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Author Topic: EP435: Made of Cats  (Read 2409 times)
eytanz
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« on: February 14, 2014, 01:37:58 PM »

EP435: Made of Cats

by Judith Tarr

read by Amanda Ching

This story was previously published in Daily Science Fiction, 2011

--
Never mind the slithy toves; let me tell you about the time all the cats splooped into floons.

It all started the day the aliens landed. (Doesn’t it always?) We’d been getting the odd invasion–sometimes really odd–for about a hundred years by then. The ones that came up out of the ground and down from the sky and blasted people to powder and tried to marsiform the planet? And got the common cold and turned into slime mold and died? They were just the start.

We were pretty solid on the intergalactic maps by the time the Kovarrubians showed up. Killer microbes? Check. Nuclear option? Check. Toxic xenophobia? Triple check.

So now when the aliens came, they came in peace. For reals, dudes. Cure for cancer? Check. Super-mega-hyper-insta-teleporta-warp drive? Check. World peace? Not so much. But now when people got their hate on, mostly they got it on somebody Out There.

The day the Kovarrubians came, Emily Habibi-Rubinstein, age five and a half, was having a terrible, horrible, awful, no-good, very bad day. Which meant that as her mother, I, Shannon Habibi, age never mind, was having one, too. Between the snufflecrud that kept her home from school, the power failure that took out the television, the Internet, the house controls, and the air conditioning in one fell swoop, and the failure of the city bus to show up and get us both to the library where we could cool off and toss Emily into a big blissful pile of books, we were not a happy family.

Oh, and did I mention that the phones were down, too? So we were effectively cut off from the world?

Right.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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Thunderscreech
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« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2014, 05:15:42 PM »

The reading was perfect.
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matweller
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« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2014, 09:47:12 PM »

I apologize for the sound quality, I'll work with Amanda on that. We smoothed it out the best we could. But I agree, a better fitting narrator there could not have been.
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slic
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« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2014, 03:00:08 PM »

Great reading, cute story.
It is a nightmare of mine that the internet comes to life in some fashion.  It's such a twisted version of what we really want in life - kind of like those Twilight Zone episodes where some kid gets ultimate wish fulfilling power and everyone is actually terrified.  I though this story was a delightful twist on that idea - one of those cheezburger cats coming to life :shudder:
I really liked how the author summarized 100 years of alien contact :-)  In the end it felt like merchants coming to a king's court.
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lowky
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from http://lovecraftismissing.com/?page_id=3142


« Reply #4 on: February 16, 2014, 03:22:05 PM »

I guess I will be the dissenting voice here.  I did not like the cuteness of the story.  It seemed like it was aimed at 11 year old girls.  I didn't have a problem with the reading, story just wasn't for me I guess.  maybe I am just over the whole internet and cats thing.  If you want a cute kid friendly story this is probably it. 
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Just Jeff
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« Reply #5 on: February 16, 2014, 06:23:47 PM »

The second Internet/cats story I heard was one too many. Despite the snarky send-up of this one, yeah, still done with them. And this from a guy who subscribes to a youtube channel about two cats.
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davidthygod
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« Reply #6 on: February 16, 2014, 09:26:07 PM »

I guess I will be the dissenting voice here.  I did not like the cuteness of the story.  It seemed like it was aimed at 11 year old girls.  I didn't have a problem with the reading, story just wasn't for me I guess.  maybe I am just over the whole internet and cats thing.  If you want a cute kid friendly story this is probably it. 

I agree completely with these comments. I actually may have my 9 year old girl listen to this one.  Not for me, but I will let you know her thoughts.
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« Reply #7 on: February 17, 2014, 12:54:08 PM »


That was cute and fun, and I agree that the narrator was perfect for the story.  However, I think if the aliens had actually learned about human desire by searching the internet, they would have given us "one weird trick to reduce belly fat" instead of floons...
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« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2014, 07:55:35 PM »

So aliens and the internet. Clearly Ms. Tarr went with the safest option of what runs the internet. God help us when the aliens reach the porn; I think you all know the internet well enough to know where this could go.

This was a rather delightful story with exquisite narration. I thought it was rather humorous that humans had entered into the galactic community with our merciless biological warfare of the common cold. Also that aliens were still interested in meddling with the planet given the threats that humans are capable of posing. "I blow my nose at you, you sons of a silly person."

Also, Norm's comments made me realize something. "Completely aloof, psycopath who has a fetish for laying all over your shit." Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes is a cat and that is why everyone, especially everyone on the internet, loves Sherlock. That is all.
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Varda
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« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2014, 08:03:05 PM »

This story was delightful! Yes, it was about internet humor, but the style was so playful and enjoyable that it really worked for me. But what I really loved was the way the story elevated stay-at-home moms and dads to a position of critical importance in world news and events. It was refreshing to see a treatment of this group that wasn't stereotypical or disdainful and let them have the hilarious sci-fi adventure that they rightfully deserve.
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« Reply #10 on: February 18, 2014, 08:17:44 PM »

I guess I will be the dissenting voice here.  I did not like the cuteness of the story.  It seemed like it was aimed at 11 year old girls.  I didn't have a problem with the reading, story just wasn't for me I guess.  maybe I am just over the whole internet and cats thing.  If you want a cute kid friendly story this is probably it. 

I can haz cuteness?

Generally I enjoyed this story especially the dialogue.  The cuteness level me left me a bit queasy as if I had eaten too much candy.
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Jompier
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« Reply #11 on: February 19, 2014, 08:18:05 AM »

I get that this story was comedy, and I'll admit that I'm not a huge fan of mixing comedy with my science fiction, so I already have a big chip on my shoulder going into this. But even if we took the core idea of this story seriously (i.e., aliens study human culture via the contents of a medium that people consider ubiquitous and somewhat trashy and get it wrong) I find that it is kind of boring and perhaps even wrong.

First, after studying the studying the Internet the Kovarrubians conclude that what we value highly are cats? C'mon that's just a facetious oversimplification and there is no reason to believe that an alien culture that actually studied the Internet would reach the same conclusion. Internet = cats was a big joke in 2011 perhaps. If the alien culture really studied the content of the Internet to figure out what they valued then why wouldn't they supply us with endless porn? Isn't that what many content analyses say the Internet is full of for the most part (as a matter of relative proportions)? The actual amount of porn seems to vary by reports, but often seems to be somewhere between 10% and 25% of sites in what I've read on the subject. This is followed by news, shopping, travel, and sports, all at about 4% - 6% of internet content. Cats? Hardly.

But let's assume that it is true and that cats are the most plentiful and most searched for content on the Internet. Evidence seems to suggest that it's not cute cats that we are after but:

Radioactive Cats





Talking Cats





Portly Cats





Stealthy Cats





Sad Cats





Mad Cats





So let this be a simple revision suggestion.
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fractaloon
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« Reply #12 on: February 19, 2014, 08:24:15 AM »

I found this story hard to listen to. Actually, I had to stop about halfway through. It was just too sassy.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2014, 10:33:26 AM by eytanz » Logged
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« Reply #13 on: February 20, 2014, 09:53:17 AM »

This story had a couple funny moments, but overall it wasn't as funny as it seemed to think it was.  And even in a funny story I still generally want something to happen. 

I was interested in the beginning, and was amused with much of the conversation with the aliens that revealed the mixup--the listing of tropes was funny.  But then the story kept on going, and seemed to forget the humor after that point, finishing up at an off-note wish fulfillment ending that didn't really seem to match the rest at all.

I find it completely hard to believe that an alien race that studied us by the means of the Internet would not have incorporated porn.  I realize that would've been harder to write into a story while keeping it readable and clean enough to publish most places, but still it was a huge hole in the core premise.  I probably would've overlooked that if it had been more consistently funny.

So the plot goes:
Cats are replaced with something weird.
It turns out aliens did it with good intentions, oops!
Aliens very nicely reverse their mistake.
Also, long life for pets, yay!
The End.
(I think it could've been nice to have some actual conflict)

The main character said repeatedly that she was distraught, but never actually sounded distraught, she just sounded annoyed that her daughter was making a fuss.

Don't get me wrong about the wish fulfillment ending--I would  probably use that technology.  All 3 of my dogs are under that weight.  On the other hand, that would mean that more strays would probably be euthanized because anyone who is inclined to have small animals would just prolong those animals.  But in any case, it wasn't a funny ending and didn't really fit with the rest of the story.
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Thunderscreech
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« Reply #14 on: February 20, 2014, 10:02:57 AM »

I find it completely hard to believe that an alien race that studied us by the means of the Internet would not have incorporated porn. 
Don't be too quick to assume.  The story was a first-person female perspective, who's to say the Floons weren't also...  functional...  in a way that males would notice?  The sheer quantity of male-focused pornography could have contributed to the creation of the creature in a fashion that perhaps the main character of this story simply wouldn't comment on or notice in this context.

 Grin
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« Reply #15 on: February 20, 2014, 10:09:23 AM »

I found this story charming, amusing, and a good length. The narration, especially when the daughter was yelling for Mr Gubbins, was perfect.

That was cute and fun, and I agree that the narrator was perfect for the story.  However, I think if the aliens had actually learned about human desire by searching the internet, they would have given us "one weird trick to reduce belly fat" instead of floons...

Would've made the story much more serious, though. At least, I think so.
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« Reply #16 on: February 21, 2014, 01:20:28 AM »

I decided to take a day or two to ponder the story before posting my comments. Maybe "Floons" got my tongue? I think there is a lot of humor in cross cultural communication gone awry. In that vein, the author seems to be right on point. I took the use of cats to be a metaphor for what ever internet fad de jour might be raging. Poking fun at our guilty pleasures is another deep well from which humorists often draw.

A less obvious but nonetheless thought provoking aspect to the story was the prevalent market/consumer driven culture of the galactic visitors. I suppose I was struck with how much the aliens were just like us. So much so that the story's protagonist can actually market their wares more effectively. Alien races coming to our backwater planet to hock their wares made me wonder if we had things to offer in exchange as precious or as plentiful as those being offered. Would humans be considered the ultimate consumers or the developers of needed resources? Creation or consumption? The story seems to posit all the galactic citizenry as developmental equals. I guess I had a bit of trouble suspending disbelief on this point. Or could a cure for cancer be something akin to European traders offering "beads" for Manhattan island (yes I know it is a myth btw)?  Hmmmm
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« Reply #17 on: February 21, 2014, 09:57:39 AM »

I find it completely hard to believe that an alien race that studied us by the means of the Internet would not have incorporated porn. 
Don't be too quick to assume.  The story was a first-person female perspective, who's to say the Floons weren't also...  functional...  in a way that males would notice?  The sheer quantity of male-focused pornography could have contributed to the creation of the creature in a fashion that perhaps the main character of this story simply wouldn't comment on or notice in this context.

 Grin

Ewwwww!!!  You might be right, but it doesn't seem like that's what the story intended.

A less obvious but nonetheless thought provoking aspect to the story was the prevalent market/consumer driven culture of the galactic visitors. I suppose I was struck with how much the aliens were just like us. So much so that the story's protagonist can actually market their wares more effectively. Alien races coming to our backwater planet to hock their wares made me wonder if we had things to offer in exchange as precious or as plentiful as those being offered. Would humans be considered the ultimate consumers or the developers of needed resources? Creation or consumption? The story seems to posit all the galactic citizenry as developmental equals. I guess I had a bit of trouble suspending disbelief on this point. Or could a cure for cancer be something akin to European traders offering "beads" for Manhattan island (yes I know it is a myth btw)?  Hmmmm

I admit I had the same wonder.  Not as much at the time of the story, because it seems that earth has for some reason been a popular trading spot--maybe it's at a convenient place to a galactic crossroads or something.  So now Earth has enough tech from alien cultures, that they're a convenient source for that other tech.  Instead of going to a hundred planets and trading for their tech individually, go to earth and get it all in one spot.  So in the present I think it makes enough sense, but I didn't get what earth had to offer the first few alien civs that showed up.
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slic
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« Reply #18 on: February 23, 2014, 04:40:37 PM »

For those that thought a study of the internet would have resulted in something other than cats, ok , I suppose, but you are likely giving the Aliens too much credit. 
Marketing often doesn't bother with exhaustive, comprehensive research - more of a thrown spaghetti on a wall tactic.  Besides which, the aliens didn't even bother to ask - they just morphed all the cats.  Clearly they didn't research how people would react to that - New Coke will be embraced by all!!
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Varda
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« Reply #19 on: February 23, 2014, 04:58:02 PM »

For those that thought a study of the internet would have resulted in something other than cats, ok , I suppose, but you are likely giving the Aliens too much credit. 
Marketing often doesn't bother with exhaustive, comprehensive research - more of a thrown spaghetti on a wall tactic.  Besides which, the aliens didn't even bother to ask - they just morphed all the cats.  Clearly they didn't research how people would react to that - New Coke will be embraced by all!!

Yeah, my thoughts exactly. These aliens obviously aren't the brightest supernovae in the galaxy, and they don't seem to be approaching the question of what would make humans happy in a particularly scientific way to begin with. Given that, imagining myself in these aliens' shoes, I have taken the liberties of conducting a grand experiment by opening Google and searching "things humans like". This was the first hit.

Now the #1 thing on the list of stuff humans like is "Agriculture".



Hmm. That's going to be a bit difficult to deliver on, although I haven't checked the produce aisle recently to see if there are considerably more elderly women staring at the cucumbers than there used to be. But if we scroll down to #2, what do we find?

Floons!



Just average these cute baby animals together, add funky colors, and you're done. Instant human happiness!
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