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Author Topic: EP260: The Speed of Dreams  (Read 19881 times)

Swamp

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on: September 30, 2010, 05:37:48 PM
EP260: The Speed of Dreams

By Will Ludwigsen
Read by Mur Lafferty

Host: Norm Sherman

First appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction
---

Paige Sumner

8th Grade Science Fair Paper Draft

#

Introduction

It happens all the time: you’re sitting in class, listening the best you can while Mister Waters goes on and on about atoms or sound waves or whatever, when suddenly you fall asleep. Your head lolls against your shoulder and some drool oozes from the side of your mouth. Luckily, Missy Woo kicks you in the knee to wake you up before someone notices, like Mister Waters or–worse–Austin.

What’s weird is that in those few minutes of sleeping, you dream like hours of stuff. You’re all hanging out or playing basketball or walking the mall while everybody else is slowly raising their hands and taking notes. They all get twenty four hours that day, but you get a little extra.

But how much extra?


Rated PG  For mild drug use.


Show Notes:

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Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
« Last Edit: October 21, 2010, 04:21:06 PM by eytanz »

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Void Munashii

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Reply #1 on: October 01, 2010, 02:54:00 PM
  Wow, I was really impressed with this story at the start. I liked the idea of it being a rough draft of a school science report, I liked the tone of it (helped greatly by Mur's reading), and I liked the generally irrelevant information thrown in by paige; it felt authentic to me. I also liked the subject matter. I have always been fascinated with dreaming and the time differences between dreams and waking life, and the idea of trying to figure out what that difference is exactly, no matter how flawed the expiriment, seemed fun.

  Then towards the end we suddenly start talking about Nana more. "Okay," I thought, "Where are we going with this?", and I kept listening only to be completely blindsided by the end. I still like the story, but such a dark ending to what had, up to that point, been such a fun and kind of light hearted story really surprised me.

  My wife, Osaka, and I had a bit of a debate about this at the end though. Her opinion is that Paige committed suicide, while I think she may just have been a bit stupid when it came down to it. Sure she seems relatively bright throughout most of the story, but she also doesn't seem particularly depressed.

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heyes

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Reply #2 on: October 01, 2010, 05:04:53 PM
Well... Um... It was a good story, it was well read, had some interesting layers - well okay it had two, but they played nicely against each other.

But... The only was this is an escape pod story is if we consider the science fiction aspect of this story as a pun.  Right?  I mean it's a fiction piece, and it's about a science project.  So it's "science fiction".

But I kind of got out of this story feeling like I hadn't actually listened to Escape Pod.

Again, good story, but strange venue.

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Marguerite

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Reply #3 on: October 01, 2010, 07:02:43 PM
My wife, Osaka, and I had a bit of a debate about this at the end though. Her opinion is that Paige committed suicide, while I think she may just have been a bit stupid when it came down to it. Sure she seems relatively bright throughout most of the story, but she also doesn't seem particularly depressed.

That's what really got me about this story, the ending.  Norm said it perfectly - "Woah."  There's so much up for interpretation.  Is this suicide?  Is it the character's ignorance played to a logical extension, or maybe just an attempt at escapism?

More importantly for me, what I loved about this piece, and what made it science fiction, was the school science project as frame for the story.  So often real science - assumptions, hypotheses, observations - gets paid lip service in pursuit of the great narrative.  This story turned that on its head and told itself in the glosses of the report. 

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Void Munashii

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Reply #4 on: October 01, 2010, 09:02:58 PM
More importantly for me, what I loved about this piece, and what made it science fiction, was the school science project as frame for the story.  So often real science - assumptions, hypotheses, observations - gets paid lip service in pursuit of the great narrative.  This story turned that on its head and told itself in the glosses of the report. 

I liked this too once I realized that's what was going on. I was going along enjoying the story but wondering , "Shouldn't this be on Podcastle?" until I realized that it was fiction about science; literally science fiction. I think that's part of what I found so charming about it most of the way through.

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mbrennan

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Reply #5 on: October 01, 2010, 09:30:03 PM
Wow -- did *not* see that punch coming at the end.  Upon reflection, I think I'm on the side of "she was experimenting, not committing suicide;" she was clearly upset about Austin, but not kill-yourself-upset.  Still, I found it plausible; think of all the safety things we do to keep little kids from eating medicine or cleaning products or whatever, because they look like candy.  Or handgun accidents, because they don't fully grasp what will happen if they pull the trigger.  I can imagine an experimentally-minded kid not understanding the danger of taking Nana's sleeping pills, once she's gotten wrapped up in the idea that she can live *more* by going to sleep.

I agree that this is teetering on the very furthest border of science fiction, but I liked the story enough that I don't mind.  It only bothers me when the story fails to hold me. :-)



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Reply #6 on: October 02, 2010, 01:42:24 AM
Anyone who can make boring measurements into an interesting tale is alright by me



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Reply #7 on: October 02, 2010, 05:18:26 AM
Dark and neat.



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Reply #8 on: October 02, 2010, 04:59:55 PM
I can't speak for others but I can usually tell I am dreaming even while doing it.* And for another thing the best dreams I've ever had pale in comparison with the best experiences I've had in my conscious, reality based life. Nana is just a meat-based computer endlessly recycling itself and nothing more. Like a CD player in a stalled car that will keep playing songs until the battery is exhausted. Nana wasn't likely experiencing or even "remembering" anything at all.  r Perhaps that is what the author was trying to say. That the immature, inexperienced or unreflective sorts (i.e., the kid) don't grasp this. Form over essence.

* Doubt that? Then try keeping a dream journal for a month or two. For most people this will be quite insightful and maybe even open a new door of perception for you.



Darwinist

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Reply #9 on: October 03, 2010, 02:48:24 PM
Good stuff.  It started losing me a bit with all the experiment facts but I hung in there and the ending was a kick in the arse.  Win!

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.    -  Carl Sagan


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Reply #10 on: October 03, 2010, 03:31:29 PM
Putting science and the scientific method in science fiction?  Who'd have guessed!  :)  (Yes, I know, doesn't really fit the scientific method.)

I think the reason we didn't see the ending coming was due to the rather lighthearted reading Mur gave it, which let the ending become a left-field shot instead of the obvious direction.  Even when talking about how she'd been crying, it's said with a sufficiently dismissive air that I interpreted it as the girl confessing about how silly she'd been.  The suicide (and I have trouble seeing it as anything else) at the end is a great little punctate blow to reverse our previous impressions of the girl.



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Reply #11 on: October 03, 2010, 04:47:26 PM
I don't think the ending was a suicide. She was hoping to induce a comma so that she could remain in a dream state for a prolonged time and escape reality.

I know there was a thread in the Raising Jenny about the lack of hard sci-fi, and I'm all for softer pieces. EP gives such a steady stream of material I think there is room for a wide variety. That being said I don't think this science fiction. It is fiction about science.  I know this originally was in Asimovs, There is no speculative element in it. Well written, but I felt a bit disappointed at the end.



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Reply #12 on: October 03, 2010, 04:59:59 PM
I really liked this story, though I'd agree with others that Paige is not intending to commit suicide, though death or severe brain damage is the most obvious outcome. To have a fairly light story take a sudden right turn like that was most satisfying, this is an example of what I was talking about elsewhere a month or two back about how a story that is horrifying is often more effective on EP than PP because it's more unexpected. I did not see this coming at all.



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Reply #13 on: October 03, 2010, 05:40:08 PM
@ Bill
Quote
I don't think the ending was a suicide. She was hoping to induce a comma so that she could remain in a dream state for a prolonged time and escape reality.

This sounds to me like what a lot of religious beliefs refer to as an afterlife. The kid may not mean to check out as in "shutting off the lights" (AKA, "physical death"), but isn't that a distinction with out of a difference? Seems so to me.



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Reply #14 on: October 03, 2010, 07:52:50 PM
@ Bill
Quote
I don't think the ending was a suicide. She was hoping to induce a comma so that she could remain in a dream state for a prolonged time and escape reality.

This sounds to me like what a lot of religious beliefs refer to as an afterlife. The kid may not mean to check out as in "shutting off the lights" (AKA, "physical death"), but isn't that a distinction with out of a difference? Seems so to me.

Not to the central character, she was hoping to come back having adventured in dreams for a (comparatively) short period of time in the real world.



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Reply #15 on: October 03, 2010, 09:37:03 PM
Kind of a light-hearted feeling for a really darkly depressed narrator - not that much different than real life, suicides often seem to come out of nowhere to their friends and relations. A preference for the sleeping/dreaming world to real life may feel familiar to anyone who has ever wanted to avoid their own reality.



Bill

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Reply #16 on: October 03, 2010, 09:52:01 PM
@ Bill
Quote
I don't think the ending was a suicide. She was hoping to induce a comma so that she could remain in a dream state for a prolonged time and escape reality.

This sounds to me like what a lot of religious beliefs refer to as an afterlife. The kid may not mean to check out as in "shutting off the lights" (AKA, "physical death"), but isn't that a distinction with out of a difference? Seems so to me.
As it was said, she wanted to wake up afterward. Yes physical suicide is very different than wanting to abuse drugs to induce an alternate reality. Another clue to this is from escape pod itself. Notice the warning was for drug usage, not suicide.



KenK

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Reply #17 on: October 03, 2010, 10:48:56 PM
Ah, when has EP ever given a "suicide" warning?  ???



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Reply #18 on: October 03, 2010, 11:10:53 PM
I had to listen to this one twice. The first time it took me a little bit to get into the science report/diary style, but once I did I enjoyed the story. The ending was a real change in tone and took my by surprise. After a second listen, the picture I get of Paige is of a bored, lonely teen who misses her fun, interesting Nanna. She wants to follow Nanna into the interesting dream life Paige imagines she is having, thereby escaping her own life for a while. It certainly doesn't seem to me like she intends to commit suicide.

What puzzled me, though, was what kind of pills were those? The story seems to imply that they are sleeping pills. But why is Nanna taking them? The story also seems to imply that she is in a coma. Why give sleeping pills to someone in a coma? Are they pain pills that make Nanna sleep as a side effect?  For me, the lack of clarity about the pills in the story underscores the fact that Paige doesn't know what she's doing when she intends to take them. She just wants to be able to live 4 (hopefully interesting) lives to everyone else's 1.



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Reply #19 on: October 04, 2010, 01:11:56 PM
Ah, when has EP ever given a "suicide" warning?  ???

It would have been a bit of a spoiler if they had.

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Reply #20 on: October 04, 2010, 02:22:21 PM
Not science fiction. The events of this story have been possible for decades at least.

I wonder whether her death is going to be considered accidental overdose, or suicide. Or if her journal will be found.

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Reply #21 on: October 04, 2010, 02:27:22 PM
What puzzled me, though, was what kind of pills were those? The story seems to imply that they are sleeping pills. But why is Nanna taking them? The story also seems to imply that she is in a coma. Why give sleeping pills to someone in a coma?

Yeah I was wondering that too.  Maybe she decided that Nana was taking the pills to keep herself in the coma?  ???

I liked most of this story, the children's science experiment applied to dreams.  My wife and I have talked about dream time perceptions so it was cool to see it played out here. 

But the ending was too much of a tone change for me.  I think it was well done, and I think it fit with the story, so I don't think it's a story FLAW per se, I just didn't like it.  I was enjoying the sense of childish wonder and the sudden intent of self-induced coma was too depressing.



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Reply #22 on: October 04, 2010, 02:28:01 PM
Or if her journal will be found.

I assume her journal will be found, especially given the question of whether it was suicide or accident.



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Reply #23 on: October 04, 2010, 06:20:43 PM
This was a very nice story, very real. I didn't feel myself immersed in the story's world, caught up in it all, feeling that I'm part of the story, so much as just sitting there helping my little sister proof read her school report. (And yes, I do that, and she rights reports like that)
I chuckled aloud a few times, earning me some strange looks.
I've recently been reading a lot of O'Henry stories, so I should have been expecting the ending.
But I didn't, and that gave me a great thrill.
I love surprise endings, even (or perhaps especially) when they're not happy endings. And this one was great.
So good I posted on the forum again!

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Reply #24 on: October 05, 2010, 08:06:16 PM
Fantastic story, but my disbelief suspenders had a bit of a workout until I decided that the protagonist was writing an "experimental journal" rather than an after-the-fact report to give to her teacher. I loved the insight into her thought processes, especially how she's trying so hard to do the science right.

Like a lot of others here, I was a bit blindsided by the ending. It's not often that a story manages to surprise me so thoroughly, and I can't think of a better finale. I caught myself worried about what had happened to Paige hours later, before remembering that it was fiction.

I'm not really a purist when it comes to deciding if a story is "science fiction" enough for Escape Pod, and stories like this one are the reason. Whether it's sci-fi enough or not, it's a story I really enjoyed listening to.