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Author Topic: EP297: Amaryllis  (Read 7384 times)
eytanz
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« on: June 16, 2011, 08:19:12 PM »

EP297: Amaryllis

By Carrie Vaughn
Read by Gabrielle De Cuir

Originally appeared in Lightspeed

Nominated for the Hugo Award for Short Story, 2011
---

I never knew my mother, and I never understood why she did what she did. I ought to be grateful that she was crazy enough to cut out her implant so she could get pregnant. But it also meant she was crazy enough to hide the pregnancy until termination wasn’t an option, knowing the whole time that she’d never get to keep the baby. That she’d lose everything. That her household would lose everything because of her.

I never understood how she couldn’t care. I wondered what her family thought when they learned what she’d done, when their committee split up the household, scattered them—broke them, because of her.

Did she think I was worth it?


Rated appropriate for all young teens and up for reproductive concerns.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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statisticus
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« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2011, 09:02:51 PM »

This got a Hugo nomination?

I'm sorry, but this story left me flat.  The story telling works well enough I suppose, and we get a moderate amount of character development of the main character and her household as they gather up the courage to make a stand for their rights.  But - there is almost nothing that makes this science fiction.  The story certainly isn't.  A woman is being bullied because of a grudge against her mother; her household encourage her to take a stand against the bully.  The setting (people in a post crash world who must live within strict quotas) is technically SF, but this isn't explored in detail doesn't really impact on the story.  The story could just as easily be set in a variety of historical settings - a group of people undergoing wartime rationing, or a living through the great depression, or working a collective farm in the soviet era - and would otherwise be identical.
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2011, 12:04:22 AM »

This story wasn't what I was in the mood for, but it gradually grew on me until - by the end - I can honestly say that I loved it. It was definitely a slower, more personal kind of sci-fi than the mean, but that doesn't mean it wasn't incredibly powerful and poignant on its own terms. The speculative fiction elements were well-used to create a neat setting, which the characters and their flaws and passions all bounced around in wonderfully.

The reading was more than adequate, but I kind of wish Mur had read it. She would have really knocked this one out of the park and into the park next door (where Wilson Fowlie would have eaten or something).

There I go again, posting while sleep deprived Tongue.

Anyway, I really loved this story. It was heartwarming and inspiring, with strong speculative elements, and focused on an interesting pack of characters. Five zeppelins out of five.
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Dem
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« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2011, 07:56:36 AM »

I'm afraid I'm with statisticus on this one. It was essentially a story about a fishing community that had some unreasonable practices associated with rule breaking, and an unscrupulous arbiter who was a bully. I think that, with more attention to internal dialogue and the tensions in the various relationships, this could have been a literary piece. But as it is, there is very little to distinguish it as either SF or a tale about the human condition.  Cry
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Gamercow
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« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2011, 10:41:53 AM »

I'm sure this is a good story, but a lot of it was lost on me because I have no drive to be a parent, so there was zero tug on my heart strings for Nina or her desires.  I liked the MC well enough, who was also the only character with any kind of depth, and I liked the setting, but story itself left me flat somewhat.  it was like a commuter train ride.  Comfortable, relaxing, some good scenery on the way, but pretty uneventful.  I knew they were going to defeat the evil scalemaster, and I knew they were going to get their baby license, and they did it in a pretty straightforward manner.  The insight into the MC's mind was interesting, but I expected more from a Hugo nominee. 
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Balu
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« Reply #5 on: June 19, 2011, 05:58:50 PM »

"I never knew my mother, and I never understood why she did what she did."

And I never knew I had such a capacity for critical spleen until EP started specialising in female authors angsting over mom.

I must have deleted at least ten comments before I ended up with this happy, fluffy positive one. I mean FFS, would it kill you people to run something with robots or spaceships or genetically engineered soldiers or something (anything) of interest to those of us who aren't emo girls?

This, for example:

http://transmissionsfrombeyond.com/2011/03/transmission37/

I almost find myself missing the old 50's trope of square-chinned heterosexual white men saving the universe for American Civilization. At least those fuckers had fun.
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kibitzer
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« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2011, 10:16:19 PM »

Loved this one. Beautiful. Such a personal look at a well-realised community in a resource-poor world. And Gabrielle's reading fitted perfectly; a very nice performance.

Again I have to ask: what's wrong with a good story, well told, regardless of genre?

Major kudos to Lightspeed Magazine for volunteering such an excellent product.
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SanguineV
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« Reply #7 on: June 20, 2011, 07:04:38 AM »

...
« Last Edit: June 26, 2011, 08:45:49 PM by SanguineV » Logged
eytanz
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« Reply #8 on: June 20, 2011, 07:20:38 AM »

I haven't heard the story yet, so I can't comment on whether I think it's appropriate for Escape Pod. But please note that the normal genre rules are suspended for Hugo nominees - Escape Pod will run all Hugo Nominees that it can get the rights for, regardless of whether the editors feel they are SF, fantasy, or speculative at all (though also note that Hugo nominees are selected by the public so at least a large amount of voters did think it's speculative).
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Rain
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« Reply #9 on: June 20, 2011, 07:44:55 AM »

I thought the overall world sounded interesting, being static and happy about it goes against everything that is humanity today, so i would have loved to get some more info about that.  As it is i didnt care for the story here, there wasnt anything i found particularly exciting.
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Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #10 on: June 20, 2011, 12:50:37 PM »

I kind of wish Mur had read it. She would have really knocked this one out of the park and into the park next door (where Wilson Fowlie would have eaten or something).

 ??

There I go again, posting while sleep deprived Tongue.

Oh. Okay. Smiley
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Andy C
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« Reply #11 on: June 20, 2011, 12:56:28 PM »

This was an excellent story, real quality. it had rhythm and grace, it had believable characters, intriguing background and the way it was crafted shows what a good story teller Carrie Vaughn is. But it is a story that you either 'get' or you don't. I think the fact that it has received mixed reviews here is more to do with its subject than the quality of the writing. It comes back to this perennial issue of defining the boundaries of Sci fi.

I've got a bit of sympathy for Balu, it does seem like the balance (and it is a question of balance) in the broad definition of sci-fi has tilted against the star ships / galaxy / aliens / future tech strand of sci fi; although I'm guessing the Escape Pod team might answer by saying that they judge the work that comes their way on its merit, if they get some excellent star ship stuff, they'll use it.

Kibitzer makes an interesting point:

"Again I have to ask: what's wrong with a good story, well told, regardless of genre?"

Well, sure but this is a genre based podcast....

So, this is a quality story, but it's not going to be everyone's idea of sci-fi. But I guess if you think it's a bit too much of an emo trip then don't just get angry, get even -  write something that you would like to listen to and send it in (after August 1st)

Andy C

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Listener
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« Reply #12 on: June 20, 2011, 02:49:52 PM »

I read this in Lightspeed, so I skipped the story part of the show this week. It was a while ago, and I remember enjoying the story. I like stories about boats (ahem).

The concept of having to be completely self-sufficient is difficult to write, at least for me. I've got two stories going right now that are in that vein -- one is another boat story; the other is more an "island princess" tale -- and it's difficult to shoehorn in all the details when I also have to have plot. So, kudos for that.
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Gamercow
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« Reply #13 on: June 20, 2011, 03:36:38 PM »

I mean FFS, would it kill you people to run something with robots or spaceships or genetically engineered soldiers or something (anything) of interest to those of us who aren't emo girls?

You mean, like last week?  The one with the robots, and the spaceships?  The robots on the spaceships?  Or the week before that, with the aliens, and the soldiers, and the revolution?  Or how about 294, with the cyberpunk cranium implants, post-singularity humans, and genetically engineered toad-men? Or the one before that, with the 2 black holes, time manipulation, and mini-wookie aliens?

Yup.  Nothing but "emo girl" stories here.
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eytanz
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« Reply #14 on: June 20, 2011, 04:01:43 PM »

Ok, I think I should have made this clearer before, so here goes:

1. This story was on Escape Pod because it is a Hugo nominee. It's genre was not particularly relevant to that decision.
2. More generally, on weeks where Escape Pod is running its regular selection of stories rather than Hugo noms, it is acceptable (though not particularly encouraged) to discuss the genre merits of a particular story in its thread. However, it is *not* appropriate to discuss the overall editorial choices of Escape Pod in an episode's thread. That includes both positive and negative comments.
3. Which isn't to say that the editorial direction cannot be discussed. It can. But only in the "About Escape Pod" section of the forums, not in episode threads.

I'm not going to issue a warning or anything like that, just a polite request. Please, discuss this story on its own merits. If you have an issue or a comment to make about Escape Pod as a whole, start a thread for it (or use an existing one - here's an appropriate one from relatively recently). I'd appreciate it, the rest of the community will appreciate it.
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kibitzer
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« Reply #15 on: June 20, 2011, 10:05:24 PM »

2. More generally, on weeks where Escape Pod is running its regular selection of stories rather than Hugo noms...

OM NOM NOM NOM.

Sorry.

Couldn't resist. :-)
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blueeyeddevil
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« Reply #16 on: June 21, 2011, 06:59:32 AM »

Perhaps my opinion of this story suffers for the tale's Hugo nomination, but...that's it?

To steal an old but good line, when it comes to the plot of this story; there's no THERE there.

Spoiler warning:
The main action of this story, what isn't taken up in historical exposition and world detail, is about a big ol' meanie who runs the scales at the docks who keeps being a big ol' meanie to the story's protagonist. When this first happens, I think 'why aren't they calling for an audit of the scales? Apparently there's some reason.'
How is the story resolved? They call for an audit of the scales...Which, as it turns out, is very easy.
How is this protagonist supposed to be a tough-as-nails successful captain on the high seas of the post-apocalypse?

This isn't just a not worthy of a Hugo nom, this is a poorly constructed story. What were people thinking? I honestly don't get it.
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Gamercow
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« Reply #17 on: June 21, 2011, 08:25:22 AM »

When this first happens, I think 'why aren't they calling for an audit of the scales? Apparently there's some reason.'
How is the story resolved? They call for an audit of the scales...Which, as it turns out, is very easy.
How is this protagonist supposed to be a tough-as-nails successful captain on the high seas of the post-apocalypse?

This does sort of get explained.  The MC has been blamed by many people, including herself, for the breakup of a whole household, scattering them to the wind.  She is not guilty of this, it was her mother that made the decision, but she has been feeling the repercussions of it her whole life.  When you're told you're worthless and/or to blame for everything enough times, you start to believe it. 
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Unblinking
Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #18 on: June 21, 2011, 09:17:36 AM »

So, this is a quality story, but it's not going to be everyone's idea of sci-fi. But I guess if you think it's a bit too much of an emo trip then don't just get angry, get even -  write something that you would like to listen to and send it in (after August 1st)

I disagree.  Although the SF elements were mostly background, I don't have a big problem with that.  I just wasn't really impressed by the story.  It wasn't bad, fair-to-middlin' I'd say, but it's one of those that for me is nowhere near award-nomination quality--the nomination raises the bar for me.

It was an okay story.  The characters were believable and felt like real people, which is always a plus.  The reasons I didn't really care for it overall:
--It was way too long for its content.  If it had been half the length it might've been about right.  As it was, it seemed like ages between anything important happening.  My mind kept wandering, but when I rewound and relistened I hadn't really missed anything.
--The driving motivation of having a baby isn't one I find particularly compelling.  That's not the author's fault, it just is.  If there'd been other major themes that appealed to me I could've latched onto one of those instead.
--The main conflict of the crooked dockmaster was so easily resolved that the resolution was a major letdown especially after such a long story.  After a couple problems they try the obvious and society-approved solution.  And on that first try, they succeed.  This did not provide me with tension.
--A minor conflict that it seemed to hint at at the end was that the protagonist technically had the right to have a baby with the flag, but gave it to Nina instead.  But, really, that wasn't a conflict either.  Nina had been very vocally desperate to have a baby, while the protagonist was clearly indifferent.  Giving the rights to Nina was a win-win, and also provided no tension.
--The statement at the end about her already being a parent seemed like it was meant to be profound, but that had crossed my mind just a few minutes into the story.  As I was sorting the character relationships, I'd mentally labeled this one as adopted mother/daughter.  So it surprised me that the character seemed to only be discovering this herself at the end and saying it as though it were a profound statement.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2011, 09:19:18 AM by Unblinking » Logged

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blueeyeddevil
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« Reply #19 on: June 21, 2011, 12:01:53 PM »

When this first happens, I think 'why aren't they calling for an audit of the scales? Apparently there's some reason.'
How is the story resolved? They call for an audit of the scales...Which, as it turns out, is very easy.
How is this protagonist supposed to be a tough-as-nails successful captain on the high seas of the post-apocalypse?

This does sort of get explained.  The MC has been blamed by many people, including herself, for the breakup of a whole household, scattering them to the wind.  She is not guilty of this, it was her mother that made the decision, but she has been feeling the repercussions of it her whole life.  When you're told you're worthless and/or to blame for everything enough times, you start to believe it. 

I got that, yet somehow we're supposed to believe this character was simulataneously brave and tough enough to overcome her stigma and become a successful captain, yet fragile and self-doubting enough to fall for this crap?
Furthmore, if she's been a captain for fifteen years, and their household has been in this port, and old man meanie has been working the scales that long, as is implied, how is this becoming a problem only now?
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