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Author Topic: EP397: A Gun for Dinosaur  (Read 19696 times)

eytanz

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on: May 24, 2013, 06:38:52 AM
EP397: A Gun for Dinosaur

By L. Sprague de Camp

Read by Ayoub Khote

--

No, I’m sorry, Mr. Seligman, but I can’t take you hunting Late Mesozoic dinosaur.
Yes, I know what the advertisement says.
Why not? How much d’you weigh? A hundred and thirty? Let’s see; that’s under ten stone, which is my lower limit.
I could take you to other periods, you know. I’ll take you to any period in the Cenozoic. I’ll get you a shot at an entelodont or a uintathere. They’ve got fine heads.
I’ll even stretch a point and take you to the Pleistocene, where you can try for one of the mammoths or the mastodon.
I’ll take you back to the Triassic where you can shoot one of the smaller ancestral dinosaurs. But I will jolly well not take you to the Jurassic or Cretaceous. You’re just too small.
What’s your size got to do with it? Look here, old boy, what did you think you were going to shoot your dinosaur with?
Oh, you hadn’t thought, eh?
Well, sit there a minute . . . Here you are: my own private gun for that work, a Continental .600. Does look like a shotgun, doesn’t it? But it’s rifled, as you can see by looking through the barrels. Shoots a pair of .600 Nitro Express cartridges the size of bananas; weighs fourteen and a half pounds and has a muzzle energy of over seven thousand foot-pounds. Costs fourteen hundred and fifty dollars. Lot of money for a gun, what?
I have some spares I rent to the sahibs. Designed for knocking down elephant. Not just wounding them, knocking them base-over-apex. That’s why they don’t make guns like this in America, though I suppose they will if hunting parties keep going back in time.
Now, I’ve been guiding hunting parties for twenty years. Guided ‘em in Africa until the game gave out there except on the preserves. And all that time I’ve never known a man your size who could handle the six-nought-nought. It knocks ‘em over, and even when they stay on their feet they get so scared of the bloody cannon after a few shots that they flinch. And they find the gun too heavy to drag around rough Mesozoic country. Wears ‘em out.
It’s true that lots of people have killed elephant with lighter guns: the .500, .475, and .465 doubles, for instance, or even the .375 magnum repeaters. The difference is, with a .375 you have to hit something vital, preferably the heart, and can’t depend on simple shock power.
An elephant weighs—let’s see—four to six tons. You’re proposing to shoot reptiles weighing two or three times as much as an elephant and with much greater tenacity of life. That’s why the syndicate decided to take no more people dinosaur hunting unless they could handle the .600. We learned the hard way, as you Americans say. There were some unfortunate incidents . . .
I’ll tell you, Mr. Seligman. It’s after seventeen-hundred. Time I closed the office. Why don’t we stop at the bar on our way out while I tell you the story?


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



Thunderscreech

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Reply #1 on: May 24, 2013, 03:00:20 PM
I'm having difficulty understanding the dialog.  I found a copy of the story online to help decipher words I couldn't make out and suggest that anyone else with similar problems just google the title of the story & author and the first page of results will have what you need.



matweller

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Reply #2 on: May 24, 2013, 03:23:58 PM
...or just look at the post for the episode on our site: http://escapepod.org/2013/05/24/ep397-a-gun-for-dinosaur/



Thunderscreech

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Reply #3 on: May 24, 2013, 03:26:23 PM
That's great!  Thank you, I didn't realize those were posted. 



schizoTypal

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Reply #4 on: May 24, 2013, 09:02:27 PM
Because I listened to the X Minus One episode from 03/07/1956 just yesterday, it's still quite clear in my mind ... the story is the same, but the method of telling it is very much different. I can't make a direct comparison as to quality, as I said they are entirely different. The reading recorded in 1956 is in the style of a radio drama, as one would expect of Dimension X or X Minus One. Somewhat similar to The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. This, however, is a reading of a story. It's as though I was just yesterday going along on this time safari, and today, I'm being told the story of it from the vantage point of the man himself, half a century later.

I do have one very large problem with this particular recording ... not to be rude, but was this listened to by an editor at all? There are a number of false-start sentences with a pause and a second reading. It's very jarring, and takes you right out of the story. I don't fault the narrator, but it seems these should properly have been edited out!
« Last Edit: May 24, 2013, 09:20:18 PM by schizoTypal »



matweller

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Reply #5 on: May 24, 2013, 09:30:58 PM
I will be re-listening and fixing tonight. I can assure you that I spent a long time combing through this file -- it's the reason it posted a whole day later than normal. It's not impossible, though, that somehow the wrong file got mixed in or something.

Thank you for your patience and your overly diplomatic manner.



schizoTypal

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Reply #6 on: May 24, 2013, 09:34:46 PM
I've given the 1956 radio play another listen, and then this a second listen ... and really, they compliment one another just perfectly. I love it!



silber

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Reply #7 on: May 24, 2013, 11:28:08 PM
Dang, Escapepod classic comin' on back!  I've always heard this story referenced in nerd circles.  Loved it. 



Just Jeff

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Reply #8 on: May 25, 2013, 01:33:00 AM
I think this story is too long, and it's much too long for the framing story. Took a long time to get into or care about, but I enjoyed the second half.



InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #9 on: May 25, 2013, 01:58:05 AM
I too had a problem with understanding the narration, at first. And I don't usually have that problem. I have no trouble understanding Alisdair, for instance. I was wondering if the narrator was daunted by the length of the story, and took it as a dead run. It wasn't really a problem with the accent (it's quite a nice accent, really, and he was even better as a mad Scot in the companion sampler) just that he seemed to be reading too fast.

Which made me wonder... do you at Escape Artists ever speed up a narration electronically in post production for time constraints?

Otherwise it was nice story. Curious to see how its aged. Some of the science is current (the debate about T-Rex the carrion eater rages on) but some not (the whole sarupod in a swamp thing has pretty much been shown to be physically impossible). Also curious to see how humanity has changed. The character of the Big Game Hunter hasn't much lasted into the 21st century. Just the game. Well, for the moment.  >:(

If I have a problem with the story, it's the idea that Time is somehow conscious of the possibility of paradox, stoping travel to eras where humans could create paradoxes. How would Time know? It struck me as an awful lot like ascribing motive and awareness to the universe.

Otherwise, I really liked it.



matweller

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Reply #10 on: May 25, 2013, 03:26:17 AM
The revised file is now loaded. I had a problem with the file during the original edit that I thought was resolved. The two parts in there that seemed to be missed edits were casualties of my file not recovering as completely as it should have. I apologize. Sometimes I do completely blow edits, this time I had digital help.

Which made me wonder... do you at Escape Artists ever speed up a narration electronically in post production for time constraints?
I don't. I'm more concerned with file size than time (podcasters obsess WAY too much about time), but even then we'd have to cap 3 hours before I ran into trouble, and we'll never do that.

What you sensed was a Ayoub finding his stride. I was apprehensive when I first heard the reading, but I think about 5 minutes in he gets more comfortable and finds a better pace. I hemmed & hawed about it until it was too late to have him re-do the beginning, so the responsibility is mine. It's not as automatic as you may think for a voice actor to do long-form narration (Lord knows my narrations have had ups and downs), but I think overall he did a bang-up job.

If I have a problem with the story, it's the idea that Time is somehow conscious of the possibility of paradox, stoping travel to eras where humans could create paradoxes. How would Time know? It struck me as an awful lot like ascribing motive and awareness to the universe.
It's funny, I'd never heard the idea of "sentient time" until recently and I actually like it better than mutiverses or butterfly effects, mostly because its one of the only ways to return to your world, and really, what's the point of traveling if you can't return to the same place? Sure, it adds a bit of mysticism, but that's true of almost any branch of science that you research far enough.



schizoTypal

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Reply #11 on: May 25, 2013, 08:53:08 AM
I also rather like the idea of sentient time ... at least, for fiction. :)



flintknapper

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Reply #12 on: May 25, 2013, 03:26:03 PM
The story was a bit too long for my tastes as a podcast. However, I thought the story was fun. I had not read the tale before. Big game hunters killing dinosaurs is reminiscent of any number of lost world settings, but the time travel added an interesting twist.

I also thought the narrator was fine. I did not think he was reading to fast and he should be getting kudos. Reading that story was a daunting task.




Windup

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Reply #13 on: May 25, 2013, 06:44:39 PM
I heard the story mainly as a period piece.  A period piece from a great writer in a good period, to be sure, but definitely something from another era -- much like reading Wells or Verne today.   Fun, but a different kind of fun than reading a story written in the current period, and requiring a different set of expectations.

I found the "expectation adjustment" was necessary not only for the technical details -- our understanding of dinosaurs has changed a lot since the story was written -- but also from the standpoint of the story itself.  The narrative device of, "here, let me tell you this long anecdote to justify a decision or illustrate a point" is much less common today than it was in the heyday of Clarke and Asimov, when whole story collections were built around it. 

Also, the long, expository info-dump laying out the "rules" for time travel would probably earn you a bounce from most editors today.  Style changes generally require today's authors to work their world-building in via character reactions and unfolding action, rather than narrating "here, this is how this works."  Consider the difference between how de Camp handles his exposition on time travel in this story and the way Ferrett Steinmetz handles his explanation of how ad faeries affected the world in Dead Merchandise.

Still, good fun, and I think the narrator did a bang-up job.  I'm glad matweller was able to fix restarts in the narration.  They took me out of the story as I was listening, so that was definitely worth fixing.  Thanks!


"My whole job is in the space between 'should be' and 'is.' It's a big space."


Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #14 on: May 26, 2013, 03:48:50 PM
If I have a problem with the story, it's the idea that Time is somehow conscious of the possibility of paradox, stoping travel to eras where humans could create paradoxes. How would Time know? It struck me as an awful lot like ascribing motive and awareness to the universe.

Otherwise, I really liked it.

Really? That was your problem with the story? That's easy. Professor Super-Smart-Whatsisname simply hardcoded that into the time travel device. Because otherwise, even Lloyds of London wouldn't ensure any trip.
What bothered me is that they went back 8.5 million years and were hunting dinosaurs. Now, technically speaking that's OK. You can hunt dinosaurs today, it's called shooting pigeons. But that is not what the author had in mind. 8.5 million years ago was the middle of the Miocene epoch. Most animals are pretty close to what we have today, except for the occasional three toed horse. The Ceratopsidae and Tyrannosauridae were around during the Late Cretaceous, that's right before the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event which killed off all the animals that we think of when we say "dinosaur". That's pretty close, but still approximately 57 million years before the destination point of the expedition.
I was impressed with the classification of dinosaurs. I admit that it has been 20 years or so since I've read a dinosaur book, but they sounded right to me.

EDIT:
People, I have made a terrible mistake. I heard "eight five" which I took to mean 8.5 but in fact it was actually "eighty five".
Sorry.
But I'm gonna leave the above because my inner eight year old is very happy to have been let out a little.


EDIT:
Does everybody know the elephant gun joke?
« Last Edit: May 26, 2013, 05:59:50 PM by Max e^{i pi} »

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schizoTypal

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Reply #15 on: May 26, 2013, 06:20:58 PM
If I have a problem with the story, it's the idea that Time is somehow conscious of the possibility of paradox, stoping travel to eras where humans could create paradoxes. How would Time know? It struck me as an awful lot like ascribing motive and awareness to the universe.

Otherwise, I really liked it.

Really? That was your problem with the story? That's easy. Professor Super-Smart-Whatsisname simply hardcoded that into the time travel device. Because otherwise, even Lloyds of London wouldn't ensure any trip.
What bothered me is that they went back 8.5 million years and were hunting dinosaurs. Now, technically speaking that's OK. You can hunt dinosaurs today, it's called shooting pigeons. But that is not what the author had in mind. 8.5 million years ago was the middle of the Miocene epoch. Most animals are pretty close to what we have today, except for the occasional three toed horse. The Ceratopsidae and Tyrannosauridae were around during the Late Cretaceous, that's right before the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event which killed off all the animals that we think of when we say "dinosaur". That's pretty close, but still approximately 57 million years before the destination point of the expedition.
I was impressed with the classification of dinosaurs. I admit that it has been 20 years or so since I've read a dinosaur book, but they sounded right to me.

EDIT:
People, I have made a terrible mistake. I heard "eight five" which I took to mean 8.5 but in fact it was actually "eighty five".
Sorry.
But I'm gonna leave the above because my inner eight year old is very happy to have been let out a little.


EDIT:
Does everybody know the elephant gun joke?

That made me have a happy.



bounceswoosh

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Reply #16 on: May 26, 2013, 11:30:15 PM
Otherwise it was nice story. Curious to see how its aged. Some of the science is current (the debate about T-Rex the carrion eater rages on) but some not (the whole sarupod in a swamp thing has pretty much been shown to be physically impossible). Also curious to see how humanity has changed. The character of the Big Game Hunter hasn't much lasted into the 21st century. Just the game. Well, for the moment.  >:(

Funny. My issue with the aging had nothing to do with dinosaur science, and everything to do with the treatment of the girlfriends at the start.  The blowhard's girlfriend can't come because she's not hearty enough* (despite engaging such masculine pursuits as skiing and piloting boats!), but the small man who admits to never doing anything exciting in his life gets a pass because hey, it's his choice.

Something makes me think the blowhard's girlfriend would have been a better member of the hunting party than he was - but then, that wouldn't make much of a story.  "People travel to the distant past to acquire dinosaur head as trophies; everything goes as planned; The End."

* Yes, I know there was some hedging and the narrator did say that it wasn't strictly true that they never did that sort of thing (bring women? bring girlfriends? I just don't know), but still!



benjaminjb

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Reply #17 on: May 27, 2013, 01:10:59 AM
I laughed out loud at the outro line, "When was the last time something like nationality and ownership got in the way for us? Have you seen the Elgin Marbles? Their original owners haven't for a while."

Well done, sir, well done.

Edited to add: I did find the narrator a little hard to follow, by which I mean I found it easier to understand on regular speed rather than my usual 2x; but that slight problem aside (come on, I've got podcasts to listen to here!), I really enjoyed his voice and interpretation.

As for the story itself, I found it enjoyable and old-fashioned. Do we really need the frame story? And I spent a large part of the story just waiting for the title to show up.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2013, 01:23:18 AM by benjaminjb »



schizoTypal

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Reply #18 on: May 27, 2013, 05:23:08 PM
I, for one, enjoyed the framing of the story and I even wish that would happen more often! I like the old 50's ways of storytelling, I suppose.



chemistryguy

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Reply #19 on: May 28, 2013, 10:54:07 AM
I've read this dozens of times before, so although I obviously had no problem following the story I could see where others might.  I also had a particular accent/pace hard-coded in my head, but that's my problem.

I first encountered this in my early teens, so it is like an old friend.   It is full of outdated science, archetypical characters and sexist viewpoints, but I can overlook all of those.  It is almost 60 years old, and to expect anything else is expecting too much.  It is also the perfect counterpoint to A Sound of Thunder.  Light and airy in contrast to Bradbury's darker, carefully-crafted vision.

What has always bothered me was the concept of using up a time period.  Sure, a billion years is a long time, but if we're eliminating 5000 years in front of any time visited, it really won't be that long until this machine is nothing more than a very expensive meat tenderizer. 

Anyway, if you're anything like me and actually liked this story, I'd recommend the further adventures of Reginald and company in the book Rivers of Time by L. Sprague de Campe.


TheArchivist

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Reply #20 on: May 28, 2013, 12:02:37 PM
I too had a problem with understanding the narration, at first. And I don't usually have that problem. I have no trouble understanding Alisdair, for instance. I was wondering if the narrator was daunted by the length of the story, and took it as a dead run. It wasn't really a problem with the accent (it's quite a nice accent, really, and he was even better as a mad Scot in the companion sampler) just that he seemed to be reading too fast.
I didn't have all that much trouble understanding, but I did find the accent exceedingly grating. I mean, seriously, mind-bendingly, story-ruiningly grating. I guess it was supposed to be "posh-Brit", but as a semi-posh-Brit myself it just sounded FAKE-FAKE-FAKE. The mad Scot in the sampler worked OK, but then I'm not a Scot (I decline to comment on the mad part).

As to the story, I agree with the comment about its length - too much for the frame and slow at the beginning. The one-side-of-a-dialogue device in the framing part isn't one I like, and even the old master fell foul of the need to artificially repeat the question just asked, solely to make up for a stylistic device. I didn't mind the story-in-recollection - it felt appropriate, in fact, for the tale of an early mistake by an inexperienced team who couldn't be entirely expected to avoid such mistakes at the time, but clearly felt really stupid for making them in retrospect.

Once it got going, and pre-political-correctness mysogeny aside, the events unfolded nicely and with a good level of detail and vivid description - no great surprises (the blowhard's behaviour was utterly predictable for such a jerk) but a fun romp. I may have to check out that X-minus-one episode.

And then we get sentient time... Expressed like that it does sound rather absurd, but it's not an uncommon SF-nal trope. Connie Willis has something similar in "To Say Nothing Of The Dog", Doctor Who has certain fixed points you can't do anything with. It's a little unusual to let the guy travel back but then "spit him out" when he does something unpalatable, but hey, why not?



Thunderscreech

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Reply #21 on: May 28, 2013, 12:43:28 PM
What has always bothered me was the concept of using up a time period.  Sure, a billion years is a long time, but if we're eliminating 5000 years in front of any time visited, it really won't be that long until this machine is nothing more than a very expensive meat tenderizer. 
"Time is big.  Really big.  You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, timebogglelingly big it is.  I mean, you may think it's a long time between now and supper, but that's just peanuts to time." - with apologies to Douglas Adams.

Even w/ 5,000 year buffers, that's 200 trips within a one million year period or 32,000 time trips over the beginning to the end of what's considered the age of the dinosaurs.  The time machine in the story was, it seemed, a one-off device not in wide use beyond one quirky inventor's lab so his personal time buffers would seem unlikely to inconvenience him. 



matweller

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Reply #22 on: May 28, 2013, 01:08:32 PM
What has always bothered me was the concept of using up a time period.  Sure, a billion years is a long time, but if we're eliminating 5000 years in front of any time visited, it really won't be that long until this machine is nothing more than a very expensive meat tenderizer.  
"Time is big.  Really big.  You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, timebogglelingly big it is.  I mean, you may think it's a long time between now and supper, but that's just peanuts to time." - with apologies to Douglas Adams.

Even w/ 5,000 year buffers, that's 200 trips within a one million year period or 32,000 time trips over the beginning to the end of what's considered the age of the dinosaurs.  The time machine in the story was, it seemed, a one-off device not in wide use beyond one quirky inventor's lab so his personal time buffers would seem unlikely to inconvenience him.  
I just figured it was necessary since my understanding is that dating things that old is only accurate +-10,000 years or more. I actually thought de Camp was being ambitious about future technology getting more precise.
« Last Edit: May 28, 2013, 01:10:04 PM by matweller »



chemistryguy

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Reply #23 on: May 28, 2013, 01:55:12 PM
What has always bothered me was the concept of using up a time period.  Sure, a billion years is a long time, but if we're eliminating 5000 years in front of any time visited, it really won't be that long until this machine is nothing more than a very expensive meat tenderizer.  
"Time is big.  Really big.  You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, timebogglelingly big it is.  I mean, you may think it's a long time between now and supper, but that's just peanuts to time." - with apologies to Douglas Adams.

Even w/ 5,000 year buffers, that's 200 trips within a one million year period or 32,000 time trips over the beginning to the end of what's considered the age of the dinosaurs.  

A whole megabyte of data?!?  That's more than any sane individual could ever use.

p.s. And we've only got more time in front of us...maybe.

p.p.s. Doug would've approved.
« Last Edit: May 28, 2013, 01:57:13 PM by chemistryguy »



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Reply #24 on: May 28, 2013, 04:13:33 PM
I really liked this story. What's not to like about a story about time travel, dinosaur hunting, jerks getting their come-uppance, and the little guy being the hero?

I never understand the criticism Nathan reads out about stories. I'm always grateful to get a free new story every week, and even when one isn't my cup of tea, I don't think to say that it's a problem with the story, more that it's just not for me.