Escape Artists


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New groups are posted every two days through the end of April.

Author Topic: Pseudopod 425: ARTEMIS RISING: Works Of Art  (Read 3510 times)


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on: February 15, 2015, 12:07:09 AM
Pseudopod 425: ARTEMIS RISING Women In Horror Showcase: Works Of Art

by Nina Kiriki Hoffman

“Works Of The Art” originally appeared in PULPHOUSE, Fall Issue, 1988, then in THE YEAR’S BEST HORROR STORIES VOLUME 17.

In the past thirty-plus years, NINA KIRIKI HOFFMAN has sold around ten novels and more than three hundred short stories. Her work has been on final ballots for the World Fantasy, Mythopoeic, Endeavour, and other awards, and she has won a Nebula and a Stoker Award. She works on production for the MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION, teaches a short stories writing class for her local community college, and picks up other odd jobs..

Your reader – The Word Whore – edits the amazing Air Out My Shorts Podcast.

Your Guest Host this week is Mur Lafferty, who you may have heard of…

To find out more about Women In Horror month, please visit

Also check out Dreams from the Witch House: Female Voices of Lovecraftian Horror at Indiegogo.

“Cerveza’s call came four days later.

‘Can we meet you for tea somewhere?’ Sally asked. I watched her face as she listened to his reply. Her blue eyes narrowed, then widened, tear-bright.

‘No, I—’ she said. A pause. She bit her lower lip. ‘You don’t understand. Your art cries out to be preserved.’

She waited. She squeezed her eyes shut and tears spilled out. When she opened her eyes, she stared at the ceiling, twisting the phone’s coiled cord around her wrist and pulled it tight. ‘Denial,’ she whispered. ‘Very well.’ She hung up the phone as though it were an egg and might crack if mishandled.

‘Oh, Lucy,’ she whispered.

I went to her and offered what comfort I could.

When her sobs slowed, she said, ‘He’s coming tomorrow morning, with an ax.'”

Listen to this week's Pseudopod.

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Reply #1 on: February 17, 2015, 02:47:08 PM
I could have sworn she was going to kill Cerveza at the end.  Certainly, if he were willing to agree to the trade he would have deserved it.


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Reply #2 on: February 17, 2015, 04:08:43 PM
I could have sworn she was going to kill Cerveza at the end.  Certainly, if he were willing to agree to the trade he would have deserved it.

I thought that's where she was going with it too.  I would've preferred that ending. 

But still, good horror, though I don't understand why she would sacrifice herself for that when she must know her wife would grieve her greatly, one would hope even more than for the artwork. 


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Reply #3 on: February 20, 2015, 06:41:37 PM
It was less than clear to me that the character's SO would grieve her more than the artwork. The SO seemed to come up with convenient sounding rationalizations for her evolving appreciation for the supposed need to preserve the work, which made her seem fickle and self serving, in more ways than one as it is implied that she has grown more into the art than her lover lately. This seems to me to make the whole situation more tragic and sad, as if the person sacrificing herself is doing so partly in submission to the art's prominence in her lover's life. Afterwards, would her lover realize her mistake, if it is a mistake from her point of view, and regret her emphasis of the art over her love? We don't know.

Both the artist and the art fan seem to be the most weird and sort of lampooned characters in the story, which makes me wonder if the tale is not intended to make us think twice about the values of art and artists. Is it a coincidence that "Cerveza" means "beer" in spanish? Cerveza says he wants to destroy the art to avoid harm being unleashed upon the world, and uses a possible form of violence, war, as his example of what could happen if he doesn't destroy it. Yet he is happy to engage in violence to allow two works to exist at once. Seems inconsistent of him, kind of like his fan at first claiming to understand his "principles", yet not being able to fully accept it later on when the time to destroy the art is near. Artists come off as kind of creepy in this story. I agree with the host though, art and artists are in fact kind of creepy sometimes.

In horror fiction, this weirdness is often depicted as making art of body parts or otherwise making blood tainted drawings. This story sort of touches on that (I was wondering where the body horror would come into the piece as I read it.) but it interestingly seems to concentrate on an almost satirical approach to artistic principles and even enthusiasm backed up by academic babble that one suspects may not be worth as much as those using it insist it is, especially when human lives and love should have more value. Cerveza at least can see that the person sacrificing herself is more impressive than any art he can create. But her lover has seemed to miss that point as she became too engrossed in the art at her friend's expense.

Anyway, I have been reading this author's work since I was a kid, and found it striking from the first unforgettable story I read. I'm not sure this is my favorite example of her stuff, but it was at least thought provoking, which is great.


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Reply #4 on: February 22, 2015, 11:26:32 PM
This one didn't really gel for me. The trouble was that the main characters all behaved in pretty insane ways, but the story didn't pick up until after they'd already lost touch with reality. As a result, there wasn't really an arc for me. I find that horror is most successful when there is a sense of gradual degradation, either of an individual, a relationship, or a situation. All of the main characters were already degraded when the story opened up: obsessed with the artwork, ready to sacrifice themselves to protect the artwork. Everything felt inevitable, which really sucked a lot of the drama out of it for me.

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Reply #5 on: February 24, 2015, 04:20:48 PM
This didn't go anywhere I expected. I love the artwork, and could easily seeing getting lost in it. I also loved that it was one of the most benign elements of the story. And I loved the dialogue between art and destruction. Great stuff!

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Reply #6 on: February 27, 2015, 08:34:28 PM
Lucy really wanted Sally to notice her again.  Lucy seems the tough one of the pair, but she didn't have the self-worth enough to see it was not worth it if Sally cared more for the art.  in a way this is not just critiquing the need of art, it does so also for the need of love.  Lucy is sacrificing her life so Sally can have her art as the proof of "true love".  But then that means she believes Sally doesn't really love her, so she sacrifices herself for some weird esteem she could get from the act of sacrifice.  She is showing Cerveza and Sally that she is a greater work of art than Cerveza's art, but deprecating herself simultaneously.  Very interesting introspective on the value of life and art and our own self-esteem.