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Author Topic: EP412: Thirty Seconds From Now  (Read 15300 times)

eytanz

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on: September 06, 2013, 11:33:21 AM
EP412: Thirty Seconds From Now

by John Chu

Read by Joel Kenyon

--

One second from now, the bean bag will thunk into Scott’s left palm. From reflex, his fingers will wrap around it before he’ll toss it back up again. The trick of juggling lies not in the catch but in the toss. The bean bag will arc up from his right hand, but Scott sees his left hand blur now. Phantom left hands at the few places his left hand may be one second from now overlap with each other, and with his real left hand about a foot above the cold tile floor he’s sitting on. The same holds for the phantom bean bags. They overlap each other and the result looks nearly as cubic, red, and solid in the air, stark against the dorm room’s blank walls, as the bean bag does right now resting in Scott’s right hand.

He’s making a good toss. This catch will be easy. His three bean bag cascade looks to him the way he imagines it must look to anyone else, well, if they were near-sighted and missing their glasses.

When he makes a bad toss, translucent Scotts scatter across the room. They reach for the beds on either side of him, lunge for his or his roommate’s desk, and dive over his bed for the closet. They all stretch for the myriad translucent bean bags raining from the stucco ceiling. The bean bags threaten to knock over the desk lamps, bury themselves in the acting textbooks that line his closet shelf and smack against the window blinds. A desperate enough toss and a phantom bean bag may fly through the doorway into the hall.

He does not need his time-skewed senses to know he will eventually make a bad toss. As hard as he tries to keep his sight solid, to make his life predictable, he will drop a bean bag. That’s why he’s sitting on the floor. It’s easier to pick up dropped bean bags that way.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



Djinndustries

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Reply #1 on: September 06, 2013, 04:10:11 PM
I really liked this story, I thought it reflected the tricky nature of the whole many worlds/branching choices idea.

I also really liked that homosexuality wasn't a gimmick here, it was just part of the story. Too often speculative writers seem to pull it out to parade around their ideologies and it seems...forced (Mieville, Barker, I'm looking at you). I'm really curious what hetero relationships in fiction read like to a homosexual reader, do they seem forced by certain writers (Twilight?).




Melsana

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Reply #2 on: September 06, 2013, 04:38:27 PM
I felt the same way.  I'm not usually a fan of Homosexuality in stories, mostly cause it does feel forced or there mostly for the shock value, or just over used, like in stories where the characters sexuality has no bearing on the story at all.  But this is one of the first stories that I felt it really fit, and that if it had been a heterosexual relationship it just wouldn't have worked as well.  (and not just cause of the roommate stuff)



l33tminion

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Reply #3 on: September 06, 2013, 09:57:54 PM
I also really liked that homosexuality wasn't a gimmick here, it was just part of the story.

I agree, but I do think the author intended that detail to allude to certain thematic parallels about "being in the closet" or trying to appear the way society wants you to appear (though the way the main character is trying to fit in is not by hiding their sexual identity).  I think that worked well for the overall tone of this story.



Windup

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Reply #4 on: September 07, 2013, 03:00:36 PM
I really liked this story.  The intertwining of fantastical elements with the mundane reality of college life -- messy roommates, institutional food, sex, etc. worked really, really well.  I also thought it was a great depiction of how "second sight" would actually work in the real world.  That's one of the things I admire most in stories -- the ability to really see reality from a character's point of view, especially when the character is very different from the audience.

I also agree with those who appreciated the "normalness" of the gay relationship.  While I agree that there was some thematic resonance, it was treated in basically the way a heterosexual romance would have been treated -- part of the story and part of the character's life.  I think maybe this is what social progress looks like. Though I suppose real progress will have come when we stop noticing it completely.

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Yoimistu

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Reply #5 on: September 07, 2013, 08:32:27 PM
This story was a pleasant change of pace from what I've been reading/listing too,

It was just about two guys and what they are going to do (I guess) it was a fun story and I agree with Djinndustries that the fact homosexuality wasn't a gimmick here shows this story was unique I look forward too stories like this and nutshell (nutshell was good).



flintknapper

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Reply #6 on: September 08, 2013, 02:35:06 PM
I agree with everyone in that the homosexuality was not a gimmick, but I felt like the future tense of the story was. I get that being able to see in the future was the hook, but I hard time connecting with it. I found the wording in future tense a bit distracting.

It was that aspect which made the story science fiction. I guess I can look past it, but I had a harder time getting into the story because of it.

Solid writing and narration outside of that. The relationship and circumstances were believable and approachable. You do not have to be gay to understand and relate to the interactions of the characters.

One thing I was a little surprised at was the fact that the narrator mentioned in high school he had to worry about singled out because of his homosexuality. Now I am a ways removed from highschool, but I thought most kids were accepting of alternative lifestyles now days.... I guess not or obviously not at our hero's school. That is sad.



Windup

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Reply #7 on: September 08, 2013, 03:33:12 PM

One thing I was a little surprised at was the fact that the narrator mentioned in high school he had to worry about singled out because of his homosexuality. Now I am a ways removed from highschool, but I thought most kids were accepting of alternative lifestyles now days.... I guess not or obviously not at our hero's school. That is sad.


I'm quite a way from high school myself, but my daughter is a more recent graduate.  While there was certainly more acceptance of gay people at her suburban high school than there was at the rural school where I grew up, kids can still be pretty vicious, and they can still pick up on sexual orientation as a reason to single someone out. 

While many -- maybe even most -- schools have made progress in combating bullying on an institutional level, I don't think individual actions are going to stop anytime soon.  Especially when there are influential organizations giving religious sanction to the persecution of gay and lesbian people. 

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


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Reply #8 on: September 09, 2013, 11:25:14 AM
I must admit, the Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge moment took me off guard.  It added to the feelings of temporal confusion that Scott must be encountering all the time.

And yet the vision of his future relationship are clear up to the moment where he may be physically beaten or not.  Where everything else in his life including the trajectory of his juggling bean bags is out of focus, he has already decided to follow through with Tony.  Starting from a glimpse of a few seconds ahead to several months, he learns who Tony is, observes as the relationship slowly turns sour and eventually end in heartbreak, regardless of whether Tony becomes violent or not.  And he goes through with it anyway.

This story and one of my favorite movies, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, stand out in my mind as perfect examples of how destiny does not require the cogs of the universe to force the inevitable.  Sometimes the will of the human mind is sufficient.   



Yoimistu

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Reply #9 on: September 09, 2013, 08:48:54 PM
I don' know if its me over-thinking or under-thinking this but the end phrase lead me to believe he had seen this possible out come and now had to relive it,but the title "Thirty seconds from now" made me think all of this took place in the place in the space of thirty seconds despite the many time phrases.

Oh,
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Jade Praerie

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Reply #10 on: September 10, 2013, 03:07:33 AM
Chilling.



InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #11 on: September 10, 2013, 05:46:46 AM
The thing I liked best about this story is that it succeeded in making me forget our narrators limitations vis-a-vis prognostication. So we realize at the end that he's seeing the entire six months all at one go, even while experiencing the branch points that he sees during that time.

Which of course raises a logical problem, now that I think about it, the problem of infinite wishes. Or rather, an almost Zeno-like paradox. If Scott can see as far as six months into the future -or futures- why can't he see himself seeing farther into the futures? That's to say, why can't see himself seeing forward six months three months from now?

I thought the story meshed together well, the reasons for his anti-social behavior and fear of the outside or that which he cannot control fitting in well with fear of persecution (though I can't see into the future and I'd still lock the damn door, Tony). I don't think I'd really want this power as described here.

The characters were also well--drawn and believable.



TheFunkeyGibbon

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Reply #12 on: September 10, 2013, 05:28:40 PM
I liked this. It was an interesting story and I felt that with a slight push in a different direction it could have been a Pseudopod story...



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #13 on: September 11, 2013, 09:30:08 AM
Add me to the list of people who liked this story, for most of the above-mentioned reasons.
Another thing that I liked was the simplicity of it: he can see the future, he knows what's going to happen, he knows it's going to hurt... but he does it anyway. Life is pain, and Scott finally decides to start living.
But it's more than that: who among us hasn't been hurt, often by those who love us the most? (Those who are closest to us have the potential to cause the most pain) And at some point we all think "If I would have known that this was going to happen I never would have..."
But Scot knows.
And he does it anyway. Because sometimes it's worth the pain.

Which of course raises a logical problem, now that I think about it, the problem of infinite wishes. Or rather, an almost Zeno-like paradox. If Scott can see as far as six months into the future -or futures- why can't he see himself seeing farther into the futures? That's to say, why can't see himself seeing forward six months three months from now?
Because he can only see futures that are happening around him, where he happens to be.
All the future scenes he sees take place in his dorm room, nowhere else.
Being in the same building as lots of people doesn't bother him, only being in the same room as all of them.
He even mentions it himself, at some point.

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Reply #14 on: September 11, 2013, 01:04:12 PM
"He’s seen the movie of his life. Now, he’ll live the whole thing." Well, good luck with that!
I suppose, if I'm being objective, Scott's wimpish behaviour didn't endear him to me and Tony I didn't know well enough to care about. I also found the premise rather thin, logistically - with that much interference, so much of what appears to be a fairly normal life progression would not seem feasible.
If I'm being subjective - I was bored by a story that had too many holes in it and took too long to get to its payoff.
Right, now I'll go look at what everyone else said :)

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InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #15 on: September 12, 2013, 05:49:40 AM
Scott's wimpish behaviour

I wouldn't characterize his behavior as "wimpish" but cautious and informed. A wimp is afraid of being hurt. Scott is well aware of the hurt, and it in fact the hurt stays with him, making him cautious in avoiding situations where he's already experienced how he could be hurt.

In a curious sort of way, this story plays like an inverse of EP411, "Loss, with Chalk Diagrams" - in that story the primary tension was between someone who accepted the pain of grief and someone who decided (and then regretted) to nullify it.
Here, we have someone seeks to avoid pain he's already experienced, whether or not it "happened". Or will.



adrianh

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Reply #16 on: September 12, 2013, 08:13:53 AM
Scott's wimpish behaviour didn't endear him to me

Oddly I took exactly the opposite opinion of Scott away from the story. This is somebody who has, until this point, deliberately chosen to live a very isolated life. Both because of his special abilities and, I assume, his sexuality. At the end of the story he's taken it upon himself to change that - despite knowing that it's going to bring him pain. Possibly physical, definitely emotional. Because it's worth it.

Doesn't sound very wimpish to me ;-)

What I liked about the story was the way it took what everybody does when they embark on a relationship and made it "real". Who hasn't thought through some best/worst cases when they first go up to somebody they like? Who hasn't walked away from somebody at some point without saying hello because the possibility of rejection was too much to deal with?

Despite that I agree that the story took too long to get to the pay off for my liking. The arc of the relationship seemed fairly inevitable to me given Scott's powers and what would make an interesting story. So while the parallel world probability-fight was a nice way to mark the turning point in the relationship, I was metaphorically tapping my foot waiting for it to arrive.



mb

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Reply #17 on: September 12, 2013, 07:37:15 PM
liked the story
not sure I would qualify it as SciFi, but that doesn't really matter...
I specifically liked the description of the male gay relationship: often such descriptions are either awkard or very gay-in-your face, as if pushing an agenda. here it was done in a way that it didnt really matter whether it was gay or hetero, just another relationship choice.
very well done!



rlzack

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Reply #18 on: September 18, 2013, 11:57:07 PM
I loved this story. The living of the future in a way that some of us relive the past (ie instantaneously) was of course the whole point. But the growth shown by Scott during the story (which technically takes place in an instant) really hit me. It is more growth than some characters in other stories make during months of storytime.

I was not thinking about where this was going as I was listening, I was just enjoying the story. And the ending was superb.

Kudos to John Chu for an excellent piece.

(And hello, Escapodians. This is my first post, but hopefully won't be my last. I've been enjoying Escape Pod for many years, but tend not to interact.)



evrgrn_monster

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Reply #19 on: September 19, 2013, 03:58:27 AM
Man, was this story satisfying. Seriously, there are some stories that, with the last line, make me feel the same satisfaction I feel after a super great meal. Thirty Seconds From Now is one of those stories. Time manipulation is a tricky beast to tame, and this was a good example of how to tackle the idea. Even while describing the way Scott's odd power works, the author was still telling a beautiful, completely identifiable story, which impressed me.

More than Eternal Sunshine, this story reminded me of the section of the Watchmen comic where Dr Manhattan first gets to Mars and is describing his perception of time and the people he has loved and lost. It is still my absolute favorite graphic novel segments of all time, and this is one of the first written word pieces I've seen come close to matching the masterful wielding of the all-seeing man who wants more than anything to just love and be loved in return.


jpv

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Reply #20 on: September 19, 2013, 08:21:59 PM
Was there ever a solid reason given for why Tony's future didn't really change much? It was a neat idea and I can definitely see the appeal to someone living in a constant state of sense-flux, but who is really that stable / deterministic in their life choices?

On the flip side, why exactly were things like the bean bags bouncing around the room so random? There's something to be said for chaotic systems, but at that scale, I don't think that you'd see much change in behavior. More of the Matrix sort of idea that you aren't there to make the choice (in this case, how exactly to throw the beanbag) because you've already made it. Something to think about.

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matweller

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Reply #21 on: September 20, 2013, 02:02:09 AM
I struggled for a minute about what the author was trying to say with Tony being constant, and I guess I reconciled it as the future influencing the past. As if the future knew the choice Scott would make to walk through, and therefore there was no need for multiples. I think it's significant too that he blurs during their confrontation, as if to say there is a brief moment there where Scott's potential reaction calls the future into question.



Djinndustries

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Reply #22 on: September 20, 2013, 03:03:27 AM
Was there ever a solid reason given for why Tony's future didn't really change much? It was a neat idea and I can definitely see the appeal to someone living in a constant state of sense-flux, but who is really that stable / deterministic in their life choices?

I think this was just a way to articulate that their interaction was fated, as if there were no alternative futures and he was 'the one'....at least in the time range he was looking. God knows I've had relationships with escape velocities more than I could have mustered at the time.



jpv

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Reply #23 on: September 20, 2013, 03:45:38 AM
I struggled for a minute about what the author was trying to say with Tony being constant, and I guess I reconciled it as the future influencing the past. As if the future knew the choice Scott would make to walk through, and therefore there was no need for multiples. I think it's significant too that he blurs during their confrontation, as if to say there is a brief moment there where Scott's potential reaction calls the future into question.
I get that from Scott's end that when he sees Tony being constant, his own decisions become far more constant. That makes sense most of the time, that so long as he has some time to prepare, he should be able to make a rather static decision.

But it's still strange that Tony is static in the first place. It almost seems like he knows why though, the one time that he branches out. If I remember correctly, it seems like Tony actually caused that to happen...

I think this was just a way to articulate that their interaction was fated, as if there were no alternative futures and he was 'the one'....at least in the time range he was looking. God knows I've had relationships with escape velocities more than I could have mustered at the time.
Hmm. Not sure what I think about the idea of 'fate' in this context. Scott more than anyone sees just how chaotic the world is.

Now I wonder if there are others like Tony. Who / where are they? This could be a interesting larger universe if Scott were to run into someone else like himself. How would the futures interact?

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chemistryguy

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Reply #24 on: September 20, 2013, 02:33:26 PM


I think this was just a way to articulate that their interaction was fated, as if there were no alternative futures and he was 'the one'....at least in the time range he was looking. God knows I've had relationships with escape velocities more than I could have mustered at the time.
Hmm. Not sure what I think about the idea of 'fate' in this context.

I wouldn't label it as fate, but determinism is at play here.  The latest RadioLab podcast examines the question of human responsibility and one of the guests makes an excellent point about why we can't escape our own biological makeup.  When time comes to make a decision about anything, it's resolved by that 1400g lump in our head.  There is no stepping outside of our own brain to make a choice based on some other sense of self.  The brain is us, and we are it.  Why else do some people keep seeking out destructive relationships that are bound to fail?



rlzack

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Reply #25 on: September 20, 2013, 05:05:24 PM
Was there ever a solid reason given for why Tony's future didn't really change much? It was a neat idea and I can definitely see the appeal to someone living in a constant state of sense-flux, but who is really that stable / deterministic in their life choices?

My take on this is that there were two assumptions made during the story.

  • Scott can see futures
  • Tony is (mostly) a constant in those futures

The story's impact depends on both assumptions. And as assumptions, neither needs explaining.



jpv

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Reply #26 on: September 20, 2013, 05:11:49 PM
My take on this is that there were two assumptions made during the story.

  • Scott can see futures
  • Tony is (mostly) a constant in those futures

The story's impact depends on both assumptions. And as assumptions, neither needs explaining.
Fair enough from the point of view of it as a short story. The story works perfectly well without ever knowing for sure why it is that he's constant, the entire idea is that he's constant / it ends / Scott goes for it anyways.

But once you get past the story, it does make me think. Either why is he constant or why aren't others? One possibility is that Tony is a 'sheep' / reactionary. Not necessarily in a bad way, just that he tends to be far more static, always reacting the same way to situations. I can certainly see the appeal, particularly to someone like Scott. But then why aren't others the same way?

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rlzack

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Reply #27 on: September 20, 2013, 05:26:31 PM
Quote
Why is Tony constant?

Perhaps a better question to ask is, What is special about Tony that he has a constant future?

My thought is that Tony is so sure of who he is, where he is going, what he wants, however you want to say it, that his future is fairly well ordained. The one time he fails is when he is shocked by Scott's revelation, and we can forgive him some for losing control at that point.



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Reply #28 on: September 22, 2013, 05:02:08 PM
I think reason why Tony is constant is unimportant but it means for Scott it's a binary choice - Love and lose or never love.

It has to be a homosexual relationship in a way. It would have such different connotations if Tony might be smacking a girl around, lot harder to put it down to frustrations.  Society views male on female violence differently to male on male or female on male for various reasons.

Ironic lots of the posts are highlighting the seamless integration of the gay relationship but yes I agree.



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Reply #29 on: September 22, 2013, 05:02:28 PM
I really enjoyed this one. Everyone's said almost everything about it by now, so I can only do the "me, too" thing. Except I don't think anyone's mentioned the unique POV that I've never heard in any story that I can think of (he said, caveating like mad (yes, it's word (now))). Third-person future tense. That hooked me in and kept me listening until the second or third sentence, when the story itself grabbed me. :)

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InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #30 on: September 23, 2013, 01:21:39 AM

It has to be a homosexual relationship in a way. It would have such different connotations if Tony might be smacking a girl around, lot harder to put it down to frustrations.  Society views male on female violence differently to male on male or female on male for various reasons.

Ironic lots of the posts are highlighting the seamless integration of the gay relationship but yes I agree.

Just as important, it makes it seems more understandable for Scott to be "closeted" and security-conscious. And have him seem a little less strange and inexplicable to others, in ways a heterosexual protagonist would not.



alwaysblack

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Reply #31 on: September 24, 2013, 11:23:50 PM
It has to be a homosexual relationship in a way. It would have such different connotations if Tony might be smacking a girl around, lot harder to put it down to frustrations.  Society views male on female violence differently to male on male or female on male for various reasons.

I don't want to be the leadfooted noob on my first day, but what you said was just wrong. The society I want to live in thinks violence in any relationship is bad times.

Fair enough, it's part of the story, but I can't see how it works better because it's a gay relationship.

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alwaysblack

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Reply #32 on: September 24, 2013, 11:31:55 PM
Actually, there was a lot about this story that just set my teeth on edge. At first, I thought it was guilty of being a subclass of the 'it was all a dream' trope, but on further reflection I think I was more depressed by its Cassandra complex fatalism.

I guess I have old-fashioned tastes when it comes to story, but I like my outcomes to grow out of the protagonists choices where the consequences are his/her risk, where the point to this one seemed to be that the narrator had no power to choose his outcome even when he knew what the consequences were.

This was the perfect, exact, opposite of what I like in a story.  ;D

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TheArchivist

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Reply #33 on: September 25, 2013, 09:11:11 AM
I guess I have old-fashioned tastes when it comes to story, but I like my outcomes to grow out of the protagonists choices where the consequences are his/her risk, where the point to this one seemed to be that the narrator had no power to choose his outcome even when he knew what the consequences were.
Yeah, I see that too. Actually I'm surprised by how many people are so willing to simply ignore the incoherence of the story's second assumption, purely because it was needed as a device. It gets fairly well established that any uncertainty leads to severe fuzziness in Scott's perception (the description of the bean bags makes that clear), and yet Tony is crystal clear and solid. The only possible justification is that Tony's actions in detail are predetermined and cast in stone. Nobody is that predictable! And if Scott had any choice in the matter of whether to accept the future he sees, then that future would not be clear. So we are left with a protagonist who takes no action and makes no choice.

I kept waiting for the revelation that would explain Tony's anomolous existence in a way that made any sort of sense. It never turned up.



alwaysblack

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Reply #34 on: September 25, 2013, 09:28:38 AM
I thought Tony was going to turn out to be precognitive too and they were cancelling each other out.

"If I asked you where the hell we were," said Arthur weakly, "would I regret it?"


chemistryguy

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Reply #35 on: September 25, 2013, 12:13:48 PM
I guess I have old-fashioned tastes when it comes to story, but I like my outcomes to grow out of the protagonists choices where the consequences are his/her risk, where the point to this one seemed to be that the narrator had no power to choose his outcome even when he knew what the consequences were.
Yeah, I see that too. Actually I'm surprised by how many people are so willing to simply ignore the incoherence of the story's second assumption, purely because it was needed as a device. It gets fairly well established that any uncertainty leads to severe fuzziness in Scott's perception (the description of the bean bags makes that clear), and yet Tony is crystal clear and solid. The only possible justification is that Tony's actions in detail are predetermined and cast in stone. Nobody is that predictable! And if Scott had any choice in the matter of whether to accept the future he sees, then that future would not be clear. So we are left with a protagonist who takes no action and makes no choice.

I kept waiting for the revelation that would explain Tony's anomolous existence in a way that made any sort of sense. It never turned up.

It does stand to reason even if Scott has predetermined exactly what he wants to do, there's still thousands of choices that Tony has to make over the course of their relationship.

So here's a thought.  It isn't that Tony is some totally predictable anomaly in a sea of possibilities.  It's that Scott has closed himself off to all but one path.  His love (for want of a better word) of Tony has given him temporal tunnel vision.   

Does anyone buy that?  Anyone?  Eh, I tried.


alwaysblack

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Reply #36 on: September 25, 2013, 12:35:58 PM
I don't think I can buy into that. The beanbags fall according to the actions Scott takes, their possibilities are variable because he can influence their futures. He can base his decisions on what he has seen of their possible futures. Tony does not get the same rules, the question is what changes the rules? If it's love, then the lesson becomes that we are compelled (like, with physics) to follow it's course /even when we know/ that the outcome is abusive. That I find obnoxious. It's one thing to stick to a bad relationship because you've deluded yourself it will get better, it's another to suggest that you must because of unseen, unexplained forces that transcend willpower, cause and effect.

It's downright... dis-empowering.

"If I asked you where the hell we were," said Arthur weakly, "would I regret it?"


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Reply #37 on: September 25, 2013, 01:22:30 PM
I don't want to be the leadfooted noob on my first day, but what you said was just wrong. The society I want to live in thinks violence in any relationship is bad times.

Well, I think you said it right there. The society you want to live in thinks that way. The society we do live in, however, has certain inconsistencies. It's very not okay for a man to be violent to a woman (a view, by the way, that's quite recent in terms of history), but we view man/man, woman/woman, and woman/man violence differently. We just do. We shouldn't, but it is what it is.

I invent imaginary people and make them have conversations in my head. I also write.

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matweller

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Reply #38 on: September 25, 2013, 01:26:05 PM
So here's a thought.  It isn't that Tony is some totally predictable anomaly in a sea of possibilities.  It's that Scott has closed himself off to all but one path.  His love (for want of a better word) of Tony has given him temporal tunnel vision.   
This was pretty much my take on it. I wouldn't call it pre-determination or fixed fate or anything like that, I would say that from the moment Scott saw Tony, he decided on some level of consciousness that this was how it was going to play out no matter what. I think that's why Tony blurred at that moment of confrontation -- because it was the one spot where Scott became unsure of what he might do, what decisions he might make that could cause divergence.

...the lesson becomes that we are compelled (like, with physics) to follow it's course /even when we know/ that the outcome is abusive. That I find obnoxious. It's one thing to stick to a bad relationship because you've deluded yourself it will get better, it's another to suggest that you must because of unseen, unexplained forces that transcend willpower, cause and effect.

It's downright... dis-empowering.
I think it's more a statement of our condition as beings that realize that experience has an absolute value. Which is to say that positives and negatives all go into the sum of our being and that sometimes denying the negative for the sake of convenience can negate some of the value of the positive.

This is a kid who has lived his life into his college years with a severely limited amount of human contact because of his condition. Think about it in that light, and actually the negative of a disappointing ending is infinitely outweighed by so much as a week of what normal people would consider mediocre. The blessing of that 6 months of constancy alone would be a positive; actual happy moments during that time would be deep-in-the-soul blissful joy.



alwaysblack

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Reply #39 on: September 25, 2013, 01:50:09 PM
Nah, it's all too muddy to be satisfied with the idea of a hopeless trade off. Was there any implication that Scott could choose not to have this relationship and stay as he was? (If there was and I missed it then I'll stand corrected).
For me, if the point of the story doesn't come directly from the protagonists will then it isn't a story, it's just some shit that happened.


"If I asked you where the hell we were," said Arthur weakly, "would I regret it?"


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Reply #40 on: September 25, 2013, 01:58:59 PM
I don't want to be the leadfooted noob on my first day, but what you said was just wrong. The society I want to live in thinks violence in any relationship is bad times.

Well, I think you said it right there. The society you want to live in thinks that way. The society we do live in, however, has certain inconsistencies. It's very not okay for a man to be violent to a woman (a view, by the way, that's quite recent in terms of history), but we view man/man, woman/woman, and woman/man violence differently. We just do. We shouldn't, but it is what it is.

In your opinion, how would the story have been different if the relationship had been one of those other combinations of gender?

"If I asked you where the hell we were," said Arthur weakly, "would I regret it?"


matweller

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Reply #41 on: September 25, 2013, 03:00:06 PM
Then prepare to be happy, this is a story!

Quote
Right now, the bean bag thunks into Scott’s left palm. His eyes still itch and he feels the grief he’ll feel again at the end of the semester. A ghost Scott moves to shut the dorm room door. If he closes the door, he and Tony will never meet. Tony will never learn how to hurt Scott in a way that only he can be hurt. Tony will never hurt him in a way that anyone can be hurt. - See more at: http://escapepod.org/2013/09/05/ep412-thirty-seconds-from-now/#sthash.9XonngZQ.dpuf

Could. Didn't. That's will, my friend.



alwaysblack

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Reply #42 on: September 25, 2013, 03:20:38 PM
Yeah, you're right, I must've blotted it out.

In my defence,  the rest of the story harps on about Tony's inevitability despite Scott's superpowers, so it's still muddy.

Just wasn't for me this one.

"If I asked you where the hell we were," said Arthur weakly, "would I regret it?"


TheArchivist

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Reply #43 on: September 25, 2013, 04:42:17 PM
Yeah, you're right, I must've blotted it out.

In my defence,  the rest of the story harps on about Tony's inevitability despite Scott's superpowers, so it's still muddy.
In your defence, the line was too little too late. Yeah, there was an afterthought that tried to hint at the choice so miserably lacking from the whole narrative up until then, but it was merely tacked in right near the end as if the earlier problems could just be forgotten. As a reader I won't accept that. The author and I have an implied contract whereby he tells me a coherent, consistent story in which he may be economical with the truth, but he will not downright lie to me. Filling in a final twist that relies on the bulk of the story simply being untrue is not good writing, and I would go so far as to argue that the solidity of Tony's future (remember: even to the detail of individual comments) is portrayed so strongly that to claim Scott even had that choice makes the whole narrative a downright lie.

Sorry, personal bugbear.



alwaysblack

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Reply #44 on: September 25, 2013, 05:30:07 PM
You know what this reminded me of? The movie "Next" with Nicolas Cage, where (spoiler) at the end you find out the ENTIRE movie is a vision of one possible future if he goes left or something. Thanks very much, I want my hour and a half back.

Compared with something like Sliding Doors, for example, there are definitely right ways and wrong ways to do this sort of thing.

"If I asked you where the hell we were," said Arthur weakly, "would I regret it?"


matweller

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Reply #45 on: September 25, 2013, 06:00:07 PM
Yeah, you're right, I must've blotted it out.

In my defence,  the rest of the story harps on about Tony's inevitability despite Scott's superpowers, so it's still muddy.
In your defence, the line was too little too late. Yeah, there was an afterthought that tried to hint at the choice so miserably lacking from the whole narrative up until then, but it was merely tacked in right near the end as if the earlier problems could just be forgotten. As a reader I won't accept that. The author and I have an implied contract whereby he tells me a coherent, consistent story in which he may be economical with the truth, but he will not downright lie to me. Filling in a final twist that relies on the bulk of the story simply being untrue is not good writing, and I would go so far as to argue that the solidity of Tony's future (remember: even to the detail of individual comments) is portrayed so strongly that to claim Scott even had that choice makes the whole narrative a downright lie.

Sorry, personal bugbear.

To be fair, that's a lot of angst directed at the author over an assumption you made in the beginning. Conversely, as soon as there was talk about the beanbags scattering, I assumed there were many possibilities and that choice dictated which one came to fruition. Sure, it was never said that there was an option where Scott turned his head when Tony walked by, therefore Tony never saw him, therefore none of the rest followed; but then, given what we know about Scott's sixth sense, would we assume he would see ghosts of things that couldn't happen because they were killed in their inception? I suppose you could argue that in that case Scott would also see his future selves running around the room doing other things in each of his future-reaching visions, but I can come up with at least two or three highly plausible arguments why he wouldn't.

I'm not saying you're wrong in how you feel based on your initial assumption, just that you need to leave room for the possibility that -- had you made the opposite, just as likely assumption in the beginning -- your feelings could have gone the other way.

Maybe if you had just prepared for listening by viewing into the future and looking at the possibilities... ;)



Amusing, vaguely-related aside...
When I was a kid and assigned a book report on A Catcher in the Rye, I impatiently read the beginning where it's made clear that he's telling his story to a counselor and I interpreted it as just a story he was telling directly to the reader. As a result, it changed my point of view of the whole story and subsequently, my book report. Long story short, I thought I had turned in a carefully considered piece for which the teacher gave me a C -- the lowest grade I had ever had or would have for the next 8 years or so -- and scrawled a note in the top that said, "Did you read the first three pages?"



TheArchivist

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Reply #46 on: September 26, 2013, 09:14:35 AM
To be fair, that's a lot of angst directed at the author over an assumption you made in the beginning.
Well, yes and no. It was rather a rant over an assumption, but not one I "made in the beginning" - it was one that I arrived at while listening to the bulk of the story. So more of a deduction than an assumption.

Conversely, as soon as there was talk about the beanbags scattering, I assumed there were many possibilities and that choice dictated which one came to fruition. Sure, it was never said that there was an option where Scott turned his head when Tony walked by, therefore Tony never saw him, therefore none of the rest followed; but then, given what we know about Scott's sixth sense, would we assume he would see ghosts of things that couldn't happen because they were killed in their inception?
Yes, we would. Because what we know of his sixth sense is precisely that he does see ghosts of things that can only happen if he acts a certain way, which is what your "turning his head" thing is. And so I spent the whole story looking for the reveal of why Tony completely breaks the established rule, and all I got was "oh well, it's kinda because of love, and it's like some sort of fate, and... well ya know?"



You know what this reminded me of? The movie "Next" with Nicolas Cage, where (spoiler) at the end you find out the ENTIRE movie is a vision of one possible future if he goes left or something. Thanks very much, I want my hour and a half back.
Not seen that but it sounds ghastly. It does remind me, though, of an episode of 'Space 1999' (for the perhaps half a dozen people here that have heard of that!) in which some aliens attack Moonbase Alpha, the battle is horribly one-sided, and all the humans die... then it gets revealed that this was all just a warning the aliens implanted in Koenig's mind to persuade him not to act in a certain way.



matweller

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Reply #47 on: September 26, 2013, 01:25:53 PM
Conversely, as soon as there was talk about the beanbags scattering, I assumed there were many possibilities and that choice dictated which one came to fruition. Sure, it was never said that there was an option where Scott turned his head when Tony walked by, therefore Tony never saw him, therefore none of the rest followed; but then, given what we know about Scott's sixth sense, would we assume he would see ghosts of things that couldn't happen because they were killed in their inception?
Yes, we would. Because what we know of his sixth sense is precisely that he does see ghosts of things that can only happen if he acts a certain way, which is what your "turning his head" thing is. And so I spent the whole story looking for the reveal of why Tony completely breaks the established rule, and all I got was "oh well, it's kinda because of love, and it's like some sort of fate, and... well ya know?"
But if he turns his head and looks away, that possible future path ends, there's nothing else to see. And he might not even see that as a possibility of happening if all of his visions come from his point of view. I guess you could say that he should see ghosts of himself moving about the room, but maybe he did and it wasn't mentioned because it wasn't the storyline in which he was interested. Plus, maybe if he doesn't meet Tony, all other possible futures involve Scott leaving school for one reason or another and that's why there are no other visions of himself in that room. And 2/3 the story takes place in another room anyway, so even if ALTScott stayed, he wouldn't be included in that vision.

I'm not trying to change your mind, just saying that I didn't draw the same deduction from the source material. That may be because I'm more lax on my requirement for details than the average EP listener (I realize this, and it's why you won't see me bucking for Nathan's job), but I don't think it's because I mis-heard something that was there, but rather because we filled in the blanks differently.

This one wasn't for you, that's cool. I'll keep my fingers crossed that you will find pure bliss this week. :D



TheArchivist

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Reply #48 on: September 26, 2013, 04:45:13 PM
I'm not trying to change your mind, just saying that I didn't draw the same deduction from the source material. That may be because I'm more lax on my requirement for details than the average EP listener
Fair enough. I'm not trying to change yours, either, just explaining why I felt differently. And as I noted in my first post in this thread, I seem to be the one who's way off average here.



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Reply #49 on: September 30, 2013, 03:03:25 AM
Wow, this story completely sucked me in. Once I fell into the rhythm of third person future tense (there's a new one) I thought that tense was actually really instrumental in creating an entrancing atmosphere. I'm sad that he decides to let his heart be broken in order to gain the other experiences, but I totally get it. Very nicely done. :)



justinstoned

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Reply #50 on: October 01, 2013, 04:19:45 AM
Major #UpTwinkles. Worth several listens.



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Reply #51 on: November 05, 2013, 06:25:08 PM
I liked the premise of the story.  A much better usage of the idea than the dismal movie Next.  (Poor Phillip K. Dick wrote some phenomenal stories, which have been turned into a few movie gems and a whole lotta  crap)  For me though, the reason that movie sucked is that the way the premise was portrayed there was no tension whatsoever--he dies on screen all the time in his future visions and just undoes it immediately, even to the extent of bullet-dodging.  The only way he would ever be in danger is what the movie puts the second half into (because for the most part he can only see 2 minutes ahead), but then cheapens that by taking it all back.


Anyway, back to this story.  So I liked the premise.  I thought the reveal of the relationship made it feel very real.  I like how his vision is a little different than most I've seen in that trope--I don't remember seeing one that's so cemented in a place rather than following a certain person or something.  It made the character's actions make a lot of sense, why he sits in his dorm room by himself most of the time because that is his safe place that is kept uncluttered by being devoted to his quest of solitude.

It kept on annoying the logic centers of my brain, though, particularly the fact that the love interest is so solid.  I mean, our main character can see branching possibilitiies from the tossing of a bean bag, so clearly what he sees is not only influenced by conscious choices but by random perturbations.  So, is this other guy somehow immune to the powers of chance?  Does the guy never trip, or get sick, or anything else that would skew his actions in any way no matter how momentary?  Does this other guy have no internal thinking that could associate with branching paths?  So for the whole story I was trying to figure out if the guy is also somehow supernatural, made of probablistic adamantium which cannot be affected by the waves of chance all about him and so rigid and robotic in his thinking that in any given circumstance he would always do the exact same thing.  The story didn't seem to have any explanation, except perhaps for the steadfastness of the protagonist's choice, but that is only a partial explanation, to my mind.  This question drove me to distraction and there was never even an answer.



CryptoMe

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Reply #52 on: January 13, 2014, 05:42:29 AM
Add me to the camp of people who were dissatisfied that Tony's magical stability powers were never properly explained. It significantly impacted my enjoyment of the story. If I had the ability to see into the future, I would probably have chosen not to bother with this story after all. And that's too bad, because I did like the third-person-future tense it was told in.



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Reply #53 on: January 13, 2014, 02:56:47 PM
Add me to the camp of people who were dissatisfied that Tony's magical stability powers were never properly explained. It significantly impacted my enjoyment of the story. If I had the ability to see into the future, I would probably have chosen not to bother with this story after all. And that's too bad, because I did like the third-person-future tense it was told in.

The advantage of being able to see all those possible futures, though, is that you can remember will having read the story, without every actually have to read the story.  :)



CryptoMe

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Reply #54 on: January 15, 2014, 04:40:53 AM
Add me to the camp of people who were dissatisfied that Tony's magical stability powers were never properly explained. It significantly impacted my enjoyment of the story. If I had the ability to see into the future, I would probably have chosen not to bother with this story after all. And that's too bad, because I did like the third-person-future tense it was told in.

The advantage of being able to see all those possible futures, though, is that you can remember will having read the story, without every actually have to read the story.  :)

Hmmm. So, is this a "Yay, I get to enjoy the third-person-future tense without having to read the story" or a "Crap, even when I don't read the story I still have to remember it!" kind of thing? ;)



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Reply #55 on: January 15, 2014, 03:16:54 PM
Hmmm. So, is this a "Yay, I get to enjoy the third-person-future tense without having to read the story" or a "Crap, even when I don't read the story I still have to remember it!" kind of thing? ;)

All a matter of perspective, my friend.  Will the glass have been half empty, or will the glass have been half full?



Myrealana

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Reply #56 on: January 16, 2014, 04:14:05 PM
I didn't expect to like this one from the start. Ho-hum, a guy can see possible futures...

But, then I really got drawn into it. I cared about Scott and Tony and I had to know what their future was going to be. I literally held my breath, waiting to see if Scott would close the door.

As others have said, I don't like it when homosexual relationships are used for a story gimmick - a quick "hey, look how hip and now my story is." This relationship never felt that way. It just *was* and I loved that.

"You don't fix faith. Faith fixes you." - Shepherd Book


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Reply #57 on: February 26, 2014, 08:45:07 AM
I liked this story, like most people. It was a perhaps predictable, but still worthwhile spin on the old theme of how human interactions are necessary and necessarily messy but still worth it. I didn't mind Tony being the constant (to speak Lost), as someone here put it, that was just about temporal tunnel vision, not about Tony himself being anything extraordinary. It kind of goes with all those experiments showing how our decisions are made in our brain a few seconds before we are conscious about it. I imagine this story taking place between those moments. 



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Reply #58 on: September 10, 2014, 07:35:44 PM
I'm surprised gays don't belt each other more often. Being straight I've only lived with two of my mates for short periods of time and both times included and ended in violence. Males to male relationships must be fraught with beatings if that's anything to go by.  So congrats for the realism.



eytanz

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Reply #59 on: September 10, 2014, 09:32:00 PM
I'm surprised gays don't belt each other more often. Being straight I've only lived with two of my mates for short periods of time and both times included and ended in violence. Males to male relationships must be fraught with beatings if that's anything to go by.  So congrats for the realism.

For future reference, it's best to avoid implications that homosexuality is tied to domestic violence, even if the reasoning seems to be a male stereotype rather than homophobia. For that matter, it's best to avoid stereotyping genders, too.

Speaking as a moderator, by the way, I'd prefer it if this doesn't become a topic of debate in this thread.



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Reply #60 on: November 10, 2014, 01:03:45 AM
The constant Tony seems to be the a slightly more "real" Gus that's in author's other story that won the Hugo - "The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere" [http://escapepod.org/2014/08/21/ep459-water-falls-nowhere/].

Overall, I had the same unsatisfied feeling at the end. In this story, the best part was the great punch line at the end - he's seen the movie of his life, now he's going to live it.

WRT seeing possible futures, the portrayal is good, however it still leads to the catch-22 of destiny vs free will. - if Tony is a certainty in his future, then he has no free will to close the door.