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Author Topic: EP390: Cerbo un Vitra ujo  (Read 44655 times)

SF.Fangirl

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Reply #75 on: April 18, 2013, 01:42:53 AM
Great story!  Dark, disturbing, graphic, and no fun to listen to, but a very well done story.  And I had little trouble suspending disbelief.  They established early on that this harvesting was legal at least for the "extra" children.  And Grete was dumb, but I excused it because she was a dumb teenager in love.  Once she found his eyes in another's face, I knew that Kaj was gone, and I was annoyed with her stupidity to keep looking at first but then I remembered - teenager in love.

I did find the second rape to be extraneous.  At that point it didn't make the situation any more horrific, and I did wonder if that really would distract Doc Fairview.  That's were my suspension of disbelief got very close to the edge.

I am sorry that Norn was so explicit with his warning though.  It was too much of a spoiler and distracted me while I kept waiting for the rape in the next scene. I think "sexual violence" might have been less spoilery than being so specific as "forced sexual intercourse" while still covering the same warning, but that's just a thought for next time.

Is this story Sci Fi enough for EscapePod?  Yes, I say.  I am a sci fi fan not a fantasy or horror fan (not that there's anything wrong with that).  I know what is sci fi when I read/hear it.  I say this is sci fi.  ;) Besides if this had been on PseudoPod I would have missed it.  Probably not going to listen to this story again, but I am glad I heard it once.

So overall I am glad that I heard this disturbing story. I can't say I enjoyed it, and I do understand while other might be disappointed and disturbed.



SF.Fangirl

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Reply #76 on: April 18, 2013, 01:59:49 AM
While I understand all the visceral reactions to this story, I have to admit that for me it all just laid there flat.  It is, simply, a bad story because the author telegraphed everything.  When an author mentions "remarkable eyes" that's fine, but when she ticks off body parts like "perfect teeth" and "delicate fingers" the laws of short story economy begin to come into play.  Next we hear of a child allotment, see how the mom was ignoring her, the he shouldn't have had a scholarship, and finally learn abouts body harvesters.  It was so obvious that any power the rest of the story had was muted.

Although I felt differently than you, great review Mercurywaxing.  I do want to add that I suspect my most frequent complaint about EscapePod is that I figured out the "twist" ending before the reveal and it ruined the story.  It seems to me EscapePod goes for a lot of stories that rely on twist or reveal at the end to be enjoyed. And I figured out that Kaj was harvested away well before Grete (although not as fast as Mercurywaxing it seems).  It didn't matter in this story; the twist was not the point and figuring that out did not affect my appreciation of the story at all.



InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #77 on: April 18, 2013, 02:23:54 AM
It seems to me EscapePod goes for a lot of stories that rely on twist or reveal at the end to be enjoyed.

That's because then people complain that "nothing happened"  ;)



Lionman

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Reply #78 on: April 18, 2013, 10:36:22 AM
Sweet mother of lizards. Sweet fuck. Sweet fucking lizard. The sex was the least disturbing part. I'm going to take a shower. In bleach. Hot bleach.

If this becomes the future, I'm siding with the aliens. It's time to start again.

I have to agree with this sentiment as well.  "Nuke it from Orbit, it's the only way to be sure."  Talk about your dystopian futures!

However, I have to say in it's defense, this is probably a story that would play out in the world of Blade Runner.  So, while we hold high the gritty nature of such a genre, there are still parts of the underbelly we loathe.

This is really from the point of view of someone who doesn't have the experience to know better, young love...the Romeo and Juliet of Blade Runner, if you will.  Unlike our reality, parents tend to keep their children from making these sorts of fatal mistakes.

Failure is an event, not a person.


Mary Robinette Kowal

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Reply #79 on: April 20, 2013, 04:16:04 PM
One of the things that I love about EscapePod is seeing the commentary that goes on in the forums. I always debate whether or not to engage, but in this case, I thought some context might be interesting.

I wrote this back in 2005 for Apex Digest at a time when it was focusing on SF horror.It's a story that makes me deeply uncomfortable because horror is not my natural space, but I do try to step outside my comfort zone. Normally, I'm a happy ending girl and write stuff that's more like Jane Austen with magic.

This is a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's Snow Queen, and, icky though the story is, to me it's a love story. The main characters in Snow Queen are Gerda and Kai, so there’s the obvious name connection.

The basic plot structure of the Snow Queen is that Gerda and Kai are best friends and play in the rose garden together. One day, a goblin comes and steals Kai’s heart (Go to gaming school!) and tempts him away.

Gerda goes on a quest to find him, and keeps seeing people that she thinks are him,[lady with his eyes, the doctor] only to discover that they’re not.

She finally discovers that he is in the Snow Queen’s palace (the clinic) and enters to try to save Kai. She finds him, cold and heartless, in the middle of a lake playing with ice shards (medically induced coma.) He doesn’t recognize her and her tears melt his heart, saving him. (Though the saving here is rather darker).

What I had always been struck by with Snow Queen was the lengths that Gerda went to in an attempt to save her friend. For me, Grete starts off exactly that naive, but by the time she gets to Doc's place she knows that there is no happy ending in front of her. "If Kaj weren’t dead, if Doc had kept him like the tiger skin then she could not leave him like that."

She knows that pretty much her only option is to kill her boyfriend because she's on a station where body-harvesting is legal. She could have been smart and walked away, but I don't think that would have made the ending any happier. Revenge on the Doc? Absolutely, but I'd been asked to write for a horror magazine so a happy resolution or justice wasn't an option.

And that's the piece of context that I've found most fascinating to watch in this. While the warning about the rape scenes was at the front, there's nothing saying that this is horror. Not just dark, but in a different genre. In fact, I've seen several people suggesting that it should have been on Psuedopod where I bet the reaction would have been different. Not better necessarily, but different.

Funny thing though, Mur rejected this when I submitted it to Pseudopod in 2006.

Anyway, it's been a very interesting discussion. Thank you for having it.



eytanz

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Reply #80 on: April 20, 2013, 10:42:58 PM
Hello Mary,

Thank you very much for posting and giving the context for the story. It's always appreciated when an author comes in, but doubly so when the thread is so - lets say "contentious" - as this one has been.



Mary Robinette Kowal

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Reply #81 on: April 21, 2013, 07:33:19 AM
I thought about replying earlier, but wanted to give people space to have the conversation. I've always firmly believed that my intentions don't really matter once the story is out of my hands. In this case, however, I think that the context of where the story was originally placed might open up some new avenues of discussion around audience expectation.



zenjamin

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Reply #82 on: April 21, 2013, 04:06:11 PM
I love Escape Pod but I hated this story. Not only was it predictable, it was unsatisfying on many levels. I hate that the first time I feel compelled to post is negative but rape and snuff fiction is not what I expect from this incredible podcast! You're better than this. What would your mother think?



Scattercat

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Reply #83 on: April 21, 2013, 08:22:15 PM
My mother thought it was a troubling story.  She avoids anything that has the slightest iota of suspense or danger to it, though, so this story was definitely not to her taste.

However, because my mother is a sane adult who is capable of reading and interacting with fiction, she was able to phrase her discomfort with regard to her personal psychological buttons and discuss the story without panicking about the moral decline of science fiction and dismissing a story that contains rape as a story whose purpose was to pruriently describe rape for the sexual pleasure of its author.



MCWagner

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Reply #84 on: April 21, 2013, 10:15:24 PM
However, because my mother is a sane adult who is capable of reading and interacting with fiction, she was able to phrase her discomfort with regard to her personal psychological buttons and discuss the story without panicking about the moral decline of science fiction and dismissing a story that contains rape as a story whose purpose was to pruriently describe rape for the sexual pleasure of its author.

Scatter, you seem to be taking this much more to heart than the author herself.  Many listeners appeared to have had strongly negative responses to the story, so much so that many registered on the forums to say so, and one has decided to leave the podcast entirely.  Attacking them for "dismissing" the story and excoriating them for "panicking about the moral decline of science fiction" is exactly the opposite of the appropriate response to this invitation to discussion, especially when you, in particular, do not "care to elaborate."  If you are attempting to calm the forums in your capacity as editor, then it is appropriate to refrain from offering your own opinions, but you should not be attacking the legitimate feelings others had about the story.  If you are commenting in your capacity as another audience member, then you are welcome to criticise other's reception of the story with your own impressions, but you do not wish to offer them.  We might say that you are being dismissive of their concerns and impressions.

For my own part, I like to think I was anything but dismissive of the story in my evaluation.  On the contrary, I decided to dig deeper and take a closer look at the underlying thematic elements within the story to find the source of my dislike.  The themes unearthed in this examination did not improve my impression of the tale.

I am grateful to the author for her offer of context to the story, which I found immensely illuminating.  I was (as I'd noted) previously aware of the fairy tale used as a template, but what I found truly illuminating was the author saying that this was a horror story and a deeply uncomfortable story for her because horror is not her "natural space."  I frequently find that authors making a foray into horror especially have an odd penchant for the extreme: they think of horror as the genre that disgusts them or dwells upon the most vile and nasty of thoughts, because those are the aspects most commonly seen from outside the genre.  (Non-genre fans are all familiar with the ideas of "Saw" and subsequently "The Human Centipede," and that's what everyone thought of horror for the last... jeez, decade?  This is the rough equivalent of someone from outside of Sci-Fi writing a thinly-veiled Star Wars pastiche or someone outside of Fantasy not realizing there was more to the genre than Tolkien-adventure-tales.)  Consequently, when entering horror, the author goes somewhere overly nasty (based on this impression) and it spirals into places that the genre regulars don't go out of courtesy and a more thorough understanding of the action and concepts at the core of the genre.  (This is especially telling in light of the fact the story was initially rejected by Pseudopod, and the calls from some members of the audience -who do not listen to pseduopod- that the story should have been placed there.)  I can now see that the descending spiral of somewhat illogical bad decisions by the main character, and the thinly constructed world, were mostly there as a necessity to get us into the utter nastiness of the final reveal and closing action:  this is the vile and nasty idea at the core of the story and the rest is merely mechanism in order to place us there.  I appreciate the author's attempts, and hold nothing against her personally, but this revelation only explains, and does not change any of my inital evaluation.  I appreciate that many of the listeners enjoyed, or at least appreciated the story, and I hold nothing against them or their opinions.  I speak only for myself.



DKT

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Reply #85 on: April 21, 2013, 10:32:30 PM
MCWagner, did you read the post immediately prior to Scattercat's where the poster said, "You're better than this. What would your mother think?" I don't find Scattercat's reaction to be over-reacting, given the poster's question.

I listened to this story this past week (a bit behind), after reading much of the forum conversation, which is an interesting way to come at a story. I gotta say, this one made me flinch, and left a mark. I'm primarily familiar with Mary Robinette Kowal's Glamourist Histories (Jane Austen and magic, as she mentioned up thread), which I enjoyed listening to, and thus I was...impressed by how dark and disturbing this tale was. I thought the whole thing was particularly chilling - the mercy killing and the last line didn't let the story end easily, and I appreciate it for that. Well done both to Kowal for writing it, and Veronica Giguere for conveying the horror of the tale so well in her reading.


Scattercat

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Reply #86 on: April 21, 2013, 11:04:01 PM
If people post contentless snark, then they get contentless snark. 

And yes, I am more annoyed about this than the author.  She's rolling with the punches and generally behaving graciously, and I applaud her for it.  Since I'm not involved and don't have to be gracious, I'm choosing not to.  I didn't pick this story (as it never came through slush) and had never read it before I heard it.  While I can totally see people not enjoying the story per se, the sheer number of people who have come here to post sarcastic rejoinders aimed at the author (even your own post suggests that she wrote a crap story because she doesn't know what she's doing as a horror writer, which is a bit of a stretch from her saying that writing about rape is outside of her comfort zone), up to and including suggestions (now deleted) that she should be forced to undergo what her characters experienced leaves me severely disappointed in pretty much everyone involved.

To address your specific concerns about the story itself, I would say that this story is about agency, and that the main character's open-eyed decision to move deeper into the morass despite the obvious signs warning her away is part of the theme of the underlying fairy tale: the willingness (or desire) to risk when the logical and correct (and possibly even moral) choice is to remain safe.  I don't see her insistence that her lover might be alive as reflecting her actual beliefs - she seems quite aware of the risks and the obvious interpretation of the evidence she has gathered - but rather to be her willfully blinding herself to that possibility, deliberately pushing herself until she gets trapped rather than foolishly wandering into the woods.  Metatextually, therefore, I don't see the protagonist's actions as deliberately leading to the rape scene, nor do I see that as the "point" of the story; that strikes me as a rather insulting assumption to make of the author, even if I were not aware of her other work and thus cognizant that she's more skillful than that.

We can certainly discuss the thematic underpinning further if you wish (though at this juncture I don't really see the point), but in the future, when I reply to someone saying something stupid, I hereby preemptively assure you that I'm not speaking to you unless I mention you by name, 'k?



chemistryguy

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Reply #87 on: April 22, 2013, 10:54:25 AM
 ::)

We're going to need a podcast just for the comments alone.

Thank you, Mary, for posting.  Your story had an essence of fairytale.  I rather enjoyed hearing where some of the pieces originated from.


MCWagner

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Reply #88 on: April 23, 2013, 04:32:47 AM
::)
We're going to need a podcast just for the comments alone.

After all the complaints y'all have been making about lackluster response to stories in the comment threads, I'd have thought you'd be happy to get a more spirited discussion.  :)

Quote
(even your own post suggests that she wrote a crap story because she doesn't know what she's doing as a horror writer, which is a bit of a stretch from her saying that writing about rape is outside of her comfort zone)

Scatter, although I was not mentioned by name in the above comment (nor have you mentioned any other poster by name in this thread, other than the author) I think this part was addressed to me, and I feel it necessary to respond to part of it: you are making incorrect assumptions about either my attitude and/or motivations in my post. 

I am not being sarcastic in my "attack."  (Nor did I ever use the word "crap.")  I am offering what I consider to be a legitimate critique of the story both for my own edification and whatever benefit the author may gain from it.  Mediating my response would be doing myself and the author a disservice, especially in light of its reception.  I strongly disliked the story and, motivated by this dislike, set about dissecting what it was that bothered me about it.  When I came to my conclusions, I posted it (which, if you will look, I did with more than a little hesitation initially).  I have a deep fascination with flawed stories, because I consider them to be more revelatory of the art than those that are pristinely constructed.

You have misread the author's own post:  I was not stretching the author's statement that "writing about rape was outside her comfort zone" into an assumption that she "does not know what she is doing as a horror writer," because that was not her statement.  What she said was:"It's a story that makes me deeply uncomfortable because horror is not my natural space, but I do try to step outside my comfort zone."  (bold added)  I assumed that she was unused to horror, because she said it was not her natural space, and she implied in context that she entered it at the prompting of story requirements by Apex Digest.  The comments that followed were a natural (to me) extension in light of the story's substance and further supported by the initial rejection by Mur for Pseudopod, and the numerous suggestions from those who do not frequent Pseudopod that it would be better suited there.  (There are further connections to be made throughout her note, but that level of dissection would likely bore.)

I would strongly disagree with your interpretation about agency in the story.  To me, the most profoundly distasteful aspect of the story is that it seems to be obsessed with the willing and deliberate abandonment of agency, and the reduction to a pitiful thing (the surgical victims) whose single characteristic is that they are without agency.  Action in the story (especially the final action) is only accomplished through the abandonment of larger agency.  Remember, each of the sexual encounters were entered into not just willingly (or possibly, in the final instance, passively), but at her own prompting (though they are strongly framed as rape=sexual encounter without agency), and that the final event of the story isn't her action of killing her boyfriend, but her reduction into an agency-less victim.  This is why I found the story voyeuristically obsessed with victimization, as detailed previously.

As for your disappointment in me (as a member of 'pretty much everyone'), I shall endeavor to live with it.  (That last sentence alone may be considered snark.)



Scattercat

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Reply #89 on: April 23, 2013, 06:50:29 PM
Regardless, MCWagner, if you had left it at the discussion of agency in the story and why you didn't like it, my parenthetical would not apply.  You did not do so, and instead moved on to comment on Ms. Kowal's chops as a horror author and speculate that she had made the errors you perceived because of this hypothetical unfamiliarity with the genre.  That's rude and unnecessary, and I stand by my criticism of it.  The rule is to criticize the story, not the author, remember?

Also, as an aside, Mur's rejection of the story is completely irrelevant.  Even non-paying markets receive more submissions than they could possibly publish, and almost all of the stories that make it to an editor's hands from the slush pile are good enough to run.  (That is, in fact, MY job as assistant editor to ensure.)  The editors then decide to publish or not based on factors including personal preference, recent stories already run, tone, length (and thus cost/space analysis), and so on.  Stories have gone on to win major awards after accumulating dozens of rejections.  It's not an argument against the story in any meaningful way.

---

To return to the discussion:

I don't see that the story is voyeuristic.  It certainly is about the loss of agency, but everyone other than the protagonist has had their agency taken (or tricked) from them, just like her boyfriend, sold unknowing to the body harvesters while believing he had won a scholarship.  The protagonist's decision to join them is, I agree, the focal point of the story, but I don't see that the story glorifies it or revels in it; it seems to me to be intended to be the horror of the story.  Her options are either to move forward by sacrificing her agency (and eventually her life), or to return home at the cost of believing she could have saved her lover and chose not to. 

Why do you feel that this was presented lasciviously rather than as a legitimate exploration of an appalling predicament?



Mary Robinette Kowal

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Reply #90 on: April 23, 2013, 11:52:10 PM
Consequently, when entering horror, the author goes somewhere overly nasty (based on this impression) and it spirals into places that the genre regulars don't go out of courtesy and a more thorough understanding of the action and concepts at the core of the genre.

I have to say that this makes me laugh a bit. I guess when I said that horror wasn't my area of comfort, I should have elaborated by explaining that I then sat down with Jason Sizemore, the editor at Apex, and best-selling horror author, Steven Savile, and brainstormed the story. Even so, my first draft was too tame, and Jason asked me to make it more visceral. In particular, I faded to black for the seduction scene because I thought it was too intense. The advice I got was that skipping that scene was cheating because then the character didn't earn her scars. I guess these genre-regulars didn't understand that showing such a scene was discourteous.



InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #91 on: April 24, 2013, 12:14:53 AM
Even so, my first draft was too tame, and Jason asked me to make it more visceral.

There's a hell of an assignment. "Hey, this isn't nasty enough, could you brutalize the protagonist some more? Thanks."



flintknapper

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Reply #92 on: April 24, 2013, 09:26:50 PM
I said this before, but I will say it again. It was creepy and it made me feel a little sick. That was the point of the story and I liked it. The fact that it has caused all this debate makes me like it even more. Obviously like it or not, it has provoked a large response and caused people to think. Now I would get mad if escape pod did a story like this every week or every other week, but that is not the case.

It wasn't smut, but it wasn't tasteful. It was artistic expression at its finest. The author wrote something most of us find disgusting and we felt disgusted. For some people it went to far, but art sometimes does that.

 I know most of you think I am crazy. You guys wait and see. It might get one of my votes for best of 2013!



Frungi

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Reply #93 on: April 25, 2013, 05:22:54 AM
I know most of you think I am crazy.

I honestly did not like this story at all. And yet I agree with everything you said (except for the quoted line).



MCWagner

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Reply #94 on: April 26, 2013, 03:56:21 AM
(Apologies for delayed response.  I've been travelling.)
Regardless, MCWagner, if you had left it at the discussion of agency in the story and why you didn't like it, my parenthetical would not apply.  You did not do so, and instead moved on to comment on Ms. Kowal's chops as a horror author and speculate that she had made the errors you perceived because of this hypothetical unfamiliarity with the genre.  That's rude and unnecessary, and I stand by my criticism of it.  The rule is to criticize the story, not the author, remember?

I commented upon the context because it was volunteered.  I would not have if it had not been (and did not before it was).  As the context was volunteered as an explanation of the story I included it in my analysis and stand by my statements that they were intended as helpful critique, further noted in the closer "I appreciate the author's attempts, and hold nothing against her personally, but this revelation only explains, and does not change any of my initial evaluation."  If the author took it as insult, I apologize.

Also, as an aside, Mur's rejection of the story is completely irrelevant...

Noted.  The reception of the story by the intended audience, however, is not.

I don't see that the story is voyeuristic.  It certainly is about the loss of agency, but everyone other than the protagonist has had their agency taken (or tricked) from them, just like her boyfriend, sold unknowing to the body harvesters while believing he had won a scholarship. 

However, none of that loss of agency is seen or portrayed in any way.  We know only how they ended up and not how they got there.  We don't know if the boyfriend fought against his dismemberment, or accepted it for the enrichment of his family.  Or even if the family was in on it or tricked as well.  There is no detail or exploration in the other victim's loss of agency, and the outline of the world they live in is insufficiently detailed to make clear assumptions (we still don't know if it's illegal or not).  The only agency this story truly focuses on is the agency of the girl, and her abandonment of it.

The protagonist's decision to join them is, I agree, the focal point of the story, but I don't see that the story glorifies it or revels in it; it seems to me to be intended to be the horror of the story.  Her options are either to move forward by sacrificing her agency (and eventually her life), or to return home at the cost of believing she could have saved her lover and chose not to. 

Why do you feel that this was presented lasciviously rather than as a legitimate exploration of an appalling predicament?

I believe I covered this in detail in my first post, but to briefly address it again: I never said I thought the piece was presented lasciviously (lustfully) but rather voyeuristically.  A voyeuristic perspective need not be explicitly sexual;  to draw a rough analogy I'll return to the previous note on "rape-cry-shower-scene."  This is a mainstay of certain female-audience-directed daytime dramas (to be more direct, "Lifetime" movies), in which the woman, having previously been raped or otherwise violated earlier in the film, huddles naked in the corner of the running shower and sobs uncontrollably while the camera zooms in slowly, lingering on her misery.  In this cliche' trope, the camera becomes a highly intrusive presence in the film, explicitly viewing very private, intimate, and painful moments of the main character to an obsessive extent, leaving the audience not with an impression of the turmoil of the character, which is already well understood, but with the distinct feeling that this is private pain they should not be watching or at least not lingering upon.  The nudity, while anything but sexual, serves to emphasize her defenselessness and intensify the awkward feeling of wrongness spying into another person's defenselessness.  (This technique has been used effectively to accuse or involve the audience in observing something it wishes to indict them of (lingering on the human aftereffects of a thrilling scene of violence), but there is no such indictment employed here.) It is the lingering aspect, the emphasis upon the wrongness of the observation (essential for a voyeuristic viewpoint), and the helplessness of the observed that move starkly from contemplation or understanding of a terrible event to outright wallowing in the character's misery. -I would quote from the story text at this point, but it would likely trigger the forum 'Charlie' filters.- These being emotional responses, they are of course subjective, but they are among the responses I saw in the comments, the frustrated "really?!? we're going there?!?" and likely led to many of the "porn" related impressions, as that can be a strongly voyeuristic genre.  Expansion to other emotional events is straightforward.

I guess when I said that horror wasn't my area of comfort, I should have elaborated by explaining that I then sat down with Jason Sizemore, the editor at Apex, and best-selling horror author, Steven Savile, and brainstormed the story. Even so, my first draft was too tame, and Jason asked me to make it more visceral. In particular, I faded to black for the seduction scene because I thought it was too intense. The advice I got was that skipping that scene was cheating because then the character didn't earn her scars. I guess these genre-regulars didn't understand that showing such a scene was discourteous.

I would have to say, based on the reception here, that you were badly advised.  However, it is not the verbiage in the scenes I disliked, it is the thematic content.  Oddly, this discussion has made me think of another comparison- the film Sucker Punch, which is surprisingly parallel on many levels.  Though deeply obscured by nested hallucinations, it's essentially the story of a young girl who, in attempting to prevent a rape, is locked away in an institution where she will be lobotomized (surgical removal of agency) unless she and her fellow inmates coax the staff into raping them as a series of distractions in an escape attempt, only for her to give herself up at the end and be lobotomized in order to save another girl.  All of this is disguised: the girls hallucinate themselves as burlesque dancers, and the burlesque dancers hallucinate themselves as action stars in fetishistic gear, but at the base, non-hallucinatory level it's all about asylum staff raping imprisoned, institutionalized women, with the plot framing rape as a power-play employed by the recipient. 

Didn't much like the movie.



madrob101

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Reply #95 on: April 26, 2013, 07:01:07 AM
Having read an article on child slave labour in napal/china the idea that the parent might have sold her son (and possibly the other two that hadn't been around in a while) was not so surprising, that we live on a planet where this happens at all is a sad indication of our species destination but I did enjoy the story just wanted the girl to think of something to do about it she sat in the bar drinking while he played and piano and  didn't think to call anyone ? she was a hacker surly building an audit trail and a deaddrop for some evidence would have been a good idea yet she was so fixated on finding her love that she seemed to have lost any sense for self preservation.



Scattercat

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Reply #96 on: April 26, 2013, 03:33:50 PM
I commented upon the context because it was volunteered.  I would not have if it had not been (and did not before it was).

There is a difference between "I don't like this story because FOO" and "FOO indicates that the author is BAR."  An author might reveal any number of details about the genesis of a story, but that is not free license to start talking about the author and extrapolating criticisms of their person and skills, particularly in this forum, where such behavior is explicitly frowned upon.

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A voyeuristic perspective need not be explicitly sexual;  to draw a rough analogy I'll return to the previous note on "rape-cry-shower-scene. ...the distinct feeling that this is private pain they should not be watching or at least not lingering upon.
Given that prohibiting the use of the Rape-Cry-Shower scene (RCS) on the basis that private pain should not be watched would bar everything from Hamlet's graveyard soliloquy to the near-entirety of the romance and mystery genres, I would say this is largely a matter of personal preference; the question becomes whether the RCS was used effectively, which is why I asked why you felt it wasn't used well here.  Other than your personal distaste for the way the scenes were written, which is entirely valid because it's your own opinion, you said:

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We know only how they ended up and not how they got there.  We don't know if the boyfriend fought against his dismemberment, or accepted it for the enrichment of his family.  Or even if the family was in on it or tricked as well.  There is no detail or exploration in the other victim's loss of agency, and the outline of the world they live in is insufficiently detailed to make clear assumptions (we still don't know if it's illegal or not).  The only agency this story truly focuses on is the agency of the girl, and her abandonment of it.

You appear to be suggesting that the paucity of detail in the world supports your allegation that a voyeuristic sensation is the sole point of the story.  I disagree.

While it's true that the story does not give us a golden-age-SF style narrative overview of how society deteriorated to the point shown in this story, we do know that the boyfriend was tricked into leaving the "safe" station, from which we can assume that he was likely not complicit in the arrangement, whereas the mother's defensiveness (and the line about the other small children being strangely absent) strongly suggest that she was complicit.  The story fairly specifically states that body harvesting is permitted on most (or at least a significant number) of other stations, in that the home station is singled out as unusual in banning it.  Additionally, the reactions of the other characters provide further information - the rich woman's evasion suggests that the black market in "quality" organs is at least considered gauche, whereas the protagonist's thoughts that her boyfriend had sold his hands or eyes in need of cash indicates that - particularly in seedier areas - body harvesting is as normal as pawn shops or payday loans.  Saying that we don't know these things strikes me as a bit nitpicky, and I cannot see objective evidence supporting your contention that the world and background are thinly drawn.

Furthermore, while I agree that the protagonist's agency takes central stage, I don't see how that suggests voyeurism.  I make the comparison with payday loans quite consciously; it seems to me that the protagonist's lack of resources to trade other than her own body ties into the broader society on display, which in turn appears to be an exaggerated version of the predatory capitalism extant in much of the world today.  There is a clear thematic link between the individual loss of agency and the helplessness everyone seems to feel in this universe, which in turn supports a variety of real-world connections.  It seems to me that story that was intended solely as "tragedy porn" would not bother with the resonance between individual and societal plights.

I also hated Sucker Punch, and for much the same reasons as you.  However, Sucker Punch is not particularly similar to this story.  For one, the elaborate special effects, the highly sexualized outfits, the exoticism of non-Caucasians, and the exaggerated weaponry and gore in Sucker Punch all indicate that it is intended as spectacle, and in particular as a spectacle to appeal to immature straight white males.  That, to me, is the problem with the movie, not its core plot of a desperate woman using her body as a last token of exchange in order to help another.  "Cerbo un Vitra Ujo" contains almost no spectacle; the closest we get to titillation is the explicit nature of the sex scene in Doc's apartment, and given that reaction to that scene has been almost universal revulsion, I would say that it was either intended to repulse, or else the author was comically incompetent.  (Given that she has achieved significant success as a professional author in a wide variety of genres, I would further hypothesize that general incompetence is a highly unlikely scenario.)

Now, say you don't like this story, and I believe you.  I can quite understand that this story would not be to everyone's taste; it is highly graphic, and it is attempting to use sex in an uncomfortable way to make a point.  One can even say that one feels it was unsuccessful at its task; clearly, it did not work for you.  However, I don't think the argument that it was not intended to do anything other than generate an emotional thrill will hold any water; it is too deliberately crafted for that.  
« Last Edit: April 26, 2013, 06:42:17 PM by Scattercat »



silber

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Reply #97 on: April 26, 2013, 04:59:44 PM
wow. Did Escapepod just rape me with Pseudopod's penis?

Count me iin the group that loved it.  Lke Norm, it will be with me for weeks.  Very dark- sinister even, but very evocative writing and a truly powerful horror piece.



DKT

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Reply #98 on: April 26, 2013, 06:22:35 PM

I guess when I said that horror wasn't my area of comfort, I should have elaborated by explaining that I then sat down with Jason Sizemore, the editor at Apex, and best-selling horror author, Steven Savile, and brainstormed the story. Even so, my first draft was too tame, and Jason asked me to make it more visceral. In particular, I faded to black for the seduction scene because I thought it was too intense. The advice I got was that skipping that scene was cheating because then the character didn't earn her scars. I guess these genre-regulars didn't understand that showing such a scene was discourteous.

I would have to say, based on the reception here, that you were badly advised.  

i would have to say, I think the basis you're suggestions is incredibly flawed. How a story is received on the forum does not necessarily indicate the quality of the story.

Mary Robinette Kowal wrote a story that was originally published in 2005 by Jason Sizemore of Apex. She resold it to Norm in 2013 at Escape Pod. That both those editors thought it worked suggests she was well-advised. (Hell, if I had read it earlier, and could've somehow squinted at it sideways and called it fantasy, I might have tried to get it at PodCastle as well.)

That some listeners on the forum, such as yourself, do not like it, is perfectly fine. It's a very rare story that appears on EP, PC, or PP that is universally enjoyed. I like the discussions, and think it's really cool that Kowal took the time to come here and participate in them. Let's please be polite to her, and not tell her how she should've written the story she chose to write.

Not gonna address Sucker Punch, which I haven't seen but have read enough about, and do not see the connections between it and this story.


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Reply #99 on: April 27, 2013, 04:21:35 AM

There is a difference between "I don't like this story because FOO" and "FOO indicates that the author is BAR."

If I may quote the author:  "In this case, however, I think that the context of where the story was originally placed might open up some new avenues of discussion around audience expectation."  I simply followed her own suggestion in opening up new avenues of discussion around the context which she provided and audience expectation.  I'm sorry it did not drift in approved directions and will endeavor to not rock the boat again.

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A voyeuristic perspective need not be explicitly sexual;  to draw a rough analogy I'll return to the previous note on "rape-cry-shower-scene. ...the distinct feeling that this is private pain they should not be watching or at least not lingering upon.
Given that prohibiting the use of the Rape-Cry-Shower scene (RCS) on the basis that private pain should not be watched would bar everything from Hamlet's graveyard soliloquy to the near-entirety of the romance and mystery genres, I would say this is largely a matter of personal preference; the question becomes whether the RCS was used effectively, which is why I asked why you felt it wasn't used well here.  [/quote]

The parsing is getting complicated here.  The point above was in response to your statement that you do not see the story as voyeuristic.  I strongly disagree, and gave a lengthy explanation of what a voyeuristic perspective in storytelling is, how it applied in the story, and noting specifically that it need not be sexual, nor that its use is forbidden (giving examples where it is used successfully).  Your expansion that 'viewing private pain is forbidden in literature' is needlessly hyperbolic as I specified at some length that there is a distinct difference between contemplation, understanding, and simply wallowing in another's misery.  "It is the lingering aspect, the emphasis upon the wrongness of the observation (essential for a voyeuristic viewpoint), and the helplessness of the observed that move starkly from contemplation or understanding of a terrible event to outright wallowing in the character's misery."  I even pointed out their subjectivity already.

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We know only how they ended up and not how they got there.  We don't know if the boyfriend fought against his dismemberment, or accepted it for the enrichment of his family.  Or even if the family was in on it or tricked as well.  There is no detail or exploration in the other victim's loss of agency, and the outline of the world they live in is insufficiently detailed to make clear assumptions (we still don't know if it's illegal or not).  The only agency this story truly focuses on is the agency of the girl, and her abandonment of it.

You appear to be suggesting that the paucity of detail in the world supports your allegation that a voyeuristic sensation is the sole point of the story.  

Incorrect.  I am suggesting that the paucity of detail involving all of the other characters' agency loss (indeed it all occurring offscreen) means that the story is really only contemplating the agency of the main character, and therefore it is her willing abandonment of agency which is the central concern of the story.  This passage was in response to your comment "It certainly is about the loss of agency, but everyone other than the protagonist has had their agency taken (or tricked) from them."  My concern has always been with the thematic core of the story, and it is devoted solely to the gradual abandonment of agency (willing victimization) of the main character.  Nor did I ever allege that "voyeuristic sensation is the sole point of the story."  You are conflating me with someone else.  I have stated that I feel the story is voyeuristic, and shown at some lengths why I feel this is true, but my central concern with the story is its constant obsession with victimization of the main character.  The voyeuristic aspects further this obsession, but occur only in the last third or so of the story.  As I stated initially, I did not find the world sufficiently defined or the character sufficiently fleshed out from her rather emotionally monotone construction, but characterized these as "lesser problems" I had with the story, not the essential problems.

Which means the next two paragraphs concern very minor details I wasn't really digging into, but briefly:

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 The story fairly specifically states that body harvesting is permitted on most (or at least a significant number) of other stations, in that the home station is singled out as unusual in banning it.  

A subtlety of language here, but you are referring to: "On any other station, no parent in their right mind would let their unentitled kids run free, for fear they’d be taken by a body harvester on a job for some rich-ass client. Banwith Station didn’t allow that; you got born with a withered arm, you lived with it, so there were lots of kids running around."  I couldn't figure out if that meant it was legal, or a matter of authorities looking the other way for rich people.  (Like Cocaine trafficking.)  Or looking the other way for some things (limb selling), but not others (child stealing).  I basically had no clear context for her encounter with the police officer, the rich woman, the doctor, or any other authorities.  I further can't make sense of the child market:  you can sell your kids for money, but kids can be taken off the street... which would be theft... which would be illegal?  Or not?  And if not, why don't the rich just harvest the poor en-mass?  Your gauche interpretation is interesting, but I didn't find anything in the story to support that: the doctor openly declares that his "equipment" is new.  And further, if gauche, why do it?  We're told specifically there are cosmetic options, so why get grey-market items if they're not considered socially superior?  Just to be evil?  (I do concede the single point of "did the family know" as the mother evidently did, but I meant the -entire- family, kids included.)

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I cannot see objective evidence supporting your contention that the world and background are thinly drawn.
...did you just ask me to objectively prove my opinion?

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I make the comparison with payday loans quite consciously; it seems to me that the protagonist's lack of resources to trade other than her own body
Except the main character has a rather startlingly powerful skill set at hacking, leading to many posters to wonder at her immediate jump to willing victimization to further her investigation.

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There is a clear thematic link between the individual loss of agency and the helplessness everyone seems to feel in this universe, which in turn supports a variety of real-world connections.  It seems to me that story that was intended solely as "tragedy porn" would not bother with the resonance between individual and societal plights.

As I stated originally, "Mechanical problems with the story's setting got in the way of the obviously intended commentary on class:"  In other words, I disagree that there is anything like a clear thematic link in the story that enables clear construction of societal class themes.  (I gave several examples in the initial post.)  Your listed themes are interesting, but I do not find more than cursory support for them in the story, and you're forced to do a lot of filling in to make them work.  Instead, the story employs most of its efforts and wordcount in obsessing over the victimization and suffering of the main character.

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I also hated Sucker Punch, and for much the same reasons as you.  However, Sucker Punch is not particularly similar to this story.  For one, the elaborate special effects, the highly sexualized outfits, the exoticism of non-Caucasians, and the exaggerated weaponry and gore in Sucker Punch all indicate that it is intended as spectacle, and in particular as a spectacle to appeal to immature straight white males.  That, to me, is the problem with the movie, not its core plot of a desperate woman using her body as a last token of exchange in order to help another.

I disagree: the core problem is the framing of willing abandonment to rape as an entertaining, flashy spectacle.  If you take away the rape, you have flashy stupid entertaining spectacle.  Vapid, but not particularly evil.  It's the core concept of getting to watch repeated flashy scenes of metaphorical sex framed as willing submission to rape (the context of the "real life" scenes makes it clear the girls are abusively institutionalized, while the fantasy scenes have them initiating the seduction).  The camera gets to linger on their fetishized sexuality in elaborately staged scenes that take up the majority of the screen time, when anyone paying attention realized they're in the process of being violated.  It's this obsessive contemplation that makes the film voyeuristic (and also lascivious, as opposed to here) and highly distasteful.

(Notably, you can impress various themes upon that film as well.  Themes of female empowerment in a patriarchal society.  Doesn't make it any less voyeuristic, and the film only gives cursory support to this concept, spending the majority of its time on sexy scenes.)

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"Cerbo un Vitra Ujo" contains almost no spectacle; the closest we get to titillation is the explicit nature of the sex scene in Doc's apartment, and given that reaction to that scene has been almost universal revulsion, I would say that it was either intended to repulse, or else the author was comically incompetent.

As I've repeatedly stated, this is not a sexual voyeurism, but an obsession with victimization.  I agree about the lack of spectacle.  The startling similarities I noted are thematic (which, as always, are my central concern):  the population with no agency, the abandonment to become a victim and loose all agency, the framing of rape as a tool to be used by the victim, surgical disassembly (physical here, emotional there), etc..

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(Given that she has achieved significant success as a professional author in a wide variety of genres, I would further hypothesize that general incompetence is a highly unlikely scenario.)
Why does she even care about my critique then?  And provide context?  And snarkily name-drop to contradict my point?

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However, I don't think the argument that it was not intended to do anything other than generate an emotional thrill will hold any water; it is too deliberately crafted for that.

I've no insight into intention: we've declared the author off-limits.  I can only speak to the finished form of the work.  I find thematic obsession with victimization, and mechanical problems with the story obstructing any coherent social commentary.  The parts I found deliberately crafted were voyeuristically wallowing in the character's misery.