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Author Topic: PC119: Bespoke  (Read 5188 times)
Heradel
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« on: August 24, 2010, 09:24:26 AM »

PC119: Bespoke

by Genevieve Valentine

Read by Tina Connolly

Originally Published in Strange Horizons. Read the Text here!

Martin Spatz, the actor, had gone Vagabonding in 8,000 BC and killed a wild dog that was about to attack him. (It was a blatant violation of the rules–you had to be prepared to die in the past, that was the first thing you signed on the contract. He went to jail over it. They trimmed two years off because he used a stick, and not the pistol he’d brought with him.)

No one could find a direct connection between the dog and the mice, but people speculated. People were still speculating, even though the mice were long dead.

Everything went, sooner or later; the small animals tended to last longer than the large ones, but eventually all that was left were some particularly hardy plants, and the butterflies.  By the next year the butterflies were swarming enough to block out the summer sun, and Disease Control began to intervene.

Rated PG: Contains Butterflies and Hurricanes. Happy Birthday, Ray!
« Last Edit: September 14, 2010, 07:19:51 AM by Heradel » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2010, 03:26:16 PM »

Regarding whether this story would have been better-suited to Escape Pod:

I'm fine with this story not being on Escape Pod. I also wouldn't have minded it not being on Podcastle either.
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« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2010, 05:54:18 PM »

I may be the only girl in the world that actively dislikes butterflies.  I am NOT a fan of metamorphosis.  This world would be hell for me... :shudder:

That said...

I am also not a fan of this story.  I just really didn't get the point of it.  I kept waiting for something to happen.  Or for things to be explained.  What is a plug?

The thing is...i wasn't even left wanting.  I just didn't care.
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Void Munashii
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« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2010, 09:47:50 PM »

  I honestly never thought that this story would be better suited for Escape Pod until it was mentioned in the outro, but I suppose from the point of view that technological time travel is sci-fi by default that it would. I did not mind it being on PC though.

  To me this was a beautiful piece of world building looking for a good story to take place in it. I found the setting to be quite interesting, but I kept waiting for a story to develop. I was caught completely off guard by the end only because it never felt like a real plot ever established itself.

  It was a pleasant tale set in an interesting world, but it left me feeling unsatisfied
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« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2010, 12:04:51 AM »

  I honestly never thought that this story would be better suited for Escape Pod until it was mentioned in the outro, but I suppose from the point of view that technological time travel is sci-fi by default that it would. I did not mind it being on PC though.

  To me this was a beautiful piece of world building looking for a good story to take place in it. I found the setting to be quite interesting, but I kept waiting for a story to develop. I was caught completely off guard by the end only because it never felt like a real plot ever established itself.

  It was a pleasant tale set in an interesting world, but it left me feeling unsatisfied

This. All setting and no story is exactly what this episode was.
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« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2010, 04:08:08 AM »

After hearing this story, I wanted more. I loved the setting, loved the description. I loved the fact that the butterflies survived, while the mice died...Loved the hand stitching...

I am looking forward to the novel, or at least another a chapter.

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Ocicat
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« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2010, 04:34:55 AM »

I'm on record as hating time travel stories.  That's because they are never consistent with the model they pick, or never really follow through with the implications.  And that's certainly true in a big way for this story.  My reaction was moderated somewhat by the fact that it was on Podcastle and not Escape Pod, thus the science here clearly isn't the point.  But still!  Things occurring due to time visits are killing off species, but "history" doesn't change?  Am I supposed to believe in a Victorian England with no mice?  An India in 1890 with no tigers?

If the whole bit with species retroactively dying off were left out, it would have been better, but still not good.  The idea of making good costumes to travel back in time in is fun, but I never cared about the characters and their customers.  And the workers weren't seemingly interested in the idea of being able to see all the times and places these clothes came from, which seemed kind of odd.  I mean, offer a costumer doing recreation clothes for a convention or ren fair a chance to vacation back in time and they'd take it so fast your head would spin. 

BTW, I presume a "plugger" is there to "plug" problems in the timestream caused by the rich tourists.  Kind of minders, payed to go along and keep an eye on things.
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Listener
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« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2010, 07:54:30 AM »

BTW, I presume a "plugger" is there to "plug" problems in the timestream caused by the rich tourists.  Kind of minders, payed to go along and keep an eye on things.

Probably the best part of the story was that the author thought of this. But I think they were called "plugs", not PluggersGrin

I enjoy Tina Connolly's readings.

So here we have our second story in a row that (IMO) builds a fairly-interesting world but doesn't actually GO anywhere. Where was the dramatic tension? Anyone who's read any fantasy story knows the trope of "talented apprentice works for hardass boss who is actually a good person with hopes and dreams of his/her own and realizes that, hey, this hardass ain't so hard". See also "Weatherwax, Granny" and "Yoda*, Master". That was this story, plus time travel as seen through the eyes of the people who make sure the outfits are right. A cool idea, if you've never read it before anywhere else -- I have, in "Doomsday Book" by Connie Willis, although not in this much detail.

I actually liked last week's story better because it was a world I'd never been to. If you take out the species issues (a whole 'nother can of no-longer-extant worms that I'll let someone else open), I've been here before.

My "Stephanie" is Ms Evans, the newspaper teacher at my high school. She was short, almost perfectly spherical, funny-smelling, sarcastic, sometimes downright mean to her students, and feared because of her reputation as being tough when it came to grading. If you screwed up spectacularly, she could (and did) spend almost the entire class period taking apart what you did wrong... without revealing your name until the very end. (That happened to me.) She treated us like adults, not like kids, and that meant doing hard work and taking responsibility. She let the students run the paper and just read the drafts to make sure we weren't being slanderous or libelous, but let those of us with seniority handle the actual content and writing.

She was one of the best teachers I ever had.

* Interestingly, Firefox gave me red lines of misspellingness under hardass and Weatherwax, but not Yoda...
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« Reply #8 on: August 25, 2010, 10:22:07 AM »

And the workers weren't seemingly interested in the idea of being able to see all the times and places these clothes came from, which seemed kind of odd.  I mean, offer a costumer doing recreation clothes for a convention or ren fair a chance to vacation back in time and they'd take it so fast your head would spin. 

I got a different reaction from both Simone and Petra. My interpretation is Simone longs to go Vagabonding, she just can't afford (that's how I read the last scene, at least). OTOH, Petra doesn't want to Vagabond, because you're not supposed to change anything, which as she said would be "Pointless." Give her the oppurtunity to time travel without worrying about what you change, and I imagine her reaction would be a bit different.

So here we have our second story in a row that (IMO) builds a fairly-interesting world but doesn't actually GO anywhere.

That's a completely valid criticism. That said (and I hope you don't mind me saying this - it's just my perspective) but sometimes a story is not about where it goes. Sometimes a story's about where it already is, or who is there.

Don't get me wrong - I love plot-driven stories a whole lot (and we've got a lot of those coming up for you soon). But occasionally, I love just getting lost in worlds and characters, too. 
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« Reply #9 on: August 25, 2010, 10:34:30 AM »

So here we have our second story in a row that (IMO) builds a fairly-interesting world but doesn't actually GO anywhere.

That's a completely valid criticism. That said (and I hope you don't mind me saying this - it's just my perspective) but sometimes a story is not about where it goes. Sometimes a story's about where it already is, or who is there.

Sure, and I do write stories that are about people, not action (eg: "The Tape Library", from the Flash contest). But I find it harder to enjoy those in audio form. I prefer to read them. Audio involves a much bigger time investment from me because I am a VERY fast reader (for example: finished Harry Potter 7 in about 5 hours), so when I listen to a story, I feel like I need more, and I am more easily disappointed when I don't get it because of all the time I put in.
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Talia
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« Reply #10 on: August 25, 2010, 10:01:32 PM »

well, I thought this was just great. A nice sort of character study - while the bitter costumer can't afford to adventure herself, she can still look in the mirror and dream. Nice.

I also interpreted the butterfly stuff as due to people messing around in the time stream, butterflies sort of replaced mice as being all over the place in cities.. thus tracking butterfly colors when you come inside. That image really stuck with me. The implication butterflies also replaced mice and/or rats as disease carriers was also intriguing. These things were not spelled out, but subtly woven in, which I liked. Overall an intriguing depiction of an industry that manages to be both fantastical and drudgery at the same time.
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« Reply #11 on: August 26, 2010, 08:17:45 AM »

I may be the only girl in the world that actively dislikes butterflies.  I am NOT a fan of metamorphosis.  This world would be hell for me... :shudder:

That said...

I am also not a fan of this story.  I just really didn't get the point of it.  I kept waiting for something to happen.  Or for things to be explained.  What is a plug?

The thing is...i wasn't even left wanting.  I just didn't care.

I'm in both boats with you, I'm grossed out by all bugs. Butterflies being no exception!

Yeah, there didn't seem to be a point to the story. The author just presented their ideas about what people may do with time travel, which was pretty cool, but I was just stunned when the story ended because nothing had happened!
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« Reply #12 on: August 26, 2010, 10:58:22 PM »

This one felt, incomplete.  I didn't understand the world that was created...
If things were really that messed up, then why bother trying to fix things?  What was the journey of the main character?  What was the point? 

In the end, I was left with a world I didn't care about (I'm not a fan of butterflies, and a world without mice is pointless), a main character that didn't go anywhere or do anything either figuratively or literally, and a story that didn't feel complete.

I was left asking... what's the point? 

If you aren't going to take a journey, don't bother beating a path.
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dreamophelia
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« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2010, 12:27:21 AM »

I keep having to wonder if the butterflies on the Kimono have something to do with the plague of butterflies that's occurring in the story's present. Maybe my brain just wants to make more of it than there is though... I kept getting distracted by the thought of two weeks without airplanes because it took two extra weeks for airplanes to... be accepted as a viable possibility? Wouldn't it merely change a date in everyone's school textbooks? If the mice disappeared wouldn't you not remember them disappearing except the same way we think of, say, passenger pigeons going extinct? as something that happened in the past?
The problem with time travel fiction where the travelers can affect the future by changing the past is the the paradoxes rarely make sense. It made me want to bang my head against a wall.
But the costumey bits and the customer interactions were lovely. Reminded me a lot of trying to work as a costume designer for some rather clueless directors.
I just wish that there had been enough story to have distracted me from the time travel weirdness rather than the other way around.


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Gia
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« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2010, 06:02:06 PM »

I may be the only girl in the world that actively dislikes butterflies.  I am NOT a fan of metamorphosis.  This world would be hell for me... :shudder:

People always ask me "Why don't you like them? They have such pretty wings." I have spent many a summer wondering if I am the only one who notices that there's a little bug in between those wings, with legs, and weird eyes, and a curly proboscis . . . DON'T LET IT TOUCH ME.
I know that they were supposed to be a reference to the butterfly effect, but I spent the first minute or so thinking "There are dead butterflies everywhere? And she stepping on them?" Ewww.


I like time travel stories, but I always did think that if I were to time travel I would have a hard time coming up with a convincing back story, getting, money, finding a place to stay, learning the language and, of course, getting the right clothes. Nice to see that this story knows what I'm thinking.
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« Reply #15 on: August 28, 2010, 10:31:51 AM »

I loved this story. It reminds me of the proper fiction I've been reading -- where they don't save the world in five thousand words or less, because that's not the point. The characters were beautifully drawn. The callback to "A Sound of Thunder" was perfect. The impact of this story comes from the fact that the world is obviously doomed, and the signs are all around them -- but the characters are too wrapped up in their lives to notice, just like real people.

I want to see more stories like this. This was great.
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« Reply #16 on: August 28, 2010, 06:58:02 PM »

I'm in both boats with you, I'm grossed out by all bugs. Butterflies being no exception!

But bugs are your friends.
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alllie
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« Reply #17 on: August 29, 2010, 05:51:33 PM »

Maybe I didn't understand the story but I couldn't fathom why people were allowing these rich people to destroy the world just to amuse themselves with time travel. Working class people were even dying trying to undo the changes the rich made in their blind quest for entertainment. Why didn't they stop them. Or kill them. Then I realized we are letting rich people destroy our world and think we are helpless to do anything about it. So maybe it was a metaphor for our times.
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gateaux
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« Reply #18 on: August 29, 2010, 09:57:16 PM »

I'm in both boats with you, I'm grossed out by all bugs. Butterflies being no exception!

But bugs are your friends.

They try to be. But we just don't get along.
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« Reply #19 on: August 30, 2010, 08:48:08 AM »

Well it's good to be listening to podcasts again!  I've been chasing a story idea hardcore for an upcoming submissions deadline.  I've realized lately that, though I love the podcast fiction and EA are the best at podcast fiction, it really takes a toll on my writing productivity.  When I'm very productive, it's because I spend a few minutes in front of a keyboard and a LOT of minutes brainstorming when my mind is otherwise unoccupied, such as doing the dishes, highway driving.  Well, if I stick earphones in my ears, it fills that time quite enjoyably but I don't get as much brainstorming time.  So I had to lock up my iPod for the last two weeks to ensure I got the story done.  I FINALLY got a rough draft of the story finished yesterday and sent it off to beta readers, and I'm going to wait a couple days before doing one last round of revisions.  So now it's kind of exciting to have 6 new stories lined up in a row from PC, EP, and Drabblecast.  Smiley 

Anyway, on to the story.  This was a really cool setting, I liked the idea of seeing the view of the costumer behind the time travel trips.  Lots of interesting detail there.  I especially like the guy who chose to keep his arrows.

But two main problems that made it hard to like overall:
1.  The disappearing species made no sense.  Literally EVERY species but butterflies is now dead by what I understand.  Wouldn't that have far-reaching implications?  No fur-trapper economies.  No leather or fur clothing.  And why the hell does everyone remember the species disappearing--it's their history so they shouldn't remember the differences.  So I guess everyone's vegetarian now?  Is there widespread anemia or have people figured out alternate affordable sources of iron?  What about cultures that are now or have recently been based around hunting? 
2.  No plot whatsoever.  Cool details, cool idea, was waiting for the plot to show up.  When the end music played I wondered if I'd accidentally hit the Skip button and jumped to the next track.

Regarding whether time travel should be considered an SF concept, I thought this worked fine here.  Time travel is one of those borderline things that, though it's often framed by a scientific invention, I don't really find it scientifically plausible.  So it can fit in either way, usually depending on the other technologies available, and the "feel" of the setting. I've got one time travel story that I have the same trouble deciding the genre--time travel is a natural area-based phenomenon, not an invention, so I lean towards fantasy but I'd probably also consider submitting it to SF mags.
2. 
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