Author Topic: PC211 / 592: The Axiom Of Choice  (Read 15037 times)

Ocicat

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PC211 / 592: The Axiom Of Choice
« on: June 05, 2012, 10:53:33 AM »
PodCastle 211: The Axiom Of Choice

by David W. Goldman

Read by Eric Luke, of the Extruding America podcast.

Originally appeared in The New Haven Review, Winter 2011.

The three of you have lingered outside the darkened club an hour beyond the show’s end. Your palms rest atop your guitar case, which stands vertical before you on the cracked sidewalk. Standing not quite as vertical, Paul steadies himself by pressing a hand against the club’s brick wall, just below a photocopied poster bearing an image of his face looking very serious. (DYNAMIC SINGER-SONGWRITER PAUL MURONI! says the poster. Your name appears lower down, in smaller type.) One corner of the poster has come loose. It flips back and forth in the unseasonably warm gusts that blow down the narrow street.

“But really,” says the guy, some old friend of Paul’s whose name you’ve already forgotten, “why should you two spend tomorrow driving way up the coast for one damn gig, and then all the way back the next day? I’ll fly you there tonight in my Cessna — tomorrow you can sleep in as long as you like.” His arms sweep broad arcs when he speaks, the streetlamp across the road glinting off the near-empty bottle in his grip.

Paul rubs the back of his hand against his forehead, the way he always does when he’s tired. You’re both tired, three weeks into a tour of what seem like the smallest clubs in the most out-of-the-way towns along the twistiest roads in New England.

Paul looks at you, his eyes a bit blurry. “What do you think?” There’s a blur to his voice, too. “I’m in no condition for decisions.”


Rated R for language, violence and sexual content.


Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: September 17, 2019, 06:26:52 PM by Ocicat »

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2012, 11:13:20 PM »
Often, when I see a PodCastle that's an hour long...I inwardly groan because it means I'll have to spend three commutes listening to it, because I can only listen to Escapepod, Podcastle, and Pseudopod in the car, since they require full concentration. When this one started, I admit it: I very briefly thought, "Maybe I'll just skip this one. It sounds annoying."

Then I gave it those few minutes Dave implored us to give it. I ended up taking the long way home--half an hour out of my way--because I wanted to hear the end tonight instead of tomorrow.

Wow. This was AMAZINGLY good. I'm usually not a fan of second-person POV stories, and those 'choose-your-own adventure' stories were...the opposite of good.

This...this was a work of art. A truly enjoyable--if bizarre--story. I found myself saying things like, "C'mon, man! 714! 714! GAH! You idiot!"

Good stuff.
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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2012, 12:05:41 AM »
I found myself saying things like, "C'mon, man! 714! 714! GAH! You idiot!"

Good stuff.

You are the king under the mountain, and this particular part of your comment made me go:  ;D ;D ;D

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2012, 07:09:33 AM »
Still listening, but i just have to say that Dave is a genius and should get working on that "choose your own adventure" app ASAP!

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2012, 11:27:23 AM »
I was hoping the story would involve some of the weirdnesses that can result from the Axiom of Choice.

I'm not sorry that didn't happen. In all its bleakness, this was a captivating story.

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2012, 10:23:58 PM »
You have just finished listening to "The Axiom of Choice."

If it took you back to your childhood love of these books, go to section 101.
If it reminded you of the flowchart you have to present next Tuesday, go to 102.

101
Congratulations. You are normal and well-adjusted.

If you found the story an innovative twist on the choose your own adventure trope, go to 201.

If you found it trite and gimmicky, go to 202.

102
You were obviously raised by wolves. Read at least one Choose Your own Adventure Book. Then go to 101.

201
Saw that too did you? Good for you. It was fresh and original and made you think.

If you already knew about Axiom of Choice, go to 301.
If you found the information on Axiom of Choice new but interesting, go to 302.
If you found this information dull and irrelevant, go to 303

202
You are not my friend anymore. I'll take my ball and go home.
THE END

301
OK, Egghead, go to 401.

302
Good. You are normal, but open to learning. Go to 401.

303
Go take a literature class or math class or something. Then go to 304.

304
Appreciate it now?
Yes, go to 302.
No, go to 303.

401
Bravo, you have been able to appreciate this story on many of its multiple levels and to recognize it as one of the best ever run by Podcastle.

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2012, 05:15:51 PM »
Hmmm. Sounds like it might be worth giving this one another go.

danooli

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2012, 05:41:27 PM »
This was incredible, I loved it.  I used to read the Choose Your Own Adventure books all the time when I was a kid, our library had an enormous collection. I would spend hours just reading them over and over.  I think I only stopped when I discover Piers Anthony and his world of Xanth.  I hadn't thought about them in ages, and the twist this story presented on my old obsession has me floored. 

And the Choose Your Own Adventure part wasn't even the best part about this episode.  The story itself was tragic and emotional and provoking.  We all make choices almost constantly, every minute of every day.  We have no real way of knowing if and when we make a fatal mistake as it's being made more often than not.  As much as I read these books as a kid, that never really hit home as hard.   The adult themes helped that along nicely of course.  The stories i remember didn't feature amputations or fifths of Scotch or sleeping on park benches...

Fantastic reading as well.  Another topnotch PodCastle!

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #8 on: June 07, 2012, 10:53:35 PM »
Wow, I just have to come out of lurking to say that was fan-freaking-tastic. Not just on a literary level but also a "life lesson" level, which I think it was going for. After listening it, I took a little while to reflect on choices made. Also, I now have two slogans I want for my first tattoos: Mens sana in corpore sano (Sound Mind in a Sound Body) and with this story, You Always Have A Choice.


Seriously, thank you so much for this story. Maybe it won't turn my life around, but it's given it a nudge in the right direction.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2012, 11:23:32 PM by zerotkatama »

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2012, 10:29:56 PM »
I found this story mesmerizing and super immersive. My favorite part was that, with only one exception, all the choices in the first half of the story were the ones I wanted to make, had it been a real "choose your own adventure."  What was interesting to me was how the early choices (as I realized later) were the ones that were the most rebellious, reckless, or chaotic, and the later choices were those where the character just gives up and accepts fate, pre-destiny, or inertia. It was like a cosmic experiment with free-will. By the time the character is accepting everything, I really felt like yelling "Gah!" and I started to worry that the story would let me down, but it wrapped up in the most perfect way it could. I think the ending was the only possible one the story could have had, and I was incredibly satisfied and content afterwards. "The Axiom of Choice" left me with a lot to think about, and I loved the choice of quotes afterwards.

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #10 on: June 10, 2012, 11:19:56 AM »
while I love the concept and execution of this story, I got so depressed halfway through I had to switch to pseudopod to cheer me up.

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2012, 05:53:07 PM »
I was quite choked up by the end.

I started out thinking this was a gimmicky story and ended up thinking was thought provoking and challenging. Choices. We have them to make and we are responsible for the outcomes. I am responsible for my own choices. Good to be reminded. I need to go away and think about that.

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2012, 12:23:22 AM »
I knew the end of the flashback sequence had to come, but it still hurt. Why did the cute, intellectual ginger have to go away?   :'(

So, yeah. I enjoyed the story, but I have a bone to pick with its message. It's a little heavy on the judgment. 'Sure, most of the bad things that happened to you were a result of your bandmate's friend accidentally taking his plane for a swim in the Pacific and your subsequent depression and addiction to painkillers, but none of that would have happened if you hadn't dropped out of college and become a musician.' Saying that life is a series of choices is true to an extent, but it's also a really convenient excuse to judge people who aren't as well off as you.

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #13 on: June 12, 2012, 07:43:51 AM »
Okay, I really liked this story. However, this is not fantasy. Making a story in the style of "choose your own adventure" does not make it Sci Fi/Fantasy. There were plenty of those books that were just "fiction". Fantasy should have some fantastic element about it, and this is just a story about a guy in modern times told in a novel manner.

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #14 on: June 12, 2012, 02:45:29 PM »
This might be my new favorite Podcastle episode.

First of all, Dave, you are reading Choose Your Own Adventure books all wrong.
Back in first grade I had devised the most logical way of reading them, and now, many years later I realized that I was implementing a depth first search algorithm.
I'd read the story, and at every choice I'd stick a finger to mark the spot, then make a choice. I would follow this choice to its logical conclusion (death, do you realize how morbid those books were?) then backtrack one choice and pick the other one. And so on and so forth, going through every possible choice in the book in logical, and story-telling, order.

As for the story itself... wow.
The story by itself was great. Compelling, interesting and made for some great storytelling.
Then there was the choosing element. I found myself making the choices in my head and comparing them to the story. It became a sort of game. I would try and pick not what I would choose, but what the character in the story (yes, I know it's me) would choose.
And that is when I noticed that you could actually feel the change in the character development. When the choices became different. It's very rare that you get to see such an obvious and clear character development, and true this was a gimmick, but it was wonderful. Watching the choices go downhill, then uphill, then downhill.... each choice visibly adding a new layer to the complexity of the character....
And then there was the meta-choice issue. Simply. Brilliant. It was originally set out by showing that there really was only one choice for this character to make, and then went along and explored that element in the story itself. It makes you want to sit and and think about it, until you fully grok it.

And for those of you wondering: the one element that is in any and all sets is the NULL element.
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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #15 on: June 12, 2012, 11:46:34 PM »
I found this story almost too bleak to post about (clearly *almost*). Yes, I know, there's an uplifting ending of sorts, but still.

(It's been a rough couple days. Though I did find the structure interesting).

I look forward to the upcoming Squonk story.  ;)

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #16 on: June 13, 2012, 05:18:25 AM »
If, after just 30 minutes of this, you stick #2 pencils into your ears and hammer to pieces your mp3 player, go to Section 513.

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #17 on: June 13, 2012, 08:58:28 AM »
What a heart-wrenchingly beautiful story! The structure could have easily felt cheesy or contrived, but instead it carried me deep into the heart of the story.

As I listened, I kept hoping that he would make the *better* choice and really felt it each time that he didn't. In the flashback (flash-sideways?) sequence I kept actually wincing, expecting that he would not make the right choice. And then he did make the right choice! It's amazing how such a simple device as presenting the character's choices at each major branch point allowed me to become incredibly invested in his development as a character. Kudos!

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #18 on: June 13, 2012, 08:58:50 AM »
I look forward to the upcoming Squonk story.  ;)

Me too! :D

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #19 on: June 13, 2012, 09:42:28 AM »
This was an interesting gimmick for a story, and I think the author did as well with it as could be done with this particular gimmick.  Unfortunately, I just had trouble getting into it.  It was a Choose Your Own Adventure story, minus the Choose Your Own Adventure part.  It kept the stilted 2nd-person style necessary for a Choose Your Own Adventure, but took away my ability to affect the path.  And then it went on and on and on.  If it were half the length I think I could've enjoyed the idea in a nice compact exploration, but it just kept going and going.

Also, I agree with this:
IIt's a little heavy on the judgment. 'Sure, most of the bad things that happened to you were a result of your bandmate's friend accidentally taking his plane for a swim in the Pacific and your subsequent depression and addiction to painkillers, but none of that would have happened if you hadn't dropped out of college and become a musician.' Saying that life is a series of choices is true to an extent, but it's also a really convenient excuse to judge people who aren't as well off as you.

His life went down the toilet due to events caused by the plane crash, but it all would've been much clearer if they had been more directly caused by some dumb choice he made, rather than just a random occurrence that happened to happen.  I mean, there's nothing wrong with being a musician, especially if that's what you love to do.  This was just driven home all the further when he went back and chose the other path which involved staying in school and everything turned out splendidly.  Mmmm... okay, I don't think that's where the problem lay.  That kind of had a ring to it of Mr. Mackey "Drugs are bad, mmmkay. Dropping out of school is bad, mmmkay."


There were some really cool ideas here.  Most of all was the discussion of determinism vs. free will as applied to Choose Your Own Adventure.  All of the choices and paths are written in permanent ink on paper, so therefore they are predetermined.  But each time you read it you can choose which choices, which gives you free will.  Interesting mix there.



Usually I read CYOA books like Dave did, I felt like I had to start at the beginning again.  I chose the right path as an engineer, because I've always been a bit algorithmically minded, when I do something over and over like reading those books I tend to choose a method and stick with it.  I do that with many things, for no particularly good reason.  There was one book which really stymied me to the point that I had to try a different tactic.  It was one on a particularly hostile alien world, and almost every choice would end in death if choosing the wrong path.  I tried that one so many times, and then I changed to the tactic of just stepping back a choice or two after a death, and that didn't work either because there was only ONE happy ending and it required a very specific path, which included some choices that seemed to have bad results at the time but ultimately proved beneficial.  The only way I ended up reaching the ending was to find the happy ending in the book, and then flip through until I found the page that sent you to that page number, and so on until I reached the beginning, and then step through in that same order in reverse. 
That was a really fun book.  :)  I tried to get my dad to read it, but he got very frustrated very quickly.

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #20 on: June 13, 2012, 10:15:36 AM »
His life went down the toilet due to events caused by the plane crash, but it all would've been much clearer if they had been more directly caused by some dumb choice he made, rather than just a random occurrence that happened to happen.
The point (I think) was that he chose being lazy over being smart. Sleep in rather than drive.
I mean, there's nothing wrong with being a musician, especially if that's what you love to do.  This was just driven home all the further when he went back and chose the other path which involved staying in school and everything turned out splendidly.  Mmmm... okay, I don't think that's where the problem lay.  That kind of had a ring to it of Mr. Mackey "Drugs are bad, mmmkay. Dropping out of school is bad, mmmkay."
Again, be lazy or be smart?

EDIT:
I am not inferring that lazy people are not smart or that smart people are not lazy. I'm saying, make the choice: be lazy or do the smart thing and work a little bit harder.

Usually I read CYOA books like Dave did, I felt like I had to start at the beginning again.  I chose the right path as an engineer, because I've always been a bit algorithmically minded, when I do something over and over like reading those books I tend to choose a method and stick with it.  I do that with many things, for no particularly good reason.  There was one book which really stymied me to the point that I had to try a different tactic.  It was one on a particularly hostile alien world, and almost every choice would end in death if choosing the wrong path.  I tried that one so many times, and then I changed to the tactic of just stepping back a choice or two after a death, and that didn't work either because there was only ONE happy ending and it required a very specific path, which included some choices that seemed to have bad results at the time but ultimately proved beneficial.  The only way I ended up reaching the ending was to find the happy ending in the book, and then flip through until I found the page that sent you to that page number, and so on until I reached the beginning, and then step through in that same order in reverse.  
That was a really fun book.  :)  I tried to get my dad to read it, but he got very frustrated very quickly.
Was that the one on Mars and Venus? Where you go forwards in time by hibernating in a space ship and wake up in the future where the inner solar system has been colonized and is under totalitarian rule? Because that was my favorite. There was one happy ending and one almost happy ending to that one. Also, I literally read it to pieces :)
« Last Edit: June 13, 2012, 10:17:44 AM by Max e^{i pi} »
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jenfullmoon

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #21 on: June 13, 2012, 10:57:40 AM »
This is interesting (albeit depressing until the end), but I did find CYOA-style to be hard to follow in a read-aloud story, and kept mixing up the numbers in my head because I couldn't see them on the page. I had to go find the PDF on the New Haven website to reread it and get it straight.

But I have that issue here periodically, especially if a story has some kind of gimmick that's easier to track while seeing it.

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #22 on: June 13, 2012, 12:27:21 PM »
The point (I think) was that he chose being lazy over being smart. Sleep in rather than drive.

I still don't get the point I guess.  Hard work isn't always the best choice.  Sometimes hard work will get you nothing but exhausted, and more work.



Was that the one on Mars and Venus? Where you go forwards in time by hibernating in a space ship and wake up in the future where the inner solar system has been colonized and is under totalitarian rule? Because that was my favorite. There was one happy ending and one almost happy ending to that one. Also, I literally read it to pieces :)

I don't think it was.  It all took place on one hostile planet on which you'd crashlanded.  The really tricky part was that reaching the final solution required you to make an apparently bad but easily avoidable choice very early on.  You had to try to pick up something that looked like an object, but which turned out to be a hostile venomous parasite, and then find a way to remove the parasite before it killed you (rather than going back and avoiding it altogether).  Enough of the venom stayed around in your system so that in the final confrontation, when the pretty-much-invincible final monster bites you, it dies of the venom in your blood before it can finish killing you, and you win.  I don't remember any names, makes it hard to look up.

I also remember that you need to eat to avoid starving, but that one kind of meat is poisonous if you DON'T cook and another is poisonous if you DO, both of which refer you to some encyclopedic reference which is not part of this book so the only way to learn is by trial and error. 

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #23 on: June 14, 2012, 02:07:48 AM »
An earlier poster pointed out that this story wasn't fantasy.  I'd like to say a few things about that:

1) Discussions about genre lines are somewhat frowned on in the forum, the thinking being that they're almost never productive conversations.

2) They're right.  This story isn't a fantasy, or any kind of speculative fiction.

3) I applaud Podcastle for running it anyway.  Not only was it a wonderful story with a geeky gimmick well suited to fantasy readers, but having it presented on Podcastle always gives the listener the idea that something magical might happen.  But then again, it might not.  I love that Podcastle sometimes runs stories with no fantasy element, or ones that only have a fantasy element if looked at from a certain perspective.  Please keep bringing us more great not-quite-fantasies, and ambiguous fantasies!

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #24 on: June 15, 2012, 03:57:50 PM »
Excellent story, and unusual in a good way. A thinking man's PodCastle episode.

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #25 on: June 17, 2012, 01:29:01 AM »
The point (I think) was that he chose being lazy over being smart. Sleep in rather than drive.

I still don't get the point I guess.  Hard work isn't always the best choice.  Sometimes hard work will get you nothing but exhausted, and more work.

Yes, but the way the choice was presented: do you want to sleep on some random floor in an apartment or do you want to sleep as late as you want tomorrow? It's obvious what you are supposed to pick.
Furthermore, this same choice was presented over and over again to the reader, until you finally get it right. The point at which you finally get it right is in the park when you choose to let your fist punch someone for no reason, and you go to section 801 (Aside: notice how each new stage in your life starts at section X01?). That is the point where you finally start to come to grips with your choices in life.
In fact, the literary tools used here are incredible. In the first three choices it is made clear to you that you have no choice. And then for the rest of the story you try and avoid the consequences of that.
That's really what this story is about (IMO): accepting the consequences for you choices. You continue a downward spiral, hitting rock bottom (or whatever the bench is made out of) for the whole story while avoiding looking at, using, thinking about your hand and what brought you there. This is driven home by that choice in the hospital: if you realize that she hasn't said anything about Paul or that other guy, and you guess what she means by omission, and you remember that flying was your choice...
You just can't accept the consequences of your choices.
At group you finally realize that you aren't the one making the choices (which you should have figured out in the first three choices) but simply a character in some else's book. Then you just sit back and watch things happen.
But that isn't enough. You have to realize, actually grok, that even though you have no choices that you can make, you still have to face their consequences. And that is when you punch someone for no reason, and begin your upwards climb.
And of course that's when the rehabilitation begins, until the penultimate scene, where the message is really driven home. When you hear the message from (probably) Paul's widow: You make choices in your life, and whether you have free will to make them or not, it doesn't matter. What matters is that you face the consequences of these decisions.

Gosh, I really want to discuss this in a college literature class.
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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #26 on: June 18, 2012, 09:15:17 AM »
Yes, but the way the choice was presented: do you want to sleep on some random floor in an apartment or do you want to sleep as late as you want tomorrow? It's obvious what you are supposed to pick.

Yes, it's obvious which one you are supposed to pick, which if I were reading the book I would probably continue picking the "wrong" choice just to be contrary.  In real life there is often a choice that seems like it's the obvious choice you're "supposed to" pick, and often that has some basis in reality.  But I think the choice here could've been one that more obviously had clearly fatal consequences like "Do you call a cab or do you drive home even though you can't focus on the hand in front of your face?"  Rather than "Do you sleep in even though you oughtn't?" 

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #27 on: June 18, 2012, 11:15:13 AM »
Yes, but the way the choice was presented: do you want to sleep on some random floor in an apartment or do you want to sleep as late as you want tomorrow? It's obvious what you are supposed to pick.

Yes, it's obvious which one you are supposed to pick, which if I were reading the book I would probably continue picking the "wrong" choice just to be contrary.  In real life there is often a choice that seems like it's the obvious choice you're "supposed to" pick, and often that has some basis in reality. 
The whole point of the story is that it isn't real life. You have no real choices because you are a character in a story. If you pick otherwise then "this wouldn't be your story" or "you do not make this choice".
It's meta!
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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #28 on: June 18, 2012, 11:20:40 AM »
Yes, but the way the choice was presented: do you want to sleep on some random floor in an apartment or do you want to sleep as late as you want tomorrow? It's obvious what you are supposed to pick.

Yes, it's obvious which one you are supposed to pick, which if I were reading the book I would probably continue picking the "wrong" choice just to be contrary.  In real life there is often a choice that seems like it's the obvious choice you're "supposed to" pick, and often that has some basis in reality. 
The whole point of the story is that it isn't real life. You have no real choices because you are a character in a story. If you pick otherwise then "this wouldn't be your story" or "you do not make this choice".
It's meta!

Okay.  But the more I am convinced of that, the less I like the story, as I said before:

Quote
This was an interesting gimmick for a story, and I think the author did as well with it as could be done with this particular gimmick.  Unfortunately, I just had trouble getting into it.  It was a Choose Your Own Adventure story, minus the Choose Your Own Adventure part.  It kept the stilted 2nd-person style necessary for a Choose Your Own Adventure, but took away my ability to affect the path.  And then it went on and on and on.  If it were half the length I think I could've enjoyed the idea in a nice compact exploration, but it just kept going and going.

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #29 on: June 22, 2012, 08:09:29 AM »
So...the moral of the story is, if your jerkass Philosophy professor punches you for no reason, don't get upset with him?

 ???

Man I hated philosophy class...
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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #30 on: June 22, 2012, 09:44:25 AM »
So...the moral of the story is, if your jerkass Philosophy professor punches you for no reason, don't get upset with him?
If you're going to look at it like that, then the moral of the story is: do what it takes to impress the girl.

Where "girl" can be whatever type of person you are interested in.
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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #31 on: June 28, 2012, 08:51:42 PM »
This was an interesting story that I admit is kind of hard to pull off in audio. I imagine it would be possible to put in cue points if all MP3 players used the same software... but they don't. Ah well.

I wasn't really a huge fan of the story. It went on for WAY too long, was way too maudlin, and by the time I finished listening to it I'd almost forgotten the story about the "sometimes they don't come back" note at the beginning. I think it's the kind of surrealistic piece that CAN be run on PC (much like "Zombie Contingency Plan"), but it unfortunately wasn't my thing.

I really would like to see someone write a contemporary CYOA book. Erotica author Shon Richards did one, and he said that it was a bitch and a half to plot out all the different choices, but I imagine someone could write a SF, F, or H one aimed at a slightly older audience than the ones I used to read as a kid. I read the absolute HELL out of my one Star Trek one that I had, where you (the reader) play a cadet just starting out on the Enterprise. Lots of ways to die, for a book targeted at kids.
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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #32 on: June 29, 2012, 08:14:54 AM »
Lots of ways to die, for a book targeted at kids.
They were all like that.
And yes, I think I read all the ones that had been published by the time I was 12. My library had a good selection :)
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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #33 on: July 03, 2012, 12:35:53 PM »
I thought this was an excellent story. It maintained my interest throughout and was rather thought provoking. I can sympathize with some of the criticism raised by unblinking, but for me the point was more the meditation about the nature of choices than the actual biographical choices in the story. One thing this story did was deconstruct the notion of a "right choice" versus a "wrong choice". In a sense, all the choices that the character made before the group therapy session were the wrong choices, in that they had bad consequences. Then, in the alternate history he imagined, every choice he made was the right choice, at least if the goal was to continue with his relationship. Then, he gives up, and refuses to make any choice for himself - but of course, that is in itself a choice. I interpreted the ending as a rejection of all the models previously presented in the story - the fact that you can't always tell if the choice you make is right or wrong, and the fact that making a choice doesn't give you full control of the consequences - coupled with the fact that freedom to make choices isn't the same as being able to choose whatever we want - all combined mean that the way to proceed is to take one choice at a time and try to do the best you can.

It's not a perfect story - I thought the philosophy class was a bit too explicit in raising the themes of the story - but it was an excellent story indeed, and one I was very glad to hear.

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #34 on: July 04, 2012, 04:11:08 PM »
It took a minute or three for me to get the hang of this one. It crept up on me and I was drawn in.

At each of the choices I made my own decision (I'm guessing everyone did this) and was in line with the story more often than not.

It's weird, but I felt more a part of it than I would for a normal story. Perhaps because of that decision making.

I really felt for the main character; his injuries, his moods, his hopelessness, his improving situation. I liked the open-ended finish.

In some ways my own life could do with some radical changes, so this really struck a chord.

The reading was great, too.   :)

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #35 on: July 09, 2012, 02:34:37 PM »
This was a wonderful, wonderful story. Max did a better job than I in explaining the reasons I loved the story, so I'll defer to his post. But this would be a great story to discuss in my Bible study. :-D
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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #36 on: July 13, 2012, 05:29:04 AM »
Unfortunately I didn't much care for this one, its wasn't the choices I don't think those really helped nor hurt the story for me. Like many, I began trying to guess which was going to be the choice, then proceeded to which would be more interesting to hear about and finally to whichever. It was at that last point where I realized I just didn't care about this guy. He wasn't particularly interesting, some bad things happened, he got depressed. People tried to help him but he didn't get over it until he GOT it. Just not that interesting to me.

I admit I'm also not floored with this presentation of choices, I guess I miss out on the "deepness"/cleverness of it. On a sidenote I had a fascinating debate in a chatroom about deepness and how one would have to judge it by gravitational fields if comparing how deep you are between planets and galaxies etc. Anyway back to choices, he/you/they had to make choices and kept making them even if not making them, well that is how life goes. Another digression, I'm fairly certain that a  more traditonal answer to her question is that the {} empty set answers the question without dealing with choice at all. It probably also doesn't hurt how much I've been pondering through the intrinsic value of choice since I've been hearing so much about individual liberty and choice and such these days. When I picture a situation where you are standing in front of three white boxes that look exactly the same, that you know nothing about, is there intrinsic value in being to make a choice without knowledge to understand the choice. I have my doubts.

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #37 on: July 18, 2012, 03:53:10 PM »
Yea for at least promoing my post, even if there wasn't a way to read it! :)

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #38 on: August 16, 2012, 01:33:02 PM »
I found the gimmick went down very smoothly with this one. For two reasons:

1. It had some intrinsic humor. "If you've realized you're not the one making these choices..."

2. The gimmick is what the story is about. A choose-your-own-adventure about being a spy or having a space adventure wouldn't capture me in audio format, as an adult, the way it might have on paper as a kid. But a choose-your-own-adventure about free will is absolutely brilliant. It has a certain conceptual humor to it. The point is, the concept had me amused, and the serious themes made it a story I could take seriously and really appreciate, whereas trying to be primarily humorous would have felt facile and boring. The tint of humor lightens a serious discussion that I like reading about.  I guess if you have no patience for discussion of free will, then maybe it won't. But the point of the story isn't that he made the wrong choices all the time, it is that they often didn't matter. Whatever, I liked it a lot. Like tied with "Urchins While Swimming" for best Podcastle so far in 2012 a lot.

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #39 on: August 26, 2012, 06:05:53 PM »
My favorite Podcastle episode in a long time. The last line was absolutely fantastic.

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #40 on: August 27, 2012, 08:18:14 PM »
Wow.

Thanks!

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #41 on: January 14, 2013, 02:56:54 PM »
I'm glad I chose to heed DKT's call for patience at the beginning. It took a bit to orient properly but then I was locked in. I liked the mechanics of this story. The use of second person is a distancing mechanism, yet the choices made the story seem more actively engaging.

I'm going to stand by calling the frame a good mechanic. I'm not going to call it a gimmick. Purple ketchup is a gimmick. At the end of the day it's still tomato paste and corn syrup. When the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, it has transcended gimmick.

His life went down the toilet due to events caused by the plane crash, but it all would've been much clearer if they had been more directly caused by some dumb choice he made, rather than just a random occurrence that happened to happen.  I mean, there's nothing wrong with being a musician, especially if that's what you love to do.  This was just driven home all the further when he went back and chose the other path which involved staying in school and everything turned out splendidly.

Did everything turn out splendidly? Sounded a lot more like escapist fantasizing to me. 

An earlier poster pointed out that this story wasn't fantasy.  I'd like to say a few things about that:

1) Discussions about genre lines are somewhat frowned on in the forum, the thinking being that they're almost never productive conversations.

2) They're right.  This story isn't a fantasy, or any kind of speculative fiction.

3) I applaud Podcastle for running it anyway.  Not only was it a wonderful story with a geeky gimmick well suited to fantasy readers, but having it presented on Podcastle always gives the listener the idea that something magical might happen.  But then again, it might not.  I love that Podcastle sometimes runs stories with no fantasy element, or ones that only have a fantasy element if looked at from a certain perspective.  Please keep bringing us more great not-quite-fantasies, and ambiguous fantasies!

Also, the folks who would understand the frame are largely folks who read fantasy. CYOA is not a format that sold well outside us geeks.


while I love the concept and execution of this story, I got so depressed halfway through I had to switch to pseudopod to cheer me up.

 :D :D :D
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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #42 on: May 29, 2014, 11:39:08 AM »
This story came to mind in the last couple of days because I was playing a very entertaining game called The Stanley Parable that I picked up from Steam.

http://www.stanleyparable.com/

Quick summary of the idea:
You are Stanley. You work at a desk where you are give instructions to press keys on your keyboard one after another.  One day you notice you haven't received any new instructions for over an hour.  You get up to ask your colleagues if they're experiencing similar interruptions in workflow, only to discover that their desks are empty.  You set out to find someone and find that the whole building is apparently devoid of life apart from you.  Unless, of course, you count the British voiceover that's narrating your every action and telling you what you're going to do next.

You reach a branch in the path early on and the narrator tells you which way you're going to go.  You can choose to obey or disobey him, and from that choice branches other choices.  If you choose to follow the narrator's instructions, he takes you down the "intended" path of the story line and he is little more than a narrator.  But if you deviate from the path at various points, down some paths he tries to steer you back, or tries to explain the deviation in a tangent of the narrative, or just openly criticizes you for wasting all of the hard work he's put into making this game.

Down many of the paths there is interesting dialog about the nature of choice, and put me in mind of The Axiom of Choice.


It's a very funny game, great voice acting for the narrator especially.

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #43 on: December 13, 2014, 10:05:25 PM »
I was revisiting this episode the other day, and got curious what everyone said about it back in the day, and since no one saw it quite how I did (Eytan probably had the most similar perspective to mine), I thought I might pop in and Lazarus this thing. :)

For me, this was a story about the paradox of being creatures with agency in a world where shitty things happen that are outside our control. I don't think it's a story about taking responsibility for the mistakes of the past. I think it's a story about how when the really bad stuff happens--the stuff that takes something away from us that we can never get back--we'll obsess over everything leading up to it, desperately trying to figure out where we went wrong, what we could have done to make the Bad Thing never occur at all.

I think this relates to survival. We want to find the pattern so it won't happen again. In fact, I've heard it said that *all* storytelling is about survival in this way, that we like stories because they show a cause-and-effect pattern correlated to whether the character had a good or bad outcome. In a good story, it all makes sense at the end and we, the audience, have learned some valuable information for surviving/achieving the good outcome in a similar situation.

The problem is that in real life, our own particular behaviors are not, in fact, always the root cause of the Bad Thing. The best example I can point to is rape culture logic, and how people will point to things like clothing/alcohol as the thing the rape survivor did to bring the Bad Thing on themselves, ignoring the fact that there is no actual cause/effect relationship between drinking alcohol and rape (as evidenced by the fact that guys who drink aren't likely to get raped, generally speaking). It's the rapist who made the choice that caused the Bad Thing, and who could have reasonably chosen otherwise. And yet, survivors of rape experience an immense amount of self-blame and the reflexive, obsessive examination of all their *own* choices, much like the guy in this story, when the truth is there isn't anything the guy in this story (or rape survivors) could have done, *with their own choices*, to avoid the Bad Thing, and trying to find the Survival Lesson is just going to drive you into depression and self-destruction.

(Interestingly, I've noticed that people tend to apply story-logic to people's actual, real life experiences in attempt to reassure themselves it would never happen that way to them, personally. If you've ever made a Zombie Apocalypse Survival Plan that ends with you in your Fortress of Awesomeness in your hometown, ruling the roost and totally not dying from strep throat, you've engaged in this sort of thinking. "In that situation, I'd just ____" usually ignores how friggin' difficult it actually is to predict what your own response will be in a completely messed-up situation that's so out of the norm and unbelievable that you can't believe it's really happening to you, even as it happens.)

What I love is how the story doesn't stop there, and it then examines the other half of the problem: yes, there are things that happen in our lives that are radically disconnected from our own choices. But we're still creatures with agency, and there are choices we can make between and through the choices that are made for us. I think this story was trying to say that there comes a point where you have to accept the present as the new beginning of the choice-tree, and go from there. Maybe you could call it "accepting the consequences of your choices" if you look at it one way. From another perspective, it's "accepting that your choices don't always mean anything". One way or another, the trick is to stop trying to mentally undo the Bad Thing and just accept it as part of the background of your life, and make new choices without the burden of self-blame. If you don't move on, your brain's own survival impulse will destroy you.

Anyway, yeah. One of my favorite PodCastle stories ever. :) Nice to revisit it.
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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #44 on: January 05, 2015, 08:46:32 PM »
I was just reading today about a new study that suggested the vast majority (well over 60% and up to 80% in some cases) of cancer is caused primarily by "luck," i.e. chance mutations that hit the wrong spot on the genome and triggered a tumor.  Environmental factors are significant in maybe a third to a fourth of cases, and genetic causes maybe 10-15%.

And people flipped out and just ranted about how we'd eventually find the "real" causes for all of those random cases and how there's "no such thing as luck."  (Which is true, I guess, but random chance certainly exists and might even be fundamental, if certain quantum physics theories are correct.)

So yeah.  People really like narrative explanations, even for things that don't seem like a non-narrative explanation would be controversial.
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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #45 on: April 01, 2015, 08:37:16 PM »
Now that I have a forum account, I had to find the thread for this episode so I could be down on record saying this is one of my favorite stories of all time. Not just on Podcastle, but anywhere, in any medium.

That is all.

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #46 on: September 17, 2019, 06:26:18 PM »
This episode has been re-run as PodCastle 592: TALES FROM THE VAULTS, as hosted by yours truly.

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Re: PC211: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #47 on: September 17, 2019, 11:09:04 PM »
This episode has been re-run as PodCastle 592: TALES FROM THE VAULTS, as hosted by yours truly.

Thanks for reminding (me) us how wonderful this story is. I had forgotten it and enjoyed it all over again. Also while making that SAME long drive home, coincidentally. :)
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Re: PC211 / 592: The Axiom Of Choice
« Reply #48 on: September 24, 2019, 01:43:05 PM »
Rated R!? Oh, I’m all over it.  8)
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