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Author Topic: EP151: Behind the Rules  (Read 14926 times)
Russell Nash
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« on: March 28, 2008, 03:39:37 PM »

EP151: Behind the Rules

By Stephanie Burgis.
Read by MA in PA (of Better Late Than Never).
 First appeared in Forgotten Worlds, July 2006.
 Closing music: “I Feel Fantastic” by Jonathan Coulton.

The first Jacqui wrote me out a list of instructions thirty pages long. It contained all her history with Robert, in detail. It gave me a list of all the things to say and do when he’s hurt, or angry, or depressed. I think she was the perfect wife. When I think about how hard it is to measure up to her, my stomach feels twitchy.

I’d been doing this job for three months. It was supposed to get easier with time, not harder.


Rated G. Contains relationship drama.


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birdless
Lochage
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Five is right out.


« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2008, 05:07:18 PM »

Is it just me or is this saturated with symbolism? I'm gonna have to give it another listen... I kept distracting myself with trying to figure out if this character symbolized X, and if it did, what that meant in relation to this character/item, especially if they symbolized Y. Yeah, i know... that's why I'm gonna have to give it another listen... and hopefully be able to sort my thoughts and have an ability to express them clearly later.
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CammoBlammo
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« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2008, 04:31:00 AM »

I don't know that it was saturated by symbolism, but I did come away feeling that I'd missed something. It was an okay story, but I can understand how birdless feels. It seems as if there is something else to the story, and I was waiting for it to jump out, but it never came.

I don't think I enjoyed the ending. Cloning issues aside, I have seen too many women (and men too) stick around to fix a self absorbed schmuck because they don't want to upset him. These people just keep sucking you dry. I've seen the sequel plenty of times, and it rarely ends happily. Jacqui, leave the putz. He ain't going to read the rule book.

Even Jacqueline (the original) wasn't quite able to give the guy what she needed. Instead, she spent a million dollars to make it easier on him. In the end, she just passed the problem on to someone else who looked like her.

Normally I like stories more after coming to the forum. I was going to keep this one, but I do have to make room for Podcastle.
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ajames
Lochage
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« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2008, 07:07:14 AM »

Overall, I liked this story. It kept me interested and it gave me a few things to think about.

I am probably overly-sensitive to the common stereotype of the artist as the sensitive, dramatic, self-absorbed diva. My father is an artist and I have known many of his colleagues, and that really isn't representative of my experience. But in its way this story may have been challenging that stereotype, but I'm not sure.

Anyway, the things to think about. We are told the original Jacqueline and Robert were very much in love and happy. So what happened and why? When did Jacqueline place her own happiness secondary to Roberts? When did she change from a wife to a handler? What changed in the original Jacqueline that gives us any hope that this pattern won't eventually be repeated with her new husband? (Sure they are happy now, but who's to say she won't start sacrificing her own happiness for his and start the pattern all over?).

This part of the story is left open. Instead, the transformation I would like to have seen in the original Jacqueline is shown in her clone. Sometimes you do need to leave a bad situation before healing can start. Perhaps Robert was an abusive bastard, in which case putting a clone in your place so he can continue his abusive behavior is abhorrent. However, if Robert were truly abusive, its likely he wouldn't settle for a clone, anyway. So assuming he's not abusive, but the artist stereotype self-absorbed diva, leaving without addressing the issues with Robert seems to me a cop-out. Give up, go on to something new, make the same mistakes, give up again... No. Tell Robert you're not happy, work at it. If Robert can't change, well then, move on. But doesn't someone you love(d) and were once happy with deserve that chance? And, really, how happy was Robert?

So for me the most interesting part of the story was to see the clone with so little life-experience actually take the steps that, in my opinion, the "original" should have. In just a few months, this clone has grown into a more complete person than her original. Anyway, that's my interpretation, others are certainly possible.

Now, when the original Jacqueline needs a heart transplant, will she have the right to take her clone's heart? That's a whole other area of answered questions on the fringes of this story.
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Darwinist
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« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2008, 08:49:26 AM »

I liked the story.   It would've been interesting to learn why a person would pay $1 million to leave another.  I guess if you are filthy rich $1 million isn't that big of a deal.   Interesting how Jacki handled it at the end.  I wonder if the jerk is going to change or blow it with this incarnation of his former wife, too. 


Now, when the original Jacqueline needs a heart transplant, will she have the right to take her clone's heart? That's a whole other area of answered questions on the fringes of this story.

Sounds like the movie "The Island". 
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stePH
Actually has enough cowbell.
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Cool story, bro!


« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2008, 02:00:34 PM »


Now, when the original Jacqueline needs a heart transplant, will she have the right to take her clone's heart? That's a whole other area of answered questions on the fringes of this story.

Sounds like the movie "The Island". 

The movie with Michael Caine and David Warner, about 20th-century pirates?  Grin

Seriously, I found this one even more disturbing than the last ("This, My Body").  The notion of engineering a person to serve a specific function like this smacks of slavery, reducing said person to little more than a possession.

Of course, somebody else once pointed out that this aspect permeates the entirety of C.J. Cherryh's Cyteen, my favorite novel.  Undecided
« Last Edit: March 29, 2008, 02:03:36 PM by stePH » Logged

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Rain
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« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2008, 02:07:01 PM »

My one word review : Boring. There was hardly any story to this, i dont get why anyone really bothered to write it. I dont mean to make it sound terrible, there just wasnt anything in it that will stop me from forgetting all about it in a week
« Last Edit: March 29, 2008, 02:09:03 PM by Rain » Logged
deflective
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« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2008, 04:45:42 PM »

woman's week on escapepod & pseudopod, not just the authors but also in theme. good stories too.

I don't think I enjoyed the ending. Cloning issues aside, I have seen too many women (and men too) stick around to fix a self absorbed schmuck because they don't want to upset him. These people just keep sucking you dry.

Even Jacqueline (the original) wasn't quite able to give the guy what she needed. Instead, she spent a million dollars to make it easier on him.

there are definitely high maintenance people that will always be takers in their relationships. in a best case scenario they have to constantly fight with their inner nature just to act acceptably. exhausting to be around.

on the other hand, Jacqueline married him and that's a promise that's more than money. she didn't spend the million to make it easier on him but herself.

she was the one who changed after marriage, she matured and realized that she could no longer play the role she had taken. she gave herself permission to be selfish and that's great, we need it for balance, but she took it too far by leaving without warning or explanation. she took it way too far when she thrust another woman into her place to deal with the fallout.

leaving may have been the right thing to do but she did it the wrong way.

It would've been interesting to learn why a person would pay $1 million to leave another.  I guess if you are filthy rich $1 million isn't that big of a deal.

i assumed that when cloning becomes viable a million won't be worth as much. still a lot but not what we think of now.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2008, 11:00:46 PM by deflective » Logged
the_wombat
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« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2008, 05:32:02 PM »

I liked this story, I feel it actually had depth and interplay of the emotions of the characters, the confused and frustrated clone broke out of her shell and the emotional artist did as well, and for a moment they actually saw each other for who they really were...and that's where true love can begin. I think this was primarily an emotion story, and so the climax was the characters coming to some understanding, which can seem like a let-down in a genre that usually is more action focused, but I like that I'm seeing more and more of these kinds of stories in the genre.
Good Job SFEley
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asqwasqw
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« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2008, 03:43:46 PM »

after listening, i felt the story was more of a thought experiment, just to take a look at circumstances, and see how they would play out.
thats how i listened to it, and i was payed attention to see how the parts would come together in the mind of the author, and it kept me attentive. then i took a look at how it came together and i think i liked it. though the drugs part seemed a little off to me, i dont know what about them, but they just were an odd placement at the begining, and were symbolism at the end, but it felt weird how they were placed, like thier meaning was changed in the process of writing

just my take
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Subneutrino
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« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2008, 04:44:31 PM »

Took a few minutes for me to get engaged in the story.  Sounded like some chick flicks I've seen before. Kept me thinking though.  Makes me wonder how much other people in our loves adapt themselves to us out of a sense of kindness, frequently to their own detriment.  Should we be condemned for unwittingly warping the souls of others?  Should we go through our days on eggshells, fearing that someone might hurt themselves to make us happy?  Perhaps its enough that we work hard for the happiness of others while preserving our own identity at the same time.
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shwankie
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« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2008, 05:25:08 PM »

Ugh. Really, I mean that. Just ugh.

The problems with this story are so myriad I am not even sure I can start, because I am not sure I have the patience to type that much. I'd like to explain, but I think I'll just try to sum up for the sake of brevity.

In no particular order:

-Boring, as rain said. The writing was lackluster and colorless. Much was told, not shown, and the text had no flavor.

-Illogical to the point I couldn't get into the emotional. She had 2 months of "intensive" training, but they gave her a manual that she was supposed to keep secret while living in the same house as the person she's supposed to keep it secret from, and this is standard practice?  They've got the tech to create clones and accelerate aging, but not to burn a password coded, interactive CD if such knowledge couldn't be imparted during the training? Why would she need the manual after intensive training--it was only 31 pages long, and what we were given of it certainly didn't sound that complicated.

She spoke and acted largely like a 10-year-old, which was summarily explained by her not having any life experience or maturity. This seems like a rather large hurtle that a cloning company would address in some way, doesn't it? I mean, these clones go out to whoever commissions them, presumably including people who have children; but, they don't bother doing a bit of research or instilling them with any life experience to aid in social or parental interaction? It just sounds implausible.

The drugs. Why did the Artist have the drugs, and not the clone? She can be trusted to follow a rule book that makes her the perfect wife, to cook, clean, make coffee, critique his artwork, and she's clearly dependent on the drugs; so, why would he have to keep them? Is it a control thing? Is he punishing her? Are clones notoriously inept at opening pill packs? We don't know, and it irked me the entire time. 

There's a bunch more in this vein, but I'll move on.

-I had zero sympathy for any of the characters. The Artist, who was so unmemorable that I've forgotten his name less than two hours after listening to this, and the Clone have no chemistry. Jackie1's instructions lead you to believe that Artist is jealous and possessive, but really the Artist doesn't seem to have any attachment to the Clone through most of the story. There's no intimacy implied, and therefore I can't care about the relationship between them.  The plot "twist" where Jackie1 wasn't dead was pretty much obvious from the word "go," and I have problems having sympathy for cowardly people who foist their problems onto someone else instead of being honest and dealing with them directly. The clone was just too one-dimensional for me to relate to at all.

-The ending was just bad. Predictable, trite...everything a bad ending could be, it was. It also relates back to my point above about being illogical. This clone has, as stated in the story, no life experience; but, she suddenly blossoms into a mature woman who wants to work on helping a full-grown, life-experienced man make the necessary changes for them to stay together? That just seemed a huge jump for the all-of-10-minutes this story encompassed. Yes, I realize people do have epiphanies; but, they do need the emotional and metal tools/groundwork to experience epiphany. Given her previous statements and actions, I just didn't buy the clone having enough maturity or experience to get there in such a leap.

My personal take on this story is that it's an allegory for a relationship in today's world: Girl spend life trying to make Boy happy, while not worrying about her own happiness (Jackie1). Girl wakes up one day and realizes Boy is a self-absorbed idiot and needs to change or she'll leave (epiphany). It's like she's found herself (clone). Boy says he'll change (Artist). Walk off into sunset. The beginning, IMHO, sounded to me like something added to make the story SF, an excuse to start the story with someone being a doormat. She didn't need a clone, that part is extraneous.

JMHO, of course.
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Chodon
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Molon Labe


« Reply #12 on: March 30, 2008, 06:21:25 PM »

More clones, less cliche.

Okay, I'll go in a little more depth this time:
Shwankie pretty much hit on all the main flaws in logic I could come up with except one: if they wanted to make the whole thing transparent why not make the clones chemically dependent on the drugs?  That's what I thought was going on with the headaches and hallucinations.  Just have them keel over if they don't get their pills.  They're already essentially disposable if you can put a price on them.  I'm thinking along the lines of Ketracel White

Also, as Russell and I have discussed previously, $1,000,000 is going to be worth the current day equivalent of about $10 by the time they come up with cloning as described in this story.

I think the idea has some merit, it just seemed poorly executed for me, and very full of lame dialog and cliche characters.
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deflective
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« Reply #13 on: March 30, 2008, 06:51:27 PM »

though the drugs part seemed a little off to me, i don't know what about them, but they just were an odd placement at the beginning, and were symbolism at the end, but it felt weird how they were placed, like their meaning was changed in the process of writing
The beginning, IMHO, sounded to me like something added to make the story SF, an excuse to start the story with someone being a doormat. She didn't need a clone, that part is extraneous.

the cloning did seem extraneous to the actual story. it was a simple rehash of a standard sf device; artificial construct accepted as a real person. that was one interpretation of throwing away the drugs. i prefer another; both people in a relationship giving up their attempts to control the other. she ditched the manual as a way to handle him, he threw away the drugs and accepted that she wasn't Jacqueline.

mostly i'm posting to suggest people check out the first episode of this american life. the first act, right after the intro, shows the sf/human interaction of the issue better than anything else i've seen.
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Thaurismunths
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« Reply #14 on: March 30, 2008, 07:06:47 PM »

the cloning did seem extraneous to the actual story. it was a simple rehash of a standard sf device; artificial construct accepted as a real person. that was one interpretation of throwing away the drugs. i prefer another; both people in a relationship giving up their attempts to control the other. she ditched the manual as a way to handle him, he threw away the drugs and accepted that she wasn't Jacqueline.
That's a really interesting view, but I'm not clear on what you meant.
As I understood it, she left the book out in a rush to attend to his needs: putting his needs (coffee) above hers (keeping it secret). In the end she took the drugs (control) from him, threw them away (creating equality/neutrality), then said they were going to write a new list of rules (control based on guilt?).
Or do you mean that she gave up using the 'rules' as a way to keep him placated, and he relinquished control over the drugs by not resisting when she threw the drugs away?

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deflective
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« Reply #15 on: March 30, 2008, 08:25:12 PM »

Or do you mean that she gave up using the 'rules' as a way to keep him placated, and he relinquished control over the drugs by not resisting when she threw the drugs away?

this is what i had in mind, it may not be the author's original intention but i tend to read what i want into a story.

(if you'll indulge me... the original matrix was much more interesting if you thought of the 'real' world as just another layer of artificial reality and 'the one' as a three part entity: Neo, Morpheus & Trinity - Trinity being the hint. then, the prophesy that 'the one you love will be the one' is more of a cause/effect. her love for him in the outer matrix helped him to manifest his powers, with Morpheus facilitating their growth.

anyway, the movie was more enjoyable once it had a plot i could accept.)

i hadn't considered the possibility that she could have subconsciously left out the book to force the confrontation. interesting, but seems unlikely. i didn't get the passive-aggressive vibe from her.
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bolddeceiver
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« Reply #16 on: March 30, 2008, 09:41:13 PM »

I'm surprised at how mixed the reaction was; I really liked the story.

I do wonder how cloning is extraneous to the story.  How would this story be told without it?  I felt like it wasn't just a story about a woman who is forced to subsume her personality and needs to a man, but also the story of the original Jacqueline putting off on the clone the responsibility for the situation she found herself in, rather than going through the difficulty of ending the relationship.  I suppose you could also say that space warfare was extraneous to Ender's Game, because Card could have made it an entirely different story about a rabbit farmer in rural Kentucky...
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asqwasqw
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« Reply #17 on: March 30, 2008, 09:58:46 PM »

ouch, but if there was no space warfare in enders game, then why would he go into space =P
i dunno about how the cloning here worked though, because the first jackie could have done all of this
had a diary that said all these things, and the drugs would dissapear.
well, the point is that enders game had space warfare as a driving force, and here
well here cloning could be removed, and the story would change, but the end could still be similar, but cloning does make the story more intresting, by alot
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deflective
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« Reply #18 on: March 30, 2008, 11:11:55 PM »

I do wonder how cloning is extraneous to the story.  How would this story be told without it? ...I suppose you could also say that space warfare was extraneous to Ender's Game, because Card could have made it an entirely different story about a rabbit farmer in rural Kentucky...

the setting is changeable in most character driven stories, this could easily be a fantasy setting similar to feudal japan. here lower class girls are bought from their parents and kept isolated, trained to do little more than devote themselves wholly to a man. it is a noble woman's responsibility to create and maintain a house book that details daily operations and her husband's preferences. this way if she should die the household could continue to operate.

ender's game is plot driven, select below for spoilers (can't imagine it's necessary, just in case).
it's essential that an army's leader can give orders without the troops knowing who he is, and he has to get intimate knowledge of troop movement without knowing whether or not it's the real thing. this isolation & instantaneous information naturally lends itself to space combat & computers, anything else would be forced.
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eytanz
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« Reply #19 on: March 31, 2008, 11:20:23 AM »

shwankie pretty much expressed why I didn't like the story. This story adds a thin veneer of SF to trite relationship drama, but doesn't do so with neither enough commitment or thought to be worthwhile.

Also - I guess "Some girlfriends can" has been a while ago, so maybe most people forgot it (it's much better than this one but hardly one of EP's high points), but isn't this just a retread of almost exactly the same ground as the earlier story? Yeah, the ending is different, but the basic story of a woman, who is in a relationship with a self-absorbed jerk, and the relationship is really all about the guy's ex rather than about the protagonist, and she manages to miraculously grow a spine just in time for the story to end - those are the same components.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2008, 11:34:19 AM by eytanz » Logged
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