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Author Topic: EP306: Radio Nowhere  (Read 7612 times)
eytanz
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« on: August 19, 2011, 07:59:23 AM »

EP306: Radio Nowhere

by Douglas Smith

Read by Wilson Fowlie

---

On the anniversary of the worst night of his life, Liam stood outside the darkened control room of the campus radio station. Over the speakers, the Tragically Hip’s “Boots and Hearts” was just winding down. Behind the glass in the studio, Ziggy’s small triangular face glowed like some night angel, lit from below by her laptop screen. She looked up, her eyes finding Liam’s in the darkness. Smiling, she wrinkled her nose at him. His own smile slid away, falling into the dark place inside him, the place that was always darker on this night.

Ziggy turned back to the mike as the song ended. “I’m closing with a request from an old friend, to an old friend. This one’s for Jackie, from Liam. A hurtin’ song, cuz he’s still hurtin’. Fifteen years ago tonight…” She looked at him through the glass.

Fifteen years. He closed his eyes. Fifteen years, and it still hurt this much.


Rated Inappropriate for the younger ones, due to words of a naughty nature.

Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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l33tminion
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« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2011, 05:46:02 PM »

Here's a story that foreshadows with a sledgehammer and doesn't follow through.  To me, the main character's change of heart at the end of the story seemed uncharacteristically sudden, and the ending felt really tacked on as a result.  And after all that setup, the ending was boring.

To paraphrase: He's willing to do anything for one chance to set things right, even if it might destroy the world, but then he doesn't THE END.
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ToooooMuchCoffeeMan
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« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2011, 05:28:48 AM »

Agreed with l33tminion. And it wasn't just the ending I found boring. Maybe someone new to sf who isn't familiar with all the overworked tropes of time travel and alternate universes might have found something novel here, but for me the only part that was surprising was also unbelievable. You don't dump fifteen years of obsessive grief just like that; more likely Liam would have hated Ziggy forever for so deliberately depriving him of his chance to save the life of his beloved.

Plus, the "is anyone out there?" voice on the radio was just left dangling with no explanation. I was expecting that voice was going to turn out to be Liam's - finding himself thrown out of the timestream or some such after his hubristic attempt to monkey with the universe.

So, sorry...overall one of your less satisfying presentations.
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Dem
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« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2011, 08:02:29 AM »

Agreed with l33tminion. And it wasn't just the ending I found boring. Maybe someone new to sf who isn't familiar with all the overworked tropes of time travel and alternate universes might have found something novel here, but for me the only part that was surprising was also unbelievable. You don't dump fifteen years of obsessive grief just like that; more likely Liam would have hated Ziggy forever for so deliberately depriving him of his chance to save the life of his beloved.

Plus, the "is anyone out there?" voice on the radio was just left dangling with no explanation. I was expecting that voice was going to turn out to be Liam's - finding himself thrown out of the timestream or some such after his hubristic attempt to monkey with the universe.

So, sorry...overall one of your less satisfying presentations.
Agreed. The origins of the disembodied voice and why there might not be 'anyone left alive out there' were where I wanted this to go. The 'Sophie's Choice' business at the end lacked any sort of credibility - or if it did happen, you can predict that Ziggy is going to suffer from being a substitute Jackie for the rest of her life. And what was all that duck stuff? A set-up for Ziggy inexplicably taking a walk on water she knew flickered in and out of her own reality so that, hang on, she might drown in it if it came back while she was sitting 'on' it? Too many plot flaws for me, unfortunately, but as always, gratitude to an author for putting his work out for us to pick at. And very nicely narrated, Mr Fowlie, thank you!
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Kaa
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« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2011, 08:11:22 AM »

I agree with ToooooMuchCoffeeMan (did I get the right number of o's?) and l33tminion: the story promised me things and then betrayed me in the end.

First of all, how obtuse can someone be? I figured out from the get-go that Ziggy was in love with Liam, and she must have been giving signals for 15 years, and it wasn't until she was literally drowning that he suddenly--after 15 years of clues--figured it out?

Second, why does a person who can't swim walk out onto that solid area overlaying the lake, knowing that at any moment it could revert to wet status and immerse her in water? Or was she actually trying to force Liam into a choice? If so, wow, what a cold-hearted person that doesn't deserve to get the boy.

Third, the voice over the radio. Like ToooooMuchCoffeeMan, I was expecting all along for it to be his voice and that his actions had isolated him in an empty shell of a universe. He saved the girl(s), but lost himself. (I guess that would be more of a PseudoPod ending, though...)

I had high hopes for the story. Things I was expecting to have happen that didn't include the above comment about isolating himself, but also that he somehow caused the death of his wife or that Ziggy did, thereby closing the time loop. I thought this because all through the story it never said exactly how she died or that there were witnesses right up to the end, where it suddenly felt tacked on like an afterthought. "Oh, it was a blue Toyota and there were witnesses."

It was creepy and held my focus right up to the climax, and then I said, "That's it? That's how it ends?" And the extreme convenience of him losing his ring in the lake?

Yeah, it's a story that will stick with me, but for all the wrong reasons.

I'd also like to add that I thought Fowlie did a great job narrating. He really got the emotions across.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2011, 08:13:15 AM by Kaa » Logged

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aesculapius
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« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2011, 01:40:18 PM »

Definitely a story that didn't follow through on an interesting premise. If it's a time travel story, I want to see time travel! Not giving it all up for the girl at the end... which was foreshadowed with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, as l33tminion put it. Not to mention: why couldn't he just try setting up the experiment again at another time?
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kibitzer
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« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2011, 02:55:19 AM »

I wouldn't normally weigh in like this (any more) but OMG this had me quite literally yelling my frustration as I listened to it. In a nutshell: 15 YEARS?? GET OVER YOURSELF, MAN!

I might have bought into that at 5 years but 15? Come on!! I mean, my Dad died nearly 10 years ago and I still miss him, especially this time of year as the Father's Day adverts ramp up. And yes, I realise my Dad is not the same as my life partner. But he's gone, OK? I don't remember his death every year, I remember everything I loved about him. Sorry folks, this one just annoyed the hell out of me.
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Rain
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« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2011, 05:00:35 AM »

I felt the story really connected with me, when the main character for the 50th time moaned about when the pain was going to end, i was wondering the same thing.

I dont want to be mean, but i have a hard time getting into stories featuring characters that are unlikable, Liam was a completely whiner and just annoying to listen to, i mean spending 15 years bitching and moaning is just so absurd, no wonder Ziggy was hitting the drugs if she had to listen to that every day.

As for the science fiction aspects i was left with a lot of questions, why did no one else notice the time travel and other aspects that the machine caused? Did no one care that he was turning on the machine for personal use? What was the strange voice, and why did Liam or Ziggy not get the connection between the voice and them using the machine?
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mary_edith
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« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2011, 03:40:18 PM »

I enjoyed this story but perhaps that is because of what it reminded me of.   

This setting resonated strongly with me.  I grew up exploring a UW campus, finding old built over new, mysterious and obsolete hatches, wiring, tunnels, and foundations.  I'm not surprised such a setting inspired a time travel story.   

I also grew up with ZBS stories like Moon Over Morocco!  This sci fi crowd may prefer Ruby the Galactic Gumshoe. http://www.zbs.org/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=204 .  Great stuff!  Like this story, many ZBS productions leave many things unexplained and that is ok with me. 



 
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Schreiber
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« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2011, 03:43:35 PM »

Or a different nutshell: "Is that an event horizon in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?"
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Sgarre1
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« Reply #10 on: August 21, 2011, 04:26:03 PM »

ZBS were (are?) great.  I just had The Android Sisters track "Money, Money, Money" come up random on my I-Pod about an hour ago!
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« Reply #11 on: August 22, 2011, 08:52:22 AM »

I agree that the pleading radio voice would've been better off with some explanation.  As it was, it just kind of dangled out there and then never resolved.

However, I wasn't bothered by the sudden change at the end.  For one, the story seemed to hint that the timeline HAD changed to some extent.  I didn't think he lost his ring in the water.  I thought there was some subtle and not entirely explainable shift in the timeline that helped him give up the obsession.  As a result, he had ALREADY put aside the ring, and that's why he was finally able to see Ziggy as a potential love interest instead of as nothing but a buddy.  Maybe I'm completely off-base about that?  Not sure.

In any case, the obvious ways to go with this would be to:
1.  Failed to save his girlfriend though he tried.
2.  Actually cause his girlfriend's death in the attempt to save her.
3.  Save her, but then his future isn't the happy affair he assumed it would be.

I'm glad that it went another way.  Some questioned why Ziggy walked out on the water.  To me, I thought she had finally decided that he was NEVER going to give up his obsession no matter what she did and she'd spent so long clinging to her own obsession that suddenly realizing it was unattainable threw into a sudden depression.  If she'd been entirely rational at the moment, sure she wouldn't have walked out on the water.  But I thought it made sense given her mental state at the time.

I guess one other thing that I thought could've used some more explanation is, why did the water become walkable anyway?  At first, I thought maybe it was flashing to a frozen state based on another time, but that didn't seem to be the case since it was the same date in the past as the present and the water wasn't frozen now.  Everything else except the unexplained voice was a rational but juxtaposed element from the past time--why the oddity of the water?  It struck me as out of place while I listened and the more I think about it, the more it seems like it was less an organic part of the story and more a way to shoehorn in the ending.



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Kaa
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« Reply #12 on: August 22, 2011, 10:13:41 AM »

My assumption about the lake was that it was a man-made lake (I think the story even calls it that at one point) that had not BEEN there 15 years earlier.
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drewish
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« Reply #13 on: August 23, 2011, 04:42:14 AM »

not a fan of this story. the dialog was awkward. the repetition about his anguish got really annoying, why not just hint at it rather than beat us over the head? i suppose it was to show how annoyed ziggy must have been.

the plot was super cliche, as soon as it was apparently that he was hung up on an dead girlfriend and had a new female friend it just seemed obvious that the story was a love triangle to be resolved by time travel.

someone should tell Mr Smith about http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chekhov's_gun why have that whole mystery radio voice?

one positive note, i did like the local color that the descriptions of the campus provided. never been there but it had me picturing the tunnels at my campus and time working at the college radio station.
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Chuk
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« Reply #14 on: August 23, 2011, 11:08:48 AM »

I am biased in favour of time travel and stories with a strong sense of place, so I would overall rate the story as a net positive (as in I don't think it was a waste of time listening to it). It was a pretty darn overused trope, though, and also I couldn't figure out why a college radio station would be playing a radio drama. I don't think ours does that.

Ziggy must have something wrong with her to hang out with Liam for 15 years -- he seems like kind of a mopey loser. Also, does he have his own radio show? That only shows up at the beginning of the story and then not again? Maybe I missed it. And what does Ziggy do besides hang out with Liam and sell pot?

I thought the duck was "walking on water" because it was frozen, like there was some kind of heat death in the future and the stars were out and the pond was frozen. I think if the pond had just not been there in the alternate universe, Liam and Ziggy would have seen it walking on the ground.

I liked the Wilson Fowlie reading, good to see him do a full-length Escape Pod story!
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« Reply #15 on: August 23, 2011, 12:09:05 PM »

I couldn't figure out why a college radio station would be playing a radio drama. I don't think ours does that.

Why wouldn't a college radio station play a radio drama?  I don't think my college had a radio station, but if there had been one, and it had played dramas, I would've listened.  It seems especially plausible if there is an active drama club trying to reach out and get people interested in theatre.
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #16 on: August 23, 2011, 12:17:13 PM »

With apologies to Mr. Fowlie - whose reading was, as always, brilliant - this was probably one of the worst stories I have ever listened to on an Escape Artist's podcast. I had absolutely no patience for Liam's fifteen year rut. Fifteen years! I understand that losing your wife is sad, but my wife would come back from the dead merely to beat the shit out of me if I wasted even five years of my life grieving for her. Holy space pope on a bright red jetbike Liam, you blubbering jackass, grow the hell up, go to therapy, and move on with your f*<king life. You know that moment in "Avenue Q" when Christmas Eve is shouting at her husband "go get job!"? That was me, at the computer, shouting "go get shrink!"

In short, I had no sympathy for the main character, which totally killed the story for me. Liam's sad-sack-itude failed to gel into emotional reality, so I found myself just not caring whether or not the world ended. The conclusion hinged on an emotional experience that was completely foreign to me - I was just so sick of Liam that I didn't care that he finally got over his wife.

The sad thing is that this story was so close to being good. Reduce either the duration of Liam's grief (three to five years is on the outside end of sympathetic, but acceptable) or the intensity (he's getting on with his life in many ways but is blocked in one arena: work, love, whatever) and the story would be golden. As it was, I give the story one zeppelin.

But I can guarantee you I won't be sad about it in fifteen years.
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Dem
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« Reply #17 on: August 23, 2011, 12:38:23 PM »

With apologies to Mr. Fowlie - whose reading was, as always, brilliant - this was probably one of the worst stories I have ever listened to on an Escape Artist's podcast. I had absolutely no patience for Liam's fifteen year rut. Fifteen years! I understand that losing your wife is sad, but my wife would come back from the dead merely to beat the shit out of me if I wasted even five years of my life grieving for her. Holy space pope on a bright red jetbike Liam, you blubbering jackass, grow the hell up, go to therapy, and move on with your f*<king life. You know that moment in "Avenue Q" when Christmas Eve is shouting at her husband "go get job!"? That was me, at the computer, shouting "go get shrink!"

In short, I had no sympathy for the main character, which totally killed the story for me. Liam's sad-sack-itude failed to gel into emotional reality, so I found myself just not caring whether or not the world ended. The conclusion hinged on an emotional experience that was completely foreign to me - I was just so sick of Liam that I didn't care that he finally got over his wife.

The sad thing is that this story was so close to being good. Reduce either the duration of Liam's grief (three to five years is on the outside end of sympathetic, but acceptable) or the intensity (he's getting on with his life in many ways but is blocked in one arena: work, love, whatever) and the story would be golden. As it was, I give the story one zeppelin.

But I can guarantee you I won't be sad about it in fifteen years.
Come on, don't mess around. What do you really think?
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Kaa
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« Reply #18 on: August 23, 2011, 12:40:08 PM »

I couldn't figure out why a college radio station would be playing a radio drama. I don't think ours does that.

Why wouldn't a college radio station play a radio drama?  I don't think my college had a radio station, but if there had been one, and it had played dramas, I would've listened.  It seems especially plausible if there is an active drama club trying to reach out and get people interested in theatre.


"Moon Over Morocco" is a real thing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_Over_Morocco). Since I've heard radio stations playing vintage audio drama (or audio comedy) before, I didn't think it was all that odd.

Of course, what I did find interesting was that it actually exists. I'm curious and want to hear it, but not curious enough to spend $40, which is what it costs to download it from the ZBS website.
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I invent imaginary people and make them have conversations in my head. I also write.

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zoanon
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« Reply #19 on: August 23, 2011, 02:15:58 PM »

I have been going INSANE since I heard this story on Sunday. WHAT HAPPENED TO THE MAN? is he still alone? is he dead? why could the duck stand on water?
the rest of the story was just OK,  apart from the voice, I found it very predictable.
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