Escape Artists

Escape Pod => Episode Comments => Topic started by: Russell Nash on June 21, 2007, 10:35:07 AM

Title: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Russell Nash on June 21, 2007, 10:35:07 AM
EP111: Mayfly (http://escapepod.org/2007/06/21/ep111-mayfly/)

By Heather Lindsley (http://www.randomjane.com/).
Read by The Word Whore (of Air Out My Shorts (http://www.theitspot.com/)).
First appeared in Strange Horizons (http://www.strangehorizons.com/2006/20060925/mayfly-f.shtml), September 2006.

The reflection of what appears to be a girl of eleven looks back at me from the full-length mirror in the bedroom that was my mother’s. Together we spit out yet another baby tooth, which reminds me I need to drink another calcium-enriched protein shake. Either that, or eat what remains of my mother.

She’s the pile of coarse dust scattered across the bedsheets. Some of my kind swear by mother dust, the way certain factions among the rest of the population swear by breast feeding. And there are benefits, whether you’re still a kid with growing bones or an adult woman facing osteoporosis by the end of the week.

But my mother is not strawberry-flavored, so I opt for the shake.


Ratied R.  Contains sexual scenes and other deep biological imperatives.

(http://escapepod.org/wp-images/podcast-mini4.gif)
Listen to this week’s Escape Pod! (http://www.escapeartists.info/media/escapepod/EP111_Mayfly.mp3)
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Russell Nash on June 21, 2007, 10:35:48 AM
Episode Eleventy-one??
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: SFEley on June 21, 2007, 11:26:13 AM
Episode Eleventy-one??

Hey, I only get to toast the Professor (http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,6109,867575,00.html) with this number once (http://www.tolkiensociety.org/toast/index.html).  Was I going to pass it up?
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Mr. Tweedy on June 21, 2007, 11:28:40 AM
Big "meh" on this one.

I thought the idea was very interesting–a sentient species that only lives for a week–but it didn't really go anywhere.  The premises could be used to examine lots of profound questions about the purpose and meaning of our lives, the impact of our actions on future generations, etc, all that stuff.  And it had the potential to be very emotionally moving.  The idea has an inherent element of tragedy, and tragedy often brings beauty with it.

But for all the potential, the execution was pretty dry, I thought.  The protagonist accepts her lot with a stoicism that makes it seem simply normal, like this living a week and dying is no big deal to her, just how life is.  She never seems really happy or sad or pensive about anything, and so I never got any emotional connection with her.  She came off as just a freak, without any personality behind the weirdness.

I know it's not cool to harp on plausibility, but I think this is actually important to the story: The protagonist is obviously not human.  All the differences (metabolism, life cycle, bearing only female children) are too extreme.  She is a different species.  So why does she need human sperm?  Obviously, the male isn't contributing anything to the offspring, otherwise each generation of "mayflies" would be more human, longer lived, etc.  This makes her quest to mate nonsensical.

A better (and more plausible) approach, I think, would have been to have male and female "mayflies" who live alongside humans, either in secret or openly.  The contrast between their perspectives on life could have been fascinating.  But maybe I'm asking too much: That sounds like a novel.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: eytanz on June 21, 2007, 12:58:30 PM
I wasn't bothered by the plausiblity issues that Tweedy mentioned - never even occured to me, I guess I just immediately assumed a supernatural rather than natural explanation for the protagonist's species - but I agree that this story was not very exciting.

I think the problem was with the narrative structure and its not being very suitable to audio presentation - it's 1st person, and present tense, but instead of going through the experiences she's having, she's just describing them to us, in an academic style. This works ok written, but when read out loud, it sounds very detached. Normally I don't mind so much, but this detachment worked very much against the core theme here, of women with lives so short they take great care to spend every moment wisely. This just doesn't get through if you feel that the narrator is at the same time removed from the events she's describing. Some parts were less so - the clothes picking part, for instance - and those parts worked best. But all the sensual parts of life - being born, eating, sex, giving birth - were relegated to single sentence descriptions, if at that. The sex, for example, felt like TV soap opera sex - a buildup toward it, people touch each other, and - cut to the next scene.

Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Swamp on June 21, 2007, 03:30:38 PM
I loved this story when I first read it last year on Strange Horizons.  I thought it was a wonderful "thought experiment" as Steve put it.  I remember thinking as I read it: "This would make a great Escape Pod story!"  And, alas, I was right; it was a great Escape Pod story!

I think it works perfectly for audio presentation.

As for action, I think the strength of the story was that we followed the character through her entire life; and her life was filled with taking care of the next generation based on what she had learned from, and the resepect she had for, her ancestors.  Wasn't it just dicussed in the thread for last week's story (and intro) that the Hero is not necessarily the one who "fights the dragon" or overcomes insumountable odds?  The real hero is the one that takes care of things not only for their immediate family, but also maintaining or transcending the integrity of the family line.  This commitment was shown in what May did with her short life.  She also managed to enjoy herself with movies, ice cream, etc., but that wasn't all she did.  Can I say the same for myself in this selfish world addicted to leisure?

If this had been a longer story, the daily play-by-play would have become more monotonous, but the author wisely kept it short. 
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Swamp on June 21, 2007, 03:38:14 PM
This makes her quest to mate nonsensical.

Except for the fact that if she didn't mate, she would not have carried on her family line.

I see what you're saying about the male mayflies, but that would probably have lost the focus of this short story.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Mr. Tweedy on June 21, 2007, 03:50:45 PM
This makes her quest to mate nonsensical.

Except for the fact that if she didn't mate, she would not have carried on her family line.

I see what you're saying about the male mayflies, but that would probably have lost the focus of this short story.

But she's mating with a member of another species.  It's like a cat mating with a dog to make kittens.  Logically, the offspring should be half mayfly, half human, not more mayflies.

Unless she needs some chemical in semen to catalyze a cloning process.  The babies are just hers, but she needs a specific human chemical to make them.  I guess that could work.  Kind of like a mosquito needs blood from another species in order to make more mosquitos.  So I just defeated my own implausibility argument...  Um, good for me, I guess.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: eytanz on June 21, 2007, 05:44:30 PM

If this had been a longer story, the daily play-by-play would have become more monotonous, but the author wisely kept it short. 

I wasn't saying I wanted it to be longer, but that I wanted it to have a somewhat different point of view - have the narration be less blatantly "explaining my life to an outsider". I should try to get a hold of the print version and see how it reads.

I wonder if I would have enjoyed this episode more if I had previously read the story - is that a factor in our different reactions to it, or is it just a matter of taste. Hmmm... I wonder how to phrase the grant application so I can get funding for a controlled experiment...
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: DKT on June 21, 2007, 05:51:44 PM
There's a link to the Strange Horizons version in the original post.
I should try to get a hold of the print version and see how it reads.

There's a link to SH (where the story was first published) in the original post.  Just trying to be helpful.  :)
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: eytanz on June 21, 2007, 05:54:52 PM
Ah - thanks!

Edit - Ok, now that I've read it - yes, I found it to work a whole lot better in print. Of course, I'm biased since I thought it would before I started, but I appreciate the story a lot more now. And I feel that for me, at least, it was not well suited as an audio story, but then again, I probably would never have read it if it weren't on EP, so I'm still quite happy it was on.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: schark on June 22, 2007, 12:35:08 PM
Hello all, long-time lurker, first-time poster.  I just had to write something in response to this story.  Two things, really:

1.  Can the Word Whore read every story?  Or at least many of them?  I love her voice, her style, everything.  Her reading of "Just Do It" a little while back is what got me hooked on Escape Pod, actually.

2.  I really loved this story.  I've been a little disappointed with some of the recent offerings, notably "Frankie the Spook" and "Impossible Dreams", which both struck me as derivative of old "Twilight Zone" episodes, but this is what I look for in a story.  I didn't mind at all that there was very little plot or that the science may not quite hold together (although the mayflies could be approached as more of a human mutation rather than a separate species).  As an actor myself, I tend to be fascinated by character explorations.  I felt similarly about "Eight Episodes", although I was less enamored of its reading.  If the subject matter or character is interesting, sign me up.

Thanks for the great stories.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: shiatis on June 22, 2007, 12:35:38 PM
Hey, you got your Pseudo Pod in my Escape Pod!

It seemed a little dark, especially after Frankie and Squonk. Does anyone else think this would have worked better on PP?
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: sayeth on June 22, 2007, 01:03:12 PM
Mr Tweedy, no offense, but I believe you're confused on Mendelian genetics. The phenotype is improbable: extremely rapid maturation, transfer of memories, sex selection. However, if these particular maternally inherited traits are dominant, then it doesn't matter what the male contributes with regard to continuation of the mayfly phenotype. There's indication in the story that selection of the father is somewhat important, so other traits seem to be inherited from either parents.

If it's just this collection of traits that defines a mayfly, there's no reason to assign her to a separate species, at least from the standard Ernst Mayr  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_Mayr)definition of a biological species (you can debate other definitions, but that's another discussion entirely).  The biggest barrier to plausibility I saw was the memory transfer, but if you can overlook that, then it's a nice enjoyable story.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: ClintMemo on June 22, 2007, 02:05:04 PM
I liked this story overall. It was a nice combination of "what if?" and "a day in the life."
And I always enjoy the Word Whore's reading.  I find her voice just very *comfortable* for lack of a better term.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Mr. Tweedy on June 22, 2007, 02:11:34 PM
Mr Tweedy, no offense, but I believe you're confused on Mendelian genetics. The phenotype is improbable: extremely rapid maturation, transfer of memories, sex selection. However, if these particular maternally inherited traits are dominant, then it doesn't matter what the male contributes with regard to continuation of the mayfly phenotype. There's indication in the story that selection of the father is somewhat important, so other traits seem to be inherited from either parents.

If it's just this collection of traits that defines a mayfly, there's no reason to assign her to a separate species, at least from the standard Ernst Mayr  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_Mayer)definition of a biological species (you can debate other definitions, but that's another discussion entirely).  The biggest barrier to plausibility I saw was the memory transfer, but if you can overlook that, then it's a nice enjoyable story.

That's funny, because I didn't find the memory transfer implausible.  With all the other differences, I figured the mayflies would have a mechanism for priming the baby's brain (especially if the babies are clones).  Actually, the memory transfer is essential, because the offspring don't have time learn how to pay bills on their own.  The species could not exist without inherited memories.  I picture a modified umbilical chord which includes a neural line between the fetal brain and the mother's spine, priming the brain as it develops.  Hey, why not?
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Rachel Swirsky on June 22, 2007, 02:23:47 PM
I take it no one's read Suzy McKee Charnas's _Motherlines_.

Continuing to love this story, as I have every time I've read it.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: sayeth on June 22, 2007, 02:44:17 PM
That's funny, because I didn't find the memory transfer implausible.  With all the other differences, I figured the mayflies would have a mechanism for priming the baby's brain (especially if the babies are clones).  Actually, the memory transfer is essential, because the offspring don't have time learn how to pay bills on their own.  The species could not exist without inherited memories.  I picture a modified umbilical chord which includes a neural line between the fetal brain and the mother's spine, priming the brain as it develops.  Hey, why not?

Good point, but I still think memory transfer is biologically implausible, given how memories are thought to be stored. You'd need basically a second nervous system during pregnancy to recall and transmit the loads of memories into an unformed brain that's relying on certain patterns of input to form its basic circuitry. You can't just data dump info into the human brain - if too many neurons start firing at once, you get an epileptic seizure. Sure, you could invent some ways around these objections, so I stand by it being implausible, but not impossible. Of course, this story doesn't pretend to be hard-SF, so I'd give a pass to most any explanation given, even psychic powers.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Swamp on June 22, 2007, 03:18:35 PM
Hey, you got your Pseudo Pod in my Escape Pod!

It seemed a little dark, especially after Frankie and Squonk. Does anyone else think this would have worked better on PP?

Naw, the PP listeners (yes I am one) would just complain that the story wasn't dark enough for horror.  ;)

And really the only dark part of it  is the trivial way in which she talks about her mother's ashes and I think that is just part of her pragmatic nature that has developed over the generations.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Mr. Tweedy on June 22, 2007, 03:52:36 PM
You can't just data dump info into the human brain - if too many neurons start firing at once, you get an epileptic seizure.

What?!  What about The Matrix?  You mean you can't really learn kung-fu in 5 seconds?   :'(

Maybe you can't data dump into an adult brain, but these memories are going into the brain as it forms.  The neurons would grow into the desired configuration from the get-go.

(Of course, they'd also burst into flames from the extreme metabolism, but who's keeping score?  If the Alien can do it, so can mayflies!)
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Mr. Tweedy on June 22, 2007, 03:58:45 PM
I take it no one's read Suzy McKee Charnas's _Motherlines_.

Continuing to love this story, as I have every time I've read it.

Can I find that online someplace?
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Bdoomed on June 23, 2007, 12:05:06 AM
1.  Can the Word Whore read every story?  Or at least many of them?  I love her voice, her style, everything.
:) I fully agree with ya on this one!  If ya really like her, listen to Air Out My Shorts!

I enjoyed this story.  It took me a little bit to fully register the "live for a week" prospect, but on my second listen I really enjoyed it.  I don't mind any implausibility or anything.  Memory transfer isn't implausible, considering that their brains are developing at an accelerated rate, the massive transfer of memories might be easier for the brain to take.
It wasn't a particularly exciting story, but it was definitely an interesting thought experiment (as Steve put it so nicely).
The premises could be used to examine lots of profound questions about the purpose and meaning of our lives, the impact of our actions on future generations, etc, all that stuff.  And it had the potential to be very emotionally moving.
...
A better (and more plausible) approach, I think, would have been to have male and female "mayflies" who live alongside humans, either in secret or openly.  The contrast between their perspectives on life could have been fascinating.  But maybe I'm asking too much: That sounds like a novel.
I agree with you that this story had much more potential than it exploited.  If it were made into a novel, it could explore these ideas very well (tho it would need a different narration technique)
But i think that if there were male mayflies, it would dull the necessity to manage time wisely.  It would also severely limit the gene pool, small as it is already.

It would be very interesting for modern scientists (<--vague no?) to find a few mayflies and experiment on genetics further using them. Also they would provide a lot of info on the development of the body...
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Rachel Swirsky on June 23, 2007, 02:47:58 AM
'Fraid it's not internetted. Should be in libraries, though; it's the second book of Charnas's Holdfast Chronicles.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: akadruid on June 23, 2007, 03:41:04 AM
I thought this was a cracking episode.

I think EP has a quarterly cycle - December and March had some great episodes, and June is looking sweet so far.  I even enjoyed Squonk.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: sirana on June 23, 2007, 04:01:57 AM
Very thoughtprovoking.
The matter-of-fact-ness and stoicism that Mr. Tweedy complained about actually worked better for me than a more passionate and emotional treatment would have. Imho that fits very well to the fact that the week is not only her complete lifetime, but is also "Just a normal week"tm in the lifetime of her family (whos memories she incorporates). Also, I'm a sucker for stoic heroes.
The theme of sacrificing your time for your offspring in doing something menial and boring (like writing postcards and applying stamps) or in "contributing to the cultural heritage" resonates with me very much, even though I can't say excactly why.
The portrayage of death in the story struck me as very sad and very soothing at the same time.

Again, a great and fitting reading by the wordwhore.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Russell Nash on June 23, 2007, 05:08:10 AM
I don't think we need to look at the science here at all.  It's not SF it's supernatural.  The one practical point I wanted to bring up (just after I said we should stop doing that) is that with the speed of her metabolism and the amounts she was eating, she'd be spending A huge percentage of her life just sitting on the toilet.

We have a SF podcast, a horror podcast, and soon a fantasy podcast.  Where will future supernatural stories go?  Quite often they go into horror; but if it isn't scary, then what? 

This story was OK.  The reading was excellent, but the story seemed predestined.  She really didn't have any time for anything outside of growing and procreating. 

I'm not disappointed, but this isn't a keeper.  I've heard it once. I'm done. Next!
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: eytanz on June 23, 2007, 06:44:22 AM
This story was OK.  The reading was excellent, but the story seemed predestined.  She really didn't have any time for anything outside of growing and procreating. 

Well, not quite. There's a bit of change given the sudden shift from single births to twins. The problem for me with that was that it's totally arbitrary - there's no explanation (probably adding one would have bogged down the story anyway), nor does the structure of the story lend itself to discussing the implications much. It was hinted that it's a worldwide phenomenon, hitting all the mayflies at once. It was also strongly hinted that it's going to continue, resulting in exponential growth of the community (the table of numbers growing to over 2000 in 12 steps is quite probably just a powers table for 2). But that's it.

The other problem is that the story seems to be directed at insinuating the growth of the mayfly population as a possible threat - sort of like the ending of "The Watching People". There's an implication that exponentially growing communities of mayflies will overwhelm the human population very, very quickly. But unlike the watching people, where the threat is reinforced by everything in the story, here the entire story ends up demonstrating why exponential growth would not be a problem for humans, but for the mayflies themselves.They will find it much harder to hide once there's thousands of them, they'll be unable to find enough males, and most importantly, the interest on their money supplies will no longer be enough to sustain them (in fact, even the first generation of twins will likely have to start withdrawing more money than they accumulate that week). They'll have to start getting food by other methods, which will lead to widespread starvation, or else they will be pretty notable. Mayfly communities will rapidly become non-self sustaining, unless the sisters start killing each other. And any community with a problem with rampaging mayflies robbing food stores can quite easily exterminate them by just not having sex with them.

So, I'm just not sure about the twin birth as a plot element - it feels to me more like something stuck in there to make the story have more resonance than just "the life of an alien among us - a vignette", but it doesn't feel like the writer thought it through - neither its explanation nor consequences.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Rachel Swirsky on June 23, 2007, 05:13:10 PM
"Where will future supernatural stories go?"

I'm happy to take cross-genre work for the fantasy podcast.

For the record, though, I think "Mayfly" is science fiction.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Russell Nash on June 25, 2007, 12:26:17 AM
"Where will future supernatural stories go?"

I'm happy to take cross-genre work for the fantasy podcast.

For the record, though, I think "Mayfly" is science fiction.

Where's the Science in here.  The closest you can get is that maybe she's the result of some experiment.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: caltrop on June 25, 2007, 01:35:44 AM
Heya - I'm a pretty new listener to Escape Pod & I am hooked!  Thanks so much for making my workday go by faster!  I am definitely looking forward to the fantasy podcast as well.

I really liked Mayfly.  I thought it had an interesting concept.  I found the  story arc/character study to be both sweet and sad, for many of the same reasons mentioned in earlier posts by kmmr & sirana.

I couldn't help laughing at the grocery store scene.  Who hasn't run into those people at the store?  I wonder if the whole story had been germinated by that idea - why people buy large quantities of such odd items.  I often speculate about it when I see them stocking up on things like frozen food and detergent.  Now I will probably always see them as "Mayflies", much in the same way I forever think of "Milkmaids" thanks to Clerks. 
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Rachel Swirsky on June 25, 2007, 05:46:29 AM
"The closest you can get is that maybe she's the result of some experiment."

Only if you assume earth-default, which I don't see textual support for. There's nothing to suggest in the story (that I recall) that the mayflies aren't an example of parasitic, parallel evolution. There are other creatures in the animal kingdom that mimic one type of animal in order to take advantage of some kind of ecological niche (in this case human culture).

I agree that the story has the feel of fantasy on that sort of ineffable mood/tone level, but I think the aim is SFnal.

[edited for clarity]
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Listener on June 25, 2007, 06:01:01 AM
First, responses to the comments of others:

Russell Nash - we had problems like that at my old job with our voice synthesis software.  There's probably an exception list somewhere.  I didn't even recognize it as a word when I heard it, just a jumble of digitized female vocals.

Schark - Me too.  "Just Do It" -- written by and read by the same duo -- got me started listening to EP.

***

I liked the story.  I felt it accomplished what it needed to, which was to let us think on what might happen if a human life was as short as a mayfly's.  When every day is a decade, would you still spend a decade going to Disneyworld or five years at the mall?  How hard must it be to spend a whole year just at the grocery store?  What if you wasted four years in traffic because someone crashed a car into the guardrail?

I enjoyed the reading, but I think it may have been too emotionless.  In my experience, when there's less time available, there's more passion.  Though the fact that the mayflies had a collective thought matrix passed on from generation to generation may have led to May's dispassion with everything.

I try to suspend my scientific knowledge when I read/hear a story, except when it fits.  IMO the point of science fiction is to take what you know and extrapolate.  I know what mayflies are and I have a vague idea of their lifestyle, but it didn't matter to me what created May and her kind.  For the 20something minutes of the story, all that mattered was that May was.  If the author had chosen to explain how she was, or why, I might have cared, but I don't think that was important to the story.

Overall, enjoyable.

Terry Pratchett on mayflies in Reaper Man (http://www.brainformation.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5856&sid=c5f7a3b60fa2a5ef6dcf5abe33632952)
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Thaurismunths on June 25, 2007, 08:19:40 AM
I really enjoyed the thought experiment that was this story.
The life of the mayfly was very much like that of a "Normal" person. She spent her whole life trying to make the most of every minute (right down to the stamps), but really didn't get much accomplished over all. She finished a book and watched a couple movies, and had offspring. We really don't get much more accomplished in our lifetimes either (in a very simplistic view).

For those stuck on the Science of this fiction:
You assume that a "data dump" is going in to a static brain, but the mayfly case the brain is growing as the information is going in. This means that the brain is expanding as the memories are uploaded OR the mayflies have a genetic memory and the brain just grows with these memories already a part of it.

The normalizing of her genetics is covered by her desire for a young male with "A slow metabolism" and at risk for heart failure vs. cancer. That suggested that there is some genetic variation and inheritable traits coming from the father even though Mayfly might be the dominant phenotype.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Russell Nash on June 25, 2007, 12:08:32 PM
Russell Nash - we had problems like that at my old job with our voice synthesis software.  There's probably an exception list somewhere.  I didn't even recognize it as a word when I heard it, just a jumble of digitized female vocals.

Huh?  Please quote the parts of the posts you're talking about, because I had to go back over all of my posts and I only think I know which one you might be talking about.  If it's the "Eleventy-one" Steve clarified in the next post that he did it on purpose to honor Tolkien.  I felt like an idiot for not getting the nod.

"The closest you can get is that maybe she's the result of some experiment."

Only if you assume earth-default, which I don't see textual support for. There's nothing to suggest in the story (that I recall) that the mayflies aren't an example of parasitic, parallel evolution. There are other creatures in the animal kingdom that mimic one type of animal in order to take advantage of some kind of ecological niche (in this case human culture).

I agree that the story has the feel of fantasy on that sort of ineffable mood/tone level, but I think the aim is SFnal.

[edited for clarity]
 

Well, there were postcards from Japan and Germany and at the end a large package from Austria. 

By your definition every supernatural story is SF.  There's absolutely no need for any over catagory.  If it's not a perfectly normal event that happens every day, it's SF.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Rachel Swirsky on June 25, 2007, 12:36:29 PM
I don't know how you're reading my comment to make that leap, Russell.

The question of whether or not the story is fantasy or SF would seem to come down to the question of the mayfly's origin. Since one can imagine a setting that looks just like our earth in which there had evolved mayfly-like creatures, and since the story is at pains elsewhere to establish a realistic mode of narration, I see no reason to invent a supernatural spur.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Listener on June 25, 2007, 12:37:37 PM
Russell Nash - we had problems like that at my old job with our voice synthesis software.  There's probably an exception list somewhere.  I didn't even recognize it as a word when I heard it, just a jumble of digitized female vocals.

Huh?  Please quote the parts of the posts you're talking about, because I had to go back over all of my posts and I only think I know which one you might be talking about.  If it's the "Eleventy-one" Steve clarified in the next post that he did it on purpose to honor Tolkien.  I felt like an idiot for not getting the nod.

I didn't get it either, but then the only Tolkien I've read is LOTR and honestly, it didn't blow me away mostly because the hobbit parts were really boring.  At least to me.  *shrug*

Sorry about the quote thing...
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Holden on June 25, 2007, 12:52:42 PM
I wonder what it would be like to marry one of those beings. It would work out pretty well for the mayfly. Each generation wouldn't have to worry about not finding a mate at the last minute, plus she could go childless for six days if she so chose and have the baby at the last minute and the husband could take care of the baby himself for the one day needed until it is old enough to care for itself.  In addition, the husband could tend to such menial tasks as shopping and writing postcards so each mayfly can more fully enjoy their one week of life.

Just imagine, if you married one of these beings then in a sense you would have a new wife every week. Each progressive generation would have all the memories of the previous ones, so in a sense it's almost the same person, but not entirely. Before marrying a mayfly, the prospective husband should be aware that it does come with the fairly serious drawback of having to deliver a baby in your bedroom once a week for life.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Russell Nash on June 25, 2007, 12:57:17 PM
I don't know how you're reading my comment to make that leap, Russell.

The question of whether or not the story is fantasy or SF would seem to come down to the question of the mayfly's origin. Since one can imagine a setting that looks just like our earth in which there had evolved mayfly-like creatures, and since the story is at pains elsewhere to establish a realistic mode of narration, I see no reason to invent a supernatural spur.

Then I guess I don't understand what you wrote before at all.  To me (and I thought this was the definition) SF uses technology and advanced uses of science to create the framework for a story.

I guess since it might be aliens, it must be SF.

It's funny I'm having this arguement, because I hate genres.  If it's a good story, I don't care what kind it is.  My original intention was that I hope the podcasts don't get too specific and let stories go, because they don't fit.

I wonder what it would be like to marry one of those beings. It would work out pretty well for the mayfly. Each generation wouldn't have to worry about not finding a mate at the last minute, plus she could go childless for six days if she so chose and have the baby at the last minute and the husband could take care of the baby himself for the one day needed until it is old enough to care for itself.  In addition, the husband could tend to such menial tasks as shopping and writing postcards so each mayfly can more fully enjoy their one week of life.

Just imagine, if you married one of these beings then in a sense you would have a new wife every week. Each progressive generation would have all the memories of the previous ones, so in a sense it's almost the same person, but not entirely. Before marrying a mayfly, the prospective husband should be aware that it does come with the fairly serious drawback of having to deliver a baby in your bedroom once a week for life.

ewwwwwwww, can you say incest??
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Rachel Swirsky on June 25, 2007, 02:29:07 PM
I didn't mean to imply aliens. I suggested the evolution of parasitic creatures in my earlier comment.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: The Word Whore on June 25, 2007, 03:37:47 PM
I wonder what it would be like to marry one of those beings. It would work out pretty well for the mayfly. Each generation wouldn't have to worry about not finding a mate at the last minute, plus she could go childless for six days if she so chose and have the baby at the last minute and the husband could take care of the baby himself for the one day needed until it is old enough to care for itself.  In addition, the husband could tend to such menial tasks as shopping and writing postcards so each mayfly can more fully enjoy their one week of life.

Just imagine, if you married one of these beings then in a sense you would have a new wife every week. Each progressive generation would have all the memories of the previous ones, so in a sense it's almost the same person, but not entirely. Before marrying a mayfly, the prospective husband should be aware that it does come with the fairly serious drawback of having to deliver a baby in your bedroom once a week for life.



Dueling Banjos playing in my head  ;)
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: SFEley on June 25, 2007, 04:15:42 PM
I wonder what it would be like to marry one of those beings. It would work out pretty well for the mayfly. Each generation wouldn't have to worry about not finding a mate at the last minute, plus she could go childless for six days if she so chose and have the baby at the last minute and the husband could take care of the baby himself for the one day needed until it is old enough to care for itself.

Good for support, perhaps; bad for genetic diversity.  It wouldn't take many generations for all the defects to come out. 

Now, an open marriage where each mayfly got sperm from wherever she needed to but came home to the same guy...  But that would be an entirely different story.  >8->
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Thaurismunths on June 26, 2007, 07:16:24 AM
I wonder what it would be like to marry one of those beings. It would work out pretty well for the mayfly. Each generation wouldn't have to worry about not finding a mate at the last minute, plus she could go childless for six days if she so chose and have the baby at the last minute and the husband could take care of the baby himself for the one day needed until it is old enough to care for itself.  In addition, the husband could tend to such menial tasks as shopping and writing postcards so each mayfly can more fully enjoy their one week of life.

Just imagine, if you married one of these beings then in a sense you would have a new wife every week. Each progressive generation would have all the memories of the previous ones, so in a sense it's almost the same person, but not entirely. Before marrying a mayfly, the prospective husband should be aware that it does come with the fairly serious drawback of having to deliver a baby in your bedroom once a week for life.

I think an open lesbian relationship, or closed relationship with notable exceptions, would work better. With a female partner, sex, love, and companionship wouldn’t come with the risk of incest.
Both women could work to assure there was a 'willing donor' available, perhaps the less-mortal partner could provide the luxury of being a little more choosy about mates, seeking out men with slow metabolisms who might otherwise not be interested in one-night-stands.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: The Word Whore on June 26, 2007, 12:44:51 PM
I think an open lesbian relationship, or closed relationship with notable exceptions, would work better. With a female partner, sex, love, and companionship wouldn’t come with the risk of incest.
Both women could work to assure there was a 'willing donor' available, perhaps the less-mortal partner could provide the luxury of being a little more choosy about mates, seeking out men with slow metabolisms who might otherwise not be interested in one-night-stands.

I do hope Ms Lindsley is reading...
This would make a delicious sequel  ;)
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: eytanz on June 26, 2007, 01:35:55 PM
It would indeed make for a fun sequel.

That said, I'm a bit curious as to why people are trying to pair the Mays up - the story itself doesn't really give any indication that they - well, at least the narrating May - had any desire for any sort of  lasting relationship. It didn't feel to me like the fact that she can't form any such relationship - romantic, friendship, or anything else - bothered her at the least. I have a feeling that she doesn't really share human social instincts to the same degree.

Let alone that, since it was implied that different generations could differ in personality at least to some extent, it may be impractical for another reason - for the POV of the partner, it could well be like dating someone with violent mood swings - one week she's really into you, the next week she dislikes you, then she likes you again, then she's indifferent.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Thaurismunths on June 26, 2007, 01:47:32 PM
...one week she's really into you, the next week she dislikes you, then she likes you again, then she's indifferent.
*Insert snide comment here.* ;)
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: The Word Whore on June 26, 2007, 02:08:53 PM
...one week she's really into you, the next week she dislikes you, then she likes you again, then she's indifferent.
*Insert snide comment here.* ;)

<lol>  yes, that pretty much describes every relationship... i.m.l.e.

I did get the sense of longing for a deeper connection (albeit it subtle) during May's encounter with the bartender. However, this is balanced *very appropriately* by 'bred-in' knowledge/understanding/acceptance – no point in (or time for) pining. The survival instinct keeps her grounded and the ultimate focus on self-preservation, kicks in... wins.


Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: wakela on June 26, 2007, 06:38:55 PM
I liked it.  I could see this story as a kickoff for one of our "survival" threads like the zombies and going back in time.

I would have been interested in more conflict.  All of her problems had pretty easy solutions even getting hit by a car.  What if she had ended up in a hospital?  What if the bartender tracks down her apartment and visits the daughter?

Her life seemed pretty normal...pay bills, go to the store, mail postcards, get laid...  I would think that after generations of mayflies they would develop some kind of hyper-efficiency.  At the very least they would use an online mayfly forum and automatic bill payment.  But then the story is less treasure-every-moment and more boss, gadgety sci-fi.  This and my conflict comment above were probably not the author's intention. 

Was I the only one who was wondering what the word whore was wearing when she read this?  I'm just sayin'...
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: slic on June 26, 2007, 07:56:31 PM
I enjoyed the story while I was hearing it, but I found that there were more and more little "annoyances" as I thought about it.  The first, most obvious one, was genetic drift/evolution.  How long had the May's been around?  For every one human generation(roughly 30 years), they go through 1560 (about 46,800 human years)- even a small drift would show up quickly.  What about other May's who left it to the last minute and ended up sleeping with some goofball loser - what "bad" genes did they get? What about mixed race babies?  Wouldn't it be slightly noticeable if next week your neighbour suddenly became mullato? 
Second, why would they spread out so far - granted it cuts down on the possible discovery, but if they had overlapping weeks - born on a Monday, born on a Wednesday - like the old nursery rhyme - they could help each other out easily (and it could be platonic - sorry, Thaurismunths).  The idea of communal families isn't new.
Third, how long did it take her to get autobill paying?  Man, I age in a much slower fashion and I got that ages ago!  I'd think they would have developed a multitaking ability generations ago - why wasn't she at least reading the book while on hold?

It really works as a "remember to cherish every day" kinda thing, but the logic falls apart too easily for me to really enjoy it.

I agree with the other comments that the twins ending seemed tacked on, and almost "extra last flip" that didn't tie into the rest of the dance routine.  There was no need for it.

Also, the generational memories got me to thinking that this is less like a Mother/Daughter relationship and more like an accelerated Dr. Who kind of deal.  It's really the same person changing bodies every week - though instead of moulting, it more of an internal transferance.  I get that the story needed to explain how an 11 year knew how to pay bills and cook, etc., but this fundamentally changed the relationship - you're not teaching me, I'm remembering being you.  In effect, the Mayfly is an immortal of sorts.
To maintain a Parent/Child idea perhaps the solution would have been a high speed language of sorts, a way they could only communicate amongst themselves, and it would sound like buzzing to any human listening to it (kinda like the Star Trek episode where Kirk gets "accelerated").
Quick aside - in three postings to this forum today, I've referenced three different ST:TOS episodes - man that was a great series!
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Bdoomed on June 26, 2007, 11:03:42 PM
It would indeed make for a fun sequel.

That said, I'm a bit curious as to why people are trying to pair the Mays up - the story itself doesn't really give any indication that they - well, at least the narrating May - had any desire for any sort of  lasting relationship. It didn't feel to me like the fact that she can't form any such relationship - romantic, friendship, or anything else - bothered her at the least. I have a feeling that she doesn't really share human social instincts to the same degree.
I don't think its a lack of human social instincts, rather a matter of how long they live. you cant expect anyone to feel a need for partnership when they are only alive for one week.
this follows Maslow's Hierarchy of needs.  the need for love comes after the need for food, water, sex, and safety.  Being alive for one week, i doubt any of the mayflies have any time to care about love.  They are more concerned with basic survival.  Get pleanty of calcium and protein and vitamins, then procreate, give birth, die.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Thaurismunths on June 27, 2007, 10:51:21 AM
I did get the sense of longing for a deeper connection (albeit it subtle) during May's encounter with the bartender. However, this is balanced *very appropriately* by 'bred-in' knowledge/understanding/acceptance – no point in (or time for) pining. The survival instinct keeps her grounded and the ultimate focus on self-preservation, kicks in... wins.
Did you get that from her specualtion about the bartender's past? Something about him not being as young as she thought, and having an 'interesting' personal history?
I can see where the Mayflys would be envious of those with longer lives, but you're right that their biology has its own requirements while time and tide wait for no (wo)man.

I love the irony of the conversations this story has prompted.
Someone mentioned "why didn't she read the book while she was on the phone?" and others bring up the phenotypic impossibilities of it. But it's all a matter of perspective. We humans live about 4000 times longer than the Mayflys. For us that seems impossibly short. "How could they waste SO MUCH time, when they have so precious little? Don't they know they could be doing MORE with their time? Each life is so short, why are they concerned about it? Why don't they use each generation to work towards a common, greater, goal?"
I can only imagine that's what the mountains think when the look down on us. And here we are, sitting in front of our computers, passing judgment on a piece of short fiction when there's cancer to cure. :)
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Swamp on June 27, 2007, 11:46:19 AM
We humans live about 4000 times longer than the Mayflys. For us that seems impossibly short. "How could they waste SO MUCH time, when they have so precious little? Don't they know they could be doing MORE with their time? Each life is so short, why are they concerned about it? Why don't they use each generation to work towards a common, greater, goal?"
I can only imagine that's what the mountains think when the look down on us.

Great point!  I think that is what Steve (and vicariously, Mur) was saying in the intro with "Let Today not be wasted!"
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: slic on June 27, 2007, 01:23:32 PM
My comment about reading the book (or for that matter doing anything else, like putting the stamps on the postcards) while on hold came directly from the sense of this line:
"I will spend twenty minutes of my precious time on hold, waiting to set up the account for automatic debit, a generous legacy to my grateful descendants."

20 minutes for her is well over the equivalent of a month and a half for me.  I do anything that tedious for a month and half, I will find some way to make good use of my time. And remember, this is someone with memories/experiences from many lifetimes.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Thaurismunths on June 27, 2007, 02:06:10 PM
My comment about reading the book (or for that matter doing anything else, like putting the stamps on the postcards) while on hold came directly from the sense of this line:
"I will spend twenty minutes of my precious time on hold, waiting to set up the account for automatic debit, a generous legacy to my grateful descendants."

20 minutes for her is well over the equivalent of a month and a half for me.  I do anything that tedious for a month and half, I will find some way to make good use of my time. And remember, this is someone with memories/experiences from many lifetimes.
I totally agree.
From an SF perspective it seems like she would have done something constructive with her time, and maybe she did. Sorted socks, wiped the table, made a grocery list, who knows.
But from a thought experiment perspective I think the author meant to point out how we waste our time when we could have otherwise been multi-tasking. As it is, Americans spend 60 hours per year on-hold,  that works out to something like 6 months on hold in a life time. And what do we do with those lost moments? Not a whole lot more than she did. And we get multiple tries at getting it right.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Rachel Swirsky on June 27, 2007, 02:58:30 PM
She doesn't perceive 20 minutes as being a month and a half; her subjective perception of it is 20 minutes. You're judging things by your lifespan. That's as unfair as a tortoise wandering up and mentioning that a month and a half of our time is like six months of its time.

Although, I really wish a tortoise would do that. Scientists, go invent a talking tortoise.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: The Word Whore on June 27, 2007, 03:07:37 PM

I did get the sense of longing for a deeper connection (albeit it subtle) during May's encounter with the bartender. However, this is balanced *very appropriately* by 'bred-in' knowledge/understanding/acceptance – no point in (or time for) pining. The survival instinct keeps her grounded and the ultimate focus on self-preservation, kicks in... wins.
Did you get that from her specualtion about the bartender's past? Something about him not being as young as she thought, and having an 'interesting' personal history?

I just find myself reading-between-the-lines (maybe even unfairly inventing chapters) during this *brief* encounter, which – we can all agree, in the scheme of things – is not brief at all. This is the only real "human connection" she makes, but – if it had been explored any further – it would've drastically sidetracked and altered the story.

Still, there is a definite implication that May could very well be meeting her Great (x hundreds) Grandfather and, to someone with so little 'real' human interaction, I find that far more compelling / thought-provoking (and, very sorry Heather :-[  "story-worthy") than the whole "twins" vein.


"...but that's another story..."


Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: DKT on June 27, 2007, 03:10:31 PM
There was a Ray Bradbury story I read about 10 years ago called "Frost and Fire."  It had a somewhat similiar premise to this story in that the protagonist of that story also only got to live for about a week, as did everyone else from his race.  But IIRC, I think the protagonist in that story did something magnificent, and figured out how to break the cycle (I could be wrong on that -- like I said, it's been 10 years).  It could be argued that this is somewhat implausible, I suppose...if this was a problem that the whole race had to live with for their entirety, how could this one kid break it.  But I remember really enjoying the story in college and I don't think Bradbury was ever too concerned with the plausibility.  

I like thinking about this story in relation to that one because despite some similarities, they're also polar opposites.  In this story, instead of saving the world or extending her life, May just lives it like most of us do.  We plod along, spending 8 hours at jobs we're usually not crazy about to provide for ourselves and our families and hopefully, our children can learn do it better than we did.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: slic on June 27, 2007, 07:45:37 PM
She doesn't perceive 20 minutes as being a month and a half; her subjective perception of it is 20 minutes. You're judging things by your lifespan. That's as unfair as a tortoise wandering up and mentioning that a month and a half of our time is like six months of its time.

Although, I really wish a tortoise would do that. Scientists, go invent a talking tortoise.
I understood that. While she perceives time the same way we do, 20 minutes out of her life is similar to one of us deciding to spend a month and a half doing a single thing. 
"And what do we do with those lost moments? Not a whole lot more than she did." I've spent many hours on hold myself, and most often, I plan ahead.  I write an email (or check a forum :)) or have a magazine handy.  Doctor's offices, Dentist appts, bank machine lines, we all spend alot of time waiting, and many of us make use of that time.  In general, people cram as much stuff as they can into a single day.  Maybe this May is lazier than her brethern, but even setting up an email account would save all that time in addressing postcards.  I would think she would embrace any technology and/or practice to be able to enjoy what little time she has.

All I'm pointing out is how the logic didn't hold together for me.  I get the "what if" aspect, but I felt that it needed to be more thought out.  Whimsy just doesn't work for me.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Rachel Swirsky on June 28, 2007, 01:45:31 AM
I don't really agree with your logic, though.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: slic on June 28, 2007, 06:30:48 AM
That's completely ok with me, but out of curiousity how do you explain that she wouldn't bother with trying to save time?


Oh and I forgot to mention, I, too, would like a talking tortoise, Scientist-person - preferably with a soft English accent, but I'm not picky.  But anything that sounds like Fran Dreser is right out!
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: goatkeeper on June 29, 2007, 12:49:41 AM
I take it no one's read Suzy McKee Charnas's _Motherlines_.

Continuing to love this story, as I have every time I've read it.

Holdfast chronicles are amazing.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: ClintMemo on June 29, 2007, 06:41:03 AM
I equated her finishing the book with someone taking a vacation to visit historic places.  They could have spent that week doing something more fun (like an amusement park or the beach) or more productive (like cleaning out the garage) but you can't work all the time and sometimes you need diversions that more about enrichment and less about entertainment.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Simon on July 03, 2007, 03:20:15 AM
This one reminded me quite a lot of Lust For Learning, and not in a good way.  I'm rather surprised that so many of you are saying what amounts to "Hey, we'll let this one not have a plot, we'll call it a thought experiment".  I'll say this one:

Science Fiction is the genre of the thought experiment.

What I mean by this, is that being a thought experiment just isn't good enough.  Whatever happened to PLOT?  If Robert Heinlein can manage to make an action packed SF story out of the idea of a Tesseract ("And He Built A Crooked House") then you can write a story about a mayfly that has some sort of arc to it.  Exactly the same was true of Lust For Learning, which was completely lacking in direction.  This story was extremely dry in writing style, heavy on social elements (all that baloney about ice-cream, single women living alone and porn star t-shirts) and completely lacking in thinking it substance.

To be honest, as far as I am concerned the story failed on all fronts except characterisation.

1) Plot - None.
2) Setting - a flat.
3) Style - First person present tense, yuk.
4) Thought experiment - flawed.

I'm noting a lot of bouncing around in this comments threads about genetics and plausibility in it...  To me, the reason for this is the whole story hinges on the "what would it be like if you only lived for a week" element, but that actually the author was only interested in "what would it be like if Bridget Jones only lived for a week".  Aside, after aside, after aside about her housing without anything to beef up the concept and make it a full thought experiment... She alludes to this in the beginning with the "mother dust" scene which is almost Borgesish, but after that the "who are they, what is their culture" side gets abandoned in favour of single-woman-in-the-city.  All these elements that Mr Tweedy brings up are the "elements the reader would prefer to read" and they've all been missed out.

The only thing this story has to hang on is the wwitbliBJolfaw element...
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Rachel Swirsky on July 03, 2007, 07:47:52 AM
There's a problem when you start talking about "the reader." There is no monolithic "reader." This story was quite successful when it was on Strange Horizons; the links got passed around to a lot of people, and it's the way some of the writers of my acquaintance know Heather Lindsley's name. It's a successful story. It appeals to readers.

It may not appeal to you, or to this demographic, but that's not the same as saying it doesn't have what "the reader" wants.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: BlairHippo on July 04, 2007, 02:53:45 PM
I loved it.  I thought it was a very clever way of taking familiar elements and making them strange and alien.  May's emotional detachment actually worked very well for me; with all those countless generations of experience shaping her, she really would be taking her impending death in stride.  (Though note that when things started to go wrong, there were indeed indications she was worried -- like finishing Anna Karenina.)

I find Simon's comparison of this story to Lust for Learning to be ironic, because I thought Mayfly succeeded where my story failed -- there is indeed a plot in there, an effective one.  May wants to perpetuate her species.  What we see in the early going is the standard way she goes about doing it.  But then, we get a complication (damn vasectomies).  It's one she can handle, she still has time, and -- shit!  Serious personal injury!  Okay, now she's in real trouble.  If she doesn't fight to overcome THIS setback, the line ends with her in just a few days.

She had a goal, she had to overcome various obstacles in order to achieve it, and there was very real tension (for me, at least) derived from the fact that she might well fail.  To me, that's a plot, and one ideally suited to exploring the story's central concepts.

It wasn't perfect (sorry, but that talk of evolution really only makes sense if May's kind regularly have a whole bunch of offspring only a handful of which survive), but I thought it was a very worthy addition to the Escape Pod archives.  Kudos to Ms. Lindsley on an excellent story.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: slic on July 04, 2007, 04:38:28 PM
Quote from: BlairHippo
(sorry, but that talk of evolution really only makes sense if May's kind regularly have a whole bunch of offspring only a handful of which survive)
Just a point of clarification - there are many, many species that have a median of one offspring per birth (elephants, whales, humans), and even though they have longer lifespans, evolution works pretty good for them.

We can take this to another thread, but effectively the May's have 52 kids a year, far more than the creatures mentioned above.  The other point you inadvertently raised is the problem with having just one child.  As you pointed out, a couple of bad days and -Boom- there goes another line without the "fallback" of having many other branches (children).  Really, it wouldn't take long (genealogically speaking) for the May to die out.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: eytanz on July 04, 2007, 07:53:52 PM
Just a point of clarification - there are many, many species that have a median of one offspring per birth (elephants, whales, humans), and even though they have longer lifespans, evolution works pretty good for them.


This is a terminological problem, I think - it's not evolution which won't work, it's natural selection - because, at least in non-twin generations, there's nothing to select from.

Evolution is actually going to be pretty rampant for the Mays (assuming that their genetics are not supernatural) because any mutation is going to be passed on down the line. And it's not just bad days that the Mays have to fear - any mutation that puts them at a disadvantage reproductively is going to be a major problem. Imagine a May that is born with malformed legs such that she can't walk on her own.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: slic on July 04, 2007, 08:29:59 PM
Quote from: eytanz
...it's not evolution which won't work, it's natural selection...
Hate to be a Picky Paulie or more likely a Stickler Steve, but natural selection works just fine too. 
In fact, it is painfully effective because a single undesirable trait would wipe out the genetic line.  Or maybe that's what you meant - that desirable traits would not have a chance to be passed along in other siblings.  That desirable traits have no way of expressing into an increased population, and that undesirable ones would destory the pool.

So, I think I've just argued myself out of a post ???
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: BlairHippo on July 05, 2007, 12:41:10 AM
I think we're circling in on what I was trying to say.  :)  It isn't that evolution/natural selection isn't working for May's species -- as slic rightly points out, with 52 new generations a year, it's probably working like gangbusters.  The problem I had was that the story seemed to imply that evolution was helping-out May's individual lineage.  But with only one new offspring at a time (typically), it's an all-or-nothing deal for her.  If the next kid gets some kind of mutation, either it's beneficial and life is good, or it's not beneficial and boom, game over.  Evolution would be relevant to her in particular if there were multiple offspring each cycle and natural selection could claim its due without snuffing the lineage, but that's simply not the case.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Russell Nash on July 05, 2007, 01:45:42 AM
Wow, Should we take the discussion of natural selection and evolution, and apply it to humans in a different thread?  Because of modern medicine and societal structure as a whole, we could make the arguemet that NS&E only works in extreme cases now. 

I'm badly near-sighted, had pneumonia more than 8 times as a kid, and have a crummy back and bad knees.  How far back in time do we have to go to get to the point where I would have been culled by NS?  Today I can pass these traits to my kids.  Reverse Darwinism at work.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: robertmarkbram on July 07, 2007, 08:31:57 AM


1.  Can the Word Whore read every story?  Or at least many of them?  I love her voice, her style, everything.  Her reading of "Just Do It" a little while back is what got me hooked on Escape Pod, actually.

Hell yeah!! :) Word Whore and Leann Mabry (http://forum.escapeartists.info/index.php?topic=38.msg12069#msg12069) could read out the Yellow Pages and I would sit with rapt attention.

Also, the generational memories got me to thinking that this is less like a Mother/Daughter relationship and more like an accelerated Dr. Who kind of deal.  It's really the same person changing bodies every week - though instead of moulting, it more of an internal transferance.  I get that the story needed to explain how an 11 year knew how to pay bills and cook, etc., but this fundamentally changed the relationship - you're not teaching me, I'm remembering being you.  In effect, the Mayfly is an immortal of sorts.

This really hit the nail on the head for me. They are the same person, essentially being "re-invented": new body, new notion of "self".

This story fascinated me, from the super fast progeneration to inherited memories.

I understood that each May looked enough alike that people might not question the week to week changes. I wonder if, long term, do they find it a lonely life? If they age from baby to wrinkly in the space of a week, I imagine they would need to be careful revealing themselves too much or people might notice: same woman, different ages.. I think I am justified in saying "long term", because they keep their memories. Perhaps the frenetic pace of their life means that loneliness isn't an issue, despite the ability for long term memory.

I wonder how many others are out there. As Slic and BlairHippo discussed (http://forum.escapeartists.info/index.php?topic=913.msg12465#msg12465), changing bodies each week introduces one chance each week for a single blood line to die out. But they can have multiple babies, so how many others are out there? :) In the story she was writing lots of letters - keeping up with other copies of herself? This story would have been a cool X-Files episode!

I wonder what other side effects would come about because of the radical rate of change in their bodies? Would they be extra .. umm.. hot, because of increased metabolism or some-such? How quickly would a layer of nail polish last?



But for all the potential, the execution was pretty dry, I thought.  The protagonist accepts her lot with a stoicism that makes it seem simply normal, like this living a week and dying is no big deal to her, just how life is.  She never seems really happy or sad or pensive about anything, and so I never got any emotional connection with her.  She came off as just a freak, without any personality behind the weirdness.

I know it's not cool to harp on plausibility, but I think this is actually important to the story: The protagonist is obviously not human.  All the differences (metabolism, life cycle, bearing only female children) are too extreme.  She is a different species.  So why does she need human sperm?  Obviously, the male isn't contributing anything to the offspring, otherwise each generation of "mayflies" would be more human, longer lived, etc.  This makes her quest to mate nonsensical.

I found this aspect of the story most fascinating of all.

The protagonist accepts her lot with a stoicism that makes it seem simply normal, like this living a week and dying is no big deal to her. I think this fit quite well, because to May it is perfectly natural - it is how she has lived for 1000s of generations! The story manages to present something quite fantastical as something normal and 'every day' for the protagonist. It is one of many measures of a brilliant science fiction or fantasy or horror story: how much fantastical they can present as normal!

Rob
:)
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Rollerbabe on July 17, 2007, 10:47:27 AM
I enjoyed this story as it was very thought provoking.
I found it a little depressing to compare May's life with that of humans. We all want our lives to be meaningful, but it ends up slipping away from us before we've accomplished this. And look how long our lives are in comparison! So her life would mean nothing if she didn't have offspring, because all the shared memories would be lost and her particular line would be finished? Well what of my female friends who choose not to have children. Their particular line is finished, so is their life less meaningful? And all our memories are gone when we die. And when she has twins, the shared memories would be duplicated. What we consider important - raising our children to be decent members of society, helping others ourselves, giving something back to society - these were all missing from May's life. Hers was a very selfish aim. If we were to add up over our lifespan the number of hours we spend queueing, shopping, doing crossword puzzles, bathing etc etc. we would probably wish to spend our lives more productively. But nobody wakes up and spends 12 hours totally happy and fullfilled - usually you find if you did what you wanted all day and every day, that thing that excited you suddenly became boring. We need variety in our lives. And sometimes you need the boring repetitive tasks to fully appreciate the better and fun things when they happen.
Woops, sorry to ramble. I'll go lie down now.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Etherius on July 17, 2007, 03:30:58 PM
For me, this story falls squarely under the protection of the Rule of Cool (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RuleOfCool).  ;D I don't really care about the fact that May's life-cycle is impossible; it's just a fun idea to explore, and I think the author did a good job of it. (And, of course, tWW's reading was marvelous as always.) I'll second BlairHippo's comments on the fact that it did have a plot and conflict, though it was certainly unconventional. Thumbs up!
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Planish on July 20, 2007, 12:49:34 AM
For me, this story falls squarely under the protection of the Rule of Cool (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RuleOfCool).  ;D I don't really care about the fact that May's life-cycle is impossible; it's just a fun idea to explore, and I think the author did a good job of it.
Yeah, I'd go with that too.

The thing that most intrigued me was the research (?) being done by the Vienna group. I don't recall that we're told exactly what the project was about, but I got the impression that they were working on longevity.

The business with the twins: I think the author just tossed that in there so readers could not immediately object that the race would eventually die out due to accidental deaths if there weren't occasional twin births.

Or maybe the Vienna group was working on twin births. Whatever. I don't need to understand everything that's going on to enjoy the story. It did seem a little bit like a loose end to be picked up by a sequel or novel. Nothing wrong with that.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: eytanz on July 20, 2007, 05:25:03 AM
For me, this story falls squarely under the protection of the Rule of Cool (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RuleOfCool).  ;D I don't really care about the fact that May's life-cycle is impossible; it's just a fun idea to explore, and I think the author did a good job of it.
Yeah, I'd go with that too.

The thing that most intrigued me was the research (?) being done by the Vienna group. I don't recall that we're told exactly what the project was about, but I got the impression that they were working on longevity.

The business with the twins: I think the author just tossed that in there so readers could not immediately object that the race would eventually die out due to accidental deaths if there weren't occasional twin births.

It's more than that - it was mentioned that twin births were very rare, and were suddenly becoming common. And the message from the Vienna group included a powers table of two, which would be relevant if they're explaining exponential growth.

I didn't feel it was a loose end to be picked up so much as an open ending, leaving it up to the reader's imagination.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: chornbe on July 23, 2007, 09:43:11 PM
I *loved* this story. I've always been intrigued by the "extra-ordinary person dropped into an ordinary world" kind of thing. This was like Species meets Howard the Duck meets Kess all in one. *thumbs up*
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: DDog on September 18, 2007, 03:12:38 PM
I love this story. It was the first (and so far only) one I delved into the archives to listen to (previous to the story I joined the podcast with) when I was craving Escape Pod and had already listened to that week's episode.

I would have liked to hear more about the Vienna group's research that May receives, but I both also like the teaser, and how not delving into it mimics May's life cycle. She doesn't have to read it this week; her daughter or granddaughter probably will.

It's also an interesting take on reincarnation. Is each successive generation 'the same person with changing bodies' since each generation retains the memories of the whole line, or not since they clearly recognize generational distinctions and not just "waking up in a new body."

How does having twins affect the clan memories? Will the twin not named May go off to found her own line in another city, or will they pal around for a few generations before splitting up?

Also a good nature vs nurture exploration. "nurture" in this case would have to consist of memories from previous generations, since the current May unless a twin will have few outside influences, but how does the influx of human DNA affect subsequent generations' personalities and instincts?

Are all Mays heterosexual? What if a generation happens to be a lesbian? Are there any trans Mays?

The story doesn't have to answer all of these questions--and if it tried, it would probably not be as good. But I'm fascinated by stories that are not only satisfying by themselves, but also leave me with questions and curiosities and avenues of exploration.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Alasdair5000 on September 19, 2007, 03:13:21 AM
   This fascinated me.  I've gone round and round on what was the best word to describe it, but fascinating seems to be the best one.  The pragmatic, grounded approach to this unique idea of immortality was really well handled and a couple of the minor details carried some serious emotional punch, especially the debate on whether it was worth finishing Anna Karenina.
   On top of all that, it reminded me a lot of the best elements of White Wolf's World of Darkness roleplaying systems (Not the supremely wombley bits where you can play vampires older than the sun).  The idea of someone exceptional living next to you, the idea that the world is very different to what we think, we just can't see it is, there's that word again, fascinating.

Great stuff.  One of my favourites so far.
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Chodon on September 19, 2007, 11:19:06 AM
My only problem with this story is the law of conservation of mass.  She would have to eat more than just a jar of peanut butter to have a kid.  She would need a couple of nine course meals.  The amount of food these creatures would have to consume during puberty would be HUGE!
Title: Re: EP111: Mayfly
Post by: Unblinking on October 07, 2010, 09:02:06 AM
I enjoyed this story.  A unique ideas will take a story a long way in my eyes and this idea was great.  It really makes me think about how I use my idle time during the day!  Every moment counts!

Actually, it did make me think of one other story, but not in a bad way.  In Writers of the Future XXV, there's a story by Jordan Lapp titled "After the Final Sunset, Again" with a protagonist that is a Phoenix.  Not the mythical bird creature, but a mostly-human entity with a daily cycle of rebirths.  At every sunset she burns into ash, and every sunrise is born again.  This story and that one take similar ideas and go in opposite directions.  In this story, pregnancy is the solution, in that story pregnancy is the problem.  I highly recommend that story.