Pseudopod 152: Hometown Horrible

By Matthew Bey

Read by Elie Hirschman

“So much stays behind when a man dies,” Bestlonic says. “You could rebuild Finch from what we have left of him.”

Together we walk the three blocks to downtown Chippewa Falls, and he tells me why Finch is the greatest writer who ever lived.

We talk mainly about the “Biter” series. It doesn’t take much to get Bestlonic raving about these stories. The most cited story in the series, the eponymous “Biter,” tells the tale of a man who finds a note in his jacket pocket that prompts him to eat his own extremities, methodically avoiding blood loss and undue trauma in the process. The story is nearly 30,000 words long, surprisingly little of which is gruesome depictions of auto-cannibalism. The bulk of the text concentrates on the “unthinkable horror” written on that slip of paper. Finch never states outright what that might be, presumably because it would cause the readership to imitate the hero’s compulsive mutilation. He merely reveals that the phrase is twelve words long, and we should be very careful what we read.

July 24th, 2009 2:04 pm

Wow! Creep out complete! Scary story + haunting commentary + eerie music.
One of my favorite parts of Pseudopod has been Alasdair’s bit of philosophy at the end. This time though, it really dovetailed right off of the story and with that music, made for a very chilling combination! Wow!

July 24th, 2009 7:42 pm

..reminiscent of Joe Hill…

July 24th, 2009 11:09 pm

In Pseudopod 029: Light Like Knives Dragged Across The Skin by Paul Jessup, Mur who was the host of the episode said “Is it bad that while listening to this story I actually wanted to buy this game?” I am struck with the same sort of feeling listening to this story.

Is it bad that while listening to this story I actually wanted to read Finch’s work?

July 25th, 2009 2:12 am

Nope, not bad at all! In fact, that’s part of the point!

July 25th, 2009 6:15 pm

Wow. I just have to say – this story was pure win. Haunting, creepy, and profoundly original storytelling. The narration was great too.

July 26th, 2009 1:33 am

Very good, very interesting idea. Puts me in the mind of, “In The Mouth of Madness” Movie Starring Sam Neil. Saw when I was a kid and stayed with me until adulthood. Made me want to read Lovecraft as there are heavy influences.

Changwa Steve
July 27th, 2009 7:54 am

I liked it better when it was called Snow Crash– kidding! Best pseudopod in a few weeks at least.

July 27th, 2009 11:39 am

Drat! No liner notes for the music during the comments at the end. I could -swear- it’s from a video game, but the title is tantalizingly out of reach…

July 27th, 2009 11:57 am

That was pretty darn great.

July 27th, 2009 2:24 pm

Excellent story. This is going to sound like a foolish question, but is Finch entirely fictional? I thought so, but all of the place names are real (Wisconsin resident here).

In any case, I was really struck by this story. Pseudopod never fails to impress me though, kudos to all involved.

July 27th, 2009 5:53 pm

The only way that it could be better is if its premiere were a live reading at a con. Anybody know the history/

July 28th, 2009 9:20 am

I don’t believe it was, but you’re right, that would be a fine piece of lit theater – especially if they drop the lights and hit the spasmodic, fitful strobe as the last 12 words are intoned…

I liked how “Hometown Horrible” not only gives us intriguing “fictional” story teases (thus really selling the concept), not only how it reincorporates a classic but sorely missing aspect of horror (well, a lot of fiction, honestly) which is the “regional” tinge, but what i most liked was how it’s also something of a cautionary tale for horror fans about the persona of H.P. Lovecraft (very slyly name-dropping around him but never naming him) and the dangers of blithely incorporating worldviews without consideration. Bey’s story seems to me in the same rank of writers like Ligotti. Amazingly good, I hope it wins some awards.

July 29th, 2009 5:38 am

Whoa… just, whoa.

July 29th, 2009 7:16 am

MuseofChaos: The music at the end is “Frozen” by Hopeful Machines from the album I Am an Island (And She Is My Ocean), which at the moment you can actually download in its entirety from

You will find us cribbing from it a lot in the near future. :) (With the band’s permission, I hasten to add.)

July 29th, 2009 3:27 pm

Excellent, I really liked the combination of Lovecraft and Memes.

July 29th, 2009 7:23 pm

@ Dean Seattle

I thought of Joe Hill, too. And I mean that as a compliment.

Spork Fu
August 1st, 2009 4:58 pm

Good. Thank you.

August 3rd, 2009 10:52 am

Great story, and I didn’t see the twist coming. Is it strange that not only do I want to read more of Helmut Finch’s work, but my fingers are looking particularly tasty this morning?

August 5th, 2009 6:42 pm

Mmmmm, metafiction.

Somewhere, in an alternate universe, is that Helmut Finch Memorial Alcove, packed with binders full of photocopies of his work.

In dreams, may we visit it and learn its secrets.

In dreams, may we devour the flesh of the world with Helmut Finch’s teeth.

August 15th, 2009 5:10 pm

I think part of what made this story so engaging was how real it all seemed. All the minute details about Finch’s life and writings might have been dull in less-talented hands, but wow, I absolutely loved this story and look forward to more work by Matthew Bey.

And isn’t that one of the delights of fiction podcasts like this one–discovering new writers that you then seek out the writings of, and opening up your eyes (or rather, ears) to talent you wouldn’t otherwise have known existed?

August 17th, 2009 9:41 pm

A little late jumping on board here, but this was a wonderful story, one of the best I’ve come across lately!

August 21st, 2009 8:00 am

Can Mr Bey please write the stories mentioned in this piece please? I particularly want to hear the one about the postmaster getting lynched! Al – can any of the listeners have a go at writing them?