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Author Topic: EP295: Disarm  (Read 3485 times)
eytanz
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« on: June 02, 2011, 05:40:29 PM »

EP295: Disarm

By Vylar Kaftan
Read by Mat Weller

Originally appearing in Abyss and Apex

---

We kept in touch through the war, when he messaged me about marching through upstate New York. He always started the same way: “Dear Ryan, Please come kick my commanding officer in the balls.” Then he’d tell me about the latest mess–cracks in their radiation suits, or toxic waterholes that were supposed to be clear. He never got in trouble for the messages; they needed him too badly. My epilepsy disqualified me from the draft, which probably saved my life. Pretty boys like me weren’t exactly Army material. By the time things were bad enough that they needed any warm body, there wasn’t enough human government left to organize a draft.

The ruins at Binghamton were where Trey got sick. By the time I got across the country to him, he’d recovered–well, as much as possible. I remember the doctor’s face as he says Trey will live, but he’ll be in pain.


Rated appropriate for teens and up – mild sexual situations, light battle description.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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zoanon
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« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2011, 06:20:39 AM »

steve eley narrating again!
 I literally hopped all the way over to my computer to tell every one how excited I am Cheesy
« Last Edit: June 03, 2011, 10:23:01 AM by zoanon » Logged
Unblinking
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« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2011, 08:34:43 AM »

steve eley narrating again!
 I literally hopped all the over to my computer to tell every one how excited I am Cheesy

Yay!  Will be good to hear him again.  I'm glad he's still out there somewhere, beyond the podcast world, and that he's willing to visit us once in a while.  Smiley


Regarding this story, it was definitely an interesting idea.  A very bleak view of a humanity too stupid to even consider stopping their attacks.  Even at the beginning, he said straight out that the tickheads only attack those who attack them directly, and then with always fatal consequences except for the lone survivor.  Seems like the desired strategy is pretty obvious to me:  stop attacking, you morons.  Especially since the tickheads didn't actually seem to be doing anything but helping feed us after our own stupidity.

Then again, they are tickheads, and boy do I hate ticks.  They're particularly bad this year.  We've never had them in our yard before; now we have to give all 3 dogs a close examination every time they come in from outdoors to ensure they don't have passengers.  If I saw a giant tick I'd probably try to kill it immediately too, though real ticks are hard to kill too, the unsquishable bug--we get enough of them that we keep a bottle with a bit of rubbing alcohol in it and drop any ones we find in there.

But, for such a long story, I would've liked to see the protagonist actually do something.  He worried about his mom but didn't do anything but open her packages.  He worries about Trey and has romantic feelings for him, but does nothing about it, just letting Trey fight his war and then fight it again.  Granted, in this case inaction seemed like the wisest course of action, so I think that was a good choice on his part, but it does make for a veeerrry slooow story.

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l33tminion
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« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2011, 12:50:20 PM »

Yeah, this story is definitely a bleak one.  The characters seem to present a dichotomy between self-destructive, stupid aggression and wavering, aimless, meaningless pacifism.  That's mirrored by the actions of humanity as a whole in the story.  The Tickheads haven't really saved humanity, the main character is more-or-less right when he says "no one really saves... anyone else".  But the main character does seem to hold on to a shred of hope, so that's something at least.

I agree with Unblinking that this story is somewhat frustrating for the audience, but don't think that's a drawback.  In this case, the slow pace is essential to the existential tragedy at the core of the story.
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grokman
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« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2011, 09:43:08 PM »

Very interesting story - I want to hear more about this war and our loss against the tickheads!
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Dem
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« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2011, 08:03:17 AM »

Problem over here, chaps. File won't open, won't download, won't play, just - well - won't. I've tried all the links, nuttin'. Could someone send in the lifeboats please?
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2011, 04:58:06 PM »

This was an interesting story to listen to, in light of Stephen Hawking's recent comments that even beneficent contact with aliens could prove catastrophic for humanity.

Ok, the Tickheads are far from beneficent, but they seem to think they are, and that's part of the problem.

I kept looking for the metaphor -- are we supposed to contrast humanity and the Tickheads with the narrator's relationship with his mother? - but I'm not sure that's a viable interpretation.
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Rain
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« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2011, 09:55:06 AM »

I was a little annoyed by the inconsistency of the story, both characters seems to view the Tickheads as invaders and dictators, but as an audience all we hear are an alien race who merely acts in self defense and even tries to help undo the damage they did.

I know the story really isnt about the tickheads, but instead the emotional conflicts between the two men, but honestly i just wanted more about the tickheads.
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jenfullmoon
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« Reply #8 on: June 07, 2011, 10:49:37 AM »

I liked the story concept (particularly the use of the song) and the story starts out well, but it doesn't end well, or much at all. Why introduce the concept of the song and Trey singing it if that never pays off? Disappointing.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2011, 11:14:01 AM »

I liked the story concept (particularly the use of the song) and the story starts out well, but it doesn't end well, or much at all. Why introduce the concept of the song and Trey singing it if that never pays off? Disappointing.

I haven't been sure what to say here because this story left me so bemused on pretty much all fronts, but this reminded me. Great singing! That was my favorite part and thought the musical aspect was pulled off really well (even if it didn't pay off in the story). Cheesy
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matweller
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« Reply #10 on: June 07, 2011, 12:59:53 PM »

I liked the story concept (particularly the use of the song) and the story starts out well, but it doesn't end well, or much at all. Why introduce the concept of the song and Trey singing it if that never pays off? Disappointing.

I haven't been sure what to say here because this story left me so bemused on pretty much all fronts, but this reminded me. Great singing! That was my favorite part and thought the musical aspect was pulled off really well (even if it didn't pay off in the story). Cheesy

Ha! I was trembling like a chihuaua trying to make up a melody and then sing it for the reading. Thanks for the ego-stroke. Wink
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Vylar_Kaftan
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« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2011, 11:53:30 AM »

I liked the singing very much, Mat.  Thank you.

Thanks to Escape Pod for running this one, and thanks to you guys for listening.  It's a more subtle story than some, and the key is Ryan's final understanding of the world.  No one saves anyone--not anyone else.  The tickheads can't save the wreckage of humanity, and Ryan can't save his mother or Trey--no matter how good their intentions.  All you can do is learn to let go.

As for the world the tickheads build, that's a different story, and maybe I'll write it sometime.
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Dem
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« Reply #12 on: June 08, 2011, 12:05:36 PM »

Problem over here, chaps. File won't open, won't download, won't play, just - well - won't. I've tried all the links, nuttin'. Could someone send in the lifeboats please?
Got it now. Thanks for the personal delivery!
Eeuugh - ticks though ...
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CryptoMe
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« Reply #13 on: June 10, 2011, 01:18:32 AM »

I liked the singing very much, Mat.  Thank you.

Thanks to Escape Pod for running this one, and thanks to you guys for listening.  It's a more subtle story than some, and the key is Ryan's final understanding of the world.  No one saves anyone--not anyone else.  The tickheads can't save the wreckage of humanity, and Ryan can't save his mother or Trey--no matter how good their intentions.  All you can do is learn to let go.

As for the world the tickheads build, that's a different story, and maybe I'll write it sometime.

Yeay!! Author input!! I feel like I'm back at the flash fiction contest.  Smiley

Thanks for that Vylar_Kaftan, that certainly helps me a lot. But, I think it would have helped if that theme? revelation? were emphasized in the story more in some way.
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Gamercow
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« Reply #14 on: June 10, 2011, 02:01:59 PM »

I liked this one, though it ended rather abruptly.  I sat though, and thought about the story, and what was being conveyed.  I sort of got the "no one ever really gets saved" bit, but I also saw the story being about how people cope with conflict and change.  Some run away, like the MC's mother, some fight, like Trey, some just accept, like Ryan.  I'm not sure what I would do in the same situation.  Probably just accept and adapt, like Ryan.  

Except if the tickheads really looked like ticks.  That I could not abide.  I'm with Unblinking, this year has been horrible for ticks, and they are just so disgusting.

Oh, and great reading and singing by Mat.
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« Reply #15 on: June 13, 2011, 09:21:01 AM »

Another one that was really good... until the end... when the MC just went back to how things were before his friend came back and he was on his own. I suppose there's a message there, but I'm feeling rather bleak lately, so to me that message is "even if aliens come, and things change a little, they'll be the same after the interesting part ends, so don't get your hopes up". (Yes, I know the MC seemed hopeful at the end. I didn't feel that way, though.)

Also, this is the second EP story I've heard with this narrator where I didn't think he really fit the character. Not to say he's not a good narrator, because he is, but again I had trouble mentally drawing this character with a voice like that.
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« Reply #16 on: June 13, 2011, 09:39:46 AM »

I forgot to say this when I commented before:
Apparently the tickheads have found Doomgiver!!

+10 points to anyone who gets the reference without looking it up.
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Julio
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« Reply #17 on: June 14, 2011, 04:01:31 PM »

I just wanted to comment on one sentence of the story.
The narrator's decision not to decide for his mother to have the aliens heal her.

It is embedded in our culture that psychiatric diseases are choices, or how people were born.
If somebody has phocomelia and had the possibility of healing with a perfect natural arm, would people still think: oh but he was born this way, that's who he is.
If somebody is born with congenital deafness and later in life is offered is cochlear transplant, should the person be allowed to hear again or not because that would change who he is?

I think it is pretty much consensus that most people would not blink an eye in those two situations. So why do people think psychiatric diseases are choices? Why do people think that taking pills for depression is essentially changing who they are? We take pills for hypertension and nobody complains. If there is a neurotransmitter imbalance in your brain it's just the same thing as a disease in any other organ. And you should simply treat it.

The narrator's mom seems to have schizophrenic episodes and could also have a bipolar disorder. She would never be the best person to be consulted on whether to be healed or not. Obviously she should be healed. Specially with such a deus ex machina option of alien healing. I'm surprised the aliens wouldn't be already performing this kind of healing without asking anybody's consent.

Best,
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #18 on: June 14, 2011, 04:42:16 PM »

The narrator's mom seems to have schizophrenic episodes and could also have a bipolar disorder. She would never be the best person to be consulted on whether to be healed or not. Obviously she should be healed. Specially with such a deus ex machina option of alien healing. I'm surprised the aliens wouldn't be already performing this kind of healing without asking anybody's consent.,

Have you ever read Elizabeth Moon's The Speed of Dark? Me, neither. But, I worked in a bookstore for a while, and it was my job to know all about as many books as possible, including books I've never read. The Speed of Dark is about a man with autism in an age when autism can be cured, dealing with an interesting question: if my brain is where my disorder lives but also where I live, and you change my brain, are you also changing me? What is the difference between the disappearance of me and death? Why should I consent to die in order to give birth to a version of me who is more convenient for you (it's worth noting that the protagonist of The Speed of Dark is relatively happy in his life, although he understands it to be limited in some ways).

That, in a nutshell, is the difference between neurological conditions and physical conditions. Me without a leg is just that - me without a leg. I'm still me, shaped by the experience of losing and living without a leg, true, but still essentially me. Me with an addition or subtraction performed upon the way I think... that's a pretty terrifying possibility.

The fact is that not everyone wants to be neurotypical. There are artists and athletes with ADHD who enjoy the energy and hyperfocus of their condition, there are schizophrenics whose hallucinations and delusions are generally pleasant and give them a sense of power and purpose, and there are people with mood disorders who thrive in the ups and downs. It's one thing to describe a certain state as "normal" or common, but it's another thing altogether to attach a value judgement to it. Who are you to say that some ways of thinking are better than others? You can argue for your point of view, certainly, but ultimately that's all that it is - your point of view. Not sacred writ.

I'm not suggesting that anything is wrong with offering neurological "normalcy" to those who want it, but I'd fight tooth and claw for the right of people to make their own choices about their brains.
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« Reply #19 on: June 15, 2011, 08:28:29 AM »

I'm surprised the aliens wouldn't be already performing this kind of healing without asking anybody's consent.

In addition to EP's points, which make a lot of sense, what if the aliens had a different standard of normalcy than humanity did?  What if, by their standards, the mother is the normal one and all the rest of humans are crazy?  What if they "healed" people to bring them to that condition without consent.  From humans' point of view, most would probably call that brainwashing, but from an alien's point of view it might be seen as healing.
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