Escape Artists
August 20, 2014, 07:22:11 PM *
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
News:
 
   Home   Help Search Login Register  
Pages: [1] 2 3  All
  Print  
Author Topic: EP340: Golubash (Wine-Blood-War-Story)  (Read 4008 times)
eytanz
Moderator
*****
Posts: 4563



« on: April 13, 2012, 07:58:55 AM »

EP340: Golubash (Wine-Blood-War-Story)

By Catherynne M. Valente

Read by Marguerite Croft

Originally appeared in Federations

---

The difficulties of transporting wine over interstellar distances are manifold. Wine is, after all, like a child. It can _bruise_. It can suffer trauma—sometimes the poor creature can recover, sometimes it must be locked up in a cellar until it learns to behave itself. Sometimes it is irredeemable. I ask that you greet the seven glasses before you tonight not as simple fermented grapes, but as the living creatures they are, well-brought up, indulged but not coddled, punished when necessary, shyly seeking your approval with clasped hands and slicked hair. After all, they have come so very far for the chance to be loved.

Welcome to the first public tasting of Domaine Zhaba. My name is Phylloxera Nanut, and it is the fruit of my family’s vines that sits before you. Please forgive our humble venue—surely we could have wished for something grander than a scorched pre-war orbital platform, but circumstances, and the constant surveillance of Chatêau Marubouzu-Debrouillard and their soldiers have driven us to extremity. Mind the loose electrical panels and pull up a reactor husk—they are inert, I assure you. Spit onto the floor—a few new stains will never be noticed. As every drop about to pass your lips is wholly, thoroughly, enthusiastically illegal, we shall not stand on ceremony. Shall we begin?

2583 Sud-Cotê-du-Golubash (New Danube)

The colonial ship _Quintessence of Dust_ first blazed across the skies of Avalokitesvara two hundred years before I was born, under the red stare of Barnard’s Star, our second solar benefactor. Her plasma sails streamed kilometers long, like sheltering wings. Simone Nanut was on that ship. She, alongside a thousand others, looked down on their new home from  that great height, the single long, unfathomably wide river that circumscribed the globe, the golden mountains prickled with cobalt alders, the deserts streaked with pink salt.

How I remember the southern coast of Golubash, I played there, and dreamed there was a girl on the invisible opposite shore, and that her family, too, made wine and cowered like us in the shadow of the Asociación.

My friends, in your university days did you not study the rolls of the first colonials, did you not memorize their weight-limited cargo, verse after verse of spinning wheels, bamboo seeds, lathes, vials of tailored bacteria, as holy writ? Then perhaps you will recall Simone Nanut and her folly, that her pitiful allotment of cargo was taken up by the clothes on her back and a tangle of ancient Maribor grapevine, its roots tenderly wrapped and watered. Mad Slovak witch they all thought her, patting those tortured, battered vines into the gritty yellow soil of the Golubash basin. Even the Hyphens were sure the poor things would fail. There were only four of them on all of Avalokitesvara, immensely tall, their watery triune faces catching the old red light of Barnard’s flares, their innumerable arms fanned out around their terribly thin torsos like peacock’s tails. Not for nothing was the planet named for a Hindu god with eleven faces and a thousand arms. The colonists called them Hyphens for their way of talking, and for the thinness of their bodies. They did not understand then what you must all know now, rolling your eyes behind your sleeves as your hostess relates ancient history, that each of the four Hyphens was a quarter of the world in a single body, that they were a mere outcropping of the vast intelligences which made up the ecology of Avalokitesvara, like one of our thumbs or a pair of lips.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
Logged
dragonsbreath
Palmer
**
Posts: 41


« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2012, 02:54:24 PM »

I really loved this story. I listened to it at work and could not wait to get home to open a fine Merlot.

By the way, I would like see a story of nature based on extradimensional and extraterrestrial cigar varieties, with a little temporal distortion of causality loops thrown in.
Logged
heyes
Peltast
***
Posts: 92



WWW
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2012, 07:27:34 PM »

The story was deeply pleasing on so many levels. I really enjoyed the way that the story of each vintage was a powerful story in and of itself. I also really enjoyed that while all of this "story within a story" was going, the way the perspective character brings the reader back to the hear-now event of the wine tasting in a really sharp and effect way. There lots of nice light touches that give hints into other layers of the setting, and the world building was truly wonderful! That goes for more than just the world of the Hyphens, but the broader historical context. And frankly I love love love "gate" travel.

This was a real gem of a story!
Logged

"Feed me Seymour!"
     -Audry II
"You were not put on the Earth to get it, Mr. Burton"
     - Lo Pan
Lionman
Peltast
***
Posts: 98


[Insert witty banter here!]


« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2012, 09:11:44 PM »

I thought it was a very interesting story.  Midway through I found myself thinking, "A wine person would enjoy this story more, catch many, many more of the subtile aspects than the average reader/listener."  In fact, there was so much focus on the wines, that I started to get a little lost, just before the gates, how they had mostly been dismantled and were no longer necessary for regular ships, only used by smugglers.  (Now that fact made me think there were all sorts of interesting ways things could go.)

However, as I listened to this, there were several items that were very core to the story, and should strike a chord with all sci-fi folks...  Space Colonization and fighting for your freedom.  In this case, your freedom to choose to do wine your own way, not the way the APV (Assoiciation of the Pure Vine) says you have to do it because they're big-business, and they know best.

I do have to disagree, this story was less about alien food, and more about the idea of fighting for what you believe in.
Logged
Magic Smoke
Extern
*
Posts: 7



« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2012, 08:13:05 PM »

This was the fist Escape Pod story that I actively disliked. <rant> A third of the words were used to describe wine, and another third was taken up by long, difficult to pronounce names that didn't contribute anything to the story. The remaining bit was Sci-Fi, sure, but it could have been so much better. A sentient alien world that uses ecological processes to live takes over Earth? Now that's something I want to hear more about, not wine.</rant>
« Last Edit: April 15, 2012, 07:51:15 PM by Magic Smoke » Logged
Dem
Lochage
*****
Posts: 548


aka conboyhillfiction.wordpress.com


WWW
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2012, 09:11:12 AM »

I stumbled over the foreign language labels, as did the narrator sometimes - at least in terms of fluency, and I'm not much of a wine aficionado either, so I was on the verge of distraction by mundane events outside the window. Then the subversion of the story kicked in, the elegance of the induction, the plot that insinuated itself and popped up in gifts without fanfare. This is a very subtle 'Thing'; a hive organism whose organelles mimic species, elements, and geological features. I suspect we've all been somewhat possessed after a bit of a skinful, but never quite like this!
Logged

Science is what you do when the funding panel thinks you know what you're doing. Fiction is the same only without the funding.
aceofwands
Extern
*
Posts: 6


« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2012, 10:36:08 AM »

Because I'm no wine snob - not a wine drinker, in fact - and those who are make me wince, at first sight I recoiled at the possibility that the story was going to celebrate that set of fetishes and conventions. From the other comments here it looks like some readers didn't get past that instant reaction. As it started to unfold, though, even though the approach was quite arch I thought the central idea of a capsule history of near-space colonisation and war expressed through the fortunes of wine growers and traders showed real style and imagination.

But just as things were looking up I slammed right into the one real problem I have with podcast audio readings. There was some charm in the off-mic ambient door slam and paper rustling - because, hey, none of us live in a vaccuum - but the hestiant, mechanical reading killed the author's voice completely and the constant struggle with pronunciation was a continual distraction. It was disappointing because the most challenging words weren't part of some atrfificial glottal-stop- and apostrophe-heavy made-up soundcape, they were mostly real, living, Earth words just unfortunately - and in a story about wine growing and tasting who would've guesed it? - French. (Although I have to say, even I'm not sure where "Asociación" comes from.)

It's a real shame for the writer, when some foresight in the reading arrangements would have served her much better. On the bright side it has spurred me to go track down her this-year's-Hugo-nominated novella.
Logged
Listener
Hipparch
******
Posts: 3163


I place things in locations which later elude me.


WWW
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2012, 12:34:57 PM »

I liked telling the history of the war by the wines that were... um... wined... at the time. I also like what I think I caught at the end -- that Earth lost the war and was colonized/infiltrated by the Golubash thing.

But for the most part, the story didn't really keep my attention because there was so much going on in it in terms of the details. I think I would've been really interested in how the wine regulation board (or whatever it was) got so much power that wars were actually started over wine (if that's what happened -- that's how I read the story), but the details I really liked got lost in a lot of the details I didn't care about.
Logged

"Farts are a hug you can smell." -Wil Wheaton

Blog || Quote Blog ||  Written and Audio Work || Twitter: @listener42
Devoted135
Hipparch
******
Posts: 843



« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2012, 03:09:33 PM »

I also had a really hard time getting into this one. Chalk it up to a combination of a lack of interest in wine plus the painfully halting mispronunciation of every french word plus the general ambiance of the story. The pieces of the greater story (war, resistance, etc) that I could pin down were very interesting and I liked the concept of the hyphens quite a lot. It was just too difficult for me to unpack, especially in audio.
Logged
eytanz
Moderator
*****
Posts: 4563



« Reply #9 on: April 16, 2012, 04:01:45 PM »

So, let me see if I got this straight:

- Humans colonized a planet where no human food sources grow.
- As a result, all food has to be imported from Earth, meaning that Earth retains a stranglehold on the colony.
- The one exception is wine, which can grow in a single vineyard on that planet.
- Which is a problem, because the wine cartels are so powerful on Earth that the planet will go to war over a single vineyard that can produce a pretty small amount of wine each year.
- The colonists are happy to go to war over the wine, too
- The fact that *every single other* aspect of their existence is dependent on an even more stringent monopoly is unimportant, to everyone involved.

Did I misunderstand something?
Logged
Max e^{i pi}
Hipparch
******
Posts: 881


Have towel, will travel.


« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2012, 05:57:50 AM »

I do appreciate wine, I have been to a few wine tasting events (one very similar to this, long stories about each wine and then a taste), but it still took me quite some time to get into the story. I was on the verge of giving up many times in the first 10 minutes or so. But I managed to persevere, and I'm not sorry that I did.
But I'm also not sure that I would make the same decision next time.
This is a case where audio just doesn't work. A lot of the problem was the French words. And getting a better narrator who won't stumble over them isn't going to help. To the non-French ear, they sound far too similar. It was very difficult, nay, nearly impossible, for me to keep track of names of people, places and wines.
When reading, the eye tends to get lazy and read only part of the word. And our minds are good at discerning patterns. Therefore, even someone who doesn't understand a word of French will be able to follow this story much better while reading it. His or her (or hir) mind will simply apply a pseudo-lable to each difficult term, and consistently use that label throughout. As they say: voila! no confusion!
Another thing that bothered me were the pronouns used for Golubash.
While I appreciate that the author was trying to convey the image that all three pronouns are both correct and incorrect for this world-entity, it sounds awful in audio. It really stings. Also the inconsistencies. I noted no less than three cases where the third-person male pronoun (he) was used for Golubash. And at the end, the entity taking over Earth is referred to as a "lady". Where did the gender ambiguity go?
Fortunately the English language has evolved a set of gender-neutral pronouns. Why not use them?

Tldr: story would probably work better in unicode than compressed audio.
Logged

Cogito ergo surf - I think therefore I network

Registered Linux user #481826 Get Counted!

Max e^{i pi}
Hipparch
******
Posts: 881


Have towel, will travel.


« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2012, 05:58:30 AM »

Having gotten that off my chest, the story was pretty good.  Wink

I like future history stories that don't take the "conventional" scifi path. (Contact with aliens/AI causes humanity to unite and galactic peace).
I like it when we see the current direction of politics or policies that are allowed to keep going down that path and get totally blown out of proportion.
This is a good example of how greed and petty policies can shape the future of entire worlds. I loved it.

But as eytanz pointed out, the plot itself doesn't hold much water (wine on the other hand...).
How did a single grape vine suddenly (or not so suddenly) be able to produce such a variety of grapes? I recognized at least 4 entirely different species of grapes in the wines, and there were probably more.
Why did Golubash allow this whole thing to happen? If other crops that were planted did bad things to it, why were the grapes OK?
Didn't it bother Golubash that the human settlers were consuming parts of it as food? It reminded me a little of Gaia, and Golan Trevize specifically asked Bliss about the food that they had eaten and metabolized while on Gaia. Didn't that make Gaia lose a part of itself? Her answer: yes, but it was a sacrifice that Gaia was willing to make, seeing how their long-term plans include Galaxia.
But I don't see that making any sense for Golubash. Golubash had no obvious plan to conquer Earth. Ze merely allowed the human settlers to sit there and consume material out of the goodness of hir molten heart? Doubtful.
I do like the idea of a planet-wide entity that can and does communicate with the human settlers.
I like hearing about the evolution of interstellar travel.
I like the greed and intrigue that surrounds everything from colonization to mail delivery.
Also I liked the way the story was told, as a series of wine-tasting stories that describe a crucial bit of galactic history.

So once again I find myself liking the ideas in a story much better than the story itself.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2012, 06:11:45 AM by Max e^{i pi} » Logged

Cogito ergo surf - I think therefore I network

Registered Linux user #481826 Get Counted!

MrBlister
Extern
*
Posts: 4



« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2012, 06:36:50 AM »

I just couldn't get into this story. With all the French in there, it may read better.
Logged
ElectricPaladin
Hipparch
******
Posts: 784


Holy Robot


WWW
« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2012, 08:34:35 AM »

Savor this story. Detect the notes of charcoal, sap, and raspberry. This story is not kind, but neither is it cruel. It contains both revenge and justice, but it is careful of the innocent and contains an element of hope. This is a story in which the villains are greed and war, dealing death, and they receive their comeuppance in the form of life. Consider it's history - a story of the latter day of science fiction, plausible but not concerned about slavish adherence to scientific detail, told within a frame that evokes both the most primal senses of the human condition and the politics of today. It is a heady mix.

*Ahem*

Anyway, I loved this story. I loved the conceit of history-told-through-wine. I thought that the story was completely plausible - especially if you consider that the narrator obviously has her perspective on the war, a perspective that others might disagree with (though it wouldn't be fair to call her unreliable, exactly, just opinionated) - but even so, people have actually gone to war over this sort of thing in real life. Greed can be a powerful motivator, and not all humans are as principled as one would like. In fact, you know... the climate that started this war did happen in real life. Mercantilism - Britain's early approach to its colonies - states that colonies exist primarily to provide a new market for the parent country's goods, to the limit of shipping technology. The taxes that inspired America's revolution were intended to A) prevent American goods for reaching a global market and competing with British goods and B) keep early Americans dependent upon the British economy for things they needed - things they could grow in a neighboring colony.

And we went to war over that.

The story didn't have characters in a conventional sense - except the narrator, whose character was deeply and lovingly explored - but I don't think it needed them. Odd, I know. The organizations (including the monk's extinct winery), planets, and meta-life-forms of the Hyphens gradually took on sufficient character to entrance me. The author also had a gift for bringing a character to life with remarkably few words. For example - the moon monk; I really found myself feeling that I knew him, liked him, after only a brief appearance in the story. That was quite impressive.

All in all, a winner with me. Five slightly tipsy zeppelins out of five, and I'll take two bottles of the dark red, one of the white, and if that doesn't exhaust my savings, one of the moon-monk's vintage.
Logged

Captain of the Burning Zeppelin Experience.

Help my kids get the educational supplies they need at my Donor's Choose page.
childoftyranny
Matross
****
Posts: 167



« Reply #14 on: April 17, 2012, 06:41:03 PM »

I liked this story, I think the "wine tasting" feel to the story-telling worked wonderfully, I've never been to a wine tasting party, but I grown fond of Riesling and Gewurztraminer. Only one of got respect in this story, come on we gotta represent the German wines! Moving forward I appreciated the background of life with Golubash though I was entirely sure at first if symbolic or not, especially with mentions of mythology. That cleared up later on in the story and I always appreciate being introduced to mythos types I'm not very familiar with.

One thing that confused me, but not to any negative degree is when we are introduced into the mixing with the Japanese vines and suddenly we find Japanese terms mixed in with the French and I would think Hindi, though I could easily be wrong. This was nearly too much, though I still maintained my grasp. It remind me a bit of the cyberpunk influence where we get many Asian influences into the stories, though sometimes it seems a bit random, though I know its part of the genre. Its important to make it clear that is not a complaint merely a curiosity.

How did a single grape vine suddenly (or not so suddenly) be able to produce such a variety of grapes? I recognized at least 4 entirely different species of grapes in the wines, and there were probably more.

From my understanding the vines were grafted together according to the story, although I have no idea if that actually works with grapes.

Logged
Mav.Weirdo
Palmer
**
Posts: 34


« Reply #15 on: April 17, 2012, 10:48:29 PM »

So, let me see if I got this straight:

- Humans colonized a planet where no human food sources grow.
- As a result, all food has to be imported from Earth, meaning that Earth retains a stranglehold on the colony.
- The one exception is wine, which can grow in a single vineyard on that planet.
- Which is a problem, because the wine cartels are so powerful on Earth that the planet will go to war over a single vineyard that can produce a pretty small amount of wine each year.
- The colonists are happy to go to war over the wine, too
- The fact that *every single other* aspect of their existence is dependent on an even more stringent monopoly is unimportant, to everyone involved.

Did I misunderstand something?

No terrestrial plants grow on this planet, except grapes, however some native plants and animals can be eaten by humans. 
Logged
Mav.Weirdo
Palmer
**
Posts: 34


« Reply #16 on: April 17, 2012, 11:01:24 PM »


Why did Golubash allow this whole thing to happen? If other crops that were planted did bad things to it, why were the grapes OK?
Didn't it bother Golubash that the human settlers were consuming parts of it as food? It reminded me a little of Gaia, and Golan Trevize specifically asked Bliss about the food that they had eaten and metabolized while on Gaia. Didn't that make Gaia lose a part of itself? Her answer: yes, but it was a sacrifice that Gaia was willing to make, seeing how their long-term plans include Galaxia.


My thought was that for whatever reason Golubash decided that humans were capable of acting in a symbiotic way, like Mitochondria or Acidophilus. Perhaps human byproducts were somehow useful to Golubash. 
Logged
Max e^{i pi}
Hipparch
******
Posts: 881


Have towel, will travel.


« Reply #17 on: April 18, 2012, 07:58:39 AM »


Why did Golubash allow this whole thing to happen? If other crops that were planted did bad things to it, why were the grapes OK?
Didn't it bother Golubash that the human settlers were consuming parts of it as food? It reminded me a little of Gaia, and Golan Trevize specifically asked Bliss about the food that they had eaten and metabolized while on Gaia. Didn't that make Gaia lose a part of itself? Her answer: yes, but it was a sacrifice that Gaia was willing to make, seeing how their long-term plans include Galaxia.


My thought was that for whatever reason Golubash decided that humans were capable of acting in a symbiotic way, like Mitochondria or Acidophilus. Perhaps human byproducts were somehow useful to Golubash. 
Remember that for billions of years Golubash had existed and flourished without these "useful byproducts". It's far more likely that the sudden introduction of foreign biological matter would upset the biosphere rather than turn out to be useful.
Logged

Cogito ergo surf - I think therefore I network

Registered Linux user #481826 Get Counted!

ElectricPaladin
Hipparch
******
Posts: 784


Holy Robot


WWW
« Reply #18 on: April 18, 2012, 08:03:11 AM »


Why did Golubash allow this whole thing to happen? If other crops that were planted did bad things to it, why were the grapes OK?
Didn't it bother Golubash that the human settlers were consuming parts of it as food? It reminded me a little of Gaia, and Golan Trevize specifically asked Bliss about the food that they had eaten and metabolized while on Gaia. Didn't that make Gaia lose a part of itself? Her answer: yes, but it was a sacrifice that Gaia was willing to make, seeing how their long-term plans include Galaxia.


My thought was that for whatever reason Golubash decided that humans were capable of acting in a symbiotic way, like Mitochondria or Acidophilus. Perhaps human byproducts were somehow useful to Golubash. 
Remember that for billions of years Golubash had existed and flourished without these "useful byproducts". It's far more likely that the sudden introduction of foreign biological matter would upset the biosphere rather than turn out to be useful.

For billions of years, humans existed and flourished without TV/plastic/Dr. Who/antibiotics/democracy/smoothies/psychotherapists/lycra/me. Doesn't make these bad things.
Logged

Captain of the Burning Zeppelin Experience.

Help my kids get the educational supplies they need at my Donor's Choose page.
Max e^{i pi}
Hipparch
******
Posts: 881


Have towel, will travel.


« Reply #19 on: April 18, 2012, 01:20:33 PM »


Why did Golubash allow this whole thing to happen? If other crops that were planted did bad things to it, why were the grapes OK?
Didn't it bother Golubash that the human settlers were consuming parts of it as food? It reminded me a little of Gaia, and Golan Trevize specifically asked Bliss about the food that they had eaten and metabolized while on Gaia. Didn't that make Gaia lose a part of itself? Her answer: yes, but it was a sacrifice that Gaia was willing to make, seeing how their long-term plans include Galaxia.


My thought was that for whatever reason Golubash decided that humans were capable of acting in a symbiotic way, like Mitochondria or Acidophilus. Perhaps human byproducts were somehow useful to Golubash. 
Remember that for billions of years Golubash had existed and flourished without these "useful byproducts". It's far more likely that the sudden introduction of foreign biological matter would upset the biosphere rather than turn out to be useful.

For billions of years, humans existed and flourished without TV/plastic/Dr. Who/antibiotics/democracy/smoothies/psychotherapists/lycra/me. Doesn't make these bad things.
Humans evolved that stuff on their own, out of Necessity which is the mother of invention. I think the father might be Boredom. Tongue
But those examples that you gave, while good for humans, are not necessarily good for other animals. Lycra is in fact harmful to ducks, and if a wolf pack tried to run things by democracy the hyenas would eat them.
Logged

Cogito ergo surf - I think therefore I network

Registered Linux user #481826 Get Counted!

Pages: [1] 2 3  All
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.19 | SMF © 2013, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!