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Author Topic: EP221: Little Ambushes  (Read 7779 times)
Swamp
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« on: October 22, 2009, 10:24:44 AM »

EP221: Little Ambushes

by Joanne Merriam
Read by Rachel Swirsky

Practically the first thing she did when she took in the alien was to give him a new name. He looked at her outstretched hand long enough to annoy her, and then grasped it with his four opposable fingers and hung on limply until she wrenched her hand out of his moist and over-jointed grip.

She said, “I’m Sarah,” and he said his name, or what she assumed was his name, in return, rolling the syllables around in his mouth like so many rough pebbles. His name was too long, something like Shperidth with extra grunting noises in the middle, like a car backfiring very far away. She tried to repeat it and couldn’t, while he stood on her doorstep sweating and folding his fingers around each other. She frowned at him.

“I can’t say that,” she said.


Rated PG-13 for some adult situations and coarse language.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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« Reply #1 on: October 22, 2009, 11:58:08 AM »

  I enjoyed this one a lot, but it left me feeling sad for some reason. I think largely it was the description of the painting that Spider left for Sarah that did it. I liked the ending a lot though.
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« Reply #2 on: October 22, 2009, 12:23:00 PM »

Really really good story, Rachels reading gave the story a bit of a harsh edge- interesting mixed with the sweetness of the sentiment of the ending. I think the mishmash worked for me. I enjoyed the idea of helping an alien find it's inner artist, the bond that grows between them- espeicially after the initial bad reaction on the MCs part.
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« Reply #3 on: October 22, 2009, 08:22:12 PM »

I wonder why the exchange student had to be an alien.
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« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2009, 04:41:44 PM »

Norm's friend-in-Paris story was, to me, the best part of the episode.

The MC wasn't really likable. There was no context to her character. How good an artist is she? I know "good" is relative, but we have no context of how her art has been received or how widely-viewed it is. I mean, put a brush in my hand and I'm a painter too.

The alien wasn't really likable either. He was just a fish-out-of-water and a widget-maker being told to bake cakes instead of die-cast widgets on an assembly line. His perspective in the final painting was cool, but that whole section went on too long.

And the whole thing with the MC's ex-husband read like an angry divorcee writing about how her marriage fell apart. I don't think it had any useful impact on the story.

Rachel's readings are usually okay -- I like the edge she gave the MC's internal narration -- but from a technical standpoint I have not enjoyed listening to them recently due to sound quality.

Overall, not so great an episode.
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« Reply #5 on: October 24, 2009, 08:22:30 PM »

I really liked this one.  Good narration.  Great ending. 
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« Reply #6 on: October 25, 2009, 11:47:02 AM »

I actually surprised myself by not liking this one for one small but persistent reason. The divorce seemed tacked on, almost a Standard Literary Divorce, rather than actually fitting the characters, the story, or the setting. She "gave Mark everything," felt "empty," and blamed him, but despite her realization the marriage still ended. For that matter, although the character described the divorce as her fault, she didn't actually say any of this to her soon-to-be-ex, because redeeming the marriage through actual conversation isn't allowed in SLDs.

Of course, Mark was a jerk, too. The husband usually is in SLDs. He stormed into the house, made annoyed, gratuitous, and unforeshadowed xenophobic statements about the alien, and demanded a divorce. Since when was this an angry divorce? Since when was the narrator's ex an asshole? Why wasn't this mentioned before Mark showed up or referred to after? It felt like the divorce had to happen, so the author plugged in one of the standard divorces of fiction and moved on.

However, the craft of the piece was excellent. The author choose words well and the pacing was perfect. The alien was just alien enough for this kind of story - not too alien for empathy to occur, not too human for misunderstandings to occur, and with enough alien physicality to evoke his difference. The fact that one of the central narrative pieces - the divorce - felt bland and out of place spoiled the story for me, though.
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Talia
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« Reply #7 on: October 26, 2009, 06:19:56 AM »

Great story. Beautiful and yes kind of sad. It didn't go into a lot of depth about the relationship because the story wasn't supposed to be an "oh woes Sarah" tragedy, drama!!! type of tale, instead its more about her finding a way to heal herself post-suffering.

Also, I would totally go on an interplanetary artist exchange program. If i had any talent, that is.
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« Reply #8 on: October 26, 2009, 05:38:28 PM »

ring....ring

"Hello?"

"Hi, do you have Rachel Swirsky in the can?"

"Uh, what?"

"Well, let her out. No, seriously, let her out. It sounds like she's reading from inside a big tin can."

click

Ugh. And if the bad audio weren't bad enough, we have yet another example of a female author writing a dreary story that obsesses over feelings while providing little in the way of resolution or action. It's like Grace Paley with some sci fi elements sprinkled in.
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Talia
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« Reply #9 on: October 26, 2009, 06:09:53 PM »

ring....ring

"Hello?"

"Hi, do you have Rachel Swirsky in the can?"

"Uh, what?"

"Well, let her out. No, seriously, let her out. It sounds like she's reading from inside a big tin can."

click

Ugh. And if the bad audio weren't bad enough, we have yet another example of a female author writing a dreary story that obsesses over feelings while providing little in the way of resolution or action. It's like Grace Paley with some sci fi elements sprinkled in.

Ewwwwww, feelings. Feelings give people cooties.

Moar lazers and exploshiuns!

:p
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Swamp
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« Reply #10 on: October 26, 2009, 06:27:46 PM »

Note to Prank and other forum members:  We do not and have never given awards for coming up with the most creative way to insult someone on the forums.  Nor are there any awards for the most consecutive insulting or negative comments made in a row.  In fact we appreciate people to be polite in their comments.  Not all comments are expected to be positive, but respect for others is.  Opinions are good.  Trolls are bad.
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« Reply #11 on: October 26, 2009, 08:52:40 PM »

What does it matter why the MC was divorced? How or why would a lengthy digression about infidelity, infertility or whatever else the cause of the MC's divorce  add  to the story? Other than its length, nada, AFAICS. The alien being didn't seem any better or smarter than the MC (or humans in general) just more perceptive, something I find entirely plausible; after all anthropologists, social workers and psychotherapists  do it all the time. I liked the author's theory that empathy and wisdom might be possible between sentient species. I liked the story, period.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2009, 09:04:30 PM by KenK » Logged
deflective
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« Reply #12 on: October 26, 2009, 08:54:27 PM »

i'm trying to decide what the ambushes were.  the divorce is an obvious one but there's gotta be at least one more, maybe the alien's unexpected insight into her life?

btw, three recent stories have women going to aliens after their partner leaves them.  maybe it's a new age version of cutting your hair cut to redefine yourself.
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« Reply #13 on: October 26, 2009, 09:43:16 PM »

What does it matter why the MC was divorced? How or why would a lengthy digression about infidelity, infertility or whatever else the cause of the MC's divorce  add  to the story? Other than its length, nada, AFAICS.

For me, that was the problem. The divorce didn't add anything, so why was it there? And if a divorce had to be there, why couldn't it be one that fit the rest of the story?

An ongoing divorce is a pretty huge narrative choice and it needs to be contextualized. Or rather, if you're going to give a divorce (or any other large life choice) a context, it needs to be a context that makes sense. If it's going to just be backdrop it can stay backroppy. Or, if you're going to have the context not make sense, that needs to be a strong narrative choice.
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KenK
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« Reply #14 on: October 27, 2009, 07:46:49 AM »

Okay. IMHO the context was the lack of insight the MC had about the barrenness of her own emotional life. And which the alien artist did and made her aware with his art. And so a lengthy side track into the extended causes of her marital problems wasn't necessary. The author saw no use in making a concise and vigorous short story twenty minutes longer.  A choice which I believe was a good one. Too many authors overwrite their inspiration, a blunder this one didn't make.
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« Reply #15 on: October 27, 2009, 09:51:53 AM »

I agree with many of the people here. Quality was down but the narration was good. Story was good but the divorce seemed a little tacked on.
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« Reply #16 on: October 27, 2009, 08:03:53 PM »

Swamp, OK fine, point taken, but you gotta admit the audio quality on this really stinks. Compare it to Norm Sherman's recordings. He sounds like the friggin' voice of god on my car stereo. Rachel sounds like she's blowing her audio into a kazoo.

And I'm sorry, but the story just isn't very good. It's got a great premise--the idea that aliens would be interested in our artwork. This isn't a totally unique idea, but it's an interesting one that you can do a lot with. But the author doesn't. We don't learn much about the aliens. We don't learn much about the lead character. She just sort of mopes around for a while. The alien makes a rather nice poetic observation that forms the story's title, then leaves her with a painting that shows everyone that means something to her and some that don't. And so she decides to sign some divorce papers and go to another planet. Feelings never really get resolved, they just get aired out. This is truly the sci-fi equivalent of Grace Paley, who wrote a lot of bland short stories with plots like, "I went to the library and saw my ex-husband there and it made me feel sad." It's not a good story. It's a decent first draft of something that has the potential to be a good story, but that's it.
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« Reply #17 on: October 27, 2009, 08:38:04 PM »

This is truly the sci-fi equivalent of Grace Paley, who wrote a lot of bland short stories with plots like, "I went to the library and saw my ex-husband there and it made me feel sad."

That line made me laugh out loud, so loudly, that i woke up my kids.

Smiley
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Bdoomed
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« Reply #18 on: October 27, 2009, 08:58:36 PM »

Swamp, OK fine, point taken, but you gotta admit the audio quality on this really stinks. Compare it to Norm Sherman's recordings. He sounds like the friggin' voice of god on my car stereo. Rachel sounds like she's blowing her audio into a kazoo.
*sigh*
a little better, but let's try a little thing we like to call manners.  You can complain about the audio till our ears start bleeding and our eyes recede into our sockets, but for IPU's sake, do it with grace, with an air of politeness, with the realization that we like a civil community around here.  Yes, the audio isn't the best audio that's been on EP, but A. get over it B. skip the episode if you can't get over it C. it's still listenable

And I'm sorry, but the story just isn't very good. It's got a great premise--the idea that aliens would be interested in our artwork. This isn't a totally unique idea, but it's an interesting one that you can do a lot with. But the author doesn't. We don't learn much about the aliens. We don't learn much about the lead character. She just sort of mopes around for a while. The alien makes a rather nice poetic observation that forms the story's title, then leaves her with a painting that shows everyone that means something to her and some that don't. And so she decides to sign some divorce papers and go to another planet. Feelings never really get resolved, they just get aired out. This is truly the sci-fi equivalent of Grace Paley, who wrote a lot of bland short stories with plots like, "I went to the library and saw my ex-husband there and it made me feel sad." It's not a good story. It's a decent first draft of something that has the potential to be a good story, but that's it.
see and now this is much better than your first comment!  Still a little mean spirited, but I've seen worse, and it's an opinion backed by examples, and not just a stupid broad statement that does nothing but annoy.
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Swamp
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« Reply #19 on: October 27, 2009, 09:26:03 PM »

Swamp, OK fine, point taken, but you gotta admit the audio quality on this really stinks...And I'm sorry, but the story just isn't very good...

It looks like  Bdoomed responded before I could.  I just wanted to say that I'm glad you understand the point I was trying to make.  Comments about bad audio is OK.  Negative feedback on the story is OK.  Your latest post gives me a much better understanding of your opinion without giving me the feeling that you are just trying to be snarky and cutting, mostly.  We're just trying to prevent a trend of bad behavior, especially personal insults to authors, readers, or fellow forumites, because once it starts, it's hard to stop without getting nasty.  This forum has always been pretty open without a bunch of rules.  We'd like to keep it that way.

Okay, I went on more than I intended.
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