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Author Topic: EP305/EP630: Midnight Blue  (Read 10972 times)
eytanz
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« on: August 12, 2011, 01:12:10 AM »

EP305: Midnight Blue

by Will McIntosh

Read by Paul Haring
Originally appeared in Asimov’s

---

He’d never seen a burgundy before.  Kim held it in her lap, tapped it with her finger.  She was probably tapping it to bring attention to it, and Jeff didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of asking to see it, but he really wanted to see it.  Burgundy (Kim had insisted on calling it burgundy red when she showed it at show and tell) was a rare one.  Not as rare as a hot pink Flyer or a viridian Better Looking, but still rare.

A bus roared up, spitting black smoke.  It was the seven bus–the Linden Court bus, not his.  Kids rushed to line up in front of the big yellow doors as the bus hissed to a stop.  A second-grader squealed, shoved a bigger kid with her Partridge Family lunch box because he’d stepped on her foot.  All the younger kids seemed to have Partridge Family lunch boxes this year.

“What did you say it did when you’ve got all three pieces of the charm together?”  Jeff asked Kim.  He said it casually, like he was just making conversation until his bus came.

“It relaxes time,” Kim said.  “When you’re bored you can make time pass quickly, and when you’re having fun you can make time stretch out.”

Jeff nodded, tried to look just interested enough to be polite, but no more.  What must that be like, to make the hour at church fly by?  Or make the school day (except for lunch and recess) pass in an eyeblink?  Jeff wondered how fast or slow you could move things along.  Could you make it seem like you were eating an ice cream sandwich for six hours?  That would be sparkling fine.

“Want to see it?” Kim asked.

“Okay,” Jeff said, holding out his hands too eagerly before he remembered himself.  Kim handed it to him, looking pleased with herself, the dimples on her round face getting a little deeper.

It was smooth as marble, perfectly round, big as a grapefruit and heavy as a bowling ball.  It made Jeff’s heart hammer to hold it.  The rich red, which hinted at purple while still being certainly red, was so beautiful it seemed impossible, so vivid it made his blue shirt seem like a Polaroid photo left in the sun too long.

“Imagine finding this in the wild?  Pushing over a dead tree and seeing it sitting there under the root?” Jeff said.


Rated appropriate for everyone!

Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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grokman
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« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2011, 10:49:07 AM »

When I first heard that this was by the author of Bridesicle I was a little dismayed, as that one left me (sorry) cold, but Will McIntosh is definitely on my radar now. Awesome, fun story. All characters seemed authentic, and their reactions perfect. It left me wanting to hear more about when the spheres first showed up on earth; although it might be too late to hear that story now considering how this one ended. At first I was surprised that the government didn't step in and confiscate all spheres with unknown abilities - after all, the world lucked out that the sphere was REPRODUCTION - it could easily have been ANNIHILATION. Or maybe GROWTH - and all of the symbiotes ingested the world over suddenly grew 1000%, exploding out of everyone's bodies. Oh wait, this isn't PseudoPod  Grin
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matweller
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« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2011, 11:12:38 AM »

Hehe -- I was expecting APOCALYPSE, actually, but REPRODUCTION was a great way to go. Very Hitchcock/Twilight Zone. Very fun!
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« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2011, 07:35:44 PM »

I agree with Mur in the fun-ness. Through the whole story, I kept thinking of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. While not exactly science-fiction, that story held a few similarities to this one. The honest, but poor, child trying to make a name for himself finds a priceless item. Except, in this story, Charlie actually sells the golden ticket. But, hey, everything worked out ok after all. I really liked this story. Simple, with an elegant happy ending.
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« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2011, 08:01:33 PM »

Listening to this story I had to keep reminding myself that this was not an episode of Pseudopod.  I kept waiting for the nasty twist at the end.  However, this was not a Pseudopod episode!  It was a wonderfully fun story that brought me back to some of my own (less super powered) adventures as a kiddo. The story made me think about all of the computer/console rpg's I've played over the years, not to mention all sorts of anime, and what it must be like to be a normal person in those settings as well.  I mean, for example, the gameboy variations of Zelda show that when Link cuts the grass he gets rupees. So what about the the farmer who cuts the grass for hay?

Good pick folks.
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CryptoMe
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« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2011, 09:31:55 PM »

Definitely fun!

But, I would like to know why this world was stuck in the 70's; Partridge Family, sphere catelogues instead of databases, cashier's cheque instead of automatic money transfer, etc.  I don't know why, but it kind of struck me as odd and needing some explanation.  Maybe people stopped creating new art and developing new technology because their efforts were side-tracked by the quest for "powers"? Just a thought....
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grokman
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« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2011, 11:48:59 PM »

But, I would like to know why this world was stuck in the 70's; Partridge Family, sphere catelogues instead of databases, cashier's cheque instead of automatic money transfer, etc.  I don't know why, but it kind of struck me as odd and needing some explanation.  Maybe people stopped creating new art and developing new technology because their efforts were side-tracked by the quest for "powers"? Just a thought....
I just assumed that it was set in the 70's (but not "stuck"). The 70's were a more innocent time for kids than today is. I grew up in the 70's and running around town at age 11 with my best friend was something that I enjoyed and something that I wish my teenage daughter could've experienced more. I think that being set in a more innocent time was crucial to the story's FUN, as it would've seemed unlikely that many kids today would be interested in trying to catch carp bare-handed.
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acpracht
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« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2011, 11:39:54 AM »

Cool! Pokemon for everyone!
OK, not quote the same thing, but I definitely got that fun vibe of wanting to collect and discover and show off the rare one you worked so hard to find.
Mur definitely got it right: F-U-N.
There was one point when I was a little dismayed that Jeff chose to sell the midnight blue (No, kid! Hold onto your dreams. Stick it to the man!) But his motivation for doing so was well set up (you're never going to get to see what it does if you hold onto it, so you might as well trade and get some of the spheres you've always dreamed of, plus make your mom happy and buy a house, etc.) It's the equivalent of the middle class kid trading the one awesome card (he managed to pull from the one booster pack he bought) for a rich kid's entire collection: the rich kid gets to fawn over the one super-rare, but the middle class kid actually gets to play.
And of course, it turned out brilliantly. I don't think it could have ended any other way that would be satisfying.
I'd like to see this turned into a full-length novel, with more exploration of how the spheres came to be.
Excellent choice - more fun ones like this, please!

-Adam
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corydodt
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« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2011, 03:25:05 PM »

Great story. Thanks, Escape Pod, for sharing. Smiley

[...] it would've seemed unlikely that many kids today would be interested in trying to catch carp bare-handed.

Totally agree here. I went right along with it when this scene occurred in the story. Had it been set in 2011, that scene would have seemed grossly unrealistic, mostly because modern kids entertain themselves in different ways than 70's kids entertained themselves.

But . . .

The 70's were a more innocent time for kids than today is.

Can we put this expression to bed finally? There were no "more innocent times". Our history is one of change and changing tastes. There is as much innocence today as there was when I was a kid in the 70's and 80's. The idea is an invention of our imperfect memories and authors of fiction who like to magnify the flawed perception of our past.

The setting didn't impinge on the story very much here, so I can't fault this particular author for doing it; the story fit together perfectly and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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washer
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« Reply #9 on: August 14, 2011, 04:19:20 AM »

Fun with a capital F.  Yessir.

This story was pretty light-hearted, no one did anything evil to acquire spheres, there was no terrible ending, and the billionaire wasn't a scheming bastard out to kill our bright-eyed protagonist.  I liked that.  Every now and again a story where you don't have to see the worst in people is alright by me.

Despite the fun factor, I still found my brain wracked by the ending.  If the midnight blue reproduces, and there are only two, what will happen to the midnights of this next generation?  Will the people who discover the midnight blues combine them for the good of everyone or hold out all miser-like waiting for a payout, or will they perhaps try to steal it?  How will the economics of spheres work after they become so numerous again?  Will that smoking guy's shop close down?  Will new powers become available that weren't there before?  Will people save some powers to give to their children or loved ones, or begin hoarding them to sell once the supply runs scarce again?

Argh.  I've got even more questions than that.  Stories like this always do that to me.  Don't get me wrong, McIntosh did a great job, I just wish I could corner him and make him answer all my questions so I could stop all this darn rattling around in my head!
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« Reply #10 on: August 14, 2011, 09:26:44 AM »

Great story. Thanks, Escape Pod, for sharing. Smiley

[...] it would've seemed unlikely that many kids today would be interested in trying to catch carp bare-handed.

Totally agree here. I went right along with it when this scene occurred in the story. Had it been set in 2011, that scene would have seemed grossly unrealistic, mostly because modern kids entertain themselves in different ways than 70's kids entertained themselves.

I'm 36 and I just found out what 'noodling' was on an episode of Insomniac with Dave Attell less than 10 years ago. People still do it.

If the midnight blue reproduces, and there are only two, what will happen to the midnights of this next generation?  Will the people who discover the midnight blues combine them for the good of everyone or hold out all miser-like waiting for a payout, or will they perhaps try to steal it?  How will the economics of spheres work after they become so numerous again?

My assumption about this was that each generation has only one Midnight Blue, but they are so hard to find that people forget what they do in between. I thought the author was making the suggestion that the Midnight Blue was basically the equalizer. I could posit the political suggestions involved there, but I'm trying not to be a broken record. Wink
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« Reply #11 on: August 14, 2011, 12:22:02 PM »

Wonderful story!  The kind that makes me love Escape Pod!  And a perfect foil for the cynicism and of last week's story.
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« Reply #12 on: August 15, 2011, 09:04:22 AM »

My assumption about this was that each generation has only one Midnight Blue, but they are so hard to find that people forget what they do in between. I thought the author was making the suggestion that the Midnight Blue was basically the equalizer. I could posit the political suggestions involved there, but I'm trying not to be a broken record. Wink

I think you're probably right on that, but I get the impression that this is only the 2nd iteration of the spheres, so we'd have to wait until the next Midnight Blues were found to be sure.

But, I would like to know why this world was stuck in the 70's; Partridge Family, sphere catelogues instead of databases, cashier's cheque instead of automatic money transfer, etc.  I don't know why, but it kind of struck me as odd and needing some explanation.  Maybe people stopped creating new art and developing new technology because their efforts were side-tracked by the quest for "powers"? Just a thought....

I think it was just plain set in the 70s, though of course a 70s with the spheres added in, an alt-hist fantasy I guess you could call it.  Since Johnny Carson is the popular talk show host, assuming that's similar to our timeline, he retired in 1992 and died in 2005, so that gives a couple decade window for it to happen.  Unless Carson had some longevity spheres or something.

Anyway, cute story.  I liked the kid and I was rooting for him.  His dilemma was very well set up.  That would be a hell of a hard choice, deciding whether to sell that or not.  It was actually a little disappointing that the millionaire had so handily cornered the situation and could tell him straight out that the boy will never get the staff and other sphere.  That made the decision a no-brainer.  Would you rather have $850k, or a shiny sphere that does nothing for you?  If it hadn't been that cleancut the dilemma would've been that much stronger I think.  but still, I generally liked it.

One thing that I didn't like so much was that the whole "collect the spheres" idea reminded me of video game sidequests that I tend to avoid if possible, of the "collect 100s of collectible items to get something worthwhile" variety.  Especially Diablo 2, wherein you have a combiner that takes lesser items and makes a greater item.  As a result, to really make it ahead in the game you collect several cracked gems and combine into a flawed gem, find several flawed gems and combine into a better quality gem, etc...  A few minutes into that and I was annoyed at the amount of time it was going to take to get any worthwhile gem (which can then be permanently implanted into an item to give it extra attributes).
--Anyway, that association isn't really a flaw in the story, just a flaw in the video games it reminds me of.
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P.C. Haring
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« Reply #13 on: August 15, 2011, 05:59:03 PM »


If the midnight blue reproduces, and there are only two, what will happen to the midnights of this next generation?  Will the people who discover the midnight blues combine them for the good of everyone or hold out all miser-like waiting for a payout, or will they perhaps try to steal it?  How will the economics of spheres work after they become so numerous again?

My assumption about this was that each generation has only one Midnight Blue, but they are so hard to find that people forget what they do in between. I thought the author was making the suggestion that the Midnight Blue was basically the equalizer. I could posit the political suggestions involved there, but I'm trying not to be a broken record. Wink

I took the interpretation that the Midnight Blue wasn't an 'equalizer' in design, but given how commercial the spheres had become, how depleted the supply had been that the market for spheres had evolved into the haves vs the have nots, the use of the Midnight Blue leveled the playing field.  Those who had no powers, and no resources with which to buy spheres, had a shot...and those who had spent so much time and money in collecting everything had essentially wasted all that effort and the values of their investments had, in that instant, plummeted faster than the U.S Stock market did last week. 

Now what happens with this generations of Midnight Blues are found...who knows....
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« Reply #14 on: August 16, 2011, 08:00:11 AM »

I took the interpretation that the Midnight Blue wasn't an 'equalizer' in design, but given how commercial the spheres had become, how depleted the supply had been that the market for spheres had evolved into the haves vs the have nots, the use of the Midnight Blue leveled the playing field.  Those who had no powers, and no resources with which to buy spheres, had a shot...and those who had spent so much time and money in collecting everything had essentially wasted all that effort and the values of their investments had, in that instant, plummeted faster than the U.S Stock market did last week. 

Now what happens with this generations of Midnight Blues are found...who knows....
I think the author just had a mother who collected Beanie Babies and was left holding a metric ton when the value washed off of them...  It's like any other fad collectible -- people race to be the "richest," that guy gets on TV and is the awe of the world for a week and the next fad comes and he's the proud owner of a pile of worthless crap. I won't lie and say I've never been caught up in such a thing, but I'm pretty sure I haven't been since high school. It always amazes me when adults fall for that mess.
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« Reply #15 on: August 16, 2011, 08:33:08 AM »

I took the interpretation that the Midnight Blue wasn't an 'equalizer' in design, but given how commercial the spheres had become, how depleted the supply had been that the market for spheres had evolved into the haves vs the have nots, the use of the Midnight Blue leveled the playing field.  Those who had no powers, and no resources with which to buy spheres, had a shot...and those who had spent so much time and money in collecting everything had essentially wasted all that effort and the values of their investments had, in that instant, plummeted faster than the U.S Stock market did last week. 

Now what happens with this generations of Midnight Blues are found...who knows....
I think the author just had a mother who collected Beanie Babies and was left holding a metric ton when the value washed off of them...  It's like any other fad collectible -- people race to be the "richest," that guy gets on TV and is the awe of the world for a week and the next fad comes and he's the proud owner of a pile of worthless crap. I won't lie and say I've never been caught up in such a thing, but I'm pretty sure I haven't been since high school. It always amazes me when adults fall for that mess.

Remember pogs?  Good god, those were the dumbest fad I've ever seen, little cardboard circles.  I was even in the target age group for them, and I knew a lot of people who were really into them and I just couldn't fathom it.  I kind of wanted to grab them by the shirt and yell "You know they're just cardboard circles, right??!?!"

Not that I haven't spent my share of money on junk, but it's usually junk of the variety that I find amusing or entertaining without other people telling me so.  The nice thing is, non-fad junk tends to be much less expensive than fad junk.  Smiley
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« Reply #16 on: August 16, 2011, 11:43:42 AM »

This story really succeeds in portraying the mind of a child, and getting across the feeling of being young. I actlually really enjoyed the retro- elements; it's not often that science fiction stories have telegrams! I was pretty disappointed by the ending though, while not as formulaic as "He gets to wish that everyone could get talents regardless of wealth", it was pretty predictable.

I felt most let down by the final sentence. Why not "there were so many spheres out there to find, swap and share, and Jimmy wanted to every one of them. Gotta get 'em all."
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« Reply #17 on: August 16, 2011, 06:48:10 PM »

Hmmm....a flying millionaire named Branson who wants to own everything? I wonder....

A pretty good story. Very fun and evocative of a more innocent time.
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« Reply #18 on: August 16, 2011, 07:57:45 PM »

I too assumed this was the first time around the cycle, which leads me to think -- next time around, you can bet it's going to take a lot longer for a midnight blue to get used, as those who benefit from their scarcity are now know to buy the midnight blue pieces up and keep them locked up safely so long as there's still money to be made in selling or monopolizing the charms (that is, if they aren't destroyed outright).

Fun story, and one that's kept me thinking these kinds of "if...then" scenarios since listening yesterday afternoon, which is usually a big selling-point in spec-fic for me.

I just assumed that it was set in the 70's (but not "stuck").

I thought that it was pretty much explicit that it at very least wasn't present-day, given the daydreams about being interviewed by Johnny Carson.  (Oh wait, unless Johnny absorbed an Eternal Youth?  Hmmm...)

Can we put this expression to bed finally? There were no "more innocent times". Our history is one of change and changing tastes. There is as much innocence today as there was when I was a kid in the 70's and 80's. The idea is an invention of our imperfect memories and authors of fiction who like to magnify the flawed perception of our past.

Quoted for truth.
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childoftyranny
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« Reply #19 on: August 16, 2011, 09:15:35 PM »

My assumption about this was that each generation has only one Midnight Blue, but they are so hard to find that people forget what they do in between. I thought the author was making the suggestion that the Midnight Blue was basically the equalizer. I could posit the political suggestions involved there, but I'm trying not to be a broken record. Wink

I know there is no indication of this at all, but I like to think each time the spheres are reset their powers switch out, thusly, the midnight blue is something different each time, so that the only way to know which one is the reproducer is to fathom its rarity, and you'll only figure that out after however many years it takes to get to this level of scarcity again, so plenty of time to forget. *sings Koom Ba Yah*
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« Reply #20 on: August 17, 2011, 09:03:14 AM »

I think Mur got it exactly right, this story was so much fun! I loved hearing the boys' interactions with the various social strata of their class and figure out how to survive in their world with their dignity intact. Everything did wrap up very neatly, but I definitely did not see the twist coming, and the fun factor vastly overpowered the trite factor for me. Smiley I hope childoftyranny is right and the colors cycle, but I guess we can't know since we didn't see anyone absorb a newly made sphere.
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« Reply #21 on: August 17, 2011, 10:42:14 AM »

it would've seemed unlikely that many kids today would be interested in trying to catch carp bare-handed.

Yeah, now they just tune in to Hillbilly Hand Fishing.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/28/hillbilly-handfishin-animal-planet_n_909223.html
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« Reply #22 on: August 19, 2011, 03:30:45 AM »

But, I would like to know why this world was stuck in the 70's; Partridge Family, sphere catelogues instead of databases, cashier's cheque instead of automatic money transfer, etc.  I don't know why, but it kind of struck me as odd and needing some explanation.

It's set in the 70's so there's no Internet and you can't just Google "Midnight Blue" to find out what it does. Ha.
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« Reply #23 on: August 20, 2011, 05:19:50 PM »

It took me a while to connect with this story; my attention was drifting in and out until the boy found the sphere- but after that, the story had my full attention.  I was full of mixed feelings when he decided to sell it- I had been cheering for him as he held out for keeping it, which I saw as a sign of real integrity, but selling for a high price did seem like a practical choice.  I laughed aloud at the 'just desserts' ending. 
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« Reply #24 on: August 21, 2011, 02:39:21 AM »

It took me a while to connect with this story; my attention was drifting in and out until the boy found the sphere- but after that, the story had my full attention.  I was full of mixed feelings when he decided to sell it- I had been cheering for him as he held out for keeping it, which I saw as a sign of real integrity, but selling for a high price did seem like a practical choice.  I laughed aloud at the 'just desserts' ending. 

Welcome C-Reader! Happy to see you; stick around and have fun.
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« Reply #25 on: August 21, 2011, 02:41:25 AM »

Is there a "writes awesome stories" sphere out there somewhere? I will offer a very fair price for it. I'm assuming Mr. McIntosh already used his a while ago.
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« Reply #26 on: August 21, 2011, 05:24:21 PM »

I'm going to have to buck the trend here and say that i was not really a fan of this story.  It seemed really flat and lacking in substance. the plot was basically, 'young kid finds some mcguffin that he's always wanted, but doesn't know what it does. He ends up selling out all his hopes and drems (as if he had a choice), but everything went ok in the end'

I have no problem with fun stories, but I like they to at least have a little bit more about them than this one.
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« Reply #27 on: August 23, 2011, 04:29:59 AM »

Loved this story. Beautiful parable for the consumption of a finite resource.

I spent some time thinking about how the sequel to this story would play out. Once people know what midnight blue does, would it ever be used again? After considering the example of diamonds which are valued because of extensive advertising by a powerful monopoly—rather providing cool powers—I don’t think it would.

If you were able to obtain the complete charm you’d be able to force a massive devaluation in the market at a moments notice. Assuming the charms have some sort of a futures market the obvious strategy would be short selling charms, absorbing midnight blue and then cashing in. Since a single piece is all that’s required to preserve the status quo it seems some entity (a person or corporation) would would purchase a piece solely to protect their investments.

That lead me to wonder if a government would step in at the behest of charm investors and take control of a piece of midnight blue to provide a stable market. In turn this made me realize that some governments would appreciate the military applications of charms that turned Carl Branson into a superhero and seek to monopolize them.

I think I like the lighter world envisioned Will McIntosh better.
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« Reply #28 on: August 23, 2011, 08:08:20 AM »

I liked this story.  I can't really say a whole lot about it as a result.  It was fun, light, and enjoyable.  I appreciated that the price paid for the midnight blue sphere was enough to be big stakes for the kid, but barely noticeable for the billionaire and thus no real source of conflict.  It helped keep this story in that pleasant middle area.
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« Reply #29 on: August 23, 2011, 01:19:54 PM »

Pure awesome.  Another great Will McIntosh story.  I think that probably makes Will the author of 3 of my 10 favorite EP episodes. 

If you are new and have not listened to Friction (http://escapepod.org/2008/02/08/ep144-friction/), you really should.
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« Reply #30 on: August 24, 2011, 11:02:15 AM »

Pure awesome.  Another great Will McIntosh story.  I think that probably makes Will the author of 3 of my 10 favorite EP episodes. 

If you are new and have not listened to Friction (http://escapepod.org/2008/02/08/ep144-friction/), you really should.

Yes!  That is still one of my favorite EP's of all time, too.
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« Reply #31 on: August 24, 2011, 11:16:33 AM »

Wow. Just wow. I love McIntosh (in addition to Bridesicle, see also: One Paper Airplane Graffito Love Note, run pre-Dave and Anna at PodCastle).

This was absolutely fun, no question about it. As people have mentioned, it made me think of Willy Wonka, video games like Zelda and Super Mario Brothers, the retro 70's vibe.

But what I loved most was that at the heart of this story, it was about collecting, and how in this world, only the rich can hope to collect, and how broken of a system that is.

You can read quite a bit into that. Samuel L. Jackson won't sell the guy at his comic shop a piece of art because the dude says he's going to give it to his kid. Also - the cool stuff - the stuff we really love, shouldn't be horded and hidden from everyone else. I guess you could even say that's Biblical (parable of the talents). The stories/talents don't belong to a certain class, they should be available to anyone who can find them, they should be shared. The more that's out there, the more exciting it all is. Hello, Escape Artists! (Yes, Scattercat, I realize I'm brining my own reading/experience to this, no doubt about it. I am totally fine with that.  Grin)

I felt most let down by the final sentence. Why not "there were so many spheres out there to find, swap and share, and Jimmy wanted to every one of them. Gotta get 'em all."

Because, no offense, McIntosh did it better. Your sentence kind of flies in the face of everything this story is about. The spheres aren't meant to be controlled by one person, or even one class. When that happens, the spheres hit reset.

But, I would like to know why this world was stuck in the 70's; Partridge Family, sphere catelogues instead of databases, cashier's cheque instead of automatic money transfer, etc.  I don't know why, but it kind of struck me as odd and needing some explanation.

It's set in the 70's so there's no Internet and you can't just Google "Midnight Blue" to find out what it does. Ha.

Ha. True, there's that. I think it was also set in the 70's because that makes it a different world than this one, and a 70's with Super Mario Easter Egg super powers is a very alien place for us today.

(I agree with the sentiment that the 70's aren't any more innocent than where we are now. It's the age of the kid himself/herself in any age that captures that innocence.)

Great pick, Mur, and a good reading by Paul.
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« Reply #32 on: August 25, 2011, 02:36:45 PM »

Chiming in just to say: Fun story = fun listen. ( Also, I find it hilarious that no one has been at all uptight that this story could easily have played on PodCastle. Man, when everyone likes a story...-not that there's anything wrong with that  Wink)

Loved the simplicity of the story. Escapepod is a wonderful beastie because it runs stories like EP294 The Night Train which blew my mind with its complex world and plotlines and then turns around and runs a sweet little gem like this. I doff my hat to the great folks at Escape Artists that provide me with such fab entertainment.
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« Reply #33 on: August 26, 2011, 08:06:31 PM »

JUST. PLAIN. FUN.

'nuff said
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« Reply #34 on: August 26, 2011, 10:29:45 PM »

This is one of the better stories I've heard on Escape Pod. Truly fun!
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« Reply #35 on: August 26, 2011, 11:31:34 PM »

Great ending, there.   I kept thinking it was going to go one of two directions and I didn't like either one.  And then we went a third and I smiled and wondered when we will hear the back story of who created the spheres, why, and how they got there.

One quick note to my fellow fans of Will McIntosh -- a nice way to show our support for him, other than praising him, is to buy his book!  I bought Soft Apocalypse and enjoyed it, though not as much as his short stories, which I love.
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« Reply #36 on: August 27, 2011, 12:25:07 PM »

This was the first episode of Escape Pod I listened to and I'm impressed.

The foreshadowing was very good, though by the way he was talking about the unfairness of it, had me believing the power was RESET. That all existing powers would go away, and respawn as it essentially started a new game.

That's exactly what this was, a video game, a video game world given a serious treatment.

Very impressed I'll be looking forward to more stories.
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« Reply #37 on: August 27, 2011, 01:14:20 PM »

This thread is too long to read right now. Did I miss the discussion on this not being (or yes being) scifi?
I don't care. It was fun, I enjoyed it and I'm glad EP bought it.
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« Reply #38 on: August 28, 2011, 09:59:17 AM »

I enjoyed this story; it was fun. But I don't see why it ran on Escape Pod instead of PodCastle; this was a fantasy story all the way.
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« Reply #39 on: August 28, 2011, 12:00:47 PM »

Ask, Max e^{i pi}, and ye shall receive. Smiley
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« Reply #40 on: August 28, 2011, 12:03:55 PM »

I enjoyed this story; it was fun. But I don't see why it ran on Escape Pod instead of PodCastle; this was a fantasy story all the way.

Naaaaa...... it can be either. whether the artifacts are extraterrestrial or supernatural in origin is open to debate. in my opinion, it doesn't matter, it was a fun story, it was a good story, it is speculative fiction. so does it belong in escapepod or podcastle?? who cares? as long as it gets heard.
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« Reply #41 on: August 28, 2011, 06:05:56 PM »

Again I must ask: why have a separate fantasy podcast if you're going to run fantasy stories on the sci-fi podcast?
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« Reply #42 on: August 28, 2011, 08:03:18 PM »

Again I must ask: why have a separate fantasy podcast if you're going to run fantasy stories on the sci-fi podcast?

it's at the discretion of the editors

"Ours is not to question why, but to do or die."

and i agree, it would be a better fit in podcastle
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« Reply #43 on: August 29, 2011, 02:25:31 AM »

I disagree.

This could fit in either escape pod or podcastle because its very much a what if story.

Its like that Futurama episode what if life was like a video game, but taken much more seriously.

Because look it at, you need to collect 3 of a single color then absorb it, it has rules for a reset, rarities and other game conventions.

*sits back and fires up through my own sheilds*
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« Reply #44 on: August 29, 2011, 03:12:19 AM »

Again I must ask: why have a separate fantasy podcast if you're going to run fantasy stories on the sci-fi podcast?

That's a valid question, and one that you should feel free to ask in the "about escape pod" forum. Though, frankly, I really doubt you'll be satisfied by whichever answer you get. But please do not comment on, or question, overall editorial policy in specific episode threads. This sort of thing takes over the episode discussion very quickly.
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« Reply #45 on: August 29, 2011, 01:30:23 PM »

I disagree.

This could fit in either escape pod or podcastle because its very much a what if story.

Its like that Futurama episode what if life was like a video game, but taken much more seriously.

Because look it at, you need to collect 3 of a single color then absorb it, it has rules for a reset, rarities and other game conventions.

Fantasy magic has its own rules too. At least, in good fantasy, it does.
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« Reply #46 on: August 30, 2011, 02:56:25 AM »

Damn. Now I'm sorry I brought it up.  Undecided
I was perfectly content to have it in EP...
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« Reply #47 on: August 30, 2011, 07:44:54 AM »

Superb episode. The fact that it was a period piece lent it a different atmosphere which I quite enjoyed. And yet, much of the fun of the story comes from the hero getting his $850k reward while still also being able to pick up as many spheres as he could. A great fantasy for our era of economic fear. All around, well done.

As for the complaints that this episode should have been on Podcastle, well, I just didn't read into the story that it was a genre fantasy piece. I took it for granted that the spheres were some kind of alien life form which bonded to humans. I thought it was explained pretty well in the story.

Anyway, this is the kind of story I listen to EP for. And this is the kind of discussion I log on to the forums for!
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« Reply #48 on: August 30, 2011, 10:43:23 AM »

I took it for granted that the spheres were some kind of alien life form which bonded to humans. I thought it was explained pretty well in the story.

I had forgotten this and the description of it being a symbiot does lend to the sense that they are of extraterrestrial in origin.
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« Reply #49 on: August 31, 2011, 01:35:51 AM »

I enjoyed this one - especially the fishing!

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« Reply #50 on: August 31, 2011, 08:49:43 AM »

This story left me wondering, "So, how does this resolve? Everyone goes and gets multiple charms and super-hero-like powers, or what? But more specifically, what about or main character? And did the powers that others previously had fade, or did they continue to have them?

I suppose many would say that this story did what it was supposed to do, left you wanting more of it.  I think I just would have liked to have seen more of a conclusion, instead of an open ended ending.
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« Reply #51 on: August 31, 2011, 09:04:08 AM »

I think I just would have liked to have seen more of a conclusion, instead of an open ended ending.

I think the story concluded just fine... Because it was the story of just one character. Not the story of "everyone."
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« Reply #52 on: August 31, 2011, 01:55:38 PM »

I enjoyed this story for many of the reasons already mentioned--interesting kid POV, but also interesting kid-mom dynamic, and interesting playground class dynamics (rich vs. poor).

But like many listeners, I feel like there's some really interesting politics going on here, both economic (what happens next time the supply runs low, how long before this new crop of charms gets snapped up by existing or new hierarchies?) and environmental (the charms are a finite resource on one hand, but, without any particular husbanding or care, they are also an infinitely (as far as we know) replenishing resource).

I also wonder if there are any anti-charm people out there in this world--people who think absorbing charms is devilish or simply an unacceptable change of the self. (Like, wasn't there a "laughs easier" charm? I can totally imagine someone who was told by their therapist to get one of those charms to cure their depression; but how many "I don't want to take pills, this is my sadness" people are there (in fiction, at least)? And that's just one example.)
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« Reply #53 on: September 07, 2011, 11:32:03 AM »

Add my voice to the list of "Oh, what a *fun* story!"

And yes, I too saw the ending coming until it veered into a completely different direction than I expected. When Jeff agreed to sell, I actually said out loud, "Wait, no! That's not supposed to happen! YOU FOOL!" And the ending reminded me, just like our dear friend Dave Thompson, of the Biblical parable of the talents, and I was like "Dang! I've been taken down a peg. A WHOLE PEG!"

Really enjoyed the setting of this and the funness factor. Definitely something I can play for my son. And as for it being scifi vs fantasy, I don't know. I think it hovers between the two. I also figured that aliens were the ones who planted it. Maybe it's just one massive experiment they're doing just to learn about economics or something. Though I can very easily see it on Podcastle as well, but...I don't think it focused on the superpowers as the economics of said superpowers, which...can be...scifi?  Huh
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« Reply #54 on: September 07, 2011, 04:53:23 PM »

Damn. Now I'm sorry I brought it up.  Undecided
I was perfectly content to have it in EP...

Seems it's my place to be "that guy".  Tongue
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« Reply #55 on: October 07, 2011, 09:21:58 PM »

Just a quick note to say that this was one of my favorites on Escape Pod.  I was intrigued by the concept of the orbs and I love where the story took us.   Great fun.
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« Reply #56 on: October 17, 2011, 12:41:03 AM »

Loved the retro vibe and the supply-demand undertone.
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« Reply #57 on: October 17, 2011, 11:57:14 AM »

I thoroughly enjoyed this one, which is not something I find myself saying about EP stories. Not to criticize the editing/production/whatever, it's just that I've found them to not be quite as much my cup of tea as the sister podcasts.

Anyway, all I really wanted to say was how much I enjoyed this one. I forgot to comment on it with I listened to it sometime ago, so…
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« Reply #58 on: November 09, 2011, 02:54:44 PM »

I love the story, however I have a large problem with the idea of a Mother who is raising her son in near poverty yet has it in her to be quite hands off with the whole selling of the orb.

Charlie And the Chocolate Factory indeed.

Were I the parent, there is no way in hell I would be "in the kitchen" while my child (CHILD!!!!!!!!!!) brokered a life changing possibly million dollar deal with a dude who could fly.
There would be lawyers, and negotiations, and contracts, oh my.   I admire the kid's plucky nature, but still. 
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« Reply #59 on: November 10, 2011, 02:18:59 AM »

Were I the parent, there is no way in hell I would be "in the kitchen" while my child (CHILD!!!!!!!!!!) brokered a life changing possibly million dollar deal with a dude who could fly.
There would be lawyers, and negotiations, and contracts, oh my.   I admire the kid's plucky nature, but still. 
I think that was exactly the point.
The story was told from the kid's point of view. And in kids of a certain age grownups are just background noise. Remember how all the grownups talk in the Charlie Brown cartoons? We can't understand what they're saying, because as kids, nothing they have to say is of any interest to us.
Same thing here. Yes, if it were up to the mother there would be more lawyers than she could comfortably afford, but it's not up to the mother. This is a kid's story, and in kids stories the mother belongs out of sight.
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« Reply #60 on: January 30, 2012, 02:12:54 PM »

Relevant: http://feeds.boingboing.net/~r/boingboing/iBag/~3/-jNBZD12Alo/strange-blue-gelatinous-balls.html

Blue balls fall from sky.

No word yet on superpowers.
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« Reply #61 on: January 30, 2012, 03:36:51 PM »

At least it wasn't blue iceCheesy
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