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Author Topic: EP263: Fuel  (Read 10305 times)
eytanz
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« on: October 21, 2010, 11:19:54 AM »

EP263: Fuel

By Matthew S. Rotundo
Read by Dave Thompson

First appeared in Cosmos

---

The third quarter report cards came out Thursday, and for Jamie, the timing couldn’t have been worse. The Nike man was coming over that night to sell his brother some new blood.

He took his time walking home from Gilder Middle School, weaving past cracks in the sidewalk and mud puddles left behind by the spring thaw. His pace slowed further as he turned onto Willow Avenue and saw his house, second on the left, a red brick ranch with spidery ivy growing up the east side. Old leaves, fallen tree branches, and other detritus left over from the winter littered the front yard. As he neared, he noted with dismay his father’s car already in the driveway.

“Damn.” Jamie trudged across the yard and let himself in the front door with his keycard.

Dad was at the hall closet, hanging up his overcoat. He stood just under two meters tall; a navy blue business suit wrapped his muscled frame. He beamed when he saw Jamie. “Hey there, kiddo. How was school today?”

“You’re home early,” Jamie said.

“Need to get ready for the presentation tonight. And I’d like you to clean up the front yard. Make sure you use the dirt rake to get up that thatch. Will you do that for me?”

Jamie opened his mouth to protest, but thought the better of it. “Sure,” he said. He unslung his backpack and headed for the stairs.

“Oh. By the way.” Dad fished in a suit pocket and produced a folded piece of paper. “I got this in my email today.” He opened the paper.


Rated PG For a wee bit of swearing, sibling rivalry, and parents who don’t appreciate a smart son.

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 255: Variations on a Theme.
  • It’s our first full-text story! Read OR listen to it! We’ll have the epub version ready for download in the next few days.
  • Next week… Halloween episode!



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
« Last Edit: November 12, 2010, 01:50:50 PM by eytanz » Logged
wintermute
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« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2010, 06:51:44 PM »

So.... what was Jason's payoff? Scott loses the race, Jason gets in trouble, and then...? How does this help him to pursue academic interests?
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eytanz
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« Reply #2 on: October 22, 2010, 07:11:13 AM »

Moderator note: The discussion on the download link on the blog has been split off into the "about Escape Pod" forum.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #3 on: October 22, 2010, 08:13:01 AM »

Cool idea, although it's so close to happening I'm not convinced it's science fiction (kidding, kidding, it'll be at least 3 years before Nike comes up with synthetic blood products, maybe 2 now that Matthew's given them the idea).  The fact that sports funding is a more likely way to get a scholarship for college than academics really bothers me.  Then the jocks get to go off to college, and why?  So they can play some more sports...  good for them, but it seems like a waste of a college establishment to fund so many people who have no interest in the academics.

I do have to agree with wintermute though, that there doesn't seem to be much payoff (though that didn't keep me from wanting him to succeed at it on some vindictive level of my mind).  His parents aren't going to identify with him--they might disown him or if there's a physically abusive streak under the surface, beat the crap out of him, but I doubt they'll relate to him about it for (in their eyes) ruining his brother's chances at a future, anymore than a parent would relate to their jock son who gave slipping pills to a sibling just before a college entrance exam.
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« Reply #4 on: October 22, 2010, 10:02:16 AM »

So.... what was Jason's payoff? Scott loses the race, Jason gets in trouble, and then...?

1:Make Scott lose the race
2:Get in trouble
3: Huh?
4: Profit!!!


I did not really care for this one. The world in it seemed interesting, but I do not see how any world like that could not have some appreciation for smart people. It wasn't some juiced up jock that made Fuel 6.1. Even Nike Man has to understand that you need to encourage some brainboxes so that there will be someone around to design Fuel 6.2. I could not get past this idea enough to really enjoy the story.
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« Reply #5 on: October 22, 2010, 02:25:30 PM »

I'm not sure but I don't think there's any educational institution in the U.K. that is particularly concerned about getting students for their athletic rather than intellectual prowess so my experience of the 'dumb jock' genre is limited to when it crops up in genre telly. This was a neat inversion that charmed me a lot by the author's canny realisation that it lacked the strength to sustain a longer length, especially as everyone seemed to be a stock character.

I think we are supposed to feel that the Nike man, his product and by extension the world that would allow such a thing to be considered both normal and admirable are bad, or at least morally poor, but being a Warren Ellis and Matt Fraction's Iron Man fan, I actually like the idea of blood plus that's been designed to help a body perform a different task better. What surprises me is that in this world it seems athletic prowess is all, surely blood could also be designed to help the brain work better, in fact, I know next to nothing about biology, but wouldn't most of what the Nike man says the new Fuel does help the brain too?
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icegirl
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« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2010, 04:01:53 PM »

Kind of a neat concept, but not enough story to hang it on... I don't like my brother that much either, but I'm not sure what torpedoing his success in a race would do for you. Maybe it connects to the same mind set as the kids who bring guns and pipe bombs to school.

Re the Universities for Jocks only concept - I have seen in my life that institutions are frequently required to morph themselves to satisfy their clients no matter how this compromises their ideals, so I can believe this aspect more than some others. The thing I don't buy is that athleticism and intelligence must be opposing ideals and cannot be present within one body. Possibly because I have strived for years to ensure that my children are both smart and fit, I was hoping for a different response from the parents in this story. Blood-doping ethics aside, why wouldn't better blood also feed your intellect and why wouldn't higher intelligence help your sporting endeavours?
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Turbo Funnelcake
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« Reply #7 on: October 22, 2010, 05:42:45 PM »

I had to listen to this one twice.  I cannot and WOULD NOT want to live in a world where athleticism takes prescedence over intellectual excellence with regards to scholarships. That kind of world just doesn't make sense to me. Unless.....Unless of course malignant "highly intelligent" aliens enslaved mankind and spared humanity solely for entertainment purposes.  Hrmmm....But if that was the case, why bother with higher level learning in the first place?

I think the only value here was Jaime trying to prove a point, not only to his family but the system with regards to the norm of his world.   
It was an ok story, just not my cup'a tea.
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Sandikal
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« Reply #8 on: October 22, 2010, 07:50:47 PM »

I had to listen to this one twice.  I cannot and WOULD NOT want to live in a world where athleticism takes prescedence over intellectual excellence with regards to scholarships.

I saw this story as disturbingly realistic.  Athletics already take precedence over academics when it comes to scholarship money for middle-class kids.  A smart middle-class kid is lucky to get a grand here or there and they have to apply for a gazillion scholarships to do it.  The jock with lower grades gets scouted for a full ride scholarship.  There are many, many parents who push their kids in sports in the hopes that they'll get that athletic scholarship.  The parent of a straight-A student has little hope of seeing college money.
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KenK
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« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2010, 07:28:36 AM »

I greatly enjoyed this story and empathized with the fat, smart, and nerdy kid. That was me in high school. Seeing half-wit jocks strut around the halls in their varsity jackets, their names and photos in the newspapers every week, and basking in the (fleeting) glory of their athletic prowess was awfully hard to endure. The kid has the same mindset as a suicide bomber who is totally willing to endure certain punishment for the chance to take advantage of this one-time-only opportunity for sticking it to the jockstraps.  Grin
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Schreiber
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« Reply #10 on: October 23, 2010, 11:50:21 AM »

I think this is a case of the medium shortchanging the story. Seeing Scott lose the race and figuring out how it happened would have made the story stronger. It would have also been nice to see the Dracula red herring come to life. There just didn't seem to be enough time to see it all come to fruition the way I would have liked it to.

"Usurpers" managed to deal with a similar concept in a more satisfying way, but that story was told in a fairly untraditional way. I'd like to think that "Fuel" could work if it had more of a runway to accommodate the author's natural voice and pacing.
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eytanz
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« Reply #11 on: October 24, 2010, 04:53:49 PM »

I didn't much care for this one. It was, in essence, a revenge story, where the underdog gets to be the petty one for once. And - maybe because I didn't grow up in America, so the concept of athletic scholarships seems just bizzare too me - I couldn't really buy into the culture. I certainly couldn't relate to it - I was always encouraged in my academic interests, both by my parents and my school.
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« Reply #12 on: October 25, 2010, 08:20:44 AM »

I've been mulling this one over in my head for a while, and I've finally decided what I want to say about it. Ultimately, I think this is an interesting story set it in a chillingly absurd world - classic dark science fiction at its best. As some posters have pointed out, we aren't that far from demanding this sort of thing from our children.

On the other hand, the story did have a few major holes. How exactly did Jamie hope to profit from ruining his brother's sports career? What negative side effects was Jamie hoping to avoid, or was he just being contrary? Kids can't often hold on to such controversial views forever without backup - where was the subculture of naturalists who would have supported Jamie, if only by existing? I know that every story has its limits, but I feel that Fuel should have answered some of these.

That said, the world presented by this story was bleak and chillingly plausible and the story was well-crafted and enjoyable. Three of five zeppelins.
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blueeyeddevil
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« Reply #13 on: October 25, 2010, 10:40:27 AM »

I'm seeing a general misinterpretation of this story, in my opinion. What I see here a case of a beautiful rough stone being chipped into a flawed gem.
I am only seeing this perhaps because I tend to think this way, but I suspect that actual world idea preceded the story.
It's a conceptually rich world: commodification of the body, a sort of anti-singularity of the physical, corporatist athletic competition beginning in junior high.
But when the time came for the actual story...

I seems a somewhat weak choice for the first story in this world, moreover compounded by a revenge ending that isn't much of a revenge.

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Talia
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« Reply #14 on: October 25, 2010, 10:42:43 AM »

I've been mulling this one over in my head for a while, and I've finally decided what I want to say about it. Ultimately, I think this is an interesting story set it in a chillingly absurd world - classic dark science fiction at its best. As some posters have pointed out, we aren't that far from demanding this sort of thing from our children.

On the other hand, the story did have a few major holes. How exactly did Jamie hope to profit from ruining his brother's sports career? What negative side effects was Jamie hoping to avoid, or was he just being contrary? Kids can't often hold on to such controversial views forever without backup - where was the subculture of naturalists who would have supported Jamie, if only by existing? I know that every story has its limits, but I feel that Fuel should have answered some of these.

That said, the world presented by this story was bleak and chillingly plausible and the story was well-crafted and enjoyable. Three of five zeppelins.

Seemed a pretty clear cut case of revenge to me. What profit would he need from it besides personal satisfaction? He obviously resented his brother a great deal.

Also, I strongly disagree with it not being much of a revenge. Without the performance enhancers, its likely his brother would fail miserably at the upcoming games, particularly since everyone else would have them. He'd be humiliated and his parents would be disappointed. For the resentful brother that sounds like that would count as a sure win.
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tpi
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« Reply #15 on: October 25, 2010, 11:08:21 AM »

I had to listen to this one twice.  I cannot and WOULD NOT want to live in a world where athleticism takes prescedence over intellectual excellence with regards to scholarships.

I saw this story as disturbingly realistic.  Athletics already take precedence over academics when it comes to scholarship money for middle-class kids. 

As a side note: why are the collages in the US so keen to get athletics to their schools?
What's in it for them?
That is something that has mildly baffled me.
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Maplesugar
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« Reply #16 on: October 25, 2010, 11:13:38 AM »

It's all about the money.

The better the teams do, the better the school's reputation. Large business and professional teams associate themselves with schools having a good image, and thus provide sponsorships to individuals and institutions.

The athlete is a warrior, and warriors have always been worshiped for their successes.
When has the scholar ever been crowned in laurels and given a parade for his deep thoughts?
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« Reply #17 on: October 25, 2010, 11:49:03 AM »


As a side note: why are the collages in the US so keen to get athletics to their schools?
What's in it for them?
That is something that has mildly baffled me.


Colleges make a ton of money off athletics - ticket sales, sponsorships, alumni support, etc.

As for what Jamie got in return for sabotaging Scott? I think the story answered that - he felt like it'd hurt his parents and Jamie, but also put them in a position to make them understand him - even if only for a second. So, yeah, to me it read as classic revenge and the need to be vindicated.
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« Reply #18 on: October 25, 2010, 01:10:05 PM »

It's all about the money.

The better the teams do, the better the school's reputation. Large business and professional teams associate themselves with schools having a good image, and thus provide sponsorships to individuals and institutions.

The athlete is a warrior, and warriors have always been worshiped for their successes.
When has the scholar ever been crowned in laurels and given a parade for his deep thoughts?

And the good schools become a testing area for pro sports.  Most of the American athletes in pro sports were picked because they stood out among college students.

Not at the school I went to, because we didn't win a single game in the first 3 years I attended.  Anybody who would merit a full ride athletic would not be caught dead attending that school
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chornbe
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« Reply #19 on: October 25, 2010, 01:47:43 PM »

Absolutely no offense to the author, but there was simply nothing in this story with which I felt connected or caring.

Just didn't do it for me. Sorry.
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