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Author Topic: EP427: Samantha’s Diary  (Read 2745 times)
eytanz
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« on: December 22, 2013, 06:25:19 AM »

EP427: Samantha’s Diary

by Diana Wynne Jones

Read by Emma Newman

--

Recorded on BSQ SpeekEasi Series 2/89887BQ and discovered in a skip in London’s Regent Street.

December 25th 2233

Tired today and having a lazy time. Got back late from Paris last night from Mother’s party. My sister is pregnant and couldn’t go (besides, she lives in Sweden) and Mother insisted that one of her daughters was there to meet our latest stepfather. Not that I did meet him particularly. Mother kept introducing me to a load of men and telling me how rich each of them were: I think she’s trying to start me on her own career which is, basically, marrying for money. Thanks, Mother, but I earn quite enough on the catwalk to be happy as I am. Besides, I’m having a rest from men since I split up with Liam.The gems of Mother’s collection were a French philosopher, who followed me around saying ‘La vide ce n’est pas le neant,’ (clever French nonsense meaning ‘The void is not nothing,’ I think), a cross-eyed Columbian film director, who kept trying to drape himself over me, and a weird millionaire from goodness knows where with diamante teeth. But there were others. I was wearing my new Stiltskins which caused me to tower over them. A mistake. They always knew where I was. In the end I got tired of being stalked and left. I just caught the midnight bullet train to London, which did not live up to its name. It was late and crowded out and I had to stand all the way.

My feet are killing me today.

Anyway I have instructed Housebot that I am Not At Home to anyone or anything and hope for a peaceful day. Funny to think that Christmas Day used to be a time when everyone got together and gave each other presents. Shudder. Today we think of it as the most peaceful day of the year. I sit in peace in my all-white living room—a by-product of Mother’s career, come to think of it, since my lovely flat was given to me by my last-stepfather-but-one—no, last-but- two now, I forgot.

Oh damn! Someone rang the doorbell and Housebot answered it. I know I told it not to.

Did I say we don’t give Christmas presents now? Talk about famous last words. Housebot trundled back in here with a tree of all things balanced on its flat top. Impossible to tell what kind of tree, as it has no leaves, no label to say who sent it, nothing but a small wicker cage tied to a branch with a fairly large brown bird in it. The damn bird pecked me when I let it out. It was not happy. It has gone to earth under the small sofa and left droppings on the carpet as it ran.

I thought Christmas trees were supposed to be green. I made Housebot put the thing outside in the patio, beside the pool, where it sits looking bare. The bird is hungry. It has been trying to eat the carpet. I went on the net to see what kind of bird it is. After an hour of trying, I got a visual that suggests the creature is a partridge. A game bird apparently. Am I supposed to eat it? I know they used to eat birds at Christmas in the old days. Yuk. I got on the net again for partridge food. ‘Sorry, dear customer, but there will be no deliveries until the start of the Sales on December 27th, when our full range of luxury avian foods will again be available at bargain prices.’ Yes, but what do I do now?

Oh hooray. Housebot has solved the problem by producing a bowl of tinned sweetcorn. I shoved it under the sofa and the creature stopped its noise.

Do trees need feeding?


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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statisticus
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« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2013, 10:24:45 PM »

Loved this story - quite charming.  Like Alasdair I have a soft space to Twelve Days of Christmas parodies.  It is such an absurd carol, and the thought of anyone actually sending (or receiving) the gifts has a fantastic element all of its own.

This story, as well as exploring so well the growing difficulties presented by the progressively more and more awkward gifts, does so against the background of a very well fleshed out twenty-third century London.  Thoroughly enjoyable.

Though I did wonder if Liam might have put Franz Dodecker up to it...
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statisticus
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« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2013, 10:59:35 PM »

As for other Twelve Days parodies, my favourite would have to be Yet Another Partridge with Penelope Keith.

The Twelve Days After Christmas is also quite amusing.
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colin6walker
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« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2013, 03:48:49 AM »

I also found this a charming story, but the ending suddenly became very confusing (admittedly this may be something to do with listening to it at 4am!)
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Just Jeff
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« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2013, 10:39:01 AM »

Tedious. I thought about deleting it around day three and wish I had. And a rare outro fail for Alasdair.
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Alasdair5000
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« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2013, 12:48:26 PM »

Sorry this one didn't work for you, every now and again they miss the mark for some people. Next week will be entirely different. Happy Christmas:)
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olivaw
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« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2013, 02:23:52 PM »

I was expecting to find out that the Housebot was actually orchestrating everything, as some bizarre expression of love designed to shake Samantha out of complacency and into responsible adulthood, or something.

I certainly wasn't expecting Samantha to take the exit strategy she eventually chose, and found it somewhat sad that she did. That marriage is the best way for an independent woman to escape abuse. I don't think it really flies nowadays, and only gets under the radar because comedy.

Other than that - and hearty thanks for not going all the way to 12 - a fine tale.
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skeletondragon
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« Reply #7 on: December 23, 2013, 02:30:52 PM »

I love sci-fi stories where the protagonist is an average person who doesn't understand the futuristic technologies any more than I understand how an iPhone works, so my favorite part was when Samantha struggled with the manual to figure out what was wrong with her robot.

That said, I also thought at the beginning that it was going to turn out to be Housebot organizing everything - "That day, she was amazed to discover that when it said 'Madam, you have a delivery,' what it meant was 'I love you.'"
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SonofSpermcube
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« Reply #8 on: December 24, 2013, 05:46:34 AM »

I didn't know Diana Wynn Jones was dead :/

And the only books of hers I have read were Archer's Goon (as a teen) and Howl's Moving Castle.  Archer's Goon was indeed frickin' weird, and totally awesome. 

The Ghibli adaptation was butchery; almost completely incoherent, made worse by shoehorning in a bunch of elements from the book, without explanation or development, that they should have just left out. 

Parrots are not a part of any variation of the song listed on wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Twelve_Days_of_Christmas_%28song%29#Lyrics
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skeletondragon
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« Reply #9 on: December 24, 2013, 12:14:13 PM »

Parrots are not a part of any variation of the song listed on wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Twelve_Days_of_Christmas_%28song%29#Lyrics

I think the parrots were the "calling birds". That Wikipedia article suggests they were originally "colly birds" and that means blackbirds? But most versions I've heard use "calling", which could describe parrots that have been taught to call out phrases from human speech.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Ghibli film, although the only Diana Wynne Jones book I've read is The Lives of Christopher Chant, which confused me a lot back in elementary school and kind of put me off her for a while.
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ArbysMom
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« Reply #10 on: December 25, 2013, 02:10:23 PM »

I also found this a charming story, but the ending suddenly became very confusing (admittedly this may be something to do with listening to it at 4am!)


I, too, am confused, and I've played the last minute and Alasdair's outro several times. Anyone care to explain what exactly was going on?
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chemistryguy
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« Reply #11 on: December 25, 2013, 06:48:52 PM »

I stuck it out to the end, but it didn't really do anything for me.
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skeletondragon
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« Reply #12 on: December 25, 2013, 10:10:52 PM »

I also found this a charming story, but the ending suddenly became very confusing (admittedly this may be something to do with listening to it at 4am!)


I, too, am confused, and I've played the last minute and Alasdair's outro several times. Anyone care to explain what exactly was going on?

At the end, she runs away with Liam, and he makes her stop recording on her electronic diary, because Franz owns the company that made it and has probably been using it to spy on her.
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SonofSpermcube
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« Reply #13 on: December 25, 2013, 10:50:13 PM »



I think the parrots were the "calling birds". That Wikipedia article suggests they were originally "colly birds" and that means blackbirds? But most versions I've heard use "calling", which could describe parrots that have been taught to call out phrases from human speech.


I'm just going to ascribe it to being a future variation.
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ArbysMom
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« Reply #14 on: December 26, 2013, 07:27:39 AM »

I also found this a charming story, but the ending suddenly became very confusing (admittedly this may be something to do with listening to it at 4am!)


I, too, am confused, and I've played the last minute and Alasdair's outro several times. Anyone care to explain what exactly was going on?

At the end, she runs away with Liam, and he makes her stop recording on her electronic diary, because Franz owns the company that made it and has probably been using it to spy on her.

Thank you! It makes sense now.

I thought it was great (once I understood). I'm also glad it didn't go through all 12 days. The narration was wonderful as well.
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #15 on: December 26, 2013, 07:35:02 AM »

Not done listening, but my brain segfaulted.
Jan 1 is the 8th day but no deliveries that day. However, on Jan 2 Samantha got double (for yesterday and today) but she only got 8 maids a-milking. She should have also gotten the 9 lords a-leaping, but they didn't come until tomorrow, Jan 3, the 10th day.

EDIT:
Finished listening, turns out I was very close to the end, Alasdair had a huge outro... And no episode feedback...
Anyway, the abrupt ending shocked me for a second, but it's actually the best way to end it.
The story was uninspiring and in my opinion, uninspired. I really want to think that this story was chosen for its theme and not its content. The idea is funny, but it's a one joke story and that got old very quickly. The long drawn out story got me to really feel for Samantha, but not because of empathy. I was feeling frustrated and exasperated too.
The ending was the best part, because that was well done (not just because it was the ending). What happened next? Did Dodecker track her and complete his nefarious scheme? Did Samantha and Liam live happily ever after? I don't care. I heard the joke, smiled at the punchline, now it's time to move on to episode feedback- oh no, we didn't get that this week. Nathan must be busy impersonating Santa's elf somewhere....
« Last Edit: December 26, 2013, 08:45:58 AM by Max e^{i pi} » Logged

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Kaa
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« Reply #16 on: December 26, 2013, 05:27:54 PM »

I liked it. I didn't find it tedious at all, and was actually disappointed that it didn't continue all the way to the pipers and drummers. The only part that confused me at first was why it was set so far into the future. And then it dawned on me that it had to be far enough ahead that the song would be "ancient" enough for it not to be commonly known.

Nice story, very wonderfully narrated.
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evrgrn_monster
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« Reply #17 on: December 26, 2013, 07:59:56 PM »

I was torn by this story. I thought the character's reaction to all the birds was hilarious, but I too was getting tired of all birds being angry and pooping everywhere and being told about how she was frustrated, but not really doing anything about them. It was, much like the song, needlessly repetitive.

I actually wonder, though, and this is what kept me going till the end of the story, what if Liam was behind it all? He seems clever enough, and obviously devastated by the loss of her. He pulls a few reporter strings, gets the tiny billionaire at her mother's party, and badaboom, he has his lady back, along with a massive amount of expensive golden rings. Brilliant plan, in all its aviary simplicity.
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Unblinking
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« Reply #18 on: December 27, 2013, 09:49:09 AM »

I was generally amused most of the time, though I was definitely MORE amused at the beginning.  After a while it did seem that there was nothing new happening, just more complaining about bird poo and bird squabbles.  And then someone shows up who wants to help her with her problems--the lady from the bird protection agency--and she yells her off.  WTF?  All she would've had to do at that point would've been to explain the situation and have the woman send a daily transport to carry away all the newly delivered birds.  She could keep the rings and tell the people like the milkmaids and the lords to get off her property by threat of police. 

And then she solves all her problems by marrying someone she doesn't want to marry?  WTF?  This is the FUTURE, right?  That's seriously the best resolution to her problem?  And does she really think that's somehow going to solve this?  Someone who's nuts enough to do this is going to follow her, and having a husband doesn't exempt her from that--it just makes her husband a target.    So, yeah, totally lost me on the ending.


It might also be that "Twelve Days of Christmas" parodies have been ruined for me forever because My True Lovecraft Gave To Me is just so awesome it can't be overcome.

That said, I also thought at the beginning that it was going to turn out to be Housebot organizing everything - "That day, she was amazed to discover that when it said 'Madam, you have a delivery,' what it meant was 'I love you.'"

Ahahahaha!  I love it.  And it's internally consistent, too, because it specifically said that Housebot had a very limited collection of phrases to use.  So if Housebot fell in love, it would have to use one of those phrases to express it.

And a rare outro fail for Alasdair.

Really?  I thought it was hilarious.  A suspense/espionage/thriller flash story in over-the-top Dan Brown fashion based around a combination of myths/history and modern/futuristic technology.  He told it so straight that for the first bit I thought he was telling the true military history of the invention of the delivery drone--which on its own would be plausible enough, since military does tend to originate a lot of new inventions--but then it just got silly, and he managed to keep it straight throughout.
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« Reply #19 on: December 27, 2013, 10:50:16 AM »

I'm a longtime fan of Dianna Wynne Jones, so was thrilled to get this little gem in my ear-stocking this year. I had no idea she'd written some sci-fi as I'm more familiar with her fantasy (Howl's Moving Castle and the Chrestomanci books).

Given that, I liked the story well enough until I came to the forums and saw this:

That said, I also thought at the beginning that it was going to turn out to be Housebot organizing everything - "That day, she was amazed to discover that when it said 'Madam, you have a delivery,' what it meant was 'I love you.'"

I love this idea so, so much that I'm actually retroactively disappointed that it's not how the story actually turned out, because that would've been amazing and adorable!

I also second "My True Lovecraft Gave to Me" as another, even more outstanding take on the 12 Days of Christmas. Thanks for the reminder, Unblinking! Cheesy
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