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Author Topic: EP104: Lust for Learning  (Read 15445 times)
Russell Nash
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« on: May 04, 2007, 04:30:58 AM »

EP104: Lust for Learning

By Pete Butler.
Read by Cunning Minx (of Polyamory Weekly).

Musical guest: “First of May,” written by Jonathan Coulton and performed by many podcasters for the Joe Murphy Memorial Fund.

Yet Mme. Theuret’s word-of-mouth reputation was to die for. Both the official feedback data and the school’s on-line forums placed her among Wilhelm U’s most popular instructors. It was a matter of technique. Wilhelm U was awash in eye candy, but Monique’s pitch-perfect mastery of lascivious restraint was something else entirely.

All thirty-eight of her new students–she’d have wagered a month’s salary that not a soul had skipped this class–now looked at her with naked desire, even though she’d merely introduced herself.

She remained silent to let the anticipation build a bit, to inform them they were now at her mercy. “Welcome,” she finally said, “to Computer Science 338, Artificial Intelligence.”


Rated X. Contains explicit sexual description, sexual innuendo, sexual themes — and some sex.



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!


Referenced Sites:
Joe Murphy Memorial Fund
Jonathan Coulton
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Simon Painter
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« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2007, 05:13:31 AM »

What a fun story  Tongue

Really, its an interesting idea, giving students ideas as a fetish, as a way of getting them to learn.  I'm actually somewhat reminded of ancient Greek culture, where a young lad would be taken on by his teacher not only as a pupil, but as a lover as well.

This story seems to me like it deserves a follow-up. There are a few underlying themes that could probably do with further development, such as the use of this technique to remove unwanted desires.  Could it be possible that a religious fundamentalist government would see Homosexuality as an unwanted desire?  Would fundamentalist parents want it for their children?

For another thing, how would someone that'd attended this University adapt to being return to the 'real' world?  Would it change their way of thinking permenantly or not?

All very interesting questions, though in some ways i think its best left open, you can have far more interesting discussions that way  Smiley

Oh, and I loved the song at the end  Tongue I never knew Joe Murphy beyond avidly listening to Kick-ass Mystic Ninjas, but it's awesome to see the Podcasting community so united like this.

Simon Painter
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« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2007, 01:17:30 PM »

I enjoyed the story - definitely an Idea I would love to pursue.

Quote from: madsimonJ
There are a few underlying themes that could probably do with further development, such as the use of this technique to remove unwanted desires.
And what about the priesthood?  Also, thinking somewhat of the Seinfeld episode where George gets really smart- what about removing the distraction of desire?

The author did a good job of exploring different areas of the idea and avoided over doing it.  It would be interesting to visit this World 50-100 years in the future.
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Mr. Tweedy
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« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2007, 05:31:31 PM »

I've got to say that this is possibly the dumbest idea I have ever heard.  (Well, that I can think of at the moment.)

It's not just because I'm a prude: The thinking here is totally flawed.

1.) The augmented sex-drive is just a carrot-on-a-stick, an ulterior motive for learning.  You'd end up with a bunch of people who had no love, respect or appreciation for learning, just a desire to get off and an unorthodox means to that end.  If anything, this would make students less interested in the learning itself.  After their augmentation was reversed, all interest in learning would also be destroyed.  It would so anticlimactic as to be depressing.

2.) These people would all be retarded when they left the school.  After having experienced six orgasms a day for several years, how could you readjust the banality of life?  These people would all be doomed to lives of perpetual frustration and boredom.  And they wouldn't be good at their jobs either: The satisfaction of a job well done would be no motivation at all next to perpetual ecstasy.

3.) They would have lost all social skills at the school.  After years of orgies with any and everyone, how could they readjust to the social conventions of the outside world?  They would be perpetually horny, too fixated on screwing their coworkers to have civilized interactions.

4.) The scenario totally ignores human psychology.  People are not psychology able to be totally promiscuous: It hurts your mind to make and leave all those attachments so flippantly.  Is there anybody who hasn't seen multiple fights between people that were in some way caused by promiscuity?  I know I have.  Your murder rate on that campus would be huge.  The students would kill each other, and if they didn't, they'd be so laden with emotional baggage that they would be unable to learn.

5.) Their real sex lives would be ruined.  Sex, along with everything else, would seem too boring to bother with after a stay at the school.  After getting orgasms just by talking, the difficulty of working one up by natural means would seem prohibitively arduous.  They'd find sex depressingly frustrating and would probably never bother with it again.

Really, there isn't any validity to this idea from any angle.  This is not quality science fiction: It's just an adolescent daydream with a few big words thrown in to make it seem credible.

I'll confess that as a freshmen in high school, I had daydreams to the same effect: "Gee wouldn't it be cool if everyone just got naked in the classroom..."  But even then I knew this was foolish (and wrong) and I would certainly never have dreamed of trying to pass off the idea as literature.

I'm glad this lousy story is not typical of Escape Pod's stuff.  The previous story "The Watching People" was much, much better from every angle.
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eytanz
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« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2007, 08:44:54 AM »

I found this to be a rather poor story, certainly one of the weakest offerings in Escape Pod since I started listening.

The story didn't work as erotica. Cutting between the two narratives just killed any sort of empathy offered by the professor scenes (which I didn't feel to be entirely that effective on their own right, and the silly accent didn't help). Nothing says "sexy" like a corporate executive investigating marketing opportunities. And both threads mostly involved telling us about sexual activities rather than showing them to us. I'm not saying it should have been more explicit, but there was barely any emotion, let alone passion, there. The handling of the professor never scratched the surface - we kept being assured that she's very sexy and that the class hangs on her every word. But we never saw the class's POV so we couldn't share this, and the only part of it we shared with the professor is the satisfaction that comes from success - but that's meaningless unless we go through the process with her. The main problem, though, was this was a story about a fetish that I do not share, nor am I disturbed by it. In order to arouse any sort of emotional, let alone sensual, reaction, the story really needed to help me understand *how* the students felt, and a better view into the minds of the faculty as well. As it is, we were just listening to Computer Science 101 and being told that someone else found it sexy.

The story didn't work as an actual story, either. There was no plot to speak of at all - nothing actually happened. And it didn't even work as a "snapshot of a culture" kind of view - Just like we were being told about the sexuality without experiencing it, we were being told about how succesful this experiment is without being shown. "The graduates are exceptional", we are told "and the problems are minor. There are some issues, but I'm sure we can overcome them all. Oh, and here's a list of possible improvements that can be made". Ok, I'll suspend disbelief and accept all that - but then what? Compare this to "Start the Clock", another recent story that described the life of humans that underwent a change that made them different from us. By the end of "start the clock", I had a good grasp of how they were different, what was good about it, and what wasn't. I knew what the issues they faced were. In this story, more attention was given to the fact that the buildings were not painted than to a botched nerve-gassing. But neither of them was more than a hint of an off-screen conflict.

Basically, it seems that the only thing that this story has going for it - and I don't mean this ironically - is the middle-school level snickering at a fantasy, of the "Imagine if all the girls in school were naked all the time" type. A cute concept, and the basis of many a fantasy, both middle-school and beyond. But this story seems to take the view that you don't need anything more than that - it neither creates the actual fantasy, nor does it provide any additional depth. So I'm not sure what we are left with.

Unlike the previous poster, I am not of the view that it is impossible to write a good story based on this premise. On the contrary, I think there were a lot of opportunities to take this concept and go with it. Heaven knows that a lot of great SF (and great erotica) are based on basic premises just as silly. But I don't think this story took advantage of any of those opportunities.

(One idea I just had - the ending mentioned possibly sending someone who was morally opposed to the school to do a documentary about it. Why not use that as the basis of the story? It would have given ample opportunity for all the exposition given in this story to be relayed, but at the same time introduce an actual conflict, and if even moderately well written, would make us as readers get involved and take sides.)
« Last Edit: May 05, 2007, 04:07:24 PM by eytanz » Logged
Josh
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« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2007, 07:52:17 PM »

Very good idea, amazingly original and well developed. One thing's for sure, it would make me want to learn more.
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Mr. Tweedy
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« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2007, 09:20:55 AM »

Just to clarify, I didn't mean the concept could not be used to write a good story, just that it wasn't here.

A good story would explore the implications, complications and results of such a process.  This story does none of that: It just blithely assumes that the process would create "geniuses" and ignores any other possible effects.  As I mentioned in the previous post, there would certainly be other effects, and many of them would be undesireable.
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eytanz
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« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2007, 12:26:35 PM »

I disagree - or more accurately, I agree in principle but disagree about the point you are making.

Basically, I feel you are making a more subtle version of the plausibility argument - you are saying that it is highly implausible that the process described in the story would be as clear-cut beneficial (at least to most people) as it is shown to be. And I agree. But I don't think that prevents it from being the basis of a good speculative story that explores this unrealistic scenario - if there was some other driving force behind the story, some source of conflict or tension. I don't agree with you that it would have to arise from the complications of the Mustafa process - it could come externally. But I think it should come from somewhere, and it was sorely lacking.
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Mr. Tweedy
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« Reply #8 on: May 07, 2007, 02:10:54 PM »

What qualifies a "speculative story"?  To me, this story is not speculative, because it does not speculate on what would happen in such a scenario.

Start the Clock was a good speculative story.  We start with the premise that people are able to age or not age at will, according to their preference, and then we explore what that would mean, both for the world and for the indiviuals who live in it.  We speculate.

You can start with any premise you want.  "People live on clouds."  "Everyone is psychic."  "The Universe is a bubble in a giant bathtub."  Whatever.  But once you've got your premise, you've got to think about the implications: What would happen in that circumstance and how it would effect the characters?  That sort of speculation is integral to all good fiction.

Lust for Learning did not do that.  It didn't speculaate.  It didn't explore.  It simply used the premise as an excuse to indulge in juvenile fantasizing.

And I second all eytanz's reasons for saying why he disliked it too.  He makes good points.

(I think I'll go ahead and say that I'm one of those closed-minded prudes who would find something like this school totally appaling and found the story very distasteful for moral reasons.  But that has little to do with my point about it being a poor story.)
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dustinlit
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« Reply #9 on: May 07, 2007, 11:38:41 PM »

Hello, im new here.  Just wanted to chime in.  I enjoyed this story Smiley Brought back many fond memories of college life and is an interesting idea.  Although i think the technology is totally pointless in college where i think people have plenty of orgasms on their own.  I could see it working alot better on aging corporate programmers or engineers. Compiling... 0 errors....  aaaaahhh. 
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Jim
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« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2007, 03:26:53 PM »

I think the story is meant to be provocative, and if you think about it too much you'll end up just dismissing it as preposterous.

Such a thing might be called "The Matrix Trilogy Syndrome."

I liked the story for its provocative nature, but there wasn't any real juice in it, you know, conflict or anything.

I kept waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop, and since people seemed to not be wearing shoes in this story, there was no dropping of shoes at all.
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Nelka
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« Reply #11 on: May 10, 2007, 06:40:40 PM »

Hi everyone, (more fresh meat here.)

I found the story to be fun and provocative.  College can be a sexually liberating experience and I see this as being an extreme, dystopian version of that.

Plausibility isn't an issue for me.  As long as the story is good and it doesn't require too much suspension of disbelief, I'm happy.  (But I'm easily amused, so take that for what it's worth.)

Personally, I thought the Professor's character was sexy.  The voice and the description did me in.  I do agree that the story is definitely not erotica but I don't believe it's meant to be.  There were some sexy moments, but it's not something I would read for a good time.

I can understand the criticism that has been posted.  There wasn't any real conflict or big reveal.  Still, the story held my attention and I enjoyed it.  I disagree with the position that it's not speculative fiction or that the idea isn't a valid one.  Some stories aren't going to do all the speculating and exploring for you.  They simply provide you with enough information to get your imagination running.

You know the old saying, it's better to leave a little something to the imagination.  Wink

 


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wakela
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« Reply #12 on: May 10, 2007, 07:15:23 PM »

I liked it, but see the points of those who did not.  I think the points that Tweedy brought up would make an interesting sequel.  It's conceivable that the process was causing the dreaded Tweedy Effect, but the professor didn't want to reveal this to Mr. Moneybags.  Though I admit I didn't see anything in the story to support this. 

I thought the idea was interesting and provocative.  True there wasn't much of a plot, but I personally prefer a strong idea and weak plot than the other way around.  I found the lack of conflict oddly refreshing.   I would rather have no conflict than an uninteresting one, and science vs. Big Business and look-at-the-uptight-Christians have been done so much it's hard to keep them fresh.

Did this story remind anyone else of Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress?
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Roney
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« Reply #13 on: May 11, 2007, 04:14:34 PM »

I would rather have no conflict than an uninteresting one, and science vs. Big Business and look-at-the-uptight-Christians have been done so much it's hard to keep them fresh.

Ditto.  My heart sank when the A-plot announced itself to be scientist-must-justify-his-work-to-corporate-accountant.  However much fun the computer science class was, there's no way it could compensate for another "we can't afford to fund this nonsense" / "you don't understand my genius" yawnathon.  So I was as surprised as the character was when he turned out to be pushing at an open door.  I thought that was a neat bit of storytelling to blindside me with my own low expectations.

And the ending was delicious.  The poor scientist is so relieved to have secured the funding that he can't see beyond it, but we know that his school is about to be exploited for only one thing, and education is barely going to figure.  It reminds me of all those terribly rational, terribly well-meaning people who try to explain that naturism is comfortable, relaxing and liberating... while the rest of the world isn't paying any attention to what they're saying, just trying to catch a glimpse of their naughty bits.

To my mind the flaws were that only Mme Theuret's character seemed to have more than two dimensions, and there was way too much telling.  In particular, all of the corporate suit's vision of the future sounded like plot notes that the author hadn't fully fleshed out -- I'd rather see a longer version where the grim, manipulative reality 10 years down the line is intercut as a third narrative strand between the ideal of Mme Theuret's teaching and the turning point where corporate greed spots the marketing opportunity.

Overall, though, I thought it was good fun.  It cheered me up on a rainy day -- that's a result by my reckoning.
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goatkeeper
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« Reply #14 on: May 12, 2007, 06:37:52 PM »

I agree with those who said this is one of the weaker stories escapepod has featured. 

and the song at the end... lets just say I was gritting my teeth trying to make it through the whole thing when my roommate came in said "God, what the hell is that?  Can you make it stop?"  I was happy to oblige.
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eytanz
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« Reply #15 on: May 13, 2007, 06:00:56 PM »

It´s a shame you didn´t enjoy the song - I found it really fun and funnny, a nice pick-me-up after the tedious story.
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Drwg
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« Reply #16 on: May 15, 2007, 01:13:34 AM »

I loved the story. I'm always interested in seeing more sexuality in science fiction. Sexuality tends to get shunned in too science fiction for fear of making it either "naughty" or just plain silly. Much like in hollywood movies, sexuality is generally relegated to a heterosexual relationship that plays as an extra protagonist. Since it is somewhat taboo, im always looking for an author say something daring (even if they could have said it better).

My complaint is that it got an X rating. It sounded rather harsh in my opinion. I think I've heard some more explicit things from previous stories, just probably less volume of frank discussions of sex. It sounds like people are just too happy to press the censor button rather than challenge themselves.
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ClintMemo
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« Reply #17 on: May 15, 2007, 06:14:05 AM »

It took me three times to get through it. The first two times I fell asleep.  I made it through the third time, which is good, since I was driving a lawnmower at the time....Tongue

Seriously,
The story was ok.  It felt as much like a setup for a longer story, but I've seen that a lot in short fiction so it didn't bother me.
Rating it X didn't bother me.  It seemed appropriate.  I think we'd all be better off if X didn't have such a stigma attached to it, but that's another topic altogether.
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Kurt Faler
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« Reply #18 on: May 15, 2007, 06:56:17 AM »

I didn't care for the story much either. While the concept was interesting, it felt like the sex angle was forced. How much more believable would this have been if instead of the sexual pleasure centers being stimulated it were the centers of taste, or smell? I've always thought calculus smelled of fresh baked bread. And I cant see psych 101 making me hard no matter what but I bet it feels like a peach.

Oh, and as for the X, I have a hard time believing anything without pictures can get that rating  Grin
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jackmaudit
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« Reply #19 on: May 17, 2007, 06:58:16 PM »

I'm a bit late to the game, but I just wanted to say that I enjoyed this story a lot. I think of fetishism as an intense and sexual obsession over something, hence being intensely and sexually obsessed with learning seems... well almost like my natural state of being. Though I almost never frolic nude on college campuses (except that once... don't do drugs kids!)

To be honest, I'm pretty surprised by Steve's "coming out" as poly. I would never have guess that one in a million years. As a lover of meta and the psychology of fiction, it brings a whole new dimension to his work. Like the story said, the sexual desires of a person shift every outlook and choice, sometimes subtly, but always inevitably.
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