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Author Topic: EP129: Immortal Sin  (Read 13820 times)
Russell Nash
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« on: October 26, 2007, 02:36:44 AM »

EP129: Immortal Sin

By Jennifer Pelland.
Read by Stephen Eley.
First appeared in Tales of the Unanticipated, November 2005.

Alex stumbled from the confessional, through the church, all the way to the curb. He had to get out of there. He couldn’t sit in the house of God anymore. God didn’t want him there. That was abundantly clear. Forty-one years of perfect mass attendance. Six years as an altar boy. A childhood spent praying for his grandmother’s soul to hasten her time in Purgatory. A spotless record of weekly confessions for the past twelve years. He’d even stopped having sex with Alison two years ago after she’d gotten a tubal ligation so he wouldn’t be committing fornication. He’d followed the rules when he could, and asked for forgiveness when he couldn’t. But none of it mattered. He would die unshriven.

Unless he didn’t die.


Rated R. It’s our Halloween episode. Expect to be disturbed.


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« Last Edit: September 16, 2011, 06:09:24 PM by Talia » Logged
BigDrahma
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« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2007, 12:58:23 PM »

Awesome story.  When Alex touched his fingers to his lips a couple of times over the course of the story, I started wondering if he'd happened to treat a young female chess player with an unusually high level of focus back when he was at the hospital. Grin  It certainly explains his zeal.
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Mr. Tweedy
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« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2007, 03:45:03 PM »

Comments on the story: 1.) I really liked the ending.  2.) It actually accords quite well with my idea of what Hell is: All Good (God-created) things absent, leaving the damned with just their own little egos to gnaw on.

But this really struck me for another reason, and I'm wondering if others here can give me some insight.  I wonder: To what extent is this a parody?  Is Catholicism really like this?  Is this really how some people view religion?  Alex's idea of God and Heaven and Hell is so cold and loveless and morbid, and totally alien to my understanding of any of them.  Are there really a lot of people running around who think of God in terms of contracts and rules and earning enough credits?  Is that a common view?

To me, that was the really horrible aspect of the story: Alex turns his own life and the lives of everyone he interacts into a hell because his adherence to these Rules.  Scary.
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JenniferPelland
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« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2007, 04:02:29 PM »

First off, thanks!

Secondly, this story is based on the way my mind worked when I was a Catholic child.  I knew I had to follow a very specific set of rules if I didn't want to spend a near-eternity in Purgatory (which was almost as scary as Hell), so I became very good at memorizing and following those rules.  The spiritual side of the religion didn't even impinge on my consciousness.  If I hadn't left the church at age 12, I worry that I could have turned into that protagonist.
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Swamp
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« Reply #4 on: October 26, 2007, 04:29:07 PM »

Very good story!  One of the better ones this year.  I liked the self-created Hell Alex created for himself all the while thinking he was winning a war against God.  I also liked the futuristic elements of the DNA, nanotech, and cryogenic research.

In response to:
Are there really a lot of people running around who think of God in terms of contracts and rules and earning enough credits?  Is that a common view?

To me the answer would be yes--not to the extreme and calculating extent of Alex in this story, but, yes, there are people who think in this way more subtly.  They might feel that because they do X and Y that they are saved in God's eyes, while forgetting the deeper characteristics such as love, compassion, forgiveness, humility, etc that He would have us develop.  I'm not saying there shouldn't be principles on which we pattern our lives, but many get caught up in the rules so much that they forget the big picture.

Alex, as I said, is an extreme example of that.  His whole "God is Love, and He will forgive me, all I have to do is go confess to the preist" attitude conveiniently side-steped the whole repentance-godly sorrow-restitution-take responsibilty for the sin part of it.  Once that became clear to him, in his eyes, God became his enemy.  

It's a great story concept.  What better reason do you need than facing eternal damnation in order to want to prevent your death as long as possible? (again skipping over the whole repentance, restituion thing.)
« Last Edit: October 26, 2007, 05:37:07 PM by kmmrlatham » Logged

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Mr. Tweedy
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« Reply #5 on: October 26, 2007, 04:34:39 PM »

Religion with no spiritual side?  Very scary.  I don't mean that in the fun I-have-Pseudopod-T-shirt kind of way.  Scary like cancer.  I feel genuine chills.

If that's what people think of when they say "religion," then I can see why atheism is popular.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2007, 04:39:02 PM by Mr. Tweedy » Logged

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bolddeceiver
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« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2007, 10:34:00 PM »

A very interesting, chilling take on the way some people approach religion.  I'm often amazed to hear stories of people trying to game religious rules -- see the Eruv, for just one example.  I personally cannot concieve of a supreme being that could be so incredibly arbitrary as to (A) be so strict about the rules and (B) not give a damn as long as you find a loophole.  (Oh hail great logic engine?)

On a lighter tangent, in the previous-episode commentary, Stephen mentioned that he had an electric toothbrush that Chodon should talk to.  I was surprised at this kind of insensitivity, as I know for a fact that the toothbrush in question self-identifies as a milk frother.
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Loz
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« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2007, 01:03:31 AM »

To what extent is this a parody?  Is Catholicism really like this?  Is this really how some people view religion?   ...Are there really a lot of people running around who think of God in terms of contracts and rules and earning enough credits?

I am not a theologian, but wasn't Purgatory invented to try and fudge the whole 'lead a wicked life and you go to Hell' problem? After all, if Jesus existed there's nothing in the literature about going to a boring featureless place that is like Bournemouth on a Winter weekend for a few millennia before going upstairs. I think most religions are probably like this, it's a natural extension of developing rules for how to live before and after death.

I don't mean that in the fun I-have-Pseudopod-T-shirt kind of way. 

I CAN HAS PSEUDOPOD T-SHIRT?

I did like the way this story went. I presume the chromosome and nanobot treatments worked and went worldwide which is why the protagonists former lab partner didn't care that he wasn't aging?

I'm not sure I agree with the distinction Steve is making between 'horror' and 'cautionary tale' and I think it's largely false. I don't really care though, the stories on Escape Pod tend to be better than those on Pseudo Pod and I'm hoping Pod Castle doesn't do the same for the fantasy element.
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Grayven
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« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2007, 12:42:49 PM »

As far as twist endings go, that was one of the better ones.

But the story rang false to me. After the protagonist decided God was real, etc... it seems like he should have decided the afterlife was more important than regular life. Even if he extended his life span forever, it'd still be a blip in eternity. The protagonist would have known this, this isn't advanced theology. It struck me as false that this supposedly brilliant guy didn't notice that the universe would end someday anyway, and he'd still go to his hell.
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Loz
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« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2007, 01:45:09 AM »

Well, although technically quite smart the protagonist was dumb and immature in many other ways, hence his murdering the waitress after finding out she was just being nice to him and didn't actually want to marry him. Plus there's also the adage of dealing with one problem at a time, if you're on the thirtieth floor of a building about to burn to death then you deal with that problem by throwing yourself out the window. The next problem involves learning how to fly in about thirty seconds. Maybe he figures he'll have an eternity on earth to work out how to get round being punished by God at the end of time, although he'll have the Morlocks and the giant crabs to deal with first.
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xabra
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« Reply #10 on: November 08, 2007, 04:59:54 AM »

I like the ending (as I see most people did); it forces me to revisit the story I just heard or read. The story itself is high on moral a little low on scariness, after all, in our current society it appears to me that many people are already building their personal hell on earth, aren't they?

I realize that the story-time is limited, nevertheless I thought the story build-up went a little too quick and the concept of a personal hell was more important that the person creating it, surely we don't need 100+ year to create the hell-on-earth?

-Xabra
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jonro
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« Reply #11 on: November 10, 2007, 09:15:52 PM »

I enjoyed this story quite a bit. I thought that committing the murder was a bit of a stretch for the character and I felt as though he would finally learn to fee regret after a hundred years or so. But, those decisions are up to the author. The ending was a good one. The main character managed to cheat death, but not punishment.
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Roney
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« Reply #12 on: November 18, 2007, 06:43:27 PM »

Even if the backups are restored, I don't think my comment is coming back: I think I posted it just after the outage started.  Let's see if I can remember what I wrote...

I love it when the SF philosophy of "let's extrapolate this simple idea until we break it" is applied to things other than science or technology.  In this case, taking the rules-lawyer tendency that bedevils Catholicism and pushing it to its absurd conclusion made for a creepy protagonist and a gleefully twisted story.

I'm a bit surprised at the ignorance of Catholicism expressed on this thread (I think there was some more before the posts were lost... that's a thought: the forum now has its very own Dark Ages) by people who, it seems, have some flavour of Protestant Christian belief.  To my outsider's eyes, it would seem quite important to Protestants to understand why their faith split from Peter's church.  But maybe I shouldn't be surprised, as many of the flaws of the old Catholic church (corruption; an obsession with sin; priests as authority figures with a monopoly on interpreting God's will) seem to be creeping back into some Protestant American churches -- the televangelists shouldn't be able to make any headway if mainstream churchgoers understood the importance of the Protestant Reformation.
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MattArnold
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« Reply #13 on: November 20, 2007, 12:50:56 PM »

Immortal Sin is an idiot plot. It would have worked better had the author not taken every opportunity to focus with a magnifying glass on the viewpoint character's inability to add one and one to get two.

Moderator: Post edited to remove personal insults aimed at the author.  The character needed to have lines of reasoning that, while flawed, at least some way marginally approached plausible or compelling. I expect to hear rationalizations that are clever, that make some twisted kind of sense. Without that, he is simply not interesting. A dull, reflexive animal, suitable for a bit role in a story, at most.

The story then proceeds to reach moral conclusions about life extension by easy, lazy routes. I got the impression from a couple of statements in the intro and outro that it was somehow intended to be scary or disturbing. Nothing scary, nothing thought-provoking, nothing emotionally engaging, nothing even interesting.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2007, 04:26:09 PM by Russell Nash » Logged
DKT
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« Reply #14 on: November 20, 2007, 01:29:38 PM »

My original comment seemed to have been lost, but I really enjoyed this story.  I found it pretty creepy, specifically the idea of gaming the rules (as I think Bolddeceiver originally said).  It's the dark side of religion, the letter of the law instead of the spirit of the law, and the ending was chilling. 
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DarkKnightJRK
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« Reply #15 on: November 26, 2007, 12:02:31 AM »

I liked it--very twisted. With the evangelical movement currently going on and the rise of technology that can extend live, I can very much see this sort of thing happening. It kinda reminded me of a technological, modernized take on Faust, where the main character is trying to beat God rather than the Devil.

First off, thanks!

Secondly, this story is based on the way my mind worked when I was a Catholic child.  I knew I had to follow a very specific set of rules if I didn't want to spend a near-eternity in Purgatory (which was almost as scary as Hell), so I became very good at memorizing and following those rules.  The spiritual side of the religion didn't even impinge on my consciousness.  If I hadn't left the church at age 12, I worry that I could have turned into that protagonist.

Allow me to personally say to you that you did a great job with your story. Smiley
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DDog
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« Reply #16 on: November 26, 2007, 03:16:05 PM »

This story was pretty disturbing for me. I had this huge feeling of deja vu in the beginning though, when Alex is talking about leaving his wife and Cassie is rebuffing him, and I can't pin down why.

For some reason I saw the rule-following to the consumption of all sense not so much as a symptom of Catholicism but of, perhaps, really extreme OCD that happened to latch onto Catholicism. It reminded me of the godspoken on Path in Orson Scott Card's Xenocide; Alex is obviously brilliant, but crippled by his rule-fixated frame.
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Doganharp
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« Reply #17 on: November 26, 2007, 05:03:58 PM »

I couldn't follow it like I do other stories. I just listened to half of the episode and turned it off because I realized I had NO idea what was going on. I'm not sure if it was the narrator's accent or the fact that she spoke too quickly for my western ears or what. But I thought I'd come on here and appeal to Mr. Eley to perhaps pick more universal VO artists in the future.
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Russell Nash
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« Reply #18 on: November 26, 2007, 05:09:14 PM »

I couldn't follow it like I do other stories. I just listened to half of the episode and turned it off because I realized I had NO idea what was going on. I'm not sure if it was the narrator's accent or the fact that she spoke too quickly for my western ears or what. But I thought I'd come on here and appeal to Mr. Eley to perhaps pick more universal VO artists in the future.

I think you posted in the wrong thread.  Better luck next time.
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Mr. Tweedy
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« Reply #19 on: November 26, 2007, 05:43:01 PM »

I'm a bit surprised at the ignorance of Catholicism expressed on this thread (I think there was some more before the posts were lost... that's a thought: the forum now has its very own Dark Ages) by people who, it seems, have some flavour of Protestant Christian belief.  To my outsider's eyes, it would seem quite important to Protestants to understand why their faith split from Peter's church.  But maybe I shouldn't be surprised, as many of the flaws of the old Catholic church (corruption; an obsession with sin; priests as authority figures with a monopoly on interpreting God's will) seem to be creeping back into some Protestant American churches -- the televangelists shouldn't be able to make any headway if mainstream churchgoers understood the importance of the Protestant Reformation.

Yes and no.  I understand the huge importance of the Reformation, but, I don't consider myself to be a part of any tradition.  Everything that happened between the times recorded in the Bible and my own lifetime is just interesting trivia.  What Saint Anybody said about anything can never amount to more than good advice.  Frankly, I look with suspicion upon any tradition.

It's good to learn about history for its own sake, but it has little relevance to my religion.  My religion isn't something that grew and evolved over 2000 years to become what I believe today.  It is my own.
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