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Author Topic: EP181: Resistance  (Read 13412 times)
Russell Nash
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« on: October 26, 2008, 04:32:34 AM »

EP181: Resistance

By Tobias S. Buckell.
Read by Stephen Eley.
First appeared in Seeds of Change, ed. John Joseph Adams.

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The man opened the pack all the way to reveal a small arsenal of guns, grenades, explosives, and — oddly — knives. Very large knives. He looked up at Stanuel. “I am the attack. I’ve been asked to shut Pan down.”

“But you’re not a programmer…”

“I can do all things through explosives, who destroy for me.” The man began moving the contents of the pack inside the pockets and straps of the trenchcoat, clipped more to his belt and thigh, as well as to holsters under each arm, and then added pieces to his ankles.

He was now a walking arsenal.

But only half the pack had been emptied. The mysterious mercenary tossed it at Stanuel. “Besides, you’re going to help.”


Rated PG. Contains violence and political revolution.



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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600south
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« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2008, 08:03:36 AM »

If other web forums at the moment are anything to go by, this one will descend into a partisan US political sniping match in 5...4...3... 
so i'll get my thoughts in early.

I enjoyed this a lot. I'd write more, but I'm still working it over in my mind and the conclusion could result in a rambling essay longer than the original story. But what I did think was: the ratio of people in the world living in true, pluralistic democracies is low compared to those living under dictatorships, unelected collectives and corrupt democracies. Only a tiny minority are doing anything about it. For most, just getting by is more important than achieving the perfect system.

98% of times, Stanuel would not have pressed the button. But then, how many of us get the chance to reset the system all by ourselves?
« Last Edit: October 26, 2008, 08:06:13 AM by 600south » Logged
coyote247
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« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2008, 12:19:10 PM »


This story made me rage. Which is, I suppose, a good reaction as any from a story.

My own opinion is that people defending ideas, like Stanuel at the beginning of the story, is the enlightened evolution of political culture. I don't think it's noble or necessary to rely on revolution, even nonviolent. You're still cowing people that way; the most powerful minority simply gets the majority who don't want to be involved to give them the backbone, the structure they need to defeat the other radical minorities.

There's nothing right or noble about knocking out the whole station's power instead of knocking out the dictator when they got the chance. Hell, most dictators get that way by mass support, that's no reason to destroy society and pit factions against each other when instead you could use anti-dictatorial inertia to get everyone to work together and disable the Pan without disabling the society.

When people give up their power they have the right to recall it without having to restart from scratch. Democracy is about tweaking the system, not about knocking it over in a cycle of dictator then revolution then dictator than revolution. Throughout history revolutions of essentially a minority opinion pitted against the opposing minority opinions have done the most, good and bad, but I think there have been a few instances of popular resistance and compromise and that's the kind of society that humanity is moving towards in it's best aspects. The social trend of targeted revolution and political tweaking rather than actual civil war is basically what's suppose to lead our age to the advanced society of the future portrayed in scifi novels.

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alllie
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« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2008, 03:47:37 PM »

I recently read Buckell’s Crystal Rain so I’ve seen Pepper before. I liked this better than Crystal Rain.

I wish we had that button.

Don't tell me we do, that we can press it when we vote cause I'm one of the people who think the machines are fixed.
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Zathras
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« Reply #4 on: October 26, 2008, 07:10:30 PM »

The action was well paced.  This story was very thought provoking.

I like the fact that Pan created the resistance.  It would be interesting to know what percentage of the population was on Pan's side.

I like Pepper's reaction.

I kept this simple intentionally.  Now, to quote Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that".
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Nobilis
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« Reply #5 on: October 26, 2008, 11:19:16 PM »

One of the better EP stories of late.  Had me thinking, and had me thinking in directions I haven't been thinking in lately.  That *and* it had plot and character development.  A rare combination, it would seem.  I ask for a story to actually have a story (that is, with beginning/middle/end)  and this one delivered.

Good job.
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Sylvan
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« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2008, 09:09:43 AM »

I very much enjoyed this story and only in part because I agree with its sentiments about the abrogation of responsibility in voting.  Becoming involved is crucial; to walk away from that is to walk away -in my opinion- from the foundation of "culture".

In listening to "Resistance" I found myself wondering if a premise of the story -that creating a machine to estimate and take responsibility for your vote- was fundamentally flawed.  The biggest problem with most tyrants is that they impose their will on their people while failing to reflect wants and needs.  This is the model of the "bananna republic dictator".  However, by making an artificial sapience out of the people's amalgamated beliefs, wouldn't this -by definition- be the closest you could come to an actual quorum ... the truest reflection of Democracy?

Also, in the end, isn't the action of Stanuel a form of coup?  I mean, we know that it is from the opening sentences of the story, but how is his action (in EMP'ing the station) any different from what PAN was doing?  Certainly, more people would be hurt and put in danger by Stanuel's deeds than would have happened under PAN's regime.  Mind you, PAN created the resistance, so perhaps it's all right ... its just a reflection of the needs of the people.  That aside, is Stanuel's executive decision any better because it acts on principle than the aggregate principles of those who made up PAN?  In essence, isn't he acting on his own ideology over the the combined ideology of the society he claims to love?

In short, I believe that he is violating the very principles that the residents of the station were hoping to maintain.

Perhaps the real critique this story brings up is that being an ideologue -setting up your ivory towers in hopes of creating cohesion- is the biggest danger to civilization.

When 600south said
Quote
"98% of times, Stanuel would not have pressed the button."
I have to disagree.  The monkey brains we all have inside our skulls tend to idolize heroes like this:  people who will operate on principle and do "the right thing" when everyone else has been "led astray."  As the story says, our minds look to leadership on a fundamental, primate level.

Look at how many people idolize Mal in "Firefly".  Sure, it's easy to stare wistfully at the "living free" sentiment of his viewpoint and -yeah- we're given his positive point-of-view on the war of the Browncoats, but it's a "the strong survive" philosophy that eschews governance by the many; to do the most good for the most people.

I'm not saying that this belief is wrong, only that it's reflective of many heroes ("super" and otherwise) people create in their fiction.  In that way, this story reflects the desire for an absolute right way of thinking -the "life in a gilded cage is still a prison", Captain Kirk attitude- that many of us idolize without really thinking about the ramifications of living with such a belief, applied on a universal, unyielding level.

I think that coyote247 said it best with
Quote
"When people give up their power they have the right to recall it without having to restart from scratch. Democracy is about tweaking the system, not about knocking it over in a cycle of dictator then revolution then dictator then revolution."

In essence, PAN is a "tyranny of the majority" forged in a selective, isolated community in which everyone founding it believed that they all thought alike sufficiently to believe that this would not be a problem.  The station is the ultimate gated community.  Perhaps this is my only problem with the tale:  we never got to see any negativity coming from PAN.  Stanuel never voiced any specific reason for his dislike of the system other than the ideological.  There were no bad decisions coming out of PAN that we ever got a chance to witness.  In the end Stanuel is a despot, a bananna republic dictator, acting to support his ideology while resenting the actions of an "enlightened" dictator who cannot -by definition- act against the will of the people.

It's an interesting dichotomy.

For myself, I know that I would have pushed the button; I just don't know if that would have been the right thing to do.

Oh, as an unrelated note, I'm sorry I've not been participating on the forums as much as I used to.  I'm finding it hard to be a part of any online community of late as I'm attempting to balance my physical world life with that of the digital.  I'll really try to keep more in touch!

Yours,
Sylvan (Dave)
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Listener
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« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2008, 09:51:02 AM »

I read this a few months ago, so I got to save a few minutes by skipping the actual "story" part of the story.

I like the fact that Pan created the resistance. 

Probably the best part of the story. The rest of it was a little too reminiscent of Objects in Space -- the bounty hunter who shows up and is instantly awesome, mostly. And the name Stanuel, while interesting, got a tad annoying after a while. I mean, seriously, "Stanuel"? Didn't I hear that on "American Dad" once or twice as Stan's full name?

As for the political implications... I'm staying out of it. I did vote. That's all I have to say about that.

Not quite sure I really understood the song at the end. I liked it when the drums picked up. I'd have to read the lyrics to get the full impact, I think.

Anyway, I remember not loving the story, nor hating it either, except for, as I said, Pan creating the resistance.
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Void Munashii
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« Reply #8 on: October 27, 2008, 10:03:01 AM »

  Wow, heavy preachy story, but very well done. I really enjoyed it. Am I the only one that saw Pepper being played by Samuel L Jackson?

  I was not particularly surprised that Pan had created the resistance, but the revelation was done well all the same.

  The only thing that I really did not understand about Pan was why he had seemingly been so oppresive during his short reign? Did tha majority of people in Haven really want armed droids flying around enforcing curfews? In a society where the ruler is truly interested in what is best for the entire population (and I have no reason to beleive that Pan did not have the best interests of everyone in mind) and the ability to make those things happen, shouldn't the majority of people be at least reasonably content? Was Stanuel just an overall malcontent? Am I just still a little naive under this jaded and cynical shell after all?

  For the record, I think Stanuel should have at least consulted with the other members of the resistance before setting off the EMP. It seems like Pan would have allowed that. What he did was dangerous, irresponsible, and was what he wanted, not necessarily what was best for Haven as a whole.

  One last thing. Haven = Rapture in space?
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Rain
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« Reply #9 on: October 27, 2008, 10:45:30 AM »

People get together to make a democratic system that has no chance of working, instead of changing it they make computer personalities do all the voting, the computer personalities decide that the best thing to do is merge and make a single being that can handle things the best, Pan. Pan turns the space station into a much better place, has support of the majority but is willing to step down if the democracy wants it. Terrorists cant accept that and would rather blow up the station.

I know the story was trying to make a point about our society, but when you make the dictator the good guy it kinda falls to the ground, besides that a good story
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Zathras
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« Reply #10 on: October 27, 2008, 11:05:31 AM »

Am I the only one that saw Pepper being played by Samuel L Jackson?

I could see that. 


The other point I forgot to bring up, and this has been touched upon, is that a "True Democracy" was displayed brilliantly.  I think the representative republic that we Americans have has it's flaws, but is vastly better than a true democracy. 

(Yes, our system has issues, and could be much better, and I voted absentee, and on and on...)  I don't mind having a discussion on the merits and flaws of different types of governments.  I just see, as was mentioned by 600south, that this could get ugly.  I'll take part, but when it gets nasty, I'm gone.  (I'm gonna try to be on my best behavior.  If I slip, CALL ME OUT ON IT).

Oh, and one other request, if the chair gets used on me, can I get smacked somewhere other than the head?   Cheesy
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Sylvan
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« Reply #11 on: October 27, 2008, 11:30:21 AM »

The other point I forgot to bring up, and this has been touched upon, is that a "True Democracy" was displayed brilliantly.  I think the representative republic that we Americans have has it's flaws, but is vastly better than a true democracy.

When I was a college student studying ancient history, I would often ruminate on just how much better a "True Democracy" would be, ala the Athenian model.  Since then, however, I've seen more evidence towards the tyranny of the majority.  As you state, Zathras, what we have, now, may have its flaws, but it's better than a "pure" Democracy.

I do have to wonder if adding a layer of Meritocracy to the whole mix would be good, too.  In other words, create a public schooling system that would provide everyone with the skills we would, then, require of our leaders.  This would be like the idea of "raising all boats" and -then- putting basic requirements for leadership in place other than mere physical age.

Yours,
Sylvan (Dave)
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Anarkey
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« Reply #12 on: October 27, 2008, 11:36:50 AM »

What a pleasure to get a "Pepper" story out of EscapePod!  Fun, indeed.

I like Buckell and I like his universe.  I've read the three books with Pepper in them (Crystal Rain, Ragamuffin and Sly Mongoose).  I have some issues with the recurring character of Pepper, and these become greater as I get more exposure to him.  It's like I can see yeah, he's a hero of a different mold and he's a metahuman (or parahuman, or posthuman, or whatever) so our standards don't apply, but I find so much of what he says and does SO problematic. (After the story.  DURING the story I find it all kickass and fun and engaging as I believe I'm meant to).  In the end, though, I'm always left with a bit of a slimy feeling, and unconvinced Pepper's the good guy.  I don't mind reading about Pepper, but I'm pretty damn sure I wouldn't like him if I met him. 

Buckell treats a lot of things with a subtlety that interests me, including his explorations of gender/race and multiculturalism (which admittedly, there wasn't a whole lot of in this particular piece).   And I like that he shows the warts of all his utopias, but ultimately, I find his political constructions a little facile.  Plotwise, the political questions always boil down to either/or in his stories, and that's just not enough political nuance for my taste.  Because, come on now, blow the whole thing up or be ruled by the benevolent tyrant were the only options?  Really?  And we figured this all out in four days?  Give me a break.  I like my explosions just fine, but don't tell me there's wasn't but the two options, because that's a false dichotomy.

All in all, glad I heard it, enjoyed it, but I want Buckell to step up the complexity of his politics.  I also want him to make things a little harder on Pepper.  Sometimes I feel like Buckell stacks the deck in his favor.  And why?   The guy's indestructible.  Let's see Pepper in some emotional pain once in a while.  Better yet, let's see him be WRONG.
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ryos
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« Reply #13 on: October 27, 2008, 12:46:23 PM »

Steve - thanks. Thanks for the story, and thanks for not using Escape Pod as a vehicle for your political views.

This story (and your outro) actually made me get up out of bed* and fill out the application for an absentee ballot** that has been sitting forgotten in a pile of papers on my desk for months, despite the fact that it was 2:30 AM. I hope it's not too late - I saw no mention of a deadline on the application itself (there's a deadline to register to vote, but I'm already registered...I just need the mail-in ballot).

The story itself was pretty good. Pan went from despotic tyrant to benevolent dictator a little too quickly for my tastes. Yes, it could have just been lying to forestall its execution, but its actions prior to the assassins' approach and after don't quite line up. In one instant it's employing surveil and destroy bots to rein in the populace, then in the next it's dropped the use of force in favor of persuasive arguments. That felt wrong, but the rest of the story was good.


* I listen to podcasts to help me go to sleep. It's not that you're boring, it's that you re-route my train of thought enough to allow me to put on the brakes and fall asleep.

** As an out-of-state student, my only recourse for voting is the absentee ballot.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2008, 01:10:01 PM by ryos » Logged
Roney
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« Reply #14 on: October 27, 2008, 04:50:27 PM »

My initial reaction was "Ooh, tough choice.  I wouldn't like to be in his shoes."  (Initial may not be the right word there.  I had an earlier reaction that went something like "Dear God, enough of the political philosophy infodumps already!  No, seriously, enough!  Please stop boring at me and get back to the story."  That was a much, much earlier reaction.)  But after a bit of reflection I became more and more certain that I wouldn't push that button.

Who is the tyrant, the one man imposing his idea of how society ought to be, overruling the clearly expressed wishes of the majority?  Not Pan.

On the other hand, I haven't thought this much about an Escape Pod story in some time.
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Zathras
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« Reply #15 on: October 27, 2008, 05:03:12 PM »

I think it was a truly human action to push the button.  I think often that people tend to criticize the author for a character's failings.  I think it was the wrong choice.  He could have pushed the button at any time. 

Why not at least gather up some other members of the resistance?  Or call for a vote by the whole station?  Or any of a dozen other things?

Because Stanuel is human, and humans rarely make perfect choices.

Again, Resistance is a wonderfully thought provoking piece.
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thomasowenm
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« Reply #16 on: October 27, 2008, 05:42:15 PM »

I will join in the chorus and state Resistance  was thought provoking.  While it did ram it's moral down our throats it wasn't unbearable like other episodes have in the past.  Realizing that people would abdicate their responsiblilities, so that they could enjoy life without being bothered with the minutia of a government seemed eerily plausible.  When given the chance at leisure or, dirt under the fingernails democracy,  I think most would choose the former.  Sad.

As for Sam L. Jackson I can see him as Pepper though Bruce Willis would be my preference.
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wintermute
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« Reply #17 on: October 27, 2008, 06:30:13 PM »

I'm of the (admittedly unfashionable) opinion that a benevolent dictatorship is the best possible system of government, with the massive downside of leading inevitably to evil dictatorship within a few generations.

So, I think that the people of Haven managed to create a perfect system of government, and then Stanuel decides that he's going to destroy everything so that they can go back to a system so unworkable that they already abandoned it once.

Good story, but I can't say I'm in favour of a small minority of anarchists deciding they can destroy a political system that has the support of the majority just because they feel like it.

But on the other hand, there's no evidence that Pan was telling the truth to Pepper, is there? The fact that the will of "the people" is enforced with armed ROVers implies that he might not be as benevolent as claimed. So, it's a quandary.
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Zathras
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« Reply #18 on: October 27, 2008, 06:39:16 PM »

Good story, but I can't say I'm in favour of a small minority of anarchists deciding they can destroy a political system that has the support of the majority just because they feel like it.

I don't believe Stanuel was an anarchist.  (Or a nihlist, which is what most "anarchists" are.)
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wintermute
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« Reply #19 on: October 27, 2008, 06:48:18 PM »

Anarchism - The theory or doctrine that all forms of government are oppressive and undesirable and should be abolished. From the Greek meaning "no rulers".

Stanuel believe that Pan was oppressive and undesirable purely because he was a government. He was prepared to plunge his society into a civil war just because he was part of a minority that didn't want any form of leadership.

I don't see how he can not be considered an anarchist.
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