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Author Topic: EP193: Article of Faith  (Read 9480 times)
Russell Nash
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« on: April 03, 2009, 03:04:37 AM »

EP193: Article of Faith

By Mike Resnick.
Read by Stephen Eley.
First appeared in Baen’s Universe, October 2008.

“I’m sure,” I said. “Somehow, lunch seems pretty trivial after you’ve been thinking about God all morning.”

“God, sir?”

“The Creator of all things,” I explained.

“My creator is Stanley Kalinovsky, sir,” said Jackson. “I was not aware that he created everything in the world, nor that his preferred name was God.”

I couldn’t repress a smile.


Rated PG. Contains religious themes and some violence.



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« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2009, 07:51:25 AM »

Oh, goody. Mike Resnick. I can look forward to heavy-handedness and a robot.

Yep, that's exactly what I got. A heavy-handed message, a robot who somehow transcends his programming and makes the narrator think, some other people who just don't understand why the robot "feels" the way he does, and in the end, a little coda that is supposed to make you sad or make you think.

This was better than some of Resnick's other robot stories, but it was still a Resnick robot story. Whoever nominates for the Hugos must really like his style and the way he writes human-robot interaction, but as good as this story was -- and if I'd never read a Resnick robot story, I probably would've loved it -- it was still a Resnick robot story.

The only EP I ever skipped was the Doctorow economic story where the accent and audio were too hard to understand and I gave up after five minutes. But this was the first EP that I actually considered skipping altogether. I knew there would be no ground covered by this author that he had not covered before.

So, in sum... the story was good from a technical/storytelling/production standpoint, but I've heard it before so many times that I just didn't care about Jackson, the Reverend, or the world they inhabited.
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hatton
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« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2009, 06:44:19 PM »

Yep, that's exactly what I got. A heavy-handed message, a robot who somehow transcends his programming and makes the narrator think, some other people who just don't understand why the robot "feels" the way he does, and in the end, a little coda that is supposed to make you sad or make you think.

That's what I got as well - but for me, as someone who preaches on occasion, it did exactly what it was supposed to do - make me think.  I think that's important in a story regardless of the genre.  At some level, it has to make the reader/listener truly step back and think.  What they do after they think depends on the genre.

On a technical note, the "he said" and "it said" always gnaws at me - I can understand it in reading but not in explaining a conversation.

The concept of a robot transcending it's programming and becoming just a bit more human is not new.  We've heard it on this very podcast so many times before.  What I think made this one different was the direct aspect of a robot trying to grok God.

The good news is that I'm not going to start preaching to my pets after this one - the fish is already baptized and I don't want to try do do that with the cats... and we're having enough problems getting the dog to do her business outside, I'd hate to have to teach her to pray before eating!
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MacArthurBug
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« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2009, 09:42:23 AM »

Heavy handed, but overall I was pleased. It did what it set out to do. The reading was good
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« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2009, 03:26:23 PM »

I was extremely disappointed by this story.

I thought authors are supposed to "write what you know."  It's fairly clear that Resnick doesn't know the first thing about the Christian bible.  If he did, then having a robot that was capable of picking up 'logical inconsistencies' in a sermon would have blown off its head trying to read the Bible's well-documented myriad of internal contradictions (never mind contradictions with actual reality, which Resnick neatly - if cliché-edly (?) - sidestepped).

Why didn't the robot, having read the Bible*, say [the equivalent of] "Hey, I don't get it: it says this one thing here and it says this opposite thing here. How do you know which to believe?"

Whatever the answer was to that and the places that it led the author and  the reader [listener], could have made a deeply thoughtful story - maybe even one worthy of a Hugo nomination.


*And while we're at it, why does it have to read a paper copy rather than just downloading the text into its memory? It's like this story was written by Asimov in 1958 and, furthermore, set in a quaintly-imagined 1978, except that 1958's Asimov would have done it better.
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« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2009, 10:48:16 AM »

Yay for the Hugos, Yay for Steve's vacation, and Congrats to Mr. Resnick on yet another Hugo nomination.

I tend to enjoy hearing Resnick stories - even if I don't dig the story I feel like there's a ton I can learn because he's a master of the craft. And this one was about faith and God and robots and souls! So many things that fascinate me and I was completely primed for it.

Unfortunately, I had a hard time with parts of it.

A preacher a) asks the robot to check his sermons for inconsistencies, b) gives the robot a Bible to read to better understand the faith, c) sees the robot comprehend and put his faith in God which leads the preacher to d) wonder what a robot's sermon would sound like.

And then when the robot asks only to sit in the congregation, the preacher gets pissed off? I just didn't understand that part. What did he expect, other than a long argument about the contradictions of the Bible (as Wilson Fowlie pointed out). And I'm really not sure how much the preacher's refusal changed the story. The outcome of it all - the hateful parishoners, etc. could have worked just as well if Morris had supported the robot's acceptance of faith earlier. How the character made it from a to b (or in this case, a to e) made me feel like I missed a couple scenes, and Morris' reaction was something my little Born Again heart just couldn't quite buy.

The rest of the story was okay - interesting even in the fact that I thought it was going to go a couple of different ways than it actually did. But even the ending didn't hit me right - it was one of the few Resnick stories that left me completely dry-eyed at the end.

Ah, well. I look forward to the next Resnick story and the rest of the Hugo nominations.
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« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2009, 11:46:19 AM »

I enjoyed this tremendously, although I kinda figured where it would end.

"and if I'd never read a Resnick robot story, I probably would've loved it -- it was still a Resnick robot story."

Wait, so its suddenly bad because it too much reminds you of his other stories? o.O You would have enjoyed it if the "mike resnick" part hadn't been revealed until the end or something? That's unfortunate.
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« Reply #7 on: April 06, 2009, 01:07:25 PM »

"and if I'd never read a Resnick robot story, I probably would've loved it -- it was still a Resnick robot story."

Wait, so its suddenly bad because it too much reminds you of his other stories? o.O You would have enjoyed it if the "mike resnick" part hadn't been revealed until the end or something? That's unfortunate.

I think the problem was that it was TOO predictable. If it hadn't had Resnick's name on it, I probably would have said "this sounds an awful lot like a Mike Resnick robot story, and I've read too many of those lately" or somesuch.

It's not so much WHO is writing it -- it's that there's been SO MUCH of his writing in this periodical that I need a break. (At least, it feels like it... I'm sure someone will be glad to go back, count the episodes in the past year, and prove me wrong.)
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Praxis
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« Reply #8 on: April 06, 2009, 04:28:28 PM »

Lordy, lordy but WHAT a lot of talking there was in this story.

It didn't grab me.  I listened, I mulled it over for some days and.....nope, I'm not sure what part of the story was meant to be remarkable or memorable.  On the 'talky talky' point - it was maybe just me, but it didn't sound like the way people would have a conversation, even if one of them is a robot.
(caveat: yes I am aware that I have not won *any* awards for writing, let alone as many as Mr Resnick, so as to allow me to criticise, I am but a humble listener....)

I think the topic would have been better written as an article or a blog page or a book chapter, etc. about "what would it be like if a robot contemplated God (and other assorted spiritual matters)?"
That way, Mr Resnick would be able to discuss all the issues in the story straight out, without having to place them in a story setting and having them take place as character-character exposition.

I mean, it's a very interesting subject and worth talking about, but this story wouldn't prompt me to do so anymore than I have already, sorry.
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« Reply #9 on: April 06, 2009, 06:55:32 PM »

It's not so much WHO is writing it -- it's that there's been SO MUCH of his writing in this periodical that I need a break. (At least, it feels like it... I'm sure someone will be glad to go back, count the episodes in the past year, and prove me wrong.)

I'm not going to go back and count, but I will say that the reason this Mike Resnick story was added to EscapePod is because it is a Hugo nominee, as I beleive is the case for at least one other story.  It wasn't part of the normal selection process.

I would say more so than not, I enjoy Mr. Resnick's writing.  I like the fact that he consistantly includes an emotional element to his stories.  It's nice to see that.  And it's nice to see that he is successful at it. 

I also like robots, but that doesn't always make a great story.  Take this one for example.  I liked some of the elements, but it was kind of mediocre for me.

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« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2009, 07:54:26 AM »

It's not so much WHO is writing it -- it's that there's been SO MUCH of his writing in this periodical that I need a break. (At least, it feels like it... I'm sure someone will be glad to go back, count the episodes in the past year, and prove me wrong.)

I'm not going to go back and count, but I will say that the reason this Mike Resnick story was added to EscapePod is because it is a Hugo nominee, as I beleive is the case for at least one other story.  It wasn't part of the normal selection process.

I understand that. I know I'm not the editor, and I don't have any say in story choice or the decision to run all the Hugo nominees. If I wanted to have said choice, I would have start my own magazine or podcast. I'm just expressing an opinion.
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« Reply #11 on: April 07, 2009, 01:24:43 PM »

I'm not going to go back and count, but I will say that the reason this Mike Resnick story was added to EscapePod is because it is a Hugo nominee, as I beleive is the case for at least one other story.  It wasn't part of the normal selection process.

I understand that. I know I'm not the editor, and I don't have any say in story choice or the decision to run all the Hugo nominees. If I wanted to have said choice, I would have start my own magazine or podcast. I'm just expressing an opinion.

Which is entirely valid.  Mike Resnic would be the most repeated author on EscapePod, that;s for sure.  And he's been showing up in other podcasts as well.  "The Last Dog", which recently played on the Drabblecast is actually one of my new favorite Resnic stories.
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« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2009, 01:34:42 PM »

"The Last Dog", which recently played on the Drabblecast is actually one of my new favorite Resnic stories.

That story was fantastic. I was really floored by it.
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« Reply #13 on: April 07, 2009, 03:56:11 PM »

While I agree with come of what is being said here; I loved this story.  It moved me emotionally.  I expected not to; the setting seened insane.  But listening to it on the way to work, I found myself standing in the middle of Glasgow in tears.

Maybe I just feel for an underdog, or someone who is a single person against everyone.
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« Reply #14 on: April 07, 2009, 11:35:29 PM »

Just to set the record straight: this story did -not- originally appear in Jim Baen's Universe, which I co-edit, nor did I buy it from myself. It first appeared in the Brithish magazine, Postscripts, last summer. I thought it was good enough to make the Hugo ballot if enough voters saw it, so I then submitted it to my co-editor, Eric Flint, as a reprint, and he bought it and ran it in late 2008, about 4 months after its initial appearance. (Anything of mine that appears in Jim Baen's Universe was bought by Eric, just as any story of his that appears there was bought by me. We are also free to reject each other's stories, though -- knock wood -- it hasn't happened yet.)

A few people have said, usually while moaning in agony, "...-another- Resnick robot story?" My response to that is that Steve Eley likes my robot stories, which gives an impression that that's all I write, Actually, I have written 7 robot stories out of more than 250 science fiction stories that I've sold...but three have appeared here very recently, two back-to-back, one just a few months ago. (They were sold in 1979, 2003 and 2008.)

There's another podcast where the editor likes my grim, downbeat stories, so of course a couple of listeners have accused me of being morbid and having no sense of humor...;but I have sold over 90 funny stories in this field, more than just about any writer in history except Bob Sheckley; they just haven't appeared -- and almost certainly won't appear -- on that particular podcast. Which is to say, if all you do is listen and not read, then your notion of what a writer does and doesn't write is certain to be skewed by the podcast editor's taste.

-- Mike Resnick
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« Reply #15 on: April 08, 2009, 10:55:26 AM »

...Steve Eley likes my robot stories, which gives an impression that that's all I write, Actually, I have written 7 robot stories out of more than 250 science fiction stories that I've sold...but three have appeared here very recently, two back-to-back, one just a few months ago. (They were sold in 1979, 2003 and 2008.)

There's another podcast where the editor likes my grim, downbeat stories, so of course a couple of listeners have accused me of being morbid and having no sense of humor...;but I have sold over 90 funny stories in this field, more than just about any writer in history except Bob Sheckley; they just haven't appeared -- and almost certainly won't appear -- on that particular podcast. Which is to say, if all you do is listen and not read, then your notion of what a writer does and doesn't write is certain to be skewed by the podcast editor's taste.

Great points.  Exposure definately effects perception.  Sorry I spelt your name wrong in my last post.  I got it right the first time.
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« Reply #16 on: April 08, 2009, 07:26:57 PM »

There's a comfort in familiarity. I know Mike Resnick's writing well enough to know that sometimes, I really really like it. And I also know it well enough to know that, if the first five minutes tell me it's going to be a story about a robot finding religion, there's no point in listening to the 30 minutes that follow it, since I just won't be interested. Based on the comments above - include Resnick's own - I think I made the right decision here. I'd love to hear and read many more Resnick stories, but not if they involve a human narrator's crisis because a robot acts somewhat human.
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« Reply #17 on: April 09, 2009, 12:27:44 AM »

"The Last Dog", which recently played on the Drabblecast is actually one of my new favorite Resnic stories.

That story was fantastic. I was really floored by it.
Great story this week.
I was kinda Renick'd out until "Blue" on the Drabblecast, which I thought was a great story and wonderfully told with music by Norm.  I thought The Last Dog was great there too, but both of these show that Resnick's work is pretty diverse.  I agree with everything he said, EP's perception of Resnick is skewed by the stories they buy from him, read him elsewhere and listen to him on Drabblecast to see that (oh and don't forget Malish over, again, very different.)  I've enjoyed EP's Resnick stories but agree that the majority have been in a similar vein and we know what to expect now.
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« Reply #18 on: April 09, 2009, 10:00:46 PM »

I'm with DKT on this one. For the pastor to seem so willing to discuss things of a spiritual nature with a robot then suddenly deny him the right to merely attend a service seemed like an incongruity of character. And the fact that the pastor who seemed willing to try to be open minded while his entire congregation seemed so hell-bent on being close minded (choice of words intentional) seemed unlikely, too. A pastor is going to—generally speaking—reflect the attitude of his congregation, simply because if they don't like what he's saying, they'll either relieve him of his position or go to another church. This pastor didn't seem like the type that a lynch-mob-prone church would keep around.
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« Reply #19 on: April 11, 2009, 10:05:34 PM »

I came here to find that much of what I wanted to say has been said by others. However, I will mention two things:

1. There are actual commercial robots on the market now. I have two, a Roomba and a Litter Maid. Neither one has a desire to be human, nor have they taken up philosophy or religion. The humanoid all-purpose robot seems a little old fashioned now. A robot is best when it's designed for a specific task, and that would mean it will not look human, it will look the way it needs to look for its job. I suspect floor cleaning and serving tea would be done by two different robots.

1A. Okay, this is a third thing that I just thought of. Most churches could afford a human custodian much more than a robot.

2. I expected the robot, when it realized that Stanley Kalinowski created it and God created Stanley Kalinowski, to follow the logic chain straight up and ask, just like most intelligent Sunday School students, "Then who created God?"
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