Author Topic: Pseudopod 427: ARTEMIS RISING: Carnation, Lily, Rose  (Read 5005 times)


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Pseudopod 427: ARTEMIS RISING Women In Horror Showcase: Carnation, Lily, Rose

by Kelly Link

“Carnation, Lily, Rose” first appeared in 4 Stories in 2000.

KELLY LINK is the author of the collections Get in Trouble, Stranger Things Happen, Magic for Beginners, and Pretty Monsters. She and Gavin J. Grant have co-edited a number of anthologies, including Monstrous Affections and Steampunk!. Her short stories have been published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Tin House, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, One Story, The Best American Short Stories, and Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards. Link was born in Miami, Florida. She currently lives with her husband and daughter in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Your reader – Anson Mount – plays Cullen Bohannon in the hit AMC series HELL ON WHEELS (he’s heading back into filming the 5th and 6th season very soon, shooting starts April for 14 more eps that will be divided between 2015 and 2016). Anson lives in New York city and he teaches in the MFA Acting program at Columbia University. He is also working on finishing his book THE STRAIGHT DOPE: A PRACTICAL PHILOSOPHY FOR THE PROFESSIONAL ACTOR. We also give special thanks to his audio producer Branan Edgens, who worked very hard on this episode!.

Your Guest Host this week is Kitty NicIaian, one of the new editors of Podcastle!

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.

“We were going to name the baby Beatrice. I just remembered that. We were going to name her after your aunt, the one that doesn’t like me. Didn’t like me. Did she come to the funeral?

I’ve been here for three days, and I’m trying to pretend that it’s just a vacation, like when we went to that island in that country. Santorini? Great Britain? The one with all the cliffs. The one with the hotel with the bunkbeds, and little squares of pink toilet paper, like handkerchiefs. It had seashells in the window too, didn’t it, that were transparent like bottle glass? They smelled like bleach? It was a very nice island. No trees. You said that when you died, you hoped heaven would be an island like that. And now I’m dead, and here I am.

This is an island too, I think. There is a beach, and down on the beach is a mailbox where I am going to post this letter. Other than the beach, the mailbox, there is the building in which I sit and write this letter. It seems to be a perfectly pleasant resort hotel with no other guests, no receptionist, no host, no events coordinator, no bellboy. Just me. There is a television set, very old-fashioned, in the hotel lobby. I fiddled the antenna for a long time, but never got a picture. Just static. I tried to make images, people out of the static. It looked like they were waving at me.”

Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
« Last Edit: March 21, 2015, 12:49:51 AM by Bdoomed »

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


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Reply #1 on: March 01, 2015, 07:08:36 PM
This was a very interesting concept of hell. Trapped by yourself, with only your sins for company, waiting for... redemption? Eternity? I really enjoyed the creepy horror of the situation, the nonsensical surreality of the dead man's surroundings and his own limited free will. This was a deeply symbolic story that I think I could listen to over and over again.

The only thing that bothered me was the idea that the fact that this man had the capacity to admire other women while still being deeply in love with his wife (well, wife-to-be) was somehow tied to his capacity to cheat. Marrying my wife hasn't done anything to stop me from noticing other women. I think what the author was trying to communicate was that this man had been deeply effected by the trend in our dominant culture of commodifying/objectifying women, but I wish she'd chosen another way to express it. It fell flat with me, because I don't think anything is wrong with continuing to notice the attractiveness of other women.

Despite that, I think this was an excellent story. Surreal, creepy, and an interesting psychological profile of a pretty mediocre human being. I did find myself both thinking poorly of him and hoping he was right about the possibility of redemption, someday. I think that was the author's intent, and I wonder if anyone else feels similarly.

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Reply #2 on: March 01, 2015, 09:06:09 PM
I liked the unearthly disjointed feel of this world removed from the world. I agree with Paladin - the "because I find others hot I automatically am going to cheat" bit. I didn't like it. But EVERYTHING else about this story, especially the name struggle that awful torment of name struggle in what otherwise felt like a basic feeling of malaise and not what most of us would consider horror. Yes. good.

Oh, great and mighty Alasdair, Orator Maleficent, He of the Silvered Tongue, guide this humble fangirl past jumping up and down and squeeing upon hearing the greatness of Thy voice.
Oh mighty Mur the Magnificent. I am not worthy.


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Reply #3 on: March 02, 2015, 06:37:44 AM
Funny how the domestic tale so often turns out to be the story of an affair and its consequences, in genre stories anyway, from the last couple on Pseudopod to so many others. Lately, it feels less like some great revelation than just the usual plot device. That said, I'm not so sure this whole story turns on the affair anyway, though it predictably makes an appearance. There seems to be a lot more contemplation of regrets and the nature of life and death going on here, beyond just the cheating thing. And is the character really in Hell? I mean, whatever his past sins, it's implied that he may have died while trying to avoid killing a small animal, for love of his wife. Do people who die that way get thrown straight into hell fire, or Hell Resort Town anyway? I'm not so sure we are meant to take it that way.

Writing this type of story can be risky. The sort of story where the character has nothing to do but stay in bed, masturbate, write and/or eat, can get old for the reader pretty fast. Thomas Disch pulled it off well in The Squirrel Cage where the character is stuck in a single room and can't do anything but those kinds of things, but then that story contemplated the very nature of the situation in ways that revealed interesting considerations of the human experience as a whole. Disch noted that it would be unclear what is scarier... being left alone for that eternity, or someone suddenly appearing before you in the midst of it. And indeed, in this story, "people" do start to appear, and it's hard to tell if it is comforting to finally have company, or just even more unsettling under the circumstances.


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Reply #4 on: March 06, 2015, 02:18:41 AM
I'm just going to unlurk for a moment to say I really enjoyed this story. It reminds me a bit of William Golding's Pincher Martin, except this guy is aware he is dead. I liked that there was a resolution of a sort, with an explanation of what (might have) happened to the character. A safer choice for the author would have been to leave everything open to interpretation, but I'm tired of atmospheric non-stories. 

The reading was particularly good.


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Reply #5 on: March 06, 2015, 02:25:16 PM
I didn't care for it.

Afterlife stories are generally a pretty easy sell for me, because I find novel takes on what comes after death to be interesting.  But I guess I need more than a guy sitting around, wanking and writing love letters to his ex.  A ways into the story I started to wonder if maybe he hadn't really died and he was just killing a long Saturday afternoon with nothing else to do.

The bit about forgetting the names of anyone living was an interesting thing, but as a whole I didn't find anything in the story that  hooked me.


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Reply #6 on: March 06, 2015, 07:25:52 PM
Before I talk about the story itself I have to say that the narration on this episode was fantastic, Anson did a beautiful job of hitting the mood. Whether you liked the story or not, I think it is fair to say that the craft in the writing itself was exquisite, and the narration did it full justice. Also, since this was part of the Artemis Rising showcase, I should give Kelly the archaic (and possibly insulting) compliment of having written a really great male character - yeah okay, that kudos is so "1980s" and usually given to male writers of their female characters...but it works.

Am I the only one who questioned whether this is actually an afterlife story? It definitely follows the trope, and if so, I particularly love a story where the sense of heaven or hell depends on what you make of it. But then, if "hell" is a state of mind, then surely you must still be alive to experience it. Is the "dead man", dead or dying? Is he in fact still in the just-crashed car? Or perhaps he's in a deep coma. The brief references to hospital smells, uncomfortable non-beds, and unknown, unseen crowds of visitors directs me to the latter.

He is clearly tormented by his two greatest sins, his childhood humiliation of Loulie, the girl with cancer, and his recent affair.
For me, the beautiful twist in the story is that he can't see what it is that he really did wrong. He's a narcissist who never really loved his wife. His letters are beautiful, but they aren't love letters. They are long circuitous explanations that never quite reach apology, and his only outreach to her as a person is purely sexual. No wonder he can't remember her name. In the end he is only able to reach a state of acceptance with the Loulies, perhaps because at least with her, he understands what it was he did to her. As he continues to be obsessed with his own penis, it seems that absolution for his affair is a long, long way off.


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Reply #7 on: March 08, 2015, 02:41:42 PM

For me, the beautiful twist in the story is that he can't see what it is that he really did wrong.

Yes, that's exactly it - so whether he is actually dead or not, he is in purgatory in the catholic sense, and stuck there because of that.


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Reply #8 on: April 06, 2015, 10:54:14 PM
I listened to this all the way thru twice...

All those names and I wasn't in there.   I have a common name even.   

Was dream6601 but that's sounds awkward when Nathan reads my posts.


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Reply #9 on: April 09, 2015, 08:23:02 AM

Fantastic narration. These sort of stories typically don't work on me, the type where the narrator is describing the confined space they are in. However I really enjoyed this one.

I agree with the notion that he doesn't really seem to display any regret for his bad discretions. His longing for her is more lustful than anything. Cant help but feel a little sorry for him, because in his current state he doesn't seem to be able to think outside his own insular thoughts to feel guilty, or even shame for the current actions he does now (shown in how he masturbates on the bed at the same time he knows the things are gathered outside the hotel door). Therefore he stands no chance of breaking out of the limbo he is in (if that's what it is).