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Author Topic: EP154: Union Dues - Freedom With a Small f  (Read 42149 times)

JoeFitz

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Reply #20 on: April 20, 2008, 02:53:35 AM
I do usually enjoy the UD series, but this was my least favourite so far. I did like the idea of a group within the Union with even worse motive than brand loyalty. But I did not appreciate at all that the main character is an orphan who is abandoned by the Union and becomes a stripper/superhero and does drugs as a sort of sleeper agent so save a baby. Nor did I think the idea of labour negotiations including kidnapping an infant was anything but over-the-top.

That being said, I'll still look forward to the next one.




Tango Alpha Delta

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Reply #21 on: April 20, 2008, 04:57:23 AM
I don't see myself as being in either the "over-the-top love them" camp or the "hate them" camp, but I do appreciate the Union Dues stories.  If they ever make an Astro City TV series, I think Jeff ought to be on the writing staff.

It seems odd to me to hear people just now figuring out that a) the Union is *supposed* to be seen as a deeply flawed, possibly evil organization, and that b) there is a deeper, more evil force within it, working toward some kind of nefarious goal.  From the start, the stories have clearly been outlining this larger structure, and Jeff even outlined it in another thread, which you super-fans ought to have found on your own, already.

By the way, did I miss something, or did we ever find our why the character's stipend was cut off?  Was that part of the "experiment" (seeing if the "hothouse flowers" of the Union could survive unsupported on the outside?) or was it a random event?

This puzzled me, too... I was changing freeways when Crimson was in the limo with Nova, and I'd like to know if anyone caught a line I missed at that point in the story that would shed some light.  (It also seems I've missed one or two of the older stories somehow...must investigate.)

Also, am I the only person slightly freaked out by the notion of a Super Hero with a drug habit?  Regular people can be pretty dangerous when drunk or stoned -- imagine a super-strong as belligerent drunk.  Perhaps a new offense: "Invoking super-powers while under the influence."

There were two guys in the bar of a restaurant on the top floor of a Chicago skyscraper, having drinks and B.S.ing each other.  The one guy was saying that the winds coming off the lake created an updraft so strong that if someone were to jump off the balcony, the updraft would just bring him right back up.  The second guy said the first was full of crap (and booze), so the braggart stomped over to the balcony, and threw himself off!

And, what do you know, he fell about 10 stories before floating right back up!  He grabbed the rail, and swung back onto solid ground, and gave his companion a smug look.  The second guy was so impressed, he just had to try it himself, and leapt over... only to plunge to his death.

As he strolled back out past the bar, the barman said to him, "You're the meanest drunk ever, Superman."

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Whiskey and Nutmeg

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Reply #22 on: April 20, 2008, 05:56:12 AM


Also, am I the only person slightly freaked out by the notion of a Super Hero with a drug habit?  Regular people can be pretty dangerous when drunk or stoned -- imagine a super-strong as belligerent drunk.  Perhaps a new offense: "Invoking super-powers while under the influence."

'Hero with a habit' goes back to the early 70s with Green Arrow's sidekick Speedy portrayed as a junkie. (Green Lantern #85-86 Sept/Nov 71)There was a Spider-man story that dealt with drugs, but it was a supporting cast member. (Amazing Spider-man #96-97 May/Jun 71)

This doesn't take into account previous substance users such as Hourman, whose use of the drug Miraclo was not shown as debilitating or addicting until late into the bronze/modern age.

Edit: I've forgotten, Iron Man has been an alcoholic for a long time.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2008, 06:58:05 PM by Whiskey and Nutmeg »

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Cruelty has a human heart
Every man must play his part
Terror of the men will kill
The human heart is hungry still
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Heradel

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Reply #23 on: April 20, 2008, 06:20:44 AM
'Hero with a habit' goes back to the early 70s with Green Arrow's sidekick Speedy portrayed as a junkie. (Green Lantern #85-86 Sept/Nov 71)There was a Spider-man story that dealt with drugs, but it was a supporting cast member. (Amazing Spider-man #96-97 May/Jun 71)

They still play with Speedy's addiction and subsequent recovery in the current run of GA, though he hasn't relapsed (as of a few issues ago, I haven't made it down to St. Marks comics in far too long).

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deflective

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Reply #24 on: April 20, 2008, 07:32:58 AM
By the way, did I miss something, or did we ever find our why the character's stipend was cut off?  Was that part of the "experiment" (seeing if the "hothouse flowers" of the Union could survive unsupported on the outside?) or was it a random event?

i never heard it stated explicitly but it was probably intentional maneuvering on the part of Nova. within union rules he couldn't tell an agent to work undercover as a stripper or hooker but he could leave her on her own and use hypnotic suggestion to prevent her from supporting herself any other way.

union dues is bleak but i'm always left wanting to know what happens next. similar to the failed cities monologues.



Planish

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Reply #25 on: April 20, 2008, 07:34:09 AM
Well. I'm starting to warm up to the Union Dues stories. I think I got off to a bad start with Iron Bars and the Glass Jaw followed by Send In the Clowns, neither of which I cared for very much. Still working my way through the Escape Pod archives, and I think I've only got Cleanup in Aisle 5 left to hear.

That being said, the last couple of UD stories that I've listened to (which weren't in EP-chronological order) have caused me to elevate them to the status of "okay", up from "meh".

I seem to be more likely to enjoy the ones with fewer superheros, as in Freedom With a Small f.

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sirana

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Reply #26 on: April 20, 2008, 01:01:12 PM
Liked it very much. I am honestly glad that the series is going in a very dark direction. I always prefered dark comics to the glossy kind. The main character seemed a bit klicheed to me, we don't really get much more than drugaddicted stripper with the Powers thrown in. But it is a still a very sympathetic character and the story had a nice plot.
More please (though maybe not in the all to near future, I understand everybody who doesn't like a specific kind of story and we had a lot of UD-stories in a short period of time).

The closing song was simply GOLD, like Jonathan Coulton at his best. Listenend to it three times in a row.
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eytanz

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Reply #27 on: April 20, 2008, 01:17:22 PM
Yeah, let me second the love for the song. I listened to it on Drabblecast the day before I listened to this EP episode, and I was really delighted the moment Steve mentioned he's playing it again.



Thaurismunths

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Reply #28 on: April 20, 2008, 02:23:32 PM
Yeah, let me second the love for the song. I listened to it on Drabblecast the day before I listened to this EP episode, and I was really delighted the moment Steve mentioned he's playing it again.
Thirded.
Fantastic!

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Atara

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Reply #29 on: April 20, 2008, 03:06:55 PM
I think Union Dues could use some super-villains.
Actually, I think The Union are the super-villains.


That's actually a very astute observation. I keep finding myself thinking "what fecking bastards!" while listening to Union Dues stories, but never made the villain connection. I guess that, as a listener/reader, I was told that the Union and members are the heroes, and I took that at face value. And, all through history, otherwise good people have been convinced to do horrible things by people who thought that they were doing something "right." No one is a villain in their own eyes.

As for this story, I liked it about as well as I've liked the others - that is, pretty well. They aren't my favorite Escape Pod stories, but I don't groan when I see one queued in my podcatcher. I would like to see some other aspects of the Union looked at, though - maybe something about the good that they Union is doing in the world. I think that would set off the horror a bit more when we get another story like this.



sirana

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Reply #30 on: April 20, 2008, 03:27:05 PM
Yeah, let me second the love for the song. I listened to it on Drabblecast the day before I listened to this EP episode, and I was really delighted the moment Steve mentioned he's playing it again.
Thirded.
Fantastic!

Squeeeel. He has a album out. Bought it without listening to the samples.

Later: Finished listening. It's effin hilarious! More like Stephen Lynch than Coulton, but I love it nonetheless. The recording quality is better than Juzt Mizundrstood.
Best songs are Fetus In Your Kitchen, FEMA and Jesus Clones.
And nobody has played it on Audiosurf, so I made the highscore for EVERY SINGLE SONG. (Which is is in no way a challenge to the forum. Just saying... ;-)
« Last Edit: April 20, 2008, 04:22:41 PM by sirana »



qwints

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Reply #31 on: April 20, 2008, 04:36:05 PM
I thought the story was good, but I didn't like it. Talk about dark - the Union driving a member into addiction and prostitution. I like the Union dues stories but this one felt too soon after the last one.

+1 for the song.

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wintermute

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Reply #32 on: April 20, 2008, 05:28:45 PM
Definitely one of my favourite UD stories. More details on the dark and not entirely heroic nature of the Union are always good.

I'm not sure how she figured out that a random cop in a strip club would know where the kidnapped baby was, but other than that, it was all good.

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Windup

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Reply #33 on: April 20, 2008, 05:37:00 PM
I think Union Dues could use some super-villains.
Actually, I think The Union are the super-villains.


That's actually a very astute observation. I keep finding myself thinking "what fecking bastards!" while listening to Union Dues stories, but never made the villain connection. I guess that, as a listener/reader, I was told that the Union and members are the heroes, and I took that at face value. And, all through history, otherwise good people have been convinced to do horrible things by people who thought that they were doing something "right." No one is a villain in their own eyes.


Or maybe the Union changed over time.  You can think of any number of organizations or even whole governments that started out with noble intentions and high hopes, only to slowly degenerate into a bunch of thugs intent on nothing more than preserving their own power.  Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe is the most recent widely-publicized example, but there are lots of others. 

"My whole job is in the space between 'should be' and 'is.' It's a big space."


bolddeceiver

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Reply #34 on: April 20, 2008, 06:33:43 PM
Yeah, I always felt like the Union were meant to be seen by the reader as an institution that started with high ideals, and still spouts them, but has gotten far, far from those ideals in practice.  Allegorical, much?

I really like UD stories, and this is no exception.  The story was drowning in unresolved pathos, which can be hard to stomach, but it did it without getting maudlin.

BUT, if you take out the minor superpower scene, the Union Dues  references and label you have a mediocre and cliched undercover cop story.

I may risk sounding like a broken record (cf my comments on Behind the Rules), but what of it?  You could take the whales and the ship out of Moby Dick, and it would be a story about the land.  Sure, storylines run to certain conventions, but that's because those conventions are effective.  Sometimes an undercurrent of corrupt superhero organization is what it takes to make what would otherwise "mediocre and cliched undercover cop story" something interesting.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2008, 06:36:54 PM by bolddeceiver »



Ocicat

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Reply #35 on: April 20, 2008, 06:44:12 PM
I have always sighed when someone describes the Union Dues series as being about "Superheroes".  As far as I'm concerned, there are no superheroes in these stories.  There are superpowered people (metas in DC's parlance) who are dressed up like Superheroes in order to make the public accept them.

This doesn't make them heroes.

I don't know if the series needs villains (other than the Union itself), but I'm always confused by why we haven't seen any supers who haven't joined.  The Union doesn't have some infallible "Cerebro" device to detect all the people with powers.  Some folks must have resisted joining and are out there undercover trying to lead normal lives.  Or even using their powers to their own advantage from time to time...

As to this story itself, it was just okay.  Which is how I react to most UD stories, really.  I enjoyed the dark / underworld atmosphere here, but thought the kidnapping plot was kind of lacking.  And I don't need to be shown that the union is full of bastards who deserve to be taken down, I figured that out back in Iron Bars and the Glass Jaw.  I do want to see that start to pay off, but I fear that may be reserved for the UD Novel that DeRego has mentioned planning.



wintermute

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Reply #36 on: April 20, 2008, 07:10:51 PM
I don't know if the series needs villains (other than the Union itself), but I'm always confused by why we haven't seen any supers who haven't joined.  The Union doesn't have some infallible "Cerebro" device to detect all the people with powers.  Some folks must have resisted joining and are out there undercover trying to lead normal lives.  Or even using their powers to their own advantage from time to time...

As I've said elsewhere, I'm keen to know how supers are treated elsewhere in the world. The Union seems to be an exclusively American organisation, so what happens to supers in Canada, or Europe, or Australia? Do other countries have equally draconian organisations, or do they just require registration and maybe lojacking? Is there an underground railroad smuggling supers from America to Mexico? Do supers even exist, outside of the US?

I think there could be some very interesting stories in there.

Science means that not all dreams can come true


Jim

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Reply #37 on: April 21, 2008, 02:23:34 AM
This one was an eye-opening look at just how bleak the life of a superpowered person could be.

I think it took some real guts for J.R. to put this one on paper and submit it, as well as for SFE to buy it.

This one didn't pull any punches, didn't sugarcoat anything, didn't even give us an "up" ending with a glimmer of hope. Just a lonely, frightened young woman sobbing in an apartment that is tantamount to a prison.

The story didn't make me feel happy, but it made me miserable in a wonderful way.

For those people who think that Union Dues doesn't bring anything new to the table, brother, you're sitting at the wrong table.

Good one, J.R., keep 'em comin'.

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goatkeeper

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Reply #38 on: April 21, 2008, 03:19:36 AM
I think this story would have been more effective sanz about 700 words.  Dergo is great with detail but it is a bit much here.
Aside from that this was a great story and I really enjoyed it.



stePH

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Reply #39 on: April 21, 2008, 04:15:49 AM
This one was an eye-opening look at just how bleak the life of a superpowered person could be.

I think it took some real guts for J.R. to put this one on paper and submit it, as well as for SFE to buy it.

This one didn't pull any punches, didn't sugarcoat anything, didn't even give us an "up" ending with a glimmer of hope. Just a lonely, frightened young woman sobbing in an apartment that is tantamount to a prison.

The story didn't make me feel happy, but it made me miserable in a wonderful way.

For those people who think that Union Dues doesn't bring anything new to the table, brother, you're sitting at the wrong table.

Good one, J.R., keep 'em comin'.

I agree with this psot.

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