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Author Topic: Pseudopod 417: The Blistering  (Read 3569 times)

Bdoomed

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on: December 23, 2014, 04:47:31 AM
Pseudopod 417: The Blistering

by Johnnie Alward

“The Blistering” is original to Pseudopod!

JOHNNIE ALWARD hails from a small town in southern Ontario where he lives with his girlfriend, their cat Vincent Price and a vague but omnipresent sense of self-loathing.

Your reader – Matt Haynes – is the artistic director of The Pulp Stage Theatre company in Portland, Oregon. This January, the company will be premiering BOX: A Live Science Fiction Trilogy co-authored by Matt and acclaimed speculative fiction writer Tina Connolly. You can learn more about the show and its current fundraising campaign at The Pulp Stage.



“‘Try to imagine the human brain as being analogous to the ocean.’

Sam Dillinger snapped his fingers and an enormous map of the world unfurled itself above him.

‘Like the ocean, the human brain is tangible in its theory and physicality. We can touch it, understand its general uses, even map its surface topographically – the Atlantic here, the Pacific there; cognitive processing in this corner, emotional reckoning in that. We’ve studied them – lived with them – since time immemorial, but we still have so much to learn. Man may have stripmined the mountains and scorched the green earth, but he still hasn’t conquered the depths.’

He snapped his fingers again and the map reconfigured itself into a large glass pane. Paul watched as folded in on itself like crystal origami until it had become the Epsilion Prism, a corporate emblem as fiercely lionized as the golden arches or Newton’s apple.

‘Here at Epsilion, we pride ourselves in possessing the most finely detailed cognitive maps that the world has ever seen. In fifteen short years, we’ve gone from a small, speech therapy start-up on 40th street to one of the largest and most relentlessly innovative companies ever founded on American soil. We’ve helped thousands of our clients to access long-forgotten memories, undo crippling mental illnesses, and learn new languages and mathematical skillsets in the space of a few scant minutes. And still, we’ve barely begun to skim the surface of a vast and unknowable space.’

He paused and stared into the crowd – 300-odd painters, writers and musicians who hung on his every syllable.

‘That is, until now.'”




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?


crdola11

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Reply #1 on: December 23, 2014, 03:41:00 PM
This story reminds me of Charles Bukowski's quote, “My dear, Find what you love and let it kill you. Let it drain you of your all. Let it cling onto your back and weigh you down into eventual nothingness. Let it kill you and let it devour your remains. For all things will kill you, both slowly and fastly, but it's much better to be killed by a lover.” The story was fast-paced and made me wonder if Epsilon ever found out how to commercialize the Blistering. I'd love to read/hear a sequel. 

The worst excesses of mankind springs from the all-too-human traits of cruelty, apathy and arrogant misapplication of our own talents. The heroes who triumph in my stories are those who demonstrate the most kindness, common sense and ingenuity.


Evil Unicorns Anon

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Reply #2 on: December 25, 2014, 07:01:06 PM
I enjoyed this little gem. The narration was excellent and the vivid imagery in the story was just perfect especially how he described the way the piano was played and how the main character created his last painting. One thing did have me a bit confused though. If all they were really trying to do was find out the exact location of the brain creativity comes from what were they "putting him in" to? I mean we can already do brain mapping and as far as I know it doesn't usually cause people to go comatose every time they throw the switch. The story kind of lost me at that moment because I was trying to figure what the director was yelling about putting him in since he was already hooked up to something which I just assumed was mapping his brain. Other than that great story!



Zoo

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Reply #3 on: December 28, 2014, 08:12:08 PM
Probably amongst my favorite pieces this year. It made an ambitious point in a classy way.



JohnnieAlward

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Reply #4 on: December 31, 2014, 03:10:18 AM
Hey guys, I'm the jerk who wrote this story and I just wanted to drop in and say thanks for all the kind words! It's always scary to send your stuff into the ether and doubly so when you're putting it into someone else's hands, but I'm really thrilled with how it all turned out.

And Eric, thanks so much for saying that - your story was a VERY tough act to follow, so your compliment really means a lot to me. So glad that you enjoyed it!



Chairman Goodchild

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Reply #5 on: December 31, 2014, 01:24:10 PM
I remember reading a horror story years back that really stuck with me.  It was about an struggling genre writer who met with one of the masters of the genre to find that master literally had a little sprite clinging to his back that only very few people could see.  The genre master was delighted to see that this struggling writer could see it, credited it with all of his success, and then graciously offered it to the young struggling writer.  So delighted was the young writer that he paid a surprise visit to the master to find the sprite transformed into a demon that was literally whipping the master into productivity as he typed away, weeping.  Of course, the young author made a quick retreat. 

I also remember reading a story or article about  Isaac Asimov, where it was explained Asimov literally had a compulsion to write, and would actually go thru withdrawals if he were in a situation where he could not write.  I really wish I could credit that to something, but once again, all I have is my memory on the subject. 

This is an excellent story that really struck a nerve with me.  It really strikes to the center of the subject of creativity and obsession.  It doesn't do so an allegorical fashion, it dives right into its subject matter naked and unapologetic.  That's what horror is great at. 



Unblinking

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Reply #6 on: January 05, 2015, 03:00:22 PM
I liked it, creepy and chiling what that artistic drive can force you to do.  Some of the best work comes from people who can't possibly do anything else, even if it destroys them.



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #7 on: January 07, 2015, 08:09:31 PM
I don't know... I like to think that I've got some potential as an artist, but I really don't see it. I've never felt like my drive to write has been somehow consuming or murderous or suicidal. In fact, I think that's a common misconception that does more to drive people out of art than almost anything else. I've known people to say - once or twice, I said it to myself - "oh, I can't really be an artist, because even though I really enjoy it and make things that people find compelling, I feel like I could stop if I wanted to, it's not an essential part of my life, and therefore I'm not a real artist, because real artists are driven to create by some terrible consuming fire that will kill them if they stop and might kill them even if they don't, and I'm not a crazy person, so I'm not a real artist."

And that's just nonsenses, because an artist is a person who arts. Whether you art because you want to, because you feel you have to, or because you got bored and had some spare time, then boom, you're an artist. You arted = you're an arter. An artist. All the rest is (frankly, hideous and elitist) pretension.

Has it ever occurred to anyone that the way "pretension" is spelled, it looks like it should mean the feeling you get when you realize that you are about to be really tense? Because I just noticed that.

Anyway, I don't want anyone to think that I'm accusing the author or even this story of being personally or particularly hideous, elitist, or pretentious (and here we spell it with a "t" again - what the hell is wrong with this language?"). It's just that the story tripped on a cultural trope that I find pretty execrable, and you've all decided to read a forum post where I've decided to vomit up my opinions, so you get what you deserve.

Anyway, in this story, the transition from "artist" to "crazy self destructive person" didn't really make any sense to me. It seemed contrived, just to force the story into horror territory. Really, I thought they were going to go a "our corporate overlords sucked all the art out of me so they could bottle it and now I'm a pitiful shell of a man" or a Syndome-esque "if everyone is special then no one is, and therefore this is the end of art as a human cultural concept" direction, both of which I think I would have liked better than what the story did do, which felt a little generic.

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Fenrix

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Reply #8 on: January 07, 2015, 10:06:04 PM
I found the nod to The Music of Erich Zann in this one subtle and great. Also resonant chords of The Great God Pan.
« Last Edit: January 09, 2015, 07:34:35 PM by Fenrix »

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


Unblinking

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Reply #9 on: January 07, 2015, 10:24:39 PM
I don't know... I like to think that I've got some potential as an artist, but I really don't see it. I've never felt like my drive to write has been somehow consuming or murderous or suicidal. In fact, I think that's a common misconception that does more to drive people out of art than almost anything else. I've known people to say - once or twice, I said it to myself - "oh, I can't really be an artist, because even though I really enjoy it and make things that people find compelling, I feel like I could stop if I wanted to, it's not an essential part of my life, and therefore I'm not a real artist, because real artists are driven to create by some terrible consuming fire that will kill them if they stop and might kill them even if they don't, and I'm not a crazy person, so I'm not a real artist."

And that's just nonsenses, because an artist is a person who arts. Whether you art because you want to, because you feel you have to, or because you got bored and had some spare time, then boom, you're an artist. You arted = you're an arter. An artist. All the rest is (frankly, hideous and elitist) pretension.

Has it ever occurred to anyone that the way "pretension" is spelled, it looks like it should mean the feeling you get when you realize that you are about to be really tense? Because I just noticed that.

Anyway, I don't want anyone to think that I'm accusing the author or even this story of being personally or particularly hideous, elitist, or pretentious (and here we spell it with a "t" again - what the hell is wrong with this language?"). It's just that the story tripped on a cultural trope that I find pretty execrable, and you've all decided to read a forum post where I've decided to vomit up my opinions, so you get what you deserve.

Anyway, in this story, the transition from "artist" to "crazy self destructive person" didn't really make any sense to me. It seemed contrived, just to force the story into horror territory. Really, I thought they were going to go a "our corporate overlords sucked all the art out of me so they could bottle it and now I'm a pitiful shell of a man" or a Syndome-esque "if everyone is special then no one is, and therefore this is the end of art as a human cultural concept" direction, both of which I think I would have liked better than what the story did do, which felt a little generic.

I didn't think the story was claiming that art must destroy lives.  But I do think that art can destroy lives through addiction.  Anything that gives pleasure, gives some kind of rush can be addicting--alcohol, food, sex, whatever, if your life becomes unbalanced by your pursuit of this one thing to the detriment of everyone and everything else in your life, then it destroys.  Creating art may not always give a rush, but it CAN give a rush, and like other stimuli it can give diminishing returns which can make the person push harder and harder and harder to the detriment of everything else. 

Where I think art is different than all those other things that addiction can be tied to--sometimes that drive can push you to make things that others find beautiful, and people who appreciate these beautiful things can push the artist harder towards the rush.



Metalsludge

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Reply #10 on: January 11, 2015, 01:54:12 PM
I had mixed feelings on this one. I can totally relate to the dark side of artistic drive and being consumed by, err, arting the hell out of something. I have painted all night to the point of collapse, not in a rush of anything resembling pleasure either, only to be left with icky lame smudges for my efforts. It happens. Why do we do it? I'm not always sure. But in my case, I think the challenge is partly the point of interest in itself. If art wasn't mysterious, it may indeed lose some of its interest for some of us.

But even so, I doubt that art is really as mysterious and wondrous as it feels. Not sure what the "point" was here in this story, but it at least seems to suggest that there is something deeper after all underneath all our flailing attempts at high art, something the scientists would be better off not grasping if they value their lives. 

It's a fun romantic notion that if we just art hard enough, we can make the face of God, which none can look upon and live. But I suspect that art making is all just quantifiable and scientific in the end, just like the scientists in the story hope. Though I was less than clear on what in the world giving the artistic impulse could do for people who may not even want it. Wouldn't the urge to create and the process be different things anyway? I'm still not sure what they were really trying to accomplish or what the measuring point was based on.

Still, whether the romantic, or horror fan, in me can quite believe the ending was possible, that part of me might want to believe it. So it was still fun. Art being presented as the type of Lovecraftian Ultimate Knowledge that could destroy us all if we delve too deeply into it is a neat idea. A lot of stories have played with the idea of knowing too much, but the idea of arting too much is a tasty twist on the old idea of the deadly secret of the universe which man was not meant to know.



Quib

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Reply #11 on: January 28, 2015, 04:56:06 PM
The story would be really different if the epiphany isn't genuine.
I think it's more interesting if the blistering is a delusion or a type of brain damage.

The super natural kind of elements to the gore probably rule that out as an interpretation of this particular story, but I sort of lost track of what was going on.
It did the creepy-pasta sort of thing of piling on a bunch at the end.