Friday, October 23, 2020

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #68

Art by Joey Jordan
The October Diabolical Plots brings two new short stories with a nice twist of horror, perfect for the season. First up, a transcript of a video channel that’s…not quite right. That shows a certain enthusiasm but not so much a…certain wholesomeness. The second story delves into the horror of shopping, and the horror of shopping culture. It’s a sharp look at consumerism and corruption, and manages a nice creepy atmosphere throughout. Both of the stories mix a bit of spookiness, a healthy dose of strangeness, and enough awkward adorableness amidst pervasive terror that they complement each other well. And if you need more convincing, let’s get to the reviews!


“A Complete Transcript of [REDACTED]’s Video Channel, In Order of Upload” by Rhiannon Rasmussen (3018 words)

No Spoilers: On the one hand, this story is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a series of transcripts detailing the attempted video blogging exploits of a certain redacted individual. Formally, the videos follow your standard attempts to do something like YouTube. Cooking videos. Unboxings. Home repairs. There’s a sense throughout that this is just like everyone else’s kinda cringe attempts to get into that whole...scene. As the videos progress, though, it becomes more and more clear that what’s getting int he way of this person’s...success with the medium isn’t just an inherent awkwardness and lack of awareness. They have that, tons of it, but the real problem is the other kind of cringe they bring to the party. The cringe of sticking a hand into boiling oil. And harvesting some...questionable mushrooms, to say nothing of the gnocchi. Oh glob the gnocchi. Anyway, it’s a formally interesting and visceral story that still manages to be rather fun and funny, and even a bit endearing.
Keywords: Videos, Cooking, Repairs, Social Media
Review: This story is somehow terrifying and endearing all at once. And it comes so much from the earnest way that the piece builds in this unknown videographer, their attempts at participating in this thing called YouTube (or whatever the Video Channel is). For me, the piece really understands the sort of draw for things like that, the desire to be a part of the experience. Obviously in some ways the feeling that yes, this is all normal, ha, I am just your average human person yes. But also, like, just the sense that this must be a very lonely person, and this attempt is them trying to reach out without really “getting” what it is they’re getting into. They can see it, they can enjoy it, but...but like with The Nightmare Before Christmas or similar, the “normal” for the narrator isn’t really the normal that the rest of the viewers experience. And the result is this unsettling, strange, and rather terrifying thing. Something that’s being forced to some extent but not out of any attempt to deceive or infiltrate. Rather, it’s being forced in the way an introvert has to force themself to do something like this. They’re awkward and have a hard time speaking and they know that they aren’t viewed as normal. They’re sensitive about it, even as they’re stubbornly trying to Make This Work and I love them a bit for that, for the way that they don’t give up even when things go wrong every time. It’s hard not to root for the narrator, even as there’s the sense that there’s something going on behind the scenes...that they themself might be slightly sinister, without ever intending to be. That the different way they view the world might hold larger and more grim implications than just the real identity of the “organic gnocchi.” Whatever the case, though, I love how the piece blends a kind of comedy and horror, hitting all the right marks and really selling the format, the voice of the narrator, all of it. It’s a brilliant and innovative work and you should definitely check it out. A perfect story for spoopy season!

“Are You Being Severed?” by Rhys Hughes (2887 words)

No Spoilers: Mr. Plum just wanted a kettle to crew something to drink to keep him going while getting through a difficult book. But after getting off on the wrong floor of a department store, he finds himself surrounded by guillotines instead, which is definitely not what he wants. Worse, a sales associate catches him pretending to browse while looking for the exit, which he’s lost track of. The piece is strange and rather creepy, surreal and with a heavy sense of danger. Mr. Plum has wandered into somewhere he is not entirely welcome, and there’s a palpable hunger for his destruction. Is it one he can avoid and frustrate, and even so, what then? The piece isn’t big on answers, but the mood and flow of the piece are interesting, complex, and sharp.
Keywords: Guillotines, Department Stores, Books, Shopping, Salespeople
Review: I love the weird of this story, the way that ending up in the guillotine section of the department store is just humdrum and the way Mr. Plum handles it is rather clever and actually works. Digging into further, I get the sense that the story is making comments on a number of things, not least of which is the specter of capitalism. The action unfolds mainly in a department store that sells guillotines, after all, a kind of sick twist on the idea that those are a tool of revolution, of the masses used to take down the rich and powerful. Here they are a bit snooty, actually, framed as a kind of item that everyone needs, either in the garden or the parlor. These are tools for the affluent, or those who aspire towards affluence, and Mr. Plum is caught, not wanting to admit that he can’t afford one, or doesn’t want one, or isn’t that kind of person. He only has a BA. He lives in an apartment. There’s almost a greater horror for him having to admit his class than that the sales associates seem to want him dead, are positioning him to use one of the products on himself to test it out. And I like that he pretends, that he kinda knows it’s all an act anyway, that the rich don’t try out the guillotines any more than he does. And the sales associates are so dejected when he figures out the game, showing that it’s often more important that you know the steps to the dance than it having money or “class.” Even so, the deception, the evasion, it all takes him away from his goal. In living inauthenticly he ends up losing out what he wanted in the first place. He escapes, but he is lessened all the same by this participation in this, and the ending is far from a celebration or triumph. Which for me points to how these things work, how in this system, even escape is not freedom, survival is not freedom, because it’s waiting there, always, taking from you, always. It comes how with you, sits on your counter where you wanted something else, and you are not free. And it’s a fun piece even with the rather grim (I feel at least) messaging, charming and strange and very much worth spending some time with. A great read!


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