Author Topic: EP459: The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere  (Read 25460 times)

eytanz

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on: August 21, 2014, 07:12:04 PM
EP459: The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere

By John Chu

Read by John Chu

Winner of the 2014 Hugo for Best Short Story!

---

Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



Dwango

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Reply #1 on: August 21, 2014, 07:39:49 PM
Meant to post this in the forums, not comments:

This was an interesting one, not so much in the coming out story, but in who was upset with the main character. She appears to represent the traditional Chinese view of the purpose of marriage and family, thrashing the brother upon any deviation made by the brother. She also was an abuser who bullied the brother, especially after the admission he made of her violent ways at the end. He was very brave on standing up to the sister, as that can be a very difficult thing to do, but I think he really needs to get her out of his life. She is destructive and getting in the way of his relationship with his parents, and really disturbed me.

I don’t get the boyfriend though. He seemed too perfect in everything and more a caricature. He probably is the counterpoint to the sister’s traditionalist views, but it was hard for me to understand what he represented, other than a supportive and perfect significant other. It could be from the view of the narrator that he was so perfect, and I’m thinking he showed his flaw at the end? Not sure on that one.

Finally, yay for the parents and their acceptance, but they appeared to end up still trying to get the grandchildren they wanted. They mentioned using genetics to create a child from their genes, so they satisfy the want. But, what if he decides he doesn’t want children? while it appears they are the loving and accepting parents, they still are considering their own needs. This is great in this story as they are still not perfect, and they are willing to change their views and accept their son as he is. It’s great to have that double take on the parents, loving, but a little selfish too. They felt real and I hope the main character can get around his sister and build a loving, and frustrating :-), relationship with them.



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Reply #2 on: August 21, 2014, 08:26:31 PM
I wasn't really impressed with this story. The basic plot seemed cliche ("A gay man comes out to his family. Some are upset, but others are supportive."), and the SF element did little to make it fresh. The WTFOYFN didn't really do anything here that couldn't have been accomplished with a decent grasp of body language. (I think a better angle would have been to make the protagonist Autistic, so the WTFOYFN enabled him to navigate social situations he would have been lost in before).



skeletondragon

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Reply #3 on: August 21, 2014, 11:54:35 PM
I have mixed feelings. The concept wasn't really hard scifi, but I'm not a stickler for that. I felt like the universe where water's existence is intertwined with lying and truth was interesting enough, especially the way the narrator and his sister used omission, questions, multilingualism and cultural differences to lie anyway. However, there was definitely a part in the middle where I went, "wait a minute, didn't this story start out with water falling from nowhere? what happened to that?"

I think I would have enjoyed it more if it was a little shorter and/or less saccharine. Gus definitely didn't seem like a real person, especially when contrasted with the spot-on dysfunctional family dynamics. Ultimately, the family drama was really what kept me listening to the whole thing.



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Reply #4 on: August 22, 2014, 05:05:38 PM
Loved this story. Loved John's narration of it. Loved that it won the Hugo this year.

All in all, just a lot of love for this one. It was quiet, and personal, and intimate, and quirky. It made me laugh, and got me teary-eyed on the way to work this morning. So glad EP let John narrate it.

Thanks, John and Escape Pod!


lisavilisa

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Reply #5 on: August 23, 2014, 01:27:13 AM
It may sound flippant but...

A rule of thumb my mother and I have is that a mark of a good writer is that they can make you hungry by just mentioning food. It can be a full on food porn scene a la R.R. Martin, or as simple as mentioning a cheese sandwich the MC had for lunch.

I'm a vegetarian and the authors description of dishes involving ears and blood made me want to try  vegetarian chinese food. Albeit vegetarian versions, but still. I think it's a good sign.



Dem

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Reply #6 on: August 23, 2014, 06:15:28 PM
This was a halfway decent coming out story but seemed to me have very little to do with SF. I wonder, is there a sense in which gay themes somehow override other criteria because they are, as yet, relatively daring?

Science is what you do when the funding panel thinks you know what you're doing. Fiction is the same only without the funding.


matweller

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Reply #7 on: August 24, 2014, 01:38:31 AM
No, as mentioned, Hugo noms override other criteria when we're running Hugo stories.



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Reply #8 on: August 24, 2014, 02:51:59 AM
I loved it!

Water? No. Excellent!

Personally, the imagery of the main character (his name escapes me - if you read this in the episode comments, Nathan, please make me look smart by including the name instead of this humiliating parenthetical) saying "I love you," and it having the power to make him suddenly warm and dry, even alone in bed... ah, it warmed my shriveled little heart. But that's the point, isn't it? Love is one of the strongest forces in the human psyche. Even horrible, abusive monsters like [main character]'s sister act out of stunted and perverted love. It makes perfect sense to me that love is a truth on par with universal truths.

Anyway, the point is that I thought this story was a splendid little allegory that went on for exactly as long as it had to and hit all the right points. Kudos to the author for the nomination!

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Dem

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Reply #9 on: August 24, 2014, 09:40:30 AM
No, as mentioned, Hugo noms override other criteria when we're running Hugo stories.

I understand the inclusion here on the grounds of its nomination but now I'm confused about the Hugos. This is from the Hugo awards rules: 'While the World Science Fiction Society sponsors the Hugos, they are not limited to sf. Works of fantasy or horror are eligible if the members of the Worldcon think they are eligible.' I'm still not seeing much here that qualifies.
http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-categories/

Science is what you do when the funding panel thinks you know what you're doing. Fiction is the same only without the funding.


eytanz

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Reply #10 on: August 24, 2014, 10:26:10 AM
No, as mentioned, Hugo noms override other criteria when we're running Hugo stories.

I understand the inclusion here on the grounds of its nomination but now I'm confused about the Hugos. This is from the Hugo awards rules: 'While the World Science Fiction Society sponsors the Hugos, they are not limited to sf. Works of fantasy or horror are eligible if the members of the Worldcon think they are eligible.' I'm still not seeing much here that qualifies.
http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-categories/

So you think that the ability to summon water by telling lies is not fantasy?



lisavilisa

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Reply #11 on: August 24, 2014, 02:35:18 PM
Even horrible, abusive monsters like [main character]'s sister act out of stunted and perverted love. It makes perfect sense to me that love is a truth on par with universal truths.


The narrator told us the mother once said his sister did all this because she loved him. I wonder if the mother has said this since the water appeared?



Dem

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Reply #12 on: August 24, 2014, 03:25:14 PM
No, as mentioned, Hugo noms override other criteria when we're running Hugo stories.

I understand the inclusion here on the grounds of its nomination but now I'm confused about the Hugos. This is from the Hugo awards rules: 'While the World Science Fiction Society sponsors the Hugos, they are not limited to sf. Works of fantasy or horror are eligible if the members of the Worldcon think they are eligible.' I'm still not seeing much here that qualifies.
http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-categories/

So you think that the ability to summon water by telling lies is not fantasy?

It's such a very minor part of the story and it's never addressed in any substantial way or given any sort of meaning. The whole story could happen just as it does without that element and that's what makes it somewhat unsatisfactory for me.

Science is what you do when the funding panel thinks you know what you're doing. Fiction is the same only without the funding.


adrianh

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Reply #13 on: August 24, 2014, 03:41:55 PM
I understand the inclusion here on the grounds of its nomination but now I'm confused about the Hugos. This is from the Hugo awards rules: 'While the World Science Fiction Society sponsors the Hugos, they are not limited to sf. Works of fantasy or horror are eligible if the members of the Worldcon think they are eligible.' I'm still not seeing much here that qualifies.
http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-categories/

Basically the genre of Hugo nominations is "receiving enough votes to be nominated for a Hugo" ;-) I don't think there's ever been an instance of a story being voted in and rejected on genre grounds. And in this instance it falls flat in the fantasy genre — I mean… water falling from nowhere if you lie? How is that not fantasy!

It also has the strongest part of why I like SF. A great "what if". In this instance — what if you could tell 100% whether somebody was telling the truth or not. How would that affect people's lives? What conventions would it bring up? We already see in this story the way that folk language-lawyer their way out of "real" truth, how it can have costs and benefits, etc.

For me that "what if" is the core of the story. You could swap the fantasy mechanic for an SF one and the core story would be the same (say a society that has networked implants that detect truthful intent and distributes it to those surrounding them as feelings of heat/cold, or an alien species which has 100% visual "tell" on whether it's being truthful).

I loved it. True love conquers all. What's not to like!

As for Gus being too perfect. The story is told from Matt's POV. At this point he is madly, deeply in love with Gus. So a pretty darn unreliable narrator when it comes to Gus's imperfections ;-)



adrianh

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Reply #14 on: August 24, 2014, 04:03:36 PM
It's such a very minor part of the story

Is it?

Without the water:

  • Would Matt have believed that Gus really loved him?
  • Would Gus really have believed Matt?
  • Would Matt have told Gus that he hadn't come out to his family?
  • Would Matt have known that his sister was lying about thinking Gus would leave him?
  • Would Matt and Gus know that Matt's parents really accepted them?
  • ... and so on...
.

For me the inability to lie — to yourself and to others — drove the whole story. It made the implicit damage that lies can produce explicit. Losing that element would change the tale completely for me.



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #15 on: August 24, 2014, 04:07:15 PM
Also, Gus isn't perfect. He has poor boundaries and is terrible at self-care when it comes to helping his lover deal with his abusive family. All of that is going to bite him in the ass someday. But, in the meantime, it makes him a good partner for Matt, who is as has been pointed out, the POV character.

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Dem

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Reply #16 on: August 24, 2014, 05:54:54 PM
It's such a very minor part of the story

Is it?

Without the water:

  • Would Matt have believed that Gus really loved him?
  • Would Gus really have believed Matt?
  • Would Matt have told Gus that he hadn't come out to his family?
  • Would Matt have known that his sister was lying about thinking Gus would leave him?
  • Would Matt and Gus know that Matt's parents really accepted them?
  • ... and so on...
.

For me the inability to lie — to yourself and to others — drove the whole story. It made the implicit damage that lies can produce explicit. Losing that element would change the tale completely for me.

It could just as easily, and for me rather more convincingly, been a psychologically driven story, and without the water may have (I'm avoiding 'plumbed' here) found greater depth (ok, I'll give you that one). Believing in being unable to lie; believing in water drenching you if you did - those internal constructs would, for me, have made a far more eloquent and profoundly affecting story than the one that has resulted from the inclusion of a fantasy element.

Science is what you do when the funding panel thinks you know what you're doing. Fiction is the same only without the funding.


matweller

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Reply #17 on: August 24, 2014, 07:41:43 PM
No, as mentioned, Hugo noms override other criteria when we're running Hugo stories.

I understand the inclusion here on the grounds of its nomination but now I'm confused about the Hugos. This is from the Hugo awards rules: 'While the World Science Fiction Society sponsors the Hugos, they are not limited to sf. Works of fantasy or horror are eligible if the members of the Worldcon think they are eligible.' I'm still not seeing much here that qualifies.
http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-categories/

So you think that the ability to summon water by telling lies is not fantasy?

It's such a very minor part of the story and it's never addressed in any substantial way or given any sort of meaning. The whole story could happen just as it does without that element and that's what makes it somewhat unsatisfactory for me.
I feel the same way about Star Wars. Trade boats for star ships = no scifi. Useless. They might as well call it Pirates of the Caribbean.



adrianh

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Reply #18 on: August 24, 2014, 07:42:23 PM
It could just as easily, and for me rather more convincingly, been a psychologically driven story, and without the water may have (I'm avoiding 'plumbed' here) found greater depth (ok, I'll give you that one). Believing in being unable to lie; believing in water drenching you if you did - those internal constructs would, for me, have made a far more eloquent and profoundly affecting story than the one that has resulted from the inclusion of a fantasy element.

Hmmm… for me that would have been quite a different story (maybe a good one, but a different one ;-)

I find making the internal state externally visible quite a powerful statement. For me making falsehood "real" does something interesting to the world that just believing it was real doesn't.

Also, everybody would have to have the same model of truth and falsehood for the story as it stands to work. The water doesn't just reveal things to the protagonist about himself, it reveals the "real" internal state of others. Matt's sister getting soaks reveals the falsehood to Matt and his sister. Without a shared understanding of the existence of the falsehood that doesn't work.




Dem

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Reply #19 on: August 24, 2014, 10:11:37 PM
It could just as easily, and for me rather more convincingly, been a psychologically driven story, and without the water may have (I'm avoiding 'plumbed' here) found greater depth (ok, I'll give you that one). Believing in being unable to lie; believing in water drenching you if you did - those internal constructs would, for me, have made a far more eloquent and profoundly affecting story than the one that has resulted from the inclusion of a fantasy element.

Hmmm… for me that would have been quite a different story (maybe a good one, but a different one ;-)

I find making the internal state externally visible quite a powerful statement. For me making falsehood "real" does something interesting to the world that just believing it was real doesn't.

Also, everybody would have to have the same model of truth and falsehood for the story as it stands to work. The water doesn't just reveal things to the protagonist about himself, it reveals the "real" internal state of others. Matt's sister getting soaks reveals the falsehood to Matt and his sister. Without a shared understanding of the existence of the falsehood that doesn't work.



Yes it would have been a different story - and it was, to me, but not as well developed as it could have been. I see what you're saying about the manifestation of the issue but that's actually where it fell down in my view because it just looked like a device for bringing the internal out into the open. A metaphor maybe, but not a very well interwoven one.

Science is what you do when the funding panel thinks you know what you're doing. Fiction is the same only without the funding.


lisavilisa

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Reply #20 on: August 24, 2014, 10:58:42 PM
It's such a very minor part of the story

Is it?

Without the water:

  • Would Matt have known that his sister was lying about thinking Gus would leave him?

.

For me the inability to lie — to yourself and to others — drove the whole story. It made the implicit damage that lies can produce explicit. Losing that element would change the tale completely for me.

Matt immediately removed the hot pan from his sister when she started the sentence because he knew it was a lie and he didn't want her to get a steam burn. To me that meant he knew Gus wouldn't leave him. However, he may never had admitted it to himself if his sisters safety hadn't forced it out of him.



adrianh

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Reply #21 on: August 25, 2014, 08:24:35 AM
Yes it would have been a different story - and it was, to me, but not as well developed as it could have been. I see what you're saying about the manifestation of the issue but that's actually where it fell down in my view because it just looked like a device for bringing the internal out into the open. A metaphor maybe, but not a very well interwoven one.

I find it fascinating when different people take such different views away from a story. I can't really imagine the tale without it ;-)



Dem

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Reply #22 on: August 25, 2014, 12:42:24 PM
Yes it would have been a different story - and it was, to me, but not as well developed as it could have been. I see what you're saying about the manifestation of the issue but that's actually where it fell down in my view because it just looked like a device for bringing the internal out into the open. A metaphor maybe, but not a very well interwoven one.

I find it fascinating when different people take such different views away from a story. I can't really imagine the tale without it ;-)

Steven Pinker, in The Language Instinct, calls writing a form of communication that 'translates mentalese into words and vice versa ... in order to make images in the minds of others' and I think he's right. The tricky part is that there's no one-to-one mapping and the images the reader comes up with are influenced by their own window on the world. That's what's so good about it and also why we are rarely without disagreement :)

Science is what you do when the funding panel thinks you know what you're doing. Fiction is the same only without the funding.


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Reply #23 on: August 26, 2014, 03:54:52 PM
What I said about it in my review of the category:
Quote
A few years ago, the world inexplicably changed so that any lie you utter would be met with a downpour of cold water that falls from nowhere combined with a feeling of angst, both proportional to the audacity of your lie.  These effects can only be counteracted by saying something unequivocal.  You can avoid saying the truth and you can mislead as long as you don’t utter something that can’t be untrue.  The protagonist Matt is gay and has managed to avoid coming out to his traditional-minded Chinese parents for years.  Now Matt and his boyfriend Gus have decided they want to get married, and Matt needs to break the news to his parents, over his sister’s objections.

At first I thought the speculative element of the water was more than a bit corny.  But the story doesn’t make a joke of this concept and runs with it.  As with the best speculative fiction, it’s not about the speculative element.  It’s about how that element allows us to look at the real world through the lens of the speculative.  This story did an excellent job of that.  It’s a great story, well told, and I highly recommend it.  Easy choice in this category.


I liked it.  I can see what people are saying about Gus seeming too perfect, but I think that might be because we're seeing the story through Matt's eyes. 

I like John Chu's voice, but sometimes his particular character voices can be distracting--in this case I thought Gus sounded kind of like Scooby Doo and it was hard to remember he's quite smart. 

One quibble I had is that the story seemed to set a particular set of ground rules for how the lie detection works, and then changed the rules later.  At the beginning it seemed to be based entirely on whether the person who was saying it was aware of their own untruth--hence the mention of "we're going to be married" made no water because that was the best he knew at the time anyway, even though he can't see the future.  But he seemed to be cheating the system when he used sarcasm while also being aware that his sister might not read the sarcasm properly--that was right out cheating, IMO, and he should've gotten wet.  Also, he seemed surprised that Gus's calling of the parents as "husband's father" and "husband's mother" would've produced water if it hadn't somehow been true but, for one thing, they weren't married yet, for another thing, Gus didn't know the meaning of the words at the time he said them--you can't lie in a language you don't speak.

Regarding Hugo genre:
The determination of genre for the Hugo awards is entirely at the discretion of the voters, so there's not really anyone to complain to if you don't like the choice.  43 people cast nominations for Short Story nominated this particular one, enough to get it on the final ballot.  There were 2684 valid votes cast for the final vote for this category, which is more votes than have ever been tallied for this category in history (in large part because the overall voting numbers were much higher than usual this year because Wheel of Time and because controversies around other categories).  So, if you don't like the choice, its the voting portion of fandom that's responsible for it.  If you want to have your own affect on the voting, all it takes is a supporting membership the year of the awards--this is year it cost $40 and you get most of the fiction in a free electronic bundle.

That doesn't mean that voting-fandom can't make bad choices from time to time, like nominating a Hugo acceptance speech where the guy basically had an emotional breakdown as a dramatic short form category was ludicrous, but it was still on the final ballot.  But to me, this particular story was a great choice.

That being said, I don't see how this story couldn't qualify as fantasy.  Water falling from nowhere.  That doesn't happen when I lie at least.  Whether you think it's an integral part of the story or not, it is a part of the story, and it is provably something that doesn't happen in real life.  So I don't see how this isn't fantasy--maybe not the kind of fantasy a particular person likes, but most definitely fantasy without a doubt.



bounceswoosh

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Reply #24 on: August 26, 2014, 06:30:25 PM

I like John Chu's voice, but sometimes his particular character voices can be distracting--in this case I thought Gus sounded kind of like Scooby Doo and it was hard to remember he's quite smart. 


I found the Gus voice distracting, too. Reading your comment, it occurs to me how strange it is that we could associate a voice with any particular level of intelligence.



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Reply #25 on: August 27, 2014, 11:15:26 AM
This was a halfway decent coming out story but seemed to me have very little to do with SF. I wonder, is there a sense in which gay themes somehow override other criteria because they are, as yet, relatively daring?
The gay theme of the story was important to me only because it was economical: there is no need to explain why the sister would reject Matt and Gus' relationship. I read it more as a story concerning the anxiety of introducing your future spouse to your family or meeting your future in-laws.  A longer story might be better suited to present a sister that rejects her straight brother's future wife.

I was confused about it being a science fiction story but I'm still learning.  And, because of the sci fi association, I couldn't help thinking that the water falling might have something to do with something related to science (Matt can remember a time when the water didn't fall.  What happened to cause the change?).

I enjoyed the way the languages and the character's half understanding of some words (poe poe and gohng gohng) helped them better understand each other.



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Reply #26 on: August 27, 2014, 11:28:03 AM
I was confused about it being a science fiction story but I'm still learning.  And, because of the sci fi association, I couldn't help thinking that the water falling might have something to do with something related to science (Matt can remember a time when the water didn't fall.  What happened to cause the change?).

Hugo stories don't have to be science fiction, and Escape Pod tries to run all the nominations for the Short Story category regardless of whether they're Science Fiction or Fantasy.



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Reply #27 on: August 27, 2014, 12:57:56 PM
I think the most interesting part of the story for me was how people managed to get around the Water, and how the air would become more/less humid depending upon how close to the truth you were.

The scene with the pan and Matt/Michelle, though, confused me so much that I listened to it twice. Michelle was saying something that Matt knew was untrue, but Michelle didn't KNOW it was untrue. So the Water falls if you assume something that you don't know is/isn't true? That has much farther-reaching implications... my daughter, in third grade, was doing math problems on her computer last night. She made a few mistakes. Even though she didn't KNOW the right answers to them, she TRIED to get them right and made educated guesses. Would the Water have fallen on her each time she made a mistake, and therefore ruined her computer? Or what about when I'm at work and I commit some code and there's a bug in it? Do I get the Water?

While I think the story was enjoyable and the conceit of being able to/unable to lie was a good one, once the layers get peeled back to apply the Water to other situations it brings up disturbing questions about how things have changed elsewhere.

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Reply #28 on: August 27, 2014, 01:24:13 PM
The scene with the pan and Matt/Michelle, though, confused me so much that I listened to it twice. Michelle was saying something that Matt knew was untrue, but Michelle didn't KNOW it was untrue.

Well — one could argue that neither one of them really knew whether it was true or untrue.

My reading was that Michelle was "knowingly" telling something she didn't believe to be true with the intent of hurting Matt. With the abusive way Michelle interacts with Matt in the past, and the limited contact Matt has had with his family since the water started falling, I can believe she fell into old ways of interacting — forgetting the consequences. Matt, knowing how his sister's mind worked, figured out what was coming and acted accordingly.




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Reply #29 on: August 27, 2014, 02:05:11 PM
Interesting to me that the first two stories we have heard on Hugo month are much more focused on relationships than on their fantastic elements.  Great speculative fiction is necessarily great fiction.  And great fiction tends to be about people and how we interact with each other.  The fantastic and speculative elements just help to provide a broader canvas on which to paint those pictures of people.

To me, the water falling was an essential part of this story.  The main dramatic tension in the story involved admitting the truth of who you are to yourself and then admitting that truth to others.  The fantastic element of the water both provided a story-long metaphor for that tension as well as helped to actually drive the plot by creating a world where truth and lies are made more physically apparent.

The fact that the fantastic element of the water did not dominate the story made it, to me, more realistic.  That's how humans are.  We adapt to our universe and keep living our lives.  Sure, for the first couple of weeks, the world would pretty much stop as people got used to the water that falls on you from nowhere.  But then what?  We'd have to keep growing food.  We'd have to keep fixing our roads.  Drilling our oil.  Educating our children.  Life would go on.  Just with the water.

BOSS:  "Johnson, I need you to have that presentation for Hardees done by Friday!"

JOHNSON: "But, Boss, water keeps falling on us from nowhere!"

BOSS: "Yeah, I know.  Who gives a shit?  Keep a towel by your desk.  Hardees is our biggest client, our meeting with them is Monday, and we can't afford to lose that account."

If someone from 1930 learned about smartphones and tried to write a SF story set in 2014, he would probably have every other sentence focus on the fact that most of us carry around portable supercomputers that are all networked into a global communications system.  To him, that would be fantastic and the only thing any of us could possibly discuss or think about.

To us, it is just part of the universe as we currently understand it.  Certainly not more important or deserving of our attention than bringing the person we love home to meet our parents and our mean sister for the first time.



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Reply #30 on: August 27, 2014, 03:05:49 PM
The gay theme of the story was important to me only because it was economical: there is no need to explain why the sister would reject Matt and Gus' relationship. I read it more as a story concerning the anxiety of introducing your future spouse to your family or meeting your future in-laws.  A longer story might be better suited to present a sister that rejects her straight brother's future wife.

To me it the fact that the relationship was between two men was an integral part of it--It wasn't just about the sister, it was about violating the parent's traditional expectations.  Turns out he didn't give them enough credit, and they were pretty much cool with it without having to be convinced, but he didn't know that until it happened.



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Reply #31 on: August 27, 2014, 08:57:23 PM
I found this story frustrating. Matt was focused on his experiences almost to the point of being self-obsessed and seemed to have a lot of self-pity. He always reserved a motel room when he went to visit his sister because at some point she always threw him out. If he knows she's going to throw him out anyway, why would it be harder to be thrown out for something important than for whatever reasons she's used in the past? If this is a routine occurrence then it significantly lowers the stakes on Matt's coming out.

Making Michelle's expulsion of Matt a pattern also shows very different family dynamics than if this were the first time it happened. His parents have been accepting this behavior? Why? It's not plausible that traditional Chinese parents would let their daughter become the boss of the family. But if the parents condone Michelle's behavior then they love Matt less than he thinks they do.

The water seems to have started falling since last Christmas. Matt had planned not to see his family this Christmas because the water is falling now. Telling such a narrowly focused story only a few months into such a remarkable phenomenon gives off the same vibe of self-obsession. Here in California and in many other parts of the West we are experiencing a terrible drought. If I could make water appear by saying "I love the taste of Brussels sprouts" it would be a miracle. The story Matt tells is the equivalent of How the Nuclear War Ruined My Wedding Reception. It's true, and it's important to him, but he sounds very detached from humanity as a whole.



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Reply #32 on: August 27, 2014, 09:06:26 PM
Please let's not suggest that all traditional Chinese parents would react in one monolithic way regarding how they run their families.


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Reply #33 on: August 27, 2014, 10:06:58 PM
(I know I heard this before... possibly on StarshipSofa).

The thing I liked most about this was that it was both a portrait of and gentle rebuke against tradition; having the parents being more hip and relaxed than the sister (who's totally plausible) was a great way to end it.

And if anyone else out there is looking for a "lying is impossible" story, I highly recommend "City of Truth" by James Morrow.



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Reply #34 on: August 28, 2014, 03:25:49 AM
Please let's not suggest that all traditional Chinese parents would react in one monolithic way regarding how they run their families.

OK, these parents. Matt tells us that his sister spent all morning and afternoon carefully staying within the boundaries of what their parents consider polite behavior whenever one of the parents was present. Does she suddenly stop caring what her parents think? Or does she believe they have no objection to what she's doing? This is a pattern, rather than a departure from her past behavior. How did this pattern become established in this family?
« Last Edit: August 28, 2014, 03:37:06 AM by Zelda »



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Reply #35 on: August 28, 2014, 01:38:36 PM
Here in California and in many other parts of the West we are experiencing a terrible drought. If I could make water appear by saying "I love the taste of Brussels sprouts" it would be a miracle. The story Matt tells is the equivalent of How the Nuclear War Ruined My Wedding Reception. It's true, and it's important to him, but he sounds very detached from humanity as a whole.

It did cross my mind that being able to produce pure water at will would be a huge boon to large portions of humanity who either lack water entirely or at least lack water that isn't dirty and diseased, making this about that would've stolen the whole focus of the story.  If John wanted to write a story about the water's impact on regions in dire need of fresh water in the same world, he could, but it would be an entirely different story.



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Reply #36 on: August 28, 2014, 04:37:54 PM
Here in California and in many other parts of the West we are experiencing a terrible drought. If I could make water appear by saying "I love the taste of Brussels sprouts" it would be a miracle. The story Matt tells is the equivalent of How the Nuclear War Ruined My Wedding Reception. It's true, and it's important to him, but he sounds very detached from humanity as a whole.

It did cross my mind that being able to produce pure water at will would be a huge boon to large portions of humanity who either lack water entirely or at least lack water that isn't dirty and diseased, making this about that would've stolen the whole focus of the story.  If John wanted to write a story about the water's impact on regions in dire need of fresh water in the same world, he could, but it would be an entirely different story.
OK, I'll admit that I had heard this one somewhere else, wasn't totally wowed by it, and was a bit behind with my podcast listening when it dropped into my iTunes feed, so I mumble mumble mumble just marked it as played and moved on to something else mumble mumble.

Nevertheless, I seem to recall that the water is only a temporary phenomenon, isn't it? Once you can't stand the anguish which goes with it and say something unequivocally true, doesn't all the water vanish again? Otherwise I'm sure irrigation by untruth would have very quickly become part of everyday life.

Need a few bucks? Go stand on the edge of a reservoir and say, "Actually, my dog is a cat," and the nice man will give you some money for each minute the rain falls.

Oh, and if you slice your brussels sprouts and fry them in garlic butter, they are quite nice. ;)

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Reply #37 on: August 28, 2014, 04:56:11 PM
Nevertheless, I seem to recall that the water is only a temporary phenomenon, isn't it? Once you can't stand the anguish which goes with it and say something unequivocally true, doesn't all the water vanish again? Otherwise I'm sure irrigation by untruth would have very quickly become part of everyday life.

The quantity and temp of the water depends on the strength of the lie, and the reverse effect depends on the strength of the untruth.  I don't think they usually balance each other out--the mention of the water actually drying up as a result of the truth was reported as being an unusually strong truth, if I remember correctly.

In any case, I think that there's enough obvious incentive to being able to spontaneously generate fresh water that there would definitely be scientific research into how to maximize the water yield from lying. 

If you want to create an ethical system, could try put a metal grating on top of an open water tower, maintaining a queue of liars to go up and lie so their lies will contribute to the supply, and provide a zipline back to the ground and require them to wait until they get to the ground to tell the balancing truth.  Both the lie and the truth seem to have a small area of effect, so speedily moving the liar away from the reservoir might enable most of the water to be maintained.

If you want to create a horribly unethical system, tie a person up and force them to make a horrible horrible lie, so that the water downpours, and then render them mute in some way so that they can't balance it.  It seems that the water will keep on downpouring indefinitely.  Could put the victim in waterproof gear to stave off hypothermia.  The victim will go insane from the strain, but if one could potentially produce hundreds of gallons of pure water by doing that, that could keep a lot of people alive through the sacrifice.

But this is, of course, all entirely outside the scope of this story.



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Reply #38 on: August 28, 2014, 05:07:42 PM
An electric shock would have worked without maybe the immediate feeling that wait, we need water, why is this bad?

Hmm. I just realized this is sort of like the ice bucket challenge. Just this morning I read about the rice bucket challenge getting off the ground in India - instead of dumping water on your head, give a bucket of rice to someone in need of food.



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Reply #39 on: August 29, 2014, 07:30:40 PM
I'm confused about why this one got nominated. It's an okay retread of an old romance plot-line but I'm sure there were a lot of "okay" stories out there.

It is basically a script for a "Lifetime TV" movie of the week with just a little bit of occaisional magic thrown in to try and cross into a different genre'.
It could have been more of a SciFi story if it's main plot was the mystery water and our main charactures were working to figure out what/why it was. Instead, the MAIN plot was this romance story and inter family relationships that occasionally mention this phenomenon. The main conflict itself was anything but original. So they were gay. Big deal. I'd hate to think that THIS was the only reason this stood out enough to be chosen. Taking the "different race, different culture" significant other home to mom and dad is a storyline that has been done for decades. I even think I have heard a version of this that involved different speacies done on Escape Pod before. So what makes this story special enough for an award nomination?

While I am whinning ... why is it, in this oft repeated plot, that the significant other that our hero is willing to have the family showdown for, is always a Supermodel Astrophysisist that moonlights for Doctors Without Borders?
If you are going to retread this plotline, how about makeing it a guy who is willing to loose his family for the love of a skinny, shy nerd who works in a comic shop. Now THAT would be true love, right?

Okay, so all of that being said, it wasn't a bad story. Just not much of a science fiction story and in my opinion, not really different enough to stand out.  :-\



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Reply #40 on: August 29, 2014, 07:52:06 PM
It could have been more of a SciFi story if it's main plot was the mystery water and our main charactures were working to figure out what/why it was. Instead, the MAIN plot was this romance story and inter family relationships that occasionally mention this phenomenon. The main conflict itself was anything but original. So they were gay. Big deal. I'd hate to think that THIS was the only reason this stood out enough to be chosen. Taking the "different race, different culture" significant other home to mom and dad is a storyline that has been done for decades. I even think I have heard a version of this that involved different speacies done on Escape Pod before. So what makes this story special enough for an award nomination?

Go knock on the doors of 2684 Hugo voters who cast a vote for this category and ask them!

Point me at any story and I can rattle off a dozen ways it's like another story, because if a story were unlike all other stories in all ways it would be incomprehensible.  A majority of 2684 Hugo voters thought this was a story worth winning.  I voted for it because I thought the speculative element gave the coming-out some extra tension, the writing was smooth, and I was invested emotionally in it.  Apparently a lot of other people were too.



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Reply #41 on: August 29, 2014, 08:24:53 PM
I noted this above, but to me, this was pure speculative fiction.

You have a fantastical element--in this case the water that falls on you from nowhere.  That fantastical element helps to move along a plot or create a tension or otherwise reveal something about humanity.  That, to me, is the core of SF.

Here, the protagonist has had trouble being true to himself and trouble revealing his true self to his family.  The water forces him to confront those things.  It proves to him that Gus loves him in the beginning.  It proves to him that he loves Gus at the end.  It forces him to confront the fact that some of his sister's abuse involved flat-out lying to him (the frying pan scene).  But for the water, she would have been able to plant that seed of doubt into his mind.  It proves to him that his parents really are OK with him and Gus being together.  But for the fantastical element in this universe, there is no story.  He and Gus just keep dating and not telling his parents.

And, as a bonus, the water worked as a metaphor throughout the story.

As a technical matter, I would call it fantasy and not science fiction.  And, but for Hugo month, it may have run on PodCastle instead.  But, to me, it clearly falls into the realm of speculative fiction.



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Reply #42 on: September 04, 2014, 01:22:41 AM
Didn't Hugo month used to be June-ish on Escape Pod? I certainly remember that we don't usually know which story won before the group is aired...


I think the speculative element here was super cool, but felt the story was pretty well-trodden for a Hugo winner. Ehh, that's probably one of the reasons why it won. Anyway, I did enjoy the listen, and the resulting speculation about possible collection methods for the water.



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Reply #43 on: September 04, 2014, 01:46:09 PM
Didn't Hugo month used to be June-ish on Escape Pod? I certainly remember that we don't usually know which story won before the group is aired...

It did! 

Back in the day when Hugo month was launched here, there was no Hugo packet and thus no central place to get all the short stories to read (you might be able to get them piecemeal at the discretion of the publishers), and so Escape Pod was a resource to get all those together.

Now that the Hugo Packet is available to all Hugo voters to get most of the content for free (and generally all of the short stories) perhaps the focus has shifted to just publishing whenever the content can be made, or publishing around the announcement deadline. 

I would prefer if the stories could all be published before the voting deadline.  I'm a voter, and that would mean that I could use my more abundant reading-with-my-ears time to get all the short stories and use my scarcer reading-with-my-eyes time to read the other categories to try to get as much done before deadline as possible. 

But I understand if that's not possible due to challenges in getting the reprint rights for the stories, and producing them in audio. 



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Reply #44 on: September 05, 2014, 01:32:16 AM
Dude. Dude! DUDE! I just figured something out.

You know how Gus is "training," saying things that are only kind-of true and then enduring the resulting existential despair? What if the point of this training is to be able to say things that are true... but truer, kind of like how you don't necessarily train your body by doing exactly what you plan to do with it, but sometimes by isolating that muscle and training the hell out of it. If anyone could figure this out, it's philosophy-reading personal-training Gus.

If Gus is training to say things with more truth, maybe he's doing it because he knows that it's the only way to get Matt - analytical, neurotic Matt, who Gus knows has been idly studying the water that falls on you from nowhere - to understand just how much he loves him.

This adds a whole other dimension to the story, as well as bringing up that love is something you invent in the world, not something you discover. Gus is working to invent love with Matt so hard that it becomes something on par with a universal physical constant, a law of the universe, because that's the only way love ever survives.

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Reply #45 on: September 11, 2014, 12:37:07 PM
I was kind of underwhelmed by this story, especially compared to Mur's story which I heard immediately prior to this one, since I'm a few weeks behind.

I really didn't like Matt very much. I didn't believe he really loved Gus, even if the gods of water did. He was selfish, all through the story. I couldn't help thinking it would be best for Gus if Matt did just marry some nice Chinese woman so Gus could find a man who would love him as he deserved.

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Reply #46 on: September 24, 2014, 03:44:16 AM
This qualifies as magical realism, right?

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


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Reply #47 on: September 24, 2014, 12:12:44 PM
Sure, basically.



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Reply #48 on: September 24, 2014, 02:05:13 PM
It fits the description of magical realism as I understand it, yes.  Which seems to boil down to "what you call fantasy if you would be ashamed to admit to your peers that you read fantasy".

But it does have the feel of the sort of fantasy to could appeal to a litfic crowd.
« Last Edit: September 24, 2014, 02:06:44 PM by Unblinking »



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Reply #49 on: September 24, 2014, 03:19:49 PM
According to the Wikipaedia article,
Quote
Magical Realism is a genre where magic elements are a natural part in an otherwise mundane, realistic environment.

So although there hasn't always been water falling from nowhere, the fact that it does, and is simply accepted as a fact of life, would certainly make this Magic Realism. Or Magical Realism, if you prefer more syllables.

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Reply #50 on: September 24, 2014, 07:26:15 PM
Yeah, if you've got full-on second-world fantasy going, it ain't Magical Realism. 



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Reply #51 on: September 24, 2014, 08:43:32 PM

Yeah, if you've got full-on second-world fantasy going, it ain't Magical Realism. 


And second world fantasy is the same effective thing as "sub-creation" right?

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


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Reply #52 on: September 24, 2014, 09:02:47 PM
What, like what the teenagers do at Blimpie?



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Reply #53 on: September 24, 2014, 10:38:17 PM
Nah, it's easy to make a sandwich. My familarity with the term is via Tolkien in his essay "On Faery Stories" and other academic takes of his on fantasy.

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


UnfulredJohnson

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Reply #54 on: October 12, 2014, 10:39:12 PM
Can't say I liked this one at all. The MC just came across a little bit too passive for me, and Gus was just cartoonish in his immaculate perfection. I could see his big square jaw jutting in my minds eye, maybe the baritone voice the narrator used had something to do with it though. I just didn't connect with any of the characters, and the fantasy element was too vague to be of any real significance or interest to me.



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Reply #55 on: October 19, 2014, 09:12:59 PM
Not a bad story, but not really special enough to be a Hugo nominee in my opinion.

What was weird was that the speculative element, while quite cool in principle, actually worked against the story in some ways by removing uncertainty in situations where it would strengthen emotional impact. It always seemed to resolve conflicts where real human communications would normally be necessary, and I think that kind of communication makes for more compelling fiction than a rain shower.

On the other hand, the family dynamics was well captured, including the abusive sibling relationship, which is more common than one tends to believe.



El Barto

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Reply #56 on: October 27, 2014, 09:28:22 PM
A lovely tale but I did not vote for it to win the Hugo because I didn't think it was anything special and I am not a fan of stories where something crazy is happening but the author doesn't explore it beyond using it as a narrow plot device. 

In this case we have a world in which lying causes rain and different shades of fibs cause the relative humidity to change.  That is pretty crazy and has huge implications on politics (no more campaign lies?), police interrogations (!), and people lies from the mundane (you look great in those pants) to the life-changing (are you having an affair?).

In that context, I found it frustrating to simply watch the main character joust with his jerk sister.

That said, I am only one Hugo vote, and others who vote did want this to win, so it did.

Anyone who wants to vote next year . . .  it is super easy.  Just pay $40 to become a "supporting member" of the 2015 convention.  This should be the link:

https://sasquan.swoc.us/sasquan/reg.php

Cheers!





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Reply #57 on: November 10, 2014, 02:34:19 AM
A lovely tale but I did not vote for it to win the Hugo because I didn't think it was anything special and I am not a fan of stories where something crazy is happening but the author doesn't explore it beyond using it as a narrow plot device. 

In this case we have a world in which lying causes rain and different shades of fibs cause the relative humidity to change.  That is pretty crazy and has huge implications

This sums up my take on the story as well - and in this light it is exactly as the future-seeing Scott in the author's other story [1]. They could even be a set in the same universe.

"EP412: Thirty Seconds From Now" [http://escapepod.org/2013/09/05/ep412-thirty-seconds-from-now/]



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Reply #58 on: November 10, 2014, 02:50:24 PM
This sums up my take on the story as well - and in this light it is exactly as the future-seeing Scott in the author's other story [1]. They could even be a set in the same universe.

"EP412: Thirty Seconds From Now" [http://escapepod.org/2013/09/05/ep412-thirty-seconds-from-now/]

In Thirty Seconds From Now, water didn't fall on you from nowhere when you lied.  So, it's not the same world unless it is before the water started falling, in which case it's indistinguishable from the world we actually live in.



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Reply #59 on: November 17, 2014, 06:10:51 AM
I deleted it off my mp3 player only after a third way though; thats my opinion.



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Reply #60 on: November 18, 2014, 04:17:29 PM
I deleted it off my mp3 player only after a third way though; thats my opinion.

I think that's a fact rather than an opinion.  :P Can you elaborate on what moved you to stop listening?



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Reply #61 on: December 11, 2014, 09:13:07 PM
I deleted it off my mp3 player only after a third way though; thats my opinion.

I think that's a fact rather than an opinion.  :P Can you elaborate on what moved you to stop listening?


It came across as just a Gay romance story than science fiction. Its not my thing.  I not going to kowtow  to political  correctness, if that what your getting at.   



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Reply #62 on: December 11, 2014, 11:17:08 PM
It came across as just a Gay romance story than science fiction. Its not my thing.

Fair enough on that score.

  I not going to kowtow  to political  correctness, if that what your getting at.   

I still don't see what is Politically Correct about this story. Just being about gay men does not make it PC. It's just a story about some of the sorts of people who exist in the real world. So long as you have a sound, non prejudiced reason for not liking something, that's fine. I imagine if someone objected to a story simply because it was about a gay couple, that would be overstepping the bounds, but not liking Magic Realism Romance is quite reasonable.

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bounceswoosh

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Reply #63 on: December 12, 2014, 02:33:35 PM
It came across as just a Gay romance story than science fiction. Its not my thing.

Fair enough on that score.

  I not going to kowtow  to political  correctness, if that what your getting at.   

I still don't see what is Politically Correct about this story. Just being about gay men does not make it PC. It's just a story about some of the sorts of people who exist in the real world. So long as you have a sound, non prejudiced reason for not liking something, that's fine. I imagine if someone objected to a story simply because it was about a gay couple, that would be overstepping the bounds, but not liking Magic Realism Romance is quite reasonable.
I agree it's not a PC story, but I also think people have a right to their opinions. If someone doesn't like a story because it has gay characters, that's how they feel - and their loss. On so many levels.



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Reply #64 on: December 12, 2014, 03:46:53 PM
It came across as just a Gay romance story than science fiction. Its not my thing.  I not going to kowtow  to political  correctness, if that what your getting at.  

I wasn't getting at anything.  I was just interested in hearing more than "I stopped listening" because that's not really a basis for conversation. Fair enough to not be into gay romance stories, or romance stories in general.

"Political correctness" is a loaded term in itself.  No one self-describes as politically correct, and it seems to only be used an insult.  I'd be happy if I never heard the phrase again.
« Last Edit: December 12, 2014, 03:48:40 PM by Unblinking »



bounceswoosh

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Reply #65 on: December 12, 2014, 06:12:45 PM
Sorry for all the dupes. Could an editor clean that up?



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Reply #66 on: December 12, 2014, 06:13:43 PM
Sorry for all the dupes. Could an editor clean that up?

Sure, I gotcha covered. :)

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Reply #67 on: December 12, 2014, 10:15:34 PM
Sorry for all the dupes. Could an editor clean that up?

Sure, I gotcha covered. :)

That looked way too easy.  Could an editor give me a pony?



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Reply #68 on: December 12, 2014, 10:38:17 PM
That looked way too easy.  Could an editor give me a pony?

Well, we could build you one...


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Reply #69 on: April 11, 2015, 02:28:59 AM
You know how Gus is "training," saying things that are only kind-of true and then enduring the resulting existential despair? What if the point of this training is to be able to say things that are true... but truer, kind of like how you don't necessarily train your body by doing exactly what you plan to do with it, but sometimes by isolating that muscle and training the hell out of it. If anyone could figure this out, it's philosophy-reading personal-training Gus.

Yes, Gus was definitely holding on to the ambivalent existential angst as long as he could so that he would have to say something very very true (or very very false). That was the point of the "game" that people developed. The longer you held out after saying something ambivalent the more extreme your next pronouncement had to be and the stronger the reaction and relief was. But I don't think Gus was training. I think he just wanted the MC to be with him to see the absolute truth of his "I love you" statement. It was his way of getting the MC to believe him.

As to my opinion of the story, I liked it. It was fun to listen to. But, I do have 2 small beefs.
1) I wish there had been more information on where/how/why this WTFOYFNW phenomenon came to be.
2) The ending was just a bit too muddy for me and I wasn't exactly sure what the point at the end was.
But that's just me. And these only impacted my enjoyment of the story a little bit.