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Author Topic: EP293: A Small Matter, Really  (Read 14753 times)

eytanz

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on: May 20, 2011, 10:19:02 AM
EP293: A Small Matter, Really

By Monte Cook
Read by Mur Lafferty

An Escape Pod original!

---

Only the Catholic Church of Osirus would have enough money to afford not one, but two black holes. Standing within the majestic narthex, Maria McNaki imagined the vibration of complex machinery under her feet, despite the fact that the nanosensors laced into her flesh revealed nothing other than the passing of the people in the crowd and the chanting coming from deeper within the cathedral.

The stone walls of the chamber slowly flowed with a liquid relief of gothic circuitry and religious hieroglyphic animations. The glyph depicting Setan as he tore the crucified Osirus-Christ into tiny fragments malfunctioned and remained static. Just as well. The petitioners around her made carefully devout hand signs over their hearts as they faced the ankh crucifix over the door into the sanctuary.

Religion was back in fashion this season.


Rated PG for violence


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



langly

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Reply #1 on: May 20, 2011, 10:28:08 AM
If someone could check it out, none of the download links work and the RSS feed just gets me a 2kb file this morning. Thanks.




eytanz

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Reply #2 on: May 20, 2011, 10:35:02 AM
I was just going to post a note to the same effect - I put up the episode thread because it came up on the blog and I will be at a conference all day and unable to do it later, but at the moment the episode is not available to download. I'm hoping Bill and Mur will be able to deal with that promptly.



Mur Lafferty

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Reply #3 on: May 20, 2011, 01:13:34 PM
Sorry guys, when uploading a file to Libsyn it sometimes says the file isn't available yet (which I don't understand at all). Yesterday it never came available. I reuploaded this morning and it works now. Apologies for the hiccup.



loyaleagle

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Reply #4 on: May 20, 2011, 07:05:08 PM
First off, I enjoyed Mur L's reading as always.

I'm sorry to say that this one really didn't do it for me.  My main gripe was the writing, which sounded overly wordy.  I couldn't believe that the characters all spoke that way (even if the author does speak that way).  Also, the majority of nerdy/hackery/sciencey people do a poor job explaining things to laymen, but here they explained things like they were writing a "science for the public" article.

The other issue I had was with the story.  It left me wondering, what's the point (other than to make a jokey last line)?  Nothing here made me think. 

I'm the first poster on this one so I hope I'm not the only negative reviewer!

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kibitzer

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Reply #5 on: May 22, 2011, 02:47:06 AM
The other issue I had was with the story.  It left me wondering, what's the point (other than to make a jokey last line)?  Nothing here made me think. 

It did feel rather like a shaggy dog story with that last line.

I'm the first poster on this one so I hope I'm not the only negative reviewer!

Don't worry about that! There's plenty of negative reviews all over the forums. That's never a problem unless it becomes a personal attack or something.

For myself, I'm a little bit over time-travel/time-paradox stories at the moment. There sure has been a lot lately.


loyaleagle

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Reply #6 on: May 22, 2011, 04:28:53 AM
For myself, I'm a little bit over time-travel/time-paradox stories at the moment. There sure has been a lot lately.
I think time travel stuff is much more attractive to writers than it is to readers.  There have been some AMAZING stories about time travel, such as "A Sound of Thunder" by Bradbury, but the story really needs to cut deeper than just "wouldn't it be cool if."  Personally, I've never really been inspired to write in the time-travel vein, but maybe I just tend to think within within more plausible, formal physics constructs.

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zerotkatama

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Reply #7 on: May 22, 2011, 07:33:47 AM
I wanted to ask, less as a complaint and more of a curiosity, why Monte Cook's work in the RPG industry wasn't also mentioned in his bio. Was it a point of relevance, a desire for brevity?
« Last Edit: May 22, 2011, 08:19:47 AM by zerotkatama »



Dem

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Reply #8 on: May 22, 2011, 10:00:41 AM
First off, I enjoyed Mur L's reading as always.

I'm sorry to say that this one really didn't do it for me.  My main gripe was the writing, which sounded overly wordy.  I couldn't believe that the characters all spoke that way (even if the author does speak that way).  Also, the majority of nerdy/hackery/sciencey people do a poor job explaining things to laymen, but here they explained things like they were writing a "science for the public" article.

The other issue I had was with the story.  It left me wondering, what's the point (other than to make a jokey last line)?  Nothing here made me think. 

I'm the first poster on this one so I hope I'm not the only negative reviewer!

You're not alone - I agree entirely. I was disappointed with the direction of the story line, the religious context, and contrived ending. Most of all, I wanted to know a lot more about Stout-of-Heart and that extraordinary relationship, how the Bramagians construed madness, and what made them think humans were gods.
By the way; in my (albeit local) world, the couple of people I know who are called 'Piotr', pronounce it 'Peter'.

Science is what you do when the funding panel thinks you know what you're doing. Fiction is the same only without the funding.


wekm

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Reply #9 on: May 22, 2011, 11:17:06 AM
This was an ok listen. However, it made me daydream more about Mur's Heaven series than pay attention to the story. The ending came crashing in like running off a cliff, and "Oh hey, I should make a joke here before I plow into the ground." sort of way. The concept was intriguing, and the paradox was certainly handled differently, but I questioned her reaction. In the end, I even stopped caring about Stout-Of-Heart. He goes off and kills himself and I felt, "Well that sucks. HE was actually starting to grow on me."
I kind of wished that the time hackers suffered more. I mean, why not, everyone else in the story did?

there's a whole new Monster out there


Listener

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Reply #10 on: May 23, 2011, 05:36:47 PM
The concept of the aliens, I felt, was wasted on us having a way to kill off the main character when she went insane. A story about them would be much more interesting -- rather like Buckell's "Anakoinosis" was. I also felt a bit cheated by the lack of reveal as to what the Church was doing. It seemed like they were there just as a way for the author to make a point about religion (the money angle), or as a set-piece. A gun on the mantelpiece that was never fired.

I loved the way the jumping-between-consciousnesses/memories drove Maria insane at the end. But the science that led to it -- because she ordered the change, she's immune to forgetting it? -- was a little woolly. I understand the scientists being protected because they're in the isolation chamber or whatever, but she was out there, experiencing the ripples of whatever the scientists changed. Unless everyone else in the world was experiencing the same thing.

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mrguido45

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Reply #11 on: May 23, 2011, 08:10:01 PM
I actually really enjoyed the "religion" part of it, and the nod to potential predecessors to our Christianity. I thought that might be a nod to the possible motives of the church having the time-line altering technology. Let's have more about that. Ditto the gun on the mantelpiece.

I kept wincing every time I heard the name "Piotr," though. Maybe this is a pronunciation I'm just not familiar with, I'm pretty sure it's pronounced "PYO-ter" (like Peter or Pieter).

Thanks!



WongFoo

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Reply #12 on: May 24, 2011, 12:30:10 AM
I really liked this piece made me think.  Time paradox's are always interesting when people think of it.  However I felt it ended to quickly, though I suppose that is the test of a good story when the reader listener is left wanting more.

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stePH

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Reply #13 on: May 24, 2011, 12:52:04 AM
I didn't get this one. Total WTF reaction. ???

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ElectricPaladin

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Reply #14 on: May 24, 2011, 07:10:23 AM
This one started off very strong for me. I enjoy characters who are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve deeply, passionately held goals. In other words, I love it when people do dumb things for love, be it love of a nation, an ideal, a false memory, or a man. I am intrigued by the idea of alternate realities, and passing between them, or choosing which one to make real.

However, this story fell apart in two ways:

Firstly, the magical technology didn't gel for me. In the end, it wasn't the "consciousness exists on another level, so people who know about the transition aren't changed" thing. That makes about as much sense as anything else. It was the fact that they would still have the money. Why would they still have the money? Money is either an idea held in electronic storage (not a consciousness, therefore subject to the change), an idea held in the minds of many people (who were not a part of the transition, therefore subject to the change), or a physical object (and therefore as much subject to the change as the molecules of the POV character's dead husband's body). In none of these cases would the reality hackers still have the money after the transition. This is a plot hole big enough to drive Kirk's Enterprise through.

Secondly, I'm a fan of the "be careful what you wish for" (BCWYWF, or "buckywif") subgenre of fiction. This story violated the single most important principle of the form: the main character must get  something like his just deserts. In BCWYWF, the character must screw up somehow. Perhaps she ignores a warning and forges ahead with a dangerous course of action. Perhaps the sacrifices she makes to achieve her goals reveal some significant moral failing. Whatever it is, BCWYWF stories require that the character end up with something like justice, or at the very least, that there is some rhyme or reason to her ultimate failure.

Not so in this story. The main character failed and died... because she did. Thanks to a totally random, completely inconsequential mechanical glitch. There's no poetic (in)justice to this - just random chance. It's leaf in the wind all over again.

Anyway, I'm going to go ahead and switch over to the version of reality where the ending of A Small Matter, Really didn't let me down. Seeya later, suckers!

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kibitzer

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Reply #15 on: May 24, 2011, 08:07:31 AM
Anyway, I'm going to go ahead and switch over to the version of reality where the ending of A Small Matter, Really didn't let me down. Seeya later, suckers!

You can do that?? Can I come with??


zerotkatama

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Reply #16 on: May 24, 2011, 09:44:41 AM
Why would they still have the money?

IIRC, there was something thrown out about since they're so close to the singularities or since they're the ones making the change, they're in some sort of reality or causality "bubble" that allows them to hold onto the money. I think?



Void Munashii

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Reply #17 on: May 24, 2011, 01:17:17 PM
  I wanted to like this story, but something in it just didn't work for me. It felt like the story was trying too hard to be futuristic for the sake of being futuristic; too many future-y things were thrown out in too short of a story.  It also felt a lot like it was taking place in the old Shadowrun novel universe, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

  I did like the localized time-shifting at the end, but it seemed to end all too abruptly. I know that the story established that insanity is a fate worse than death, but it still felt rushed.

  I would like to take issue with the amount of crap people give "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull". I made a point of watching the first three films in a row the day before seeing it, and I still found it to be a very enjoyable film. It's not perfect by any means, but it's not the abomination people seem to want to make it.

  It's not so much an issue that people don't like Crystal Skull (everyone has their own tastes) for me as it is an issue that people seem to give "Live Free or Die Hard" a pass. Now that was a horrible sequel that never should have been made.

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stePH

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Reply #18 on: May 24, 2011, 02:39:16 PM
... In none of these cases would the reality hackers still have the money after the transition. This is a plot hole big enough to drive Kirk's Enterprise through.

Shit, you could fly both of Picard's Enterprises through that hole side-by-side!

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stePH

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Reply #19 on: May 24, 2011, 02:41:59 PM
It's not so much an issue that people don't like Crystal Skull (everyone has their own tastes) for me as it is an issue that people seem to give "Live Free or Die Hard" a pass. Now that was a horrible sequel that never should have been made.

My personal continuum has only Die Hard and Die Hard with a Vengeance.
(Live Free... is currently in a state of quantum flux; I will have to watch it once to collapse its waveform into existence or non-existence.)

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Talia

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Reply #20 on: May 24, 2011, 02:52:46 PM
I enjoyed the world-building here, all the technology ascribed to the church really interested me, as did the aliens. Indeed the title/ending was too heavy-handed, and I do think the setup was more rewarding than the actual plot, but I did enjoy it overall.



Talia

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Reply #21 on: May 24, 2011, 02:53:56 PM
Why would they still have the money?

IIRC, there was something thrown out about since they're so close to the singularities or since they're the ones making the change, they're in some sort of reality or causality "bubble" that allows them to hold onto the money. I think?

This. I don't think that's a plot hole, I felt that was covered by the tech people's explanations.



Unblinking

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Reply #22 on: May 24, 2011, 03:13:10 PM
Interesting idea.  I particularly liked the servant/master relationship between the protagonist and the alien, that was extremely interesting and I'd be interested in seeing other stories with that race of aliens in them.

The ending with the split awareness of time followed by the murder-suicide was clever, one I hadn't seen coming, but I wish it had left off there.  That would've been a pretty good ending, but it had to go further, and return to the lab, which tacked on an extra POV that wasn't really necessary, and didn't really add anything.



eytanz

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Reply #23 on: May 24, 2011, 03:42:30 PM
Overall, I did not really like this one very much. I was far more interested in what was going on with the church of Osiris than with the protagnoist who seemed to have more money than sense. Also, it was mostly a story that depended on a really rotten piece of luck - it was clear from the coda (which, I agree, was pretty unnecessary) that what happened to her was not only not the normal, but quite unusual.

I did like the human/alien relationship a lot; in general, this seemed to be a case where the setting was far more interesting than the story set in it.



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #24 on: May 24, 2011, 04:24:02 PM
Why would they still have the money?

IIRC, there was something thrown out about since they're so close to the singularities or since they're the ones making the change, they're in some sort of reality or causality "bubble" that allows them to hold onto the money. I think?

But the money isn't there. Money is a societal construct - it exists in the minds of people who aren't in the bubble. It exists in electronic records across their universe.

All it would have taken would be for the author to mention that the POV character had brought hard currency rather than electronics. A quantity of gold, or unobtanium, or whatever. That is all it would have taken to render the story utterly believable for me.

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