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Author Topic: EP223: The Uncanny Valley  (Read 15938 times)
Gonzo Joe
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« Reply #60 on: November 20, 2009, 07:57:23 AM »

I guess I'm the only person here who thoroughly loved this story.

It might have something to do with the fact that I'm a James Joyce fan, so following a distinct narrative is not requisite to my enjoyment of a story.  I contend that the problems folks are having with the disconcerting PoV shifts and big money vocabulary words are a matter of taste.  Also, the criticism of the story for blending concepts from too many different sub-genres of sci-fi, while valid, is not that big a deal to me either.  Genres are useful for organization, but I would never, ever suggest that a writer limit him/herself during the process of writing a story because of genre distinctions.

As a side note, I find the fact that so many people did not enjoy this story to be particularly ironic to me as it was the first episode of Escape Pod that I listened to.  I enjoyed this story so thoroughly that Podcastle and Pseudopod have a new listener as well, and I've begun the process of pounding through the archives of all three.
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cdugger
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« Reply #61 on: November 20, 2009, 09:25:36 PM »

I enjoyed this story so thoroughly that Podcastle and Pseudopod have a new listener as well, and I've begun the process of pounding through the archives of all three.

That happened to me, on another story.

I've spent 2 or 3 weeks listening to tons of stuff thanks to these guys. Good or bad, love it or hate it, I'm here for the duration.
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Yargling
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« Reply #62 on: November 22, 2009, 01:58:54 PM »

I really couldn't follow this one, and gave up mid way through. Maybe it was just me, but it was confusing to me.
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Ocicat
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« Reply #63 on: November 22, 2009, 03:38:50 PM »

I really couldn't follow this one, and gave up mid way through. Maybe it was just me, but it was confusing to me.

I think someone posted before reading the other comments.   Cheesy
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El Barto
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« Reply #64 on: November 22, 2009, 11:20:38 PM »

All I can say is WHEW.   I worried that the commentary here would be all about how brilliantly and great and complex and meaningful the story was. 

I really tried to listen carefully and understand what was going on but it was simply not possible.   I kept thinking/hoping that there would come a point when I'd say "oohhhhhh, now I get it" but things just got worse and I have no idea how she got into Alcatraz and then how did she get out and what is the Post Office and why should I care? 

At one point I thought the idea here was that when the singularity came, everyone's subconsciousness got left behind, and was pissed about it, and somehow they organized and tried to take over?   But then it was about people sleeping and just didn't make sense.  And some group of people or entities didn't understand the Venus de Milo.  Why? 

Having found the story in print now (google uncanny valley Mamatas) I see that the different parts of the story were supposed to be told from different points of view.   Wooosh!  That's the sound of that going right over my head in the audio version.   Where was the dramatically different tone of voice to express a different identity such as the part that started "We the imps of the perverse faced not only our fleshy anima but their pet men and women and it was they who surprised us."?

On my letter grade scale I reserve F for things that are clearly and obviously and undeniably not science fiction.  This story was definitely science fiction, and I give the author credit for trying to bring a complex and interesting concept to life.   And I blame the editor(s) who failed to protect us from this story.   

I would have rather there been no story this week rather than this one.  (That may be harsh but it really was a frustrating and unpleasant experience to listen to the whole thing, almost give up a few times, and say to myself, "no, this is Escape Pod.  The story WILL get good" and then have it get worse.

Lastly, I'd like to make a pitch to the editors to please stop saying things in the intro that give away a key plot point or concept in the story.   Once the intro explained what the phrase Uncanny Valley means, I knew the story was going somehow in that direction and I didn't like it one bit.   The same thing happened a few weeks ago.  I suspect the authors don't like this either.  If they write an entire story about a concept, don't foreshadow so much n the intro.  It is unnecessary -- we are obviously going to listen to the story -- and it is unfair to the readers and the writers.  Save it for the outro!   


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El Barto
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« Reply #65 on: November 23, 2009, 08:50:57 AM »

      The question then becomes, how ignorant or nonignorant should the editor assume the audience is.

      This is obviously something impossible to assume. Very tricky subject.

      The EP editor stepped down this week.

      I think I understand why, now.

       FFS, people.



I'm not sure what to make of your reply, Talia.  Are you saying that I'm ignorant for not knowing what Uncanny Valley meant? 

Are you saying that my post (or the collective feedback on what seems to be a universally disliked story) caused the editor to step down? 

Was the profanity in FFS intended for me?   

I quite intentionally wrote my post in a way that was intended to be respectful of the forum etiquette.  When I got to the part about the intro, I started it with "Lastly, I'd like to make a pitch to the editors to please stop saying things in the intro that give away a key plot point or concept in the story."   I mentioned this because by my recollection it has happened twice in the last two months and I don't remember it happening previously.

If I were the editor who selected this story and I read all of this negative feedback I'd like to think that my reaction would be to say (1) oops, I misjudged my audience's taste a good bit on this one and I'm sorry about that because I really loved the story; (2) oops, when I first read this story it was in print and I see now that it didn't translate well into audio; (3) I loved this story and still do and here's why you guys should give it another chance; or (4) we were short on stories this week and didn't want to skip a week and we put up a story we knew was weak.   

P.S.  My apologies for not being able to use the quote feature properly this morning.   THAT is undoubtedly ignorant of me.  Wink
« Last Edit: November 23, 2009, 08:53:49 AM by El Barto » Logged
Talia
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« Reply #66 on: November 23, 2009, 09:04:17 AM »

I was a little grumpy last night, sorry. Decided to just remove my post.
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Scattercat
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« Reply #67 on: November 23, 2009, 10:45:54 PM »

So, um, I loved this story.  I didn't have much trouble picking up on what was happening, and even enjoyed having to think a bit.  (Mostly because of my recurrent troubles with audio processing.)

I dunno.  It was chaotic and fascinating beautiful, like a storm of superballs.  I was really pleased with the idea of the Singularity of the Subconscious, taking its form from the discarded and the nightmarish.  (Lots of nightmare fuel images in this one, I think.)  I enjoyed having to work to keep up with a story; it reminded me of reading Zelazny in that way.  The rapidly shifting POV and fractured narrative were excellent for creating the flavor of that half-awake splinter-state just before you fall asleep for good, hovering right on the cusp of full unconsciousness.

Again, I must ask: why is it the stories I really like that get all the hate?  Am I just that bizarre?  I don't feel that bizarre...
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eytanz
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« Reply #68 on: November 24, 2009, 05:34:27 AM »

I don't think this story has been getting a lot of hate - it's been getting a lot of scratched heads. It seems that most people who actually understood the story rather liked it. Personally, I don't feel I did understand it, but I certainly don't hate the story - I just don't know what to make of it.
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Gonzo Joe
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« Reply #69 on: November 24, 2009, 07:16:33 AM »

it reminded me of reading Zelazny

Now that you mention it, I think that's one of the reasons I enjoyed this story too.  It had a very New Wave feel to it, and that's my personal favorite era of S-F.
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CryptoMe
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« Reply #70 on: November 24, 2009, 12:35:22 PM »

I don't think this story has been getting a lot of hate - it's been getting a lot of scratched heads.

I would have to disagree. I do think this story got quite a bit more "hate" than is usual for Escape Pod.
For example, El Barto writes....
I would have rather there been no story this week rather than this one. (That may be harsh but it really was a frustrating and unpleasant experience ....

And I myself found the experience rather infuriating. I almost found myself yelling at my iPod several times, but I told myself....
"no, this is Escape Pod.  The story WILL get good" and then [it got worse].
 
This is pretty unusual for Escape Pod, I think.
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El Barto
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« Reply #71 on: November 24, 2009, 02:19:33 PM »

I've got to agree with CryptoMe.   The feedback on this story was very strongly negative in a way that seems pretty unusual for Escape Pod.   

A few people said things about this being the first Escape Pod story they reacted so negatively to.  Here are salient comments from a dozen and a half folks:


•   But mostly just seemed like it was trying too hard to be poetic and deep, and not focusing on telling a coherent story.  Got really old really quick.

•   EP gets a D- for this episode. Mod: really, stop it, I don't like the idea of giving stories grades.Mod again: woops, didn't realize this was a summation thread of other people's posts... still... well... not your fault really... um... carry on.

•   I have no idea what's going on. I get the impression that there's something a bit pretentious about it, but I can't say exactly why because, as I said, I really don't know what's happening.

•   I felt like I'd taken something, then had a freak out.   When did EP come with a bad trip?   I did not enjoy this story, did not understand this story.

•   Same here.  Not easy to follow as narrated.  I think I'll opt for something else on the commute home & wait for next week.

•   One of the few EP's that I just really really couldn't listen through.

•   This is the first EP story in a long time that was a chore to listen to… I give this story an F.  If the singularity is going to be this boring, count me out.

•   Holy cow, this was a bad story! How bad? It was so bad that the Star Trek Voyager episode "The Thaw" which was not dissimilar to it was better. Yes, I just said Star Trek Voyager didn't suck as bad as something else. I went there.

•   Sounded like a computer wrote this story. Insert random person description, insert random action, insert random room description.  And no differentiation with the voice. At 11 minutes, I stopped because I could never tell who was talking, or what they meant when they said it.   Definately one of the worst on EP.

•   Boring.  Boring.  UNBELIEVABLY boring.  I listened through the whole thing, but every two sentences or so my mind drifted off.  Couldn't make heads nor tails.  Didn't care, either.

•   There is a period of time, at the start of any tale, after which the reader should at least think they understand what is being described.  A story can then go on to puzzle, surprise or challenge the reader because he or she is following along.  This was like riding a high speed train past billboards too fast to read or make out the images.  There is an intuition that meaning is flying past you, but there is nothing to grab on to so you stop looking out the window.   Keeping with travel metaphors, this story has no on ramp, so it doesn't matter where it goes. The reader can't merge.

•   Ultimately, I found the character of Esme far too self-absorbed to give a damn about her or the rest of the story. I've read a couple of posts that say that everything comes together in the last 10 minutes, but I still have no desire to finish listening, especially if the id is really part of the explanation.

•   Some SF stories intentionally confuse the reader at the beginning and then clear things up as they get into it.  This story really didn't seem to do that for me.  I also wasn't a fan of the narration, it seemed like the reader had a snarky, sarcastic tone the whole time, and I had troubles identifying who was talking, or even if the person WAS talking or simply self-talking.

•   I simply cannot possibly express how wonderful it was to come here and see that I wasn't crazy, and I wasn't the only one who found this story ... hm ... unenjoyably difficult? Far too obfuscatory? This is the very first Escape Pod I've ever fast forwarded through, and I just finished up listening my way through the entire archives a month or two back.

•   Ok, I've stopped listening to this story about 3/4 in since I have no idea what's going on.    This isn't a criticsm of the story. I honestly have no idea if it's a good story or not, since I couldn't follow it at all. The reading - with its flat tone and voice crossing multiple viewpoints with no clear breaks between them - didn't help.

•   I got to the last 17 mins and just couldn't justify taking the time to finish.  Can't win them all.

•   Some stories don't work in audio.   This is one of them.

•   I really couldn't follow this one, and gave up mid way through. Maybe it was just me, but it was confusing to me.


As for me, I definitely didn't like it at all, but wouldn't say I hated the story.   To paraphrase an old saying, a bad day reading sci-fi beats a good day working for the man!



« Last Edit: November 25, 2009, 03:18:06 AM by Bdoomed » Logged
Scattercat
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« Reply #72 on: November 24, 2009, 07:43:39 PM »

Well, *I* liked it, anyway.  All you haters, jealous of my psychosexual urges...  (I also laughed out loud at both the intro and the outro, which I thought were particularly well-sculpted this week.)
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« Reply #73 on: November 24, 2009, 08:17:08 PM »

Could not finish it. I rewound five times to try to keep up, but it didn't work, and I only made it to about 2/3 of the way through.

I could not figure out who was talking, who was physically present, who was "real", and so on.

It took me three listens (because of the awkward wording) to figure out that Stephanie did not see her own heart burst out before she herself died, but that it was the heart of the actress. And, did the actress in real life (so to speak), or did just her character die in the context of the movie?

The monkey thing was confusing too. Was it a mind-controlled text entry interface? A mechanical windup toy on her desk? (It did go "clang-clang".) Or was it just some kind of tongue-in-cheek allusion to the Infinite Monkey Theorem?

I generally like "difficult" movies, books, and music, but this was too much work.

I think the confusion apparent in the story is to be interpreted like this: What is being described here is a condition known as a "technological singularity."
Yeah, I got the sense that it was more about the Singularity, and I waited (in vain?) for the Uncanny Valley part.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2009, 08:19:02 PM by Planish » Logged

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Scattercat
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« Reply #74 on: November 24, 2009, 08:28:59 PM »

The monkey thing was confusing too. Was it a mind-controlled text entry interface? A mechanical windup toy on her desk? (It did go "clang-clang".) Or was it just some kind of tongue-in-cheek allusion to the Infinite Monkey Theorem?

Neither, really; it was a nanobot-controlled stress meter, with the cymbals clapping regularly when she was calm.  The kitsch-punk equivalent of describing someone's heartbeat or pulse.

Quote
Yeah, I got the sense that it was more about the Singularity, and I waited (in vain?) for the Uncanny Valley part.

The Uncanny Valley is the Post Office; they drifted a little too far from human, and their own subconsciouses (subconsciousi?) rebelled against them.


Mod: fixed quote
« Last Edit: November 25, 2009, 03:23:08 AM by Bdoomed » Logged

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CryptoMe
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« Reply #75 on: November 25, 2009, 12:39:00 AM »

The monkey thing was confusing too. Was it a mind-controlled text entry interface? A mechanical windup toy on her desk? (It did go "clang-clang".) Or was it just some kind of tongue-in-cheek allusion to the Infinite Monkey Theorem?

Neither, really; it was a nanobot-controlled stress meter, with the cymbals clapping regularly when she was calm.  The kitsch-punk equivalent of describing someone's heartbeat or pulse.

Quote
Yeah, I got the sense that it was more about the Singularity, and I waited (in vain?) for the Uncanny Valley part.

The Uncanny Valley is the Post Office; they drifted a little too far from human, and their own subconsciouses (subconsciousi?) rebelled against them.

Wow, Scattercat! I for one am jealous of the fact that you got so much from the story. I confess, all of that went way over my head (as I said before, the busy language was too distracting, like wading through a haystack to find the needle). Thank you so much for enlightening me. You almost make me want to go back for another listen.... almost.
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Talia
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« Reply #76 on: November 25, 2009, 01:04:16 AM »

The monkey thing was confusing too. Was it a mind-controlled text entry interface? A mechanical windup toy on her desk? (It did go "clang-clang".) Or was it just some kind of tongue-in-cheek allusion to the Infinite Monkey Theorem?

Neither, really; it was a nanobot-controlled stress meter, with the cymbals clapping regularly when she was calm.  The kitsch-punk equivalent of describing someone's heartbeat or pulse.

Quote
Yeah, I got the sense that it was more about the Singularity, and I waited (in vain?) for the Uncanny Valley part.

The Uncanny Valley is the Post Office; they drifted a little too far from human, and their own subconsciouses (subconsciousi?) rebelled against them.

Wow, Scattercat! I for one am jealous of the fact that you got so much from the story. I confess, all of that went way over my head (as I said before, the busy language was too distracting, like wading through a haystack to find the needle). Thank you so much for enlightening me. You almost make me want to go back for another listen.... almost.

Might I suggest tracking it down in print. I'm thinking it might work better there.
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Bdoomed
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« Reply #77 on: November 25, 2009, 03:22:22 AM »

The monkey thing was confusing too. Was it a mind-controlled text entry interface? A mechanical windup toy on her desk? (It did go "clang-clang".) Or was it just some kind of tongue-in-cheek allusion to the Infinite Monkey Theorem?

Neither, really; it was a nanobot-controlled stress meter, with the cymbals clapping regularly when she was calm.  The kitsch-punk equivalent of describing someone's heartbeat or pulse.

Quote
Yeah, I got the sense that it was more about the Singularity, and I waited (in vain?) for the Uncanny Valley part.

The Uncanny Valley is the Post Office; they drifted a little too far from human, and their own subconsciouses (subconsciousi?) rebelled against them.
I got the monkey thing on the second listen, it WAS mentioned, I just glazed over it the first time...
the subconscious rebellion I didn't get until I read the thread and re-listened, I thought it was just some other force that happened to be killing people, and the Post Office was just worried and confused about it.  seemed a bit too disconnected from the main story at the time, but now knowing it was their subconscious makes more sense.

again, I liked the story, I'm with you Scattercat!
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seanpeter
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« Reply #78 on: November 25, 2009, 01:42:50 PM »

Wow.  I liked it.  Is it my age?
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Scattercat
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« Reply #79 on: November 25, 2009, 07:24:50 PM »

Wow, Scattercat! I for one am jealous of the fact that you got so much from the story. I confess, all of that went way over my head (as I said before, the busy language was too distracting, like wading through a haystack to find the needle). Thank you so much for enlightening me. You almost make me want to go back for another listen.... almost.

I... uh... well, you're welcome, I guess.  Glad to be a help.
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Mirrorshards: Very Short Stories
100 Words.  No more.  No fewer.  Every day.
Splinters of Silver and Glass - The Mirrorshards Book
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