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Author Topic: EP226: Pirate Solutions  (Read 19912 times)

Special Ed

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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.



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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).



Alasdair5000

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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. 



CryptoMe

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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?



Listener

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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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Katie

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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.



Gamercow

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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.



DKT

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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  ;)


DKT

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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.



cdugger

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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.

I read, therefore I am...happy.


ElectricPaladin

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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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Talia

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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.



Bdoomed

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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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jay daze

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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.



deflective

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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