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Author Topic: EP449: An Understanding  (Read 1005 times)
eytanz
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« on: June 07, 2014, 04:20:42 AM »

EP449: An Understanding

By Holly Heisey

Read by Wilson Fowlie

This story was a finalist in the Writers of the Future Contest

---

The sun on Joppa was a deeper red than I remembered, and the blocky shapes of this dusty town I did not remember at all. I passed the sign for Hann River Landing and walked down the main street. There were few people about, mostly women and young children, the mothers dressed in plain cotton and linen and the children ratty, if not mostly clean. The women watched me with a glare reserved for strangers that they must not have used for some time. There were no aircars, no groundcars, no visible signs of industry. Trees around the houses boxed them in at odd angles, some branches bending to stop abruptly in the air. The Time Walls were tight here.

I checked the bridge tethering me to Aijas Normal time on my ship in orbit, and checked my rate of sync with local time. It was a strain, to be held in two times at once. I would not stay here long.

I scanned into the minds around me, looking for that one particular voice I’d caught two hundred and twelve lightyears out on a wave of Kaireyeh. A young woman. I felt her here, the barest scent of her, and turned down 2nd Street and then onto Acada Lane. The houses on Acada Lane were spaced twenty and thirty feet apart, no more than thirty or forty feet wide, with trimmed lawns of brown grass. Children played in a yard down the street. It was all so quiet that if I turned off the voices for a moment I could hear the rhythm of the Time Walls around me. Beats barely forming measure. I quickened my pace.

Her house was one-story with peeling blue paint and white plastic trim. I climbed up the three steps to the creaking porch and since there was no button for a caller rapped my knuckles on the door.

I waited. I searched for her mind again–yes she was here. I rapped again. I rubbed a small circle of dust off the door window and peered inside. I did what I had not wanted to do but was necessary now and touched her mind. She gave an inner start and I withdrew quickly, leaving behind only the thought that she must open the door; I was a friend.

The door rattled and jerked inward. A slim, red-haired woman looked back at me with almond eyes. Her skin was a dusky tan, typical for Joppan natives. She looked up at my ice-white face, a face that would never be typical in any situation, and I remembered my eyes to blink. I saw and felt her shudder./i]

Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2014, 08:07:45 AM »

Hm, I was hoping someone else would've commented before me, so they could help me figure out what I missed.

I generally liked the idea with the time walls having very specific barriers though I didn't catch why the time walls were there.  And the otherworldly creatures that use babies as mules to slip goods across the borders.  

But when the story ended I honestly thought I'd downloaded a partial file because it didn't really seem like it had resolved the arc, to me.  The mother and daughter were reunited but it didn't seem like the protagonist had really been on an arc, or something.  And it seemed like he resolved everything in pretty straightforward fashion.
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albionmoonlight
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« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2014, 08:27:59 AM »

This story interested me in finding other stories set in this world.  The idea of these time cops who are really paying penance for some horrible thing that they did in the past was pretty cool.  I liked the world building and the hints at why things are they way that they are.

As a standalone story, I liked it OK, but it was not one of my favorites.  It was more of a day in the life of a timecop.  Like Unblinking, I felt that when the story ended, I wanted there to be a little more there there.

So, basically, cool idea.  Cool world.  Probably works best as one story among a collection from this world than as a story on its own.
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skeletondragon
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« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2014, 11:12:42 AM »

If throwing babies through the time walls was so common, why was it only this particular baby theft that caused a "wound"? Did they ever explain that?
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Cutter McKay
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« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2014, 06:44:46 PM »

If throwing babies through the time walls was so common, why was it only this particular baby theft that caused a "wound"? Did they ever explain that?

I think it was more alluded to than explained. I got the feeling that the mother would have caused some great catastrophe in her grief and was therefor a threat. The point to the story was to reunite her with her daughter, no matter how futile the reunion would be, to prevent a larger tragedy.

That said, I'm with Unblinking. The reunion was so short in terms of how much the timecop actually witnessed, that it almost felt like an aside to the main plot, except that it was the main plot. So the resolution felt underdeveloped and disappointing.

The idea of these time cops who are really paying penance for some horrible thing that they did in the past was pretty cool. 
I really enjoyed this too, and appreciate that it was only hinted at here and there rather than spelled out in some info-dump or flashback.
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« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2014, 10:53:05 PM »

I didn't connect with this story at all. I appreciate the attempt to immerse the audience in an alien world and have them experience the world as the inhabitants do, without info dumps or awkward explanations of everyday objects, and only hints of the wider world. However, it's possible to go too far in that direction and leave the listener disoriented, and that's what happened to me.  I never did get my bearings well enough to understand what was going on, what the various characters wanted, why they wanted it, or exactly what was at stake.

I got that Lorin was understandably distraught about her child being taken, that her daughter had been chucked into the Time Wall, which is some sort of portal to a different world, and in that world the child had grown up and not been a particularly good person -- taking other infants to the same fate as her own. Which she insisted wasn't all that bad. However, because she was "wrongly taken" she could reverse what was supposed to be a one-way trip at the insistence of this formerly-human androidish person whose people are burning off some seriously bad karma by serving something called the Kaireyeh, which is some sort of goddess, universal over mind, or something that is for some reason concerned with these matters.  And intimately connected with the Time Walls. Reuniting mother and daughter at an advanced age somehow served Kaireyeh's interests, and was the occasion for some melancholy reflection by the protagonist.  

After listening once and reading the text once, that is as close as I got to understanding the plot or characters.  So, I think it's understandable that for me, the emotional engagement just wasn't there.  If it hadn't been for Wilson Fowlie's excellent narration, I might have given up on it completely.  

Better luck next week....
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« Reply #6 on: June 11, 2014, 07:57:22 AM »

If throwing babies through the time walls was so common, why was it only this particular baby theft that caused a "wound"? Did they ever explain that?

I didn't feel like it was explained to my satisfaction, no.  I think Cutter might be on the right track about the mother perhaps causing a grief-stricken catastrophe, but generally I get the impression that the explanation is:  This child is more important than all the others because reasons.
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matweller
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« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2014, 12:29:55 PM »

If throwing babies through the time walls was so common, why was it only this particular baby theft that caused a "wound"? Did they ever explain that?

I didn't feel like it was explained to my satisfaction, no.  I think Cutter might be on the right track about the mother perhaps causing a grief-stricken catastrophe, but generally I get the impression that the explanation is:  This child is more important than all the others because reasons.
I guess I thought this baby was more significant because she went on to become an old woman who shoved more babies through for profit thereby increasing the damage exponentially. But even if not, I was okay with the reason being unexplained.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2014, 12:57:11 PM »

I actually listened to this twice because I felt like I must have missed some key moment that would pull all of these fascinating bits together... Unfortunately, I would up understanding slightly less than Windup did, even after the second run-through. It's sad, because there really are so many fascinating hints of the world that I would love to be able to understand it more.
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Warren
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« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2014, 08:24:21 PM »

I agree with the others that failed to understand why this particular transit was so important (let alone why a return journey many decades later would matter).

More basically: obviously, the theft of infants is inconceivably wrong. But it's interesting that the cartel organizing the baby-facilitated shipments in the receiving universe wasn't necessarily abusing the infants, but instead was (at least sometimes) placing them in good homes and giving them a stake in the trans-barrier cargo cartel. Given the poverty and social problems that apparently prevailed, it would seem that a hugely beneficial system could be created not terribly different from what we have today with the adoption of unwanted and neglected infants from poor countries to rich ones (which is of course controversial, but not seen as monstrous): the parents might be content to lose their infant knowing that a secure upbringing and opportunities within the cartel awaited their infant at its destination world.

This wouldn't solve the physics problems associated with transits, whatever those are, and the voluntary model I envision would in no way excuse the theft of infants. But it does make you wonder why they were stealing infants, rather than facilitating their adoption.
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« Reply #10 on: June 12, 2014, 08:52:55 AM »

This wouldn't solve the physics problems associated with transits, whatever those are, and the voluntary model I envision would in no way excuse the theft of infants. But it does make you wonder why they were stealing infants, rather than facilitating their adoption.

My guess would be sheer difference in volume.  The set of voluntarily surrendered infants is by definition a subset of all infants.  If you let ethics get in your way, that directly limits the amount of goods the babies can smuggle.
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« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2014, 08:53:59 AM »

Random sidenote--this is probably one of the least evocative titles ever.  I step away from this thread and look at the title and I have already forgotten what story that title refers to.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2014, 02:04:25 PM »

Random sidenote--this is probably one of the least evocative titles ever.  I step away from this thread and look at the title and I have already forgotten what story that title refers to.

Yes! Also, I find it ironic given how little "understanding" I feel I came away with. Cheesy
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #13 on: June 14, 2014, 12:25:16 AM »

I, too, was somewhat lost in this story. I wonder if it might be a story better suited to the written word rather than the audio experience.
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #14 on: June 18, 2014, 03:05:48 PM »

I... what was that?
I have no understanding of what just went on in this story. Not even a little bit.
I got the general gist of the thing, but there were far too many new items (characters, races, places, technologies, old wars, old conflicts, new conflicts, new wars...) that were made up entirely for this universe, for me to be able to form some sort of coherent thought pattern that could flow with the story.
I think that with this rich a worldbuilding, you need more than 25 minutes of audio. This needs to either cut out a lot of worldbuilding and focus more on the character aspect of the story, or make it like, 7 times longer than what it is.
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« Reply #15 on: August 29, 2014, 03:21:44 AM »

Hmm, yeah, definitely underdeveloped, and the end felt very stumped, but the world was definitely fascinating. I wonder why Escape Pod chose to put this story directly after Paprika though, wasn't there any non posthuman-world-from-a-nonhuman-perspective story to squeeze in there ?
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