Escape Artists
April 24, 2014, 05:23:57 AM *
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

Login with username, password and session length
News:
 
   Home   Help Search Login Register  
Pages: [1] 2 3  All
  Print  
Author Topic: EP424: Biographical Fragments of the Life of Julian Prince  (Read 1980 times)
eytanz
Moderator
*****
Posts: 4450



« on: December 02, 2013, 01:11:51 PM »

EP424: Biographical Fragments of the Life of Julian Prince

by Jake Kerr

Read by Heather Bowman-Tomlinson, Andrea Richardson, Bill Hollweg & Mat Weller

--

In the early twenty-first century, author Lesley Hauge wrote an essay entitled “we are what we leave behind” to little fanfare. In the wake of the Meyer Impact in 2023, amidst the coming to terms with the shock and loss, the essay was rediscovered and rose to prominence with a new understanding that all we may know about half the planet is what they left behind.

Literary giant Julian Prince examined what–and more importantly–who we left behind. So it is entirely appropriate to examine his own life the way he examined those of the millions that died on that fateful day in 2023, by what he left behind–the interviews, the articles, his own words, and the words of others.

These are the fragments that make up the whole.  For most of us that is all we have, and Prince knew that more than anyone.

So… Julian Prince…  Julian Samuel Prince.

He was born on March 18, 1989, and died on August 20, 2057.

Prince was an American novelist, essayist, journalist, and political activist. His best works are widely considered to be the post-Impact novels The Grey Sunset (published in 2027) and Rhythms of Decline (published in 2029), both of which won the Pulitzer Prize. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2031.

Prince was a pioneer of Impact Nihilism, a genre that embraced themes of helplessness and inevitable death in the aftermath of the Meyer Impact. His travelogue, Journey Into Hopelessness (published in 2026) outlined Prince’s return to North America, ostensibly to survey the damage to his home state of Texas. The book’s bleak and powerful language of loss and devastation influenced musicians, artists, and writers worldwide, giving voice to the genre as a counter to the rising wave of New Optimism, which sprang out of Europe as a response to the Meyer Impact and the enormous loss of life.

Not much is known of Prince’s early life. He spoke rarely of his childhood, and with the loss of life and destruction of records during the Meyer Impact, little source material remains. What is known is that Prince was an only child, the son of Margaret Prince (maiden name unknown) and Samuel Prince. He was born in Lawton, Oklahoma, but moved to Dallas, Texas, when he was eight years old. In an interview before his death, Prince noted:

“I was a good kid, a boring kid. I didn’t cause trouble, and trouble didn’t find me. I studied hard and planned on being a journalist, figuring that I was better at observing the world than shaping it. I graduated high school, and continued with my journalism classes via the net. Up until the Impact, I was thoroughly and utterly average.”


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
Logged
skeletondragon
Extern
*
Posts: 18


« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2013, 02:11:51 PM »

I didn't like it much. I was reminded of another story that focused on the aftermath of an asteroid impact, episode 407, "Mono No Aware." I liked that one more, because it had more of a plot, and I think it captured human emotion better. This story just seemed to go on and on and I never found myself relating to Julian, who was really the only character. The style of the piece was an interesting idea but it ended up being too close to what it was emulating, a rather boring profile of a pessimistic literary author.
Logged
Thunderscreech
Matross
****
Posts: 169



« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2013, 05:44:16 PM »

I can't improve on what skeletondragon wrote, but I don't want him or her to be the only person saying it so here we are.
Logged
Max e^{i pi}
Hipparch
******
Posts: 828


Have towel, will travel.


« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2013, 06:27:37 AM »

Fine. I'll fire the opening salvo for the opposition.
I liked it.
I've often toyed with the idea of telling a story through a fictitious research paper or lecture. This was mostly well done, and the full cast audio helped a lot. The only complaint I have is that whole interview thing. I think that in a full cast production we could have dispensed with the "he paused" "the audience laughed" "the what's his name followed up" stuff and just added the effects (you can get them at the Free Sound Project) so that it would seem much more like we were listening to a lecture and the lecturer played an entire clip from the interview for us.
The lecture device allows for a concentrated information dump (in before complaining about info dump) without throwing the reader/listener out of the story. Every story has a purpose, something the author wants to tell us. If the purpose of the story is an introspective piece on the human-race scale, then the actual story is less important. What's more important is the point that the author is trying to get across. I think that this was a wonderful way to do it.
As for the story, I loved it. A lot of post-apocalypse stories focus more on the physical survival of a few individuals and not enough on the survival of the human race and culture. Going through a worldwide cataclysm changes the way we view and shape the world. We saw a little bit of that in Pacific Rim, but here we see it even more. The story of the cataclysm is revealed to us through the eyes of someone who had lived through it, and had helped to shape the two most prominent philosophies upon which the human world rebuilt itself.
I belong to the camp which prefers good character development over good plot devices. Here we see the character development of the entire human race through the writings of a very well built character who undergoes similar changes, often the opposite of the human race character. It's as if the two personalities are building off each other from both friction and devotion.
It makes for a very interesting and thought-provoking piece. Thank you EP for buying this story.

EDIT: One more thing. Does Alasdair live in some alternate universe? Because he always gets the episode for feedback wrong by a week.
Logged

Cogito ergo surf - I think therefore I network

Registered Linux user #481826 Get Counted!

Moon_Goddess
Palmer
**
Posts: 38



« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2013, 09:08:35 AM »


EDIT: One more thing. Does Alasdair live in some alternate universe?

Would it surprise you in the least if he were?
Logged

Was dream6601 but that's sounds awkward when Nathan reads my posts.
Alasdair5000
Editor
*****
Posts: 937



WWW
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2013, 09:15:13 AM »

What you mean you AREN'T watching live coverage of the Churchill crew landing on Mars?

...shit...

As you we're. Nothing to see here...
Logged
ElectricPaladin
Hipparch
******
Posts: 784


Holy Robot


WWW
« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2013, 09:30:16 AM »

So, I'm back from a long soul searching, and have decided to be more positive, and I'm finally ready to start commenting again, and the first story...

I couldn't even finish it.

I guess this will be an exercise in not overstating my point and coming across like a jerk. Here goes...

I had three big problems with this story:

1) From a craft perspective, I felt like it was quite slow. I come across a lot of stories written this way, and they almost never appeal to me - stories where even within the frame of the story, all the action is already over. I was about halfway through when I quit, and there was still nothing going on. It felt like listening to a very well written history textbook... but a history textbook nevertheless. And while it was certainly an interesting tone for the story to take, I can't say it was a very engaging one.

2) I found a major plot hole. I don't understand why they didn't just relocate North America's entire population. It would have been rough, sure, but the rest of the world could carry them for the year it would take for the dust to settle, and then you could make them all go home. There was nothing in the impact that made North America uninhabitable - just wrecked everything. It would have been cruel. There would have been a lot of conflict, a lot of Americans and Canadians applying for permission to stay in South Africa or France or China or whatever, and maybe there would have even been violence, or sad photographs of displaced Americans being herded back onto the ships at gunpoint... but it would have cost fewer lives than saving a small number and leaving the rest to die.

I could accept if the story dealt with that possibility and explained why it had been eschewed, but failing to even mention it made the rest of the story feel contrived.

3) Finally, I didn't have too much patience for the main character and his post-impact nihilism. Maybe it's the Jewish in me. My people lost practically an entire generation, too. Looking back, we didn't survive because of the ones who gave into nihilism - we survived because of the ones who hung on to hope. Saying that you refuse to be happy because of the dead is saying that you may as well have been one of the dead.

The story definitely has a lot to recommend it. The descriptions are very powerful, and the author does a good job of aping the Nobel/Pulitzer-winning style in the quotes. The theme is certainly potentially very compelling. Unfortunately, the plot hole, the lack of drama, and the main character's nihilism killed it for me.

So... how'd I do?
Logged

Captain of the Burning Zeppelin Experience.

Help my kids get the educational supplies they need at my Donor's Choose page.
chemistryguy
Matross
****
Posts: 261


Serving the Detroit Metro area since 1970


WWW
« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2013, 10:04:18 AM »

So... how'd I do?

Your pessimistic optimism gives me wings.  Roll Eyes

Anyway, I'm taking sides with Max on this one.  It was nihilistic and depressing, but that's how I like my coffee sometimes.  The view of one person through a series of "photographs" was interesting enough to keep me listening. 

I also agree that this could have been much better if the audience were added instead  just being referenced.  Freesound.org is my database of choice and offers a wide selection of sound bits under a Creative Commons license. 
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Logged

matweller
EA Staff
*****
Posts: 499



WWW
« Reply #8 on: December 03, 2013, 10:08:35 AM »

Fine. I'll fire the opening salvo for the opposition.
I liked it.
I've often toyed with the idea of telling a story through a fictitious research paper or lecture. This was mostly well done, and the full cast audio helped a lot. The only complaint I have is that whole interview thing. I think that in a full cast production we could have dispensed with the "he paused" "the audience laughed" "the what's his name followed up" stuff and just added the effects (you can get them at the Free Sound Project) so that it would seem much more like we were listening to a lecture and the lecturer played an entire clip from the interview for us.

I agree, and I actually produced it this way and ended up scrapping it because I wasn't 100% happy with the way it sounded and because I really wasn't happy with how it sounded when I broke it up to insert the narrator bits. We generally don't deal in adaptations, so it didn't occur to me that it might even be an option to change any text until it was well too late. However, I think we could have gotten much more out of it with a couple small tweaks, and I think if/when we get something uniquely formatted in the future, I will see if we can talk to the author about adapting. That thought makes me wonder what more could have been gotten from Mantis Wives if we did some adapting and put it in a setting of some sort. Regardless, for not having changed the source material at all, I think we did pretty well for building a lecture scenario around a piece that isn't really in one.

I'm aware of Freesound. It's where all of our sounds come from and always gets credited in the show notes: Wink
Quote
Sound effects for this story supplied by the following Freesound.org contributors: driet, lonemonk, Littleboot, klankbeeld, stevelalonde, blouhond, alexmol, bulbastre, Corsica_S, and gmarchisio
  See more at: http://escapepod.org/2013/12/01/ep424-biographical-fragments-life-julian-prince/#sthash.jsnuFUDn.dpuf



EDIT: One more thing. Does Alasdair live in some alternate universe? Because he always gets the episode for feedback wrong by a week.

I apologize for that. There were 20 minor crises surrounding this project that pushed it late, and in the frenzy to get it out the door and into your ears I forgot to delete that mention in Alasdair's bit. I'll try not to miss it again.
Logged
Max e^{i pi}
Hipparch
******
Posts: 828


Have towel, will travel.


« Reply #9 on: December 03, 2013, 11:15:08 AM »

2) I found a major plot hole. I don't understand why they didn't just relocate North America's entire population. It would have been rough, sure, but the rest of the world could carry them for the year it would take for the dust to settle, and then you could make them all go home. There was nothing in the impact that made North America uninhabitable - just wrecked everything. It would have been cruel. There would have been a lot of conflict, a lot of Americans and Canadians applying for permission to stay in South Africa or France or China or whatever, and maybe there would have even been violence, or sad photographs of displaced Americans being herded back onto the ships at gunpoint... but it would have cost fewer lives than saving a small number and leaving the rest to die.

That was actually pretty clear to me.
1) It's a logistic nightmare to relocate ~400 million Americans and Canadians. In 10 years that number will probably be much larger. And you can get an even bigger number if you think that Central America should be evacuated as well.
2) Neighboring countries simply won't let you do that. South American (a large-ish country) would only accept 1 million expatriates. That sounds like a drop in the ocean, but a million new citizens is a tremendous strain on a country's infrastructure. Most countries probably could only afford to accept a few hundred thousand people.
3) When Prince went back to North America years after the asteroid hit (I'm not clear exactly what year he went back, but it doesn't matter. It's at least 2 years later) he describes the country as devastated. Nothing grows. The land is ruined. Even when the expatriates try to go back decades later a lot of their settlements fail.
Maybe you quit listening before this crucial information, but it was all there.


EDIT: One more thing. Does Alasdair live in some alternate universe?

Would it surprise you in the least if he were?
Not a bit.  Grin

EDIT: One more thing. Does Alasdair live in some alternate universe? Because he always gets the episode for feedback wrong by a week.

I apologize for that. There were 20 minor crises surrounding this project that pushed it late, and in the frenzy to get it out the door and into your ears I forgot to delete that mention in Alasdair's bit. I'll try not to miss it again.
Not your fault. He consistently got it wrong the past 4 or 5 times he hosted.  Tongue
Logged

Cogito ergo surf - I think therefore I network

Registered Linux user #481826 Get Counted!

matweller
EA Staff
*****
Posts: 499



WWW
« Reply #10 on: December 03, 2013, 11:27:14 AM »

EDIT: One more thing. Does Alasdair live in some alternate universe? Because he always gets the episode for feedback wrong by a week.

I apologize for that. There were 20 minor crises surrounding this project that pushed it late, and in the frenzy to get it out the door and into your ears I forgot to delete that mention in Alasdair's bit. I'll try not to miss it again.
Not your fault. He consistently got it wrong the past 4 or 5 times he hosted.  Tongue

I'm not exactly required by law to leave what he says completely unedited.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2013, 11:28:48 AM by matweller » Logged
Cutter McKay
Hipparch
******
Posts: 814


"I was the turkey the whoooole time!"


WWW
« Reply #11 on: December 03, 2013, 12:44:43 PM »

I have a love/hate relationship with this story. Overall, I think I liked it. I enjoyed the nontraditional exploration of life after near apocalyptic disaster, especially seeing how it shaped mankind as a whole, as Max said.

On the other hand, I fully agree with ElectricPaladin that the textbook/research paper format was terribly difficult to get in to. It was so dry and boring in so many parts that had I been reading this rather than listening on my commute where I'm stuck in the car with nothing else to do anyway, I probably would not have finished it. I tried writing a story in this style once, where everything was presented as a military investigation including excerpts from personal journals and official reports. And although I liked the story I told, it didn't sit well with others. The biggest problem with this style of story telling, as Paladin noted, is that all of the action has already happened. You never feel like you're a part of the story. In essence, this is a long, very well crafted, info-dump.

But I think the biggest problem I had with this story, which ties into the fact that it's a boring research paper, is I so desperately want to read the books that Prince wrote. Every time the narrator ran through a synopsis of one of Prince's books I found myself saying, "That! That's what I want to read. I don't care about all this drivel about the philosophies of men after the world ended, I want to read about the people that lived through it, even if it's just a fictional story within a fictional story. That sounds so much more interesting than this stuff." And by then five minutes of the story had gone by and I hadn't listened to any of it.  Undecided

EDIT: One more thing. Does Alasdair live in some alternate universe? Because he always gets the episode for feedback wrong by a week.
I apologize for that. There were 20 minor crises surrounding this project that pushed it late, and in the frenzy to get it out the door and into your ears I forgot to delete that mention in Alasdair's bit. I'll try not to miss it again.
Not your fault. He consistently got it wrong the past 4 or 5 times he hosted.  Tongue
I'm not exactly required by law to leave what he says completely unedited.

You know the simple fix for this, right? And this is by no means a critique of Alasdair who does a fantastic job hosting every time. But Alasdair, just stop referencing which episode Nathan is going to review. I mean, it's kind of redundant anyway, saying: "Now here's Nathan with feedback for episode 423 Arena." "Greetings Escapodians, I'm Nathan with the feedback for episode 423 Arena..."

You know what I mean? Just say, "And here's Nathan with feedback. Take away Nate!"  Wink
Logged

-Josh Morrey-
http://joshmorreywriting.blogspot.com/
"Remember: You have not yet written your best work." -Tracy Hickman
Devoted135
Hipparch
******
Posts: 785



« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2013, 04:23:30 PM »

The association that I couldn't get out of my head was of course PodCastle 269: Selected Program Notes From the Retrospective Exhibition of Theresa Rosenberg Latimer. (Why do such stories always have crazy long titles?) I found this story to be about as successful as the PodCastle episode was in its use of this sort of format, which is to say that I enjoyed it but didn't fall in love with it.

Obviously there is an inherent risk in using this style because it is necessarily distancing. I think it would feel more justified if we were able to see how the presenter is reacting to Prince's story and how she or her culture are different as a result of Prince's work. I think this was hinted at with the production of one of his stories - the director (?) mentions that he is sure that Prince would hate his interpretation. However, this is pretty sparse and makes the lens of the presentation seem unnecessary.

Great job with the reading and the production though! I particularly appreciated how the sound quality of recordings of Prince's speeches and interviews changed according to the setting they were supposed to have originated from.
Logged
PotatoKnight
Palmer
**
Posts: 48


« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2013, 05:29:42 PM »

I disagree with the sentiment that this story takes place "after the action."  The action in this story isn't an object smashing into North America. The action is a global civilization coming to terms with an unprecedented catastrophe. That's very interesting to me, and very relatable. The (fortunate) reality is that more people have to come to terms with surviving catastrophes than actually get killed by them.

Unrelated, but I can't resist the opportunity to tease out some of the logistics of a continent-wide evacuation with six months to prepare.

How many people are we talking about? Well, per Wikipedia the population of North America is 538 million today. Reasonable projections put the population in 2025 somewhere in the 600 million range. We have six months to get 600 million people off a continent.

First, let's try ships. According to this article: http://www.hellenicshippingnews.com/News.aspx?ElementId=984ef639-7f94-4d62-88a9-f80b3ecc6fb9 the gross tonnage of the world's commercial fleet is 1.01 billion (note that despite the confusing name gross tonnage is a measure of volume and carrying capacity). The last time that a government undertook to move people from one continent to another en masse without a lot of concern for comfort was a World War. So I looked into gross tonnage to passenger ratios for troopships. Now, it turns out that the US sends troops overseas in planes most of the time these days. But during the Cold War, the US built the SS United States, a passenger liner with the theoretical capacity to become a troop carrier. It's gross tonnage was 53,333 and it could carry 15,000 troops. That ratio comes out to 3.55 gross tons per person.  So if you converted the entire shipping capacity of the planet to carrying people, it looks like could stuff about 284,000,000 folks on ships.  But we only have six months to do it and we still need to feed everyone and move fuel around (the project of moving a continents worth of people is going to eat a lot of fuel). I would be surprised if the world, however united, could muster a third of that capacity for the task.

How about planes? Well, in 2012, 815 million US passengers flew an average of 1,389 miles each, for a total of 2.2ish trillion miles. So let's say for roundness that in the half year we have to get people out, we can get 1 trillion passenger miles of evacuation travel. (This is basically ignoring any travel within North America, say to get people from the middle swath of the continent o ports where all those ships are waiting).  I suspect the mean center of population of North America is somewhere south of the current mean center of population of the US, Wright County, Missouri. So let's arbitrarily decide that the mean evacuee has to fly from Little Rock, AK. That's about 4,500 miles from either Europe or West Africa, 5,000 miles from Rio de Janeiro, and 6,500 miles from Tokyo. Let's figure the average evacuee has about a 5,000 mile trek ahead. Based on our 1 trillion passenger mile estimate earlier, that's another 200 million people, give or take.

Just from a raw carrying capacity standpoint, it is not only not unrealistic for the death toll in this scenario to be hundreds of millions, it is more likely than not. In the real world, with limited resources about to get a lot more limited when North America's food and oil production come to an abrupt halt, I think we could count it a major global accomplishment to get 50 million folks out.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2013, 10:31:57 PM by PotatoKnight » Logged
skeletondragon
Extern
*
Posts: 18


« Reply #14 on: December 03, 2013, 07:44:02 PM »

Well, if we're being realistic, wouldn't an impact with the power to kill everyone on a continent cause climate-wide devastation worse than the K-T extinction?
Logged
Jen
Palmer
**
Posts: 29



« Reply #15 on: December 04, 2013, 02:46:56 AM »

I'm going to be the odd one out and say I absolutely loved this - the story, the format, the narration, everything. It's my favorite EscapePod episode in recent memory. I didn't find the research paper frame boring at all - I thought it was a great way of introducing the info dump parts. Julian Prince's voice was spot-on for a jaded famous guy who keeps picking at that Impact-shaped scab. And what I especially liked about the plot was that, for once, America *doesn't* save the world. For someone in Europe who watches and reads a lot of US-centric fiction, Americans having to ask for help from Africa of all places was refreshing.
Logged
Max e^{i pi}
Hipparch
******
Posts: 828


Have towel, will travel.


« Reply #16 on: December 04, 2013, 02:51:30 AM »

Well, if we're being realistic, wouldn't an impact with the power to kill everyone on a continent cause climate-wide devastation worse than the K-T extinction?

Of course. I was thinking this as well during the story.
The thing is, we don't really hear a lot about what the physical conditions of the planet were after the impact. Because that is not the story.
We mostly hear about the human condition, the mental makeup of the world population and the philosophies of the post-impact culture. Obviously there was a lot of climate damage and it must be much harder to grow food than before, but that is not really what the story is about. It's not about the physical survival of some people, but the cultural survival of the worldwide human population.
Logged

Cogito ergo surf - I think therefore I network

Registered Linux user #481826 Get Counted!

Unblinking
Sir Postsalot
Hipparch
******
Posts: 5723



WWW
« Reply #17 on: December 04, 2013, 01:59:39 PM »

Well, the story made me feel like the events in the story happened, and that Julian Prince was a real person.  So that's something.

But the best way I could describe listening to this story was watching a History Channel documentary about an author who I don't really care about but whom everyone else tells me I should care about, whose books I have little interest in reading other than possibly so that I can provide some tangible specifics to everyone who tells me I should care about the author so that I'm not just saying so out of the general impression of overyhype that I get from everyone.  And the documentary is also, probably, the length of a Lord of the Rings movie (I realize the episode wasn't, but this was what it felt like).

I'm sure that a lot of it had to do with the fact that I'm just not really interested in nihilism as a philosophy.  I can understand the basis of the philosophy, and can understand why some people especially faced with traumatic events, would find it fits their mindset well.  But as philosophies go, I don't feel that it really has much of value to say.  Which is rather fitting with its focus of meaninglessness, which I find interesting.  In general it feels to me not that different from narcissism, despite the very different stated focus.  I'm not exactly sure why because it does seem contradictory--I guess because the statement that nothing really matters seems to often have the effect of turning inward upon yourself as narcissism does. 

The format, as a documentary about a nihilist writer, didn't make anything better, as it was so dry as to render any real emotion I might've gotten out of it null and void.

In the end I didn't care about Julian.  I felt bad about all the trauma the survivors have gone through, but that's not enough to carry a story of this length by itself.  So, for me at least, I think the story failed to connect with me the way the author was trying to connect.

(I agree that the interview could've done with some small edits, just a small thing. I found that distracting, especially as a full-cast recording where it was clear who was speaking by the change in voice)
Logged

--David Steffen
The Submissions Grinder:  Fiction market listings, submissions tracker, always free, poetry and nonfiction markets coming soon!
Jompier
Palmer
**
Posts: 35


From a galaxy far, far on the East Coast.


« Reply #18 on: December 04, 2013, 03:38:48 PM »

I liked this story if only for the challenge that it undertakes: using biography as a way to tell the story of how culture survives or doesn't survive after some catastrophic destruction.

The only flaw is that this biographical vehicle needs a bit more room to play out, especially in fiction. As a genre, the biography seems to work best when we know something about the biographee (is that a word?) or have strong opinions about that person and his/her world view. The subject of the biography becomes the filter through which we want to understand events in that person's past or in a past that we collective shared. To make the subject of this biographical story a fictional character creates more work for the author because you can't rely on readers knowing something about the subject, enough to make him/her the focal point. So, this is my only real quibble with the story -- it wasn't long enough. I didn't feel like I knew Prince well enough to appreciate how his world view filtered the zeitgeist.

Regardless, I found the story compelling and the narration to be quite good.
Logged
Just Jeff
Palmer
**
Posts: 66


« Reply #19 on: December 04, 2013, 10:16:44 PM »

I deleted it within the first minute. With the opening ambient noise and the low level on the first speaker, plus the threat of an ensemble cast, I figured this was another anti-earbud episode and moved on. Pity.
Logged
Pages: [1] 2 3  All
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.19 | SMF © 2013, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!