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Author Topic: EP358: Like a Hawk in its Gyre  (Read 7739 times)
eytanz
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« on: August 17, 2012, 01:33:59 AM »

EP358: Like a Hawk in its Gyre

By Philip Brewer

Read by Tim Crist

Originally appeared in Redstone Science Fiction (2011)
---

The bicycle noticed someone was following before Kurt did. Watching for a tail was a habit he’d finally broken himself of, but not before the bicycle’s impressionable brain had picked it up. Its low warning hum sent a thrill of adrenalin through him, giving power to the part of his brain that wanted him to sprint away.

Kurt glanced back down the single track. The trees were already beginning to turn fall colors around the edges of the forest, but here along the narrow trail the foliage was green and thick. Resisting the urge to pick up the pace, he continued on, looking back when he could take his eyes off the trail, and after a few moments caught sight of what the bicycle had seen.

“It’s just another cyclist,” Kurt said, reaching down to pat the bicycle’s yellow-and-black, hornet-striped frame. The bicycle didn’t understand–its brain was small and lacked the regions for understanding speech–but Kurt’s tone of voice calmed it and the warning hum grew softer and less anxious.

The end of the trail, a scenic overlook above the Vermillion River, was not far ahead, but the overtaking bicyclist was approaching even faster. The polite thing to do would be to find a place to pull off the trail and let the cyclist past. But there were no surveillance devices in the forest, and Kurt couldn’t face meeting someone out of sight of some sort of watching eyes. At just the thought of it, his adrenaline surged again.

Letting his brain chemistry have its way with him, Kurt leaned low over his handlebars and pedaled hard.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
« Last Edit: September 13, 2012, 04:00:54 PM by Talia » Logged
Listener
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« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2012, 06:33:32 AM »

King, mountain, etc.

This was a very "small" story, at least in scope. I tend to like those. I didn't start out liking this one, but it got better. I did enjoy the way that the patch Starkweather put on Kurt turned him not just into someone who was okay with secrets but also into an entirely different, much more sinister person. I wasn't much surprised that the bicycle would turn out to be the savior of the story, though it was nice the way the bike was Kurt's true "pet", well-trained and willing to attack someone who was hurting its master.

Parts of the reading were a little too fast, as if the reader looked at the sentence, decided there wasn't any punctuation, and just decided to plow through it -- as opposed to mentally inserting pauses at the appropriate (though not author-designated) locations.
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Dem
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« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2012, 08:05:10 AM »

This was all ways good enough for me to forget the writing and the narration and just get on with anthropomorphising that bicycle. By the end, I was ready to take on Starkweather myself and give him what for if he didn't stop threatening the poor little mite. I did struggle a bit when its inner spider was revealed but not so much I couldn't hear it purr when Kurt got back on. A writer has done a jolly good job if he can make me want to adopt a BMX/tarantula hybrid that even the Great Wiggo might have second thoughts about.
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« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2012, 06:38:56 PM »

This was a good one. Like Listener said, it was small in scope, but after some of these end-of-the-world tales we've had lately, I liked the change. I enjoyed the mental shift of Kurt as the drugs kicked in, especially the way he continued to explain everything to Starkweather even though the man was going to die. (Yes, I see this for the narrative tool that it is, explaining everything to the reader, but since the action fit the effect of the drug so well, the contrivance didn't bother me.)

I enjoyed Starkweather as a antagonist. His cool and cocksure demeanor was fun because you just knew there was going to be some detail he'd missed in all of his meticulous scheming that was going to be his downfall, cue bike.

And finally, the world building was detailed just enough to frustrate the crap out of me because I want to know all of the history of this world now. Obviously some crazy political poo went down and they're now under some sort of Big Brother style government. I want to know more.

I would also like to find Kurt and convince him to turn my car into a rhino-hybrid. Not too much to ask?

Props to Tim. I dug this one.
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2012, 07:33:16 PM »

I almost had trouble starting this given what a paranoid twit Kurt started out to be, but that paranoia was explained in fairly short order. I liked the way all the biotechnology fit together, and how the situation resolved itself, but I do hope Kurt rifled through Starkweather's corpse and picked up a few more of those patches. It was a rotten way to treat a valued employee, but I suppose it was better than shooting him (Kurt). And Kurt was proved right that poisons would be more effective than bombs.

My one complaint was one of convention - the "Do it for me or I'll kill you!" line. Isn't that an empty bluff? If Kurt really is the only one who designed the hawks, killing him would mean Starkweather would never get the hawks. "Go ahead, shoot!" is the proper response to that threat.
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SF.Fangirl
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« Reply #5 on: August 19, 2012, 10:45:10 AM »

What they said.  I enjoyed this story period with no disclaimers.  "Small in scope" is a great way to describe the story and I was trying to come up with the words for it.  Although if the evildoers plan had been successful, there would have been wider impact, but because of circumstances it was just the story of one guy (and his pet) trying to fend off a bad guy.  The background hints at some much bigger stories, but this story's small scope was the perfect length for EP.

Honestly I think trying to tell a bigger story or one requiring more world-building is a flaw in many of the EP stories I dislike which results in me complaining that we didn't get a full plot.

Yeah, I liked this one.  I was a little unsure at the start because Kurt's paranoia got tedious quickly, but then it was revealed why he needed the eyes on him and the patch was slapped on and I was drawn right in the story.  In retrospect I think it was crazy for Kurt to engineer deadly poison into the bike, but during the story that thought never occurred to be because I was enjoying Kurt's triumph and Starkweather's comeuppance.

Let me just add: best story since at least "Origin Story," and what I will define as best sci fi story in a while.  (I do enjoy some superhero stories, but they usually don't feel sci fi to me.)
« Last Edit: August 19, 2012, 10:49:08 AM by SF.Fangirl » Logged
Cattfish
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« Reply #6 on: August 19, 2012, 06:15:34 PM »

I liked this one

Makes you wonder though, if you can make bikes intelligent and deadly where does it end?  (I'll tell you where it should end: toilets.)

Also, I get the feeling that since the main character's now spilled all his secrets, I don't think he's going to continue his happy walks in the parks. (Read: he'll get snuffed by the Big Government)
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El Barto
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« Reply #7 on: August 20, 2012, 08:45:23 AM »

I loved this story.  It was focused, creative, clever, and unique. 

Until the moment Starkweather started seriously threatening Kurt, it felt like Starkweather was going to be a good guy who liberated Kurt from his mind control that was "allegedly" self-induced, but was it really?

I suppose I should have seen it coming that the bike was going to save Kurt, but the author did such a strong job of making the bike's brain seem extremely limited that I couldn't imagine how it could do anything other than knock Starkweather off his feet for a scuffle.   The fact that the bike had a stinger was just great.  And I loved how Kurt pretended there might really be hawks and put out his hand when he called them, as a distraction.

Five stars.
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« Reply #8 on: August 20, 2012, 09:44:59 AM »

I quite enjoyed this one. 

It starts off with a very skewed but interesting POV, throwing us right in there, explaining things as they go (as works best for me).  The little details necessary for the ending were all put in place at the proper times so they seemed more like character and world building in general rather than a specific setup.  So when the sting happened, all the proper groundwork had been laid but in a way that the resolution didn't become obvious until just a moment before it came.

One thing I thought was really interesting was how, even as he is being drugged, he finds a way to work around the drug.  The drug compels him to give up his secrets, but he has a few secrets that he can intentionally dole out the ones that aren't immediately relevant.  It makes sense from a character standpoint for his clever clever mind, and also makes sense from a narrative standpoint because it gives him the opportunity to lay some of that groundwork.

All very clever stuff.  Also, hawks are awesome.

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« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2012, 10:26:49 AM »

Now I must swallow my embarrassment and apologize to Phil, and Tim. I gave Tim props at the end of my post, only to realize today that Tim is not the author, but the narrator. Oops. So, yes Tim did a great job narrating, but my props were meant for Phil. Well done, Phil.

Whew. Disaster averted.
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chemistryguy
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« Reply #10 on: August 20, 2012, 12:18:07 PM »

Makes you wonder though, if you can make bikes intelligent and deadly where does it end?  (I'll tell you where it should end: toilets.)

Are you not taking into account the benefits possible from a genetically enhanced toilet?  It would be worth it just to have as a handy, daily diagnostic tool.  "Jim, your stool appears to be a little thin today.  May I suggest some All Bran?"

In all seriousness, I really enjoyed this story.  I found the idea of a bicycle with a rudimentary intelligence and partially constructed from living tissue very appealing.  It made me think back to a one panel cartoon I saw years ago.  Mechanics open the hood of a car to find moving, organic components inside.  I can't even remember the punchline, but the image stuck with me.

I also liked the way my perception of Kurt shifts throughout the story as the drug kicks in and we learn more about him.  Perhaps I missed something at the beginning, but I kept picturing Kurt as an extremely gifted adolescent.  I imagined his neurosis was due to a traumatic experience he'd had in the past.  The story unfolded quite nicely.  The demise of Starkweather was not a surprise as many others have mentioned, but this was a fantastic one trip story.



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Listener
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« Reply #11 on: August 20, 2012, 12:19:59 PM »

Makes you wonder though, if you can make bikes intelligent and deadly where does it end?  (I'll tell you where it should end: toilets.)

Are you not taking into account the benefits possible from a genetically enhanced toilet?  It would be worth it just to have as a handy, daily diagnostic tool.  "Jim, your stool appears to be a little thin today.  May I suggest some All Bran?"

I believe they already have smart toilets that can do that with computers.

I first heard the idea advanced in Slant by Greg Bear.
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« Reply #12 on: August 20, 2012, 12:42:57 PM »

Oh god, smart toilets. Those will be the ones that flush your bum without warning or suddenly open their doors to the world while you still have the undercarriage lowered? I like my tech but those things are going to have to get their act together before I abandon manual control!
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« Reply #13 on: August 21, 2012, 05:29:12 AM »

Don't have much to say about the story that hasn't already been said. But there was something about the concept of slamming together all that random DNA for tech purposes that seemed familiar, along with the lack of horror at the concept.

from 5.36 to 8.06
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7Ex05aYGeM&list=PL1FF96AC81D095099&index=17&feature=plpp_video

I wanted a clip of Jeff Goldblum waffling on about scientists knowing the difference between could and should, but found the "Life will find a way" bit instead. Which led me off down a train of thought where tarantula/scorpion/bicycle chimera have had half-a-million years to evolve. Now you see, they really could be legitimately creationist, being able to point to a named creator, or at least a chef who cooked all their pre-existing ingredients together. 

So there you go, SF supposed to inspire, within half an hour of reading this story I have an image of a herd of semi-evolved venomous creationist bicycles, flocking like the gallimimus in Jurassic Park, as they hunt down their prey, possibly a pink tricycle, or maybe that kid from The Shining, (we just don't know). Gotta say it worked for me.
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chemistryguy
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« Reply #14 on: August 21, 2012, 06:06:06 AM »

Don't have much to say about the story that hasn't already been said. But there was something about the concept of slamming together all that random DNA for tech purposes that seemed familiar, along with the lack of horror at the concept.

from 5.36 to 8.06
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7Ex05aYGeM&list=PL1FF96AC81D095099&index=17&feature=plpp_video

I wanted a clip of Jeff Goldblum waffling on about scientists knowing the difference between could and should, but found the "Life will find a way" bit instead. Which led me off down a train of thought where tarantula/scorpion/bicycle chimera have had half-a-million years to evolve. Now you see, they really could be legitimately creationist, being able to point to a named creator, or at least a chef who cooked all their pre-existing ingredients together. 

So there you go, SF supposed to inspire, within half an hour of reading this story I have an image of a herd of semi-evolved venomous creationist bicycles, flocking like the gallimimus in Jurassic Park, as they hunt down their prey, possibly a pink tricycle, or maybe that kid from The Shining, (we just don't know). Gotta say it worked for me.

You have a way with words, Grump.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #15 on: August 21, 2012, 08:51:22 AM »

How did the villain think he was going to get the hawk?

He thought the protagonist was going to call the hawk, and then presumably he'd tied it to jesses or something for easy transportation.

If the good guy had enough control over the hawks to call them to him, why wouldn't he just have the hawk attack the villain?

He didn't have that control.  It said so in the story.  He came to the forest in case the hawks needed him, so they could find him, but he had no way to call them or even to find them.

And the way the villain was attacked by the bicycle was silly.

Silly?  Maybe.  Effective?  Yes.

If the good guy was so anxious about NOT being observed, why didn't he rig up a webcam on his bike?


I don't remember that being answered in the story, but I would guess that he is hoping to avoid entanglements like this one, from people thinking he's there to call hawks.  As long as he is careful not to talk to people while he's out or to DO anything
new then he considers it a measured risk.
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« Reply #16 on: August 22, 2012, 01:43:43 AM »

My one complaint was one of convention - the "Do it for me or I'll kill you!" line. Isn't that an empty bluff? If Kurt really is the only one who designed the hawks, killing him would mean Starkweather would never get the hawks. "Go ahead, shoot!" is the proper response to that threat.
Um, no.
Because Kurt's mental condition didn't allow him to say that. Such a phrase takes a clear mind and a certain amount of gumption to say. Kurt had neither. It probably never even occurred to him that he could say such a thing.

Awesome story. Great reading. Where can I buy an intelligent and poisonous bike?
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Devoted135
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« Reply #17 on: August 22, 2012, 09:48:43 AM »

I really liked this one. Smiley

The story really drew me in with wondering why there were cameras everywhere, and why Kurt would want to be in their sight. Plus the idea of a bike picking up on its owner's paranoia was great. Like El Barto, I initially thought that Starkweather was going to liberate Kurt, and was initially rooting for him and his patch. Of course, as the story unfolded I definitely started rooting for the paranoid bike and its handlebars of death.

One aspect that made this story particularly interesting to me was trying to glimpse Kurt's true personality and intellect through the veneer of his self-imposed prison. I could tell that not only was he brilliant, but he was also ruthless - a modern-day mad scientist. I wondered what could cause such a person to turn his science on himself, to essentially hamstring and chain his own mind for the remainder of his life. Did he scare himself into that decision*, or was it actually imposed by his government?


*A la Walter Bishop, the best tv scientist ever Smiley
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Grumpoid
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« Reply #18 on: August 23, 2012, 04:03:46 AM »


... as the story unfolded I definitely started rooting for the paranoid bike and its handlebars of death.


Now "Handlebars of Death" is a title I could get behind. (figuratively speaking) - "Like a Hawk in its Gyre" is essentially meaningless and any reader would be hard put to remember it five minutes after it had been read. The word Gyre is one I've managed to do without for the last half a century, although it sounds more like the rotaty gyr from gyroscope, which I suppose is bicycley appropriate. But as a title, it's trying a little too hard.
Now "Handlebars of Death" on the other hand ....
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eytanz
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« Reply #19 on: August 23, 2012, 04:16:13 AM »


... as the story unfolded I definitely started rooting for the paranoid bike and its handlebars of death.


Now "Handlebars of Death" is a title I could get behind. (figuratively speaking) - "Like a Hawk in its Gyre" is essentially meaningless and any reader would be hard put to remember it five minutes after it had been read. The word Gyre is one I've managed to do without for the last half a century, although it sounds more like the rotaty gyr from gyroscope, which I suppose is bicycley appropriate. But as a title, it's trying a little too hard.
Now "Handlebars of Death" on the other hand ....

"Like a Hawk in its Gyre" is an allusion to the poem "The Second Coming" by Yeats, which begins:

Quote
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world
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