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Author Topic: EP415: The Nightmare Lights of Mars  (Read 2028 times)
eytanz
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« on: September 27, 2013, 12:32:53 PM »

EP415: The Nightmare Lights of Mars

by Brian Trent

Read by Veronica Giguere

--

Before discovering the moths, Clarissa Lang stumbled blind in the Martian sandstorm and admitted she was about to die because of a painting.

Granules of sand flew past her head at 90 kph and crunched between her teeth. The storm hissed around her ears, a terrible insistence that she hush forever. There was no excuse for this death, Clarissa thought. Weather advisories had been in place for an hour. Her death would become a digital footnote, filed under foolishness, for all time.

She staggered blind and tacked through the needle-spray. Red sand piled around her neck and shoulders, grew around her mouth like exaggerated lipstick.
“Overlay!” she shouted — tried to shout — but her mouth instantly filled with gritty particulate. She panicked then, the first moment of true mindless panic. But the Martian Positioning Satellite had heard her cry: Maureen’s property map sprang up in her left eye, drawn scarlet against each blink.

The house was thirty meters northwest. Upwind.

Clarissa tucked herself into a protective ball and scuttled sideways, like a crab. The sand struck her exposed hands and face in a shifting, relentless wave.

_I’ll never make it._

Clarissa could no longer breathe. A recent story from the Japanese colony in Cydonia leapt to her mind, in which a grandmother had been caught outside in a sandstorm, wandered around in circles for ten minutes in the hissing tempest, and finally suffocated _an arm’s length from her front door._ When they found her, her stomach, throat, and mouth were bulging with sand.

The toolshed! I can make the tool shed!

Clarissa turned away from her house and the full brunt of the sandstorm slammed into her back, tearing the jacket, spraying around her body in silhouette. For a fleeting instant, she was able to suck clean air into her lungs. Then the sand closed around her again.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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Windup
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« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2013, 11:15:09 PM »

That was amazing.  I loved the depiction of Mars as a fully-realized world. Not just a staggeringly-complex piece of planetary engineering, but a real place, complete with homey suburbs, wounded married couples, call-in shows, cowardly officials and -- monsters.  Of our own making, no less.  Wonderfully done.

For a while there, I was beginning to suspect that Clarissa was an unreliable narrator. I wondered if Vijay's reaction to her captured moth was caused by the fact that it wasn't a "moth" at all, but rather the sort of odd collection of parts that people with certain mental disorders "collect," claiming that they are insects invading their body.  And that the appearance of the other giant critters was a hallucination brought on by the stress of her disintegrating marriage and deteriorating life prospects.  Apparently not. 

I was also glad to see that, like "Thirty Seconds from Now," this was another story in which a same-sex relationship was depicted in a throughly "normal" manner.  Not: "Oh, look! Unhappy lesbians!"  Just: "A marriage that turns out to be way different than one of the partners expected."

All in all, a throughly satisfying episode.

Thanks for bringing it to us!!
« Last Edit: September 27, 2013, 11:47:23 PM by Windup » Logged

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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2013, 01:37:17 AM »

That last line was a doozy.

It was a nice reminder on the law of unexpected consequences (the creation of the giant insects being, of course, something brought on by humans), and how we refuse to see them. 
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Cynandre
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« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2013, 02:29:18 PM »

I dislike Bugs immensely. My first thought was, 'There is no way in Hell I would step back on that Planet.' My second thought was, 'She went back to Maureen?!'
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Yoimistu
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« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2013, 06:06:11 PM »

I liked this story, this may have been because I'm fascinated by space and the possible inner working of societies among the stars, what I loved most about this story is that it reminded me of Zone of the Enders in the same way that the story revolves around Mars and how the relationship between Earth and Mars and the people who inhabit it, what i really found interesting is that who would really abandon our original home in place of another planet and would this spark a rivalry between those who live on Mars and Earth whole wars based on nationalism or planeterism I guess just who would that change the world.
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Dem
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« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2013, 07:35:37 AM »

I was distracted immediately by the O2 Zone which, to me, translates as a place you might get a good signal for your phone! After that, it all just went downhill. I found the plot risible, the characters clunky and unreal, and the writing thin and under-elaborated. Right from the point where the moths' wings are quivering in the shed where there is supposedly no breeze (but isn't there a broken window and a sand storm outside?) through to the casual dismissal of the 'silly woman' with no photographic evidence (Ok, he knew and he was covering, it turns out, but who behaves like that and who takes it?), and onto the golden light and coherent cogitations while being chomped on. I can see people will like it but blimey O'Reilly, really?
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quasidoza
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« Reply #6 on: October 02, 2013, 02:54:26 AM »

I liked it, there was an element of optimism throughout, put me in mind of the golden age of sci-fi, right up to the last line. Disliking the doormatness of the main lady, I loved that last line.

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flintknapper
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« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2013, 03:06:06 PM »

Solid story. I think what the author did extremely well is make mars appear alien. At this point, we have all read a ton of stories about a barren red planet, but this wasn't one of them. It is really weird. By adding earth elements like trees and bugs, the author actually made mars feel unfamiliar. He twisted our preconceived notions and really painted a very dramatic landscape.

However, I am also going to agree somewhat with dem. You have to suspend belief on this one. This tale isn't for the hard science fiction fans in the crowd. I am by no means techno savvy, but much of the issues facing these colonists did not appear realistic given the technology needed to colonize and terraform a planet. For my part, I was able to buy in to the faulty logic and it was an enjoyable ride.
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Katsy
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« Reply #8 on: October 05, 2013, 07:18:44 PM »

I liked it. The ants were amazingly creepy.
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Yarin
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« Reply #9 on: October 05, 2013, 09:53:57 PM »

i hate bugs so this was freaky still it was a good story and it made sense
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FireTurtle
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« Reply #10 on: October 06, 2013, 04:39:54 PM »

Well, that was.

I am down with the evocation of golden age scifi. I am a little weirded out by the paintings. It took me forever to figure out why they were so damn important. At first I thought they must be paintings done by old Martians on a rock or something. When they turned out to be oil paintings. Oil?? Really? Huh. Ok. I am a lot weirded out by the return of the abused spouse to her "changed" abuser. Really? So, suspension of disbelief for this one is not limited to things being on Mars but abusers suddenly becoming nice because of fame? Nope, lost me there.

I liked the imagery otherwise although I had a little trouble with the not being able to see through the giant sequoia forrest. Um, they have no branches until WAY UP. Its not like old timey forests. Nothing much grows below them because they shade it out. You could (theoretically) see for miles in a forrest consisting of nothing but giant sequoias. (and yes, I actually did grow up just outside of Sequoia National Park so I am not just making this up)
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quasidoza
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« Reply #11 on: October 07, 2013, 02:19:00 PM »

Regarding the returning to the changed abusive spouse, it wasn't that they were changed but rather the tables had turned - not that it makes it any more palatable.
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Alasdair5000
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« Reply #12 on: October 07, 2013, 02:28:54 PM »

Regarding the returning to the changed abusive spouse, it wasn't that they were changed but rather the tables had turned - not that it makes it any more palatable.

Or implausible. I know of situations where that exact thing has happened.
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SF.Fangirl
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« Reply #13 on: October 07, 2013, 04:38:51 PM »

Liked it; didn't love it.  I really enjoyed the golden age vibe until the modern, realistic vibe kicked in and instead of communicating with the new creatures the humans shot them.  And the the narrator instead went on reality TV shows for her 15 minutes of fame instead of trying to solve the problem of where the obviously now-angry creatures disappeared to.  And then it got all horror-y.  I'm just a plain sci fi fan and like the hero scientist to befriend the aliens.

The story does get kudos for managing to blend genres and other things, though. The title sounds horror, but it was very golden-age we're going to live on a terraformed mars until the story became horror and the bad, abusive marriage was nary commented on for being between two women.

OTOH the main character was pretty dumb.  She's the one that drew the nightmare creatures to her home for her own questionable purpose of gaining fame.  She had wanted to escape Mars and then choose not to apparently because she wanted fame more even though it killed her in the end.  She was pretty dumb.
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Gamercow
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« Reply #14 on: October 08, 2013, 09:11:37 AM »

I enjoyed this one because of the way it portrayed the main character.  She was clearly an abused partner, and it appeared that had driven her to depression, but the way it was portrayed was subtle, at least to me.  The paintings were an act of defiance against a controlling, abusive partner that looked to control every aspect of her life, even when away on "business trips".  The effects of Clarissa and Maureen's relationship has clearly affected how she reacts with others, this is seen when she goes to Vijay and very nearly stops believing what she saw, even though she has physical evidence.  It is borne out when she allows him to have the moth without question as to what he was going to do with it.  He could have taken it and become famous, but luckily for Clarissa, he was just happy to hide the evidence of the monsters.  Hitting rock bottom, as many abused partners do, she made a desperate act of defiance, and took control of her life, and thought to take control of the relationship too, by becoming famous for discovering the bugs. Even that backfired, though, in the long run, and she was eventually dismissed as being a crackpot for her theories. 

There were some unbelievable parts of the science for me, but it didn't bother me because this story wasn't so much about the science as it was about the people.

And the giant, murderous bugs.

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Devoted135
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« Reply #15 on: October 09, 2013, 01:21:02 PM »

Gamercow pretty much summed up my interpretation of and reaction to this story. Once you establish a terraformed Mars, all scientific qualms pretty much need to be put in full suspension of disbelief mode. And the abusive relationship between Clarissa and Maureen came on so strong and like such a giant ton of bricks that it made any expectations of normal human responses go out the window for me. All in all, a pretty fascinatingly horrifying story.
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matweller
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« Reply #16 on: October 09, 2013, 01:29:47 PM »

This is funny as right this minute I am listening to Neil DeGrasse Tyson on Joe Rogan's podcast spin a yarn about how all life on Earth could be descendant from Martian organisms. Smiley

http://podcasts.joerogan.net/podcasts/jre-310-neil-degrasse-tyson-brian-redban
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Gamercow
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« Reply #17 on: October 10, 2013, 07:41:50 AM »


Off topic, but I'm left wondering why NDT agreed to talk to that conspiracist whacko. Unless Joe's changed his mind about the moon landings.  That said, I know Neil has gone on shows specifically to troll the host.
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matweller
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« Reply #18 on: October 10, 2013, 08:11:58 AM »

Perhaps you should listen to the episode. The moon landing stuff was one of the first things they discussed. I thought it was a pretty fun episode if you can handle someone who curses as punctuation.

Mr. Tyson actually had a really good time. I only heard about this appearance because it was mentioned when he had Rogan on his show. They recorded both shows back to back, and you have to be having fun to spend 3 hours BS'ing with somebody.

I don't subscribe to Rogan, so I don't know much about his conspiracy theory stuff, but I did get the impression that he likes to hear those theories and he likes to hear the 'evidence,' but that he's quick to dismiss if the proof against is equally or more compelling. I'm much the same, actually. I love storytelling, and conspiracy theories are an extension of that for me.
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evrgrn_monster
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« Reply #19 on: October 10, 2013, 10:07:20 PM »

Strangely, I liked this story a bunch, even though I did not like the main character. Well, I didn't like her to begin with, anyways. Although she was the victim of a terribly abusive relationship, at first I thought she was just weak, but then the bugs. I actually was fascinated with the fact that she was so demoralized by her wife that huge, horrifying bugs were actually a completely viable solution to her. Her wife was so awful and monstrous that real-life, giant monster bugs were just not as scary as facing the rest of her life married to Maureen. Did that act of defiance kill the entire planet? Sure, but, boiled down, that act was still an act of strength, and that was fantastic to read (well, hear.)

Though I wonder if all our poor main character did was merely hasten the death of the people of Mars? The bugs seemed pretty in control of the situation.

Great story.
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