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Author Topic: EP323: Marking Time on the Far Side of Forever  (Read 5099 times)
eytanz
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« on: December 17, 2011, 06:58:58 AM »

EP323: Marking Time on the Far Side of Forever

By DK Latta

Read by Josh Roseman

First appeared in Prairie Fire, 1999

---

I sit beneath the dark green sky, overlooking the valley that has changed much over the years.  What was once a stream has swelled into a river while, to the east, lush vegetation grows where I think there was once a shallow lake. I can’t remember definitely. The information is stored inside me, filed, itemized; I’m merely unsure how to access it. It will come to me. Later, when a random search, an unrelated thought, cracks open the proper conduits and a pulse of electricity resurrects the knowledge, unbidden.

Until then, I am content to wait.

Below my knee, the dented brass-coloured metal becomes the red of a tree trunk, substituting as a shin and foot. Like an antiquated peg-leg, like a stereotypical pira…pi…pi-

Pi is 3.1415926…

The organic substance must be replaced occasionally, but the concept has served satisfactorily for almost two hundred years. It was easy to jury-rig. Not so my mnemonic core.  I lack the appropriate tools and diagnostic programs.

Yes. There had been a lake, teeming with the hoorah-thet fish.

I call them fish simply to provide a basis of comparative orientation. Fish only exist on earth, and this is not earth.  Earth is a long, long way away.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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Lionman
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« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2011, 09:39:10 AM »

I think that Isaac Asimov would be proud of this story.  Aside from missing his main character from I, Robot, this story would fit right in with that genre of robotic adventures.  In fact, I could easily see Gakha being a character left with the dilemma of having to make choices based on directives and laws programmed long, long ago, (likely in a galaxy far, far away.)

While in this story the shift in human morals is obvious, it is an interesting commentary on how we have evolved, not merely in language and cutoms, but also in our moral compass as a society as a whole.  Human history is full of it, and this becomes an extrapolation of that.  However, in the same thought process, it's a great cycle.  I could see that Gakha might live long enough to see another group of Humans visit him, whose compass has shifted back in line with his original programming.

Bottom line: Great story!
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Darwinist
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« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2011, 10:34:18 AM »

Wow, I thought this story was just great.  I reminded me of old-school science fiction or something out of Star Trek. 
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« Reply #3 on: December 19, 2011, 07:09:14 AM »

The first few minutes of the story had me thinking of Marvin. Before he got "cute-ified", how I saw him in my imagination.
The rest of the story was great (imagining Marvin was great too).
I'm wondering whether Gakha ever had some analogue to the Three Laws, or even the first one. I really hope it did. Because the idea of a robot becoming so "human" in its compassion to actually destroy other humans appeals to me.
It appeals much more than having a robot who was improperly programmed and thus was able to escape the bounds of its programming.
(Think about it, the first is not the same as the second. A robot could be programmed to generally not harm people, but not so rigorously that trying to break that command would shut the robot down. That is simply escaping poor programming.)

Also, my ears heard DK Latta, but my brain heard DK Thomson.  Wink
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« Reply #4 on: December 19, 2011, 11:13:32 AM »

One of my new favorites!  A fabulous story!  It hit all of the right bouttons for me.  There is something about having a generally gentle giant taking care of business to protect the innocent, and of course extra bonus point for making it a robot.  I <3 robots.
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« Reply #5 on: December 19, 2011, 07:37:51 PM »

I loved this well-written story, and may have even shed a tear or two by the end. This was indeed classic science-fiction.
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lhoward
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« Reply #6 on: December 20, 2011, 07:02:45 AM »

I thoroughly enjoyed this story.  In many ways a throwback to a more classic kind of sci-fi.  Kept me engaged from the beginning right through to the end.  I saw the ending coming, but that didn't decrease my enjoyment one bit.
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raetsel
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« Reply #7 on: December 21, 2011, 11:06:02 AM »

Wow, I thought this story was just great.  I reminded me of old-school science fiction or something out of Star Trek. 

Yeah spot on. I can just see this in the effusive colour hues of an episode of Star Trek TOS.

At one point I was thinking that the humans in the "scouting party" just wouldn't be that avaricious and uncaring but then I remembered how humans have treated other members of their own species in an analogue to a first contact situation such as in Australia or the Americas (North and South) and then I realised the scouting party's behaviour was totally in line with how humans behave.

Great Story.
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Evolution13
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« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2011, 04:22:21 AM »

I loved this story, but I do have one nitpick.. How is it that a civilization for whom Terraforming is trivial is still interested in mineral wealth?
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #9 on: December 22, 2011, 05:40:25 PM »

"This is going to be awkward...."

This was a really good "science fiction as theater of human dilemma" story. I expect people to have objections to the idea of a machine exceeding its programming (Gakha was supposed to gather data on the indigenous life, not protect it) but I am glad that it ended how it, rather than the bleak pitiful ending I was expecting.

I loved this story, but I do have one nitpick.. How is it that a civilization for whom Terraforming is trivial is still interested in mineral wealth?

I dunno. Humans do all sorts of irrational things (which I think is one of the points of the story) - why do we still invest so much value in gold?

But I suspect your point is "If they can rearrange the atmosphere, can't they just create elements?".

Maybe that's harder than we suppose. I'll wager Issac Newton would have guessed we'd be able to turn lead into gold before we could fly.
« Last Edit: December 27, 2011, 05:53:16 PM by InfiniteMonkey » Logged
Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #10 on: December 23, 2011, 04:15:54 AM »

I loved this story, but I do have one nitpick.. How is it that a civilization for whom Terraforming is trivial is still interested in mineral wealth?

I dunno. Humans do all sorts of irrational things (which I think is one of the points of the story) - why do we still invest so much value in gold?

But I suspect your point is "If they can rearrange the atmosphere, can't they just create elements?".
Two possible answers:
1. Just like the Star Trek replicator paradox. They can use replicators to effectively replicate nearly anything they want, except for the elements required to power the replicators. This is the given explanation for ST Voyager's rationing in early seasons, before they were able to resupply. So too in this universe, they can rearrange atmospheres and whatnot, maybe they have working transmutation, but they still need specific base elements to work from or help power it.

2. Terraforming need not be an instantaneous magical process. Like in the Firefly 'Verse, they have huge machines that spit out atmosphere from an intake of toxic chemicals and other stuff. It still takes decades, and has nothing to do with being able to transmute elements.

P.S. I love citing other scifi as valid sources. Cheesy
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« Reply #11 on: December 27, 2011, 04:32:50 PM »

I really liked this one. I've never seen a better use of the Zeroth Law of Robotics. Also known in Texas as the "He NEEDED Killin'" defense...
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« Reply #12 on: December 28, 2011, 10:36:12 AM »

An excellent classic robot story. 
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« Reply #13 on: December 30, 2011, 06:42:30 AM »

I loved this story, but I do have one nitpick.. How is it that a civilization for whom Terraforming is trivial is still interested in mineral wealth?

I dunno. Humans do all sorts of irrational things (which I think is one of the points of the story) - why do we still invest so much value in gold?

But I suspect your point is "If they can rearrange the atmosphere, can't they just create elements?".
Two possible answers:
1. Just like the Star Trek replicator paradox. They can use replicators to effectively replicate nearly anything they want, except for the elements required to power the replicators. This is the given explanation for ST Voyager's rationing in early seasons, before they were able to resupply. So too in this universe, they can rearrange atmospheres and whatnot, maybe they have working transmutation, but they still need specific base elements to work from or help power it.

2. Terraforming need not be an instantaneous magical process. Like in the Firefly 'Verse, they have huge machines that spit out atmosphere from an intake of toxic chemicals and other stuff. It still takes decades, and has nothing to do with being able to transmute elements.

P.S. I love citing other scifi as valid sources. Cheesy

Yes, I tend to think of terraforming as being based in microscopic life - like, seeding the oceans and lakes with algae that digest the primary elements of that atmosphere and bind whatever they need to while releasing the appropriate quantities of oxygen, basically in the same way (as I seem to remember from science classes?) that the Earth got its atmosphere.


In other news, I really enjoyed this story. The reader had a somewhat flat affect, but it worked very well for this story. I kind of saw the ending coming, but I still love the idea of the robot hulking out on the landing party. Even so, I have a somewhat unsettling feeling of imagining myself in the boots of the humans in this story, not really knowing what they were getting themselves into.
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« Reply #14 on: January 01, 2012, 12:25:17 AM »

Gosh, this story made me ashamed to be human as the villians were in this story.  They were a tad too realistically greedy for my reading comfort.  I was happy with the ending though.
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« Reply #15 on: January 01, 2012, 06:06:30 PM »

I loved this story. The eternality of the robot's motives? The slip from from idealism to pragmatism from the humans? Gakha's sadness over his lost friend? Succulent.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #16 on: January 04, 2012, 12:29:06 PM »

I really loved this story, especially watching how Gakha's mission to document and describe the local environment gradually eased into a mission to preserve and protect. The humans made me cringe, and I kept hoping that the engineer would stand up to his superiors in Gakha's defense more strongly than he did.

The bias against Gakha simply due to his age seemed a little off (we have whole museums to memorialize old technology), but then again I suppose we wouldn't want steam engines telling us that we shouldn't use our modern metro systems.
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« Reply #17 on: January 04, 2012, 02:16:34 PM »

The bias against Gakha simply due to his age seemed a little off (we have whole museums to memorialize old technology), but then again I suppose we wouldn't want steam engines telling us that we shouldn't use our modern metro systems.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starlight_Express#Original_London_production.2C_1984

Just sayin'...
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Devoted135
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« Reply #18 on: January 04, 2012, 02:49:11 PM »

The bias against Gakha simply due to his age seemed a little off (we have whole museums to memorialize old technology), but then again I suppose we wouldn't want steam engines telling us that we shouldn't use our modern metro systems.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starlight_Express#Original_London_production.2C_1984

Just sayin'...

That has to be one of the trippiest musicals that I've ever come across...
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Listener
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« Reply #19 on: January 04, 2012, 04:26:29 PM »

The bias against Gakha simply due to his age seemed a little off (we have whole museums to memorialize old technology), but then again I suppose we wouldn't want steam engines telling us that we shouldn't use our modern metro systems.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starlight_Express#Original_London_production.2C_1984

Just sayin'...

That has to be one of the trippiest musicals that I've ever come across...

When you see it in person, you really get the idea of how kid-centered it is. But even in my 20s, which is when I saw it, it was still somewhat cool. They did try to mess it up with 3D glasses, though; hopefully that trend is over.
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