Drabblecast 337 - The Only Game in Town

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Algernon Sydney is Dead
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Drabblecast 337 - The Only Game in Town

Postby Algernon Sydney is Dead » Fri Sep 05, 2014 2:54 am

Feature: The Only Game in Town by Desmond Warzel
Drabble: The Summoning by Phineas QP
Genres: Horror

Image

Thursday, September 4th, 2014
Walking back up the road toward home, I saw Rich Hartzell locking up his cabin. His car was stuffed to the roof with cardboard boxes and black trash bags; only the driver's seat was empty.

Music: "Fire in the Blood" sung by Ralph Stanley and Emmylou Harris
Episode Art: Bo Kaier
This story is a Drabblecast Original.

Twabble: “ Local cops are looking for witnesses to a recent hit and run. I'll bet it was the same guy who threw a tricycle under my car. ” by unreliable narrator

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Re: Drabblecast 337 - The Only Game in Town

Postby Algernon Sydney is Dead » Fri Sep 05, 2014 2:54 am

Yes, the twabble is the same as last week's. Uh, the committee felt that it's just that good? :)

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Re: Drabblecast 337 - The Only Game in Town

Postby Waveharp » Tue Sep 09, 2014 1:36 am

I appreciated the narrator's resignation at the end of the story. Defeated by the enormity of his situation, he's not sure whether to face the Shoggoths and potential slavery, or to go against the belief that he's clung to for so long. "Weren't all creatures marching inexorably toward oblivion simply by living?" he asks before finally choosing to go with his old friend to serve a new god. He can't even remember the prayers that he's said God knows how many times. I feel this utter defeat is very reminiscent of the depressing philosophical vibe of Lovecraft. Very cool story, great piece of work to conclude HPL month.

Although, I'm not so sure how I feel about the bout of amnesia the main character suffers regarding the killing of the Shoggoth. Maybe I'm just not a fan of being told something happened one way, then reaching the end of the story and being told that happened differently. Perhaps the whole unreliable narrator (no, not the guy who ran over the tricycle!) bit could've been incorporated a little differently? I'm probably just nitpicking though, given such things are to be expected when dealing with the insanity that are these Lovecraftian creatures. And it really didn't detract from the story for me. In fact, it didn't even bother me upon my first listen, just after I had time to reflect.

Regardless, still a great piece.

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Re: Drabblecast 337 - The Only Game in Town

Postby Waveharp » Tue Sep 09, 2014 1:43 am

And maybe it's because I'm an atheist in the middle of the Bible Belt, but I appreciated the back and forth regarding religion between the two main characters. Especially the bit about "thou shall not have other gods" being evidence that there are other gods.

I also may have gotten a perverse sense of joy out of Bob's plummet into resignation and depression at the end of the story. But I do believe he's going to learn those new prayers, for survival, if nothing else. And who knows, maybe he'll come to appreciate his new gods... I mean, who doesn't want a badass, profane, and magically powerful head tattoo?!

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Re: Drabblecast 337 - The Only Game in Town

Postby Algernon Sydney is Dead » Tue Sep 09, 2014 6:08 am

Waveharp wrote:... Especially the bit about "thou shall not have other gods" being evidence that there are other gods. ...

Lots of translation hiccups in the Old Testament. Maybe the original Hebrew was more like, "Thou shall not have other false gods... Uh, wait..." ;)

Welcome aboard, Waveharp!

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Re: Drabblecast 337 - The Only Game in Town

Postby c_lucio » Tue Sep 09, 2014 10:41 am

That artwork is great. Probably my favorite of the month.

The story was fun. While listening to it, I thought, "this is good, but it oddly kind of feels like a scene from the Call of Cthulhu RPG." And then the author's note at the end came, and I felt verified.

Not quite as strong as The Mouth of God, maybe, but a good way to close out the month.
-Caprizant Lucio

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Re: Drabblecast 337 - The Only Game in Town

Postby SpareInch » Wed Sep 10, 2014 6:55 am

Brilliant! Loved it! And other random ejaculations!

Take it out of HPL month context, and the early part of the story could be any sort of post apocalypse, and then the truth of what actually did happen is brought out bit by bit. Held me... Umm... In Thrall..? all the way through

And I played Call Of thulhu once when I was at Uni, way back in nineteen mumble mumble mumble. As I recall, I went crazy on a hillside in England, trying to take on a Werwolf with a sword stick (That's me with the sword, not the monster.) while everyone else ran for cover.

COWARDS!

Nearly forgot the best bit! That line, "Maiden without Bruce Dickenson? I'd rather listen to Judy Garland!"

Yeah, they should have realised the gravy train had pulled into Crap Junction, and just broken up the band when Bruce left. Right?
The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.

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Re: Drabblecast 337 - The Only Game in Town

Postby Desmond Warzel » Sat Sep 13, 2014 7:18 pm

Author here. Thanks very much for the comments thus far. I appreciate the variety of insights.

I may be back to offer some thoughts of my own, once some more comments accumulate, but that's for later, as I wouldn't want to influence anyone beforehand. I will say that Bo's artwork for this story is one of the great pieces of all time, in my opinion.

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Re: Drabblecast 337 - The Only Game in Town

Postby Algernon Sydney is Dead » Sat Sep 13, 2014 11:18 pm

Welcome aboard, Desmond Warzel!

ETA: Liked this story (now that I've heard it) and I loved "The Blue Celeb".

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Re: Drabblecast 337 - The Only Game in Town

Postby Spindaddy » Sat Sep 27, 2014 7:59 am

I dug the hell out of the blue celeb and this story was pretty awesome too. Freaked me the hell out on my commute into work (530am) and set the day up right.
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Re: Drabblecast 337 - The Only Game in Town

Postby plasticastle » Sat Sep 27, 2014 10:06 am

Really enjoyed this one but i'm always a sucker for lovecrafty stuff.
The bit with the shoggoth chunder feeding time made me cringe & Desmond's spin on the ten commandments got me thinking.
Listened to it on headphones and caught myself looking over my shoulder more than once.
Good one.
Seriously though, my drabble is up there

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Re: Drabblecast 337 - The Only Game in Town

Postby Caustic Reverie » Sun Sep 28, 2014 10:04 pm

Great story and production! I like my horror with a sense of humor.

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Re: Drabblecast 337 - The Only Game in Town

Postby Kibitzer » Wed Oct 01, 2014 9:58 am

Desmond, you're the man. You managed to write a Lovecraft-inspired story without being soaked in Lovecraftian lore. My hat is off to you, sir. Well done indeed.
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Re: Drabblecast 337 - The Only Game in Town

Postby tbaker2500 » Fri Oct 17, 2014 12:52 am

Desmond, write more stories for here, eh? I love your stuff.

Great story. I like how it was generic apocalyptic, and then the reveal was lovecraftian.

Some of the great authors have been dying off, and now I know why. You wanted to make some space in the DC lineup for yourself.
Well played.
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Re: Drabblecast 337 - The Only Game in Town

Postby Desmond Warzel » Thu Oct 30, 2014 5:52 pm

Author here once more, with a few final thoughts. First, thanks to everyone for the feedback, which has been more or less consistently positive. I'm glad everyone enjoyed it, especially since Lovecraftian fiction isn't something I'd ordinarily try my hand at. But when Norm contacts you out of the blue and offers you money to write a story, you say yes and worry about the details later. I'd been kicking around the idea of a couple of introverted rural types who have a vague idea that something has happened to the wider world, but lack the motivation to investigate, and this was an opportunity to flesh that out.

(I actually disobeyed Norm's guidelines for Lovecraft Month, which suggest Lovecraftian themes rather than direct incorporation of elements from Lovecraft's work. Including the shoggoths was probably cheating a little. I admit I wondered whether such a direct allusion would make the story less accessible for audiences or readers who might be unfamiliar with Lovecraft. Ultimately, I figured that if "Shoggoths in Bloom" can win the Hugo, there's no point in someone as obscure as me worrying about the accessibility issue.)

The Performance. However deftly or clumsily I handled the tale, Norm's reading really brought it to life. He's got a fine ear for adapting things to the audio format, as we all know. For instance, he has Penrod address the narrator directly by his first name a lot more often than I did in my written manuscript (at least I think so; I haven't actually checked). This make sense; there are whole sections of nothing but unattributed dialogue, and it would be easy for a listener to get confused, especially with one narrator playing both parts. I was a little surprised to hear Norm refer to the story as "southern Gothic," and was even more surprised at the accents he gave the characters. It wasn't how I imagined them sounding, but it definitely works. It's not unrealistic; there certainly are people in Pennsylvania who talk like that. We have all sorts of people here, occupying as we do a central position between the south, the Midwest, and New England (almost as if we were some sort of "keystone state.")

[However: that was "TSR." "TSR," Norm, not "TRS." Classic role-playing games, not classic computers.]

@Kibitzer: Thanks so much, Graeme; that really means a lot to me. Let me say in turn that I sorely miss your golden tones each week on Cast of Wonders. (For those not in the know: Graeme resigned from his job narrating my stories at Cast of Wonders and took a job rejecting them at PodCastle. A lateral move, in my estimation; easier on the larynx, but harder on the karma.) I recommend his reading of my "Same-Day Delivery" when/if Cast of Wonders gets their archives back up. Such is the power of Graeme's voice that, should I ever write another story about that character (a drug-smuggling wizard), he is now canonically Australian, as I cannot separate Graeme's interpretation from my own.

@Waveharp/Algernon Sydney: I do think that a logical, thoughtful Christian (or Catholic, anyway, which is all I can really speak for personally) could easily come to believe in multiple gods. (Many people seem to find the idea upsetting, if not blasphemous, especially if they can't tell the difference between "God" and "god," or between "belief" and "worship.") If one believes in angels (by which I mean powerful supernatural creatures, not the "recycled human souls" of It's a Wonderful Life or Highway to Heaven), it's not much of a leap to suggest that their fallen brethren might act as gods in order to stir up trouble on Earth (Baal, Moloch, etc.--I think Milton alludes to this possibility in Paradise Lost).

I just saw a set of guidelines for a Lovecraftian anthology that described the milieu as "a functionally atheist universe." I'm not so sure. At any rate, I certainly didn't intend to suggest that the return of the Great Old Ones supplants the binary God/Satan model, or that Smith's Catholic faith is misplaced. Granted, the disappearance of the prayers from Smith's memory may be a sign of the Old Ones' total victory; but then, it might also be God forsaking him for succumbing to evil. I'm still not sure.

@SpareInch: I have both The X Factor and Virtual XI (I'm a completist). They're not terrible; they're just not Maiden. Brave New World was like putting on a favorite shirt.

Random Observation. I'm genuinely surprised that nobody has asked which female Supreme Court Justice I believe is secretly a minion of Cthulhu. (Answer: none in particular, I just thought it was amusing.)

Random glimpses of how the sausage is made:

    Although I have always managed to resist it, I'm often tempted to write myself into a story, including giving the character the same name as me. I very nearly did that here, until I thought of Penrod's "Obama-as-pen-name" joke, which requires an ordinary name in order to be funny, and thus Desmond made his exit and "Bob Smith" was born.

    Old man Latshaw was originally meant to be alive, albeit housebound and dependent on the kindness of Bob Smith to bring him food, water, and firewood. He was going to pass away the same morning that Rich Hartzell departs Maple Hollow Road and Penrod arrives. As the nature of the fall of mankind (shoggoth invasion) and Smith and Hartzell's survival thereof (many many bullets, followed by amnesia) took shape, it was increasingly difficult to logically include an invalid in the action, so I gave up and bumped him off a year prior to the story. Strictly speaking, the old fellow should have been excised entirely for economy's sake, but I wanted to keep Hartzell's oxygen joke in there.

    There were a lot of details that fell outside the scope of the story. A lot of Smith's day would be spent in the drudgery of stocking up on firewood (if he's smart). His plumbing no longer functions, but he's surely going to the bathroom somewhere. And we never really find out if what's happened in the US has happened all over the world. (It has; thus it seems likely that Penrod isn't as highly-placed in the cult's hierarchy as he wants Smith to believe--he's essentially the Mid-Atlantic Regional Marketing Manager). I bring up that last point in order to bring up this point: as I was writing, I realized that if this great river of humanity was just the stragglers, some of them might have come from as far away as New England, or even Canada. Hypnotized or not, nobody's surviving that march without sustenance. I tried to think of the weirdest way to resolve the issue--hence the shoggoth vomit. This is what we writers call "turning a problem into an opportunity." It seems to have worked; I got a lot of feedback on that detail.

Apologies for the verbosity. Norm knows all about it; he asked for a 4000-word story and I gave him 5500.

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Re: Drabblecast 337 - The Only Game in Town

Postby Algernon Sydney is Dead » Thu Oct 30, 2014 11:15 pm

Thanks, Desmond! Nice "Bonus material".

As for the SCOTUS minion of Cthulhu, that's a political hot-button, so some of us refrained. Most Americans cannot name one of the current justices. But those that can have very strong opinions about which judge is serving which deity.

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Re: Drabblecast 337 - The Only Game in Town

Postby tbaker2500 » Fri Oct 31, 2014 2:42 am

Desmond, excellent follow-up! You really help bring a face to the story, which is always a plus.

I think Norm's southern upbringing brought out the Southern Gothic comment. :-)

I think your use of Lovecraft characters and situations, rather than prose style, is one of the reasons this story is so successful. Well done.
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Re: Drabblecast 337 - The Only Game in Town

Postby Kibitzer » Fri Oct 31, 2014 8:40 am

Hey Desmond, thanks for dropping by! It's always awesome when an author posts and yours is full of interesting stuff.

(Sorry about the knockback!)
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Re: Drabblecast 337 - The Only Game in Town

Postby Desmond Warzel » Sun Nov 23, 2014 12:46 am

I'm finding it a little creepy that a month or two after this story ran, this picture started showing up all over my Facebook feed:

Weird. Eerie.

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Re: Drabblecast 337 - The Only Game in Town

Postby Kibitzer » Sun Nov 23, 2014 2:03 am

Geez, that IS weird. Brr.
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