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Author Topic: EP301: Stone Wall Truth  (Read 4333 times)
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #20 on: July 25, 2011, 08:57:42 AM »

I'm speaking partly (but entirely) of religion here, and, while not meaning to offend anyone who is a deep believer, would like to suggest that many religious groups' core beliefs are mutually exclusive with each other.  Regardless of what the objective truth turns out to be, if we ever learn it, billions of people are likely wrong about religion right now.  Very very wrong.   Yet they persist in their beliefs and claim they believe what they do because they have faith in their particular sect's beliefs. 

What they should be doing, in my humble opinion, is asking themselves whether they were that lucky to actually be born into the "right" faith?  Furthermore, they should ask themselves if they were born into a "wrong" faith, do they think they would they cling to that faith just as steadfastly, or would they somehow "know" that they need to search for the right one?

That being said, whether or not you believe in a higher power, religion can be useful to help teach morals.  And in any case, I'm generally content to let someone else believe what they want no matter how weird or illogical it might seem, except when that harms others, such as the flay-and-display in this story.
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Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #21 on: July 25, 2011, 12:52:54 PM »

That being said, whether or not you believe in a higher power, religion can be useful to help teach morals.

Yes, often by providing an example of what not to do.
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« Reply #22 on: July 25, 2011, 04:36:01 PM »

What they should be doing, in my humble opinion, is asking themselves whether they were that lucky to actually be born into the "right" faith?  Furthermore, they should ask themselves if they were born into a "wrong" faith, do they think they would they cling to that faith just as steadfastly, or would they somehow "know" that they need to search for the right one?

Just to play devil's advocate for a moment (har!), you do know that there are other ways to enter a religion than being born into it, right?  Conversion accounts for considerably more growth in religions than birthrate, in many cases.










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El Barto
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« Reply #23 on: July 25, 2011, 07:50:50 PM »


Just to play devil's advocate for a moment (har!), you do know that there are other ways to enter a religion than being born into it, right?  Conversion accounts for considerably more growth in religions than birthrate, in many cases.

Heh - good one, devil's advocate.

Yes, I do know that some people join religions by converting.  But, I wasn't aware that it accounted for a large amount of growth, and I suspect that to the extent that is true, very little of it comes from people who go on personal quests of soul-searching, investigate the purported proof for the validity of various religions, and then picks one.

I suspect that much more often, people who convert do so at the strong request of a potential mate, or they convert in response to being "pitched" by a friendly, persuasive missionary of some sort. 



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« Reply #24 on: July 26, 2011, 02:54:47 AM »

And yet that is still an active choice rather than a passive acceptance and assumption, which was what you were specifically calling out.  If a salesman convinces me to buy a Mazda, then I have chosen a Mazda based on that input (however spurious it may or may not be); it would be unfair to accuse me of just assuming that Mazdas are the best car for me without examining my options.  You criticized religious believers as though all of them simply accepted their parents' faith unquestioningly, but to do so is not, I feel, intellectually honest, given that not only is there considerable traffic in conversion stories (which all religions tend to trumpet to a greater or lesser extent), but that each successive generation tends to adjust and interpret doctrine in their own way.  All those splinter groups of basically every religion older than a decade don't come about on their own, ne?

This is by way of a semantic fine point and not at all relevant to the story at hand.  Nonetheless...
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« Reply #25 on: July 26, 2011, 07:29:54 AM »

This is by way of a semantic fine point and not at all relevant to the story at hand.  Nonetheless...

Yours is a good point, and relevant to the story at hand because many stories (like this one) explore the concept of a strange irrational ritual, but it seems far more common for authors to show the rituals in action once is has been well established. 

I would be interested in reading some stories that explore how these rituals come to life in the first place.   Who was the first cruel ruler who skinned someone alive and put them on the wall?   When black "came out" of the people who drew the conclusion that was evidence of "sin"?   Did people in the crowd at the time all think to themselves, "that is the craziest thing I've ever seen," or were they immediately convinced that yes, it makes sense that the blackness is the sin coming out?

I suspect there are probably real sociologists who study these occurrences in human societies and can tell us more about how all sorts of crazy ideas came to be generally believed in a particular culture.

Which brings me full circle back to wondering which crazy things in our society right now will people 100 years look at and wonder if we were off our rocker for thinking them....
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #26 on: July 26, 2011, 08:29:36 AM »

That being said, whether or not you believe in a higher power, religion can be useful to help teach morals.

Yes, often by providing an example of what not to do.

Sure.  But many times they alternatively do so by providing an example of what to do. 
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« Reply #27 on: July 26, 2011, 11:11:17 AM »

This was one of those stories where the prose swept me away while I was listening to it and I distinctly remember thinking to myself "I know exactly why this was nominated." However, as time has gone by I'm finding it less and less appealing. It's difficult to nail down exactly why that is, but I think it has to do with how we are given a glimpse of the wall's gruesome beginnings and told that it is beautiful. Except that it's not at all beautiful. Then we are told that Njeri is going to change her world, except that we know that's probably not going to happen.

For me the best part of the story was the character arc of her apprentice. I enjoyed watching him go from an annoying-former-frat-boy-med-student to an actually caring and competent apprentice.
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« Reply #28 on: July 26, 2011, 03:57:52 PM »

It's difficult to nail down exactly why that is, but I think it has to do with how we are given a glimpse of the wall's gruesome beginnings and told that it is beautiful.

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« Reply #29 on: July 27, 2011, 12:13:45 AM »

The characters in this story are fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. I love the dual character growth of the surgeon and her student which run parallel to each other. 

I would like to have known more about the wall. As it stands, the whole thing seems a little strange. Cutting yourself open to share feelings seems exceptionally dangerous, even for the powerful "Ancients."
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Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #30 on: July 27, 2011, 01:39:19 PM »

I was also a bit confused about the mechanism of the wall.  Like, okay, apparently the experience is traumatic enough that those who undergo it are forever scarred by the experience, but when we see it for ourselves, it's not actually painful at all other than when Njeri goes out of her mindstone and relives the pain of dismemberment for all the previous victims, who were for the most part shielded in mindstones themselves.  The story explicitly says that most people don't reach out of their stones during the procedure.  If all most people get is a short time-out inside a sphere, then I'm not sure I see why the wall is so awful in itself. 

My understanding was that most people wanted to be seen as 'good' people - unblemished, without "darkness". However, invariably, the wall exposed the "darkness" within them. It wasn't the experience of the wall itself that was punishment, any more than being put on trial in our world is punishment. It was the fact of being found 'guilty' (which, as Njeri found out, the wall will always do!) that was to be avoided.

And in fact, it seems to me that the 'side-effect' consequences - the scarring - is not just about the physical disfigurement but also about the (tacit?) understanding that if you've been on the wall, you've had your shadows exposed, whereas if I haven't been, I can still pretend that I have no shadows.
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"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
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« Reply #31 on: July 27, 2011, 02:28:38 PM »

I get the feeling that people who have been on the wall know that it isn't all that painful but they are unlikely to speak up about it being "not that bad" since that might get them tortured in some even worse way.
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FireTurtle
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« Reply #32 on: August 04, 2011, 07:57:37 PM »

I read this one, first, and I haven't actually finished listening to it. I found myslef reluctant to listen to it because I remembered what it was upon the first line and was like: "Do I really want to go through this again?"

As for the "punishment" aspect of being flayed on the wall while psychologically unaware...the first time through I had the same misgivings as others. Hey- if you're not awake for it, who cares? But then, I thought about it some more.

1: We all (ok most of us) have nightmares about being naked in class or at work or whatever. They are nightmares for a reason. Everyone hates to be "exposed". This is exposure that is beyond that. And I gotta say, there is plenty in my life that I try to hide from myself, let alone other people.

2: Duh, I had a facepalm moment on review of others comments that reflected my own feelings of well- if they sew you uip all pretty-like then what do you care you were flayed? Its not like it HURT. Well, given that I make people unconscious to get cut on for a living, I have to say that a lot of people are way afraid of : A) being unconscious, B) knowing that someone is going to cut on them even when they are unaware than you would think. So, yeah, I gotta give the author cred for that.

3: OTOH: No matter how much pretty sewing you do, muscles aren't the only things being cut here and you simply can't sew back together all the little nerves and make them work again, not to mention capillaries. It drove me nuts last time and its doing it again now.

4: The jury says, interesting premise but not getting my "vote" due to gross-out factor and generally odd wrap-up.
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« Reply #33 on: August 04, 2011, 11:06:07 PM »

Not much to add re the story being overlong, the foreshadowing being a tad obvious, the perceived punishment being something not quite so terrible and the ending being rather abrupt.

I did not, however, realise that this was a Hugo nominee until I read the above comments. I guess it's been something of a learning experience following the whole nomination procedure over the past couple of years. Not quite what I had originally thought it was all about.

I'm not a big fan of stories using vehicles of primitive religiosity with unexplained mystical elements to convey messages, but done well, they can be effective. This one seemed to take a very long time to tell us that being unkind to each other without good reason is not a good idea [...]
Nice narration, though.

I'm right there with you on that.
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« Reply #34 on: September 06, 2011, 02:21:37 PM »

So when I started listening, I was like, "What is this wall? Why should I care?" It felt too abstract for me to picture correctly. Then we do see the wall, and learn what it is, and ohhhhh boyyyyy...

I don't know if I like this one all that much. It feels pretty abstract, until you get to the flaying parts, which, while not as gruesome as I thought it would be, made me glad I was listening to in the car with my son. And then it got all mystic and weird. Which I don't mind, usually. I guess what I hoped would happen would be that when the main character decided to take the other man's place, her flaying would be, I don't know, showing that she's *different*. Maybe using the wall to bitch-slap the dictator. But that didn't happen. For her, it was more internal. She was the only one who became changed.

But I'm going to go against popular opinion and say it does end on a hopeful note. I think because now she does know the "truth" (or a reasonable facsimile thereof), she will do something about it, if not among the villagers, with those who'd also been on the wall. It seem that those who had been flayed are now considered unclean or taboo because of the stitches, and they could band together and do something. I could even forsee her going up on the wall again and learning more from the wall.

::imagination taking off::

If you really want to get weird, I mean, really, really, really weird, those who had been flayed can start swapping body parts and minds to learn from each other. It could bring about a whole new way of existence. Course, it could really creep out the villagers as well...

Huh. Guess I liked this more than I thought.
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« Reply #35 on: September 06, 2011, 07:25:48 PM »

This was one of those stories where the prose swept me away while I was listening to it and I distinctly remember thinking to myself "I know exactly why this was nominated." However, as time has gone by I'm finding it less and less appealing. It's difficult to nail down* exactly why that is, but I think it has to do with how we are given a glimpse of the wall's gruesome beginnings and told that it is beautiful. Except that it's not at all beautiful. Then we are told that Njeri is going to change her world, except that we know that's probably not going to happen.

*Pun intended? Wink

I agree very much with that. The only thing I would note that I liked was the other twist of the "ancients" using the wall as a means of sharing themselves, and all that comes with that, with each other. Liked the writing, didn't like the subject.
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« Reply #36 on: September 13, 2011, 04:16:53 PM »

I almost gave up on this story as too creepy, but I was glad I stayed to the end.  For me the idea that something like a religion had been given for a good purpose and then perverted into a tool for exerting power and pain was something that people need to hear.  We don't always think about the origins of our cultural and religious practices--they were certainly given in a completely different context.
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luka datas
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« Reply #37 on: December 16, 2012, 03:30:43 AM »

clever. happy i heard it.
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