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Author Topic: EP124: Save Me Plz  (Read 53662 times)

milo

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Reply #25 on: September 23, 2007, 05:56:39 PM
I didn't like this story for two reasons.

First, stories about video games are inherently shallow. While a video game may be a way to tell a compelling story, a story about the story someone else experienced by playing a game doesn't help me feel caught up in a story. The only point I could relate to was Meg's boredom at dinner listening to Devon blather on about the progress of his character.

Second, I think this story gives short shrift to the amazingly mysterious universe we live in. Explaining away quantum mechanics as some sort of "mistake" in a giant meta-game makes me suspect that the author lacks the grand scale of imagination that the story supposedly promotes. Quantum mechanics is far stranger than the spells and magic of most run-of-the-mill fantasy. Who needs goblins and swarms of giant bats to make life interesting when we live in a world where one photon can exist in two faraway places at once, where many atoms at the verge of absolute zero can coalesce into a super-atom, and even time itself can be bent by gravitational forces? Teleportation between galaxies, made-to-order black holes, and time travel are just a few of the possibilities.

Despite all of this, I’ve enjoyed most of the fantasy run on Escape Pod and look forward to the launch of Podcastle. I’d especially like to hear more by Tobias Buckell and N. K. Jemison.



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Reply #26 on: September 23, 2007, 06:33:35 PM
I liked the story, as it was entertaining to try and guess what was really going on.

It reminded me a bit of the not-that-good SF movie The Thirteenth Floor, but Save Me Plz is, I think, the superior story by far.

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bolddeceiver

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Reply #27 on: September 24, 2007, 02:31:45 AM

Hell, I wouldn't have wanted to live fifty-one years ago.

I was engaged to for a time (and dated a long time before that) a type 1 diabetic, and any time I ran into someone talking about the "simpler times" of the past I would point out that she would have most certainly died at the age of 15 eighty years ago, and would have driven her family into abject poverty to keep her alive a little over twenty years ago.



Swamp

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Reply #28 on: September 24, 2007, 03:40:23 AM
I forgot to mention that I haven't heard or read a story by David Barr Kirtley that I haven't liked.  That's 5 for 5.  Below are the stories I have heard, listed in order of my most favorite to my least (but I liked them all):

1) "The Second Rat"
2) "Veil of Ignorance"
3) "Save Me Plz"
4) "Blood of Virgins"
5) "The Disciple"

His website liked to on this episode has many more that I plan to seek out.

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Bdoomed

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Reply #29 on: September 24, 2007, 03:41:55 AM
I really enjoyed this story.  it was tons of fun, and it gave me yet another reason to not play WoW! (Guild Wars FTW!)

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


Planish

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Reply #30 on: September 24, 2007, 05:14:55 AM
Explaining away quantum mechanics as some sort of "mistake" in a giant meta-game makes me suspect that the author lacks the grand scale of imagination that the story supposedly promotes. Quantum mechanics is far stranger than the spells and magic of most run-of-the-mill fantasy.
Oh yeah. that bugged me too. Conscripting quantum mechanics as a kind of applied phlebotinum, because it is so insufficiently understood that even if the author does understand it, their readers probably do not. If you're going to apply phlebotinum, you should invent either your own name or use handwavium, or use a generic public domain SF term.

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Etherius

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Reply #31 on: September 24, 2007, 05:59:31 AM
This one was fun to listen to, and having Mur (a well-known MMO addict) read the story gave it a nice touch of irony, above and beyond the fact that she just did a great job with it.

The ending, though ...

<shiver>

In the end, this one gave me a feeling very similar to that of "Just Do It" -- it's basically a story about a selfish bastard imposing his will on another human being and getting away with it. Mind control stories can often be humorous, entertaining or even arousing, but they usually make me feel like I need a shower.

The power of the Wand of Reification is just about the biggest temptation that could exist in the universe. I would normally say that I don't care about having power, in the sense of political power or economic power or military power. The types of power commonly available in our world are primarily destructive, and they double as a set of shackles for the person who bears them. This sort of power, though -- the power to quite literally change the world to your liking -- this would be truly seductive. One reason the ending is so unsettling is because there is a part of me that would want to change things, to make them "better" -- and because the story shows us that one person's wish fulfillment is another person's nightmare. "Lena" might be happy most of the time and soon forget about the incident with the ruined truck, but the truest part of herself will still be trapped inside, screaming. I shudder to think that my own actions with such a Wand might end up doing the same thing to someone, and it makes me glad that I'll never be faced with that choice.

The idea of quantum mechanics as, essentially, the "pixelization"  or "granularity" of a simulated universe at fine scales is one that I've heard before, and I do find it to be a fun thought experiment.  (Dr. Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford, has gotten some headlines for seriously proposing the "our universe is a simulation" idea.) My mother, a long-time Star Trek fan, once referred to the Bible verse that says that "in Him we live, and move, and have our being" and said that we must be on God's holodeck.  ;D Yes, it's a program with its own (mostly) internally consistent rules and subroutines, but he could always change the parameters, or even turn it off...

Oh, and as for why he has the armory full of wands: My guess is that he uses two of the wishes from each wand to make changes, then keeps the last wish in reserve "just in case." That would be consistent with the in-story comments about his reluctance to use up magic items, while also accounting for the fact that he obviously has been making changes with each iteration of Meg's "quest."

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burnt_toast

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Reply #32 on: September 24, 2007, 11:54:32 AM
I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one creeped out by the ending.  It's bad enough to have another girl on the side, but turning your girl into that other girl?  That's pretty low.  So much for, "I love you just the way you are."

That being said, I liked the story, even if the end did leave me thanking god that, while I've dated some losers in my time, none of them were busily orchestrating a devious plot to turn me [and the rest of the world] into something else.



Listener

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Reply #33 on: September 24, 2007, 12:57:13 PM
I'm very surprised at the overwhelmingly positive response to this story.  I kept expecting something better.

On the positive side, the reading was compelling, and I really like the world Meg lived in -- the existence of swords, certain monsters, Cheshire Gnomes, etc.

But for the most part, I was disappointed.  Though a casual reader might say this story is reflective of our times -- MMOs, txtypng or whatever it's called, etc -- from a critical reader perspective, this was just a story of wish-fulfillment.  I don't know the author personally, so maybe it's not, but to me it read that way.  I kept expecting to be shocked by something, made to think, etc.

I was a little surprised that Devin didn't have to force Meg to restart the quest.  But otherwise, meh.  And even that surprise wasn't much of a surprise, given the M-Night-Shalamalamadingdong trend of contemporary SF.

Also, the coda felt unnecessary.  I think the story would've been just as good if it'd ended with the first few paragraphs being repeated.  Too many authors, I feel, are writing unnecessary codas.

The writing also felt a little juvenile -- "she felt x.  she felt x.  she said x in x way."  There wasn't very much diversity to the language, at least not that I recall.

So, overall, I liked the idea of the story, but it wasn't anything new, and in the end, it just didn't feel right to me, like the story needed a few rounds of editing to really be all it could be.  A story with some of these ideas in it deserved a better trip through the word processor than it got.

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BigDrahma

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Reply #34 on: September 24, 2007, 05:43:38 PM
I'm very surprised at the overwhelmingly positive response to this story.  I kept expecting something better.

You may have a point, and it may come down to the reading.  First, it was refreshing to have a reader with a microphone that didn't sound like a tin-can tied to a string (I sometimes have to skip stories, they sound so poor).  And, I'm coming to the realization that Mur could read a Red Robin menu and I'd enjoy it.



VBurn

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Reply #35 on: September 24, 2007, 09:28:01 PM
I always say that the only thing these kinds of games make you is a loser in reality, mainly as a joke because most of these games have no "YOU WIN, GAME OVER" point. But having seen some people "disappear" because of these games, there might be a deeper truth to that thought.

Good story, easy to relate to in today's society, and I have yet to hear a story Mur did not do a great job on.



Listener

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Reply #36 on: September 24, 2007, 10:05:32 PM
I'm very surprised at the overwhelmingly positive response to this story.  I kept expecting something better.

You may have a point, and it may come down to the reading.  First, it was refreshing to have a reader with a microphone that didn't sound like a tin-can tied to a string (I sometimes have to skip stories, they sound so poor).  And, I'm coming to the realization that Mur could read a Red Robin menu and I'd enjoy it.


I'll give you that.  But not everyone can have a professional-grade microphone.  (Hey, Steve, I happen to have one, if you're looking for more readers... Ben Phillips has a demo I made last week if you want a copy too...)  Still, I can separate the reading from the story, and while I really liked the reading, the story overall was still... eh... better than "Ishmael in Love" and "Reggie vs Storm Chimera Whatever" but not as good as many others.

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Czhorat

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Reply #37 on: September 24, 2007, 10:46:44 PM
Hi all. First time listener, first time poster.

I agree with those who liked the story and found the ending somewhat creepy. I don't agree with Listener that it's wish-fulfillment. If anything, it's a cautionary tale about where wish-fulfillment could take you.

Some things were elegantly done. I liked the way the encounter with the giant spider (and Meg's matter-of-fact reaction to it) showed us that we're really in a somewhat different world. Before that bit I suspected that Meg was a LARPer of some sort and her ex was a gaming buddy as well as an ex boyfriend.

The one thing that didn't quite work for me was her feeling about living in someone else's dream. It rang true, but struck me as just a tiny bit too obvious. I'd rather the reader be left with Meg's feeling of unease. That would have let me conclude for myself that she was unhappy because she's in someone else's dream.

All in all, though, I think I'm going to like it here. I'm already downloading my way through the archives and eagerly awaiting next week's installment.

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ScottC

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Reply #38 on: September 25, 2007, 01:51:16 PM
Long time listener, first time poster.

What struck me was how the fantasy elements were introduced so you assume this is some alternate reality with magic tossed in, but later find out that those elements are much more significant than just 'local color'.

The story also made me think of Disney.  I read (well listened) to the recent biography and the theme was that Disney wanted to make a perfect world (Snow White, Disney Land, the original concept for EPCOT).  But the difference was Disney invited you into his world, Devon forced everyone including Meg into his.  I bet Devon is still fine tuning his world, still thinking the problem is with reality and not with him.



sayeth

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Reply #39 on: September 25, 2007, 11:49:44 PM
The thing I liked best about this story is that "bad guy" wasn't really what most people would call evil; he was just trying to make the world into what he thought would be a better place. I don't think he would have considered himself selfish (though he was), rather he was just so myopic he believed that by remaking the world he would be helping everyone out.  This gives the story resonances with not just multiplayer games, but politics as well. Perhaps I'm a bit naive, but I think most of the political battles are not good vs evil but people trying to reshape the world into what they think would be ideal, not grasping that their view of the heaven is the other man's hell.

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Biscuit

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Reply #40 on: September 26, 2007, 03:40:26 AM
I agree with "Listener" in that the exposition, twist and writing in the story felt basic. Despite these drawbacks - which I'm VERY picky about - this story really struck a chord with me because it is SO close to the bone.

At some times in my relationship with my husband, I have had to say "Me or the computer game".

And now, I'm fully on the other side. Having watched on the outside for so many years, I decided to find out what all the fuss is about, and now I am a complete Guild Wars fanatic, to the point it IS pushing aside some of my aspirations in life (I want to be a writer, but am "crippled" by the amount of time I spend playing during my free time. Even all my other hobbies have suffered to the detriment of GW).

I sound like a freak, but I'm actually a very well centered human being.

There's a whole lot of emotional Ouch in this story. And after all, isn't that one component that makes a good story?



Bright Lies

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Reply #41 on: September 26, 2007, 03:43:35 AM
I was amused by the story (luv u Mur) but overwhelmed by the comments.
As a  webizen, i realize that using my valuable comment space to its highest potential is critical.
Let's get started with the review of the review awards!!!!

** REST OF POST DELETED **

EDITOR'S NOTE:  No.  Let's not.  Ever.  I'm sorry, Bright Lies, but this isn't cool.  Every opinion on a story is valid; you can criticize the story all you want, or engage in polite debate on ideas, but we will not tolerate insults or criticism of other people for sharing their views.  This is the sort of provocation that turns discussion communities toxic, and I will not have that here.

Questions?  PM me, or post to Metachat.  This isn't the place to discuss policy, either.
« Last Edit: September 26, 2007, 04:23:32 AM by SFEley »



Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #42 on: September 26, 2007, 04:13:35 AM
My favorite part of the story: the breadth of its scope which feels more impactful than most short stories, without making the text itself feel drawn out.
« Last Edit: September 26, 2007, 04:26:26 AM by palimpsest »



eytanz

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Reply #43 on: September 26, 2007, 04:38:52 PM
Second, I think this story gives short shrift to the amazingly mysterious universe we live in. Explaining away quantum mechanics as some sort of "mistake" in a giant meta-game makes me suspect that the author lacks the grand scale of imagination that the story supposedly promotes. Quantum mechanics is far stranger than the spells and magic of most run-of-the-mill fantasy.

Ah, but is it the story that gives short shrift to the mysterious universe we live in, or is it just Devon? It's not the narrator that calls quantum mechanics a mistake, it's Devon. The fact that he cannot appreciate the world is a major plot point; as is the fact that he's always looking for loopholes and errors that can increase his own power, to the expense of actually enjoying the world. I definitely didn't feel like the story was taking his side here , especially not towards the end.



Roney

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Reply #44 on: September 26, 2007, 09:15:57 PM
For me this story was as much Pseudopod as EscapePod.  Game rules are inherently limited to the imagination and the talents of the designer(s).  Not only does Devon give up the possibility of succeeding at anything himself (it can't count as success if he uses a cheat wand) he also denies everyone else in the world the opportunity to do anything meaningful outside the game rules he has chosen.

Even if the characters' reality is just a bigger simulation, perhaps a more complex game with more obscure rules, I don't think it changes the fundamental immorality of his actions.  At the very least, the original game allowed a lot more freedom for the players to define their own goals and live their own lives.  And if he hadn't warped it through repeated application of a simple script-kiddie hack, smarter minds could have investigated similar glitches in the simulation to understand more about their universe, maybe even why the simulation had been created.  Rewriting reality as the fancy takes him seems bound to introduce bigger bugs that someone could use to rip it apart.

With simple selfishness he turns our world into a hell.  It's a cute morality tale.



wakela

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Reply #45 on: September 27, 2007, 12:27:01 AM
I liked the story, but I did think it took a while to get going.  In the beginning I didn't care too much about this girl chasing after her loser boyfriend.  I wasn't to gripped with the fantasy tropes, either.  At the mention of the giant spider I figured we were in some kind of alternate universe and was eager for an explanation. I also thought the writing was sometimes clumsy "She felt an inexplicable dread as if something something something."  i.e. "Her inexplicable dread could be explained by ...."

But I was won over by the end of the story, and I liked the creepy ending.  I was afraid that the story would end with the reveal that it was a game within a game, and I was relieved that there was more.  But I would have liked to see more hints of the creator of our world.

Will brave Sir Lovestospooge have to come rescue these people from Lord Devon's Empire and return them to their cubicles and mortgages?

My favorite part of the story: the breadth of its scope which feels more impactful than most short stories, without making the text itself feel drawn out.
impactful? C'mon. ;)



sirana

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Reply #46 on: September 27, 2007, 04:13:37 PM
Liked the ideas of the story and the end made it all in all a good story for me, but I had problems with the changing style and narrative voice.
Starts out as a subjective third person narrator [not sure if you can call it that in english, free translation of what it's called in German][edit: I checked with wikipedia and it seems to be called 3rd person limited in english] , but after she slays the car it turns to an omniscient, fairy-tale style narrator. Changes back to the subjective style when she meets the prince in the fortress and the last part is again omniscient/fairy-tale style.
I can see why the author would change styles (mainly to keep her voyage short for the reader) but it was a big turnoff for me.
If you change perspective or narration style during a short story you better hava a good reason for it and for me the reason wasn't good enough in this case.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2007, 04:15:10 PM by sirana »



Listener

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Reply #47 on: September 27, 2007, 04:17:50 PM

Will brave Sir Lovestospooge have to come rescue these people from Lord Devon's Empire and return them to their cubicles and mortgages?


Now THAT would make an interesting alternate-universe story... someone trying to turn the world more like ours, instead of more like a fantasy world.

Hmm.

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Kaa

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Reply #48 on: October 02, 2007, 04:49:15 PM
I was listening to this story on the Atlanta subway while headed to the airport to pick up a friend.  As I was watching the boring, Atlanta scenery swish by, I could easily imagine wanting to reify it.  Here are my thoughts, and they are five:

#1: Yay, Mur! I loves me some Mur.

#2: I thought this was going one place, and I was listening, and then...what? Dog-sized what? Goblins? Hmmmmm! :)  I love it when a story goes somewhere other than where I think it is.  And I liked the ending.

#3: I, too, was strongly reminded of the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation with Moriarty and the movie "The Thirteenth Floor."  I'm not saying that's a bad thing: I enjoyed both of those.

#4: I have friends I don't see for months because they are almost continually playing WoW.  When I do talk to them, they say things to me that make no sense or continue conversations they thought they'd had with me, but I point out to them that I don't play WoW, and there's no way I could have known about whatever it was, and this leaves me out of the loop, much of the time.  If I would just play, they say, then I wouldn't be the last person to know stuff.  It frightens me just a tiny bit just how totally immersive these games get.

#5: Yay, Mur!  I loves me some Mur. (It bears repeating.)

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wakela

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Reply #49 on: October 02, 2007, 11:37:36 PM
Maybe this is old news to you all, but I know a guy who is working in WoW.  I know nothing about WoW, but from what I'm told he's achieved a high level of weapon smithing.  So he spends all day in the game making weapons, then he sells them on real world eBay.

Things like WoW and Second Life are becoming so sophisticated that when the day comes when we can fully download our minds into computers, it will be a much smaller step than we think.