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Author Topic: EP438: Enjoy the Moment  (Read 916 times)
eytanz
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« on: March 12, 2014, 01:08:50 PM »

EP438: Enjoy the Moment

by Jack McDevitt

read by Sara Tolbert

This story This story is part of the Apocalypse Triptych

Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
« Last Edit: March 12, 2014, 01:35:28 PM by Talia » Logged
eytanz
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« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2014, 01:09:42 PM »

Really sorry for the late thread. I was ill on the weekend, and then I totally forgot I hadn't done it yet.
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Windup
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« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2014, 08:22:06 PM »


This one worked for me, in that I got fairly involved with the character and thought about what I would do in the event of that sort of long-buildup, inevitable disaster.  I thought both the attempt to suppress the information and the inevitable leaks were handled in a realistic way, right down to the President fumbling the exact nature of the the threat. (A brown dwarf is more accurately described as a "failed star" than a "collapsed star;" but that wasn't central to the nature of the problem.)

However, when I really noticed this story was about a day after I listened, when press releases on the WISE data came out, assuring us that this isn't going to happen anytime soon enough to worry about: http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2014/03/08/no_planet_x_wise_observations_rule_out_distant_giant_planet.html

That's the problem with trying to write about the future; you keep catching up with it.  Shocked
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« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2014, 08:52:49 PM »

I enjoyed the story; although, I am even more excited about the idea of THE APOCALYPSE TRIPTYCH.  The biggest negative was the feeling that the story wasn't quite complete since the story ended when "the end is nigh" rather than here or has come already.  I see that Jack McDevitt has stories in the next two volumes too so we may get a continuation of the story or at least another story in the world.

But overall this story worked for me too.  I am a fan of science (but not a scientist myself) and I really enjoyed the description of the scientific process and the character.  The character and her functional relationships really made the story for me.  She's happily married to non-scientist who is probably not as smart as her but they have a good, close relationship and he makes an effort to understand her work.  Once she makes the discovery of the comet she stops being involved in the research so is only told about the other more horrifying discoveries and it becomes about how she deals with the information and reveals it to her husband.  I too thought the leaks were very realistic. It was obvious by the number of people who already knew and the number of people who had access to to scientific instruments needed to make the discovery that this info was staying hidden for very long at all.  I liked that realism.
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Asomatous
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« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2014, 11:31:51 PM »

Before I start about the story, I want to say the idea and risk taking behind creation of The Apocalypse Triptych is amazing. To all those involved in the creation of the project, may your tribe increase!

Now about the story itself, (stifles a yawn) not as engaging as I had hoped. I get that this is a "striking the match" story mentioned in the afterward. Still, despite the detailed scientific description and real science behind it, the characters were flat. The premise of an astrophysicist turning thirty causing a scramble for notoriety and discovery of a slow motion apocalypse is rather far fetched and somewhat stereotypical. It was quite a stretch for me to believe someone as bright and capable as the protagonist would only be concerned about her impact in the field as she turned thirty. Would she not have been concerned about this all through her career? Would not her mentors and advisors in her doctoral and post doctoral work have raised the issue to her? Academics seeking to make a name for themselves seems a bit of an over used plot prop to me. In a similar vein, the actions and characterization of the academic dean seem to be equally shallow. While it is true that politics and secrecy can run rampant in the academy, swearing a faculty member to secrecy about the end of the world was a bit too cloak and dagger to ring true. All of this is rather stark in light of the realism of the science and scientific process underpinning the story. Good science fiction, or rather good fiction in general is built on believable characters as well as believable plot. I had no problem with the plot (with the exception of its predictability). I just did not find the characters engaging or believable.
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xooll
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« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2014, 01:43:41 AM »

I really enjoyed this story. The way the main character's personal life was used to tell the story was compelling; I loved how the terrifying, inexorable approach of the brown dwarf was juxtaposed with the inevitable advance of age. The fact that the object ended up bearing the name of some other astronomer was a subtle and beautiful touch--her comet, first herald of the apocalypse though it may be, would still be a lesser legacy. Not that it would matter, soon enough.
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Warren
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« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2014, 05:53:05 AM »

Apparently I'm in the minority: the story didn't really work for me. Don't get me wrong: it was well written, and well delivered - but it was also too well introduced. After the introduction had explained that the story would presage an apocalypse, and once the main character had discovered her comet, the only question was why the comet meant the end of the world - and, really, the answer didn't make enough difference. Everything was entirely too predictable; the minor details of how the main character, personally, would fare were insufficient to retain my interest, especially as not much actually happened - no heroic stand, no grave consequences.
This last may be redeemed in McDevitt's subsequent contributions. Still, this story functioned only as an all-too-predictable preface.
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« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2014, 06:28:54 AM »

Apparently I'm in the minority: the story didn't really work for me. Don't get me wrong: it was well written, and well delivered - but it was also too well introduced. After the introduction had explained that the story would presage an apocalypse, and once the main character had discovered her comet, the only question was why the comet meant the end of the world - and, really, the answer didn't make enough difference. Everything was entirely too predictable; the minor details of how the main character, personally, would fare were insufficient to retain my interest, especially as not much actually happened - no heroic stand, no grave consequences.
This last may be redeemed in McDevitt's subsequent contributions. Still, this story functioned only as an all-too-predictable preface.

I'm with you on this one.  Once you had an idea what kind of story it was supposed to be, that spelled out too much of the story.  That's not really a problem with the podcast of the story, because the same problem will exist when the anthology is published.

It was okay.  The characters were fine, the writing was fine.  But it was too predictable, especially given what anthology it came from.

The pre-apocalyptic story that ran over at the Drabblecast, on the other hand, is awesome.
http://www.drabblecast.org/2014/03/07/drabblecast-315-heaven-place-planet-x/
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Myrealana
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« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2014, 10:46:34 AM »

I liked this story, but I felt it didn't go quite far enough. I was left hanging at the end. The real apocalypse is nearly two decades into the future. I wanted to see additional personal and world consequences to the announcement - beyond some Hollywood gossip being ignored.

Regardless, I've already bought the first book, and I'm eagerly awaiting the next two. Apocalyptic fiction appeals to me, even when the end is less than satisfying.
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« Reply #9 on: March 13, 2014, 11:05:45 AM »

I enjoyed the story; although, I am even more excited about the idea of THE APOCALYPSE TRIPTYCH.  The biggest negative was the feeling that the story wasn't quite complete since the story ended when "the end is nigh" rather than here or has come already.  I see that Jack McDevitt has stories in the next two volumes too so we may get a continuation of the story or at least another story in the world.

But overall this story worked for me too.  I am a fan of science (but not a scientist myself) and I really enjoyed the description of the scientific process and the character.  The character and her functional relationships really made the story for me.  She's happily married to non-scientist who is probably not as smart as her but they have a good, close relationship and he makes an effort to understand her work.  Once she makes the discovery of the comet she stops being involved in the research so is only told about the other more horrifying discoveries and it becomes about how she deals with the information and reveals it to her husband.  I too thought the leaks were very realistic. It was obvious by the number of people who already knew and the number of people who had access to to scientific instruments needed to make the discovery that this info was staying hidden for very long at all.  I liked that realism.


This captures a lot of what I liked about the story, too. I also liked the marital relationship -- it felt quite real to me how people from two very different professions can get along so well. That's how my marriage is, and I couldn't imagine it any other way.

Although I think it might be the case that McDevitt has a continuation of this story throughout the other two volumes of the Apocalypse Triptych, this story totally worked for me by ending on the day after people learned of the slow motion destruction that is to come. The ending here asks us to consider how we would enjoy the moment, if that moment was 20 years long.

And like other posters here, I am very excited about the Apocalypse Triptych. I went out and bought The End is Nigh right away. I've got a trip coming up next week and plan on keeping myself quite entertained with that collection.
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Cutter McKay
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« Reply #10 on: March 13, 2014, 05:01:18 PM »

Man, when that music kicked in, I was practically screaming at the radio. "That's it?? Did I miss something? WTF?!"

There was quite a bit I liked about this story. I liked the science, the brown dwarf is a nice change from our typical asteroid collision scenario because even if it misses the planet, the destructive gravitational forces will still spell doom for the entire planet. And I'm really intrigued by this idea.

I liked the relationships. It was nice to have a stable character in a strong relationship because so many apocalypse tales tend to feature people in rocky or already shattered relationships so that the situation will either make or break them. Plus, being in a relationship where I actually have very little in common with my wife, interest-wise, I found this situation very easy to relate to. So I really liked that.

And I loved the scene at the end with her family. I mean, this obviously isn't the last meal they're going to have together, but it might be the last peaceful meal they get. Now that the news is out, who knows what's going to happen. Even though the end is decades away, odds are pretty good that social collapse is already knocking at the door.

As many others have already pointed out, the abrupt ending was a huge disappointment. Thankfully, the immediate promo for the Apocalypse Triptych answered my WTF right off the bat. But that's also what irritated me about this story.

Because it wasn't a story. It was a teaser.

"Here's some characters for you to become emotionally invested in, here's the crazy, terrible, tragic situation they're faced with... wanna know more? Buy the next installment for only $17.95! We accept cash, check, or credit card. Operators are standing by!" (Just kidding, who accepts checks anymore?)

Now, don't get me wrong, I love the idea of the triptych and will likely pick up all three. I'm a huge sucker for apocalypses, too. And I don't even think McDevitt meant for this to be such a teaser, but that's exactly what it is. I'm sure the story will continue and conclude in the next two anthologies, but I think he could have found a way to make this story feel a little more complete before leaving us hanging.

The premise of an astrophysicist turning thirty causing a scramble for notoriety and discovery of a slow motion apocalypse is rather far fetched and somewhat stereotypical... Would she not have been concerned about this all through her career?
She was concerned about this throughout her career. It was only when she turned thirty and still hadn't accomplished anything that she became desperate and started looking for other ways to make her name before it was too late.

The fact that the object ended up bearing the name of some other astronomer was a subtle and beautiful touch--her comet, first herald of the apocalypse though it may be, would still be a lesser legacy.
You know, only when I want to quote a story does the transcript not get posted with the story on the blog. So I don't have the exact reference, but I'm pretty sure the MC's name is Miriam, and they named the brown dwarf the Miriam Object, or something like that. I'm pretty sure it was named after her. Correct me if I'm wring.
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PotatoKnight
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« Reply #11 on: March 13, 2014, 05:20:08 PM »


 I thought both the attempt to suppress the information and the inevitable leaks were handled in a realistic way, right down to the President fumbling the exact nature of the the threat. (A brown dwarf is more accurately described as a "failed star" than a "collapsed star;" but that wasn't central to the nature of the problem.)


I liked this bit too. The part that stood out to me is that the president said the brown dwarf was going to collide with Earth, when actually the problem was going to be that it was going to throw Earth off orbit.

I'm going to take a slightly contrarian stand and say that while I quite liked this story--good character, interesting situation--but that as a general rule, I am exhausted of apocalypse as a fiction theme. Mostly just want to let the editors know that while obviously there is a lot of enthusiasm for the genre evidenced in this thread, it is not unanimous.
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Asomatous
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« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2014, 09:09:46 PM »


The premise of an astrophysicist turning thirty causing a scramble for notoriety and discovery of a slow motion apocalypse is rather far fetched and somewhat stereotypical... Would she not have been concerned about this all through her career?
She was concerned about this throughout her career. It was only when she turned thirty and still hadn't accomplished anything that she became desperate and started looking for other ways to make her name before it was too late.


I have to be honest and say I have no recall of anything in the story referring to Miriam indicating concern about her career prior to her birthday. Since the story starts with her thirtieth birthday, I am unsure how that can be posited. I too wanted to check the transcript but could not verify any information one way or the other. If I have erred here, I apologize.
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Chairman Goodchild
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« Reply #13 on: March 15, 2014, 08:44:27 AM »

Quote from: Warren
Apparently I'm in the minority: the story didn't really work for me. Don't get me wrong: it was well written, and well delivered - but it was also too well introduced. After the introduction had explained that the story would presage an apocalypse, and once the main character had discovered her comet, the only question was why the comet meant the end of the world - and, really, the answer didn't make enough difference. Everything was entirely too predictable; the minor details of how the main character, personally, would fare were insufficient to retain my interest, especially as not much actually happened - no heroic stand, no grave consequences.
This last may be redeemed in McDevitt's subsequent contributions.

Yeah, I'm with Warren on this one.  It was well-written, but it's also been done to death.  Since our main character was a physicist,  I was hoping that the apocalypse would involve some sort of weird breakdown in the laws of physics, but it ended up a collision event.

Killer asteroid, killer meteor, killer comet, killer star; this kind of thing has really been done so many times already that it's hard to make the material seem fresh and engaging no matter how well it's done.  And that's why I think this one fell flat. 
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xooll
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« Reply #14 on: March 16, 2014, 06:45:22 PM »

You know, only when I want to quote a story does the transcript not get posted with the story on the blog. So I don't have the exact reference, but I'm pretty sure the MC's name is Miriam, and they named the brown dwarf the Miriam Object, or something like that. I'm pretty sure it was named after her. Correct me if I'm wring.

You're right. In that case, while it is a rather chilling legacy, I liked it better when I misunderstood.
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davidthygod
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« Reply #15 on: March 17, 2014, 09:42:58 AM »

The Triptych commercial definitely worked.  Count me in as a soon to be reader of the trilogy.

As for Enjoy the Moment, I thought it was a really good "The End is Nigh" story, I can't wait to see what happens in the "The End is Now" and "The End is Come" sequels.   

Now for my one criticism, I was very happy with this story until the ending.  Seemed like maybe the author rushed to a conclusion.  Specifically, Miriam says her defining memory is having pizza with family after she finds out the news.  I get the whole Enjoy the Moment motif, but if that is the one moment in her whole life that she most wants to relive, then she has had one boring life. 
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davidthygod
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« Reply #16 on: March 17, 2014, 09:44:43 AM »

I forgot to mention the narration, which was excellent once again.  I cannot stress enough how important narration is to story enjoyment.  Weak narration can really kill the meaning and understanding that a listener has for a story, and unfortunately that has happened on some stories at times, but I am happy for the good streak of strong narration.
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slic
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« Reply #17 on: March 17, 2014, 12:11:38 PM »

Because it wasn't a story. It was a teaser.
100% agree.  I'm wondering if the other two parts (assuming a bit here) weren't written (or planned to be written) if the story would have ended better.
I did like that kinda historical reference that comets used to be considered bringers of bad omen - and in this case hers really was.
I also wonder if the bit about ridiculous news not getting any play is foreshadowing that the world will "unite", and the world will have a "happy" ending (pun intended).

...then she has had one boring life.
Agreed but in balance, well, the story was boring, no real drama (even keeping the secret didn't really cause that much trouble) - so I guess it made sense. ;-)
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Toasty_Ohs
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« Reply #18 on: March 17, 2014, 02:27:12 PM »

What I really liked about this story is how very ordinary and plausible it is.  As a younger person, I would have read it, but it wouldn't mean that much to me.  It would be a "Meh" at best.  Now that I am older and have a family.  I can see what the story is really about.  Not the big moments, but the small ones.  The protagonist worries about missing time with her husband, and gets great satisfaction from dinner with the family.  Her discovery and fame, the reveal and the consequences are glossed over.

Having the sign up in her bosses office is a little heavy handed, but not terribly so.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #19 on: March 22, 2014, 01:34:26 PM »

I enjoyed this story, in spite of knowing where it was going to go pretty much right away. The relationships, both personal and professional, rang true to me and Miriam freaking out about not making a big contribution was very believable. I can definitely see why the low-key ending wasn't satisfying to everybody, but I didn't mind it.
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