Escape Artists

PseudoPod => Episode Comments => Topic started by: Bdoomed on May 25, 2014, 07:03:24 PM

Title: Pseudopod 387: Nightside Eye
Post by: Bdoomed on May 25, 2014, 07:03:24 PM
Pseudopod 387: Nightside Eye (

by Terry Dowling (

“Nightside Eye” was a cover item for Cemetery Dance #66 ( along with a major interview, “Making Strange: A Gothic Conversation with Terry Dowling”, conducted by acclaimed US editor and academic Danel Olson. It was reprinted in three Year’s Bests – Stephen Jones’s Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 24, Paula Guran’s Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2013, and Talie Helene and Liz Gryzb’s The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2012. “This hotel really actually exists in the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney and still has the eerie qualities described in this story.”

TERRY DOWLING ( is one of Australia’s most respected and internationally acclaimed writers of science fiction, dark fantasy and horror, and author of the multi-award-winning Tom Rynosseros saga. He has been called “Australia’s finest writer of horror” by Locus magazine, its “premier writer of dark fantasy” by All Hallows and its “most acclaimed writer of the dark fantastic” by Cemetery Dance magazine. The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror series featured more horror stories by Terry in its 21 year run than by any other writer. Dowling’s award-winning horror collections are BASIC BLACK: TALES OF APPROPRIATE FEAR (International Horror Guild Award winner for Best Collection 2007), regarded as “one of the best recent collections of contemporary horror” by the American Library Association, AN INTIMATE KNOWLEDGE OF THE NIGHT (Aphelion 1995) and BLACKWATER DAYS (Eidolon 2000), while his most recent titles are AMBERJACK: TALES OF FEAR & WONDER (Subterranean 2010) and his debut novel, CLOWNS AT MIDNIGHT (PS Publishing 2010), which the Guardian called “an exceptional work that bears comparison to John Fowles’s THE MAGUS.” Dowling has written three computer adventures (Schizm: Mysterious Journey, Schizm II: Chameleon and Sentinel: Descendants in Time), and co-edited THE ESSENTIAL ELLISON and THE JACK VANCE TREASURY among many other titles. He lives in Hunters Hill, Sydney and his homepage can be found at the link under his names above. “The Four Darks” will be appearing this year in Ellen Datlow’s FEARFUL SYMMETRIES and Terry has a new computer game and a new horror collection in the works with such cool titles he dare not mention them.

Your reader – Graeme Dunlop – is a man of infinite patience and amazing skill AND he just had a birthday! We all wish him many, many more!

THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT Live 2005 Remake Part 1 can be found at DailyMotion (

“‘My camera and sound people will be here soon, Sophie and Craig, my volunteer assistants and official witnesses. It’s six o’clock now. Once we’re set up, we’ll begin at 7pm, the same time Dr Rathcar did fifteen months ago. We’ll do the whole thing twice if we can, put several objects here on the mantel – a plastic bottle, a child’s wooden block, a toy train – and simply record what happens. Second time through, if we are lucky tonight and the phenomenon occurs, the moment they’re moved, disturbed in any way at all, I shift the patch from one eye to the other and see what I get. It shouldn’t take long.’

‘You do that once it happens.’

‘As soon as it happens. As close to. The first time is a control to establish parameters: event frequency and duration, lighting levels, things like that. But the second time round I stand over here by the fireplace and shift the patch, just as Rathcar did.’

‘But the camcorders will only catch your reactions. Not what you see.’

‘Right. But whatever we get may match reactions in the CCTV footage from the Rathcar attempt. Rathcar’s own footage hasn’t been made available yet, but may be released once we do this. Rathcar called out a single word – “Kathy!” – his assistant’s name. We don’t know why now, and of course he can’t tell us.’

‘Or won’t.’

‘Or won’t. But there may be some key detail or other that emerges. Later spectrographic analysis may show even more, who knows?’

‘It’s all very uncertain,’ Susan said, looking at him intently, or possibly at the eye-patch that was to play such a key role in what was about to happen.”

Listen to this week's Pseudopod. (
Title: Re: Pseudopod 387: Nightside Eye
Post by: Thundercrack! on May 28, 2014, 08:27:14 PM
I really enjoyed this. Mostly for the suspenseful build-up.

At first, I found the reveal a bit of an anti-climax (although it was certainly very creepy). But thinking about it some more, it makes a great deal of sense. The typical haunting scenario is one in which objects left in a particular area are later found to have been moved, in a repetitive, predictable -- moronic and unintelligent -- way.
Title: Re: Pseudopod 387: Nightside Eye
Post by: primerofin on May 29, 2014, 12:13:15 AM
I loved this story, up until the end.

Someone will have to explain the ending - it wasn't particularly frightening. 

I can't see what would make the protagonist want to wipe his memory.

Maybe I'm just too jaded from so many horror stories.

During the wonderful build-up I was guessing something would be revealed that would predict some impending earthly disasaster - something on a huge scale - or something that would reveal that we aren't who we really think we are - maybe we are merely virus controlled vectors with no free-will?.

But just learning that there are ghosts everywhere was a let down.  Did I miss something?

Obviously, if I actually experienced anything that was 1% as scary as in a tyical horror story I'd be scared switless (yes that's a new word I'm trying out).

So perhaps just learning that the world is swamped with ghosts should be scary enough.  (But it wasn't).
Title: Re: Pseudopod 387: Nightside Eye
Post by: Richard Babley on May 29, 2014, 09:15:23 PM
The ending was a jive on mortality.

It was basically saying that we all have these spirits following us, waiting to do the final act of violence when the time comes for us to die.  We are powerless to see or prevent when it come, or at least that is how I understood it.

We all know that we are mortal, and is realizing that death is constantly following you around by one step really that frightening?  I thought it was at first, but now that I explained it, it really seems quite normal.

The story had a very classic ghost story feel to it.  It was a nice listen, but will not make my all time favorites.
Title: Re: Pseudopod 387: Nightside Eye
Post by: CogShoggoth on June 02, 2014, 11:59:49 AM
In light of the passing of H. R. Giger, I found the nightside eye vision of what's under the rock of reality very Gigeresque. What goes on under there did not invite a look see and what is seen is rarely a pleasant memory.
Title: Re: Pseudopod 387: Nightside Eye
Post by: Unblinking on June 02, 2014, 02:40:22 PM
I thought the idea of the nightside eye a very cool idea--I had never heard of that method before of being able to see well below deck of a ship, but it seems reasonably plausible.  In the long run that short-term concept has little to do with the long-term concept of keeping the eye hidden for months and months.  That's because the eye fully adjusts to darkness after something like half an hour--so expanding that 30 minutes to months doesn't really change the underlying concept.  But I could buy that that kind of selective sensory deprivation could lead to neurological changes from disuse of the eye, and maybe atrophy of the muscles in the pupil etc...

I've got to say, i didn't really find the reveal scary, but I can understand how some people might, particularly if you consider the question of free will vs determinism to be one which is existentially troubling.  I find the question interesting on a philosophical level, but since there's no reason to change my behavior whether it's one or the other I don't really find it troubling.  It's an essentially meaningless philosophical question that can still be very compelling if structured in the right way. 

So I don't think that the discovery is universally mind-rattling. And, honestly, I am a little surprised that two individuals who claim to be devoted to exploration of the universe through science would both have the stance that they did, because I would've expected such individuals to have a similar reaction to me.  Maybe it's one of those "you have to be there to understand" kind of things.

Personally I found the story to be less terrifying, and more comforting to my engineer brain.  The world as shown in the reveal can explain a great deal.  People ask questions like "Why did Bob have to die so young?" and stuff like that.  You can say it's fate, and maybe that makes you feel better than just thinking it was random, or maybe it doesn't.  But here, in this reveal, is tangible proof that stuff happens because the clockwork of the universe (which happens to be made of hordes of loitering invisible ghouls) says that it should.  Rather than despair at this fact, it means that the world inherently makes sense because it is operating exactly according to its instructions just like a computer program.  It may not do what you think it's meant to do but it's doing what is written into it. 

And of course, from there, my engineer brain goes down a wild tangent wondering:
--Can a person's specter be examined to predict the time of a person's death?
--Can a person's specter be influenced to change the time of a person's death to prolong their life?  (Or, and this is more scary, if it could be used to make that death happen earlier)
--If you can influence a specter, does it inherently have a ripple effect across all the specters that cross its path?  Or, would you be able to create a world wherein causality is broken.  For instance, if you influence the specter to kill an assassin early, will the specters of his victims react to this and allow their wards to go on living?  Or will those people still die at their appointed time because that's what their specters are ready to do.
--Can a specter be examined to see what effect it's supposed to have in the world? 
--If you have a particular effect in mind, is there any way to locate the specter associated with it?  Presumably the specters are densely crowded everywhere, so if you want to have any effect other than to affect a person's death-specter, then the first problem you're going to have is "which one of the quintillions of them is going to have this effect?

Title: Re: Pseudopod 387: Nightside Eye
Post by: albionmoonlight on June 06, 2014, 12:34:58 PM
I like Unblinking's approach here.  Humans are, at nature, scientific creatures.  (At least in the aggregate).  If the premise of this story were true, then once the shock of "There are ghosts following us around" wore off, we would immediately start trying to find ways to use the ghosts.  Can altering my specter make me thinner?  Make me rich?  It reminds me of this comic:

Overall, I liked the story.  I thought that the idea of a super-enhanced nightside eye was cool, even if I am sure that the science does not quite support it.  And, while there was really no way to have the reveal of the story be worth the build up, I think the idea of an idiot ghost following me around everywhere just waiting for its chance is creepy enough in retrospect that I can live with it as the reveal.

I enjoyed.
Title: Re: Pseudopod 387: Nightside Eye
Post by: albionmoonlight on June 06, 2014, 12:36:19 PM
One more thing.  The author did a great job of capturing that old-timey feel.  To the point where I had to check to see when this was written.  It manages to have a pretty timeless quality about it, which is not easy to pull off.
Title: Re: Pseudopod 387: Nightside Eye
Post by: Unblinking on June 06, 2014, 02:19:40 PM
I think the idea of an idiot ghost following me around everywhere just waiting for its chance is creepy enough in retrospect that I can live with it as the reveal.

"My Buddy and me!  Wherever I go, he goes!"  Lalalala
Title: Re: Pseudopod 387: Nightside Eye
Post by: Moritz on June 08, 2014, 10:13:37 AM
First I thought this would be a typical ghost hunter story, and I had just recently listened to the old Escape Pod christmas story by Mur Lafferty which mixes A Christmas Carroll with a ghost hunter TV show (should be around EP 240), so I was sceptical in the beginning. The end though was powerful enough that this is one of the few stories I am keeping in a separate folder (I delete most stories after listening).
Title: Re: Pseudopod 387: Nightside Eye
Post by: doctornemo on July 09, 2014, 02:15:14 AM
I enjoyed the mad science aspect.  But the build-up was ultimately not merited by the climax.
Title: Re: Pseudopod 387: Nightside Eye
Post by: Fenrix on July 10, 2014, 10:03:22 PM
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.
Title: Re: Pseudopod 387: Nightside Eye
Post by: Fenrix on July 10, 2014, 10:13:06 PM
Solid cosmic horror that pays homage to things like The Colour Out of Space without being a slavish pastiche. I can see why this one made it into multiple "years best" anthologies.

Since there's antiquarian love in this thread, I feel obligated to praise the singular narration from Graeme, as always.