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Author Topic: EP128: Union Dues - Send in the Clowns  (Read 21093 times)

Russell Nash

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on: October 19, 2007, 07:21:45 AM
EP128: Union Dues - Send in the Clowns

By Jeffrey R. DeRego.
Read by Dani Cutler (of Truth Seekrs and The Audio Addicts).

Tina tugs on Kindred’s bullet-tattered red cape. “What kinda tricks do you do?”

Kindred shakes her head as if bewildered by the question. “Tricks?” She glances back at Megaton, who now juggles three Jersey barriers about a hundred meters out in the devastation.

“Let it go Kindred. We’ve been through a lot.”

“Well that’s good. So now you’re free to put on a carnival. Get everyone together and onto the jet now. And I mean now!” Her voice is so loud it draws everyone’s attention away from the show.

Megaton drops the Jersey barriers and the ground shakes.

Kindred lowers herself to one knee beside the little girl. “My trick is special,” she says, “I can make the whole circus disappear. Abracadabra—”


Ratied PG. Contains superhero violence and organizational politics.



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



sirana

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Reply #1 on: October 19, 2007, 07:48:04 AM
haven't even listened to it but Jay, another Union Dues!!!



Drakona

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Reply #2 on: October 19, 2007, 08:56:05 AM
Oh! Union Dues! I was riding a packed train when I saw that the current escape pod story was a new Union Dues story. I let out a squeel that made my fellow travellers turn and look at me, puzzled. And I smiled all the while I was listening to the story, and the other travellers kept looking at me funny :D Union Dues stories are always so dead pan dark and yet engaging. They make me feel that "yes, this IS what it would be like!". Love it!

Thank you Jeffrey for writing them, and Steve for running them! I'm looking forward to more.



bolddeceiver

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Reply #3 on: October 19, 2007, 08:59:00 AM
Man, Jeffery, keep this up.  Wow.  I hope these get all compiled together in print some day.

One tiny problem with the delivery.  The reader didn't try to force voices, reading all characters in pretty close to her own voice.  I don't mind that; I prefer it to a female reader doing a false male voice, or vise versa.  But I didn't think this went well at all the use of the "radio transmission" voice effects.  It's harder to imagine a line coming in a different voice when you have that "REALISM" cue....

Still, a big A+, after two weeks that I frankly found a bit disappointing.



Thaurismunths

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Reply #4 on: October 19, 2007, 05:00:35 PM
Wah HOo!!
I haven't listened yet (still downloading), but I'm really looking forward to it.

Also, I'd like to just get this out of the way: This this story isn't enough "SF" to belong here. The author has no idea what he's talking about. I take personal offense at everything in the story, and you should all apologize!

Thanks Steve! Thanks JR!
(Ok, I'm going to go listen to it now.) :)

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jrderego

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Reply #5 on: October 19, 2007, 05:08:27 PM
Wah HOo!!
I haven't listened yet (still downloading), but I'm really looking forward to it.

Also, I'd like to just get this out of the way: This this story isn't enough "SF" to belong here. The author has no idea what he's talking about. I take personal offense at everything in the story, and you should all apologize!

Thanks Steve! Thanks JR!
(Ok, I'm going to go listen to it now.) :)

Yeah, you guys ought to run this bum author out on a rail! Tar and feather him!!!

:)

Hope you all dig the story! It's sci-fi, it has robots (well the remains of them anyway)! That reminds me, when I submitted it I said I'd post the original 8 opening pages of robot fighting action in here... I have to go search my HD now to make good on that promise.

Also-

I'd like to e-mail Dani Cutler and thank her for the great read, but I couldn't find her address on any of the linked pages where she's hosting. Can someone PM it to me?


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Also, please buy my book - Escape Clause: A Union Dues Novel
http://www.encpress.com/EC.html


VBurn

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Reply #6 on: October 19, 2007, 06:22:22 PM
Its like a ray of sunshine on a cloud day, excpet with a dark shine to it... :-\  Not sure what that means but the Union Dues are great stories, singulary or collectively.  Steve, you guys should do a Union Due collective speacial at that pod disc thing you always talk about.



lowky

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Reply #7 on: October 19, 2007, 09:37:25 PM
I wonder what my neighbors must have thought, as I am sure they heard me squee!! when I saw the new ep episode was another Union Dues.  I seriously enjoy this story line and hope to see more of it in the future, and all of it collected into novel form someday.  Great job on the story as usual. 


BrandtPileggi

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Reply #8 on: October 20, 2007, 06:23:09 AM
So good I pooped on myself. And that had nothing to do with massive quantity of Milk of Magnesia that I ingested and forgot about.



Russell Nash

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Reply #9 on: October 20, 2007, 08:03:52 AM
I was really looking forward to seeing the posts when I started this thread, but I find it absolutely amazing how many people post just to say they're glad there's a new Union Dues.  They haven't even listened to it yet. 

It will be a little while before I listen to it.  My kids got me sick and I want to be able to devote my full attention to it, so I'll wait until I'm healthy.  I'm really looking forward to it.



Czhorat

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Reply #10 on: October 20, 2007, 11:38:25 AM
This feels a bit awkward with all the positive response, but this didn't quite work for me. Part of the problem might be that I downloaded a couple of the old Union Dues stories ("Baby and the Bathwater" and "Cleanup in Aisle Five") listened back to back to bring myself up to speed, so it might be getting a touch repetetive for me.

One small issue I have with the stories is that they feel overly talky to me. If I were to imagine this as a comic book, it would contain panel after panel of characters talking to eachother or just thinking to themselves. It's not that dialoge itself is bad, but much of the chatter - especially between Chrome and Kindred - felt unnatural to me. It seemed to only be there to make the points that the writer didn't trust himself to have made through characters' actions. Perhaps if Kindred had told an actual illustrative story about a time when she was dragged off to be kids entertainment we could have had her narrative within the main narrative. That might have made the story a bit more structurally interesting.

For me, the best part of the story was the bit with the unintended consequences of the post-hypnotic suggestion taking over at inopportune times and sending Union heroes into robot-monotone mode. It was nicely introduced in Chrome's conversation with Megaton and made for a satisfying even if a little too convenient conclusion.

I know that these Union Dues stories are entertaining bits of fluff, but they're starting to feel a bit heavy handed to me. The Union feels more "just plain bad" as things go on, has become unpopular, doesn't have the support of at least local government, and is negatively portrayed in the press. I can suspend my disbelief as to the existence of the super-strong, super-agile, telepaths, and super-strategists, but can't figure out why such a highly visible and highly unpopular organization retains a stranglehold in its area of concentration. If the series continues I think we need to see some cracks in the Union edifice for it to remain believable.

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eytanz

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Reply #11 on: October 20, 2007, 12:20:17 PM
The previous Union Dues story came out shortly after I started following Escape Pod, so I just skipped it, figuring I'd go back and listen to the older ones in sequence. Then I forgot about it, and never did.

Since I have just moved from New York City to a much quieter part of the world (York, England), I find I have more free time in the evenings. So I'm pretty thankful I never listened to the previous Union Dues stories as now I have a neat little project to carry me through the next few days...



lowky

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Reply #12 on: October 20, 2007, 04:39:14 PM

I know that these Union Dues stories are entertaining bits of fluff, but they're starting to feel a bit heavy handed to me. The Union feels more "just plain bad" as things go on, has become unpopular, doesn't have the support of at least local government, and is negatively portrayed in the press. I can suspend my disbelief as to the existence of the super-strong, super-agile, telepaths, and super-strategists, but can't figure out why such a highly visible and highly unpopular organization retains a stranglehold in its area of concentration. If the series continues I think we need to see some cracks in the Union edifice for it to remain believable.

I think it retains a stranglehold and has some negative views for the same reason other big unions in RL do.  Unions after awhile become big business themselves, and it becomes more about what money the leadership can make, than about helping the members.  Alot of people I have talked with here in the US view UAW as part of the problem with jobs going over seas.  They don't look at the fact they are/have priced their members out of a job, they just steadfastly refuse to make concessions.  Teamsters has long been viewed as corrupt and full of ties to organized crime whether it's still true or not, and I think it goes back to the days of Jimmy Hoffa and the like running teamsters.  The Union in Union Dues seems more like they are out to protect the royalties they get from marketing the supers than actually helping people.  This story especially makes it seem that way.  There is big money to be made with Comic Books, action figures, Saturday morning Cartoons.  I still feel like we are early in the story for cracks to appear, were are kinda in the prologue before changes can start.

 I am still enjoying the Union Dues stories and look forward to seeing more of them.



Swamp

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Reply #13 on: October 20, 2007, 05:13:54 PM
This feels a bit awkward with all the positive response, but this didn't quite work for me.

I'm sure Jeffery appreciates hearing from a critical perspective as well as getting the praise, or possibly more.

One small issue I have with the stories is that they feel overly talky to me. If I were to imagine this as a comic book, it would contain panel after panel of characters talking to eachother or just thinking to themselves.

I find this to be a strength of the series.  This is not a comic book that relies on visual stimulus to drive the story.  (Don't get me wrong--I love comics.)  This is prose, and in the case of EP, audio prose.  This lends itself to more inner reflection and more exploratory character interaction.  If I'm not wrong, I think this is one of the author's point in writing the Union Dues stories.  We all know the common super hero action and schtik.  This is something different.

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Jim

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Reply #14 on: October 20, 2007, 05:32:23 PM
I really like these stories a lot because the heroes, who are living lives of exceptional isolation brought on by their powers, can be seen clearly chafing at the social restraints they're under, the younger ones as well as the older ones.

The distrust of the public and the government toward the supers leads to the Union members having a buddy-cop "us-versus-them" attitude toward "the normals," and all these stories together point to things starting to really come apart at the seams.

I look forward to the stories building up to the point where the Union itself utterly fails in its diplomatic mission, and every Union pyramid comes under attack by normals. Certainly that could happen if the events of "Off White Lies" were to be leaked to the public.

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Reply #15 on: October 20, 2007, 10:29:07 PM
Uuuuuuuunion Duuuuuuuues!
:) i loved it! I squeeled when i saw it downloading.
The only thing that really bothered me was the incredible stupidity of Chrome not being able to explain herself.  Comeon, the Union doesn't believe in a fair trial?  As corrupt and inefficient as it might be, the Union cannot be that evil.

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


Czhorat

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Reply #16 on: October 21, 2007, 10:45:24 AM
Uuuuuuuunion Duuuuuuuues!
:) i loved it! I squeeled when i saw it downloading.
The only thing that really bothered me was the incredible stupidity of Chrome not being able to explain herself.  Comeon, the Union doesn't believe in a fair trial?  As corrupt and inefficient as it might be, the Union cannot be that evil.

Not to mention the fact that they discipline Chrome for quietly comforting a child on her lap while Megaton is apparently given a pass for creating the spectacle in the first place.

The Word of Nash is the word of Nash and it is Nash's word.


Russell Nash

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Reply #17 on: October 21, 2007, 01:06:24 PM
Uuuuuuuunion Duuuuuuuues!
:) i loved it! I squeeled when i saw it downloading.
The only thing that really bothered me was the incredible stupidity of Chrome not being able to explain herself.  Comeon, the Union doesn't believe in a fair trial?  As corrupt and inefficient as it might be, the Union cannot be that evil.

Not to mention the fact that they discipline Chrome for quietly comforting a child on her lap while Megaton is apparently given a pass for creating the spectacle in the first place.

Megaton explains later that since his stuff sells well, he gets extra leeway.



Czhorat

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Reply #18 on: October 21, 2007, 02:42:31 PM

I think it retains a stranglehold and has some negative views for the same reason other big unions in RL do.  Unions after awhile become big business themselves, and it becomes more about what money the leadership can make, than about helping the members.  Alot of people I have talked with here in the US view UAW as part of the problem with jobs going over seas.  They don't look at the fact they are/have priced their members out of a job, they just steadfastly refuse to make concessions.  Teamsters has long been viewed as corrupt and full of ties to organized crime whether it's still true or not, and I think it goes back to the days of Jimmy Hoffa and the like running teamsters.  The Union in Union Dues seems more like they are out to protect the royalties they get from marketing the supers than actually helping people. 

This to me feels like a characature of what a labor union is and does. The "Union" in the Union Dues stories doesn't seem to be a union at all in the sense of the UAW, AFL-CIO, or any other examples of the labor movement. It behaves more like a corporation, most likely a government-regulated monopoly such as the pre-1980s phone company or electrical utilities in many markets. Real unions keep in power through negotiation of contracts involving closed shops, cooperation with other unions (a union carpenter at a construction site not accepting lumber deliveries from non-union shipping services, for example), and - at least to some extent - the support of their members.

Problems with the American automobile industry - only some of which can be laid on the doorstep of organized labor - are an entirely different topic. One way of looking at a union environment is as one with two parallell tracks of leadership. On one side is management - various levels of supervisors, area or group operations managers, up through executives and a board of directors. Their goal and loyalty is to the corporation and its shareholders. On the other side is union leadership - shop stewards, business agents, up through the union's board of directors and executives. Their constituents are the workers rather than the corporation. In such a case not only would the union fight for higher wages, but also against arbitrary discipline like that received by Chrome here in this story. In short, she'd have someone to fight for her.

Can unions be short-sighted and greedy? Absolutely. There's a tendency to push wages past the point at which they're sustainable, artificial tightening of labour supplies in some construction trades, and a willingness to fight for the least deserving workers on principle. Then again, without unions workers - especially those without the high level of skills and education to be able to negotiate on their own - would even more quickly be losing access to health care and have a harder time earning a living wage. They'd be treated by corporations as a fungible resource to be discarded when it's inconvenient and replaced as cheaply as possible. It's not a perfect system and it is a largely adversarial system, but it's one that provides advocacy for both workers and shareholders. That's at least something.

Sorry for wandering off topic and hopping onto a bit of a soapbox here. It's just frustrating to organized labor portrayed as the source of the problem with industry today, especially when discussing a story that has very little to do with the actual labour movement.

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Jim

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Reply #19 on: October 22, 2007, 12:06:19 PM
I wonder how the Union operates outside of U.S. borders, if at all.

What is the Union response if a super is discovered in, say, South Africa?

Could a renegade super escape to, say, North Korea, offering his or her services to Kim Jong Il in exchange from protection from being sent to The Village?

Should there be a Union Dues wiki to start keeping track of all this craziness?

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contra

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Reply #20 on: October 22, 2007, 10:29:20 PM
I liked the story.  Union Dues are some of my fav ones, and this one just reinforced that for me.

Solid story, likable believable characters, and a plot that could happen.

About the idea of a union being exagerated; its true, however for the universe it has been put into it fits very well.  Without a union to represent them (as was mentioned) they would be open to lawsuits, government red tape and generally not save people.  Its been done a few times in various fiction, I have no idea if it originated in these stories; they are liable for damage they do.  They did it, even if it was to save someone else; its evident in society that we live in now that people will take anything they can get.
http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/seminole/orl-mdrown1007oct10,0,7318452.story?coll=orl_tab01_layout
(FYI, she's now droped the case... but still she tried)
This would be an issue for super powered people.

To help them they get together and make a group who follow an agreed set of rules... but as it is coordinated with the government... the red tape piles up over time; until noone cares about making them comprehansable anymore, and can take down anyone it wants if it sees fit.  If you have ever read an insurance policy, a contract, a loan application or a thousand other things, you can see its believable; and that is the imporant thing. 

Any a lot of the time a union does keep it's own interests secure... but it is within its best interest to.

But yeah most Unions would have fought against Chroms punnishment, as it seemed harsh and over the top... It jusr ends up a lot of the time the human factor is overlooked; and people just doing their job the way they are supposed to are sometimes punnished if the media puts the wrong spin on it...
(see AOL cancelation saga phone call.  He didn't break any AOL rules until half way through, and if that wasn't in the internet and got media coverage; even if AOL knew about it; nothing would have happened.  The guy was reportedly fired.)

The ideas of hypnosis being used are good; in a universe where super powers exist, more extreme control would be needed; so I can see that happening.  Just as they would have greater physical/mental tests, and would be examined for if they should be allowed to protect the public... the official line would be important to be natural, before they could think about it.
Its like the army being trained to react to a situation without thinking and to aim shoot and be on guard without their brain ever kicking in, just reacting naturally; to keep them alive better.  They don't train for what happens next; guilt etc etc...   In this story it was the same thing; no thought was given to how it would effect everyday life, no thought about what to do after the emergancy is over, or how to cope wiht the aftermath.  Brainwashing was a quick and easy fix.  Almost a reset button...

//Side note//
Though if you have read the first issue of Civil War, you do see supers helping with the recovery and helping effort after the emergancy is over.  Which I thought was a really nice touch.

As for whether supers are sci fi; I say yes.  Easily.  All super heroes just feel sci fi to me.  And IIRC the union dues universe has giant robots in it..(see the previous story about the guy with no powers).

That went on longer that I intended.
sorry.

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Mike---Glasgow.  Scotland.-->


LPLFC1892

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Reply #21 on: October 23, 2007, 01:49:07 AM
Kia ora (Hello from New Zealand)

This is my first comment on a story, It has taken me about 7 weeks to catch up on all the stories since I discovered Escape Pod.

I have always enjoyed Super Human stories since reading "Green Lantern" while waiting to get my hair cut in the 60's.

For a Super Human story to be effective, it has to be short, have a degree of humour and have a point. This story is and has all of those points, it could so easily transfer into a 32 page comic (sorry Graphic Novel).

Its great to think that even super humans have the same phobias and  insecurities that we have.

Loved the story, loved the reading of it, its just a pity that I could find a way to download the other union dues stories.

Dave A



Djerrid

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Reply #22 on: October 23, 2007, 02:57:12 AM
I agree with you contra. The Union isn't a "union" in the traditional since, I ken. Looking out for its members' interests isn't its top priority. It is an organization created to actively control its member's actions in a way that is socially acceptable - saving people from catastrophes - so they wouldn't be wiped out as soon as their god-like powers became apparent.  If they didn't have these guidelines to keep them on a short leash, they could pretty much take over the world as a super-spieces. So, the "management" keeps these randomly selected souls under its thumb to prevent WWIII from braking out.

I like the social unrest undertone with the normals. They clearly have no fear of these super-beings that could destroy armies on a whim. It's like kids throwing stones at a chained up guard dog; if it ever breaks free all hell will break loose. And the supers are grinding their teeth and mumbling under their breath about being used as target practice by military contractors, as marketing pawns by the Union, and as entertaining clowns to the public.

This is a classic story of order and control vs. anarchy and freedom.  The Union has clearly defined roles for its members and the public. But nobody likes their entire lives dictated for them. If I may quote Star Wars, "The more you tighten your grip, the more will slip through your fingers." I'm just eager to see some more slippage and how the author chooses to resolve it.




jrderego

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Reply #23 on: October 23, 2007, 03:13:26 AM
Kia ora (Hello from New Zealand)

This is my first comment on a story, It has taken me about 7 weeks to catch up on all the stories since I discovered Escape Pod.

I have always enjoyed Super Human stories since reading "Green Lantern" while waiting to get my hair cut in the 60's.

For a Super Human story to be effective, it has to be short, have a degree of humour and have a point. This story is and has all of those points, it could so easily transfer into a 32 page comic (sorry Graphic Novel).

Its great to think that even super humans have the same phobias and  insecurities that we have.

Loved the story, loved the reading of it, its just a pity that I could find a way to download the other union dues stories.

Dave A

You can listen to them at my MySpace page... www.myspace.com/jrderegowriter

Hope that helps.

"Happiness consists of getting enough sleep." Robert A. Heinlein
Also, please buy my book - Escape Clause: A Union Dues Novel
http://www.encpress.com/EC.html


Russell Nash

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Reply #24 on: October 23, 2007, 07:15:13 AM
Kia ora (Hello from New Zealand)

This is my first comment on a story, It has taken me about 7 weeks to catch up on all the stories since I discovered Escape Pod.

I have always enjoyed Super Human stories since reading "Green Lantern" while waiting to get my hair cut in the 60's.

For a Super Human story to be effective, it has to be short, have a degree of humour and have a point. This story is and has all of those points, it could so easily transfer into a 32 page comic (sorry Graphic Novel).

Its great to think that even super humans have the same phobias and  insecurities that we have.

Loved the story, loved the reading of it, its just a pity that I could find a way to download the other union dues stories.

Dave A

You can listen to them at my MySpace page... www.myspace.com/jrderegowriter

Hope that helps.
You can also get the feed from escapearchive.com.  This is a fan run feed that has all of the old EP eps..