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Author Topic: EP351: 113 Feet  (Read 3468 times)
eytanz
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« on: June 28, 2012, 10:25:21 PM »

EP351: 113 Feet

By Josh Roseman

Read by Mur Lafferty

An Escape Pod Original!

---

This is a really bad idea, Elle,” Barry says.

“You didn’t have to come.”

“Don’t be stupid,” he snaps. “Phil would kill me if I didn’t come with you.”

Barry is fiftyish, portly and gray-haired. Seeing him take off his shirt is an experience I wish I’d never had.

“I have friends with certifications,” I say. “It’s not like I couldn’t have asked one of them.”

“How many of them have actually been down there?” It’s almost a growl, and I’m actually cowed a little. “That’s what I thought.”

I sit on the hard bench, wood planks covered in thin, all-weather carpet, and fiddle with my regulator.

“How far away do you think we are?” he asks.

“Don’t know. Ask the captain.”

Barry looks up at the bridge, where Al — the captain — stands, driving the boat. Al is even older than Barry, narrow and hard and tanned almost leathery with decades of exposure to the sun. Instead of going up to talk to him, though, Barry goes around the cabin to stand by the bow, leaving me bouncing up and down on the bench as the boat zips across the water. The light chop makes the horizon rise and fall faster than is comfortable. I can take it, though, and if I get sick enough to throw up, at least I know enough to do it over the side.

My guess is that we’re ten minutes from the dive site. Maybe fifteen.

After waiting seven years to get my answers, fifteen minutes isn’t much of a wait at all.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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jenfullmoon
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« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2012, 11:54:10 AM »

Hooooly shit. A compelling story. What a whammy at the end.

I guess I'm awful in that I'd want to stay in the portal and see what happened too?

Really, the sad thing is that Ellie wasn't allowed to stay with him.

And I want to know what that letter said!
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ToooooMuchCoffeeMan
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« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2012, 03:27:40 AM »

The story was well-written enough, but really, was it science fiction?

It's a touching story of parental abandonment but it could have been written just as compellingly without the Maguffin of a time-traveling underwater portal. The father could have abandoned his daughter just as effectively and wrenchingly if he were an anthropologist or botanist who was unwilling to give up his researches in some far-flung inaccessible corner of the globe. FTM he need not even have been a scientist, just some guy with a job requiring extensive international travel who enjoyed it more than his family.
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SF.Fangirl
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« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2012, 02:11:50 PM »

I like the story, but I am disappointed in the ending or maybe disappointed for Elle since her Dad was kind of a dick.  Although given the location of the portals, he wouldn't be able to pop back anytime since he'd need a boat waiting to pick him up.  There was an abrupt switch where it when from a sci fi story about a girl's quest to her dealing with the loss/abandonment of her dad.

BTW who says "I'll never dive again" in that last scene?  Mark or Elle?  I thought it was Mark, but there's more character development impact if it was Elle and she's giving up her passion.  In fact I am not sure as to the purpose of Mark in the story; I expected him to do more but they went their separate ways after her dad disappeared and he wasn't lost because of her obsession.
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Unblinking
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« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2012, 08:59:26 AM »

I enjoyed this one quite a lot.  I don't know a lot about diving, so some of those details alone were interesting enough to string me along, and the hints of the transdimensional portals that happened very early on helped a lot too.

The story didn't end where I expected, which is a definite plus.  I thought that she'd be reunited with daddy and have a heartfelt and happy reunion.  Or, barring that, she would fail to find him.  I didn't expect her to find him, only to find out that he's not interested in a reunion and has more important things to deal with, even though she's pretty much devoted her life to finding him again.  That really hit me, probably partly because I didn't expect it at all, and I really felt for her.  I cheered when she destroyed the letter unopened--nothing he can say at that point is worth her time and attention.   He made his choice.  I hope that she can learn to forgive him, though, for her own sake, so she doesn't carry the anger at him inside her.

It's a touching story of parental abandonment but it could have been written just as compellingly without the Maguffin of a time-traveling underwater portal. The father could have abandoned his daughter just as effectively and wrenchingly if he were an anthropologist or botanist who was unwilling to give up his researches in some far-flung inaccessible corner of the globe. FTM he need not even have been a scientist, just some guy with a job requiring extensive international travel who enjoyed it more than his family.

I disagree.  Without the diving this would've been an entirely different story.  (Not a bad story, but an entirely different story).  I liked the mystery of the manner of the father's disappearance so that to everyone else her quest to find her father looked like madness, but because of the snippets she'd seen in his notes she had some reason to go on (though his notes could also have been madness).   Also, she defined herself in great part because of her diving occupation, and she wouldn't have devoted herself to becoming so great at that if not for her father's disappearance.  His manner of disappearance defined a huge chunk of her life, and even though she's written him off that doesn't change how much of an effect it had on her.

Although given the location of the portals, he wouldn't be able to pop back anytime since he'd need a boat waiting to pick him up. 

True.  He couldn't return easily, but I believe that he could find a way if he were determined enough, since he knows the parameters of the problem.

In fact I am not sure as to the purpose of Mark in the story; I expected him to do more but they went their separate ways after her dad disappeared and he wasn't lost because of her obsession.

Well, it sounded like normal diving protocol says that she should have a diving partner, so she needed to have someone until that final scene at least.  And I think he served a purpose in the story playing the straight man as a counterpoint to her obsessive compulsion.  He also upped the tension in the final scenes because she had to return to the surface to get him more air, and then had to go back down by herself, which all would've been less tense if she hadn't had to do that.  Maybe he served other narrative purposes too, but that was good enough for me.
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sykoticwit
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« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2012, 12:41:53 PM »

I agree that you could have told this story without the diving or the time travel, but it would have lost most of the tension and suspense. The mysterious disappearance of her father added suspense to the story as she gave up her entire life in the search for her father. I figured he had been transported to somewhere else by a portal, but I kept listening because I wanted to know what and where. Without the SF hook I would have probably gotten bored and turned the story off.

Anyway, bravo, excellent story. Bring me more like it  Smiley

EDIT

In fact I am not sure as to the purpose of Mark in the story; I expected him to do more but they went their separate ways after her dad disappeared and he wasn't lost because of her obsession.

Aside from a generic diving partner (you never do high risk stuff like diving or climbing alone, safety in numbers and whatnot…) Mark was an example of what she gave up in her search for her father. After her father's disappearance she went from being an engaging and fun person to a driven person with one goal, finding her father, and she gave up her entire life for seven years in pursuit of that goal. Mark was a variation of her choosing her obsession over friends and family, and when she returned to him at the end, it was her finally admitting that her father was dead (metaphorically speaking, since he wasn't, you know, actually dead).
« Last Edit: July 02, 2012, 12:50:57 PM by sykoticwit » Logged

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djryan
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« Reply #6 on: July 03, 2012, 08:48:31 AM »

Long time listener, first time commenter.

Loved this story even though I was sorely disappointed there was no Cthulu.

How can you have a sunken wreck without some tentacle gods. ;-)
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djryan
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« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2012, 08:50:17 AM »

I agree that you could have told this story without the diving or the time travel, but it would have lost most of the tension and suspense. The mysterious disappearance of her father added suspense to the story as she gave up her entire life in the search for her father.

And you could probably say the same about all good science fiction.  The technology, IMO, shouldn't be the point.
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Fenrix
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« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2012, 09:26:21 AM »

I feel like I've been Listening to Josh Roseman for a while, but it's nice to see the transition from reader to author. I liked the story. I didn't quite get why the storms happened in relation to the portal access. However, it didn't negatively impact my enjoyment, as it wasn't the point of the story.

Long time listener, first time commenter.

Loved this story even though I was sorely disappointed there was no Cthulu.

How can you have a sunken wreck without some tentacle gods. ;-)

There's the other diving story here with a ribbon shark. That one was pretty awesome, too.

The inclusion of elder gods and their priests would have created a different set of complaints.
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Balu
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« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2012, 07:06:13 PM »

The characterization really made this for me. I like the way that her immunity to the claustrophobia of diving comes across as being so natural, and I love the way that she is strong minded enough to keep looking, and then strong minded enough to give up on her dad as being a complete dick.

She's as tough as old boots, but in a sympathetic and believable way.

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Unblinking
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« Reply #10 on: July 05, 2012, 08:36:53 AM »

I agree that you could have told this story without the diving or the time travel, but it would have lost most of the tension and suspense. The mysterious disappearance of her father added suspense to the story as she gave up her entire life in the search for her father.

And you could probably say the same about all good science fiction.  The technology, IMO, shouldn't be the point.

I don't think I agree with that.  While I agree that the technology shouldn't be the only point in a story, IMO if you can remove the SF element without changing the story then you should.  In this case I didn't think you could.
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Cutter McKay
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« Reply #11 on: July 05, 2012, 11:53:00 AM »

Overall I enjoyed this one. Strong character, good pacing. I liked how the narration jumped between the current story and flashbacks for the progressing setup, and especially how it was written in present tense for the current stuff and past tense for the flashbacks. (Although, that's one of my beefs, too, which I will get to.) I found the diving information to be interesting and informative without feeling info-dumpish.

Elle was a strong and willful character and I enjoyed seeing her stick it to anyone who tried to tell her she was wrong and foolish for pursuing her goal. And, although I think it was fully in-character for her to throw away the letter without reading it, the sentimentalist in me nearly cried out when she tossed it. I mean, obviously her father went to great lengths to get that message to her, I think the least she could do was give him a chance. Yes, he was a douche for leaving, and for not letting her stay with him, (which I didn't like, mostly because there's no REAL explanation as to WHY she can't stay. He got to stay, I think she should, too. But, I also like the ending of the story as is, so I won't push that too far.) But there was such little time for them to talk that maybe the letter explained things that he couldn't in the short time they had. Maybe he detailed a way for her to join him, maybe he had some plan to return to them later. Maybe he just wanted to say "I'm sorry" one more time. We'll/She'll never know.

The only other problem I had with this story is a structural one. For the entire tale, everything that happens on the boat with Barry and Al is written in present tense. The search for her father is happening right now, and the flashbacks to her childhood are all written in past tense, because they already happened. I really liked this, it fit well with this story. So, what I can't figure out is why, when she goes through the portal and finds her dad, it reverts to past tense. I mean, this is still a part of the current story, the stuff that is happening now. It's not a flashback, why is she thinking back on it? And then it reverts to present tense again when she goes to see Mark. I find this to be a major structural flaw that, for whatever reason, really bugs me. I get that once she goes through the portal there are no more flash backs and the rest of the story would all be present tense, which would ruin the back and forth flow of the story, but who cares? I think it would have been fine, and more true to the structure, to tell the remainder in present tense. My two cents.

One last thing:
In fact I am not sure as to the purpose of Mark in the story; I expected him to do more but they went their separate ways after her dad disappeared and he wasn't lost because of her obsession.

Well, it sounded like normal diving protocol says that she should have a diving partner, so she needed to have someone until that final scene at least.  And I think he served a purpose in the story playing the straight man as a counterpoint to her obsessive compulsion.  He also upped the tension in the final scenes because she had to return to the surface to get him more air, and then had to go back down by herself, which all would've been less tense if she hadn't had to do that.  Maybe he served other narrative purposes too, but that was good enough for me.

I think, Unblinking, that you're mixing up Mark with Barry here. Mark wasn't at the final scene. But I think sykoticwit got it right in his response:

Aside from a generic diving partner (you never do high risk stuff like diving or climbing alone, safety in numbers and whatnot…) Mark was an example of what she gave up in her search for her father. After her father's disappearance she went from being an engaging and fun person to a driven person with one goal, finding her father, and she gave up her entire life for seven years in pursuit of that goal. Mark was a variation of her choosing her obsession over friends and family, and when she returned to him at the end, it was her finally admitting that her father was dead (metaphorically speaking, since he wasn't, you know, actually dead).

And Mark's character was laid out to be a bit of an introvert, (maybe slightly socially inept?) so it seems plausible to me that he may not have moved on after Elle became obsessed. It felt to me like he was a friend, and lover, who would always be there for her.

Man, why can't I write a review in less than a rant?
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timprov
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« Reply #12 on: July 05, 2012, 04:03:59 PM »

This is one of the few stories I've heard or read where the not so happy ending felt earned.  *Should  I say Spoiler alert?  Not sure so I'll just say it.*

*Spoiler alert!*

When the Dad said he was going to stay I yelled in my car "What? What an butthead!"  I was angry he just abandoned his child like that, I thought maybe he wasn't able to go back, that there was some medical or other reason but no, he didn't want to go back because he wanted do something that was a once in a  lifetime thing?  How about raising a daughter!  That sounds like a once in a lifetime thing too! God, what a jerk. 

Obviously I loved the story if I felt that emotionally attached to the lead character enough where I felt her anger, felt her pain.  Also, her last words to her father?  Yeah, I was going to say that too.   I do wonder what the letter said but then I thought, what difference could it make?


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Unblinking
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« Reply #13 on: July 06, 2012, 08:47:32 AM »

I think, Unblinking, that you're mixing up Mark with Barry here. Mark wasn't at the final scene.

Oh!  I am absolutely terrible with names, both in real life and in stories.  I usually kind of keep track of who people are more by context, and to really learn them I have to mentally repeat them over and over and over.  Unless your name's Ismael Plenty, or something weird like that.  So, to my mind, Mark and Barry served similar enough roles that I thought they were the same person.

When I get confused when listening to a story, I think this is a major contributor.  This gave me a lot of trouble when listening to "Wane" over on Podcastle because I was having trouble separating the two men who were voiced by Alasdair, because it took me most of the story to realize they weren't the same person because I'd just remembered him as "the guy who sounds like Alasdair".
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Devoted135
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« Reply #14 on: July 09, 2012, 09:18:27 AM »

When I get confused when listening to a story, I think this is a major contributor.  This gave me a lot of trouble when listening to "Wane" over on Podcastle because I was having trouble separating the two men who were voiced by Alasdair, because it took me most of the story to realize they weren't the same person because I'd just remembered him as "the guy who sounds like Alasdair".

Um, there were at least four male characters voiced by Alasdair in "Wane". Tongue
The Prince, the Ambassador, the wampyr, the current love interest.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #15 on: July 09, 2012, 09:23:58 AM »

Okay, commenting on the story now Tongue

I really liked this one, and definitely got caught up in all of the longings and frustrations of the main character. There's a fine line between "the only one in the world who knows the truth about dad" and "crazy" and I thought that she walked this line really well. I did want to know why she only had such a small amount of time in the portal, but it makes perfect sense that her dad wouldn't bother to explain even this important detail.
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Unblinking
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« Reply #16 on: July 09, 2012, 09:41:20 AM »

When I get confused when listening to a story, I think this is a major contributor.  This gave me a lot of trouble when listening to "Wane" over on Podcastle because I was having trouble separating the two men who were voiced by Alasdair, because it took me most of the story to realize they weren't the same person because I'd just remembered him as "the guy who sounds like Alasdair".

Um, there were at least four male characters voiced by Alasdair in "Wane". Tongue
The Prince, the Ambassador, the wampyr, the current love interest.

Really?  Wow I was even more confused than I thought.  I think that I thought the vampyr was also the ambassador, and that the love interest was also the prince.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #17 on: July 09, 2012, 09:52:27 AM »

When I get confused when listening to a story, I think this is a major contributor.  This gave me a lot of trouble when listening to "Wane" over on Podcastle because I was having trouble separating the two men who were voiced by Alasdair, because it took me most of the story to realize they weren't the same person because I'd just remembered him as "the guy who sounds like Alasdair".

Um, there were at least four male characters voiced by Alasdair in "Wane". Tongue
The Prince, the Ambassador, the wampyr, the current love interest.

Really?  Wow I was even more confused than I thought.  I think that I thought the vampyr was also the ambassador, and that the love interest was also the prince.

I also thought the ambassador and the wampyr were the same person, I actually had to listen to it twice to really get everything straight.
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #18 on: July 09, 2012, 05:08:28 PM »

I think I may be alone in guessing where this story was going, but it still make Dad a massive prick (ok, THAT part I didn't see), and I really liked the well-rounded female main character.
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olivaw
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« Reply #19 on: July 09, 2012, 07:10:29 PM »

I agree that you could have told this story without the diving or the time travel, but it would have lost most of the tension and suspense. The mysterious disappearance of her father added suspense to the story as she gave up her entire life in the search for her father.

And you could probably say the same about all good science fiction.  The technology, IMO, shouldn't be the point.

I don't think I agree with that.  While I agree that the technology shouldn't be the only point in a story, IMO if you can remove the SF element without changing the story then you should.  In this case I didn't think you could.

I don't think you could have taken the diving out of this story without completely changing it. And while the time portals could have been replaced by some other SF or fantasy device, I can't think of any mundane macguffin which would have been at all comparable, in function or in sensawunda.

Also, while it's fair enough to criticise the dad - for not explaining to his family, if nothing else - it's hard not to sympathise with his choice to abandon his homelife for an extraordinary and profound discovery.
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