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Author Topic: EP286: The ’76 Goldwater Dime  (Read 9337 times)
eytanz
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« on: April 01, 2011, 03:21:05 AM »

EP286: The ’76 Goldwater Dime

By John Medaille
Read by Norm Sherman

Originally published in Residential Aliens in July, 2010
---

I started in 1962, that’s when I became a numismatist. You know what that is? It’s the study of….well, it’s not the study of anything. It’s coin collecting, is what it is.

I was ten in 1962, and Christmas I got my first coin album. I didn’t actually get it. My father gave it to my brother. It was, you know, you’ve seen them, a sturdy cardboard folder with slots punched out that you put the coins in. Behind the slots, the empties, it had a backing of blue felt, I remember that. My dad gave it to my brother, I guess maybe thinking it would straighten him out. But coins, you know, they don’t really have that power. He wasn’t interested. He gave it to me. Me, I was interested.

The album was for Lincoln pennies, 1909 to 1959. I had five cents in the world then and each of the five fit in the slot. It only took me five more days to get the other forty-five. I would do anything for those pennies and slot it in its slot. Anything, anything. When I got my last penny, wow. It was a 1943 steel mint penny, a ‘steelie.’ They had to use steel instead of copper that year cause they needed the copper for all the bombs. I was so proud.

From then on it was just coins for me. My life was coins. I was hooked. They had their hooks in me, boy.

When I was just seventeen I moved by myself down to Washington, DC, cause I got a job there in a coin shop. That was my education. I lived in a one room dungeon in a crumby neighborhood, I loved coins that much.

You know, and I do alright. I made my living. I own my own house. I don’t live in debt like everybody else does. That’s what coins did for me. Coins and specie and spec. I don’t care for paper money, it holds nothing for me.


Rated G - coin collecting!

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 278
  • Next week… A taste of time



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
« Last Edit: April 22, 2011, 04:42:01 PM by eytanz » Logged
eytanz
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« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2011, 03:22:58 AM »

Admin note - the blog incorrectly identifies this as episode 284, but it's episode 286. If the blog gets fixed, that will probably break the link here to the blogpost - let me know if that happens and I'll fix it.
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Heradel
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« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2011, 09:36:32 PM »

Admin note - the blog incorrectly identifies this as episode 284, but it's episode 286. If the blog gets fixed, that will probably break the link here to the blogpost - let me know if that happens and I'll fix it.

Fixed the somewhat-to-very embarrassing typo, but the link stays the same.
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statisticus
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« Reply #3 on: April 03, 2011, 05:08:16 AM »

This story doesn't have a whole lot of actual story to it, but is a memorable portrait of a particular type of person.  The character of the narrator of the story becomes clear as the story unfolds, as he describes how he became interested in coin collecting as an occupation, and how it became the centre of his life.  His particular obsession - coins from other realities.

I've come across this notion once before in a much older story.  Jack Finney's "The Coin Collector" (AKA "The Other Wife") uses the same idea, though in that story the focus isn't on the coins themselves, but on how they are used to move from one world to another.  Here, the focus is on the coins, and the particularly obsessive person who would recognise them for what they are.

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Ocicat
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« Reply #4 on: April 03, 2011, 11:32:27 AM »

Coins from the "Impossible Dreams" universe slowly find their way into ours, and one man obsesses over them.  I'd prefer to watch the movies from another world...
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Loz
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« Reply #5 on: April 03, 2011, 02:47:13 PM »

I quite liked it but agree that as an idea it was probably still stretched a bit too long for a short episode.
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« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2011, 08:46:26 AM »

Interesting idea, but it was a bit light on content for a full size story--would've made a nice flash.  Also, for a story that doesn't have much meat besides the speculative element, it took a very long time to GET to that speculative element, instead just talking about coin collecting in general for quite a while.  This was especially true considering the speculative element was pretty clear just from the title--I waited most of the story to get to the spec element and then it wasn't anything the title didn't tell me.
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« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2011, 09:12:18 AM »

It essentially was a flash story, but drawn to a slightly longer length for the sake of bringing out the character. For me, this was done enjoyably and was not in any way excessive. I enjoyed this story very much and Norm's reading style perfectly accented it.
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acpracht
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« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2011, 10:53:56 AM »

OK, I'm going to respond to this one before reading any other replies.

What I loved about this story:

-It had a fantastic concept. It took that little thrill that you get when you find a unique coin in your change and bumped it up about 50 notches. I'm tempted to start looking at my change in this same way now.
-I love anything narrated by Norm Sherman.

Where it could have been improved:

-I just wanted it to ... I don't know... do a little more. The concept was so fantastic in a Twilight Zone sort of way that I wanted it to go farther than: "Yes, it's amazing and creepy and unbelieveable. Still, I just put them in a box and I treasure them and that's all." How exactly to play that out, I don't know, but there you are.
-I always find these first person narration stories where you can only hear one side of what's obstensibly a dialogue mildly annoying. What's actually going on? Are they talking to "us" directly? Are we overhearing someone through a wall and only one of them is talking loud enough to be heard? That, and it nececitates a lot of "cheats" in the speech - "What's that you, ask?" "Why's that important, you say?" - that no sane person actually talks like. Maybe the audio aspect accentuates this more, but I find myself wanting a different format.

-One premise of this story - that no one besides him would care or find these coins valuable - I find frankly implausible.  This would blow the lid off of common thinking. Surely once people know that these exist, it creates its own market instantly, I think.
-I felt slightly patronized when the author came right out and said that the specialty was "alternate reality coins." Yes, thank you, I got that one - I think most readers familiar with sci fi did from the point that they introduced the Goldwater dime.

So, while I enjoyed the story, I would have enjoyed it more had it been able to explore into more of a plot-driven rather than concept-driven story.
-Adam
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« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2011, 12:17:19 PM »

I'm going to chime in with much of the same. Neat premise, but not enough actually happened to justify a full-length short story. As is, but tighter and shorter, and it would have been good for a flash piece. More elaborated - with an actual plot - would have been great for a story of the length this one actually was. As is, it straddled two worlds, and not in the nice way. In the world-splinters in your butt way.
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« Reply #10 on: April 04, 2011, 12:18:30 PM »

-I always find these first person narration stories where you can only hear one side of what's obstensibly a dialogue mildly annoying. What's actually going on? Are they talking to "us" directly? Are we overhearing someone through a wall and only one of them is talking loud enough to be heard? That, and it nececitates a lot of "cheats" in the speech - "What's that you, ask?" "Why's that important, you say?" - that no sane person actually talks like. Maybe the audio aspect accentuates this more, but I find myself wanting a different format.

That use of 2nd person, to refer to an imaginary conversant, didn't really bother me, particularly not in this story.  For me, rather than seeing it as a conversation he is having with a single person at a single point in time, this is a conversation he has had with many people at intervals throughout his life--whatever people he felt he could tell without risk of murder (probably not his coin collecting compadres).  Because no matter how much he says he's doing this just for his own satisfaction, the fact that he's having this conversation at all show that he wants to show them to people, perhaps in the hopes of finding someone who believes it's as cool as he does (a soulmate maybe, he hinted that he hasn't had much in the way of relationships) or perhaps just to try to convince people how awesome and unique he really is.

Or MAYBE, just maybe he's so shy that he's never had the guts to have this conversation and this is the version he plays in his head over and over as he tries to will himself to such an interaction.  Actually, I kind of like that version better, so I'm sticking with it.

Either way, since I didn't see this as a particular conversation in time, I wasn't bothered by the one-sided nature of it.

-I felt slightly patronized when the author came right out and said that the specialty was "alternate reality coins." Yes, thank you, I got that one - I think most readers familiar with sci fi did from the point that they introduced the Goldwater dime.

Although this conversation ended up being published in an SF publication, the form that it takes is a conversation with an unknown person who may or may not be an SF junky.  Sure, an SF junky would jump to that conclusion right away, but giving them a theory they already have isn't hurting them.  On the other hand, if you're not talking to an SF junky, this may be novel information and the listener wouldn't get the full experience without it.  So it makes sense to me.
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Kanasta
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« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2011, 01:45:29 PM »

I liked this one, but it would have been fun to have a little more happen. And, although I didn't need it spelt out to me that these were "alternate reality coins", as a non-American, 'Goldwater dime' meant nothing to me, so the title is not a dead giveaway to everyone!
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acpracht
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« Reply #12 on: April 04, 2011, 02:04:34 PM »

-I always find these first person narration stories where you can only hear one side of what's obstensibly a dialogue mildly annoying. What's actually going on? Are they talking to "us" directly? Are we overhearing someone through a wall and only one of them is talking loud enough to be heard? That, and it nececitates a lot of "cheats" in the speech - "What's that you, ask?" "Why's that important, you say?" - that no sane person actually talks like. Maybe the audio aspect accentuates this more, but I find myself wanting a different format.

That use of 2nd person, to refer to an imaginary conversant, didn't really bother me, particularly not in this story.  For me, rather than seeing it as a conversation he is having with a single person at a single point in time, this is a conversation he has had with many people at intervals throughout his life--whatever people he felt he could tell without risk of murder (probably not his coin collecting compadres).  Because no matter how much he says he's doing this just for his own satisfaction, the fact that he's having this conversation at all show that he wants to show them to people, perhaps in the hopes of finding someone who believes it's as cool as he does (a soulmate maybe, he hinted that he hasn't had much in the way of relationships) or perhaps just to try to convince people how awesome and unique he really is.

Or MAYBE, just maybe he's so shy that he's never had the guts to have this conversation and this is the version he plays in his head over and over as he tries to will himself to such an interaction.  Actually, I kind of like that version better, so I'm sticking with it.

Either way, since I didn't see this as a particular conversation in time, I wasn't bothered by the one-sided nature of it.


-I felt slightly patronized when the author came right out and said that the specialty was "alternate reality coins." Yes, thank you, I got that one - I think most readers familiar with sci fi did from the point that they introduced the Goldwater dime.

Although this conversation ended up being published in an SF publication, the form that it takes is a conversation with an unknown person who may or may not be an SF junky.  Sure, an SF junky would jump to that conclusion right away, but giving them a theory they already have isn't hurting them.  On the other hand, if you're not talking to an SF junky, this may be novel information and the listener wouldn't get the full experience without it.  So it makes sense to me.


Ooh, idea: What if he's having this conversation with the coins themselves? It's slightly insane, but fits the format of the narrative better, I think.

You make a point on the SF junky, but you still need to understand your audience. Obstensibly, it's an unknown conversant, but really it's us. (I'm using the word "obstensibly" a lot... hm...)
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Gamercow
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« Reply #13 on: April 04, 2011, 03:21:42 PM »

Great flash story, somewhat stretched into a podcast length.  Some things, however:

- 5 days for a kid to fill a penny folder?  Even in 1953, this would be very difficult, though steelies would be easier to find back then. 

- More people would notice the different face on a coin.  I know I would.  But then again, I know instantly if I've got a Canadian coin or silver quarter in my pocket just by the sound. 

- I think the first person half-dialog was done best by Bob Newhart.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TD1MW-nyhxg
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« Reply #14 on: April 04, 2011, 04:38:25 PM »

meh.
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eytanz
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« Reply #15 on: April 04, 2011, 04:43:24 PM »

*Puts moderator hat on and wanders into thread*

No shouting, please.

*wanders off*
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eytanz
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« Reply #16 on: April 04, 2011, 04:51:30 PM »

I've never been able to get into collecting anything. When I was a kid, my grandfather tried, several times, to get me into stamp collecting - he was an avid, if rather amateurish philatelist - but the only thing I cared about as a boy was books, and later computer games, and in both cases I didn't care at all about the physical medium once I was done with it. I remember at some point, because most of my friends were into collecting something or other, and my parents thought I should be too, I took an old toaster oven that my parents wanted to throw away, put it on my shelf, and declared that it was my Toaster Oven Collection, and whenever anyone asked me what I collected I pointed to it.

Anyway, the point is - this story made me understand a mindset that was quite alien to me much better than I have ever done before. It may not be action-packed, but I really, really enjoyed it.
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Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #17 on: April 04, 2011, 05:25:17 PM »

meh.

Seriously?
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« Reply #18 on: April 04, 2011, 09:51:33 PM »

Loved it.  I loved getting into the mindset of such a person. His obsession builds slowly until "the reveal" and that's where we see just how driven he is. The standout for me is that he doesn't care that there's other dimensions, he just cares about the coins. Sure, he's thought a bit about how they might have turned up but really, it doesn't matter -- the coins are the thing! The coins, the coins and nothing else; not the travelers, not the alternate histories, no wondering about what series of events led to Benedict Arnold being President -- just the coins.

I was also blind-sided by the comment about the guy who collected toilet-tokens, that he died alone in his house surrounded by a bunch of metal disks. I was thinking, "Jeez, poor bastard" and then the MC comes up with "That's how I'd like to go out, surrounded by the things I love." I think that one line, more than anything, flipped my perspective and helped me see his point of view. Great stuff.
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« Reply #19 on: April 05, 2011, 07:19:31 AM »

I enjoyed this one, though I have to agree that it didn't do much with the premise.  Like, I was rolling along, getting into the character, we did the reveal, and I was all set to hear the twist and have some sort of hint at a plot structure and... the story ended.  And I went, "Huh.  Well, okay."  It was fun, and it had an interesting character (I, too, was taken aback and then pleased by the description of the man dying alone surrounded by his coins and the inversion to "dying surrounded by what he loved"), but it left me a bit unsatisfied.  I think the comparison to "Impossible Dreams" is apt, since they both rely on a very subtle piece of the fantastic and well-drawn characters (and also obsessive nutbags as central to the plot), but "Impossible Dreams" had an arc in the main character's crisis of choice and some ups and downs in the romantic subplot, which gave it a much richer flavor in the end.  This one gets a smile, a nod, and then left behind, whereas I've gone back to listen to "Impossible Dreams" a couple of times now.

I don't think it's wrong, necessarily, to forego plot and conflict, but it's not a narrative choice that feels strong to me.
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