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Author Topic: PC308: Gazing into the Carnauba Wax Eyes of the Future  (Read 2093 times)
Talia
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« on: April 25, 2014, 07:38:35 AM »

PodCastle 308: Gazing into the Carnauba Wax Eyes of the Future

by Keffy R.M. Kehrli

Read by John Meagher (of The Tales of the Left Hand podiobooks)

Originally published in the What Fates Impose anthology, edited by Nayad Monroe.

My legs are tired from crouching, so I slide the empty backpack under my knees. Boxes and cellophane crinkle. Even though I’ve touched the wall, I try to shove my finger down my throat, but that just gives me a gag reflex with no payoff.

“Come on,” I mutter into the toilet bowl. The “clean” water ripples from my breath. “All I need are six numbers.”

The peeps finally come back up of their own accord, a flood of sweet foam that forms swirling pastel pink-yellow-blue mounds, floating islands of partially digested sugar studded over with flecks of pep eyeballs.

And then I’m standing at a track, with a wad of worthless receipts in my hand. The races are long over. There’s some guy sweeping under the seats, not looking me in the face.


Rated R. Contains F-bombs, Eating Disorders, and Peeps.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: May 15, 2014, 12:44:47 PM by Talia » Logged
TrishEM
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« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2014, 03:15:49 AM »

Peeps are definitely creepy. I used to live in eastern PA where we were deluged with Peeps every Easter ... and then they started coming out with Halloween Peeps, and so on. And if you've seen some of the YouTube videos of microwave experiments, etc., on Peeps, where they melt and the eyes are left... yeah, if I had some kind of precognition that depended on throwing up, Peeps would come to mind.

Not a big-concept story or anything, but well executed in writing and in narration, I thought.

FWIW, I second the recommendation for narrator John Meagher's Tales of the Left Hand, which start out as fairly light-hearted adventure but also explore some neat concepts and worldbuilding and have had some quite moving scenes as the podiobooks develop.
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Unblinking
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« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2014, 09:24:06 AM »

I enjoyed it.  I look forward to Keffy's stories, always a novel set, not just the same old thing.  I didn't know about the wax eyes--cool element for a story about seeing the future.  Traditionally, just about any kind of thing that can be expected to have a random distribution can be used for foretelling--entrails, tea leaves, scattered dust, etc, so vomited Peeps make about as much sense as anything else.

I thought this story tackled the difficulties of foretelling pretty well.  It made sense that the earlier foretellings were much more accurate and crisp than the later ones.  Because in the earlier ones he didn't realize he'd seen the future, he just thought he had a weird sugar-induced dream.  Having a weird dream doesn't affect much of what you do.  But once you realize that you are seeing things that will happen, then you want to see if you can change them.  Once you realize you can change them, then AS you're watching you are already changing the future by seeing what you're seeing. You can't possibly see the future while understanding you're seeing the future and NOT change what you'll do. 

I also thought it spoke well about addiction and gambling addiction in particular, and in a way that I understood more than straightforward descriptions of it.  While of course I can get as obsessed about things, I am by nature very risk averse.  I have gambled before, but usually just a buck or two on a whim. I've always liked the quote "gambling is a tax on people who are bad at math" because any organization that is hosting gambling is not doing it to make YOU rich no matter what their advertisements say, they're doing it to make themselves rich by leaching a bit from those who are willing to spare a bit, and by sucking dry those who don't know how to stop.  They are a business, and like any other business they only survive if they make money, and they make money by holding up a bag of gold in front of your face while they pick your pocket. 

Anyway, there are kinds of addictions that I can understand how people sink into, but gambling addiction is one that I haven't felt like I understood so well.  But in this story, the situation as it was set up was so plausibly addicting.  Especially the scene where he ALMOST gets to look at the newspaper.  His odds in that moment seemed so much better than your average gambler, it would just take one--more--second--and arrggh!  And he was so close that one time, it's bound to happen again, right?  Well, since the times appear to be chosen randomly, and how often is one standing by a newspaper stand, probably not so great.  So I thought the situation did a great job of illustrating to me how a thought process could trap one into gambling.

And obsession feeds into destruction feeds into obsession feeds into destruction.  It was clear in that scene that he could affect the future, and that he was in control of that future self.  So presumably when he gets to that time period, there will be past selves of his reaching forward and mucking about.  Even IF he somehow gave up his habits, he could NEVER be free of that, because his future selves will be reaching forward and messing with his actions at random times. He might find himself holding a newspaper and staring at the lottery numbers and can never be free of that.  Again, this is a great metaphor for what it can be like in real life.  I have some friends in Alcoholics Anonymous and that organization at least makes their statement very clear that they are all "recovering" alcoholics, not "recovered" alcoholics, or "ex-alcoholics".  Once you are an alcoholic, you are never not an alcoholic.  If you want to be free of it, you can go to great lengths to try to stay that way, but your past self is always hovering behind you waiting for a chance to take control again.

I love Peeps.  I know they're disgusting.  But I also know it's possible to know that something is disgusting while simultaneously loving to eat it.  I also love sausage.  And topping toast with peanut butter and honey and Montreal steak seasoning. 

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Listener
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« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2014, 08:19:01 AM »

I found the story to be compelling, and somewhat reminiscent of Douglas Rushkoff's Ecstasy Club when the MC described his house.

However, having heard "Thirty Seconds From Now" on Escape Pod, this story's conceit didn't resonate for me as much as I think it should have done. They shared too many commonalities: a male homosexual narrator, the ability to see into (and slightly change) the future, college students. The peeps were a nice touch, and Thomas's dismissal of "rounding error" in the weight of each peep vs the weight of the sugar in each peep was good.

Unblinking spoke more eloquently on addiction than I could, so I won't.

Overall a decent episode. I enjoyed it enough to listen to the whole thing.
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« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2014, 08:44:53 AM »

However, having heard "Thirty Seconds From Now" on Escape Pod, this story's conceit didn't resonate for me as much as I think it should have done. They shared too many commonalities: a male homosexual narrator, the ability to see into (and slightly change) the future, college students.

That one didn't even cross my mind as I was listening to this one, but in any case I like this one much better.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2014, 02:54:18 PM »

I have to admit that several sections of this story made me feel nauseated... so um, congrats on very effective descriptions? I'm thankful to have never dealt with any serious addictions in my life, but this story definitely helped me appreciate both their allure and their destructiveness even more than I already did. I do really wonder though, if there wasn't a whole hoard of people living downstairs, then what was actually going on? Was he hallucinating, or had they simply moved by the time of those visions?
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« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2014, 08:40:42 AM »

I have to admit that several sections of this story made me feel nauseated... so um, congrats on very effective descriptions? I'm thankful to have never dealt with any serious addictions in my life, but this story definitely helped me appreciate both their allure and their destructiveness even more than I already did. I do really wonder though, if there wasn't a whole hoard of people living downstairs, then what was actually going on? Was he hallucinating, or had they simply moved by the time of those visions?

I was a little confused on that point and I don't think I ever sorted it out. 

I got the impression that he'd spent so much time gazing into the future that he didn't have a clear seperation between what might happen and what is happening?

Or possibly, when he views the future and then comes back rather than just changing future events he's hopping into an alternate timeline where almost everything might be the same but things that are somewhat random like who rents space downstairs might be different.  So one person might live there in this timeline, and one in another, and one in another, but since he goes hop-hop-hop whenever he can he can't keep them straight.
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kibitzer
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« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2014, 10:19:01 PM »

For those outside the US, this is what Peeps are: https://www.marshmallowpeeps.com/products/easter

I'd never heard of them before and wondered what the heck Dave's sly references to marshmallow and chicks was about.

They look kinda sickly sweet to me Smiley But then sugar is, of course, the absolute essence of Easter.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2014, 05:21:45 PM by kibitzer » Logged

bounceswoosh
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« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2014, 11:25:39 PM »

They're totally disgusting.

Carnauba wax is also used in those little gel sports snack cubes. Sadly, I find them quite addictive (my favorite brand is honey stinger). I suspect wax, which I imagine doesn't digest, is far less damaging than all the other chemicals. But maybe I just don't want to give up my snacky things.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2014, 03:53:30 AM by eytanz » Logged
danooli
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« Reply #9 on: May 12, 2014, 12:28:39 PM »

Peeps are so very gross.

But this story wasn't!
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DKT
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« Reply #10 on: May 12, 2014, 12:37:39 PM »

For those outside the US, this is what Peep are: https://www.marshmallowpeeps.com/products/easter

I'd never heard of them before and wondered what the heck Dave's sly references to marshmallow and chicks was about.

They look kinda sickly sweet to me Smiley But then sugar is, of course, the absolute essence of Easter.

Thanks.

Yeah, I really should've given a brief explanation as to what peeps are in the intro. Sorry, all. I thought their wickedness had been well documented.
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kibitzer
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« Reply #11 on: May 12, 2014, 05:24:35 PM »

Carnauba wax is also used in those little gel sports snack cubes. Sadly, I find them quite addictive (my favorite brand is honey stinger).

...and there you go, another thing I didn't know existed! Smiley Energy... gel??

Umm, sorry. I guess I should comment on the story, eh?

Blarg. What a way to read the future! At the end I wasn't sure whether he was seeing possible futures all the time, without the Peeps, because he seemed to be seeing more people in the house than there actually were?
« Last Edit: May 12, 2014, 05:34:48 PM by kibitzer » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: May 14, 2014, 09:01:12 AM »

I put this story on my Best Podcast Fiction of All Time list, at #50:
http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2014/05/the-best-podcast-fiction-of-all-time-41-50/

Smiley

It was a late entry too, I'd already written the whole list and then I listened to the story and had to bump something.
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