Escape Artists

Escape Pod => Episode Comments => Topic started by: Russell Nash on September 24, 2009, 09:51:27 AM



Title: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Russell Nash on September 24, 2009, 09:51:27 AM
EP217: The Kindness of Strangers (http://escapepod.org/2009/09/24/ep217-the-kindness-of-strangers/)

By Nancy Kress (http://www.sff.net/people/nankress/).
Read by Kate Baker (http://anaedream.com/).

When morning finally dawns, Rochester isn’t there anymore.

Jenny stands beside Eric, gazing south from the rising ground that yesterday was a fallow field. Maybe the whole city hasn’t vanished. Certainly the tall buildings are gone, Xerox Square and Lincoln Tower and the few others that just last night poked above the horizon, touched by the red fire of the setting September sun. But, unlike Denver or Tokyo or Seattle, Rochester, New York sits – sat – on flat ground and there’s no point from which the whole city could be seen at once. And it was such a small city.

“Maybe they only took downtown,” Jenny says to Eric, “and Penfield is still there or Gates or Brighton…”


Rated R for sexual situations and alien-caused genocide.


(http://escapepod.org/wp-images/podcast-mini4.gif)
Listen to this week’s Escape Pod! (http://media.rawvoice.com/escapepod/media.libsyn.com/media/escapepod/EP217_KindnessofStrangers.mp3)


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: yicheng on September 24, 2009, 04:05:21 PM
Wow, another great story.  I found the plot creative and innovative.  The people portrayed were a well-coordinated balance of human vulnerabilities and virtues, that one rarely fines in Scifi.  I'm reminded of Bruce Sterling's work for how this story focuses on the obstacles and trevails of the characters rather than epic sweeping plots.  Somehow I kept on thinking the aliens would eventually reveal that they actually transported all those people in the cities to another planet.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: monkeystuff on September 24, 2009, 08:17:06 PM
Glad to see another great story this week.  I too kept thinking that the aliens would eventually reveal that they transported the people to some where else that was habitable, but no, they committed mass genocide with good intentions. 

The aliens seemed to be peaceful and wanted to help the humans out, though they never asked humanity weather or not they wanted the planet's population to be downsized.  The law of nature is survival of the fittest and its not always nice to think of humans as not being the fittest.  On this planet we are, but when you throw in the rest of the universe, chances are we are not the fittest.   It is a scary thought to not be on the top of the food chain.  But in this story the beings that are on the top of the food chain are at least good willed.   I know that doesn't justify their actions but, they could have been a lot worse. 

Really the aliens treated us how we treat the animals on the planet, we have no problem hunting and killing them, but once a species starts to become endangered we get all sappy and protect them.   We are so humane... (sigh)  The aliens weren't too different from us.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Brave Space Monkey on September 24, 2009, 08:42:54 PM
Gawd! This story just dragged on. My compassion for Jenny quickly turned to malice.  This is a story of self inflicted dread, and a passive death of the depressed.  I can't stand people like this in real life and even more so when I'm in their fictional little heads.








And to answer the close out question - Yes humans are assholes. The larger the group of humans the more the asshole.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: tynlamzic on September 25, 2009, 03:01:59 AM
I was moved to comment by this episode, for the first time in two years of listening to Escape Pod.

I found the main character to be self-centered to an unpalatable degree, and although I appreciate that this is a realistic portrayal of many people, an entirely unsympathetic and unredeemed protagonist makes for an unengaging story, I feel.  YMMV.

I also found it difficult to swallow that for such an extended period no-one except the main character sought any dialogue with the aliens to determine their motives, or accepted their offers of food.  It's not borne out by examining accounts of group dynamics in similar instances (during war, for example): in such a situation, where the outcome is uncertain, there will always be those who almost immediately adapt by engaging with their captors, in order to benefit either themselves individually, or (even if no more than ostensibly) the group as a whole.  Such engagement would be particularly likely in a situation where the motives of the captors are unclear: humans desperately need to know what's going on, and that need often overcomes fear and hostility.

Finally, in respect of the motives of the aliens, it seems to me utterly, inconcievably ludicrous that a highly technologically-advanced species would not at least make contact with the governments of the world to pursue other options than mass-murder - could they simply not just target all industrial complexes, for example?  Or at the very least provide an ultimatum, and work with governments to combat climate change and population growth?  Saying that they "saw things differently" strikes me as hand-waving.

Like I said, YMMV.

Steve


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: melopoiea on September 25, 2009, 11:07:11 AM
Jenny's self-pity, and her pity for immature and selfish Eric do not make this one a winner. Her caretaking of a guy who only cares about himself and his genetics, not the women who service him in various ways, is totally 1950s.

The sf wrapping doesn't seem to matter. Any disaster situation which put people into similar circumstances would do.

And the author's handling of class here makes me sick....

It may be technically well-written, but this is definitely not my kind of story.
Then again, I didn't like "Erdmann Nexus" either, although I found its characters much more sympathetic.

I'm sure it has been said before, but I never like the sound effects in the intros, or the lame humor. I understand that Norm means well, and his voice is expressive and excellently recorded. Its just the staginess that is an abrupt change. I don't mind having another host. But such an extreme style change in the intros is offputting.



Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: cercle on September 25, 2009, 01:47:27 PM
This story was a real let down for me.  The characters could not carry the day and there was, quite simply, no story.  I got so annoyed at the endless reading of city names that I stopped listening.  I shouldn't have bothered listening in again.  The alien plastering "message" all over the ending kind of made me cringe.  I don't mind message, quite the contrary, but in this case the events were so incredulous and the tone of the tale so heavy handed and serious that, well : cringe.  Bottom like : not a winner.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Kanasta on September 25, 2009, 03:06:15 PM
The concept could make an interesting book - I always like a post-apocalyptic survivor story- but most of the story was just dull. An uninvolving, unpassionate romance, unsympathetic characters, trailer trash stereotypes..nah. I did turn it off halfway through but I wanted to know if we would ever find out more about the aliens so I turned it back on, internally growling "I don't care about the sappy narrator's feelings toward useless Eric, give me more ALIENS". Oh, the mundanity.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: stePH on September 25, 2009, 04:04:06 PM
I believe that most if not all of the world's problems have population as a root cause, but eradicating entire populations is not something I can condone.  It's the kind of thinking that led Ozymandias to destroy half of New York City in Watchmen (and in the movie, several cities.)  Found it interesting that Norm mentioned Ozymandias in his outro, although in another context.

Agree that it's hard to believe Jenny was the first to go to the aliens and ask why they did what they did.

Still not a fan of Norm as a host.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: KenK on September 25, 2009, 06:30:16 PM
A pretty good story with some real insight into human psychology; No matter how benevolent the motives or how nice the gilded cages the nanny-staters build for those uppity atavistic humans they just don't seem to appreciate it. Go figure?  ::)



Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: monkeystuff on September 25, 2009, 09:38:53 PM
I understand that Norm means well, and his voice is expressive and excellently recorded. Its just the staginess that is an abrupt change. I don't mind having another host. But such an extreme style change in the intros is offputting.



It is an abrupt change, I sure do agree with that and it will take a bit for me to get used to him.  I do like Steve more, tho Norm ain't too bad.   He was speaking truth when he talked about losing a sexy teacher and getting some freak.  because when all is said and done, will you have benefited from listening to these episodes?

Norms attempted humorous intro to the last episode "boyfriend" caught me by surprise and I wondered how much I was really gonna like this guy.  This week I thought he was kinda insightful and funny.  So I'm waiting for more before I formulate my opinion. 


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: goatkeeper on September 25, 2009, 11:38:14 PM
Just a co-host folks, no worries!  From what I understand you'll only have to deal with me on a somewhat consistent basis. 
For what it's worth, I was expecting this week's story (Kress) to be my "hey everyone!" episode, not Boyfriend, which perhaps was a bit guilty of excessive and acute Normisms... (these shows are recorded well in advance, btw.)  Sorry if you were left a bit befuddled.  I'll only say things like "glory hole" in R rated stories, and I'll be Mr. Nice Norm in any others, pwomise.
 
In general, I'll do my best to set the story up well and leave you with a decent-enough taste in your mouth after the show is done. 
I'm not Steve Eley at all.  I love the guy, but if I tried to be him I would fail miserably. 
I'm Norm, and while your criticisms are more than welcome and considered on my part, I am who I am, and that's who I'll continue to be, because that's why I'm here.  Similarly, Escapepod will continue to be what it is: a great frikkin science fiction podcast, and what I say won't change that at all, because-- even though Steve is amazing-- what got us all here is the great science fiction, right?
However,...

That said, I also don't want to detract from the effectiveness of Escapepod as a whole.  Gimme a lil time, and if my style begins to rub most people the wrong way, then I'm not too stubborn to tone it down.  Because again, this isn't about me, it's about the stories.

And regarding that, I didn't care for this week's story at all.
Melopolea sums up my thoughts pretty well-- I was struck and annoyed at how much the main character worried about herself, wallowing in her own self-pity, during such a communal tragedy. Part of me thinks Kress did this on purpose.
Tynlamzic brought up another big thing:  what did this character do to to exempt her from everyone else in contacting the aliens/discovering the truth? Really, it takes a kid's broken leg to open inter-galactic diplomacy?  Then-- no problem-- "I'm an alien, glad someone finally bothered asking! Let me tell you why we had to annihilate most of your population.  Again, thanks for asking, nobody else has."
Finally, like cercle said, the city lists were too much-- almost  comical (hence my parody at the end) and while I too LOVE this type of story (alien invasion/Armageddon) I couldn't bring myself to love this story.  Maybe next time.



Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: monkeystuff on September 26, 2009, 12:00:11 AM
this isn't about me, it's about the stories.


the totally awesome stories*


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Swamp on September 26, 2009, 01:34:43 AM
Hey, I put up a new Norm thread (http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?topic=2904.0) so we can talk more about the stories here.

This story was a dud for me, too.  The end was allright, even though it's more "save the human from themselves" schtick.  (Didn't Keanu Reeves try the sell the same thing in a movie this summer?)  But I did like the dicotomy of the alien seeing itself as a benfactor, while the human saw them as slaughterers.  That part was interesting, but it took up a small part of the story. 


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: deflective on September 26, 2009, 02:26:40 AM
i'm gonna spend a lot of time talking about things that went wrong in this episode but, overall, i enjoyed it.  mostly.  maybe the story's negative outlook affected me?

I too kept thinking that the aliens would eventually reveal that they transported the people to some where else that was habitable, but no, they committed mass genocide with good intentions.

i was wondering if i had missed something early in the story where the aliens had made this clear.  its was a pretty obvious hope for people to cling to and when no character did it it seemed wrong.  the cellphones worked remarkably well with large holes torn in the power grid & telephone switching centers.  this, and the way that no one engaged with the aliens, made it hard to suspend disbelief.

but all that is secondary to the central theme of the story.  i kinda wish we could have had all these benevolent invader & war stories five years ago when they would have been more topical (but that would require an alternate timeline where escapepod was already five years old).  when an entire story is an analogy for something it usually works best if the actual topic isn't mentioned so i thought this would have been better if the words refugee camp were never used.  tho that's just personal preference.

as mentioned previously, the lists of city names did not translate well to audio.  what would have been a couple seconds of semi-interested skimming is drawn out to half a minute of pointless recitation.

anthropologists are well aware that different sized groups of people organize themselves differently. (http://www.vanderbilt.edu/AnS/Anthro/Anth101/bandtribechief.jpg)  that the aliens kept groups of people captive instead of just observing smaller isolated communities seems pretty bizarre.

as to Norm and hosting, this longtime drabblecast listener has no problem adapting but there is one request that i would make.  escapepod has been more story centered than the drabblecast and a big part of that is a tight intro.  two minutes is about right, definitely aim for under three.  the outro is time for the host to shine, i look forward to an extra opportunity to squeeze the Sherman every week.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: KenK on September 26, 2009, 09:13:36 AM
The "kindness" shown here is akin to the kindness shown by Stalin in ridding Russia of the Kulaks (cuz they were social parasites) and Pol Pot and Mao Zedong and other recent attempts to liquidate large groups of people for strictly benevolent and utilitarian reasons. It's hard for me to see how this advanced culture can be so  morally obtuse in this way. Once you get beyond the details and personalities of the characters it makes Kress' story a strange kind of parable about humanity. Maybe that was the point. What the aliens lacked was empathy and wisdom to match their technology. Kinda like us.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Boggled Coriander on September 26, 2009, 09:30:04 AM
I'm normally a Nancy Kress fan, but I have to admit that although I really tried to like this story, it didn't work for me.  The aliens' reasoning at the end made me want to go out and release CO2, club a baby seal, and have lots and lots of procreative sex, just to spite them.  Now I know NK didn't mean for us to agree that what the aliens did was right.  In fact, it felt like they were a big plot device to create this situation where thousands of first-world citizens were reduced to refugee status and forced to interact with each other in the sort of refugee camp environment that we normally see on TV and smugly think to ourselves, "it can't happen to us."  And that story might have worked better if the ending hadn't been focused on the aliens and their motives more than the refugees and their interactions.

As deflective noted, it seemed pretty odd that everyone just assumed that the missing people were dead.  Which turned out to be correct, of course, but still... I remember reading stories (by other authors) where aliens teleport people off the Earth, and without any way of knowing, the people left behind on Earth assume that the vanished ones are still alive... somewhere.  That actually seems more realistic, given human nature.  

Again, I'm normally a big Nancy Kress fan.  This was my least favorite story of hers ever on Escape Pod, but that just means I liked every one of her (many) other stories on EP more than this one.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: jrderego on September 26, 2009, 10:20:22 AM
Just a co-host folks, no worries!  From what I understand you'll only have to deal with me on a somewhat consistent basis. 
For what it's worth, I was expecting this week's story (Kress) to be my "hey everyone!" episode, not Boyfriend, which perhaps was a bit guilty of excessive and acute Normisms... (these shows are recorded well in advance, btw.)  Sorry if you were left a bit befuddled.  I'll only say things like "glory hole" in R rated stories, and I'll be Mr. Nice Norm in any others, pwomise.
 
In general, I'll do my best to set the story up well and leave you with a decent-enough taste in your mouth after the show is done. 
I'm not Steve Eley at all.  I love the guy, but if I tried to be him I would fail miserably. 
I'm Norm, and while your criticisms are more than welcome and considered on my part, I am who I am, and that's who I'll continue to be, because that's why I'm here.  Similarly, Escapepod will continue to be what it is: a great frikkin science fiction podcast, and what I say won't change that at all, because-- even though Steve is amazing-- what got us all here is the great science fiction, right?
However,...

That said, I also don't want to detract from the effectiveness of Escapepod as a whole.  Gimme a lil time, and if my style begins to rub most people the wrong way, then I'm not too stubborn to tone it down.  Because again, this isn't about me, it's about the stories.

And regarding that, I didn't care for this week's story at all.
Melopolea sums up my thoughts pretty well-- I was struck and annoyed at how much the main character worried about herself, wallowing in her own self-pity, during such a communal tragedy. Part of me thinks Kress did this on purpose.
Tynlamzic brought up another big thing:  what did this character do to to exempt her from everyone else in contacting the aliens/discovering the truth? Really, it takes a kid's broken leg to open inter-galactic diplomacy?  Then-- no problem-- "I'm an alien, glad someone finally bothered asking! Let me tell you why we had to annihilate most of your population.  Again, thanks for asking, nobody else has."
Finally, like cercle said, the city lists were too much-- almost  comical (hence my parody at the end) and while I too LOVE this type of story (alien invasion/Armageddon) I couldn't bring myself to love this story.  Maybe next time.



If I was publisher of this podcast, this post would have just caused you to be fired.

You're the host of a big-boy podcast now, Norm. Hosting Escape Pod is like being a maitre d' in a really popular and busy restaurant, even if you don't like everything on the menu personally, you have to make sure everyone who asks knows that your food is the best food ever conceived, cooked, and served. Even if you you don't think it is, even if you have to lie. You're the face. You're the one the audience has to listen to at the beginning and end of the show. You're the Rod Serling, you're the Alfred Hitchcock. You're the salesman.

Also, you want to make sure the authors know they are being presented in the best possible way too. If I was Ms. Kress and I listened to you intro and outro and read this post there is damn little chance I'd consider letting one of my works he handled by someone who doesn't know how to present it at best, and writes about his dislike of it in the forum of the very magazine in which it appears at worst.

Yes, I realize you are not the editor, but as the face of Escape Pod, you have to appear to wear that hat because for the 4 and a half years Steve was publisher, editor, and face of the podcast. And the audience isn't going immediately realize that Jeremy T is buying the stories and you are just presenting them. So your opinion has even more weight than it normally would because you are the one bringing the audience to the opening line of the story.

I don't generally complain in public about markets or stories or personalities that I don't like. But Norm's post, this week's podcast intro and outro, and the overall and apparently permanent hosting changes have made me reconsider my usual quiet nature in this instance.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Bdoomed on September 26, 2009, 02:32:47 PM
just listened last night, and i gotta say i really liked this story.  It had a few holes, and was kind of predictable, but it kept me interested and entertained, and presented a few cool ideas.  I agree with deflective... why couldn't the incredibly intelligent aliens research a little anthropology?

and on the topic of Norm, I personally enjoyed his intro, it made me grin.  sure he's not Steve, but its not like we've completely lost Steve, and Norm was entertaining.

Also, you want to make sure the authors know they are being presented in the best possible way too. If I was Ms. Kress and I listened to you intro and outro and read this post there is damn little chance I'd consider letting one of my works he handled by someone who doesn't know how to present it at best, and writes about his dislike of it in the forum of the very magazine in which it appears at worst.
I completely disagree with you here.
a) everyone is entitled to their opinions
b) before he was co-host, he was part of these forums, discussing each episode as he pleased.  I don't see why he can't do that anymore.  Just because he has taken on more responsibilities does not mean he must be exempt from participating in forum discussion.
c) introducing a story is different from commenting on it in the forums.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: goatkeeper on September 26, 2009, 02:33:54 PM

Yes, I realize you are not the editor, but as the face of Escape Pod, you have to appear to wear that hat because for the 4 and a half years Steve was publisher, editor, and face of the podcast. And the audience isn't going immediately realize that Jeremy T is buying the stories and you are just presenting them. So your opinion has even more weight than it normally would because you are the one bringing the audience to the opening line of the story.


That's a good point and well taken Jeff.  I've been a forum member and poster for years, long before co-hosting anything.  I have always enjoyed trying to give feedback on what I thought worked well or didn't in stories, but I'll leave that to others.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: monkeystuff on September 26, 2009, 02:40:46 PM

Even if you you don't think it is, even if you have to lie. You're the face. You're the one the audience has to listen to at the beginning and end of the show.



a lil harsh man.  he presented the story fine, the forums are to discuss the stories.  And he gave his honest opinion, not during the podcast when every one was trying to hear a story, but when we were all trying to discuss the story on the forums.  doesn't he have the right to discuss the story honestly too?  how can we take some one seriously when they think "omg dun let those lil nuggets of truth spill out we need to lie and pacify the masses"

back on course with this thread, this story was a bit like "the day the world stood still" minus Keanu Reeves.  but think about it, if you were a race of aliens and the decision had already been made to wipe out large chunks of humans for their own good, would you just go ahead and do it, or would you give them warning?  i think giving the humans a warning might be kinda pointless... hard to say though, what do you guys think?


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: jrderego on September 26, 2009, 03:16:42 PM

Even if you you don't think it is, even if you have to lie. You're the face. You're the one the audience has to listen to at the beginning and end of the show.



a lil harsh man.  he presented the story fine, the forums are to discuss the stories.  And he gave his honest opinion, not during the podcast when every one was trying to hear a story, but when we were all trying to discuss the story on the forums.  doesn't he have the right to discuss the story honestly too?  how can we take some one seriously when they think "omg dun let those lil nuggets of truth spill out we need to lie and pacify the masses"


Not harsh, true. His opinion, due to his position as host, is the opinion of Escape Artists Inc, and not Norm Sherman.

Quote
doesn't he have the right to discuss the story honestly too?

Not as host of the show he doesn't.

It's not a question of how can we take some one seriously when they think "omg dun let those lil nuggets of truth spill out we need to lie and pacify the masses".

It's basic marketing. You don't talk smack about your product. If you don't like a particular story, suck it up and shut up, or quit and complain that the story wasn't for you. Otherwise it's like the maitre d' saying "Welcome to Chez Whatever. Tonight's special is Tuscan Chicken... but it's not very good." Even after the fact you can't say that.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: jrderego on September 26, 2009, 03:17:55 PM

Yes, I realize you are not the editor, but as the face of Escape Pod, you have to appear to wear that hat because for the 4 and a half years Steve was publisher, editor, and face of the podcast. And the audience isn't going immediately realize that Jeremy T is buying the stories and you are just presenting them. So your opinion has even more weight than it normally would because you are the one bringing the audience to the opening line of the story.


That's a good point and well taken Jeff.  I've been a forum member and poster for years, long before co-hosting anything.  I have always enjoyed trying to give feedback on what I thought worked well or didn't in stories, but I'll leave that to others.

You'll grow into the job Norm, I have no worries about that.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: jrderego on September 26, 2009, 03:29:22 PM
just listened last night, and i gotta say i really liked this story.  It had a few holes, and was kind of predictable, but it kept me interested and entertained, and presented a few cool ideas.  I agree with deflective... why couldn't the incredibly intelligent aliens research a little anthropology?

and on the topic of Norm, I personally enjoyed his intro, it made me grin.  sure he's not Steve, but its not like we've completely lost Steve, and Norm was entertaining.

Also, you want to make sure the authors know they are being presented in the best possible way too. If I was Ms. Kress and I listened to you intro and outro and read this post there is damn little chance I'd consider letting one of my works he handled by someone who doesn't know how to present it at best, and writes about his dislike of it in the forum of the very magazine in which it appears at worst.
I completely disagree with you here.
a) everyone is entitled to their opinions
b) before he was co-host, he was part of these forums, discussing each episode as he pleased.  I don't see why he can't do that anymore.  Just because he has taken on more responsibilities does not mean he must be exempt from participating in forum discussion.
c) introducing a story is different from commenting on it in the forums.

One at a time now...

a) "Everyone is entitled to their opinion" No. Everyone is entitled to an informed opinion. Everything else is just a duck fart in a windstorm. As host of the show, the host's job is to reflect the opinion of Escape Artists Incorporated. Even in his "off time" in the forums.
b) "before he was co-host, he was part of these forums, discussing each episode as he pleased..." And now he's host. That comes with responsibilities not present as a forum poster. Responsibilities to maintain and support the brand identity.
c) "introducing a story is different from commenting on it in the forums." Not when there's a link on the story that says "discuss it in our forums" that links to the host saying he didn't like it.

I'm an author. I sell stuff to this market. If I sell a Union Dues story here and in the forum the host says "you know, that Union Dues story was lame. Not my cup of tea. I'd rather have introd something else... But what are you going to do?" There is damn little chance I'll ever submit again.

It's not that my ego is so fragile that I can't take criticism, but I count on the publishing credits here to help me land stories in other places. If an editor at Asimov's comes here and sees the host talking shit about my story, he or she might be less inclined to buy whatever I submitted to them because of that comment. It's the same as if the editor as Asimov's published a story of mine, then next month published an editorial saying he didn't like the stories he published in the last issue.

The host is the stand-in for the editor, he is the face of the podcast (or half of it) and if we expect Escape Pod to offer the best science fiction on Earth in Podcast form the host can't say that this week's story isn't the best science fiction in the forum.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: monkeystuff on September 26, 2009, 03:42:06 PM
zzzzz.... go to the norm thread


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: WBB46 on September 26, 2009, 05:10:16 PM
A successful dystopian story line with a self-centered Jenny as main protagonist -- but her transformation was well crafted. The most abidingly irritating problem with the narrator was her mispronunciation of world city place names -- I know this is rarely a problem for US residents, but for the rest of the world it's a real turn-off.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Kate_Baker on September 26, 2009, 05:59:42 PM
*smiles*

It's very interesting to come here after I've narrated (my second time now) and see what the "regulars" have to say. A sincere thanks to the people who were able to digest the reading and story as a whole and come out with an educated opinion.

I also completely understand about the complaints with the city names. The only thing I can offer is that I tried my best. I actually looked up pronunciation on some of them, but alas, this "American" probably did murder some of the inflections. It was also very hard to find audio pronunciations as well. Google searches and dictionary searches only yield so much. So my apologies to those who I may have offended.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Portrait in Flesh on September 26, 2009, 06:02:20 PM
I'm depressed enough in my own life; reading about Jenny's self-pitying was almost more than I could take right now.  It's like the end of the world paled to the end of her affair. 



Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: MacArthurBug on September 26, 2009, 07:12:46 PM
There were parts of this story that were fantastic. I liked the ideas behind it. I even enjoyed Jennys selfishness. After all WE're all guilty of being selfish at least once. It's as if we stumbled into Jennys life at a REALLY selfish moment. My quibbles with the tale come in at it's dragging on in spots- the narrator didn't really play up the drama of a few points- though it was well enough read. This story would have been slightly better with a more dramatic voice perhaps.

Norm, man  I dig you, you seem like a realy cool guy. Here's hoping you ease in a little. I've gotta agree with the masses (and I LIKE listening to your odd banter). You came off more as creepy uncle then weird ham smelling teacher.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Bdoomed on September 26, 2009, 07:35:32 PM
i totally forgot to say how much i loved the reading! :P


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: ajames on September 27, 2009, 07:32:23 AM
Reading: very good

Story: I did enjoy the psychological elements - Jenny wasn't that sympathetic of a character but I was still engaged by her P.O.V. and the story. Nancy Kress has tackled some intriguing topics and either she and I disagree very strongly on some of them, or she is willing to present the views of her characters and how they impact the world around them without framing the story so that her own point of view is clearly the superior one. I would like to think it is the latter.

The alien plot-line, as others have noted, was very weak. Even assuming that the aliens got to our part of the world a bit too late to intervene with less drastic measures, and assuming that engaging with us prior to intervention would have caused more harm than good (world-wide panic?) or some such, disintegration of entire cities seems an incredibly inept way for such an advanced race to handle the situation. And the "experiment" at the end was very lame. Let's kill millions, perhaps billions of sentient beings, and THEN do some experiments about how they work together in groups.

Co-host: looking forward to hearing more from Norm.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Strawman on September 27, 2009, 07:57:45 AM
http://gardenstreet.org/drabblecastarchive/Bbardles/files/Scifihigh.mp3

Norm's just trying to survive as a transfer student at Sci Fi High


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: caid on September 27, 2009, 10:47:24 AM
All in all an enjoyable hour for me. I liked the story, better than 215 and 216, but less than 214, which I think was one of the better stories in a while on EP. Double tentacles up for Norm as co-host. I must say that while Steve Eley got me back into Sci-fi (my hat of to you Sir once again), the likes of Norm are keeping me here.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: ILikeMostCheeses on September 27, 2009, 01:36:32 PM
I thought it was a great story. I didn't compare it to anything; it's fantasy. The story had great pacing, a plausible back story (the affair) and a decent build up. I actually came here to say that this story, Boyfriend, and that long story about people having to wear masks a few episodes ago were brilliant!
And I think Norm is great, a very welcome addition to the Escape ARtists. Even Steve Ely himself said once that he greatly coveted Norm's Drabblecast show. Welcome, Norm, hope to hear you often!


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: ancawonka on September 27, 2009, 03:30:25 PM
This story felt to me like Nancy Kress broke up with her boyfriend, and had to write a fantasy about aliens blowing up the world to feel better about it.  She created some really good characterizations about unpleasant people that didn't really leave me feeling like humanity has a future in this world. 




 


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Praxis on September 27, 2009, 05:04:21 PM
There was certainly a lot going on in this story.

Overall, though, was this about the (after) effects of a devastating alien attack and loss of lives and homes, or was it about why these things had happened.
So much of the story was focussed on characters trying to find a way to survive that I'd mostly say it was about that.  But then that ending with the pat message from the alien saying basically, 'We know best and this is necessary, you humans don't know how to live responsibly'

Really?  The 'best' option is not just to obliterate most of the human beings but also to completely remove/destroy pretty much all the cities, infrastructure, libraries, laboratories, precious and semi-precious metals, tools, calibration equipment, refined chemicals, books, hospitals for pete's sake, observatories, plumbing, water and waste refineries and processing plants, contact lenses, pacemakers,...........

But at least there are less people now.  Granted they have naff all to help them survive (apart from creepy hologram robots offering breakfast) but, hey ho, we will thank the aliens in the future apparently.

I honestly didn't buy it (the message) at all and think the story would have been more enjoyable and provoking if the reasons had been left for the reader/listener to imagine.
The only I bought less than the idea that this really could be an informed, evolved way for a species to act towards us was the possibility that the remnants of the human race would ever be able to forgive them, let alone accept that this was The Solution, let alone actually thank the alien mass murderers.

Maybe I missed something.

Oh, and the reading was very good, too.  Shame about the story but good reading.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: kool420deathstar on September 27, 2009, 08:35:59 PM
This new guy does really good intros, Steve Ealy is a really cool guy, from what I've heard of him but this new guy is awesome, sick, twisted, and makes me feel like I've come home again to escape pod.

Nancy Cress and others keep cranking them out! Its discouraging for me as a writer who has complested nothing but so very exciting to find another great story bu Cress and her contemporaries. keep it up guys we love you!


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: TripleAught on September 27, 2009, 10:38:39 PM
I just finished listening to this story and my take is similar to what's already been said.

I thought that the characterization of Jenny was good, unabashed in the portrayal of her self-absorbency. Focused on her affair rather than the larger chaos happening around her.

I enjoyed the story right up until the ending. The motivations for the aliens seem muddled. At once claiming to be benevolent and at the same time indifferent. The aliens said they were doing this for the good of humankind and that the race would thank them in a few generations. But I didn't get the sense that they would care about gratitude in four generations.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Ace Cook on September 28, 2009, 03:58:00 AM
I've been enjoying Escape Pod for a while now but the recent story with the daily changing of the masks has really got me hooked. 'Boyfriend' was a little muddled but a good premise and quite enjoyable but this episode really felt like Manhattan Transfer as rewritten by an emo 16 year old.

It started off great and I loved the reading (didn't mind the mispronunciation of the place names and I actually did think while listening that finding out that kind of thing would be pretty difficult) but it just seemed to have no direction, and I didn't feel that the behaviour of the people within the camp was as diverse as it probably would have been in real life.

As for other points brought up here : I commented on Norm elsewhere.  ;)


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: KenK on September 28, 2009, 08:51:07 AM
Sheesh. If the intros and outros bother people so much they can use the arrow buttons on the player to buzz past them. I do it all the time. (At EP and other sites too btw.) Seems like an easy work around to me. To me the main issue is the story and the presentation.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Doom xombie on September 28, 2009, 11:38:41 AM
Separate thread for The Norm Controversy?
Oh and norm I have an idea. Make a sep. account for you opinions BUT don't tell anyone that its your account. Sure someone might look at ip addresses or whatever but thats their nosy problem.


Disliked the characters too much to enjoy the story


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Swamp on September 28, 2009, 11:47:30 AM
Separate thread for The Norm Controversy?

Already made it, here (http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?topic=2904.0;all).  Some people didn't take the hint.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: alllie on September 28, 2009, 12:58:16 PM
Are people nicer in small groups? Anyone who thinks that never lived in a small town. Are they more cooperative in small groups? Well, they tend to know their neighbors and follow the rituals of their culture. In the city those that don't conform can lose themselves in the crowds of people but in small groups those that don't conform will be ostracized or attacked.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: El Barto on September 28, 2009, 12:59:15 PM
Nancy's stories are hit or miss for me.  I liked the Erdmann Nexus and Act One but felt the opposite about Unintended Behavior, Endgame, and Safeguard.  

This one was right in the middle for me because I loved the concept but didn't like the execution.  In particular I was perplexed that no one was questioning what happened to the cities.  My first thought was that the aliens were transporting cities off the Earth one at a time, and that everyone was fine.   Shooting a weapon at an alien that just made a city disappear seems reckless to say the least.

And having cell phones work in the aftermath was beyond ridiculous.  If you take out a dozen buildings across the U.S. the whole network will go down.

One thing this story did do well was get me thinking about how we are collectively doing so far as a species, and whether we are ready for space travel or meeting another species.  My answer to both questions is "hell no."  I give us a D+ overall as a species and I worry that things are going to get worse for many people before we (hopefully) get our shit together and start exploring out there.





Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: KenK on September 28, 2009, 01:28:09 PM
Are people nicer in small groups? Anyone who thinks that never lived in a small town. Are they more cooperative in small groups? Well, they tend to know their neighbors and follow the rituals of their culture. In the city those that don't conform can lose themselves in the crowds of people but in small groups those that don't conform will be ostracized or attacked.


I've lived in some smaller American cities Seattle (500k) and Ann Arbor (130k) and I've found that  people are people (good, bad and indifferent) where ever they happen to be. And because they do happen to "know each others business" more than in large cities they're less likely to see opponents as the dreaded "other". The aggregate of people in Kress' story resemble a refugee camp more than an intentional community.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Gia on September 28, 2009, 07:56:14 PM
Norm smells like Ham? All my dreams have come true!

I had two thoughts when the alien explained how they killed billions of people to save us from global warming without bothering to tell us. The first was "Kill it, Jenny. Kill it! . . . and Eric. Kill the alien and Eric." Seriously, the story would have been just fine, if not better, without Eric. My second thought was "How come advanced races never do anything useful?" They have vast amounts of knowledge and yet they can't help us grow more food and build space colonies. God forbid they take a few years out of their busy, planet-destroying schedules. It's not just this story. It's every story with advanced aliens. They either want to overtly destroy us or they're so darn superior that they need to save us in a way that is totally contrary to what everybody wants. As human beings have gotten more advanced, in many places there has been a push to respect other cultures, but aliens seem to be incapable of doing this. In Star Trek the prime directive existed so that Kirk could ignore it. In the rest of fiction, there is no prime directive and aliens just meddle as they please.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: monkeystuff on September 28, 2009, 11:27:19 PM
Shooting a weapon at an alien that just made a city disappear seems reckless to say the least

I just had to quote you, I don't think I could have said it better myself.


Also, just a thought about the aliens... What if they were VERY old, or time passed differently for them, and they just don't see humans as all that significant, maybe that could be behind some of the reasoning of thinking that its a good idea to wipe out so many people.  I'm not justifying their actions, just using my imagination to try to figure out why such an intelligent race (assuming they are intelligent) would commit mass genocide.  Maybe the i'm just looking too deep into the plot flaws of this story...  /shrug


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: alllie on September 29, 2009, 07:02:57 AM
Seems to me if the aliens were that advanced they could just have sterilized 90% of everyone without killing them.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Doom xombie on September 29, 2009, 09:04:45 AM
Seems to me if the aliens were that advanced they could just have sterilized 90% of everyone without killing them.

How would that help?


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: stePH on September 29, 2009, 09:10:49 AM
Seems to me if the aliens were that advanced they could just have sterilized 90% of everyone without killing them.

How would that help?
Fewer people born means fewer consuming resources.  Then as the older ones die off, we get the much-needed reduction in population.

I'm not sure if that's the reason the "Combine" suppressed human reproduction in the backstory to Half-Life 2- ... but I can't figure out what the frak is going on in that game anyway.  I just pushed through it until I got to the end.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Ben Phillips on September 29, 2009, 03:08:55 PM
She created some really good characterizations about unpleasant people that didn't really leave me feeling like humanity has a future in this world. 

Perfectly valid.

This story felt to me like Nancy Kress broke up with her boyfriend, and had to write a fantasy about aliens blowing up the world to feel better about it.

Let's all avoid engaging in demeaning speculative biography about each other, please.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Strawman on September 29, 2009, 04:14:38 PM
but aliens seem to be incapable of doing this. In Star Trek the prime directive existed so that Kirk could ignore it. In the rest of fiction, there is no prime directive and aliens just meddle as they please.

Spoken like a typical earthling... soooo superior. That is why the universe hates you.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Sgarre1 on September 29, 2009, 04:42:02 PM
Quote
My second thought was "How come advanced races never do anything useful?" They have vast amounts of knowledge and yet they can't help us grow more food and build space colonies. God forbid they take a few years out of their busy, planet-destroying schedules. It's not just this story. It's every story with advanced aliens. They either want to overtly destroy us or they're so darn superior that they need to save us in a way that is totally contrary to what everybody wants. As human beings have gotten more advanced, in many places there has been a push to respect other cultures, but aliens seem to be incapable of doing this. In Star Trek the prime directive existed so that Kirk could ignore it. In the rest of fiction, there is no prime directive and aliens just meddle as they please.

The Kanamits seem to be doing all right by us.  Cured world hunger, ended war.  Plus, those cushy trips to their wonderful home planet...

Dear Mr. Chambers

Re: Kanamit document decoding, please find enclosed most recently translated words/phrases:
'succulent',
'tenderizer',
'rotisserie',
'until fork emerges clean'
'baste'
'fall off the bone'

Hope you enjoy your trip.  I may see you off at the launch pad.  We're very close to cracking the whole thing!

Your secretary
Pam Roberts  x0x0x0x0


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Prank Call of Cthulhu on September 29, 2009, 04:50:34 PM
I didn't care for this story. For me, it encapsulates what too often happens in science fiction written by women. (Yes I paint with a broad brush, but notice I say "often," not always.) The story seemed to be about 40 minutes of listening to an emotionally crippled character drone on and on about her feelings, and then at the end a couple of minutes were tacked on to wrap up the "plot," such as it was. I kept thinking as I listened to it that a more interesting story would have been told from the viewpoint of the men digging the tunnels and plotting an assault on the aliens. They were actually reacting to the situation and trying to solve the problem, while the narrator just existed to moon over her unhappy love affair to little purpose.

It was like taking one of Grace Paley's whinier stories and shoehorning it into a framework of aliens and forcefields just so it could get the sci-fi stamp.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Listener on September 29, 2009, 06:33:20 PM
This story felt to me like Nancy Kress broke up with her boyfriend, and had to write a fantasy about aliens blowing up the world to feel better about it. 

Don't knock it. After a HUGE fight with my wife I wrote a novella about fighting with one's wife. Haven't published it yet but I really enjoyed writing it because, unlike the fight, it actually had a happy ending. Writing can be really theraputic.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Listener on September 29, 2009, 06:35:45 PM
Are people nicer in small groups? Anyone who thinks that never lived in a small town. Are they more cooperative in small groups? Well, they tend to know their neighbors and follow the rituals of their culture. In the city those that don't conform can lose themselves in the crowds of people but in small groups those that don't conform will be ostracized or attacked.


I think they're either REALLY nice or REALLY insular, in small groups. In my neighborhood, I know about 40% of my neighbors on sight, but I only talk to 2% (there are 50 houses in the neighborhood). No one's made an effort to get to know my family, and honestly I haven't tried much to reach out either. It goes both ways, something that Jenny didn't figure out when Caitlyn (the grandmother; I forget her name) brought her into her circle.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Listener on September 29, 2009, 06:40:29 PM
Most everything's been said already, so I'll say it briefly:

1. Story was too long and dragged in the middle with all the self-absorbed depression.

2. Jenny was a great lens to view the invasion through. Agree that it was great how self-absorbed she was while the world fell apart.

3. Reading was good for the character, though after a while it got a little tiring to listen to because of the character.

4. Captain Imanalien Exposition at the end dragged somewhat as well, though Jenny's righteous anger -- not something you expect out of a sci-fi fan -- made up for it a bit.

I didn't like the story, but it was a good story.

Agree that the outro was a TAD long, but *shrug* my iPhone has a 2x speed button, and if I feel bored I can always press it.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: MacArthurBug on September 29, 2009, 09:26:55 PM
This story felt to me like Nancy Kress broke up with her boyfriend, and had to write a fantasy about aliens blowing up the world to feel better about it. 

Don't knock it. After a HUGE fight with my wife I wrote a novella about fighting with one's wife. Haven't published it yet but I really enjoyed writing it because, unlike the fight, it actually had a happy ending. Writing can be really theraputic.


OOOH I do this too. My most used threat is "Be good or I'll torture/kill you in my next story."


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: wongman2001 on September 30, 2009, 12:20:02 PM
Love the plot, but WAY too long for its purpose.   I can skip over 75% of it without missing anything.
Short attention span or not, I was not prepare for a hour of derived "Childhood's End"


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: l33tminion on September 30, 2009, 08:06:49 PM
Sometimes the only way to cope with disaster is to angst about your more mundane relationship problems.

Good story.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Joaquin Escudero Jr on October 01, 2009, 05:28:01 AM
I have to admit I wasn't sure what to think of the story when I first heard it, not because it wasn't a good selection by the EP team I've yet to find a story whose merits I couldn't agree with, but it was more the large amount of ideas that blasted into my head after hearing it. Let me first point out that at the tender age of 26, I have no plans for children in the near future but often wonder as to the caliber of parent that I will become when that moment comes, this story brought up several issues in me about the choices my parents made while they were raising me. Often making choices about my future without first stopping to consider that though young I was another human being capable of forming my own opinions about the way my life should go.

 

I think ultimately that's the mark of a great story, one that leaves you pondering long after you've put the book, or in this this case your headphones down. I did feel that the pace of the story was a little on the slow side, about half way through the story I found myself thinking to myself, "Somebody give this woman a my chemical romance album and a razor blade stat!" The woe is me aspect of the main character was at first endearing, we all have those moments in life where we feel like the cosmos is out to mess with us in every way possible, but she quickly turned into the type of person that merely sulks about the injustices that the universe has laid upon her without realizing that she's not the only one suffering.

Aside from that, I thought that the story overall a great listen, the narration was superb as always.



Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: eytanz on October 02, 2009, 10:45:09 AM
I'm with the negative side on this - I didn't think this was a terrible story, I just think it was overwrought, and unbalanced. The hook - a global crisis from the perspective of someone who is more caught up in their personal affairs - was interesting, but, as others have pointed out on the thread, the story ended up feeling more like two stories (Jenny's relationship problems + aliens) meshed together, not like one story with two strands.

On the less evaluative  and more practical side of criticsm, I'm a bit confused about the alien's plan, killing 90% of humanity is not going to make a major change. There are currently about 6.75 billion people on the Earth. 10% of that is 675 million, which was the population of the Earth in the early 18th century. And, with modern technology and medicine (presumably, enough doctors survived in small towns, non-Urban campuses, and in countries like Finland, Israel, and New Zealand, that are highly developed technologically but have no cities large enough to have vanished before the culling was done), the population will increase much faster than it did for most of those 250 years. Probably, the Earth will return to current population levels within 100-150 years at most. Were the aliens going to repeat the exercise?

Actually, mentioning Israel - how did the Aliens determine city population? If they went by official city boundaries and people counts, Tel Aviv, a city of less than 400,000 people, will almost certainly be spared. But the boundaries of Tel Aviv are mostly a technicality and have no pratical significance other than tax purposes and parking permits, as it is really just the central city in the continuous urban sprawl of Gush Dan, which contains 2-3 million people, depending on how exactly you count its boundaries, and would thus be larger than Rochester and included. I wonder what criteria the Aliens used - would suburbs count for city population sizes only if they are officially incorporated?

(I originally had an additional rant on how inappropriate the term "mass genocide" is, both in general and in the context of this story. I think using it here - apparently as a way to say "really really massive homicide" is highly problematic, on many levels, and offensive to victims of actual genocide - the distinction between genocide and homicide is not the amount of people killed, but the motivation and goal of the murderers, and it is worth keeping that in mind. But I decided to leave out the ranting, and just make note on this poor choice of words).


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Heradel on October 02, 2009, 10:57:28 AM
(I originally had an additional rant on how inappropriate the term "mass genocide" is, both in general and in the context of this story. I think using it here - apparently as a way to say "really really massive homicide" is highly problematic, on many levels, and offensive to victims of actual genocide - the distinction between genocide and homicide is not the amount of people killed, but the motivation and goal of the murderers, and it is worth keeping that in mind. But I decided to leave out the ranting, and just make note on this poor choice of words).

When you're talking about a species-wide attempt xenocide is probably the right term, though it's still fairly colloquial and OSC-branded.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: eytanz on October 02, 2009, 11:03:15 AM
(I originally had an additional rant on how inappropriate the term "mass genocide" is, both in general and in the context of this story. I think using it here - apparently as a way to say "really really massive homicide" is highly problematic, on many levels, and offensive to victims of actual genocide - the distinction between genocide and homicide is not the amount of people killed, but the motivation and goal of the murderers, and it is worth keeping that in mind. But I decided to leave out the ranting, and just make note on this poor choice of words).

When you're talking about a species-wide attempt xenocide is probably the right term, though it's still fairly colloquial and OSC-branded.

Part of the problem is that the aliens were not interested in exterminating either the human species or any particular human race or ethnicity. They killed a lot of people, but their stated goal was "pruning" the species, not killing it. They quite clearly had the ability to easily kill everyone on Earth, so the fact that there were any survivors meant that they were not being genocidal.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: ajames on October 02, 2009, 07:53:03 PM
On the less evaluative  and more practical side of criticsm, I'm a bit confused about the alien's plan, killing 90% of humanity is not going to make a major change. There are currently about 6.75 billion people on the Earth. 10% of that is 675 million, which was the population of the Earth in the early 18th century. And, with modern technology and medicine (presumably, enough doctors survived in small towns, non-Urban campuses, and in countries like Finland, Israel, and New Zealand, that are highly developed technologically but have no cities large enough to have vanished before the culling was done), the population will increase much faster than it did for most of those 250 years. Probably, the Earth will return to current population levels within 100-150 years at most. Were the aliens going to repeat the exercise?

Actually, mentioning Israel - how did the Aliens determine city population? If they went by official city boundaries and people counts, Tel Aviv, a city of less than 400,000 people, will almost certainly be spared. But the boundaries of Tel Aviv are mostly a technicality and have no pratical significance other than tax purposes and parking permits, as it is really just the central city in the continuous urban sprawl of Gush Dan, which contains 2-3 million people, depending on how exactly you count its boundaries, and would thus be larger than Rochester and included. I wonder what criteria the Aliens used - would suburbs count for city population sizes only if they are officially incorporated?

I had some problems with the practical side of the story, too, but these points don't seem particularly problemsome to me. Given that in this story the aliens wiped out 90% of the population because we were destroying the earth and leading to our own demise, the 10% that was left would likely take great pains to make sure that further growth was sustainable. Also, there may have been further alien "guidance" to prevent a return to the same problem.

As for determining population, who knows? Presumably they used some method of calculation.

With that said, I agree completely the first part of your criticism - the plots meshed together rather than carefully interwoven.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Talia on October 03, 2009, 08:15:24 PM
I really rather enjoyed this one, particularly because of the protagonist's self absorbtion. She's so caught up in her own inner turmoil she pretty much completely ignores the needs of anyone else, and it makes it blind to what it's cost Eric. That seemed very realistic to me. I found the drama playing out between her and Eric moving and I felt for her, even despite her selfishness.

Also, I first made the mistake of trying to listen to this episode while in the supermarket. I spent the entirety of the intro wandering around the produce aisle aimlessly while I laughed. I probably looked like a crazy person. I'm not, though. Really. There are NO BODIES buried in my cellar...


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Maze on October 06, 2009, 07:57:35 AM
 :-\   


Norm - you are not Jack Nicholson. That voice in the intro just set my teeth on edge.

I feel that Steve, Alasdair and Claire all appear honest and earnest - The funny voices and over the top trying too hard - grates in the EP, PC and PP environment. Be yourself. Even a carefully scripted but seemingly natural version, please.

Story - sadly long, overwrought and did further perpetuate the cliche that the US is populated almost solely by the self absorbed and the gun totin' SUV drivin' meshbacks. (aah, very old term in SF there) and their screaming wives and kids.

It's not true, is it?

Some neat detail and quirks but the engineer in me kept saying 'why drive the cars, just run the engines, find the smallest cars, save fuel' oh its a plot point. ok.

 


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: kibitzer on October 08, 2009, 02:56:12 AM
Story - sadly long, overwrought and did further perpetuate the cliche that the US is populated almost solely by the self absorbed and the gun totin' SUV drivin' meshbacks. (aah, very old term in SF there) and their screaming wives and kids.

It's not true, is it?

From outside the US, it can sure seem that way ;-)


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: thomasowenm on October 10, 2009, 05:42:41 AM
Let me add my name to the haters of this story.  I had wanted at the start to like this story "end of humanity, last survivor trope", but it quickly fell into "Oh woe is me, Johnny give me your gun so I can end it all".  I was waiting for Jenny to slash her wrists to get some attention from Eric.  The other characters were all stereotypes with nothing to latch onto.

I also find it inconceivable that a large group especially New Yorkers would allow themselves to be corralled without demanding answers.  It took a self absorbed woman four days, to finally approach the aliens?  What about this person who is a "great organizer"?  Why didn't he go himself?  That is the sign of great leadership, and surely someone in that camp had leadership qualities.  And nobody else is even the least bit curious about the glowing buildings?  Too implausible.

As far as the benevilent aliens go, they seem the most realistic part of the story.  A species that is so far advanced that they can obliterate entire cities, probably think humanity is insignificant.  If I can borrow from real life, I'm from hunting country and people look at the deer population and when they see that it can not be sustained with the limited food available the DNR sell more deer tags.  The idea behind it is to weed out the population to make the rest of the herd stronger.  Maybe the aliens thought of us in the same way little more than mindless cattle, and they were unwilling for us to suffer so they issued human permits.


As far as  Norm Sherman's hosting I tried but found I had to fast forward through it.  Not my style  It seemed like someone from Cracked magazine was asked to edit Time or newsweek, without changing his style.  (Although that might make the  magazines better IMO).  But Norm does not a better EscapePod make.  Just my two nigis.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: spork on October 11, 2009, 11:42:13 AM
Dreadfully dull.
What happens when a writer has a minimum length deadline, and an Atlas.
How much of this story was just reading lists of world cities in order of population size? At least two minutes.  And then there was the geneology tree reciting. 
Please don't give authors like this a deadline or a target length.  It is punishing.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Cerebrilith on October 13, 2009, 09:55:20 AM
I mostly got a kick out of this story because I live just outside of Rochester, NY.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: kibitzer on October 13, 2009, 05:16:55 PM
I mostly got a kick out of this story because I live just outside of Rochester, NY.

Hope you're stocked up on food and water. And petrol.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Ocicat on October 15, 2009, 02:29:03 PM
This one really wasn't my cup of tea.  I liked some of the alien bits, but they didn't seem well thought out, just a framework to hang the relationship drama on.  And the relationship drama didn't grab me.  Hated all the characters, mostly (well, didn't hate the grandmother, but she was dull anyway).  Partially it might be my polyamorous perspective - stories about cheating and such just bore me. 


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: wakela on October 26, 2009, 07:58:47 PM
This was one of my least favorite EP stories.

I thought the reading was good.  It was flat an monotone and depressing, but so was the main character.  I'm not being sarcastic, I would like to hear more from the reader.  I don't mind the mispronunciation of the cities; I just figured not everyone pronounces them the same way I do.

I also thought the writing was good.  And good writing isn't easy.  The story was well paced if you assume it's a story about a woman feeling useless because she's going through a bad breakup.   But I think most of us did not want to hear this story. 

But the unforgivable sins of a science fiction story or that it be unimaginative and poorly thought out, and this story is guilty of both.  The idea that humans are so hopeless that they need to be nearly wiped out in order to save them from themselves is tired, and this story doesn't add anything new to the sub-genre.  Treating humans as a species instead of individuals could be interesting but the story would rather give us a trite message about the crisis du jour.  Enough people have raised questions about cell phones and metropolitan borders that I don't have to.  I have more questions, but I don't think anyone is really interested.  If Ms Kress didn't care enough to think it through, why should we?  OK, I will ask this:  why are they driving around to charge the car batteries, why not let the cars idle? OK, sorry, but who the hell gives their kid with a broken arm to a stranger?! 

But something I can add to the conversation regards the treatment of women in this and many other SF stories.  I haven't done a count, but if you have some otherworldly event and the main character tries to deal with the problems it creates, he is most likely a guy. On the other hand, if the main character worries about a guy who she's been seeing who seemed like totally cool at first but has recently become distant and she really thought this might be going somewhere but now I just don't know what to think  I mean is he seeing someone else or what and oh yeah these aliens are like so annoying, the main character is probably a woman.  Imagine how silly this story would be if the main character were a man who spent all day moping about whether or not a woman who cheated on her husband with him was going to stop trying to escape the alien menace and come give him a hug.   Next time you hear an SF story and the protagonist is a woman see if her relationship problems take center stage.  Ask yourself what would have happened if the protagonist were male.  I'm not saying it's a 100% (military stories about women are an exception.  As soon as the woman picks up a weapon she's her own person: Terminator, Halloween, Alien(s), oooooh very phallic.  I could get a PhD for this.), but I think there's a trend. 

I don't really think women are incomplete unless they are in a relationship, but women authors keep telling me that they are.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Pinwheel on October 27, 2009, 12:10:04 PM
I completely agree with Wakela. 

The only reason I kept listening was to see when Jenny would finally stand up to Eric and the redhead, but she never does.  I can't stand characters who mope while others treat them like crap.  Her sudden hatred at the end didn't convince me that she would change and be motivated to do anything.

But if there had just been a closing paragraph in which she tells Eric to go to hell, slaps the horrible mother, and then charges off all blazing with her new purpose, I would have LOVED the story.  ;D


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Talia on October 27, 2009, 01:31:29 PM
I completely agree with Wakela. 

The only reason I kept listening was to see when Jenny would finally stand up to Eric and the redhead, but she never does.  I can't stand characters who mope while others treat them like crap.  Her sudden hatred at the end didn't convince me that she would change and be motivated to do anything.

But if there had just been a closing paragraph in which she tells Eric to go to hell, slaps the horrible mother, and then charges off all blazing with her new purpose, I would have LOVED the story.  ;D

Conversely, the story would have then lost something for me.

I liked it because of what a broken, flawed person she was.

I just dont get the hate for this story, but oh well.



Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: kappclark on November 08, 2009, 08:46:21 AM
This was the first podcast I listened to on my new Squeezebox.

Enjoyed the story, and even more, the narration. I was engaged all through the story, so good choice of material, and Kate has a great gift for narration.

Escape pod is a favorite now on my Squeezebox, and I really enjoy re-discovering science fiction.


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: CryptoMe on November 11, 2009, 03:42:43 PM
I did not care much for this story for a lot of little reasons, many of which have already been mentioned. But the one that bugged me the most was the blatant sexism - all the men did stuff, while the "wives" (yes that word was used explicitly) hung around, gossiped, and cooked the occasional meal. Really! I'll put up with that kind of stereotyping from Heinlein - different time, after all. But this is a contemporary story. I thought we as a society were well past that....


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Sandikal on November 12, 2009, 08:22:58 PM
I did not care much for this story for a lot of little reasons, many of which have already been mentioned. But the one that bugged me the most was the blatant sexism - all the men did stuff, while the "wives" (yes that word was used explicitly) hung around, gossiped, and cooked the occasional meal. Really! I'll put up with that kind of stereotyping from Heinlein - different time, after all. But this is a contemporary story. I thought we as a society were well past that....

We are supposed to be past that, but we're not.  The people in this story pretty much acted the way I'd expect my suburban neighbors to act in that situation.  The women would most likely be busy looking after the children and taking care of meal preparation and hygiene issues.  The men would be trying to "do something" about the situation, even knowing it was futile.  I'm sure the men in the story were doing their share of gossiping, we just weren't privy to it because the story was told through the eyes of a female protagonist.

For the record, I found the protagonist to be very weak and annoying until the end.  Unfortunately, I've known women like her too. 


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: CryptoMe on November 13, 2009, 11:00:47 AM
I did not care much for this story for a lot of little reasons, many of which have already been mentioned. But the one that bugged me the most was the blatant sexism - all the men did stuff, while the "wives" (yes that word was used explicitly) hung around, gossiped, and cooked the occasional meal. Really! I'll put up with that kind of stereotyping from Heinlein - different time, after all. But this is a contemporary story. I thought we as a society were well past that....

We are supposed to be past that, but we're not.  The people in this story pretty much acted the way I'd expect my suburban neighbors to act in that situation.  The women would most likely be busy looking after the children and taking care of meal preparation and hygiene issues.  The men would be trying to "do something" about the situation, even knowing it was futile.  I'm sure the men in the story were doing their share of gossiping, we just weren't privy to it because the story was told through the eyes of a female protagonist.

For the record, I found the protagonist to be very weak and annoying until the end.  Unfortunately, I've known women like her too. 

I am sure that there are many women, who like to "leave things to the men" as it were, even today. However, I personally know far more women who are the type to "do something" just like the men. The problem is that none of these women were represented in the story....


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Gamercow on November 14, 2009, 02:11:03 PM
Well, I don't think I liked this story very much, but I didn't dislike it.  It was just kind of meh to me.  It seemed very real to me, and maybe that was the drawback and possible failure to it all.  Different people will react differently to catastrophic events.  When 9/11 happened, my girlfriend at the time wanted to go to NY and volunteer for the cleanup and wanted to save people.  I just wanted to ignore it and make it go away after I found that the people in NYC I knew were safe.  Was I sad for the loss and the tragedy?  Yes, but I couldn't cope with it, so I just wanted to ignore it until it went away.  Jenny was just coping the way she did, by ignoring the larger picture, and focusing on her own problems. 

I liked the reading, and I liked Norm. 


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: knigget on December 04, 2009, 09:16:50 AM
I liked the story for many of the reasons others didn't.  Jenny had something of a redemption in the end, doing something no one else had the guts to, and the whole "cruel to be kind" theme -- omnipotent space aliens are a great metaphor for powers-that-be.  Makes you think of all the other decisions that are being made for us  "for our own good".


Title: Re: EP217: The Kindness of Strangers
Post by: Unblinking on April 27, 2010, 12:23:52 PM
I gave up on this one after about fifteen minutes.

Good premise, cities disappearing into thin air.  And then we spend the next ten minutes hearing her mope about the guy that was cheating on his wife with her, and blah blah blah.  When billions of people disappear, I do not want to hear someone bitch about their relationship troubles.  Maybe it was in character, but it was also very dull.

And when it did talk about the aliens, it was mostly listing dozens of cities, even more dull.  At least Escape Pod pays a flat rate, but at a market that payed per word I can just see a nickel being added to the stack for each city read straight off an atlas.

And, as others have pointed out, the fact that cell phones worked was just ridiculous.  Even if the cities just became unpopulated and not actually destroyed, you'd have no chance to get a call through.  When the I 35W bridge collapsed here in the Twin Cities you couldn't complete a call for at least 12 hours after that because of all the locals calling their friends, and all the people across the world who were calling TO locals to make sure they were okay.  Text messages went through most of the time since they take so little bandwidth.  And that didn't cause any significant damage to the communications architecture like erasing cities would do. 

Not that this story is the only one to make that major error, but it still bugs me.  Cloverfield did the same thing, hinging the entire plot on cell phone calls.  Yeah, a monster is destroying New York City and your call goes through on the first try? Yeah right.


Title: Did "The Kindness of Strangers" get on anybody's nerves?
Post by: grimmstone on May 02, 2010, 05:35:23 AM
The altruistic grandmother in the story was the only likable character.  The main character was way too self-absorbed and snotty to get behind even after all that's happened.  If the aliens had snapped and decided to vaporize a human to stop them from throwing rocks and shooting at them, I wouldn't mind it being her.