Author Topic: Pseudopod 383: Blood Women  (Read 4345 times)


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on: August 18, 2014, 05:13:32 PM
Pseudopod 383: Blood Women

by Usman T. Malik.

“Blood Women” first appeared in Chiral Mad 2 edited by Michael Bailey. This podcast is Usman’s first ‘reprint’ sale. The story made Ellen Datlow‘s Summation of 2013 for Best Horror of the Year Six. Usman has long felt the absence of Pakistani writers in speculative fiction, especially in horror and dark fantasy. The country has a solid tradition in the genre, rarely seen in the west. He hopes that will change in the next few years as more Pakistani and South Asian writers begin publishing regularly in western spec-fic markets.

USMAN T. MALIK lives in Florida, writes strange stories, and likes long walks. He is the first Pakistani graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop. Usman is a contributor at the South Asian webzine (and critique forum for aspiring writers) Desi Writers Lounge. He has a website at If you liked the story, please consider dropping him a line at the forums.

Your reader – Saladin Ahmed – is the author of the Hugo-and-Nebula nominated, Locus Award-winning novel THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON.

“A Voice In The Dark” is available at Comixology!

“You could see the blood women standing under the banyan trees any evening. All you needed was the right blink, Haider said.

This is the way we did it: we circled the graveyard three times, for three is the godly number. Haider on his father’s bicycle, me on my brother’s red and white Made-in-Pakistan tall rider, and ten-year-old Zareen on her three-wheeler clattering over stones, bird bones, and dry branches.

“Ready?” Haider would say, his eyes black as apple seeds.

We nodded, and together we blinked.

The blood women were not there.”

Listen to this week's Pseudopod.


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Reply #1 on: August 19, 2014, 12:30:00 PM
Hm, I was hoping some other people might have commented so I could see what they say first.

I generally enjoyed it, especially for taking place in a culture not a lot of stories I've read take place in.  The blood women were nicely creepy, and like Al said I think the story was better for them never taking center stage so the character is left to doubt what really happened.  I think the ambiguity was nicely balanced so that the existence of the blood women was never a foregone conclusion.

Not much else to say, I guess, I'll be interested what others have to say.

Chicken Ghost

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Reply #2 on: August 20, 2014, 08:37:18 AM
The non-weird parts of the story are more horrific than the weird aspects.  There are few settings providing more fertile ground for horror than conflicts in poor countries.   See also: "Run, Bakri Says" and "Unknown Soldier."  

The horror of the setting in this story trivializes the plot.  That's way better than the reverse.

« Last Edit: August 20, 2014, 08:40:12 AM by Chicken Ghost »


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Reply #3 on: August 20, 2014, 02:38:49 PM
Hm, I was hoping some other people might have commented so I could see what they say first.

With the subject matter being so close to reality, I think people may be letting this one fester in their minds for a bit before they commit their thoughts to the boards.

I mean... Just what can you say about The Taliban that hasn't been said a million times before?

To me, the horror of the two friends being estranged because one of them falls prey to Taliban recruiters is just as frightening as the abduction, torture and murder of a baby, simply because it leads to that abduction.

Next to any of that, the existence or otherwise of vengeful ghosts is a bit of a side issue, really.

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Reply #4 on: August 21, 2014, 08:41:41 AM
With the subject matter being so close to reality, I think people may be letting this one fester in their minds for a bit before they commit their thoughts to the boards.

For me anyway it's that I don't have a anything to say really. I didn't hate the story, but I didn't love it either. It was just… okay. I don't regret listening to it, but it's not something I'd read again either.

Like you I found the estrangement of the friends the most compelling part of the story, and the supernatural elements were just a distraction from that.


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Reply #5 on: September 06, 2014, 08:48:56 AM
The recording issues in the episode detracted me quite a bit from the story. I generally liked the story, especially the setting element, because although I have never been there, I have a bunch of Pakistani friends.

My only nitpick is that Saladin Ahmed, being an Arab American and not South Asian, sometimes pronounces things "too Arabian" for the setting. E.g. it almost sounds like he's saying "Bakistan", because Arabian has no "P" (Bebsi Kola being my favourite mispronounced word). Coming to think of it, it's a bit like being "authentic European" by letting a Hungarian read a text about Spain. ;)
[I know that Pseudopod didn't say they were trying to be authentic, or that Ahmed would be the best reader because of his background - I think I am over interpreting minor things here. It was just the Bakistan thing that cracked me up a bit]


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Reply #6 on: September 23, 2014, 11:51:29 AM
Well, I listened to this story three times. It became increasingly creepy each time, mainly because I noticed something new. It felt truly horrific because of the elements: the instability, the extremism, the immigrant brother and his American wife, the common childhood belief in the supernatural which is often shared by adults and can be used to explain events and actions that seem too horrific to attribute to humans. This was a brilliant coming of age story, which happened to be horror.

I found that I was haunted by both this story and The Screwfly Solution in a way that rarely happens to me with horror. I think it's because both are firmly rooted in reality. I believed both worlds. In this one, I could feel the aftermath of my story creating itself in my head. The horror was just beginning at the end.