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Author Topic: EP242: The Love Quest of Smidgen the Snack Cake  (Read 39798 times)

Listener

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Reply #75 on: June 17, 2010, 01:10:01 PM
So... not as farfetched as we were led to believe...

http://gizmodo.com/5565238/oh-good-commercials-are-coming-to-supermarket-aisles

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Reply #76 on: June 18, 2010, 04:28:02 PM
Well, I went ahead and finished it, if for no other reason that I've never abandoned an EA story yet, and I've suffered through worse than this.  But it only got worse; the narrative full of lines that could have been dropped seamlessly into a porn story.  Like snack cakes themselves, this story was made of suck.

On an unrelated note, I feel sorry for Gamercow, whose name has been mispronounced twice in the feedback sections now (DKT said "Game-crow" in a recent Podcastle, and now wossname says "Gamer-crow").

LOL, yeah, its actually 3, DKT did it twice, and Bill did it once.  I don't mind much, I'm grateful to be mentioned at all, I was just surprised that two people saw it as "Crow", and had a "THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS" Picard moment. 


I was kind of surprised and amused as well.  Especially since your avatar has a cow in it.  :)



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Reply #77 on: June 18, 2010, 04:42:50 PM
Overall I liked this one.  Spot-on amazing narration to start with.  Some of the innuendoes were rather over the top, which was funny at first but got a little old as the episode went on.  I don't think the suicide was too much for the story--it was intended to be black comedy from the start, and we saw her dead body at the beginning so it was no sort of surprise.

Everyone seemed to think Smidgen's savior at the end was a dog, but I thought it was pretty clearly a rat.  She never mentioned owning a dog, and I wouldn't think one would be able to get into her house unannounced, while mice/rats have a tendency to slip through cracks and show up uninvited, especially when there's food sitting on the floor.  True, one would think that with all those other advanced technology that they would have intelligent pest control systems, but remember that this society is heavily marketing driven.  Maybe they CAN make a better mouse trap, but don't want to make it TOO good--if you make a perfect mouse trap then no one will have a need to buy any more of your products.  Instead the company makes them incrementally better so they can say "new and improved" and repeat hundreds of times, always adding a little more appeal to draw customers.

I tend to agree with eytanz that the marketing here is implausible, making the purchase a big decision, unless these are very expensive snack cakes, which I don't think they were intended to be.  The health food manufacturers would do better to make their AIs a little more charming like smidgen.  I kind of wanted to throw them down the disposal too, they were like a bunch of bubbly vegetary cheerleaders.

One thing that I really dug about the story is that it didn't fall under the trope of AI-gains-feelings.  Smidgen's feelings were programmed in as motivation to perform certain behaviors.  He desires to be eaten, so he does everything he can to reach this goal and even though this feeling is intentionally programmed in, it's no more artificial than my own emotions which derive from incomprehensible mixes of brain chemistry.  And Smidgen's designers really thought out the emotions too.  "Should we make it capable of grief?"  "Nah, what good would that do?  If its buyer died, it'd sit around and mope until it got moldy.  Let's have it transfer its affection to someone else."  So instead of a robot gaining the ability to feel, it has only selective feelings in-programmed and is both unaware of its lack of guilt and sadness and completely unconcerned by this lack.



mbrennan

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Reply #78 on: June 23, 2010, 08:44:28 PM
For me, this crossed the line from "amusing" to "profoundly creepy."

As a couple of people have mentioned, Smidgen's behavior very blatantly echoed that of a manipulative stalker -- I almost added "boyfriend" onto that list of descriptors, but he's more like the guy who randomly decides some woman he's never spoken to is his dream girl, and tries to force that relationship into existence, against her will.  (Oh, but she wants it . . . urgh, creepy.)  Also, I was less than pleased to see the story telling us the root cause of Lynda's obesity was purely a lack of impulse control, which led to her overeating.  I don't know a lot about the science of nutrition, but I can tell that's an uncritical reproduction of stereotypes, and it led to me feeling like the story didn't have a lot of sympathy for her -- or rather, it had the wrong kind of sympathy, if that makes sense.  She came across as pathetic in a way I really didn't like.

I had the same objections to plausibility as a bunch of others in this thread, but I'm pretty sure that happened because I'd stopped being amused and started being creeped out.  If I had found this actually funny, instead of a funny veneer over a disturbing story, I would have been much more willing to give it a pass.

Having said that: I don't necessarily think the story being creepy is a failure on its part.  I didn't end up liking it much, but at least it had some interesting things to say.



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Reply #79 on: June 24, 2010, 12:53:31 AM
For me, this crossed the line from "amusing" to "profoundly creepy."

Me too, and that's why I thought it was so good.

It went from entertaining SF to a critique of consumerism to a haunting piece about the fragility of humanity.

All the hapless consumer really needed was to love and be loved, just like any healthy human being. What was so creepy was that Smidgen's designers understood that too, and they used it so ruthlessly and destructively against her.

That's why I thought that the dopey romantic love Smidgen had for her was such a great idea - at first you assume that he's been designed to appeal to her gluttony, but eventually you realise that he's actually been designed to mimic the solution to an emotional need.

This really is a real little gem of a story, both entertaining and thought provoking.




gateaux

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Reply #80 on: July 02, 2010, 04:29:55 AM
Can I just say that ... the reading done by John Cmar was positively brilliant. I was captivated. And a little creeped, but in a delicious way. Amazing story and reading, one of the most memorable this year.



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Reply #81 on: July 02, 2010, 12:44:56 PM
Brilliant, just brilliant.

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Jim F

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Reply #82 on: August 09, 2010, 12:28:26 PM
I know I'm way behind in listening, so it's as likely as not that no one will ever read this post.

I thought the story was well written, that is the prose was well crafted, but at the same time, the ultimate themes were entirely banal.  What I came away with is that marketing is evil and preys on vulnerable people and its sad and lonely to be fat.  On the one hand, that's fine.  You can't get big ideas from every story and for a YA story these ideas might have been fine.

But on the other hand, what made them stand out in stark relief as weak tea, was that there were some really big ideas here that the author either didn't see or willfully chose to ignore.

There is some serious, serious deep stuff here about the meaning and purpose of life and the nature of free will.

If one were teaching this story on a YA level, one might ask the class about the nature of marketing, and whether or not it would be ethical to create a snack cake with the ability to subvert someone's will, and how does that relate to marketing and advertising today.

But one could teach this story on a college level philosophy class and start out by asking, what is different between Linda and the snack cake?  Why are we sad when Linda dies, and not when Smidgen does?  Smidgen is sentient (or at least believes he is -- is the ability to construct a narrative about oneself proof of sentience?)  Does Smidgen have free will?  Does Linda have free will, given what we are able to observe about her?  Is her free will limited?  Is her suicide an example of the Nietzschean will-to-power, that is, even more than self-preservation, the ultimate driver of human action is a desire to control?  How can Smidgen be so motivated to die, knowing that there can be no concrete pleasure in it for him, as his sentience will no longer exist?  He wants to die as well, but in his case, it doesn't seem to be an act of will.  He apparently longs for it with ecstatic, almost erotic passion.  Can he really be free willed and sentient if he seeks fulfillment in death, absent any belief in an afterlife?  Would it be ethical to create sentient beings who believed there only fulfillment and purpose was to die for us?  Are we gods at that point?  Is that our role with our creator?

Sadly, I don't think the author really considered what he had created here.  There aren't any clues in the story that the author really thought hard about these things.  While its not fair to complain that a story isn't what you wanted it to be, I wish this story had been a little bit more Phillip K. Dick and a little less cute.



Talia

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Reply #83 on: August 09, 2010, 12:58:28 PM
I personally didn't want to come away from it with anything deeply meaningful to contemplate. I enjoyed it as the sublimely outrageous piece that it was.



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Reply #84 on: August 10, 2010, 04:55:10 PM
I personally didn't want to come away from it with anything deeply meaningful to contemplate. I enjoyed it as the sublimely outrageous piece that it was.


And all of the food-for-thought must have been in place or it would not have woken so many cool, philosophical questions in the brain of Jim F.  :) 

By the way, Jim, even if it's an old thread, odds are that quite a few people will read/have read your comment.  I check the comment threads fairly regularly and it's fun to discuss and hear what other people thought.



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Reply #85 on: August 14, 2010, 11:12:27 PM
Overall, I really didn't like this story. While I did somewhat appreciate the eroticization of the snack cake and the technology of the grocery store, I couldn't help but be really disgusted by the story as a whole. The suicide was completely off-putting, as were the author's descriptions of Linda. It's a no from me.



justenjoying

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Reply #86 on: January 21, 2012, 04:13:08 AM
This is way too much fun and super scary all at the same time. The only confort I truly find after this story is that
I've never liked snack cakes, I've always been for a fan of sushi or in my week moments postickers. Only one is any  better
than the cocholate artificial intelligence chip.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2012, 11:53:05 AM by justenjoying »



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Reply #87 on: August 22, 2019, 04:22:46 PM
I realize this post comes 7 and 9 years after everyone else, but noticed one major thing different between text and the reading.  I like to follow along as it's read and I seem to be the only who did, although I didn't read all comments. 

Why was so much edited out of the story? Granted it may not have changed things much but i didn't think there would be abridgment of the story.  Most missing things I've seen in a story I can follow via text here.  Many small paragraphs disappeared during this reading. Like the snack cakes professing love near beginning, and some dialogue paragraphs between the two just dropped.



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Reply #88 on: August 22, 2019, 10:59:23 PM
I realize this post comes 7 and 9 years after everyone else, but noticed one major thing different between text and the reading.  I like to follow along as it's read and I seem to be the only who did, although I didn't read all comments. 

Why was so much edited out of the story? Granted it may not have changed things much but i didn't think there would be abridgment of the story.  Most missing things I've seen in a story I can follow via text here.  Many small paragraphs disappeared during this reading. Like the snack cakes professing love near beginning, and some dialogue paragraphs between the two just dropped.

Where were you reading the text? I'm not seeing it on the Escape Pod page, and this was before Escape Artists paid for text rights. Some authors continue to adjust stories forever or between publications.

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