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Author Topic: EP398: Subversion  (Read 2715 times)
eytanz
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« on: May 31, 2013, 03:36:34 AM »

EP398: Subversion

By Elisabeth R. Adams

Read by Christiana Ellis

--

I knew, by his crossed arms, the way he rolled his eyes at himself, and particularly by the pale translucence of all three of him, that I was looking at a classic case of version conflict.

“I said stay away from her,” said one I decided to call Art. Nicknames help. Thick square rims, a jaunty fedora, a crisp T-shirt for a concert by a band that broke up before he hit preschool. He was yelling at a paler self in a white collared shirt and slacks. They were trailed by a bored looking him in sunglasses.

“What seems to be the problem, sir?” I asked. Rule number one: stick to the singular.

“I can’t get him to commit,” said Slacks.

I scanned his chip. Eduardo Martin, 34, programmer. No spouse or kids, but adoption records from the county shelter for two cats. Sealed tax records, a social security number, mortgage history. Subversion Inc. member for five years, currently version 4.1. Definitely the primary.

“And your subversion?”

Art glared at Eduardo, but extended his arm. Eduardo Martin, 34, barista. Same social security number. A different home address. And, most intriguingly, he was listed as version 1.0.

“You see?” said Eduardo.

“Let me check.” I ran through Art’s commit log. “Says you branched off from 2.5, hmm, two years ago. That’s a bit long. Company policy recommends no more than six months between full reconciles. Probably caused some glitch in the occupation and version number.”

“It’s not a glitch,” said Art. “I want to apply for Emancipated Branch status.”

“No, no, no,” said Eduardo. He flailed his arms and paced. He looked even paler up close, but maybe that was the fluorescent shop lights. “You’re nothing without me, nothing!”

“Um, Eddie?” the third Eduardo spoke up. He gently caught his arms before he knocked over a tray of pamphlets. “Calm down, man.”

I had not paid him much attention, as he was clearly a very minor sub. A Watcher. The part of yourself you spin off to be your own lookout. I had one of my own parked in front of my boss’s door, waiting for his meeting to end. It was easy to forget about watchers, if you weren’t careful.

And Eduardo was not a careful man. I searched his record. No fewer than ten versions out, though none older than two weeks. Except for Art.

“Sir, we strongly recommend against having more than four subs at a time,” I said. “Having too many threads often leads to, ah, complicated reconciliations.”

“You see?” said Art. “Accept it, it’s over. Just let me branch.”

“Out of the question!” said Eduardo. His expression froze.

On my screen, I could see that one of his subs had just been checked in, reconciled, checked out again. This one was located at his office.

I smiled sympathetically. “Couldn’t get time off?”

“That’s why I signed up,” he said. “‘I’ just sat through a two hour meeting, and this is the first time anyone even mentioned my name. Best sub I ever made.” He glared at Art.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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Listener
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« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2013, 07:23:22 AM »

This was really clever and really wish-fulfillment-y, the latter at least on my part. I think most of the comments we could make were already made by Alasdair in his outro.

What would I do with this technology? Take the parts of myself that I can't indulge because of Reasons, subversion them out, and let them get done what needs to get done. (Don't worry, I'm not thinking of anything criminal here.) And, I mean, if the author had been an erotica writer, just imagine where this technology could be taken.

Overall a very good episode.
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« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2013, 09:50:36 AM »

     I really liked this story, and would love to have subversions of myself. I could dedicate one to writing, and one to gaming while the rest of me was at work. I know the story was all about the pitfalls of such decisions, but I don't care; I want subversions! Wish fulfillment indeed!

     I would really like to know more about this world. What happens if a subversion is killed? What happens to a strong subversion that has not been branches, like "Art" at the beginning of the story, if the original is killed? What happens to a back-up if the original dies? Can the original be brought back somehow after death? If you are rolled back to a previous back-up, are you still really you, or just a simulation of you?
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« Reply #3 on: May 31, 2013, 10:47:48 AM »

This story really cries out for a techie joke:
"None of this would be a problem if they just used git!"

It's a very programmer-specific joke, but I think it works in context.  Wink
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schizoTypal
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« Reply #4 on: May 31, 2013, 12:44:24 PM »

I always like a literalization of a metaphorical event.
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Kaa
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« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2013, 01:19:33 PM »

You know what I absolutely hated about this story? That I've been toying with writing something on a similar theme, but this one is so much better than anything I came up with.

I really enjoyed this one. A lot. It's the age-old question of what becomes of the you that steps into the transporter when the you that appears down on the planet materializes? Are "you" the same "you" "you" were? Or are "you" a different "you"? You know?

Well, at least ~50 years old, anyway. Smiley

I also took great delight in the descriptions of the different versions of Eduardo. And Christiana did a wonderful job giving them individuality. I hope that if Escape Artists ever produces one of my stories (it could happen if, you know . . . I were to ever submit them), I want Christiana to read it. Smiley
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flintknapper
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« Reply #6 on: May 31, 2013, 03:34:49 PM »

Bizarre but fun. The implications made my head spin. Multitasking taken into the future. Good narration to boot too!

My only complaint is I had to get into a rhythm to follow this one. To many similar sounding words used together in rapid succession. I do not know of that makes sense, but it took me the first 5 or so minutes before I started to understand what was going on.
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flintknapper
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« Reply #7 on: May 31, 2013, 03:37:53 PM »

Oh... I guess I am not done.

When I said in the Gun for Dinosaur thread that:  "I love the new stuff. Just when you think it has all been done before, someone runs out of left field and hits you with something you didn't see coming."

A story like Subversion is exactly what I meant.
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Cutter McKay
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« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2013, 05:35:36 PM »

I think Void hit it right on the head for me: One for writing, one for gaming, one for work. Though with my luck, I'd be the one stuck at work while the other me's were having all the fun,  Undecided

This story was fantastic, I have no gripes. Well written, well narrated, intriguing, and fun to boot. It reminds me of a Writers of the Future winner from a few years back. I forget the name/author (I'll look them up later and edit) but the story was essentially about how people could "fax" copies of themselves about the globe, so instead of flying to China for a business trip, you would copy yourself, the copy would attend the meeting, upload its consciousness to you, and then dissolve into nothing. The tale was about a copy whose Original died while she, (the copy) was at the meeting. Well, because of the programming, and the laws, she was going to automatically dissolve in a few hours, but she was the last remnant of herself and didn't want to die. Very intriguing story.

Anyway, this was a wonderful story, too. I really enjoyed it.
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2013, 06:27:44 PM »

It wasn't all that for me, unfortunately, though to be fair, I did listen twice to make sure I gave it a fair shake.

For one thing, I don't mind info-dumps. I appreciate the explanation. Yes, they can be annoyingly obvious, slow, and pedantic. But that's what separates the good writers from the bad.

Admittedly, a lot of brain-dumping wasn't all that needed here. But it was a little confusing is spots.

I think the thing that really got me hung up on was the physicality of it. How do these various versions manifest themselves? Are we talking VR? Androids? Real physical bodies? Holograms? There's a hint that it's the last when our narrator mentions that her boss has a shimmer, indicating that it's holographic.

It was an interesting concept certainly, one I can have sympathy for after a recent harddrive crash.

I think his might be better as a read, where things might be a little clearer.
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benjaminjb
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« Reply #10 on: May 31, 2013, 09:14:22 PM »

I'm going to be a slightly sour note here: I think the concept is fascinating and I appreciate the way the world-building isn't dumped on us.

But as a story--well, what's the story? Guy comes in to office, talk talk talk, roll credits. I don't mind action-lite stories or stories where the primary conflict is emotional (as here, where a guy is in a romantic triangle with himself). But a story where the POV character is secondary to the conflict? A story where the conflict itself (for me) didn't raise a lot of emotional stakes because I didn't really know or care about the people in the conflict? That sort of story doesn't really do much for me as a story.

So, that's my take: a great premise but not much of a story. (See also Ken Liu's "Real Artists.")

Or should I read the story again?
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« Reply #11 on: June 01, 2013, 09:00:53 PM »

I loved this story, even though I’m not sure whether it would work for readers/listeners who aren’t tech-minded and are unfamiliar with version control systems. And I always love Christiana Ellis’s readings.
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Windup
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« Reply #12 on: June 02, 2013, 01:33:02 AM »


I didn't connect with this one. Although the premise was intriguing, there wasn't a strong enough sense of what the situation felt like to make it seem real.  What is really going on in your mind when "most of your left brain" is checked out to a version that's at work, or a copy is at home making it with your girlfriend (or some percentage of your girlfriend) while you're at an appointment?  I don't have any idea, and without that, I felt too cut off from Eduardo to care what happened to him. So, a bit of a misfire for me -- better luck next week.

On a side note, when I first listened to the story, I was a nonplussed by how easily the "Emancipated Branch" was created -- a whole new human without any apparent controls, authorization, checks, or court order. Just, "OK, here you go, your Social Security card is coming in the mail..."  Then on some reflection, I realized that is pretty much the way it works right now...   Wink
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #13 on: June 02, 2013, 09:16:22 AM »

I loved this story, even though I’m not sure whether it would work for readers/listeners who aren’t tech-minded and are unfamiliar with version control systems.

I think this may have been the problem for me... it had the feel of a joke I wasn't getting. (And I suspect not just people who are tech-minded, but writers as well, since they are also often concerned with version control)
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« Reply #14 on: June 02, 2013, 09:37:01 AM »

When I turned on my player and saw what this was called my mind went "Yes Subversion is revision control software, it has nothing to do with the story. Subversion is revision control software but it has nothing to do with the story. Subversion is revision control software but it has nothing to do with... the... hey! It does! AWESOME!"
Also I loved the "He won't commit" pun at the beginning, probably wasn't a pun but I don't care.

And yes, this problem would never happen if they had only used git.
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Just Jeff
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« Reply #15 on: June 02, 2013, 11:58:11 AM »

I loved this story, even though I’m not sure whether it would work for readers/listeners who aren’t tech-minded and are unfamiliar with version control systems.
Loved the story, but I had the same thought.
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« Reply #16 on: June 02, 2013, 02:04:02 PM »

I think I hit the Goldilocks zone - I don't know so much tech I couldn't make it work, and I don't know so little tech I didn't get it. To me, this was a high concept what-if story and never mind the mechanics. What if - we could do this, parcel ourselves out to be in several places at once? Hold and play multiple decks of cards? How would we know if the other players were 'themselves' or sub-versions (The title set me up for something altogether different. Although maybe not, as it turns out), and how would we deal with that? At the moment, we have to deal with our friends'/colleagues' inability to let their phone go to voicemail while they're talking to us. How much more annoying would it be to have 15% of someone there for a meeting or a night out? The social and psychological concomitants are mind boggling, never mind the 'fighting a war while a bit of you stays home to do the washing up' part!
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« Reply #17 on: June 02, 2013, 02:12:20 PM »

"Yes Subversion is revision control software, it has nothing to do with the story. Subversion is revision control software but it has nothing to do with the story. Subversion is revision control software but it has nothing to do with... the... hey! It does! AWESOME!"

Don’t you just love it when that happens? Grin
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TheArchivist
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« Reply #18 on: June 03, 2013, 03:24:29 AM »

"Yes Subversion is revision control software, it has nothing to do with the story. Subversion is revision control software but it has nothing to do with the story. Subversion is revision control software but it has nothing to do with... the... hey! It does! AWESOME!"

Don’t you just love it when that happens? Grin
Hehe Wink
So what does it say about me that I noted all the terminology was correct, but that is not subversion's numbering system! It's more like CVS!  Grin
And the "commit" comment is SO a pun! I love a good pun.

I can see where benjaminjb and Windup are coming from, though. I suspect if I weren't such a geek and squeeing over the puns and VCS references, I might well have felt similarly.
On the other hand, for a not-much-action office encounter narrative it flowed well and is definitely well written. There are cases where a sideways view of the situation allows the reader/listener to fill in the action details in a way that's comfortable for them. In some ways that's not unlike the recent Bujold story, Aftermaths - what you might consider the "real story" is only hinted at in passing while the personal interactions and other "trivia" are allowed centre stage. If done well that can be a powerful technique. In this case Ms. Adams has not reached the dizzy heights achieved by Ms. Bujold, but heck, NEW AUTHOR!!!!, I think we can give her some leeway.
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« Reply #19 on: June 03, 2013, 11:16:35 AM »

I think I would have enjoyed the story more if I had a better understanding of the workings, but I can say that about everything else going on in my life.

I'll take, two, please.
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