Escape Artists

News:

News

ATTENTION: NEW FORUM THEME Please see here for details: http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?topic=13188.0

Author Topic: EP421: Bright Moment  (Read 10318 times)

eytanz

  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 6109
on: November 10, 2013, 08:14:50 AM
EP421: Bright Moment

by Daniel Marcus

Read by Mr. Lee

--

Arun floated in the ammonia swells, one arm around the buoyant powersled, waiting. He’d blocked all his feeds and chats, public and private, and silenced his alerts. He felt deliciously alone. His ears were filled with the murmuring white noise of his own blood flow, intimate and oceanic, pulsing with his heartbeat. Metis was a bright diamond directly overhead. Athena hung just above the near, flat horizon, her rings a plaited bow spanning the purple sky. Persistent storms pocked her striated surface, appearing deceptively static from thirty kiloklicks out. Arun had negotiated the edgewalls of those storms more than once, setting up metahelium deep-mining rigs. A host of descriptive words came to mind, but “static” was not among them.
The sea undulated slowly in the low gee, about 0.6 Standard. The distant shape of a skyhook was traced out by a pearlstring of lights reaching up from the horizon and disappearing into distance haze, blinking in synchronization to suggest upwards motion. The skyhook was the only point of reference for scale. He shuddered involuntarily. His e-field distributed warmth to his body extremities from the tiny pack at the small of his back and maintained his blood oxygenation, but bobbing in the swell, alone in the vast sea, he felt cold and a little dizzy. He wanted to breathe and felt a fleeting instant of lizard-brain panic.
The current began to tug at his feet long before he saw the humped swell bowing the horizon upwards, a slight backward drift, accelerating slowly. His heart began beating faster as he clambered belly down onto the power sled. He drifted back towards the swell, slowly at first, then faster. He looked over his shoulder at the rising wall of liquid. It appeared solid, like moving metal, completely blocking the sky. He imagined he could feel wind tugging at his e-field.
Arun felt a vibration through the powersled, a vast low frequency murmur, the world-ocean getting ready to kick his ass. Just as he was about to be sucked beneath the monstrous swell, he activated the sled. He surged forward and stood as the sled began to accelerate up the face of the wave.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



adrianh

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 752
    • quietstars
Reply #1 on: November 11, 2013, 12:22:37 AM
While there was no single element of this story that struck out - it ended up not moving me particularly. I felt like I'd heard variations of the EvilCorp™ vs nice-aliens tale a few too many times. To be honest the poly-marriage/relationship plot was more interesting to me than the first-contact/genocide elements.

The latter seemed too black and white. It seemed unlikely to me that that surfer-dude was the only member of the terraforming group that would have serious qualms about genocide - let alone ignoring possible first contact. We didn't get any insight into what pressures would drive a society of "nice folk" to think this would be acceptable. Especially since it seemed to be very much an open secret in parts of the organisation - and so likely to leak at some point.

What made this system so much more attractive than the N others out there? Wat were the pressures driving the terraforming? Why couldn't EvilCorp™ make money from exploiting access to the first intelligent aliens the human race had discovered? How could surfer-dude have a long-term marriage with folk who though genocide was okay without catching on earlier? And so on…

+1 for intelligent alien squid folk though ;-)



Kaa

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 618
  • Trusst in me, jusst in me.
    • WriteWright
Reply #2 on: November 11, 2013, 05:52:37 PM
I liked it. I didn't analyze it too deeply, but if I DID, I'd probably agree point-for-point with adrianh. :)

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

About writing || About Atheism and Skepticism (mostly) || About Everything Else


Prophet

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 26
Reply #3 on: November 11, 2013, 07:53:52 PM
I really liked this story. Very good, very entertaining. The whole genocidal terraforming theme always tends to rope me in. It asks great questions of us regarding environmental issues. Do we leave the environment as is, or convert it to what we want?

What keeps this story from being great is its lack of meat in the middle. It started great, and I thought the ending worked. But getting from start point to end point felt like a stretch. He finds the aliens and lets EvilCorpTM know. And when (no shock here) they refuse to change their plans, his next move is the nuclear option? What about alerting all the other staff members? He cannot be the only one with a conscious. What about appealing directly to EvilCorpTM leaders himself, or heck some political figure or journalist? Tell me you tried other avenues before deciding to destroy it all and risk all your co-workers' lives.

It is like he loved some twisted version of Aliens. "I say we land and nuke them all in orbit. It's the only way to be sure."

I too would have liked more about the pods and other social aspects. And this would be a perfect spot to address the questions I just posed. Through interactions we could have had a feel for the others and how society is structured. And from that, we could have crossed off more reasonable options to save the squids. As it is, the stuff about Periphery ends up largely irrelevant. The divorce has no impact on the plot. He doesn't even seem to grapple with the dilemma that his solution ends up putting Ko at deadly risk. Yes, he does leave time for an evacuation. But not every evac goes smoothly. Surviving is not a guarantee.

Good story. Could have used a bit more fleshing out in the center.

"I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates who said, 'I drank what?'"
- Chris Knight, Real Genius


InfiniteMonkey

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 483
  • Clearly, I need more typewriters....
Reply #4 on: November 12, 2013, 02:01:04 AM
(good story, liked the special sound effects)

I think questioning why this planet was destined to be terraformed misses the point, for me at least. The point for me is "how much are willing to go along with to get along?" How many people would just look the other way, and say "oh, they're just squid; plenty of fish in the galaxy. Besides, we need living space".

Clearly Ko is able to do that, but Arun.

And I think the divorce is important, because it's another example of Arun being de-coupled (as it were) from humanity. To the point where he's willing to sacrifice his life (he won't last long without support) to cut human greed off from this planet.

Now, me, I think no good deed goes unpunished, and I figure the squids will eat him.



NoSillyHandle

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 3
Reply #5 on: November 12, 2013, 07:06:57 PM
Since none of the really interesting points were expanded upon in the story itself, here's the Cliff's Notes: Surfer sees squid, gets dumped by twitter, goes nuclear, watches sunset. Any single point could have been expanded to make the story more engaging, but over all, it was a good story. Just good. What I did learn is that if I want to get my buddy-cop space opera romance novella to appear on Escape Pod I just need squid. Done.



Thunderscreech

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 343
Reply #6 on: November 12, 2013, 08:54:12 PM
Since none of the really interesting points were expanded upon in the story itself, here's the Cliff's Notes: Surfer sees squid, gets dumped by twitter, goes nuclear, watches sunset. Any single point could have been expanded to make the story more engaging, but over all, it was a good story. Just good. What I did learn is that if I want to get my buddy-cop space opera romance novella to appear on Escape Pod I just need squid. Done.
Detective Bob bobbed in the Bobornium Boron Sea.  "Boy", he began, "what a breeze". 

"You said it!" agreed Squee The Space Squid.  "BREEZY AS ALL GET-OUT!"  It dipped under the boron waves with a quick slitherthump and passed under the space cop.  He felt his partner's mass blast past followed by an entirely explicable warmth. 

"Squee", he grumbled, "you're reducing the purity of this fine artificial ocean with your rampant waste expulsion.  I doubt the dolphin captains of this moon-sized starcraft the SS Exposition will appreciate your bleviations."

"Blortll-brap!" responded the other in a completely characteristic display of Space Squid wit, sadly untranslateble to any air-breathing language but quite smart. 

Bob shook his feathered head.  "I'm getting too old for this ship".



NoSillyHandle

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 3
Reply #7 on: November 12, 2013, 10:41:38 PM
Thunderscreech, that was beautiful.



mikegoodstadt

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 4
Reply #8 on: November 13, 2013, 07:35:38 AM
Pleease no more silly sound effects  :-\
I listen as an alternate to reading not theatre...



Reply #9 on: November 13, 2013, 08:23:16 AM
I liked the story but was bothered by what seemed like a true motivation for the actions of everyone. Saving the lives of intelligent squid is just taken for granted as the main character's motivation. As if this is self evident as a great reason to blow up the wormhole. However, he has to do this himself. If he is the only one who can see this, then why does no one else care. Are there so many people that the planet is needed? Are the rest of the people in the story just corporate slaves? If so what was he before? Are we to believe that the surfing moment brought him clarity and made him more open to saving the life of an intelligent species?

I felt like the characters were a bit flat and am not sure if that was meant to mean something. His being disconnected from the world without his either implants seems to be important and maybe allowed this sort of rebellion. Maybe the point is that when we are all so connected as a consequence we become less likely to rebel. Perhaps if he sees the squid and never gets disconnected he doesn't care enough to go all nuclear.

I really liked the added elements of story like "you don't want another Titan" or the mention of the dome going down on Mars. Of course those seem like some pretty good stories that may have been interesting on there own.

Also great job on the reading by Mr. Lee. 



matweller

  • EA Staff
  • *****
  • Posts: 678
Reply #10 on: November 13, 2013, 01:00:20 PM
Pleease no more silly sound effects  :-\
I listen as an alternate to reading not theatre...

They weren't put in for silliness, they were added to emphasize scene transitions -- something that has been widely requested here over the years. We generally have a policy of very minimal addition of sound, but there are some things that don't translate as easily in audio as they do when you can see line breaks or other parentheses or other visual cues in text. I would say on the continuum of SFX usage, we generally fit somewhere between Drabblecast and Clarkesworld. We're nowhere near being a full audio drama production.



albionmoonlight

  • Matross
  • ****
  • Posts: 213
Reply #11 on: November 13, 2013, 06:29:21 PM
I am pretty good at suspending disbelief in speculative fiction.  But I could not get over the fact that it seemed pretty unrealistic that the powers that be would allow Arun to keep working on the project with no supervision.  They know that he's a risk taker (see, e.g., the surfing).  They also knew that they had just let him go, cutting him off from a sense of connection to the group.  He considered the discovery of the squids to be an obvious reason to scuttle the project.  Then, when told that they were going to terraform anyway, he said that it would be, effectively, one of the biggest mistakes in human history.  But they apparently then let him go about managing one of the most important parts of the project based on his word that he was still in.

I can see the point that he was the only guy able to do it.  But I can't see how the all-powerful corporate entity in charge of the project wouldn't at least have someone shadow him to make sure that he wasn't too disgruntled.

All that said, one thing I like about the story is that Arun captures one essential sense of humanity--we love to play.  If we have a chance to surf mile-high waves of ammonia, then we will do it.  There's no wonder in the universe so wonderful that we won't take the opportunity to goof off in it in the most awesome way possible.  Humans rock.



Kaa

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 618
  • Trusst in me, jusst in me.
    • WriteWright
Reply #12 on: November 13, 2013, 11:40:24 PM
Pleease no more silly sound effects  :-\
I listen as an alternate to reading not theatre...

They weren't put in for silliness, they were added to emphasize scene transitions -- something that has been widely requested here over the years. We generally have a policy of very minimal addition of sound, but there are some things that don't translate as easily in audio as they do when you can see line breaks or other parentheses or other visual cues in text. I would say on the continuum of SFX usage, we generally fit somewhere between Drabblecast and Clarkesworld. We're nowhere near being a full audio drama production.

I found these sound effects very subtle and enjoyable, unlike, say, the flying monkeys or one other one I can't remember the name of at the moment. They did serve to let us know immediately that he was on the ocean, so I say, "Mission accomplished."

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

About writing || About Atheism and Skepticism (mostly) || About Everything Else


Jompier

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 35
  • From a galaxy far, far on the East Coast.
Reply #13 on: November 14, 2013, 12:49:07 PM
Hi, all. New to the forum, and I've just started listening to EscapePod.

The premise of the story was pretty interesting, especially the ethical angle. But this was one of those instances where I felt like the editor's commentary was actually more engaging and more on point than the story itself. Perhaps that's not a bad thing that the story inspires conversation, but it seems like Arun could have done more of the grappling with ethical issues in the story, through dialogue with Ko, or through introspection. It is in that conflict where some of the most interesting material is to be found. Since the story sets up the issue so well, beginning stage terraforming where decisions are not inevitable, and alien life that is not humanoid and not social in a way that readers would find relatable make the ethical issue deliciously sticky, I was hoping for the story to wear more of this intellectual work outwardly.



albionmoonlight

  • Matross
  • ****
  • Posts: 213
Reply #14 on: November 14, 2013, 03:43:44 PM
Hi, all. New to the forum, and I've just started listening to EscapePod.

The premise of the story was pretty interesting, especially the ethical angle. But this was one of those instances where I felt like the editor's commentary was actually more engaging and more on point than the story itself. Perhaps that's not a bad thing that the story inspires conversation, but it seems like Arun could have done more of the grappling with ethical issues in the story, through dialogue with Ko, or through introspection. It is in that conflict where some of the most interesting material is to be found. Since the story sets up the issue so well, beginning stage terraforming where decisions are not inevitable, and alien life that is not humanoid and not social in a way that readers would find relatable make the ethical issue deliciously sticky, I was hoping for the story to wear more of this intellectual work outwardly.

Perhaps his conversation with Ko could have been fleshed out a bit more.  If it had been introspection, it may have fallen into the "tell, don't show" trap.  But a conversation with someone he respected and who respected his viewpoint could have provided us with more of the conflict for which you were looking.



Cutter McKay

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 952
  • "I was the turkey the whoooole time!"
    • Detention Block AA23
Reply #15 on: November 14, 2013, 05:21:10 PM
I'm in agreement with Adrianh on this one. It's a tale that's been told before, and many times. One thing that stood out to me is that we don't even get to the meat of the story, namely that there is semi-sentient life on this moon, and the company knows about it, and is going to destroy it anyway, until something like 2/3 of the way through the story. We get surfing, "Hey there's a squid!", crash, relationship, random "how to make a new planet" instructions, divorce, moping, THEN, "oh, by the way, there's the beginning of a civilization down there, Oh well, we're going to kill them", "No that's bad", nuke, The End. I don't feel like there was enough time spent exploring the dilemma of Evilcrop vs. aliens, and way too much time exploring Arun's relationships that don't really serve any purpose to the overall plot.

This feels like two different stories to me: The Xenocide, and the Divorce. And neither really had much to do with the other. I did find the pod relationship very interesting and would like to read a story just about that, but in this story it was little more than distracting.

I was also thrown off by the "How to Make a Planet" instructions in the middle. For one thing, I found it completely pointless because I don't need to know how it works, it's generally understood that teraforming a planet will wipe out any life that may already exist. For another, the voice for the instructions was humorous while the rest of the piece is much more serious and in my opinion the two clashed horribly. There were also a few random smatterings of 2nd person thrown into the 3rd person narrative that jarred me from the reading each time.

Overall, the reading was fine, but the story and the writing itself get a solid "Meh".

-Josh Morrey-
http://joshmorreywriting.blogspot.com/
"Remember: You have not yet written your best work." -Tracy Hickman


matweller

  • EA Staff
  • *****
  • Posts: 678
Reply #16 on: November 14, 2013, 05:30:51 PM
I was also thrown off by the "How to Make a Planet" instructions in the middle. For one thing, I found it completely pointless because I don't need to know how it works, it's generally understood that teraforming a planet will wipe out any life that may already exist. For another, the voice for the instructions was humorous while the rest of the piece is much more serious and in my opinion the two clashed horribly. There were also a few random smatterings of 2nd person thrown into the 3rd person narrative that jarred me from the reading each time.

This bothered me too. I wanted to do something in the audio to denote the switch, but nothing seemed adequate. I'm not even sure you would catch it comfortably well in the written form. It's the kind of thing you can pull off in a novel where you switch in alternating chapters or you make it obvious with different font treatments, but it's rough and probably unnecessary as a one-time deal in a short story.



Prophet

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 26
Reply #17 on: November 14, 2013, 05:32:25 PM
I am pretty good at suspending disbelief in speculative fiction.  But I could not get over the fact that it seemed pretty unrealistic that the powers that be would allow Arun to keep working on the project with no supervision.

The way I saw it, the only boss directly in contact with Arun was Ko. As his ex, maybe she thought better of him and downplayed any potential threat. Or maybe she didn't want to make it look like she was damaging his career because of the divorce. Either way, I feel like the fact she was his ex was relevant in that part of the story. Yet another piece that could have used a bit more.


I found these sound effects very subtle and enjoyable, unlike, say, the flying monkeys or one other one I can't remember the name of at the moment. They did serve to let us know immediately that he was on the ocean, so I say, "Mission accomplished."

I too approve of the sound effects. They worked well for me.

I was also thrown off by the "How to Make a Planet" instructions in the middle. For one thing, I found it completely pointless because I don't need to know how it works, it's generally understood that teraforming a planet will wipe out any life that may already exist. For another, the voice for the instructions was humorous while the rest of the piece is much more serious and in my opinion the two clashed horribly. There were also a few random smatterings of 2nd person thrown into the 3rd person narrative that jarred me from the reading each time.

This bothered me too. I wanted to do something in the audio to denote the switch, but nothing seemed adequate. I'm not even sure you would catch it comfortably well in the written form. It's the kind of thing you can pull off in a novel where you switch in alternating chapters or you make it obvious with different font treatments, but it's rough and probably unnecessary as a one-time deal in a short story.

Was it an explanation or a presentation? Because I got the sense it was designed for business suits watching PowerPoint. "Look at all this science-y stuff and POOF! Habitable planet!"
« Last Edit: November 14, 2013, 05:35:25 PM by Prophet »

"I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates who said, 'I drank what?'"
- Chris Knight, Real Genius


Jompier

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 35
  • From a galaxy far, far on the East Coast.
Reply #18 on: November 14, 2013, 06:14:32 PM

I was also thrown off by the "How to Make a Planet" instructions in the middle. For one thing, I found it completely pointless because I don't need to know how it works, it's generally understood that teraforming a planet will wipe out any life that may already exist. For another, the voice for the instructions was humorous while the rest of the piece is much more serious and in my opinion the two clashed horribly. There were also a few random smatterings of 2nd person thrown into the 3rd person narrative that jarred me from the reading each time.

Was it an explanation or a presentation? Because I got the sense it was designed for business suits watching PowerPoint. "Look at all this science-y stuff and POOF! Habitable planet!"

That's how I understood it, also. The instructions were a re-telling of an oversimplified PR version of the terraforming process. Since it paralleled the action that followed, I didn't really have a problem with it.



Max e^{i pi}

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1038
  • Have towel, will travel.
Reply #19 on: November 15, 2013, 07:51:19 AM
Can we please talk about how that the absolute coolest way to terraform planets is via Clarke's 2010 implode-Jupiter method?
Evilcorp vs intelligent space squid is nice, but been there done that.
Add the extra narrative of our protag being divorced from his pod while everyone around him is divorced of humanity and you get something even nicer.
The pod people family thing is also interesting, but not enough was explored here to excite my interest. (Chris Lester explored that theme to great lengths in his novel Making the Cut which you can listen to for free here.)
But none of that is what I liked about this story.
I want to learn more about the universe where humans travel via wormhole, can create invisible force-fields that preclude the necessity for actually breathing (and apparently can be formed in outer space, on a planet's surface or in the high-altitude atmosphere of gas giants) and casually implode gas giants to make mini-suns.
And let's not forget whole-person data backups and restore, nano-implanted neuro-electric interfaces and casual organ regrowth.

Cogito ergo surf - I think therefore I network

Registered Linux user #481826 Get Counted!



PotatoKnight

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 51
Reply #20 on: November 15, 2013, 03:55:48 PM
Since none of the really interesting points were expanded upon in the story itself, here's the Cliff's Notes: Surfer sees squid, gets dumped by twitter, goes nuclear, watches sunset. Any single point could have been expanded to make the story more engaging, but over all, it was a good story. Just good. What I did learn is that if I want to get my buddy-cop space opera romance novella to appear on Escape Pod I just need squid. Done.
Detective Bob bobbed in the Bobornium Boron Sea.  "Boy", he began, "what a breeze". 

"You said it!" agreed Squee The Space Squid.  "BREEZY AS ALL GET-OUT!"  It dipped under the boron waves with a quick slitherthump and passed under the space cop.  He felt his partner's mass blast past followed by an entirely explicable warmth. 

"Squee", he grumbled, "you're reducing the purity of this fine artificial ocean with your rampant waste expulsion.  I doubt the dolphin captains of this moon-sized starcraft the SS Exposition will appreciate your bleviations."

"Blortll-brap!" responded the other in a completely characteristic display of Space Squid wit, sadly untranslateble to any air-breathing language but quite smart. 

Bob shook his feathered head.  "I'm getting too old for this ship".

There's ALWAYS a canal. Or an inlet. Or a fjord.



PotatoKnight

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 51
Reply #21 on: November 15, 2013, 04:05:59 PM
Pleease no more silly sound effects  :-\
I listen as an alternate to reading not theatre...

They weren't put in for silliness, they were added to emphasize scene transitions -- something that has been widely requested here over the years. We generally have a policy of very minimal addition of sound, but there are some things that don't translate as easily in audio as they do when you can see line breaks or other parentheses or other visual cues in text. I would say on the continuum of SFX usage, we generally fit somewhere between Drabblecast and Clarkesworld. We're nowhere near being a full audio drama production.

The waves were problematic for me on a practical rather than an aesthetic level.  I was listening while walking outside as I often do and the fake white noise of the ocean combined with the real white noise of the world to make it almost impossible for me to hear and focus on the words. The waves also seemed wrong for the actual scene that was being set--kilometer-high waves of ammonia don't seem like they would sound like the soothing rhythmic waves portrayed here.  Not opposed to sound for scene setting but here it was an issue.



matweller

  • EA Staff
  • *****
  • Posts: 678
Reply #22 on: November 15, 2013, 05:38:29 PM
I took that into consideration, but I wanted some sound for the transition and waves of any size make zero noise unless they are breaking. And breaking, surf-video-type waves are just a constant roar that would have messed up your life much more -- not that waves in the middle of a large body of substrate with different gravity would ever necessarily break anyway. So I settled for cresting waves on a smaller scale



Jhite

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 47
    • Great Hites
Reply #23 on: November 15, 2013, 10:11:00 PM
This was an interesting story.  I enjoyed the premise, and of course the intelligent squid things, and I even liked the ending. Unfortunately the story left me feeling like, well maybe left out is the right way to describe what I feel.

Even thought I could kind of see it coming from the beginning, especially with Norm's intro, there was no decision making no build up. No talk about consequences, Just this, look my life is falling apart, and then suddenly he just distanced himself from everyone and then, "you had better run before this thing goes boom" - the end.

Don't get me wrong I appreciate the sacrifice he made, but it would have been interesting to hear / see some of his thought processes, understand more why he did it.  Not the great big "why he did it," but all the little small "whys" of why he did it. 

« Last Edit: November 15, 2013, 10:17:32 PM by Jhite »

Captain James T. Kirk
I'm sorry I can't here you over the sound of how awesome I am
http://GreatHites.blogspot.com


Kwisin

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 8
  • Kwisin Kumdo and Karma Tuning...
Reply #24 on: November 18, 2013, 12:08:49 AM
Awesome story... brought to my mind Silent Running... mmmm... anybody remember that story...

I hate that lately a lot of my film and book references are met with blank stares. I was jazzed the other evening when I saw a thread that spoke of "Have Spacesuit Will Travel." no matter great story...

yeah this is vague and nebulous but you see... I listen for my pleasure... not to analyze and crap on the gifts ya'll, the Podians, give me... no, if I start a story that doesn't work for me, ya know what... I stop that one... pretty simple... thanx ya'll... you ROCK...

Veni.... Vidi.... Velcro...
I came..
I saw....
I stuck around....