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Author Topic: EP237: Roadside Rescue  (Read 10246 times)
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« on: February 07, 2010, 06:07:33 PM »

EP237: Roadside Rescue

By Pat Cadigan.
Read by Stephen Eley.

First appeared in Omni, July 1985.

“That’s a long time to wait.” The navigator’s smile widened. He was very attractive, holo-star kind of handsome. People who work for aliens, Etan thought. “Perhaps you’d care to wait in my employer’s transport. For that matter, I can probably repair your vehicle, which will save you time and money. Roadside rescue fees are exorbitant.”

“That’s very kind,” Etan said, “but I have called, and I don’t want to impose—“

“It was my employer’s idea to stop, sir. I agreed, of course. My employer is quite fond of people. In fact, my employer loves people. And I’m sure you would be rewarded in some way.”


Rated R. Contains profanity and mature (if alien) themes.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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tinroof
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« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2010, 01:04:12 PM »

I was a little disappointed by this, if only because I expected the initial conversation to be about how gender and sex really are different. But then it turned out they were only talking about the verb.

It was an interesting idea, overall, but it just fell a bit flat for me, especially since, after the warning, I figured out what was up pretty quickly after the alien showed up.
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Scattercat
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« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2010, 06:49:30 PM »

Clicker artifacts at 8:30 and 14:20.

Anyway, I smiled widely after about ten seconds; I actually read this story years ago, and recognized it immediately.  (For some reason, titles never stick in my head, but openings do.)  I just had some thoughts regarding the ending comments:

Funny or disturbing?  Yes, both.

Can you be violated sexually if you don't know about it?  Uh... yeah, I'd say so.  What d'you think happens to small children who are abused?  They might not realize that what they're doing is sexual or verboten until later.  Or Peeping Toms; don't they violate their targets, even if they never even meet them face-to-face?  Make no mistake, this alien raped Etan, whether or not Etan knew he was being raped at the time.  Just because it wasn't as expressly traumatic as forced sex by another person doesn't mean it wasn't rape.

An interesting story, and one I enjoyed both in the reading and the listening.  (Especially because the alien reminded me of Murgatroyd, from Bruce Coville's "My Teacher is an Alien" series, which lends a whole new veneer to the way that thing rode around on the protagonist's shoulders all day.)
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KenK
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« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2010, 07:41:25 PM »

My initial reaction to this podcast was to call this interaction a form of human-alien S&M, but after reading Scattercat's post I have to say it seems more like rape after all. S&M whether physical or emotional is after all a voluntary occurrence between consenting adults. Otherwise it's bullying or torture. It doesn't surprise me given the sexual nature of this story that it came from Omni which was part of soft-core porn publisher Bob Guiccione's holdings. Guiccione was never one to shy away from controversy.
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tinroof
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« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2010, 09:52:38 PM »

I'm honestly not seeing where the funny comes in.

The rape part, yeah, what makes it especially eerie in retrospect is how he needed to be genuinely scared. If it was just, "This alien gets off on speech, come read a book to him", that would be one thing - still with the creepy, but not too much weirder than your average fetish so long as everyone knows what's going on. But he was not given the possibility of consenting, and consenting would actually have lessened the alien's pleasure. That's really, really creepy. Just... eegh.

May have to revise my initial opinion. Hindsight is definitely improving the effect, if not the enjoyment.
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Darwinist
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« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2010, 10:16:52 PM »

Loved this story.   Rape?  I don't know.  Was Etan harmed in any way?  I didn't think he was.  I thought it was more funny than anything.  I guess I wonder if I was in the same spot having some guinea pig getting off on my shouting I would look at it in a lighter manner than crying rape.  Yeah, he was scared but was he violated?  It wasn't sexual in any way.    The thought of a little tribble having an orgasm in the back of a limousine is hilarious in my book. Great story and I enjoyed Steve's intro and outro. 
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« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2010, 10:24:29 PM »

Ew.  If this story spawns a "was that technically rape?" discussion, let me put in my vote for "yes".  I figured out what was happening long before the protagonist did, and the whole scene made me feel more yucky than most Pseudopod episodes do.

That's not meant as negative criticism, though, as I'm pretty sure it had the effect on me that was intended.
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« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2010, 11:04:05 PM »

Loved this story.   Rape?  I don't know.  Was Etan harmed in any way? 

Harm isn't a requirement for rape.  Rape is forced sexual intercourse.  The alien forced Etan into sexual intercourse, even if it wasn't intercourse of a means or style he could have comprehended.  Was he violated?  The anger and fear had to be genuine, remember?  Not faked.  I'd say threatening someone so that they feel true anger and fear counts as a violation, personally.

Still, even if it required unforced laughter to get off, it would still have been rape.  Non-consensual sex = rape. 
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wakela
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« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2010, 11:31:46 PM »

Very much liked this story.  I don't pay too much attention to the warnings, so I had forgotten about it by the time the story started and as a result had no idea where it was going.  Great feeling.  The vibe of being in over your head and having no idea what's going on was oddly similar to the last road story.

At the time I thought it was funny, but it became more disturbing as I read the above comments (thank you).  IMHO, I think rape is too strong.  If you go to someone's home, they verbally abuse you and forcibly physically detain you until you have an outburst, and they say, "Hey, sorry.  It's a joke.  BTW, my buddy gets off on this, so I had you outburst videotaped, and he's going to masturbate to it later"  you would have been assaulted and creeped out, but not raped.  If you had been a virgin before you would still be one after.   I think Etan could have the Navigator and alien prosecuted for assault, but not rape.  

What if the Navigator hadn't physically detained Etan?

This got me thinking.  What would the reverse be?  Assuming the alien doesn't feel he violated Etan, what would be the thing that a human visiting another world would find erotic, but still decent, but the aliens would find indecent.  It's tough.  Humans are pretty sensitive towards violating others when it comes to sexuality.  
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tinroof
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« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2010, 09:12:11 AM »

In line with the part of the navigator's spiel about not holding everything to human terms, yes, if to the alien it was sexual intercourse, and the man did not consent, it is, by definition, rape. It doesn't matter if the man thinks of it that way, or if he even cares - the alien is by its own terms a rapist and that's what makes this creepy to me.

wakela - yeah, it's tough, but tough mainly in that we can't honestly predict what alien sexuality would be like. In the specific context of this story, there's one obvious possibility, though - if human speech is analogous to sex to these creatures, then a human coming to the planet and talking at an alien and not stopping if asked. If the creature isn't interested then that would be non-consensual sex and potentially very shocking to the aliens.

I hope that helps illustrate what I mean by the broader terms thing. If to at least one participant it is sex, and consent is not involved, then it's rape. Doesn't mean it has to be inherently harmful or unpleasant to either of them, especially if the standards held are widely different. Just means it's rape.

Edit: Also, most people instinctively feel violated at the idea of an anonymous sleazeball masturbating to them. I'm feeling that the videotaping and the story are different situations, possibly to do with the relative presence of the victim or something but I'm having difficulty explaining exactly why.
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« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2010, 02:06:31 PM »

The story felt very drabblecast-esk at first. I think if this story was read by Norm Sherman the more comedic aspects of this story would have been highlighted by his reading style and I would have fond it really funny, but Steve Eley's reading had a more thought provoking effect. I really empathised with the main character's shock and confusion at the end. Unknowing becoming a prostitute for an alien became less of a punch line and just left me wondering how I'd feel in such an awkward and uncomfortable situation. It's actually pretty interesting thinking about how the reading of a story can effect how I feel about it too.
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wakela
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« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2010, 07:33:34 PM »

In line with the part of the navigator's spiel about not holding everything to human terms, yes, if to the alien it was sexual intercourse, and the man did not consent, it is, by definition, rape. It doesn't matter if the man thinks of it that way, or if he even cares - the alien is by its own terms a rapist and that's what makes this creepy to me.


wakela - yeah, it's tough, but tough mainly in that we can't honestly predict what alien sexuality would be like. In the specific context of this story, there's one obvious possibility, though - if human speech is analogous to sex to these creatures, then a human coming to the planet and talking at an alien and not stopping if asked. If the creature isn't interested then that would be non-consensual sex and potentially very shocking to the aliens.
I was thinking more along the lines of what situation would the human be the "rapist" and get sexual satisfaction.  Though your idea about someone raping another by causing unwanted sexual satisfaction is very interesting.


I hope that helps illustrate what I mean by the broader terms thing. If to at least one participant it is sex, and consent is not involved, then it's rape. Doesn't mean it has to be inherently harmful or unpleasant to either of them, especially if the standards held are widely different. Just means it's rape.

Edit: Also, most people instinctively feel violated at the idea of an anonymous sleazeball masturbating to them. I'm feeling that the videotaping and the story are different situations, possibly to do with the relative presence of the victim or something but I'm having difficulty explaining exactly why.

The idea that rape can happen without the victim being harmed is very interesting.   I definitely see you point, but I still don't completely agree.  What if you have a man who suffers from premature ejaculation who can achieve orgasm just by watching a pretty girl walk down the street.  Would he be raping her?  I know this isn't completely analogous because the girl in this case isn't forced.  I do think the alien and the navigator are guilty of assault.   If the alien hadn't been there that's all it would have been. 
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« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2010, 11:27:50 PM »

I thought the parallels between the encounter described in the story and how children are abused made the story stink.  Preying upon one’s sense of obligation and politeness, entrapping, and ‘tricking’ them into a sexual encounter they may not understand.  Eww.
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tinroof
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« Reply #13 on: February 10, 2010, 12:21:43 AM »

What if you have a man who suffers from premature ejaculation who can achieve orgasm just by watching a pretty girl walk down the street.  Would he be raping her?

That's a little different because he isn't doing anything intentionally, really. And he's not... involving her directly in the same way that the driver was involved here.

I don't know, we can call it "sexual assault" if it's the terms that are bothering you. It is a little weird to think how humans and completely hypothetical alien sexualities might intersect and it's hard to find accurate real-life parallels. My real point boils down to the fact that a violation did occur, and it was sexual, and I think it's kinda gross.
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« Reply #14 on: February 10, 2010, 10:04:27 AM »

To focus solely on the story itself and stay out of the debate over "was it rape", let me just say that the ending seemed to take too long. The navigator obviously hated himself for what he had to do. We get that. But he just kept forcing the money on Etan. And forcing him. And forcing him. And Etan just kept saying "I don't want it. I don't want it. I don't understand." I think that might have been gotten through a little more quickly.

Here's an interesting point: was the navigator (or the alien, or both) paying Etan so he wouldn't feel like a victim? The author doesn't say it, either explicitly or implicitly, but given that this was written in the 80s perhaps attitudes were different -- ie: if you're paid for sex, it's not nonconsensual. (I find it difficult to believe an educated woman -- the author -- would hold this personal view but from the navigator's POV it might make sense.) So by paying Etan afterward, the navigator feels like he's mitigating the offense or removing his/his employer's personal responsibility by turning it from rape into prostitution.

If no laws exist to punish the entity for what was done to Etan, then at the very least he could hold the navigator accountable for some form of assault or pain-and-suffering. I'm sure the alien would love to be in the courtroom for that, and would gladly pay.

In other news... the tech of Etan's car really didn't hold up very well over time -- keycards, steering modules, etc? The most advanced starters these days only activate if you're within range of a key. I have a Prius (not the "Moving Forward. Whether you want to or not." version) and I don't have to put the key in. I just have to have it in my pocket when I push the button. And I think steering wheels will remain as they are for a long time to come, instead of the handle/joystick controllers that 80s futurists might have imagined. And the "powerplant"? Yeah, even when aliens come we'll still be using gasoline or electricity, not a self-contained nuclear reactor or whatever Etan's car had, and simply fixing the connections to the motherboard won't solve the problem if the car breaks down.

I know the tech isn't a focal point of the story, but it was amusing to me.
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« Reply #15 on: February 10, 2010, 10:22:43 AM »

Clicker artifacts at 8:30 and 14:20.

Clicker and repeat.  I've come to expect those in Eley's readings of late.
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« Reply #16 on: February 10, 2010, 12:14:06 PM »

Clicker artifacts at 8:30 and 14:20.

Clicker and repeat.  I've come to expect those in Eley's readings of late.

Sigh.  Citing of the glitches is all that's necessary.  Please read The Rules for more info.
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« Reply #17 on: February 10, 2010, 12:46:21 PM »

on the whole rape thing: I'm leaning closer to molestation/violation aspect. Not knowing until after is moot. The MC was uncomfortable and did not want to participate. The main rule for peaceful co-existance is "do no harm" this obviously did harm, psycological harm. so = bad.

Story wise, good, well read, well told. I enjoyed this, I enjoyed the pondering, the story managed to make me mildly uncomfortable. I like most stories that get my little thinking wheels turning, so I'm content.
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« Reply #18 on: February 10, 2010, 01:23:22 PM »

Eeeewwwwwww!!  I feel dirty now just for having listened to it!  (not that it wasn't a good story)

I thought it was good, challenging definitions of sex--a topic that comes up from time to time even without aliens involved.  There seemed to be something sinister going on throughout, but I didn't predict the actual cause before it was explained.

As for whether it was rape, I would say not.  Or, at least, not rape from his point of view, but possibly from the alien's (rape is in the eye of the beholder?).  And definitely NOT analogous to child molestation--the man is sexually and mentally mature as he's going to get. If anything, I'd put it akin to bestiality (again from the alien's point of view)--it is interspecies, and the other species doesn't understand what you're doing but that doesn't mean it's not gross.  That brings up the question of whether it's still bestiality if both species are "intelligence" but then that raises the question of whether the alien considers humans intelligent.
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« Reply #19 on: February 10, 2010, 01:39:06 PM »

Also, was I the only one that thought the protagonist's name was "eytanz" from time to time?  I suspect it was when they used the name with a possessive:  "Etan's".
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