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Author Topic: EP357: Connoisseurs of the Eccentric  (Read 2461 times)
eytanz
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« on: August 10, 2012, 01:52:54 AM »

EP357: Connoisseurs of the Eccentric

By Jetse de Vries

Read by Nathan Lowell

Originally appeared in Digital Science Fiction Volume 1 (2011)
---

alvador Dalí took his pet ocelot to a New York restaurant, where a woman protested that wild animals were being allowed in. Dalí replied it was only a cat he’d painted in op-art style. The woman looked closer: “Now I can see it’s a cat,” she said. “At first, I thought it was an ocelot.”

Seated near the swimming pool in the artist’s retreat in Port Lligat, a BBC interviewer said that he had “heared that Dalí was unkind to animals. Was that true?”

“Dalí cruel to ze animal?” The artist exclaimed, “Nevair!” After which he picked up his pet ocelot and hurled it into the swimming pool.

—Eccentric anecdotes;

I SEE HER arriving in her private vacuum zeppelin, flying over the rewilded mountains of the Nagasaki peninsula, while I’m tending the extreme bonsai wine garden on top of my farmscraper. Expertly manoeuvering through the photovoltaic city forest, the zep berthes at the telescopic docking station. It gives me time to change from my gardening attire into something more formal.

Originally, she found me through my hyperdense pinot noir à la bonsaïe, almost two decades ago. Back then, I proudly showed her my grotto garden, but she quickly decided that she liked my ecological acumen better than my micro bonsai specimen. Today, for the second time only, she comes unnanounced.

I come prepared, but even my Icho’s ‘the power of light and shadow’ complemented with a pair of Peron & Peron’s is no match for the way Afri Kamari makes an off-the-shelf, demure business suit look like haute couture. Above ebony cheekbones: deep brown eyes that see straight through you. Under a head of long, thick, fine curls: a brain that never shifts from top gear. Inside a very conservative skirtsuit: an animated sensuality that puts any anime girl to shame.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!

(Edited to fix typo)
« Last Edit: September 07, 2012, 08:14:17 AM by Talia » Logged
olivaw
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« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2012, 07:30:07 AM »

Ah, that hit the spot.

I could have happily listened to this guy going on about eccentricities for another hour or more.
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Dem
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« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2012, 01:13:48 PM »

Beautiful, beautiful prose, wonderfully read. I want more of both Jetse and Nathan and they can reproduce a telephone directory, I will listen.  Well no, not really. This is an extraordinary story told in serially escalating demands on readers/listeners that expect us to keep up. I was more than willing to make that effort. Superb.
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2012, 08:29:20 PM »

Well.... hmmmm

I found (most of) the ideas about the world interesting, the mysterious nature of the aliens, space travel, etc. But actually I'm glad Mur brought up the why of the eccentric anecdotes, because they kept taking me out of the story. Escape Artists has run a couple such stories; I'm most in mind of PodCastle #120, Some Zombie Contingency Plans. And while these small asides are interesting, they tend to take me out of the story.

A few quibbles - Nathan's voice and delivery for Afri Kamari made me think of a Bond villain, especially given her dialogue.

I find it unlikely that you'd be able to get longevity and zero population growth at the same time. You'd have to get ZPG before longevity, because I think the attraction - and the fact - of living longer would slowly but surely bump up that population curve toward insustainability.

Not sure Alpha Centauri is the best place to send your first probe. Yeah, it's the closest and all, but it's at least a binary, probably a trinary, star system. Maybe not a good place for life.

But overall I liked it.
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chemistryguy
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« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2012, 05:35:12 AM »

I agree with InfiniteMonkey that the eccentricities kept taking me out of the story.  They felt unnecessary.  The aliens themselves seemed unnecessary except for the small fact that they were providing the technology that made the story possible. 
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Listener
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« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2012, 03:32:35 PM »

This story had a lot of things in it that I should've liked, but I just couldn't get into it. Maybe it was the pacing, or the giant chunk of tiny references shoveled on my head all at the same time (mostly the science and technology), or the fact that it seemed to take FOREVER to get to the space elevator... I shut it off about halfway through. I'd probably enjoy it in print form. And hey, look at that -- it's in print form on the website. I'll get to it when the next Soundproof comes out, I think. I guess the story just didn't lend itself to audio -- at least, for me it didn't.

A few quibbles - Nathan's voice and delivery for Afri Kamari made me think of a Bond villain, especially given her dialogue.

Little bit...
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Seekerpilgrim
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« Reply #6 on: August 13, 2012, 05:35:21 PM »

I liked this one, but it didn't knock me over. The idea of aliens being more interested in what makes us unique, our eccentricities, instead of our science, I found original, but the slightly aloof narration put me off a bit. The narrator may have been going for an atmosphere of conversing intellectuals or artists, and in this case he succeeded, but it became annoying nonetheless. The only thing that really irked me was the comment at the end while the protagonists were discussing the probe about discovering intelligent life. Haven't they been in contact with aliens for twenty years already? Perhaps the author should have said "other" or "more" intelligent life. A small detail, yes, but important all the same...attention to continuity is MY eccentricity, you see.
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Unblinking
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« Reply #7 on: August 14, 2012, 09:21:14 AM »

I gave up on this one a little more than halfway through.  I don't think that I've seen this premise before, and it's an interesting one.  But to me by that point in the story it didn't seem like anything more than a premise explained at great length.

The eccentric note asides seemed like nothing more than fluff padding to me.  Yes, we know what eccentric means, thank you.

I think I've only read one other of Jetse's stories, that was published in Specutopia #1 with a story of mine.  I guess he's a lover of the eccentric because I found that story eccentric to the point of bordering on nonsense.  So it's very possible that when the aliens come, Jetse will hae a newfound cache of alien tech.  I'm just not sure I "get" his style.  I love weird fiction--the Drabblecast is one of my favorite publications, for instance.  But I still like the story to have some kind of theme, some kind of point besides random weirdness--S. Boyd Taylor's "Teddy Bears and Tea Parties" is a perfect example.

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Anarquistador
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« Reply #8 on: August 15, 2012, 06:51:31 AM »

Not my favorite. It just seemed awfully...pretentious, I guess, is the word. Something very arthouse and avant-garde about it, which is not really something I like in Science Ficiton.
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Cutter McKay
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« Reply #9 on: August 15, 2012, 10:32:59 PM »

Well I enjoyed it, overall anyway. It did drag several times, but I found the payoff at least worth the listen. I liked the yin and yang connection between the two main characters. The eccentric balanced by the practical.

The fact that Afri kept the plan a secret for the length of the story did feel a bit contrived and pointless. If Takashima was really so practical he would have demanded answers to begin with, at the same time it doesn't seem like Afri would have a reason to keep it from him. If she knew he would say yes, she would just tell him, if she didn't know, then it would be long trip for nothing and a great waste of time and resources if he refused in the end. Sure, Afri's eccentric and all, so maybe, but it just felt unnecessary to me.

I actually enjoyed the many side stories about eccentric people of history. Yes it did pull me out of the story, but they tales were entertaining and helped break up the real story when it dragged.

The world building was interesting and well done. I was very intrigued by the idea that the aliens were trading technology for eccentricities, not because of the eccentricities hemselves, but just as a way to build up Earth's technology for the later arrival of more aliens. Trading tech for eccentricities is kind of dumb, but if the aliens are just doing it as a way to prep Earth, that's cool. I know that was just  theory in the story, but it was a good theory.

Definitely not my favorite EP episode, but worth the listen.
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Grumpoid
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« Reply #10 on: August 16, 2012, 03:55:43 PM »

For the past few weeks I've been listening to and reading the stories on Escapepod, and then following the reactions in the forums. Mostly I felt no need to express an opinion because the remarkably calm and reasonable contributors here have voiced every shaded and nuanced reaction that I've felt, including catching authors out with "errors" of style or substance. Also expressing appreciation for the stories they enjoyed. It's been great.

Then came this story. I couldn't read it all in one chunk, had to go back a few times and there are still a few bits in the middle I'm just not going to get to.
I hate the big ugly present tense. All the arguments for it are about uncertainty, Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, for example, used the present tense to produce a level of uncertainty and danger in a historical narrative where the facts and outcome for the main character are fixed and easy to look up. I have no feeling of such an intellectual  choice with the tense use here.
Still not enough for me to "spit the dummy" though - then I came across the line "nobody knows how they look like" - That's just Dutch rendered word for word into English. Okay, that caused a bit of bruxism but nothing that a grumpy man hasn't had to deal with before.

And then came the bit about the fictionados, not in the eccentric tales sections  but connected to the Afri character's backstory.

I read SF because I love the original worlds, but I've been reading for forty odd years now, so originality gets a bit harder to find, mostly because I remember all the good stuff I've read.

"Shall we have a little Talk" one of Bob Shekley's better stories, deals with a culture inadvertently outwitting a legalistic shark from Earth because of the speed at which their language spontaneously evolves.

"That tribe of fictionados spoke a language that evolved so fast that nobody could meaningfully communicate with them, even in the internet age"

Mun mun. Mun mun mun mun mun - anybody? With his arms out wide! -

By this time I was really quite grumpy, and then I read Unblinking's post and figured out it was all me and I was just seeing it wrong.

What I have in common with Unblinking is we are both writers, and I see in his comments here (and with the Cat Rambo story from a couple of weeks ago) the same thing I got. I'm a member of a critiquing group, the purpose of which is to look at the submitted texts and look for weaknesses and the ways in which they can be improved. So I read, or rather have been reading, these stories as if I were doing a crit. But these stories have already done what they were supposed to do, they have SOLD, sometimes more than once as this is a reprint market.
I think there has to be a difference between a review and a crit. I've had reviews of my own stuff that have read like a crit, and at the end of the piece I've been left with a feeling of "What d'you want me to do about it? It's published, I got paid for it already, I can't change it any more".

Escapepod has reconnected me with my love of written SF, and I can sit back and relax once a week and let someone else drive. All I want is to see the stars, and when I'm at Escapepod, it's from the passenger seat.

So - a non crit reaction
Connoisseurs of the Eccentric - It was alright, bit dull though. Clearly a pilot for a series I personally would have no interest in reading. World ideas without much of a story, and practically nothing blew up at all.

Looking forward to next week.



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Cutter McKay
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« Reply #11 on: August 16, 2012, 08:03:04 PM »

Grumpoid, I wish there was a "Like" button in this forum. Well said.
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WiseMaknae
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« Reply #12 on: August 17, 2012, 07:38:51 AM »

I'm a big fan of the reading for this one
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Devoted135
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« Reply #13 on: August 17, 2012, 09:05:38 AM »

For the past few weeks I've been listening to and reading the stories on Escapepod, and then following the reactions in the forums. Mostly I felt no need to express an opinion because the remarkably calm and reasonable contributors here have voiced every shaded and nuanced reaction that I've felt, including catching authors out with "errors" of style or substance. Also expressing appreciation for the stories they enjoyed. It's been great.


I'm so glad you decided to post, that was fascinating. Smiley
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Devoted135
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« Reply #14 on: August 17, 2012, 09:24:03 AM »

For me, this story wasn't about the aliens or even the eccentricities the humans traded for their technology. It was about the main character setting aside his trained practicality to make a great "leap of faith". He had to trust Afri: first to accompany her on the trip and then to send his "soul" out into the unknown with hers. For a man made of careful choices and no eccentricities, this was a huge step and I hope it pays off for him in the end.


I didn't mind that the alien's reason for wanting our eccentricities wasn't explained. However, I get the impression that the eccentricities of Einstein and Salvador Dali were not the ones accepted for trade, so it would have been nice to hear some that were.

I know this has been said before, but would it be too cheesy to have some sort of standardized EA audio equivalent of a *** inserted between paragraphs?
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SF.Fangirl
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« Reply #15 on: August 19, 2012, 10:50:57 AM »

I know this has been said before, but would it be too cheesy to have some sort of standardized EA audio equivalent of a *** inserted between paragraphs?

Like this 100 times.  Cheesy
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SF.Fangirl
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« Reply #16 on: August 19, 2012, 10:57:39 AM »

This story just didn't do it for me.  I simply never got into it; however, I have nothing in particular to point at as to say why.  I might have like it more if the alien motives have been explained.  I think I was waiting for something to happen and when Afri explained the plan that should have been it, but it just left me cold.  The story was kind of more a travelogue than plot.  The main character did nothing but reluctantly do what he was told.  This is one of those story's I can't say was flawed, but rather it not to my taste.
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Grumpoid
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« Reply #17 on: August 19, 2012, 12:38:46 PM »

I know this has been said before, but would it be too cheesy to have some sort of standardized EA audio equivalent of a *** inserted between paragraphs?

Like this 100 times.  Cheesy

Tried to resist... just couldn't
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lF4qii8S3gw
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El Barto
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« Reply #18 on: August 19, 2012, 04:41:05 PM »

Bleh.  I didn't like this one at all.  I didn't care about its characters, wasn't engaged by the style, and couldn't buy the plot.   The whole thing felt a bit pretentious to me in that the story was trying to be eccentric in addition to being about aliens who seem to like eccentricities. 

I did like the idea that the aliens were treating us as children - pretending to like/want our useless crap as a pretense to give us the technologies they want us to have.

And for the record, if aliens show up on the moon and tell us to stay away from it, I'd bet my bottom dollar we demand to know why, head there anyway, and push them into responding.  (Just like little kids would do.)
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #19 on: August 20, 2012, 01:16:31 AM »

We need more Nathan Lowell. Not just in Escape Artists, but in general. I ran out of things to listen to that he narrated a long time ago.
[hint]Waiting for Tanyth Fairport Book 2.[/hint]

The story itself was wonderful. The combination of a superb reader and a well-written and well-paced story left me hanging on every word.
It's always bothered me that in most science fiction the aliens show up and either try to kill us, or bring about a worldwide renaissance with world peace and everything is just perfect.
This time though, even though they did bring about a renaissance, it was not from the kindness of their hearts. They were genuinely interested in something apparently only humanity can offer: screwups on a huge scale.
That lends a sense of proportion to things and somehow makes me feel better about myself.
The only little niggling problem I have is that if you have something about a millimeter in diameter that is traveling at 99% the speed of light, when it hits a planet it will not drill itself nicely into the planet's crust. It will create a huge crater destroying everything in the vicinity, send shockwaves through the mantel that will probably spark some serious volcanic activity and send a huge dust cloud into the atmosphere blocking the sun. Not exactly the friendly "hello" we were expecting. I didn't do the math on this because Lorentz Transformation gives me a headache. But if there is a brave soul out there who can prove me wrong, please.
Also, aiming something that small an object at a planet only indirectly observed from 4 light years away is nearly impossible. The calculations can probably be done with quantum computers, but I don't think we have enough data to feed into those calculation.
Still, great story.
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