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Author Topic: EP340: Golubash (Wine-Blood-War-Story)  (Read 9579 times)
eytanz
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« 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!
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dragonsbreath
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« 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.
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heyes
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« 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!
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« 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.
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Magic Smoke
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« 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
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« 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!
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« 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.
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« 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.
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Devoted135
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« 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.
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eytanz
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« 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?
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Max e^{i pi}
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« 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.
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Max e^{i pi}
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« 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.
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MrBlister
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« 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.
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« 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.
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« 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.

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Mav.Weirdo
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« 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. 
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Mav.Weirdo
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« 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. 
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Max e^{i pi}
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« 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.
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« 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.
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« 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.
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« Reply #20 on: April 18, 2012, 01:23:33 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.

Fair points, but I think it still stands that sometimes something new can be good and useful, rather than categorically bad.
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« Reply #21 on: April 18, 2012, 02:24:36 PM »

Among the things listed you'll find antibiotics, which humans did not invent, they discovered. From the point of view of an entity like Golubash, humans may be equivalent to penicillin-producing moss - they might produce something he-she-it likes or needs, so he-she-it allows them some limited access to resources.
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« Reply #22 on: April 18, 2012, 02:37:57 PM »

Among the things listed you'll find antibiotics, which humans did not invent, they discovered. From the point of view of an entity like Golubash, humans may be equivalent to penicillin-producing moss - they might produce something he-she-it likes or needs, so he-she-it allows them some limited access to resources.

That was intentional. We also discovered Dr. Who, and there's evidence that the first vein of psychotherapy was mined in a cave in Norway, circa 2,000 BC.
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« Reply #23 on: April 19, 2012, 01:33:08 AM »

Among the things listed you'll find antibiotics, which humans did not invent, they discovered. From the point of view of an entity like Golubash, humans may be equivalent to penicillin-producing moss - they might produce something he-she-it likes or needs, so he-she-it allows them some limited access to resources.
They might also be the equivalent of the Ebola virus.
But this discussion has gotten rather silly.
What I meant to say was two things:
1) The inconsistency of Golubash allowing one person to plant grapes in one place and nobody else to plant anything else (including grapes) anywhere else bothers me.
2) With humans living on Golubash, and occasionally flying away, Golubash would lose small parts of itself in the form of food metabolized in those humans. Did this not bother Golubash?
Also, penicillin is a fungus, not a moss. I'm not sure on the botanical difference, but that's what all the literature I read calls it: a fungus.
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« Reply #24 on: April 19, 2012, 01:47:35 AM »

1) The inconsistency of Golubash allowing one person to plant grapes in one place and nobody else to plant anything else (including grapes) anywhere else bothers me.

Golubash is an intelligent entity with a mind of its own. I allow one particular woman to sleep in my bed every night and don't ever sleep with anyone else (including on park benches). This certainly doesn't bother her!
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« Reply #25 on: April 19, 2012, 02:03:04 AM »


What I meant to say was two things:
1) The inconsistency of Golubash allowing one person to plant grapes in one place and nobody else to plant anything else (including grapes) anywhere else bothers me.

As ElectricPaladin points out, I'm not sure why you expect a sentient being to act in an entirely non-discriminatory sense. Maybe Golubash decided to run a small controlled experiment. Maybe it figured that that spot on itself was acceptable for modification, but others not (say, like someone choosing to have a nose piercing while refusing to have a lip piercing). Maybe it just really liked that one person and was willing to make allowances based on that emotional attachment that it was not willing to extend to all humans.

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2) With humans living on Golubash, and occasionally flying away, Golubash would lose small parts of itself in the form of food metabolized in those humans. Did this not bother Golubash?

We don't know about Golubash's biology enough to know how this would work, but I can't really see the problem here. Note that us humans are colonized by millions of micro-organisms, many of which considerably improve our standard of living. Their life cycle often involves feeding on some of our bodily products, and, as they die, we may lose some of that permanently. We also lose many millions of skin cells on a regular basis, and many other parts of our body eventually becomes incorporated into our various excretions. Do you lament the loss of a small bit of your body mass down the drain every time you shave?

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Also, penicillin is a fungus, not a moss. I'm not sure on the botanical difference, but that's what all the literature I read calls it: a fungus.

Yes, you're right - that was a typo on my behalf, I meant to say mould (which is a type of fungus), not moss.

(I feel like I should state, for people who are reading my various posts in this thread and wondering why I first attacked the story and now am defending it. I found the economic situation, the obsession with wine, and the motivations for the rebellion in this story unconvincing and simplistic. But I have no problem with the biology of the hyphens and I don't share any of Max's concerns there.)
« Last Edit: April 19, 2012, 02:08:20 AM by eytanz » Logged
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« Reply #26 on: April 19, 2012, 06:40:44 AM »

(I feel like I should state, for people who are reading my various posts in this thread and wondering why I first attacked the story and now am defending it. I found the economic situation, the obsession with wine, and the motivations for the rebellion in this story unconvincing and simplistic. But I have no problem with the biology of the hyphens and I don't share any of Max's concerns there.)
Which makes us quite the pair, because I found the economic situation, the obsession with wine and the motivations for rebellion rather convincing and realistic in an alternate-reality or possible-future sort of way.
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« Reply #27 on: April 19, 2012, 11:46:26 PM »

I'm in the clear minority here. I agree with the intro comments about the lack of food in stories (both science fictional and fantastic), this, IMHO, was not one of them. It was oenophilic porn. Oenophilic SF porn. Oenophilies tend to make my eyes roll.

But I did like the living planet. Would have liked to have heard more about that. I own Federations, maybe I'll give it another try at some point.
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« Reply #28 on: April 23, 2012, 01:41:18 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>
I couldn't agree more.

When the last wine was announced I breathed a sigh of relief and said 'thank god' to myself LOL

The actual story without all the bumph, although interesting, did needed something more to fill it out, however a wine tasting was without doubt not that something.

-Mex
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« Reply #29 on: April 24, 2012, 10:40:47 AM »

This story was ... oh, me. Mag-ni-fi-que!

EscapePod stories have been more or less consistently enjoyable, no problem there.

This one? This is the first one that I have not deleted after a few days. This one I have saved in multiple locations. This one I have listened through over and over again.

Glorious.

So what if it was not bang-bang-rattatatatata-splat-aargh action every minute, with a gag thrown in every 103 seconds? All the better for it!

This was literature. Not just storytelling, but painting a sumptuous expressionistic canvas with rich tones. Great work, entity Valente. Great work, entity Croft. Thanks to EA staff for bringing this out for my delectation.
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« Reply #30 on: April 24, 2012, 12:51:58 PM »

I admit that I was a bit lost in the details of plot, with all the weird sounding names and hyphenated pronouns.  However, the luscious imagery carried the story for me.  I'm more of a beer & steak kind of a guy, but I readily identified with the language used and at times could almost taste the wines as they were being described.

My views on the various incongruities are similar to ElectricPaladin's.  I think the point about the narrator being a very biased POV was very important, and possibly missed.  A historical parallel might be the Opium Wars that the British fought with the Chinese in the 1800's.  To the Chinese, this was a watermark point in history, both an extremely humiliating insult on their national pride and what would ingrain a very strong sense of anti-western/anti-colonialism that would affect modern Chinese foreign policy over 200 years later.  To the British, however, this was not much more than one of many "police actions" (to borrow an modern phrase) to keep the colonies in check, and may not have warranted much more than few newspaper headlines.  So in that sense, when Earth was said to "declare war" over a wine, it might have only been the equivalent of a minor conflict to the citizens of Earth.  From the story, the "war" with Earth certainly seemed to be one-sided enough.

Furthermore, I think some of the incredulity about starting a war over wine comes from our unique modern perspective, where we can surely stop by the corner mart and buy a couple bottles should wish.  Let's not forget that at one point in time, quite a few wars (or let's say conflicts) were fought over Spices, many of which are also cheap and easily available now.  At a point where a few rare spices (like nutmeg, mace, cloves) were only found on a small chain of Indonesian Islands, it was said that a single sailor could bring back one sack of spices on such a trip and be able to live in relative affluence for the rest of his life.  Now, imagine such economic forces on an inter-stellar scale.

Personally, I imagine the technology level of this story (where inter-stellar travel seems to be relatively easy) as basically Star-Trek-like.  They could very well have the ability to synthesize or easily transport basic food-like products very cheaply.  Imagine a McDonald's like "food printer" that had a basic nutritional "food-goo" feed along with an array of flavor and color toner cartridges, which would allow you to easily fabricate anything along the lines of a quarter-pounder, or a california roll, or even a ham & turkey gyro.  We basically have the tech to do that right now.  All the Golubash colonists would have to do was to obtain a steady energy supply, a source of water for hydroponics, and an occassional earth-delivery of stuff that wasn't easily fabricated.  In an environment like that, I think the commodities for interstellar trade would be anything that was relatively hard to fabricate and easy to transport, e.g. wines, coffee, tobacco, rare metals, cultural items.  I could easily see the Wine trade being the subject of dispute between various cartels, governing bodies, and small sentient planets.
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« Reply #31 on: April 24, 2012, 01:33:20 PM »

I had a difficult time getting into the story at first, but the imagery kept me from hitting delete long enough for the plot to gain some momentum.  Once the concept of the world body/mind caught me, I was eagerly anticipating the infection of the home world with the alien being - and the ride to get there was not disappointing at all.
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« Reply #32 on: April 24, 2012, 03:33:04 PM »

I enjoyed the undertones of this story, but would have rather spat out the wine tasting portions.... Tongue
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« Reply #33 on: April 25, 2012, 04:54:33 PM »

I'm usually a lurker, but this story made me mad on so many levels that I just had to post.
First, the systematical murder of the spanish language every time the "Asociación de la Pureza del Vino" was mentioned (which was quite a few) and the -shall I say doubtful?- pronounciation of the french names pushed me off the story every time. Secondly, the depiction of the "Asociación" as some sort of cliché Spanish Conquistador reminded me too much of Zorro and Capitán Monasterio. I was expecting Antonio Banderas at every turn of the story.
Thirdly, the hints on Barnard's local inhabitants was SO full of possibility.... it was a shame to waste it all and never quite explore all those other paths open to the author.
Lastly, a pet peeve: I do like wine, but can't stand yuppie "connoiseurs", who claim to recognize a gazillion scent markers on a given wine. Anything beyond three is snobbish exaggeration (and I'm quoting a wine expert here!)

Now to lurk mode again  Wink

Ce!
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« Reply #34 on: April 29, 2012, 09:16:14 PM »

I liked this one. It felt like the story was smuggled to me on some dilapidated space freighter.  The languid reading, with the slightly metallic twang and the careful stumbling pronounciation makes me want to start it over again just to savor.

While this lacks the precision of asimovian hard sci-fi, it's more than made up for in the romance of rebel wine artisans and post-capitalist mega-corps.
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« Reply #35 on: May 04, 2012, 01:21:06 AM »

I enjoyed this story!  Any mispronunciations or ecological/economic inaccuracies notwithstanding, the original framing device of the wine tasting, the weird technology and the weirder alien world were all great.
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« Reply #36 on: May 06, 2012, 01:46:49 PM »

I liked this one, it was pretty unusual...

but I admit I was a bit grossed out by the living organism shedding bits of itself concept. 
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« Reply #37 on: May 06, 2012, 01:50:47 PM »

I liked this one, it was pretty unusual...

but I admit I was a bit grossed out by the living organism shedding bits of itself concept. 

I did discuss this above, but I really can't see what the difference between this organism and every other multi-cellular organism in this respect.
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« Reply #38 on: May 06, 2012, 01:54:37 PM »

I liked this one, it was pretty unusual...

but I admit I was a bit grossed out by the living organism shedding bits of itself concept. 

I did discuss this above, but I really can't see what the difference between this organism and every other multi-cellular organism in this respect.

Well it depends if you're the drinker or the drinkee, doesn't it?
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« Reply #39 on: May 11, 2012, 01:00:36 AM »

Hmh, this one didn't hold my interest. It's one of three or so EA casts I haven't been able to finish, but I didn't dislike it. Golubash itself was definitely interesting, though. Perhaps it was the Evil Wine Cartel of Doom that put me off, or maybe the story was told too indirectly. Still, I'd love to see more food in spec fic. Mmm, unicorn steaks...
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« Reply #40 on: May 12, 2012, 02:31:23 AM »

Still, I'd love to see more food in spec fic. Mmm, unicorn steaks...

Indeed, because if you think about it there's more than one way to do a first contact story...  "We are very happy to eat, I mean, meet you."  And it would be a nice turn of the norm if the humans were the ones to do the eating and greeting.   Grin
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« Reply #41 on: May 21, 2012, 12:48:15 PM »

There are few things that I find more thoroughly boring than listening to a wine-tasting.  (Watching golf on TV is one of them)  I enjoy the occasional glass of wine, though my tastes go more toward the dessert wine that an enthusiast might sneer at.  Moscato is my particular favorite.  But I have never had any interest in listening to people talk about the undertones and the woody aroma and whatever else people talk about when they talk about wine.  I'm just not interested.

So predictably, this story was a very hard sell.  I was interested in the Hyphens being extensions of the planetary being, enough so that I listened 18 minutes in after I'd been tempted to shut it off already.  But then it kept on going on with the wines and on, and on, and on.  After 18 minutes I tapped out because I just didn't have the patience anymore, and then realized that the episode wasn't even halfway over at that point.  Yikes, I'm glad I didn't stick through to the end.

I would love to read a story about Golubash without all the wine-tasting.  That part sounded interesting, but not worth wading through the rest.
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« Reply #42 on: May 21, 2012, 01:01:33 PM »

There are few things that I find more thoroughly boring than listening to a wine-tasting.  (Watching golf on TV is one of them) 

Watching golf on TV is only fun if you're watching it with other golf enthusiasts. We used to get wild at my old job during tournaments, watching them on the big TVs in the newsroom.
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« Reply #43 on: May 24, 2012, 10:41:31 AM »

A science fiction story framed around wine. Delicious! I loved the history in this. There was so much information in this I had to read along, but I've always enjoyed Valente's style, so reading it, along with listening to it was a treat. Understanding it, on the other hand, required reading through the forum. But that's okay. I love you all. You increase my intelligence a little more each day.
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« Reply #44 on: May 28, 2012, 08:23:08 PM »

My thoughts exactly.  I actually started  this story, got bored/lost, stopped, and had to force myself to come back to listen for the sake of completeness.  I liked it better than expected from the start, but I think this was a poor choice for audio.  In addition to French words and numerous names, the dates were a problem (honestly I still don't know if the historical story (ie the main plot) was told in order or not).  IMO stories which reference dates like this are often a poor choice for audio because I can't flipped back a page or two to see the previous date when the next is mentioned.

This story in audio form evoked a "meh."  I suspect I could have gotten more out of reading it where I could have skimmed all the wine details which didn't do anything for me.

Tldr: story would probably work better in unicode than compressed audio.
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« Reply #45 on: June 08, 2012, 04:51:02 PM »

Wow, I'm not a great lover of a book made up of a lot of description, I prefer and slick plot and clever characters. Simply wow though, the description was fabulous.
I found the intricate political back story very interesting that could easily be related to many situations but I will desperately try to avoid politics. I will say that this did make me think that it had a strong reference to a major power thinking with its oil filled balls constricting small companies into conformity.
I loved this story, the descriptions of the wines was fantastic and the french behind them really gave the story a sense of passion. The mixtures of grapes and the history behind them another interesting selection of facts that really gave the story flavour.
At points this story did get a little too much, especially with the french, not being as fluent as I would like to be, a little too much. If there was a little less it would have been perfect.
I must confess, listening this story late a night, I didn't quite grasp the "god" concept in the form of Golubash, but that perhaps that was more down to me being a little slow when I tried to understand the message of the story. I did really enjoy this one, and the descriptions of the wine, I felt, were good.
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« Reply #46 on: July 09, 2012, 02:42:08 PM »

I'm a wine drinker without being a wine snob, but I really liked this story, and I must say that without the wine-tasting framing and segwaying of this story, it would have been pretty ordinary and forgettable, but the way it resonated the character of the different wines with the telling of the history of this colony and the world-organism was pretty powerful. It was the kind of space opera I like, mildly surrealistic and very unsubtle. As for the mispronounciations, I'm sure that's how they will sound in the future, when only wine snobs remembers enough fragments of the french language to mark their territory.
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« Reply #47 on: July 10, 2012, 08:58:57 AM »

As for the mispronounciations, I'm sure that's how they will sound in the future, when only wine snobs remembers enough fragments of the french language to mark their territory.

What will have happened to the French in this future?
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« Reply #48 on: July 11, 2012, 12:05:53 AM »

As for the mispronounciations, I'm sure that's how they will sound in the future, when only wine snobs remembers enough fragments of the french language to mark their territory.

What will have happened to the French in this future?

Tragic hypersauce mishap.
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« Reply #49 on: August 22, 2012, 06:31:41 AM »

Tragic hypersauce mishap.

Sounds like a description of my cooking. Or a great band name.

Anyway, just got around to listening to this one, I liked it, but I feel the same way a lot of people did about Resnick's "Homecoming". Valente is absolutely brilliant, one of my favorite authors, but this felt like a more generic Catherynne M. Valente story. No one else would have written it this way, but the best things are things that would be impressive had I not already read Catherynne M. Valente doing those things much better.

"A Buyer's Guide to Maps of Antarctica" is my all-time favorite story of hers, with "Thirteen Ways of Looking at Space/Time" not far behind. Here we have pretty much the same structure, without as interesting of a story. Most of her others just kill me, this one leaves me a bit cold. Which is not to say that the writing wasn't great, with an interesting structure, good characters, and wonderful descriptions.  Just that the Valente-bar is set higher than this, at least for me. I'm glad I listened to it, but it will be like twentieth place in stories of hers I force on other people.
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Grumpoid
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« Reply #50 on: September 02, 2012, 07:50:12 AM »

Green Patches with a downbeat ending.
You will be assimilated - resistance is futile
waiting for the albatrosses

Think that covers it.

I started with this one by reading the comments first, probably shan't do that again. From the comments I reckoned "not my sort of thing - next" and didn't bother with it.
Then found a reference to it on another website as their favourite story of the year, so I gave it a go.

Loved the first bit. I liked the language, the quietly understated ridiculing of the wine jargon, (even if the river was a bit too much like the river in Ian Watson's rather brilliant Book of the River). What I liked was the telling the story between the lines, the slow build. Very nicely controlled. Then we got to 2390 (or thereabouts, I'm not going to look it up) and suddenly the reaching structures topple, becoming unconvincing (The Cola navy and the Vinquisition) willing suspension of disbelief simply evaporated in a puff of "Huh?". The prose became opaque and uninteresting (to me, if you loved it fine, I'm happy for you) I struggled through to the end, like when someone you know quite well is telling a long, long, joke in a bar, and you knew the punchline five minutes ago but still have to sit and listen with your cheeks propped up into a polite but slightly uncomfortable smile.

I suppose if you've never heard of Asimov, never seen an episode of STNG with the Borg in it, or read Who Goes There, or seen The Thing, then these ideas may seem fresh.

She's a very good writer, but I think she ran out of steam, interest and ideas about halfway through this one.

Curate's Egg for me.

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jaddle
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« Reply #51 on: November 03, 2012, 12:22:15 PM »

I really didn't like listening to this one - maybe the narrator was at fault, but more likely it just doesn't fit in audio very well. I always check the forums though, to see what other people thought, and I'm glad I did! After seeing that so many people loved this one, I went back and read it, and really quite liked it! I'm just posting this in case anyone else reads the forum the same way I did - I definitely recommend reading the story instead of listening to it.
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