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Author Topic: EP407: Mono No Aware  (Read 15658 times)

matweller

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Reply #25 on: August 15, 2013, 12:34:30 PM
Not a problem. I really liked that one too, and not just because of my involvement.



Djinndustries

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Reply #26 on: August 16, 2013, 01:46:25 PM
I sincerely enjoyed this one and felt it was masterfully woven.
The way the author tied in so many aspects of Japanese culture (games, poetry, origami, writing, language, etc) into the story, especially regarding main character's thoughts and actions was, for lack of a better word, beautiful.

Some parts of the narration threw me off a bit, but I think it's a silly thing to complain about, so I won't go on. One thing I find amusing is every time we have this narrator I imagine the protagonist to be the same person. Not sure why this one in particular is harder for me to make the distinction from story to story, especially considering how very different each of the stories are (with the exception of them all having some kind of Asian theme).

I find John Chu's readings really difficult to enjoy. His straight narration is fine, though I find his character voices trying. There's a certain strident quality to his old man voices coupled with a halting cadence that just ends up making me feel tired after the reading. And, as Lambear says, it's hard for me to see the father character in this story as particularly different from, well, most of the characters in the puppet story.

I find Kate Baker reading foreign stories (or emotive stories) to be somewhat similar. She gets so breathless over the foreign words in an effort to emphasize them that I just feel exhausted. I've had to give up listening to Clarkesworld a few times because of this.



Devoted135

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Reply #27 on: August 17, 2013, 05:15:14 PM
I see all of your plot holes and science flaws and such, and to them I say: pffft! This was a beautiful story wonderfully narrated and I'm so glad I heard it. :)



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Reply #28 on: August 21, 2013, 03:30:09 PM
1) The micrometeorite thing bothered me until there was a quick mention of the ion shield which normally destroys micrometeorites, apparently.

2) The lead-up to launch flashback with the evacuations and "trust the prime minister" were VERY reminiscent of Fukushima Daiichi to me. 

3) Being a sumo fan has taught me one thing about spoken Japanese: every vowel is pronounced.  Most words sort themselves out more or less.

4) Surely the solar sail would be segmented so if there WAS a tear that was unrepairable(I would think repair robots could be used), it would only affect a small portion of the sail.  Additionally, if part of the sail did get torn, they could pretty easily vector themselves so that they're still pointing in the same direction, much like if you've ever seen a plane land/fly in a strong crosswind.  There may be a problem braking at the other end, but again, vectoring should help/fix that.

5) I didn't need to know about Mars/Moon being destroyed.  They're mostly dead rocks that would be very difficult to inhabit without a lot of preparation.  Given a choice between a 300 year trip to a distant habitable planet and a 2 week or  2 year trip to the moon or Mars respectively, I'd pick the long trip I think, given the fact that there are further resources to be gathered from Earth.

6) The sacrifice at the end BUGGED me.  Firstly, he was the last Japanese person in existence, and he just throws that away?  That's like putting your go stone directly in the middle of your opponent's main group.  I know that's not legal or possible, but you know what I mean.  Here's why the sacrifice was so stupid:

Solar sails accelerate VERY SLOWLY.  Especially if they were so far away that the sun was "just another star".  Just letting go of the sail or pushing himself back towards the main craft would have gotten him close enough for someone to rescue him pretty quickly.  His relative speed to the craft was zero, so even just a 5 km/hr(5 ft/s) push would have gotten him back in 20 hours.  If he had any fuel left at all, he could be back in MUCH less time than that.  A good squirt of acceleration, and then drifting for a couple of hours. EVA navigation is tricky, and "catching" someone is difficult, but not impossible. 

I may fire up Kerbal Space Program and see if I can EVA a Kerbal back to his ship from 100 KM away with just a jet pack.

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Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #29 on: August 21, 2013, 05:06:04 PM

6) The sacrifice at the end BUGGED me.  Firstly, he was the last Japanese person in existence, and he just throws that away?  That's like putting your go stone directly in the middle of your opponent's main group.  I know that's not legal or possible, but you know what I mean.  Here's why the sacrifice was so stupid:

Solar sails accelerate VERY SLOWLY.  Especially if they were so far away that the sun was "just another star".  Just letting go of the sail or pushing himself back towards the main craft would have gotten him close enough for someone to rescue him pretty quickly.  His relative speed to the craft was zero, so even just a 5 km/hr(5 ft/s) push would have gotten him back in 20 hours.  If he had any fuel left at all, he could be back in MUCH less time than that.  A good squirt of acceleration, and then drifting for a couple of hours. EVA navigation is tricky, and "catching" someone is difficult, but not impossible. 

I may fire up Kerbal Space Program and see if I can EVA a Kerbal back to his ship from 100 KM away with just a jet pack.

If he just lets go of the sail he'd continue to drift at the same speed as the craft, since he is still carrying his inertia from the craft. To get back he would need to push himself, and to aim very very carefully.

Good luck with that Kerbal. I tried something like that once and he totally drifted away. Then I tried aiming them at Kerbol, but I gave up. It's a big target and all, but the Kerbals start so far away that being just a tiny bit off means they miss entirely.
But then, I am the first to admit that I'm not the best at this game, so good luck!

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ElectricPaladin

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Reply #30 on: August 25, 2013, 07:30:30 PM
I have to admit that I have extremely mixed feelings about this one.

On the one hand, I really don't like stories that can be summed up as "hey guys, look at how great my awesome ancient culture is with all its benefits compared to all your stupid cultures with all their dumb flaws!" I don't like it when it's any of the many - many - Anglos-are-better-than-whoever tropes that we have to grapple with, and I don't like it here.

On the other hand, every other single freaking thing about this story was perfect. I loved the pacing, I loved the craft, I loved the way the story evoked all the other human stories that had come before it, and I loved the self-sacrifice at the end. Hell, I always love self-sacrifice at the end. It's the only thing I like as much as I like happy endings.

Oh, and the other problem was that the ship's designer had to carry the stupid ball. I mean, seriously, who designs a space ship that's supposed to travel for three hundred years and doesn't include some way to fix the most important component? Really?

So... ultimately, I don't know how I feel about this one. Some ups, some downs. I'll give it three zeppelins.

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TheFunkeyGibbon

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Reply #31 on: August 26, 2013, 11:41:50 PM
I liked this story, even if it felt a little safe. The things about him playing Go felt quit predictable and common to this kind of story where a little lesson plays out to a much bigger consequence. I'm not sure I buy the Japanese having no working ships. not enough maybe but none? Not believable especially as *yawn* the USA does have a ship, one of these days somebody will write a story where the universe doesn't begin and end with the Stars and Stripes. But on the whole is was an enjoyable story.

Shame then that the narration was flat out awful and possibly the worst reading I have heard on and podcastle story in a very long time. The character voices were jarring, especially that of the father and the mother. Somebody should have stepped in and said "Just read it because you can't do voices."

Such a shame. All I can say is that it speaks well of the story that I put up with that reading and got to the (predictable) end.



matweller

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Reply #32 on: August 27, 2013, 02:20:22 PM
This isn't Podcastle.

While there are some folks that don't adore John Chu's narration, I dare say "awful" is far from being the majority opinion. He's always done very solid work for us, and his ability to give a higher level of authenticity to Asian stories is priceless. I'm not saying he's above critique, but he's well beyond weak derision, so I would ask that you keep your opinions constructive and save the insults for the playground.



Joshua A.C. Newman

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Reply #33 on: August 27, 2013, 08:46:28 PM
Long time listener, first time poster!

While I found the "ancient culture is so great" theme just a little trying, it is a short story, and so I'm OK with some simplification. Likewise, I can accept that there wasn't a better way to do repairs and that the control scheme was crap. After all, this ship was not designed and built under the best circumstances.

Sure, Cold Equation is a parallel that's easy to draw here, and it suffers some of the same flaws: if this was so important, the system they'd devised would be better. But, like Cold Equation, once you accept the premise, you can appreciate the melancholy beauty of the situation, and that's the core of the story.



Windup

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Reply #34 on: August 28, 2013, 12:52:00 AM

I see all of your plot holes and science flaws and such, and to them I say: pffft! This was a beautiful story wonderfully narrated and I'm so glad I heard it. :)


Yeah, I have a rather severe "tic" for plausibility; strain my credulity a couple of times and the whole "willing suspension of disbelief" collapses, then the story ceases to be fun for me.  Judging from the fact this story was nominated for a Hugo, my quirk is not widely shared.  At least not at that level of sensitivity.   :(

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


TheArchivist

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Reply #35 on: August 28, 2013, 12:44:02 PM
I'm with the naysayers on this one, I'm afraid. Not for the terrible science (of which there was lots) nor the "isn't my culture great" (which I can overlook) nor even the widespread stupidity. My problem was that it added nothing to the breadth of the genre. The plot devices were all utterly stock, the outcome was predictable, and the emotional manipulation of the ending has been done to death. Even the "it's new and different because of the Japanese cultural references" argument simply doesn't hold water any longer.

Like djinndustries I don't see why everyone thinks John Chu is so great, either. His character voices all feel forced, and not very distinct, to my ears. And the halting cadence bugs me too. Not that he's worse than most, but I don't find him a stand-out.

And I think that's the bottom line here. Neither the story nor the narration were terrible, but neither were they remarkably excellent. Just a bit, well, "meh". Which would be OK, except that this is a Hugo nominee, and I can't help wondering why.



adrianh

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Reply #36 on: August 28, 2013, 01:13:10 PM
Like many others here the engineering side of this story broke my suspension of disbelief a few too many times for enjoyment. Why didn't the ship designers have contingency plans? Why weren't there robotic/automated repair systems? Why wasn't there automatic reporting of when the failure was detected? Why couldn't he push himself in the general direction of the central pod and get picked up by a third party? etc. etc.

Narration was okay for me. I've found John Chu's previous outings a bit grating to listen to - but this one was fine as far as I was concerned.

Oddly - I really didn't get the "look at how great my awesome ancient culture is" vibe that others saw in the story. I didn't read the author as implying that the Japanese culture was superior, just different - and worth saving.

For me the thrust of the story was loss - of culture, of family, of love, of life.

Thematically I loved the story - but I just kept being dragged out of the story by the various WTF moments with the engineering/science.





Devoted135

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Reply #37 on: August 28, 2013, 02:39:20 PM

I see all of your plot holes and science flaws and such, and to them I say: pffft! This was a beautiful story wonderfully narrated and I'm so glad I heard it. :)


Yeah, I have a rather severe "tic" for plausibility; strain my credulity a couple of times and the whole "willing suspension of disbelief" collapses, then the story ceases to be fun for me.  Judging from the fact this story was nominated for a Hugo, my quirk is not widely shared.  At least not at that level of sensitivity.   :(

At least you're consistent? :P Sometimes these sorts of issues really bother me as well, and sometimes I just like the story enough to look past them. There's no rhyme or reason to it, just whether or not the story or the plot holes struck me harder while I was listening.



TheFunkeyGibbon

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Reply #38 on: September 05, 2013, 10:39:07 PM
This isn't Podcastle.

While there are some folks that don't adore John Chu's narration, I dare say "awful" is far from being the majority opinion. He's always done very solid work for us, and his ability to give a higher level of authenticity to Asian stories is priceless. I'm not saying he's above critique, but he's well beyond weak derision, so I would ask that you keep your opinions constructive and save the insults for the playground.

I might not be the majority opinion but since was that a qualification for being wrong?

I wasn't insulting I was providing an opinion and my opinion was that it was a flat out bad reading. Sugar-coating things because you don't want to hurt people's feelings is what we do for children because they don't have the emotional maturity to deal with criticism. I thought as an adult John is more than capable of rolling with the punches as well as soaking up any praise. That's life. If you wanted to know more of my opinion, for me to justify it, why not ask rather than be so dismissive? It's easy for me to provide more depth. The accent of the father and mother characters didn't sound 'authentically Asian' to me but rather a western caricature of the robotic delivery you might associate with an American impersonating a Japanese person. The girlfriend character was supposedly a native Spanish speaker (American-Latino?) but I couldn't have placed that accent at all, it certainly had nothing Spanish about it. The whole reading was distracting and felt flat. Maybe that was deliberate given the subject, like it was supposed to have a 'numbness' about it, but I found myself noticing it and unless a reading is particularly amazing then I shouldn't notice it at all. It's like seeing the actor not the character they are portraying. As soon as you feel like you are watching Tom Cruise then you don't believe he is Jack Reacher.

Just because you don't like my opinion it doesn't invalidate it.

I dare say that there are things you feel strongly enough to call them as you see, hear or feel them, at least I hope there are. I would gladly be as strongly opinionated again both positively and negatively, it's what debate is about.

If everybody in a room cannot find something to disagree about, there is only one thing you can say for certain, somebody is lying.



eytanz

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Reply #39 on: September 06, 2013, 11:44:51 AM
Ok, stepping in here as a moderator.

TheFunkeyGibbon - I didn't comment on your original post because Mat did, but while you are certainly justified to your opinion, your way of presenting it was insulting. Specifically, the problem is the bolded sentence:

Quote
Shame then that the narration was flat out awful and possibly the worst reading I have heard on and podcastle story in a very long time. The character voices were jarring, especially that of the father and the mother. Somebody should have stepped in and said "Just read it because you can't do voices."

Saying that the reading was awful is strong, but it's a statement of opinion. Saying someone should step in and intervene is an insult. Especially since it's clear from this thread that not everyone shares your opinion.

Also, if you are asked, politely, by a moderator or staff member to be mindful of your tone, then as an adult, we expect you to roll with the punches and take the criticism, rather than launch into a tirade justifying it. No one is saying you have to be positive, we are saying you have to be respectful. That's a very different thing, and you (and everyone else) is expected to understand that distinction.

If you disagree with my assessment of the situation, feel free to PM me and we can continue this discussion in private. I ask that no one responds to this post in this thread; let's keep the discussion here on the topic of the story.



Windup

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Reply #40 on: September 07, 2013, 01:14:02 AM

I see all of your plot holes and science flaws and such, and to them I say: pffft! This was a beautiful story wonderfully narrated and I'm so glad I heard it. :)


Yeah, I have a rather severe "tic" for plausibility; strain my credulity a couple of times and the whole "willing suspension of disbelief" collapses, then the story ceases to be fun for me.  Judging from the fact this story was nominated for a Hugo, my quirk is not widely shared.  At least not at that level of sensitivity.   :(

At least you're consistent? :P Sometimes these sorts of issues really bother me as well, and sometimes I just like the story enough to look past them. There's no rhyme or reason to it, just whether or not the story or the plot holes struck me harder while I was listening.

Well, what I'm most sensitive to is the behavior of characters.  I can handle large amounts of handwavium -- either "scientific" or magic -- but the people have to behave in ways that make sense to me, or they have to be given a good reason not to.  In the case of this story, it's mostly the decisions of the starship commander/designer I'm reacting to -- failing to consider micro-meteor damage, sending out one person when there is no reason not to send the entire crew, etc. 

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


TheFunkeyGibbon

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Reply #41 on: September 10, 2013, 06:32:56 AM
Ok, stepping in here as a moderator.

TheFunkeyGibbon - I didn't comment on your original post because Mat did, but while you are certainly justified to your opinion, your way of presenting it was insulting.

If you disagree with my assessment of the situation, feel free to PM me and we can continue this discussion in private. I ask that no one responds to this post in this thread; let's keep the discussion here on the topic of the story.

I having messages both of you I wanted to make a simple and public apology.

It was never my intention to insult anybody but only to share my feelings about something. Clearly something I thought was okay, wasn't and I apologise unreservedly to John Chu and all at Escape Artists, including any forum members who were upset by my comments.



Unblinking

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Reply #42 on: November 06, 2013, 02:49:59 PM
Copying my review from my Hugo Short Story reviews of this year:
Hiroto is one of the survivors of the end of the world, riding on a solar sail away from the earth that has been rendered unlivable by a meteor.  The story is written as a recollection of interactions with his father who was not one of the survivors, who taught him many lessons about life and what it is to be Japanese.

I’m rather torn on my opinion for this story.  I wanted to like it, there were characters, there was good basis for emotion and a plot, a definite speculative element.  For me it walked the line between effective emotional writing and being a wee bit sentimental.  I like a story that makes me feel, but there’s a fine line that separates that from being able to see the author pulling the strings.


I didn't go into more detail there, but I'll also add that the engineering flubs in this bugged me to a large degree, which I think only added to the feeling of being able to see the emotional manipulations.  I found it implausible the failings of the ship's design, as well as the failure of the ship's crew to recognize and try to compensate for the failings in the ship's design.  The only plausible explanation I can think of for why these things happened the way they did was so that the ending could be tragic, which isn't a reason I care for.  Tragic endings are all well and good but if the story or characters have to make implausible adjustments to make them happen, I don't care for that.

For the Hugo Short Story I voted for:
1.  Immersion
2.  Mono No Aware
3.  No Award



Unblinking

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Reply #43 on: November 06, 2013, 02:52:03 PM
Also, I'd like to add that I continue to love the tradition of Escape Pod seeking out as many of the Short Story nominees as they can get.  I decided to register supporting membership for WorldCon this year (and probably for future years in the near future) because I love to get the Hugo packet with it's giant pack of fiction for one low low price.  But Escape Pod was providing these before the Hugo Packet was a thing, and I love that--I still listen to the stories here even though I've read them because sometimes audio can make all the difference.



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Reply #44 on: November 25, 2013, 09:40:42 AM
This isn't Podcastle.

While there are some folks that don't adore John Chu's narration, I dare say "awful" is far from being the majority opinion. He's always done very solid work for us, and his ability to give a higher level of authenticity to Asian stories is priceless. I'm not saying he's above critique, but he's well beyond weak derision, so I would ask that you keep your opinions constructive and save the insults for the playground.
jumping in really really late to this debate on a side note:
i have no opinion one way or another about john chu's narration skills. however, as an asian woman, i feel that it is kind of racist to say that chu's narration lends "a higher level of authenticity to Asian stories," and here's why: saying so is a vocalization of a commonly held western imperialist view that all asian cultures, voices, accents, etc are homogenous.  it would be one thing to say that because of x background he knows how to do a, b, and c specific things. but to put it under the umbrella term "asian" is erasure of the many and varied cultures within asia, most of which i would venture to say have not been experienced by this narrator.
it's a little thing, really, but microaggressions via vague language are still hurtful. just try to be more specific and less homogenizing in the future! thanks.



CryptoMe

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Reply #45 on: January 03, 2014, 03:46:04 AM
Catching up slowly on my EP backlog...

I didn't much care for this story either. I have to agree with Unblinking. The tragedy in this story seemed forced and stupid to me, because there seemed so many ways it could have been avoided. I, personally, find nothing beautiful in tragedy and self-sacrifice for stupid reasons. But that is just my humble opinion.

As to the narration, I have no complaints about it. But, I have been listening to stuff from LibriVox, where the narration can be a mixed bag, including very amateur readings, a range of international accents, and even different readers from one chapter to the next. So, I may have developed a high tolerance for such variety.



matweller

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Reply #46 on: January 03, 2014, 02:12:40 PM
This isn't Podcastle.

While there are some folks that don't adore John Chu's narration, I dare say "awful" is far from being the majority opinion. He's always done very solid work for us, and his ability to give a higher level of authenticity to Asian stories is priceless. I'm not saying he's above critique, but he's well beyond weak derision, so I would ask that you keep your opinions constructive and save the insults for the playground.
jumping in really really late to this debate on a side note:
i have no opinion one way or another about john chu's narration skills. however, as an asian woman, i feel that it is kind of racist to say that chu's narration lends "a higher level of authenticity to Asian stories," and here's why: saying so is a vocalization of a commonly held western imperialist view that all asian cultures, voices, accents, etc are homogenous.  it would be one thing to say that because of x background he knows how to do a, b, and c specific things. but to put it under the umbrella term "asian" is erasure of the many and varied cultures within asia, most of which i would venture to say have not been experienced by this narrator.
it's a little thing, really, but microaggressions via vague language are still hurtful. just try to be more specific and less homogenizing in the future! thanks.

Well, I'm naming myself the decider of all such things and you're wrong, it's not racist. It is fully valid -- in my opinion -- that, simply by merit of proximity  and his native tongue, his approximation of the differences in Asian languages would be significantly better than mine. I can hear the difference between Korean and Chinese and Malasian languages, but I can't reproduce the sounds well, much less the accents. Similarly, I guarantee you I can do Mexican or Canadian or English or 10 dialects of American better than 90% of Slavic narrators simply because of the similarities in romance languages and my significantly increased likelihood of regularly being in the presence of native speakers.

I also happen to know, but didn't originally think it was necessary to waste time saying, that Ken Liu has always been very happy with Chu's work and has even requested him to narrate at Escape Pod and, if I'm not mistaken, other shows as well.

You can be offended about that if you like. I think I'll be offended that you assumed my statements were racist without asking for a more thorough explanation before passing judgement. So let's call it a push.

I have SO many opinions that would make so many more people angry, let's not waste time on this one.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2014, 02:16:07 PM by matweller »



Fenrix

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Reply #47 on: January 20, 2014, 06:36:48 PM
Thanks y'all for working to get as many Hugo stories as possible. I wouldn't read them for years (if ever) without your dedicated effort. This one's made of good stuff. It's no Paper Menagerie, but very little is.

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hardware

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Reply #48 on: February 05, 2014, 09:13:08 AM
I must directly say this is not my favorite Ken Liu story. Just as someone already pointed out, it feels somewhat safe and a bit too straightforward, compared to what we got recently in "Good Hunting" for example. As usual the meeting of cultures is in the center, and is well captured, but neither the science-fiction element nor the characters felt like they had been very carefullly thought out, and though well written the end didn't have a particularly strong impact on me. Well, I will still expect great things from Liu in the future, only funny that this comparatively weak story is what got him the hugo nomination.