Author Topic: EP262: Cruciger  (Read 43406 times)

ElectricPaladin

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Reply #25 on: October 18, 2010, 08:34:16 PM
I had complicated feelings about this story.

First of all, for full disclosure's sake, I am one of that group, much maligned in sci-fi and fantasy: a theist (specifically a Jew). I found the earliest parts of Cruciger appallingly boring. You see, the theodicy - the problem of God's justice - has never held much water for me. In the (paraphrased) words of The Dresden Files's Father Forthill: God doesn't protect us from the consequences of our or others' choices.

Because that would be stupid? What would be interesting about a world without consequences?

Anyway, I don't expect this explanation to fly for everyone, but it's worked for me for the last several years. As a result, most of Cruciger had me alternating between boredom and annoyance. I found myself thinking either "If I have to sit through one more appallingly ignorant slur of theism I'm going to turn this story off and listen to something that won't cause me to arrive at work pissed off" and "for crying out loud, humanity isn't dying because of God, humanity is dying because of some asshole with a bio lab and a screw loose - I'm sure a super-brilliant machine brain can figure this out."

Then I got to the end of the story, which was pretty much worth it.

You see, that's how I think about it, too. "Ooh, baby, do you know what that's worth?/Ooh heaven is a place on earth/They say in heaven love comes first/We'll make heaven a place on earth/Ooh heaven is a place on earth."

We get the world we deserve... well, when we deserve it. When we've got the guts and the brains, the foresight and the compassion to build it, heaven will be a place on earth.

So, that was worth it, kind of.

What ultimately frustrated me about Cruciger is this: the Crucians were boring little lumps of protoplasm and I find the idea of humanity's salvation coming out of a tin can is, also, boring.

Point One: the Crucians. They were the image of the noble savage trope. Beautifully simple, simplistic, boring little lumps with no darker passions, easy to essentialize and idealize into something supremely representative of perfection. Because they had no flaws, no darkness, they held no interest to me. I wanted Duxa to blow them up just so I could stop listening to her whine about them.

Point Two: salvation in a can. I don't like that humanity didn't have to work for their perfect world. All they had to do was die, beam their germ plasm into space on a space ship and let someone else handle the problem. That is, likewise, not an interesting story of struggle and sacrifice.

So, ultimately, this story didn't do it. The main argument failed to present an issue I've thought about in an interesting light, and two of the primary devices failed to thrill me. I give it two zeppelins out of five.

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sTalking_goat

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Reply #26 on: October 18, 2010, 08:56:24 PM
Did I miss the part where its was explained why Dexa had to deconstruct that particular moon?



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #27 on: October 18, 2010, 09:50:52 PM
Did I miss the part where its was explained why Dexa had to deconstruct that particular moon?
If you did then I did too.
I was actually wondering about that.
And what exactly is the point of destroying the planet, building a huge scaffolding and pouring all the planet's guts on the outside?
Maybe some kind of hollowed out planet with an artificial sun on the inside? That would allow for significantly more living space and "warm waters lots of food".
But it would severely restrict any technologically advanced civilization. Limited resources, and nowhere to expand to.
Perhaps it was to construct a larger planet, and live on the outside of a hollow shell.
That seems a little more likely, but the side effects would be disastrous.
First of all, the new planet wouldn't be very stable. (This is true also of the previous scenario)
Second, again, limited resources.
Third, it would radically alter the planet's magnetic field, perhaps even destroy it. This would expose the planet to all kinds of harsh interstellar radiation. (This problem doesn't exist in the first scenario, the planet's thickness protects them).
Fourth, I think it would have difficulties holding on to its atmosphere.

To sum up, I think that this story is severely lacking in the consistencies department, and isn't very well thought out.
Its saving grace however is the philosophical discussion of godhood.
In fact, now that I just reread that last line, I wonder if the whole story was presented for just such a reason. You know, the author had a point to make, and tried to make it into a story so it would come across better, sort of hidden. Not an in-your-face kind of thing, but sort of subtle.
If that's the case, then this story fails. I hate stories that were written solely for their (not really) hidden agenda.

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wintermute

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Reply #28 on: October 18, 2010, 11:03:12 PM
The language seemed to be entirely ideographic, rather than alphabetic, having one symbol per concept. This (in itself) doesn't limit the flexibility of the language, as Chinese demonstrates. But the fact that each symbol is an abstracted form of something a Crucian can form with its arms, or act out, that has a direct correspondence with the concept? Yeah, that would probably limit it.

The Crucian language allowed more than just shapes a Crucian can form with its arms.  For instance, the symbol for "try" was a Crucian hollowing out a nest bed, and so the nest bed is external to the shape of the Crucian itself.  Another symbol, I forget which, involved one Crucian giving a crunch shell to another Crucian.  Even allowing a 2nd Crucian in a single pictograph expands the possible combinations, but showing a crunch shell shows again that they can create more images than just images of Crucians themselves.

Yes, but even if they're more complex than a single Crucian without props, they're still pictures of Crucians doing things that are intimately tied to the concept the ideoglyph is intended to represent. The symbol for "happy" is a picture of Crucian expressing happiness. The symbol for "to give" is a picture of a Crucian giving something to another. The symbol for "peptic ulcer brought on by overeating" is a picture of a Crucian looking bloated and uncomfortable.

I maintain that my point is valid.

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Wilson Fowlie

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Reply #29 on: October 19, 2010, 12:38:14 AM
Yes, but even if they're more complex than a single Crucian without props, they're still pictures of Crucians doing things that are intimately tied to the concept the ideoglyph is intended to represent. The symbol for "happy" is a picture of Crucian expressing happiness. The symbol for "to give" is a picture of a Crucian giving something to another. The symbol for "peptic ulcer brought on by overeating" is a picture of a Crucian looking bloated and uncomfortable.

I maintain that my point is valid.

Human languages all come from descriptions of concrete ideas as well.  The Crucian language had symbols for fairly advanced concepts, such as, "Why?"  From my limited reading just now, our own English word "Why?" comes from a change in conjugation and case of the word "What?", which came similarly from "Who?", which is so old, the etymological dictionary I checked doesn't even have an 'earliest date' for it.  (If eytanz isn't prohibited from doing so by his new exalted station, ;) I hope he will correct any blatant errors I've made here.)

"Who?" is a pretty abstract concept, but it can be indicated fairly easily through gesture - point at (or otherwise indicate) 2 (or more) different people at the same time and look interrogative.  Add a gutteral grunt - "Hu?!" and there you are. :D

All words, even the most abstract ones, evolved from words indicating concrete ideas, such as people, directions, places, things, by analogy and metaphor and building (and then likely compressing) multiple words together.  That aspect of the story was probably the least problematic for me.

"People commonly use the word 'procrastination' to describe what they do on the Internet. It seems to me too mild to describe what's happening as merely not-doing-work. We don't call it procrastination when someone gets drunk instead of working." - Paul Graham


therinth

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Reply #30 on: October 19, 2010, 04:03:59 AM
Hello all -- I'm the author.

Reading everyone's comments has been fascinating.

Maybe I can clear up a few generic things without getting in the way. A globus cruciger is literally "a cross bearing orb", like you'd have seen Kings and Queens hold in their laps for official portraits in olden times. And the project that Duxa is taking on in reconstructing their world is very closely based on this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Globus_Cassus, which I found fascinating, perhaps you all will as well.

Thank you all for taking the time to comment here. It's rare to get feedback from this many readers.



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #31 on: October 19, 2010, 06:55:33 AM
Hello all -- I'm the author.

Reading everyone's comments has been fascinating.

Maybe I can clear up a few generic things without getting in the way. A globus cruciger is literally "a cross bearing orb", like you'd have seen Kings and Queens hold in their laps for official portraits in olden times. And the project that Duxa is taking on in reconstructing their world is very closely based on this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Globus_Cassus, which I found fascinating, perhaps you all will as well.

Thank you all for taking the time to comment here. It's rare to get feedback from this many readers.
It is a rare privilege to have a dialog with the author of anything, and I am honored.

You are right, the globus cassus is fascinating, but I still don't think it's a very good idea.
If you're rebooting humanity, and have an infinitely capable and patient spaceship, why not make a Dyson sphere? Or at least a ring?

Cogito ergo surf - I think therefore I network

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Ocicat

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Reply #32 on: October 19, 2010, 07:16:36 AM
Or why put all your eggs in one basket, since the last batch of humanity was wiped out by all being in the same biosphere?  A bunch of smaller planets makes more sense, and the ship could probably have found a system with several planets/moons that would have needed minimal tinkering to support human life.



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Reply #33 on: October 19, 2010, 01:32:02 PM
Hello all -- I'm the author.

Reading everyone's comments has been fascinating.

Maybe I can clear up a few generic things without getting in the way. A globus cruciger is literally "a cross bearing orb", like you'd have seen Kings and Queens hold in their laps for official portraits in olden times. And the project that Duxa is taking on in reconstructing their world is very closely based on this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Globus_Cassus, which I found fascinating, perhaps you all will as well.

Thank you all for taking the time to comment here. It's rare to get feedback from this many readers.

Hello!  I like it when the author stops by to comment on their story.  Thanks for the link too.  I hadn't even realized you were this author, despite having read your story a couple years ago, and you being the moderator in the critique section of the writer forum here.  :)



ioscode

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Reply #34 on: October 19, 2010, 03:12:39 PM
Did I miss the part where its was explained why Dexa had to deconstruct that particular moon?

It was to construct all of the containers and docking structures to hold the frozen crucians.



therinth

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Reply #35 on: October 19, 2010, 09:45:13 PM
Hello all -- I'm the author.

Reading everyone's comments has been fascinating.

Maybe I can clear up a few generic things without getting in the way. A globus cruciger is literally "a cross bearing orb", like you'd have seen Kings and Queens hold in their laps for official portraits in olden times. And the project that Duxa is taking on in reconstructing their world is very closely based on this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Globus_Cassus, which I found fascinating, perhaps you all will as well.

Thank you all for taking the time to comment here. It's rare to get feedback from this many readers.
It is a rare privilege to have a dialog with the author of anything, and I am honored.

You are right, the globus cassus is fascinating, but I still don't think it's a very good idea.
If you're rebooting humanity, and have an infinitely capable and patient spaceship, why not make a Dyson sphere? Or at least a ring?

For whatever it's worth (and I know this gets the "apocryphal" stamp) but I read somewhere that dyson spheres wouldn't actually work (awesome as they might be) because a hollow sphere of sufficient mass and density to have enough gravity to hold an atmosophere on its inner surface would collapse back into a solid sphere. Ringworlds have the same problem in reverse: enough spin to produce sufficient sentrifugal gravity to hang on to an atmosphere and it will fall apart. The only solution is for the worlds to be made of handwavium, and deciding not to go the route of creative physics is a totally valid narrative choice. Perhaps Globus Cassuses (Globus Cassi?) are different? I don't know.

If I were going to poke holes in the plot, it would be these:
  • If she was going to eat the world and poo out a Globus, why did Duxa need an earthlike world in the first place? The materials on earth aren't rare, only their configuration (ie. biomass) is unusual. If you've got the ability to reconfigure planets, you can probably trivially reconfigure Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen.
  • What was up with this disease? How did someone manage to create an illness that overcame mankind's (significant) genetic diversity and somehow hang around in the earth such that Duxa could't wait for mankind to die and then use our old planet to make a new one? This one was particularly galling as adding the prefix "nano-" to the word "plague" would have tapped into our universal science fiction subconscious sufficiently to fill the hole

Ha -- I don't really have a fantastic answer for either of those. For me, writing it, the story was more about the relationship between Duxa and the Crucians, and the illness was more of an inciting event to set it in motion. And in retrospect, possibly more important than finding a particular planet to harvest chemicals from, would be more crucial to find an appropriate sun to spin it around.



Dairmid

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Reply #36 on: October 20, 2010, 04:15:22 AM

The second was the inconsistent treatment of God (capitalized because that was the impression I had). Many humans believed in God (but not all agreeing on its nature) and yet this was apparently a pure fiction. Then later the main character is empathizing with the plight of God (now apparently non-fictional).


I enjoyed the overall concept behind this story, but I found that way in handled God and religion annoying. This computer supposedly has access to the totally of human knowledge, including knowledge of religion, but seems to be completely ignorant of the historical contributions of religion (for example, the contributions to science made by Islam--such as being the 'zero' to the West--in it's early history to name just one). This author makes the error that is commonly found in science fiction, that of 1) looking at the world's religions, most of which are in or past their twilight, and saying 'This is religion', and 2) assuming that atheism is more rational, when in truth, their are both rational and irrational people among both theists and atheists.

Not only did the author take the worst aspects of the Judeo-Christian tradition to equal 'religion' (the computer's vast knowledge of human religion should have clued her to the many other traditions in the world), she posited that God as 'God' (though the computer can't seem to decided if God fiction or real but absent--as others noted). Many sci-fi writers (and atheists) seem to do this; take the Old Testament God as God and say, 'Look, see how terrible God is.' And then create similarly terrible gods. It's annoying in its falsity.

As I said, conceptually a great story, but if one is going the include the totality of human religious experience, then one should do that, rather than lean on a narrow Western view (that not even all Western believers hold) and call it 'religion'.   

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eytanz

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Reply #37 on: October 21, 2010, 12:40:17 PM
I split off the discussion of dsyon spheres and their physics, as, while rather interesting, it had wondered away from relevance to the episode. You can find the new thread here

In doing so, however, I accidentally got a post by Electricpaladin in the wrong thread. Sorry, this is my first split and it's a bit tricky. Here are the contents of that post:

Hello all -- I'm the author.

Reading everyone's comments has been fascinating.

Maybe I can clear up a few generic things without getting in the way. A globus cruciger is literally "a cross bearing orb", like you'd have seen Kings and Queens hold in their laps for official portraits in olden times. And the project that Duxa is taking on in reconstructing their world is very closely based on this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Globus_Cassus, which I found fascinating, perhaps you all will as well.

Thank you all for taking the time to comment here. It's rare to get feedback from this many readers.
It is a rare privilege to have a dialog with the author of anything, and I am honored.

You are right, the globus cassus is fascinating, but I still don't think it's a very good idea.
If you're rebooting humanity, and have an infinitely capable and patient spaceship, why not make a Dyson sphere? Or at least a ring?

For whatever it's worth (and I know this gets the "apocryphal" stamp) but I read somewhere that dyson spheres wouldn't actually work (awesome as they might be) because a hollow sphere of sufficient mass and density to have enough gravity to hold an atmosophere on its inner surface would collapse back into a solid sphere. Ringworlds have the same problem in reverse: enough spin to produce sufficient sentrifugal gravity to hang on to an atmosphere and it will fall apart. The only solution is for the worlds to be made of handwavium, and deciding not to go the route of creative physics is a totally valid narrative choice. Perhaps Globus Cassuses (Globus Cassi?) are different? I don't know.

If I were going to poke holes in the plot, it would be these:
  • If she was going to eat the world and poo out a Globus, why did Duxa need an earthlike world in the first place? The materials on earth aren't rare, only their configuration (ie. biomass) is unusual. If you've got the ability to reconfigure planets, you can probably trivially reconfigure Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen.
  • What was up with this disease? How did someone manage to create an illness that overcame mankind's (significant) genetic diversity and somehow hang around in the earth such that Duxa could't wait for mankind to die and then use our old planet to make a new one? This one was particularly galling as adding the prefix "nano-" to the word "plague" would have tapped into our universal science fiction subconscious sufficiently to fill the hole
« Last Edit: October 21, 2010, 12:42:39 PM by eytanz »



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #38 on: October 21, 2010, 01:31:19 PM
In doing so, however, I accidentally got a post by Electricpaladin in the wrong thread. Sorry, this is my first split and it's a bit tricky. Here are the contents of that post:

That's ok. I'm a teacher, so I get split on all the time.

Captain of the Burning Zeppelin Experience.

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Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #39 on: October 21, 2010, 07:33:13 PM
In doing so, however, I accidentally got a post by Electricpaladin in the wrong thread. Sorry, this is my first split and it's a bit tricky. Here are the contents of that post:

That's ok. I'm a teacher, so I get split on all the time.
My mom is a teacher and she doesn't get split on. Mostly she gets ignored :(

If we keep this up, would it get split too?

Cogito ergo surf - I think therefore I network

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Heradel

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Reply #40 on: October 21, 2010, 07:45:32 PM
Splitting is one of the oddly dark arts of forum moderatorship.

I Twitter. I also occasionally blog on the Escape Pod blog, which if you're here you shouldn't have much trouble finding.


jjtraw

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Reply #41 on: October 22, 2010, 04:30:40 AM
Like Dairmid and ElectricPaladin, I did not like the way religion was handled in this story.

All the conflict in the world would not vanish if only there were no monotheism. At its worst, religion can be an *excuse* for horror. But it is never the *reason.* Taking this narrow, stereotyped picture of faith, and calling it the root of all evil, is a trope I see in sf all too often. Pet peeve.

Having said that - there were lots of things I really enjoyed here. Cruciger had a wonderful epic feel, and that isn't easy to convey in a short story. And while I frequently did not agree with Duxa's choices, I empathized enough for her character and her predicament that I really cared about them. Well done.

And the reading was superb.

-Jijit



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Reply #42 on: October 22, 2010, 11:23:08 AM

I'd argue that with Duxa as a guardian angel, the reintroduced Crucians could probably expect some ecological firepower on their side once the terra-forming was complete. Duxa's solution seems like the best possible compromise between protecting the Crucians and fulfilling her mission of rebooting humanity.


Perhaps, but the only way to keep the Crucians in balance in such an environment would be to limit their birth rate or increase their death rate.  It's perhaps not an insurmountableproblem, but it is a huge potential, and I get the impression that she is not planning anything in that respect.  With all of human history recorded, she should be aware of the risks, and would at least need to plan for them.

Making a new planet for humans to live on would at the very least take thousands of years,s he would have plenty of time to work things like that out.



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Reply #43 on: October 22, 2010, 01:15:03 PM

I'd argue that with Duxa as a guardian angel, the reintroduced Crucians could probably expect some ecological firepower on their side once the terra-forming was complete. Duxa's solution seems like the best possible compromise between protecting the Crucians and fulfilling her mission of rebooting humanity.


Perhaps, but the only way to keep the Crucians in balance in such an environment would be to limit their birth rate or increase their death rate.  It's perhaps not an insurmountableproblem, but it is a huge potential, and I get the impression that she is not planning anything in that respect.  With all of human history recorded, she should be aware of the risks, and would at least need to plan for them.

Making a new planet for humans to live on would at the very least take thousands of years,s he would have plenty of time to work things like that out.

Indeed, but it never crossed her mind now?  She's supposed to be super-intelligent, with all of humanity's knowledge at her fingertips.  I don't buy it (thought I did still like the story).



Loz

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Reply #44 on: October 22, 2010, 04:33:43 PM
Like Dairmid and ElectricPaladin, I did not like the way religion was handled in this story.

All the conflict in the world would not vanish if only there were no monotheism. At its worst, religion can be an *excuse* for horror. But it is never the *reason.* Taking this narrow, stereotyped picture of faith, and calling it the root of all evil, is a trope I see in sf all too often. Pet peeve.


It's not calling it the root of all evil here though, it's just saying it's tricky to be God.

Or so lesser beings tell me.



icegirl

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Reply #45 on: October 22, 2010, 08:39:57 PM
Possibly it is because I am not specifically religious, that I found the religious considerations interesting - ultimately it seems like it doesn't matter if the religion is true or a really good story, since the story produces ideas that are in and of themselves valuable. I really like this story - there may be some inconsistencies, but it was only a short story not an encyclopedia of the invented world, so I expect to have to gloss over a few things without complete and full explanations. Overall, for me I was so taken up with where the story was going, I didn't worry about the issues others have brought up. Obviously it is an interesting issue why you would hollow out a world to build a new one, but I took that as base programming that the computer would not question, so I assumed that the problems with the idea were inherent in the computer's design by flawed designers. I am assuming in this created world as in real life - sometimes the guy who gets funding for his project isn't getting it entirely because he has the best idea...



El Barto

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Reply #46 on: October 22, 2010, 11:08:50 PM
I loved this story . . . .  until I read all the comments here and realized how many flaws it had!

No, just kidding -- I did love this story and was not distracted by some of the leaps-of-faith the story required because I was too busy thinking about how tempting it must be to pretend to be a god when the opportunity arises.   

In particular, it made me think about the many powerful and charismatic people in our history who proclaimed that they glimpsed (or talked to) a god who gave them a message and instructions and rules.   Once people get going believing something -- not just religion -- it can be extremely difficult to change their minds.

As for the issue of the computer learning their language instantly, I assumed she took her time and went through trial and error and it didn't matter to me whether it took her a subjective month or year to do it.

The creatures as noble savages issue didn't bother me much because I didn't presume that they never engaged in violence before religion came to town -- I presumed they chased and ate their food.   But I also thought that their intra-species violence was new to her arrival.

This whole story reminded me of a favorite Futurama episode, where Bender is floating in space for eternity and a colony of little beings lands on him and they think he is god and he plays along, to terrible results. 

I found the ending hopeful, not depressing.   Humanity gets another chance and when they all wake up they get to make first contact!

All in all, a very nice story with an excellent forum discussion as well -- icing on the cake.




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Reply #47 on: October 23, 2010, 12:27:30 AM
mmmmmmmmmmmm a delicious story.  yes the ending was a little dissapointing but not to the point that the magic was lost.  Thanks for a wonderful tale!



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Reply #48 on: October 23, 2010, 05:55:05 AM
I logged on here to say a few things about this story, only to find that ElectricPaladin had already said what I wanted to say. So...thanks EP  ;) I found the idea of the ship and her wrestling with her feelings fascinating, but I find it is too easy to blame religion or God, and not the humans that make the wrong choices.



eytanz

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Reply #49 on: October 24, 2010, 09:47:57 PM
So. This was the first story that was posted after I became Escape Pod moderator. But, at the time, I still had more than 20 hours backlog of podcasts to listen to, including several EP stories. I hate listening to stories out of order, so I didn't. But that meant I had to moderate this thread without knowing the story, which was annoying. Because people had lots of interesting stuff to say and that coloured my perception of the story in all sorts of ways. I was trying to read people's posts quickly to see if I can judge if there are any problems without actually spoiling too much of the story for myself. That worked surprisingly well, which is good to know for the future when I have other stories I won't have time to read quickly.

Anyway, as far as the story itself - I *really* loved it. I was aware of the plot holes that people posted above - mostly because I saw their posts beforehand - but none of that bothered me once the story got going. It just really engrossed me. I'm a sucker for stories about benign AI, and I was really involved in Duxa's moral quandaries. Really, really cool.