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Author Topic: PC211 / 592: The Axiom Of Choice  (Read 17595 times)

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Reply #40 on: August 28, 2012, 01:18:14 AM



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Reply #41 on: January 14, 2013, 07:56:54 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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Reply #42 on: May 29, 2014, 04:39:08 PM
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.

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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Reply #43 on: December 14, 2014, 03:05:25 AM
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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Reply #44 on: January 06, 2015, 01:46:32 AM
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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Reply #45 on: April 02, 2015, 01:37:16 AM
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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Reply #46 on: September 17, 2019, 11:26:18 PM
This episode has been re-run as PodCastle 592: TALES FROM THE VAULTS, as hosted by yours truly.


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Reply #47 on: September 18, 2019, 04:09:04 AM
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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Reply #48 on: September 24, 2019, 06:43:05 PM
Rated R!? Oh, I’m all over it.  8)

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