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Author Topic: PC036: Ancestor Money  (Read 12150 times)

Heradel

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on: December 10, 2008, 11:37:15 PM
PC036: Ancestor Money

by Maureen McHugh
read by Diane Severson

Rachel put off opening it, turning the envelope over a couple of times. The red paper had a watermark in it of twisting Chinese dragons, barely visible. It was an altogether beautiful object.

She opened it with reluctance.

Inside it read:
 
Quote
Honorable Ancestress of Amelia Shaugnessy: an offering of death money and goods has been made to you at Tin Hau Temple in Yau Ma Tei, in Hong Kong. If you would like to claim it, please contact us either by letter or phone. HK8-555-4444.

There were more Chinese letters, probably saying the same thing.

“What is it?” Speed asked.

She showed it to him.

“Ah,” he said.

“You know about this?” she asked.

“No,” he said, “except that the Chinese do that ancestor worship. Are you going to call?”

Rated PG. Contains versions of the afterlife.

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stePH

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Reply #1 on: December 11, 2008, 12:44:31 AM
I think I'll have to go back and listen to Escape Pod #15 "Hell Notes" after I listen to this one.

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Listener

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Reply #2 on: December 11, 2008, 11:41:23 AM
I haven't listened yet, but every time I see this thread in my "recently unread" list I can't stop thinking "Ancestor Monkey".

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Listener

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Reply #3 on: December 11, 2008, 02:31:48 PM
Thanks to the terrible weather and traffic in Atlanta, I have now heard this story.

The reading was a bit uninspired -- technically capable, but I felt like she was phoning in some of the voices.

The story had a really great premise, but once again it fell a bit flat at the end. I was enjoying the beginning, and the journey, but then... to quote Eddie Izzard, "eeehhh..." She goes on this journey, doesn't meet her ancestor, doesn't interact with the potentially-interesting characters (the demon -- how did she know he was a demon? -- and the man in the fedora). The Chinese mythology aspect came into the story way too late (or the story would've had to be longer to support it) and if Rachel was going to interact with the Chinese heavens/hells then it should've started earlier. Since she didn't, I still think we could've gotten more out of that whole side of the story.

The other problem was the anachronisms. I know that Rachel's been dead for 70 years and has had time to learn about what's going on in the 90s-2000s, but she doesn't care about dopplering debit cards, doesn't understand airplanes/airports, but she thinks with the word "dopplering" as they drive away from the pedestrian that got clipped? That really took me out of the story and I just couldn't get back into it after that, unfortunately.

I did love the fact that Dr. Phil plays on the airport TVs in Heaven. That was funny. But again, if Rachel knows what cell phones are but not who Dr. Phil is, that bothers me.

Too much went wrong with this story for me to like it as much as I wanted to.
« Last Edit: December 12, 2008, 06:33:46 PM by Listener »

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Void Munashii

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Reply #4 on: December 11, 2008, 06:45:13 PM
  I was really enjoying the story right up to the end; I think I may be too sleep deprived to have fully understood it on the first listen. I love the premise though, as shows/movies about the afterlife are much loved by me (the ones named in the intro as well as stuff like "Pushing Daisies" and that show on Fox where the guy was released from Hell to hunt down escapees, the name escapes me), so I really enjoyed the first probably 70% of the story.

  The read could have used a bit more emotion, it was kind of putting me to sleep while I was driving. Was the L/R reversal actually in the text, or was that added by the reader, in either case it wasn't working for me.

  Great premise, but seemed to fall apart at the end; I give the story a solid "Meh"

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Heradel

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Reply #5 on: December 11, 2008, 09:18:11 PM
  [...]and that show on Fox where the guy was released from Hell to hunt down escapees, the name escapes me)[...]

Reaper?

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Listener

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Reply #6 on: December 11, 2008, 09:37:27 PM
  [...]and that show on Fox where the guy was released from Hell to hunt down escapees, the name escapes me)[...]

Reaper?

I believe Reaper's on the CW.

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Reply #7 on: December 11, 2008, 09:50:32 PM
  [...]and that show on Fox where the guy was released from Hell to hunt down escapees, the name escapes me)[...]

Reaper?

I believe Reaper's on the CW.

  Reaper was interesting too, but no. It was "Brimstone", one of the many shows that lasted a single season in that dead spot before X-Files on Friday nights.


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Heradel

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Reply #8 on: December 11, 2008, 10:58:30 PM
  [...]and that show on Fox where the guy was released from Hell to hunt down escapees, the name escapes me)[...]
Reaper?
I believe Reaper's on the CW.
  Reaper was interesting too, but no. It was "Brimstone", one of the many shows that lasted a single season in that dead spot before X-Files on Friday nights.

Ah, ok. I was guessing that maybe Fox was doing reruns (I thought for a minute that Fox was one of the two companies that owns CW, but wikipedia says it's CBS and WB).

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Reply #9 on: December 12, 2008, 09:35:55 AM
I thought the narration was flat. It really didn't engage me like some of the other episodes had. The story was interesting, as was the premise. But with this narration, I couldn't get into the story to fully appreciate it. <a href="http://This was the first time I&#039;ve actually considered not finishing a story." target="_blank" class="new_win">http://This was the first time I&#039;ve actually considered not finishing a story.</a>



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Reply #10 on: December 12, 2008, 04:36:46 PM
I have to come down on the side of "meh" on this one, myself.  As others before me have said, I was enjoying the story right up to the end, and then it felt to me like it just sort of petered out.  Maybe I was too distracted to make the leap?  <shrug>

What Listener said was pretty much spot on, so I'll just say "Me, too," on most of his points.  Especially the "demon."  I was expecting that particular gun to be used in act 3, and...it wasn't.

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eytanz

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Reply #11 on: December 12, 2008, 08:50:32 PM
I agree with most of the criticisms above. The basic structure of the plot is "Woman travels to foreign land, feels uncomfortable, nothing happens, goes back". I think there was supposed to be a philosophical point made at the ending, but it was too subtle for me.

I think what bothered me most is that the fact that it was the afterlife just added a thin veneer of weirdness; it really didn't seem to have much import on what happened. Rachel's experiences and reactions didn't seem much different than any slightly xenophobic and provincial person's reaction to having to travel to a different culture. So the strange, somewhat menacing person she encountered in the airport was a demon, instead of, say, someone in weird clothes or with weird facial piercings. Why did it felt like that didn't make a difference?

I'm also not a fan of the reading - the accents were inconsistent (especially Rachel's own) and felt like they were pulled out of a playbook of stereotypes. And towards the end I sort of had the impression that the reader herself was getting a bit bored with the story.



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Reply #12 on: December 13, 2008, 03:01:39 AM
I was interested through most of the story, but the end left me feeling like I'd wasted my time.  "Woman travels to foreign land, feels uncomfortable, nothing happens, goes back" sums it up perfectly; thanks eytanz.

As for the intro, and stories set in the afterlife ... Mur Lafferty's series of four (so far) podcast novels (with one more to follow) are obvious recommendations, but how about Matheson's novel What Dreams May Come?  And the film adaptation, starring Robin Williams, IMO surpasses the source material.   Oh, and how about the Niven/Pournelle reimagining of Inferno?

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Listener

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Reply #13 on: December 13, 2008, 12:08:02 PM
Another good reimagining of the afterlife is in Parke Godwin's two novels "Waiting for the Galactic Bus" and "The Snake Oil Wars".

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LadyIndigo

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Reply #14 on: December 13, 2008, 06:44:58 PM
This one definitely did fall flat for me, and also made me uncomfortable between the accents and the constant uncomfortable descriptions.  It really bugged me until I realized the subtle racism was Rachel's own.  I sortakinda got the gist of what the ending was going for, the slow realization that there were bigger things and ideas in even the afterlife than Rachel had ever known in life, but it felt like nothing was leading to this ending, like there was no center conflict being raised and resolved.  The whole thing sort of bored me, so maybe I missed an important detail somewhere.

As for afterlife interpretations, I have a guilty-pleasure love of Defending Your Life myself.  Excellent film.



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Reply #15 on: December 13, 2008, 10:19:15 PM
This one definitely did fall flat for me, and also made me uncomfortable between the accents and the constant uncomfortable descriptions.  It really bugged me until I realized the subtle racism was Rachel's own. 

I did get some amusement from the fact that this story was full of "so velly solly, Cholly" accents and came out shortly after I'd just been sort of dressed down for saying "me no likey" about another story.  ;D

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Reply #16 on: December 14, 2008, 11:11:53 AM
I'm feeling a little friendless now because I really liked this one. I see why people didn't like it, but whilst I hear all the criticisms, I didn't mind any of those features of the story.

To me it seemed more 'country girl goes into the big bad world and decides to go back home.' There is a lot in this world that she sees but doesn't understand. This is exactly what it would be like for someone in her situation---well, her living counterpart, anyway---to go on that sort of journey. She would notice scary people on her plane, and she would make a connection with kindly strangers who have useful warnings that might or might not be worth heeding.

Her naivety reminds me of the characters in The Others. In fact, there seem to be a few similarities there.

I didn't quite get the ending though. Her house was run down and seemed unlived in. I thought I must have missed something at the beginning.



stePH

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Reply #17 on: December 14, 2008, 06:24:52 PM
I didn't quite get the ending though. Her house was run down and seemed unlived in. I thought I must have missed something at the beginning.

I guess it's a "you can't go home again" sort of thing.

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Reply #18 on: December 14, 2008, 07:49:07 PM
I'm gonna man up, here,  and confess that I didn't understand the ending.

Was the point that in the Christian Heaven (or at least Rachel's version of it), there is no entropy or change?  And nobody really cares, because being relieved of your cares and being at peace is part of the experience of being dead? And that in the Chinese/Buddist Heaven (at least at the level she visited) there is?  And that when she returns to her original afterlife, she introduces change and entropy, which is why the house has aged, the windows are gone, geese have run off/starved, etc?  But she retains the peace because that transcends her physical circumstances?

OR

Is it that while she was in the Chinese/Buddist Heaven, it's "rules" operated on her space back "home" because it's all subjective?

Or what? 

FTR, the anachornisms bothered me, too, but I have a tic for that sort of thing...

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Reply #19 on: December 15, 2008, 05:33:31 PM
I'm feeling a little friendless now because I really liked this one.

Call me your friend, Cammo. I enjoyed listening to this story too.
There was a lot happening around the woman, I had fun listening to all of it. Yes, some things were a bit off - I found it rather strange that the woman knew what a mobile phone was - but all in all I liked the story. The Chinese accents were quite well done, even though I have absolutely no experience with English speaking Chinese people, so I really don't know if they were done _right_.

I did wonder when the demon would play his role in the story, when the man in the fedora would come back. And all those monkeys... I kept glancing back to the title of the story (Ancestor Money - Ancestor Monkey) to see if I had it right.

The ending, however, was so sudden and strange! After the long journey it was all over in a heartbeat. And everything that the woman loved about her old house, was now gone!??! Why?

The story had so much in it, it would make a great novel/novella. And maybe then it would have some great ending, one I could understand and that would put the whole story in great perspective, explaining some of the loose elements that were dropped throughout the story.
« Last Edit: December 16, 2008, 11:20:52 AM by zZzacha »

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Reply #20 on: December 16, 2008, 05:55:24 PM
...if Rachel knows what cell phones are but not who Dr. Phil is, that bothers me.

Exactly.

I liked this one okay, but I wanted to love it. I'm an easy mark for afterlife stories, I think. I'm fascinated by what others imaginations come up with, because none of us know. 

Like some others, I wanted to see a little bit more of the man with the fedora and the demon.  And the reading fell a bit flat for me.

I thought it was interesting that Rachel wanted to give away some of her death money so that others could leave.


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Reply #21 on: December 18, 2008, 06:39:04 PM
I once wrote a newspaper article on a store in Vancouver that sells funeral goods (including, ironically, paper replicas of cigarettes), so this interested me.

I do wonder why agents of a divine power don't have correct English pronunciation. Perhaps the Golden Boys and Jade Girls are designed for interacting with foreigners, who expect them to say, "Ret me herp you."

I'm also puzzled why the protagonist seemed unsurprised by various technological devices that would have come along well after she died.

The ending just threw me for a loop. We visit two types of afterlife, but then the protagonist has some kind of epiphany and we're dumped into some kind of existential afterlife. The narrative just took a sharp right turn and then ground to a halt.



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Reply #22 on: December 18, 2008, 06:47:26 PM
  [...]and that show on Fox where the guy was released from Hell to hunt down escapees, the name escapes me)[...]

Reaper?

I think you're thinking of "Brimstone", which lasted a season or less, though I liked it. It had the same "chatting with the devil" element as "Reaper". I also liked that the protagonist wakes up every day with the same set of clothes, a loaded gun, and exactly $38.50 ; everything he had on him when he was killed.



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Reply #23 on: January 05, 2010, 05:45:37 PM
I had trouble getting into this one, and I'm not entirely sure why.  I'm a sucker for an afterlife story, and for quests, so a quest in an afterlife story should be right up my alley.  Maybe it was the mundane nature of the quest "I need to go get some money" that lost my interest.




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Reply #24 on: July 19, 2020, 11:25:31 AM
Hi everyone, this is an old story, but I just listened to it a few days ago. I'm a relatively new listener, and I've been attempting to listen to all of the Escape Artists podcasts from beginning to end. At the rate I'm going, it will probably take me the rest of my life to catch up. However, this story in particular has bothered me quite a bit, so I'm writing just to make my point for anyone else who might listen in the future.

I'm not talking about the inconsistencies and anachronisms that everyone else has mentioned. As a Chinese American, I've learned to be rather observant about how my "motherland" culture is discussed among non-Asians and how it is depicted in various media. The xenophobic attitude of the protagonist still makes me cringe after I've moved on to the next story.

How can it be that in a story where the protagonist is travelling to China, the only supporting character in the story with any depth and sympathy is a fellow foreigner with a fedora hat? Besides the Jade Girls and Goldenboys (background servant characters), the only notable "Chinese" characters are the "demon" in the airplane, and the stereotypical taxi driver with the stereotypical bad teeth. "Don't look at him" the Indiana Jones stand-in says to Rachel when talking about the "demon" who did nothing more threatening than read a newspaper. And don't get me started on the taxi driver.

And how are we supposed to feel about Rachel being so.... I'm not sure what the right word is... perhaps the words "racist" or "xenophobic" are too strong... but she has no interest in the gifts from her own granddaughter who was thoughtful enough to remember her in her prayers in the first place?  After getting this windfall, she's like "PLEASE TAKE ME BACK TO MY GEESE AND MY HUSBAND'S UNCLE!"

To all authors, if you're going to write about foreign lands and foreign people, please remember the humanity that we all share. To be blunt, DO BETTER THAN THIS.