Author Topic: EP167: Love and Death in the Time of Monsters  (Read 30956 times)

Russell Nash

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on: July 18, 2008, 10:26:13 AM
EP167: Love and Death in the Time of Monsters

By Frank Wu.
Read by Stephen Eley.
First appeared in Abyss & Apex, 4th Quarter 2007.
Special closing music: “Showdown in Shinjuku” and “Incognito” by Daikaiju.

They try everything. Cellular toxins. DNA replication inhibitors. Anti-sense nucleic acids. Artillery. Great bolts of lightning. Nothing stops him, it only makes the monster angrier. They try mutagens, teratogens, carcinogens, neurotoxins, hemotoxins, genotoxins — they think that toxins in the environment created the monster, and maybe toxins can kill it. Maybe two wrongs can make a right.

They don’t, apparently. I worry about the residues left in the ground after the monster’s moved on. He’s going up and down the eastern seaboard. Janie talks about flying out there to help, but she doesn’t want to get stomped on. Who would? A team of guys from work drive across the country to do whatever they can. They figure that patent annuities can still get paid in their absence. I want to go, but I have to stay to help my mom. That’s my fight.


Rated PG. Contains violence on a grand scale and illness on a human scale.


Referenced Sites:
GUIDOLON The Giant Space Chicken
Well-Told Tales



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



wintermute

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Reply #1 on: July 18, 2008, 11:56:33 AM
Well, I didn't hate it. I had much the same "Meh" reaction that I did to the PC16: Magnificent Pigs PC15: The Yeti Behind You. Except more so.

Yes, it's true that Godzilla was a metaphor for nuclear weapons, but he didn't spend the whole movie carrying a sign that said "RAR I AM A METAPHOR FOR NUCLEAR WEAPONS". I mean, if you need a sledgehammer to make a literary point, you're probably doing it wrong.

It was a nice enough story about a cancer patient, but I don't think the monster added anything new, except for CRUSHINGLY HEAVY SYMBOLISM.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2008, 12:54:27 PM by wintermute »

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Sylvan

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Reply #2 on: July 18, 2008, 12:52:29 PM
I think it was very cool for both the forum "root post" and the EscapePod excerpt quotation to be this:

Quote
They try everything. Cellular toxins. DNA replication inhibitors. Anti-sense nucleic acids. Artillery. Great bolts of lightning. Nothing stops him, it only makes the monster angrier. They try mutagens, teratogens, carcinogens, neurotoxins, hemotoxins, genotoxins — they think that toxins in the environment created the monster, and maybe toxins can kill it. Maybe two wrongs can make a right.

When I was driving in to work, this morning, this sentence leapt out at me as the best in the story and, frankly, one of the best series of English words I'd heard.  It is not only lyrical (especially in how Steve read it) but deftly combines all the elements of the story's metaphor into one, concise package.

While metaphor and allegory are frequently used subtly, I think it's an assumption of literature that they have to be subtle or hidden; waiting to be coaxed from their surrounding prose like a frightened rabbit from its hole.  Rather, I believe that if the overall narrative is strong, metaphor -blatant or subtle- is still metaphor.

Granted, each reader brings their own expectations to the table and for many, subtlety is required.

For me, however, I enjoyed this tale quite a bit.  Mostly, I enjoyed that the two main characters were complex and had a relationship that was hardly cookie-cutter.  I've seen several family members go through cancer -none of them being lucky enough to have recovery- but, curiously, this tale did not pull at my heart-strings as I expected.  Rather than feeling an echo of pain at the gradual erosion of a human life, I felt a strong appreciation for the flawed hero.  Is wanting a "Thank You" a bad thing?  No, but it makes your altruism less than altruistic.  Does it make you a more interesting character?  Definitely.

I kept following this tale to see how things would develop for him.  His own development of a deep, hacking cough at the end was painful.

I'm left with two thoughts:

#1.  Would the story have been better-ended without the world-wide resurgence of monsters and just left it with them heading back to the hospital with his own, personal, battle to fight without the echo throughout the rest of the world?

#2.  Can a Daikaiju story be simply a Daikaiju story in a Science-Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror setting without being a metaphor (as Steve touched upon in his Outro)?

Yours,
Sylvan (Dave)



wintermute

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Reply #3 on: July 18, 2008, 01:05:15 PM
#2.  Can a Daikaiju story be simply a Daikaiju story in a Science-Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror setting without being a metaphor (as Steve touched upon in his Outro)?
Exhibit A

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SFEley

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Reply #4 on: July 18, 2008, 03:15:07 PM
#2.  Can a Daikaiju story be simply a Daikaiju story in a Science-Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror setting without being a metaphor (as Steve touched upon in his Outro)?
Exhibit A

To me the Godzilla remake falls under "intentional B-movie self-satire," regardless of budget.  We went to see it at a movie diner because we were pretty sure we'd need beer to appreciate it.  But there wasn't enough beer.  In the world.

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Russell Nash

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Reply #5 on: July 18, 2008, 03:25:14 PM
I think it was very cool for both the forum "root post" and the EscapePod excerpt quotation to be this:

Quote
They try everything. Cellular toxins. DNA replication inhibitors. Anti-sense nucleic acids. Artillery. Great bolts of lightning. Nothing stops him, it only makes the monster angrier. They try mutagens, teratogens, carcinogens, neurotoxins, hemotoxins, genotoxins — they think that toxins in the environment created the monster, and maybe toxins can kill it. Maybe two wrongs can make a right.

A little meta-response:

The forum thread is always taken directly from the blog posting.  Steve posts to the blog when he uploads the episode.  I just take the work he has done and regurgitate it here.



jrderego

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Reply #6 on: July 18, 2008, 04:02:12 PM
#2.  Can a Daikaiju story be simply a Daikaiju story in a Science-Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror setting without being a metaphor (as Steve touched upon in his Outro)?
Exhibit A

To me the Godzilla remake falls under "intentional B-movie self-satire," regardless of budget.  We went to see it at a movie diner because we were pretty sure we'd need beer to appreciate it.  But there wasn't enough beer.  In the world.

I am one of the rare few who suffered through the Emmerich/Devlin Godzilla twice in the theater. I saw it the first time, opening night, at midnight, so I could receive the "awesome promo package" of stuff that came with it... which turned out to be a film cell of  a foot, and some coupons for Taco Bell's Godzilla-sized Nuclear Chili Projectile Uncontrollable Diarrhea Combo Meal Bel Grande (which I promptly threw away) "Yo queiro, my ass fell off!". Two days later I met a handful of kids from the after school program I ran, who I had promised to take to a screening on my own dime. It wasn't any better the second time.

That said, the Emmerich/Devlin Godzilla, while an unmentioned remake of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, itself a version of the Bradbury story The Lighthouse, was a metaphor for consequences of nuclear testing. The opening scene is the French Army conducting nuclear tests near enough to the Galapagos Islands to irradiate the marine iguanas that live there. However, the film never even pays lip service to this angle.

As far as films with giant monsters that aren't really metaphors for anything, you could check out -

Godzilla Raids Again/Gigantis the Fire Monster
Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster
Destroy All Monsters
Gamera vs pretty much any of his foes (Showa series)
The X from Outer Space
Reptillian/Yongary 1999
Gappa the Triphibian Monster/Monster from a Prehistoric Planet

Actually, let me put a giant monster themed post in Gallimaufry - I've got some time today.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2008, 04:05:29 PM by jrderego »

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Reply #7 on: July 18, 2008, 04:09:16 PM
"Yo queiro, my ass fell off!"

Wow, Jeff.  Those are some deft Spanish skillz  ;)


WillMoo

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Reply #8 on: July 18, 2008, 04:55:05 PM
Finished listening to the story over lunch. Not a very subtle use of the "big monster" metaphor, was it? 



Sylvan

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Reply #9 on: July 18, 2008, 05:03:56 PM
#2.  Can a Daikaiju story be simply a Daikaiju story in a Science-Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror setting without being a metaphor (as Steve touched upon in his Outro)?
Exhibit A

To me the Godzilla remake falls under "intentional B-movie self-satire," regardless of budget.  We went to see it at a movie diner because we were pretty sure we'd need beer to appreciate it.  But there wasn't enough beer.  In the world.

I remember coming out of the film on opening day and saying "Well, it was a giant monster movie, but it sure wasn't 'Godzilla'".

I would have said that "Cloverfield" wasn't a metaphor before listening to the Outro and, now, I wonder if any of the examples listed here by other listeners really qualify.  If "Cloverfield" was a metaphor -and a pretty well-concealed one at that- then ANYthing can be a metaphor.

Perhaps that's the issue for some:  "Cloverfield" was too subtle and "Love and Death in the time of Monsters" too blatant?

But, y'know, to bring it back to today's story, "too subtle" and "too blatant" don't really come into my own consideration as to whether or not it was good.  I may be a bit blunt in my appreciation of literature; that's quite possibly a good reason why I don't have a problem with the tale.  But, in the end, if the characters are characters I care about, if their situation is empathetic, and the scenario Sciency-, Fantasy-y, or Horrory, I go with it.

In this case, I really enjoyed the characters and their situation.

Yours,
Sylvan (Dave)
« Last Edit: July 18, 2008, 05:05:59 PM by Sylvan »



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Reply #10 on: July 18, 2008, 05:09:10 PM
#2.  Can a Daikaiju story be simply a Daikaiju story in a Science-Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror setting without being a metaphor (as Steve touched upon in his Outro)?
Exhibit A

  It's been years since I puit myself through that film but

1. Wasn't there some little throwaway bit at the start about underwater nuclear tests that were in the news at that time? I admit that they were not particularly preachy about it, but it was there, wasn't it?

2. That film was a pile of crap. I think calling it self-satire is incredibly generous. The only good thing about that movie is it seemed to create a big demand for some more "real" Godzilla films.


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Void Munashii

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Reply #11 on: July 18, 2008, 05:19:36 PM
  I'm not sure how I feel about this srtory. I certainly did not hate it, indeed I was really enjoying until about the last five minutes or so. I'm not sure exactly what happened at that point to lose me. Overall I would have to say that I liked it. Iknow part of the problem is that the story lost me a little bit right at the very end with the scene in the car, so I shall probably have to listen to it again to see what it was that I missed.

  Personally I love giant monster stories, I grew up on Godzilla (and the occasional Gamera). I would have to say that giant monsters are my favourite sci-fi/horror monsters right after zombies. If I was not a fan of daikaiju stories, this story might have fallen a little flatter for me than it did.

  The story was certainly preachy as can be, but for the most part was quite good. I found myself at the same time disliking the main character and identifying with him (which is probably why I disliked him a bit). I thought the metaphor behind the story was very well done, but also very heavy-handed.

 

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wintermute

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Reply #12 on: July 18, 2008, 05:29:29 PM
Wasn't there some little throwaway bit at the start about underwater nuclear tests that were in the news at that time? I admit that they were not particularly preachy about it, but it was there, wasn't it?
There's a scene at the beginning of the new Get Smart movie where Max is listening to Abba on his iPod. Does that mean the whole thing is a metaphor for the history of Swedish pop?

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Darwinist

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Reply #13 on: July 18, 2008, 06:00:42 PM
I thought this story was OK.  I had some problems with some of the aspects of the story like the characters caring about March Madness while the entire eastern seaboard was being wiped out, and when the guy was fretting about the use of nuclear weapons when the monster seemed to be unstoppable and on its way to destroying even more cities.   A nice diversion for my commute but I won't be saving it. 

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.    -  Carl Sagan


Schreiber

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Reply #14 on: July 18, 2008, 08:14:50 PM
The narrator, who has never smoked a day in his life, may have emphysema.  New monsters are springing up  from the sea around the world.  The narrator's mother is a vegetable and the son never receives so much as a thank you for his pains.  Rescue efforts are token at best and don't extend to the people who probably need them the most.  Looters steal precious works of art and fire bullets into the air for no good reason.  Where the bullets land, no one really knows.  And while the reporter in the story thinks he sees malice in the kaiju's eyes, the narrator sees only cool, emotionless instinct.

I for one don't think the analogy is particularly heavy handed, but maybe that's because the truth it illustrates is so basic.  Life isn't fair and people don't behave the way they are supposed to in good times or in bad.  We fiddle with the climate of a planet and then blame the results on a monster that wouldn't have existed if we hadn't created it.  We give our mothers cigarettes to make our lives a little easier.  And catastrophes on any scale don't bring out the best in us.  They expose our hypocrisy and teach us lessons about ourselves we'd rather not learn.



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Reply #15 on: July 18, 2008, 08:32:34 PM
Wasn't there some little throwaway bit at the start about underwater nuclear tests that were in the news at that time? I admit that they were not particularly preachy about it, but it was there, wasn't it?
There's a scene at the beginning of the new Get Smart movie where Max is listening to Abba on his iPod. Does that mean the whole thing is a metaphor for the history of Swedish pop?

  Only if Abba is the reason he becomes a spy.

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DKT

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Reply #16 on: July 18, 2008, 08:33:44 PM
Wasn't there some little throwaway bit at the start about underwater nuclear tests that were in the news at that time? I admit that they were not particularly preachy about it, but it was there, wasn't it?
There's a scene at the beginning of the new Get Smart movie where Max is listening to Abba on his iPod. Does that mean the whole thing is a metaphor for the history of Swedish pop?

  Only if Abba is the reason he becomes a spy.

Or is a major influence in creating the thing he is spying on/fighting against.


ajames

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Reply #17 on: July 18, 2008, 10:37:18 PM
Not on my short list but I liked it!

The relationships rang true to me, and using the monster to switch between scales worked for me, even if it left no mystery and little (any?) nuance to the metaphor. So what? Something as monstrous as cancer deserves a monstrous metaphor, and make no mistake, this was a story about cancer, and its effects on people. [That doesn't mean that I don't think this was science fiction, or doesn't belong on Escape Pod by any means, either. Not at all].

When the narrator seemed horrified that nuclear weapons were used against the monster, my reaction was shock that it took them so long. But on reflection, the narrator's reaction makes perfect sense. We used the very thing that created the monster to destroy it - is it any wonder that so many new monsters soon sprang up? Here the metaphor falls apart a bit, but that just leaves more to think about.



MacArthurBug

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Reply #18 on: July 19, 2008, 04:05:20 AM
blast the metaphors with molten lava- I just wasn't crazy about the heavy depressing angles of this story. Nothing about it made me feel good, scared, joyful- or anything much else. Just a little sad and a little weirded out by the whoe "It wasn't bad enough my mom has cancer, but now there's a major monster on the loose" thing. AND I hated the end.  WAY too heavy without enough nice patting on the back. I escape with fiction. When my fiction depresses me more then life.. then I'm doin' it wrong.

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Schreiber

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Reply #19 on: July 19, 2008, 06:25:13 AM
Quote
I escape with fiction. When my fiction depresses me more then life.. then I'm doin' it wrong.

I make my fiction so dark I have to escape back to reality.   Gummo anyone?



eytanz

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Reply #20 on: July 19, 2008, 08:28:39 AM
Meh. I didn't hate it - far from it - but I like a bit more subtlety in my methaphors. Maybe that's why I'm not a giant monster fan in general.

Or maybe it is that this week - when I am in the midst of what was supposed to be my holiday in Australia, but has instead become a trip where I spend most of my day running errands for my hospitalized grandmother - is not entirely the right week for me to hear this story.



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Reply #21 on: July 19, 2008, 08:22:36 PM
My first posting here.  Hope I do it right.  Anyway, wish I had a better story to respond to.  A good story should do one of 3 things:  1) Entertain; 2) Inspire one to think by presenting a new idea or viewpoint or even literary style; or 3) Evoke an emtional response.  This story did none of the above.  Just bleh all the way around.  Heavy handed use of metaphors, non-engaging characters, and a generally dull story which wasn't really SF at all, regardless of the monster backstory.  Luckily, the nature of Podcasts allows me to multitask while I listen, so I can't claim 30 minutes wasted....



Talia

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Reply #22 on: July 20, 2008, 05:47:38 AM
I liked it. I'm kind of a sucker for apocalyptic stories and the emotions they dredge up. Any metaphors bandied about didn't really bother me one way or another because I felt the characters were drawn succinctly enough and scenarios portrayed enough to stand on their own. I didn't come away from it feeling like the author was trying to shove a message down my throat; I found the ending strangely bittersweet. "Well, everything is going to hell, but at least here at the end I'll finally have someone to care for me."



Nobilis

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Reply #23 on: July 20, 2008, 02:54:30 PM
There were some bright moments, shining like the edge of a scalpel.  The rest of it was a plastic handle, there to provide support for its use and nothing else.



Sharp, sterile, and ultimately, disposable.



slic

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Reply #24 on: July 20, 2008, 06:10:36 PM
Besides the basic structures of plot, characterization and settings, the stories that stay with me are ones that provide insight.  This story had to areas that interested me.  I agree with the general consensus that the Rampaging Monster was a simple metaphor, almost too simple.  However, I was intrigued by the reflection of the character’s contribution to his mother’s sickness and his feelings around that.  As a father of three, there were times when I “gave in” and knew I shouldn’t, but didn’t want to go 15 rounds over doing the dishes.  And worst yet, I’m sure it will happen again.  It’s a complicated mix of guilt, anger and weariness, and isn’t a simple matter of “I should know better”.  I liked that the author took the story there, but didn't find it dealt with effectively.

I was also intrigued but the subtext of people getting accustomed to tragedy.  People in many places of the world today, and in the past, have to live with daily destruction and the tragedy it brings.  In this story, even when it has an impact close to home, eventually, sooner than one thinks possible, we move past it.  Who would consider continuing with something as honestly insignificant as the NCAA Basketball playoffs when the entire eastern seaboard is being destroyed?  I haven’t decided if this is a result of “Bread and Circuses” – keep the majority of the population distracted – or if it’s that the human psyche just can’t deal with this kind of high tension for months on end.

While I really really like Nobilis’ quote, I don’t find it accurate.  I didn't find anything “bright” or "sharp" about this story, overall it was a journeyman's daily level of effort - well-built but ordinary.



Chivalrybean

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Reply #25 on: July 20, 2008, 07:28:49 PM
Uhm... it was ok. I wondered why they didn't try microwaves to see if frying the water it held in it's skin did any damage, or just frying it with microwaves in general...

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Reply #26 on: July 20, 2008, 07:55:10 PM
First post here... just started listening the other day and I think I'll be droppin by more often!

I find myself agreeing with those who couldn't get into it because of the heavy-handedness of the central metaphor.  I was very intrigued by the initial juxtaposition of the monster attack and the sickness, but was disappointed each time the author strained to link the two together.  I thought the twist at the end, the emphysema from a lifetime of second-hand smoke, was great, and probably a point where the author showed the most restraint in tying the sickness to the monster attack.  That said, nothing about this story could be construed as subtle.  But, if you consider that the story's greater point is that we as a society are poisoning ourselves, destroying ourselves - well, I imagine it's kind of hard to evoke that idea very subtly. 

Anyway I agree with silc, the most promising moments were the characterization of relationship between the narrator and his mother, but the author didn't deliver enough depth - relegating all the characters to a sort of cipher status that we've all read about before. In that way it perfectly fits into the monster movie genre, but I got the impression that this story was supposed to transcend it.

And, incidentally, what's with this endlessly patient wife?  For a moment while listening I became confused, thinking that it must be his wife berating him over the flowers, for never spending time with her anymore.  Because I can't imagine anyone being so patient with, let's face it, a sad and selfish grown-up child who resents the people in his life he perceives as keeping him down.  I wish we could have seen a lot more development in her character, because she could have a very interesting perspective.  But, only so much space.

So no, I didn't hate the story.  But I was disappointed by it.  Nice reading though!



Talia

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Reply #27 on: July 20, 2008, 11:19:33 PM

It was my perception he'd been dealing with his mother saying super nasty things to him for a while. I dont really see his reaction, therefore, as selfish, considering how poorly he was being treated. Imagine month after month of taking endless hatred and abuse while doing your best to tend to an ailing parent. It must be wearying.

No one is a saint to stand up to such viciousness without some resentment.



nebulinda

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Reply #28 on: July 21, 2008, 05:07:26 AM
For me, a lot of the fun and enjoyment in reading/listening to stories comes from finding my own meaning. I like when the author has something to say and, rather than just tell me what that is, leaves clues for me to find. Listening to this felt like reading The Scarlet Letter again, what with the being slapped in the face with the metaphors. While I didn't hate this story, I think I would have gotten the same amount of enjoyment out of reading a pamphlet on the dangers of smoking.



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Reply #29 on: July 21, 2008, 01:14:58 PM
I didn't "hate it" but I certainly didn't enjoy it as much as Steve Eley did.  A solid "meh".

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Rain

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Reply #30 on: July 21, 2008, 02:14:11 PM
Here are the reasons why i thought this was a bad story :

1. It was much much too preachy, when you have a giant monster walking around destroying cities is that really the time to debate whether or not nuclear weapons are ok?

2. I refuse to believe that a giant monster walking around on the east coast of your country can become so mundane that people stop caring, the concept is absurd

3. Strange Ending : Why was our main character coughing up blood at the end?

4. I doubt many, if any people at all who knows a cancer patient would agree with the clumbsy metaphor about how cemotherapy is bad



wintermute

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Reply #31 on: July 21, 2008, 02:20:42 PM
1. It was much much too preachy, when you have a giant monster walking around destroying cities is that really the time to debate whether or not nuclear weapons are ok?
Actually, I would say "yes". It's easy to agree that nuclear weapons are bad (or, for that matter, good) when it doesn't look like you'll ever need to use them. But when using them to kill maybe millions of people s the only way to stop a monster from killing millions of people, then you really need to be sure you're doing the right thing.

3. Strange Ending : Why was our main character coughing up blood at the end?
Cancer, brought on by second hand smoke, from being around his mother so much.

See, by letting his mother have a little simple pleasure, he was dooming himself to a painful death. That's what passes for SUBTLE IRONY in this story.

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Talia

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Reply #32 on: July 21, 2008, 02:30:34 PM
Here are the reasons why i thought this was a bad story :

1. It was much much too preachy, when you have a giant monster walking around destroying cities is that really the time to debate whether or not nuclear weapons are ok?

2. I refuse to believe that a giant monster walking around on the east coast of your country can become so mundane that people stop caring, the concept is absurd

3. Strange Ending : Why was our main character coughing up blood at the end?

4. I doubt many, if any people at all who knows a cancer patient would agree with the clumbsy metaphor about how cemotherapy is bad

As far as people not caring, consider humanity's inclination to stick their head in the sand and not deal with problems if they can possibly help it. Its a defense mechanism. Certainly not everyone reacts this way but plenty do. If something seems completely out of your control and is far away, isn't it so much easier to just pretend everything's fine and go about your business, some people might reason.

I certainly don't think the story was trying to say "chemotherapy is bad." Chemotherapy is, in fact, extraordinarly unpleasant, though.



Russell Nash

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Reply #33 on: July 21, 2008, 04:26:02 PM
The discussion about the plural form of octopus was getting silly and looked like it was going to keep going, so I moved it here



slic

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Reply #34 on: July 21, 2008, 10:14:08 PM
I'm with Talia on this.  Consider the daily death tolls from the many conflicts around the world right now.



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Reply #35 on: July 22, 2008, 04:43:59 AM
I very much enjoyed the story. It's not easy putting a tale together that employs parallel symbolisms. It's a little more difficult when it happens in a short story. This one did it fairly well, a little heavy-handed at times, but nicely done.

I would guess that this is from a personal life experience of Mr. Wu's.

To those that didn't like it; just think of this story, having 2 monsters, as making up for the lack in EP117: Reggie vs. Kaiju Storm Chimera Wolf

:)
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Darwinist

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Reply #36 on: July 22, 2008, 02:10:43 PM
I'm with Talia on this.  Consider the daily death tolls from the many conflicts around the world right now.

True. But I would think a person would have a different reaction to something horrible happening in our own country.  I'm not saying that this is a good thing.   I can't see life going on (ie.  NCAA tournament) if the entire Eastern seaboard was getting trashed.   After the September 11th attacks I think some MLB and NFL games were postponed. 

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.    -  Carl Sagan


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Reply #37 on: July 22, 2008, 02:58:02 PM
True. But I would think a person would have a different reaction to something horrible happening in our own country.  I'm not saying that this is a good thing.   I can't see life going on (ie.  NCAA tournament) if the entire Eastern seaboard was getting trashed.   After the September 11th attacks I think some MLB and NFL games were postponed. 

Honestly, that was the best part of the story to me.  And I think it's spot-on, too, both literally and metaphorically in the context of the story.  9/11 did shut a lot of things down nationally here in the states, but it wasn't long before they were up and running again - because our society actually requires those things to keep running.  In the case of a much longer 'monster attack' where the devastation goes on for weeks (if I'm remembering the timeline of the story correctly), I think people would have no choice but to continue living life the way they know it.  It's that or societal collapse for the surviving states.

Sure, it's exaggerated, but the details are less important than the symbolism in the story.  ^ Metaphorically, I would think (though I have no real idea) that the idea of continuing like everything is as normal as possible is also accurate for the treatment of cancer patients.  I mean, they're dying - and the cure is killing them too - but they sure don't want to think about dying all the time if they can help it.  You need to be able to focus on other, better things in life to have a better chance of surviving.  Or, at least that's my impression.

But, on second thought, you might be right - the NCAA tournament would be a lot more boring with half the teams missing ;o



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Reply #38 on: July 22, 2008, 03:56:26 PM

I would guess that this is from a personal life experience of Mr. Wu's.


I agree.  He's definitely had some personal daikaiju climbing up out of the ocean and attacking large cities, but I thought the way he created the whole cancer thing was a bit ridiculous.  I mean, I'm willing to suspend my disbelief about monsters, but cancer?  That's ridiculous!

Seriously, though, I did enjoy the story.  The characters hit the right notes for me.  One of the images that's going to be sticking with me for a while is the son drawing pictures inside the top of his mom's cigarette boxes. 


Listener

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Reply #39 on: July 23, 2008, 01:12:07 PM
I was also intrigued but the subtext of people getting accustomed to tragedy.  People in many places of the world today, and in the past, have to live with daily destruction and the tragedy it brings.  In this story, even when it has an impact close to home, eventually, sooner than one thinks possible, we move past it.  Who would consider continuing with something as honestly insignificant as the NCAA Basketball playoffs when the entire eastern seaboard is being destroyed?  I haven’t decided if this is a result of “Bread and Circuses” – keep the majority of the population distracted – or if it’s that the human psyche just can’t deal with this kind of high tension for months on end.

Welcome to the news business, slic.

This was probably the best part of the story -- that little observation.

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Listener

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Reply #40 on: July 23, 2008, 01:13:58 PM
I didn't like it.  I'm not much for giant monster stories (Cthulhu-esque included) unless they're golems.  Everyone's already talked about the symbolism, and slic brought up the one thing that really touched me about the story already.  The reading was fine.

If you believe everything you see on "House", it is possible to get lung cancer without being a smoker -- the episode with the hugely fat guy who loved to cook and eat... he turned out to have lung cancer, not anything weight-related.

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Reply #41 on: July 23, 2008, 08:53:51 PM
I have never understood the attraction of monster movies.  I view heavy-handed symbolism with a wary disdain.  But I seem to have empathized with this story more than average.

To me, there's a point at which metaphors become so blatant that they stop pretending to be anything other than what they symbolize.  If it's that up-front, it flips from being bludgeoning and patronizing to being a stylistic attraction of the story.

I can't say that I enjoyed the story but that's almost entirely because of my own family experiences of cancer.  At times, I hated it -- I felt upset, guilty, worn out, helpless.  Its small scenes and big metaphors skewered the feeling of being a cancer bystander far too well.



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Reply #42 on: July 23, 2008, 10:10:30 PM
I have to say, I was really struggling with this story, and it took me a while to put my finger on why. I actually liked the metaphors, I am always a great fan of monster stories, just like ‘end-of-the-world-stories’ they show human nature in a different light under unusual strain and pushing people to the edge, especially emotionally, socially, etc., brings out qualities and weaknesses we don’t usually get to see. But that is what this story seemed to lack, it did not bring out the ‘human nature’ I would expect to see under these circumstances.

But what really made me dismiss the story was the description of the relationships, which I realize, some posters actually liked. I could not see the main character’s behavior as believable at all when he leaves his mother in the end. Maybe that is what everyone would want to do with an abusive relative, a tyrant who knows exactly which buttons to press to bring him down. Fair enough, that leads to a lot of resentment, hatred even, all natural reactions. But she is still his mother, …. and ok, we did not get much of a back story, we don’t know what their relationship was like 10 years earlier. We don’t know anything really about the mother apart from her smoking habit and the effect the nicotin has on her mood. But I think, in the REAL world (not that that is necessarily what we need to measure this story against), he would not leave her behind like that, ‘burn down all his bridges behind him’, so to speak. Not when it is his mother we are talking about. Emotional abuse is a constant in many family relationships, if everyone who experiences it would just up and leave the family behind, we would live in a society full of ‘fake’ orphans. Especially in a situation like this one, when the mother really needs him, no matter what her behavior is like, a certain sense of obligation would make him stay and care for her, even if his only motive would be to fulfil what he perceives as his duty.

Anyway, I guess a bit more info on the characters’ motives, back stories etc. would have made the behavior more ‘palpable’ to me.

But that seems to be only MY quibble. Many other posters didn’t see it that way.



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Reply #43 on: July 23, 2008, 10:24:04 PM
But what really made me dismiss the story was the description of the relationships, which I realize, some posters actually liked. I could not see the main character’s behavior as believable at all when he leaves his mother in the end. Maybe that is what everyone would want to do with an abusive relative, a tyrant who knows exactly which buttons to press to bring him down. Fair enough, that leads to a lot of resentment, hatred even, all natural reactions. But she is still his mother, ….

Not any more.  He stuck with her all through the "abusive" period.  When he finally leaves her, she's a cabbage.  Brain-dead.  No point in going to see her any more. 

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slic

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Reply #44 on: July 23, 2008, 10:57:16 PM
One of the best and most interesting things about these forums is the diverse opinions.
I couldn't disagree more with cuddlebug.  Sadly, I don't feel any obligation to my mother - I got three squares a day and was never beaten, but verbally I never did anything right or good enough - including getting a B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering.  Her being my Mom doesn't forgive that.

Darwinist - my reply to your general comment is "poverty".  Ever see some story that tugs at our heart strings for a few days and then doesn't get mentioned again? As Listener pointed out - the news business does this now, and it's not because they don't want to report on a particular story (in fact it would make their life easier), it's because they have found that people just tune out after awhile.



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Reply #45 on: July 23, 2008, 11:27:37 PM
One of the best and most interesting things about these forums is the diverse opinions.
I couldn't disagree more with cuddlebug.  Sadly, I don't feel any obligation to my mother - I got three squares a day and was never beaten, but verbally I never did anything right or good enough - including getting a B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering.  Her being my Mom doesn't forgive that.

I'm not in the same position, but I've heard from others who've disowned their parents (or siblings) and when given their reasons I couldn't find fault with them.  Just being family doesn't allow for behavior that you wouldn't tolerate from your friends.  Family is really just an accident of birth.

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JoeFitz

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Reply #46 on: July 25, 2008, 01:39:08 AM
A cancer/monster, a thankless guilt-ridden son, a tyrannical mother, a society which ignores disaster, politicians who are opportunistic, a news media that is complicit, an office culture that is alienating. I felt like the narrator actually - detached from everything going on and questioning why I was there. A solid meh. Next, please.



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Reply #47 on: July 25, 2008, 04:40:46 AM
2. I refuse to believe that a giant monster walking around on the east coast of your country can become so mundane that people stop caring, the concept is absurd
I can accept it. During times of great personal crises, it's real easy to ignore the outside world, especially if the monster/tornado/constitutional crisis is not in your immediate neighbourhood. You tend to get tunnel vision.

"My kid is in intensive care and may not survive the night. Gee, can we get CNN here? I want to see that earthquake footage from Chile." Yeah, right.

There were some bright moments, shining like the edge of a scalpel.  The rest of it was a plastic handle, there to provide support for its use and nothing else.

Sharp, sterile, and ultimately, disposable.
*polite golf clap*
Oooh, I like that, and pretty much agree with it. I probably liked it a wee bit more, overall, than you did.


As far as Godzilla (1998) goes, I still think it was the greatest for creature design. She (?) moved well, and the head looked like a cross between a pit bull, a melanistic jaguar, and a T-rex. Maybe a touch of iguana in there too. When she looked at you, she made eye contact, which few daikaijus do.
I just think of it as a different character than the "real" Godzilla, (as Cloverfield was a different character) and am okay with the movie.
« Last Edit: July 25, 2008, 05:10:39 AM by Planish »

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Sandikal

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Reply #48 on: July 25, 2008, 09:38:59 PM
Finished listening to the story over lunch. Not a very subtle use of the "big monster" metaphor, was it? 

Agreed.  It was a big "meh" for me.  Why didn't they reveal that the monster terrorizing the country was the little Godzilla toy the narrator's mother had thrown away?  It was so obvious.  The first thing I thought when the monster appeared was "alligators in the sewers."  Then, he tells about the toy.  That should have been pursued a bit more.



JoeFitz

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Reply #49 on: July 25, 2008, 11:55:43 PM
2. I refuse to believe that a giant monster walking around on the east coast of your country can become so mundane that people stop caring, the concept is absurd
I can accept it. During times of great personal crises, it's real easy to ignore the outside world, especially if the monster/tornado/constitutional crisis is not in your immediate neighbourhood. You tend to get tunnel vision.

"My kid is in intensive care and may not survive the night. Gee, can we get CNN here? I want to see that earthquake footage from Chile." Yeah, right.

This is still the biggest stumbling block with the monster aspect of this story. Okay maybe hyperbole was part of the author's point - there still is a great deal of tunnel vision. But the example just does not fit. Sure, maybe New York in flames would wear itself out as the lead item on the news. But New York followed by every single settlement along the East coast until Raleigh over four months would cease to be any concern to people living in California?

The problem with hyperbole is that it never works :) when it is overused.



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Reply #50 on: July 27, 2008, 03:36:59 AM
I think the whole point of this story is a combination of attacks by a dangerous Godzilla like monster at the same time as the main character's Mum is dying of cancer. This reminded me of my own Mum dying of cancer after she'd been declared clear of it. She was on five different types of medication, which affected her seriously! Eventually, the cancer came back and she died. The similarities with this edition of Escape Pod were the bad moods and obsessions with little things like hair on the carpet, or in my Mum's case, water on the *bathroom* carpet, although I kept telling her that no sane person would have a carpet in the bathroom. I think it's important for relatives to know what kinds of medication they're on. In my Mum's case this included Co Proxamol, which causes dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, constipation, and vomiting. It may no longer be presrcribed, depending on where you live, but there are other drugs, including Co Codomol, which have the same side effects. I was forced to live with my Mum at her house in the middle of nowhere for the last 18 months of her life, after a very nasty sequence of events. I don't think I should mention on here how I got into that situation, because then I could be harassed by some evil conservatives of the same type who helped to cause that situation. While living there, I was a handy scapegoat for my Mum's symptoms, which I didn't find the cause of until just before she died. She gave me a lot of verbal abuse, such as shouting at me whenever she felt like it, but I wasn't supposed to shout, I wasn't supposed to express any emotions, almost like a Vulcan, etc, etc.  I remember that on the day of the September 11th attacks she was feeling better than most days and actually got out of bed to go and do some shopping, etc. She asked me to record the repeat of the soap opera "Crossroads", but it was interupted halfway through its first showing for news of the September 11th attacks and it was never repeated on any channel available to us at the time, which meant we missed a very crucial part of the plot involving a woman who was impersonating another woman phoning the woman she was impersonating to get some background information on her. I'm not sure how or when I found this out. When my Mum arrived home, she asked me if I'd recorded it for her, so I told her "There's been some big news!" and called up news on near demand from Sky News. In spite of all this, I doubt if I'll ever write a story entitled something like "My bathroom carpet's still wet (and other abuse) so go and get a cardboard box on September 11th!".
« Last Edit: July 27, 2008, 03:47:18 AM by ChiliFan »



stePH

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Reply #51 on: July 27, 2008, 04:04:09 AM
... water on the *bathroom* carpet, although I kept telling her that no sane person would have a carpet in the bathroom.

I've always maintained that any contractor who carpets a bathroom should be wrapped in urine-soaked carpet and left out in the summer sun for four or five hours.

Yes, I've had two houses with fully carpeted master bathrooms.  In both cases I've ripped it out myself and had tile of some sort or another put in.

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ChiliFan

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Reply #52 on: July 27, 2008, 04:13:17 PM
... water on the *bathroom* carpet, although I kept telling her that no sane person would have a carpet in the bathroom.

I've always maintained that any contractor who carpets a bathroom should be wrapped in urine-soaked carpet and left out in the summer sun for four or five hours.

Yes, I've had two houses with fully carpeted master bathrooms.  In both cases I've ripped it out myself and had tile of some sort or another put in.

It's worse than that. My Mum viewed the house before it was finished and she actually told them to put carpet in the bathroom! The water she was complaining about was mainly from me washing my hair in the fairly small sink. She used to smoke, but had given up years before she first got cancer. There was some other abuse about me using kitchen paper instead of dirty cloths, the collapsing plastic carrier bags she just had to use instead of proper bins, etc, etc.






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Reply #53 on: July 28, 2008, 01:16:44 AM
Anybody else notice that the last city that the monster destroyed was Atlanta?

I think we all know what that means: The daikaiju saved Steve Eley for dessert.

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CammoBlammo

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Reply #54 on: August 03, 2008, 02:01:19 PM
I don't know how to feel about this story. I think I liked it, but I know I am supposed not to. It has too many things wrong with it. Yet I don't regret the listen.

One of the things I liked with the juxtaposition was the way it wasn't always clear what the narrator was talking about. For example, when the narrator said

Quote
They try everything. Cellular toxins. DNA replication inhibitors. Anti-sense nucleic acids. Artillery. Great bolts of lightning. Nothing stops him, it only makes the monster angrier. They try mutagens, teratogens, carcinogens, neurotoxins, hemotoxins, genotoxins — they think that toxins in the environment created the monster, and maybe toxins can kill it. Maybe two wrongs can make a right.

it wasn't immediately obvious if he was still talking about his mother's cancer or if he was talking about the 80ft reptile on the East Coast. For me, that ameliorated my natural tendency to react against the metaphor. The fact that I didn't have to go looking for the metaphor meant I was able to appreciate it al the more.



Myrealana

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Reply #55 on: August 22, 2008, 07:31:14 PM
I thought the metaphor worked pretty well, until the end. At the point where his mom was cured of cancer but left a vegetable, the parallels were just too neat. On top of that, to have the narrator tell us that helping his mom was his way of fighting the monster was just too much. You made your point with the parallels - don't rub our noses in it just in case we missed something.

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veganvampire

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Reply #56 on: September 08, 2008, 12:39:22 AM
When Steve said the mother's line: "Am I going to die now?" did anyone else think of Edward Bear and the Very Long Walk?  He's getting a lot of practice with that line.

Anyway, I liked it.  I liked the protagonist, just because he had an alternative point of view from what the media was telling him.  He was thinking about the environment, and all the people killed even in the celebrations of the monster's death.  He even had his own views about the monster's expression.  I hate how one-sided the news can be, and how many people just take what they see on TV as their own opinion.



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Reply #57 on: September 26, 2008, 11:37:38 AM
Well I've just listened, I know it's been out a while no one will read this post, I know I just lurk, hell I never even sign in. Most of the time someone else says how I feel praise or just standard analysis. This time no one has posted how I feel, so I just have to say; That sucked that really sucked. No It really really really sucked. I thought it was awful just awful. A steaming pile of monster poo. The only story worse than this one was the altshiemer story. And I guess this will get me blocked but I don't care. It wasn't SciFi. it wasn't A monster Story. It wasn't Alternate reality it wasn't even good...it wasn't fun.



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Reply #58 on: September 26, 2008, 07:16:05 PM
If posting on the forums to say you thought a story run by EP was a flaming pile of monster excrement got you banned from the boards, there would be no one left here to post.

So welcome, and don't fear to speak your mind!



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Reply #59 on: September 28, 2008, 09:49:34 AM
If posting on the forums to say you thought a story run by EP was a flaming pile of monster excrement got you banned from the boards, there would be no one left here to post.

So welcome, and don't fear to speak your mind!

I think there would be three of you left.  I've only ever had a problem with one episode comment.  It contained a direct insult to the author.  I edited that out and left a nice note to show my displeasure, but the rest of the post stayed.



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Reply #60 on: April 01, 2010, 05:23:38 PM
I like my story metaphors subtle, lurking on the edge of vision as I watch the story, glimpsed only if I turn my head very quickly then gone again until I stop looking for them--they can be lured out with earnest forum discussion, and sometimes by cookies, but otherwise they stay out of the way.  I don't much care for metaphors that can't be ignored, levelling city blocks just to get my attention, and being so much bigger and stompier* than the story itself that I don't even notice the story anymore.  And then suddenly the metaphor ends, and I'm left wondering what the hell happened to the story while I was watching the all-consuming metaphor.

*I believe this is the only time I've ever used the word "stompier", but certainly not the last.

Anyway, the human story was interesting, and the cancer-monster metaphor was interesting but it was just too stompy for my tastes.  And in any case, why the heck does this one random human with cancer have such an apparently profound connection with a monster on the east coast that's nowhere near this person?  At least the Kaiju Storm story had a slight explanation, if a flimsy one, that he'd met another monster and somehow forged a connection.  To me that makes the whole connection into nothing more than a literary device, one that I have trouble looking past.  I mean, of course metaphor is a literary device, but if I can't avoid seeing it as anything but that, then it didn't work.

And because the metaphor was such a beat-you-over-the-head variety, it's hard to not overextend it.  So his mother was like America, yes?  With the cities as organs, the monster as cancer ravaging those organs, and the military being medical science trying to pound the monster into submission.  But the metaphor stops working when the mother dies, and then many monsters appear.  If you follow the original metaphor, then her dead body is now ravaged by cancer?  Huh?  Or is his mother merely the Eastern Seaboard, and he himself is America, but then somehow he contains his mother?  Or is it just a bad case of mixed and mangled metaphors?

Regarding the televization of sports games.  At the very least, it would make for a very different betting dynamic.  Imagine the winners brackets, but all the ones in the northeastern seaboard are crossed out.  "I really think Atlanta will win it, but only if the monster doesn't smush Atlanta before the Finals."  So they'd still have to pay attention to the monster, if only to predict which cities will lose their stadiums and teams due to monster rampages.

Also, I had trouble with the ending.  It's great that his wife is there for him, and is willing to support him--she's a keeper, and I hope they're very happy together, or as happy as they can be.  But, when he says "you're welcome" to her, it seems to me that instead of using her support to help him carry through the tragedy, he's using his wife as an analog for his mother, trying to replace one with the other.  That doesn't strike me as healthy behavior.