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Author Topic: EP443: This Is As I Wish To Be Restored  (Read 1945 times)
eytanz
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« on: April 20, 2014, 05:25:46 AM »

EP443: This Is As I Wish To Be Restored

By Christie Yant

Read by Mr. Lee

This is an original work with no prior appearances.

---

Every night I come home and I drink. I trade away the hope, the guilt, the fear, even the love–I think it’s love, crazy as it seems. I trade them for oblivion, because otherwise I won’t sleep at all. I drink until there’s no life left in me, until I’m able to forget for just a little while the chrome vessel in the corner and what’s at stake. Sometimes I hope that I’ll dream of her. Sometimes I’m afraid that I will.

I have two things that belonged to her. The first is a photograph, taken at a party in what looks like a hotel. Her hair is dyed red—it doesn’t quite suit her, so you know it isn’t hers, like an unexpected note in a melody where you thought you knew where it was going and then it went sharp. She’s holding a glass of something pink and bubbly. Maybe it’s her birthday. If so, it’s probably her twenty-eighth. She’s laughing.

She was really young to be a client. Especially back then, most of the people who thought about life extension were retirees. Mortality was very much on their minds, and they’d had a lifetime to accumulate their savings—suspension was expensive. I wonder where she got the money. Her file doesn’t say.

So in this picture she’s laughing. She’s seated, supporting herself with one hand braced against the carpeted floor. Her head is thrown back and her back is arched, and she’s just the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. There are other people around her, behind her, just smiling blurs holding drinks, but you get the feeling that she’s the reason they’re smiling. She’s the star they’re all in orbit around. Like me. I fell into her orbit years ago and can’t break free.

The picture moves with me through my bleak basement apartment, from room to room—sometimes it turns up on top of the half-size refrigerator, sometimes absent-mindedly left on a shelf in the medicine cabinet where I discover it again later and take it with me to the bedroom. I’ve found it between the sofa cushions at least half a dozen times. She follows me, or I follow her—it’s been a lifetime since she smiled that smile, and I’m still completely, utterly taken.

The one place it never goes is on the dewar in the corner.  That would just be too macabre, considering.

This is the only photograph she left. I often wonder what it was about this moment, this time in her life, that she could have looked ahead and known that this was as good as it gets. In this picture the cancer’s already killing her, she just doesn’t know it.

She died less than a year later. Pancreatic cancer. It’s in her file.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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Windup
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« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2014, 08:23:14 PM »

This one did not work for me. I like the idea of exploring the question of what motivates a person to take the "leap into the future" represented by cryogenic preservation, and how the future will react to them. But that's not what I got.

What I got was a drunk guy projecting his ideas of what one cryogenically-preserved person wanted, and his fears that what he had to offer wasn't it.  To me, the fact that the contents of the note explaining what she wanted was never disclosed and that the exact nature of the "restoration" available was never described felt like a cop-out on the author's part.

I liked the part about the company's financial crisis. I'm interested in the issue of how relatively short-lived humans can carry out very long-term obligations, and the emotional consequences of failing in those obligations. But again, there wasn't enough detail that I really understood what had happened, or what the fallout was.

Definitely a time to say, "Better luck next week."
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MrBlister
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« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2014, 05:25:39 PM »

The first sentence establishes the fact that our narrator is a drunk. I didn't need to hear the reader slurping and drooling to reinforce the fact. It was distracting to the point that, at about 10 minutes I found myself wondering what it would be like if the narrator compulsively ate chicken wings. I switched it off at about the 13 minute mark.
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DerangedMind
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« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2014, 03:19:19 PM »

Contrary to the others (so far) I liked the story.  I read it more as a story of how cyrogenics (and the company) had changed over the years.  The heartbreaking time when they had to kill some of the patrons of the firm to save the rest, how it had changed from whole-body to neurological.  I liked the fact that it dealt with a specific technology and extrapolated from there.

Yeah, the protagonist was creepy / stalker dude.  But, he did save the client (assuming that she was one of the people slated to be killed - I don't believe that was explicitly stated - otherwise he just kidnapped / stole her) and is working himself up to getting her revived.  Whether or not he kept her in safely and she will be revivable is a different matter...

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skeletondragon
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« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2014, 07:03:55 PM »

I was also curious about the "crisis" that forced the company to kill (most? a lot? how many?) of its clients. Apparently some of the survived and the company remained in business, and that seemed odd to me. Was it just operating costs? Couldn't they have taken out a loan? Or if they had no expectation of future income, how did they recover? Now I'm getting really bothered contemplating this fictional company's business model. It seemed like this vaguely-alluded-to event was just an excuse for the narrator to steal/kidnap the woman. I think it almost would have been a better story if there hadn't been a crisis, and he was just a seriously messed up stalker. Then people at the company start wondering why they're missing a corpsicle and bam, you have the perfect set-up for an episode of a crime show set in the future.
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Zelda
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« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2014, 02:14:54 AM »

I found this story massively creepy. The narrator has built his life around his obession with this woman based on a photograph and scrap of handwriting. He drinks until he passes out every night because he's so weighted down by the feelings he has about having stolen her body. Or is it to escape his obessive thoughts about her? He stole the body years ago and this woman is still the only thing that exists in his emotional life. But he's palpalably reluctant to carry out her wishes, even though they were his excuse for stealing her. He's creepy on so many levels.

I don't see anything noble or caring in the narrator's deep reluctance to wake up Sleeping Beauty. She can't cope with being alive in the future? Why not? How bad can a future in which an emotionally unstable alcoholic is employed by the same company for decades and is turned to by co-workers during a corporate crisis be? In any event she has the right to find out if she can cope with it. She's an adult human being, not a photograph.

Maybe the author intended this story to be a dark and very twisted variation on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. It works quite brilliantly as that.
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Warren
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« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2014, 06:33:30 AM »

I'm with MrBlister. I switched off at about a dozen minutes feeling that the narrative had been aimlessly and rather unrevealingly wandering, presumably heading for a big reveal that the author felt would function as a payoff but failing to carry my interest long enough to reach that destination, and that the sound effects were intrusive and annoying.
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albionmoonlight
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« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2014, 12:57:43 PM »

Normally, I fall into the less-is-more camp with reveals.  I like stories that leave some things unsaid and do not spoon-feed us everything.  However, in this case, I came off feeling that less-is-less.  The story was structured in a way that made me anticipate a reveal at the end that would have better explained the narrator's motivations.  And then that reveal never came.  Left me unsatisfied at the outro music.
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Varda
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« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2014, 01:34:30 PM »

I, too, wasn't a fan at all of the sound effects. I'm usually pretty tolerant of little audio touches, but in this case it detracted from the story for me instead of enhancing it.

As for the story itself, I'm with Zelda--this story was creepy good, and I think Zelda's assessment of this as a twisted Sleeping Beauty tale is especially astute. I actually rather like that the full text of the note wasn't revealed. There was something appropriate about the fact that a man who had copied this note over and over to the point where he could imitate the handwriting would simultaneously be completely unaware of what a creep this behavior showed him to be. Idealization is dehumanizing. At the end of the story, part of me wondered whether he would ever really get her revived or not, as this would shatter the perfection of the situation for him: a woman who acts as the recipient of whatever he wants to project upon her, but can never actually speak back or answer him.
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Cutter McKay
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« Reply #9 on: April 23, 2014, 05:14:01 PM »

I find myself hoping, for the narrator's sake, that the excessive background noise was purposeful and intended to allude to the MC's heavy drinking. However, I don't think such was the case. It didn't come across that way, anyway. Shuffling papers, sipping water, smacking lips, sound fading in and out; the whole thing came across as just a poor production. Undecided

Sadly, the story wasn't much better. I didn't hate it, there were some very interesting ideas and questions within; however, the presentation was pretty boring. We have the unreliable musings of a creepy kidnapper/savior as he wrestles with the decision to save the girl--and thereby destroy his fantasy--or leave her in a state of perpetual beauty/imprisonment. It's all flashback and all tell. No proactivity, no consequences, and no resolution.

As others have mentioned, I'm much more interested in the "crisis" and everything surrounding it. I would like to read a story about the company's troubles, the moral decisions they faced, and the terrible choices they made in the end.
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matweller
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« Reply #10 on: April 24, 2014, 08:38:55 AM »

I find myself hoping, for the narrator's sake, that the excessive background noise was purposeful and intended to allude to the MC's heavy drinking. However, I don't think such was the case. It didn't come across that way, anyway. Shuffling papers, sipping water, smacking lips, sound fading in and out; the whole thing came across as just a poor production.

I'm not making excuses, just honestly asking because it seems to have been an issue with a lot of people: this didn't sound to you exactly like a man sitting in a lounge chair, telling a story with a tumbler of whiskey in his hand, gesturing with that hand some (which is pretty much precisely the scene described in the story)? I'll admit, the one paper shuffle I heard in there was annoying to me, and the one time I recall the narrator turned his head away from the mic was not something I would have kept if we were recording in a studio and I got to produce it live, but the fairly constant clink of ice in the glass was in line with the narrative and otherwise the background was pretty devoid of the audio pollution we often get from our narrators. I'm honestly a bit shocked to hear more than one person mention it at all, but I want to learn so we can do better in the future.
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Varda
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« Reply #11 on: April 24, 2014, 10:30:30 AM »

I'm not making excuses, just honestly asking because it seems to have been an issue with a lot of people: this didn't sound to you exactly like a man sitting in a lounge chair, telling a story with a tumbler of whiskey in his hand, gesturing with that hand some (which is pretty much precisely the scene described in the story)? I'll admit, the one paper shuffle I heard in there was annoying to me, and the one time I recall the narrator turned his head away from the mic was not something I would have kept if we were recording in a studio and I got to produce it live, but the fairly constant clink of ice in the glass was in line with the narrative and otherwise the background was pretty devoid of the audio pollution we often get from our narrators. I'm honestly a bit shocked to hear more than one person mention it at all, but I want to learn so we can do better in the future.

My opinion? I think there are audio effects that enhance a story by drawing attention to important elements and scene-setting, and audio elements that pull attention away from a story. So I liked the very first glass-clink, which helped set the stage that he's drinking at the moment it's mentioned and created a nice harmony with the text, but since the drinking itself is not the important thing about the story, every other use after the first one pulled my brain away from the text and directed my attention toward something irrelevant instead of accenting the experience of the story. I'd probably feel differently if the story itself was using the drinking as a major symbol instead of just a bit of scene-setting.
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davidthygod
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« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2014, 10:58:36 AM »

Not the best ever but a good solid, pretty twisted story, or at least it was the way I read it.  Zelda's sleeping beauty reference was definitely an accurate comparison.  The only difference is sleeping beauty was locked in a castle behind a forest of thorns to keep up away the molesters, but make no mistake, if she weren't, there would have been similar unspoken fondling and sexual deviancy, as what I can guarantee was happening to the narrator's popsicle girlfriend. 

"I only hope she can forgive me."  I definitely read that as his remorse for all the dirty shit he did to or in front of that poor frozen girl.


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davidthygod
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« Reply #13 on: April 24, 2014, 11:01:52 AM »

I'm not making excuses, just honestly asking because it seems to have been an issue with a lot of people: this didn't sound to you exactly like a man sitting in a lounge chair, telling a story with a tumbler of whiskey in his hand, gesturing with that hand some (which is pretty much precisely the scene described in the story)? I'll admit, the one paper shuffle I heard in there was annoying to me, and the one time I recall the narrator turned his head away from the mic was not something I would have kept if we were recording in a studio and I got to produce it live, but the fairly constant clink of ice in the glass was in line with the narrative and otherwise the background was pretty devoid of the audio pollution we often get from our narrators. I'm honestly a bit shocked to hear more than one person mention it at all, but I want to learn so we can do better in the future.

I didn't mind the glass and the clinking at all Mat.  Like you, the only thing I heard that pulled me out of the story a bit was really when it seemed like the reader pulled away from the mic and the voice volume would change substantially.  The paper shuffling was maybe a bit loud too but the volume change was the only nitpick I had.  I didn't think it was bad at all.  Just my likely incorrect opinion.
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matweller
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« Reply #14 on: April 24, 2014, 11:21:02 AM »

Not the best ever but a good solid, pretty twisted story, or at least it was the way I read it.  Zelda's sleeping beauty reference was definitely an accurate comparison.  The only difference is sleeping beauty was locked in a castle behind a forest of thorns to keep up away the molesters, but make no mistake, if she weren't, there would have been similar unspoken fondling and sexual deviancy, as what I can guarantee was happening to the narrator's popsicle girlfriend. 

"I only hope she can forgive me."  I definitely read that as his remorse for all the dirty shit he did to or in front of that poor frozen girl.

That's some pretty dark stuff. I took the whole drunkenness and the hope for forgiveness to be attached to the fact that he wasn't 100% sure he was going to be able to restore her at all, and certainly not in the way she hoped, therefore maybe the mass death was the better option.

It's an interesting thought in relation to Kumara. If someone can't come back the way they thought or intended, is the bigger crime to bring something back or to let it all die? If they come back different, are they even really the same person? If not, is the original person then actually dead, and your sin is absolved because this new incarnation knew no other way? The spiritual implications of science are always so staggering.
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matweller
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« Reply #15 on: April 24, 2014, 11:28:11 AM »

...but since the drinking itself is not the important thing about the story, every other use after the first one pulled my brain away from the text and directed my attention toward something irrelevant instead of accenting the experience of the story. I'd probably feel differently if the story itself was using the drinking as a major symbol instead of just a bit of scene-setting.

Maybe it's a condemning commentary on how badly I pay attention to somethings, but I just hear it as ambient: loud enough to hear and set a tone, but not loud enough to distract. I mean, if I was listening to someone tell a story beside a fire or while standing in a river, I would expect to hear the fire crackling or the river roiling throughout, and it may or may not have any direct relevance to the story itself. Maybe I just envisioned it all differently. It wouldn't be the first time.
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Warren
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« Reply #16 on: April 24, 2014, 02:26:37 PM »

I find myself hoping, for the narrator's sake, that the excessive background noise was purposeful and intended to allude to the MC's heavy drinking. However, I don't think such was the case. It didn't come across that way, anyway. Shuffling papers, sipping water, smacking lips, sound fading in and out; the whole thing came across as just a poor production.

I'm not making excuses, just honestly asking because it seems to have been an issue with a lot of people: this didn't sound to you exactly like a man sitting in a lounge chair, telling a story with a tumbler of whiskey in his hand, gesturing with that hand some (which is pretty much precisely the scene described in the story)? I'll admit, the one paper shuffle I heard in there was annoying to me, and the one time I recall the narrator turned his head away from the mic was not something I would have kept if we were recording in a studio and I got to produce it live, but the fairly constant clink of ice in the glass was in line with the narrative and otherwise the background was pretty devoid of the audio pollution we often get from our narrators. I'm honestly a bit shocked to hear more than one person mention it at all, but I want to learn so we can do better in the future.

As one of the people who found the audio effects intrusive ...

I don't have any great insight into why I found them intrusive this time. I know it's a very difficult thing to get right. Some of my problem on this occasion may simply be that I wasn't loving the story anyway, and wasn't sufficiently drawn into it, so that it was easier for distractions to pull me out of it - but even so, this would presume the sounds functioned as distractions rather than intensifying the listening experience, which shouldn't be the case. I can make guesses (sound mixing made the effects too prominent compared to a slow, soft, perhaps inconsistent narration; and maybe the effects would have been more effective if used less often, or at times more clearly chosen for effect), but they are just guesses, and without going back I'm not sure either is especially relevant to this instance.
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Varda
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« Reply #17 on: April 24, 2014, 04:12:24 PM »

...but since the drinking itself is not the important thing about the story, every other use after the first one pulled my brain away from the text and directed my attention toward something irrelevant instead of accenting the experience of the story. I'd probably feel differently if the story itself was using the drinking as a major symbol instead of just a bit of scene-setting.

Maybe it's a condemning commentary on how badly I pay attention to somethings, but I just hear it as ambient: loud enough to hear and set a tone, but not loud enough to distract. I mean, if I was listening to someone tell a story beside a fire or while standing in a river, I would expect to hear the fire crackling or the river roiling throughout, and it may or may not have any direct relevance to the story itself. Maybe I just envisioned it all differently. It wouldn't be the first time.

I think I'd find a persistent roaring river or crackling fire equally distracting in an audio presentation of a short story for the same reasons I already mentioned. It's not a question of realism, per se. If you were to accurately portray the atmosphere of my living room right now, you'd need to stick in the hum of the fridge in the other room, but this would hardly immerse you farther into any oral storytelling happening in my living room. I think the problem relates to how the real setting is the narrator's memory, not the present-tense drinking and slurping. Maybe if there were important scene changes between past and present, with the ice cubes being an audio cue to help with the transition, the sound effects may have been effective, but unfortunately this time around it didn't work for me.

Which is not to say I don't appreciate all the wonderful, hard work you do, Mat. Most of the time I think the audio is quite good--like all special effects, so well-done it's almost invisible as part of the texture of the experience of an episode. Smiley
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Cutter McKay
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« Reply #18 on: April 24, 2014, 05:14:08 PM »

I'm not making excuses, just honestly asking because it seems to have been an issue with a lot of people: this didn't sound to you exactly like a man sitting in a lounge chair, telling a story with a tumbler of whiskey in his hand, gesturing with that hand some (which is pretty much precisely the scene described in the story)?
I went back and listened to some of the story again to pinpoint what the problem was. Because, really, I like it when you guys mix in some ambient sounds to help immerse us in the story. So why didn't it work here?

First off, I listened to the story in my car, which has a whole slew of its own ambient noises competing with the story. Not until I just listened to it again did I realize just how much ice sound there actually is. Honestly I didn't catch any of that my first time through, apparently only picking up on the occasional overly loud sound. So that's not really anyone's fault, just a situation where the effects were too quiet for my personal circumstances.

Also, the first "ice" sound effect that I noticed didn't sound like ice to me, but like someone slurping through a straw. So it didn't conjure images of the MC sipping whisky, I thought the narrator had taken a sip of water. So that, along with the shuffling paper and him moving away from the mic, put me in the mindset that it was just a bad recording.

Also, I think another reason I didn't get what was supposed to be portrayed is because, when I think of someone who goes home every night and drinks himself into unconsciousness, I don't picture them relaxing in an armchair with a tumbler of whisky. I see them chugging from the bottle as they lay half-on-half-off a moldy couch. So without the proper picture in mind, the SFX were just a straight miss for me.

Finally, I think Warren hit it on the head. The story itself wasn't holding me, so other things were distracting.

So, as I said, I'm glad it was on purpose and not just a bad narration. I want you guys to know I don't fault either Mr. Lee, or EP. I really appreciate the efforts you put into these stories, especially when you go above an beyond the basic reading and try to add more dimensions. This one didn't work, but don't stop. Thanks for everything. /suckingup.  Wink
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Jaredwcooper
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« Reply #19 on: April 24, 2014, 08:35:26 PM »

Ambient sounds added in for effect are disastrously tricky.

There are two stories I can think of that use them in a way that's super immersive to me. "The Bungalow House", and another Psuedopod story that involved a woman over a PA system. Lightspeed's recent "Codename: Delphi" also had something like this to convey radio speech. So that, to me anyway, is great, and really gets me into the story.

But I think the clinking of ice, the shift in volume, can be distracting because, while they are "human" sounds, they're not vocal augments. They're foreign objects within the realm of my mental story space. It's also highly uncommon. in my listening experience.

All that said, I can jive with the attempt, but I'm in the same boat that it was one of several factors that slowly broke the immersion for me.
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