Author Topic: EP250: Eros, Philia, Agape  (Read 31890 times)

Swamp

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Reply #25 on: July 28, 2010, 07:02:02 AM
Ms. Swirsky's characters don't have traits, only issues. It's almost formulaic: woman with dysfunctional love life, obligatory gay friends, no resolution, and the merest veneer of SF. Would anything substantive about the plot have changed if Lucian had merely been a naive young boytoy of a wealthy older woman who grew tired of the shallowness of his life and left to 'find himself'? The whole point of speculative fiction is to examine the effect, on some scale, of a posited change in the world, whether large or small, past, present, or future. This fulfills none of the above.

This is exactly the sort of drivel which drove me to stop listening to Podcastle.

It is formulaic.  Waiting until really late/early and then starting an account just to make personal insults against authors (or one in particular).  I'm pretty sure this isn't really your first post.  Just in case my assumptions are incorrect, here is a link to an explanation about our One Rule.

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Scattercat

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Reply #26 on: July 28, 2010, 04:59:54 PM
I find it fascinating how trolls take on different shapes and habits in response to different environments.  They're like some kind of omni-predator, adapting camouflage and hunting techniques for every online ecosystem.

---

For my part, I found this story compelling to listen to/read, but was utterly unable to sympathize with Lucian, primarily because he goes off into the desert to "find himself" by starting over without any "human words" and whatnot while completely ignoring the fact that his very ability to do so is a huge gift and privilege which he is choosing to indulge.  No one grows up in a vacuum.  We are all shaped by what we learn and what we experience and who teaches it to us.  Learning English instead of Chinese changed my brain when I was an infant.  My parents, my culture, my physical environment all contributed to shaping me, and I had jack all I could say about it.

Humans don't make themselves any more than robots do; Lucian's 'childhood' with Adrienne is just as much a true formative experience as Adrienne's own issues sprang from her abusive family.  Failing to recognize that and abandoning the responsibilities he chose for himself in pursuit of self-gratification via masturbatory auto-lobotomy is one of the most selfish things I have witnessed a character do.  He wasn't in any sort of abusive relationship; Adrienne wasn't even emotionally abusive to him.  He wasn't leaving for his own health or safety, mental or physical.  Add in the fact that his leaving pulls out the linchpin that was holding Adrienne's psyche and their little family together (something he had to know would happen) and basically we have just this perfect storm of someone causing real and measurable harm to others in the name of some ethereal and ineffable niggling point of philosophical consistency.  ("I'm a robot, but my formative years were shaped by humans instead of by whatever the hell it is I think they should have been shaped by.  OH GOD THE HORROR.")

In summary, Lucian can go sit and spin, and I hope sand gets in his joints and poisons his nanobots.



Wilson Fowlie

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Reply #27 on: July 28, 2010, 06:31:30 PM
Pretty much what Scattercat said.

With the addition that it may be that that reaction is what Rachel had in mind.

(What a lot of things we can use the word that for!)

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ElectricPaladin

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Reply #28 on: July 28, 2010, 06:49:49 PM
With the addition that it may be that that reaction is what Rachel had in mind.

My impression is that the author was going for controversy, but that her intention in showing us both sides of the story - in full - was to create controversy.

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Scattercat

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Reply #29 on: July 28, 2010, 06:53:21 PM
I'm not sure whether or not it was intended to be taken that way, but it did significantly impair my enjoyment of the story because none of the other characters was competent enough to point out this fallacious logical reasoning on his part.  All Adrienne could do was sob into her wine about how no one loves her.

ETA: To clarify further, we are shown Lucian and his reasoning, and then we are shown Adrienne and the tragedy of her life without Lucian, but we are NOT shown anyone who can point out that Lucian's whole goal is fundamentally pointless and wrong-headed, displaying a core misunderstanding of how personality formation even works.  This annoys me, because it makes the story seem to be presenting the question, "Should Lucian serve his own needs or his family's needs?"  That's not the question because Lucian's actions aren't DOING anything, and his entire crisis of personality is predicated on a misapprehension of what it means to be human.
« Last Edit: July 28, 2010, 06:57:56 PM by Scattercat »



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #30 on: July 28, 2010, 06:58:51 PM
I'm not sure whether or not it was intended to be taken that way, but it did significantly impair my enjoyment of the story because none of the other characters was competent enough to point out this fallacious logical reasoning on his part.  All Adrienne could do was sob into her wine about how no one loves her.

To be fair, that was me for a lot of college, so I have a lot of sympathy for that way of life.

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wakela

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Reply #31 on: July 28, 2010, 11:43:16 PM
For my part, I found this story compelling to listen to/read, but was utterly unable to sympathize with Lucian, primarily because he goes off into the desert to "find himself" by starting over without any "human words" and whatnot while completely ignoring the fact that his very ability to do so is a huge gift and privilege which he is choosing to indulge.  No one grows up in a vacuum.  We are all shaped by what we learn and what we experience and who teaches it to us.  Learning English instead of Chinese changed my brain when I was an infant.  My parents, my culture, my physical environment all contributed to shaping me, and I had jack all I could say about it.

Humans don't make themselves any more than robots do; Lucian's 'childhood' with Adrienne is just as much a true formative experience as Adrienne's own issues sprang from her abusive family.  Failing to recognize that and abandoning the responsibilities he chose for himself in pursuit of self-gratification via masturbatory auto-lobotomy is one of the most selfish things I have witnessed a character do.  He wasn't in any sort of abusive relationship; Adrienne wasn't even emotionally abusive to him.  He wasn't leaving for his own health or safety, mental or physical.  Add in the fact that his leaving pulls out the linchpin that was holding Adrienne's psyche and their little family together (something he had to know would happen) and basically we have just this perfect storm of someone causing real and measurable harm to others in the name of some ethereal and ineffable niggling point of philosophical consistency.  ("I'm a robot, but my formative years were shaped by humans instead of by whatever the hell it is I think they should have been shaped by.  OH GOD THE HORROR.")

In summary, Lucian can go sit and spin, and I hope sand gets in his joints and poisons his nanobots.

100% agree.  You said it better than I did. 

Quote from: Scattercat
ETA: To clarify further, we are shown Lucian and his reasoning, and then we are shown Adrienne and the tragedy of her life without Lucian, but we are NOT shown anyone who can point out that Lucian's whole goal is fundamentally pointless and wrong-headed, displaying a core misunderstanding of how personality formation even works.  This annoys me, because it makes the story seem to be presenting the question, "Should Lucian serve his own needs or his family's needs?"  That's not the question because Lucian's actions aren't DOING anything, and his entire crisis of personality is predicated on a misapprehension of what it means to be human.

But I'm not sure what you mean that his action aren't doing anything (though they were undoubtedly selfish).  You're self was shaped by learning English instead of Chinese, but you can't unlearn English.  Lucien can, so he's unlearning that and everything else.  Are you arguing that Lucien, like us, needs someone else around him in order to form his personality, so going out alone into the desert would be pointless?  Would you have been more satisfied if he had gone to join some kind of robot commune? 

I'm not trying to be argumentative, just trying to fully understand your point.  The Lucien part of the story was the only aspect that I found interesting, so I'm exploring it.  Since I agree with all your other points about this story, I'll probably agree with this one once I get it. 



Scattercat

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Reply #32 on: July 29, 2010, 12:20:02 AM
@wakela

I was mostly saying that going to "find yourself" by destroying your personality and memories and going out into an empty place is an exercise in futility, since everyone is shaped by the people around them.  If nothing shapes you, then you are nothing.  All Lucian is doing is trading being shaped by humans for being shaped by lizards, and frankly, humans have better amusement parks.

What I meant by Lucian's little pilgrimage "not doing anything" is that Lucian's crisis is entirely self-manufactured and would be better treated by therapy.  He's not solving any problems by obliterating his personality.



wakela

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Reply #33 on: July 29, 2010, 01:41:47 AM
@wakela

I was mostly saying that going to "find yourself" by destroying your personality and memories and going out into an empty place is an exercise in futility, since everyone is shaped by the people around them.  If nothing shapes you, then you are nothing.  All Lucian is doing is trading being shaped by humans for being shaped by lizards, and frankly, humans have better amusement parks.

What I meant by Lucian's little pilgrimage "not doing anything" is that Lucian's crisis is entirely self-manufactured and would be better treated by therapy.  He's not solving any problems by obliterating his personality.
In other words he already had a self that was developed during his childhood with Adrienne and Rose.  Now he's erased it and going to come up with a new one based on whatever he finds in the desert, but it's not going to be any more or less valid than the previous one.  Of course it's not unbelievable that a two,three-year-old robot would do this, but it is unbelievable that the faulty reasoning wouldn't occur to his wife or the narrator of the story.  Or the uber-psychiatrist part of Lucian's mind.   Yup.  Good point.  I could see how Adrienne would let him walk away, as she seems to be more comfortable getting drunk, lighting things on fire, and surrendering her responsibilities to others than she is with a healthy family life.  But the point should have been addressed.

The logical conclusion is that Lucien would develop Lucien 2.0 based on the cruel competition of the desert ecosystem, come back to Adrienne and Rose, and bed more ruthless than her father was. 



Scattercat

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Reply #34 on: July 29, 2010, 02:16:03 AM
Or just wander around, imprinted on a lizard.



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Reply #35 on: July 29, 2010, 12:11:59 PM
I want to like this story, but can't make it happen.

I really like the idea of having Podcastle-Giant style episodes on Escapepod (and Pseudopod). Taking the time to build a more complex story or world, or go into more depth can be really enjoyable. I would love to see more of these longer episodes embraced by all the podcasts... and in that vein I hoped this one would be wonderful.

The themes of possession and how they can interact with normal relationships could have been an interesting investigation. (Without all the baggage of traditional slavery/indenturing.) But I never felt these were really addressed. Fuoco is just a pet with problems, and in the end is put down. Lucian's ownership is only glazed over, a minor diversion where the MC suddenly has a spine and drive. Even Rose could be seen as a possession, a child adopted to fit in with the rich woman's want to have a baby/pet/lover/anything-she-wants. Yet, none of these were really done in depth.

Where the story really fell down for me was the characters. As noted by heyes - Rose "was the only character that really came off as natural." Lucian's flaws have been picked over quite nicely by others in the thread so I won't repeat. What really fell apart was the MC, after 15 minutes I just wanted her to stop whining and wining, and either die or shut up. It seemed about a third of the story was beautifully* describing how useless she was. By the end it felt like the whole story was describing how a messed up** woman tries to fix her problems by buying things (Fuoco, Lucian, Rose).

I don't mind unlikeable characters, they can even work very well, for example The Valknut (PseudoPod), or The Clockwork Atom Bomb (EscapePod). But here the character had nothing to connect to, no problems except the past**.

Ultimately the lack of any connection with any of the characters left me bored with the lack of investigation of the potential ideas. Perhaps, as suggested by stePH, if it had been half the length nothing of importance (except my interest) would have been lost.

* For all the boredom and annoyance at the MC these scenes created, they were almost al beautifully written. So while the story never connected for me in any way (and disappointed me in others), I still admire much of the writing.

** I dance around this because by the end it wouldn't have surprised me if all the bad things her dad allegedly did to her were imagined. Noone else corroborates her story and in the end her behaviour in other areas is so erratic and delusional it could fit.



Darwinist

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Reply #36 on: July 31, 2010, 02:52:58 AM
I cringed a bit when I saw the length of this show, knowing that it would take a couple trips to/from work to finish but I was blown away by the story.  One of the better shows of the year I would say.   

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Reply #37 on: August 01, 2010, 03:28:04 AM
I have to say that I liked the themes that Rachael hit on -- Love and Possession.

I didn't feel like the Sci-Fi elements were tacked on. I felt that the entire relationship between Adriana and Lucien was influenced by the fact that she had purchased him. He was never quite a real person in her eyes -- despite the fact that she fell in love with him.

I think the emotional space between humans and androids is a ripe area for exploration in Sci-Fi as we move beyond the era of "3 Laws" robots and into more complex, more human, creations.



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Reply #38 on: August 01, 2010, 10:24:45 AM
I loved this story, it really made me think.  I agree with many posters who found the main two characters difficult to like, but loved the story anyway.
It made me wonder about our relationship to objects and each other, and how we have relationships in an age so governed by possessions, and the damage, so hidden but still so there, that that does to us and those around us.



ajames

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Reply #39 on: August 01, 2010, 11:43:13 AM
As I think about this story more (and I have thought about it often), one of the things that impresses me is how readily I accepted Lucien's right to "find himself" and his status as a sentient being.  Yes, I had some problems with whether Lucien would do this (for reasons I and others have pointed out), but I also never wondered why Adrienne didn't simply hit his reset button or bring him back to his makers for "realignment".  Partly, of course, this is due to being told about Adrienne's advocacy for robot rights and it being her decision to give him freedom to develop.  On the other hand, if I had a machine and gave it the capability to write some of its own programming, and it turned out to be a horrible mistake, turning it off before it caused harm to others (or myself) would probably occur to me quickly as at least a possible option - it didn't occur to me as a reader and I didn't wonder why it didn't occur at all to Adrienne.



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Reply #40 on: August 01, 2010, 05:05:22 PM
On the other hand, if I had a machine and gave it the capability to write some of its own programming, and it turned out to be a horrible mistake, turning it off before it caused harm to others (or myself) would probably occur to me quickly as at least a possible option - it didn't occur to me as a reader and I didn't wonder why it didn't occur at all to Adrienne.

For Adrienne, the "damage" was in Lucien not loving her.  Whether she let him go on his own or reset his personality, she would already *know* that she gave him freedom and he turned away from her, and that fact would already have destroyed her.



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Reply #41 on: August 01, 2010, 06:25:29 PM
Poor Fuoco. I have to admit, I felt worse for the bird than I did anyone else in the story. Very good story, though.

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Rain

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Reply #42 on: August 03, 2010, 08:15:24 AM
Ok story, but the lack of an ending really hurt it considering it was very long and not much really happened. If we had learnt whether Rose would become a normal person again or if Lucian's quest would lead him to become more than just a mindless robot then the story could have been saved, but as it is, it felt like a drawn out first chapter of a book.



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Reply #43 on: August 03, 2010, 02:12:48 PM
It was a technically good story, but I found myself utterly unable to identify with any of the characters, or even like any of them. I mean, the kid, well, she was a little girl going through her 'parents' divorce. She didn't actually have much of a personality. The robot was just that, a robot, and I think 'real' AIs would be like this, at least for a time, their minds latching onto some 'deep' concept and losing themselves in it completely. The one I really didn't feel sympathy for was Adriana. I've known people who have been through types of abuse such as that. Thus the desire for a non-human companion, one she would never have to fear and knew was utterly safe with her daughter. Thus the falling utterly for him, believing him to be completely 'safe', with no chance of him ever leaving her. So when he leaves she totally cannot function anymore.

And that's what I really hate. Someone who, when their world falls apart, falls apart right along with it. I also didn't like how she didn't try to sympathize with her daughter, or even acknowledge her daughter's real issues. She didn't say 'I don't understand why he is leaving us either and I am very sad'. She didn't try to comfort her or mourn with her. Instead she tried to placate her with strawberries and goats. The kid doesn't need goats, she needs her damn mom. No wonder she'd rather be a robot, like her dad. Her mom wasn't there for her.

Oh, plus, I really hate parrots.

However, like I said, technically a very good story, but with me unable to like any of the characters I just couldn't enjoy the story.



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #44 on: August 03, 2010, 03:49:02 PM
I find it really interesting how many people are objecting to the story on the premise that they don't "like" Adriana. Who said you have to "like" anyone in a story? Sympathy isn't necessarily liking. You don't have to want to be friends with - or even meet or have lunch with - the characters of a story to identify with them, feel sorry for them, and enjoy reading about their trials and tribulations.

I didn't like Lucian. I found the way he left his wife and daughter in the lurch to be appalling. However, I felt sorry for him. I wished he'd found a better way to do what he had to do. But he didn't and that's the story. And come on, who hasn't felt trapped? Who hasn't worried that the very underpinnings of your own personality are the causes of your pain and wondered how the hell you were every going to get out of it? Isn't that an interesting story even if you don't approve of Lucian's choice?

Similarly, Adriana was kind of pitiful, yes. I wish she'd gotten herself a shrink and not (or in addition to) a robot. It might have helped her get over her deeply seated trauma and be a better mother. That said, can you really all say that you have always felt in control of your life, that you've never broken down and been absent or made mistakes because of something sad that happened to you? Isn't it an interesting story to watch someone combat that human instinct, even if you like to think (or maybe even are) stronger than that yourself?

I don't know... I kind of think maybe this story hit too close to home for some of us. I'll freely admit that it did for me. The character's weren't universally likeable, but they were human and their pain was interesting, at least to me.

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Reply #45 on: August 03, 2010, 04:00:18 PM
Its funny that ElectricPaladin chimed in right now because I was essentially going to say the same thing. I think this was a very strong story about the psychological nature of what it is to love. I found Adriana to be a very sympathetic character because I thought it was clear that she could not form healthy, loving, relationships because of her early childhood abuse. Essentially, she could not form the bonds of love like a normal human. And yet, around her, are examples of that love that she cannot grasp.
It seems many people wanted the human character to be more...human. But, I found her eyes and excellent window into the confusing land of emotion.

As for falling apart....I don't think she was ever together to begin with. She never got the help she needed and was stuck in false relationships with her siblings and with an artificial life form. Well, anyway, this psychology major from long ago loved it.

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Kaa

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Reply #46 on: August 03, 2010, 04:02:09 PM
I kind of think maybe this story hit too close to home for some of us. I'll freely admit that it did for me. The character's weren't universally likeable, but they were human and their pain was interesting, at least to me.

Maybe that is the problem. When I read a speculative fiction story, I'm generally hoping to escape all the big, hairy BS of my day-to-day life into a more interesting place where my problems are puny or non-existent. Making ends meet while trying to juggle personal, professional, and hobby lives pales in comparison to fighting for your life against zombies or aliens or evil robots from the future.

What this story did was turn that back around and show us ourselves. A particularly dysfunctional, Jerry-Springer-esquely exaggerated version thereof, perhaps, but altogether too real nevertheless.

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mbrennan

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Reply #47 on: August 03, 2010, 07:43:18 PM
I don't always have to like the characters in a story in order to enjoy the story, but as a general rule, if I want to punch them all in the face for the way they're behaving, the odds of me enjoying the story are pretty low.  (I blame a scarring experience with Death of a Salesman in high school.  You know that scene from Clue, where Mrs. White goes into her whole "flames on the side of my face" bit?  Yeah.  Like that.)  Basically, I need a reason to care what happens to the characters, and liking them is the commonest and most comfortable path that can take; if that fails, then I need curiosity, or a desire to see them get their comeuppance, or (sometimes) a non-character reason like a fascination with the world.

I don't remember if I finished reading this story on Tor.com, but when I realized I'd encountered it before, I listened for a few minutes longer, then stopped.  I didn't care what happened to the people in it, and I didn't want to spend another forty minutes or so with them in order to find out.  It was very profoundly not my kind of story, and such a long example of same that I had no desire to stick with it.



wakela

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Reply #48 on: August 04, 2010, 11:40:57 PM
Isn't it an interesting story to watch someone combat that human instinct, even if you like to think (or maybe even are) stronger than that yourself?

I don't know... I kind of think maybe this story hit too close to home for some of us. I'll freely admit that it did for me. The character's weren't universally likeable, but they were human and their pain was interesting, at least to me.

These are good points.  I didn't get the sense the Adrienne was combating her instinct.  It seemed like she was allowing herself to be a victim of it.  (Note: Allowing herself to be a victim and being a victim are not necessarily the same thing.)  It's kind of like watching someone eat lots of unhealthy food every day and then complain that they're overweight.  Even if I know that they have an eating disorder and that it's really hard for them to change their behavior I have a hard time sympathizing unless they try.  Add to that that Adrienne is not only ruining her own life, but the lives of two innocents.  Her conflict is how she handles Lucien's rejection, but really that's the least of her problems.

Another problem I had (though this is not the story's fault) is that this did not hit close to home for me.  It hit as far away from home as it could have.  I've had my share of girlfriends who had been damaged by abuse, and I've had my moments of doing stupid things for dumb reasons, but overall I'm a satisfied guy.  So I have a hard time relating to stories that center around people who seem to be bending over backwards to hurt themselves and everyone around them.  Again, this is just me. 



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Reply #49 on: August 16, 2010, 05:02:33 PM
I actually enjoy the phrase excruciatingly pale. To me it suggests "so pale he/she is rather painful to look upon".

But is there such a thing as being so pale to be painful to look upon?  At best, I'd say it's a distracting exaggeration.