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Author Topic: EP167: Love and Death in the Time of Monsters  (Read 13542 times)
Russell Nash
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« on: July 18, 2008, 05:26:13 AM »

EP167: Love and Death in the Time of Monsters

By Frank Wu.
Read by Stephen Eley.
First appeared in Abyss & Apex, 4th Quarter 2007.
Special closing music: “Showdown in Shinjuku” and “Incognito” by Daikaiju.

They try everything. Cellular toxins. DNA replication inhibitors. Anti-sense nucleic acids. Artillery. Great bolts of lightning. Nothing stops him, it only makes the monster angrier. They try mutagens, teratogens, carcinogens, neurotoxins, hemotoxins, genotoxins — they think that toxins in the environment created the monster, and maybe toxins can kill it. Maybe two wrongs can make a right.

They don’t, apparently. I worry about the residues left in the ground after the monster’s moved on. He’s going up and down the eastern seaboard. Janie talks about flying out there to help, but she doesn’t want to get stomped on. Who would? A team of guys from work drive across the country to do whatever they can. They figure that patent annuities can still get paid in their absence. I want to go, but I have to stay to help my mom. That’s my fight.


Rated PG. Contains violence on a grand scale and illness on a human scale.


Referenced Sites:
GUIDOLON The Giant Space Chicken
Well-Told Tales



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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wintermute
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« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2008, 06:56:33 AM »

Well, I didn't hate it. I had much the same "Meh" reaction that I did to the PC16: Magnificent Pigs PC15: The Yeti Behind You. Except more so.

Yes, it's true that Godzilla was a metaphor for nuclear weapons, but he didn't spend the whole movie carrying a sign that said "RAR I AM A METAPHOR FOR NUCLEAR WEAPONS". I mean, if you need a sledgehammer to make a literary point, you're probably doing it wrong.

It was a nice enough story about a cancer patient, but I don't think the monster added anything new, except for CRUSHINGLY HEAVY SYMBOLISM.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2008, 07:54:27 AM by wintermute » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2008, 07:52:29 AM »

I think it was very cool for both the forum "root post" and the EscapePod excerpt quotation to be this:

Quote
They try everything. Cellular toxins. DNA replication inhibitors. Anti-sense nucleic acids. Artillery. Great bolts of lightning. Nothing stops him, it only makes the monster angrier. They try mutagens, teratogens, carcinogens, neurotoxins, hemotoxins, genotoxins — they think that toxins in the environment created the monster, and maybe toxins can kill it. Maybe two wrongs can make a right.

When I was driving in to work, this morning, this sentence leapt out at me as the best in the story and, frankly, one of the best series of English words I'd heard.  It is not only lyrical (especially in how Steve read it) but deftly combines all the elements of the story's metaphor into one, concise package.

While metaphor and allegory are frequently used subtly, I think it's an assumption of literature that they have to be subtle or hidden; waiting to be coaxed from their surrounding prose like a frightened rabbit from its hole.  Rather, I believe that if the overall narrative is strong, metaphor -blatant or subtle- is still metaphor.

Granted, each reader brings their own expectations to the table and for many, subtlety is required.

For me, however, I enjoyed this tale quite a bit.  Mostly, I enjoyed that the two main characters were complex and had a relationship that was hardly cookie-cutter.  I've seen several family members go through cancer -none of them being lucky enough to have recovery- but, curiously, this tale did not pull at my heart-strings as I expected.  Rather than feeling an echo of pain at the gradual erosion of a human life, I felt a strong appreciation for the flawed hero.  Is wanting a "Thank You" a bad thing?  No, but it makes your altruism less than altruistic.  Does it make you a more interesting character?  Definitely.

I kept following this tale to see how things would develop for him.  His own development of a deep, hacking cough at the end was painful.

I'm left with two thoughts:

#1.  Would the story have been better-ended without the world-wide resurgence of monsters and just left it with them heading back to the hospital with his own, personal, battle to fight without the echo throughout the rest of the world?

#2.  Can a Daikaiju story be simply a Daikaiju story in a Science-Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror setting without being a metaphor (as Steve touched upon in his Outro)?

Yours,
Sylvan (Dave)
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wintermute
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« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2008, 08:05:15 AM »

#2.  Can a Daikaiju story be simply a Daikaiju story in a Science-Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror setting without being a metaphor (as Steve touched upon in his Outro)?
Exhibit A
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« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2008, 10:15:07 AM »

#2.  Can a Daikaiju story be simply a Daikaiju story in a Science-Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror setting without being a metaphor (as Steve touched upon in his Outro)?
Exhibit A

To me the Godzilla remake falls under "intentional B-movie self-satire," regardless of budget.  We went to see it at a movie diner because we were pretty sure we'd need beer to appreciate it.  But there wasn't enough beer.  In the world.
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Russell Nash
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« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2008, 10:25:14 AM »

I think it was very cool for both the forum "root post" and the EscapePod excerpt quotation to be this:

Quote
They try everything. Cellular toxins. DNA replication inhibitors. Anti-sense nucleic acids. Artillery. Great bolts of lightning. Nothing stops him, it only makes the monster angrier. They try mutagens, teratogens, carcinogens, neurotoxins, hemotoxins, genotoxins — they think that toxins in the environment created the monster, and maybe toxins can kill it. Maybe two wrongs can make a right.

A little meta-response:

The forum thread is always taken directly from the blog posting.  Steve posts to the blog when he uploads the episode.  I just take the work he has done and regurgitate it here.
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jrderego
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« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2008, 11:02:12 AM »

#2.  Can a Daikaiju story be simply a Daikaiju story in a Science-Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror setting without being a metaphor (as Steve touched upon in his Outro)?
Exhibit A

To me the Godzilla remake falls under "intentional B-movie self-satire," regardless of budget.  We went to see it at a movie diner because we were pretty sure we'd need beer to appreciate it.  But there wasn't enough beer.  In the world.

I am one of the rare few who suffered through the Emmerich/Devlin Godzilla twice in the theater. I saw it the first time, opening night, at midnight, so I could receive the "awesome promo package" of stuff that came with it... which turned out to be a film cell of  a foot, and some coupons for Taco Bell's Godzilla-sized Nuclear Chili Projectile Uncontrollable Diarrhea Combo Meal Bel Grande (which I promptly threw away) "Yo queiro, my ass fell off!". Two days later I met a handful of kids from the after school program I ran, who I had promised to take to a screening on my own dime. It wasn't any better the second time.

That said, the Emmerich/Devlin Godzilla, while an unmentioned remake of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, itself a version of the Bradbury story The Lighthouse, was a metaphor for consequences of nuclear testing. The opening scene is the French Army conducting nuclear tests near enough to the Galapagos Islands to irradiate the marine iguanas that live there. However, the film never even pays lip service to this angle.

As far as films with giant monsters that aren't really metaphors for anything, you could check out -

Godzilla Raids Again/Gigantis the Fire Monster
Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster
Destroy All Monsters
Gamera vs pretty much any of his foes (Showa series)
The X from Outer Space
Reptillian/Yongary 1999
Gappa the Triphibian Monster/Monster from a Prehistoric Planet

Actually, let me put a giant monster themed post in Gallimaufry - I've got some time today.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2008, 11:05:29 AM by jrderego » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2008, 11:09:16 AM »

"Yo queiro, my ass fell off!"

Wow, Jeff.  Those are some deft Spanish skillz  Wink
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WillMoo
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« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2008, 11:55:05 AM »

Finished listening to the story over lunch. Not a very subtle use of the "big monster" metaphor, was it? 
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Sylvan
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« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2008, 12:03:56 PM »

#2.  Can a Daikaiju story be simply a Daikaiju story in a Science-Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror setting without being a metaphor (as Steve touched upon in his Outro)?
Exhibit A

To me the Godzilla remake falls under "intentional B-movie self-satire," regardless of budget.  We went to see it at a movie diner because we were pretty sure we'd need beer to appreciate it.  But there wasn't enough beer.  In the world.

I remember coming out of the film on opening day and saying "Well, it was a giant monster movie, but it sure wasn't 'Godzilla'".

I would have said that "Cloverfield" wasn't a metaphor before listening to the Outro and, now, I wonder if any of the examples listed here by other listeners really qualify.  If "Cloverfield" was a metaphor -and a pretty well-concealed one at that- then ANYthing can be a metaphor.

Perhaps that's the issue for some:  "Cloverfield" was too subtle and "Love and Death in the time of Monsters" too blatant?

But, y'know, to bring it back to today's story, "too subtle" and "too blatant" don't really come into my own consideration as to whether or not it was good.  I may be a bit blunt in my appreciation of literature; that's quite possibly a good reason why I don't have a problem with the tale.  But, in the end, if the characters are characters I care about, if their situation is empathetic, and the scenario Sciency-, Fantasy-y, or Horrory, I go with it.

In this case, I really enjoyed the characters and their situation.

Yours,
Sylvan (Dave)
« Last Edit: July 18, 2008, 12:05:59 PM by Sylvan » Logged
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« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2008, 12:09:10 PM »

#2.  Can a Daikaiju story be simply a Daikaiju story in a Science-Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror setting without being a metaphor (as Steve touched upon in his Outro)?
Exhibit A

  It's been years since I puit myself through that film but

1. Wasn't there some little throwaway bit at the start about underwater nuclear tests that were in the news at that time? I admit that they were not particularly preachy about it, but it was there, wasn't it?

2. That film was a pile of crap. I think calling it self-satire is incredibly generous. The only good thing about that movie is it seemed to create a big demand for some more "real" Godzilla films.

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« Reply #11 on: July 18, 2008, 12:19:36 PM »

  I'm not sure how I feel about this srtory. I certainly did not hate it, indeed I was really enjoying until about the last five minutes or so. I'm not sure exactly what happened at that point to lose me. Overall I would have to say that I liked it. Iknow part of the problem is that the story lost me a little bit right at the very end with the scene in the car, so I shall probably have to listen to it again to see what it was that I missed.

  Personally I love giant monster stories, I grew up on Godzilla (and the occasional Gamera). I would have to say that giant monsters are my favourite sci-fi/horror monsters right after zombies. If I was not a fan of daikaiju stories, this story might have fallen a little flatter for me than it did.

  The story was certainly preachy as can be, but for the most part was quite good. I found myself at the same time disliking the main character and identifying with him (which is probably why I disliked him a bit). I thought the metaphor behind the story was very well done, but also very heavy-handed.

 
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« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2008, 12:29:29 PM »

Wasn't there some little throwaway bit at the start about underwater nuclear tests that were in the news at that time? I admit that they were not particularly preachy about it, but it was there, wasn't it?
There's a scene at the beginning of the new Get Smart movie where Max is listening to Abba on his iPod. Does that mean the whole thing is a metaphor for the history of Swedish pop?
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« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2008, 01:00:42 PM »

I thought this story was OK.  I had some problems with some of the aspects of the story like the characters caring about March Madness while the entire eastern seaboard was being wiped out, and when the guy was fretting about the use of nuclear weapons when the monster seemed to be unstoppable and on its way to destroying even more cities.   A nice diversion for my commute but I won't be saving it. 
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« Reply #14 on: July 18, 2008, 03:14:50 PM »

The narrator, who has never smoked a day in his life, may have emphysema.  New monsters are springing up  from the sea around the world.  The narrator's mother is a vegetable and the son never receives so much as a thank you for his pains.  Rescue efforts are token at best and don't extend to the people who probably need them the most.  Looters steal precious works of art and fire bullets into the air for no good reason.  Where the bullets land, no one really knows.  And while the reporter in the story thinks he sees malice in the kaiju's eyes, the narrator sees only cool, emotionless instinct.

I for one don't think the analogy is particularly heavy handed, but maybe that's because the truth it illustrates is so basic.  Life isn't fair and people don't behave the way they are supposed to in good times or in bad.  We fiddle with the climate of a planet and then blame the results on a monster that wouldn't have existed if we hadn't created it.  We give our mothers cigarettes to make our lives a little easier.  And catastrophes on any scale don't bring out the best in us.  They expose our hypocrisy and teach us lessons about ourselves we'd rather not learn.
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« Reply #15 on: July 18, 2008, 03:32:34 PM »

Wasn't there some little throwaway bit at the start about underwater nuclear tests that were in the news at that time? I admit that they were not particularly preachy about it, but it was there, wasn't it?
There's a scene at the beginning of the new Get Smart movie where Max is listening to Abba on his iPod. Does that mean the whole thing is a metaphor for the history of Swedish pop?

  Only if Abba is the reason he becomes a spy.
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« Reply #16 on: July 18, 2008, 03:33:44 PM »

Wasn't there some little throwaway bit at the start about underwater nuclear tests that were in the news at that time? I admit that they were not particularly preachy about it, but it was there, wasn't it?
There's a scene at the beginning of the new Get Smart movie where Max is listening to Abba on his iPod. Does that mean the whole thing is a metaphor for the history of Swedish pop?

  Only if Abba is the reason he becomes a spy.

Or is a major influence in creating the thing he is spying on/fighting against.
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« Reply #17 on: July 18, 2008, 05:37:18 PM »

Not on my short list but I liked it!

The relationships rang true to me, and using the monster to switch between scales worked for me, even if it left no mystery and little (any?) nuance to the metaphor. So what? Something as monstrous as cancer deserves a monstrous metaphor, and make no mistake, this was a story about cancer, and its effects on people. [That doesn't mean that I don't think this was science fiction, or doesn't belong on Escape Pod by any means, either. Not at all].

When the narrator seemed horrified that nuclear weapons were used against the monster, my reaction was shock that it took them so long. But on reflection, the narrator's reaction makes perfect sense. We used the very thing that created the monster to destroy it - is it any wonder that so many new monsters soon sprang up? Here the metaphor falls apart a bit, but that just leaves more to think about.
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« Reply #18 on: July 18, 2008, 11:05:20 PM »

blast the metaphors with molten lava- I just wasn't crazy about the heavy depressing angles of this story. Nothing about it made me feel good, scared, joyful- or anything much else. Just a little sad and a little weirded out by the whoe "It wasn't bad enough my mom has cancer, but now there's a major monster on the loose" thing. AND I hated the end.  WAY too heavy without enough nice patting on the back. I escape with fiction. When my fiction depresses me more then life.. then I'm doin' it wrong.
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« Reply #19 on: July 19, 2008, 01:25:13 AM »

Quote
I escape with fiction. When my fiction depresses me more then life.. then I'm doin' it wrong.

I make my fiction so dark I have to escape back to reality.   Gummo anyone?
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