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Author Topic: EP440: Canterbury Hollow  (Read 1172 times)
eytanz
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« on: March 22, 2014, 06:23:41 AM »

EP440: Canterbury Hollow

by Chris Lawson

Read by Bill Bowman

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Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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Dem
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« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2014, 08:51:52 AM »

Oh dear, looks like I'm up first and I'm going to be Mrs Grumpy about it. There's an interesting tale here, albeit one that draws on a kind of outer spacey Soylent Green + death ballot plot in which swapping places and jumping off a cliff seem to be the extent of rebellion, but it was dragged down for me at the end with the lecture about extinctions and human triumph - of which not much here. I was happy to go with the format up until then but shoehorning educational and moralistic material into it pulled me right out. So, sorry Chris, this one's not for me.
Sorry also Alisdair - I really really really can't agree about the new Cosmos. To me it's lifeless, flat as a pancake, dull, over-CGI-ed, over scripted, and over self congratulatory. I had to look up the presenter to find he is a scientist, he comes across as an anchorman. But then we've got Coxy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Cox_(physicist) and there's no contest Smiley
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Just Jeff
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« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2014, 09:52:16 AM »

I'm happy with very small triumphs, so I'm good with this one. Less so the lecture at the end. I do, however, consider it rude to take others with you when committing suicide. Couldn't be bothered with a "look out below"?

I'm only two episodes into Cosmos. The first was three-quarters filler. Very disappointing. The second was better, but still meh. I'll try the third in hopes they continue to progress.
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slic
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« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2014, 10:20:35 AM »

Yikes - 3 strikes, I hope no one out
Cosmos - I agree with the above - hopefully, it's still finding it's feet, but I also suspect that the show is not meant for people with our views, but rather it's a glossy/glitzy plan to attract the middle ground.  Sadly, in the US this is becoming a real issue - to the point where a misplaced promo (intentional or not) makes national news:
http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/tv/showtracker/la-et-st-oklahoma-city-fox-affiliate-cuts-evolution-from-cosmos-20140313,0,4969385.story#axzz2wnb7td80

As for the story, Dem and I are 100% in agreement.  Add in the mystery about what Balloted meant at the beginning and then the pain exposition explaining it (show, don't tell).  And this is a really picky point, I know, but once Balloting was explained, my first thought was - you have  2 weeks to live and you fell asleep on a bus?!

I always enjoy the outro when it helps me understand why a story was picked.  Hearing Alisdair talk about how he saw courage in their choice helped make sense of why the story ran.  I don't agree mind you, but I see better why he liked it.
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Ocicat
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« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2014, 03:57:49 PM »

I don't believe Alisdair actually has anything to do with story selection.  He's the host.  Norm, and to a lesser extent, Nathaniel Lee pick the stories. 
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PotatoKnight
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« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2014, 09:41:37 PM »

Though on the whole I'd say this one came in just on the right side of "liked it" I don't widely disagree with the consensus so far--I think this one had more potential than it delivered on.  I actually think it could have pulled off the exact same story if it had been...I guess the word I'm looking for is prettier?  There's a skeleton here to show off some poetical prose chops, and I just didn't feel it here.


And this is a really picky point, I know, but once Balloting was explained, my first thought was - you have  2 weeks to live and you fell asleep on a bus?!


This I actually liked.  Dude had two weeks to live and couldn't come up with what he wanted to do until he meets the right other person.  Comes off as pretty true to me.
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Listener
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« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2014, 07:31:32 AM »

This story started out very slow for me and I almost skipped it, but I stuck with it and it got better over time. I too could have lived without the narrative intrusion at the end -- maybe put that AFTER they jump?

I wonder if they were killed before they hit, or if they died on impact.
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albionmoonlight
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« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2014, 11:45:35 AM »

I am not sure how to feel about a story that keeps reminding me of how, in the cosmic scheme of things, it means nothing.  In general, I think that speculative fiction needs more slice-of-life stories.  The vast, vast majority of us are doing things that are quite meaningful to ourselves and those around us, but that will not affect the fate of the galaxy.  Most stories/movies, etc., however, only have us following the equivalent of the Skywalker family.

I wonder if the overtly small scope of the story is part of what has led to the general negative reaction in this thread so far.  Maybe it is hard to get excited about a story that tells you it's not all that big of a deal.
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Asomatous
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« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2014, 11:57:55 PM »

... outer spacey Soylent Green + death ballot plot in which swapping places and jumping off a cliff seem to be the extent of rebellion, but it was dragged down for me at the end with the lecture about extinctions and human triumph - of which not much here. I was happy to go with the format up until then but shoehorning educational and moralistic material into it pulled me right out.

Well said Dem. The penultimate explanatory addendum not only created a jarring halt to the flow of the story but also seemed to be a last minute addition pasted in after a critic/editor advised that the story made not sense if it were not included.

Additionally, I concur with so many here that the characters were rather flat and hard with which to identify. Two weeks for life left and not a plan? Adopting the plan of another balloted citizen yet being able to figure out her hidden secret after two tries? Was he brilliant but just depressed over his being balloted? Or maybe he was just a philosophical idealist refusing to pragmatically cling to the possibility of life? Isn't it wonderful he found someone to whom he could attach himself that had a meaning plan for the rest of her life? I would have liked to have been given a bit more insight into the female protagonist. I was sure she was the main character but the longer the story went the less of her is revealed. How did she know about the "lovers' leap"? Had she "discovered it during one of her previous climbs? Why was she so sure her lover would agree to her final solution? So many questions and so few answers.

Finally, this is another story which indicates a seeming nobility in choosing the time and manner of one's own death (cf. EP 436 Into the Breach). I applaud the notion of a last ditch effort to exert a declaration of freedom. It is appropriate to the context of this story in my opinion. Yet, it is important to remember that not all suicides are noble and evidence of self-sacrifice. The greater good is more often served by soldiering on rather than extinguishing one's own light. Good science fiction is good escapism. Ending one's own life isn't an appropriate form of escapism for most of us.  Roll Eyes Just saying.
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MichaelFoster
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« Reply #9 on: March 27, 2014, 08:15:10 AM »

I liked the theme of the story and the focus on the characters' defiance, but the narrator's heavy-handed description at the end (the lines about angels were ridiculous) was off-putting. A good story in need of a good editor.
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davidthygod
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« Reply #10 on: March 27, 2014, 09:29:21 AM »

I wonder if the overtly small scope of the story is part of what has led to the general negative reaction in this thread so far.  Maybe it is hard to get excited about a story that tells you it's not all that big of a deal.

I think you pinpointed why I am sort of "meh" on this story.  I don't have a good reason not to like it, but I think you are right that the story somehow convinced me that none of it really mattered all that much. Balloting, dying, whatever.
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slic
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« Reply #11 on: March 27, 2014, 01:40:08 PM »

I don't believe Alisdair actually has anything to do with story selection.  He's the host.  Norm, and to a lesser extent, Nathaniel Lee pick the stories. 
Sorry I didn't mean to suggest that Alisdair is involved in story selection.  I meant that with all the parts I didn't like about it, I couldn't understand why it would get selected at all.  But Alisdair pointed out what resonated with him, and I thought, ah, someone found something good in the story.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #12 on: March 27, 2014, 03:16:53 PM »

Sorry to say that I'm another one who found this story to be a misfire. It annoys me when characters are mysterious for the sake of being mysterious, and even more so when being private turns into being secretive for the sake of creating drama. The weirdly inserted preaching was also a turn off, as was the whole suicide scene. I mean, maybe he doesn't want to have an unnecessarily painful death by plummeting 800 meters, did she even ask his opinion?

At least the reader was good. Smiley
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Cutter McKay
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« Reply #13 on: March 27, 2014, 05:32:32 PM »

I'm afraid I'm going to have to pile into the Meh Wagon with everyone else. I did't hate the story, but it didn't do anything for me either. It was just sort of... there.

One thing that bothered me, aside from the lecture that pretty much everyone has already railed against, was the characters' back stories. Or lack thereof. I mean, several commentors have said the characters were flat and I think that's because we never get very deep in their heads or their histories. We hear from his brother and learn that he could have been a part of some religion, but he didn't believe in it so he bailed. Basically a one sentence exploration of his inner character. No discussion of why, of how, of his relationships with his brother or anyone else in the religion. Then he turns around and conveniently deduces her past from a few minor details on a stone wall, that she is bitter about her sister getting to live. She shrugs it off and that's it. No discussion of why, of how, of her relationships with her sister or anyone else in her family. Again, a one sentence exploration of her inner character. Well, in my book, that just isn't enough. If you want someone to care about your characters, a quick, simple summary of their troubled pasts just isn't enough in most cases. In order to get someone emotionally invested, you have to dig a little deeper.  Undecided

Yet, it is important to remember that not all suicides are noble and evidence of self-sacrifice. The greater good is more often served by soldiering on rather than extinguishing one's own light. Good science fiction is good escapism. Ending one's own life isn't an appropriate form of escapism for most of us.  Roll Eyes Just saying.
And I think this hits the other nail on why this story fell flat.
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« Reply #14 on: March 29, 2014, 12:26:00 AM »

This is a story about deciding what to do if you knew you had two weeks left to live. Imagine the conversation you would have with your loved ones. You would probably try to deal with it like going on vacation, where would you go, what would you do and how would it end but unlike a vacation, this is the last thing you would ever do. You would want it to be the most extraordinary two weeks ever but what is good enough to fit that bill? You're last meal? Maine lobster tail with drawn butter? Is that really good enough to be your last taste? Or would you have canned tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich at the kitchen table because that's what you're mom used to fix for you when you were a kid - when life was simple, you were in good health, you were unconditionally loved, and had a bright future? Would you visit Paris, even if that would put a financial burden on the family you left behind? Is it even ethical to live for pleasure, especially if you won't have a future to remember the pleasure? I wish the story spent more time on that big question, and all the character building that you can get done at the same time, rather than on all the stuff about the sun and not being able to dig enough holes. Some people know they have two weeks left to live, what can you say to them and their families through your fiction? For everyone who has an unspecified amount of time left, can you snap us awake and make us ponder what matters most? Deal with that and you will not just entertain people you'll change their lives.
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Toasty_Ohs
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« Reply #15 on: March 31, 2014, 01:54:41 PM »

This story was bothering me for a while and I could not figure out why. 

I think I understand it now.  It is not so much a scifi story about two people in a far flung future living on an asteroid as it is a amateur documentary about two people who find each other at the end of their lives.  It is very real in that we don't get any explanations on why things are, the interview segments are all cut out.  All that is left is the raw clips of these two people interacting.  Then at the end, we hear from the filmmaker expounding on the message that we all somehow missed.  Whose fault is it that we didn't get it, ourselves, or the documentarian?
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #16 on: April 03, 2014, 09:47:53 AM »

People have beat me to most of the points I was going to talk about, so I'll try to be brief.
1.  I felt like I never really got into the heads of the characters.  This is a very emotionally traumatic time for them, I should feel something.
2.  The exposition lumps, especially the backstory of the ballots and stuff, was a huge clumsy lump that killed any momentum that it had coming.  It could've been much briefer, and spread throughout the story, especially if it had said a word that's more often associated with random drawings like "lottery" rather than "ballot" which to me evokes choice and voting rather than random and irrevocable things.
3.  I generally hate an ending that involves a non-productive suicide.  Non-prodtuve is probably a bad way to describe it, but by non-productive I mean to distinguish between a suicide that has a tangible and desirable effect like a warrior holding the enemy at a bottleneck to let his fellows escape, or a suicide that has some kind of powerful social effect, rather than people just deciding to end their lives because they want to end their lives.  (As opposed to productive suicides or attempted suicides like Neo trying to save Morpheus even though he has been told he will die if he tries).  I have known people who committed suicide, and people who have attempted to commit suicide.  Amazing people who left my personal world a lesser place without them, some of them in my teenage years when my life was feeling especially shitty and that loss was really devestating.  And any time a story enters that territory it has my real life history with people who've committed suicide to contend with.  This story didn't overcome that hurdle.

The main thing that I DID like about the story was their mutual choice to have their time evened out between them.  That is an amazing compromise, and I can very much understand the desire on their parts that if they HAVE to die, let it be simultaneously with someone they love.

On a side note, I wonder if the colony could actually recover all of their biological material for recycling since it had to have... well... splattered pretty thoroughly.  I wonder if that kind of suicide is frowned upon for that reason.
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #17 on: April 05, 2014, 01:12:59 PM »

I actually liked this story because it addresses the essential existential human crisis - everyone dies. You can't live forever, and even if you could, you'd unbalance the environment for everyone.

Though of course the most frightening line of the story is that part of the narration that states a third of all known biospheres were ruined by human expansion. Believable but depressing.
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DerangedMind
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« Reply #18 on: April 06, 2014, 01:36:50 PM »

Add in the mystery about what Balloted meant at the beginning and then the pain exposition explaining it (show, don't tell). 

I dunno - it took me about 2 minutes to guess about balloting.  For me, the bigger issue was that while I could understand the first generation needing to do something like that, I couldn't understand how it kept on happening.  If there's a society that is willing to accept that you need to die if your number is drawn, then why not reverse it and have something like a Birthright Lottery (like in Niven's Known Space).  I would expect that it would be a lot easier to sell that then institutionalized murder to maintain zero population growth.
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DerangedMind
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« Reply #19 on: April 06, 2014, 01:42:42 PM »

I liked the story, but to me, it felt like it was a fragment from a larger tapestry.  It just didn't feel complete.  Don't get me wrong, I felt for the characters, and understood them and their struggles.  And I liked the writing style.  It just didn't feel like something that should have been there was missing.... 

Maybe if it was brought up to novella length and had things fleshed out more it would have done more for me....
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