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Author Topic: EP251: Unexpected Outcomes  (Read 15437 times)
Swamp
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« on: July 29, 2010, 08:17:46 PM »

EP251: Unexpected Outcomes

By Tim Pratt
Read by Tom “Devo Spice” Rockwell of The Funny Music Project.
Originally published in: Interzone

But the plane just stopped, and hung there, nose tipped at a slight angle, mere feet from the building.

And that’s when the figure — the one people call the Ambassador, or the Doctor, or the Outsider, or the Professor, or a hundred other names — appeared. Just a middle-aged man in a white lab coat, with steel-rimmed glasses and graying hair. His image filled the air above the jetliner, like the dome of the sky had been transformed into an IMAX movie screen.

He said, “People of Earth, I have a message for you.”


Rated PG for ennui and futility of life.

Show Notes:

Tim Pratt is serializing a Marla Mason novel, Broken Mirrors at his website. His first anthology is out this summer from Night Shade Books, Sympathy for the Devil.

Tom Rockwell’s work can be found at his personal music website, Devo Spice, The Funny Music Project, and his comedy troupe, Cirque du So What?

Incidentally, Tom Rockwell, myself, and many other Escape Artist writers and narrators will be at NASFiC next week, so check us out if you’re in the Raleigh, NC area!

Next week… Rescue in deep space. And guitar ballads.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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wintermute
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« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2010, 06:26:25 AM »

Not finished listening yet, but....

If they have enough information to build a perfect replica of the universe that results in 9/11 happening, how much can they learn from that replica about why it happened? It's all there in their initial conditions, right? I they were running millions of concurrent simulations, and they wanted to see which ones resulted in 9/11, that would makes sense, but that seems to be contradicted by the processing requirements.
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timpratt
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« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2010, 09:32:15 AM »

Why assume the researchers are being honest about the purposes of the simulation? (Finish the story; you'll see.)
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« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2010, 09:59:14 AM »

  What a great little story full of snark and win. I'll be surprised if the story's jumping off point being 9-11 doesn't enrage a few people though.

  It does make sense the the lab tech is lying; if weather takes up so much processing power, wouldn't turning off the rain (and the flooding that results from it) altogether save power? Wouldn't turning off aging save more power? Surely simulating the biological decay of six billion people would take up at least as much power as making it rain/snow/etc. The reasoning really doesn't make sense. In fact, my first thought when the true nature of their reality was revealed was "how much data could be gathered by observing this ultra-realistic world now that have told them they are fake?"

  When the lab tech was explaining the situation to Tim and Heather I did not think of "The Matrix" (and for the exact reason that the lab tech gives), but of "The Thirteenth Floor" which was a much more similar situation.

  Also, am I the only person who flashed on Doctor Who when Tim referred to the lab tech as "The Doctor" at the beginning?
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wintermute
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« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2010, 11:33:46 AM »

Tim: Yeah, clearly I should wait to the end before commenting.

Excellent story. Though I'd love to see it tweaked to become Chapter One of a novel.
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alllie
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« Reply #5 on: July 30, 2010, 03:03:00 PM »

Another great story. And it had a kind of Groundhog Day feel to it for me. Like if there is nothing you can do to change things... change yourself. If you can't change the world, try.
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Ocicat
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« Reply #6 on: July 30, 2010, 03:56:57 PM »

I love it when I can spot flaws in a stories logic that turn out not to be flaws at all.  Too many SF stories have worldbuilding groaners that I either have to wave off as the author's ignorance or even find a geeky way to make it work in my own mind (like in the matrix where they said they are using the humans as heating units, but clearly it would need to be as processors).  But sometimes a story can make me groan at an implausibility, then later a character points out the same flaw - and I get a geeky thrill of vindication.

This story did that excellently, and was generally a great yarn in general. 

Personally, I wonder how long any of them existed before 9/11.  If the future scientists can create the past from initial conditions, well those conditions had to start somewhere.  I'm guessing the simulation actually turned on the morning it was revealed they were a sim.
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Yargling
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« Reply #7 on: July 30, 2010, 07:20:17 PM »

Awesome, loved this story; Was a unique angle on the simulation thing, and had an amusing twist in the characters behaviours.
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wintermute
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« Reply #8 on: July 30, 2010, 07:38:47 PM »

Personally, I wonder how long any of them existed before 9/11.  If the future scientists can create the past from initial conditions, well those conditions had to start somewhere.  I'm guessing the simulation actually turned on the morning it was revealed they were a sim.

Yeah, that was what I was thinking.
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Yargling
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« Reply #9 on: July 30, 2010, 08:08:54 PM »

Personally, I wonder how long any of them existed before 9/11.  If the future scientists can create the past from initial conditions, well those conditions had to start somewhere.  I'm guessing the simulation actually turned on the morning it was revealed they were a sim.

Yeah, that was what I was thinking.

Its something of an open question - and bare in mind, the researchers are likely lying, so you can assume they didn't really exist before that morning.
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heyes
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« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2010, 12:15:57 PM »

For a story that's starts out with 9/11, it was a really nice change of pace to get something in the never-before category of "chicken soup for the apocalyptic soul". Serious after all of heavy downer stuff coming down the feed lately, this was refreshing. And I did NOT like it better when it was Star Ocean: 'Til the end of Time.

The narrator really told the story well, but at times it sounded like he was checking his email while narrating, and like his chair needed oil.  A little distracting, but he did such a good and lively job with the story that it is very forgivable.

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Talia
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« Reply #11 on: July 31, 2010, 03:02:09 PM »

Weirdly meta and vaguely mind-bending. Good times. Smiley

Also, am I the only person who flashed on Doctor Who when Tim referred to the lab tech as "The Doctor" at the beginning?

No, it was the first thing i thought of also. Which could potentially add a whole nother aspect to the tale - hehe.

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stePH
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« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2010, 08:28:47 PM »

  When the lab tech was explaining the situation to Tim and Heather I did not think of "The Matrix" (and for the exact reason that the lab tech gives), but of "The Thirteenth Floor" which was a much more similar situation.

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« Reply #13 on: August 01, 2010, 03:56:04 AM »

I loved this story.  It takes a wonderful, audacious setup and takes it in a direction that just gets more interesting.

  What a great little story full of snark and win. I'll be surprised if the story's jumping off point being 9-11 doesn't enrage a few people though.

I'm wondering the same thing, and whether Tim Pratt's gotten any strong negative feedback about that, not least because I have a tendency to do similar stuff in my own (utterly unpublished) fiction.
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« Reply #14 on: August 01, 2010, 01:23:13 PM »

I really liked this story. Right from the first sentence to the last. I'd love to hear more from this universe.
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« Reply #15 on: August 02, 2010, 03:49:13 PM »

Great story, and the cherry on the top for me was the AYB reference in the concluding remarks.
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Schreiber
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« Reply #16 on: August 02, 2010, 04:22:01 PM »

Not a bad story at all, but it left me wanting more. Tim (the author, not the proto-author/protagonist) has set up a world in which a lot of things can happen and it seems a shame to leave it unexplored. I dig the John Barth angle, but I wonder if Tim's commitment to keeping Tim theoretically autobiographical might have stood in the way of some more decisive action on his part.
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wongman2001
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« Reply #17 on: August 02, 2010, 06:48:24 PM »

Is it fair to draw parallel to "Childhood's End" ?
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Listener
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« Reply #18 on: August 03, 2010, 07:31:02 AM »

Not finished listening yet, but....

If they have enough information to build a perfect replica of the universe that results in 9/11 happening, how much can they learn from that replica about why it happened? It's all there in their initial conditions, right? I they were running millions of concurrent simulations, and they wanted to see which ones resulted in 9/11, that would makes sense, but that seems to be contradicted by the processing requirements.

See also "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy".
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« Reply #19 on: August 03, 2010, 07:36:22 AM »

I liked the story, although the self-inclusion aspect (yes, I know, "Tim" and "Heather" were fictional characters because they are in a universe that doesn't really exist) turned me off quite a bit in the beginning. It always has. I didn't like the PP story about the author and the 12 words for that reason (forget the name of it). The story overcame that, however, although I was a little grumpy about how "Tim" wondered if he'd been a great author in reality. Maybe this story was written (or started) before the author reached that mark, but it felt a little too much for me and pulled me out of the story a bit.

A world where nobody poops? BLASPHEMY! Too few people admit it, but a good poop can really make your day. I mean, look how happy your dog is after HE does it.*

Anyway, the reading was extremely breathy, like there were dead spots removed and the breaths slammed into the front and back of each line of narration or dialogue. That was annoying. Though the reader did a good job differentiating the (admittedly) few characters without using too many "character voices".

* No, I didn't write that line just so Bill reads it in the feedback segment. I swear.
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