Author Topic: PC090: Biographical Notes To “A Discourse On The Nature Of Causality,[...]  (Read 15249 times)

Heradel

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PodCastle 90: Biographical Notes To “A Discourse On The Nature Of Causality, With Air-Planes” By Benjamin Rosenbaum

by Benjamin Rosenbaum.
Read by Graeme Dunlop.
Originally published in All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories, edited by David Moles and Jay Lake.

It is true that I had not accepted Prem Ramasson’s offer of employment — indeed, that he had not seemed to find it necessary to actually ask. It is true also that I am a man of letters, neither spy nor bodyguard. It is furthermore true that I was unarmed, save for the ceremonial dagger at my belt, which had thus far seen employment only in the slicing of bread, cheese, and tomatoes.

Thus, the fact that I leapt through the doorway, over the fallen bodies of the prince’s bodyguard, and pursued the fleeting form of the assassin down the long and curving corridor, cannot be reckoned as a habitual or forthright action. Nor, in truth, was it a considered one. In Śri Grigory Guptanovich Karthaganov’s typology of action and motive, it must be accounted an impulsive-transformative action: the unreflective moment which changes forever the path of events.

Causes buzz around any such moment like bees around a hive, returning with pollen and information, exiting with hunger and ambition. The assassin’s strike was the proximate cause. The prince’s kind manner, his enthusiasm for plausible-fables (and my work in particular), his apparent sympathy for my people, the dark eyes of his consort — all these were inciting causes.

Rated PG for action, action, action! Oh, and references to The Scarlet Pimpernel.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2010, 08:25:11 AM by Heradel »
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Jim F

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Loved it. 

Not so far over the top as to become a parody of the micro-genre (Zeppelin adventure stories?  Nano-genre maybe.), but over the top enough that it every minute of it was fun.  Loved that the pirate ship eblem was a smiley face.

Fantastic narration as well.

Scattercat

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Delightful from beginning to end.  It was long, but I never felt bored.  I particularly liked the nods and allusions regarding the "nature of causality."  High entertainment.
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feste451

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Wonderful story!

A fascinating genre, this, how did Alasdair put it, paleo-future. I need to go searching for more of these. The styles and images remind me of Steampunk but with significantly less soot. I grew up in a time when "texting" was done with a typewriter and a postal service. Stories like this remind me of those days when life was simple.

The worst part was the hour+ narrative ended much too soon. I didn't want this one to end.

A most enjoyable listen.
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eytanz

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The story was a masterpiece. Satisfying on every level, clevel, multi-layered, interesting both for its action and its philosophy.

And the narrator should be commended for bringing it to life the way he did. In a long story full of non-English words to pronounce, he never faltered and kept my interest throughout.

Bravos all around for this one.

eytanz

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You know, I just realized - I read this story before (I kept thinking bits of it were familiar, but wasn't really sure why). I own the anthology it was published in. And at the time, I thought it was good but it didn't strike me nearly as much as it did this time. This just goes to emphasize what a great job Graeme Dunlop did - he really allowed for this story to shine through.

stePH

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I liked this one a lot, though it didn't grab me at first.  It made me wonder, though... is this story's author "Benjamin Rosenbaum" also a pen-name, like that of the story's protagonist?  And if so, was it chosen for the same reason that the protagonist chose it?

[edit]
I'd forgotten this is the same guy who wrote "Start the Clock" and "The Ant King".  I think I might have to buy his book at next opportunity.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2010, 04:44:35 PM by stePH »
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Listener

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I was really concerned that this was going to be another self-insertion story, where the author inserted himself like that one Pseudopod about the horror author... I forget the name of it...

Fortunately, it wasn't.

I really liked most of this story, but my high points were the genre awareness and the pirate trying to figure out which Benjamin Rosenbaum it was.

Things I didn't like: the narrative getting interrupted by the MC's musings on causality and narrative, parts of the narration where I couldn't quite pick up on names (I still don't know the pirate's last name) or wasn't familiar enough with Indian culture to understand "Sri" vs "Sir", etc.

Overall the dryness of the reading was very good.

I think this would've been a better story to read as-is, but hearing it I think I would've preferred not to hear the musings on the nature of causality and just hear the adventure parts.
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Talia

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Tremendous fun. The story had a sort of "meta" feel about it which I found most amusing.

marlo

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Listener, I think my reaction to the story was nearly opposite to yours.  I felt like if this had just been the pirate-dirigible story, it would have only been a trite pulp-y adventure with little more than the cool aesthetic going for it and nothing interesting to say beyond that. But for me, what made it good was the meta-meta-narrative, which reminded me of The Man in the High Castle. I loved that the character Rosenblum even commented on the fact that the story was just like any pulp novel. And I loved the idea that a character existing in that narrative would find our lifestyle a nice escape, just as we find his story is a nice escape for us. Good ouroboros there.

Kaa

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I've tried and tried, but I just cannot get into this one. I guess I'll be the lone voice of dissent and say that I find it utterly tiresome and completely unfollowable.

Okay, I went back and tried again, and this time it all made sense. Perhaps I was distracted the first three times. I thought it was an odd little story, not unenjoyable, but a little dense for attempting to listen while driving or any of the other times I normally listen to podcasts. Had to just sit and JUST listen to this one.

Perhaps it's a sign of the tightness of the story that causes this. It's very well written--not a single unnecessary word. So if you miss one.... :)
« Last Edit: February 14, 2010, 04:12:35 PM by Kaa »
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Tori

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Can I just say that the author's description of the Jewish God was the best I've ever heard for this world or any alternate one. I enjoyed the story so much that I felt compelled to actually register for the forum and make this comment.

kibitzer

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Can I just say that the author's description of the Jewish God was the best I've ever heard for this world or any alternate one. I enjoyed the story so much that I felt compelled to actually register for the forum and make this comment.

Welcome! Hope you stick around.

Unblinking

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Loved it!  Which comes as a bit of surprise considering how long it is, and how the momentum of the action was often interrupted by rambling philosophy, both normally things that I tend to dislike.  But the rambling philosophy was very very interesting, hearing a world where the most politically dominant societies have a very different basis of philosophy than my own.  I like how his idea of escape was a mundane life.

And the funniest bit was when the pirates captured him and they argue about which Benjamin Rosenbaum he is.  If I were him I probably would've just agreed that I was one of the first two in order to prevent myself being thrown off the side as ballast, but his pride is so strong that he insists on them knowing his true occupation even though it's fairly likely to cost him his life.

Also, my new favorite term:  "plausible fabulist".  Love it!

Ocicat

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Fantastic story.  Reminded me very much of Neil Gaiman's story "Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire", except with Steampunk instead of horror.  It's far from being a ripoff of Gaiman's story, but both stories have protagonists in genre stories who are dreaming up "what-if" tales about our more mundane universe.  Both very meta stories.  I really liked the philosophical bent this one took, with all the ponderings about cause and effect.  And the adventure parts were very well written too!  Nothing quite like a good swash and buckle with airship pirates!

I laughed out loud when the pirates smiley face emblem was (obliquely) described.  Great stuff.

LochaberAxe

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I liked this one enough to follow the link to the authors site and recommend it to friends and buy a book by the author. I dont normally replay podcasts but I did with this. On subsequent playing I found so many little details sent my imagination spinning off: Gabon, Wisdom Ant, Droplet, Yama's-flesh, Gynarchist, etc etc. A few days later I was watching some animation by Studio Ghibli and it seemed to fit with this (not just the obvious Laputa ) What about an animated short of 'Biographical Notes to “A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with Air-planes” by Benjamin Rosenbaum'
« Last Edit: February 15, 2010, 09:18:23 PM by LochaberAxe »

stePH

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A few days later I was watching some animation by Studio Ghibli and it seemed to fit with this (not just the obvious Laputa ) What about an animated short of 'Biographical Notes to “A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with Air-planes” by Benjamin Rosenbaum'

Not by Miyazaki, though... after seeing what he did to Howl's Moving Castle.

...this story already has airships in it, though, so I'm not sure how Miyazaki could do any serious damage...
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l33tminion

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Since the main character does a lot of thinking about narrative ideas that are part of the story, and he mentions the idea of an alternate history where everything flows from a single change, are we to presume that every difference between the world of the story and ours has to do with the loss of the Babylonian Talmud and the rejection of the Rabbis as heretics?  (I think that's the chronologically earliest change described, it's also mentioned early in the story.)  That would be interesting, though no idea if that was the intent.  Probably not, since the world of the story is one where events don't have simple deterministic causes?  (Or so they think?)

Anyways, I loved this story.  It does that sort of alternate-history humor very well.  There's something funny about the juxtaposition of radical divergence (huge swaths of religion, politics, technology) with strikingly specific parallels (WisCon still exists).

I loved the way the alternate theology was discussed, too, I found one line in particular to be a very striking answer to a very interesting "what if":
Quote
In times like these, we are told to meditate on the contrast between His imperturbable magnificence and our own abandoned and abject vulnerability, and to be certain that He watches us with immeasurable compassion, though He will not act. I have never found this much comfort.

gelee

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I enjoyed this more than I expected.  I usually run screaming at the mention of dirigibles, but I think the alternate history of this world is fascinating.  I did wonder, however: In an eastern dominated technological sphere, would they still be called Zepellins, rather than Nguyens or Thakkars or Wathanyalaks?  Just wondering.
Anyway, fun story, and thought provoking.  Wonderfull reading, as well.

Anarquistador

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One nice touch I found in the story was the identification of Jesus as an incarnation of Vishnu, an interesting detail I remembered from my Religious Studies days, and one that made perfect sense in a parallel world where Christianity never really took off.

Very cool story, very layered. I want to see more of this universe. I at least want to know if the narrator managed to climb up the rope.
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