was a child from such a relationship
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« Reply #9 on: September 17, 2014, 07:24:18 AM »

Hm. She didn't strike me as overall very submissive - note how she laughed at his pitiful attempts to learn Chinese. They had such a harmonious marriage that there don't seem to have been any opportunities for her to assert herself. In fact, I read her seducing him as assertive, and thought it was a nice change of pace (having her initiate it was also one of the few ways to make an arranged marriage/mail order bride situation become sexual without pinging our modern-day rapedars - so good on that). Overall, I thought that the character was, to the extent that she had any depth at all, a departure from the submissive Asian mail order wife fantasy trope.

Same here, I didn't see her as very submissive, especially considering the time period where this happened that would've been an expectation from many.  She initiated sex which, as ElectricPaladin said, was a good way to avoid it being possibly construed as rape the first time they laid together.  I thought their relationship wasn't terribly portrayed given the awkward beginning.


But, yes, I'm also with ElectricPaladin in most of the rest of it, particularly in the reasonlessness of the loving wife wanting to come back and give a death kiss.
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« Reply #10 on: September 18, 2014, 04:59:39 PM »

It's possible she didn't realize the kiss would kill him. The reanimation spell seemed to be intended for someone who had just died and not for someone who had been decomposing for a while. Maybe it was just a case of using the magic too late and getting a half-alive-half-dead thing with bits of its brain missing.

I'm dogsitting for three dogs right now, and I can't help thinking about three dogs with glowing eyes climbing the walls of my lighthouse, tongues lolling, determined to show me how much they love me. They're not even zombie dogs. They're just regular dogs.
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TrishEM
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« Reply #11 on: October 02, 2014, 04:15:38 AM »

What bothered me most was the oiler just giving the magic ointment to William. He'd gotten it from someone who valued it highly -- maybe in payment of a debt, maybe through gambling; I don't recall exactly -- and he just says, I never saw anyone who needed it before, and just hands it over to this belligerent drunk whom he just met, instead of trying to sell it?
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FullMetalAttorney
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« Reply #12 on: April 10, 2015, 05:50:55 PM »

I absolutely loved this story. I know this is an older thread, but I felt I had to comment because my second paragraph here could put a nice spin on it. I thought the characters were believable. I didn't feel like it was stereotype. I also enjoyed how it gave a big twist to the whole zombie theme--the zombie's not out to eat you, it just wants to love you again (which is what you thought you wanted in the first place).

HOWEVER, I feel like the author made a huge mistake with the ending. A kiss is all? No, it would have been far more horrifying if the author had echoed the setup from their first sexual encounter. What were the words again? Something like, "A wife should lay with her husband." And then she did. I don't recall the exact words, but it would have turned the earlier encounter into a wonderful piece of foreshadowing. The story should have ended there, with your imagination to take over, not with the body being discovered. Does it kill him? That doesn't matter. The horror is in the act.
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