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Author Topic: EP145: Instead of a Loving Heart  (Read 13422 times)
Russell Nash
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« on: February 14, 2008, 11:24:36 AM »

EP145: Instead of a Loving Heart

By Jeremiah Tolbert.
Read by Jared Axelrod (of The Voice of Free Planet X).
First appeared in All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories (ed. David Moles & Jay Lake).

We are somewhere among the tallest mountains of the world. When we arrived, I was locked away in a cargo hold, so I don’t know exactly where. Our home is a small, drafty castle and a separate laboratory. Dr. Octavio had the locals construct the lab before he tested the new death ray on their village. There’s very little left there. In my little bit of spare time, I try to bury the bodies and collect anything useful to the doctor’s experiment.

My primary duties consist of keeping the castle’s furnace running and clearing the never-ending snow from the path between the two buildings. Sometimes, it falls too fast for my slow treads and shovel attachment to keep up with and I find myself half-buried in the snow. It is horrible on my gears when this happens, but I use heavyweight oil now and it helps.

It is one of the few benefits of my metal frame that I appreciate. Life in this contraption is like being wrapped in swaddling clothes. I wonder if I would feel anything if my casing caught on fire? I need to ask the doctor when he isn’t in one of his moods.


Rated PG. Parental guidance suggested for violence and ennui.


Audible.com Promotion!
Receive your free audiobook at: http://audiblepodcast.com/escapepod


Referenced Sites:
Jared Axelrod’s Commissions



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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Darwinist
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« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2008, 09:56:31 AM »

Neat story, I liked it.   It reminded me a bit of Sky Captain, which Steve referenced in the intro.  It would be interestng to read a longer version of this story with more development/background of the robot/artist charachter, who I thought was very interesting but we didn't know that much about besides the fact that his brain was that of an artist.   And why was the doctor such a cranky SOB?   

Another happy commute.  Thanks Escape Pod.   
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Russell Nash
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« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2008, 10:26:49 AM »

As this one started out I was really warming up to the idea of hating it.  It was just falling flat with me.  Then as it went on, it snuck up on me.  I didn't absolutely fall in love, but I liked it.
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« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2008, 10:27:36 AM »

I didn't like the ending.  It felt a little cliched to me -- the Allies find this robot that a bad guy created, and he automatically turns to good?  I wonder what happened between the time he shut down (after turning in Dr. Octavio) and the time he woke up.  Also, Lucinda being Octavio's daughter?  Was that truly a necessary connection?  I feel as though the robot wanted to fall in love with Lucinda, but because he was a robot, he couldn't.  Did we need that arc, though?  Or would the story have been as good without it?  I think the latter.

But the story itself was overall very good, inventive, lots of vivid images (the castle up on the hill reminded me a bit of Dr. Cossack/Wily in Mega Man 5) and ideas.  Octavio putting the artist's brain into the robot just because he could?  For SF set in that timeframe, GRIPPING!!!  The tiny details were nice, too -- the PSI in the hands, et al.

To me, I felt a little inconsistency in the character.  He can't express his emotions, but he can apparently still feel them.  Yet the narration was very straightforward, except during the action sequences near the end -- maybe that's related to the narrator making the story more exciting at the appropriate point.

I did love the humor when the robot (might "construct" be a better word?) said that he was the only line of defense for the castle... no rabid yetis, etc.

So, I give it my Seal of Mild Approval -- I liked it, but I might not necessarily listen to it again.
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CGFxColONeill
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« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2008, 10:34:30 AM »

the story was ok for me but not up to the standard I have come to expect from EP
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eytanz
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« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2008, 12:50:12 PM »

I didn't like the ending.  It felt a little cliched to me -- the Allies find this robot that a bad guy created, and he automatically turns to good?

They didn't find him by accident - he was the one who betrayed the doctor to the allies. Which is presumably why they let him join them. I don't think that he did so out of goodness, just because he had no better choices and because he wanted to rescue Lucinda.

Anyway, I own the anthology this one comes from, so I read it before. It was actually one of my least favorites in that collection, but that's because A - it's a really strong collection, and B - the story doesn't really feature many zeppelins. Taken for itself, I sort of feel like the posters before me - I like it, but it's nowhere near my favorite.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2008, 02:15:28 PM by eytanz » Logged
SFEley
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« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2008, 02:03:45 PM »

Thanks for the feedback so far.

I want to take a second and address the Audible thing, because I suspect that if people start talking about it it's going to get moderately confusing.  The reason it'll be confusing is because some people will hear an advertisement in this episode, but not everyone.

Our MP3 files are hosted with a major podcast services company now, and they approached me a few weeks ago with this short-run Audible deal for both Escape Pod and Pseudopod.  I said yes immediately, of course, because it's a good fit for our content and it's the sort of product I really think a lot of you might be interested in.  The hosting service has a technology where they splice the sound clips into the main MP3 file, and can intelligently serve modified files to some downloaders and not to others.  I did my homework before putting the clips together and was confident that it works well.

What this means for this particular ad run is that only people in the U.S. and Canada will hear the inserted endorsement for Audible.com in the outro, and only the first 10,000 downloaders.  I wanted to make that clear before people start talking about the ad, because I predicted others saying "What ad?"  That said, I am very interested in your opinions about it.  This isn't huge money, and it'll be quite some time before advertising can come close to supplanting our donations model.  (In other words, please don't stop giving if you've a mind to!)  But I'd like to get there someday, and sponsorships like this are a good start -- as long as they're not annoyingly presented and they're of interest to our audience.  Let me know what you think.
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eytanz
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« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2008, 02:23:44 PM »

Ok, since you asked, here's my ad feedback:

I like audible, I think they're a good service, and a good match for Escapepod. I was glad to hear the promo, and would be glad to hear it again and again if it supports Escape Pod (especially since I'm not going to donate until my question in the other "escape artists" forum gets answered).
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Russell Nash
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« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2008, 03:03:34 PM »

Ok, since you asked, here's my ad feedback:

I like audible, I think they're a good service, and a good match for Escapepod. I was glad to hear the promo, and would be glad to hear it again and again if it supports Escape Pod (especially since I'm not going to donate until my question in the other "escape artists" forum gets answered).

I agree with this.  Funny thing though, I'm in Germany and I got the ad.

(Moderator note: If this takes off, I'll split it off)
« Last Edit: February 15, 2008, 03:11:23 PM by Russell Nash » Logged
bolddeceiver
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« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2008, 03:21:00 PM »

A few comments on the story, more on the intro.

First the story.  I liked it well enough, though there were a few issues I had (do you really need a robot betraying his master to tell you that the scientist's experimental device is "in the labratoreeeeeee?").  Pretty solid story, if in a genre I'm not terribly into.

On to the intro.  I like SE's ideas about where this tendancy comes from.  That said, I have another theory (though not necessarily an alternate theory, since trends like this so rarely have only one root cause).

I think SF is going back into the past because a lot of people are disappointed with how the "future" turned out.  You know, the whole "where's my jetpack" thing.  I'm mixed about that response, because while I too was raised on stories of rocket ships, humanoid robots, and rayguns (stories which were already seriously showing their age when I first read them), I do think we live in a pretty amazing world today; while we're not flying to the moon for vacation, the majority of SF completely underestimated the development of communications and information technology.

Another aspect of this effect is that even a lot of current "future" SF is still pointed at that rocketsrobotsrayguns future (for that matter, our culture's idea of "future" is, too; how many ads do you see daily for "space-age" technology -- a phrase which literally means "technology from the 50s and 60s?"), without much exploration of the futher development of technologies much more important in today's society (I said "a lot," not "all;" there are exceptions (also I'm apparently addicted to parenthetical asides today (oh no (it's getting worse)))).  So if we're telling the same stories, why not tell them in a world where they were possible?  Editors and readers wouldn't likely accept a rogue scientist, working alone, build a working brain-machine interface in a modern story, but you can do it without trouble in a period piece.

That said, SE's explaination in the intro is also compelling, and probably contributes to the effect.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2008, 03:26:04 PM by bolddeceiver » Logged
DDog
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« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2008, 04:39:27 PM »

Not one of my favorites. I found it really depressing. Can we say abusive relationship? It was really painful to listen to. Painter-robot who can't paint anymore, his narcissistic captor/"creator" taunts him with salvation, and although he can call in the authorities, it doesn't solve his key problem.

I'm not sure if this is the triumph of science, or art, or just everybody's loss.

Woot, I'm actually caught up this week. Score.

As for the ad, I didn't hear it, but I heard where it must have been inserted, just before the episode comments segment. I like Audible though, and I don't mind an ad or two if it keeps EscapePod on the web.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2008, 04:44:16 PM by DDog » Logged

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CammoBlammo
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« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2008, 04:46:08 PM »

Ok, since you asked, here's my ad feedback:

I like audible, I think they're a good service, and a good match for Escapepod. I was glad to hear the promo, and would be glad to hear it again and again if it supports Escape Pod (especially since I'm not going to donate until my question in the other "escape artists" forum gets answered).

I agree with this.  Funny thing though, I'm in Germany and I got the ad.

Ditto for Australia.
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eytanz
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« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2008, 04:50:16 PM »

I got it and I'm in the UK, but I thought it might be because I have an American iTunes store account.
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SFEley
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« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2008, 05:12:01 PM »

Huh.  Weird.  Thanks for letting me know, folks.  I might have misunderstood what they were setting up.  Is there anyone who's outside the US or Canada and didn't hear the ad?  >8->
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CammoBlammo
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« Reply #14 on: February 15, 2008, 05:12:58 PM »

I didn't get into this at all. I came away thinking I'd missed something important. There was plenty of scope for philosophical musing --- the tension between art and science, the humanity/inhumanity of Z,* Octavio's desire to create a steampunk singularity, and so on. Heck, with the antagonist's name being what it was, I half expected Spiderman to come crawling up the mountain.

Everything was set up nicely, then WWII got in the way and the whole thing fell apart. Granted, that's what war tends to do, and there's scope there for more philosophical exploration, but the story just stops without any real treatment of the ideas. I thought we were finally going to go somewhere when Z changed his name, but all I got was the promo for audible.com (which I was happy with, by the way.)

I agree with Steve's comment after the story --- we really need the sequel.

So in short, good, not great, and it won't be troubling my hard drive for much longer.

--
*That's how we spell 'Zed' in Australia  Wink
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CammoBlammo
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« Reply #15 on: February 15, 2008, 05:47:23 PM »

Note to the great N_sh ---  it might be a good idea to spawn a new thread for the audible.com stuff.

I didn't think the audible.com ad in this episode was intrusive, and I was pretty happy to hear I might be able to get some free goodies. I just went and signed up, gave them my credit card info... just to find out I've got no way of listening to their merchandise.

It seems you need their software to listen to their files. This is fine if 1) you run Windows or OSX and 2) you're happy to install yet more software on your computer to cope with yet another audio format. I run Linux exclusively on my machines, and that's not about to change for the sake of a free audio book. I can't understand why this is necessary, as their software seems to convert the files into forms that can be read by most players. It's not going to stop me copying anything.

The sad thing (for me, them and their authors) is that I really liked their catalogue and I would have ponied up for more of their goods. That simply won't happen now. If I want to get the goods, I have to do it illegally. I'm not going to do that, but it certainly doesn't feel wrong.

Anyway, this rant is to warn folks that using audible.com isn't anywhere as easy as using Escape Pod or even podiobooks. I also want to thank Steve for using a licence that doesn't assume I'm a criminal every time I turn my iPod on.
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wakela
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« Reply #16 on: February 15, 2008, 06:37:12 PM »

Is SF really going back to the past?  I see steampunk as one of many SF sub-genres, but not something that is on the increase.  Is it?  Maybe I'm missing something.

That said, Steve's comments and this story got me thinking about the nature of magic in fiction.  It usually inhabits the places that humans consider mysterious and dangerous.  In fairy tales crazy things always happened when someone went into The Woods.  But now we send our children into the woods to learn how to canoe and tie knots, so the idea of witches setting up shop there is no longer believable.  Ditto the dragons that inhabited white space on maps and Moon people.  Can you imagine someone making a movie like Tron today?  Lay people are too familiar with computers to buy that people and societies can live in them.

But we aren't that familiar complex arrays of vacuum tubes.  Sure, engineers are, but ordinary folks have little experience with them (that they know of), and less experience as time goes on.  Of course all of us know that 40's era technology was pretty far from a machine/brain interface, but a small part of our minds says, "Well, I guess it could work.  What the hell do I know?"  The white space on the maps in our heads where we have penciled in "how electricity and stuff works goes here" can be filled with anything.  That's why we can still enjoy SF set fifty or a hundred years ago. 

Quote from: bolddeceiver
I think SF is going back into the past because a lot of people are disappointed with how the "future" turned out.
David Brin talks about this.  He says that the year 2000 was such a powerful symbol of the future, than when we reached it and didn't have flying cars on the moon and the world was just as stupid as it was before, people lost their hope for the future, and the West slipped into a malaise.  As you point out, the irony is that everyday communication technology surpassed any of the old SF predictions (Spock still had to run data tapes to the bridge).  But I guess info tech seems too normal and boring.  For many of us it's actually work.  Movies like Bladerunner show people being slightly bored with futuristic technology, so SF warned us of this.

The ad: I heard it in Japan.  I'm probably in the first 10,000. 
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« Reply #17 on: February 15, 2008, 07:43:47 PM »

I didn't love this one, didn't hate it. Certainly a letdown for me after what I saw as two very strong episodes back to back. I don't mean any offense by this, In some ways it's in some ways what I think of as an Eley story. Some wild ideas, nice action set-pieces, and an overall feeling of fun. I sometimes suspect that Steve's affection for this kind of story sometimes leads him to select a weaker piece because it hits his buttons. Again, there's nothing wrong with that. If anything I appreciate his willingness to step away from his own biases sometimes if the story seems to warrant it.

Back to the story, it's already been referenced that Zed's background as an artist was given lots of time and attention for no apparent reason. I half-expected him to be somebody famous from real life, but couldn't think of what artist living in Paris would have fit his character traits and worked in terms of story I almost suspected Chaim Soutine for the twist of having a Jew to oppose Nazis, but that didn't seem to work.

The tone also wavered a bit for me. At some points, with reference to things like rabid Yetis and deathrays, it was cartoonishly comic. Then there'd be bits of seriousness peeking through in the actual bodies of deathray victimes and the sight of Lucinda having been roughed up. There was a real sense of melancholy in Zed's repeatedly getting no message from his hands save the 6PSI with which Lucinda was holding them, but there were also piles of superhero-comic cliches. I just couldn't tell if I was reading a love story, an adventure story, or a spoof. As a result I felt just a bit disconnected.
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« Reply #18 on: February 15, 2008, 08:10:38 PM »

What this means for this particular ad run is that only people in the U.S. and Canada will hear the inserted endorsement for Audible.com in the outro, and only the first 10,000 downloaders. 


I am absolutely FLOORED (in a positive way) that EP gets more than 10k downloads per episode.  I am in the US and Canada and did not get the ad, and I d/l'd the episode this morning (2/15) at about 5am.  That is just amazing.

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Darwinist
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« Reply #19 on: February 15, 2008, 08:21:20 PM »

I also did not get the ad and I'm in the flyover part of the US.  I even listened to the intro and outro twice because I though I might have spaced it out.  Nope.   Downloaded EP from I-Tunes at 6 am CST this morning.
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For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.    -  Carl Sagan
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