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Author Topic: EP136: Bright Red Star  (Read 19405 times)
Yossarian's grandson
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Wisdom is knowing when to jump


« Reply #100 on: December 29, 2007, 04:56:13 AM »

I had to listen to this one twice. Stuff of nightmares, this. I liked it.
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Obake
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« Reply #101 on: January 03, 2008, 06:28:52 PM »

Hi All,

First off I really liked the story. It reminded me a lot of Fred Saberhagen’s Berserker stories.

I had to listen to the story twice because it left me with a strange twisting in my stomach as to how it is seen as normal, acceptable and even automatic to sacrifice a small group of individuals to save a larger group of individuals.

I had not spent time re-examining this simple equation until I considered that this story, in many respects, seemed to deliberately eliminate all the distractions such as an unusual detailed enemy or interesting equipment or even the option of other solutions that had gone untried.

The story could have been, more or less, played out at the launch station where a weapon was being prepared to destroy the settlement. Instead seasoned solders carrying nuclear weapons were expended in a suicide mission to eliminate this small group of individuals. All to illustrate to the audience the real cost of this kind of logic.

I am not in any way arguing that a huge loss of life is better than a small loss of life. Rather that the automatic logic of sacrifice, to cut our losses in some cases even if that cost is life, has become too quick of a solution in our fiction and likely in our reality.

If we continue to fail to really consider sacrifice of this sort as an absolute last choice, once all other measures have been executed and all other considerations weighed, I fear it will ultimately be our undoing.

What if Becky, in some way, was the only one who could have stopped the war?

Regards, O
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Tango Alpha Delta
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« Reply #102 on: February 11, 2008, 08:01:44 PM »

I liked this story.  I like how we're left guessing about the aliens' intentions and why they attacked Humans in the first place.  I also liked the descriptions of the soldiers and their augmentations.  Very cool.

That guessing is exactly what bothered me about the story.  Or, rather, in the absence of any other motivation, I couldn't help thinking "If I were an alien race running across humanity for the first time, I'd probably try to exterminate us as quickly as possible, too, given our history."

In my younger days, I could kind of see the point to a story that takes the logical exaggeration of the justification for all-out war... and if/when we run into actual aliens, it's highly likely that we wouldn't understand their motives, so it's "plausible" that we could end up needing this cold, heartless super-soldier figure to save us... but after years of seeing military SF trying to set up scenarios where the all-out balls-to-the-wall augmented super-soldier is the absolute ideal necessity, I find myself unable to enjoy the conceit.  I've already seen it play out in "Ender's Game", "Starship Troopers", and (my personal fave) "Forever War".

That said, despite my snarky hindmind with it's pseudo-pacifist naysaying, I did enjoy the story.
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lieffeil
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« Reply #103 on: June 16, 2008, 05:22:23 PM »

Hey, guess what!? I enjoyed the story! Surprise!
It feels like a rip off, since I found it in the archive, and no one's going to read through the six pages of comments anymore, but I'll give it my two cents anyway. It deserves that.
The descriptions were what got me the most. I actually felt nauseated by the end of it all, which was a new thing for me listening to EP. Lots of things, never nausea. Not to mention the twisting conflict over all the buried emotions, the ignorance and the stark survivalist themes. I am glad to say I am still optimistic about first encounters, that I can't seem to believe that an alien species would go so far as attempting extermination without talking to us first... but that could just be naivety on my part...
Thanks for a new flavour, however brutal.
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Jacin Redeaux
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« Reply #104 on: June 23, 2008, 11:13:42 PM »

Liked it a lot! Life is full of hard choices and I think there are things worse than death. I let my older son (11) listen to it and he liked it too. He wanted to hear more about how the soldiers were "changed". We talked about sacrifice, how war can touch so many, how some give all without even knowing why, and how hard being a soldier can be depending on the mission.

Good one!
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Jacin Redeaux
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #105 on: March 10, 2010, 02:16:02 PM »

Where to start with this one?  Lots of fodder for discussion.

On first listen I thought it was pretty good.  Not spectacular, but pretty good.  The fact that he was a suicide soldier sent to kill the civilians was very clear early on, though it seemed to be intended to be a surprise.  Most noticeably when he said something like "I'm here to save you from the aliens," I said truthfully.  Any time "said truthfully" is used, I immediately analyze how that phrase could be both truthful and misleading and in this case I came to the immediate conclusion:  he's gonna kill them all.  I guess many of my reading habits were formed by reading the Wheel of Time series, and reading about Aes Sedai really makes you watch meanings very closely in cases like this.

One of the most interesting things about first contact that I always like hearing about is the establishment of communication and common language.  For anyone else interested in this topic, I strongly suggest you check out the works of Juliette Wade.  She's been published twice in Analog, both first contact stories based around establishing culture/lingual relationship with alien species, both very good.  And she has a great blog, one of the few that I bother checking back on:  http://www.talktoyouniverse.blogspot.com  where she often talks about language's usage in SF and fantasy, among many other interesting things.

Anyway, the reason I brought up the language thing is that it's not clear that the Shardies are CAPABLE of communicating with us.  The humans blame the Shardies for not responding to communciations, but they seem to assume that the Shardies are capable of both receiving and understanding radio (or whatever technological) means of transmittal.  Even if they can see a signal, and can see pattern in the signal, they're not going to know how to interpet it in a meaningful way.  Even if we saw them face to face and tried to talk to them, there's no saying if they have auditory sensors or some other means of communications.  Perhaps they are telepathic and because we don't respond to them with thought messages then they assume we are unintelligent.  Or maybe their sensory organs respond only to electromagnetic waves, and by blasting them with hailing calls we actually managed to overwhelm and blind and/or kill one (like an alien race that communicates through lasers and accidentally flash-fries a human on first contact when he tries to say "hi").  I mean, we don't even know what their physiology is--the ships themselves could be the race!  Assuming that all the information given in the story is verifiably true, I'd say it's safe to say that the aliens are intelligent--they are capable of building starships, of tracking trajectories of other starships, and can extract living brain from an organism and wire it to their existing technology.  But it's not clear to me, even if everything in the story is a fact, that they are necessarily any more aggressive then we are.  Perhaps they think that WE struck the first blow and after that they were only reacting.

It seems like the main point of the story was to show that it in an extreme circumstance it could be considered justifiable to kill in an act of mercy.  But I've seen this theme elsewhere, so that wasn't all that inspiring to me.  Back to the Wheel of time, early on in the series there's a situation where a man and a woman are traveling together, and they're threatened by something which if it reaches it is abundantly clear that it will kill them in an excruciatingly painful way.  He plans, at the last possible moment, to kill her to spare her the pain--luckily he doesn't end up having to.  I was horrified by it at first, but it makes logical sense.  I don't think that I would have the strength to kill in that situation, but for my weakness another human being would suffer terribly and would still die.

BUT what made the story even more interesting for me was the mention in the comments about the possibility of propoganda.  Then things get REALLY interesting.  The entire story is through the point of view of the soldier, who only knows his knowledge from what the government has told him.   We all know that governments never lie, right?  Especially since we don't know anything about the government, I don't think we can rule out the possibility of propoganda.  Maybe the humans intentionally attacked the first Shardies.  Maybe the Shardies don't actually use human brains, that was just an attempt to dehumanize the enemy to suppress teh possibility of public outcry at killing another sentient race.  Maybe there are no Shardies at all, maybe the intergalactic federation of planets was in a state of civil war, and someone decided to create some AI ships and put some brains in there to create the illusion of a common enemy in order to unite everyone against them.

It's very possible that I am just channeling the mindset from one of my favorite games of all time--Deus Ex.  Fan-fricking-tastic game with nanotech, dozens of conspiracy theories all tied together into an intricate FPS plot.  Smiley
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Unblinking
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« Reply #106 on: March 10, 2010, 07:34:00 PM »

I'm reading The Gathering Storm (the new Wheel of Time story), and it had a passage that related well. 

Quote
The choice isn't always about what you do, son, but why you do it.  When I was a soldier, there were some men who fought simply for the money.  There were others who fought for loyalty--loyalty for their comrades, or to the crown, or to whatever.  The soldier who dies for money and the soldier who dies for loyalty are both dead, but there's a difference between them.  One death meant something.  The other didn't.
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yicheng
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« Reply #107 on: March 15, 2010, 12:17:17 PM »

I found myself enjoying this one.  There's a sort of Darkside-Starship-Troopers feel to it.  I liked that even in the most impossible circumstances you can imagine, the main character still showed some common decency and humanity.  The end was quite haunting.  I'd give this on a B+.

@Unblinking, I'm afraid your conspiracy theory doesn't quite jive.  It doesn't make any sense to send a squad of trained & equipped suicide troop to simply take out a bunch of unarmed civilians.  If you're just doing it as part of an anti-insurgence, why not just use normal kill-squads that you can reuse when the mission is done?  Why waste all that man-power?  Or for that matter, why not just drop a nuke on the colony.  Anyone that survives the blast probably won't live much longer due to radiation sickness, and even if they manage to barely live, there won't be enough of them to do anything insurgent-like for decades.  The only way this story makes sense is if the goal really *was* to have no human be captured alive.

You do make an interesting point about first contact.  Reminds me of the first Membari-Human contact in B5 that started a war.
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Unblinking
Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #108 on: March 18, 2010, 09:11:34 AM »

@Unblinking, I'm afraid your conspiracy theory doesn't quite jive.  It doesn't make any sense to send a squad of trained & equipped suicide troop to simply take out a bunch of unarmed civilians.  If you're just doing it as part of an anti-insurgence, why not just use normal kill-squads that you can reuse when the mission is done?  Why waste all that man-power?  Or for that matter, why not just drop a nuke on the colony.

That doesn't make sense in the story's explained context either.  Why send highly augmented suicide troops when you can just nuke the colony?

And I don't think that rules out the conspiracy theory in any case.  It's a question of how widespread the conspiracy goes.  We don't even know what sort of government rules these people.  Imagine a subset of the ruling council (or whatever) rigged up a robot ship with the brains to give evidence of an enemy to unite against.  The soldiers find this, report their information, the entire council meets and comes to a decision to use suicide troops as a last-resort response for an impending Shardi attack.  That may not have been the original conspirators intention, but they reached their goal of revealing a uniting "enemy", and there's little to be done about it now.  They can't very well say, "Sorry, we changed our minds.  The Shardi's aren't all THAT bad.  Not bad enough to waste troops on, anyway."

The given plot might be more plausible, but that's exactly what the conspirators want you to think!  That's the fun of conspiracy theories, is that there's usually some way the information could be obscured to mislead.  Especially when we have a limited point of view from a soldier who could very well be brainwashed, and we have no knowledge of their government.  Smiley
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stePH
Actually has enough cowbell.
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Cool story, bro!


« Reply #109 on: March 18, 2010, 09:19:53 AM »

It's very possible that I am just channeling the mindset from one of my favorite games of all time--Deus Ex.  Fan-fricking-tastic game with nanotech, dozens of conspiracy theories all tied together into an intricate FPS plot.  Smiley

It's not a sci-fi game, but if you want the ultimate "conspiracy-theory salad" check out the novel/trilogy Illuminatus! by (Roberts) Shea and Anton Wilson. 
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yicheng
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« Reply #110 on: March 27, 2010, 06:11:08 PM »

@Unblinking, I'm afraid your conspiracy theory doesn't quite jive.  It doesn't make any sense to send a squad of trained & equipped suicide troop to simply take out a bunch of unarmed civilians.  If you're just doing it as part of an anti-insurgence, why not just use normal kill-squads that you can reuse when the mission is done?  Why waste all that man-power?  Or for that matter, why not just drop a nuke on the colony.
That doesn't make sense in the story's explained context either.  Why send highly augmented suicide troops when you can just nuke the colony?

Because a nuke only reduces a colony's ability to resist: e.g. infrastructure, food production, organizational centers, manufacturing, big buildings, equipment.  Aerial bombings, in general, aren't that great at killing actual people.  Even with a nuke, you have only fatalities in the immediate blast zone, with most of the majority dying later from burn wounds, radiation sickness from fallout, starvation, or from drinking contaminated water.  If your goal was to make sure no civilians get captured, nukes are too slow and too imprecise, especially if you expect a Shardie attack within days: i.e. you can't afford to wait the weeks for the people to die slowly from dysentery.
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Unblinking
Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #111 on: March 29, 2010, 12:00:18 PM »

It's very possible that I am just channeling the mindset from one of my favorite games of all time--Deus Ex.  Fan-fricking-tastic game with nanotech, dozens of conspiracy theories all tied together into an intricate FPS plot.  Smiley

It's not a sci-fi game, but if you want the ultimate "conspiracy-theory salad" check out the novel/trilogy Illuminatus! by (Roberts) Shea and Anton Wilson. 

Fun!  I'll have to check that out.
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--David Steffen
The Submissions Grinder:  Fiction market listings, submissions tracker, always free, poetry and nonfiction markets coming soon!
Darkapex
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« Reply #112 on: March 23, 2011, 11:30:39 PM »

As a father of a little girl (and boy) this story is the only one that made me actually cry.  A most excellent execution of making the listener become invested in the unfolding drama of the characters.  As mentioned before the shards, if machines, bare a strong resemblance to the berserkers of Fred Saberhagen's Berserker universe, both in their relentless attack and use of human brains for calculation.  The store makes me want to follow the course of the war.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2011, 05:03:38 AM by Darkapex » Logged
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