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Author Topic: EP341: Aphrodisia  (Read 8819 times)

eytanz

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on: April 20, 2012, 08:55:12 AM
EP341: Aphrodisia

By Lavie Tidhar

Read by Alasdair Stuart

First published in Strange Horizons

---

It began, in a way, with the midget hunchback tuk-tuk driver.
It was a night in the cool season…
The stars shone like cold hard semi-precious stones overhead. Shadows moved across the face of the moon. The beer place was emptying –
Ban Watnak where fat mosquitoes buzzed, lazily, across neon-lit faces. Thai pop playing too loudly, cigarette smoke rising the remnants of ghosts, straining to escape Earth’s atmosphere.
In the sky flying lanterns looked like tracer bullets, like fireflies. The midget hunchback tuk-tuk driver said, ‘Where are you going -?’ mainlining street speed and ancient wisdom.
Tone: ‘Where are you going?’
The driver sat on the elevated throne of his vehicle and contemplated the question as if his life depended on it. ‘Over there,’ he said, gesturing. Then, grudgingly – ‘Not far.’
But it was far enough for us.
Tone and Bejesus and me made three: Tone with the hafmek body, all spray-painted metal chest and arms, Victorian-style goggles hiding his eyes, a scarf in the colours of a vanished football team around his neck – it was cold. It was Earth cold, not real – there was no dial you could turn to make it go away. Bejesus not speaking, a fragile low-gravity body writhing with nervous energy despite the unaccustomed weight – Bejesus in love with this planet Earth, a long way away from his rock home in space.
Tone, in Asteroid Pidgin: ‘Yumi go lukaotem ol gel.’
‘No girls,’ I said. Tone smirked. Bejesus danced on the spot, nervous, excited, it was hard to tell. Tone said: ‘Boy, girl, all same.’
Bejesus, to the driver: ‘I dig your body work, man.’
Tone shaking his head. ‘Dumb ignorant rock-worm,’ he said, but with affection.
The hunchback midget tuk-tuk driver grinned, said, ‘You come with me, no pay. Free tuk-tuk!’
‘Best offer we’re going to get,’ Tone said, and I nodded. Bejesus passed me a pill. I dry-swallowed. The floating lanterns seemed larger then, like warm eyes blinking high above. ‘Let’s go!’ I said. My heart was beating too fast. ‘Hungry and horny and a long way from home,’ Tone said – a bad poet in hafmek armour.
We went.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



Dem

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Reply #1 on: April 20, 2012, 01:40:07 PM
Oh dear, first up and I wasn't impressed. I didn't engage with the robot/tentacular/porthole-person lads night out, or the detail that was supposed to build a world (giant spiders on the moon) but that seemed redundant and wasted character development space. There were too many glitches in the production (repeated lines, lines given the wrong emphasis) and spelling ('pus' has one 's', unless this chap was leaking moggies), and a story that really REALLY needed a well-crafted MC to carry it but had just Made-Up-SF-Man for whom I couldn't much care. Aphrodisia seems well out of it, in my view. Sorry chaps.
PS Alasdair, it's lovely to hear a fellow Brit at the narration helm but you do clip the ends of your words so that, even for me, catching some of them is hard work. You've slowed your reading down quite a bit though, maybe now have a go at those abbreviated syllables? Ta  :)

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Reply #2 on: April 20, 2012, 08:13:19 PM
I got about three minutes into the story and realized that, while I enjoy listening to Alasdair narrate, I just wasn't enjoying the story. So I skipped to the end and listened to Norm's outro instead.

I fear that Lavie Tidhar is going to join Cat Rambo on my "clearly they have it, whatever it is, but their it is not my thing" list.

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eytanz

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Reply #3 on: April 20, 2012, 09:03:03 PM
Lavie Tidhar is very hit-and-miss with me, and this one was a miss. There were lots of clever touches - I really did like the outsider's view of Earth - but it was all marred by the entirely unappealing main character, and his even less appealing obsession with his lost love.



bluetube

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Reply #4 on: April 22, 2012, 09:44:09 AM
I fear that Lavie Tidhar is going to join Cat Rambo on my "clearly they have it, whatever it is, but their it is not my thing" list.

I have to agree. Sorry to be another downer on this.  :-*

I appreciate the effort that Alasdair Stuart put into his reading of this story (as a Brit, I have no problem with his speaking style), but I just couldn't enjoy it.

Maybe the story was too short, relative to its density of future-world constructs.  Too much strangeness vs minimal plot?  I don't know, but this is not one I would listen to again.  :'(



InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #5 on: April 22, 2012, 09:58:48 PM
Well, I did like this one, especially as I thought it compared more favorably with its depiction of addiction and cyberspace than two recent stories, "Overclocking" and "The Trojan Girl".

In many ways SF stories can be like mysteries, as the reader (or in this case listener) struggles to make sense of the world they are presented with, trying to puzzle out the clues and identify the places where the world is at variance with our own. This was certainly the case for, especially as relates to the identity of the title character.

It was also ironic listening to the narrator complain about how many people there are on Earth while listening to it in a crowded supermarket.

I know that Alasdair has been criticized in the past for reading too quickly, and I think this might account for how slow the beginning was. If so, it served him well, as the whole thing sounded like a reminiscence, which worked well. 
« Last Edit: April 25, 2012, 10:55:16 PM by InfiniteMonkey »



aceofwands

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Reply #6 on: April 23, 2012, 02:53:36 PM
Well at least it was short. I managed to get through it between lunch prep and the car this morning.

So for about 12 minutes of dark urban, jacked-in, goddess-in-the-matrix tropes and the all-purpose oriental backdrop it was like something generated by a tenth-generation fuzzy William Gibson emulator streaming early Depeche Mode karaoke. I got the feeling the late side order of body horror was supposed to be its grown-up selling point, but for me it hadn't paid its dues.

As a native Englander I'm also going to say I don't think it's just foreign-ness that was an obstacle to stateside or other listeners. The performance reading, with its more ... or  ... less ... randomchangesinspeed PITCH AND ... casual disregard: for; punctuation ... made ... IT ... hardworktofollow.



childoftyranny

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Reply #7 on: April 24, 2012, 05:42:23 PM
I can say I didn't have any issue with the reading, it all seemed perfectly clear. Having my mind trying to put bacon and bosoms and Alasdair together into a coherent thought was a might bit trying, while listening to the beginning of this story I ended up pausing for a moment.

To me this story is like how when a person is drunk in a group of drunk people the adventure, no matter how asnine, could be fun, but to the sober person in the group, its rarely, if ever, fun. I can sort of see peoples interest in the alien view of earth, but he didn't seem particularly alien. I think the same opinion often arises from a small town person going to a big city, "so many, too many people, so crowded". I would also go as far as saying that when " the midget hunchback tuktuk driver", the robot, the moon worm, and the jacked-man walk into a bar, the joke/conceit is trying a bit hard.

Code: [Select]
Booting: Scientific MinutiaIn an effort to fulfill the demand for arguments over scientific minutia I present the following; if the amount of ports on the narrators body was a response for bandwidth over different types of stimuli, as the interweb dealer suggests by saying the bandwidth is poor so don't bother it makes little sense to position them all over the body, running them up and down the back so as to ensure a close connection to the spinal cord would be far more efficient and likely less damaging to the entire nerve structure.

 



dirk.bruere

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Reply #8 on: April 25, 2012, 10:50:06 PM
What can I say, except that I really like Alasdair's reading voice as well as his personal asides on Pseudopod.
This story, not so much.
It also had me reaching for my phone to make sure it wasn't me!



Rembrandt

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Reply #9 on: April 26, 2012, 04:21:17 PM
The reading of this story was somewhat like listening to an honest politician during election time.
Can't be done.
The chap probably has a lot of important stuff to say but you have to switch off to prevent your brain from dribbling from your ears.

Ah well....who ever heard of an honest politician anyway.



eytanz

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Reply #10 on: April 27, 2012, 04:08:06 AM
Ok - stepping in as a moderator here. I'd like to remind everyone of our one rule - criticism is welcome, but please keep your tone respectful of both the authors and readers. It's possible to convey dislike of someone's work without insulting them.

Rembrandt - it's clear that there's something you don't like about either the story of the narration, but it's not at all clear what it is. If you want to explain, feel free to do so. If you're just interested in posting clever insults, please refrain from it.



Bdoomed

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Reply #11 on: April 27, 2012, 10:11:38 PM
If you're just interested in posting clever insults, please refrain from it.
Clever? haha okay, you're giving him too much credit.

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


NoNotRogov

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Reply #12 on: April 29, 2012, 05:41:13 PM
While it was more condensed and much less of a standard narrative in structure than say, "Insurance Agent", also by Tidhar, I enjoyed having the weirdness of a Tidhar story with everything more or less explained; in contrast with Insurance Agent which left me in bewilderment. Getting the skinny on who/what Aphrodisia is justifies the story, and the stream of consciousness cyberpunk-feeling patter was nice; it reminds me of another Tidhar story I enjoyed, "Revolution Time".

So not a bad short story at all. If you like these sorts of transhuman elements and a main character haunted by memories of a higher consciousness, I would suggest Episode 294, Night Train.
« Last Edit: April 29, 2012, 05:44:02 PM by NoNotRogov »



Devoted135

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Reply #13 on: April 30, 2012, 02:55:19 PM
I agree with childoftyranny, reading about a bunch of transhumans/aliens tramp through London in search of a "fun time" is about as appealing as listening to a group of frat guys boasting about last weekend's exploits. At least it was short, and quickly forgotten.



ancawonka

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Reply #14 on: May 01, 2012, 06:20:44 AM
This one was a miss for me as well.  I enjoyed listening to Alasdair talk, but the characters were just not that sympathetic.



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #15 on: May 01, 2012, 01:47:23 PM
I liked it. It was neat!

Sure, the character was deeply strange, and the plot never quite resolved into sense (his girlfriend left him to become a more-transhuman-than-thou pop star, and he was sad an obsessed about it? I think?), but it was awesome! Awesome, brooding, weird, sad, obsessed, gritty, and sensual. I know I'm usually the one commenting "this story was beautiful but deeply flawed, as it never quite made sense," but this one surprised me. The plot never really came together... and I didn't care.

Alasdair's reading was, of course, excellent and spot on. I wonder if I would have enjoyed this one as much in print?

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Anarquistador

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Reply #16 on: May 03, 2012, 12:30:06 PM
Ordinarily I like strange new worlds, but this one was just too strange. I couldn't get into it. I could barely figure out what was going on, and the narration didn't help. It almost felt like Alasdair Stuart was channelling Alan Ginsburg or Chuck Palanchek, and reading it like a stream-of-consciousness Beat poem. Not my bag, man...

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Cutter McKay

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Reply #17 on: May 03, 2012, 09:35:31 PM
I'm afraid I'm on the bandwagon here with all arms, legs, and tentacles, securely within the car at all times. I loved the reading, but hated the story. Well, hate is a strong word. I didn't hate it, but it was surprised when it ended because nothing had really happened yet. So the narrator failed his attempt at sobriety and tripped again. So what? Happens every day in the gutter.

In the realm of "Story is a metaphor for life", this story did little more than restate the problem: How do you get over a bad trip/relationship? It didn't answer the question at all. The narrator tripped, his friends called him dumb, they left. Nothing is resolved and the narrator is left with this unsatisfied longing for the woman/transhuman who dumped him, he's still miserable, his friends are still A-holes for getting plastered and leaving him to fend for himself. No resolution whatsoever.

I agree with Electric Paladin in that I doubt I would have been able to enjoy this story all in print. Stream of consciousness is a difficult thing to write well, I've been trying in my own writing lately, but switching back and forth from dialogue tags like "‘Best offer we’re going to get,’ Tone said" to script-style tags like "Tone: ‘Where are you going?’" I find annoying and distracting. Pick one. Preferably the one that is more common to prose. When the writing stands out, it distracts from the story. I found this style extremely distracting.

But Alasdair's reading kept me intrigued. Perhaps it's because of my status as an untraveled, sheltered, American, but I love read/listening to stories in British vernacular. I always find the slang and jokes interesting and funny. Perhaps it's my affinity for British comedy such as Red Dwarf and Blackadder.

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Dem

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Reply #18 on: May 06, 2012, 09:19:07 AM
... but I love read/listening to stories in British vernacular. I always find the slang and jokes interesting and funny. Perhaps it's my affinity for British comedy such as Red Dwarf and Blackadder.
Thank you thank you thank you! Grateful Brit, innit.

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Rembrandt

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Reply #19 on: May 14, 2012, 07:26:40 AM
Ok - stepping in as a moderator here. I'd like to remind everyone of our one rule - criticism is welcome, but please keep your tone respectful of both the authors and readers. It's possible to convey dislike of someone's work without insulting them.

Rembrandt - it's clear that there's something you don't like about either the story of the narration, but it's not at all clear what it is. If you want to explain, feel free to do so. If you're just interested in posting clever insults, please refrain from it.

I am terribly sorry to have been mistaken for cleverly insulting.
It was never meant to be clever.
Nor insulting for that matter...

The story itself may have been good, even excelent.
However the way in which it was told was not, up to the point that it was what put me off the story after about 4 minutes.
In this it missed its purpose.

I really do appreciate the effort and time you all put in this podcast.
It is a rare thing to come across a well thought out product like this for -if you so choose- no money at all.
However, in this case I felt free to take the expression "episode comment" for what it was and commented the way I did.

You have received a $25 donation to make up for the misunderstanding and I shall refrain from any comments at all from now on.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2012, 07:37:29 AM by Rembrandt »



eytanz

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Reply #20 on: May 14, 2012, 08:43:46 AM
I really do appreciate the effort and time you all put in this podcast.
It is a rare thing to come across a well thought out product like this for -if you so choose- no money at all.
However, in this case I felt free to take the expression "episode comment" for what it was and commented the way I did.

You, just as everyone else here, are more than welcome to make comments about the episodes. But I'm pretty sure that "episode comment" does not mean "snarky comment". Or "passive aggressive comment", for that matter.

I'm sorry to hear you didn't enjoy the reading. Not all readings work for everyone.

Quote
You have received a $25 donation to make up for the misunderstanding and I shall refrain from any comments at all from now on.

All donations are appreciated, though of course you have nothing really to make up for. But if you find that getting a warning about your tone is enough to make you decide to delete your account (and let me assure everyone, his account was self-deleted, not deleted by a moderator) and never post again, then perhaps this wasn't the right forum for you.



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #21 on: May 15, 2012, 05:23:30 AM
I gave it nearly a month.
I would start listening to it, then give up. Start listening, then give up. Finally I bit the silver bullet and listened to the whole thing all the way through.
I have no idea what this story was about.
I usually enjoy Alasdair's readings, and usually don't have trouble understanding him, even though his accent is different from the accents I was used to growing up (what people often mistakenly call "foreign"). I think that the way I usually do it is I match every word and/or phrase to an internally stored database of words and phrases, which constantly updates itself according to context (where most of my extensive knowledge of "foreign" slang comes from) or from research ("what does encephalopathy mean anyway?"). But in this case I just couldn't.
There was too much ambiguity. I couldn't tell what was a proper noun, what was a made up noun for this universe and what was interference from a cell phone.
Sorry Alasdair, but it's not your fault. This was just a really bad story for you to read.

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Unblinking

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Reply #22 on: May 21, 2012, 01:41:52 PM
I really do appreciate the effort and time you all put in this podcast.
It is a rare thing to come across a well thought out product like this for -if you so choose- no money at all.
However, in this case I felt free to take the expression "episode comment" for what it was and commented the way I did.

You, just as everyone else here, are more than welcome to make comments about the episodes. But I'm pretty sure that "episode comment" does not mean "snarky comment". Or "passive aggressive comment", for that matter.

I'm sorry to hear you didn't enjoy the reading. Not all readings work for everyone.

Quote
You have received a $25 donation to make up for the misunderstanding and I shall refrain from any comments at all from now on.

All donations are appreciated, though of course you have nothing really to make up for. But if you find that getting a warning about your tone is enough to make you decide to delete your account (and let me assure everyone, his account was self-deleted, not deleted by a moderator) and never post again, then perhaps this wasn't the right forum for you.

Farewell, Rembrandt, we barely knew ye!

Looking at story threads, it should be quite clear that negative comments are allowed (or I would've been in violation dozens of times over), but the moderators just ask (and very reasonably) that they not be worded as insults towards people.



Unblinking

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Reply #23 on: May 21, 2012, 01:48:26 PM
Unfortunately, I've got to chime in with another opinion of dislike.  I gave it 15 minutes and I just had no clue what was happening.  I don't know if it was the shifting style of dialog tags or the sentence fragment or the fact that we're thrown into the world with very few clues about what the world is like.  I like en media res style when there is a good hook and the world is revealed in digestible bits as the story goes on, but as far as I could tell they were just going out for a night on the town and I didn't really get hooked and I really had trouble following what was happening.  I mean, I understood every word coming out of Alasdair's mouth, and most of the sentences I could more or less parse but I found it too difficult to combine these sentences into a coherent view of their world.  I felt like I was looking through a fly's compound eyes.

I will say, though, that Alasdair did a very nice job with the narration, the only reason I listened as far as I did.  He read the lines that I found incoherent with what sounded like complete confidence in them--it sounded like he was naturally speaking that way without having to think about it which made it more convincing as a POV voice. 

And this difficulty of understanding makes logical sense for a future story, because language usage and details shift as time goes on, as a natural effect of having language.  Imagine if someone from Victorian England watched a modern sitcom--they'd have trouble understanding much of it.  So it makes sense, but that's a case where a story may be better served by breaking realism and "translating" a story into something more comprehensible.  Differences in language can be a cool element in a story like in Clockwork Orange or...  what was that Escape Artists episode with the Australian future with some difficult future language...  drawing a blank. 



LaShawn

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Reply #24 on: May 24, 2012, 04:15:00 PM
That was weird. Loved Alasdair's reading, though there were times when the audio went buzzy. I enjoyed the crazy urban bizarro world of urban nightlife. The midget tuk tuk driver was the icing on the cake. I liked this one better than the Insurance Agent. This one made more sense to me.

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