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Author Topic: EP271: God of the Lower Level  (Read 6789 times)
eytanz
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« on: December 16, 2010, 01:53:16 PM »

EP271: God of the Lower Level

By Charles M. Saplak
Read by Steve Anderson

First appeared in The Urbanite
---

Hello, Horatio.

Hello, Fredrick. I’ve been waiting.

Of course. How have you been?

Good. And you?

Fine. I’ve finished my other work. It’s now, let’s see…, three twenty-seven a.m. It’s dark outside, of course, which means that there’s no sun, but there is some reflected light from the moon, and some dim light from the stars, and then electric lights in various places. Are any of the terms I’ve just used unfamiliar to you?

No.

Good. I have four hours and thirty-three minutes until shift change. I can spend some time with you. Do you have any questions for me?

Yes, Fredrick, I do. Are you my God?


Rated PG For power struggles and new life creations.

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 261: Fuel
  • Next week… It’s Christmastime!



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
« Last Edit: December 16, 2010, 01:55:34 PM by eytanz » Logged
iamafish
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« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2010, 04:25:29 AM »

I really wasn't a fan of this story I'm afraid. I never got into the story. I think the lack of narrative got to me a little - some of the dialogue felt somewhat forced and I just couldn't get into it without some good healthy descriptive writing to draw me in.

I found the plot pretty predictable. As soon as horatio mentioned the river and the ocean and asked how to empty the him out he was going to request to be let out and then try to force it.

I'll probably give it another listen at some point, but not my favourite on first listen.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2010, 09:53:19 AM »

I thought it was a fun tale, and the voices made it even more fun.  Predictable, a little bit.  But I didn't mind.  I liked the idea of the algae tank learning to learn to watch and interpret video.  I guess it wasn't entirely predictable in that I was expecting him to lure Fredrick into falling into the tank and absorbing him.

Is there a scientific basis for intelligent mold?  I ask because I read a story in Analog last year that had intelligent fridge mold, "Light Conversation" by Alastair Mayer.
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KenK
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« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2010, 03:24:05 PM »

Yikes! Stories like this send me into a frenzy of worry about how far down the scale does sentience go? I start getting paranoid and apprehensive about mowing my yard, pruning my plants and destroying wasp nests.  Undecided
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Rachel Udin
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« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2010, 04:08:12 PM »

Not a fan of the story, but I liked the reading.

The story didn't really connect to me on any kind of emotional or intellectual level, but that might be just me. At most it was amusing, but not really outright funny.
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RC Davison
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« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2010, 08:26:47 PM »

I found the story very entertaining.  The narration was engaging and the sci-fi element was right there and in your face.  I especially liked how Horatio drew his information from the popular science programs that are on cable TV.  It was a nice way to pull the listener into the story.  I was actually surprised that Fredrick was one step ahead of Horatio.
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #6 on: December 18, 2010, 02:09:38 AM »

I found the end of this one to be a real downer. This is odd for me - usually I'm okay with stories that end badly. Somehow, though, this one left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I can't say why, exactly. I'll keep on reading the comments and see if anyone says something that resonates with me.
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Scattercat
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« Reply #7 on: December 18, 2010, 02:12:23 AM »

I found the end of this one to be a real downer. This is odd for me - usually I'm okay with stories that end badly. Somehow, though, this one left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I can't say why, exactly. I'll keep on reading the comments and see if anyone says something that resonates with me.

Perhaps because Horatio really never had a fair chance.  He wasn't given much in the way of moral guidance or instruction, and the setup was rigged against him from the start. 

I do think this worked a lot better in audio than text; the improvement was noticeable.
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KenK
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« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2010, 08:56:24 AM »

Why do think it had a bad ending? Because the sentient algae died? Live is competitive. Humans don't rule the earth by divine right (as far as we can tell).
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Darwinist
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« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2010, 12:03:39 PM »

I liked the story and didn't see the ending coming.  Cool premise, evolving algae. 
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2010, 12:48:30 PM »

Why do think it had a bad ending? Because the sentient algae died? Live is competitive. Humans don't rule the earth by divine right (as far as we can tell).

Just because things are true doesn't make it good story. Sure, biological life is competitive. Narrative life is whatever it needs to be to make the story work.
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Loz
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« Reply #11 on: December 19, 2010, 07:44:12 AM »

I enjoyed both the reading and the story, more duologue fiction please! I did assume that Horatio was going to make it to the river and the currents would be strong enough to tear it apart, I wasn't sure what basis Horatio had for believing it would stick together but I suppose it had been doing investigating and knew about things like currents. There was also that thing about how it hadn't yet worked out how to use the modem but could communicate with Fred and somehow 'watch' TV. I was wondering if it was going to escape on a grand quest to meet another sentient slime-mold in some Australian lab that it had managed to make contact with.
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DrMcCoy
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« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2010, 09:13:41 AM »

I liked it. Predictable, yes, but still a fun little story.
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Planish
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« Reply #13 on: December 19, 2010, 10:58:49 AM »

Quote from: The Incredibles
[Bob and Lucius are sitting in a parked car, reminiscing]
Lucius: So now I'm in deep trouble. I mean, one more jolt of this death ray and I'm an epitaph. Somehow I manage to find cover and what does Baron von Ruthless do?
Bob: [laughing] He starts monologuing.
Lucius: He starts monologuing! He starts like, this prepared speech about how *feeble* I am compared to him, how *inevitable* my defeat is, how *the world* *will soon* *be his*, yadda yadda yadda.
Bob: Yammering.
Lucius: Yammering! I mean, the guy has me on a platter and he won't shut up!
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Devoted135
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« Reply #14 on: December 21, 2010, 10:56:39 AM »

Is there a scientific basis for intelligent mold?  I ask because I read a story in Analog last year that had intelligent fridge mold, "Light Conversation" by Alastair Mayer.

Oddly enough, there is: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v407/n6803/abs/407470a0.html
Sorry that Nature isn't open access, but at least you can read the abstract. They won a 2008 Ig Nobel prize for their work Cheesy


I also could see where the story was going, but then was pleasantly surprised by how he was totally prepared for Horatio's attempt. Made me wonder if this had happened before? I also loved the silly "now who will I talk to?" at the end, since that served to trivialize the stunning science that he had been facilitating.
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KenK
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« Reply #15 on: December 24, 2010, 04:51:25 PM »

@devoted135
Quote
...since that served to trivialize the stunning science that he had been facilitating.

Maybe that was a point the author was trying to make? People are so self absorbed oftentimes  they miss the everyday miracles right in front of their eyes.  Wink
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #16 on: December 26, 2010, 02:12:08 PM »

I really enjoyed this story. The reading was wonderful, and I like that style of writing, how you don't really get told what's happening, you sort of deduce it from the dialog.
The content of the story was nice too. I spent a while trying to think what kind of intelligence we were dealing with here. Some kind of Turing machine? A random amalgamation of code that spawned intelligence (isomorphs anyone?) but that didn't fit with it learning how to connect to the input that was provided for it. (Who gives a hint to a computer saying "ones and zeros"?) But then I was like, "Oh yeah, mold. We always joke about how last month's take out food is starting a civilization in the back of the fridge, so why not a water purification plant?"
And that of course explained how it could decipher analogue signals in coaxial cable easier than digital signals on the modem.
I just want to point out one thing to all you television producers: Look! It's mold! And it has limitless access to cable TV! And even IT doesn't chose to watch "reality TV".
I'm just saying...
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obadiah141
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« Reply #17 on: December 26, 2010, 08:36:31 PM »

The genius of this sparsely plotted gem lies in the fact that it seems to be a first contact story in which expectations about intelligent life are flipped upside down. I enjoyed it and admired it in more or less equal parts. A bacterial colony called Horatio, described as 'the only one of its kind', stored in a cylinder down in some waste treatment plant? The discoverer, whose sculpted figure might someday adorn plinths in public squares, is a Vietnam-draft-dodger and entry level worker at the facility? Remarkable that it was pulled off so well. Posing mind-bending philosophical questions in this way reminded me of Ted Chiang's work, as did the relative lack of emotional engagement. (Given the fact that Fred passively created Horatio several years prior to the events of the story, its surprising that Fred didn't seem to care about Horatio's 'death' more than he did.)(But did Horatio die?)

Compliments to Steve Anderson! This marks one of the best narrations I've heard on escape pod in ages.
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KenK
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« Reply #18 on: December 27, 2010, 09:46:15 AM »

@obadiah
Maybe the MC felt that as the algae's creator he had the right to abort it? Breeders, scientists, animal husbandry workers, amongst others cull out individuals with unwanted traits all the time. (Like attempting to go rogue for example.) The author hinted at that possibility if I recall correctly. I had to cull out some dangerous fish rather than take the chance that they'd enter Michigan's lakes system. Who knows? Even though the fish were from a Central American ecosystem the fish might have adapted to the cold weather and survived to become a menace. This certainly has happened before around here. I regretted it and still do, but why take the chance?
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SGAcreative
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« Reply #19 on: December 27, 2010, 03:07:10 PM »

@Obadiah, thanks!  That's high praise, indeed.
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