Escape Artists


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Author Topic: EP013: The Once and Future Dentist  (Read 5889 times)

Russell Nash

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on: January 26, 2008, 06:16:18 PM
EP013: The Once and Future Dentist

By D. Richard Pearce.
Read by Stephen Eley.

“‘He was the most skillful gambler, and the nerviest, fastest, deadliest man with a six-gun I ever saw.’ Do you know who said that, Doctor?”

He coughed politely and sat in a nearby chair. “Begging your pardon, ma’am, I’d be more interested in who they were talking about.”

She laughed softly, and seemed to turn her attention to him fully for the first time. “Wyatt Earp said those words about you, Doctor. At your funeral, I suspect, though I don’t know for sure.”

Rated PG. Contains violence, alcohol, and gratuitous time travel.

Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!


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Reply #1 on: January 27, 2008, 12:55:02 AM
Aargh, I just wrote a whole long post here and IE destroyed it. Let me try again.

I am now listening to old Escape Pod episodes, in order. That allows me some perspective; for instance, it let me realize that, while this is not the first episode that didn't quite thrill me, it is the first one that is actually a bad story.

It's not the premise that is bad (it's actually pretty good), or, for the most part, the writing. It's rather several specific things that overshadow the good.

The first, and really irritating, was the pro-hemp PSA that wsa stuck in the middle of the story. It served no role in the story, being placed in the middle of exposition and never being really referred to again. And it was clearly a political message for now rather than having anything to do with the story. Hemp, we learn, is a panacea for all the world's problems. If the US would just legalize it, it would somehow restore the rainforests, solve pollution, and probably rescue Little Timmy from the well while it's at it. How would it do so? That's not mentioned. Now, don't take me wrong - I have nothing against hemp production. I just find it difficult to believe that it will solve all the world's problems with one fell swoop. If anything in the story had to do with this, I would have at been able to suspend disbelief. But this was clearly a political messages shoehorned into a story for no good reason other than the fact that the author had a platform and he wanted to use it.

Beyond that, there was just too much else I found difficult to believe. So, we live in a utopian future (thanks, hemp!), where time travel is possible but restricted to the government and rich beautiful women, who live in Hawaii, in a large estate surrounded by hemp fields, which she managed all alone. So she spends her time kidnapping historical gunslingers, curing their diseases, murdering them, and then apparently taking the time to bury them and put nice headstones on their graves. It's good to know that in the future, instead of wild partying, wealthy heiresses will master the skills of shooting , medicine, and undertaking. Now sure, I could suspend disblief on all that, if it was put to a good use. But instead, well, her plan is so insanely stupid that disbelief comes rushing back in. Why the hell does anyone play by her rules? Why, once they figure out how the internet works, does no-one try using it to call for help? In the end she is brought down by the simple trick of someone shooting her when she's not expecting it. Why did no-one think of it first? And if she really wanted to compete in a fair duel, why did she accept this?

Also, since she was cheating, why did Doc Holliday so happily accept it in the end?

Now, this isn't a terrible story. It's just a bad story, composed of parts that make no sense together, with a plot that's a thin veneer for several cool setpieces. It feels like stuff I wrote when I was 15. It's only remarkable because it was the first bad story in Escape Pod, which is itself only remarkable because bad stories are pretty rare here.


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Reply #2 on: January 28, 2008, 03:36:00 PM
I'm glad there is a topic for this now. Ever since I first discovered Escape Pod through Pseudo Pod and went through the archives, this has been my favorite episode.

I think a good thing to remember, and that your forcibly reminded of anytime you encounter a story that's just this fun, is that thought provoking does not neccessarily mean a retread of your college philosophy class.

Awesome is a thought.

It's really a model science fiction story. It's a time travel story, but the time travel element does not exist within a vacuum. I think that little touches about what's different in the setting that's just like our world "but..." is important, and the hemp thing is just that sort of touch. The story isn't about the sociopolitical ramifications of hemp. The story about is about Doc.Holliday vs. the Future Women, which is really all you would need to tell me to get me to sit down and watch/listen to something.

I think sometimes people need to be reminded that pulp is the ancestor of science fiction and that a lot of the deep thoughtful books that got many stodgy scifi fans interested in scifi are really light entertainment if you think about it boiled down the core awesome element that made you love it.

Scifi is a genre that bassically lives and dies on the visuals and general wow factor it invokes. Be it the somber wow of people being turned mad by seeing a bajillion stars for the first time, or the  mighty thud of a transplanted hyborian warrior punching a nazi.

More than any other genre, to me scifi is about the inner wow.

Anyways, my point is that I found this to be a colorful and enthralling depiction of Doc.Holliday in a weird adventure.


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Reply #3 on: October 07, 2009, 03:43:00 AM
Its been a while since I listened to this one but it was a pretty cool story.  Not quite time travel, but resurrection of old a cowboy into modern time was a good idea.  I grew to like both of the main characters very much.  The lady in the story was hardcore, and i really liked how she was trying to be the best at what she did.  She even went to the extence to recreate old legends and pit herself aginst them.  I give he some credit for that one.  And also I liked the idea of some one from the wild west finding out about computer technology and the internet.   What would some one from back then think of a Iphone?

justice may only be obtained where there is a lack of injustice


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Reply #4 on: January 21, 2010, 05:58:33 PM
I had a fair-to-middlin' reaction to this one.  At the core is an extremely cool idea, but I had many of the same quibbles as eytanz had, including the hemp PSA, the oddness of one woman apparently harvesting all these fields without actually spending any time doing anything but kidnapping gunslingers, and the fact that she allowed him to win in the way he won. 

And Doc seems to take it all with much better grace than I would expect from pretty much anyone.

but in the end it was still fun.  :)


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Reply #5 on: December 07, 2011, 03:16:16 AM
I'd forgotten the emphasis on hemp.  Part of what rekindled my interest in fiction was to escape the compulsory preaching.  That element was autofiltered. 

Otherwise I enjoyed the story up until it seemed to channel the Val Kilmer portrayal of Doc Holiday.  The similarities were a bit too much for me to really stay with the author.  Instead, I saw the Tombstone character inserted in the narrative.