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Author Topic: EP095: Blink. Don’t Blink.  (Read 7099 times)
Russell Nash
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« on: March 01, 2007, 04:33:46 AM »

EP095: Blink. Don’t Blink.

By Ramona Louise Wheeler.
Read by Salim Fadhley.

“Blink. Don’t blink. Don’t blink. Blink.” The human voice was familiar this time, expected. New orders did not come from computer voices. “This one will have to happen in a hurry, while we’re airlifting you to the crash site. It will be rougher than the first.”

It was. William listened to the hard drone of the aircraft engines in flight. He let that sound become the direction he followed while the pain made him into another shape so swiftly that even he did not know what he was becoming. His nanites had been commanded to emergency pitch. William was certain he could feel them racing through his cells.


Rated PG. Contains violent crime and unusual punishment.



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!


Referenced Sites:
Stranger Things
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Simon Painter
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« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2007, 10:03:54 AM »

I'm trying very hard to form some sort of opinion of this story, but it's difficult.  It's not that the writing is bad (it's not) nor the reading (also good) it's just that, well, nothing really happens.  The entire plot of the story is contained in the first and last paragraph, with nothing happening between.  I don't dislike it as such, in the same way I don't hate blank paper, there's just nothing there to hate.

I feel that the writer has come up with an idea that's definitely very interesting, but had no idea of how to actually explore it, this would have been far better if it were shorter still, or possibly even a non-fiction article talking about possibilities for the future.

A writer friend of mine said that a story needs 3 things to succeed: concepts, style and incident.  This story has the first 2, but not the third, what we need is a storyling with which to bring the ideas through.

I never got much of a feeling for what the story was actually 'about' while listening, the strongest theme present is possibly that of redemption, though this is never explored in any depth.

There's also far too much 'tell' and not 'show' going on with the way it related the back story of the protagonist, we find out he killed his wife, and are presented with paragraph after paragraph of him agonising over it, but no detail about it, or his motivations.  In fact we never find out anything about him at all, as such.

The denouement is rather sprang on us as well, it would have been nice to show the protagonists entire character arc that lead up to this descision, aside from agonising over his past actions, we get very little said of his state of mind while he's actually doing his 'community service'.  It perhaps would have been interesting to folllow his first mission, and show him adapting to his new body.

On the introduction: this new videocast sounds awesome!  I'm gonna have to check it out sometime soon!

Simon Painter
Shropshire, UK
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zagboodle
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« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2007, 10:14:36 AM »

Well written story, particularly the descriptions of the main character's transformation (convicts in disguise).  Me, I would have taken the century in cryogenic hibernation.
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« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2007, 03:41:16 PM »

I agree with Simon in that there's a lack of substance to the story. All the incidents in the middle feel like just that, incidents, and not like something that's driving the plot along overmuch.

The ending felt pretty sudden, too. I would have liked to see him try and live a couple days back in the real world before making his decision. That would have given an opportunity to tie a little more emotional ending on to the story, rather than the current abrupt one.

Overall, though, I liked wrapping my brain around the concept of a future where nanotechnology turns people into vehicles that I'm willing to forgive the story a few shortcomings and give it a thumbs up for coolness of concept. Smiley
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Monty Grue
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« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2007, 04:18:18 PM »

The story tries too hard to say something important about the modern penal system, but fails, or succeeds depending on your point of view, in that the implied future has no rosy solution either.  William isn't really given much of a choice; they know he'll mostly accept, but want to appearance of free will anyway; it would be like asking a junkie coming out of rehab if he'd like to shoot smack as part of a federal program.

That said, it was interesting, but could have been shorter for reasons already stated by others.

I do like the darker themed Escapepod stories, like this one, more than the lighter fair, like last week's “The Last Wave” or “The Boy Who Yelled 'Dragon!'”
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contra
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« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2007, 05:02:11 PM »

I really liked this story.

It is trying to say something about the modern way of dealing with crime; however I'm relly not sure what it is.  It does seem to be saying that there is no easy solution; and that rehabilitation is always better than punnishment.  but you don't have to look too far into this story to enjoy it.

It was pure sci fi; though the nano's were approaching magic with what they could do... which as we know from previous story comments can be frowned upon.  But if you can get over that hump and just accept it, there is a good story IMO.

I liked the main character.  I idenified with him to a degree.  I understood where he was coming from; though his speech to the judge I thought wasn't needed (though I know it set it up for him finding his place in life).  I liked his take on the senses ; and how he reacted to it being changed or removed during it. 

As for the helicopter and now these things looked... if anyone has seen the anime Noein... those flying things thats how I imagined it...
pretty cool IMO.

Ok.  I don't know why I liked this story as much as I did.  Maybe I just like something different.  Maybe I like the way people thing.  Maybe I secretly want to be Johnny 5....
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fiveyearwinter
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« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2007, 11:10:36 PM »

I don't understand why he was blinking and not blinking...

but other than that I really liked the story. It just made me feel dumb for not getting it.
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Anarkey
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« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2007, 02:50:39 PM »

At last, my streak of negativity is broken.  I enjoyed this story.  I didn't think it was trying to tell me anything specific about the current penal system.  I do think, in a larger sense, it was asking questions about crime, punishment and redemption, but I didn't feel like it was force-feeding me a message.  Whether that's my own denseness or the deftness of the author, eh, who knows?  It was as if there were options thrown out there, one explored, and the others left for me to weigh on my own time.  Questions, stuff to think about, nothing decreed.  I like my science fiction that way.

I didn't think it was slow-paced or uneventful.  I found the reading a little understated and sometimes I had to rewind because I realized I was thinking "Now, what did he just say?"  Not to say I thought the reading was bad but I guess there wasn't emphasis and pauses in the places where I expected them.

I found the transformations fascinating.  I found the fact that pain was necessary for the transformation to work horrifying.  I found the scene of the guy tied into his parking space, sound turned off, heartbreaking.  I thought this story had depth, and I can't figure out why other people weren't drawn into that depth, though "to each his own" will serve me as answer enough.  I thought the ending was perfect, and natural, following logically from what had gone before.  It still kind of twisted up my gut, though, even though I knew it was coming.  That's just about my favorite thing in a story, when I can see it coming and it still gets me.

fiveyearwinter, my understanding of why he's blinking and not blinking is because the light feeds instructional code to the nanites.  They crawl across his eyeballs while the lights flash, and if he blinks at the wrong moment, the code doesn't transfer.  The in-story explanantion starts at around 4:18.
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« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2007, 03:02:54 PM »

The ending felt pretty sudden, too. I would have liked to see him try and live a couple days back in the real world before making his decision.

I think you nailed it there. 

I loved the idea of the helicopter with a face showing us that there were others in the same situation.

I didn't really get the incident in the marsh/bog, it seemed pretty pointless, hacks his way there, then hacks his way back.  I'm guessing that it was supposed to show how his human reactions improved the rescuing ability of the remote control machines, but it wasn't really well done.  Perhaps it might have been better done with the underground incident where he could have lost contact with the controllers and had to rely on his own initiative.

I really enjoyed this story, real sci fi, more please.
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Josh
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« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2007, 10:12:02 PM »

Very good story, I loved it. I guess the government doesn't just want our time and money anymore, they also want our ability to transform into giant labor machines.
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akadruid
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« Reply #10 on: March 04, 2007, 04:28:33 AM »

This is easily the best story I've heard on Escape Pod - clever, believable, and thought-provoking.  I really enjoy far-future, high technology stories (my previous favourite was How Lonesome A Life Without Nerve Gas) and I don't believe I've ever read any sf which explored man-machine symbiosis quite like this.  I think this scenario could be explored further - I'd love to read a full length novel.

I thought the narration was excellent - although I admit as a Brit I probably have a bias towards British accents, and I find them less distracting.

Two things bothered me about the concept - firstly (as others have mentioned) the human component didn't seem to bring much to the machine, and secondly the idea that this job was so undesirable that the only volunteers are none-too-bright criminals.

But the inhumane plight of the criminal didn't bother me - at the end of the day he was a murderer, and he was even given a choice. I thought two of the options he was give for his sentence were pretty cushy - 100 years of forward time travel the easiest choice, since he'd already killed the once person he cared about, he had nothing to lose.  And being transformed into a giant shapeshifting mecha to travel the world as a lifesaving superhero pretty much makes up for the pain and loss of freedom - especially with his sentence reduced to only 1 year.
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waiting4oct
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« Reply #11 on: March 05, 2007, 09:17:29 AM »

I judge these stories on a few very simple premises.  During the time I was listening to it, was I enjoying it.  When it finished, was I still thinking about it?  Did I enjoy it enough that I was sorry it was over?

This story only got me on one count.  I certainly enjoyed it whilst I was listening to it, but beyond that I haven't put much thought into it.  A story like {Now+n, Now-n} despite flaws kept me thinking about it for the better part of a week, and a story like Snow Day made me wish it could just keep going!

As for Stranger Things:  Yeah, color me impressed.  The theme music is entrancing, the production quality is excellent and the story/acting was all believable.

-rjc
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Russell Nash
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« Reply #12 on: March 05, 2007, 02:29:36 PM »

I judge these stories on a few very simple premises.  During the time I was listening to it, was I enjoying it.  When it finished, was I still thinking about it?  Did I enjoy it enough that I was sorry it was over?

This is how I judge the stories too. With the added count of, "do I convert it to a normal music file and keep it or trash it?"(Do I want to hear it again?)

I enjoyed listening to this one. Thought about it for a little while. Was ready to move on to my Pseudopod episode. Didn't keep it.

That rates it as good, but not more.
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Wolfger
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« Reply #13 on: March 05, 2007, 03:07:15 PM »

Complaints to follow, so I just wanted to start off saying I enjoyed the story. I really did! Now, on to my whining:

Is it just me, or did this seem more like a Flash piece? It was a good story, but it was too short!

The way I listen to Escape Pod is on my mp3 player, during my commute to work. I frequently fall behind in my listening, and so I know the average story length is such that on my way to work I can listen to one full episode plus the intro to a second episode. This morning, I only had Blink, Don't Blink to listen to, and it was over at about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way into work. Granted, I did stop for gas on the way, but to give it the benefit of a doubt, it would not have lasted for more than half the commute.

Lastly (and boy, do I sound like somebody who's always unhappy? Really, I'm not...) I want to mention the quality of the reading. I like the reader of this story. I like all the readers Escape Pod employs. But this particular person seems to have a bit of a lisp (as do I), and the result is that his S sounds are much louder than the other sounds. Not horrible, until we add in the mp3-player ear plugs and some road noise. If I turn the volume up loud enough to hear everything, each S sound is like a bullet shot to my inner ear, and it really decreases my enjoyment of the piece. Perhaps some sound mixing, to lower whatever frequency range those notes are hitting, could help this?
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waiting4oct
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« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2007, 07:10:59 AM »

This is how I judge the stories too. With the added count of, "do I convert it to a normal music file and keep it or trash it?"(Do I want to hear it again?)

Being that the shuffle function on my iPod just found Joe Steele, I'd have to agree with you, Russell!

-russ
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Oblio
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« Reply #15 on: March 06, 2007, 10:14:29 AM »

This is the kind of story I enjoy.  It takes a true scifi story line and runs with it.  I do think it would have won more people over if the missions were a little more detailed, but the imegery it did convey worked well. 

I don't agree with the reviewer who thought he should have gone out in the streets for a couple of days before he made his decision.  I believe Happy had been trying all of his life to fit in somewhere, and he knew he had finally found his purpose.  I also believe that this was more realistic because the government would need people like him so they would press him to make the discission as quickly as possible.

Well done!
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Jim
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« Reply #16 on: March 06, 2007, 11:24:43 AM »

I like this episode, and I think it would make for an interesting comic book or anime movie.
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Wolfger
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« Reply #17 on: March 06, 2007, 11:38:41 AM »

Oh yeah... I could definitely see this as an anime...
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600south
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« Reply #18 on: March 06, 2007, 05:28:43 PM »

I've listened to a lot of Escape Pod's stories but this is the first time i've enjoyed one enough to post a comment. I thought it was great -- one of the first stories to pull me out of my environment (ie: walking down the street with iPod) and suck me completely into the characters' world.

and what a frightening world it is. i could feel every pang of Happy's pain, loneliness, confusion and regret, and the insertion of the dead words blink... don't blink at regular intervals gave me an unsettling feeling of a machine interfacing with my mind in order to have its way with me. I was almost relieved when they were able to turn him back into a human at the end, but then came the kicker.

I agree, it would be a great anime or movie but it would also alienate a lot of people, since I think people's visions of this story would differ vastly from each other.

Hopefully Escape Pod won't shy away from recording some of the darker stuff like this in future. Not that i'd like it all the time, but it was a nice break from the dragons!

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mt house
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« Reply #19 on: March 07, 2007, 03:28:15 AM »

hmmm...people becoming machines...interesting concept, but maybe not the best use of tax dollars. Who's making license plates? Has that been outsourced? Picking up litter in an orange jumpsuit? I couldn't relate to the main character, although I love the idea of being behind his eyeballs, I felt like I was in a CAT scan.

LOVE the podcast! Thank you, Steve and co.!
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