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Author Topic: EP179: Arties Aren’t Stupid  (Read 13029 times)
Russell Nash
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« on: October 12, 2008, 03:53:34 AM »

EP179: Arties Aren’t Stupid

By Jeremiah Tolbert.
Read by Philippa Ballantine (of Chasing the Bard).

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Nobody went home to their Elderfolk while we waited for Niles to come back. That was a rule. If Niles never came back, then we wouldn’t have to. Nobody wanted to see the meanies anyway. They had us Made and then hated us afterwards, which wasn’t fair. All arties know you love the things you Make no matter what. But Elderfolk were just-plains all grown up and they didn’t make any sense at all. Some of the younger arties started to talk about going back, but we older arties who knew Niles better said no, that we’d wait.

Three days passed before Niles came back. It was dark and everyone was sleeping but me, because little Boo’s music itched in my brain. He came in carrying big boxes, and I cried big tears of happy at that. He’d brought some new supplies, and we’d be Making again in no time flat. I watched him for a while, carrying in box after box, and finally I fell asleep. It felt good knowing he was back.


Rated PG. Contains some harsh slang and violence against the system.


Referenced Sites:
The Dispatches of Dr. Roundbottom
Philippa Ballantine’s official site



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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internalogic
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« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2008, 06:56:23 AM »

That was excellent.  Well done!  What a deft narrative touch.  It was neither heavy-handed with laborious over-explanation, nor superficial and half-baked.  The author got the balance right.  Somehow managed to communicate intriguing, nuanced world-building details through a well-characterized first-person perspective.   It's pretty common to emphasize one over the other.  Kind of interesting that the author was so well-balanced in light of the issue specialization that comes up in the story and in Steve's post-story comments.

-------
also, in light of common ideas about brain region specialization, this raised some pretty interesting perspectives.
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Thaurismunths
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Praise N-sh, for it is right and good!


« Reply #2 on: October 12, 2008, 09:09:27 AM »

That was excellent.  Well done!  What a deft narrative touch...

Way to cover everything in on breath Internalogic. You've pretty much relegated the rest of us to some form of 'me too' (welcome to the forums, BTW), but it'll do it long form anyway:

Terrific story! Very entertaining and though provoking. This is probably going to end up one of my all-time favorites, right next to Cinderella Suicide, and will get several repeat listens.

In his outro Steve pondered what prompted the creation of such specialized 'children'. Although it wasn't explicitly stated in the story I didn't envision a world on the brink (or past the edges) of destruction so much as a faulty 'utopia' created through genetic engineering. A world populated largely by "just planes", and where elective genetic engineering had resulted in several sub-cultures of modified super-children. Ma and Pa Justplane wanted a child who would be very, very artistic/smart/strong/graceful/etc and would stand out from the crowd, but got more than they bargained for. The hope was to grow the next Michelangelo, but they got Lee Quinones instead.
I equated the genetic engineering as being equivalent to specialized schooling; You can send a musically gifted child to Juilliard, but they may still join a rock band.

The point Steve and that Heinlein guy raised about specialization got me thinking. I've always been what Steve referred to as a 'generalist' and I've never been very happy about it. I know a little bit about a lot of things, but not a lot about any one thing. This is frustrating socially in that I can converse about many things, but when any particular topic start going in depth my well runs dry. My options are to change topics or give up on the exchange of information, acknowledge that I'm out of my depth, and start asking questions. This was hard on my ego as a youth because I though admitting ignorance was admitting weakness. I'm coming to understand that A)I'm not alone, and B) there's no crime in it.
Most people, when questioned directly, often run out of information quickly on a lot of topics, but are willing to share what they have. And if they do know more about a few specialized topics, they are often eager to talk about it.
I hope that through intensive schooling I can become specialized in a problem solving field, thus bridging the gap between my general nature and specialized interest.

To contrast with Hineline's quote:
"All things will be produced in superior quantity and quality, and with greater ease, when each man works at a single occupation, in accordance with his natural gifts, and at the right moment, without meddling with anything else." -Plato

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Darwinist
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« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2008, 11:23:39 AM »

I liked it.  Not one of my favorites but well done.   I agree with Thaurismunths - internalogic pretty much summed it up. 
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For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.    -  Carl Sagan
Zathras
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« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2008, 05:49:32 PM »

I was expecting an AI story from the title.  It was a good, strong story.  I am going to have to give this one another listen, as I missed some of it because of background noise in my rig.

Steve, your outro nailed me.  I am a generalist.  It drives a lot of people that know me insane, because they are never sure what I'm up to or will do next. 

To tie in Ben's outro this week, growing up everyone tried to convince me to be a lawyer.  Eh, too many regulations.  I am what I always wanted to be, a philosopher.  I just have to drive this truck to support my thinking habbit.
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JoeFitz
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« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2008, 06:04:07 PM »

A fairly tight story, but as with many of these types of stories, I find that the lack of an objective narrator can leave me confused. I don't think it was clear why the Arties were not allowed to create anything despite being driven to create to the point of physical addiction/withdrawal.

On one level, the story seemed to operate well as a subversive narrative. The suppressed culture seeks to overthrow the dominant culture, but I was left with questions about why certain people with certain traits were suppressed while others were seemingly not. Maybe that was just the perception of the narrator - she felt constrained - but maybe the other groups were similarly unable to act on their skills/compulsions by force of the metal guards?

On another level, there are indications that something went horribly wrong and the suppression was the over-reaction and now the culture was stagnant.

I think it was overall a very solid offering - and I would like to think there are more stories in this universe.

My one nagging quibble is that I must say I was quite disappointed by the "exploding seeds" technology. The invention seemed improbable - even with super-genius help - and were astonishingly effective and effectively fail-safe. I don't what the alternative needed to be, but I didn't feel it fit with the rest of the story.
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RobertL
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« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2008, 06:25:17 PM »

First, the story ROCKED. One thing I think should be mentioned is the way that humans who have been genetically altered for artistic ability, presumably so that they could paint and draw, managed to translate that into skill into creating living things. Also, from the comments that the brainiac made late in the story, I got the impression that their creation of functional creatures and especially biospheres was no small feat. It raises questions in my mind about how much of what we normally consider to be science when people are "making things" is actually more about art.
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godzilla8nj
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« Reply #7 on: October 12, 2008, 11:02:31 PM »

I thought this story was fantastic. For some reason it reminded me of two Paolo Bacigalupi stories: "The Fluted Girl" and "The Calorie Man."  For those unfamiliar, "The Fluted Girl" is about twin girls surgically altered to be living musical instruments for the entertainment of their wealthy owner and "The Calorie Man" is the story of a calorie bandit in a time after monopolistic food companies have replaced the world's crops with genetically modified (and tightly licensed) ones.

I saw the kids of "Arties Aren't Stupid" as the result of productized genetically-engineered child packages ("Parents, choose between smart, artistic or musical!") in a future where all genes are licensed and regulated. They're conditioned to suffer if they don't express themselves as designed, and aberrations are sent away (to the "pokey pokey.") Niles is a true revolutionary, not only urging the Arties to expand beyond their design but to channel it to use the gen'geneering kits to bring new, unlicensed creations into the world.

Hope that made sense. I may have read too much into it, but it was my first reaction. Production-wise, the narration was perfect. And on a personal note: This is my first post, having discovered Escape Pod only recently (thanks to Cory Doctorow's blog) and I'm enjoying every minute of every podcast. Thank you, Steve, and I'll definitely be making a donation.
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Windup
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« Reply #8 on: October 12, 2008, 11:41:53 PM »


I loved the use of language in this. While there's a danger that the introduction of lots of made-up words and unusual syntax can seem merely gimmicky, the author's use really contributed to the "feel" of the story. 

And I like the idea of a "Brave New World"-like society having gone off the rails, even in its own terms.  Parents never really do understand their children -- do we really think genetic modification will make that better?
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Rain
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« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2008, 04:50:49 AM »

i got a minute into the story before i gave up, i simply couldnt understand half of was being said.
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oddpod
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« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2008, 05:04:51 AM »

nice!
interesting bit of synergy in this one for me.
i am just starting the second year of an art degree and have chosen to explore street art for main focus of my work. i also know all about "the acke" Smiley where ever i go, i am constantly making stuff whether its pissing my boss of at work by doodling on the notice board or leaveing a trial of little geometric oragarme bus tickets in my wake there is always an itch that only making stuff can scratch. i think are fabulous benefactor mr ealy has mentored his addiction to creativity in past introse also .
i am off to go doge the tin men and do some making now, will let you know if they catch me Smiley


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Thaurismunths
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« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2008, 05:43:11 AM »

i got a minute into the story before i gave up, i simply couldnt understand half of was being said.
I was right there with you.
But if you have the patience, give it 5 minutes. The language clears up and the story really comes in to it's own.
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alllie
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« Reply #12 on: October 13, 2008, 06:53:19 AM »

I enjoyed it but I enjoyed it more for what wasn’t there than for what was. There wasn’t much of a plot or much characterization but the world building was so intriguing that it held me. It was fun to try to figure out what was going on and how the world got there. Though I do think genesis would be a bit harder than playing Spore. Designing a plant or animal that could survive would be a much more difficult trick than Creature Creator would lead us to believe. These little gods caused a lot of suffering and death in their play and, like the big god, didn’t much seem to care.

I especially appreciated Steve’s mention of one of my favorites, Tanith Lee. While she has written a buttload of crap she has also written masterpieces, masterpieces that were totally ignored. It makes me bitter.
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stePH
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Cool story, bro!


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« Reply #13 on: October 13, 2008, 08:18:02 AM »

i got a minute into the story before i gave up, i simply couldnt understand half of was being said.

I stuck with it all the way through, but I had this problem too ... the reader's NZ accent made it difficult to tell what was SFnal slang and what was a familiar word being pronounced in an unfamiliar way.
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oddpod
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« Reply #14 on: October 14, 2008, 03:21:46 AM »

i got a minute into the story before i gave up, i simply couldnt understand half of was being said.

maby my brain is set up to cope with such things. i dident have any problem at all understanding what was going on.

think its to do with how  minds proseses information , its kind of like my bad spelling, some fokes arnt bothered by it at all but  for others its like fingernails down a chalk board
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ajames
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« Reply #15 on: October 14, 2008, 05:27:20 AM »

i got a minute into the story before i gave up, i simply couldnt understand half of was being said.

I stuck with it all the way through, but I had this problem too ... the reader's NZ accent made it difficult to tell what was SFnal slang and what was a familiar word being pronounced in an unfamiliar way.

I have to admit, about a minute into it I thought 'lots of slang and an accent that I don't hear often - I don't know if I'll make it through this one.'

However, very soon afterwards I was totally immersed in the story, the reading was just outstanding, and I wouldn't have Steve pick any other reader for this story. Well done Jeremiah and Philippa!!
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Fredosphere
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« Reply #16 on: October 14, 2008, 11:47:44 AM »

i got a minute into the story before i gave up, i simply couldnt understand half of was being said.
I was right there with you.
But if you have the patience, give it 5 minutes. The language clears up and the story really comes in to it's own.
I agree, the accent was (for this middle-American) almost a deal-killer, but I got over it and enjoyed the story.
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deflective
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« Reply #17 on: October 14, 2008, 02:25:22 PM »

very cool story.

In his outro Steve pondered what prompted the creation of such specialized 'children'. Although it wasn't explicitly stated in the story I didn't envision a world on the brink (or past the edges) of destruction so much as a faulty 'utopia' created through genetic engineering. A world populated largely by "just planes", and where elective genetic engineering had resulted in several sub-cultures of modified super-children.

i got the impression that these characters weren't human in the strictest sense; they were manufactured like the animals and plants. it appears that the plains were trying to create humans, maybe super-humans, but only succeeded in boosting one attribute (intelligence, creativity, or physicality) at the the cost of the other two. this is why Niles, relatively intelligent, was of so much interest to them.

it's interesting that arties drive advancement instead of brainiacs. this is a relatively common sentiment to find in stories, probably not all that surprising that writers would feel this way. =)


if the accent is too tough for you then you could try reading along with the story. variant frequencies did that once with a extremely thick ukrainian accent and it was an interesting experience. i wouldn't want a reader to be overlooked for their accent especially when it's appropriate for the story.
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bedlamite9
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« Reply #18 on: October 14, 2008, 02:29:50 PM »

I think this one is my favorite so far. It appealed to me as an artist, a scientist, and a rebel. Amazing story and beautiful narration. I listened to it twice in a row. That good.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2008, 02:34:48 PM by bedlamite9 » Logged
bedlamite9
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« Reply #19 on: October 14, 2008, 02:32:16 PM »

i got a minute into the story before i gave up, i simply couldnt understand half of was being said.
I was right there with you.
But if you have the patience, give it 5 minutes. The language clears up and the story really comes in to it's own.
I agree, the accent was (for this middle-American) almost a deal-killer, but I got over it and enjoyed the story.

It's funny because for me the accent was part of the appeal. I felt it fit in perfectly with the story. I guess it comes down to what you are used to. I can definitely think of accents that wouldn't work for me but would appeal to others.
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