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Author Topic: EP170: Pervert  (Read 19813 times)
Russell Nash
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« on: August 08, 2008, 03:35:47 PM »

EP170: Pervert

By Charles Coleman Finlay.
Read by Stephen Eley.
First appeared in Fantasy and Science Fiction, March 2004.

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When the bus reaches the corner, they climb onboard, taking seats on their side and evening out the ride so it doesn’t feel so much like we’ll tip over. We rattle along past road construction, the men working behind screens that are consecrated by the priests each morning as part of the men’s quarter, and resanctified to the women at quitting time. The sun already pelts down mercilessly and they will have to leave off working soon.

We enter the government quarter and arrive at the Children’s Center, a long concrete brick of a building with windows shielded from the sun by an open grid of deep squares made of the same material. The morning light turns it into a chessboard of glaring white and dark shadow. I don’t work with the children, who are on the lower floors and the sheltered playground of the courtyard, but toil away with records on the upper floors. Unlike Jamin or Zel, I am permitted by the job to work alongside women, but only because I completed my theological studies and am a candidate for the priesthood. My superiors do not know of the taint on my soul. Do not know yet, I should say, and when they discover it I will never be ordained or promoted.


Rated R. Contains explicit sexual activity.



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2008, 10:55:45 PM »

 Embarrassed Hate this to be my first post, and I'm not familiar with the authors other works, but.. That had the feel of a high school,  or freshman college, writing assignment. I stuck through it, thinking, okay there will be a twist ending... 
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« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2008, 11:57:42 PM »

I liked this story. I understood some of it early on or in the middle, but it kept me guessing right up until the end, which is what any good story should do!
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« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2008, 09:30:19 AM »

Didn't think much of this one.  It was more worldbuilding than story.  And I couldn't help feeling that this whole "homo is the norm, hetero is deviant" has been done to death already, although I can't think of any examples offhand other than Haldeman's The Forever War.
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« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2008, 10:16:49 AM »

A sad story. I felt sorry for the pervert and for the man whose dog kept going into the women's section. For a while I thought it was a sexually segregated human society that had developed such taboos.  Then at the end I saw it had to be a completely different world with a different biology, with people more like some amphibians than humans, people with no internal fertilization. In such a society it would be a perversion for a man to be attracted to a woman, if external fertilization without contact between male and female was the natural thing.

On our planet, even with external fertilization, at least among vertebrates, males and females do tend to associate, at least briefly during fertilization, each male trying to make sure his sperm is closest to the released eggs. Maybe that was the taboo, that men and women would naturally tend to associate during fertilization but society had developed to avoid it. The tendency had to be there or there wouldn't be all the taboos and punishment and veiling. I liked how men were compelled to veil as well as women.

But still, an interesting story.
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« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2008, 10:40:09 AM »

A sad story. I felt sorry for the pervert and for the man whose dog kept going into the women's section. For a while I thought it was a sexually segregated human society that had developed such taboos.  Then at the end I saw it had to be a completely different world with a different biology, with people more like some amphibians than humans, people with no internal fertilization. In such a society it would be a perversion for a man to be attracted to a woman, if external fertilization without contact between male and female was the natural thing.

I didn't see it that way.  I got the impression that a sexually segregated human society was exactly what it was, and that "aquasexuals" were the ones selected for breeding.

On further reflection, even the worldbuilding was weak; figure in the lack of a storyline and the "Geek Dad Outro", and this episode's a solid loser for me.
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« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2008, 02:52:50 PM »

  I got the impression that a sexually segregated human society was exactly what it was, and that "aquasexuals" were the ones selected for breeding.

There is a reference to “Their eggs float in tiny gelatinous clumps on the surface of the pool”  as well as to “the black sea and the pale white sky.”  I suppose occasionally the sky on earth might look white or the sea black but not at the same time. So it is probably another planet. More importantly human eggs don’t come in “tiny gelatinous clumps” and they can't be left in water, floating like frog eggs waiting to be fertilized.

So it can’t be earth.  At least in my opinion.
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« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2008, 03:03:34 PM »

There was reference to the beast in the fields, and if it's a highly advanced humanity, why couldn't there be a way of depositing the females eggs in a gelatinous mass?
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« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2008, 04:11:21 PM »

  I got the impression that a sexually segregated human society was exactly what it was, and that "aquasexuals" were the ones selected for breeding.

There is a reference to “Their eggs float in tiny gelatinous clumps on the surface of the pool”  as well as to “the black sea and the pale white sky.”  I suppose occasionally the sky on earth might look white or the sea black but not at the same time. So it is probably another planet. More importantly human eggs don’t come in “tiny gelatinous clumps” and they can't be left in water, floating like frog eggs waiting to be fertilized.

So it can’t be earth.  At least in my opinion.


Doesn't have to be Earth, but I'm pretty sure these people are human or at least started out that way ... for one thing, the quoted phrases of their "scriptures" are all from the Christian Bible.  (Apparently they've expunged or rewritten the bits that condemn homosexuality, in order to endorse it instead.)
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« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2008, 05:58:52 PM »

Didn't think much of this one.  It was more worldbuilding than story.  And I couldn't help feeling that this whole "homo is the norm, hetero is deviant" has been done to death already, although I can't think of any examples offhand other than Haldeman's The Forever War.

It's not a perfect match, but there was an episode of Star Trek TNG that dealt with very similar themes.  And I agree, the conceit felt a little tired.

The story really only has two directions to go, thematically.  Either it's a warning about some strange future in which heterosexual desire is marginalized by mainstream society or else it's an allegory about contemporary hypocrisy and repression.   I seriously doubt that the author intended the former, but that reading almost feels tighter than the second, clumsier option, especially since that topic itself is wide open, fertile ground for both speculative and non-speculative fiction.

The author paints a character whose sexuality alienates him from his own culture, but that sexuality itself doesn't break the mold in any way, shape, or form, least of all for literary characters.  I know it's been re-contextualized here through world-building, but I can't help feeling like the author was trying to win points for making his character Queer without having the guts to actually stray from the mores of his own, real, heteronormative world.  Which is a little insulting.  Also insulting is the idea that us straight types have to strain our imaginations to grasp why homophobia and repressive sexual politics are bad things, that we're incapable of wrapping our heads around the concept unless it's actually happening to us.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2008, 06:05:48 PM by Schreiber » Logged
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« Reply #10 on: August 09, 2008, 06:26:11 PM »

This story was not my flavor of story and I had a hard time finishing it.  Stories that are only about sex and finding new and strange ways to write about it are not that interesting.  Give me a space battle.
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« Reply #11 on: August 09, 2008, 07:23:43 PM »

The way space battles work in the "Pervert" universe is that one side leaves a point in space laden with mines and torpedoes, then flies away and waits for the other side to show up and crash into them.
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« Reply #12 on: August 09, 2008, 09:30:27 PM »

This story is an odd jumble. I must have missed what the author intended this story to convey.
I wonder why it's been sold and translated so much.

Maybe it pushes a bunch of buttons that feed phobias and negative beliefs.

Is it anti science? - 'If we allow that evil evolution in schools, someday those evil scientists will turn us into monsters reproducing in labs/pools.' :genetic sequences, zygotes, womb banks, wisdom of science

Is it anti Arabic? - 'They wear veils and separate the men and the women: them, other, different -monsters' :Haj or Hajj?, veils, sitar, prosecution of a man who's pet dog... stoning to death

Is it anti-religious? - 'You don't like religion - here's a fuzzy story about another crazy belief system you can sneer at.'

Is it homo-phobic? - 'You know all those news stories about same-sex marriage - they'll lead a warped world if we allow it.'

I don't know why I see all these negative aspects in the story.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2008, 09:33:37 PM by arcsine » Logged
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« Reply #13 on: August 09, 2008, 09:31:15 PM »

  Also insulting is the idea that us straight types have to strain our imaginations to grasp why homophobia and repressive sexual politics are bad things, that we're incapable of wrapping our heads around the concept unless it's actually happening to us.
Schreiber, I agree that the message - 'how would it feel if the shoe was on the other foot'- is tired. I don't have a clue if the author intended that or just fell into it.
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« Reply #14 on: August 09, 2008, 09:42:07 PM »

  Also insulting is the idea that us straight types have to strain our imaginations to grasp why homophobia and repressive sexual politics are bad things, that we're incapable of wrapping our heads around the concept unless it's actually happening to us.
Schreiber, I agree that the message - 'how would it feel if the shoe was on the other foot'- is tired. I don't have a clue if the author intended that or just fell into it.

Broadening the scope from stories specifically about sexuality to fiction in general, it certainly is tired and worn out.  I didn't think much of it in White Man's Burden and thought even less of it here (though oddly enough I did enjoy Thomas Berger's Regiment of Women.)
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« Reply #15 on: August 09, 2008, 09:49:26 PM »

Meh and yuck. I liked the general sound of this story. I really gave my best at liking it. The premise really wasn't that terrible for me- however I kept expection it to go somewhere better. It never quite managed it.  All I really got out of this was "Golly I need to go hug my husband and kids." Other then that... Meh.
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« Reply #16 on: August 10, 2008, 02:01:18 AM »

  What a curious little story. I've listened to it twice now (and am listeing to it again now as I write), and I'm still not quite sure what I think of it.

  Did I enjoy it? Yes, it flows nicely, and is, of course, well read.

  Did I find it thought-provoking? Yes. I found the idea that the dominant religion's interpretation of their own writings can so completely alter society very interesting. I am tempted to use terms like "warped" to decribe the world of the story, but that is based on my accepting the norms of the society I am a part of as being what should be considered normal for everyone.

  I really thought it interesting that the religion of this future (?) so completely worked science into it beliefs, when in our present science and religion are often at war. Their entire way of keeping humanity going is seemingly the opposite of what is considered normal the by the society and religion that I am a part of.

  Did I like it? I do not know. The ending left me a little cold. Maybe I'm just not understanding something there, but if I do not get it after two listens, it is unlikely that I'm going to. Maybe if I knew more about this society, and how it go to where it is....

  I do feel a certain identification with the main characters, not because of my sexual "perversions", but because I've always felt a bit set aside from the rest of society. I also used to be told to smile so that I now walk around throwing on a vaguely stupid smile when I see people, even ones I do not want to smile at.
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« Reply #17 on: August 10, 2008, 08:27:34 AM »

Let me start this off by saying that I am not a prude and don’t care what anyone’s sexual preferences are. (Well, except my wife’s and mine.)

After the warning, I was tempted not to listen. I have found that, in general, the more sexual content most stories have, the less story they have. This one had little of either. Last week’s story needed a warning more than this one.

It seemed to be more of an outline, or possibly a chapter of a novel.

Let’s see if I can do the same:

Humans fucked things up. (Probably through polution or over population)

Some scientists realized the only way to save us is to prohibit direct breeding.

Must not let males and females be tempted.

(Insert descriptions of hot homosexual or machine love here)

Reveal method of societal procreation.

End.

While I personally think that porn and sci-fi shouldn’t mix, I don’t mind it when the story is strong.

GIGO

« Last Edit: August 10, 2008, 09:34:24 AM by Zathras » Logged
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« Reply #18 on: August 10, 2008, 08:57:28 AM »

Ack, I haven't listened to the story yet so I was avoiding the thread, then got suckered in by the rename.

Please do not rename the subject on official story threads.
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« Reply #19 on: August 10, 2008, 11:26:13 AM »

Please do not rename the subject on official story threads.

Huh?  Rename?  What'd I miss?
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« Reply #20 on: August 10, 2008, 11:39:53 AM »

Didn't think much of this one.  It was more worldbuilding than story.  And I couldn't help feeling that this whole "homo is the norm, hetero is deviant" has been done to death already, although I can't think of any examples offhand other than Haldeman's The Forever War.

It's not a perfect match, but there was an episode of Star Trek TNG that dealt with very similar themes.  And I agree, the conceit felt a little tired.

I just remembered The Wanting Seed by Anthony Burgess, which is on my to-read list.  Apparently the premise of that novel is encouragement of homosexuality in order to control rampant overpopulation.  The society's slogan is "It's sapiens to be homo!"  Cheesy

When I get around to reading it, I'll report back.
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« Reply #21 on: August 10, 2008, 12:14:34 PM »

A planet where apes evolved from men?!
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« Reply #22 on: August 10, 2008, 12:31:48 PM »

You lost me, Jeem.
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« Reply #23 on: August 10, 2008, 12:44:00 PM »

You lost me, Jeem.

You know, it's a "turn the tables" story, and not a good one.  The rather obvious concept alone is supposed to make up for the lack of execution.  Anyway, reminded me right away of Heston yelling at his simian captors.
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« Reply #24 on: August 10, 2008, 12:54:27 PM »

Please do not rename the subject on official story threads.

Huh?  Rename?  What'd I miss?


Zatharas originally changed the subject of his post to something that did not mention the episode title, so when it showed up on the "last post in this forum" column, I clicked it without knowing where it would lead. Obviously, he hadn't intended that, and he since changed the subject of his post back (though that was unnecessary since my post restored the thread title anyway).
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« Reply #25 on: August 10, 2008, 01:15:54 PM »

You lost me, Jeem.

You know, it's a "turn the tables" story, and not a good one.  The rather obvious concept alone is supposed to make up for the lack of execution.  Anyway, reminded me right away of Heston yelling at his simian captors.

Oh, okay.  Got it.
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« Reply #26 on: August 10, 2008, 03:15:36 PM »

i'm not even sure why you would want to change the subject in the middle of a thread. the option usually just results in the thread's subject being repeated over and over at the start of each post; adding to the visual noise of the page.


the story seems to lock this as escape pod's summer of love, six of the last nine episodes gives prime time to getting jiggy (or simulating it). maybe the increasing prostitute level is just a secondary result of this. a rising tide floats all boats.

now we just need some kind of out of control podcast music festival to lock the summer into memory.
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« Reply #27 on: August 10, 2008, 03:26:26 PM »

i'm not even sure why you would want to change the subject in the middle of a thread. the option usually just results in the thread's subject being repeated over and over at the start of each post; adding to the visual noise of the page.


the story seems to lock this as escape pod's summer of love, six of the last nine episodes gives prime time to getting jiggy (or simulating it). maybe the increasing prostitute level is just a secondary result of this. a rising tide floats all boats.

now we just need some kind of out of control podcast music festival to lock the summer into memory.

Podstock?  Grin

Well, as for the "summer of love" on Escape Pod, I count four stories out of the past nine that had sex in them, starting with "God Juice". 
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« Reply #28 on: August 11, 2008, 12:23:29 AM »

don't know which ones you're counting. we had the two prostitute stories, the three last episodes, and the story that opened with exposition on asphyxiation as sexual stimulation. i'm not even counting Marx shacking up with a future groupie.

compare this with another block of episodes.
i'm thinking of escape pod painted bright yellow and covered in colourful swirls.
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« Reply #29 on: August 11, 2008, 12:43:31 AM »

Maybe we ought to just accept that sex is an integral an element of speculative fiction as space travel, dragons, and ax-wielding maniacs.  Okay, that last one was thrown in for the benefit of Pseudopod, but I think you catch my drift.
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« Reply #30 on: August 11, 2008, 12:54:22 AM »

don't know which ones you're counting. we had the two prostitute stories, the three last episodes, and the story that opened with exposition on asphyxiation as sexual stimulation. i'm not even counting Marx shacking up with a future groupie.

Here we have a subtle form of ambiguity that I've seen crop up a lot in discussions like this: it's very common for people to have different concepts of how "sex" is defined, often without knowing it.

Of the "three last episodes," one had a scene of heat transfer between alien jellyfish.  One had dogs copulating in heat.  And one had an involuntary ejaculation by a minor character.  Broadly defined, you could consider all of these to be sexual activity; but if you define sex as humans engaging in intercourse, none of them had any sex in them.  There's no objective answer on what definition you should use, but I do think it's useful to recognize that many people come to the word with different assumptions.

This is mostly trivia and not important.  However, I will rigorously deny that there is any sex in "The Something-Dreaming Game," and I do think it's important to make that clear.  Yes, the author is pretty frank about children choking themselves for sensual stimulation, but the children did not do it as a sex act.  Escape Pod does not publish stories involving sexual activity with minors.  I take allegations that we do quite seriously, both for my own ethical reasons and because those allegations in the wrong ears could get us into a non-trivial amount of trouble.  So please, unless you want to discuss it with me privately, take that one out of your count.
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« Reply #31 on: August 11, 2008, 01:37:24 AM »

well, you guys harshed my buzz.

seems like i can't bring up any episode trend without people reacting defensively. if anyone knows my approach could be changed i'd be very interested to hear from you.

otherwise, lesson learned. this wasn't the conversation i was signed on for.
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« Reply #32 on: August 11, 2008, 08:30:53 AM »

The way space battles work in the "Pervert" universe is that one side leaves a point in space laden with mines and torpedoes, then flies away and waits for the other side to show up and crash into them.

Win.
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« Reply #33 on: August 11, 2008, 08:34:14 AM »

Well, as for the "summer of love" on Escape Pod, I count four stories out of the past nine that had sex in them, starting with "God Juice". 

We're all adults.  Adults (except for asexual ones) have sex.  Sex happens.  Without sex (in most cases) none of us would be here.  Plus, sex is fun to write about, and leads to all sorts of complicated plot-ular things.  It's relatable in that we all know what it is and are (again, mostly) capable of having it in the way we enjoy having it.  Not everyone can relate to my job in TV news, but everyone could relate if I said "I had sex last night".

I for one don't mind the sex element in the stories.
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« Reply #34 on: August 11, 2008, 08:39:42 AM »

I think the best part of this story was the world the author created.  I found myself wondering:

* is this an Eastern or middle-Eastern culture thing?  Or is this worldwide?
* does every culture subscribe to the methods?
* the "button that can zap you" thing... was that a joke Allie was making, or is there really a button?

The author seemed to try and make it more pan-cultural via language, clothing, and the club atmosphere, but the food was definitely not Western.

I'm reminded of Sean McMullen's "Souls in the Great Machine", where Glasken and his friend go to a restaurant and Glasken, who speaks the local dialect, requests an "Islamic Menu" for his friend because, in far-future Australia, Islam is one of the three major religions, so much so that restaurants cater to Islamic persons with menus and food choices.

Was Quiet Guy (Jamil? I forget his name...) trying to set Our Hero up with Old Guy in the hopes that Old Guy would turn him away from wanting to have heterosexual sex?  I wasn't quite sure.

I think the idea of the story was sound, but the execution didn't pay off enough on the idea of Our Hero as being a repressed pervert.  But then, in a culture like that, where you have to control your responses and live behind veils except among your own "kind" -- that is, in Our Hero's case, men -- I guess those are the responses you're trained to have.  I give it one thumb up -- interesting world, not interesting story.
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« Reply #35 on: August 11, 2008, 09:39:47 AM »

Well, as for the "summer of love" on Escape Pod, I count four stories out of the past nine that had sex in them, starting with "God Juice". 

We're all adults.  Adults (except for asexual ones) have sex.  Sex happens.  Without sex (in most cases) none of us would be here.  Plus, sex is fun to write about, and leads to all sorts of complicated plot-ular things.  It's relatable in that we all know what it is and are (again, mostly) capable of having it in the way we enjoy having it.  Not everyone can relate to my job in TV news, but everyone could relate if I said "I had sex last night".

I for one don't mind the sex element in the stories.

I think you misunderstand the intent of my post.  All I was saying was, I don't see a preponderance of sex in the recent stories -- do the math; four out of nine is less than half.
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« Reply #36 on: August 11, 2008, 09:55:05 AM »

Too boring for me to get past the two recurring thoughts.

1.) when will there be explosions

2.) when will it finish.
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« Reply #37 on: August 11, 2008, 10:58:24 AM »

I thought the whole story was much too heavy handed, personally i dont understand or agree with the anti-gay 'agenda' that one part of the political spectrum has, but there are much better ways of getting the point across than this clumsy story, i didnt like the bit at the end with the eggs and would much rather have seen more of the society than what we got
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« Reply #38 on: August 11, 2008, 12:18:37 PM »

* the "button that can zap you" thing... was that a joke Allie was making, or is there really a button?

  I was curious about this too, but on my third listen through I decided it was just a reference to him jumping like he had been shocked earlier in the story when she psoke to him. I think that, in this soceity, if there was thought to be a risk with these people interacting that it would just not be allowed in the first place like it is for the rest of their society.
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« Reply #39 on: August 11, 2008, 03:00:43 PM »

Oh man I went to go listen to this and as soon as I started I realized I'd already read the text story, and within the last couple of months (this has happened to me once with Podcastle too).

Enjoyed the story very much. I would not be so swift to say just because it changes around perceptions means its intending to make any political point.  Rather, just to say, "What if?"

As a straight person it was an interesting experience to put myself in the protagonist's position and wonder how I'd think or behave. It makes me ask myself, what if I was brought up believing some fundimental aspect of myself was wrong and bad? I don't know how I'd react to that or even who I'd wind up being. Issues of identity and societal pressures. Interesting stuff IMHO.

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« Reply #40 on: August 11, 2008, 03:27:42 PM »

I struggled a little on whether to write this.  I also struggled a little on where to put this post.  In the end, I figured someone else may be able to put better words to my thoughts and I enjoy EscapePod too much to say nothing.

"EP170: Pervert" is the first EscapePod episode I did not finish.  I skipped to the end to listen to show feedback after 10 minutes.

I came to Escape Pod back around Episode 95.  I rapidly went through the back log.  I have listened to every escape pod episode to date.  I have not liked every single one, but most of them are really good, most of them made me think, most of them were enjoyable to listen to, and most of them were fun.

While this sounds like a big condemnation of Episode 170, it isn't.  I will probably try to listen again some other time.  That's not a big deal.  Unfortunately, it seems like EscapePod has been slipping of recent.  I'm not completely sure I know what the culprit is but I want to voice a couple concerns. 

One of the wonderful aspects of EscapePod was an intro that was personable, well-written, relevant to the story yet left the story untouched for us to discover, and often prepared us nicely for the story.  That is an extremely challenging writing assignment yet Steve did it well for most episodes.  The new layout just does not work for me because it can't accomplish everything the original layout could when done right.

It seems like the quality of stories is down.  I certainly expect fluctuations over time and not sure what can be accomplished to fix this.  I'm hoping it will pass.  I wonder if it has to do with filling 2 podcasts now instead of 1.



 
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the_wombat
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« Reply #41 on: August 11, 2008, 08:58:18 PM »

This story bore an uncanny (read almost plagiarism) resemblance to Charles Beaumont's "The Crooked Man" that appeared in The Playboy Book of Science Fiction, edited by Alice K. Turner
New York: HarperPrism, 1998
The storyline, characters and plot are almost identical, the hydrosexuals seems to be new, but in my opinion, someone owes someone some royalties.
The Crooked man lives in a future where men and women live in seperate districts, reproduction is done via petri dish, and in order to stop disease and rampant reproduction the government has instituted mandatory social homosexuality as the norm. The main character can't cope with feelings of guilt that he has about being "crooked" and having uncontrollable passions for a member of the opposite sex. He is a member of cheap and tawdry chat rooms and message boards, and ventures out to remote parks and truck stops for illegal hetero sex. He is ultimately caught by the police and punished. This was an interesting take on the exact same idea, although I think it was better when it appeared in playboy.
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albionmoonlight
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« Reply #42 on: August 12, 2008, 08:05:58 AM »

The story seemed to give hints of other stories being set in the same world.  The dinner friend who cryptically says "I'm not like you."  Learning just enough about the woman to make us want to learn more about her.

I get the feeling that this story set up a world and that the author intended/intends to revisit that world and explore these ideas in more detail.
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Listener
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« Reply #43 on: August 12, 2008, 09:47:04 AM »

Well, as for the "summer of love" on Escape Pod, I count four stories out of the past nine that had sex in them, starting with "God Juice". 

We're all adults.  Adults (except for asexual ones) have sex.  Sex happens.  Without sex (in most cases) none of us would be here.  Plus, sex is fun to write about, and leads to all sorts of complicated plot-ular things.  It's relatable in that we all know what it is and are (again, mostly) capable of having it in the way we enjoy having it.  Not everyone can relate to my job in TV news, but everyone could relate if I said "I had sex last night".

I for one don't mind the sex element in the stories.

I think you misunderstand the intent of my post.  All I was saying was, I don't see a preponderance of sex in the recent stories -- do the math; four out of nine is less than half.

Well, I think I was using your post as a jumping-off point, not to come after you.  But yeah, you're right, I did forget the "don't".  Sorry.
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Talia
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« Reply #44 on: August 12, 2008, 11:45:36 AM »

I struggled a little on whether to write this.  I also struggled a little on where to put this post.  In the end, I figured someone else may be able to put better words to my thoughts and I enjoy EscapePod too much to say nothing.

"EP170: Pervert" is the first EscapePod episode I did not finish.  I skipped to the end to listen to show feedback after 10 minutes.

I came to Escape Pod back around Episode 95.  I rapidly went through the back log.  I have listened to every escape pod episode to date.  I have not liked every single one, but most of them are really good, most of them made me think, most of them were enjoyable to listen to, and most of them were fun.

While this sounds like a big condemnation of Episode 170, it isn't.  I will probably try to listen again some other time.  That's not a big deal.  Unfortunately, it seems like EscapePod has been slipping of recent.  I'm not completely sure I know what the culprit is but I want to voice a couple concerns. 

One of the wonderful aspects of EscapePod was an intro that was personable, well-written, relevant to the story yet left the story untouched for us to discover, and often prepared us nicely for the story.  That is an extremely challenging writing assignment yet Steve did it well for most episodes.  The new layout just does not work for me because it can't accomplish everything the original layout could when done right.

It seems like the quality of stories is down.  I certainly expect fluctuations over time and not sure what can be accomplished to fix this.  I'm hoping it will pass.  I wonder if it has to do with filling 2 podcasts now instead of 1.



 


In regards to story quality, you know, I think its a matter of personal taste. I don't find the quality of EP stories has slipped at all. And look at the last story. People absolutely LOVED it. Keep in mind EP can only run with what's submitted to them. Presumably most of the stories submitted recently simply haven't been to your taste. So it goes.

As for the format, I rather liked the intros too, but I understand why the change was made, and it seems most people prefer to get to the story as quickly as possible, so I guess that's going to stick...

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eytanz
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« Reply #45 on: August 12, 2008, 01:17:24 PM »

I think this was a good story in many ways, good world building and a thought-provoking plot, but I found the narrator somewhat annoying in his self pity. I wonder about where the male/female contact taboo started. I also wonder, if it's so strong, why do they ever have them working in proximity? Why don't they, say, have male cities and female cities and make everyone commute for the water-mating sessions?

Was Quiet Guy (Jamil? I forget his name...) trying to set Our Hero up with Old Guy in the hopes that Old Guy would turn him away from wanting to have heterosexual sex?  I wasn't quite sure.

I thought it was the reverse - the old guy seems to have been more overtly uncomfortable with his role in life, and I think Jamil was hoping that the narrator might be able to keep him from doing something foolish.

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eytanz
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« Reply #46 on: August 12, 2008, 01:20:26 PM »

It seems like the quality of stories is down.  I certainly expect fluctuations over time and not sure what can be accomplished to fix this.  I'm hoping it will pass.  I wonder if it has to do with filling 2 podcasts now instead of 1.

In regards to story quality, you know, I think its a matter of personal taste. I don't find the quality of EP stories has slipped at all. And look at the last story. People absolutely LOVED it. Keep in mind EP can only run with what's submitted to them. Presumably most of the stories submitted recently simply haven't been to your taste. So it goes.

Yes, I second that. It's a common, and very understandable, reaction to think that just because a series of stories did not appeal to you that this represents a drop in quality. But for that to be a valid position, you'd have to first show that your view is representative of the majority of listeners.
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alllie
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« Reply #47 on: August 12, 2008, 01:53:55 PM »

It seems like the quality of stories is down.  I certainly expect fluctuations over time and not sure what can be accomplished to fix this.  I'm hoping it will pass.  I wonder if it has to do with filling 2 podcasts now instead of 1.

I think it all depends on what you like. Some people didn't like this story. I didn't like it myself but only in the sense that it reminded me of places like Saudi Arabia where the women are virtual prisoners, chattel.  A story like this makes me think of what exists in real life today. And that makes me grit my teeth. But it also showed me a different scenario of where sexual segregation could lead. That made it interesting. I would have liked more closure, a way out of the box trapping the culture and characters, but within the context of a short story that probably wasn't possible.

But I don’t see any slippage in story quality. You didn’t like this week? Well, everyone seemed to love last week’s “How I Mounted Goldie, Saved My Partner Lori, and Sniffed Out The People’s Justice”.

My only complaint is I want MORE. The stories often seem too short. But when I think of how much work it must be to read through all the stories submitted, contact the authors to get permission to use them, then to find narrators (though I love Steve’s narration), to record each episode, then to edit it, well, I don’t see much hope of more unless Steve can clone himself. 

What escapepod needs it not just donations but .. INVESTMENT.

I also think that escapepod, pseudopod and podcastle should all be linked from the same page. That way I would think there was more even though there isn’t.



A Review of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga and Vampirism as a metaphor for sex
http://forum.escapeartists.info/index.php?topic=1860.0
I put this in the podcastle forum cause it isn’t really scifi.
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DaveUnique
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« Reply #48 on: August 12, 2008, 03:20:24 PM »

In regards to story quality, you know, I think its a matter of personal taste. I don't find the quality of EP stories has slipped at all. And look at the last story. People absolutely LOVED it. Keep in mind EP can only run with what's submitted to them. Presumably most of the stories submitted recently simply haven't been to your taste. So it goes.

Yes, I second that. It's a common, and very understandable, reaction to think that just because a series of stories did not appeal to you that this represents a drop in quality. But for that to be a valid position, you'd have to first show that your view is representative of the majority of listeners.

But I don’t see any slippage in story quality. You didn’t like this week? Well, everyone seemed to love last week’s “How I Mounted Goldie, Saved My Partner Lori, and Sniffed Out The People’s Justice”.

Sorry, I think I should have posted to "About Escape Pod" instead.  While I didn't care for this story, I wasn't stating my opinion based solely on the last two episodes.  For the record, I thought last weeks show was good.  I think Steve was channeling my neighbor's Golden Retriever to perfection.

I see that my first comment seems like it would go much better in the "Intros" topic which I hadn't seen yet.

The second comment should likely be moved elsewhere too.  I finally had a hypothesis for something I had been feeling for a while.  As you mentioned, determining quality is a difficult measure.  I would argue that my position is valid independent of how many people share it but nothing may be actionable if I am in the minority.  I certainly don't have access to any quantitative data to back up that hypothesis which is why I thought it worth posting.

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Roney
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« Reply #49 on: August 12, 2008, 04:44:51 PM »

I was kept interested in the story to the end by the two basic plot questions (Will the hero dare to make a heterosexual advance?  Either way, will he be found out?) and the one science fiction one (What the heck is "hydrosexual"?).  I think I account it a satisfying SF story because it was only the third that got a positive answer.

The world-building seemed pretty good to me, as an exploration of how such an extremely anti-hetero culture could sustain itself, although I'd be interested to know more about how it started.  I suspect that the priests will have buried that history very deeply, though, so it's difficult to draw out in the story.
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CammoBlammo
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« Reply #50 on: August 12, 2008, 07:42:43 PM »

Well, I didn't like this one, mainly for the reasons already cited. To be honest, I felt like the story finished just as something interesting looked like it was finally about to happen. Immature ejaculations aside there wasn't any sex here, even though it was clearly a theme.

I got the idea that Ally (?) felt the same way about the protagonist. I thought they might somehow end up together in a forbidden entanglement, secretly being married by a renegade priest, ala Romeo and Juliet. Instead, everyone ends up doing just what they were supposed to without challenging the social structure or the Gnostic* religion.

I couldn't figure out if the main guy was being pushed into hydro- or homo-. The whole story was leading up to his marriage, but then he ends up in the pool to spawn. I think I missed something obvious.

*Just for the record, 'Gnosticism' is a family of religions that emphasise the evil of the physical world and the goodness of the spiritual. The spirit and the flesh can have nothing to do with each other. In very broad terms, this leads to two opposing approaches to the practice of the religion. First, adherents can subject the physical to the spiritual by forsaking physical pleasure for spiritual reasons. This leads to asceticism and even self-abuse according to the not-so-fun meaning of the term. Second, they might decide that since the physical and the spiritual are completely separate, anything we do in the physical world cannot affect our spiritual being. This can lead to rampant hedonism. Guess which version has historically been the most popular.
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Darwinist
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« Reply #51 on: August 12, 2008, 08:20:01 PM »

I'm in the group that liked this story.  Well read and interesting, and kept me interested until the end. 
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wintermute
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« Reply #52 on: August 13, 2008, 09:51:02 AM »

I couldn't figure out if the main guy was being pushed into hydro- or homo-. The whole story was leading up to his marriage, but then he ends up in the pool to spawn. I think I missed something obvious.
As I understand it, a "hydrosexual" is someone who enjoys spawning in the pool. The word used to describe this act is "marriage".

Doesn't have to be Earth, but I'm pretty sure these people are human or at least started out that way ... for one thing, the quoted phrases of their "scriptures" are all from the Christian Bible.  (Apparently they've expunged or rewritten the bits that condemn homosexuality, in order to endorse it instead.)
Their scripture certainly contains similar themes to the Christian Bible, though if you translated them into different idioms, they would "obviously" be from the Upanishads, or the Rig Veda, or any of a dozen other unrelated religious texts. There's no reason why aliens wouldn't also use those same themes in their own religions.

Throughout most of the story, I was assuming that they were humans, though with a very different psychology than anything we see now. But when the changes in gross anatomy were revealed, I couldn't imagine that they were meant to be anything other than an amphibian-like race of aliens. Or industrialised toads, millions of years after humans went extinct, but that's less likely. There's simply nothing there (other than a vague similarity of religion) that implies that these people are human.

I enjoyed it, though. Interesting story.
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eytanz
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« Reply #53 on: August 13, 2008, 10:29:43 AM »

I couldn't figure out if the main guy was being pushed into hydro- or homo-. The whole story was leading up to his marriage, but then he ends up in the pool to spawn. I think I missed something obvious.
As I understand it, a "hydrosexual" is someone who enjoys spawning in the pool. The word used to describe this act is "marriage".


It's just occured to me that maybe the author was trying to make a subtle political point. This is a world where homosexuality is the norm, and still the word "marriage" is used narrowly to describe the breeding of a male and a female (even though other aspects of marriage, such as permanence and intimacy, are not present).
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stePH
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« Reply #54 on: August 13, 2008, 11:39:57 AM »

It's just occured to me that maybe the author was trying to make a subtle political point. This is a world where homosexuality is the norm, and still the word "marriage" is used narrowly to describe the breeding of a male and a female (even though other aspects of marriage, such as permanence and intimacy, are not present).

I'm reminded of the bit in A Boy and His Dog in which they're forcibly pumping out Don Johnson's semen while having a parade of girls march through and "marry" him one by one so that they can bear his children.  Grin
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eytanz
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« Reply #55 on: August 14, 2008, 03:32:46 AM »

It seems like the quality of stories is down.  I certainly expect fluctuations over time and not sure what can be accomplished to fix this.  I'm hoping it will pass.  I wonder if it has to do with filling 2 podcasts now instead of 1.

I think it all depends on what you like. Some people didn't like this story. I didn't like it myself but only in the sense that it reminded me of places like Saudi Arabia where the women are virtual prisoners, chattel.

Interesting - was that because of the visual similarity (full body robes/veils)? Because culturally, one of the interesting things about this story was that the men and women were both treated more or less equally - both sexes had to wear veils, not just women, and the only indication of a difference between the way the sexes was treated was that construction workers seemed to be exclusively male, and I don't know if we should read anything into that but an unintended injection of our own world's gender differences.

Quote
  A story like this makes me think of what exists in real life today. And that makes me grit my teeth. But it also showed me a different scenario of where sexual segregation could lead. That made it interesting. I would have liked more closure, a way out of the box trapping the culture and characters, but within the context of a short story that probably wasn't possible.

I don't think it's just a matter of it being a short story - my way of understanding the story was that the fact that there was no way out was one of the main points.

One of the most interesting aspects of this story is how thoroughly the priests have succeeded. The fact that his species has sexual reproduction, and the fact that - as he says - in older times they mated "like the animals" indicates that heterosexuality must have a biological basis with them. I'm guessing that many, many people in this world are attracted to the opposite sex. But they are so indoctrinated to be ashamed and repressed about it, that they don't even realize that they are not the only one like them.

There is no way out of that system, not for those who are not brave enough to stand up against the system - and, in the short run, not even for those who are. But in any case, the narrator is clearly not one such.
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wintermute
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« Reply #56 on: August 14, 2008, 06:49:53 AM »

Because culturally, one of the interesting things about this story was that the men and women were both treated more or less equally - both sexes had to wear veils, not just women, and the only indication of a difference between the way the sexes was treated was that construction workers seemed to be exclusively male, and I don't know if we should read anything into that but an unintended injection of our own world's gender differences.
Actually, I'm not sure that's necessarily the case. The one, solitary female we see seems to be treated much the same as her male counterpart, but we see so little of the women of this world that we simply can't make any generalisation about sexual equality.
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eytanz
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« Reply #57 on: August 14, 2008, 07:09:42 AM »

Because culturally, one of the interesting things about this story was that the men and women were both treated more or less equally - both sexes had to wear veils, not just women, and the only indication of a difference between the way the sexes was treated was that construction workers seemed to be exclusively male, and I don't know if we should read anything into that but an unintended injection of our own world's gender differences.
Actually, I'm not sure that's necessarily the case. The one, solitary female we see seems to be treated much the same as her male counterpart, but we see so little of the women of this world that we simply can't make any generalisation about sexual equality.

True - let me clarify my statement. I didn't mean that the society as a whole was treating owmen as equal, because as you said, we don't really know about that. What is true is that in every aspect of life where both men and women are mentioned in the story, there seems to be identical treatment:

- Both men and women wear robes and veils that conceal everything but their eyes. The only difference in the description of the two were the colors, and it wasn't clear if that is a matter of social perscription, or just fashion.
- Both men and women are disallowed from crossing into the other's areas.
- When on the way to the "marrying" pool, the narrator imagines that the women on the way there are in a parallel journy. In other words, he is not expecting them to be treated differently.
- As you mentioned, it didn't seem that there was a difference in treatment of men and women in the shared workspace, though we did have a small sample size.
- When the narrator was watching the children, he said he couldn't tell if they were girls or boys. This means that children of both sexes are allowed to participate in similar forms of play.
- The first passage quoted from the scripture specifically mentions both men and women being created in god's image.

It's also worth noting that the narrator never mentions anything negative said about women. This is important, since he was constantly thinking of other pieces of dogma that forbade heterosexual contact. If there was any scripture or teaching that said women were inferior, unclean, or anything like that, I would expect him to be actively thinking of it, whether or not he agreed with it.

Note that none of the above are in any way conclusive, but at least this shows a trend.
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zZzacha
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« Reply #58 on: August 14, 2008, 07:24:15 AM »

I really liked this story.

It reminded me a little of the situation in the book '1984' by Orwell, because of the enforced ideas about life or love and the conflict that the main character had with that. He felt there was something 'wrong' with him because he didn't feel the way he 'had' to feel by society. Struggling with those feelings and not knowing whether or not he could express that with anyone, because everybody felt different than him or knew how to pretend to feel that way (like the old man, who I thought also didn't have the homosexual feelings).

The ending left me with weird images about the conception, fishing the fertilized eggs out of the water, growing babies in a tank or something. Or are the women brought back in, to fish up the eggs between their legs? Will it lead to a swimming contest? What happens when they get water up their noses? Eh...
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« Reply #59 on: August 14, 2008, 08:59:41 AM »

Note that none of the above are in any way conclusive, but at least this shows a trend.
Agreed, but I'd raise one small issue:

- When on the way to the "marrying" pool, the narrator imagines that the women on the way there are in a parallel journy. In other words, he is not expecting them to be treated differently.
Can the narrator really be assumed to know how women are being treated in this case? I'll grant that he believes their journey is much the same as his, but I don't see how that could be more than an assumption from a lack of evidence.
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eytanz
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« Reply #60 on: August 14, 2008, 02:31:33 PM »

- When on the way to the "marrying" pool, the narrator imagines that the women on the way there are in a parallel journy. In other words, he is not expecting them to be treated differently.
Can the narrator really be assumed to know how women are being treated in this case? I'll grant that he believes their journey is much the same as his, but I don't see how that could be more than an assumption from a lack of evidence.

Yes, that is correct, but the point was - he is well-educated, and as someone on the priesthood path who works in the government sector, he is part of the ruling class, even if just a peripheral one, and he is one of the few in the society who has direct contact (though not physical contact, of course) with women. He is apparently able to have free and casual conversation with women without being monitored. So a situation where A - women are treated very differently than men, and B - he is unaware of this, is very implausible.
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contra
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« Reply #61 on: August 15, 2008, 06:50:22 AM »

I'm going to have to go back and listen to this one again.  At the end I just through 'huh, odd', and it didn't make a large impression of me.  Maybe I missed something.
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« Reply #62 on: August 15, 2008, 03:20:00 PM »

I think my only response to this story should be, "meh".

Actually, I got more out of the geek dad outro than then story.  Maybe it's because my son is 3 1/2 and I can relate with Steve a LOT on that.
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WillMoo
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« Reply #63 on: August 15, 2008, 03:47:00 PM »

"Oh, I get it in the future hetero's are perverts and everyone is sort of muslim-ish." he said with a shrug of his shoulders. 
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Sandikal
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« Reply #64 on: August 15, 2008, 06:50:48 PM »

I thought this story had some promise that it didn't live up to.  I liked the idea of a totally gender-segregated society.  I liked the idea of forbidden desires.  I was curious about hydrosexuality.  I was wondering how the protagonist would resolve his conflict. 

Unfortunately, the ending left me dissatisfied. 
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« Reply #65 on: August 19, 2008, 07:08:43 PM »

I don't think anything I am about to say is the author's intention, but I got to thinking that if this is a non-human race maybe the main character is a pervert.  Humans (for the most part) have collectively decided that incest is a perversion even though it is done by the beasts of the field.  Practically speaking, a society that condemns incest will have fewer birth defects and a higher chance of survival.  It could be that by condemning heterosexual relationships the folks in this story have given their society a leg up.  So it's not so much that there are lots of heterosexuals and they are being put down by the man, but that most people really do think that heterosexual relationships are gross and dangerous.  Not the way our society thinks of homosexuality, but the way it thinks of incest or pedophilia. 

Then I thought, why do I have to preface that thought with 'if this is a non-human race'?

I'm not really sure where I am going with this.  It just occurred to me.  And again, I don't think that this was the message the author intended. 
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« Reply #66 on: August 19, 2008, 07:43:05 PM »

* the "button that can zap you" thing... was that a joke Allie was making, or is there really a button?

  I was curious about this too, but on my third listen through I decided it was just a reference to him jumping like he had been shocked earlier in the story when she psoke to him. I think that, in this soceity, if there was thought to be a risk with these people interacting that it would just not be allowed in the first place like it is for the rest of their society.
Samuel Delaney once said that science fiction is a more literal genre in the sense that we expect to be able to take expressions more literally when we read SF.  Consider "She went outside and her world exploded."  Totally different meaning if you read it in a Grisham novel or a Brin one.  My other favorite, "He woke up and turned on his left side."
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Myrealana
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« Reply #67 on: August 22, 2008, 02:15:30 PM »

This one started out nicely. I started to get a feel for things with Jamin and Zel and the narrator, with his attraction to a woman. And then, it got weird - too weird for me.

I normally applaud stories that leave something to the imagination, and story-tellers that don't feel the need to lay everything out for us in a neat little line, but this one, I think, went too far the other way. Most of the threads started in the story had no payoff - Allie, the meeting with the old man, even Jamin and Zel who just walk off stage never to be seen again. They were all just scenery along the path between the opening line and the vague explanation of the "hydrosexual" means.

I'm going to have to go with a thumbs-down this time around. I'm disappointed because I thought it had such potential at the start.
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DigitalVG
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« Reply #68 on: August 22, 2008, 05:31:34 PM »

Oh brave new world which has such fish-people in it.

Sorry.  Didn't care for Huxley's take on this story either.  I'm sure the girl was terribly pneumatic and all, but I'm still bored of the 'Ogg need make more Oggs' trope.  Next.
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DigitalVG
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« Reply #69 on: August 22, 2008, 05:40:37 PM »

There are two kinds of people in the world.  Heteros and Hydros.  And then there's me.  Poor poor Zoidberg.  *slobbery tentacle cry*
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stePH
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« Reply #70 on: August 23, 2008, 10:31:20 AM »

Oh brave new world which has such fish-people in it.

Sorry.  Didn't care for Huxley's take on this story either.  I'm sure the girl was terribly pneumatic and all, but I'm still bored of the 'Ogg need make more Oggs' trope.  Next.


HA!  Grin  Another Nina Paley fan?
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« Reply #71 on: June 30, 2010, 12:03:17 PM »

I couldn't figure out if the main guy was being pushed into hydro- or homo-. The whole story was leading up to his marriage, but then he ends up in the pool to spawn. I think I missed something obvious.
As I understand it, a "hydrosexual" is someone who enjoys spawning in the pool. The word used to describe this act is "marriage".

If that's the case, then "marriage" was a badly chosen word for this.  Presumably by the time of this story the language has changed, so any weird assignment of word usage is entirely due to the author.  Marriage, regardless of the context, implies some sort of permanence--not lasting forever, perhaps, but surely describing something that lasts longer than wanking into a pool, something which is expected to last on the scale of seconds/minutes and then be over with.  I mean, it would make more sense to call eating "marriage"--at least it's on the scale of hours before most of the food's mass leaves my body.
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« Reply #72 on: June 30, 2010, 12:07:26 PM »

Throughout most of the story, I was assuming that they were humans, though with a very different psychology than anything we see now. But when the changes in gross anatomy were revealed, I couldn't imagine that they were meant to be anything other than an amphibian-like race of aliens. Or industrialised toads, millions of years after humans went extinct, but that's less likely. There's simply nothing there (other than a vague similarity of religion) that implies that these people are human.

If they're intended to be non-human, then they should've been written explicitly as such.  Being a human myself, if I read a story that does not give any hints about being non-human, I will assume they are human--and if it's suddenly revealed at the end that they're amphibians, well, then I'm not going to like the story.

For what it's worth, I assumed that the women had some sort of non-biological aid to extract their eggs--I hope for their sake that the procedure is done in some way that it can be enjoyable, otherwise they really have the short end of the stick in this society.
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« Reply #73 on: June 30, 2010, 12:18:00 PM »

I really disliked this one.

1.  It seemed to be heavily message driven, trying to teach me a lesson about how gays have been treated in our society.  I don't even disagree with that message--I've never understood those who condemned homosexuality.  You should be allowed to love who you love.  But I just don't care for message driven stories, even when I agree with the message.

2.  There was a lot of dead weight in the story.  Lots of characters introduced and then dropped by the wayside without having made any significant impression, only delaying the long-awaited reveal of what the heck a hydrosexual is.  If those characters were really supposed to be unimportant, the story could've been trimmed significantly for a smaller word count and more punch.  If they were supposed to be important, well it didn't come across.

3.  The use of the word "marriage" wasn't clear.  If "marriage" is what they call ejaculating into the pool, well, it wasn't a good word choice.

4.  It was suddenly unclear at the end if they were human because of their spawning method.  If they're not human, this should've been conveyed long before.  If they were, then this was just needlessly confusing.

5.  We're shown an apparent love interest, he rebels inside his mind, and it seems like he's going to get courageous and take some real action.  And then he goes and does exactly what everyone expected of him, end of story.  In the end, he was completely unmemorable and unworthy of having a story written about him.  I mean, imagine if Harvey Milk had just accepted the status quo and repressed his homosexuality.  Do you think he'd be memorable, and even have a movie based on him?  Hell no.  No one would know who he was because he'd be unremarkable, just another guy.  The same goes for this guy--if he were brave enough to take some action, any action, I might really be able to root for him.  But as is, he just fades into the background of his own story.
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