Pseudopod 111: Radiodemonology

By John Medaille

Read by Alasdair Stuart

Okay.

I first discovered the existence of the human soul while examining the x-ray of a broken clavicle of an ugly boy named Peter Demetrios. Peter, who was the kind of kid I think of as a fly-torturing, spaghettio-bellied, dirty-fingernailed, nose-picking little crap of a little boy, had landed on a trampoline wrong and sustained a multiply displaced comminuted fracture of the collar bone.

This week’s episode sponsored by Audible.com, who has extended their generous offer of a free audiobook download of your choice from their selection of over 40,000 titles.

01
October 10th, 2008 6:06 pm

Long time listener, first time commenter.

I hate to be the “meh” guy for my first comment on a Pseudopod story, but that’s my honest response to “Radiodemonology.” The beginning of the story was promising. The amusingly snarky doctor was amusingly snarky. Unfortunately, the story didn’t progress much from there.

I also hate to be the “I saw the twist coming a mile away” guy, but in this case, I think I saw pretty much the entire story coming a mile away. Is there anyone who listened to this story who wasn’t two steps ahead of it the whole way? The evil-seeming guy has a soul, but the perfectly benign-seeming guy has no soul. Groan. And then the doctor can’t find his own soul. Double groan.

And finally, I hate to be the “this food is terrible, and such small portions” guy, but this was a very, very thinly written story. The doctor’s descent into madness (did I mention groan?) is overly hasty and poorly motivated, making the gruesome finale less than credible — especially given the character’s repeatedly stated aversion to touching bodies. I can’t speak for how other people feel about cracking open their own chests, but I’m not especially body-fearful and it would take a pretty extreme degree of psychosis to make me do something like that to myself.

This is a tale that had some potential for dark humor, and I can’t fault the author’s style — the writing itself was engaging enough to keep me listening to the end — but for me, it just didn’t overcome its basic pitfalls of an overly familiar premise and predictable story beats. I get the feeling this story was primarily motivated by an unpleasant experience at the doctor’s office. It’s a revenge fantasy that comes off like an extended lawyer joke.

(Btw, was anyone vaguely reminded by this story of the classic Harlan Ellison story, “Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans”?)

02
October 10th, 2008 6:16 pm

Oh, and to make a long comment longer, I wanted but forgot to say on the positive side that the author has a wickedly hilarious sense of humor. I just wish the humor were wedded to a better-developed story.

03
David
October 11th, 2008 2:09 am

Nice to see a little dark humor, the main character really made me laugh. Would have been better if the other characters had had some evidence the narrator wasn’t crazy.

04
Kenneth
October 12th, 2008 2:28 am

Best. Pseudopod. Ever.

If this is the kind of offbeat, original story that is going to be on podcast before anything else, I think printed media has a problem. Thank you for that deeply funny, deeply scary venture, with probably the best reading I have ever heard, on any podcast. The rambling pieces of the story could have fallen flat, but just felt excellent with Alasdair layering them with a full jar of Smucker’s smirky world-weariness. That was one hell of a horror fiction sundae.

Pardon me, but I have to go develop some chest pains in need of immediate x-ray…and maybe I can steal a look at them while I’m there.

05
mr ed
October 12th, 2008 1:22 pm

now that was sick. i don’t like peter or his mother very much . in fact i don’t like weirdmobile either. weirdsmobile is a critic from the trinity broadcast network heaven bent on silencing the truth about the genius of the author, Alasdair and Psuedopod.
that was some creative horror!

06
Ann
October 12th, 2008 4:23 pm

First time commenter also, but I’m been listening since the beginning. I loved it! My favorite one so far. I think I’m in love with Alasdair Stuart and he suited this story perfectly. Just the right amount of humor and quirkiness brought together in the telling.

07
October 13th, 2008 1:02 pm

I have to agree with Weirdsmobile on all counts – thinly written, descent in to madness a complete non-entity. I enjoyed the humor in the exposition, and as usual, was a big fan of the reading.

08
JD
October 13th, 2008 1:26 pm

I liked this story. I saw the end coming also, but I enjoyed it! Alasdair did a great job narrating!

09
LittleIrishMama
October 14th, 2008 12:13 pm

This was amazing! I was sucked in to the story from the get go and it did not let me down. Can’t wait to hear more from the author!

10
Changwa Steve
October 15th, 2008 1:24 am

Hilarious. If the reader’s tone had been just slightly off on the last line the joke would have been ruined. Great job!

11
October 15th, 2008 5:29 am

This was one of the more enjoyable episodes in a while. There is a certain intuitive grasp of language that some people have that gives their writing an excellent flow, and John Medaille appears to have it. That, coupled with Alasdair’s excellent and natural presentation of the voice, was a joy to listen to.

But, I agree with Weirdsmobile about many of the story’s flaws. The “descent into madness” felt more like something I had to assume was there than something that I inferred from the storytelling; after that first magnificent discovery scene, the story’s pacing fell apart.
I think my biggest gripe was that it never really explained what the significance of having a soul was, either. I felt like the author was assuming I had a Christian approach to the story and that simply saying someone was “a demon” was enough to send a chill down my spine, albeit a totally harmless, refrigeration-employed demon.

Gripes aside, the story was, as a whole, very strong. As I said, the first scene was magnificent and had me crippled with laughter, and the voice smoothed out its mid-story wrinkles halfway through the climactic scene as well. The one thing that will stick with me most from this story is the image of God as a fish-like leviathan swimming through the magma in the depths of the earth.

12
October 15th, 2008 1:04 pm

Jeezus mother pus-bucket –

Well done. I’m envious that I didn’t write it. al was the perfect person to read it. I’m going to go listen again, right this minute.

13
October 15th, 2008 4:02 pm

The missing twist is, of course, that :
The shadows on the x-rays are demons, not souls.
:Eric

14
Kevin
October 15th, 2008 4:27 pm

1st time poster as well. I absolutely loved Alisdair’s reading. Your post story comments are always thought provoking and entertaining as well. Great job, on a great podcast.

Kevin

15
scatterbrain
October 16th, 2008 5:59 pm

I enjoyed it; it really makes you want to go out and hug a drug dealer.

16
October 16th, 2008 7:50 pm

[...]a story that I listened to recently on the horror podcast Pseudopod[...]

17
Mike G
October 18th, 2008 2:12 am

I enjoyed this story as well. Bravo. Well told, clean, succinct, dark and scary.

18
October 18th, 2008 9:01 am

I had huge issues with this episode all ’round. I love the normal setup of Alasdair’s commentary and Ben’s reading. Ben does a great job of snark with the reading, and Alasdair’s commentary can provide empathy and an emotional horror hook for even the slightest of stories. That didn’t happen here. Having Ben’s snark as commentary and Alasdair also be the snarky character in the story made it feel condescending for me. Also, I really didn’t enjoy Alasdair’s reading of this, which surprised me. I very, very much like him reading his own stuff, but this seemed a little forced.

The story has a couple of plot holes that did me in; I’ve worked in medical imaging for over a decade. The person taking your pictures is almost NEVER the radiologist (who reads the film), and definitely not for an ER clavicular film. The mish-mash of all of medical imaging’s modalities also threw me off.

And yes, many radiologists do not see patients, and have crap-all for a bedside manner… and so they Don’t. See. Patients. They definitely – IME – do NOT give diagnoses to patients, that’s your ER doc or your family physician.

That said, some of the language in the story was great. The visceral descriptions and sheer contemptuous personality of the narrator were excellently written. The central conceit was interesting, but underexplored. Was it madness, or was it something else… something real? How could the narrator (or reader) know?

Coupled with the snark and the plot fact-checking issues, this story gets a solid meh-minus from me. The story itself has promise, but needs lengthened by 50% more at least. I’d love to hear Ben read it, and I’m sure Alasdair’s commentary would be typically amazing.

19
Raving_Lunatic
October 19th, 2008 7:22 am

I cannot describe how much I loved this story.
Just fantastic- release more like this and I will probably give all of my money to the pod :)

20
October 22nd, 2008 1:42 pm

Great read. Interesting concept.

21
Deirdre
October 23rd, 2008 10:43 am

loved it:)

22
Kehama
October 24th, 2008 4:27 pm

I really enjoyed this one. I felt the story itself was decent if a little thin but the reading put it in another class all together. The tone of the character and the delivery of the lines was outstanding. I think the story itself would’ve fallen completely flat with me had it been read “straight”. Imbuing the lines with the attitude in which they were likely written was the key.

23
Sgarre1
October 25th, 2008 8:39 pm

Opposite end for me. Total negative on this. “Coils of the …(yawn)” might have been hackneyed, “Spurling Virus” just not my cup of tea, but this was aggressively unlikeable.

Detestable main character that the author presumes we’re going to identify with until, dun-dun-dun!, tables turned, he’s really an asshole, not just snarky, oh, don’t you feel all self questioning now? Maybe you should be nicer to people! Which leaves out a whole set of potential readers who don’t automatically identify with “House”-level snarkiness.

Didn’t like the author’s voice (I’ve read too many jaded, over-verbal “attitude” writers, sorry) — Connect two wildly varying things with some vicious use of overstatement and a “comedic” delivery and hey, presto, it’s like…I don’t know, having to watch a fat, no, dare I say (gotta get that archaic, mannered qualifier in for comedic seasoning), morbidly obese women, a veritable bucket of creosote (there, feeling superior?), trundle (ooh, yeah, nice one) her way across a viaduct as she crushes the screaming bodies of cherubim and seraphim ‘neath her feet. And no one stops to offer her a lift. (memo to self – work a “fuck” or “cunt” into there, if you can). Don’t forget the beautifully observed moment of quiet beauty to prove you’re not such an ogre after all.

Maybe it’s just because I’m old. But somebody get back to me and tell me if they’re still as impressed with writing like this after they reach 40 (or even 35).

And where were the editors? The main character hated the co-worker who always ITCHED his Karl Marx beard? Really? Not ONE editor in the chain said anything?

And sorry, but the usually reliable Alasdair turned in an over-dramatic and far-too mannered reading. Wait, let me try that again. He turned in… an….over-dramatic …and…far…too..mannered…reading. (Repeat that trick a few more times).

Wow, I haven’t actively disliked a Pseudopod story so much since “White Street Society” (and that was more for the potentially good idea handled so ham-fistedly by the writer). Guess they really can’t please everyone!

Thanks for listening.

“The public wants work which flatters its illusions.”

Gustave Flaubert

24
November 12th, 2008 12:09 am

Fucking loved it. Great word work. I would love to hear more from this author.

25
Manuel
November 13th, 2008 7:20 am

Love it.

26
Manuel
November 13th, 2008 7:25 am

“Im A Radiologist, I Can see your Cut Down Soul”

Love The Dark Humor

27
Rachel Ann
November 19th, 2008 12:32 pm

Loved the dark humor and the descent to madness. Perfect pitch.

28
Kate P
November 21st, 2008 2:44 pm

…so did all the ‘soulless’ people really have souls, but they were just too small to be seen on Xray?
Loved the story. Just one nitpick: cracking your chest open would collapse your lungs. Making it very difficult to talk.

29
April 1st, 2009 2:57 pm

Excellent story… one of my favorite so far on Pseudopod. Great dark sense of humor.

30
Kibitzer
May 31st, 2009 12:21 am

First comment here, just found Pseudo pod a couple of weeks ago.

That. was frikkin. AWESOME. I’ve yet to hear a story less than interesting, but that was outstandingly good.

Kudos to Escape Artists for getting thyis stuff out there. And kudos to Alisdair for a great reading.