Escape Artists

Escape Pod => Episode Comments => Topic started by: eytanz on December 02, 2010, 07:05:23 PM



Title: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: eytanz on December 02, 2010, 07:05:23 PM
EP269: Élan Vital (http://escapepod.org/2010/12/02/ep269-elan-vital/)

By K. Tempest Bradford (http://tempest.fluidartist.com/)
Read by Mur Lafferty

First appeared in Sybil’s Garage no. 6 (http://www.sensesfive.com/publications/sybils-garage-no-6/)
---

The few minutes I had to spend in the Institute’s waiting room were my least favorite part of coming up to visit my mother. It felt more like a dialysis room, the visitors sunk into the overly-soft couches and not speaking, just drinking orange juice and recovering. There were no magazines and no television, just cold air blowing from the vents and generic music flowing with it. I’d finished my juice and was beginning to brood on my dislike for overly air-conditioned buildings when my mother arrived attended by a nurse.

I kissed and hugged her, automatically asking how she was, mouthing the answer she always gave as she gave it again.

“I’m fine, same as always.”

It wasn’t strictly true, but true enough.


Rated PG For adult topics of parental death.

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 261: Only Springtime When She’s Gone
  • Next week… The future of corporate America


(http://escapepod.org/wp-images/podcast-mini4.gif)
Listen to this week’s Escape Pod! (http://traffic.libsyn.com/escapepod/269_EP269__Elan_Vital.mp3)


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: Wilson Fowlie on December 03, 2010, 12:34:44 PM
I wanted to like this story more than I did.   Most interesting, I think, was the (inevitable?) comparison to Bridesicle (http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?topic=3960.0) as a cryogenics story.

The thing that made me dislike this story was the element in the title.  The idea of 'removing life force' from a body and putting it into someone else isn't science fiction, it's fantasy.  There's no evidence that there's anything like 'life force' animating us (and "Why us but not animals?" is at least one question raised by the 'tech' in this story) and plenty of evidence against it.  They may as well have referred to humours or alchemy.  I don't know why this should bother me more than something equally impossible like, say, time travel, but somehow, it does.

I think that the author could have used some other, less, well, fanciful method of shortening the daughter's life in order to prolong her mother's and which would not have made the story less effective.  For me, at least, it would have been more effective, as I wouldn't have been as distracted by it.

Maybe if the impact of the story itself had been greater on me, I may have been able to suspend my disbelief in this idea.  Or maybe my annoyance at the poor understanding of biology made me immune to any emotional punch the story had.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: Talia on December 03, 2010, 01:09:41 PM
I tend to be more interested in the relationships between characters in any given story than the technical details, so this story worked for me. I thought it was beautiful, very sweet and sad. I too made the comparison to 'Bridecicles,' though I'd say the setup is different enough that I could set those comparisons aside and just enjoy it on its own merits.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: Ocicat on December 03, 2010, 02:05:42 PM
The thing that made me dislike this story was the element in the title.  The idea of 'removing life force' from a body and putting it into someone else isn't science fiction, it's fantasy.  There's no evidence that there's anything like 'life force' animating us (and "Why us but not animals?" is at least one question raised by the 'tech' in this story) and plenty of evidence against it.  They may as well have referred to humours or alchemy.

Ya, I hit that too, and my mind yells out "BAD SCIENCE!" - then I calm down, and remember that the story is doing an interesting "what if" even if how it gets there is nonsense.  In the end, it's setting up an interesting and relatable question: how much would you trade to be able to bring back your lost loved ones, even for a little while? 

That's a great question to ask, and gets people thinking about a lot of great life issues.  It's not really meant to be the type of SF that predicts the future, just one that gets you thinking about your life by creating a different context.  Could have been done in a fantasy story too, but near future SF is more relatable.

So for me the "Élan Vital" was just a minor speedbump in an enjoyable story.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: Swamp on December 03, 2010, 10:21:18 PM
It's interesting.  Now that you mention it, the connection between this and "Bridecicle" seems pretty obvious.  However, as I listened, I kept comparing it with "Raising Jenny" which is also about a mother/daughter relationship where the mother has died.  Though, I do admit I like this mother better.

I enjoyed this story because it is one of those that I can place myself in and wonder what I would do, or how I would react.  If it were me, I would not have had my mother go through the ressurection procedure firstly because she would not want it, but also becuase I have a firm belief that death is a part of life and when the time comes, it comes.  Of course I have not lost my mother and will be exetremely sad when I do, but I will go on.  But what if my wife wanted to do this with her parents or maybe a friends.  How would I support them?


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: kingNOR on December 03, 2010, 11:17:28 PM
I agree about the squash soft memory fain science,  but to be fair, life force is only mantioned by the narrator...  she says it in either dialogue or directly to the audience.  You could make an argument that "life force" could be slang or something else more mundane, after all the "god particle" isn't actually a particle of god. 

In the end this should have been a tear jerker, but it wasn't for me.  Who doesn't get a little emotional at the thought of losing a parent or the memory of an actual loss?  Something about this one just didn't work for me I guess.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: Talia on December 04, 2010, 12:10:48 AM
 Though, I do admit I like this mother better.

Yeah, this one's acting like a mom should act, not like a controlling psycho. Heh.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: Boggled Coriander on December 04, 2010, 03:11:53 AM
I agree about the squash soft memory fain science,  but to be fair, life force is only mantioned by the narrator...  she says it in either dialogue or directly to the audience.  You could make an argument that "life force" could be slang or something else more mundane, after all the "god particle" isn't actually a particle of god. 

I agree.  Much like the whole subject of "clones" in "We Are Ted Tuscadero", I think we can assume that the least technically-minded 98% of the population has gotten used to tossing around non-technical descriptive terms for advanced technology.

I have to hand it to K. Tempest Bradford -- she has a knack for writing stories that I don't think will be my cup of tea based on the blurb, but then just wowing me with the execution.  I was a bit wary of listening to this at first.  Just yesterday we found out a close relative's cancer is more serious than we thought, and even if the rosiest best-case scenario comes true, she'll still need chemo and major surgery.  I was worried this story would leave me emotionally drained, but that didn't happen.  Instead, when the story was over I felt at peace.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: KenK on December 04, 2010, 07:38:38 PM
Here is a prediction for the future I have absolute confidence in: If there is any way that corporations can get people to pay subscription fees, they'll do it. It doesn't matter what the good or "service" being offered is. They'll do it. It's just the nature of capitalism.  :-\
The "bad science" alluded to by some is a meaningless objection. The only "science" involved will be marketing and psy-ops techniques. Corporate pitch: We've loaded your Mom's consciousness into an algorithm (which to some would seem alive) and you have to pay us a monthly fee to access and interact with her. And if you don't we'll erase her. Kind of like what some interactive  child oriented websites  (http://www.marapets.com/marapets.php) did with their cyber pets. Visit our site and feed 'em every day or they'll suffer, get sick and die. Bottom line: Human beings are social creatures who are easily able to be manipulated for profit and there are a huge amount of people willing to do so.  ;)


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: Loz on December 05, 2010, 03:26:33 AM
Really, well enjoyed isn't the right word as it pushed some buttons, but felt this story. It reminded me a little of the half-alive or whatever they were in Philip K. Dick's 'Ubik'. The issue of how much children should or shouldn't give for their parents is always going to be with us, though as I was getting to the end of this I was imagining it being rewritten as farce by someone like Mel Brooks with some ghastly terrible matriarch of a family who sustains herself on the elan vital of her children and grandchildren because she brought them in to this world and how could they be so unfaithful and uncaring as to refuse to give her back a little life considering what she gave them...

This was a lovely story and movingly read by Mur. Bravo!


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: kibitzer on December 05, 2010, 09:19:04 PM
Good story. And Loz, agree with the 'Ubik' comparison, it did feel like that. Comes up in a few of his other stories too.

I think I might like this one better than 'Bridesicle'. Yes they cover similar ground in sustaining the 'dead'. But Bridesicle approaches the topic from an almost purely character reaction point of view, whereas this one has more to say about the social implications without compromising on the relationships aspect. More simply: 'Bridesicle' is a love story with a happy ending; 'Élan Vital' presents characters I really cared about, and it made me think as well.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: ElectricPaladin on December 06, 2010, 09:44:04 AM
I wanted to like this story more than I did.   Most interesting, I think, was the (inevitable?) comparison to Bridesicle (http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?topic=3960.0) as a cryogenics story.

The thing that made me dislike this story was the element in the title.  The idea of 'removing life force' from a body and putting it into someone else isn't science fiction, it's fantasy.  There's no evidence that there's anything like 'life force' animating us (and "Why us but not animals?" is at least one question raised by the 'tech' in this story) and plenty of evidence against it.  They may as well have referred to humours or alchemy.  I don't know why this should bother me more than something equally impossible like, say, time travel, but somehow, it does.

I think that the author could have used some other, less, well, fanciful method of shortening the daughter's life in order to prolong her mother's and which would not have made the story less effective.  For me, at least, it would have been more effective, as I wouldn't have been as distracted by it.

Maybe if the impact of the story itself had been greater on me, I may have been able to suspend my disbelief in this idea.  Or maybe my annoyance at the poor understanding of biology made me immune to any emotional punch the story had.

I can give science fiction a lot of leeway for things like this. After all, it's set in the future. Who's to say we won't discover that life force is a form of energy that we can manipulate? We've certainly made other discoveries that were about as surprising. Case in point, awesome discovery of the week: bacteria who live in arsenic. I mean, wow. Who saw that coming?

Anyway, I really enjoyed this story. I was particularly touched by how it engaged with our (in America, at least) extremely poor attitudes towards death, and the lengths to which we will go to keep it at bay. I thought the relationship between the mother and the daughter was exquisite. I was specifically fascinated by the way in which this was kind of the mom's fault, actually. By denying her daughter the opportunity to be with her when she died and say goodbye - which she did out of her own pride - she put her in the position of constantly trying to make up for that lack. The mother heroically forcing her daughter to accept that chance later on was really great.

I also saw echoes of Bridesicle in this story. Although I liked Bridesicle a lot, I thought that the characters here were much more engaging.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: KenK on December 06, 2010, 10:02:23 AM
I don't know if I would call this story dystopian or a cautionary tale. But as Kibitzer noted it does make one think. I'm pretty sure once my consciousness cant' live in it's natural home any more I would just as soon let it die along with the body. Even if some kind of Wm. Gibson-style consciousness transfer were possible I'm not sure how much this construct would really in fact "be me". And I truly wouldn't like the living to be exploited financially or psychologically in order to interact with this construct. I fully believe that there are people who would try to do this too. Wouldn't it be nice if some political group could create a Max Headroom style construct of Ronald Reagan, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X or any number of other historical or iconic figures and have them mouth the words of today's corporations and political classes?


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: stePH on December 06, 2010, 10:25:01 AM
It's interesting.  Now that you mention it, the connection between this and "Bridecicle" seems pretty obvious.  However, as I listened, I kept comparing it with "Raising Jenny" which is also about a mother/daughter relationship where the mother has died.  Though, I do admit I like this mother better.

Now I feel like a freak... neither story came to mind when I listened to this one.


I thought the relationship between the mother and the daughter was exquisite. I was specifically fascinated by the way in which this was kind of the mom's fault, actually. By denying her daughter the opportunity to be with her when she died and say goodbye - which she did out of her own pride - she put her in the position of constantly trying to make up for that lack. The mother heroically forcing her daughter to accept that chance later on was really great.

I could have sworn the daughter/narrator said she was there when her mother died the first time; the institute people just wouldn't let her be there when she shut down at the end of a visit.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: Unblinking on December 06, 2010, 10:29:50 AM
Wow, this one was really good.  Quite possibly my favorite of 2010.  Which rather surprised me because Bradford's stories usually don't appeal to me much.  This one was well written with interesting characters and a compelling problem.  And it reminded me of a conversation I've had dozens of times with my wife about whether or not immortality is a desirable thing.  She's always been interested in vampires as an idea, partially because of the immortality.  But I don't really see immortality as a good thing.  Not that I want to die any time soon, but neither do I want to live forever.  And living as a vamp would not be fun.  I like food.  What's the point of living forever if you can never eat cheesecake again?

Great emotions in this story, and the details of her financial situation revealed at just the right places.  I really felt for the two of them, and I think this is a terrible technology to make available to people, preying on the grieving and never allowing their grief to resolve itself.  Which is entirely realistic and also very horrible, all while masking itself as a "service".  I hope that I would have the strength to let the person go, but especially if it were someone who died unusually young, or if the dead person were my wife, it would be a hard temptation to resist.

Oddly, this one did not once make me think of Bridesicle, I think because of the different focus from romantic to family love and the POV character being the one left behind.  It did give me a couple associations though:
-The Time Traveler's Wife (SPOILERS).  I've only seen the movie, but after he dies in her timeline, younger incarnations of him keep popping in and out later in her life.  The movie seemed very comfortable in it's portrayal of this as a happy ending but I thought that sounded terrible.  The poor woman is trapped in an unpleasant limbo.  Most of the time he's not around, so she's mostly alone.  But then he pops in occasionally and at random so that she can never finish grieving.  It seems that she will be held in a state of constant grief for the rest of her life.  That state reminded me of the situation in this story.
-Raising Jenny.  I kept on making mental comparisons between this mother and that mother.  I'm not exactly sure why since they weren't particularly similar.  This mother I could respect very much, trying to do what's best for her children.

And I don't really get the comments about the Elan Vital not being sciency enough.  But the occasional raising of the dead into coherent and mobile individuals is sciency enough?  It takes place in the future, so there will be new scientific developments.  And even if it's not science, why not just label it fantasy in your brain and enjoy?


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: Unblinking on December 06, 2010, 10:30:29 AM
I could have sworn the daughter/narrator said she was there when her mother died the first time; the institute people just wouldn't let her be there when she shut down at the end of a visit.

That's what I thought too.  It's one of their rules, she said, that the relatives weren't supposed to be in the room when the death occurred.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: ElectricPaladin on December 06, 2010, 10:59:46 AM
I could have sworn the daughter/narrator said she was there when her mother died the first time; the institute people just wouldn't let her be there when she shut down at the end of a visit.

That's what I thought too.  It's one of their rules, she said, that the relatives weren't supposed to be in the room when the death occurred.

That's right. But what I meant to say (and wasn't awake enough to communicate clearly) was that the daughter was kept out of the proces of her mother's death. She wasn't allowed to care for her or be there for her in the closing days, just at the very end to make the decision.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: Listener on December 06, 2010, 12:45:31 PM
Did not like.

Other commenters have made all the points I would have made. But for me, mostly, it's that the story was brief and the gotcha came too late.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: Wilson Fowlie on December 06, 2010, 01:37:52 PM
And I don't really get the comments about the Elan Vital not being sciency enough.  But the occasional raising of the dead into coherent and mobile individuals is sciency enough?  It takes place in the future, so there will be new scientific developments.  And even if it's not science, why not just label it fantasy in your brain and enjoy?

I think there's only been one comment to that effect: mine.  :)

I'm guessing that there were other aspects of this story that didn't work for me as well, or the whole Life Force thing might have bugged me less.  And yes, I'm sure I've given a pass to worse science-fictional ideas (beyond the time travel example that I gave).  Like I said, I wanted to like this story, but it just didn't click for me.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: rendall on December 06, 2010, 04:15:43 PM
I couldn't sympathize with the main character, and so didn't feel a connection to the story. Perhaps if I were shown why the narrator was so pathologically attached to her dead mother I could have empathized, but as it stood I was alienated by what seemed like some weakness of character.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: kibitzer on December 06, 2010, 08:44:34 PM
And I don't really get the comments about the Elan Vital not being sciency enough.  But the occasional raising of the dead into coherent and mobile individuals is sciency enough?  It takes place in the future, so there will be new scientific developments.  And even if it's not science, why not just label it fantasy in your brain and enjoy?

Same reason folks like to argue about who will inherit the Bat's mantle if/when Bruce Wayne goes away -- that stuff matters to some people.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: Gamercow on December 06, 2010, 10:54:46 PM
I've marked this one as a "come back later" story.  This time through, I didn't like it, as it took what I thought were the worst parts of Bridesicle and Raising Jenny, and put them together.  The martyrdom of the daughter to feed her own selfishness bothered me from the start, as I saw the punch line from about 3 minutes in.  The mother character was alright, but the daughter and her motivations were not for me.  That said, I don't think I'm in the right mood tonight to listen to this again. 

As for the Elan Vital science/not science debate:  I just chalked it up to Marketing.  The real name of the procedure could have been "T-cell regenerative transfer and conditioning for the extension of cellular cohesion", or some such, and the marketing people came along and demanded something snappy.  This happens all the time.  I'm looking at you, cosmetics industry.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: Unblinking on December 07, 2010, 10:13:39 AM
I think there's only been one comment to that effect: mine.  :)

You got me.  I thought that since I was stating that I didn't really "get" the comment that it might be more politick to refer to a nonexistent general case.  But you got me.  Yes, Mr. Wilson Fowlie, I was talking about you and you alone!   ;D  Anyway, I think Gamercow said it well:

Quote
As for the Elan Vital science/not science debate:  I just chalked it up to Marketing.  The real name of the procedure could have been "T-cell regenerative transfer and conditioning for the extension of cellular cohesion", or some such, and the marketing people came along and demanded something snappy.  This happens all the time.  I'm looking at you, cosmetics industry.

I saw the "clones" in Ted Tuscadero in a similar way--they're called "clones" in the general public, but only because it's a mainstream word that everyone thinks they understand, but it's a very different technology in both the details and the end result.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: Prophet on December 09, 2010, 09:22:15 PM
I really loved the mother/daughter relationship in this one. They felt like real people, not cardboard cutouts placed to convey all the aspects of a futuristic world to the audience. Really well done, and well read.

Anyway, I think Gamercow said it well:
Quote
As for the Elan Vital science/not science debate:  I just chalked it up to Marketing.  The real name of the procedure could have been "T-cell regenerative transfer and conditioning for the extension of cellular cohesion", or some such, and the marketing people came along and demanded something snappy.  This happens all the time.  I'm looking at you, cosmetics industry.

I agree. But...

Quote from: Wilson Fowlie
"Why us but not animals?" is at least one question raised by the 'tech' in this story

This was one question that I could not get out of my head while listening to it. It did not make me like the story any less. It was just a nagging nit-picky buzz in the back of my brain.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: Unblinking on December 10, 2010, 09:58:35 AM
Quote from: Wilson Fowlie
"Why us but not animals?" is at least one question raised by the 'tech' in this story

This was one question that I could not get out of my head while listening to it. It did not make me like the story any less. It was just a nagging nit-picky buzz in the back of my brain.

I'd guess that it has something to do with genetics.  Maybe the "elan vital" can be extracted from animals, but it's not compatible with human bodies, any more than a blood transfusion from a pig. 


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: Scattercat on December 10, 2010, 11:10:57 AM
Given that they'd only recently discovered how to use non-family members to revive people, I'd say the reason they can't use animals is the same reason we don't have cyberarms and gene-grown custom organs despite having discovered the rudiments of that technology.

I liked this story a lot, even though I didn't expect to once I'd figured out the speculative angle.  (Around about the line regarding "still cold," I think.)  It was really good, and that's all I have to say about that.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: Devoted135 on December 10, 2010, 12:19:48 PM
Overall, I liked how this one made me feel more than liking the actual story, because it was so light on actual plot. However, I thought that the mother/daughter relationship was beautifully described, and we got to know them (especially the mom) quite well in such a short time frame. I was also troubled by how dependent the daughter was on her mom, but I guess it's hard to know how I would react in the same situation. Wouldn't I want to be able to bring my mom back too? Hard to be certain that I would choose the (healthier) road of grieving and moving on.

It's funny, for the first time ever, a few minutes in I found myself wondering why this story was on escape pod since it took longer than usual to reveal the sf parts involved. I never care about whether the story is science fiction-y enough! Maybe you guys are rubbing off on me?  :)


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: Prophet on December 11, 2010, 08:21:31 PM
Ah I see. Thanks Unblinking, that makes total sense. And Scattercat, I forgot about that discovery mentioned. Implies that the original requirements were even more narrow.

Works for me.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: AliceNred on December 11, 2010, 10:17:22 PM
Love the link to the magazine where the story was first published.

And Mur Lafferty's reading was soft like a well-warn quilt. Lovely.

It is hard to think that anyone would not be touched by the story. The story got me right away because I use to take my mom for her kidney dialysis. It was heart wrenching to see my mom perish in bits at a time.

Unlike the daughter in the story, I was there for almost everything but her death. Personally, I was grateful to not be there. Wiping up the blood, pee and picking-up the paraphernalia from the paramedics was more than enough.

I thought  this was a great concept for a story and was done extremely well. There was a lot of truth in those words. The best fiction always has a lot of truth in them.





Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: iamafish on December 13, 2010, 04:30:11 AM
I first saw the title of this story and thought it would be some steampunk re-imagining of the French Revolution or something (on a side note i really want to read a steam punk re-imagining of the French Revolution). Inevitably I was disappointed that it was not. That being said I did really enjoy the story.

I am a massive sucker for characters and character driven stories, so this one really worked for me. I found that I really connected with both characters really well and sympathised with their points of view. I liked how they both seemed to see the error in their ways and the resolution saw the amendment of those errors and the resolution of the conflict caused by those errors. I did however have a problem with motivation. The daughter's relationship with her mother was an incredibly dependant one; more so that one would usually expect. I would loved to have seem the reason for such a relationship explored as it would have made her self-harm (let's face it, that's what it amounts to) seem more believable.

As for the lack of science; I have never had a problem with this in sci-fi - fiction for me is much more about the characters, so the setting only really exists in my mind to offer context to the plot and enrich the story (not that it can't also influence and drive the plot). As a fan of fantasy as much as (if not more so) than sci-fi I have no problem with the science being ill explained. I'm happy with talk of life forces and resurrection. If the plot and the characters are interesting enough, it really doesn't matter if the sci-fi elements work in the context of modern science.

One minor thing: It was slightly jarring to have Mur doing the intro and also reading the story. I prefer to have a change of voice when we switch to the story. That being said Mur did a fantastic job of reading this one. I especially liked the slight southern drawl on the mother's voice - reminded me of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: DaveQat on December 13, 2010, 01:17:05 PM
Wow... This story hit about 12 different kinds of nerves, probably primarily because I lost my mother to a blood/bone cancer last year. We also had a lot of unfinished business when she died, and while I don't know if I'd go as far as the narrator did to get closure, the thought did cross my mind as I read the story...

Quote
I couldn't sympathize with the main character, and so didn't feel a connection to the story. Perhaps if I were shown why the narrator was so pathologically attached to her dead mother I could have empathized, but as it stood I was alienated by what seemed like some weakness of character.

I'm not going to go so far as to call you an insensitive jackass, but, well... I'll say I'm glad you don't have any long-simmering emotional problems with members of your family, and that their too-soon death wouldn't leave you with a lot of lingering pain and questions, and leave it at that.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: Calculating... on December 18, 2010, 12:55:28 PM
Did this creep anyone else out?  This story just scared me, I love my mother, but I don't think I could give up years of my own life, the ability to have my own children, just to prolong my mother's life for only a little while longer.  The mother was also selfish, agreeing to this deal that would steal years away from her daughter that she "loved so much".  She knew what the process would do to her daughter, and yet she agreed to go forward with it, or rather she didn't object to it until she saw what she was doing to her daughter.  This whole story gave me the creeps, not so much with reanimating the dead, but rather the complete selfishness and total disregard for other people


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: iamafish on December 18, 2010, 05:13:41 PM
I'm not going to go so far as to call you an insensitive jackass, but, well... I'll say I'm glad you don't have any long-simmering emotional problems with members of your family, and that their too-soon death wouldn't leave you with a lot of lingering pain and questions, and leave it at that.

That seems a little harsh.

If your implying that the protagonist did have long-simmering emotional problems, then it needed to be shown in the narrative, or else the reader/listener has no reason to assume the mother/daughter relationship is anything other than a usual one, whereas I found the protagonist's actions somewhat abnormal. Such things warrant explanation.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: KenK on December 18, 2010, 09:11:40 PM
I couldn't see myself sacrificing my life or health to prolong someone else's even a loved one. People are living things. Living things die. Being aware of that fact doesn't make it easy to take however. I get that. The only (and I mean only) way I'd do something like this is if there was some kind of greater good involved  that would be accomplished. Like if Mom needed a few more months to finish a cure for AIDs , complete a masterpiece work of art, or some similar accomplishment that would justify my sacrifice.  Otherwise, to paraphrase Dean Winchester: (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0837741/) "What's dead should stay dead - didn't you see Pet Sematary?" (And yes I know he is a total hypocrite as far as following his own advice goes.) :D


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: Scattercat on December 18, 2010, 09:40:25 PM
I'm not going to go so far as to call you an insensitive jackass, but, well... I'll say I'm glad you don't have any long-simmering emotional problems with members of your family, and that their too-soon death wouldn't leave you with a lot of lingering pain and questions, and leave it at that.

That seems a little harsh.

If your implying that the protagonist did have long-simmering emotional problems, then it needed to be shown in the narrative

Relevant (http://www.fictionfactor.com/guests/characterization.html).


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: El Barto on December 19, 2010, 09:15:17 PM
For many years I felt strongly that every person should have the right to die.  Then a wonderful professor helped me understand that if the law says that we all have the right to die at the time and way of our choosing, such a law not only bestows new freedoms on those who might want to control their ultimate destinies someday, but also FORCES that decision on huge numbers of people who may otherwise not have wanted to make the decision  . . . and are suddenly confronted with family and societal pressure.

That opened my eyes to the other part of the equation.  Not just those lucid folks who didn't want to suffer excruciating pain for a final miserable week of a terminal disease but the sick grandmother in the hospital who wants to live a few more years but feels pressure to pull her plug preemptively to spare her family the pain of watching her deteriorate or the financial burden of caring for her.   

What I liked about this story was how it chillingly highlighted the burden of that decision and how hard it may be for many adult children to avoid harming themselves in order to continually reanimate their parent from time to time.

The parent-child bond in this story was pretty simple and straightforward.   Can you imagine if this concept really comes to life someday?   How it will lead to huge numbers of bizarre situations, both wonderful and horrible?

Lastly, as for the concept of elan vital, I would have preferred that the author not included it as a physical manifestation (a la midi-chlorians).  It would have been cleaner and more poetic to have the daughter's repeated donation of bone marrow (or something else) simply shorten her lifespan, and to let the title of the story speak for itself.




Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: KenK on December 20, 2010, 01:26:53 PM
Unless they're a ghost Barto, I don't see where the pressure would come from? In the story I mean.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: Anarkey on December 21, 2010, 12:18:07 PM
Quote from: Wilson Fowlie
"Why us but not animals?" is at least one question raised by the 'tech' in this story

This was one question that I could not get out of my head while listening to it. It did not make me like the story any less. It was just a nagging nit-picky buzz in the back of my brain.

I'd guess that it has something to do with genetics.  Maybe the "elan vital" can be extracted from animals, but it's not compatible with human bodies, any more than a blood transfusion from a pig. 


Was there not a line in the story about the revival of rich people's cats?  Did I dream that bit?


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: Ocicat on December 21, 2010, 02:15:52 PM
Was there not a line in the story about the revival of rich people's cats?  Did I dream that bit?

Nope - it was mentioned before the bit about using relatives.  When that was brought up I started wondering if they needed to use closely related pets too.  I can just see pro breeders keeping some lower quality stock for that purpose...


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: FireTurtle on December 21, 2010, 11:30:10 PM
Wow. Talk about timing. I lost my grandmother a week ago. She died at home after a brief illness and we all experienced the joy of seeing her pain along with the devastating trial of obeying her wishes to let her die at home and always wondering if something could be done to give her more time.
This story captured that feeling completely although it got there in a
somewhat circuitous fashion.
It was a fascinating study of human grieving.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: yicheng on December 22, 2010, 03:59:06 PM
I had trouble relating to this story, until I thought about what if my daughter was dying and this was the only way I could see her every year.  To be honest, I'd probably spend every last year of my life for that procedure.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: contra on December 23, 2010, 04:17:56 PM
I listened to this story while shopping.  I ended up at the end in the milk section tears streaming down my face and christmas shoppers generally trying to avoid me.

I loved this story.  For those who don't know the pain of losing a close loved one; I can see how you wouldn't understand this one, or even if you are just a different type of person to the daughter in the story.   But as someone who lost their father very young; given this choice and knowing the side effects, I can't honestly say I wouldn't make the same descision the daughter made.  

And a side note it raises massive ideas about that society in the future, where life itself becomes a currency, be it clearly an unfair one.  


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: Equalizer on December 24, 2010, 04:04:33 PM
This story really spoke to me, more than I expected it to. This year, a friend of mine died from cancer. She was only 26 and passed away two days after her 6 month anniversary. Her husband is my best friend and most likely always will be. They had been dating for a few months when they got the diagnosis. Then he did the bravest thing I will ever experience in my life, and asked her to marry him. They got married a few weeks later, and the rest is history. The timing was unfortunate, because I was in school and couldn't spare the time to go to their house. Even when I did, it felt like I was just making up for the lost time when I used the "school" excuse. I only visited them once during the time she was on palliative care, and to this day I torture myself for that fact. Just like the main character in the story, I always wanted to be there when anything at all happened, but just wasn't. Thanks for posting this one, Mur.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: KenK on December 24, 2010, 04:56:41 PM
Clearly this story touched a lot people just like death does. In the end it will "touch" all of us. Trying to "beat death" is unnatural and Sisyphean task. A path that leads to no good place.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: Bdoomed on December 24, 2010, 11:43:26 PM
I can't say I related too much to the daughter in this story.  Personally, I find it kind of selfish to keep bringing back her mother, sick and dying, constantly.  I don't know, maybe I have a waaay different outlook on death than others.  I've had *does a quick count* seven dogs die in my life, some more dear to me than others, as well as my grandma die of cancer, and an uncle of a heart attack.  I've also taken Vonnegut's views on death to heart, that the past and future are always happening, and therefore loved ones are still alive at some point in time, and I am spending as much time with them as I ever will or will ever need or want to.  After all of this, I guess I'm pretty desensitized to death.  I'd be heartbroken if my parents died, but there's no way I'd ever think of bringing them back in a situation like the one in this story.

However, the story itself was very nice, well written, and touching.  I just don't relate :) (but who says I have to?)


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: Unblinking on December 29, 2010, 10:16:35 AM
Quote from: Wilson Fowlie
"Why us but not animals?" is at least one question raised by the 'tech' in this story

This was one question that I could not get out of my head while listening to it. It did not make me like the story any less. It was just a nagging nit-picky buzz in the back of my brain.

I'd guess that it has something to do with genetics.  Maybe the "elan vital" can be extracted from animals, but it's not compatible with human bodies, any more than a blood transfusion from a pig. 


Was there not a line in the story about the revival of rich people's cats?  Did I dream that bit?

I don't remember that specifically.  But I'd still guess the same thing about compatible genes.  Presumably a cat has to be drained to revive another cat.  And I can see profiteers creating puppy mills or kitty mills for the sole purpose of draining the animals to prolong millionaires' cats' lives.  Or perhaps draining cats that would otherwise be euthanized at the pound.


Title: Re: EP269: Élan Vital
Post by: LaShawn on March 15, 2011, 10:18:58 AM
I had the distinct pleasure of reading this story in Sybil's Garage, so I already knew how it would go about. Listening to this made me think to a Lightspeed story I heard a couple of weeks ago "Standard Loneliness Package" by Charles Yu, which had a similar premise of people taking on other people's pain for money. The idea that those with money would pay people who need (or want) money for strange services is an interesting trope I've been seeing a lot of lately. I would like to see a story from a point of view of a rich person who is taking advantage of these services. How will it affect them knowing that the person they're paying is taking the brunt of what that rich person should be experiencing? Just a thought.

As always, great reading from Mur.