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Author Topic: EP101: The 43 Antarean Dynasties  (Read 49293 times)


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Reply #120 on: May 16, 2007, 07:44:47 PM
Wow.  Steve's comment in the recent episode about the controversy regarding this story lured me here, because I wondered what on earth could've been so controversial about it.  But after skimming this topic, what this seems to boil down to is that it's not the story itself that was controversial, but the dominant-culture guilt (or resentment thereof) that it triggered.  Most of the comments seem to reflect this in one way or another -- for example, the repeated comment that the characters were two-dimensional.  Yes, they were, if you expected development of the tourists -- but the story wasn't about them.  (I found it interesting that so many readers tried to identify with the tourists, rather than the tour guide protagonist.)  It would've co-opted the story entirely if the author had focused any further on them, IMO; the point was to see people like this through the lens of the tour guide.  Yeah, it's an ugly, one-dimensional picture -- but what do you expect?  Why would any tour guide try to delve further into the personal lives of his clients so as to develop a more nuanced understanding of their behavior (beyond what's necessary to make a decent tip)?  Why would he give a damn about the culture they come from, when he can learn all he needs to know about it from the behavior of its people? 

The Antarean characters, in particular the tour guide, were well depicted, IMO.  The examination of the tour guide's internal conflicts, his hopes and ultimate hopelessness, gave the story a richness and realism that's unfortunately rare in science fiction, so I'm glad the genre saw fit to recognize it with a Hugo.  I'm also glad EP ran it for me to hear.  Bravo!


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Reply #121 on: May 16, 2007, 08:30:05 PM
But after skimming this topic, what this seems to boil down to is that it's not the story itself that was controversial, but the dominant-culture guilt (or resentment thereof) that it triggered. 

One of my Poli Sci classes was "Politics of the Developing World", and I really got a lot of dominant-culture guilt out of that class.

Like many others, I got the "American tourists in a Buddhist monastery in Asia" vibe, but I still liked the story.

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Reply #122 on: July 07, 2007, 07:51:49 AM
A magnificent story.

Nora's comments reflected upon "dominant-culture guilt". The sense of sadness portrayed through the down trodden narrator really got to me. Damn tourists! I think that "dominant-culture guilt" is a good thing to have. It reminds us that everything we do as a community/society/nation ... and global community has a cost. Finding this expressed in Mike Resnick's "The 43 Antarean Dynasties" reminds me that one day, I believe we will be in a position to decide what that cost will be on other planets as well.

I empathised strongly with the narrator because of my own "dominant-culture guilt". I certainly felt disappointed when the blind guy was revealed not to be the new Neo. :)

Of course, it is not just about cost. Stephen Eley expressed it as the entropy of history.

That poem [Shelley's "Ozymandias"], and "The 43 Antarean Dynasties," hit a nerve for me.  They're about the entropy of history and the universe -- and also about fighting that entropy.  To me this is a core of life.

I admire the way Steve put it, and yet I feel conflicted when I hold it up against my own thoughts of "dominant-culture guilt". Nothing lasts for ever (that's entropy), yet the Antarean's didn't fall apart like a statue eroding over time; guilt was a distinct flavour in this story.

hmmm.. everything else I was going to reflect on has already been said. :)

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Reply #123 on: September 08, 2009, 03:59:49 PM
I discovered Escape Pod earlier this year and have spent the last few months joyfully listening to more than 150 previous episodes.   I'm delighted to see the discussions taking place here in the forums and hope to add some small value to them as time unfolds.

Having now also read all the comments posted here -- something that took almost as long as listening to the story -- I provide my feedback with those comments in mind.

The first thing I thought after listening to this story was, "we are SO not ready to explore the galaxy:  I could see this happening down to every last detail."   Sure, our space explorers are likely to be our best and brightest and most polite but what about the second, third, and tenth waves or humans that teem into the galaxy?   

It also got me thinking about how we as a civilization and collection of cultures need to evolve and mature, and wondering how that will (hopefully) happen someday.  For the life of me I can't remember having read a good story -- ever -- that does a good job of explaining how we could/will grow up as a society.  What makes it happen?   Who is the catalyst?  Do we need to hit bottom first?  Is it a shared threat from within or without? 

So, in that regard, the story was a success in that it definitely made me think.

And, while I am one of those people who absolutely loves hard sci-fi (and will throw a hissy fit when Asimov's or Analog or Escape Pod runs something that is utterly devoid of Sci-fi elements**), I'm quite fine with occasional stories like this that use a distant world as the setting for holding up a mirror to current human society.  In that regard, I disagree with the posters who said you could have just done this in Egypt.   If this story was in Egypt we would have all known what was coming.   Here we learned the story of their culture and every new fact provided insight into their world.   In the end there may not have been many twists but the future may really look as Resnick painted it here, and for me that made for a good listen.

All in all I felt it was a good story but didn't love it.


**  The only example I can think of, of a Mike Resnick story that seemed utterly devoid of sci-fi and yet was published in a sci-fi magazine was "Alasdair’s Baffle’s Emporium of Wonders," in the Jan 2008 issue of Asimov's.   I thought that story (which was touching) contained zero sci-fi but rather was about "magic" and the devil.   Contrast to that to his other works I've loved such as Distant Replay from April 2007 Asimov's.

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Reply #124 on: September 08, 2009, 04:40:57 PM
I also just realized that Mike Resnick's "Article of Faith," Episode 193 here, is one of my favorites.   I also very much enjoyed his "Barnaby in Exile," and "Down Memory Lane," Episodes 073 and 055 respectively.  I will gladly read everything he reads!



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Reply #125 on: February 25, 2010, 06:45:21 PM
I've loved some of Resnick's other stories that have appeared here, in particular Barnaby in Exile.  He's a very good writer, able to trigger emotions in the reader (as the responses to every one of his stories has shown)

But this story fell flat for me.  A few reasons that I've figured out:
1.  No plot movement.  There was definitely conflict, the internal conflict of the guide.  But nothing about him or the tourists changes from beginning to end.  I guess that's the point, that nothing is going to change, but to me, having nothing change tends to make the story very dull.
2.  It carried a familiar theme, showing the evils of Western tourism, but didn't offer anything new to the theme.
3.  I would've really liked to get to know the guide's point of view, in particular where his views did not mesh with my views.  In this respect, I think the story would've been better served to make the tourists not so clear infuriating tourist stereotypes.  I'm not saying those stereotypes aren't sometimes true, but these are the sort of tourists that I, as a fellow tourist, would be pissed off at too.  If the tourists had behaved in a way that I would've thought was reasonably acceptable, but seeing into the guide's thoughts I could see how their behavior was infuriating, then it might've inspired new insight into how I behave when I travel.  Instead I was told that these people were jerks, when it was already clear that they were jerks.
4.  The SF setting weakened the emotional impact for me.  I'm not trying to re-open the can of worms that is the "Is it SF?" question.  My dislike for it is similar to my dislike for the fantasy setting of Narrative of a Beast's Life over on Podcastle.  Both take real-life settings which carry a great deal of emotion with them and make a minor change to make them fantastic/SFnal.  But the original setting is already so emotionally strong because these things REALLY happen, and moving them to another world where everything still pretty much works the same takes away some emotional impact.  If there were some traits of the alien world, whether it be differences in aliens to humans, or the materials they had for construction, or an infinite number of other possibilites, than the world could've been used to enhance the emotional impact, but because it was so similar to the real place it was based on, it just became a dim reflection with nothing vivid of its own.

Somewhere back in the topic thread was the question of why some books were in the literature section and others in science fiction/fantasy section, and how SF/fantasy looked down upon by many who declare themselves lovers of literature.  I don't have anything profound to add to the discussion but I wrote a blog post a while back that had a paragraph about this I particularly liked:

"Classic science fiction and fantasy is generally classified as literature also–I believe I’ve seen The Time Machine, A Clockwork Orange, 1984, and other classics in there. Is Speculative fiction like a fine wine, somehow gaining quality as it ages? If we’d been alive to taste of The Time Machine shortly after it was written, would it have ruined the experience because it wasn’t old enough? Maybe if I take a George R. R. Martin novel and put it in the book cellar, and pull it out again in several generations, it will have become literature, perfectly aged and fetching a handsome price from literature connoisseurs who will riffle the pages, sniff the binding, and read only a paragraph at a time so as not to be overwhelmed by the power of the prose between the covers."

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Reply #126 on: February 25, 2010, 08:08:29 PM
I think the comparison to "Narrative of a Beast's Life" is apt, and the reasoning sound.  I, too, read this one and said, "So why did this need to be actual aliens?"  It would have been MORE impressive, not less, if we were reading about real treasures and real ancient cultures here on Earth instead of hyperbolic miles-high monuments and exaggeratedly long-lived dynasties.

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Reply #127 on: February 27, 2010, 02:20:10 AM
On its own terms, this story was very well-written and engaging.

However, I must admit I really dislike the trope where humans/Earthlings represent The West (Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand) and nonhumans/extraterrestrials represent The Other (the whole rest of the world).  I'm willing to forgive when it's done really well, but I still groan inwardly whenever I encounter it.

To me, that's what this story has in common with "Narrative of a Beast's Life".  Also maybe with the EP story "Tk’tk’tk", though that one was cool and well-written enough that I'm willing to forgive.  I think Star Trek writers used this trope a lot too, maybe unconsciously.

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