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Author Topic: EP393: Red Card  (Read 4532 times)
eytanz
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« on: April 26, 2013, 03:20:35 AM »

EP393: Red Card

By S. L. Gilbow

Read by Heather Bowman-Tomlinson

--

Late one April evening, Linda Jackson pulled a revolver from her purse and shot her husband through a large mustard stain in the center of his T-shirt.  The official after incident survey concluded that almost all of Merry Valley approved of the shooting.  Sixty-four percent of the townspeople even rated her target selection as “excellent.”  A few, however, criticized her, pointing out that shooting your husband is “a little too obvious” and “not very creative.”

Dick Andrews, who had farmed the fertile soil around Merry Valley for over thirty years, believed that Larry Jackson, more than anyone else in town, needed to be killed.  “I never liked him much,” he wrote in the additional comments section of the incident survey.  “He never seemed to have a good word to say about anybody.”

“Excellent use of a bullet,” scrawled Jimmy Blanchard.  Born and raised in Merry Valley, he had known Larry for years and had even graduated from high school with him.  “Most overbearing person I’ve ever met.  He deserved what he got.  I’m just not sure why it took so long.”

Of course, a few people made waves.  Jenny Collins seemed appalled.  “I can hardly believe it,” she wrote.  “We used to be much more discerning about who we killed, and we certainly didn’t go around flaunting it the way Linda does.”  Jenny was the old-fashioned kind.

Linda would never have called her actions “flaunting it.”  Of course she knew what to do after shooting Larry.  She had read The Enforcement Handbook from cover to cover six times, poring over it to see if she had missed anything, scrutinizing every nuance.  She had even committed some of the more important passages to memory:  Call the police immediately after executing an enforcement–Always keep your red card in a safe, dry place–Never reveal to anyone that you have a red card–Be proud; you’re performing an important civic duty.

But flaunting it?  No, Linda blended in better than anyone in town, rarely talked and never called attention to herself.  She spent most of her days at the Merry Valley Public Library, tucked between rows of antique shelves, alone, organizing a modest collection of old books.  In the evening she fixed dinner.  After Larry had eaten, cleaned up and left the house for “some time alone,” Linda would lie in bed reading Jane Austen.  No, Linda never flaunted anything–never had much to flaunt.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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lyda
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« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2013, 03:53:34 AM »

Really liked the story.

Linda just seems to plod along in her life and then in this odd world she's given the power of life and death. Will it make a difference?

It doesn't seem like it will. And her actions at the twist at the end seem to imply she knows that.

It was supposed to be different with the red card she thinks at one point. It wasn't - even when she used it.

--------

The comments at the end by Alister(?) were apt for this story. Because it was different for Linda. What she wanted was change for the better; she got change for the worse.

Violence rarely changes things in a positive way. When I go to London I wander past monuments to empire and past battles. They seem to be everywhere. But the news is generally the same here in empire-less Ireland: unemployment, cuts to benefits, hard to pay for basic infrastructure. What was all that violence for then? If the nations that waged violence on a large scale in the past have the same struggles as those that did not, what's the gain for the pain the violence caused?

The story captures that for me. A world where random acts of violence are supposed to make people nicer - and yet it seems not to be the case.
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matweller
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« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2013, 07:58:47 AM »

I won't bother you with the details but there were a lot of technical issues with this episode plus I'm still getting used to the pains of switching to DSL after having a cable modem for a decade. All this is just to say, I apologize for getting the episode to you late and I thank you for your patience.
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flintknapper
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« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2013, 10:27:59 AM »

The story harkened me back in some ways to when I first read the Lottery as a teenager. Perhaps that was intentional. Overall, I thought the story had a good tone and decent pace. The narration was also good.

I do not like the implications of the Red Card system. It was obvious her husband was a jerk, but did he deserve to die? and killing someone for just speeding on the road? The implied morality of this future world or alternative universe was harsh, but also kind of cool the more I think about it.

So overall, it was a great story.
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baker8680
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« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2013, 11:39:10 AM »

I also thought the story was well written and seemed to have the right amount of dull.  what I found interesting was not the meta of empire and violence on a national scale but the implications the author seemed to make on things like stand your ground laws and the gun cultlure that seems to permeate America.  I found it interesting that the author only covered the initial act and that day so that it left us to have the conversation without the author getting embroiled in the argument.  I liked the story a lot.   I also think the idea that she did not have to have a reason to shoot and that they expected the "enforcer's" to snap was a direct relation to how petty most of our grievences often are with others.  Maybe part of the problem the author is trying to bring out is that our real problem is the distance between us and others and how we bridge that gap.  It gives one a lot to think about. 
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matweller
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« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2013, 11:47:34 AM »

One of my favorite episodes of Star Trek: TNG is when they land on the planet with no crime and no apparent legal system. Wesley crashes into a garden thingy and destroys it and that's when they find out that the society's only penalty for breaking a law is death. Hilarity ensues. The simplicity plus the potential to control several problems at the same time gives the concept some allure. And then there are moral values...

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
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baker8680
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« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2013, 01:07:18 PM »

I remember that episode quite well.  it is interesting that that is essentially what religous law gets you as well "all sin brings death"  and yet we always seem to equate a well practiced faith with true justice but without moderation all we get is a red card.  Very interesting turn for this story.  I wonder if this society in red card is a religious one?  I wonder what their justification for this system is?
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matweller
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« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2013, 02:52:39 PM »

I remember that episode quite well.  it is interesting that that is essentially what religous law gets you as well "all sin brings death"  and yet we always seem to equate a well practiced faith with true justice but without moderation all we get is a red card.  Very interesting turn for this story.  I wonder if this society in red card is a religious one?  I wonder what their justification for this system is?

I'm not sure that's true. Every modern religion I can think of allows for (and encourages) redemption and would shun capital punishment. I mean, there are crazies all over the place, but they occur in all aspects of society.
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Scattercat
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« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2013, 04:34:20 PM »

The story harkened me back in some ways to when I first read the Lottery as a teenager.

I would personally be very, very surprised if "The Lottery" was not somewhere in the author's mind when this story got written.  If you went to school in the US, you read that story somewhere along the way.

(Me, with all my switching schools, well, I ended up reading "The Most Dangerous Game" in three completely separate English classes.)
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lisavilisa
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« Reply #9 on: April 27, 2013, 09:27:00 AM »


(Me, with all my switching schools, well, I ended up reading "The Most Dangerous Game" in three completely separate English classes.)

It was Island of the Blue Dolphins for me. Looking back maybe that's why I refused to watch castaway.
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matweller
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« Reply #10 on: April 27, 2013, 11:17:46 AM »

I had more history redundancy than Literature, although I could have done without Silas Marner altogether. Why do people teach that piece of garbage? 800 pages of nothing.
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benjaminjb
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« Reply #11 on: April 27, 2013, 06:23:26 PM »

Can anyone help me remember a forgotten story: In an overpopulated future, if a couple has over the legal limit of children (2?), then that person can be legally killed during a televised event where one chosen executioner tries to off one of the parents--so either a parent dies or the executioner dies, thus freeing up a space for the new, over-the-limit baby?

I was reminded of that story a bit while reading this one; and also of Borges's "Lottery in Babylon," another story where chance and alternative legalities rule. I like these explorations of the carnivalesque--the suspension of law, the overturning of the world.

(Required mention of upcoming movie, The Purge, where law is suspended one day a year.)

And here's an interview with the author.
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Just Jeff
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« Reply #12 on: April 27, 2013, 08:44:16 PM »

I didn't recognize the title, but it hit me by the end of the first sentence with a wave of delight. I love this story. Such a perfect ending.
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #13 on: April 28, 2013, 06:48:42 AM »

Hmm... dystopian society with the ultimate punishment for "frivolous" crimes. As has been pointed out, we've been here before, bought the T-shirt and viewed the obligatory boring slide show of pictures.
But this one was different. Maybe it was the reading (truly excellent! two thumbs up!), maybe it was the matter-of-fact attitude. Whatever it was, I enjoyed this so much more than Running Man or The Long Walk or even Mad Max 3 (two men enter, one man leaves).
I think maybe that the difference is that in this case I have an inkling of how the system is supposed to work. See, if every person in the country knows that there are a certain amount of licenses to kill floating around, then they are constantly under pressure to behave. Not just follow the letter of the law, but to behave nicely to people. Instead of Big Brother watching everything you do, your friends and neighbors are watching everything you do, and one of them will kill you if you piss them off. What better incentive to be a good person is there?
Mind you, I'm not condoning such a system, just explaining how it should work in theory. It makes sense, but as we see, it doesn't work.
I do like Linda's (failed) approach to having a red card. If people know I have a red card then they will be nice to me, right? Well, apparently not everybody. And if you are such a colossal prick that you can't behave to save your life, then, well...
And that's where we start arguing whether the system works or it doesn't.
I think that we can have a much more efficient system:
What if we just tell people about the red cards. And make them a serious statistical probability. Say that one person in ten has a red card. Crime will instantly become a thing of the past! The media will have to be in on it, since they will have to report the occasional Enforcement, but that's no big deal. Just "mis"report  a gang killing or mugging gone bad. And poof! No random citizens with a license to kill, but an entire society that is so much nicer to people in general.

This post has gone on much farther than I had intended. I just want to finish with two things:
1. Matt, statistical anomalies happen, and that's what makes life interesting. Deal with it.
2. Why is it that EP is posting stories about ultimately punishing frivolous crimes? First Trixie and the Pandas of Dread, now this. Should we be worried?
« Last Edit: April 28, 2013, 06:50:37 AM by Max e^{i pi} » Logged

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« Reply #14 on: April 28, 2013, 08:42:00 AM »

I wish I liked this more but actually the skilfull writing was its own enemy. Glum, dreary Linda being glum and dreary and resorting to murder because she was too glumly dreary to shake the pair of them into a more positive life. So would the Red Card system work? Well, let's factor in all those people whose rationality takes a hike, who have a smidgen of the psychopath about them, or who use red cards to acquire other red cards for nefarious purposes. The shine comes off it a bit then, I think. So what about just belief in a Red Card system? If you get past the thing about the media having to be in on it, and not say anything, to make sure some Enforcements are reported - and I'm so not getting past that for laughing (we just had Levenson http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/ over here) - then there's making sure nobody uses the internet, or plots Enforcement patterns, or understands probability, or heuristics, or gets geeky about numbers and patterns in any way at all. Nah!
Hm. Maybe this story was quite good after all ...
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benjaminjb
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« Reply #15 on: April 28, 2013, 09:29:05 AM »

People often used to say that an armed society was a polite society, like--
Instead of Big Brother watching everything you do, your friends and neighbors are watching everything you do, and one of them will kill you if you piss them off. What better incentive to be a good person is there?
--but that should make Mad Max's world the most polite of all.
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matweller
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« Reply #16 on: April 28, 2013, 10:16:52 AM »

1. Matt, statistical anomalies happen, and that's what makes life interesting. Deal with it.
I said I liked the poetic justice of it. Who doesn't love Hitchcock? The likelihood was the only thing that gave me a second's pause. 1/60,000,000 is better than lottery odds, but I don't think I've ever heard of the same person winning the Powerball twice.

More than that, I'm fascinated by the way everyone seems to have taken this as a bleak story. I think it's great that she got to bump off the cheating husband, the mistress overplayed her hand and revealed herself because she also underestimated statistical irony, and now the mistress will be legally dispatched to boot. Yeah Linda cries at the end, but I think that's because she was surprised to find out who was betraying her added to the stress of the whole thing. But soon it wouldn't matter: Miracle Madness was coming! The dirt got dumped all over her life, but soon it was going to be permanently wiped away. Redemption, new beginning -- all that stuff. Good times!
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Scattercat
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« Reply #17 on: April 28, 2013, 12:04:38 PM »

Given sufficient numbers, it's far from impossible that someone will get two Red Cards.  I remember reading about a Canadian lottery that was supposed to distribute like five or ten things randomly among all Canadians, and one person got two of them, and the reason was that the lottery didn't remove the numbers of a winner from subsequent drawings.  Depending on how the Red Card lottery is structured, it might well be a certainty that someone will get double eventually.  (That is, the odds of any one particular person getting two cards is infinitesimal, but the odds of it happening *somewhere* are much, much higher.  Like the old birthday trick; you need only about 12 people together before the odds of two people having the same exact birthday get close to fifty percent.  If you're at a party of forty or fifty people, you can probably win a fair amount of money betting that two people in the room have the same birthday.  Again, the odds of someone else having, say, YOUR birthday are puny, but when you're cross-matching everyone's birthdays with everyone else's birthdays...)

(BTW, I heartily endorse "The Drunkard's Walk" if you want to read more about how friggin' weird probability and statistics can get.)
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #18 on: April 28, 2013, 12:09:30 PM »

1. Matt, statistical anomalies happen, and that's what makes life interesting. Deal with it.
I said I liked the poetic justice of it. Who doesn't love Hitchcock? The likelihood was the only thing that gave me a second's pause. 1/60,000,000 is better than lottery odds, but I don't think I've ever heard of the same person winning the Powerball twice.

Sorry, I guess I misunderstood you.

Also, I didn't think that this was a bleak story. I think I actually forgot to give my personal opinion on the story. I got a little carried away...  Roll Eyes

Anyway, I liked the story. It was fun. Linda was given incredible power to make the world a better place, and she tried for years to resist abusing that power. Eventually she succumbed, and instead of making the world a better place, she made her world a better place. Good for her.
Bleak? Hardly. More like someone having a life-changing epiphany. The actual content of the life-changing actions were pretty horrid, but it did fix her little world. And since the story was told entirely from her point of view, that's all that's important, that Linda has a happy ending.
Would I like to live in such a world? No. But if I had to, I'd hope that everybody was more like Linda and less like Sara.
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« Reply #19 on: April 28, 2013, 12:20:58 PM »

2. Why is it that EP is posting stories about ultimately punishing frivolous crimes? First Trixie and the Pandas of Dread, now this. Should we be worried?

I was going to criticize the author and the reading, but now I'm scared.

Nah, it was all good.
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