Escape Artists
October 22, 2014, 08:37:22 PM *
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
News:
 
   Home   Help Search Login Register  
Pages: [1] 2 3  All
  Print  
Author Topic: EP385: The Very Pulse of the Machine  (Read 3052 times)
eytanz
Moderator
*****
Posts: 4685



« on: March 01, 2013, 03:10:51 AM »

EP385: The Very Pulse of the Machine

By Michael Swanwick

Read by Amy Elk

--

Click.

The radio came on.

“Hell.”

Martha kept her eyes forward, concentrated on walking. Jupiter to one shoulder, Daedalus’s plume to the other. Nothing to it. Just trudge, drag, trudge, drag. Piece of cake.

“Oh.”

She chinned the radio off.

Click.

“Hell. Oh. Kiv. El. Sen.”

“Shut up, shut up, shut up!” Martha gave the rope an angry jerk, making the sledge carrying Burton’s body jump and bounce on the sulfur hardpan. “You’re dead, Burton, I’ve checked, there’s a hole in your faceplate big enough to stick a fist through, and I really don’t want to crack up. I’m in kind of a tight spot here and I can’t afford it, okay? So be nice and just shut the f*** up.”

“Not. Bur. Ton.”

“Do it anyway.”

She chinned the radio off again.

Jupiter loomed low on the western horizon, big and bright and beautiful and, after two weeks on Io, easy to ignore. To her left, Daedalus was spewing sulfur and sulfur dioxide in a fan two hundred kilometers high. The plume caught the chill light from an unseen sun and her visor rendered it a pale and lovely blue. Most spectacular view in the universe, and she was in no mood to enjoy it.

Click.

Before the voice could speak again, Martha said, “I am not going crazy, you’re just the voice of my subconscious, I don’t have the time to waste trying to figure out what unresolved psychological conflicts gave rise to all this, and I am not going to listen to anything you have to say.”

Silence.

- See more at: http://escapepod.org/#sthash.5PklNQzZ.dpuf


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
Logged
Frungi
Palmer
**
Posts: 66



WWW
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2013, 10:33:41 PM »

This one irritated me from the very start, the way Martha was so blind to something that was so obvious to the reader/listener (or at least to me), after she and Burton had earlier been so excited over discovering what they thought was plant life. The dichotomy between that excitement and her denial of the voice in the radio—trying to convince herself that she had gone crazy when she was obviously making first contact—really ate at my enjoyment of the story.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2013, 03:07:21 AM by Frungi » Logged
Max e^{i pi}
Hipparch
******
Posts: 896


Have towel, will travel.


« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2013, 07:28:23 AM »

First of all, I am loving Mat's new rating disclaimers.
Second, I love the audio production of this episode, very well done Amy.
Third, it's pronounced aɪ.oʊ. That's 'i' as in "price" and 'o' as in "bore".
Fourth will have to come later, since I'm not done listening yet. But as soon as the voice started in Martha's headset I immediately thought of Asimov's Nemesis. I think that part of future explorers' training should be a basic grounding in science fiction. That way they will expect the unexpected and truly bizarre, and be better able to cope.
Logged

Cogito ergo surf - I think therefore I network

Registered Linux user #481826 Get Counted!

Max e^{i pi}
Hipparch
******
Posts: 896


Have towel, will travel.


« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2013, 10:39:15 AM »

My god... it's full of stars...

A magnificent story. My only beef is that if Martha was traveling back along the trail they had driven, then she'd visit the second discovery first, and the first discovery second.
But otherwise, I loved this story. And I love it all the more for the ambiguous and open-ended ending.
Logged

Cogito ergo surf - I think therefore I network

Registered Linux user #481826 Get Counted!

Frungi
Palmer
**
Posts: 66



WWW
« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2013, 03:35:32 AM »

I should have said this in my first post, but my real problem with this story was that it seemed like it tried too hard in the wrong ways to force ambiguity. Aside from Martha's own doubts, there's never anything to suggest that the voice might not be real, but it feels like she keeps (weakly) trying to convince you anyway. It bugged me throughout the story. Even the ending, which was genuinely ambiguous, had to throw in her doubt.

I'm sorry if I sound harsh. I just can't stand when they halfway it like this. If it really was ambiguous, if I had no idea whether the voice was real or not, I would have enjoyed it more. If there was no doubt and it didn't have doubts artificially thrown in as an afterthought, I would have enjoyed it more. Character aside, I liked the story—but the character is just too big a part of this one to ignore.

By the way, on the chance Nathan reads my feedback, my username rhymes with "bungee."
Logged
Djinndustries
Palmer
**
Posts: 22


Half genie, all man


« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2013, 04:01:12 AM »

This was the first Escapepod story in a while that really made me sit up and take notice. A well done mixture of interesting world, comic relief and hard sci-fi elements. I really enjoyed how the main character reached their rather horrifying challenge at the end.

I'm not sure what others may have wanted to create a more reliable unreliable narrator, but if I was tromping along on a sulfur poppy field, having conversations with a dead colleague in a broken spacesuit, my first thought probably wouldn't be, 'oh, for fuck's sake, not another corpse-jacking, planetwide sentience'. I don't need to be convinced that erstwhile colleague's voice might not be real as I'm pretty sure that's status quo for most non-schizophrenics.
Logged
Frungi
Palmer
**
Posts: 66



WWW
« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2013, 05:54:31 AM »

I'm not sure what others may have wanted to create a more reliable unreliable narrator, but if I was tromping along on a sulfur poppy field, having conversations with a dead colleague in a broken spacesuit,

Thing is, it was pretty clear right off (at least to me) that, whoever it was, it wasn't her colleague, from the first halting line of dialogue. Not to mention the bits like "I'll make a bridge" and then a bridge forms. Besides, the narration felt too objective to be unreliable, too outside of the character's head. So first-person or a closer third-person would probably have helped my enjoyment.

Mind you, I'm not trying to sway anyone who enjoyed it (in fact I kind of envy you); just making sure my reasoning is clear, if only to make it easier for people to tell me why I'm wrong. =)
« Last Edit: March 04, 2013, 06:00:35 AM by Frungi » Logged
Mouldy Squid
Extern
*
Posts: 4


« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2013, 10:00:30 AM »

I absolutely love this story, and have since I read it years ago in one of Dozois's Year's Best anthologies. Absolutely brilliant. I love what escape pod has done with it, especially the audio effects for the Machine's transmissions. Five stars.
Logged
matweller
EA Staff
*****
Posts: 552



WWW
« Reply #8 on: March 04, 2013, 11:21:00 AM »

Personally, the issues Frungi's having didn't bother me. First, she was in an accident that involved the trauma of having killed her colleague, either of which could easily leave you not in the right frame of mind to fully process the fact of the planet talking to you. Both events together, and really the hardest part to believe is that Martha didn't just sit drooling in her suit until her oxygen ran out.

...or maybe she did, and the rest of the story is just An Occurrance At Owl Creek Bridge. </GratuitousBierce>

I thought the part people would be complaining about was the fact that it's another Sentient-Jupiter story. I mean -- and I'm asking this honestly -- is there some old myth about Jupiter being intelligent that both this story and 2001 have equal right to? Because to me it just felt like there's a curious amount of interest in that planet as opposed to others. Or maybe it's just that I've somewhat recently listened to Beneath - http://podiobooks.com/title/beneath/ - and I'm just over-exposed.
Logged
KenK
Guest
« Reply #9 on: March 04, 2013, 07:23:40 PM »

People no matter how smart, brave, or grounded, find death hard to accept. Go figure?
« Last Edit: March 11, 2013, 03:09:30 PM by KenK » Logged
Djinndustries
Palmer
**
Posts: 22


Half genie, all man


« Reply #10 on: March 04, 2013, 08:30:17 PM »

Thing is, it was pretty clear right off (at least to me) that, whoever it was, it wasn't her colleague, from the first halting line of dialogue.

Interesting. It didn't seem clear to me at all. She could have been hallucinating. The colleague could have been a reanimated corpse. The colleague might have never died completely and was clawing back from the edge of death. The colleague might have been a shape-shifting alien that could breath sulfur. It could have been the suit's AI (there was a story about an animated suit with a dead person inside not too long ago) trying to speak. It could be that the protagonist had died already and she was walking through the afterlife. Or maybe it was all a dream... Wink

Of those, all seem more likely (by frequency in speculative fiction) than a brain-jacking planetary intelligence.
Logged
FireTurtle
Hipparch
******
Posts: 688



« Reply #11 on: March 04, 2013, 09:19:16 PM »

Chiming in to say I really enjoyed this one. I loved the ambiguity of the main character's mental state. Every time I thought I had her pinned down (insanity vs. sentient planet) something would happen that made me change my mind.

I thought the portrayal of the mind of meth was failry accurate as well. Actually, I found the whole psychology of the main character compelling and thoroughly interesting. It was very stimulating, even if the actual science of planet sentience kind went way over my head. And, her message home (if in fact it existed) totally rocked.
One for the win column, all the way around, inclduing the excellent narration and sound effects.
Logged

“My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it.”
Ursula K. LeGuin
InfiniteMonkey
Lochage
*****
Posts: 463


Clearly, I need more typewriters....


« Reply #12 on: March 04, 2013, 11:00:58 PM »

Well, I loved it to death (pun unintentional). Possibly for the reasons Alasdair was banging on about at the end, but mostly because it was a damn good space story with a Big Idea. That may or may not be real. I like that there's just enough ambiguity for there to be another interpretation (the fact that we're allowed to hear the Io-Torus radio transmission tends to make me think it's real), plus there's the uncertainty at the end, even if she's really taking to Io.

PS I knew someone would bring up the pronunciation of the moon's name. I just knew that for once it wouldn't be me. I know that there's some disagreement here - Carl Sagan for years argued that the correct Greek was what we hear here - EE-oo, instead of the British I-0. And the Brits are hardly infallible when it comes to pronunciation  Wink

PPS - Well, Mat, no, the MPAA wouldn't have agreed with you on a rating. They only allow one f-bomb per feature for a PG-13. Mind you, I don't care. But others might.
Logged
matweller
EA Staff
*****
Posts: 552



WWW
« Reply #13 on: March 04, 2013, 11:30:48 PM »

"The Rating Board nevertheless may rate such a motion picture PG-13 if, based on a special vote by a two-thirds majority, the Raters feel that most American parents would believe that a PG-13 rating is appropriate because of the context or manner in which the words are used or because the use of those words in the motion picture is inconspicuous."

Luckily, in this case the MPAA isn't an authoritative body and the board -- me -- had a unanimous decision. Tongue

Thanks for the tip, though. Since I'm using their grading scale, I should probably abide by their guidelines in general. Or perhaps I should just stop using them. a while ago, Mur and I were debating on some witty ways to rate the stories. I think I had suggested using famous directors as a scale i.e. "Tarantino" for violent and vulgar or "Kevin Smith" for vulgar and insulting or "Scorsesi" (he makes the best fucking films) for possible artistic vulgarity and so on. But we never really settled on anything. It's a topic for another thread, but I would welcome recommendations for structuring ratings.

Perhaps a "Mat's Mom scale" would be appropriate. As in, "Mom would have let me listen to this in her presence," or "Mom would have let me listen to this, but not while she was awake," or "This is something I could have only listened to in my own Walkman until I had my own house." The possibilities are endless...
Logged
chemistryguy
Matross
****
Posts: 261


Serving the Detroit Metro area since 1970


WWW
« Reply #14 on: March 05, 2013, 06:59:03 AM »

I'm in total agreement with Frungi.  The story did not come across as ambiguous and I envy those who saw it that way.

If the writing would have indicated a deterioration of her mental state  I would have bought it.  As she passes through her initial shock and progresses to full-blown, meth-induced, tired-as-hell paranoia, she maintains a rational inner voice.  It needed subtly, and the fact that she keeps denying the mechanized voice only convinced me that it was real.

Otherwise, it was a  gem of a story idea and Amy did a fine job conveying the story as it was written.

Quote
I thought the portrayal of the mind of meth was fairly accurate

 Roll Eyes Based on experience or perceived experience?

Logged

FireTurtle
Hipparch
******
Posts: 688



« Reply #15 on: March 05, 2013, 09:47:28 AM »

Quote from: chemistryguy link=topic=6768.msg109351#msg109
[quote
I thought the portrayal of the mind of meth was fairly accurate

 Roll Eyes Based on experience or perceived experience?


[/quote]

Based on years treating people who are/have been on meth. I live in an area that is saturated with meth and work in the medical field. I should also add that I give people mind altering drugs for a living and you'd be amazed at how rational their thought processes can be even when they have no actual relation to reality. Just like dreams seem logical *at the time you are dreaming*.
Logged

“My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it.”
Ursula K. LeGuin
chemistryguy
Matross
****
Posts: 261


Serving the Detroit Metro area since 1970


WWW
« Reply #16 on: March 05, 2013, 11:50:27 AM »

Quote from: chemistryguy link=topic=6768.msg109351#msg109
[quote
I thought the portrayal of the mind of meth was fairly accurate

 Roll Eyes Based on experience or perceived experience?



Based on years treating people who are/have been on meth. I live in an area that is saturated with meth and work in the medical field. I should also add that I give people mind altering drugs for a living and you'd be amazed at how rational their thought processes can be even when they have no actual relation to reality. Just like dreams seem logical *at the time you are dreaming*.
[/quote]

Great to hear your perspective.  Thanks.
Logged

JauntyAngle
Extern
*
Posts: 4


« Reply #17 on: March 05, 2013, 04:43:16 PM »

TOYNBEE IDEA
IN MOViE `2001
RESURRECT DEAD
ON PLANET JUPITER.
Logged
Alasdair5000
Editor
*****
Posts: 979



WWW
« Reply #18 on: March 05, 2013, 04:43:52 PM »

NICELY DONE!:)
Logged
AM Fish
Extern
*
Posts: 6



« Reply #19 on: March 06, 2013, 07:06:47 AM »

I didn't feel the story needed more ambiguity.  Even though, after hearing the ending, I did wonder if it was, as mentioned above, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, the question of what was real or not was less important to me than Martha's ability to face this disaster, her struggle against egotistical ambitions, and her "negotiation" with the machine.  I liked her best when she replied to the Machine's lack of certainty with, "Gotcha."
Logged
Pages: [1] 2 3  All
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.20 | SMF © 2013, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!