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Author Topic: PC090: Biographical Notes To “A Discourse On The Nature Of Causality,[...]  (Read 16302 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, 01:25:11 PM 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, 09:44:35 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, 09:12:35 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 16, 2010, 02:18:23 AM 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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Heradel

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The discussion about what to call the airships named after Ferdinand Zeppelin in the west is now here: http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?topic=3370.0

I Twitter. I also occasionally blog on the Escape Pod blog, which if you're here you shouldn't have much trouble finding.


Farseeker

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I guess I'm in a minority.

Yawn.  I had to push myself to finish listening to this.

I found the character and the plot completely unbelievable.  All this "I don't know why, but I'm going to be heroic" and "it's so improbable that this would happen, but it did" and the calm philosophical ruminations while facing deathly danger.

Yes, I know that it was intentional, given both the genre and the mirror-within-a-mirror nature of the cross-universe fictional cogitation.  But (a) it did not seem particularly new or imaginative to me and (b) it doesn't matter to me how interesting a philosophical concept is, if the characters and plot fail the "makes you willing to suspend disbelief" test it doesn't add up to a story.



gelee

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I don't know about that.  I think the title, and a lot of the MC's ruminations, are along the lines of "how the hell did I get myself into this?"  His vocation as a fabulist leads him to carry this question as far as he can.
As to choosing to be heroic, but not knowing why:
A coworker of mine, a few years ago, was working the night shift.  He was alone in the office.  He heard some noise outside, and the sound of glass breaking.  He ran to the door.  Saw a couple of hoods breaking into his car with a crow bar.  He went after them.  They ran.  Fortunately, he didn't catch them, as they might have hurt or killed him.  When asked "What were you thinking?", he had no answer.  He wasn't thinking, just reacting.
I think the MC in this piece did, more or less, the same thing.  He acted on impulse, and didn't really have a chance to consider his situation until he was on the pirate air ship, at which point he acted quite a bit more rationally.



Poppydragon

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Wonderful  ;D

This could have been just plain silly but was handled superbly so it never descended into farce. At the same time it managed to retain the feel of a 1950's radio thriller or Saturday morning adventure strip.

Man - despite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication, and his many accomplishments - owes his existence to a six inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains.


LaShawn

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I'm going to be in the minority too and say this bored me to tears. It felt overwrought and rambling to me, and at times, really did feel like a self-insertion fic. And just when the action finally caught my attention, the character would go into another long, boring diatribe that had me saying "Gah, just get on with it already!". Maybe everyone else knows something I don't?

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Unblinking

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I'm going to be in the minority too and say this bored me to tears. It felt overwrought and rambling to me, and at times, really did feel like a self-insertion fic. And just when the action finally caught my attention, the character would go into another long, boring diatribe that had me saying "Gah, just get on with it already!". Maybe everyone else knows something I don't?

Nah, I don't think it's a matter of knowledge, but a matter of tastes.  I'm actually a bit surprised I liked it, because I'd usually also dislike a story that went into that many rambles.  But, well, I love philosophy, and rambles about philosophy keep my attention, unlike most other subjects.



mbrennan

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I found the character and the plot completely unbelievable.  All this "I don't know why, but I'm going to be heroic" and "it's so improbable that this would happen, but it did" and the calm philosophical ruminations while facing deathly danger.

The improbability aspect, I think, was part of the worldbuilding.  I kept getting interrupted in my listen for this one, so I don't have a good grip on causality as it operates in the world of the story, but my distinct impression was that Our!Rosenbaum was hanging a lampshade on the fact that what looks like unlikely coincidence in our world may not be so in theirs.

I enjoyed this one well enough, despite the fact that those interruptions almost invariably timed themselves with the narrator's philosophical digressions, such that it killed the forward momentum of the plot extra thoroughly.  I might enjoy it better on the page, though, where I could keep better track of the different types of causality and pause to think them through.  Still, a fun story.



ancawonka

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I couldn't get into this story on the first listen, but after the effusive praise here, I gave it another shot. I'm glad I did - there's a ton of really great imaginative stufff here, plus lush visual descriptions layered in adventure and farce. Thanks forum people!



DKT

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I guess since he outed himself over at EP with "The Moment," we can give kibitzer his due here for reading this one. I think he deserves it  :D


Unblinking

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I guess since he outed himself over at EP with "The Moment," we can give kibitzer his due here for reading this one. I think he deserves it  :D

ooh, neat!  Thanks for pointing that out.  :)



kibitzer

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I'm going to be in the minority too and say this bored me to tears. ... Maybe everyone else knows something I don't?

Seconded, LaShawn.  And with the story clocking in at over an hour, I'm not sure I want to invest the time to give it a second chance.  :-\

(And yes, I know I'm terribly far behind in my listening.)

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Samanthropologist

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This story was published on PC a while ago, but I just discovered the cast last summer. Since then I've been going through and listening to as many as I can, and I'm hooked! Even though I've listened to a ton of them, this one was so phenomenal that I registered on the forums just to say so.

The narrative was amazing, and the philosophy interwoven through the adventure and excitement absolutely made the piece. The small details and subtle humor added to it's overall awesomeness. It also gave me some new perspective on, well, perspective.




Aristotle

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Long time listener. (since episode 1), first time poster. I registered only for this because i felt the need to say it. I have a problem understanding this narrator. Her voice is not unpleasant. She is full of ssses and her voice sways from the esses and thes but almost everything she says is completely unintelligible. I struggled with other stories as well. Is my hearing going bad?



Talia

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Long time listener. (since episode 1), first time poster. I registered only for this because i felt the need to say it. I have a problem understanding this narrator. Her voice is not unpleasant. She is full of ssses and her voice sways from the esses and thes but almost everything she says is completely unintelligible. I struggled with other stories as well. Is my hearing going bad?

Hi Aristotle, did you post in the wrong thread? The narrator for this story was male. If you go to the full list under "episode comments" you'll see separate comment threads for all stories, the most recent on top. And being that the last several stories were all narrated by men, I'm afraid I'm not sure which story you're referring to. (also, check to make sure you meant PodCastle, not Pseudopod or Escapepod, which have their own sections of the forum).

Though if I had to guess, I'd say there's a problem with your mp3 player and/or the program you use to download files. Although there have been some narrators people have had a little harder time understanding than others, those have been fairly scarce, and "almost completely unintelligible" almost never happens (and when it has, it's generally been due to audio quality/production issues, not the reader's voice).



Umbrageofsnow

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For what it's worth, I sometimes have trouble with certain narrator s's when the treble is too high and the bass too low on my car speakers.

I guess I never commented on this story, so I'll just briefly say that it was, I believe, my second or third favourite story from the year it was published. For most of the reasons listed above. I really really dig metafictional explorations of philosophy. Zepplins don't hurt.



Unblinking

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Zepplins don't hurt.

Talk to me after you've had a Zeppelin land on your head.