Author Topic: EP279: Conditional Love  (Read 18418 times)

Devoted135

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Reply #25 on: February 17, 2011, 09:25:49 PM

"I have failed in the past.  I will do better.  I will do better."
"I can't do better.  Everything is terrible."
"Eff this."

It's a downward arc, a failure to achieve a goal rather than a success, but it's still an arc.  She's aiming to recover from her past mistakes, to atone, to fulfill her ideals, but in the end she falls to her less noble desires.

At first (distracted) reading, I really thought this was describing Cory from "Hurt Me" over in PodCastle. Interesting how well it works, even now that I realize you're describing an entirely different character.



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Reply #26 on: February 17, 2011, 10:55:49 PM
@Devoted

Hm.  I don't know that I see Cory from "Hurt Me" as failing, exactly.  She's not achieving perfection, certainly, but I didn't get the sense that she was aiming higher and missing.  I felt like Cory was happy just to get as far as she did...



Devoted135

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Reply #27 on: February 18, 2011, 04:17:21 PM
Yeah, I suppose that Cory wouldn't see it that way. On the other hand, she is failing to achieve what I would hope for her, which is a healthy healing process rather than the quite unhealthy system of revenge that she's embarking on.



Devoted135

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Reply #28 on: February 18, 2011, 04:30:13 PM
In terms of Conditional Love, I pretty much agree with what everyone has already said. I think the story gives us enough evidence that Daniel will remain imprinted on her forever, even as he ages, given that he's well past the normal "bonding" age of humans and is still imprinting on every adult he sees. Despite her ridiculously bad decision making skills, for me Grace was a well-formed character and I believed that she would kidnap Daniel, even as I was hoping against all hope that she wouldn't. 

Also, this was a great example of "Fringe Science" being used really effectively. The technology was given believable terms that are comfortable enough to be used in everyday language and also descriptive enough that the author didn't have to go into a lot of distracting detail to try and make impossible science sound realistic. This alone made me give this one a big "yay!"  :D



l33tminion

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Reply #29 on: February 19, 2011, 05:01:29 AM
I liked the ending, it has the ideal structure for a twist ending:  The elements are all developed/foreshadowed individually so it's not too obvious, but there's that nice mental click as everything slots into place.  It makes sense.

I also thought that there was a character arc, and a strong one, though hardly triumphant for the character.  At the end of the story, Grace has totally rejected the structure she's in in favor of doing (what she thinks is) the right thing, and she doesn't come to that decision all at once, but through several events that happen (or are related) during the story.

I liked how Grace's character mirrors the character of the detective:  Grace's desire to "do the right thing" in the immediate dilemma leads her to become the medical equivalent of a vigilante.  The detective, on the other hand, seems to be completely distracted from any small-scale moral issue by his large-scale goal of getting the big bad guys and becoming a "hero cop".  Though their perspective is distorted in opposite directions, either can lead into the same sort of "ends justify the means" territory.



acpracht

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Reply #30 on: February 20, 2011, 01:40:36 AM
I'm still not convinced to like this one (despite some rather cogent and intelligent arguments from other listeners).
I get that - according to the internal to the logic of the story - he's imprinting only on sight.
But the internal logic doesn't make any sense to me... why should imprinting only occur on sight? Isn't sound, touch and even smell just as much (or more) concerned with how a child connects to mommy and figures out who they are? How would it be possible to separate out those connections to only "reset" on sight alone?
But let's give a bogey here to the argument that "the creator of the opt wanted it to be that way."
Again, why?
If you're making an opt, why go to all the trouble to make the reimprint happen only at sight? Wouldn't it be easier and more total to make the child reimprint at any new physical stimulus from a person? And why would the opt creator go to all that trouble to make it only happen at sight and leave the apparently obvious risk (to me) that the child will innocently reimprint at sight, but be scared out of their gourd at the abuser/opt creator's voice or smell, which presumably doesn't reset and would carry over in their memory to associate with fear from one impression to the other? Isn't that completely at odds to their purpose?
I still argue that - even internally - it doesn't make sense, if one just takes a bit of time to think about it. The simple answer, to me, is that the opt creator simply wouldn't create an opt this way.
But the author would, because that the way it needed to be for their twist ending.
I'm all for twist endings, but not at the expense of the rest of the story. Too much was sacrificed on the altar of the twist, and I just can't abide by it.



Mav.Weirdo

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Reply #31 on: February 22, 2011, 04:12:42 PM
Apparently this story was a timely choice since it was just announced that it has been nominated for a Nebula Award
http://www.sfwa.org/2011/02/2010-nebula-nominees/



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Reply #32 on: February 23, 2011, 03:17:11 PM
I'm still not convinced to like this one (despite some rather cogent and intelligent arguments from other listeners).
I get that - according to the internal to the logic of the story - he's imprinting only on sight.
But the internal logic doesn't make any sense to me... why should imprinting only occur on sight? Isn't sound, touch and even smell just as much (or more) concerned with how a child connects to mommy and figures out who they are? How would it be possible to separate out those connections to only "reset" on sight alone?
But let's give a bogey here to the argument that "the creator of the opt wanted it to be that way."
Again, why?
If you're making an opt, why go to all the trouble to make the reimprint happen only at sight? Wouldn't it be easier and more total to make the child reimprint at any new physical stimulus from a person? And why would the opt creator go to all that trouble to make it only happen at sight and leave the apparently obvious risk (to me) that the child will innocently reimprint at sight, but be scared out of their gourd at the abuser/opt creator's voice or smell, which presumably doesn't reset and would carry over in their memory to associate with fear from one impression to the other? Isn't that completely at odds to their purpose?
I still argue that - even internally - it doesn't make sense, if one just takes a bit of time to think about it. The simple answer, to me, is that the opt creator simply wouldn't create an opt this way.
But the author would, because that the way it needed to be for their twist ending.
I'm all for twist endings, but not at the expense of the rest of the story. Too much was sacrificed on the altar of the twist, and I just can't abide by it.

With this society's level of modding I don't think it would be impossible to tie it only to sight.  There's a whole section of the brain, the occipital lobe, dedicate entirely to managing sight.  Seeing seems easy to us, but there's a whole lot of automatic interpretation and filtering that happens completely outside of our awareness.  I work in computer vision, a very difficult field, and much of the difficulty comes from teaching a computer to interpet images in meaningful ways, images which are immediately obvious to a human despite our relatively slow processing speed.  There's a lot of stuff going on up there to handle all the optical information.  And I think if you restrict your tinkering to only the occipital lobe then I expect that sight would be the only one to be altered.  

Some thoughts on WHY only sight:
1.  If the mod was engineered for intentional child abuse, maybe it's part of the game.  If someone got pleasure from a child's fear, then they could repeat the experience anew without the child ever being able to cope.  I think sight would be a bit more reliable than sound because it seemed that his memory would not reset as long as the adult was IN SIGHT.  But how do you create that same experience if you're dealing with voice-triggered resets?  You can't just say his memory won't reset as long as the adult is IN HEARING because then what happens if the adult stops speaking for a while?  Sight, being a passive sense makes more sense as a reset trigger if the reset is intentionally programmed.
2.  We never found out for sure that this mod was intentional, I don't think.  It could very well just be a botched mod intended to do something else.  In which case the details don't have to be desirable to anyone.

So, in short, I think that this all makes sense in the context of the story, not just authorial tinkering.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2011, 03:19:15 PM by Unblinking »



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Reply #33 on: February 23, 2011, 03:21:45 PM
I liked this one quite a bit, and I have to admit I didn't see the ending coming until it was upon me. Maybe I wasn't paying attention or something, but... :)

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Unblinking

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Reply #34 on: February 23, 2011, 03:22:44 PM
By the way, since I've been harping about titles lately, this was a title I particularly liked.

It's a memorable wordplay on the usual "Unconditional Love", and hints at the speculative element without giving anything away.  

I especially like how it has a sort of "programmer" ring to it.  In programming, a "conditional" is a reaction based on an "if", which mandates a reaction.  Which matches pretty well to Daniel's brain mod:
IF <Adult in Sight> AND <Adult Not Previously in Sight>
THEN <Forget All> AND <Love>



acpracht

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Reply #35 on: February 24, 2011, 07:35:22 PM
Good points all, Unblinking, and thank you.

But I think maybe I'm too fargone to be redeemed on this one. The way the ending hit me just killed the story for me, and, well, resurrection is a rare miracle...

-Adam

I'm still not convinced to like this one (despite some rather cogent and intelligent arguments from other listeners).
I get that - according to the internal to the logic of the story - he's imprinting only on sight.
But the internal logic doesn't make any sense to me... why should imprinting only occur on sight? Isn't sound, touch and even smell just as much (or more) concerned with how a child connects to mommy and figures out who they are? How would it be possible to separate out those connections to only "reset" on sight alone?
But let's give a bogey here to the argument that "the creator of the opt wanted it to be that way."
Again, why?
If you're making an opt, why go to all the trouble to make the reimprint happen only at sight? Wouldn't it be easier and more total to make the child reimprint at any new physical stimulus from a person? And why would the opt creator go to all that trouble to make it only happen at sight and leave the apparently obvious risk (to me) that the child will innocently reimprint at sight, but be scared out of their gourd at the abuser/opt creator's voice or smell, which presumably doesn't reset and would carry over in their memory to associate with fear from one impression to the other? Isn't that completely at odds to their purpose?
I still argue that - even internally - it doesn't make sense, if one just takes a bit of time to think about it. The simple answer, to me, is that the opt creator simply wouldn't create an opt this way.
But the author would, because that the way it needed to be for their twist ending.
I'm all for twist endings, but not at the expense of the rest of the story. Too much was sacrificed on the altar of the twist, and I just can't abide by it.

With this society's level of modding I don't think it would be impossible to tie it only to sight.  There's a whole section of the brain, the occipital lobe, dedicate entirely to managing sight.  Seeing seems easy to us, but there's a whole lot of automatic interpretation and filtering that happens completely outside of our awareness.  I work in computer vision, a very difficult field, and much of the difficulty comes from teaching a computer to interpet images in meaningful ways, images which are immediately obvious to a human despite our relatively slow processing speed.  There's a lot of stuff going on up there to handle all the optical information.  And I think if you restrict your tinkering to only the occipital lobe then I expect that sight would be the only one to be altered.  

Some thoughts on WHY only sight:
1.  If the mod was engineered for intentional child abuse, maybe it's part of the game.  If someone got pleasure from a child's fear, then they could repeat the experience anew without the child ever being able to cope.  I think sight would be a bit more reliable than sound because it seemed that his memory would not reset as long as the adult was IN SIGHT.  But how do you create that same experience if you're dealing with voice-triggered resets?  You can't just say his memory won't reset as long as the adult is IN HEARING because then what happens if the adult stops speaking for a while?  Sight, being a passive sense makes more sense as a reset trigger if the reset is intentionally programmed.
2.  We never found out for sure that this mod was intentional, I don't think.  It could very well just be a botched mod intended to do something else.  In which case the details don't have to be desirable to anyone.

So, in short, I think that this all makes sense in the context of the story, not just authorial tinkering.



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Reply #36 on: February 25, 2011, 12:10:43 AM

It's a downward arc, a failure to achieve a goal rather than a success, but it's still an arc.  She's aiming to recover from her past mistakes, to atone, to fulfill her ideals, but in the end she falls to her less noble desires.


Hm.

So the character doesn't learn, but she does change.

I stand instructed.



Unblinking

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Reply #37 on: February 25, 2011, 04:02:11 PM
Good points all, Unblinking, and thank you.

But I think maybe I'm too fargone to be redeemed on this one. The way the ending hit me just killed the story for me, and, well, resurrection is a rare miracle...

-Adam

Fair enough.  I enjoyed making the argument, what you do with it is up to you.  :)



Kanasta

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Reply #38 on: February 25, 2011, 05:15:56 PM
I enjoyed this one, but what I didn't really get was Minerva's treatment. Unless the treatment centre was actually just a place where medical experiments could be performed on kids that noboday wanted, I just couldn't believe that doctors would put a child through so much discomfort for two years in order to grow a very imperfect pair of arms. Surely in a world this advanced, they would just give her some great prosthetic limbs?



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Reply #39 on: February 26, 2011, 05:04:52 PM
I enjoyed this one, but what I didn't really get was Minerva's treatment. Unless the treatment centre was actually just a place where medical experiments could be performed on kids that noboday wanted, I just couldn't believe that doctors would put a child through so much discomfort for two years in order to grow a very imperfect pair of arms. Surely in a world this advanced, they would just give her some great prosthetic limbs?

I wouldn't say her arms are "very imperfect", but they certainly aren't the pristine things I've seen in other SF.
Remember that she isn't in any true pain, simply discomfort. A broken limb in a cast is also a discomfort, and I would assume that the discomfort is more or less the same. Immobilized limb, itchy....
As for great prosthetic limbs? That's expensive. It costs a lot to build and install them the first time, and it costs a lot to maintain them over the years. Plus, she is a growing girl, she'll be needing new ones every few years.
It seems to me that growing the arms is a (relatively) cheap procedure. Simply immerse the stump in Miracle Grow for a while and watch the magic happen! True she occasionally needs minor cosmetic surgery, but I think it's still cheaper than prosthetics. Also in the long run, biological limbs are much simpler and easier to maintain, plus they'll grow with her.

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Reply #40 on: February 27, 2011, 05:12:01 PM
I really liked this story, and the ending. It had the type of impact, to me at least, that made me say, "Wow, that was great, I need to go and review this one on my blog and then comment on the forums." Things that I don't do that often, I admit. But the special ones get that treatment.

Two thumbs up (and in retrospect that phrase has extra meaning for this story) to the author.

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Reply #41 on: February 28, 2011, 02:44:01 AM
Hard to ignore the little voice telling me this seems like part of story from A.I. The little kid's imprinting (dis)ability seemed so similar to that of the movie robot I concluded it was for adoption rather than abuse.

I enjoyed that the story is told in a straigh-forward, matter-of-fact fashion with few hints about how deranged the narrator happens to be. This really could have been a PP episode, buried under sweet, insane, mother-wannabe.



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Reply #42 on: March 02, 2011, 03:45:40 AM
I really enjoyed this story.  I was disturbed by the ending, but not in the way other commenters were.  I was more disturbed that Minerva was abandoned to continue with treatement she didn't want while the cute kid was "saved".  Given the internal story logic, I think the blinding would work to keep Daniel from imprinting on others; although, the lifelong implications of the permanent imprinting are very troubling.  But poor Minerva.  In addition to being forced into treatments she didn't want, she's been living in an institution for 7 years now.  I got the impression that she may have been imprinted Grace.  Minerva may have just been starved for contact, but I thought at various points in the story she seems to have been missing Grace and be jealous of the attention that Grace is paying to Daniel.  And of course she begs Grace to take her away from it, and Grace doesn't even consider it because she so much more worried about Daniel.

I was pleasantly surprised by the twist ending ... not in the ending itself, but the way I was shocked when I realized what Grace was about to do but everything leading up to it (including the hints about Grace's probably assisting with a suicide of a child she cared for) added up to it making perfect sense.  I am just bothered that Grace decided that Daniel needed saving but failed to notice that Minerva needed it more.  Daniel seemed fairly consistantly happy when we saw him in the story.  And saving Minerva could have likely been done without criminal action.

I am pleased to know it was a Nebula Nominee.  I wouldn't mind it winning. I haven't read any of the others, but  at least I think this is pretty worthy.  I'm shocked by those who think this would fit on PseudoPod.  I'm not a horror fan and don't listed to it, but this is clearly science fiction and not horror.  "Conditional Love" performs as a classic sci fi story, it takes some possible future science and examines the implications.  There's enough there that I think I'd like to read/here some more stories set in the same future.  There's more implications worthy of examination.



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Reply #43 on: March 02, 2011, 05:24:12 AM
I think any story that ends with the implied burning of a trusting child's retinas, however good the intentions, can make room for the story in the "horror" pile as well as the SF one.



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Reply #44 on: March 02, 2011, 02:13:14 PM
I think any story that ends with the implied burning of a trusting child's retinas, however good the intentions, can make room for the story in the "horror" pile as well as the SF one.
It can sit next to the story with the brain-sucking aliens. Or - no, wait - the one with the mind-altering parasites. They can all be super BFFs and start their very own clique. Maybe their own lunch table? The popular girls will be so jealous!



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Reply #45 on: March 02, 2011, 04:22:48 PM
I think any story that ends with the implied burning of a trusting child's retinas, however good the intentions, can make room for the story in the "horror" pile as well as the SF one.

I agree.  Many stories fit in more than one genre.  This one's definitely SF.  And also definitely horror.  Genres are more about finding all the possible bins a particular story can fit into, rather than saying that it must only go into a single bin.  And horror is even more adaptable than many others because it is about the reaction it is meant to provoke, not about elements of the setting.  Any setting can include horror if the right plot occurs in it.

A Venn Diagram could make my point in suitably geeky fashion, but I'm a lazy geek, so no.



acpracht

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Reply #46 on: March 04, 2011, 06:44:08 PM
Hard to ignore the little voice telling me this seems like part of story from A.I. The little kid's imprinting (dis)ability seemed so similar to that of the movie robot I concluded it was for adoption rather than abuse.

I enjoyed that the story is told in a straigh-forward, matter-of-fact fashion with few hints about how deranged the narrator happens to be. This really could have been a PP episode, buried under sweet, insane, mother-wannabe.

Interesting comparison... I really hated the end of A.I., too, and I think I see the linking factor - I really hate stories that try to pull "good" out of something really terrible being done to little children.

Honestly, after A.I., I came to the conclusion that Spielberg can't stand to end a movie unhappily. I wanted to yell at the set, "The kid was abandoned by his parents to fend for himself, Steven! You've not going to pull a happy ending out of this one!"

Of course, that did not stop him from trying...

-Adam



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Reply #47 on: March 09, 2011, 09:49:23 PM
The ending of this one caught me by surprise. I had to think about it for a bit before deciding I liked it.

What really strikes me, is that Grace seems to have almost as much of an imprinting problem as Daniel/David. A child comes into the hospital. She lavishes them with attention. Minerva (formally "Minnie") remembers Dr. Grace reading her Charlotte's web - you get the impression it's a ritual.

Then a new child comes in, needy and adorable. And Dr. Grace is now lavishing attention on her new favorite. Ignoring her previous children, who still need rescuing.

Now she's got "David" - but what happens when the next thing comes along, and she "imprints" on a new child or cause?

What I loved most about this story was the world building. Very well done.



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Reply #48 on: March 14, 2011, 05:39:01 AM
I had a moment while listening to this where I thought it might go into the detective route. I'm glad it didn't. Not much else to say other than to echo that the ending was a sharp shock. It fits perfectly with the rest of the story though as an opposite to what came before. That is, people trying to make children "better" end up damaging them. Grace damages Daniel (David) in an attempt to make him "better." Not that the intent is the same there.


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Reply #49 on: March 21, 2011, 03:57:38 PM
It was a little weird to listen to this one, mainly because I also have an incredibly adorable, curly-haired, 6-year-old little boy named Daniel. So much so that I actually started reading the comments while I was listening to the story, so the knowledge that she blinded him got spoiled for me. No...I wanted to read the spoilers, so I don't regret it. I think if I hadn't, I would have been completely freaked out. Not a bad story.

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