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Author Topic: EP304: Union Dues – Sidekicks in Stockholm  (Read 27936 times)


  • Hipparch
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    • J. R. DeRego - Writer
Reply #20 on: August 06, 2011, 07:57:59 PM

"Happiness consists of getting enough sleep." Robert A. Heinlein
Also, please buy my book - Escape Clause: A Union Dues Novel


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Reply #21 on: August 06, 2011, 09:26:00 PM
Loved the story and the sentient.  I sympathize with Atom Smasher and feeling like nothing can be done to stop the assholes who are destroying the country and essentially enslaving the masses. I go to work feeling like that every day, go to work and work hard to keep the job that keeps my blood pressure high. 

More Union Dues Please


  • Hipparch
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Reply #22 on: August 06, 2011, 10:00:58 PM
Great to hear Steve's voice again and terrific narration.   I thought the story was good, I get a little sick of corporation bashing but it was justified with the charachters in the story.    I haven't enjoyed that many EP stories lately and was glad to see a UD story pop up in iTunes.  Keep 'em coming, Jeffrey!

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.    -  Carl Sagan


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Reply #23 on: August 08, 2011, 12:02:55 AM
I've been going through a bit of a rough patch lately, but just seeing "Union Dues" on my listening list put a big smile on my face and a spring in my step. Once I started listening, though, and heard Steve's voice, it was like I was transported back in time to a much happier part of my life. As great a job as Mur and the rest have been doing, it's still great to hear from you again, Steve - you've been missed. Hope that the crappy part of your life is behind you soon, and looking forward to hearing you guest host again. And another Union Dues story? YES PLEASE!

About the story - I LOVE LOVE LOVE the ending - was the machine gun noise merely attention-getting? or did the terrorists slaughter all of their hostages? We'll never know, and that's extremely satisfying to me. The Union Dues stories keep getting better and better, and this one might be the best one of all.


  • Hipparch
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Reply #24 on: August 08, 2011, 01:32:56 PM
Like a few others, I squeed a bit when I saw "Union Dues" come up in iTunes, and when I heard Steve's voice, I squeed again. Again, not that Mur isn't doing a bang-up job (and Norm, for that matter), but it's just good to hear his voice again. :)

I liked the story, although I figured out pretty quickly where it was going. I do find his abandoning Stacy and the other innocent hostages to the gentle ministrations of The Chairman and his ilk troubling. I can understand why he abandoned the others.

But what really interests me is how the Union will deal with Adam (Atom?) Smasher and how THAT will affect the NEXT story. Which I'm sure we'll hear on Escape Pod. Soon.

(See what I did, there?)

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

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Reply #25 on: August 08, 2011, 03:07:21 PM
Steve Eley!  Good to have you back, my good sir.  I am so sorry to hear about the divorce proceedings.  Hang in there, and hang out with your kids as much as you possibly can.  I'll be thinking of you.

As for the story, I gave it a try, but the soap box monologue sounded like it came straight from the author.  I stuck with it for quite a while, because it's just good to hear Steve's voice again, but eventually I just didn't care to listen to the rest of the monologue and just skipped to the outro to see what else Steve would say.  This was more of a blog post than a story, to me.


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Reply #26 on: August 08, 2011, 04:22:03 PM
A good story and it was great to hear Steve again. I liked the story for its attempt to assign moral equivalency between the terrorism of the chairman and the business activities of the assembled hostages. The actions of the so-called Atom-Smasher at the end of the story clearly show that he made that judgement of moral equivalency. Thank goodness it is just a story.

In real life, business leaders have a fiduciary responsibilities to their company and its stockholders. Granted there are exceptions, but most are not monsters or demons. They are paid to make important decisions that impact the livelihoods of their employees. It cannot be an easy decision for an honest CEO to layoff people in a sluggish economy. Nonetheless it must be done if a company as a whole is to survive. There can be no moral equivalency between a honest business leader making tough choices and a gun-toting terrorists shedding innocent blood.


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Reply #27 on: August 09, 2011, 06:01:10 AM
I been running into the Union Dues stories as I progress Escape Pod archive chronology. I like the first two but hate the last two. I not keen on deconstructions and this story did not failed to delver it. Moral relativism at its worst by Atom Smasher walking away and leaving innocent life to be stuffed out, and the chairman getting away with calling the CEO evil and what is really evil, the murder of innocent life, good.


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Reply #28 on: August 09, 2011, 05:03:00 PM
Union Dues stories have traditionally been more gritty, and this is certainly no different.

Union Dues has, and continues to show us the 'other side' of being a modern day super hero.  This shows us more of the inside of our super hero, the realization of how exploited he is, how being a hero isn't as parades and comic books as one might believe.

Failure is an event, not a person.


  • Hipparch
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Reply #29 on: August 09, 2011, 06:31:19 PM
I haven't heard all of the Union Dues stories yet, but I've heard enough that I got excited when I saw the title on my ipod screen. Then the unexpected thrill of hearing Steve's voice again and all of a sudden the extremely unenjoyable experiment I was working on ceased to matter. :)

I feel conflicted because I think that this was a well-written, compelling story and I'm really glad to have heard it. I like all of the questions that it opens up about who/what is to blame when a corporation makes the tough decisions not to mention who/what can we really hold responsible for those decisions and how can we fairly respond to both real and perceived wrongs. Not to mention what is the role of the super in a world of very "normal" disputes.

On the other hand, while I do understand the "there he goes monologuing again" device (that's one of my favorite schticks from The Incredibles") I reacted negatively to it while listening to this story. I can recognize why it was important to put the Chairman up on his soapbox in order to tell this story effectively, but I prefer to hear lectures when I turn on Planet Money, not Escape Pod.

Well this was a fascinating episode, and I'm coming to this as someone who'd never heard of 'Union Dues' before, and hadn't even heard of Stephen Eley.


I was slightly startled by Steve's very candid commentary at the end, including personal details. I guess this might split some people, depending on their outlook and personality. Some people might find this uncomfortable, others might feel compassion for the guy (that's where I'm at) i guess others wouldn't feel very much. Clearly, though from the comments here there's a lot of good will for Steve. So I hope things work out there.

That's just Steve for you, once you've heard enough of his intros/outros from the backlog you'll start to feel like he's an old friend. :)


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Reply #30 on: August 09, 2011, 10:20:01 PM
This is my first forum post here at Escape Artist, I love hearing what people think of the shows (and have skimmed the forums on a blue moon) but I'm just not a big forum person, it takes a lot to get me to register for a forum.  i used to comment a lot on the blog before the forums... but that was long ago.

I had to create and account and post here today because not only was I thrilled when I heard there was a new Union Dues story in the feed (yet I still took forever to listen to it, I needed to be undistracted so I waited for the right moment) because of course I'm subscribed to everything related to Union Dues :)  I just love this series.

I was so happy to hear Steve as the narrator, Steve narrating Union Dues is like Peanut Butter and jelly, a perfect combo. (and a nostalgic one)
When Steve said it would be dark, he didn't lie.  Then again, all these stories are a bit dark, it's one of the reasons I like them.  In this story I think we can relate to the superhero extremely well.  He's just a guy stuck in a job and he has no choices about what he's going to do with his life, what to wear and he is never allowed to even have an opinion or a stance of his own.  There is a feeling of hopelessness about him that I find really compelling.

As for the ending... oddly that's not even on my top three points of interest in this story, I saw a lot of posts about it though, it felt to me a very natural way to end the story.  I stopped thinking about the room of hostages and was empathizing with Adam.

thanks so much Escape Artist and Jeff, more like this makes me a happy Nutty.


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Reply #31 on: August 09, 2011, 10:22:24 PM
PS: Swamp, great links list


  • Matross
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Reply #32 on: August 09, 2011, 10:34:13 PM
I've gone through the back-catalogue of Union Dues, and enjoyed them greatly. Thanks!

I think I appreciated Sidekicks more having heard them, too. A story about an anonymous super abandoning his duties is less interesting than a story about a well-known super abandoning his duties, or, in this case, the consequences of a well-known system leading to a super to abandon his duties.

I don't think we're being asked to agree with the Chairman's point of view, but to see the pressures that lead Adam to accede to it.


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Reply #33 on: August 10, 2011, 01:23:44 PM
I was slightly startled by Steve's very candid commentary at the end, including personal details. I guess this might split some people, depending on their outlook and personality. Some people might find this uncomfortable, others might feel compassion for the guy (that's where I'm at) i guess others wouldn't feel very much. Clearly, though from the comments here there's a lot of good will for Steve. So I hope things work out there.

Anyway, this felt different as stories go, and it's a god one - I'd like to hear more of this 'union dues' stuff again in the future.


Well, Steve always had a habit (knack) of reaching out and touching your own life with his personal remarks, I know that a lot of people found that, usually totally unexpectedly.

As the story ended my ipod moved on to the next track in my playlist - Simple Minds "Don't you forget about me" - from the "Breakfast Club" soundtrack. Steve - as the father of a soon to be 21 year old who has turned into a fine young man despite his Mom and I divorcing when he was 2 - be the best Dad you can and always remember you have plenty friends here on the forum. You're never alone with Escape Pod!


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Reply #34 on: August 10, 2011, 02:57:07 PM
I always get itchy when people complain about stories having meanings. But then, I also get itchy when people confuse 'politics' -- a term with connotations that issues under that banner only affect people in government or administrative roles -- with 'systemic moral crisis', which affects society at large and which I think is a much more accurate description of the issues raised in this story.

I'm sure I'm not the only one here to notice that all of the Union Dues stories are commentaries on the "state of the union". This one is more direct than most, but DeRego has always used his stories as an opportunity to share things that concern him deeply with people that would otherwise be inclined to ignore the reality. He's trying to be entertaining and polite about driving a point that obviously concerns him passionately. One's disagreement does not negate the quality of the story.

My chief complaint is that Mr. Smasher is a typical DeRego muscle-head super. I fancy that if supers existed, and if they gathered under some kind of common management, then there might be some standard of intelligence built into membership, or that a certain level of education be required before activating one so that situations like this could be resolved more quickly. Even if the given super were that vacuous, a company would require defined moral positions and reward or punish an employee for their acting in consideration of those definitions. I would guess that a vigilante attempt to judge and execute outside of a court would be a clear violation of that code and that a more 'realistic' response by a super would be to halt the action in progress, and then if they agreed with the spirit of the illegal action, maybe they let the villain get some camera time on the way out the door or take care of it in some more creative way. After all, what's more fun than a super-creative 'just-deserts' ending?

To Steve, it was great to hear you again. I'm sorry to hear about the events in your life, but I thank you for sharing them. I think when you were leaving, some of us suspected something like this was the case and it's a huge comfort to us to know that it wasn't something even worse and that you're finding your way to the other side of what is surely one of life's most difficult 'before this/after this' moments. I respect your vision and the man your actions and commentaries have led me to envision you to be. I would offer you my shoulder any time, and I dare say you'd get the same invitation from most anyone here.


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Reply #35 on: August 10, 2011, 03:25:27 PM
I thought this was a great story. I enjoy a super hero story as much as the next person, but the analytical portion of my brain has always had a disconnect with them. At the same moment that part of my brain is saying, "Awesome building explosion!", another part of my brain is wondering who is going to rebuild, the costs associated, and where those people are going to do their day to day jobs in the mean time, since the super hero/villain probably isn't going to be hanging out at the local food bank afterwards.

I think that the hero here did the right thing. There were no super villains, or extreme circumstances. Except for the guns (and the guns were played down well i think with the way the Chairman handled the weapon, more as tool, and not inexpertly), this was largely a civil dispute. If the Union sends the Smasher, or another super, in to deal with the situation that is different. Just by being part of the situation, he was making it more dangerous for the other hostages. There was the constant threat of dramatic escalation. With him walking out, the hostages would have stopped thinking about participating in a violent response. Super, by the very definition, is not involved with mundane.

I am often times glad there are no super heroes in our reality, because that would bring the counter-balance of super villains, and the chaos that causes. I enjoy the escapism of fiction, but I also like knowing that the trip I planned to (insert favorite vacation spot here) for next year has a high probability of happening, or that the office building I (unfortunately) work in will likely still be there, not trampled by a gigantic robot from outer space. :)

(i secretly believe that in a universe with perpetual super villains/alien robots, society would find ways to decentralize, minimizing damage, not continue to gather in urban/high density targets environments)

Ad Astra



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Reply #36 on: August 10, 2011, 03:56:44 PM
Great story, great read, great to hear from Steve again.

When i first started listening to EP I heard this odd voice with a delivery that was slightly off and he shared too much of his personal life. As growth and familiarity occurred, Steve became a voice and commentary I looked forward to hearing week after week.

When Steve stepped away from EP, I felt as though I had a lost a friend and adviser.
It is always wonderful to hear from him again. Like meeting up with a long lost friend where the conversation picks up like it never was gone.
Steve and Union Dues is an unbeatable combo.

well done Steve
well done Jeffrey
well done EP

well done

Enjoy and be nice to each other, because "WE" is all we got.


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Reply #37 on: August 10, 2011, 04:12:29 PM
The UD stories have always been hit or miss for me.  I generally enjoy them most when they are at their most personal, when we explore the internal life of a specific character.  This story was primarily a couple of political cartoons yelling at each other while our viewpoint character periodically chimed in to tell us how confused he was.  The ending was a nice touch, and it was a fairly effective gut-punch for the paragon to just go, "Ah, fuck it," but it would have been a lot stronger, to me, without most of the preceding Socratic dialogue (assuming Socrates was a bipolar Randian).  Perhaps I encounter too much of this sort of thing in my daily life, but this story was mostly retreads of old, old political arguments, and even within the story there was no hope that either side would listen much to the other.  The only potential for change was our overgrown naif of a protagonist, and he ends up just chucking the whole spiel in the garbage.  I empathize with the sentiment, but I would have been happier if I hadn't had to listen to the argument for the umpteenth time first.

This one's not my favorite, but I'd still buy a Union Dues collection for the list price.  ;-)

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  • Hipparch
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    • J. R. DeRego - Writer
Reply #38 on: August 10, 2011, 10:42:49 PM
This one's not my favorite, but I'd still buy a Union Dues collection for the list price.  ;-)

coming soon...

"Happiness consists of getting enough sleep." Robert A. Heinlein
Also, please buy my book - Escape Clause: A Union Dues Novel


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Reply #39 on: August 11, 2011, 04:30:29 AM
I've always enjoyed the Union Dues stories, they're a fairly unique take on the standard superhero genre. I have to say, though, I was very disappointed in Sidekicks in Stockholm. The story started well, setting up a standard hostage story, and I was looking forward to seeing the author's creative resolution to the story. I wasn't expecting a bald faced political rant about the evils of corporations, and a fairly standard and boring one at that. The ending especially bothered me. The image of a "superhero" simply passing judgement on the victims, even lowly workers that by the authors own standards were victims of the evil corporate heads, then walking away leaving them to the tender mercy of their murderers. One of the things that make superhero's super is that they defend the citizens equally. They don't serve the rich or the poor or the majority or the minority, they look past that and see human beings. Instead he looked at them and decided to support the murderers instead of the hostages. Especially in a time of religious, political and socially motivated terrorism, the message that murder and hostage taking is ever justified is horrific. By supporting the murderers over the victims, the author clearly staked out his position that terrorism, murder and violence can be justified if the criminals think their "enemies" are evil enough.

Oh, and as much as I've enjoyed hearing Mur and Norm over the past several months, it was a lot of fun to have Steve back on the podcast  :)

"The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves."