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Author Topic: EP138: In the Late December  (Read 10917 times)
Russell Nash
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« on: December 25, 2007, 09:13:54 AM »

EP138: In the Late December

Nebula Award Nominee!

By Greg van Eekhout.
Read by Stephen Eley
 Closing Music: “Chiron Beta Prime” by Jonathan Coulton.
First appeared in Strange Horizons, December 2003.

They come to a cloud of silver mist, and there Santa finds a little boy made of molten silver with liquid silver eyes and sweeping silver delta wings. His wrists are ringed with missile launchers, and a rounded cone emerges from a cavity in his chest. Once there were many silver boys, fleets of them, protecting the outermost parts of inhabited space against things that came from outside inhabited space. But now, there is only the silver boy.

“You, sir,” the silver boy says, “are a tiresome consciousness cluster. Your binary value system remains as laughable as it is irrelevant. How you manage to remain cohesive is beyond me.”

“My value system is hardly binary,” Santa says. “In between naughty and nice I’ve made room for you: grumpy but fundamentally sound. Do you want a toy or not?”


Rated PG. Contains some dark Santa-related imagery, and the heat death of the universe



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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eytanz
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« Reply #1 on: December 25, 2007, 05:02:13 PM »

The one bad thing about Escape Pod on Tuesday is that it gives one less reason to look forward to Thursday.

I really enjoyed this story. I think it was entirely carried by the quality of the writing and Steve's reading - the premise, while clever, was not enough on its own, and there are some pretty big holes in the plot (if Santa had a long list, how did he happen to visit the last little boy and girl first?) - but the writing made me look past all that and just flat out enjoy the tale.
« Last Edit: December 25, 2007, 06:51:23 PM by eytanz » Logged
Jhite
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« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2007, 03:40:18 PM »

The story was... ummm well, okay.  Kind of a interesting end of the universe story.  I have a problem with end of the universe stories because who is left to tell it to?  Also the idea of the universe just slowing dieing out as the matter expands so much that it can no longer hold together and every thing cools to absolute 0 just is a sad idea to me.  No, I don't plan to be here for that but... Well back to the subject.  Odd that Santa would be the last one around, and IMHO there were too many things things left unsaid.   For example, did the others just disappear because they didn't believe they existed any more?   I think there for I am?  The idea of "the beacon" (there must be some reason he is nameless so he will remain so) becoming a delta wing bomber, [pauses] with a red nose.  I guess all in all I was unimpressed.   But, since my mother taught to only use nice words; I do think it was well written, what of it there was.  A nice Christmas gift from Steve.

What pulled the whole thing out though was "Chiron Beta Prime."  I had never heard that before and I laughed out loud while listening to it.  Thanks for the smile.

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Captain James T. Kirk
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Ocicat
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« Reply #3 on: December 26, 2007, 10:46:03 PM »

"The Beacon" is unnamed because... "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" is not public domain.  An author could get in trouble for using that character, same as Superman or Mickey Mouse.  Santa Claus and the rest of the crew are either "folklore" or from older stories and poems that are firmly public domain, so anybody can use those.  I dearly wish congress would stop extending the lengths of copyrights, and let some of these old characters go into the public domain as was intended - but that's a whole 'nother topic.

As to the story, it was alright.  While I was listening, a housemate walked past my room.  "What the hell are you listening to?!?"  He stood there listening for another 30 seconds, then declared succinctly "Santa Claus vs. the Heat Death of the Universe - right", and wandered off.  And for that high concept, it was fun. 
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qwints
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« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2007, 12:26:50 AM »

Behind Asimov's "The Last Question", this is the most optimistic version I've heard of the end of everything.
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Czhorat
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« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2007, 05:58:22 AM »

I very much liked this one. I like the way the detail about the talcum powder was first introduced - as a secret about Santa that sounded disappointing as far as secrets go, but with the statement that details are important. That whetted my appetite and helped prepare me for the ending. I also like the way it inverted the idea that Santa Claus exists becauase little boys and girls believe in him. Now little boys and girls exist because Santa believes in them. The ending was sweet and sad, but honest. It was, after all, late December. The  year would be ending soon, but that doesn't mean that those who are left can't celebrate one last Christmas - or something - while they hold the darkness off for just a little bit more. Nice choice.
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Simon
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« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2007, 07:24:17 AM »

MORE GREG!
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« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2007, 11:50:49 AM »

"The Beacon" is unnamed because... "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" is not public domain.  An author could get in trouble for using that character, same as Superman or Mickey Mouse.  Santa Claus and the rest of the crew are either "folklore" or from older stories and poems that are firmly public domain, so anybody can use those.  I dearly wish congress would stop extending the lengths of copyrights, and let some of these old characters go into the public domain as was intended - but that's a whole 'nother topic.

Thanks, I had not thought of that as being the reason. 
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Captain James T. Kirk
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« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2007, 11:07:51 PM »

Hi there, just got into Escape Pod around Ep. 130 and finally got around to registering on the forums.

I for one really liked this story, especially the anthropomorphizing-tendencies of Santa Claus. At the end of the Universe, where mankind is a long-forgotten echo of a memory, Santa still refers to the other tiny remaining consciousness clusters as "little boys and girls", even though that "little girl" is actually kind of like a squid, and the "little boy" some sort of angelic Silver Surfer.

Also the little girl cephalopod was completely adorable.
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contra
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« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2007, 08:04:25 AM »

I'm very unwell.
I was listening to this story as I went out of the door to leave for work.
I realised I started 2 hours later and I could have had another 2 hours sleep.
I listened to this story while laying on my bed in the dark.
I smiled.

I loved the story.  I liked it more than the Heartbreakers from last year (which I also loved).

Escape pod always impresses me in that every month my expectations get higher and higher for it.  I can't say if in the long run this will always be a good thing (though its been over a year and a half for me... thats fairly long term in itself); but I always enjoy it.  This story just raised the bar again for me. 

I agree with the previous comment that it is good to see positive end of the universe stories.  I love the idea that Santa keep the universe alive and when he'd have to start expanding his definition of who he gives gifts to. 

So thank you steve for consistantly coming up with awesome content and interesting ideas.  Also for giving me my new fav Xmas song.

*walks away singing to lay in bed ill*
"Where we're working in a mine... for our robot overlords... did I say overlords... I meant protectors"
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« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2007, 04:55:23 AM »

I quite liked the story. Somehow combining something as familiar (and trite) as Santa and Rudolph (sorry, the Beacon) with Cartesian dualism and the end of the universe just felt really fresh. I agree the plot could've used a bit more even pacing, but that didn't spoil it for me.

Also, was anyone else shocked to find out that Santa had sacrificed Mrs. Clause way before he even considered getting rid of, say, his mittens....?
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Czhorat
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« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2007, 06:36:27 AM »

Also, was anyone else shocked to find out that Santa had sacrificed Mrs. Clause way before he even considered getting rid of, say, his mittens....?

I assumed that Mrs. Claus was much more complicated and therefore used much more energy than something like the mittens. There was a sweet, sad touch early on where Santa waved good-bye but there was nobody there to wave back to him.
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« Reply #12 on: December 31, 2007, 05:10:08 PM »

I really enjoyed this, although it took me 3/4 of forever to figure out what was going on.  You don't have to hit me over the head with a brick but four or five times, boy, to get the point across. Smiley

For some reason I can't really explain, this story brought tears to my eyes several times.  I guess it's just the gut-wrenching sadness of...well, the end of everything.
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ajames
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« Reply #13 on: December 31, 2007, 08:24:45 PM »

I also like the way it inverted the idea that Santa Claus exists because little boys and girls believe in him. Now little boys and girls exist because Santa believes in them.

That was my favorite part of the story.  Good choice, Steve.
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swdragoon
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« Reply #14 on: December 31, 2007, 11:13:55 PM »

Whoa that was deferent. I liked it more please
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« Reply #15 on: January 01, 2008, 12:38:06 PM »

I liked the story -- SANTA CLAUS WINS, FATALITY!!! -- and would put it among my top ten favorite Christmas stories list (and this from a non-Jew).

However, I thought that the climax -- the "I am my details!" thing -- didn't really lend itself to audio that well.  I also think that when Rudolph disappeared to go find the Silver Surfer's nephew or whatever he was, the despair wasn't played up enough -- like, okay, Rudolph stood up for Santa wanting to destroy the Big Empty, but then he disappeared?  And yet I didn't feel quite so affected by that.  Like, I KNEW he was going to come back, like the author didn't really try to build suspense there.

Overall, though, good story and very cool premise, along the lines of Pratchett's interpretation of the power and existence of gods and anthropomorphic personifications.
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« Reply #16 on: January 02, 2008, 11:00:01 AM »

I had to register in order to say that this was my favorite Escape Pod ever, more than any other story this felt like Pure Science Fiction.
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DKT
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« Reply #17 on: January 02, 2008, 02:28:13 PM »

Pretty much a perfect Christmas story in my book.  Thanks, Greg and Steve!
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Darwinist
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« Reply #18 on: January 02, 2008, 02:48:59 PM »

Great Christmas story for sci-fi heads.  I join Simon in saying "more Greg". 
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gelee
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« Reply #19 on: January 03, 2008, 11:15:57 AM »

Really well written, but sheesh.  That has to be the saddest Christmas story I've ever heard/read.
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