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Author Topic: EP499: Sounding the Fall  (Read 7097 times)
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #20 on: August 18, 2015, 10:37:08 AM »

I find literatish's explanation of gender in the story very interesting.

I didn't think the ungendered pronouns were gimmicky or unnecessary, but I did find them hard to parse, more so than some other variations of ungendered pronouns.  Listening to the story, the ungendered pronouns were pretty much all that registered in my brain as I tried to figure out who they referred to, specifically.  Reading the discussion here, I have no memory of what the discussion is referring to, so I don't think I picked up any of it--I think that in text I may have been able to absorb the pronouns and actually move past them into the story, but I haven't as yet tried that.
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MooG
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« Reply #21 on: August 28, 2015, 03:51:41 PM »

I also had a bit of trouble with the pronouns at the start - thinking about it, that was because the story itself was using them (rather than just the characters); and, without a framing device, I'm expecting the story to use modern english. I'd probably find it equally offputting if a story set in medieval times insisted in having everybody 'goeth' places 'cause 'that's how they talked back then',

It went away pretty quickly, though that wasn't because I had some great insight like literatish, but because I lost interest. With only one character of note I just assumed any word I didn't immediately recognise was referring to he/she/it.

Difficult to say how good the story was since it's a type I don't care for. I like it when the plot drives the story along and you'd have to try quite hard to make up a story where less happens, in terms of plot, than this one.



 
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Eduardo
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« Reply #22 on: September 26, 2015, 06:53:00 PM »

Delurking and revisiting this piece on the occasion of its feedback segment in episode 504...

I'm not so sure about the characterization of the neutral pronoun discussion as "whining."  I don't think that simply bringing up a subject rises to the level of whining; really, the worst that can be said about this thread is that people repeatedly mentioned it when the initial post adequately explained the issue.

Much more negative criticism has either gone unremarked or actually been quoted on the podcast.  If pronouns are a verboten topic, fine.  Have that be the warning at the beginning of the episode (#badthink).  If not, why denigrate a simple discussion?  How are we to learn?  Not all of us wake up every morning with the latest set of acceptable opinions beamed directly into our brains.

That was perhaps excessively sarcastic, but I shan't delete, as it reflects my feelings in that moment.  But in all seriousness, none of the Escape Artists podcasts are exactly bastions of right-wing pulchritude.  If this many listeners had an issue, then might not the issue be legitimate, no matter how evil you imagine your audience to be?

I'd also point out that "I won't dignify /x/ with a response" is in fact a response, albeit an excessively passive-aggressive one that is unbecoming of the fine writer I legitimately know Nathan to be.

Just my poorly-thought-out $0.02.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #23 on: September 28, 2015, 02:22:21 PM »

Much more negative criticism has either gone unremarked or actually been quoted on the podcast.  If pronouns are a verboten topic, fine.  Have that be the warning at the beginning of the episode (#badthink).  If not, why denigrate a simple discussion?  How are we to learn?  Not all of us wake up every morning with the latest set of acceptable opinions beamed directly into our brains.

Not a staff member, but my thought on the subject is that at certain points in a discussion on certain topics, the thread becomes entirely NOT about the story at hand.  At that point the topic becomes unsuitable for a story thread because it's not really a discussion of the story anymore.  Forumites come to a story's thread to talk about the story and when it becomes about something that is not the story, then it is no longer suitable for that story's thread.

This tends to happen with two topics in general:
1.  This isn't SF! 
2.  What's with all the gay people in Escape Artists publications?

The moderator response on these is to generally move tangential threads to their own thread in the general Escape Pod discussion thread rather than allow the story thread to be dominated by it.  I generally think that's a good way to go, because long-time forumites have seen story threads go off on those tangents so many times that we really don't feel like reading it again, but the threadspace is there for those who want to talk about it.

The acceptability of ungendered personal pronouns seems to fall under the same category. It's a thing that is used in many stories that are not this story. It is a question of language that is part of this story but is not something invented by this author or this story.  To make the whole thread about the one specific thing and no other aspect of the story is a disservice to the story that is made up of more than pronouns. It's worth mentioning if it interfered with your ability to grok the story (I made mention of it myself) but is not the only thing to talk about and shouldn't dominate the thread but is acceptable in another thread as long as discussers follow the One Rule of no personal attacks. 

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matweller
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« Reply #24 on: September 28, 2015, 08:35:30 PM »

We are human like anyone else, and susceptible to being angered by things we're sensitive to. Nathaniel is particularly progressive on issues of the sexually oppressed, and as gender neutrality is an issue of the trans population, and as this discussion wasn't particularly fruitful beyond "I didn't like the weird words and I stopped listening," I can understand how he may have found it especially frustrating. I was disappointed it wasn't a more positive and productive discussion, but I learned long ago to write my response and then delete it without posting for everybody's maximum happiness.

We seek to fairly represent the fun sci fi universe. We're not agenda-driven, we're just playing what the writers are writing and sharing it with people that like to take a chance on hearing new stories. Sometimes we connect. Sometimes we do not. But you can rest assured that we're not attempting to beam any opinions directly into your brain.
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Chairman Goodchild
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« Reply #25 on: September 30, 2015, 06:42:43 AM »

Delurking and revisiting this piece on the occasion of its feedback segment in episode 504...

I'm not so sure about the characterization of the neutral pronoun discussion as "whining."  I don't think that simply bringing up a subject rises to the level of whining; really, the worst that can be said about this thread is that people repeatedly mentioned it when the initial post adequately explained the issue.

Much more negative criticism has either gone unremarked or actually been quoted on the podcast.  If pronouns are a verboten topic, fine.  Have that be the warning at the beginning of the episode (#badthink).  If not, why denigrate a simple discussion?  How are we to learn?  Not all of us wake up every morning with the latest set of acceptable opinions beamed directly into our brains.

That was perhaps excessively sarcastic, but I shan't delete, as it reflects my feelings in that moment.  But in all seriousness, none of the Escape Artists podcasts are exactly bastions of right-wing pulchritude.  If this many listeners had an issue, then might not the issue be legitimate, no matter how evil you imagine your audience to be?

I'd also point out that "I won't dignify /x/ with a response" is in fact a response, albeit an excessively passive-aggressive one that is unbecoming of the fine writer I legitimately know Nathan to be.

This is really sums up my feelings on the matter.  "Drop by Escape Artists forums and let us know what you thought of the story!  Unless you didn't like arbitrarily made-up gender-neutral pronouns the author used constantly thruout the story, in which case I'll use my editorial position to call you a whiner during the endcap segment!"  On the passive-aggressive scale between Zero and My Own Mother, I'm giving this one about an eight.  

Quote from: Mattweller
We're not agenda-driven, we're just playing what the writers are writing and sharing it with people that like to take a chance on hearing new stories. Sometimes we connect. Sometimes we do not. But you can rest assured that we're not attempting to beam any opinions directly into your brain.

That certainly seemed like an agenda-driven attempt to discredit any differing opinion on the matter to me.  Or to be succinct, them're fightin' words.  If someone says something like that, it's going to provoke a pretty strong negative response in people who were just trying to express their opinions on the story.    No matter what Nathan's feelings on the subject, he could have done a much better job of handling his reactions.  This just polarizes the issue, and as Nathan feels very strongly about the issue, I'm sure that's the last thing he wanted to do.  
« Last Edit: September 30, 2015, 06:49:38 AM by Chairman Goodchild » Logged
SpareInch
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« Reply #26 on: September 30, 2015, 07:25:15 AM »

I can see a topic split coming soon here. Don't ask me how, it's just a feeling in my water.

I'll agree that Whining was probably too strong a word to use, but it is also true that a lot of those who complained said that they stopped listening because they objected to the use of the genderless pronouns in the story.

It might be nice if someone did make an official decree on gender neutral pronouns, but that isn't the way the English language works. It works by actually using new words and seeing which ones catch on. I suspect that you would find a good selection of gender neutral pronouns already in the OED, but as yet, no one convention has arisen to rival the gender unknown They.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2015, 07:31:38 AM by SpareInch » Logged

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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #27 on: September 30, 2015, 10:05:16 AM »

As it happens, I do sometimes think that Nathan's feedback segments could sometimes stand to be a little more neutral from his own point of view--I mean, the reading of feedback is inherently not a neutral thing, since the feedback itself is by its nature opinionated, and the choosing of which posts to quote cannot be entirely neutral.  I like when Nathan posts his personal opinions here on the forum and I find his opinions valuable and interesting even in cases where I don't agree with him, but it feels a little out of place when he does so in the feedback segment itself--that feels like he should be a more neutral conveyer of others' opinions within that space.  (So a suggestion for that particular feedback segment might've been to either mention in passing that some did not care for the gender-neutral pronouns, or to just not mention that angle of the feedback at all)

That being said, this is all still very tangential and getting more so by the post--we have gone from talking about the story to focusing on one tiny detail of the story to talking about the feedback about that one tiny detail of the story to talking about how the feedback segment regarding that particular tiny detail was conveyed in a different episode.  Could we maybe talk about the actual story some more here, please?  Maybe these subtopic(s) could become their own thread(s)?  
« Last Edit: September 30, 2015, 10:07:18 AM by Unblinking » Logged
TrishEM
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« Reply #28 on: October 01, 2015, 02:58:44 AM »

I liked the dreamlike feeling I got from this story, semi-detached and drifting but with a few slightly jarring moments that at first didn't make much sense but then fit into the picture and made it even more interesting.
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Not-a-Robot
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« Reply #29 on: October 01, 2015, 05:48:15 AM »

I was also fairly insulted by the feedback section. 

For instance, I am not used to general neutral pronouns in English.
I have never heard them, and with no introduction or qualification, I was caught off guard and it pulled me from the story until I could make sense of them.  Maybe, part of the fault lie with the editors and the author, not just the listeners.

Politically, I hang on the side of progressivism in thing sexuality and gender, but saying that clarification was necessary to understand the story from the beginning (especially with non standardized pronouns), does not make that person a bigot, below the dignity of a response.

I know that the feedback was not directed at me, but please make it more direct and less passive aggressive next time, so as to not hit innocent bystanders with the shrapnel.

One more thing -

There are listeners here whose first language is not English.  Put yourself in their place.  Take a second language you speak, now add some pronoun that you've never heard.  Now, imagine, no one gives you a warning, just starts using them.  Wouldn't you be confused?

« Last Edit: October 01, 2015, 06:04:57 AM by Not-a-Robot » Logged
literatish
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« Reply #30 on: October 12, 2015, 02:18:11 AM »

Wow.

There's no sense in saying you didn't know gender neutral pronouns existed and needed fair warning. You know they exist because trans communities are becoming more visible every day.

My earnest wish is that people who are uncomfortable with this story will listen to it again, and again. Challenge yourself to understand. Isn't that why we love science fiction in the first place?
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literatish
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« Reply #31 on: October 12, 2015, 02:28:11 AM »

The use of gender neutral pronouns is actually explained in the story. All you had to do was pay attention. The lack of self-awareness in these responses boggles my mind. People are willing to accept a superintelligent AI that controls, governs and maintains this society's entire world (or any other science fictional situation) without blinking an eye, but a different set of pronouns derails your ability to comprehend anything going on in the story? Come on. Acknowledge your prejudices and get over them for the love of fiction. That's what it's about.

This story is subversive. The fact that it elicited more than the average number of responses, almost all of them about pronouns, just shows that it forces readers to face their feelings about a contemporary social issue. To wrestle with it, get mad about it, and hopefully understand it better. In other words, it's science fiction at its best. At its best. I really mean that. I don't know what my chances are, but I hope just one pronoun protester reads this and decides to give the story another chance.
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #32 on: October 13, 2015, 01:35:01 PM »

The use of gender neutral pronouns is actually explained in the story. All you had to do was pay attention. The lack of self-awareness in these responses boggles my mind. People are willing to accept a superintelligent AI that controls, governs and maintains this society's entire world (or any other science fictional situation) without blinking an eye, but a different set of pronouns derails your ability to comprehend anything going on in the story? Come on. Acknowledge your prejudices and get over them for the love of fiction. That's what it's about.

So here's the thing. Explaining gender neutral pronouns in the story is a great thing, and the story did that. I for one accepted that explanation, and others probably did as well.
The problem is that that explanation came rather late in the story. So you had to get to it. For most people it is very hard to follow along with a story for any length of time when you have no idea what is happening. And that might happen if the words that you hear are not making any sense to you. Say, for example, it's a bunch of words that you've never heard before. Or didn't know existed.
The way I understand it, most comments here about the issue weren't so much against the existence and/or acceptance of gender neutral pronouns. They were about how the use of the pronouns made the story very difficult to follow. It's true that if you did manage to follow the story they get explained and its great. But there should have been some sort of heads up.

Now, I would like to draw your attention to the general forum guidelines as well as several moderator comments in this thread. Sentences like " Come on. Acknowledge your prejudices and get over them for the love of fiction. That's what it's about." are personally offensive, disrespectful, and as I pointed out, downright wrong. So please take such comments elsewhere.
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literatish
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« Reply #33 on: October 14, 2015, 06:35:23 AM »

I realize that this story is a bit old now, that general forum conversation has moved on, and that no one is interested in my newbie nobody opinion. I don't care. I was so excited to look at the forums after I heard Sounding the Fall. I was thrilled when I noticed that it had a large number of comments shortly after its release, which is not always common. I was completely surprised, and very disquieted, by the fact that almost every comment had something negative to say about the gender neutral pronouns, several saying they didn't finish the story or seeming to completely misunderstand it as a result of their distaste for those pronouns.

When I made my first comment on this thread, I was thinking about the author. I was horrified at the thought that Jei D. Marcade might read through the comments that were so dismissive of the work, that didn't even finish the story, that wondered why someone would bother with gender neutral pronouns. I was thinking about the crippling self-doubt that sometimes comes with being different, and how crushing it can be when a supposedly open-minded niche community confirms all the biases of society at large. I couldn't let this story get lambasted without a champion.

Sounding the Fall is a philosophical work about religion. It's about devotion in a world of perpetual (and necessary?) materialism. It's a meditation on how deeply humanity's relationship with technology might affect our minds and identities. It's a little disjointed, but it's one of those stories that feels like it should engender a novel because it is already saying so much in such a little space, because the ideas it plays with are big enough to be explored on a much larger scale.

Those forumites who protested the pronouns, and then came right on back to stand up for their right to protest the pronouns, fail to realize that they are saying nothing. This story is not about pronouns. The pronouns are legitimately not any harder to parse than the fabulous fictional world in which they appear and they should be treated as such by any reader who doesn't have something to protest about gender neutral pronouns in general.

Not only that, but anyone who deals with gender neutral pronouns is constantly told not to use them, that they're confusing or jarring. But a creative community should be able to say more.

I'm not saying you're a bigot if you struggled with it. I'm not saying that at all. Most humans have their understanding of the world around them forcibly gendered from a very young age. Colors, recreational activities, verbal expressions and shoes are just a few examples of genderless things that people tend to gender based on what's been communicated to them. Understanding the world in male/female categories is a huge part of growing up and going through life, but the truth is that most of the time those categories are imposed, not inherent.

The idea of a person without gender is painful blow to a gendered understanding of the world. For everyone. I get that. My point with all of my comments is that if you felt strongly affected by the use of genderless pronouns, so strongly affected, for example, that you felt wounded to hear Nathan dismiss your concerns, than you have work to do on your understanding of gender and your acceptance of nonbinary identities. And you have a beautiful, if challenging, story to help you do that work.

So this?

Sentences like " Come on. Acknowledge your prejudices and get over them for the love of fiction. That's what it's about." are personally offensive, disrespectful, and as I pointed out, downright wrong. So please take such comments elsewhere.

I reject that absolutely. The sentences you quoted are my way of saying that fiction has no need to attend to the comforts of a society that lies about what gender is, what is gendered, and how gender must be displayed; and more importantly, that readers can choose see beyond those lies through the power of fiction, if they are willing to do the work of moving past the prejudices that have been instilled in them since they were old enough to comprehend body language.

I can see that I was overly abrupt before. However, my comments are not a personal attack on anyone and I will not take them elsewhere. They are relevant here.
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Zelda
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« Reply #34 on: October 15, 2015, 04:00:34 PM »

When I made my first comment on this thread, I was thinking about the author. I was horrified at the thought that Jei D. Marcade might read through the comments that were so dismissive of the work, that didn't even finish the story, that wondered why someone would bother with gender neutral pronouns. I was thinking about the crippling self-doubt that sometimes comes with being different, and how crushing it can be when a supposedly open-minded niche community confirms all the biases of society at large. I couldn't let this story get lambasted without a champion.

I don't know why everyone has avoided discussing the real problem with this episode but I'm going to say it. The reason so many people found this story confusing is that the introduction did not give listeners a heads up about the use of gender neutral pronouns in the story. Most of the so-called negative comments about this story did not criticize the use of gender-neutral prounouns per se. They said they were confused because those pronouns took them unawares. A mention in the introduction would have prevented that confusion.

Anyone who thinks that the kind of assorted listeners who make up the Escape Pod audience should not need an alert about extensive use of gender-neutral pronouns in a story is living in the future and is doing less than they could to help other people get there.
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eytanz
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« Reply #35 on: October 15, 2015, 04:31:41 PM »

Moderator's note:

I think it's time to move on from the meta commentary on the comments here. If anyone wants to continue this conversation, please start a different thread for it somewhere more appropriate, for example in the "About Escape Pod" forum if you wish to discuss editorial policy (including the question of feedback summaries in the episodes), or "metachat" if you wish to discuss other posters' comment styles. But please keep this thread for discussion of the actual episode, not discussion of what other people said about the episode.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2015, 04:36:01 PM by eytanz » Logged
CryptoMe
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« Reply #36 on: October 27, 2017, 02:32:44 PM »

Warning, Threadomancy ahead!

I really enjoyed this story. It was really fun to listen to. In fact, I took a long hiatus from Escape Pod stories a while back (sad, but it happened  Sad) and when I returned to my list, I didn't remember that I had already listened to this story, so I started listening again and quickly remembered that I'd already heard this story, but decided to keep listening anyway, because the process was so enjoyable. The world-building was rich and lush, the details just right, the "tell me more" factor at precisely the right level. I felt like I was being enveloped in a gorgeous fabric tapestry.

My one complaint about this story is at the end. Not what happens at the end, that was actually neat. But the way the ending events were told to us was actually very confusing. I don't have a problem with holding the Aux's words back for the last line, but the total absence of queues around that made me take the MC's next words as the Aux's, completely messing me up (both times, even though I knew what the deal was the second time). This mix up threw me out of the story and marred my enjoyment of this otherwise immersive story.
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