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Author Topic: EP323: Marking Time on the Far Side of Forever  (Read 4851 times)
eytanz
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« Reply #20 on: January 05, 2012, 11:17:08 AM »

I'm not as positive about this story as most of the commentators above are. I mean, there's a lot to love here. Especially, I really liked the way the story played with the narrator's voice, making us emphasize with Gahka *because* he/it is unreliable. And I really like the themes of morality and perspective. But there are a few issues with the story that undercut these themes and made the less successful than they should have been, I think.

1 - The first, less important issue is how contrived the whole thing is. There's a whole planet here, and the two visits from Earth happened to be within a few meter of each other? I could forgive the coincidence if it was the only issue, but in conjunction with the others below it glared at me.

2 - The second, more important problem I had with the story is the whole shooting of Gahka's alien friend/ward, and the discussion afterwards. That was just overkill, in my opinion. They moved from being selfishly destructive to being cartoon villains. Gahka's actions in the end could have been as easily motivated by the realization that the terraforming meant genocide of his alien protectees. There was no need for anything as crude or unsubtle as that. (Actually, I was also unclear on why they were draining the swamp. Were they planning on terraforming the planet one inch at a time?)

Now, one thing worth considering is that in all likelihood, Gahka's actions didn't save the planet, as unless Earth is terraforming so many planets it has a policy of abandoning them the moment anything happens to a ship, or unless they keep having their ships land at exactly the same spot, then the next ship down will be able to plant its machines uninterrupted. This is not in itself a weakness; Gahka's actions are all the more poignant for being futile, and buying his alien buddies a few more years or months is better than nothing. But that would have made the moral consequences of the story far interesting if the terraforming was the main motivation for Gahka's killing of the crew.

I'm not saying the story is bad. Far from it. Nor that the moral issues it raised aren't interesting. But I have a definite sense that the story took the easy way out by making the situation so clear-cut. Which is a shame.
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Requiem42
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« Reply #21 on: January 25, 2012, 08:36:53 PM »

This is one of the best stories Escape Pod has had in quite awhile.
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Gamercow
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« Reply #22 on: January 26, 2012, 09:42:51 AM »

1 - The first, less important issue is how contrived the whole thing is. There's a whole planet here, and the two visits from Earth happened to be within a few meter of each other? I could forgive the coincidence if it was the only issue, but in conjunction with the others below it glared at me.


If there were two separate planet surveys, they both may have come up with the same place as the optimum location for landing, due to geographical conditions.  If the second landing was predicated on the findings of the first, it would be sensible to say "Okay, they thought this was a good place to land, why not just land there again?"
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eytanz
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« Reply #23 on: January 26, 2012, 11:20:02 AM »

1 - The first, less important issue is how contrived the whole thing is. There's a whole planet here, and the two visits from Earth happened to be within a few meter of each other? I could forgive the coincidence if it was the only issue, but in conjunction with the others below it glared at me.


If there were two separate planet surveys, they both may have come up with the same place as the optimum location for landing, due to geographical conditions.  If the second landing was predicated on the findings of the first, it would be sensible to say "Okay, they thought this was a good place to land, why not just land there again?"

I'm not entirely sure what you're talking about here - the two visits I meant were Gahka and the survey/mining ship. There was no other ship, and Gahka did not arrive as part of a survey, he was launched blindly through a wormhole and crashed-landed. Also, the survey/mining ship were not aware Gahka was there until after they landed, so I'm not sure how their landing could be predicated on his presence.

Also, we don't know where Gahka landed - he could have landed quite a distance away and travelled to his current location in his early years on the planet. That doesn't change the fact that the survey ship chose to land within a short distance of his home.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2012, 11:26:02 AM by eytanz » Logged
Gamercow
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« Reply #24 on: January 26, 2012, 11:21:17 AM »

1 - The first, less important issue is how contrived the whole thing is. There's a whole planet here, and the two visits from Earth happened to be within a few meter of each other? I could forgive the coincidence if it was the only issue, but in conjunction with the others below it glared at me.


If there were two separate planet surveys, they both may have come up with the same place as the optimum location for landing, due to geographical conditions.  If the second landing was predicated on the findings of the first, it would be sensible to say "Okay, they thought this was a good place to land, why not just land there again?"

I'm not entirely sure what you're talking about her - the two visits I meant were Gahka and the survey/mining ship. There was no other ship, and Gahka did not arrive as part of a survey, he was launched blindly through a wormhole and crashed-landed. Also, the survey/mining ship were not aware Gahka was there until after they landed, so I'm not sure how their landing could be predicated on his presence.

Also, we don't know where Gahka landed - he could have landed quite a distance away and travelled to his current location in his early years on the planet. That doesn't change the fact that the survey ship chose to land within a short distance of his home.

You're right.  I forgot the wormhole thing, I thought they launched Gahka towards a target, and didn't just throw robotic seed into the wind.  Derp.
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #25 on: January 26, 2012, 12:46:02 PM »

1 - The first, less important issue is how contrived the whole thing is. There's a whole planet here, and the two visits from Earth happened to be within a few meter of each other? I could forgive the coincidence if it was the only issue, but in conjunction with the others below it glared at me.


If there were two separate planet surveys, they both may have come up with the same place as the optimum location for landing, due to geographical conditions.  If the second landing was predicated on the findings of the first, it would be sensible to say "Okay, they thought this was a good place to land, why not just land there again?"

I'm not entirely sure what you're talking about her - the two visits I meant were Gahka and the survey/mining ship. There was no other ship, and Gahka did not arrive as part of a survey, he was launched blindly through a wormhole and crashed-landed. Also, the survey/mining ship were not aware Gahka was there until after they landed, so I'm not sure how their landing could be predicated on his presence.

Also, we don't know where Gahka landed - he could have landed quite a distance away and travelled to his current location in his early years on the planet. That doesn't change the fact that the survey ship chose to land within a short distance of his home.

You're right.  I forgot the wormhole thing, I thought they launched Gahka towards a target, and didn't just throw robotic seed into the wind.  Derp.
Presumably Gahka would leak at least a little bit of electromagnetic radiation. If I were an interstellar survey team from the future and I had to pick a spot on a planet to land, I would choose the spot with the highest sign of civilization. And electromagnetic radiation is a sure sign of an advanced civilization.
Even if I'm a ruthless and cold-hearted bastard who only cares about profit margin, I'd still want to meet the natives. Maybe they could sell us the material we need for cheap - saving us time. Maybe we could enslave them and get them to mine it for us for free - increasing profit margin. Maybe they could give us good intel on local weather/geological patterns that will ultimately save us time effort and money. Who knows?
But that would explain why they landed near Gahka, no contrivance necessary.
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jwbjerk
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« Reply #26 on: February 01, 2012, 10:07:28 PM »

Enjoyed the story.  I like the ambiguity of the robot's motivations.  Had he actually learned compassion, ethics, or was he malfunctioning?  Probably some of both.

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?".
A question more to the point would be: Why do they even want to change the atmosphere?  Since we have a small crew here to mine an entire planet, you gotta assume the mining would be done robotically.  Obviously 1000-year tech can survive well in that atmosphere, so why can't the new "superior" mining robots?  If they really need a certain environment for the mining, why not put a pressure dome over the mine?

Industry may be callously destructive, but a successfully company doesn't go to extra effort to destroy a planet's atmosphere-- if it is not the shortest path to profit, what's the point?


But that's not really an important part of the story, though it would have been nicer if it was more plausible.


P.S. we value gold highly because it is a) irreplaceable, b) rare, and c) useful industrially.  The fact that it is pretty doesn't hurt, but it would still be very valuable if all humans found it disgusting.
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« Reply #27 on: February 17, 2012, 10:21:20 AM »

I enjoyed this story well enough.  For much of the time that I listened it seemed like just another "robot is more humane than humans" story.  But after further thought, it's something more interesting than that.  Gahka is an incarnation of temporal culture clash.  He is a long-lived creature instilled with the ideals of a previous generation left to deal with newcomers to the planet, and so we get to see firsthand (and without time travel) how representatives of these two cultures would deal with each other.  I didn't necessarily see his actions as learning compoassions or ethics, nor necessarily that he was malfunctioning.  I saw it that he had a set of objectives and he was fulfilling them as best that he could.  He is programmed to deal with the scouting team, which are defined partly by their expected behavior.  Once their behavior is shown to deviate from expected behavior, he logically concludes that they must not be the scouting team.  If they are not the scouting team, he has no responsibliity toward them, and so he is free to do whatever he needs to to fulfill his responsibilities, and since these deceivers are interfering with his duties, his action is fine.

So anyway, yeah, after I thought about it further, the more I like it.
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Fenrix
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« Reply #28 on: February 17, 2012, 12:59:05 PM »

This sort of thing has happened before and it has always been attributable to human error.
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« Reply #29 on: February 17, 2012, 03:07:22 PM »

This sort of thing has happened before and it has always been attributable to human error.

What sort of thing?  legacy android killing modern scouting team? I don't follow.  Smiley
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« Reply #30 on: February 17, 2012, 08:16:04 PM »

This sort of thing has happened before and it has always been attributable to human error.

What sort of thing?  legacy android killing modern scouting team? I don't follow.  Smiley

That's probably my favorite HAL line. I believe it's after members of the crew come up dead due to hypersleep malfunctions. Nice and ambiguous - is it due to errors in the programming or did HAL do it? Or due to errors in HAL's programming?
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kibitzer
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« Reply #31 on: February 18, 2012, 07:29:46 AM »

Sequence of letters in the alphabet.

H --> I
A --> B
L --> M

Coincidence?
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #32 on: February 18, 2012, 11:38:22 AM »

Sequence of letters in the alphabet.

H --> I
A --> B
L --> M

Coincidence?
Old joke but not true.
I remember reading an interview with Arthur C. Clarke where he denied that connection. IIRC he said "it just sounded cool".
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kibitzer
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« Reply #33 on: February 19, 2012, 02:21:01 PM »

Old joke but not true.
I remember reading an interview with Arthur C. Clarke where he denied that connection. IIRC he said "it just sounded cool".

Not implying anything, just sayin' Smiley
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Myrealana
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« Reply #34 on: February 21, 2012, 10:02:13 AM »

I loved this story. It reminded me of the old time scifi radio shows like X Minus One and Flash Gordon.

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LaShawn
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« Reply #35 on: April 26, 2012, 01:51:54 PM »

I'm not a big fan of "humans screwing over indigenous planet" stories. This reminded me a lot of Avatar--which I hated. That said, I did sympathize with Gahka. His growing beyond his normal programming, and yet treated as obsolete, made his decision inevitable. Not bad, but the story didn't stand out to me in particular.
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