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Author Topic: EP178: Unlikely  (Read 16356 times)
Russell Nash
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« on: October 05, 2008, 03:02:21 AM »

EP178: Unlikely

By Will McIntosh.
Read by Stephen Eley.
First appeared in Asimov’s, January 2008.
Special closing music: “Mandelbrot Set” by Jonathan Coulton

"The mayor seems to believe there’s something to this,” Tuesday said.

“He’s desperate. Clutching at straws.”

“So why did you agree to meet?” Tuesday asked, her Keds back on the black and white tile floor.

Samuel paused while the waitress plunked down two glasses, followed by big metal milk shake tumblers. His strawberry milkshake looked as thick as cement. Damn, did he love this place.

“Professor Berry said there was an easy way to prove him wrong: meet with you on and off for a week. If the city’s accident rate didn’t go down when we were together, and back up when we were apart, he’d return his consulting fee to the city.” The shake made a satisfying plopping sound as he poured it into the glass. “His ideas are wacked. ‘Data mining for non-intuitive connections?’ You can smell the bullshit from three pastures away.”


Rated PG. Contains profanity. Including in the closing song.



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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Zathras
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« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2008, 04:04:20 AM »

Wow.  How weird is it that I chose to listen to Friction on Friday when the new episode was late?

Dr. Barry and Tuesday sounded a little too much alike and made it a little confusing, but I just backed it up a few seconds and was good.

I was curious as to where this was heading.  I think it ended well.

I like the way all the minute details were brought in without slowing down the story.

So how do you play a flying butt monkey?
« Last Edit: October 05, 2008, 04:34:50 AM by Zathras » Logged
coyote247
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« Reply #2 on: October 05, 2008, 07:23:01 AM »


This is a really good story but made me rage a bit. Not political correctness rage, or anti-PC rage, or even the ever popular nerd rage. It just ticked me off because for once I'd like a story where the fated romance doesn't work out, but isn't a tragedy either. It seems to me that a lot of great story potential comes from the believed force of destiny provoking people into their own action, rather than some miraculous coincident of kismet as seems to happen with a lot of romance stories. Or maybe I just don't like romance, at least in it's normal trappings, because the "rescue X from the tower" or "hero proves his love to X" plot doesn't really appeal to me either.
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Thaurismunths
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« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2008, 09:20:10 PM »

I liked it. Or at least I didn't not like any aspect of it.
Honestly I'm not sure what to make of it.
Friction was packed full of more tangible meanings with a lot of room for every perspective to have its own unique view of the story. It seemed very deep, 3 dimensional. This story, by comparison, seemed very flat, 2 dimensional; there was a story, one story, only that story.
There was a lot of random stuff thrown in that was included as though it were significant, but I didn't see any obvious connection: Tying the shoes, art students with the piercings, etc.
Maybe it just needs another listen?
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« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2008, 10:18:21 PM »

It just ticked me off because for once I'd like a story where the fated romance doesn't work out, but isn't a tragedy either.

Heh.  I could have included that in the outro.  But decided that using the podcast to blog in detail about my week would be a little too self-indulgent.
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wintermute
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« Reply #5 on: October 06, 2008, 08:19:54 AM »

I enjoyed the story. I was never quite sure where it was going, but that's not a bad thing.

My main issue with it was the distinction between correlation and causation; given enough data to mine though, you can almost certainly find a random correlation between two unrelated sequences (say, violent crime rates and average age of men on bicycles) without there actually being any kind of link at all. True, they come up with experimental data that suggests there a genuine correlation and not just noise, but I have difficulty imagining it getting quite that far...
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Rain
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« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2008, 09:20:18 AM »

I liked the story apart from the end, I think Samuels cynicism got to me and i really didnt want to see the two be together, it seemed too perfect and didnt really fit in with the rest of the story, it may just be that i imagine Tuesday to be in her early 30's while Samuel sounded like he was in his 60's, making the couple kinda weird
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yicheng
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« Reply #7 on: October 06, 2008, 09:23:53 AM »

The premise was very interesting and had a lot of potential.  Upon execution, it was cute, but too saccharine and very predictable.  I find it implausible that Tuesday would be attracted to Samuel.  Their chemistry just seemed forced.  While listening, I just couldn't help but fast-forward their relationship 3 months from now when the "real" relationship begins and they starting fighting about everything that could be different.  Samuel doesn't strike me as the sort to adapt to new situations.
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Void Munashii
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« Reply #8 on: October 06, 2008, 10:04:20 AM »

  While it was no "Friction", this was still a very enjoyable story. I liked the interaction between the characters a lot, and even though the relationship was predictable from the start, the story still kept me interested. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if one of them had died in the car accident.

  Now I could go into a long rant about how this story used unrelated statistics of the 100%-of-people-who-eat-bread-die variety to try and solve society's ills, but I choose to instead enjoy the story in the spirit in which it seems to have been written. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to take my flying butt monkey player to the repair shop.
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Zathras
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« Reply #9 on: October 06, 2008, 10:06:53 AM »

The premise was very interesting and had a lot of potential.  Upon execution, it was cute, but too saccharine and very predictable.  I find it implausible that Tuesday would be attracted to Samuel.  Their chemistry just seemed forced.  While listening, I just couldn't help but fast-forward their relationship 3 months from now when the "real" relationship begins and they starting fighting about everything that could be different.  Samuel doesn't strike me as the sort to adapt to new situations.


Seems to me that she wasn't so much attracted to him as much as she was a young, outgoing and flirtatious woman who wanted to be found appealing.  That, and she sounded like someone who would try to get anyone out of their shell.
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WillMoo
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« Reply #10 on: October 06, 2008, 12:24:58 PM »

Hey! I really liked this one! Yes, it could be more fleshed out but then it is a short story. Wasn't the "luck" statistic thing dealt with briefly in Ringworld?
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wintermute
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« Reply #11 on: October 06, 2008, 12:27:23 PM »

The premise was very interesting and had a lot of potential.  Upon execution, it was cute, but too saccharine and very predictable.  I find it implausible that Tuesday would be attracted to Samuel.  Their chemistry just seemed forced.  While listening, I just couldn't help but fast-forward their relationship 3 months from now when the "real" relationship begins and they starting fighting about everything that could be different.  Samuel doesn't strike me as the sort to adapt to new situations.


Seems to me that she wasn't so much attracted to him as much as she was a young, outgoing and flirtatious woman who wanted to be found appealing.  That, and she sounded like someone who would try to get anyone out of their shell.
Plus, she could easily convince herself that all this meant the Universe wanted them to be together, so she has to be attracted to him, right?
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wintermute
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« Reply #12 on: October 06, 2008, 12:28:59 PM »

Hey! I really liked this one! Yes, it could be more fleshed out but then it is a short story. Wasn't the "luck" statistic thing dealt with briefly in Ringworld?
Birthright lotteries, with Puppeteers manipulating the outcome to breed lucky humans, the end result of which Teela Brown; it's strongly implied that she'll be lucky enough to avoid dying until the heat death of the universe.
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« Reply #13 on: October 06, 2008, 12:50:06 PM »

Like others have said, I liked it up until the ending. It was a fun listen, there were a lot of funny quips.  Not a story I will keep on the I-Pod. 

Loved the Coulton song almost as much as the last one played on EP. 
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Talia
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« Reply #14 on: October 06, 2008, 02:10:18 PM »

Thumbs up from me. I felt the conflict Tuesday so aptly pointed out in the protagonist was very realistic in its subtlety.. ie, I'm pretty sure that most of us have these little things going on affecting how we behave that it might take someone else to point out to clue us into. Psychology is fun. Smiley

In a way the story seemed more like fantasy to me. Well, its one of those grey areas, I suppose.

Oh, and I liked the ending personally. Course that could just be cause I'm a fan of happy endings. Tongue
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Zathras
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« Reply #15 on: October 06, 2008, 02:24:53 PM »

It wasn't said that they were a couple at the end.  He just made an effort to see things her way. 

I had to go back and listen again, as I thought I missed something.
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bedlamite9
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« Reply #16 on: October 06, 2008, 03:13:37 PM »

The story may have been good, but I was distracted by the voices (especially the female falsetto). I would like to see Steve pass on the voices and focus on the storytelling. This NPR story pretty much sums up my feelings exactly. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=95090092
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Talia
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« Reply #17 on: October 06, 2008, 03:45:26 PM »

It wasn't said that they were a couple at the end.  He just made an effort to see things her way. 

I had to go back and listen again, as I thought I missed something.

This is true. Although it seemed likely they'd wind up together to me, considering they were all gung ho in the car and, surprisingly  she didnt seem too peeved in the hospital :p
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alllie
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« Reply #18 on: October 06, 2008, 05:29:29 PM »

Well, like Mark Twain said, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

My main issue with it was the distinction between correlation and causation; given enough data to mine though, you can almost certainly find a random correlation between two unrelated sequences (say, violent crime rates and average age of men on bicycles) without there actually being any kind of link at all. True, they come up with experimental data that suggests there a genuine correlation and not just noise, but I have difficulty imagining it getting quite that far...

I too found it hard to imagine how that particular relationship would have a causal effect on reducing accidents. But - I can see it as a good way to get two people into a relationship. Stranger things have happened.

A friend once told me about how her sister used to drive a couple of hours to and from college every weekend, often with a couple of other passengers to help with gas. Her sister decided to get the other two, a girl and a guy, together. Mostly just to prove she could. She waited until she was alone with the girl and told her “He really likes you!” and then waited till she was alone with the guy and told him, “She really likes you!”.

That was all it took.

They were engaged within six months.

I guess if it can work for Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing it can work in real life. And if you were persuaded to feel you were fated to be with someone, it might heavily influence you to be with them, too.

For someone like Samuel, who has been alone for most of his life, someone reaching old age, it would be very statistically unlikely that he would finally find his true love but maybe no more unlikely than that the proximity of two people would be statistically related to a reduction in accidents. Two unlikely set of events that worked out well, less accidents and love. Maybe less causality than magic.

Question: Near the end I kept hearing (I listened twice) “The pink sweater soiling his dashboard.”  What did I mishear?  (Like "Fork Display" = "Walk This Way")
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Phronk
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« Reply #19 on: October 06, 2008, 05:33:20 PM »

My main issue with it was the distinction between correlation and causation; given enough data to mine though, you can almost certainly find a random correlation between two unrelated sequences (say, violent crime rates and average age of men on bicycles) without there actually being any kind of link at all. True, they come up with experimental data that suggests there a genuine correlation and not just noise, but I have difficulty imagining it getting quite that far...

While what you say is true, it's also true that if there truly is a causal connection between two things, there will also be a correlation.  It's clear that in this story's world, there are genuine causal connections between unusual things, so data mining would be a good way to detect them (along with some inevitable spurious correlations).  

I liked the story, but like others, the cynic in me sorta got in the way.  Part of me hoped that it would turn out that Tuesday was some sort of terrorist responsible for the city's accidents, and they only went down because she couldn't pull it off while with someone else. I also would've liked to hear more about Stephen's crappy week, if only to make me feel better about my own crappy love life. Yes, I"m a horrible person.

Still, awesome premise.  With this and Friction, I'll be keeping an eye on Will McIntosh.
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