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Author Topic: EP381: Elias, Smith and Jones  (Read 2041 times)
eytanz
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« on: February 01, 2013, 03:51:34 PM »

EP381: Elias, Smith and Jones

By Mark English

Read by David Robison

---

Every space in the four thousand seat lecture theatre was taken. Additional folk had snuck in to sit on the dark steps at the back. With everyone whispering discretely, the noise was deafening to the grizzled old-timer who stood leaning on the lecturn at the front—or it would have been except for the myPod player earbuds delivering their tinny frantic bluegrass tunes into his head. He chuckled to himself as he looked up at the wall of people in front of him. Political leaders, military leaders, space systems engineers; all desperate to hear the words of an aged ship’s monkey from the Frontier. All because he and his co-conspirators had blackmailed the solar system.

Elias chuckled to himself again. Who would have figured things would have turned out so? He plucked the ear buds out. Instant silence. The university had scored a coup in convincing one of the Sundance gang to tell their tale since any spaceway robbers were generally executed. However the Sundance gang had a thirty year old secret, one that everyone wanted. With the removal of the first earbud old Elias had indicated he was ready to start; all the spectators held their breath.

Elias turned his face up to the watchers, felt the bright lights warming his face, and smiled a toothy grin. “Howdy folks, I’m good an’ pleased to be here today, to see so many notables amongst you. Some I have met before.” A five star general shuffled uncomfortably in his seat as if the warm smile made him sweat—which it did. Elias continued in his soft southern-states patois. “We are gathered here today to hear a story, so let’s go back thirty years, back to when I was even more good lookin’. My partners and I had just obtained a large cargo of rare earth metals from an asteroid cargo waggon, and this had been mistak’n for a robbery. I guess after these years I gotta ‘fess up and say that it sure as hell was a robbery!” Elias leaned forward and grinned at the Sheriff-Admiral in the front row like he was about to lay a golden egg—which as history showed he had (in a manner of speaking). The Sheriff-Admiral returned a tight grimace filled with thirty years of difficult restraint.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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Listener
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« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2013, 07:59:02 PM »

This was an excellently-performed story that was only mildly interesting, unfortunately. I didn't identify with Elias, and his stroke of genius, while cool, didn't work for me as the linchpin of the story.

Actually, when he was cleaning the bilges, I thought there was going to be a poop reference, not that it was going to be music-and-waveform-shape-based. And those who know me know that I love me some poop references.

Also, even though the story went through great pains to explain WHY tossing stuff out of the ship would make them go faster, it just didn't seem right to me. It was -- intentionally -- a space western. Thing is, some of the parts of westerns have to be tossed out of the writing process. In my opinion, this should have been one of them.
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« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2013, 08:49:27 AM »

I agree: well-performed but, to me, a weak plot built around the jokey Sundance reference and some hick music on a 'MyPod'. I can't help thinking it would have been much stronger without that undertow dragging it towards the groan zone.
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« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2013, 09:46:40 AM »

Chiming in with the "excellent performance, weak story" crowd.
Also, I am very tempted to check the math on "hitting a pea-sized piece of dust at these speeds (1/8 c) is equivalent to an atomic bomb."</paraphrasing>
And I'm not sure that space dust comes as large as peas. I think "space dust" is the occasional stray hydrogen molecule and maybe microscopic comet fragments if you happen to be in the planetary plane.
But I'm no rocket scientist. ;P
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Thunderscreech
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« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2013, 01:59:29 PM »

I was confused at how they could see the patrol cutter with their bare eyes when it was half a solar system away.  Did I misunderstand how that played out?
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Corcoran
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« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2013, 03:33:51 PM »

Nice read, story a little weak.

The Funny part was a mishearing on my part : the word "Pea-sized".
I heard PI-Sized and started wondering. Pi, that was 3,14...something what is this supposed to mean, Pi has no size, it is just a Number, strange, did he say Pee, that makes even less sense, had to look for a word that made sense and found Pea !
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Thunderscreech
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« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2013, 04:54:46 PM »

If your pee are square, Corcoran, consult a doctor immediately.
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Scumpup
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« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2013, 04:33:57 PM »

The title scans cleverly to those of us old enough to remember a certain TV western of the early 70's.  Otherwise, I wasn't entertained by this story.  The outro was all about Firefly (a show I've never seen and the descriptions of which don't make me want to see) and things_including this story_that are more-or-less Fireflyesque.  Maybe the story would have had greater appeal to me if I were a Firefly fan.
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matweller
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« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2013, 04:46:07 PM »

Or a space western fan.

FACT: Galaxy Rangers ruled.
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Scumpup
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« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2013, 05:18:04 PM »

I wouldn't say that I'm not a fan of space westerns, as such.  Alasdair's outro mentioned the Fallout games, for example, and I am a dirty, dirty Fallout whore. I love all of them, but I love (wait for it) New Vegas most of all.  Further, much of the science fiction that I read as a kid (and am still reading today) was stuff from the pulp era that was essentially cowboys and indians where all the author did was change the cowboys to spacemen and the indians to aliens.
My impression of Firefly, from listening to fans of the show go on_at length_ about it, is that it isn't really a space western.  It's more of a space spaghetti western with a generous layer of Joss Whedon snark slathered on top.  First, I do love me some spaghetti westerns and I've watched about a million of them.  There are Roku channels with scads of them, did you know that?  But only the Italians know how to do them right.  American attempts to capture that sensibility, even with Clint Eastwood personally involved, just don't get it right.  Secondly, and I know that in many places this would get me burned at the stake as a heretic, I don't like Whedon's dialog.  I know it's supposed to be all cool and snarky.  it comes off to me as all smart alecky and irritating, instead.  (Cue Crassus) This is, once again, simply a matter of taste, not appetite.  In this case, I don't happen to like the oysters, though the snails are good.  If you enjoy both, well and good.
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« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2013, 07:17:17 PM »

I thought this story was decent, I enjoyed it.  What I didn't like was the telling from the point of view of Elias, and his place in the story.  I'm not sure if I didn't buy his character, or just didn't like him.  What I did like was the intimate setting of a small space vessel with just the right about of technology explanation that didn't get in the way of the story.  I thought that part of it was balanced well, and it's something that bugs me a lot when not done right.

On another note, what about this story really makes it "space western"?  I can maybe see the fact that they were doing a "robbery" maybe vaguely associative of western, but that seems thin.  There's no planet side frontier element, they're just space criminals turned space business people.  Elias' personality has a bit of a western feel because he's southern, but that doesn't count.  What makes it space western to those of you who consider it that?
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Scumpup
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« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2013, 08:46:56 PM »

On another note, what about this story really makes it "space western"?  I can maybe see the fact that they were doing a "robbery" maybe vaguely associative of western, but that seems thin.  There's no planet side frontier element, they're just space criminals turned space business people.  Elias' personality has a bit of a western feel because he's southern, but that doesn't count.  What makes it space western to those of you who consider it that?

For my part, it was strictly the outro that caused me to discuss it as a space western.  Without that, it's just a story about some thieves in space who managed, after a fashion, to turn legit.
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chemistryguy
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« Reply #12 on: February 05, 2013, 06:42:38 AM »

I enjoyed this in spite of, or perhaps because of, the pure ridiculous factor.  I can't for the life of me picture "grabbing" onto nearby dimensions as a means of propulsion.  Nor did I buy the idea that no one else was able to find a way to increase the efficiency of the M-space engine decades after its inception.  I also kept wondering when humanity would surrender this fruitless path and concentrate on perfecting the infinite improbability drive.

Actually, when he was cleaning the bilges, I thought there was going to be a poop reference, not that it was going to be music-and-waveform-shape-based. And those who know me know that I love me some poop references.

I can appreciate a poop reference as well.  I did not anticipate any, but had the story finished with a fart and not heavy metal bluegrass, I would have applauded. 

Still...I think I need to see if this music genre really exists.
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« Reply #13 on: February 05, 2013, 10:31:33 AM »

Well performed, but the story itself didn't have a lot going for it.  I didn't really care about the characters.  I thought he was going to build an interstellar superengine out of a spacetoilet and was kind of disappointed when it was his myPod.

Secondly, and I know that in many places this would get me burned at the stake as a heretic, I don't like Whedon's dialog.  I know it's supposed to be all cool and snarky.  it comes off to me as all smart alecky and irritating, instead. 

That's my reaction to Buffy.  But I love Firefly.

On another note, what about this story really makes it "space western"?  I can maybe see the fact that they were doing a "robbery" maybe vaguely associative of western, but that seems thin.  There's no planet side frontier element, they're just space criminals turned space business people.  Elias' personality has a bit of a western feel because he's southern, but that doesn't count.  What makes it space western to those of you who consider it that?

Space western had not even crossed my mind until the outro.  Thinking back, I still don't see where that came from.  And it's certainly no Firefly (but then again, what is?).
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« Reply #14 on: February 05, 2013, 04:05:43 PM »

Wow, a lot more hate for this story than I would have thought.  Wonder if my brainwaves work on the same level as you guys since it seems you love the stories I don't like and don't like the stories I loved.  I loved this story.  I love it when a story takes you down a path of discovery and, once the twist is revealed, you realize the twist was with you the entire time. Sometimes I feel cheated with the twist, not this time.  I found myself smiling and laughing when he left the iPo - I mean MyPod, on the stand for everyone to gab at. 

I loved Firefly but I have to admit I find the uberlove a bit baffling.  Yes, it was a good show, yes I enjoyed it and the movie, but no I don't understand the following for a good show that lasted only 13(?) episodes.   

Again, wondering if I'm on the same wavelength as everyone else.

-Tim
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« Reply #15 on: February 05, 2013, 07:28:29 PM »

Well, for no other reason than because I like to comment, I'm going to chime in with more of the same. I loved the reading of this story, the echo of the mic in the theater, Elias' southern accent, all of it was very entertaining to me. However, I, too was left with a kind of... meh, feeling at the end. I found the "myPod" device fairly unoriginal. Yes, they will still have personal music devices in the future, but come up with an original brand name.

No, I didn't see this as a space western. Elias' accent does nudge it that direction (I kept picturing Foghorn Leghorn with a scruffy beard), but that's it. To me this was just a space pirate adventure. And I do love space pirates, but the ending on this one just felt a little flat.

To chime in on other conversations, I love Firefly, though not enough to dress up for a convention or anything. Also, like scumpup, I am a Fallout Whore, having played every iteration. The newer games, Fallout 3 and New Vegas were fantastic for blending the FPS and RPG formats, though my love will always be for the original isometric classic RPG. The options in that game were nearly endless and I loved every replayed minute of it.
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« Reply #16 on: February 07, 2013, 02:45:46 AM »

Chiming in with the "excellent performance, weak story" crowd.
Also, I am very tempted to check the math on "hitting a pea-sized piece of dust at these speeds (1/8 c) is equivalent to an atomic bomb."</paraphrasing>

For some reason I didn't get into the story and my thoughts wandered widely for most part of the duration.
But: if I didn't drop a zero at some point, a piece of "dust" weighting one gram at 1/8 of light speed has kinetic energy equivalent of 162 kg of TNT. Not atomic bomb scale, but something you really wouldn't want to hit your spaceship.
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #17 on: February 07, 2013, 03:20:01 AM »

Chiming in with the "excellent performance, weak story" crowd.
Also, I am very tempted to check the math on "hitting a pea-sized piece of dust at these speeds (1/8 c) is equivalent to an atomic bomb."</paraphrasing>

For some reason I didn't get into the story and my thoughts wandered widely for most part of the duration.
But: if I didn't drop a zero at some point, a piece of "dust" weighting one gram at 1/8 of light speed has kinetic energy equivalent of 162 kg of TNT. Not atomic bomb scale, but something you really wouldn't want to hit your spaceship.
On that matter... I weighed a whole bunch of dried peas (because that's what you'd find in space, water doesn't do well in a vacuum) and it takes about 10 peas to weigh an entire gram.
So your 162 kg of TNT just became 16.2 kg of of trinitrotoluene . With proper hull materials and construction should be OK. Already today we build armored vehicles that can withstand worse than that.
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chemistryguy
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« Reply #18 on: February 07, 2013, 06:36:52 AM »

Chiming in with the "excellent performance, weak story" crowd.
Also, I am very tempted to check the math on "hitting a pea-sized piece of dust at these speeds (1/8 c) is equivalent to an atomic bomb."</paraphrasing>

For some reason I didn't get into the story and my thoughts wandered widely for most part of the duration.
But: if I didn't drop a zero at some point, a piece of "dust" weighting one gram at 1/8 of light speed has kinetic energy equivalent of 162 kg of TNT. Not atomic bomb scale, but something you really wouldn't want to hit your spaceship.
On that matter... I weighed a whole bunch of dried peas (because that's what you'd find in space, water doesn't do well in a vacuum) and it takes about 10 peas to weigh an entire gram.
So your 162 kg of TNT just became 16.2 kg of of trinitrotoluene . With proper hull materials and construction should be OK. Already today we build armored vehicles that can withstand worse than that.

What you're not taking into account is that frequency generated by hardcore bluegrass, though beneficial to space travel, will weaken the structural stability of said spacecraft.  It would take about 2 dried peas to reduce the spaceship to space dust.
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #19 on: February 07, 2013, 07:29:53 AM »

Chiming in with the "excellent performance, weak story" crowd.
Also, I am very tempted to check the math on "hitting a pea-sized piece of dust at these speeds (1/8 c) is equivalent to an atomic bomb."</paraphrasing>

For some reason I didn't get into the story and my thoughts wandered widely for most part of the duration.
But: if I didn't drop a zero at some point, a piece of "dust" weighting one gram at 1/8 of light speed has kinetic energy equivalent of 162 kg of TNT. Not atomic bomb scale, but something you really wouldn't want to hit your spaceship.
On that matter... I weighed a whole bunch of dried peas (because that's what you'd find in space, water doesn't do well in a vacuum) and it takes about 10 peas to weigh an entire gram.
So your 162 kg of TNT just became 16.2 kg of of trinitrotoluene . With proper hull materials and construction should be OK. Already today we build armored vehicles that can withstand worse than that.
What you're not taking into account is that frequency generated by hardcore bluegrass, though beneficial to space travel, will weaken the structural stability of said spacecraft.  It would take about 2 dried peas to reduce the spaceship to space dust.
But they were worried about pea-dust before their magi-tech drive was being powered by hardcore bluegrass.

However, doing a quick-reread it turns out they were worried about pea-sized rocks, not dust.
Assuming a spherical pea with a diameter of 5 mm, we have a volume of about 65.5 cubic millimeters. I'm stuck here because I don't know what space rocks should mass.
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