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Author Topic: EP287: A Taste of Time  (Read 9139 times)
eytanz
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« on: April 07, 2011, 04:36:37 PM »

EP287: A Taste of Time

By Abby Goldsmith
Read by Mur Lafferty

Originally published in Deep Magic, May 2004
---

1.

On the night she turned twenty-nine, Jane sat on her narrow bed, watching TV and drinking alone. She’d gone through a bottle of wine and was mostly through a second bottle. Tomorrow morning would be painful.

Or she could stop worrying about tomorrow. The ibuprofen in her cabinet kept popping into her mind. Jane wasn’t sure if all those pills chased by alcohol would be enough to end her life, but the idea of looking up how to commit suicide online seemed just too pathetic.

The front door of her tiny apartment creaked open.

Jane leaned forward, peering through her bedroom doorway. A black wine bottle stood on the floor, with a placard dangling from its silver ribbon.

Her gaze immediately went to the deadbolt. It was in place, as she’d left it.

Jane shut the TV off and listened for noises from the hallway. All she heard were the sounds of Boston traffic outside. Several weeks ago, after she’d come home to find her boyfriend screwing a fat chick on her couch, she’d had the locks changed. No one could have gotten in.

Yet the bottle sat mysteriously on the wooden floor.

At last, Jane crossed her apartment, checking every shadow for an intruder.

She picked up the bottle. The placard had gilded letters, making it a potentially expensive gift.

Tabula Rasa
Warning: There Is No Return

Jane flipped the placard over twice, but nothing else was written on it.

She listened, alert for any noise. Mystery had never been much a part of her adult life, and it gave her a strangely excited feeling. If the warning label meant something like _poison_, it seemed like a more dignified way to go than pills and alcohol.

Her reflection on the black surface of the bottle was disturbingly clear. There she was: Plain Jane, a frumpy woman with a double-chin and acne scars.

She unscrewed the cap and popped the foil underneath. A stringent smell wafted up, making her wrinkle her nose and salivate at the same time.

“Happy birthday, Jane,” she told herself, and swallowed a mouthful.


Rated PG - references to infidelity

Show Notes:

  • No feedback this week because of site issues!
  • Next week… don’t drink the water.



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2011, 03:43:35 PM »

I kind of liked this story. However, I had trouble connecting with Jane. I think too much of her life was skipped in large chunks. While I don't need a novel-length version of the Life of Lucky Jane, I think a few more details would have allowed me to empathize a little more with her after she got old, and maybe helped me to understand her dissatisfaction with her life (which I infer from the fact that she went back to live it over).

I liked the line looking up how to commit suicide online seemed just too pathetic - it made me smile wryly.

One nitpick, though (which I probably wouldn't have remembered to bring up if it weren't in the excerpt): the author should learn the difference between stringent and astringent. A smell can be the latter, but not the former.
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« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2011, 07:34:54 AM »

I really lked this story.   It was much like the novel "Replay" by Ken Grimwood which is one of my favorites.   I think a lot of people second guess choices they've made in life and stories like this fascinate me for that reason.
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stePH
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« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2011, 02:25:59 PM »

My only complaint about this story is that it should have run on PodCastle. Science fiction should at least try to have a logical explanation for the fantastical elements. Magic time-traveling wine = fantasy.
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Ocicat
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« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2011, 09:26:39 PM »

My only complaint about this story is that it should have run on PodCastle. Science fiction should at least try to have a logical explanation for the fantastical elements. Magic time-traveling wine = fantasy.

True enough, but Escape Pod can run a fantasy story if they want to.  And despite the wine having no scientific explanation, the story's take on time travel was closer to SF tropes than Fantasy tropes.  It's speculative fiction either way, of course - but I'd say this particular story was in the borderlands between SF and Fantasy and would have been appropriate for either 'cast.
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stePH
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Cool story, bro!


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« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2011, 12:13:27 PM »

My only complaint about this story is that it should have run on PodCastle. Science fiction should at least try to have a logical explanation for the fantastical elements. Magic time-traveling wine = fantasy.

True enough, but Escape Pod can run a fantasy story if they want to.

Why have a separate fantasy 'cast then?
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lisavilisa
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« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2011, 07:46:20 PM »

Because then we get 3 casts a week? done by 3 different teams, and if there is some overlap with a fanstasy-scifi or a scifi-fantasy that is a price I am willing pay. Honestly, if they just called it escape artist 1, 2, and 3 I would still listen. I love this place.
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NoraReed
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« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2011, 12:55:45 AM »

Not a new idea, by any means, but it still made me think: if I had the bottle, would I use it? How? Most of my problems are biological; I could probably seek treatment for them earlier but it's not like they'd go away. I probably wouldn't be able to resist the temptation to use it, but I'm not sure how. It almost feels like using it to make any choices about romantic relationships would be exploitative, since unless you went back in time and then dated much older you'd be dealing with a maturity gap. Still, better this than being trapped inside your own head with the full knowledge of everything that is going to happen but a total inability to stop it after being sent back in time for a year.

I feel like while the basic conceit of this story wasn't really sci-fi-y, it'd still fit better as science fiction because it fits into that category of science fiction where some strange element is introduced and you see how the characters react to it. But I like both fantasy and sci-fi, so I really could care less if the editors want to blur the edges a bit.
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« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2011, 12:30:57 PM »

It was a bit odd to have this one on EP, but I didn't really think about that as I listened because I listen to all 3 casts anyway, I tend to forget which one I'm listening to during the heat of a story.

This was a great story, one of my favorites in a while.  The bottle of Tabula Rasa was a great conceit, offering huge potential but with inherent limitations (you can't recreate a particular future, there is a limited amount of drink). 

The best part was how it made me think of:
1.  How destructive a lust for perfection can be. 
She escaped a crappy version of her life, and found what she thought she wanted, health, wealth and happiness.  But, life went on and without her husband, now that she'd lived her happy life she wanted to live a life for others and she does so, but at the cost of being completely alone in this world without friends.  She tries once again to make things better and ends up drinking herself into oblivion.  Well, perhaps oblivion--Did she drink herself back into the womb?  I hope the empty wine bottle just disappears instead of appearing with her.  And... won't she still have all of her lifetimes of memory?
2.  immortality is lonely.
This has been covered by many other shows (Highlander, for instance), but this was an interesting variation on immortality, the ability to live a very very long time but only within a certain span of dates, reliving some of them many times.
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« Reply #9 on: April 13, 2011, 05:46:32 AM »

Having been disappointed rather a few times, I often find myself, when listening to Escape Pod stories (and other short story podcasts as well) asking myself, "What is the character arc?"

Jane discovers magic wine. Jane restarts her life to make it better for herself.  Jane relives her life to serve others. Neither satisfies her. In the end, she chooses to erase all of it.

The terrible bleakness of the end left me stunned.  I suppose that makes it a good story, though not much fun in the end.
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blueeyeddevil
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« Reply #10 on: April 13, 2011, 05:59:20 AM »

This was way too big a tale for so short a story.

To be perfectly honest, this is more story outline than actual story. Everything is basically done in personal exposition. There's virtually no dialogue and therefore no real stakes interpersonally. We as audience are only really allowed to see inside this person's head, and frankly this person has grown very little for a nearly-sesquicentigenarian.

Plus, and this is gross and silly, but accords with the story logic; by taking the last drink, the protagonist is killing herself and her mother (remember how she always shows up in the new time holding the bottle? think about that for a moment).

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« Reply #11 on: April 13, 2011, 06:11:34 AM »

I was bothered by the magical nature of this bottle of wine just appearing at Jane's house without any explanation whatsoever. I realize she was pretty down when she first drank it, but over the course of time one might think that she would make some effort to figure out where it came from. I certainly would like to have known.

It's funny that the intro mentioned "The Butterfly Effect"; they were just talking about that on the Dunesteef last episode as well. I thought that was a very good film, if a little overdone in places, and the director's cut ending -- which is probably why the author brought it up in her author's note -- was WAY better than what was shown in theaters. This story did have some parallels, especially near the ending.

It also brought up a lot of good points about living with the knowledge of the future. Especially as a ten-year-old, and again talking about how many actual years Jane had lived.

I for one would like to know if she had enough wine to go back to a true tabula rasa -- egg state. Or what might have happened if she went back to the eighth month of pregnancy? If she didn't have quite enough wine, that is. Then we get to Pseudopod territory.
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matweller
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« Reply #12 on: April 13, 2011, 08:11:27 AM »

I for one would like to know if she had enough wine to go back to a true tabula rasa -- egg state. Or what might have happened if she went back to the eighth month of pregnancy? If she didn't have quite enough wine, that is. Then we get to Pseudopod territory.

I had an odd thought of that too. Because she retained her memory/personality each time, if she drank herself into the womb -- say to the 5th month -- would she emerge a serial killer because of the isolation and sensory depravation? Maybe that's how it happens...we need to start looking for empty discarded wine bottles across the midwest...
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« Reply #13 on: April 13, 2011, 10:18:58 AM »

It's funny that the intro mentioned "The Butterfly Effect"; they were just talking about that on the Dunesteef last episode as well. I thought that was a very good film, if a little overdone in places, and the director's cut ending -- which is probably why the author brought it up in her author's note -- was WAY better than what was shown in theaters. This story did have some parallels, especially near the ending.

When I first saw that movie, I hated it.  I don't remember why, except for a general dislike of Ashton Kutcher.  Yet, I find myself thinking about it all the time, and all the possible ramifications of such an ability.  And now I want to see it again, to see if I still dislike it. 
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« Reply #14 on: April 13, 2011, 11:22:36 AM »

First, "The Butterfly Effect" short story the movie was based on was better.("A Sound of Thunder", Ray Bradbury)  This is nothing new. (see "I, Robot", "Minority Report", etc)

Second, I disliked this story, but I'm not fully sure why.  Perhaps because it seems to indicate that if you are rich, you will lead a happy life. Perhaps because that, for most people, is true, but is depressing. 
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« Reply #15 on: April 13, 2011, 02:40:06 PM »

If you kind of liked this story (I did) you would love the book Replay by Ken Grimwood. Best time travel novel I’ve ever read.

Seriously, check it out.

"Jeff Winston, a failing 43-year-old radio journalist, dies and wakes up in his 18-year-old body in 1963 with his memories of the next 25 years intact."

This story reminded me of it. Well done.
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NoNotRogov
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« Reply #16 on: April 13, 2011, 08:50:49 PM »


To be perfectly honest, this is more story outline than actual story. Everything is basically done in personal exposition. There's virtually no dialogue and therefore no real stakes interpersonally. We as audience are only really allowed to see inside this person's head, and frankly this person has grown very little for a nearly-sesquicentigenarian.

I noticed this as well, and didn't know whether to talk about it as a flaw or as a format I quite enjoy. Certainly some of my favorite Lovecraft stories are done in this way, and as someone who isn't a writer this is the way I *wish* I could write narratives - a monologue/journal style exposition seems more comprehensible to someone that can only do plot, setting, and character sketches than the tangled web of individual scenes showing rather than telling a story.

In some ways it's a little depressing to dissect stories like this, think about how prevalent they might be in fiction, and think of them in terms of nothing really happening. How much fiction has any meaning at all? How much of your time do you spend on things don't show you anything, instead tell you? In a way is it like all those cool things you think about, spend so much time thinking about, but never saw or read the source material of? The movies and books you think about the tropes of as you try to write stories or just fantasize or come up with neat ideas for a roleplaying game or for a webcomic or just to come up with a cool idea that you bore friends with; but that you never actually saw or read.

But that kind of existential problem didn't last long for me in this case because I realized that A. like Lovecraft's expositions, the content of Jane's character wasn't told to us but rather shown through her thoughts and actions, and B. speculative tropes are cool even when they are not part of the kind of narrative that forms a movie in our heads. Rather than talk about what isn't a new idea, which I did last time I reviewed a story and could do every time with ever story if I don't nip the habit in the bud, I will cut directly to the point of saying that I liked the idea of her attempting to become a prophet (which spun off ideas of what a living prophet's existence and impact on the world might be like in the modern day) and I liked the notion of someone who has lived a full life (or several) trapped in an earlier existence. Not just a young body like the child vampire in Interview, but suddenly replacing the consciousness of someone infinitely more inexperienced - whether occupying your own body from years before as in this story (and Hot Tub Time Machine, for example) or the infinitely jaded Death occupying Brad Pitt's body in that one film I can't remember the name of right now.

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Talia
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« Reply #17 on: April 13, 2011, 09:40:11 PM »

I enjoyed this one, though I too rankled a bit at the suggestion that being wealthy is the key to a happy life.

It hadn't occurred to me what if she went back .. with the bottle.. into her mother's womb. OUCH!! Pseudopod territory indeed! This story's got potential qualities for all three 'casts! :p

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« Reply #18 on: April 14, 2011, 04:11:40 PM »

If you kind of liked this story (I did) you would love the book Replay by Ken Grimwood. Best time travel novel I’ve ever read.

Seriously, check it out.

"Jeff Winston, a failing 43-year-old radio journalist, dies and wakes up in his 18-year-old body in 1963 with his memories of the next 25 years intact."

This story reminded me of it. Well done.

And, in reverse:

http://www.amazon.com/Instructions-Living-Someone-Elses-Life/dp/029785125X

I didn't think it was Millington's best book, but it was still enjoyable.
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« Reply #19 on: April 15, 2011, 07:18:29 AM »

A nice story. Nothing mind-boggling or never seen before, but I still enjoyed it.

There's just one thing that bothers me, and I'm surprised nobody has mentioned it yet. If this story was first published in 2004, how did the author know about the BP oil spill, which was last year?
Yes, the story mentions an oil spill in the gulf of Mexico, but I doubt that it's a reference to the 1980 spill, the years don't add up right.

I came up with two explanations:
1. The interesting one, which states that the story is somewhat autobiographical in the sense that the author has her own bottle of time travel wine.
2. The boring one, which states that the author touched up the story for a more "contemporary" audience.
I will be very disappointed if it's the latter, and not the former.
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