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Author Topic: EP226: Pirate Solutions  (Read 19278 times)

Swamp

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on: November 26, 2009, 10:45:46 PM
EP226: Pirate Solutions

by Katherine Sparrow
Read by Sarah Tolbert, Kate Baker, Nate Periat, and Steve Eley

The story first appeared in Fast Ships, Black Sails edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer.

You could feel their heat. Not a metaphor, I don’t mean that, I mean literally the room grew warmer when they were in it. They were both so powerful. Whenever Anne and Jack (they weren’t named that then, but that’s who they were) strolled into the room you got contact highs from their lust. People who would never make out would find excuses to go to the bathroom together and come back with monster hickies. Everyone always wanted to sit near them because of their heat, and because they always said the thing you wish you’d said but only thought to say a billion blinks later.

When I first joined the Freebooter tech collective Anne and Jack were happy to have another girl in the group, but otherwise they ignored me. I could stare and stare at them all day long, hiding behind my black-rimmed glasses. But then one day Anne looked at me, and then Jack looked too, and we all just sort of fell toward each other. Like gravity. Like magic. Like there was a God.


Rated ARRRRR.


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« Last Edit: November 26, 2009, 10:53:16 PM by Swamp »

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KenK

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Reply #1 on: November 27, 2009, 02:43:23 PM
An interesting concept this "freebooter tech collective" gamers group.Takes the MUD style gaming experience to a much higher level, eh?  :D

Multiple readers was a good idea here too. Congrats to the EP production crew. 



MacArthurBug

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Reply #2 on: November 27, 2009, 07:06:58 PM
I want rum! Fantastic story line, wonderful characters, and a wonderful group reading. Every facet of this piece was well done. More! (and rum)

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Yargling

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Reply #3 on: November 27, 2009, 07:17:04 PM
So...what? They are mind controlled? Nano-teched twisted? To be honest, not so keen on it - but the "person/people gets transformed stories" creep me out and make me dislike the stories regardless of their other merits.



Jagash

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Reply #4 on: November 28, 2009, 12:25:11 AM
I agree that the multiple readers were ideal for this piece, though I found the weird fiction elements a touch less then ideal for my personal preferences.  The description of the hallucinating man drifting on the oceans surrounded by dolphins was quite well done.    Likewise, the appropriate uses of the elements mentioned by Steve in the end were good.

Congrats.

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deflective

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Reply #5 on: November 28, 2009, 03:10:42 AM
this one was a lot of fun.  i like how it accurately captures the feel of a subculture without worrying too much about fiddly details.

in related news, mininova surrendered to international galleons the same day that this was posted.  so that's half an hour of redirecting bitorrent rss feeds ahead of me.  congratulations to the industry luddites on winning your battle.

what's that? missing a couple islands you say? i'm sure they'll turn up.
« Last Edit: November 28, 2009, 04:23:26 AM by deflective »



heyes

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Reply #6 on: November 28, 2009, 12:23:09 PM
Thinly veiled soft core poly-porn should come with some kind of pg-13 warning during the intro. Both of the readers did their job very well.  Yes, I said both, because after part 2 I was bored. I'm sure Steve Eley did a great job reading, he always does.  I like a good pirate story any day, but this was not one.  Let's get back into the sci-fi realm pretty soon please.

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Gia

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Reply #7 on: November 28, 2009, 06:00:10 PM
I can't say that I liked this story and I was really excited for a pirate story. Mary's and Anne's parts had no conflict, no plot. They talked about how nice the sea was, drank rum and made out. They're pirates who don't do anything. All right, fine. They did some hacking, but despite how they purportedly hacked for up to twelve hours a day we were only told about it passingly and we didn't actually see any for most of the story until we got to Steve Eley's part. When the first ship showed up during Jack's part I thought "Oh boy! Here comes some actual conflict and . . . they all got along. Great." The part with Steve Eley's character (his name was never important) did have ship-to-ship combat (I think), but by that point I had stopped caring.



kibitzer

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Reply #8 on: November 29, 2009, 04:54:40 AM
I started out not liking this one, but it grew on me. I think I was trying to piece things together at the beginning and it wasn't easy or obvious. But I did like it in the end and the ensemble reading was grand.

BTW, Steve's capstone about finding out your grandfather was a pirate? The Aussie equivalent is discovering one of your forebears arrived with the First Fleet -- as a convict :-).
« Last Edit: November 29, 2009, 05:22:36 AM by kibitzer »



Talia

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Reply #9 on: November 29, 2009, 05:30:40 AM
Thinly veiled soft core poly-porn should come with some kind of pg-13 warning during the intro. Both of the readers did their job very well.  Yes, I said both, because after part 2 I was bored. I'm sure Steve Eley did a great job reading, he always does.  I like a good pirate story any day, but this was not one.  Let's get back into the sci-fi realm pretty soon please.

I'd argue "thinly veiled soft core poly-porn" is an EXTREME exaggeration unless you're ultra conservative. Not that there's anything wrong with that, just I feel sorry for you :P

Secondly, this story was pretty solidly sci fi, alabeit with fantasy elements. If you're going to argue that anything with fantasy elements is automatically fantasy rather than sci fi , well, why couldnt someone argue that anything with sci fi elements is automatically sci fi and also be correct?

Its that whole "science fiction is what you point to and say it is" thing.



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Reply #10 on: November 29, 2009, 08:24:56 AM
I very much enjoyed the story!  Nice magical blending of past & present thru agency of psychedelic bone rum, and the lightly rendered sex felt authentic, integral to the story, and so easily and comfortably slipped into by author and characters.  Something not often done so well or so fluidly.

I did feel midway thru story that computer hacker component, qualifying it for sci fi, was maybe grafted on unnecessarily, but by 2/3 or 3/4 way thru, changed my opinion.  I think it worked well, especially as that element built & its viral nature was revealed, spreading ever further through the global population.  I liked that. 

And good that it was just sketched in without too much detail, cuz consideration of the unfortunate gender balance that would likely be present in such a population of hacker nerds, i.e. 10 to 1 male to female, would kinda spoil the fantasy & burst the bubble. 

Better as it was, eliding that harsh toke of reality & instead focussing on depicting more the *feeling* of such a mass liberation, which would involve as many girls as boys (child & adult) if broken out of computer nerdville.  Cuz girls are rebellious & anarchic creatures at heart, even more than boys.

Story was also the subliminal inspiration, I realized while in line to pay, for my purchase of a bottle of the darkest dark rum I could find in liquor store tonight.  The brand: Captain Morgan, of course, with the date 1680 enigmatically emblazoned on neck of bottle. 

Have to confess to disappointment at not being able to see a piece of bone in the bottom of bottle, but maybe it's there.  Resisted strong urge to swig heavily & directly from bottle like in the story, only because I'm still fighting off a sore throat.  But maybe I should for that very reason....

in related news, mininova surrendered to international galleons the same day that this was posted.  so that's half an hour of redirecting bitorrent rss feeds ahead of me.  congratulations to the industry luddites on winning your battle.

Garrrr.  (Angry pirate noise, combining Grr w Arrr)  But take heart, mateys, in wise closing paragraphs from linked-to CBC article:

Quote
The website (mininova) also made efforts to remove links to copyrighted material, unlike The Pirate Bay, another big torrent site, which has taunted entertainment companies by posting their takedown requests and mocking them.

The Pirate Bay itself recently removed its tracker links, replacing with them with a more decentralized kind of peer-to-peer network that will be harder for copyright holders to pin down. The Pirate Bay's founders were found guilty of promoting copyright infringement earlier this year by a Swedish court.

Peer-to-peer users are expected to migrate to the new technology, which uses magnet links to find files, and to other torrent sites that will inevitably spring up as the big ones gradually shut down.
« Last Edit: November 29, 2009, 08:27:08 AM by Delysid »



madmatt

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Reply #11 on: November 29, 2009, 09:30:20 PM
The production was great, but the story itself was a confusing mess of half formed ideas that left me feeling nothing, and thinking "WTF?" - not in the good way either! Thats unusual for Escape Pod, even the stories I don't like at least make me think a bit.

Definitely worst escape pod ever for me.



yaksox

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Reply #12 on: November 30, 2009, 12:24:48 AM
Let's have the English woman read some more stories, please  ;).

I liked the ship battle action scene near the end, and I found the perspective of the guy saved by dolphins refreshing because for the most part it was exceedingly nerdy. Never thought I'd hear a character yell "apt-get!" in a short story.



cdugger

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Reply #13 on: November 30, 2009, 03:29:33 PM
Not a good one, this.

The story started confused. Sounded like the author wanted to write some 3-way porn, then chickened out. Then, decided to just throw in computers for the sci-fi, merged historical and modern day pirates, and then just made them...nothing.

So they steal. Big deal. There really wasn't much story here.

I did like the reading, though. Using a different person for every narrator was a good idea, and worked quite well.

I read, therefore I am...happy.


Alasdair5000

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Reply #14 on: November 30, 2009, 05:02:21 PM
Not a good one, this.

The story started confused. Sounded like the author wanted to write some 3-way porn, then chickened out.


Let's not get into baseless speculation about the motives for writing the story, please.



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Reply #15 on: November 30, 2009, 05:28:15 PM
I enjoyed the magical realism, but then I tend more towards the Fantasy than the Sci-fi end of the fandom spectrum anyway.  I thought the image of the piratical mindset, as it were, being passed down and finding a new home in an unlikely place.  I think it's interesting to see an abstract concept made concrete in this way, with the rum serving as the medium and the message.

I kept thinking the story was about to end, checking the iPod, and seeing twenty, fifteen, ten minutes left.  Unusually, this didn't annoy me as it often does.  Instead, I started wondering where else the story was going.  I think it ended in an interesting place; the third arc was, I think, a necessary coda to the story, because previously the pirate souls had only found willing vessels.  The would-be suicide was the first openly hostile party exposed to the pirate world, and watching him gradually come to understand the instinctive rebellion, the urge toward independence and separation, the glee and avarice of that world was a fascinating progression.

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Reply #16 on: November 30, 2009, 10:25:15 PM
I definitely enjoyed this story in parts but not as much when placed all together. Of all the parts I felt the first drinking of the rum was strongest both through the author and the narrator. I will say that at that point the story seduced my mind completely into sharing the sensations right along with the characters, each drop of rum seemed to leave the story and become reality.

The cooperative narration was very pleasing and not at all unsettling as I find with some of the other episodes where one narrator must fill in a voice that is just unnatural. The Escape Artist Narrators are typically very good none the less but this aspect made the experience silky smooth, just like the rum.

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Darwinist

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Reply #17 on: December 01, 2009, 05:30:38 AM
Thinly veiled soft core poly-porn should come with some kind of pg-13 warning during the intro. Both of the readers did their job very well.  Yes, I said both, because after part 2 I was bored. I'm sure Steve Eley did a great job reading, he always does.  I like a good pirate story any day, but this was not one.  Let's get back into the sci-fi realm pretty soon please.

I agree with you on this.  I haven't connected with the last several stories and haven't liked an episode enough to save it for a long time.   Great reading, though, but I'm looking forward to something different this week.

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.    -  Carl Sagan


stePH

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Reply #18 on: December 02, 2009, 03:29:15 PM
Not a good one, this.

The story started confused. Sounded like the author wanted to write some 3-way porn, then chickened out. Then, decided to just throw in computers for the sci-fi, merged historical and modern day pirates, and then just made them...nothing.

So they steal. Big deal. There really wasn't much story here.

I did like the reading, though. Using a different person for every narrator was a good idea, and worked quite well.

Apart from seeing pr0n that wasn't there, I agree with this psot.  The story was interesting to listen to, and the multiple readers served it well, but I just didn't get the point.

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Reply #19 on: December 02, 2009, 04:17:03 PM
So, on Saturday I started listening to this story, and about ten minutes in I stopped. I was just not getting it, at all.

Yesterday I decided to give it a second chance, and started over. This time, I enjoyed it a lot more - I still wouldn't rate this as a favorite, but it did work for me.

My main problem that remains is that I didn't get much of a feeling of consistent world building. A lot of stuff happened, and it all connected to make a consistent narrative, but it felt a bit like it was driven by random thoughts that the author had rather than any planning. Quite probably this is false, an artifact of the somewhat chaotic style, but that's what it felt like to me.



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Reply #20 on: December 02, 2009, 08:57:58 PM
I think that might be because the story takes a while to get settled into a groove.  When it started out, I wasn't sure what the setting even was, and we spent a long time talking about the characters instead of clarifying some things (like what "collective" referred to, what era it was set in, etc.)  I started out picturing a close-knit space station somewhere and the "literally" hot couple as actual aliens until I gradually picked up on it.  I think that if it were in context with other, more similar stories, it might have been easier to slip into the "not quite the real world" zone it took place in, but because Escape Pod can end up taking us anywhere from ancient South America to a spaceship in a distant galaxy, it was harder to get a fix on where the story was aiming.

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Reply #21 on: December 02, 2009, 11:02:02 PM
Coming back to say I think this story would have been better suited to Podcastle.  Never mind the computer-hacker collectives; the bone-rum is totally a "magical realism" thing.

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wakela

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Reply #22 on: December 02, 2009, 11:28:34 PM
As others have said this story is just a series of events without any goals or challenges.  What they were doing must have been exceedingly challenging, but the extent of the conflict is summed up in coding for hours on end.  Who are the British in their computer piracy scheme? 

I did enjoy the suicide guy at the end.  He was a nice dose of reality after the happy, conflict-free computer hippies.  I was hoping that his negativity would be the fly in the ointment, and make their idealized lives more interesting.

Kudos on the production and the multiple voices.

I don't see how this story is science fiction.  Steve didn't even sound convinced in the outro.  Yes, there are computers, but there's a computer on my desk and I'm not science fiction.  And the central Weird Thing in the story is the rum, not the hacking.  I know we're not supposed to go there on the Episode discussion, so I won't reply if someone challenges me on this.  I just wanted to get my two pennies in there.

This is pretty negative, but I did actually enjoy listening to the story.  The characters were good, the reading was good, and I didn't know what was going to happen.  But the story just didn't meet my expectations. 



deflective

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Reply #23 on: December 03, 2009, 10:35:18 AM
i've stayed out of genre discussions for a long time because there's only so many times you can go round a ride before the scenery gets tired but this story is interesting since it's a case that shows one of the subtler differences between scifi and fantasy.

the vast majority of the story was an analogy, the pirate bones dissolving in rum (pirate solution) represented a spreading philosophy or world view.  the  ways that ideas can spread has become a topic of interest over the past couple of years as shown by the words meme & zeitgeist entering popular culture.

pirates in this story spread by drinking.  drink the rum, live the life, create an empty bottle that carries the message.  this is much the same way that online movements spread simply by people using the idea.  other people see it, put their own twist on it (find their own stash), and expand the concept.  a fringe culture may then build up by collecting people that feel like they don't fit in anywhere else.

this is a big part of what makes this scifi to me, it's an analogous investigation of how an idea is spread.  a large portion of the scifi genre (usually the hard stuff) investigates how things work, or may work in the future, whereas fantasy tends to concentrate on the way things are.  an analogous fantasy story is a parable which models a truth and gives a moral lesson.  an example might have the master of a house giving money to the children and then rewarding those who invest it, condemning those who hide it.  a scifi story might have much the same plot but, in addition, there could be an exploration of what money is, the difference between money & wealth and how removing money from an economy affects people's motivation.

it isn't a hard rule, but fantasy rarely concerns itself with hows or whys.


btw, if you haven't heard about Calico Jack, Mary Read and Anne Bonny it's worth taking a few minutes to look at them.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2009, 10:37:41 AM by deflective »



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Reply #24 on: December 03, 2009, 08:08:22 PM
I liked the story. Very inventive. I look forward to hearing more from this author. Like Mr.Eley said at the end, maybe she’ll write some continuation. On a personal note: I work with programmers. They’re not cool. They wouldn’t listen to this story. Hell I don’t think they even read. They are on the other ship. I hope the pirates sink em.



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Reply #25 on: December 03, 2009, 08:54:42 PM
I dug it.   I don't worry about the "This should have been Podcastle" discussions as I try to listen to all three.  As long as I'm drinking good rum, I don't care what label is on the bottle.

Having done a fair amount of sailing, I did snicker when I heard that they taught themselves to sail as they went along.  But since it took them three weeks to sail to the island from Pensacola they must have been going REALLY slowly.

In fact, I've really enjoyed most of the EscapePod stories recently.  Uncanny Valley left my mind spinning, but that had to do with the boring three hour long meeting that was sandwiched between my drive time with that story.



yicheng

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Reply #26 on: December 03, 2009, 09:44:49 PM
I'm not sure if I like this or not.  On one hand, the story was well read and executed.  On the other hand, I'm rather turned-off at the glorification of piracy and cyber-vandalism, and I find it pandering and uncreative.  If you really wanted to "talk like a pirate" you should be speaking Somali.  It's all fun and games to share pr0n and rip video games, but when was it considered okay or "heroic" to shut down the Internet for a few hours?  The idea of a hacker pirate "commune" might be romantic until you realize that a good portion of cyber-attacks are actually state-sponsored or run by organized crime.



Talia

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Reply #27 on: December 03, 2009, 10:16:48 PM
I'm not sure if I like this or not.  On one hand, the story was well read and executed.  On the other hand, I'm rather turned-off at the glorification of piracy and cyber-vandalism, and I find it pandering and uncreative.  If you really wanted to "talk like a pirate" you should be speaking Somali.  It's all fun and games to share pr0n and rip video games, but when was it considered okay or "heroic" to shut down the Internet for a few hours?  The idea of a hacker pirate "commune" might be romantic until you realize that a good portion of cyber-attacks are actually state-sponsored or run by organized crime.

Fiction, fiction. Relax :D

I'm guessing you hated PoTC 1 & 3 too. (I've decided 2 didn't really happen. Its been banished to the place where Star Wars 1-3 were banished to).



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Reply #28 on: December 03, 2009, 11:05:39 PM
I'm not sure if I like this or not.  On one hand, the story was well read and executed.  On the other hand, I'm rather turned-off at the glorification of piracy and cyber-vandalism, and I find it pandering and uncreative.  If you really wanted to "talk like a pirate" you should be speaking Somali.  It's all fun and games to share pr0n and rip video games, but when was it considered okay or "heroic" to shut down the Internet for a few hours?  The idea of a hacker pirate "commune" might be romantic until you realize that a good portion of cyber-attacks are actually state-sponsored or run by organized crime.

Fiction, fiction. Relax :D

I'm guessing you hated PoTC 1 & 3 too. (I've decided 2 didn't really happen. Its been banished to the place where Star Wars 1-3 were banished to).

The same place that fourth Batman movie people talking about is banished to?



wakela

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Reply #29 on: December 04, 2009, 12:34:07 AM
I dug it.   I don't worry about the "This should have been Podcastle" discussions as I try to listen to all three.  As long as I'm drinking good rum, I don't care what label is on the bottle.

I think it's more like buy something that says "good rum" on the label and finding out it actually good gin. 



wakela

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Reply #30 on: December 04, 2009, 12:37:07 AM
I'm not sure if I like this or not.  On one hand, the story was well read and executed.  On the other hand, I'm rather turned-off at the glorification of piracy and cyber-vandalism, and I find it pandering and uncreative.  If you really wanted to "talk like a pirate" you should be speaking Somali.  It's all fun and games to share pr0n and rip video games, but when was it considered okay or "heroic" to shut down the Internet for a few hours?  The idea of a hacker pirate "commune" might be romantic until you realize that a good portion of cyber-attacks are actually state-sponsored or run by organized crime.

Fiction, fiction. Relax :D

I'm guessing you hated PoTC 1 & 3 too. (I've decided 2 didn't really happen. Its been banished to the place where Star Wars 1-3 were banished to).

I like PoTC, but I think this is a valid complaint.  Watching pirate movies and listening to pirate stories I find myself wondering if in 200 years they'll be making movies about the freedom and romance of twentieth century urban gangs or Al Qaida. 



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Reply #31 on: December 04, 2009, 01:05:47 AM
I enjoyed the story. Sure it seemed chaotic and dizzying at times, but here it fits - wars and battles can seem that way. Most importantly, it was fun, and in the end, it came together really well.

Also, I didn't mind the stealing so much, because it seemed to me they were working towards a much loftier goal than petty theft. I definitely got the impression they were planning a revolution of some kind....



yicheng

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Reply #32 on: December 04, 2009, 03:06:34 AM
I'm not sure if I like this or not.  On one hand, the story was well read and executed.  On the other hand, I'm rather turned-off at the glorification of piracy and cyber-vandalism, and I find it pandering and uncreative.  If you really wanted to "talk like a pirate" you should be speaking Somali.  It's all fun and games to share pr0n and rip video games, but when was it considered okay or "heroic" to shut down the Internet for a few hours?  The idea of a hacker pirate "commune" might be romantic until you realize that a good portion of cyber-attacks are actually state-sponsored or run by organized crime.

Fiction, fiction. Relax :D

I'm guessing you hated PoTC 1 & 3 too. (I've decided 2 didn't really happen. Its been banished to the place where Star Wars 1-3 were banished to).

Yes, I understand the difference between fiction and non-fiction.  PoTC (never saw 2) was good because it didn't take itself seriously.  I could be wrong, but it seemed like there was an underlying idealization and equivalence of 19th century piracy and modern hacker culture in the story.  It wasn't so much the cultures themselves that I object to, as much as the glorification of them, and the moral message it sends.  "Hack the world" is all fun and games until you start disrupting people's real lives, and grandma doesn't get her check because a Russian hacker wiped out her pension fund.  Loftier goals there might be, but let's be honest: there's a name for using covert attacks & theft to achieve political ends. 

And the only reason we think pirates are cool and glorious is because they've been rendered innocuous by time and history.  How many people nowadays think a half-dozen starving and khat-crazed Somali's with AK's and RPG's on speed-boats are "cool" or "glorious"?  If you can honestly answer yes, then you at least have my respect if not my agreement.  Yet, arguably, these modern-day pirates are no different than Black Bart or Anne Bonny.  If you were on a yacht being boarded by a pack of Somali's or Indonesians, would you feel any different than 19th century sailors when they saw the Jolly Roger?



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Reply #33 on: December 04, 2009, 02:03:40 PM
I liked this story. It was a fun listen. I especially enjoyed the third reader -- Nate, was it? -- and how he moved in and out of Pirate Accent Mode depending upon the character's inner voice. That was cool. I don't think the starting part (where they said Mary Read's birth and death dates) really worked because it made me think this was set in her era, and it wasn't. I had to rethink and that was an adjustment I shouldn't have had to make.

But fundamentally my major problem with the story is that it's basically a Cory Doctorow Pirate Story. You've got the independent smart people who can make stuff and use computers (the teens in Little Brother, Alan's friend in Someone Comes to Town, etc), their quest to interrupt the internet and scare people (similar to the concert scene in LB), their taking of not a lot of money but just enough to buy some islands so they can have their own little collective-o-pirates (I believe I read one of his longer shorts that had something about some monks in it? That's also a theme of Anathem by Stephenson), the fact that they managed to peacefully meld small groups into something larger without creating any suspicion among the concerned parties (again, Little Brother)... it just felt like the author read Cory Doctorow, said "ooh, that's a cool style, but let's try it with PIRATES!!!" and away she went.

Fortunately, it was a good story. But that's what I kept thinking.

I also thought, toward the end, that this would've been an even better story without the computer hacker angle. I mean, sure, maybe they could start out as hackers, but the whole pirate hack at the end was pretty trite when the story really could've been about a fleet of pirate ships or something.

So, y'know, a good episode but I had my issues.

I work with programmers. They’re not cool. They wouldn’t listen to this story. Hell I don’t think they even read. They are on the other ship. I hope the pirates sink em.

The programmers I work with are also artists, so they're both cool and programmer-y. The one hardcore programmer in my work area happens to also be a huge sports fan, so that's totally against the mold there.

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Reply #34 on: December 04, 2009, 02:26:48 PM
Hi, this is the author weighing in on a couple of points.  :) Thanks to everyone for their comments and listening to the story.

So onto the question of whether it's morally reprehensible to glorify pirates. I think equating golden-age pirates (1600's-1750's) with Somali pirates is missing some important history. First off, many old school pirates had originally been pressganged (kidnapped and enslaved) into servitude as soldiers or sailors. So, when a ship mutineed it often was a slave rebellion. And (I find this fascinating) pirate ships were some of the earliest places where a modern-style democracy was practiced, where captains and quartermasters were elected and shared power. Not always, but this was the norm back then. Also, they were one of the first places where people of mixed race lived and worked as equals.  

While I also despise a lot of the violence those pirates were up to back then, I think raiding ships who's sole purpose was to bring goods back from the colonies that countries like England maintained via mass amounts of violence and terror is less morally compromised than it might seem. I think of it as thieves stealing from thieves.

Also, there's pretty interesting evidence that there was almost no violence when ships under pirate attack chose surrender. There's an interesting book--The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates--that goes into the reasons why it was standard practice that any ship who surrendered was treated well and left with plenty of provisions to get to a port, and how it was a pretty kick-ass economic model.  

I'd also like to point out that I find it interesting that when people think of piracy, they imagine themselves back then as being the people with money. Uh, almost everyone was dirt poor. Tons of people were starving. Tons of people were subsistent farmers living to the average age of 35. Most people were forced to live lives governed entirely by those people who most of us weren't: the landed gentry and royalty. When some of those people rebelled, I think it's okay to think they were cool.  

Also, I haven't read any of those works by Cory Doctorow, except Little Brother, which I read after I wrote the story. Strange/interesting that there is so much overlap.



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Reply #35 on: December 04, 2009, 02:37:07 PM
I liked the story, but didn't love it.  I think that Wakela said it best when they said that it was lacking in conflict.  It was an interesting look at these people's lives, and the idea of the bone rum was a good one, but it seemed to be missing something.  I guess to me it was like a drive along a highway with no other cars.  Sure, you get to your destination on time, and safely, and you probably enjoyed your ride, but will you remember it?  Probably not. Even that sounds too harsh, I really did enjoy the story.  It just doesn't rank up there with stories like the Death Trap stories, or Skinhorse goes to Mars, or Mr. Penumbra's 24 hour bookstore, or others of my favorites. 

The "is this sci-fi or not" question never really came up to me.  For me, its as much of a sci-fi story as "Cryptonomicon" was, and I would definitely consider that sci-fi.  Or maybe its part of a new genre, hack-fi.  Yes.  Both this and Cryptonomicon, are both examples of hack-fi. 

The reading was excellent by all, and Steve really shined, as he always does. 

I also think I might have liked it more if I was in the pirate camp, and not the ninja camp, as I am.  ;D

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yicheng

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Reply #36 on: December 04, 2009, 04:45:26 PM
Hi, this is the author weighing in on a couple of points.  :) Thanks to everyone for their comments and listening to the story.

So onto the question of whether it's morally reprehensible to glorify pirates. I think equating golden-age pirates (1600's-1750's) with Somali pirates is missing some important history. First off, many old school pirates had originally been pressganged (kidnapped and enslaved) into servitude as soldiers or sailors. So, when a ship mutineed it often was a slave rebellion. And (I find this fascinating) pirate ships were some of the earliest places where a modern-style democracy was practiced, where captains and quartermasters were elected and shared power. Not always, but this was the norm back then. Also, they were one of the first places where people of mixed race lived and worked as equals.  

While I also despise a lot of the violence those pirates were up to back then, I think raiding ships who's sole purpose was to bring goods back from the colonies that countries like England maintained via mass amounts of violence and terror is less morally compromised than it might seem. I think of it as thieves stealing from thieves.

Also, there's pretty interesting evidence that there was almost no violence when ships under pirate attack chose surrender. There's an interesting book--The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates--that goes into the reasons why it was standard practice that any ship who surrendered was treated well and left with plenty of provisions to get to a port, and how it was a pretty kick-ass economic model.  

I'd also like to point out that I find it interesting that when people think of piracy, they imagine themselves back then as being the people with money. Uh, almost everyone was dirt poor. Tons of people were starving. Tons of people were subsistent farmers living to the average age of 35. Most people were forced to live lives governed entirely by those people who most of us weren't: the landed gentry and royalty. When some of those people rebelled, I think it's okay to think they were cool.  

Thanks for your reply, Katie.  I hate to continue talking about it, because I really didn't find the story all that objectionable, although it was a middle-of-the-scale story for me.  Many of those things you said about the carribean pirates are also true of modern pirates.  You do have a point about the pressing of sailors into service, although I think it's a murky matter at best, since there are many conflicting sources.  Shanghai'ing people was a common practice for everyone back then, and I think not too few pirate ships may have pressed a few deckhands, doctors or cooks into service when they saw the need.

As for pirate democracy, I remain skeptical.  To me, it falls under the same category as the gang charter of the Hells Angels or the Latin Kings.  Sounds great, until you realize it's a democracy enforced by how many guns you have pointed at you.

Stealing from thieves: There's a reason why piracy is one of the few means of income for your average Somali fisherman.  When Japanese, Vietnamese, and Chinese fishing companies figured out that the lack of a stable government in Somalia also meant no enforcement of fishing regulations, it didn't take them long to traul the Somali coast bone-dry of fish, leaving almost nothing for the locals.  Depite the occassional cruise ship or tanker ship, most of their targets are small fishing vessels.

No violence on surrender:  A good portion of money from piracy comes from ransoming people, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out that dead people don't ransom very well.  In fact, most prisoners say that they were treated fairly well by the Somali pirate (food, water, etc), except for that whole kidnapped at gun-point thing.  The other half of piracy money comes from theft of cargo and vessels.  Your typical cargo ship and freight may net several millions of dollar on the black market, and most of the time the crew is ransomed or released without molestation.  In many instances, pirates have collaborators among the crew members.  Again, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that it's a lot easier to bribe the crew off than it is to have a shoot out with them.

People being dirt poor: Same with modern pirates.  The average Somali or Indonesian pirate are dirt poor peasants in most cases, with very few economic alternatives, whereas the a single successful run can set them up for life.



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Reply #37 on: December 04, 2009, 06:15:00 PM
I like PoTC, but I think this is a valid complaint.  Watching pirate movies and listening to pirate stories I find myself wondering if in 200 years they'll be making movies about the freedom and romance of twentieth century urban gangs or Al Qaida. 

You make an epic supernatural adventure romantic comedy about Al Qaida with Johnny Depp and Geoffery Rush (and Jack Davenport, if you can manage it), and I will be the first in line, sir  ;)


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Reply #38 on: December 04, 2009, 06:28:13 PM
I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The prose and sensory detail was lovely. The first scene with the rum and the crunching bone was a fantastic hook. And yes, I dug the hacking bits. The suicidal character at the end was a nice touch.

And thanks to Katie for weighing in here. I always love seeing authors pop in and talk about the stories they've written, and give us some more insight.


cercle

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Reply #39 on: December 05, 2009, 08:00:10 PM
No no no no no ! What's wrong with escape pod ? Where has the fun gone ? This story was once again extremely boring, badly written, there were no characters to speak of and the language was annoyingly pompous. This time I didn't even bother to finish listening.  Variations in the stories ? Fine, but I'd rather have ten similar GOOD ones than twenty bad ones which are all different.  I'm quiting EP for a while.



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Reply #40 on: December 06, 2009, 02:16:23 AM
Well, then, you will probably miss a great one next week.

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Reply #41 on: December 06, 2009, 02:24:48 AM
I loved this one! Arrr! It was everything a story should be, and I love the mystery our Fearless Host brought out at the end. It's true. Great writers know that some mysteries are best left unsolved.

Arr!

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Reply #42 on: December 06, 2009, 02:42:19 AM
No no no no no ! What's wrong with escape pod ? Where has the fun gone ? This story was once again extremely boring, badly written, there were no characters to speak of and the language was annoyingly pompous. This time I didn't even bother to finish listening.  Variations in the stories ? Fine, but I'd rather have ten similar GOOD ones than twenty bad ones which are all different.  I'm quiting EP for a while.

Bye!

Cause I'm sure you listened to a an EP different than the one I heard, which was none of the things you suggested.



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Reply #43 on: December 06, 2009, 03:51:17 AM
WOW! This story rocked!  I was off and on distracted by other things than the story so I was kind of lost midway, but the end made me laugh a few times and was beautifully written.  I'll have to give this one a re-listen sometime later, awesome job EP!

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Reply #44 on: December 06, 2009, 06:58:06 AM
"Marooned with Geeks!!"  Loved suicide guy in his moments of clarity.  The parts before that came off as a little too in love with pirate fantasy (guess I got my fill with Captain Jack Sparrow & Co.) and college level (tame, very tame) sexual experimentation.  I don't know if the whole cyberpiracy bit was that convincing -- there is sooo much of this stuff in sci-fi that if an author is going to do more of it I think they need to find a new angle.  But suicide dude was very very funny!
« Last Edit: December 06, 2009, 06:49:45 PM by jay daze »



ajames

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Reply #45 on: December 06, 2009, 02:36:42 PM
Okay, this story didn't really do much for me, though I can't really say why. I think the self-absorption of the first character turned me off, and I had a hard time really getting into the story after that.

Deflective, I dug your first post in this story. Really interesting way of looking at things. I'm not sure I agree that fantasy doesn't typically concern itself with the "how and why" of things-the 'how and why' of magic in the EarthSea series, for example, is a pretty important story element-but interesting to contemplate.

What I liked most about this story was how excited Steve got about it - for that reason alone it belongs on EP rather than PC-and the production was great, too. I did find Steve's comments at the end about the genre of this story a little odd. If I understood him right, the fact that the bone rum could have worked through nanotech, and could have been the tool of aliens, makes it SF, even though there was absolutely no reference to either of these things in the story? The logic seems off to me (by that criteria, everything is SF, even non-fiction). But whatever, it was good to hear Steve narrate again and to have a "fun" story.



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Reply #46 on: December 06, 2009, 07:16:16 PM
I'm not sure I agree that fantasy doesn't typically concern itself with the "how and why" of things-the 'how and why' of magic in the EarthSea series, for example, is a pretty important story element-but interesting to contemplate.

valid point.  maybe it would have been more accurate to say that fantasy stories like to create their own mechanics (especially magics & deity pantheons) rather than investigate the mechanics that exist in our world.



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Reply #47 on: December 06, 2009, 07:34:12 PM
I'm not sure I agree that fantasy doesn't typically concern itself with the "how and why" of things-the 'how and why' of magic in the EarthSea series, for example, is a pretty important story element-but interesting to contemplate.

valid point.  maybe it would have been more accurate to say that fantasy stories like to create their own mechanics (especially magics & deity pantheons) rather than investigate the mechanics that exist in our world.

But so do many stories that tend to be classified as Science Fiction. For an easy example, take practically any example of television SF - Star Trek (any series), Babylon 5, Stargate, etc.



deflective

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Reply #48 on: December 06, 2009, 08:46:57 PM
aye. a large portion of scifi investigates how things work but there are stories that don't, the difference is that it's virtually unknown in fantasy.  there are exceptions, some authors do a very good job of translating real world mechanics into fantasy analogy (notably Pratchett) but they are so rare that they just highlight the general absence in the genre.

this isn't an absolute, just a trend that's common enough to influence how i classify a story that contains both scifi & fantasy elements.



ancawonka

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Reply #49 on: December 09, 2009, 12:03:19 AM
I listened to this a couple of days ago, but I'm still thinking about it fondly.  I liked the concept, that the younger pirates figured out a way to keep themselves immortal through infecting future teenagers.    I think the story definitely needed the 4th part, which brought all of the conflict that was lacking in the first three parts.   

As a programmer, I like the concept of an island full of coders!  Bring it on.  Someone on that beach will be busy all day long trying to deflect the nuclear missiles and satellites, though.

BTW, the Somali pirates who have been lucky enough to score a couple of ransoms are living it up, according to this SF Chronicle article:  http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/12/08/MN311B06O9.DTL





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Reply #50 on: December 09, 2009, 04:26:27 PM
This is getting off topic a little bit, but there's an interesting fact about the Somali pirates:  Insurance companies pay out something in the range of $50-100 million/year in ransoms, but receive $300-$400 million/year for insurance coverage from ships going through pirate infested waters. 

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Reply #51 on: December 15, 2009, 10:55:56 PM
I didn't like this story as much as I wanted to, but it should be pointed out the the writing in this piece was great.  Great narrative, and the sexuality was really handled well.  Katie obviously has big talent, but it was the actions of the characters that didn't jibe. 
I just couldn't get my head around a bunch of pirates living in peace and harmony.  Shouldn't there at least be a few stabbings?  Jack's initial reaction to the Chinese group showing up seemed so authentic, and led me to think they'd be at each other's throats for spoil.  Like pirates.  But they hugged and played Team Fortress instead.
See, I'm not offended by glam pirates, or glam hackers.  They just come off the way dancing gangsters in a Michael Jackson video, or like Angelina Jolie in Hackers, which is to say they don't ring true.
So, a well crafted story, but the characters didn't follow where their inspirations seemed to lead.



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Reply #52 on: December 17, 2009, 07:53:47 PM
I wonder what Steve found so realistic about the story's depiction of a poly relationship.



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Reply #53 on: December 17, 2009, 09:15:51 PM
In defense of the stylized pirates...

That's just what they are. Stylized pirates. Not actual pirates - for all that the personality overlays were based on real pirates - but the dream of piracy, the fantasy of pirates. This story was pure style from beginning to end, a weird transposition of magic and reality, mysterious bone rum turning collectivist computer nerds into equally collectivist pirates, struggling to steal an island for unknown purposes. The beauty of this story isn't in what's so, it's in what could be so.

Or, you could always just assume that the nanotech in the bone rum alters their pheromones to produce a strong cooperation instinct, even if it's at odds with the personality alterations, because whoever made the bone rum knows they'll need an army...

But I think that's infinitely lamer than the sheer, uncharted possibility the story presents.

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Reply #54 on: December 17, 2009, 11:01:05 PM
If you keyworded this story then pretty much every word should be a tick and a big 'yay!' for me, but it just didn't interest me at any point. It's a shame but I remain in the 'ungrabbed' constituency.



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Reply #55 on: December 26, 2009, 04:03:24 AM
I tend to listen to these shows in my car, or out walking, so I don't usually comment.  This one ... I want to read [hear?] again.   I just liked it.  This time though, I want to pay better attention to it.



mbrennan

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Reply #56 on: December 31, 2009, 10:16:36 AM
Giant thumbs-up to the production on this one -- definitely a case where multiple voices really enhance the story, and those first three were fabulous.  (Steve actually felt like the weak link to me, I think because his tone was so different from the others.  Which possibly fits with the character he narrated, but it still jarred me.)  The accent-switching on Calico Jack was an especially nice touch.

Ultimately I don't think the story worked for me, probably due to the thing people have been arguing about here: the tension, or possible disjunct, between the sfnal angle and the fantastical one.  I, as a fantasy reader first and an SF reader second, was much more interested in the bone rum and the memories than the hacker-collective thing, and I had a tough time really understanding or caring about what the hackers were trying to accomplish.  As others have pointed out, some of what they did seems kind of dickish, and with my emotional engagement pretty thoroughly spoken for by the bone rum/historical end of things, I wasn't left with much to spend on their modern-day piracy.

Still, when all's said and done, I did enjoy listening to it.  Quite possibly an example of how much of a difference a good reader (or several of them) can make.



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Reply #57 on: January 14, 2010, 07:57:02 PM
I loved the production on this one, having a set of narrators each narrating a different character, a section to each works really nicely!  Bravo!

And the premise of this was amazing, with the bone rum consciousness, but that was really the most interesting thing in the story and that was revealed very near the beginning.  There's no real conflict throughout, and having 4 protagonists just makes it harder to relate to any one of them.  There seemed to be an unlimited supply of rum, the group kept getting bigger and bigger and guzzling more and more rum and I was waiting for them to run out and then go through pirate withdrawal but that never happened.

But more than anything, the "hacker" aspect just bugged me.  We're told occasionally that these people spend huge tracts of time writing code, but it never really gets to the point of telling me what code they're writing and why.  To me that's like having a character who's labeled as a "writer" but then not saying what they write.  A writer could write novels, or newspaper articles, or technical manuals, or fortune cookies, and there's a fundamental difference to the mindset and goals of each.  It's the same thing with writing code--the act of writing code only conveys a fraction of what it could mean if we were told what they were doing. 

And I think it's weird when malicious hackers are glorified in fiction.  I add the word "malicious" because the word hacker doesn't mean the same thing in some circles as it does in mainstream culture.  In some engineering circles, "to hack" is just the act of writing code, especially if you're finding clever unforeseen ways to make things work, so a "hacker" is not inherently malicious.  In any case, I think it's strange when malicious hackers are portrayed as heroes.  Would they be heroes if they wiped out your bank account while they were fiddling around or stole your identity and rang up thousands in credit card bills?  Even if they only attack corporations, those corporations have real people who are customers and who will hurt much more by the destruction of the company's network than the faceless corporations themselves will.

And I know it's been said before, but I was surprised this was picked up by the science fiction podcast.  Maybe I should try sending some of my fantasy stories here!  :)




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Reply #58 on: January 21, 2010, 02:52:18 AM
First off, let me say that I am more than a fan of pirates - I think that, in general,  their actions are at least as justified as those of the ruling and commercial powers.
I am reminded by this story that the pirates of today have a lot in common with the pirates of yesterday.  There's a lot of truth in this story - and it doesn't take a rum soaked bone to get together and work to usurp the power of forces of control... I play a lot of pirate songs in an acoustic music group called THAT Damned Band, and I try to challenge myself to include references to the real hardships of "A pirate's life" as well as the glamorous, rum swilling, sexy side.  I feel that this story could have done that - more.



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Reply #59 on: February 01, 2010, 05:27:10 PM
Listening to this story brought a wide smile to my face. By the end, I was gleefully running up and down the hallway going "Arrrr!" and "Me Matey!".  I know that this is glorified pirates, but I liked the connection between the pirates of old and the programming collective. The whole story had this sunshiny can-do optimism, and you can't help but join in because, well, it's so much fun. Thanks for the story!

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