Escape Artists
September 02, 2014, 04:12:06 AM *
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
News:
 
   Home   Help Search Login Register  
Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 5  All
  Print  
Author Topic: EP300: We go back  (Read 6821 times)
eytanz
Moderator
*****
Posts: 4578



« on: July 08, 2011, 10:50:32 AM »

EP300: We go back

By Tim Pratt
Read by Mur Lafferty

An Escape Pod original!

---

My best friend Jenny Kay climbed in through my window and nearly stepped on my head. If I’d been sleeping a foot closer to the wall, I would’ve gotten a face full of her boot, but instead I just snapped awake and said “What who what now?” and blinked a lot.

“Oh damn,” Jenny said in a loudish whisper. “When did you move your bed under the window?”

“Last week,” I said, sitting up in bed. “I wanted a change.” If you can’t rearrange your life, you can at least rearrange yourself, and if your mom won’t let you dye your hair blue, you can make do with rearranging your rooms.

Jenny Kay dropped from standing to sitting in one motion, making my mattress bounce, and landed cross-legged and totally comfortable. “Hey,” she said. “So I need to borrow your ring.” I couldn’t read her expression in the dim moonlight from the window.

I looked at my right hand, where a thin silver ring looped my index finger, catching what light there was in the room and giving back twinkles. The metal grew cold against my skin and tightened a fraction, almost a friendly little squeeze. The ring — which wasn’t really a ring — could tell when I was thinking about it. “Uh,” I said.

Jenny nodded vigorously, a motion I felt in the jostling of the mattress more than I saw. “I know! I know. But I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important. I mean, you’ve had the thing for more than a year, and I’ve never asked once if I could use it, right?”

I glanced at my closed door — no glow under the crack at the bottom, which meant my parents had gone to their separate beds and turned out the hall light — and switched on my bedside lamp. Jenny was dressed in jeans and a sweater, all in dark grays and blacks, not her usual aggressively flamboyant colorful mishmash style at all. Good for sneaking into people’s windows, I guessed.

I sat up against the headboard, because when you’re about to annoy your best friend, it’s better not to be flat on your back at the time. “I wish I could,” I said — not one hundred percent true, but Jenny was a fourteen-year-old genius, not a human lie detector. “But it’s, like… part of me. You know? I’m part of the mechanism. I can’t just take it off. It’s linked into my, what’s it called, socratic nervous system?”

“Somatic,” Jenny said gloomily. She was almost as good at biology as she was at math. “The part of your nervous system that controls movement, which sort of halfway makes sense, I guess.”

I shrugged. “So, there you go. The ring’s not something I wear. It’s something that wears me. Or we wear each other. What did you want it for?”


Rated appropriate for  younger teens and up – occasional adult language.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
Logged
Chuk
Matross
****
Posts: 294


« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2011, 02:29:48 PM »

Loved it! Nice ending.

(It has minor spoilers for _The Nex_ but you don't need to have read _The Nex_ to follow "We Go Back". I think it will probably have more impact if you do. Or if you have teenage daughters (or other teenage relatives).)
Logged

--
chuk
jenfullmoon
Palmer
**
Posts: 45


« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2011, 03:15:12 PM »

LOVED this story. Based off of that xkcd comic, right? Just wondering...

Really loved the whole thing. How real life lines up with the post-fantasy, Jenny's reasons for doing what she did, and the ending. Awesome.
Logged
munin81
Extern
*
Posts: 2


« Reply #3 on: July 08, 2011, 05:35:38 PM »

I loved the story! Wonderful as always.

Also, Socrates! Sōkrátēs
Logged
Spindaddy
Peltast
***
Posts: 152


Small god of doughnuts


« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2011, 06:41:25 PM »

Great Job with the narrating! I was enthralled by it.

I found the story very fun as well. I had hoped that JK was going to end up in the Lex, but I was quite surprised that Randy gave up the ring. I doubt I could have given up that kind of power.
Logged

I'm not evil. I'm corporate.
Gamercow
Hipparch
******
Posts: 648



« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2011, 06:43:42 PM »

I really liked the theme of Mur's intro and outro, as well as the story itself.  First, the story.  Like many Tim Pratt stories, the logic falls apart if you tug at the seams a bit, but it really doesn't matter because the storytelling is so damn good, and the characters so damn fleshed out.  I loved Mur's "voices", even the two teenage girls were distinct, but her voice for the cyborg was absolutely outstanding, the deadpan semi-robotic delivery was amazing.  The plot was new, to me, and gave a good insight into the "what happens after the hero goes home?" problem.  For most of the story, I didn't understand why on earth the MC came back, but as it went on, I got to understand that, beyond her typical teenager "OMG, my life is the WORST[flop on bed]" logic, she really was just done with adventure for a bit.  

As for the intro and outro.  I may have been reading into it a bit, but they, along with the choice of the story, were Mur saying "This is our baby now, with our touch, our flavor"; she really seemed to take ownership of EscapePod, while at the same time giving a sense of community that I think Steve never really had.  Much of the theme was looking forward, rather than looking back.  But I could be looking too deep into things.

Munin81(and any others who missed the reference), the Socrates mispronunciation was intentional, and a reference to "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure", a story of two time travelling dimwits who go back in time to finish a history report, and in the process, meet Socrates, and pronounce his name as Mur did.
Logged

The cow says "Mooooooooo"
loyaleagle
Palmer
**
Posts: 32


Love audio fiction!


WWW
« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2011, 09:28:59 PM »

After reading this story, I have to say I think it was good, but I am a little mad at Escape Pod.  While I think there is a lot of GREAT YA fiction out there...that isn't why I subscribe to Escape Pod.  

By and large I don't find YA fiction to be very rewarding for me because it TENDS to fall into a lot of tropes and things that no longer seem new or novel to my aged self (though I am only 24 Tongue).  When I realized the story focused on two adolescent girls with broken homes and various issues, I thought to myself, "oh geez, one or both of them are going to turn out to be lesbians, aren't they."  I was disappointed to find that this was in fact the way things went.  While I agree with the validity of this plot choice for THIS story, it still felt like a predictable turn because I've kind of read other things like this.

So for all that, I think this was not a great editorial choice, even if it was a good story.

The one gripe I have with the story itself was the whole bit about how she got the ring.  In hindsight, I can see how this was a tiny bite from a larger novel world, but while I was listening to the story with no knowledge of the previous work, I kept thinking, "ok, this isn't a story as much as a novel pitch."  It is completely possible to encapsulate a previous story or universe in a short story (see, "The Blab," by Vernor Vinge, which does a great job of bundling up the Zones of Thought universe), but I didn't think "We Go Back" did a fantastic job.

For all my negatives, I will say that I found the writing really engaging and listened to the story in spite of my disinterest in the content.  I did find the ending clever, if a bit contrived.

I seem to be the only non-fan of the story to post thus far, so I hope this post will encourage other, more cogently-worded comments.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2011, 09:31:09 PM by loyaleagle » Logged

Visit ScienceIsMagic.com, my blog and also home of the Synthetic Voices podcast! Smiley
NoNotRogov
Guest
« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2011, 02:33:07 PM »


The Bad (or Not So Good) -
A lot of the story is main character monologuing. I don't mind "As You Know, Bob" sequences at all, and the recap of her past adventures were part of the meat of the story, but this wasn't even an in-universe explanation, it was an outside narration to the audience. No framing device that even monologue happy writers like Lovecraft would use (such as a letter), no "as you know, Jenny" sequence to make it dialogue. Just monologuing that is not even framed as the character standing and thinking and remembering her past adventures. It's just a direct out of story moment, pure narration.

The character conflict with Jenny doesn't really build up, more comes out of nowhere and is then almost immediately handwaved away. Thus the central conflict of the story is present for like thirty seconds of read time.

The Good -
The monologue is interesting and encapsulates a past adventure pretty well, and introduces the cyborg character who is important to the conclusion of the story.

While the conflict and pacing are off, the theme of the story - "what does a teenager do with superpowers/what does a teenager do after returning from a magical adventure in another world" was solid as adamantium.

Jenny's corporate espionage and dark net stuff, and general kid genius character, are pretty entertaining from a cyberpunk fan perspective and give the story a little bit of an edge that the main character's ambivalence to her own life problems and the quick resolution of their interpersonal conflict do not.

The climax and conclusion of the story are great - I really like the probably unintended aesop of the protagonist being willing to give up her power to help her friend resulting in having a cooler power and getting to have adventures with her friend rather than alone and scared in alien universes and strange locales. Friends with strange powers traveling around the world getting into adventures is a genre I, as an enthusiast of tabletop and video roleplaying games, am quite fond of.

Logged
Thunderscreech
Matross
****
Posts: 180



« Reply #8 on: July 10, 2011, 06:09:50 PM »

I loved it.  It entertained me, it forced me to reevaluate my assumptions (I boggled at the 3x use in 18 months bit, then grudgingly acknowledged the real constraints of being a teen), and it made me need to relate to a mode of thinking that was alien to me.  Giving up so much power for a friend who had just taken advantage of me, AND giving them the ring instead of just lending them help...  The teenager mind was one of the most alien I've ever run into on Escape Pod.
Logged
motoyugota
Extern
*
Posts: 10


« Reply #9 on: July 10, 2011, 09:12:10 PM »

LOVED this story. Based off of that xkcd comic, right? Just wondering...

Really loved the whole thing. How real life lines up with the post-fantasy, Jenny's reasons for doing what she did, and the ending. Awesome.

That comic is from 2010. If you check out Tim's site for The Nex, you'll see he wrote the novel that this is a pseudo-sequel to in 2008. So maybe the other way around, but the story couldn't be based on the comic, unless of course Tim has that bracelet that can travel through time.
Logged
motoyugota
Extern
*
Posts: 10


« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2011, 09:18:44 PM »

I thought this was a great story. The characters definitely act like real teenage girls in every way. This was just a fun piece of science fiction. No deep meaning to it, but guess what? Not every story needs to have deep meaning that takes five times longer to analyze than it does to listen to. In fact, I'm sure I'm not alone in preferring "fun" stories without the super-philosophical bent.
Logged
motoyugota
Extern
*
Posts: 10


« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2011, 09:24:02 PM »


The Bad (or Not So Good) -
A lot of the story is main character monologuing. I don't mind "As You Know, Bob" sequences at all, and the recap of her past adventures were part of the meat of the story, but this wasn't even an in-universe explanation, it was an outside narration to the audience. No framing device that even monologue happy writers like Lovecraft would use (such as a letter), no "as you know, Jenny" sequence to make it dialogue. Just monologuing that is not even framed as the character standing and thinking and remembering her past adventures. It's just a direct out of story moment, pure narration.

The character conflict with Jenny doesn't really build up, more comes out of nowhere and is then almost immediately handwaved away. Thus the central conflict of the story is present for like thirty seconds of read time.

The Good -
The monologue is interesting and encapsulates a past adventure pretty well, and introduces the cyborg character who is important to the conclusion of the story.

While the conflict and pacing are off, the theme of the story - "what does a teenager do with superpowers/what does a teenager do after returning from a magical adventure in another world" was solid as adamantium.

Jenny's corporate espionage and dark net stuff, and general kid genius character, are pretty entertaining from a cyberpunk fan perspective and give the story a little bit of an edge that the main character's ambivalence to her own life problems and the quick resolution of their interpersonal conflict do not.

The climax and conclusion of the story are great - I really like the probably unintended aesop of the protagonist being willing to give up her power to help her friend resulting in having a cooler power and getting to have adventures with her friend rather than alone and scared in alien universes and strange locales. Friends with strange powers traveling around the world getting into adventures is a genre I, as an enthusiast of tabletop and video roleplaying games, am quite fond of.



I didn't get what you got here - the whole story was a monologue. I don't remember hearing anything that wasn't coming from that viewpoint, so I'm not sure why it needs any sort of framing.

And as for the conflict coming out of nowhere and getting handled almost as quickly - I'm guessing you don't spend a lot of time around teenage girls. This is exactly how teenage girls act. Jenny let it all build up until Randy got mad at her once and then used that as a reason to go off on her. As for the quick resolution, well, we don't really know how quick the resolution was. It could have been days, weeks or even months before Randy decided to give Jenny the ring. But that intervening time is in no way central to the story, so why spend time on it?
Logged
Scattercat
Caution:
Editor
*****
Posts: 4234


Amateur wordsmith


WWW
« Reply #12 on: July 10, 2011, 11:40:34 PM »

There's first-person perspective, which involves a character telling you what happened in their voice, and then there's monologues, in which characters step out of the story to make an aside directly to the audience.  When referring to the summarization of the novel that preceded this story, it is fair to call that a "monologue," albeit not strictly accurate (any more than one physically impacts an actual wall when someone else "stonewalls" you in conversation.)
Logged

---
Mirrorshards: Very Short Stories
100 Words.  No more.  No fewer.  Every day.
Splinters of Silver and Glass - The Mirrorshards Book
NoNotRogov
Guest
« Reply #13 on: July 11, 2011, 11:06:14 AM »


I didn't get what you got here - the whole story was a monologue. I don't remember hearing anything that wasn't coming from that viewpoint, so I'm not sure why it needs any sort of framing.

And as for the conflict coming out of nowhere and getting handled almost as quickly - I'm guessing you don't spend a lot of time around teenage girls. This is exactly how teenage girls act. Jenny let it all build up until Randy got mad at her once and then used that as a reason to go off on her. As for the quick resolution, well, we don't really know how quick the resolution was. It could have been days, weeks or even months before Randy decided to give Jenny the ring. But that intervening time is in no way central to the story, so why spend time on it?


Aren't you being a bit literal/technical in your use of narration? "We ran through the halls as the cyber-ravens laughed" is a very different creature from what a lot of this story consisted of: "You would think with powers I wouldn't have teenage angst, but man I do! After all if you had powers but still had blank blank complications, wouldn't you be angsty to?"

And, pokes at angst aside, I enjoyed the subject matter - it's just it was not a first person past tense recount of events half of the time, it was the character having idle chat with the audience through the Fourth Wall.

That is why a framing device, even just the character pausing and thinking about that stuff rather than it just being jarringly inserted into the story, could have improved it.

As for teenagers, you may have a point there but that's not the one I contested; it detracts from the story a bit and is - again - jarring. The fact that it is perhaps accurate to teenage behavior, or the stereotype of teenagers, was not a factor I considered relevant to my aesthetic analysis of the story. The plausibility such a portrayal perhaps gained for the tale was not worth defusing the conflict so quickly. The story is cool, has good characterization and cool ideas in a short amount of time, but is rather haphazardly put together in terms of situation, conflict, resolution. It could have very easily been rejected from professional venues on those grounds. It is not a bad story, I think it is a good story, but trading one thing for another is still a trade.

This story trades internal structure for rule of cool, which I'm fine with. If ever story were that way, it would be frustrating, but there's nothing wrong with a fish every now and then even when you are expecting a bird. But that doesn't change the fact that it is a fish.

This story has weak dramatic structure in the area of conflict and resolution. That's my opinion, but I don't know why you find it so controversial. Cleverness in other areas, while in my opinion a worthy trade off that works for this story, doesn't change the weak points that this story has. Like everything it has edges and flaws, and denoting which we each think is which is quite relevant discussion material I would think.
Logged
Swamp
Hipparch
******
Posts: 2217



WWW
« Reply #14 on: July 11, 2011, 01:07:05 PM »

Fantastic Tim Pratt story!  The evil religious parents schtick ran a little thick (because religious=evil in most spec fic), but the relationship between the two girls and their different viewpoints made for good storytelling. 

You know, I haven't read The Nex, and it didn't even don on me until hearing this story that The Nex was based on the world of Nexington-on-Axis from Tim's short story "Dream Engine", which is my favorite Tim Pratt story of all time (so much in fact that I will be podcasting it myself on the Journey Into... podcast in September).  Yeah, sometimes it takes a boot to the head for me to put together some connections, but now that I know, I must go buy The Nex.  (No this is not a paid commerecial or spam).  Coincidences are way cool sometimes.

This story on its own was a great story, but the connections to the Nexington-on-Axis world made it all the more enjoyable for me.
Logged

Facehuggers don't have heads!

Come with me and Journey Into... another fun podcast
olivaw
Peltast
***
Posts: 105



« Reply #15 on: July 11, 2011, 01:29:39 PM »

I'd disagree that the central conflict was the argument with Jenny.

The central conflict was the protagonist trying to decide what to do with her life, now she had this fabulous power. That's what all the monologuing is about; the business with the robbery was an anecdote which described one of the key events that helped her make her decision. Admittedly, the story is structured to make it look like the main event, but that's a red herring.

And her decision is portrayed as an 'easy-come, easy-go' solution with fairly low stakes; but as readers/listeners, we might well think the stakes are higher than the narrator realises. Will she spend the rest of her life regretting what she lost? Will Jenny Kay turn out to be a sociopath who wreaks havoc with her ring? That's why the coda where she comes back to renew her friendship is so important.
Logged
acpracht
Peltast
***
Posts: 90


« Reply #16 on: July 11, 2011, 02:11:29 PM »

A pretty good story by one of my favorite autors with regular appearance on Escape Pod. I enjoy how the awesomeness and power of the ring is tempered and limited by nothing so much as everyday life and family connections and expectations. I remember laughing during the description of how the protagonist came by the ring and thinking, "Man, I want to hear that story..." I'm pleased to know that I can.

On any other episode number, it would have gotten a thumbs up and a bravo.

On any other episode number, not number 300...

Sorry, Mur, but you made a mistake in breaking with tradition here and not going with a classic masterpiece. I'd been so looking forward to another one at 300 that a contemporary, albeit talented, author was a big letdown. I think it's important at the big milestones to go back to something classic and well-loved. It keeps us connected with our roots and appreciate more where the modern stories are coming from.

Oh, well, I'll just have to wait for 400, right? Smiley
Logged
Ocicat
Castle Watchcat
Moderator
*****
Posts: 2170


Anything for a Weird Life


« Reply #17 on: July 11, 2011, 04:53:36 PM »

I do find it interesting that the "new" EP team went with a modern story, after the last editor ran two classics for the milestone.  On the other hand, the "new" Podcastle team choose to run a classic recently for no particular milestone, after the old editors ran a modern story for 100.
Logged
Sparrow
Extern
*
Posts: 2


« Reply #18 on: July 11, 2011, 08:06:28 PM »

Dear lord. Could Tim Pratt get any more charming and lovely? How is this story sweet and hopeful while still being utterly exciting and riveting? How, Tim Pratt, how?
Logged
stePH
Actually has enough cowbell.
Hipparch
******
Posts: 3781

Cool story, bro!


« Reply #19 on: July 11, 2011, 09:51:47 PM »

I remember laughing during the description of how the protagonist came by the ring and thinking, "Man, I want to hear that story..." I'm pleased to know that I can.

This.  Smiley
Logged

"Nerdcore is like playing Halo while getting a blow-job from Hello Kitty."
-- some guy interviewed in Nerdcore Rising
Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 5  All
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.19 | SMF © 2013, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!