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Author Topic: EP225: A Hard Rain at the Fortean Café  (Read 10574 times)
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« on: November 19, 2009, 08:05:33 AM »

EP225: A Hard Rain at the Fortean Café

by Lavie Tidhar
Read by Sarah Tolbert

This story originally appeared in Aeon #14.

The diner stood off the highway outside a small town optimistically called Hope. Hope was being stuck in the middle of the Northwest and wishing you were someplace, anyplace else. And Hope was also the name on the tag pinned to the dead woman in waitress uniforms that was currently lying against the wall inside the Barbie-Q Roadhouse. I had to stop myself from worrying at the connection: looking for patterns when sometimes there are none at all.

I wasn’t worried about Hope (the waitress, not the town). I didn’t get called down here for a murder: shit, murder is an honest-to-God American pastime. Just look at the statistics. No, I got called in because of the Marilyn.

The Marilyn was also dead. All in all, there were five dead people in the Barbie-Q: two waitresses; a balding man who – from his bag full of cheaply-printed catalogues – was some sort of a general salesman; the diner’s manageress; and Marilyn. They had been shot by a machine gun, probably an Uzi. Marilyn’s head left a red smear against the glass of the booth she sat in. She was there alone.

What the hell was a Marilyn doing out here?


Rated R for violence and language.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2009, 09:11:57 AM »

I feel like I've read this before somewhere. Not in Aeon; maybe somewhere online? In a collection somewhere?

Anyway, the reading was good, except for the stuffy-nosed CSI tech. That was a little jarring.

I also enjoy Fortean stories, so this one was interesting to me. I didn't pick up on Joe Johnson (who he really was... and I'm still not sure), and it took repetition for me to realize that he works for the Greys. The whole thing of leaving questions may have been done a bit too well because I'm still not certain exactly who Amelia worked for or how she ended up still young enough to impersonate an FBI agent... unless she worked for the Greys too?

Some of the non-Westernisms threw me a bit -- windscreen, boot, trainers -- which in and of themselves aren't a problem, but when the story takes place in America, with an American MC... those are little things that probably should have been caught in editing.

I guess I understand why the ending wasn't quite so neatly wrapped up -- goes back to the not-every-question-answered thing -- but it was a little unsatisfying, I suppose, that Amelia didn't come right out and say "I know you did it, Joe." She knows he did it. The audience knows he did it. But I think we need to have it said.

Anyway, an okay episode, neither awesome nor un-awesome.
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« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2009, 04:22:40 PM »

I didn't really care for this story.  It seemed like some derivative plot of X-Files or Fringe, but with semi-famous historical pop-culture icons awkwardly inserted into it.  The insertion of Marilyn Monroe clones just feels like a contrivance and has little impact on the story, and the main character doesn't resemble Amelia Earheart in action, tone, nor demeanor, other than the fact that the author just tells us it's so.  I suppose we're to understand that she's one of Amelia's clones or something, but it's never stated, nor does it make sense since Amelia talks about having once flown planes.  It's like having Winston Churchill or Joan D'Arc in a story and having them speak and act like Fox Mulder and Dana Scully.
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« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2009, 09:13:04 PM »

I agree with the comments above.  I enjoyed the reading, I liked the story well enough while I was in the middle of it, but I was left not really knowing how everything fit together.  As Listener said, I guess maybe we were meant to have unanswered questions.

Anyway, I look forward to hearing PodCastle's Marilyn story to complete Escape Artists' "Monroe Trilogy".
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« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2009, 10:07:58 AM »

I suppose, that Amelia didn't come right out and say "I know you did it, Joe." She knows he did it. The audience knows he did it. But I think we need to have it said.

Hmm... I got the impression it was another Marilyn.  Looking like she did in Niagara.  Did I miss something?

Anyway, I look forward to hearing PodCastle's Marilyn story to complete Escape Artists' "Monroe Trilogy".

Disappointed and more than a little angry at being rejected yet again, NormaJean mounted the back of her dragon Joltin’ Joe and took to the skies of Hellwood.   “Damnation!”, she thought, “What does a girl have to change her name to to get some respect around here?”

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KenK
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« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2009, 10:13:35 AM »

Anomalous occurrences? I don't think so. Film Noir has a very strong appeal for me and so it was kinda odd but interesting to see it combined with sci-fi. The appeal of it is the recognition that technology gets used for amazing as well as amazingly evil purposes. The anti-hero protagonists recognize that fact as well as the very 40ish concept that money and power will have their way no matter what. But they still retain some pretense of justice, nobility or humanity though. That's Noir's appeal to me anyhow. I think this was one of the better combinations of the two genres. As good as Blade Runner was IMHO. I liked it. Your mileage may differ.  Wink

Very well read too by the way.
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« Reply #6 on: November 20, 2009, 02:33:56 PM »

I suppose we're to understand that she's one of Amelia's clones or something, but it's never stated, nor does it make sense since Amelia talks about having once flown planes.

I thought it made it fairly clear that Amelia was the Amelia Earhart and that she'd been abducted by the Greys and then later returned to Earth.  The age issue can be explained away by the fact that she was abducted by aliens who can presumably do a lot of funky things including time travel/time stoppage.

I actually quite enjoyed this story but I'll agree that it did seem to drift a little at the end.

David
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cdugger
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« Reply #7 on: November 20, 2009, 09:21:22 PM »

BORING! Which is sad, because it had a ton of potential.

Just imagine a shoot out between a pissed off MM clone and Joe & Amelia. THAT woulda been cool.

I thought the reading was just alright. The was enough difference in the voices that I didn't get lost, but it was just so deadpan. There have been worse on EP, but this one was not quite up to average.

SPOILERS AHEAD:

I figured that it was the real Amelia, abducted and taken into space at relativistic speeds, thus accounting for her age and knowledge. She did say that it never ends good when you see the lights in the sky and decide to check them out. Also, I just figured that the FBI was the Fortean Bureau of Investigation.

Joe was a mystery. All he seemed to be was the guy who makes sure nobody believes any of it.

The MM at the funeral was a neat addition, though. You know she killed the serial killer, and that Amelia let her go because of it. And, she planted the camera with the pics, to lead Amelia to the file server, thus letting her find the dead killer.
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« Reply #8 on: November 20, 2009, 11:25:02 PM »

I didn't find it boring in the least. Really interesting setup, though I too couldn't figure out who Joe was.
I am curious who would want to clone a bunch of Marilyn Monroes and WHY! Tongue

I also wonder if the Greys were behind the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. Tongue

I think some of the confusion stems from the fact that there were two separate "sci fi" elements going on here:

1) aliens kidnapping various famous people and later releasing them after they'd been presumed dead and

2) some schmuck using alien technology to make a bunch of clones of a dead celebrity.

It was interesting to me that the main problem, in the eyes of the "law", I guess, with the second one, was that the celebrity was actually dead. They seemed to consider this some sort of technology abuse.

But anyway, I guess the point is that either of these alone would make an interesting premise for a story. Both of them mixed together seems like a lot. It works for me though, just makes for lots of interesting and twisty ways for the story to go. A psycho killer thrown into the mix adds an edge of suspense.

And I totally dug the Avenging Marylin at the end. It does make me wonder who she is, how she knew what was going on.. do they have a whole sisterhood of Marilyns? Is her quest now complete, or will she continue to stand for justice in the name of wronged Marylins everywhere? Smiley I dont need answers, it's just fun to speculate!
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« Reply #9 on: November 21, 2009, 02:44:54 PM »

My second thoughts on listening to the podcast.

The story begs some interesting questions. Such as: Who owns your DNA? You? Your parents? Your family? Your country? Some commercial enterprise? If I can get a piece of a supermodel's hair off of a hairbrush or from her trash, can I clone her and keep her as my love slave locked up in my basement? If I clone myself and have sex with it is that rape or incest? Could a good defence lawyer make a reasonable case that I was only having sex with myself and so how could this be a crime?

Maybe it's good that we can't do this stuff (yet) and we should move as a culture to develop protocols and legal mechanisms about how to handle these issues now before it gets to be a problem. Are we smart and or wise enough to?  Hmmm..... Huh
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yaksox
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« Reply #10 on: November 21, 2009, 09:28:05 PM »



Some of the non-Westernisms threw me a bit -- windscreen, boot, trainers -- which in and of themselves aren't a problem, but when the story takes place in America, with an American MC... those are little things that probably should have been caught in editing.



Try 'non-US phraseology' friend. The west is bigger than the states, and these words mention indicate a leaning toward british english. You may have a point about keeping it consistent with the setting, but anothe way to look at it is that the 'america' in the story was a kind of surreal, and that it's not necessarily the exclusive domain of US-born writers.

To extend on the comments made by the guest announcer and editor guy, sometimes I feel people here can be a bit harsh when critiquing the stories. Sure, it wasn't a masterpiece, but it's the product of this particular writer practising their craft and (hopefully) progressing.
As the guy said, if you're not happy with what's being offered, try writing something yourself, submitting and see how it stacks up. Smiley 


Ps. I like trash-science too. It's inspired me to pick an avatar.
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« Reply #11 on: November 22, 2009, 01:38:57 AM »

I enjoyed the story. At first it made me think of Elvis in the Attic (EP #199). But then it developed it's own flavour and direction and was reasonably interesting.

For the record, my interpretation was that the disguised MM at the funeral was responsible, as several posters have already mentioned. And I also never figured out which famous person Joe was supposed to be.
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« Reply #12 on: November 22, 2009, 01:59:55 PM »

I liked this one myself. Quite good and original. And I like the idea of the 'greys' being like children, heh.
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« Reply #13 on: November 23, 2009, 12:40:31 AM »

Note about the outro: just about anything of Bill Bryson's is great. If you want a funny outsider's view of my home country, try Bryson's Down Under. You can have good laugh at how strange we Aussies are.

BTW, A Short History of Nearly Everything gave me a view of just how far the sciences have progressed since I was at high school. :-)
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« Reply #14 on: November 23, 2009, 02:27:40 PM »

very strange and interesting little story. I enjoyed this odd world beside ours idea. vaguly noir but not quite. The nasel voice threw me a little- oterhwise strong showing this week.
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« Reply #15 on: November 23, 2009, 03:22:29 PM »



Some of the non-Westernisms threw me a bit -- windscreen, boot, trainers -- which in and of themselves aren't a problem, but when the story takes place in America, with an American MC... those are little things that probably should have been caught in editing.



Try 'non-US phraseology' friend. The west is bigger than the states, and these words mention indicate a leaning toward british english.

You're right. My bad.
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« Reply #16 on: November 23, 2009, 05:40:23 PM »

God, I miss the X-Files.

Thanks for this one!
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« Reply #17 on: November 23, 2009, 08:21:18 PM »

A fun, kooky premise.  Although I am pretty tired of the culture of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, James Dean, various Kennedys, etc, the thought of a bunch of secret, cloned Marilyn Monroes running around was pretty interesting.  I'd like to hear more about them.  Do they know who they are?  What happens when one realizes who she is?  Do they hate each other, love each other?

I agree that Amelia Earhart wasn't particularly Earharty.  And calling yourself "Amelia Hart" isn't a very good way of keeping your identity a secret.   In fact, for such an interesting real-life person who has had such and interesting fictional history and is walking around in such an interesting setting, her character is surprisingly uninteresting.  I'm going quote myself from the Uncanny Valley discussion:
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The gauge in my head that measures amount of dry, detached, cynical, sarcastic, world-weary, judgmental, snarky narration I hear is pegged at maximum due to the last few months of EPs.  She canna take much more of this, captain.  Not that this was bad narration -- I  thought it was very appropriate.  It's just that there have been several stories read with this voice lately.
Not every private investigator is Deckard from Bladerunner.  Of all the Escape Pod (and Pseudopod) quirks, this bothers me the most.  And it kind of bothers me a lot. 

Though I do find it interesting that even though they are all self-loathing and self-destructive, they don't smoke anymore.  Deckard didn't even smoke, though the pre-Deckard private dicks did. 
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« Reply #18 on: November 23, 2009, 10:41:52 PM »

Never had the term Fortean explained before, and I like getting that context ahead of time. For me this was a very enjoyable EP episode, the perfect story to listen to while running around doing chores. I found it clever and engaging.
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« Reply #19 on: November 24, 2009, 09:11:58 AM »


Though I do find it interesting that even though they are all self-loathing and self-destructive, they don't smoke anymore.  Deckard didn't even smoke, though the pre-Deckard private dicks did. 

I'm not sure because obviously I haven't seen the movie yet, but I think they're using boxing in the new Holmes film to replace Holmes's heroin habit (which he kicked about halfway through the run of Holmes stories anyway, IIRC).
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« Reply #20 on: November 24, 2009, 10:32:34 AM »

I'm not sure because obviously I haven't seen the movie yet, but I think they're using boxing in the new Holmes film to replace Holmes's heroin habit (which he kicked about halfway through the run of Holmes stories anyway, IIRC).

Sherlock Holmes was addicted to cocaine, not heroin.  Unless he was addicted to both.  But I know he was a cokehead.
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« Reply #21 on: November 24, 2009, 12:06:26 PM »

I'm not sure because obviously I haven't seen the movie yet, but I think they're using boxing in the new Holmes film to replace Holmes's heroin habit (which he kicked about halfway through the run of Holmes stories anyway, IIRC).

Sherlock Holmes was addicted to cocaine, not heroin.  Unless he was addicted to both.  But I know he was a cokehead.

You are right. I just read a comparison and apparently he used to inject cocaine. My brain caught the 'inject' and not the 'cocaine', and I guess I've associated 'inject' with 'heroin'.

And apparently Holmes also had the pugilistic skillz, though they were downplayed in the books in favor of his drug use.

*shrug*
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« Reply #22 on: November 24, 2009, 04:49:00 PM »

"What is it today?"

"It is cocaine, a seven per cent solution. Would you care to try some?"

It's probably not accurate to say Holmes was addicted to cocaine per se -- he's described as using it occasionally to distract hime when his brain had no problem to work on. I guess addiction is a reasonable assumption, though. Holmes dabbled in many combat arts -- pugilism, yes; "Baritsu" helped him escape the plunge over the Reichenbach Falls; he was a singlestick expert (whatever the hell a singlestick is); and I seem to recall he sometimes carried a sword-cane. He was annoyingly proficient at whatever he turned his hand to.

While we're at it, he never once said "Elementary, my dear Watson". Nor did he habitually wear that stupid derstalker cap, nor smoke a Meerschaum pipe. But I'm sure you folks already know that :-)
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« Reply #23 on: November 24, 2009, 09:45:26 PM »

he was a singlestick expert (whatever the hell a singlestick is);

Off topic response here:

To my knowledge, "singlestick" is a misnomer. It is 2 sticks about 24-30 inches long. Similar to escrima sticks (do search for "Dan Inosanto").

Also used in the SF book (well, trilogy, actually) "Battlecircle" by Piers Anthony.

In regards to 19th century fighting, though, I could be way off.
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« Reply #24 on: November 27, 2009, 01:22:09 PM »

And apparently Holmes also had the pugilistic skillz, though they were downplayed in the books in favor of his drug use.
"Downplayed in the books"?  Aren't Doyle's stories the origin of said detective, from whence all other media arose?
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« Reply #25 on: November 28, 2009, 07:36:13 AM »

I really enjoyed this one, but there were just a couple of weird very British vocab choices that didn't jive with the story.  The one that comes to mind is referring to the "trunk" of the car as the "boot".  I dunno maybe they say it in Canada as well, and maybe in her day Amelia would have said such, but by this point in the timeline of setting... she should be saying trunk.

I know, minor point, right? But it can make a difference.

Still I very much enjoyed it!
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« Reply #26 on: November 28, 2009, 12:54:09 PM »

I really liked this story - it's weird, combines a lot of different things, but at the same time, it's an effective mystery/cop procedural. I do agree with some of the previous comments that Amelia Earhart's identity didn't really play a role - she really just existed to serve the conceit of "a character who mysteriously disappeared solving a mystery many years later". But that didn't bother me while I was listening, just later.
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« Reply #27 on: November 30, 2009, 12:36:40 PM »

Normally, cloning famous dead celebrities is a surefire way to make me bored.  Ditto bringing up "the Greys."  I guess I'm just not into Fortean stuff, though I wasn't previously aware there was even a category for it.

This story made me cringe when I realized who Marilyn was, but as it went on I found myself really enjoying the plot and the characters.  I think having Amelia was a big help; she's an interesting historical figure who doesn't get enough airtime in stereotypical "weird" plots.  Mostly the story was just very well done; it was less the usual conspiracy-theory nonsense and more an old noir piece, and noir is made of win.  I find the idea of world-spanning conspiracies to be uninteresting, but here, the conspiracy was just a part of the background noise, accepted by everyone for what it was and worked around as bureaucratic nonsense is always worked around.  I was reminded vaguely of Sergei Lukyanenko's "Night Watch" series, where the world of the supernatural is just another corrupt institution.

The ending was very satisfying; they tied up just enough loose ends to give it proper closure and left enough open that it didn't feel contrived (as mysteries - especially mysteries about government conspiracies - often do). 

I enjoyed this one a lot.  Two thumbs up.
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« Reply #28 on: November 30, 2009, 06:55:36 PM »

No thumbs up from me, I fear.  Seemed a bunch of weird for weirdness sake without much of a point.  Just kind of self indulgent stuff for Fortean/X-Files fans, of which I am not.

Mostly I just kept getting hung on wanting actual details or realistic explanations.  Like, so there are Marylin clones, fine, I'm down with that.  If they want to keep a low profile, how come all their IDs have variants on Norma Jean?  Not a good way to keep on the down-low.  Yet despite this, Ameila fails to track down any while they are alive.  However, once they are killed, she gets notified.  Why do they stand out as Maralyns so much better dead then they do alive?  And why is the killer so good at tracking them if Ameila is so pathetic that she's never seen a live one?

Oh ya, I'm not supposed to care.  I'm just supposed to say "oh, cool, Marylin clones". 
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« Reply #29 on: November 30, 2009, 09:01:36 PM »

Well, presumably Amelia hasn't started a "vintage porn" operation and advertised for people who could impersonate dead celebrities.  Seems like a good way to find desperate female clones of Marilyn Monroe, but not really within the scope of whatever organization Amelia is with.
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« Reply #30 on: December 01, 2009, 03:56:13 AM »

No thumbs up from me, I fear.  Seemed a bunch of weird for weirdness sake without much of a point.  Just kind of self indulgent stuff for Fortean/X-Files fans, of which I am not.

Mostly I just kept getting hung on wanting actual details or realistic explanations.  Like, so there are Marylin clones, fine, I'm down with that.  If they want to keep a low profile, how come all their IDs have variants on Norma Jean?  Not a good way to keep on the down-low.  Yet despite this, Ameila fails to track down any while they are alive.  However, once they are killed, she gets notified.  Why do they stand out as Maralyns so much better dead then they do alive?  And why is the killer so good at tracking them if Ameila is so pathetic that she's never seen a live one?

Oh ya, I'm not supposed to care.  I'm just supposed to say "oh, cool, Marylin clones". 

Actually, I think the story handles all that, but subtly. In addition to Scattercat's very good point about why the killer was better at finding them than Amelia, we never were told if the Marilyns knew they were Marilyn clones. The one at the end probably figured it out, but the murdered ones may never have. They just probably knew they resembled her, and had similar personalities. I don't think they are deliberately trying to stay on the low-down so much as just living out their lives in small towns because that's where they grew up. Did they choose their own names? Or were the names given to them by whoever created them in the first place? Maybe whoever did that just had a bad imagination for names, or maybe he/she wanted to leave clues for someone.
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« Reply #31 on: December 03, 2009, 08:53:33 AM »

I'm going quote myself from the Uncanny Valley discussion:
Quote
The gauge in my head that measures amount of dry, detached, cynical, sarcastic, world-weary, judgmental, snarky narration I hear is pegged at maximum due to the last few months of EPs.  She canna take much more of this, captain.  Not that this was bad narration -- I  thought it was very appropriate.  It's just that there have been several stories read with this voice lately.

I have found that to be true as well, and for me, it links back to Kate Baker.  In some stories, her narration style works.  In others, it does not.  She did not read this one, though to be honest, I thought it was her in the beginning.(I listened to the intro separate from the story this time)

The story begs some interesting questions. Such as: Who owns your DNA? You? Your parents? Your family? Your country? Some commercial enterprise? If I can get a piece of a supermodel's hair off of a hairbrush or from her trash, can I clone her and keep her as my love slave locked up in my basement? If I clone myself and have sex with it is that rape or incest? Could a good defence lawyer make a reasonable case that I was only having sex with myself and so how could this be a crime?

Maybe it's good that we can't do this stuff (yet) and we should move as a culture to develop protocols and legal mechanisms about how to handle these issues now before it gets to be a problem. Are we smart and or wise enough to?  Hmmm..... Huh

There's a great story idea in there, KenK.  It may have been done already, but I haven't heard it. 

As for this story, I found it solidly in the meh zone.  The premise was okay, and the overall mystery was okay, but I found some of the Fortean-ness to be a bit forced.  Seemed to be more concerned with nudges and winks than actual plot. 

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« Reply #32 on: December 03, 2009, 04:02:05 PM »

No, I didn't like it. It's just not good enough.  As an editor I would send this back and tell the writer to work on it.  Don't get me wrong : it's a great premise and it has a lot of potential, but it just doesn't lived up to its promise.  The world in which it is set isn't fleshed out as it should be, so that after a while I couldn't care less.  Not a job well done. Also, it's a wacky set up, so don't be so serious about it. Film noir ? Sure, that's OK if your setting lives up to it. But this ? Have fun with it, don't make as if it's important.
The reading ? Not great. Reading stories for an audience is not easy, and there have been some good ones, but this is not one of them.
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« Reply #33 on: December 10, 2009, 03:27:29 PM »

I would slightly disagree, though only in as much as while the framing premise was okay, the actual case they were investigating inside didn't really interest me, the elevator pitch of this is quite good, 'Amelia Airheart investigates the killing of clones of Marilyn Monroe' but it doesn't really get fleshed out into a decent story, there's no real personality to any of the characters.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #34 on: January 15, 2010, 12:54:37 PM »

I really enjoyed this one!  The idea of so many clones of a single celebrity just wandering around trying to live their lives was a really good one, and having someone tasked with dealing with just this one aspect.  It was fun to try to figure out the identity of the murderer--in the end it appeared to be one of the Marilyns which was a really nice touch.  I had no idea who Joe was supposed to be, and Amelia didn't really seem Amelia-like, but overall I really liked it.

This could've been a lost episode of the X-Files.  I love X-Files so that's a compliment.  Smiley
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LaShawn
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« Reply #35 on: January 28, 2010, 01:00:23 PM »

The story begs some interesting questions. Such as: Who owns your DNA? You? Your parents? Your family? Your country? Some commercial enterprise? If I can get a piece of a supermodel's hair off of a hairbrush or from her trash, can I clone her and keep her as my love slave locked up in my basement? If I clone myself and have sex with it is that rape or incest? Could a good defence lawyer make a reasonable case that I was only having sex with myself and so how could this be a crime?

Thank you, sir, for officially blowing my mind.

As for the story, I liked it. I was in the mood for a good noir celebrity clone story. :-)
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« Reply #36 on: May 06, 2019, 06:38:21 AM »

Hello. And Bye.
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