Zombies in the Coal Mine   April 24th, 2010

Originally Written 04/24/08

I’ll admit it, I love a good zombie story. For one thing the themes of a small group of people fighting to survive the apocalypse make for some good drama and also can hold a mirror up to society. Plus, the walking dead make for some neat yarns. So I was happy to find Pseudopod had another zombie tale in a recent episode. The Sons of Carbon County is a historical-fiction period piece. It’s standard zombie fare, but well told and with some nice claustrophobic atmosphere, as well as a bit of political subtext. Good stuff.

Another recent story Heart Strung mixed a bit of visceral horror at the clever satire of the idea of literally wearing ones heart on your sleeve. It takes the absurd notion and works well giving way to mental horror, at the notion of losing emotions. The idea of the loss of childhood in a right of passage was interesting, but unfortunately the story got heavy-handed with its axe to grind about injustice towards women.

However, it was a good companion piece to an earlier piece of another barbaric coming-of-age ritual The Mill. That was more visceral, but managed to do it all without having to show or tell very much, and it was the suggestions which got me. It was also a compelling metaphor for cultural relativism, the perceived normality of something so wrong, and how society and family pressures can trap and bind people. It was very successful in psychological horror, which is another reason I like Pseudopod so much, it’s not just gross-out, there’s a lot of smart, well-written and thought-provoking work there.

And if horror isn’t your bag, check out EscapePod for a great mix of science fiction, and their newly-opened PodCastle for fantasy stories. Their feeds rock and I’ll continue to plug them.

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Who Are You People?   April 21st, 2010

Originally Written 08/27/06

I heard this story on an NPR podcast yesterday and was able to find a link to the story on their website. It’s a short interview with Shari Caudron about her book Who Are You People: A Personal Journey into the Heart of Fantatical Passions in America. In it she follows people of various fandoms, avid Barbie collectors, devotees of Andy Griffith’s Mayberry and yes, even furries.

Given the usual media treatment of the fandom, it was nice to see something more fair and balanced. She agreed that walking into a furry con was pretty bizarre at first, but got a sense of what the appeal was for people. She also appreciated the strong bonds of community and acceptance.

That sounds like it’s a running theme through her book. She talks about the Barbie fans coming to the aid of a woman who lost her son, and it really shows how people in these fandoms take care of each other. Overall it’s a sweet little piece.

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