Sunday, December 28, 2008

Deep Red, Lala Salama, Cup and Table

A couple of brilliant stories I listened to recently.

Pseudopod 117: Deep Red, written by Floris M. Kleijne and read by Ben Phillips is a chilling horror story that reminded me a lot of Stephen King's Misery. Some might think it predictable or reliant on too great a co-incidence, but I was able to let myself go and really enjoy this story. The horror is chilling, and Kleijne does a very good job of building up the same feeling of creeping horror that movies like The Shining by Stanley Kubrick use. Ben Phillips' execution (so to speak) is flawless. He and Cheyenne Wright are my favourite horror narrators.

Another favourite horror short story I listened to recently is Pseudopod 118: Lala Salama, written by Gill Ainsworth and read by Heather Welliver. It features black magic. The ending was creepy, but somehow not shocking. It seemed to fit, to show that in the end, she realised the warnings she had been given were valid; the magic was black.

This has been done before of course, but I was ok with that. Gill Ainsworth portrayed the black magic very effectively, mixing dream scapes and time warps in a very imaginitive way.

But my favourite aspect of this story by far was Heather Welliver's reading. She made me feel for the character so much - her voice was perfectly pitched: so happy when she announced the new baby, even though I knew it was going to go wrong.

The next story could well have been in Pseudopod too. PodCastle 20: Cup and Table, written by Tim Pratt and read by Stephen Eley. It's an Arthurian tale, my favourite PodCastle of all time, and in my top 5 of any Escape Artist story. The pure fancy of it all is astounding. Tim Pratt captured the very essence of speculative fiction within a relatively modern day Earth setting in a way that pushed all the right buttons for me and brough to mind a few others in a similar modern day almost sword and sorcery vein: Pseudopod 045: Goon Job (by G.W. Thomas, read by Ben Phillips), Pseudopod 052: That Old Black Magic (by John R. Platt, read by George Hrab) and Pseudopod 77: Merlin�s Bane (by G.W. Thomas, read by Ben Phillips).

The Aurthurian roots of this story give it an edge of despair, added to the horror of what the main characters are actually trying to do. The Table appears as an ancient, venerable secret and shrinking society that has essentially come to ruins. Its ultimate purpose having been waylaid by the vicissitudes brought on by the need for making money and the disparate goals of the latest members of the group.

My favourite misquote of the day is from the character Carlsbad, with the line: "That's it then. Only the evil in YouTube is keeping me alive".