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Author Topic: EP444: Those Are Pearls That Were His Eyes  (Read 1665 times)
eytanz
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« on: April 26, 2014, 04:40:29 PM »

EP444: Those Are Pearls That Were His Eyes

By Daniel Marcus

Read by Christiana Ellis

First published first in Asimov’s, July 1996, and reprinted in the author’s collection, Binding Energy (2008).

---

The only window in Suki’s bedroom opened onto an airshaft that ran through the center of the building like the path of a bullet.  She would lie in bed in the hot summer nights with the salt smell of the drying seabed coming in through the open window, a sheen of sweat filming her forehead and plastering the sheets to her body like tissue, listening to her downstairs neighbors.  When they made love, their cries echoing up through the airshaft made her loins ache, and she brought release to herself silently, visualizing men with slender, oiled limbs and faces hidden in shadow. Sometimes the neighbors sang, odd, sinuous music redolent with quarter tones.  The melodies wove counterpoint like a tapestry of smoke and for some reason Suki thought of mountains.  Jagged, fractal peaks thrusting out of an evergreen carpet.  Summits brushed with snow.  Tongues of cloud laying across the low passes. Sometimes they argued, and the first time she heard the man’s deep voice raised in anger she was sure he was a Beast, possibly an Ursa. She was less certain of the woman, but there was a sibilant, lilting quality to her voice that suggested something of the feline.  They’d moved in three weeks before but their sleep cycles seemed out of sync with hers and she still hadn’t met them. Suki tried to imagine herself going downstairs to borrow something — sugar, yarn, a databead.  His broad muzzle would poke out from behind the half-closed door; his liquid brown eyes would be half-closed in  suspicion.  They would chat for a bit, though, and perhaps he would invite her in.  They would teach her their songs and their voices would rise together into the thick, warm air. Some nights there was no singing, no arguing, no love, and Suki listened to the city, a white-noise melange of machinery and people in constant flux, like the sound of the ocean captured in a shell held to the ear.  Beneath that, emanating from the spaceport on the edge of the city, a low, intermittent hum, nearly subsonic, so faint it seemed to come from somewhere inside her own body. On those nights, she had trouble sleeping, and she would climb the rickety stairs to the roof.  She couldn’t see the Web, of course, but she imagined she could feel it arching overhead, lines of force criss-crossing the sky.  Ships rode the Web up to where they could safely ignite their fusion drives for in-system voyages, or clung to the invisible threads all the way to their convergence at the Wyrm. Newmoon hung in the sky, its progress just below the threshold of conscious perception, like the minute hands of a clock.  She had visited there as a child, a creche trip, and she remembered the feel of the factories humming under her feet, the metal skin pocked with micrometeorite impacts  stretching to the too-close horizon, the tingling caress of her environment field.

Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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skeletondragon
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« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2014, 11:01:01 PM »

At the beginning of this story, I thought Suki was just imagining/pretending that her neighbors were animals (didn't realize Beasts was capitalized). I was pleasantly surprised to gradually realize that the world she lived in was just that weird. I think the worldbuilding is the best part of this story. So many tantalizing details, I wanted to know more about everything but was satisfied with what we got. The city with the dried out shoreline could have been kind of cheesy but it was handled well and ended up working very well and being very poetic. Every time a new aspect was introduced I thought, ah so this story will be about these aliens, no wait, it will be about this thing the Wyrm, no wait, it's about this mysterious blind guy. The joke was on me, because of course all along the story was about Suki. It was about the everyday profound and bittersweet ways a human woman interacted with a strange and perhaps meaningless world.
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Windup
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« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2014, 10:58:41 PM »

I liked this story.  I realize it will probably get some knocks because "nothing happened and no one changed," and that's a fair criticism.  However, the mood was evocative enough, and the world-building was interesting enough that it held my attention. And I found it funny that even after many millennia, contact with alien races and the slow retreat of the sea, guys still get cold feet before a big date and back out.  Shocked
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Unblinking
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« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2014, 08:47:33 AM »

I liked this story.  I realize it will probably get some knocks because "nothing happened and no one changed," and that's a fair criticism.  However, the mood was evocative enough, and the world-building was interesting enough that it held my attention. And I found it funny that even after many millennia, contact with alien races and the slow retreat of the sea, guys still get cold feet before a big date and back out.  Shocked

Hey Windup, nothing happened and no one changed!  Smiley

I really had trouble paying attention to this one, and every time my attention wandered and came back... I apparently hadn't missed anything.  A matter of taste and all that, waiting for next week.
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albionmoonlight
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« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2014, 03:56:27 PM »

I cannot help but compare this to This Is As I Wish to Be Restored.  Both stories focused more on worldbuilding and character insight than plot.  I felt the lack of real plot a flaw with Restored, but I did not here.  Nothing felt like it was really missing here.  In fact, I really liked the less-is-more aspect of this.  Just give us hints of the world and the changes and the people in it.  And, when it was over, I felt satisfied.

Certainly, I enjoy a good plot-driven space opera as much as the next guy.  But taking some time for a brief slice-of-life-in-the 21st-century story is nice, too.
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Cutter McKay
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« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2014, 04:41:34 PM »

I realize it will probably get some knocks because "nothing happened and no one changed," and that's a fair criticism. 

So, yes, this is my criticism, too. However, as seems to be the case for everyone else, I don't really mind. The worldbuilding in this story was fascinating and the writing was absolutely beautiful. I loved learning about the many different species with which Suki interacted with on a daily basis. I loved the simple shopkeeper's life she led and the glimpse of what would be a stressor in her life, i.e. the Ken and their disregard for propriety. It was all just so dang interesting.

But, like Windup said, no one changed. And this does grate on me a little bit. Like skeletondragon, I kept watching for the plot; oh it'll be this; no, it'll be this; no it'll be--wait, the music?? What?

I suppose one could make the argument that at the beginning of the story, she wasn't quite over Tam, and by the end she was. But that's pretty weak. She really was over Tam already, and just hadn't taken the next step in moving on. So really, there's no character development. She starts off lonely, but happy. She ends lonely, but happy. And although I really enjoyed this slice-of-life piece, I would still prefer a little more plot in my weekly EP...  Undecided
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DerangedMind
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« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2014, 10:51:02 PM »

I don't have a lot new to say about the story.  The world building was fantastic, the writing was great, and the plot was pretty much non-existent.

It was a good story, but, to me it felt like either a study written to explore or flesh out a world setting, or like it was part of a larger body of work.
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Dem
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« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2014, 09:48:43 AM »

Pretty much all of the above in terms of brilliant world building and not a whole lot of outcome. Plus though - how was it rated a 10 and up with all those sultry goings-on going on at the beginning, the not so subtle allusions to sex in the following para, and some rather clear references to 'downstairs activities' - and I don't mean Beast and cat lady - later on! Ten year olds ain't what they used to be, that's for sure!
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hansv
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« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2014, 01:02:05 PM »

To me, the overall felling after the story can be summed up in one word: Meh!
As someone mentioned before, the "nothing happened and nobody changed" was most prominent after the story...
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Varda
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« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2014, 01:30:15 PM »

While this story didn't hit all my personal "like" buttons, I'm going to go against the consensus that nothing happened and nothing changed. This is a story that's heavy on internal conflict and light on the external, but the conflict is there. It's a story about the struggle to form meaningful relationships, the risk it involves, and the fact that oftentimes people are just plain mismatched in their expectations when they approach one another. At the far end of the spectrum, you've got the silkpups, creatures that instantly latch onto the first thing that touches them in such a profoundly irreversible way that they literally die if they are abandoned. The other extreme is the Ken, who are so detached that they will form the bond with a silkpup deliberately, just to watch in fascination as they die. It's blind devotion set against casual cruelty.

The other characters fall along this spectrum, with the big parallel being Suki, who like a silkpup is longing for a new relationship and ready to form a bond, and Roan, who like the Ken, leads Suki on only to casually abandon her just when she was starting to get attached. Interestingly, this is also how Suki treats her former lover, Tam. He is still attached to her after his re-embodiment thingie, but she wants to break it off, and her approach is to just ignore him and his attempts to reach out to her.

Only Suki's Beast neighbors are perfectly matched in the whole story. I liked how they bookend the story, offering a ray of hope that in spite of all this, real connections do sometimes happen.
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hansv
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« Reply #10 on: May 03, 2014, 03:47:20 AM »

Yes, now that it has been pointed out you are right, there are those parallels you mentioned. It is probably just me then... I don't like to look for deeper meanings in stories. Face value is deep enough for me. Given that, to me, is stories still rates a "meh"
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #11 on: May 04, 2014, 09:44:35 AM »

When the story ended I didn't believe it, after all, nothing had happened.
But then I tuned out Alasdair's outro (it's nothing personal, man) and started thinking. The world building was fantastic. The people and creatures in the story are fantastic. The interactions were just everyday interactions. They are pretty much the same thing that happens to billions of people every day, just in a very different world.
And sometimes, that's enough. I can get that people will see this as an allegory for the human condition, or Suki's growth or the contrast of everything changes and everything stays the same.
But I think that this is just an author warming up with a bit of top notch worldbuilding. As in, "I have this tremendously great world and I want to show it to you, but I don't want you distracted from it in any way. I could describe it all piece by piece, but that's boring. Instead, you can view it through the eyes of a simple person living in this world day in and day out."
And that's enough for me.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #12 on: May 04, 2014, 09:56:13 PM »

I was also struck by one parallel with This is How I Wish to be Restored. In the thread for that story, I complained that I wanted to know more about the world and society that the man was living in rather than being confined to one drunk's living room. In this story, I got exactly what I wished for: a richly populated and explored world. That key addition made all the difference in my enjoyment of this story. I didn't mind the "slice of life" feel because such interesting people/creatures were constantly coming and going. All of the parallels that Varda pointed didn't occur to me, but they are definitely there, and I think they add a lot of depth to the story.

One throwaway detail that I loved was how everyone just used whatever bicycle was nearest at hand to get around the city. Theft wasn't a problem because it wasn't anyone's to begin with, and the sharing worked out for the most part. Tongue
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Dem
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« Reply #13 on: May 05, 2014, 07:43:54 AM »


One throwaway detail that I loved was how everyone just used whatever bicycle was nearest at hand to get around the city. Theft wasn't a problem because it wasn't anyone's to begin with, and the sharing worked out for the most part. Tongue

In London, we have 'Boris bikes' which annoys the hell out of Barclays who sponsor them!
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Devoted135
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« Reply #14 on: May 05, 2014, 05:51:40 PM »


One throwaway detail that I loved was how everyone just used whatever bicycle was nearest at hand to get around the city. Theft wasn't a problem because it wasn't anyone's to begin with, and the sharing worked out for the most part. Tongue

In London, we have 'Boris bikes' which annoys the hell out of Barclays who sponsor them!

I had to look that up, it looks like such a cool program! It seems there are (understandably) many kinks still to be worked out, but I hope this paves the way for similar programs in other cities. Smiley
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Chairman Goodchild
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« Reply #15 on: May 12, 2014, 08:09:54 AM »

The world building was fantastic. The people and creatures in the story are fantastic. The interactions were just everyday interactions. They are pretty much the same thing that happens to billions of people every day, just in a very different world.
And sometimes, that's enough. I can get that people will see this as an allegory for the human condition, or Suki's growth or the contrast of everything changes and everything stays the same.
But I think that this is just an author warming up with a bit of top notch worldbuilding. As in, "I have this tremendously great world and I want to show it to you, but I don't want you distracted from it in any way. I could describe it all piece by piece, but that's boring. Instead, you can view it through the eyes of a simple person living in this world day in and day out."
And that's enough for me.

Yeah, I liked that, too.  There's no real explanations.  It's all showing, and not telling.  The audience has to find its own way around the story.

And I thought it was very well-written.  The writing felt poetic to me, and that was helped out by an excellent narrator. 
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danthelawyer
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« Reply #16 on: May 15, 2014, 01:05:53 AM »

I sort of got along OK with this story, though I tend to agree with Unblinking, who said,
Quote
"every time my attention wandered and came back... I apparently hadn't missed anything."
. I got to the end, and was kind of surprised it had ended.

There have been no comments on the narration, and that may be because Ms. Ellis is so well regarded generally. She reads a tad slowly for my taste, so I set my ipod (yes, I still use an ipod) on "faster", which helped -- but which may have contributed to my surprise at the end.
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Unblinking
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« Reply #17 on: May 15, 2014, 08:58:33 AM »

so I set my ipod (yes, I still use an ipod)

You say you still use an iPod as though it's antiquated--are those going out of style or something? 
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Cutter McKay
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« Reply #18 on: May 15, 2014, 10:33:24 AM »

so I set my ipod (yes, I still use an ipod)

You say you still use an iPod as though it's antiquated--are those going out of style or something? 

For the record, although I listen to my podcasts on my phone now because it's just easier, I still use my old iPod video for music and audiobooks. They're fading, but they're not dead yet...
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #19 on: May 15, 2014, 12:00:01 PM »

so I set my ipod (yes, I still use an ipod)

You say you still use an iPod as though it's antiquated--are those going out of style or something? 

For the record, although I listen to my podcasts on my phone now because it's just easier, I still use my old iPod video for music and audiobooks. They're fading, but they're not dead yet...


Ah.  I still have a stone-age stupidphone.  It has no touch screen, nor Internet access, both by my preference.  When I bought this phone it was the only model left from my carrier that met both those criteria.
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