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Author Topic: PC024: It Takes a Town  (Read 13664 times)
Heradel
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« on: September 09, 2008, 11:08:44 AM »

PC024: It Takes a Town

By Stephen V. Ramey.
Read by Bill Ruhsam.
Introduction by Deborah Coates.
First appeared in Strange Horizons (full text online).

“They ain’t really going through with this,” Tom said. “Are they?” The pig smell intensified, driving off more pleasant fumes of paint and honest sweat. “First the casino. Then the amusement park. Now a rocket?” He chuckled. “Won’t you crazy townies never learn?”

“This is different. This will really put Thornhope on the map.” Anthony turned back to his work. “The whole town is pitching in.” He finished outlining the final T and selected a sash brush from his tool belt. The brush’s upper portion was crusted but the tips were flexible enough. He dipped it into black paint.

“What about materials?”

“Folks are donating–”

“And what about the rocket? Where you gonna get that?”

Anthony licked his lips, trying not to lose concentration. “There’s talk about that old silo on your property–”

“My silo!” Tom laughed hard and slapped his thigh. “What in hellfire makes you think a bunch of morons and a queerball crossdresser can launch a silo to Mars?”

Anthony rolled his eyes. This was exactly the attitude he hoped to escape. “Who’s to say we can’t?”


Rated PG. Contains impossible science and a skyward thrust.

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« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2008, 08:05:09 AM »

BOOBIES!  Grin

I hate to be the one to start this conversation, but:
This wasn't fantasy, it was sci-fi.  It wouldn't have been out of place on Escape Pod, but I couldn't help wondering what qualified it to be on Podcastle.  Unless the very end is Tom fantasizing that his wife and kids have come back to him. Tongue

Admittedly, the notion of townies building a Mars rocket out of stuff they've got lying about is farfetched, but there was no magic about it.  The girl pilot was even using a computer simulation to practice landing.  "Impossible science" is still sci-fi, not fantasy.

As for the story itself, it was an amusing half-hour's  diversion.
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« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2008, 08:53:00 AM »

That was a very nice story. I like the idea of everyone doing their part for the common good. That is a very rare idea in this day and age, and it seems to only happen when you can fire up the imagination of many to believe in the impossible. Man would not have achieved all the advances we currently enjoy if it was not for the ability to imagine.

I agree with Steph that this wasn't Fantasy in the sense of magic happening, but it was fantasy in the sense of a fantastic situation created by ordinary people.

So this was basically a feelgood piece based on a science situation, but I think it dwelt more on the fantasy in the minds of the people of the town rather than your standard sword & sorcery, hack & slash story.

Bravo!

Small technical note: The intro music seemed a bit loud. It made it difficult to hear Deborah Coates



« Last Edit: September 10, 2008, 09:08:21 AM by SWright » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2008, 09:02:20 AM »

"This wasn't fantasy, it was sci-fi.  It wouldn't have been out of place on Escape Pod, but I couldn't help wondering what qualified it to be on Podcastle."

The author, Stephen V. Ramey, submitted the piece specifically to PodCastle rather than Escape Pod. I read it and thought, "huh, this looks like Sci-Fi -- but I love it. It's beautifully written and enrapturing."

So I wrote back, "Why do you feel this is fantasy?"

And he wrote back saying that the technology was deliberately fantastical and impossible. Here's what he said in response to the introduction questions I asked him, "The other issue we had discussed was why I consider this fantasy as opposed to SF since it obviously has SF trappings. It might be interesting to get listeners thinking on this topic. In my opinion, this is clearly fantasy (more precisely, magic realism) since the emphasis is on character over idea credibility. SF ought to focus on what is possible, leaving fantasy to explore what SHOULD be possible."

I wrote back, "That's good enough for me," and sent him a contract.

I actually asked Deborah Coates to do this introduction because she writes a number of pieces that are on the border between science fiction and fantasy. She calls them science fiction, and the editor at Asimov's (which publishes a number of them) agrees. Periodically, however, some irate reader will write in with a rant about how she's ruining science fiction by making it too "soft." So I thought Deborah (who you may remember wrote the story "Magic in a Certain Slant of Light") would have a unique perspective on the situation.

She chose to go another route with her intro -- and I think her perspective on farm life is fascinating, so it's nice to have discussion arenas open for both questions.
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« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2008, 09:43:23 AM »

Small technical note: The intro music seemed a bit loud. It made it difficult to hear Deborah Coates


I don't think the music volume was at issue; it was the recording of Coates herself.  She seemed to be overloading the mic input, causing distortion due to clipping.  There was also a bit of phase shift; I'm not sure why it was in there.


Quote
"The other issue we had discussed was why I consider this fantasy as opposed to SF since it obviously has SF trappings. It might be interesting to get listeners thinking on this topic. In my opinion, this is clearly fantasy (more precisely, magic realism) since the emphasis is on character over idea credibility. SF ought to focus on what is possible, leaving fantasy to explore what SHOULD be possible."

Fantasy to me means having some element of the supernatural.  To borrow again from the warning, the only fanatastical element in this story was "impossible science" which includes the like of FTL and time travel, both of which are standard sci-fi tropes.  There was nothing supernatural in this story. 
Okay, I think I'm done with the subject now.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2008, 09:48:20 AM by stePH » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2008, 11:12:19 AM »

I also was wondering "This seems a lot like sci-fi". I agree that it certanly isn't hard science, it isn't really space opera either, but the rocket could actually have been for real if the advances in silo and water heater technology was sufficiently advanced when this story took place. (note the hint of humor in my text as I typed that)

I'd put it more in the category of a kids book, the kind where silly stuff happens, but we don't care because it was a great story and it had some deeper meaning in it.

I suspect the "This isn't sci-fi!" argument would have been louder if this had been on Escape Pod.

It was a good story, and since there is no Escape Castle, it had to go somewhere.
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« Reply #6 on: September 10, 2008, 11:43:30 AM »

Were it my job to classify this, I wouldn't put it in either "sci-fi" or in "fantasy". For that matter, I wouldn't put it anywhere in speculative fiction.

The science is wrong -- Mars doesn't orbit a red star, and getting plants to grow in a near vacuum is the thing you really need to be working on -- but that's an error made by the characters, not a difference in the way the world works, surely?
Quote
the technology was deliberately fantastical and impossible
The technology to get a probe to Mars is not merely possible, but has been historically demonstrated. It's unlikely that the population of a random small town without any prior expertise would be able to properly compute orbits, or fuel-to-payload ratios, but with determination and persistence it's well within the realm of the possible.
Quote
In my opinion, this is clearly fantasy (more precisely, magic realism) since the emphasis is on character over idea credibility.
That puts the majority of "chick lit" (much as I dislike that term) into the category of "magical realism"
Quote
SF ought to focus on what is possible, leaving fantasy to explore what SHOULD be possible.
Which would eviscerate some of the best stories in both genres.

Having said that, I liked this story. The details of small-town life, of everyone doing their own small part to be part of something larger than themselves... it made me smile.
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« Reply #7 on: September 10, 2008, 12:05:31 PM »


Quote
In my opinion, this is clearly fantasy (more precisely, magic realism) since the emphasis is on character over idea credibility.
That puts the majority of "chick lit" (much as I dislike that term) into the category of "magical realism"

Indeed, that line struck me as so many different kinds of wrong that I just didn't know what to do with it.  So I let it go.
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« Reply #8 on: September 10, 2008, 12:56:13 PM »

I was immediately thinking the common thought: Is this fantasy? Science fantasy is a word I suppose could apply. The tech was absurd, the ideas outlandish, the world existed in a (frighteningly near) potential future that I CAN see as possible. One is sent to wonder if this were posted simply because of it's controversial idea matter. All this aside I truly and honestly enjoyed the story overall. The pig farmer in women's panties was.. odd. Otherwise: good story, good read. I was almost fully put off my listening by the intro babble. The sound levels and music mixing were severely wonky. I have issues with vertigo set off by various outside influences, and this set my vertigo all asunder. I literally had to skip past, take a breather, get back my "balance" and hope the story itself didn't have similar sound issues. It didn't, thank goodness. Overall, interesting. Can we now return to the "true" fantasy?
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« Reply #9 on: September 10, 2008, 01:09:26 PM »

The pig farmer in women's panties was.. odd.
It was the hardware saleman who wore women's underwear.
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« Reply #10 on: September 10, 2008, 01:09:29 PM »

" Can we now return to the "true" fantasy? "

Next week's story is in a contemporary setting by Greg Van Eekhout. The week after that we have a traditional fantasy setting in a piece from Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine by Dawn Albright. The intervening flash piece is a fable by Peter Beagle.
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« Reply #11 on: September 10, 2008, 04:33:39 PM »

A few thoughts:

1.  Doesn't this story violate the traditional literary technique of Chekhov's Transvestite?  If you have a cross-dresser is Act One (Act Ten?) then there has to be a lacy brassiere hanging off of the rocket at the closing curtain.

2.  This story worked better for me if I imagined that it was a kid's story, where the kids use their imagination to make things happen, despite the crotchety grown-ups who don't know what's possible.  Except that everyone was a kid, except for the one grown up.

3.  The story had a little too "Power of Positive Thinking" about it, and I was sometimes imagining I was sitting in a Self-Help Seminar, or a Business Retreat, surrounded by "Successories" posters saying "If You Believe It, You Can Achieve It!"

4.  I can see how it qualifies as "Fantasy," but if it does then there was just too much science in it.  If it's going to be impossible science, make it even more impossible.

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« Reply #12 on: September 11, 2008, 09:00:42 AM »

I would argue there is no such thing as "true fantasy" just as the definition of "science fiction" is highly debatable. I suspect everyone's definition of what fantasy is differs.

Liked the story well enough, although it probably won't stick out in my mind too well.
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« Reply #13 on: September 11, 2008, 11:04:50 AM »

Quote
Wintermute: The technology to get a probe to Mars is not merely possible, but has been historically demonstrated. It's unlikely that the population of a random small town without any prior expertise would be able to properly compute orbits, or fuel-to-payload ratios, but with determination and persistence it's well within the realm of the possible.

They mention that humans, or I suppose at least probes, have been to Mars.

The bit about things growing in red light, yes, that was out of whack, but could have been the townsperson's ignorance.

Quote
Ragtime 3.  The story had a little too "Power of Positive Thinking" about it, and I was sometimes imagining I was sitting in a Self-Help Seminar, or a Business Retreat, surrounded by "Successories" posters saying "If You Believe It, You Can Achieve It!"

Or a Dispair poster that has a picture of the water heater flying with the caption

Mars Missions
You might get to Mars, but a water heater isn't going to work in space

Ok, so that wasn't my best shot, but I had to try.
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« Reply #14 on: September 11, 2008, 01:51:26 PM »

First off, let me say that I really don't care about the "is it fantasy" question.  Whatever.  I think if it had run on Escape Pod, people would have said it wasn't SF, so sure, it belongs here.

But this story didn't work for me.  On so many levels.

I did not care one whit about the people. 

I didn't think the Mars mission was a good idea, but not because of the rocket problems or anything, but just because they kept thinking Mars would be a better place, with lots of opportunity - as opposed to where they were now.  Uh, it's Mars.  You think your town is a dustbowl?  Wait till you see that place.

I wanted to slap the Pig Farmer upside the head too.  Just saying "can't be done" with no reason why makes me want to scream just as much as blind optimism.

We didn't stick with any of the characters (besides the pig farmer) long enough for their bits to pay off.  As someone mentioned, the women's underwear bit just never came up again.  And it wasn't interesting to me as slice of life.

I never bought how this whole town got infected by the Mars mission fever.  Sure, I get why it needed something, but I don't think the writer really put us there enough for us to feel it.
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« Reply #15 on: September 11, 2008, 08:29:12 PM »

I'm with everyone who said it was SF and not fantasy. I understand the author's POV, but I disagree with it.

The reading was average, but I think the reader tried too hard to be optimisic. I'd like to hear him read a story that isn't rife with optimism, see how he does with it.

No more guest intros please, and if there are any, make sure the introducer has professional (or at least semi-professional) audio equipment. It sounded like Coates was talking through a cheap computer microphone and a Skype connection. Also, the intro went on WAY too long; I was listening to this on the way to lunch and it was STILL going when I pulled into the restaurant parking lot. Didn't really interest me at all.

As for the story itself...

Tom Piper as the main character who is defined by the people around him just didn't work for me. Very few of the characters ever came back, and in the beginning, I honestly thought the story was about Anthony, That would've been more interesting to me. Tom Piper was a cookie-cutter character who is, rather predictably, affected by a major event and changes his mind.

I felt cheated by the way the author introduced all these interesting characters but kept making the story about Tom. I wanted to know more about Anthony, and Giovanni's train experiments, and the babe who measured the roofs. Why would she go to a relatively-depressed area to open a ceramics shop? Didn't care so much about the teacher or the family who bought her cake.

I think that was part of the underlying problem for me: the author meandered around. The story felt loose, like a dress that needs to be taken in for a better fit.

Pretty sure the ending -- where he goes to Mars sometime in the future, ostensibly -- reminded me of the American ending of Evangelion.  "Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations!" (et al)

I understood what the author was trying to do, but I don't think he did it very successfully. So this one gets a less-than-meh from me -- usually, for me, a "meh" means I appreciated the art and craft but didn't like the story; this one, I didn't really think the craft was up to par.
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« Reply #16 on: September 11, 2008, 09:52:51 PM »

Just for you, Chivalrybean:

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« Reply #17 on: September 12, 2008, 11:19:19 AM »

Both Listener and Ocicat summed up my feelings about this story, and why it did not work for me.

But as to whether it was SF or Fantasy -- * shrug * -- I am happy to see a wide genre definition in Podcastle.  Rachel is doing a pretty good job of exposing us to a range of fantasy, from magical realism to surrealism to sword and sorcery to revised fairy tales to urban fantasy.  I don't care whether stories are fantasy or SF so long as they are good stories.

Hmm
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« Reply #18 on: September 12, 2008, 12:20:02 PM »

  I know I am late to the party, but my initial reaction was very much of the "You got EscapePod in my PodCastle" variety. It seemed like the sort of sci-fi story one might find in an old collection in a used book store, the sort of stuff written before we ever really got into space. I acccept the justification for it being on PC though/

  I give this story a solid "Meh+", and that plus is mostly due to the panty-wearing hardware store owner, and the image of the water heater rocketing into the sky at the end.

  A big "LOL" to stePH for the de-motivational poster. I'm saving that one.
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Heradel
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« Reply #19 on: September 12, 2008, 12:47:02 PM »

I believe you guys are underestimating the rocket potential of the home water heater. Please consider the following: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pu3FwgIHsQA
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« Reply #20 on: September 12, 2008, 04:11:23 PM »

I believe you guys are underestimating the rocket potential of the home water heater. Please consider the following: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pu3FwgIHsQA

Dude, I used to work for a water heater company in the Seattle area.  More than once I heard about water heaters taking flight and landing some distance from the site of installation.

But I'll be sure to check out the link when I get home.
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« Reply #21 on: September 12, 2008, 04:51:57 PM »

  A big "LOL" to stePH for the de-motivational poster. I'm saving that one.

Feel free.  Better yet, go to Despair's site and click the "DIY" link.  I'm sure you can do better than what I knocked together in a hurry last night just to get something up before anyone else did.
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« Reply #22 on: September 12, 2008, 11:07:06 PM »

I believe you guys are underestimating the rocket potential of the home water heater. Please consider the following: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pu3FwgIHsQA

Dude, I used to work for a water heater company in the Seattle area.  More than once I heard about water heaters taking flight and landing some distance from the site of installation.

But I'll be sure to check out the link when I get home.

Wow.  Love the slow-mo shots.

at 8:55 ...
"In 2001 outside of Seattle, a burrito shop's hot water heater exploded, went right through the roof, and apparently flew four hudred and thirty nine feet into the air." 

Yeah, I heard about that one when I was working for Fast.
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« Reply #23 on: September 13, 2008, 08:50:10 AM »

Both Listener and Ocicat summed up my feelings about this story, and why it did not work for me.

But as to whether it was SF or Fantasy -- * shrug * -- I am happy to see a wide genre definition in Podcastle.  Rachel is doing a pretty good job of exposing us to a range of fantasy, from magical realism to surrealism to sword and sorcery to revised fairy tales to urban fantasy.  I don't care whether stories are fantasy or SF so long as they are good stories.

Hmm

Ditto that.  I feel exactly like Hmm (and Listener and Ocicat before her).  Also didn't like the reading.  At all.  Also didn't feel the mosaic approach worked.  Quite disappointed.

My husband asked me incredulously last night, "Are you listening to a podcast AND reading a book?" 

"Yes.  Because the podcast is terrible,"  I answered.

I hung on until the end, but only with the book for company.

I don't give a fig for whether it's SF or Fantasy either.  In that regard, I was happy to have the piece play on PodCastle.  I am a little teethgritty about calling it magic realism but that's because I read widely in that genre, and I'm sick and tired of people calling random shit magic realism.  Magic realism is not a defense for "this doesn't make sense". 

To me, this was "Hesperia and Glory" done wrong.  Which, ftr, I'd have been happy to hear on PodCastle as fantasy even though I believe it's SF. 
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« Reply #24 on: September 15, 2008, 05:27:59 PM »

This reminded me a bit of some of Ray Bradbury's rocketship fiction.  Building space ships in barns, opening hot dog stands on Mars, those were the days, man.

I find the author's thought that because the science isn't plausible this should be fantasy or magical realism...odd.  That said, although it threw me off a bit when I listened to the story, I don't mind the broad variety all three EA podcasts operate with when defining their respective "genre." 
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« Reply #25 on: September 17, 2008, 01:14:19 AM »

Here's a solution to the 'which Podcast should it have been played in' conundrum; None of them. I don't know if it's my natural English cynicism coming up hard against American optimism but stories about American cranks who may have crazy ideas and a lack of technological knowledge but, in the end, wouldn'tyaknowit, are proved right often annoy me unless they are written a hell of a lot better than this.

I'm also rather insulted about the author's reasons for considering this 'fantasy' rather than 'science-fiction'. Didn't Steve deal with precisely this point in one of his intros a year or so back? I'm working through the first few years of EP on the discs, I'll keep an ear open and link if I come across it. Meanwhile, can we expect more Horror and Science-Fiction stories on Podcastle if the authors insist they are actually fantasy? I have nothing against either horror or sci-fi and I remember this discussion came up when Steve broadcast a rather horror-able story last Hallowe'en.
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« Reply #26 on: September 17, 2008, 10:34:19 AM »

"Meanwhile, can we expect more Horror and Science-Fiction stories on Podcastle if the authors insist they are actually fantasy?"

You can if I like them enough and feel like accepting them.
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« Reply #27 on: September 17, 2008, 01:26:50 PM »

Quote
This reminded me a bit of some of Ray Bradbury's rocketship fiction.

I couldn't agree with you more. Despite the author's attempts to defend this tale, I couldn't help but think I was listening to the bizarro world version of "Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed," a story about another community on Mars with the fanatical resolve of building a rocket to get back to earth. The rocket in Bradbury's story was built in a farmer's barn and throughout most of the story many of the townsfolk were unconvinced that a rocket even needed to be built.

By the end both communities, either by decision or circumstance, stay right where they started though at least the people in the Pod Castle yarn actually managed to fire off a water heater into the final frontier. I wonder if they had anyone aboard that small craft? I hope they had the foresight pack plenty of tang and humdingers aboard if that were the case. 
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« Reply #28 on: September 17, 2008, 06:20:31 PM »

Here's a solution to the 'which Podcast should it have been played in' conundrum; None of them. I don't know if it's my natural English cynicism coming up hard against American optimism but stories about American cranks who may have crazy ideas and a lack of technological knowledge but, in the end, wouldn'tyaknowit, are proved right often annoy me unless they are written a hell of a lot better than this.

Oh, I think the English filmmaker who made "Thunderpants" portrayed the English version of American crackpots very well. I mean, the film WAS about a kid who invents a machine to harness the power of farting to fly a small hovercraft, and then a rocketship.

 Grin
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« Reply #29 on: September 17, 2008, 06:24:11 PM »

"Meanwhile, can we expect more Horror and Science-Fiction stories on Podcastle if the authors insist they are actually fantasy?"

You can if I like them enough and feel like accepting them.

I believe you [ustedes, not tu] can have genre-straddling fiction that really works. "Impossible Dreams" could be considered fantasy except that alternate-universe-not-in-ancient-times pieces tend to be classified as SF. "Brothers", which ran on Pseudopod, could be fantasy -- I didn't find it horrific, though I found it to be a great story.

I think a lot of people, myself included, can forgive a story with little fantasy content or one they feel is on the "wrong" podcast if it is strong in art and craft. I really liked "Wisteria" on PC, but I didn't feel it was fantasy enough, and while I loved "Moon Viewing at Shito Bridge", I though it would have worked better without any fantasy elements at all.

My uninformed guess is that more people are making such a fuss over this one because the story didn't work for them, for whatever reason.
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« Reply #30 on: September 18, 2008, 04:10:34 PM »

I'm definitely with the "didn't work for me" group. I kept waiting for James Earl Jones and Kevin Costner to show up in VW bus.

I'm also with those that don't care much about the specific genre, as long as it's compelling. Water heaters launched from grain silos sounds compelling, if Mythbusters is involved. It wasn't compelling on Podcastle, and I would have been equally as disappointed to hear it on EscapePod.

That being said, the character development was good. I could clearly picture the people in my mind, even if the story was only so-so.
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JoeFitz
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****
Posts: 258



« Reply #31 on: September 19, 2008, 06:39:32 PM »

Count me on the "not my cup of tea" list. For most of the reasons enumerated above.

I understand where the author thinks it was going - but I agree with Anarkey that magic realism is not the appropriate moniker here. It's one thing to try and be genre-crossing, but magic realism is a fairly specific "type" with a fairly well-established set of conventions, tropes and themes. To my mind, the indicia of magic realism (though they vary) were not present in this story. In particular, the fantastic elements seemed to me purely a plot device.

And I'm sorry, but the cross-dressing hardware salesman seemed taken from central casting.

For what it's worth, I think that this story (for me) could be nicely polished in a writer's workshop into a decent play.
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ryos
Palmer
**
Posts: 60


« Reply #32 on: September 21, 2008, 03:13:35 AM »

I don't get it.

No, really. I felt like the story had a point, but it was lost on me.
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cede
Extern
*
Posts: 10



« Reply #33 on: September 21, 2008, 08:49:02 AM »

having trouble focusing on the story, any possibility of an enhanced podcast so the long intros are skippable?
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Chivalrybean
Peltast
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Posts: 158



WWW
« Reply #34 on: September 22, 2008, 09:00:15 AM »

Just for you, Chivalrybean:



Sahweet!!! Thanks! Glad I rechecked the thread finally! {:0)

I think I need a new desktop image, too...
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The Space Turtle - News that didn't happen, stories to entertain.
Chivalrybean
Peltast
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Posts: 158



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« Reply #35 on: September 22, 2008, 09:02:56 AM »

I believe you guys are underestimating the rocket potential of the home water heater. Please consider the following: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pu3FwgIHsQA

I was just implying that space is really cold {:0)
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The Space Turtle - News that didn't happen, stories to entertain.
Windup
Hipparch
******
Posts: 1226



« Reply #36 on: September 24, 2008, 08:27:15 PM »

As a native Iowan, son of a pig farmer, graduate of a rural Midwestern school system and employee of an agricultural company who deals with residents of small towns on an almost-daily basis, my main observation is that Stephen V. Ramey got the details completely, totally, and utterly wrong.

I'll skip over most of the innumerable technical howlers -- like the fact that silos are not made from corrigated metal, American pork is not subsidized and never has been, and that the grain in a corn plant comes from the ear, not the tassel -- and focus on the fact that the relationships described just didn't make sense, and the people weren't even vaguely real.  Most obvious example:  Can you imagine anyone with a struggling, labor-intensive business who has nothing better to do all day than drive around town with no apparent purpose other than to encounter people at random?   I can't, either.  And does anyone you know say things like, "Oh Thomas, don't let your pain stand in the way of what you know is right?"  Me neither. And believe it or not, hog farmers actually do know enough to clean up before going into a pharmacy. 

I guess I am getting a genuine dramatic experience from this, because I think I'm getting my head around how people who actually live in the inner city feel when some clueless suburban putz tries to write about their lives based on watching some bad TV shows. 

In other issues, I thought this piece had way too many characters for a story of this length, especially in audio.  So many people blew in and out of the story so fast, I had trouble keeping them straight, and didn't feel like I got any resolution on any of them.  The ending felt like a wierd, heavy-handed analogy between the success of the rocket (or at least, firing the second stage) and the potential success of restoring the pig farmer's marriage.  And as for the whole, "you've got to believe" business, all I have to say is: "Oh, please. Not that again."  It's really so much more complicated than that, and being able to wrestle with that complexity is the sort of thing I expect from good-quality fiction.

Now excuse me, I have to scrape the pig-crap off my shoes and go participate in a Colorful Local Festival.
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"My whole job is in the space between 'should be' and 'is.' It's a big space."
eytanz
Moderator
*****
Posts: 6101



« Reply #37 on: September 24, 2008, 08:35:37 PM »

I don't know a lot about space, and I know even less about farming. So I'll just say - I enjoyed this story. I didn't find it believable, but I found it very appealing.
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Unblinking
Sir Postsalot
Hipparch
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Posts: 8660



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« Reply #38 on: January 06, 2010, 02:46:27 PM »

This story bothered me on so many levels.  Uh-oh, I feel a rant coming on...

First and foremost, I have to absolutely agree with Windup about all the details of small-town life being bass-ackwards.  I've lived on a farm, though we just rented the house on the property and did not actually do the farmwork, and none of the details or people seemed real.  Sort of how it would turn out if I wrote a story about living in the inner city.  Every detail would be wrong and anyone who's actually lived there would be able to spot it.

Second, the cross-dresser was used simply as a hook to draw readers into the story, and then never mentioned again.  If the story had been about the cross-dresser, or even if the cross-dresser had played some important role, that would've been cool, but that wasn't the case.  The first paragraphs had only one semi-interesting point, and that was that the dude was wearing ladies clothing.  So I assumed that this would be important or at least relevant at some point, but nope, not even slightly.  So instead of helping me understand the POV of a cross-dresser, this story just cheapens the whole lifestyle.  Sort of like the old gag hook "SEX!!  Now that I have your attention <insert something here that's boring and has nothing to do with sex>".

There were so many characters that we didn't get to settle with any of them.  The only one we stuck with was completely uninteresting.  He was the only one who was even remotely sane, but that seemed to be his only distinguishing characteristic.

I do find it odd to classify this as fantasy simply because the pseudoscience used is ludicrous, but that alone isn't a huge deal to me.  I'm listening to all 3 casts anyway, so it doesn't make that much difference if the subject material gets blurred a bit.

But most of all, the message that was beaten over my head was totally bogus!  "All we need is hope.  If we keep our optimism and band together we can accomplish anything."  Blech.  This message could be true to a certain extent for some goals.  For instance, if their goal had been to create legislation for <insert political issue here>, then by doing a big weird project they might get some TV interviews, which would further their cause, create public awareness, etc...  But when the goal is to settle Mars?  Simply banding together is not enough.

The problem is, nothing in the story suggested that ANY of it would be remotely plausible.  As far as I could tell, this was still intended to be our world, so until I see otherwise, our laws of science must be in play.  You're not going to get anything into space that way without huge amounts of highly combustible fuel.  Where did they get the jet fuel to fill the silo?  How could they afford it or transport it?  No idea.  How did they keep the silo from breaking apart the moment it left the ground?  Silos are NOT built to be mobile.  What did they use for heat shielding?  Nothing, apparently.  Where did they get the money for all of this?  Apparently out of thin air.  Yes, they were having fundraisers for it, but all of the fundraisers were LOCAL in a small town which seemed to have very little resources.  There is a finite amount of money and resources in a sparsely populated area like that, and all fundraising does is group the small amount of money into one place, it doesn't CREATE more money, unless someone's printing counterfeit bills.

But let's say the town actually gets all of this stuff together, pools their very last dollars together to do it.  Then what happens?  Then it would fail spectacularly, because they have no frigging clue what they're doing.  This is their first try, and there's no way anything of this magnitude could be successful on the first try, and they couldn't possibly have money for another try.  So to me, the real ending occurs when the whole thing blows up, probably demolishing the farm, maybe part of the town and killing most of the townspeople, and leaving all of them penniless and hopeless.  And then the pig farmer can say "I told you so" but I doubt it will make him feel any better.  So the moral of "we need something to band together for" falls flat when it's clear from the beginning that they will be worse off in EVERY way by undertaking such an endeavor.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to take off my ranting hat and band together the locals so that I can create a rift in the earth below our city that will allow us to meet the race of dwarfs living down there.  I hear they have gold, and that could be the thing to fix our damaged economy!  There's a teeny-tiny possibility that the seismic activity will kill millions of people, but if we all stay positive I'm sure it will turn out for the best.
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