Friday, January 21, 2011

Set Down This

Short Story by Lavie Tidhar
Read for PseudoPod by Elan Ressel

A man watches Youtube videos of war on his brother's computer. His brother seems to enjoy watching a lot of explosions and people dying and some bits of toilet humor. As he watches, he makes up little stories about two of the random people in the videos. A poor Iraqi man who gets killed, and an American soldier who says "Dude," in the background. The more he thinks about the fictional people he imagines these two to be, the more they sort of haunt him.

This is a modern, almost entirely plotless story. There isn't much narrative beyond watching of the videos, it is all in the internal dialog and how our point-of-view character thinks about the war and violence. An interesting aspect is that our main character seems to see what big balls of shit we create for ourselves (to steal his dung beetle metaphor), while his non-present brother just enjoys watching violence as much as funny videos.

The story here is essentially all social commentary about enjoyment of watching violence, not just how we're desensitized, but how we don't connect with the human beings in these sorts of videos. I think the narrator is sort of snapping towards the end, and the implication is that that might be the correct response to witnessing these sorts of things. The horror of the story lies in why we don't. This will only fit some people's loose definitions of horror, but I'm okay with it, and quite glad PseudoPod took this risk. That said, the dung beetle doesn't do enough for me, and there just really isn't enough to this, despite how much it makes you think, it isn't really more than some other, more interesting stories might. 3.5 out of 5.

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