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Author Topic: EP283: Grandfather Paradox  (Read 6871 times)
eytanz
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« on: March 10, 2011, 05:55:39 PM »

EP283: Grandfather Paradox

By Katherine Mankiller
Read by Kim Gianopoulos

Originally published in Electric Velocipede
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JUNE 23, 1994

Ann stuffed her blood-spattered clothes into the next door apartment complex’s dumpster. He wasn’t dead, but it was harder to get a knife through someone’s chest than she’d expected. Maybe he’d bleed to death before someone found him. She didn’t care either way. She was a juvenile, so it wasn’t like she was going to fry.

She walked. The YMCA was open. She locked herself in the men’s room, curled up on the floor, and fell asleep.

The next morning, she stopped at an IHOP and told a grey-haired waitress, “I don’t have any money, but can I have a cup of coffee?” The waitress must have felt sorry for her: she bought her breakfast. Afterwards, she went to Safeway and hid a steak and a bottle of beer under her coat and walked out. And kept walking. Someone had a barbecue grill in their back yard. She took it, and the charcoal, too.

What she could really go for now was some mushrooms. She should swipe some Kool-Aid and find a cow pasture. Or maybe she could rob a veterinary clinic. Anything to get the thought of him touching her out of her head, and that beer wasn’t going to cut it.

Steak and beer. Almost luxurious.

The sign read “Open House.” Yes, that sounded about perfect. She spent the night there, on the carpet smelling faintly of shampoo.

It had happened to him, too. What her father had done to her, his father had done to him. Which, in her opinion, just made it worse. He knew what it was like.

When the police arrived and told her she was under arrest for murder, she couldn’t stop laughing.


Rated PG-13 This story contains violence

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 275
  • Next week… How far can you see on a clear day?



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
« Last Edit: April 01, 2011, 03:17:27 AM by eytanz » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2011, 07:37:58 PM »

I don't hate time travel because it's overdone.  I just hate it because it never makes sense at the end. 

This story was fun, despite including my least favorite scifi trope.  I enjoy happy endings, and it was interesting how the story used actual events to "clean up" the temporal paradox rather than just having people and/or things magically fade away.  I'm a little iffy on the idea that happiness = married and pregnant, but given that the story pretty thoroughly established the character as wanting to have a relationship and a family and being unable to do so because of the history of abuse, I'm not all that upset by it.

Cycles don't like to change.  If anything, I think this story was a little too optimistic about whether the loop could end.  (Like, okay, you kill Hitler, and some other opportunistic douchebag steps in to take advantage of the societal circumstances that resulted from the beating Germany took in WWI, and if you go back to try and change that, well, when does it end?  The chain keeps going.)
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« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2011, 10:23:36 AM »

I can't be entirely sure where the dividing line lies between issues with the writing and issues with the narration.

There was a tendency to overinflect that confused the narrative. The lack of tone shift  between character dialogue and descriptive text was disruptive.

I found that the first protagonist's (Anne mk. 1) 'pffft, whatever' sociopathic attitude seemed to infect the 3rd person narrative. This may have come from the narration, but I suspect that this story was intended originally to be a first person piece, as the descriptive work identified her thoughts as if they were the narrators.
Example (I may misquote): Yeah, steak and a beer, that would be good.
Not: She thought 'a steak and a beer would be good.'

This just really felt like uncareful (yes I know the wording is awkward, but it's the most repectful term I can think of) writing. Setting aside the whale-sized issues in the time-continuity; the eventual choice that the story end with married-and-pregnant Anne happy with her husband, the recognition and dismissal of the grandfather's own victim status, and the one-step-easy disposal of Anne mk. 1 seemed like a massive FU to the original tone of the story.

With all that being said: had the third act of the story been Anne mk. 3 showing up in 1955 and selling her baby, I would have loved this story. 

Edit: added a space for compositional clarity.
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« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2011, 01:53:09 PM »

I enjoyed the story up to the point that Ann (which one?  I wasn't sure) realized that her Grandfather was perpetuating behaviour from his own childhood.  When that happened, I wondered why she didn't go back even further, as many generations as she needed to, and find the starting point (or at least a reasonable one)?

Also, I was unhappy that with all the research done on the origins of abusive behaviour, that the character felt that the only recourse was killing. And so it felt more like simple revenge than trying to really solve the problem.

Personally, I like time travel stories, mainly because of how hard they are to get right - it's fun to see what an author will do to try to work it out, and what issues an author will ignore in the interests of telling a story.  (E.g. in this case: the fact that any difference in Ann's father's life would result in Ann never having existed, since how we turn out is so random and a product both of conception and upbringing.)

For me, since time travel is one of those 'known impossibilities', it doesn't really matter much to me which particular logical inconsistencies or 'rules' are broken, as long as the story is well-told, since I'm doing the ultimate in suspension of disbelief in the first place.

As for the narration, I can't say I enjoyed it. I was really happy that my MP3 player has tempo control.  I kept on having to speed it up to be able to listen to it.  And then when Mur came back in for the outro, shewastalkingreallyfastandIhadtogobackandslowitdown! Smiley
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« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2011, 07:56:08 PM »

We're trying out some new narrators to get some new voices into the mix. This was Kimberly's first attempt and she did it on very short notice. I gave her some notes about what she might do to improve. Overall, though, I think it was partly her and partly some tendencies in the writing that exacerbated the situation.

I just wanted to let you guys know that we're not ignorant to it, and ask that you be as patient as possible.
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« Reply #5 on: March 11, 2011, 11:55:45 PM »

Yeah. Fowlie took the words right out of my mouth. It's quite amazing to think of time travel as something that some of us acknowledge to be imperfect and live with, yet we still entertain the idea because it is the uncertainty that keeps the letters scrolling across the page. I think the one lesson that I keep learning over and over again with sci-fi in general is that diversity in your topics is key. For instance, sometimes i like a really technical story, which tells me everything i need to know about the characters and the universe they live in. Other times I like to infer on my own, and let the story take me and my thoughts for the next few weeks wherever it may, like time travel tales. But I have to refer back to fowlie on this one. Not my favorite EP, but not the worst. Could have been better without beating around the revenge bush.
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« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2011, 02:44:49 AM »

I think maybe this story just wasnt completely suited for audio, with so many time jumps and different perspectives i think it would be hard for even the best narrator to do perfectly. But otherwise i really liked the story, time travel may have been done to death but this story had a new twist.
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« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2011, 03:59:09 AM »

The narration ruined this story for me - I felt like I was being read to by a kindergarten teacher. I found the narration so distracting I couldn't actually pay attention to the story being told. Perhaps someone should travel back in time and redo the narration...
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Bdoomed
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« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2011, 09:10:38 AM »

We're trying out some new narrators to get some new voices into the mix. This was Kimberly's first attempt and she did it on very short notice. I gave her some notes about what she might do to improve. Overall, though, I think it was partly her and partly some tendencies in the writing that exacerbated the situation.

I just wanted to let you guys know that we're not ignorant to it, and ask that you be as patient as possible.

Glad this has been noticed even before the comments.  I had to stop listening due to the tempo, and good thing I was reading along on the site, because some things that were not dialogue sounded like dialogue.  That, however, I do attribute to the writing style.  I will, however, finish the story via the site, just not audio.
Other than the tempo of the reading, Kim's narration isn't bad.  The sound is good, intelligible, etc.  Just read faster! Tongue
I'll probably comment a bit later on the story itself once I finish reading it!
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« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2011, 09:37:31 AM »

I enjoyed the story up to the point that Ann (which one?  I wasn't sure) realized that her Grandfather was perpetuating behaviour from his own childhood.  When that happened, I wondered why she didn't go back even further, as many generations as she needed to, and find the starting point (or at least a reasonable one)?

Also, I was unhappy that with all the research done on the origins of abusive behaviour, that the character felt that the only recourse was killing. And so it felt more like simple revenge than trying to really solve the problem.
I wondered that too.  Perhaps it stems from her own experiences of abuse.  For all of her (apparent) education, she has still been abused as a child, angry at her father, angry at her grandfather.  Even realizing that her grandfather is yet another victim, she's unstable and carries out her revenge anyway.  Yes, there were much better ways of handling that situation, but those did not concern her.

It was an interesting story, I kind of got a Palahniuk-like sense from it, mostly because of Rant, but also the line "Stop the cycle. I want to get off." struck me as very Palahniuk-y.  Also, I really liked the part toward the beginning where they pulled out a penny dated 2013 from the 1914 capsule.  Nice, concise example of an experiment in developing the time travel, without bothering with much "science".

I'd also like to applaud Escape Pod for choosing to run this story, especially with the inherent difficulties in producing a great story of time travel.  It's an interesting trope to read.
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« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2011, 11:31:05 AM »

With all that being said: had the third act of the story been Anne mk. 3 showing up in 1955 and selling her baby, I would have loved this story. 

Edit: added a space for compositional clarity.

Actually I thought a better ending would had been Ann's granddaughter from further into the future popping up and killing Ann's husband for his abusive behavior.
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« Reply #11 on: March 12, 2011, 02:02:02 PM »

I thought it was really interesting that the first Anne had no patience for the second iteration of Anne that she herself had created. Far from being happy that she had created a more stable version of herself (though clearly it was still not "perfect"), she resented Anne 2.0 for not being just like her.


I did want to say that I didn't personally have a problem with the narration. Granted, I had to listen to the first five minutes about three times, but I chalked that up to the story not being quite as suited for audio.
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« Reply #12 on: March 12, 2011, 08:26:31 PM »

 Like others, I thought this story an interesting take on an old trope, though also like others I noted the flaws.  This story doesn't translate as well to audio form as others do - the narration is less linear, and I kept wishing that I had it on paper so I could skip back and check the dates at the start of each section & see how they were trending.  Listening to them, the first one or two tended to bleep over, then I wished I could flick back and check what I'd not paid proper attention to at the time.  Also, the narration itself was rather slow and expressionless.

Still, I worked it all out by the end.  Anne 1.0 goes back to kill abusive grandfather who has abused Anne's father who in turn abused her; Anne 2.0 comes back to prevent grandmother from marrying abusive second husband.  Anne 2.0 is convicted of the murder and gets the death penalty, Anne 1.0 emulates her father and drinks herself into a stupor and dies in a show drift, leaving their combined creation, Anne 3.0, to live a happy & fulfilled life, oblivious to the efforts of her other selves.

Not sure that I liked the story, but I think it's one that will remain with me.

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« Reply #13 on: March 13, 2011, 08:47:09 PM »

I had to stop listening due to the tempo...

The comments about the slow tempo caught me as funny...not because I disagree with the comments.  I think the pace was a bit slow for this story, but overall I think Kim did a great job!  

It's funny because the advice that you always hear for narration is "SLOW DOWN  -- Don't talk too fast or you will lose your audience".  Even the EA naration guidelines call for this.  And now with two stories in a row (this one and PC's Surgeons Tale), complaints have come in that the pace is too slow.  So right or wrong, it just strikes me as ironic.  I guess balance is the key.
« Last Edit: March 13, 2011, 08:50:03 PM by Swamp » Logged

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« Reply #14 on: March 14, 2011, 08:38:29 AM »

Still, I worked it all out by the end.  Anne 1.0 goes back to kill abusive grandfather who has abused Anne's father who in turn abused her; Anne 2.0 comes back to prevent grandmother from marrying abusive second husband.  Anne 2.0 is convicted of the murder and gets the death penalty, Anne 1.0 emulates her father and drinks herself into a stupor and dies in a show drift, leaving their combined creation, Anne 3.0, to live a happy & fulfilled life, oblivious to the efforts of her other selves.

Is THAT what happened?  I honestly had no idea by the end, and when Mur came back on I was surprised that it was over.  I'm not sure that this translated very well to audio--in text I could've glanced back at the date markers to see how they were trending, but I have trouble keeping track of that in audio, and some sections were just hard to follow in audio, so that I really didn't understand it by the end.

Regarding the narration, good to see a new reader here, and kudos for having the guts to step up to the mic.  I thought the quality of the audio sounded great, and I like the sound of her voice itself.  Like others said, I think speeding up the tempo a bit would be helpful, and the tone seemed a bit like tones I've heard when someone is reading to a child--I don't know exactly what, some extra flourishes of inflection that make it seem like a children's book reading.  That's not a major criticism, and I'm not sure exactly what one could do about it, other than to try to read like you would talk.  I think that the writing style itself may have contributed some to this.  There were lots of short, declarative sentences so that I felt a bit like it was a "See Spot Run" type book--so that may have been a contributing factor to feeling like it was a reading for children.

It's funny because the advice that you always hear for narration is "SLOW DOWN  -- Don't talk too fast or you will lose your audience".  Even the EA naration guidelines call for this.  And now with two stories in a row (this one and PC's Surgeons Tale), complaints have come in that the pace is too slow.  So right or wrong, it just strikes me as ironic.  I guess balance is the key.

Yes, that is interesting.  Usually one does need to slow down, as most people speed up their speech when nervous.  I know I always had that problem when giving presentations in college--we'd be given a time window that our presentation should fall within, say 7-10 minutes.  If I timed myself ahead of time alone, I might have a time of 8 minutes, but when giving the presentation I had to constantly make myself slow down (and do so without saying "um"), or I would naturally speed up that same presentation to about 5 minutes.  I suppose it's possible to overcompensate in the other direction, I just usually tend so much towards the quickness that I've never been accused of being too slow.  Tongue
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« Reply #15 on: March 14, 2011, 08:56:18 AM »

I didn't like this story, but it grew on me. Perhaps some future me went back in time and rearranged my literary priorities so I'd like it, then overdosed on Sara Douglass and died in a snowdrift. There's no way of knowing.

Anyway, for me the biggest problem with this story was that it is singularly ill-suited to audio. I would have wanted to have the date stamps to periodically refer to as I read, which would have cleared up a lot of my confusion. Without them, I was often a little lost.

My second-biggest problem with this story was the reading. I almost never say that, but in this case I thought the reader was, again, singularly ill-suited to the story. Kim Gianopoulos has a very distinct style - a cutsey, cruel, baby-faced killer of a style - that just doesn't work with stories where I need to connect with the characters as real, individual human beings. That was part of why I also expected the story to end far earlier than it did - Kim Gianopoulos's reading made the story feel like the short, clever, cerebral little tale it would have suited better.

As I said, though, it grew on me. The basic idea of the story shone through the choices that jarred me. Ultimately, this was a very clever story. And, of course, I'm a sucker for a happy ending.

Which this was.

Kinda.

Well, it was one third of a happy ending. A "ha" ending. And sometimes in life, that's the best you can do.
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« Reply #16 on: March 14, 2011, 10:00:44 AM »

The narration ruined this story for me - I felt like I was being read to by a kindergarten teacher. I found the narration so distracting I couldn't actually pay attention to the story being told. Perhaps someone should travel back in time and redo the narration...

This.  I was going to come into the story and ask if this was the narrator for the Astronaut EP story from a couple years ago, because it was narrated as if she was talking to her kids.  It really broke the story for me, because it was not written like a Peter Cottontail story, but was certainly read like it was. I'm going to read the text and see if I like it any better.  I think I will, because I normally like time travel stories.  I may not, however, because I felt like the story was traveling towards "Abuse is a cycle" PSA territory towards the end, where the message outshines the story.  

I read this post, and realized it came across as mean.  I certainly liked Kim's voice, but this was not the story for her to read.  She'd be more fitted to stories with lighter themes. 
« Last Edit: March 14, 2011, 10:07:57 AM by Gamercow » Logged

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« Reply #17 on: March 14, 2011, 11:42:05 AM »

I am a big fan of time travel in general (in fiction, anyway -- in real life I am getting a little sick of all these assassins showing up from 2038 and trying to kill me), but I agree with the commenters who say the date stamps and time switches are a little hard to follow in an audio format. Also thought the cycle of abuse thing was a little too simplified or cut and dried. Sure, it's a short rather than a novel, but you could get a little more depth into it than just automatically assuming all abusers were abused & are doomed to repeat the cycle. The final Ann seemed so different from the other two that it came across as jarring to me rather than as a natural possible alternate.

The narration wasn't great, but for a first timer it was certainly okay. I did like her voice. I do think that the tone didn't fit the story -- also prefer more distinction between character voices. (I think that last might be a personal preference/stylistic choice rather than "right way/wrong way" kind of thing. Also since a lot of the dialogue is between the same character and her double, how different can you really make those voices? That actually sounds quite challenging...make them sound different, but the same.)

I didn't really notice it being too slow. Even the fastest reader is about 1/10th my reading speed at best so I tend to think all audio versions are too slow.  Smiley
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« Reply #18 on: March 14, 2011, 12:55:46 PM »

I feel a little bad about being the first to pile on to Kim about the narration.  As a narrator myself (mainly for Podcastle), I feel a certain kinship with all the readers and I rather wish I'd couched my criticism in a more collegial tone.  If she reads this thread (and I can tell you, I certainly read the thread of my first narration avidly, to see what people thought!), I hope that she takes the negative comments as a challenge to which to rise, rather than as discouragement.

There were definitely good things about Kim's narration (some mentioned by others) that I should have noted as well, except that I allowed the slow delivery to distract me from them: good, clear enunciation (the up side of a slow delivery! Smiley ), excellent audio quality and definite emoting.  I didn't always agree with her choices of emphasis, but at least there were choices to disagree with - a monotonic delivery would have been much worse.

It's funny because the advice that you always hear for narration is "SLOW DOWN  -- Don't talk too fast or you will lose your audience".  Even the EA narration guidelines call for this.  And now with two stories in a row (this one and PC's Surgeons Tale), complaints have come in that the pace is too slow.  So right or wrong, it just strikes me as ironic.  I guess balance is the key.

Definitely.  I think those guidelines are in place because most beginning readers (and public speakers) tend to read at the same pace they speak (or, as Unblinking noted, even faster when nervous), which almost always is way too fast.  The problem is, of course, that "Slow down" is both not specific enough (slow down how much?) and often very emphatic, which may result in a reader thinking, "Whoa, I'd better slow down a lot."
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« Reply #19 on: March 14, 2011, 06:14:53 PM »

Anyway, for me the biggest problem with this story was that it is singularly ill-suited to audio. I would have wanted to have the date stamps to periodically refer to as I read, which would have cleared up a lot of my confusion. Without them, I was often a little lost.

This. Along with being on the bus and watching for where my stop was coming up (hence, being a bit distracted) I coudn't follow this story very well. I would probably have enjoyed it, had it been on a printed page in my hands.

I didn't have any particular issue with the reader, though she did sound a bit like she was reading to small children.
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