Author Topic: Pseudopod 207: Papa Was a Gypsy  (Read 9080 times)

Bdoomed

  • Pseudopod Tiger
  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 5891
  • Mmm. Tiger.
on: October 10, 2010, 04:05:46 AM
Pseudopod 207: Papa Was a Gypsy

By Shannon Celebi
Read by Ben Phillips

She must be mad or fool or both: followin’ ghosts, half naked like Mama was when she got killed. And then it struck her like a hurricane deep in her throat, a kinda knowin’ dread that made her knees go weak.

“What happened to you, Mama?” Elma asked. She never asked before cuz she reckoned Mama wouldn’t answer, but this time Mama made a small sound, a grunt, like she was tryin’ to talk but couldn’t remember how.

“Were you followin’ a ghost, Mama?”

Mama made the sound again.




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?


kibitzer

  • Purveyor of Unsolicited Opinions
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 2228
  • Kibitzer: A meddler who offers unwanted advice
Reply #1 on: October 10, 2010, 07:40:46 AM
Wow. That was a nasty, creepy little piece. (Well, not so little maybe). I liked it very much, and another superb reading from Ben.


Meh_Sweet

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 5
Reply #2 on: October 10, 2010, 11:03:58 AM
Whether it was the successful mechanations of Regina as the anti-hero, or the failure of - oops forgot her name - as a hero; this story didn't sit right with me.  Maybe it was the multigenerational rapes, with the added incest and 'famicide' or the complete corruption of her innocence.  There's no need for a Disney-like bluebird of happiness for every story but the only positive take away for this story seemed to be "always use condoms."
Maybe it wasn't even that - maybe it was grandmom's use of the police to finish the plot - seemed odd she would use the 'Power' and devious psychology for the murders to date, then to just rat her patsy granddaughter out to Andy Griffith at the end.



Unblinking

  • Sir Postsalot
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 8729
    • Diabolical Plots
Reply #3 on: October 11, 2010, 01:36:15 PM
Hmm.... I think it was a dark tale well-told, but most of the time I really want to have someone to root for.  The first murders I could at least understand the reasons behind, but then when she killed the old man she lost me.  I never really bought that she was being controlled by the charm like the story said, so that motiveless murder didn't sit right.

Much of the point of view was unique and interesting, such as the fact that she considered herself partly untrustworthy because she was partly white in heritage--I found it creepy and disturbing, and fitting with her POV.



Scattercat

  • Caution:
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 4904
  • Amateur wordsmith
    • Mirrorshards
Reply #4 on: October 12, 2010, 03:29:49 AM
@Meh - She needs to make sure there's an obvious patsy to pin all of the crimes on; presumably the older folks in town would know that she used to go with Mr. Haggle, and thus she would be a target of suspicion.

Meanwhile, I'm just going to go sob into my pillows for a while because this story is basically a brilliantly polished version of the story I spent a month bludgeoning into even a crude resemblance of what I was trying to say.  This was aces.  Brava, absolutely stellar.



ElectricPaladin

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1005
  • Holy Robot
    • Burning Zeppelin Experience
Reply #5 on: October 12, 2010, 05:18:40 PM
Meanwhile, I'm just going to go sob into my pillows for a while because this story is basically a brilliantly polished version of the story I spent a month bludgeoning into even a crude resemblance of what I was trying to say.  This was aces.  Brava, absolutely stellar.

Don't give up! I actually thought this story was deeply flawed and not very polished at all. I know you 'Cat, and you can do better.

The central problem, for me, was that the story felt scattered. Magic charms and sorcerous old ladies, incestuous pairings, ghosts and astral projection... it was all too much. Too much in too little time. It's hard for short stories to build complex worlds, and this one didn't pull it off.

Frankly, complex worlds are especially hard to do in horror stories, as horror shorts need to be... the words I'm going to use are "swift," "merciless," and "elegant." Papa Was a Gypsy was slow, complicated, and clumsy. It was senseless, but in an awkward and uncompelling way, rather than the brilliant and intentional senselessness of My Body Your Banquet.

For me, the take home lesson? The first ten minutes rule is alive and well in horror. If you want the audience to buy something, you need to sell it right away, rather than spooling it out. The real truth can wait - it can even be absent altogether - but the essential elements of the story need to be presented right away and pursued with speed and ruthless elegance.

Captain of the Burning Zeppelin Experience.

Help my kids get the educational supplies they need at my Donor's Choose page.


Marguerite

  • Editor
  • *****
  • Posts: 305
    • Cast of Wonders
Reply #6 on: October 12, 2010, 05:19:23 PM
This was a beautifully written, beautifully read slice of murky nightmare.  

No one in the story was innocent.  Nothing that happened was clear-cut right or wrong.  Everyone's actions had their own meanings, justifications, or excuses and yes, I think I can even stretch far enough to include Elma being molested in that statement taken in context of the whole sad situation.  

Wonderfully, horribly done.


Alea Iacta Est!


SanguineV

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 18
Reply #7 on: October 13, 2010, 02:56:21 AM
To me this story seemed to have two parts that shared some characters, but were quite different and didn't connect well. The first part was a story of personal horror where Elma was the victim, suffering and unable to do anything until she finally takes revenge. The culmination/twist/finale is when she discloses she can't trust herself because she is part white. The second part is a story about killing an entire family for their incestuous ways, the revenge and personal horror are lost to simple, senseless destruction of a family.

I think either of these could have made a good story alone. They could also have been presented as two linked stories. But when presented as a single piece they don't align well. Perhaps this could have been resolved with better foreshadowing and more effort into helping the audience focus. To me it started off with some secret that was going to be revealed, but then there was a shift to always being one more secret, and one more, and one more, and no sense of where the end was. This meant the first murders felt like the climax... and that afterwards there was no feel for what was central and what was periphery any more. Each step was more magic/ghosts/incest/murder but it was never clear if this was beginning, middle or end[1].

Overall the story was fine and the reading flavoursome, but I think more polish on how to deliver to, and help the audience follow would make this much stronger.

1 - This developing as you go can work very well (e.g. Moon Viewing At Shijo Bridge on Podcastle), but here it didn't.



blueeyeddevil

  • Peltast
  • ***
  • Posts: 104
Reply #8 on: October 13, 2010, 06:03:27 PM
I felt, about halfway through this story, the same as I get to feeling halfway through George R.R. Martin's or Joe Abercrombie's stories: I describe it to my friends as 'atrocity fatigue.' That's a fairly impressive feat for a short story.

This is not to say that the story was poorly written or even that I disliked the plot, but I feel like this was a piece that should have been taken away at about minute 25. Had the story ended then, this would have been excellent.

As it is, this story poured three eighteenth-century gothic novel's worth of naughtiness into a quarter-novella sized story. Sometimes rhythm is as important as content, and this story kept hammering harder and harder when it should have lightened.
« Last Edit: October 16, 2010, 01:40:22 PM by blueeyeddevil »



yaksox

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 70
    • sunny breaks
Reply #9 on: October 18, 2010, 09:43:18 AM
I thought it crumbled when the jam was actually blood.  It changed into something different. Went supernova and reminded me a bit of the way some stephen king stuff gets more and more over the top toward the end.



heyes

  • Peltast
  • ***
  • Posts: 92
    • The Returning
Reply #10 on: October 18, 2010, 03:46:48 PM
I'm so happy PP is back.  This one really touched on some personal issues (being mixed race, and even more complicated than just mixed) (but, not the incest thank God).  A good story about plain old evil just getting in there and messing everyone up, ruining everything, even when there should be plenty to have hope for.  A good couple of stories that played well together between this one and the next one.

"Feed me Seymour!"
     -Audry II
"You were not put on the Earth to get it, Mr. Burton"
     - Lo Pan


Kanasta

  • Peltast
  • ***
  • Posts: 81
Reply #11 on: October 19, 2010, 06:19:30 PM
For me, if it had stopped just before the jam turned to blood, it would have been a really great story. But, as said by previous posters, from that point on it just seemed to spiral out of shape. It turned really baggy and lost its way. A shame, because it had a lot of excellent ingredients.



Faraway Ray

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 340
  • "I loved it!" "So? You also loved World War II!"
Reply #12 on: October 23, 2010, 02:30:44 PM
For me, if it had stopped just before the jam turned to blood, it would have been a really great story. But, as said by previous posters, from that point on it just seemed to spiral out of shape. It turned really baggy and lost its way. A shame, because it had a lot of excellent ingredients.

I don't really have much to add but this. Up to that point, it's fine as a revenge tale. The mean old witch woman who orchestrated the whole thing feels kind of tacked on.


A story of lust, violence and jelly.

Well, Here I Am. My little slice of the blaggin' world.


Zuishness

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 21
Reply #13 on: October 24, 2010, 02:24:43 AM
This was great.

From a certain point of view the mean, old witch was merely stopping the cycle of abuse and bad blood.

Though I did wonder why she waited so long.
« Last Edit: October 24, 2010, 02:26:34 AM by Zuishness »



Dave

  • Peltast
  • ***
  • Posts: 128
    • I Can Bend Minds With My Spoon
Reply #14 on: October 24, 2010, 10:39:52 PM
Wow. That was a nasty, creepy little piece. (Well, not so little maybe). I liked it very much, and another superb reading from Ben.

That.

-Dave (aka Nev the Deranged)


Umbrageofsnow

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 754
  • Commenting by the seat of my pants.
Reply #15 on: January 22, 2011, 02:18:52 AM
To me this story seemed to have two parts that shared some characters, but were quite different and didn't connect well. The first part was a story of personal horror where Elma was the victim, suffering and unable to do anything until she finally takes revenge. The culmination/twist/finale is when she discloses she can't trust herself because she is part white. The second part is a story about killing an entire family for their incestuous ways, the revenge and personal horror are lost to simple, senseless destruction of a family.

This meant the first murders felt like the climax...

I agree with you on this to a large extent, the first two deaths and the next morning would have been a fine ending for the story, but to my mind, things went over the top and all the way back around to being awesome again.  Sort of like bad jokes do.  So if only the father had died, I would have thought that was a bit weak, but adding a whole further bloodbath really sells either the mind control, or the psychosis explanation, moreso than the simple personal-horror-and-revenge plot would have been.  That would have made a fine story, but a bit more simplistic, which might not have been better I think.  The feelings of control and loss of control are really key here, and I think get across better with the more complicated form of the story.  Here is what I wrote before reading this thread:

You're never really sure how in-control Elma really is, until the end, but you can vaguely feel her slipping, especially any of her thoughts involving power. I like the seeming ghostly chain-reaction, set off by Mama at the beginning, where Elma is increasingly more and more haunted. You really get a feel for everything spiraling out of control. Which is why I'm so disappointed by the supernatural ending. Don't get me wrong, Celebi has created a great (if hard to understand motivationally) villain by the end of the story, and the smaller ghost and charm level supernatural elements were entirely necessary. But why not leave it at that, with the possibility of interpreting the whole things as psychosis + superstition, rather than firmly committing to the supernatural?

That said, the ending is actually pretty good, Elma's emotions are perfectly described, you really feel for her, and the final line about love is great. Overall, Elma is an extremely well-drawn character, and the Southern Gothic setting is pretty well done too. I just wish we'd learned a bit more about Regina.