Escape Artists

News:

  • Get your 500 word fantasy stories ready! We'll be open for submissions through the month of March, and starting the voting sometime in early April. Full details on Podcastle's website

News

Get your 500 word fantasy stories ready! We'll be open for submissions through the month of March, and starting the voting sometime in early April. Full details on Podcastle's website

Author Topic: EP296: For Want of a Nail  (Read 20934 times)

Devoted135

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1252
Reply #25 on: June 15, 2011, 05:54:34 PM
I just wanted to thank you all for your comments. I wish I'd had them before I published it because your comments make me aware that I was unclear in my writing.  Rava's family isn't the only one on the ship. Cordelia is only recording their family so she's not a failure point for the ship, just the extended family.

I'm glad that the story works for most of you anyway.

I actually assumed that we were only seeing one of many extended families on the ship, even though it may not have been explicitly stated in the text. :)



Talia

  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 2682
  • Muahahahaha
Reply #26 on: June 16, 2011, 12:33:16 AM
Yeah, I had assumed they were one of many families as well, just that each family had its own little ruling structure. Which is kind of creepy, really.

I thought the ending was plenty devastating. Rava clearly considered the AI a person and she was obviously distraught and what she had to do.
The story wasn't meant to be some epic scale tale of ruin, its the tragedy of two people, Cordelia and the uncle, whose efforts to keep himself alive ultimately failed, and took Cordelia with him in the process.



kibitzer

  • Purveyor of Unsolicited Opinions
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 2228
  • Kibitzer: A meddler who offers unwanted advice
Reply #27 on: June 16, 2011, 03:31:44 AM
Add me to those who doesn't get the title... I mean, I get the allusion, just not how it relates to the story. I started thinking, "oh, right, they won't find a cable and that's the allusive nail", but I was wrong there, wasn't I?


Max e^{i pi}

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1038
  • Have towel, will travel.
Reply #28 on: June 16, 2011, 05:47:51 AM
I just wanted to thank you all for your comments. I wish I'd had them before I published it because your comments make me aware that I was unclear in my writing.  Rava's family isn't the only one on the ship. Cordelia is only recording their family so she's not a failure point for the ship, just the extended family.

I'm glad that the story works for most of you anyway.

I am (and was at the time of listening) well aware that Cordelia is only for a single family.
However, I seemed to get the impression that at that point in the voyage nobody really knew anything. They were relying on her for everything. Communications, inventory, logging, education.... what happens when (not if) part of the ship breaks? They need to turn to Cordelia (or one of the other AIs) and ask "How do we fix the ship?" But what if Cordelia broke...?

Cogito ergo surf - I think therefore I network

Registered Linux user #481826 Get Counted!



Unblinking

  • Sir Postsalot
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 8729
    • Diabolical Plots
Reply #29 on: June 16, 2011, 01:22:04 PM
I just wanted to thank you all for your comments. I wish I'd had them before I published it because your comments make me aware that I was unclear in my writing.  Rava's family isn't the only one on the ship. Cordelia is only recording their family so she's not a failure point for the ship, just the extended family.

I'm glad that the story works for most of you anyway.

I'd assumed that there were other families, but I'd thought that Cordelia was the sole records-keeper for the entire ship.  And I thought that the protagonist was the sole AI-wrangler, giving her a role of extreme importance to all.  Cordelia seems to do more than just record, though, she's the only one who keeps track of where equipment is, and seems to handle communications within their group, etc.  I considered her logging of events the least important part of her function because I don't think anyone in the future is going to care enough to read them.  

So, wait, if there are other families and other AIs, why can't they just go knock on their doors and ask if they can borrow a cable?  Assuming the other family's AI is functional, that AI should be able to find their supplies quickly and easily, and then they could've restored Cordelia's storage memory and then she could swap out her part, easy peasy.  Did I miss a reason why they couldn't have done this?  Now I'm confused.  I think I liked it better when I thought it was all just bad engineering, because that I can blame on her ancestors that I don't need to follow.  If their problem-solving skills are so poor that they never think of asking another family for aid, well that I can only blame on the characters in the story, and since it's a story based around their quest to solve that problem, it's hard to say I could've really rooted for them then.

I think I'm just going to pretend the story was what I thought it was, because I liked it a lot that way.   ;D



Unblinking

  • Sir Postsalot
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 8729
    • Diabolical Plots
Reply #30 on: June 16, 2011, 01:25:55 PM
Add me to those who doesn't get the title... I mean, I get the allusion, just not how it relates to the story. I started thinking, "oh, right, they won't find a cable and that's the allusive nail", but I was wrong there, wasn't I?

I think that's what it meant?  Or rather, the damage caused to Cordelia is equivalent to the horse throwing a shoe.  The difference seems to be that this does have such an epic scale as the expression.  It sounds like the uncle's dementia would've been discovered at some point anyway as he degraded enough to not be able to follow Cordelia's cues, and Cordelia would most likely have been discovered in her role of covering up.  This didn't really change that, it just sped the process up.



Talia

  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 2682
  • Muahahahaha
Reply #31 on: June 16, 2011, 01:31:01 PM

So, wait, if there are other families and other AIs, why can't they just go knock on their doors and ask if they can borrow a cable?


Who says they would all necessarily have the same cable? And actually, didn't the guy at the store say there were many different kinds of cables? She had to sort through a pile of them to get the right one, though it only took her three tries (I think there were like 20). Going door to door looking for someone with a compatible cable seems impractical.



Devoted135

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1252
Reply #32 on: June 16, 2011, 01:42:44 PM
Also, remember that Rava was so embarrassed by the accident that she didn't even want to tell the one person who should have been able to help her the most: her uncle. As Cordelia's previous wrangler, he should have been the one to help her troubleshoot the problem, (this is of course ignoring of his mental state) but she was trying desperately to make it so that only she and her brother ever had to know. So, it's entirely possible that all of the proper channels were in place and she just ignored them in her haste to fix Cordelia before anyone else noticed the problem.



Unblinking

  • Sir Postsalot
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 8729
    • Diabolical Plots
Reply #33 on: June 16, 2011, 04:12:52 PM
Who says they would all necessarily have the same cable? And actually, didn't the guy at the store say there were many different kinds of cables? She had to sort through a pile of them to get the right one, though it only took her three tries (I think there were like 20). Going door to door looking for someone with a compatible cable seems impractical.

I don't see how that would be at all impractical, at least not any more impractical than having to find a cable in the first place.  She could go visit her neighbor, and their neighbor's AI could find the right one lickety-split because it would have access to long-term memory.

Also, remember that Rava was so embarrassed by the accident that she didn't even want to tell the one person who should have been able to help her the most: her uncle. As Cordelia's previous wrangler, he should have been the one to help her troubleshoot the problem, (this is of course ignoring of his mental state) but she was trying desperately to make it so that only she and her brother ever had to know. So, it's entirely possible that all of the proper channels were in place and she just ignored them in her haste to fix Cordelia before anyone else noticed the problem.

I can buy into that, trying to keep her screw-up on the downlow and intentionally ignoring other solutions that would require outside help to avoid embarrassment.  That makes enough sense to me.



Wilson Fowlie

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1473
    • The Maple Leaf Singers
Reply #34 on: June 16, 2011, 05:56:55 PM
Not all the families use AIs like Cordelia for their record keeping:

   Cordelia was their family‚Äôs continuity, their historical connection
   to their past. Some families made documentaries. Some kept
   journals. Her family had chosen to record and manage their
   voyage on the generation ship with Cordelia.


So, this particular problem only affects this particular family, not the everyone on the ship. The story doesn't specify how many - if any - other families use a similar system, but I'm guessing it's 'not many', possibly even 'none'. I'm assuming the author did this to keep both the problem and the solution - such as it was - basically within the family, with the exception of the corner store guy. After all, if the solution is too easy, then no story!

Essentially, this points to the originator of the idea being the kind of middle manager who decides to use a certain technology because it's cool or whatever, without thinking through all of the implications and having failure plans.

   "Hey, I know, let's use an AI! It'll be cool and do all the work for us!"

   "Um, but Don, what if someone hacks it to keep themselves alive?"

   "Oh, come on, no one would do that. This is family we're talking about! Oh, and hey, it can even keep track of its own spare parts and backups and stuff!"

   "That doesn't sound... safe. What if it gets damaged?"

   "Are you kidding? Look at this thing! It's built like a tank! You could drop it on its head without so much as loosening a cable! ..."

"People commonly use the word 'procrastination' to describe what they do on the Internet. It seems to me too mild to describe what's happening as merely not-doing-work. We don't call it procrastination when someone gets drunk instead of working." - Paul Graham


Kaa

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 618
  • Trusst in me, jusst in me.
    • WriteWright
Reply #35 on: June 16, 2011, 06:16:19 PM
See, I heard that same about about some families this and some families that...and I conjured up an image of each family having their own generation ship. Maybe it had to do with concentration. I was driving when I heard the story... :)

I invent imaginary people and make them have conversations in my head. I also write.

About writing || About Atheism and Skepticism (mostly) || About Everything Else


Nobilis

  • Peltast
  • ***
  • Posts: 156
    • Nobilis Erotica Podcast
Reply #36 on: June 17, 2011, 12:00:22 AM
Oh, Hallelujah!  Frabjous day!

A Hugo story that actually has a plot, character development, and drama!  It's marvelous.  Not only that, but it made twists and turns along the way.  One of my favorite Hugo nominees ever. Thank you!



Unblinking

  • Sir Postsalot
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 8729
    • Diabolical Plots
Reply #37 on: June 17, 2011, 01:21:05 PM
Oh, Hallelujah!  Frabjous day!

A Hugo story that actually has a plot, character development, and drama!  It's marvelous.  Not only that, but it made twists and turns along the way.  One of my favorite Hugo nominees ever. Thank you!

At least one of the other has all these things too!  Peter Watts's "The Things".  I'm looking forward to hearing the other two, maybe it'll be a very well rounded year!



Listener

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 3187
  • I place things in locations which later elude me.
    • Various and Sundry Items of Interest
Reply #38 on: June 17, 2011, 07:21:33 PM
I appreciated what the story was trying to do (IMO), which was weave together the uncle's dementia, Cordelia's memory loss, and Rava's fear of losing her own records/memory, but I think it took way too long to get there. I was really bored after the first 10-15 minutes, until stuff started happening.

I did get the reference to the proverb/saying -- if x hadn't happened, we wouldn't need a, but there's no a, so we need b, but there's no b, etc etc etc.

Overall I thought this one was okay. I just wish it had gotten to the point faster.

"Farts are a hug you can smell." -Wil Wheaton

Blog || Quote Blog ||  Written and Audio Work || Twitter: @listener42


Rain

  • Matross
  • ****
  • Posts: 178
Reply #39 on: June 20, 2011, 12:40:53 PM
I didnt really get the problem with Cordelia, now that they knew the uncle was not in his right mind why did have to mess with her programing or revert to the older copy? That extra code really didnt matter anymore.
Ok story, nothing i was crazy about.



Dem

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 567
  • aka conboyhillfiction.wordpress.com
    • Suzanne Conboy-Hill
Reply #40 on: June 20, 2011, 07:03:23 PM
Oh, Hallelujah!  Frabjous day!

A Hugo story that actually has a plot, character development, and drama!  It's marvelous.  Not only that, but it made twists and turns along the way.  One of my favorite Hugo nominees ever. Thank you!

At least one of the other has all these things too!  Peter Watts's "The Things".  I'm looking forward to hearing the other two, maybe it'll be a very well rounded year!
Just listened to that over at Clarkesworld. Now that is class.

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


Thunderscreech

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 344
Reply #41 on: June 20, 2011, 10:57:33 PM
I didnt really get the problem with Cordelia, now that they knew the uncle was not in his right mind why did have to mess with her programing or revert to the older copy? That extra code really didnt matter anymore.
Ok story, nothing i was crazy about.
I think the problem was that they had to treat her like a compromised system.  They can't trust Cordellia to do it's job anymore.  Whenever the protagonist thought she had cleaned up the mess, the code reasserted itself. 

In IT thought, a computer that's been infected/compromised can
almost never be trusted again.  It takes a high degree of certainty about what really happened to make sure you aren't leaving backdoors in place or something, and it felt like they couldn't each that certainty with Cordellia. 



Peevester

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 15
Reply #42 on: June 23, 2011, 05:20:27 PM
Joined to say how much I enjoyed this story. It satisfies a particular part of my scifi appetite that I often don't get from contemporary SF. A hard-science problem and its social consequences? Perfect!

One thing the story did which had nothing to do with the story itself was it reminded me how ANGRY a book made me. This book (actually two books) is the Commonwealth saga by Peter F. Hamilton. I'm going to avoid naming specific characters in the spoiler space below, but it will still be spoily to see the event coming at all, even if you don't know who it's about: Er, never mind, this forum doesn't have the SPOILER tag. Shocking! Don't read between the lines then...

--------------------- spoilers for Pandora's star and Judas Unchained -------------------
The bad guys in these books have the ability to make people sleeper agents, with the compromise buried so deep that  the victim can't tell it's happened, even if they are activated. In the story, a woman is so compromised, and given a compulsion to fall in love with a main character, which puts her in a position later to do a VERY BAD THING, the cause of which we don't know for something north of 1000 pages. When all this finally comes out, the woman is sent for "deprogramming". The main character tosses this off as no big deal, he'll get his wife back and he could keep the good stuff - she'll still love him.

HOLD THE HELL ON. The entire reason she fell in love with you was outside of her control. If you're removing the bad programming, you gotta remove the compulsion too, and start the relationship from scratch, AT MOST (better off to let the woman live her life never knowing you; you have WAY too much inside information about her). This destroyed the story for me, because it solidified the idea I was getting during the books that the "good guys" weren't really all that good eitther, and their vaunted society was creepy as all hell.
------------------------------------------ END SPOILERS ----------------------------------------

Anyway, what I really liked about "for want of a nail" is that it faced the same problem - the unrecoverable compromise of the personality of a loved one (Cordelia), and made a hard choice. That right there is excellent drama.

I didnt really get the problem with Cordelia, now that they knew the uncle was not in his right mind why did have to mess with her programing or revert to the older copy? That extra code really didnt matter anymore.

They found the code that made Cordelia protect Georgio, but not the part that caused her to erase evidence that it was happening. The concern, and this is a classic one going back to HAL in 2001, is that as Georgio gets worse and worse, the compulsion to protect him will make Cordelia go to greater and greater lengths. Say, turn off the air in Rava's compartment if she figured it out and nobody was around to see it. Cordelia would become a danger to everyone.

Perhaps a better AI designer would have figured out how to seperate Cordelia's recordkeeping functions from her core personality, but I suspect that if we ever get an AI, it will be just as difficult to do this as it would be to erase a single memory from a person without affecting anything else. Forgetting things HURTS - it's maddening when you can't think of a word, but you can think of everything surrounding that word. You'd have to do massive "pruning" to avoid that kind of effect, and I think that's exactly what the rollback is for. Capturing a state is a lot easier than altering the interconnections.

« Last Edit: June 23, 2011, 05:47:16 PM by Peevester »



Calculating...

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 56
  • Too much knowledge never makes for simple decision
Reply #43 on: June 24, 2011, 04:52:50 AM
Loved this story and hated it at the same time. Living with a relative who is currently mentally deterriorating in front of me daily, there is something to be said for protecting and taking care of the elderly and I immediately reject the idea of shirking this responsibility. However this is a very painful process and it's at that point where I do not know if he even knows I'm here, talking to him, and what comfort I can give him beyond a warm bed and warm food.
I loved the idea that the AI was not only the recorder of the family, but part of the family. That is until she malfunctions against the wishes of said family and they essentially kill her and start up a new one. Crazy, but I love it.

I don't know who you are or where you came from, but from now on you'll do as I tell you, okay?


Dave

  • Peltast
  • ***
  • Posts: 128
    • I Can Bend Minds With My Spoon
Reply #44 on: June 26, 2011, 03:07:36 AM
Great story, weak ending.

-Dave (aka Nev the Deranged)


Salul

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 26
  • Spiritboard
    • Salul
Reply #45 on: June 28, 2011, 02:12:48 AM
Oh, Hallelujah!  Frabjous day!
...One of my favorite Hugo nominees ever. Thank you!

Amen to that.
For the past two years running I had begun to really lose interest in the Hugo nominations. This story delivers the goods and has brought back a serious ray of hope. It ain't perfect, and yes the ending is slightly anticlimactic; but it's intelligent, it develops as it goes along...AND it is true and unadulterated sci-fi.

Rushing over to Clarkesworld now.

There be islands in the Central Sea, whose waters are bounded by no shore and where no ships come...

Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany


LaShawn

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 550
  • Writer Mommies Rule!
    • The Cafe in the Woods
Reply #46 on: June 29, 2011, 08:09:43 PM
Very, very nice indeed. Really enjoyed this one, though it took me some time to get into it. I loved how the situation unraveled and Cordelia found a bigger mess than she had planned on, one that had great ramifications for her. I pretty much saw how it tied into the the plot.








On a side note..."awkwardness"? I thought the comments were pretty valid. It wasn't as if I was going to go over to someone's house and beat them with my flip-flop if they didn't like my story...

--
Visit LaShawn at The Cafe in the Woods:
http://tbonecafe.wordpress.com
Another writer's antiblog: In Touch With Yours Truly


ElectricPaladin

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1005
  • Holy Robot
    • Burning Zeppelin Experience
Reply #47 on: June 29, 2011, 08:18:35 PM
It wasn't as if I was going to go over to someone's house and beat them with my flip-flop if they didn't like my story...

No, you only do that if he refuses to marry you after his brother leaves you a widow :P.

Captain of the Burning Zeppelin Experience.

Help my kids get the educational supplies they need at my Donor's Choose page.


Marlboro

  • Matross
  • ****
  • Posts: 191
Reply #48 on: October 27, 2019, 11:03:01 PM
I really like the idea of an A.I. acting as a family chronicler. I've often regretted not asking my grandparents about the times they lived in while I had the chance. It would be awesome to have a "family" member like Cordelia who had first hand knowledge over several generations.

I also found the the idea of paralleling dementia with Cordelia's loss of memory to be a clever idea.

Having said all that, I found the scene of the family meeting near the end confusing. Were Cordelia's decisions based solely on the uncle's tampering? I f so, why was she still protecting him after the code had been removed? Why would the family insist on scrapping a valuable piece of technology? They have no compunctions about recycling flesh and blood relatives, so why not force a rollback on a machine?

I think there is a great story here, but that penultimate scene isn't as clear to me as I wish it was.