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Author Topic: EP120: The Sundial Brigade  (Read 30347 times)
Bdoomed
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« on: August 23, 2007, 03:04:34 PM »

EP120: The Sundial Brigade

By James Trimarco.
Read by Graydancer (of The Ropecast).
First appeared in Glorifying Terrorism, ed. Farah
Mendlesohn.
Closing song: “Think For Yourself” by George Hrab

Not long after that, Antonio had an appointment with his curator, Yoshi, at the Department of Human Heritage. Antonio explained his situation in the Tyrranean language.

“So you’re unsatisfied with your role as a beggar,” Yoshi said. “That’s hardly surprising. The unemployed of the early twenty-first century were also unhappy. Your emotions are true to period, that’s all.”

“But it’s all wrong,” Antonio insisted. “I did well in school. I studied to be an engineer. If this was the real Italy, someone like me wouldn’t end up like this.”

Yoshi’s mouth curved into the sterile non-smile of a bureaucrat with no time for sympathy.


Rated R. Contains strong themes of violence and terrorism, strong language, and some sexual content.


Referenced Sites:
UK Terrorism Act 2006
Greydancer.com
Stranger Things


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2007, 03:45:44 PM »

As the story came to an end the burning question in my mind was, what would happen if a sub-gun was shot in subspace.
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Zathras
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« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2007, 03:59:31 PM »

Overall, I liked the story.  Hard to believe a piece of fiction such as this would be under scrutiny by a government.  You would think they would have more serious issues to worry about.   Are TV shows such as "24" going to be banned? 
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Pink Shift
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« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2007, 06:07:51 PM »

Not what I expected
 from the introduction.
The closest that it comes to
 a freedom of speech issue
 is when Elona is arrested
 or people's fear of speaking what they wish
 or the cameras being everywhere;
 but those are old news in England
The cautionary tale about
 what would happen if
 Islamic extremist take over
 overwhelms all.
We would be forced
 to live
 in strictly defined roles
Maybe the story would have been more powerful
 if the time frame was ancient Rome
 and the oppression of that era.
The question it raises is:
 Would we kill
 innocent
 people
 and the civilized world
 to be free?
Is one often ask
 and answered.
Sometimes we
 fight
 and
 sometimes we do not.
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« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2007, 07:59:39 PM »

Wow.  This is now one of my favorite stories that has run on Escape Pod.  Not only does this story have a deep underling idea, but its got unfathomable technology.  Is the bomb at the end a portable wormhole? Does it matter?  This was a great story written to question a questionable point of law.

'Grats to all involved
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Leon Kensington
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« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2007, 11:43:21 PM »

I really liked the questions that this story brought up.  Questions like:  What makes a terrorist?  When are you a terrorist and when are you a rebel?

I really liked the story and may pick up the entire anthology, I remember Cory Doctorow talking about the anthology and I remember thinking it was a great concept.

Story:  8 out of 10                                          Reading:  7 out of 10
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Chodon
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« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2007, 06:16:43 AM »

I liked how this story expressed how not every terrorist/rebel knows the weight of his actions before they commit to them.  The main character (forgot his name) had no idea he was going to kill his girlfriend/the whole city when he planted the bomb.  This kind of stuff happens today. 

A guy I work with had his son blown up in Egypt (he's still recovering a couple of years later).  The guy carrying the bomb thought he was supposed to set it somewhere and walk away.  He didn't know he was getting a one-way ticket to the afterlife when his "friends" set the bomb off still on his back...

Steve's intro was the most concerning part of this whole story.  I don't agree with the recent wave of Muslim extremist terrorism, but I acknowledge the extemist's right to disagree with the status quo.  The US was founded on the principle that the second amendment is there to protect the exercising of your first amendment rights.  The UK doesn't have either.  Undecided
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Brian Reilly
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« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2007, 10:11:32 AM »

 Are TV shows such as "24" going to be banned? 

No, "24" doesn't glorify terrorism, but is all about glorifying state-sponsored torture. I think the law is fine with that.
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« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2007, 10:17:57 AM »

The story takes a spin on "One man's terrorist is anothers freedom fighter." In this case, this world is forced to live in the past and not move forward.  While most terrorists of any stripe are fighting to resurface an idealized "Golden Age" which probably didn't exist. Interpolating the two views was very clever.

It also realizes that most people turn to terrorism where there is nothing left to a person. Nothing but a void.  Some people wish to fill that void with blood, just to act against the nothingness of their life.
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« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2007, 11:55:56 AM »

I did not like this story.

It was well-written and I think the acting was pretty good (except there wasn't enough dead space between sections).  However, from the moment I heard what the story was about, I could plot out in my head what would happen.  Not the details -- the museum city idea is truly chilling and distressing -- but the general "guy doesn't want to fight the power, guy is incited to fight the power, guy fights the power, guy finds out his contact was part of the power all along" plot.

I don't know.  It's just not my thing.  It rang hollow with me, hollow and a little overdone.  Not to take away from the author or reader, but the story itself didn't work for me.
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« Reply #10 on: August 24, 2007, 12:08:53 PM »

I like this story.  I like it because I hate it.

It leaves me sad and empty, fills me with feelings of bitterness and regret at the sheer awfulness of what I just heard.  But this sadness is to a point: It illustrates the tragic stupidity of terrorism.  How anyone could construe this story as glamorizing or encouraging terrorism is beyond me: This is as anti-terrorist a piece as you could write.

I think the greatest strength of this piece is that it treats the subject with such compassion.  Antonio is not a lunatic or a fanatic.  He isn't mad with idealistic zeal.  He is a man with deep and legitimate grievances.  His pain is real and his anger is justified.  While what he finally does is wrong, it is important to see his story, the string of tragedy and injustice leading up to his final wrong choice.  This teaches us to remember that those who do evil are still human and to recognize that none of us should consider themselves "above" such acts.  Antonio could be anybody: There is no one endowed with the inherent goodness to make them immune to temptation in the midst of despair.

This piece was brilliantly written, top to bottom, but there's one part I want to comment on especially, and that is the descriptions of nudity.  I've complained about gratuitous sex in past episodes and if I laid out my moral beliefs, some of you would doubtless gasp that such extreme prudishness endures into the 21st century.  But this was good: The description of Enola's body was not neither gratuitous nor pornographic.  It let me feel what Antonio felt toward her, that mix of desire, awe and protectiveness that a woman's nakedness does (and should) inspire in her man.  I empathized, and so his motivation for violence and his anguish at the horrid end both hit me at a deeply emotional level.  Again, brilliant writing.

Along those lines, I was very impressed with the detailed and authentic portrayal of everyone and everything.  The Martians are violently oppressive while thinking themselves benevolent: So like real people.  The conversations around the dinner table vividly lay out the frustrations of the family while they give us insight into their unique personalities.  The authentic Italian details were great: You could smell.  The condom was a poignant illustration of Antonio and Enola's stifled romance.  All wonderful, all literary, all adding to the tragedy of the conclusion.

And what a tragedy!  In his sorrow and desperation, Antonio is conned into an act of violence he does not really understand, and he ends up destroying all the things he had wanted to protect.  What is this Sundial Brigade, really?  We don't really know.  Antnio doesn't really know.  The comment about terrorism being "true to period" leads me to doubt that the Sundial Brigade is anything more than just another group of exploiters.  They exploited Antonio, certainly: He would never have planted the bomb if he'd had even a glimmer of understanding about the consequences of that action or the motives of the people goading him into it.

And that, I think, is probably a reflection of terrorism in the real-world.  I always wonder what exactly, the young men (and the occasional woman) who strap bombs onto themselves and blow up strangers are hoping to accomplish.  They are surely motivated by idea about revenge, or justice, or pleasing Allah, or patriotism, or something.  But their actions accomplish nothing at all except pointless death and maiming of people who have nothing to do with them.  What have terrorist accomplished in Iraq?  Thousands of dead Iraqis... and that's it.  I don't know whether the bombers have their minds twisted from the outside–as did Antonio–or if they have convinced themselves, but they must surely believe that their ambiguous, arbitrary violence is serving some purpose, some greater good.  But they aren't.  If these people could be given a clear view of what their actions were really accomplishing, free from egoistic delusion, free from blinding hate, then I think they would be far fewer in number.

But there is never a shortage of evil men willing to exploit hopeless, frustrated people, people desperate for a way to do something, anything, just to feel some kind of empowerment.  "Strap this bomb on yourself: It will accomplish something."  Given the right circumstance, such a lie would be easy to believe.

...As is illustrated by this story.

Both thumbs way up.
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« Reply #11 on: August 24, 2007, 01:40:26 PM »

That was a good story, I suppose the one thing the fantastically advanced Martians/Terranians can't do is mind control, so they can lock the humans in these backwards worlds but can't make them mentally believe they are of that time, a la The Matrix?It seems odd that the Terranians want humans to act 'true to period' and yet keep imposing themselves on their lives, surely it would work smoother if they didn't know they were there?
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« Reply #12 on: August 25, 2007, 07:53:45 AM »

This story does exactly what science fiction is supposed to do, in that it holds a funhouse mirror up to our own world and shows it to us from an odd angle, making us see it in a way that can make us uncomfortable.

This is exactly the kind of story that attracts me to science fiction in the first place.
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« Reply #13 on: August 25, 2007, 11:48:47 AM »

This story does exactly what science fiction is supposed to do, in that it holds a funhouse mirror up to our own world and shows it to us from an odd angle, making us see it in a way that can make us uncomfortable.

This is exactly the kind of story that attracts me to science fiction in the first place.

Good point
 same for me.

Thank god that
 a friend
 sent me this link
 after I listened
 to the story or
 else I would
 have had the
 song in my
 head.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfx8Nc6VKnI
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« Reply #14 on: August 26, 2007, 01:31:03 AM »

   While i agree with what i believe Steve was saying at the beginning. That being we can't combat terror by removing out freedoms and to try to is jut foolish. But as to one mans terrorist is another's freedom fighter. I must call bs. While i would agree with and even assist fighting against this government at no point in time dose anybody in this story attempt to do that. Instead they strike at civilians whom have little to no say in the stasis quo. No attempt is made to combat those in power.
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« Reply #15 on: August 26, 2007, 02:57:01 AM »

At no point in time dose anybody...attempt to do that.

Didn't the man in the flying lightbulb say that they were trying to make the city seem dangerous? Or, at least more dangerous than it was already with people being phased away into subspace...
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Pink Shift
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« Reply #16 on: August 26, 2007, 09:19:09 AM »

   While i agree with what i believe Steve was saying at the beginning. That being we can't combat terror by removing out freedoms and to try to is jut foolish. But as to one mans terrorist is another's freedom fighter. I must call bs. While i would agree with and even assist fighting against this government at no point in time dose anybody in this story attempt to do that. Instead they strike at civilians whom have little to no say in the stasis quo. No attempt is made to combat those in power.

I did not hear
 Steve say
 "we can't combat terror by removing out freedoms and to try is just foolish".
I think that his comments
 did focus on the freedom of speech issue
 and
 that might have been
 the intent of the whole book.
In doing so
 he focused our attention
 on that issue for this story.
But if he said the main
 intent of this story
 is to show the oppression of Islamic extremist;
 how they force
 men
 and
 women
 into roles defined by
 their interpretation of Islamic law;
 we might be talking about that.
Maybe
 he should put those types of
 comments at the end of the story
 so that we can
 listen
 and
 think
 about the story
 without outside influences.

As you say
 the protagonist does move
 too quickly
 from a "going along to get along guy"
 to planting a bomb.
I feel a person would
 explore other avenues first;
 especially a knowledgeable person
 from the 24th century.

Of the two;
 Islamic extremist
 and
 freedom of speech issue;
 the freedom of speech issue is presented the weakest.
The aspects of the law
 that is disturbing
 is that it cast a wide net
 and
 can be applied arbitrarily.
Yet the people in the story
 know the rules;
 are warned of infractions
 and have progressive punishments.
That is not
 to say
 this is OK.

If the story presented examples
 of arbitrary interpretations of
 "time period appropriate"
 actions
 and
 punishments
 for example,
 then
 the freedom of speech issue
 would have been stronger.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2007, 09:23:11 AM by Pink Shift » Logged

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ajames
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« Reply #17 on: August 26, 2007, 11:42:20 AM »

As to the anthology, if this story is indicative of the other stories I don't think the authors need worry about jack-booted policemen kicking in their doors in the wee hours of the night and taking them away.  This story doesn't come close to glorifying terrorism, directly or indirectly.  As such, it is hardly a test or challenge to this new law in the U.K.

However, as it purports to be challenging this law and defending free speech, deals with a hot topic, and has many talented authors contributing to it, I am sure the anthology will sell extremely well.  Kudos to the marketing people.  [Yes, I can be very cynical.  This cynicism does not extend to the editors/authors of the anthology, whom I have no reason to believe were involved in this project for any reason other than championing free speech.]

As to the story, I think I would have liked it more if it hadn't been so constrained by its political message.  By this I mean there were some very cool ideas that I would have liked to see developed more, rather than the political message that was developed.  But I suppose I can't complain too much, as this political message was probably the genesis of the story, and without it, the story might not have been written at all.
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Rachel Swirsky
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« Reply #18 on: August 26, 2007, 01:00:03 PM »

"This story doesn't come close to glorifying terrorism, directly or indirectly."

Well, what does or does not glorify terrorism is an interesting question. For instance, the Strange Horizons reviewer didn't think the stories in the anthology glorified terrorism, including some that I felt did. He pointed out the difficulty of glorifying terrorism, since terrorism is a "mucky, dirty business" -- well, of course it is.

The goal of most of the stories in the anthology seemed to be to make terrorists understandable, and to create situations in which terrorism may or may not be the correct act. Lucy Kemnitzer's "John Brown's Body" looked at how we would view acts of terrorism by slaves in the American south (which, of course, were viewed at the time with hysterical villification, as Nat Turner's rebellion). Katherine Sparrow's piece (whose current title I have forgotten) shows terrorists whose actions save the world. I have an egg in this basket, of course -- my story, "The Debt of the Innocent," posed terrorists who murdered a few sick infants in order to save the life of many more sick infants.

Of course, any of these acts are a "mucky, dirty business." But so is almost any glorious act -- certainly any of the acts associated with the connotation of glory as something that happens in war. Slaughtering an enemy soldier is not a glorious business, even if you are defending your land. Certainly, it's not a glorious business when you've gone to the middle east to spread your religion, or traveled across the ocean to kill the thirteen-year-old boys the fuhrer has forced to take up arms in the name of the Fatherland.

Glorious things can, however, be accomplished by inglorious acts. Shooting a German soldier is not glorious; liberating Auschwitz is.

Likewise, in the stories from the anthology, to kill white slaveholders is not glorious. To protest the brutal enslavement of one's people is. I believe the stories in these anthologies have often been held to a very high standard of "glory" -- a standard much higher than that proposed by the ambiguous British law.
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Pink Shift
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« Reply #19 on: August 26, 2007, 01:35:34 PM »

Palimpsest,
What if the word
 was not
 "glorifying"
 but
 "encouraging"
 as in mean
 to fill with courage
 or
 strength
 of purpose.
Encourage suggests the
 raising of one's
 confidence
 especially by an
 external agency.

Would this
 change
 your comments?

Understanding
 the workings of terrorism
 is important
 so as to possibly to
 avoid it taking root.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2007, 01:45:29 PM by Pink Shift » Logged

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I imagine that yes is the only living thing.

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