Author Topic: EP210: The Hastillan Weed  (Read 16599 times)

Russell Nash

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on: August 06, 2009, 08:38:30 PM
EP210: The Hastillan Weed

By Ian Creasey.
Read by MarBelle.
First appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction (February 2006).

“Since we have so many new faces,” I said to the half-dozen volunteers, “I’ll start with a tools talk. Safety points for the spade — the most important is that when you’re digging, you push with the ball of your foot.”

I picked up a spade from the pile, and demonstrated by digging up a bluebell growing by the hedge. From the large bells all round the stem, I knew it was a Spanish bluebell, a garden escape that if left unchecked would hybridise with the natives. Too late now, though. You can tell the British bluebell because the flowers are smaller, deeper blue, and they’re usually on one side of the stem, so the plant droops under their weight as if bowing down before its foreign conqueror. There’s hardly a wood left in England where you’ll see only native bluebells.

“Or you can use your heel on the spade.” I heaved the invader out of the earth and tossed it aside, knowing it would safely rot. “But you should never press down with the middle of your foot. The bones in the arch are delicate, and you can injure yourself.”


Rated PG for plants with many uses.



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Praxis

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Reply #1 on: August 07, 2009, 11:25:18 PM
I *think* I liked this one.

It felt like the opening chapter to a bigger story, we had had a setting and history established and motivations for the characters, and then the story ended.

Interesting premise.  Could we petition (*cough* spam mail) the author to make this into a bigger story?



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Reply #2 on: August 08, 2009, 12:05:11 AM
I enjoyed this story.  It was small in a very cozy way.  I liked how it showed how the species developed a relationship in light of what seems to be a fairly mundane backdrop.



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Reply #3 on: August 08, 2009, 02:34:39 AM
Too much of a propaganda piece for me.  Drugs are bad, Mmm-Kay.  Specieism is bad.  Non-native plants are bad.  Heck even reporters are bad too. Way too preachy.  Cautionary tales are fine with me but only when the issues they are cautioning against are discrete and not being shouted. 

I did like however, the concept of an invasive alien specie, but  it seems that if the governments of the world thought it was such a disaster, they would have more than two park ranger hacks organizing a band of volunteers to repair this eco mess.  The only reason I say this is because these are not Terran plants and such have a direct devestating effect on the planet.



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Reply #4 on: August 08, 2009, 02:43:29 PM
I had a problem with the reading.  With the pace of the reading combined with the reader not differentiating between characters, it was not always clear just who was speaking in a conversation (like, when one character finished speaking and another began.)

... it seems that if the governments of the world thought it was such a disaster, they would have more than two park ranger hacks organizing a band of volunteers to repair this eco mess.  The only reason I say this is because these are not Terran plants and such have a direct devestating effect on the planet.
One would think so.

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Praxis

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Reply #5 on: August 08, 2009, 10:41:45 PM
I had a problem with the reading.  With the pace of the reading combined with the reader not differentiating between characters, it was not always clear just who was speaking in a conversation (like, when one character finished speaking and another began.)

There was one point where the main character was remonstrating with the volunteer being sent 'back' and then also talking to the journalist and some narration.....I admit I lost track a bit.



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Reply #6 on: August 09, 2009, 02:15:47 AM
For mine, the reading was all too monotone -- a bit like the alien's translator. The guy's voice is fine but almost completely undifferentiated for this type of reading.

Interesting story.


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Reply #7 on: August 09, 2009, 04:53:45 AM
I enjoyed this one, but I also wished that we'd seen more of this world.  I suppose that's a compliment - the little bit of background and context that we got was interesting enough that I wanted more.

I liked how the alien turned out to be basically just a bored teenager.  I was waiting for a cliched throwaway line about how she was actually 400 Earth years old, but fortunately it never came.

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Reply #8 on: August 09, 2009, 08:05:54 AM
there were interesting parts to this one, mostly i was thinking about our own invasive species.

in victoria, the christmas hill nature sanctuary has the largest natural garry oak grove in canada.  most groves are infested with european broom which took over a couple hundred years ago when it was imported for ornamental gardens.  broom is pretty tenacious here, any dry & clear land is rapidly taken over by the shrubs which can grow over two meters tall.

the hill is kept clear by spending a lot of time pulling broom every year.  luckily, a special tool has been developed for this and most people can help despite broom's deep roots.  any hours that the park can't cover with volunteers they fill with people serving community service.

just a thought, for when the alien invasion comes.



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Reply #9 on: August 10, 2009, 03:28:59 PM
Ooooooo...an Ian Creasey read by MarBelle!

That was exciting. And quaint. Not really what I expected from the author (or the reader), although that's not a criticism of the story or the narration. In fact, I'd say it's a compliment. I thought it was very well done and enjoyed listening to it. I particularly liked how all the little twists on technology was sprinkled through the story.

When I saw "weed" in the title, I thought "Aha - a drug story." Then it was a sweet gardening story. Then the drugs came.


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Reply #10 on: August 10, 2009, 10:11:23 PM
This story was very on home turf for me as a nature-loving plant expert well familiar with the higher places of Northern England. Alien and invasive plants really are a problem up here like the Bracken Fern with its carcinogenic spores and the almost unstoppable Japanese Knotweed so reminiscent of Aku from the sci-fi cartoon series Samurai Jack. Anyway, I liked it very much as its heart was definately in the right place although I think I would have a liked a little more description of the nice alien lassie beyond references to her size and snout. Too preachy? Na. Allowances were made for even the more distasteful characters' positions.




Reply #11 on: August 11, 2009, 04:36:02 AM
This was the first EP story in a long time to make me stop and finish in the driveway. The reading had problems (discussed in other threads) but the story was simple, straightforward and very good. No cliche Alien / Human love story. No Alien turns out to be a secret agent. What you see is what you get. That is very nice for a change.



Praxis

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Reply #12 on: August 11, 2009, 09:00:23 PM
and the almost unstoppable Japanese Knotweed

just wait till the UK is warm enough for the seeds to be able to spread on their own.  Then we may as well assimilate and become human-knotweed acolytes.

Having spent more than a few summers "clearing" knotweed (no, it doesn't work), this story reminded me of that evil invader plant, too.



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Reply #13 on: August 11, 2009, 10:06:37 PM
I could really relate to this piece - if only because I own a bit of forest land in Washington state, and twice a year I have a bunch of friends come over and pull out the alien invasive blackberries.  So I know just what it's like trying to inspire a bunch of volunteer computer jockeys to do hard labor.  And just how rewarding such work can be. 

Never actually had an alien show up in my crew though.  I don't think.  It's hard to be sure, with my friends...



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Reply #14 on: August 12, 2009, 12:37:19 PM
Everything I wanted to say has been said: undifferentiated voices but good narration, a bit propaganda-y, kudos for the alien not being 400 earth years old but a Hastilian teenager.

Because I just recently heard this Ian Creasey story (http://dunesteef.com/2009/07/22/page-4-the-edge-of-the-map-by-ian-creasey/), I immediately keyed on the re-use of the "channel" names and the character of Susanna Monroe. I think I may have gotten more out of the world because I knew more about what the humans were like as a result. I wonder if the author reuses these (for lack of a better term) memes throughout his stories for that reason (to interconnect them).

Overall not bad.

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izzardfan

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Reply #15 on: August 16, 2009, 11:55:21 PM
Because I just recently heard this Ian Creasey story (http://dunesteef.com/2009/07/22/page-4-the-edge-of-the-map-by-ian-creasey/), I immediately keyed on the re-use of the "channel" names and the character of Susanna Monroe. I think I may have gotten more out of the world because I knew more about what the humans were like as a result. I wonder if the author reuses these (for lack of a better term) memes throughout his stories for that reason (to interconnect them).

According to the author's web page for this story...

Quote
This story was my first sale to Asimov's Science Fiction, and hence constituted a significant breakthrough in my career.
[...]
Appropriately for a story with an environmental theme, some background elements in "The Hastillan Weed" were later recycled elsewhere.  In particular, the journalist Susanna Munro, a minor character in this story, subsequently became the protagonist of a rather different tale in "The Edge of the Map", which was my next Asimov's appearance.




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Reply #16 on: August 21, 2009, 10:32:33 PM
I absolutely loved this story.  Very understated and realistic, especially because I just listened to it on my (brand new! :) ipod while hacking back the Himalayan blackberries in our back field.  Unfortunately there is no hope of eradication with this stuff but I can slow the takeover slightly.  But even more than the environmental theme, I identified with the theme of loneliness that was beautifully portrayed.



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Reply #17 on: August 22, 2009, 09:48:22 AM
I liked this story.  I enjoyed the way that the aliens came in to the U.K. and started screwing things up in many of the same ways that the British did with their colonies.



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Reply #18 on: August 22, 2009, 02:45:23 PM
I absolutely loved this story.  Very understated and realistic, especially because I just listened to it on my (brand new! :) ipod while hacking back the Himalayan blackberries in our back field.  Unfortunately there is no hope of eradication with this stuff but I can slow the takeover slightly. 

I've done battle with ivy, blackberry, and Oregon grape.  The ivy was the worst; it had been allowed to grow unchecked for a long time and had actually penetrated inside my father's house (the downstairs basement/garage).

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Reply #19 on: August 24, 2009, 08:01:21 AM
Usually my preach-o-meter is very sensitive, but this is one of the few stories where I felt that the the characters were preaching, not the author (though I'm sure the author holds similar opinions).   

I liked it how the narator had to alternate between being enraged with the alien and then defending her against the bigots.  His and the alien's characters were pretty realistic, though the others were cutouts.



Russell Nash

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Reply #20 on: August 24, 2009, 08:21:59 AM
I absolutely loved this story.  Very understated and realistic, especially because I just listened to it on my (brand new! :) ipod while hacking back the Himalayan blackberries in our back field.  Unfortunately there is no hope of eradication with this stuff but I can slow the takeover slightly. 

I've done battle with ivy, blackberry, and Oregon grape.  The ivy was the worst; it had been allowed to grow unchecked for a long time and had actually penetrated inside my father's house (the downstairs basement/garage).

I started the war against bamboo last year.  It just keeps coming back.



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Reply #21 on: August 28, 2009, 04:19:22 AM
I loved this one. I want to see sequels exploring the alien character, whose name I'm not sure how to spell. Very well done.



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Reply #22 on: August 29, 2009, 02:39:20 PM
I've done battle with ivy, blackberry, and Oregon grape.  The ivy was the worst; it had been allowed to grow unchecked for a long time and had actually penetrated inside my father's house (the downstairs basement/garage).

I started the war against bamboo last year.  It just keeps coming back.
Bamboo!  How could I forget the bamboo?  It's my most recent foe; it grows in my front yard even now!  >:(

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Russell Nash

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Reply #23 on: August 30, 2009, 05:50:02 PM
I've done battle with ivy, blackberry, and Oregon grape.  The ivy was the worst; it had been allowed to grow unchecked for a long time and had actually penetrated inside my father's house (the downstairs basement/garage).

I started the war against bamboo last year.  It just keeps coming back.
Bamboo!  How could I forget the bamboo?  It's my most recent foe; it grows in my front yard even now!  >:(

'Tis evil.



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Reply #24 on: August 31, 2009, 03:18:08 AM
Tsk. You people and your bamboo. Simple: import a panda.


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Reply #25 on: August 31, 2009, 03:51:09 AM
Tsk. You people and your bamboo. Simple: import a panda.

You think I hadn't considered that?  It's not as easy as it sounds.  There are rules and laws an' shit.  One does not simply import an animal on the endangered rolls to keep as a pet.

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kibitzer

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Reply #26 on: August 31, 2009, 04:30:09 AM
Tsk. You people and your bamboo. Simple: import a panda.

You think I hadn't considered that?  It's not as easy as it sounds.  There are rules and laws an' shit.  One does not simply import an animal on the endangered rolls to keep as a pet.

Well, it's not a pet, is it? It's clearly a gardening aid.


Russell Nash

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Reply #27 on: August 31, 2009, 08:49:03 AM
Tsk. You people and your bamboo. Simple: import a panda.

You think I hadn't considered that?  It's not as easy as it sounds.  There are rules and laws an' shit.  One does not simply import an animal on the endangered rolls to keep as a pet.

Well, it's not a pet, is it? It's clearly a gardening aid.

I tried talking to the zoo to see if I could rent theirs.  They wouldn't talk to me.



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Reply #28 on: September 04, 2009, 05:13:17 AM
I enjoyed this tale way more than I expected to.  And a nice surprise is always better than a nasty one.

Oh, and speaking of nasties, it was great that this story ended on a hopeful note.  Too often, I've found that Science Fiction is used to remind us of what a fallen and cancerous species we humans are, or that human nature is bound to destroy us (or everything beautiful in the universe), so it's refreshing when we have a tale that's not only decent, but leaves you feeling a little bit warm inside.

Or perhaps that's the alien embryo maturing in my chest cavity.  I really ought to get that checked.

Rish



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Reply #29 on: September 04, 2009, 08:32:50 AM
Or perhaps that's the alien embryo maturing in my chest cavity.  I really ought to get that checked.

Ooh! Pics?

(welcome btw)


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Reply #30 on: September 16, 2009, 11:09:22 PM
I will attempt to communicate my thoughts on the piece in as reasonable a tone as possible.

That was jaw-droppingly astounding.    I admit that the primary reason for that is the science is rock solid.  I am an ecologist and I deal with invasives in my professional life and the tone, subtext and just plain biology is excellent.  Even beyond that, the characterization for the two main characters was excellent even if some of the extras were a touch less developed. 

Really makes me wonder though, why didn't out stalwart hero simply start out a trend of turning the berries into juice?   Juice without seeds means happy aliens who can still get high without spreading the plants.   Introduce Berry Juice jello shooters if you really want to be a trend setter.   Heck, turn that "sample habitat" into a bit of a grow-op where the scientists could study the stuff by day.     

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Russell Nash

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Reply #31 on: September 17, 2009, 05:06:10 AM
Really makes me wonder though, why didn't out stalwart hero simply start out a trend of turning the berries into juice?   Juice without seeds means happy aliens who can still get high without spreading the plants.   Introduce Berry Juice jello shooters if you really want to be a trend setter.   Heck, turn that "sample habitat" into a bit of a grow-op where the scientists could study the stuff by day.     

Start growing the stuff in a greenhouse.  Process it and sell it to the aliens and use the money to fund eradication of the wild plant. 



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Reply #32 on: September 28, 2009, 08:33:58 PM
I enjoyed this story.  I did not get a preachy feel from it.  Drugs were discussed, but the protagonist never wagged his finger at the aliean for wanting to use the drugs with her friends.  He sympathized with her and even considered letting her have them if it was not such a risk to the environment.  I am usually the first to groan when I see environmentalism in a story just because it always seems to be so heavy handed or assumed (Like Ep. 217 Kindness of Strangers).  But not so for this story.  The protagonist was a conservationist by vocation. He cared about the environment, and had opinions, but was not a crazy activist.  This was his POV.  And if I'm not mistaken, the reporter indicated that global warming had not occurred as anticipated.  Can you even get away with that in science fiction today?

Anyway, the best part of this story for me was the details of it:  the safety lesson and wavier forms (I chuckled during that because it was spot on, I have been to many site safety training meetings), working with volunteers, the details about the plants.  I also liked how the alien threat came from the weed and not the aliens themselves.  It's kind of nice when the alien/human interaction is more matter-of-fact than epic (though that's fun too).

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Reply #33 on: September 29, 2009, 04:37:16 AM
When I saw "weed" in the title, I thought "Aha - a drug story." Then it was a sweet gardening story. Then the drugs came.

Sums it up good,

I enjoyed this one, I thought the main character was morally balanced. 

Though any usefulness of the alien plant was overlooked which kinda didn't add up to me.

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Reply #34 on: September 30, 2009, 12:39:45 AM
I rather liked this story. Four out of five asterisks.
Funny thing, I only recently read of kudzu now appearing in Ontario.

Really makes me wonder though, why didn't out stalwart hero simply start out a trend of turning the berries into juice?   Juice without seeds means happy aliens who can still get high without spreading the plants.   Introduce Berry Juice jello shooters if you really want to be a trend setter.   Heck, turn that "sample habitat" into a bit of a grow-op where the scientists could study the stuff by day.     
It sounds like the aliens want to keep it a dark secret. Turning it into a commodity might be a diplomatic faux-pas. If not that, then if it becomes widely known there's also the risk of clandestine berry grow-ops sprouting up (so to speak) all over the place, and their operators might not be so rigorous in controlling the spread.

Worse than that, just imagine the spam emails: "Subject: Disc0unt Hast1ll@n B3rri3$ direct fr0m UK gr33nh0u$e$".

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Reply #35 on: October 17, 2009, 04:52:51 AM
Earlier this year I didn't have much Internet access, so a backlog of stories built up. I only recently got as far as this story, then heard it was by Ian Creasey. As I promised a few months ago, I didn't listen to the story. I won't listen to or read any stories by Ian Creasey because he claims to live in Yorkshire, a county which was abolished in 1974. I'll continue with my boycott until Ian Creaey admits there's no such county as Yorkshire and tells people where he *really* lives.

This is because I've noticed that failure by some people to accept current counties and unitary authorities usually goes hand in hand with various other outdated attitudes, including being sexist, anti metric measurements, and anti EU membership.

I'd also like to point out that in more recent years the county boundaries have changed yet again and some counties have been dismembered or abolished by the new unitary authorities, which not many people can remember all of and some of them are tiny. If Ian Creasey named a county he lived in before the latest changes, such as South Yorkshire, or West Yorkshire, which have both been abolished, then that would be enough for me to end my boycott.

BTW some of you may have heard that in the near future, Newcastle Brown Ale will be brewed in Yorkshire and wondered if this involves the beer being sent through a time vortex. Nothing like this will be happening. It'll actually be brewed in North Yorkshire, which still exists!






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Reply #36 on: October 17, 2009, 05:05:12 AM
Earlier this year I didn't have much Internet access, so a backlog of stories built up. I only recently got as far as this story, then heard it was by Ian Creasey. As I promised a few months ago, I didn't listen to the story. I won't listen to or read any stories by Ian Creasey because he claims to live in Yorkshire, a county which was abolished in 1974. I'll continue with my boycott until Ian Creaey admits there's no such county as Yorkshire and tells people where he *really* lives.

This is because I've noticed that failure by some people to accept current counties and unitary authorities usually goes hand in hand with various other outdated attitudes, including being sexist, anti metric measurements, and anti EU membership.

I'd also like to point out that in more recent years the county boundaries have changed yet again and some counties have been dismembered or abolished by the new unitary authorities, which not many people can remember all of and some of them are tiny. If Ian Creasey named a county he lived in before the latest changes, such as South Yorkshire, or West Yorkshire, which have both been abolished, then that would be enough for me to end my boycott.

BTW some of you may have heard that in the near future, Newcastle Brown Ale will be brewed in Yorkshire and wondered if this involves the beer being sent through a time vortex. Nothing like this will be happening. It'll actually be brewed in North Yorkshire, which still exists!


Worst reason to not listen to a story evar.

Seriously.. if you are SO focused on this one issue you cant even listen to the story and feel the need to vent on a months-old thread, something's deeply wrong, my friend.



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Reply #37 on: October 17, 2009, 07:28:18 AM
Earlier this year I didn't have much Internet access, so a backlog of stories built up. I only recently got as far as this story, then heard it was by Ian Creasey. As I promised a few months ago, I didn't listen to the story. I won't listen to or read any stories by Ian Creasey because he claims to live in Yorkshire, a county which was abolished in 1974. I'll continue with my boycott until Ian Creaey admits there's no such county as Yorkshire and tells people where he *really* lives.

This is because I've noticed that failure by some people to accept current counties and unitary authorities usually goes hand in hand with various other outdated attitudes, including being sexist, anti metric measurements, and anti EU membership.

I'd also like to point out that in more recent years the county boundaries have changed yet again and some counties have been dismembered or abolished by the new unitary authorities, which not many people can remember all of and some of them are tiny. If Ian Creasey named a county he lived in before the latest changes, such as South Yorkshire, or West Yorkshire, which have both been abolished, then that would be enough for me to end my boycott.

BTW some of you may have heard that in the near future, Newcastle Brown Ale will be brewed in Yorkshire and wondered if this involves the beer being sent through a time vortex. Nothing like this will be happening. It'll actually be brewed in North Yorkshire, which still exists!

i seem to remember you venting on this a while ago in another thread, most likely another Ian Creasey thread.
we get it, Yorkshire is non-existant, whatever.  Does it REALLY matter?  Do those who claim to be from Yorkshire persecute all non-Yorkshireans?

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


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Reply #38 on: October 17, 2009, 03:17:43 PM
Remember, Chilifan also thinks the world is coming to an end because Doctor Who and Torchwood had reduced runs this year.  I've learned to disregard everything s/he says as deranged blather.

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Reply #39 on: October 17, 2009, 04:11:52 PM
Remember, Chilifan also thinks the world is coming to an end because Doctor Who and Torchwood had reduced runs this year.  I've learned to disregard everything s/he says as deranged blather.

I didn't say the World was coming to an end, just that these events were very serious. Not only that, but it may have been caused by the fact that there is such a series as The Sarah Jane Adventures, so funding may have been diverted from Doctor Who and Torchwood to help make season 3 of that series.




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Reply #40 on: October 17, 2009, 08:38:12 PM
Remember, Chilifan also thinks the world is coming to an end because Doctor Who and Torchwood had reduced runs this year.  I've learned to disregard everything s/he says as deranged blather.

I didn't say the World was coming to an end, just that these events were very serious. Not only that, but it may have been caused by the fact that there is such a series as The Sarah Jane Adventures, so funding may have been diverted from Doctor Who and Torchwood to help make season 3 of that series.

"The world is ending" was a bit of hyperbole on my part, but you did state that there was a conspiracy within the BBC to kill off Doctor Who and Torchwood.  Deranged blather.

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Reply #41 on: November 04, 2009, 04:05:24 AM
First time to speak up, so I picked one I:
a) remember (since I am listening to 7 or 8 of these a day), and
b) actually have something to say about.

I actually liked this story. Didn't think I would when it started off, but it came around quickly for me. If you'll pardon the term, it seemed like real life. The best fiction is usually the most believable. Yes, I know there are times when it's too much, but believable is always better for me. It's a realism vs. reality thing. I don't want reality in my fiction, just realism. Green, bug-eyed monsters are fine, as long as I can believe in them.

The problem with this story is simply one of execution. The reading was, to put it politely, bad. Any good you might get from the character's interplay was lost in the reader's voice. You could never tell who was speaking, or even if someone was speaking, if the narration didn't tell you.

Now, I don't expect full-on high-end audio novel quality reading here, but a little more effort would be appreciated. There are tons of examples of very good reading on Escape Pod, so why not on this story?

I read, therefore I am...happy.


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Reply #42 on: November 14, 2009, 01:32:34 PM
I enjoyed the premise of the story, but having read or heard several of Ian Creasey's stories now, I can safely say that my frustration with this story, upon which I shall expound in a moment, is just one of the elements of his style and something I will have to live with in his writing (which is generally enjoyable otherwise and usually features at least one interesting idea or striking image.)

To whit: STOP DIRECTLY TELLING US WHAT THE CHARACTERS ARE FEELING!  Please, for the love of mercy!  These characters end up far too self-aware and instantly defuse tension by recognizing their own false assumptions and misperceptions.  (Except for Keith, oddly, who was the most realistic-feeling character in the story.)  And then they ANNOUNCE these to each other.  "I was feeling X because of Y."  "And I was feeling A because of B."  "Feeling X because of Y can be a problem.  In the future, I will strive to avoid feeling X."  "Yes, I will likewise strive."

I compare it to the dialogue in, say, "The Small Door," which is indirect and roundabout and full of unspoken implications - just like real language used by real people - and it just makes me grit my teeth in frustration.  I would have positively loved this story if only the characters didn't insist on expounding their thoughts and feelings at such great length.  (And if the characters don't do it themselves, then the narration starts in with a list of emotion words.)  As it was, I enjoyed the story but periodically shouted at my iPod to "Stop telling me that!  I can see that from what they just did!  You don't have to tell me, Ian!"  This engendered some concerned glances from my cats but was otherwise harmless, so no real need for Ian to stop writing this way.  My cats have long ago decided to disregard most of my actions anyway.  (Unless I have a food bowl in my hand.)

---
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DMBlackthorn

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Reply #43 on: January 21, 2010, 02:58:12 AM
The ideas presented in this story are way relevant to us all.  I especially liked the earnest realism presented by the naturalist.  His character seemed real and like that of a rustic paladin.  I also liked that how the aliens were drug fiends.  This touch also made the alien's otherwise unfathomable character suddenly very understandable.  I mean... uh, no, I've never eaten poisonous drug berries... really....



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Reply #44 on: April 21, 2010, 04:40:16 PM
I overall liked the story.  I liked that the humans and aliens were neither gleefully happy at their relationship with humans, nor militant, but shovel-tripping aside we all coexisted with some culture clash on the side.  I like how the aliens are not motivated by any evil world-conquering machinations, but are just looking to get high once in a while.  I wonder what the berries would do to humans?  I'm sure somebody's tried it by now.

I don't usually gripe about the reading, but I did have some trouble with it.  MarBelle has a nice voice, but I think he could just use more practice differentiating characters.  I had serious trouble differentiating who said what, and sometimes one person's speech and another's did not even have a pause in between, nor a change in tone, and the narration sounded the same as it all.  On a written page I would've been fine because of paragraph breaks and quotation marks separating them out, but in audio I really need some kind of clue.  When the translator was described as monotone, it would be nice if it sounded noticeably different than the spoken words and the narration, that would've been an easy way to differentiate the two main speaking characters.  I hope he comes back for more narration, but he could use a little more practice, is all.