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Author Topic: EP464: Red Dust and Dancing Horses  (Read 8925 times)

eytanz

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on: October 10, 2014, 01:49:33 PM
EP464: Red Dust and Dancing Horses

By Beth Cato

Read by Marguerite Kenner

---

No horses existed on Mars. Nara could change that.She stared out the thick-paned window. Tinted dirt sprawled to a horizon, mesas and rock-lipped craters cutting the mottled sky. It almost looked like a scene from somewhere out of the Old West on Earth, like in the two-dimensional movies she studied on her tablet. Mama thought that 20th-century films were the ultimate brain-rotting waste of time, so Nara made sure to see at least two a week. Silver, Trigger, Buttermilk, Rex, Champion—she knew them all. She had spent months picturing just how their hooves would sink into that soft dirt, how their manes would lash in the wind. How her feet needed to rest in the stirrups, heels down, and how the hot curve of a muzzle would fit between her cupped hands.

The terraforming process had come a long way in the two hundred years since mechs established the Martian colonies. Nara didn’t need a pressure suit to walk outside, but in her lifetime she’d never breathe on her own outside of her house or the Corcoran Dome. There would never be real horses here, not for hundreds of years, if ever. But a mechanical horse could find its way home in a dust storm, or handle the boggy sand without breaking a leg. She could ride it. Explore. It would be better than nothing. Her forehead bumped against the glass. But to have a real horse with hot skin and silky mane…

“Nara, you’re moping again.” Mama held a monitor to each window, following the seal along the glass. “No matter how long you stare out the window and sulk, we can’t afford to fly you back to Earth just to see horses. They’re hard to find as it is. Besides, you know what happened when that simulator came through last year.”


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Redhead

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Reply #1 on: October 11, 2014, 03:19:33 PM
What a well written story. I loved how neatly the entire plot flowed seamlessly from start to finish. The day to day humdrum of Martian life, like maintaining the window seals, fit into the story perfectly and yet connected so well with Trigger's "death".

Nara's deep love and desire for something she's never even seen dissolves into the realization that everyone is right: horses don't belong on Mars. Horses belong on Earth.

It then immediately evolves into the understanding that horses need to evolve in order to belong to Mars. It transforms into a deep love and desire to bring to Mars a Martian horse.

Trigger Mark II, so to speak. The people of Mars need a Trigger they can understand and relate to, and she's the one to do it.

Trigger is dead! Long live Trigger!



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #2 on: October 11, 2014, 05:50:20 PM
I teach middle school, so I have several times encountered the phenomenon of horse-mad children, usually (always, in my experience thus far) girls. From an outsider perspective - I was never into horses, though I did develop an abiding love for dinosaurs that has never really faded - this story seemed to do a good job of capturing not just how horses are beautiful and fantastic creatures, but also what it is in particular that these horse-mad human adolescents seem to love.

I really liked this story. It was perfectly timed and paced, and the character was so adorable. I was rooting for her the whole time, and I enjoyed how she learned to compromise and became a better, stronger, more adult person as a result.

Relatedly, whenever my students frame a desire for something that they want, but should know that they can't have, in terms of "wanting" it, I have a pretty good response:

Child: "Mr. Stone, can I go to the bathroom?"
Me: "No."
Child: "But I waaaaant to!"
Me: "Well, I want a pony. Ask me again when we finish this section of notes."

I'm not actually sure what I would do with a pony, to be entirely honest. Maybe a really small one could live in our apartment? It would probably scare the heck out of our lizard.

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woodenmango

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Reply #3 on: October 12, 2014, 11:33:39 PM
It was a nice story, certainly very well written but I am not sure it went deep enough for me. Or maybe I just don't love horses enough. Dunno.

The obstacle just doesn't seem big enough to me. I mean, human colonists made it to Mars (twice), they terraformed it. That's pretty amazing to me, yet they can"t make horses that can be indoor pets? Okay maybe it's a question of "why would you bother" if its a niche market. But yeah with all this technology at her disposable there was never any doubt in my mind that Nara would build her horse. There was no tension so it just isn't very noteworthy to me.   



InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #4 on: October 13, 2014, 02:43:16 AM
"Little House on the Martian Prairie".

As a space western, I liked it fine. And I was genuinely moved Nara's heartbreak at Trigger's fate. When you're that emotionally invested in something, to see it so ill-treated is going to be upsetting.

I was reminded, of all things, of an episode of Cheers, where Sam rolls his eyes at the Kristie Ally Character going on about horses and ponies -

"What is it with girls and horses?"

to which she replies:

"Like guys are real rational about cars"

to which he shrugs his agreement.

And as for writers and seasons? I'll say Heinlein for the summer, but only the juveniles.



Dwango

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Reply #5 on: October 14, 2014, 07:30:14 PM
What strikes me in this story is the mundane-ness of it all, the idea of the real "Living on Mars".  The idea that because we can terraform a planet, does not mean we have mystical techno power to do anything.  This story brings it down to a real level, of survival, expense, and of day to day life.  When you live on Mars, its not fantastical anymore.  It is the place you live, your home.  I am surprised more people wouldn't be interested in Earth, as from their perspective, the earth is the unusual and exotic.  If anything, this compares less to an old west story than to the colonist period of America, where people would wait for months for the next shipment from Europe.  They had to buy most items, down to nails and fabrics, whenever the armada made it by.  The rest they made themselves, like the girl making due with a machine for a horse.  It feels like this is really how settling another planet would be like.



albionmoonlight

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Reply #6 on: October 14, 2014, 08:35:46 PM
I like that the protagonist was not painted cute and perfect.  She would have totally stolen the horse given a chance.  She was not a malicious person.  Just a normal flawed person.  The "wise old grandfather" character was not above rolling his eyes at a kid that made him trudge out to the back warehouses.  That sort of fit with what other people have noted about this story--it seems very very realistic.  The setting seems realistic.  The people seem realistic.  The hopes and dreams of the protagonist seem realistic.

What will people on Mars be like?

They will be like people.  On Mars.



davidthygod

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Reply #7 on: October 16, 2014, 02:37:39 AM
I needed more action.  I found this one pretty dull.

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bounceswoosh

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Reply #8 on: October 16, 2014, 03:17:48 AM
I was a horse-obsessed girl. I think because of that, I didn't love this story. It was too realistic, and I didn't want to occupy that mental space again.



skeletondragon

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Reply #9 on: October 18, 2014, 04:47:43 AM
As a former horse-obsessed kid, I loved this story. Especially because the beginning sort of comically paralleled discussions I had with my parents when I was young.

"Can we have a horse?"
"No."
"Whyyyyy not????"
"We don't have anywhere to put it and you couldn't take care of it [because it would die on Mars]"
"Well can I just take riding lessons then?"
"No, too expensive [because of interplanetary travel]"

On the other hand, unlike 10-year-old me, Nara knows how to build sophisticated robots, so I'm kind of jealous and hope future children are actually that cool.



adrianh

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Reply #10 on: October 18, 2014, 09:44:22 AM
This was just lovely. Not deleted off my phone coz I'm gonna listen to it again when I next need cheering up.



Chairman Goodchild

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Reply #11 on: October 19, 2014, 09:54:33 AM
This was a good one. I'm dubious about the technical side of the story, like how a girl in upper elementary school could make her own horse robot and artificial intelligence, even if it is the future.  A few other things of that nature aside, I really enjoyed it.  It's a story with low stakes, done well.



koosie

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Reply #12 on: October 19, 2014, 06:28:52 PM
I especially love that this story gives Trigger the opportunity to lower again in a handsome curtsy, albeit post-mortem, as the protagonist herself sets out to do. Sci-fi horsey stories are great! There was a good one in Ep. 285, Jaiden's Weaver by Mary Robinette Kowal although that was Spiders rather than Horses as I recall. Spiders, Horses...same thing just different numbers of legs. There are other differences I'm sure but these are immaterial.



Unblinking

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Reply #13 on: October 22, 2014, 02:10:10 PM
I didn't really care for it, overall.  I liked the protagonist, but it didn't seem like there were any real obstacles to what she was really aiming for. 
She says: "I want to build a horse"
Dad says: "Yeah, okay, that probably wouldn't be too hard."
And she does.  And it's not that hard.  She doesn't get the skin because it's been destroyed, but in the end that doesn't matter anyway.


This was a good one. I'm dubious about the technical side of the story, like how a girl in upper elementary school could make her own horse robot and artificial intelligence, even if it is the future.  A few other things of that nature aside, I really enjoyed it.  It's a story with low stakes, done well.

That was a thing I liked.  Presumably there are tools available to make such things easier--like erector set skeletons and some kind of base AI program that you just have to shape with particular parameters.  I imagine that someone from the punchcard era of programming might say the same thing about the ease of programming today--setting up a basic graphical user interface with just a few mouse clicks using certain free utilities without even having to have programming knowledge, let alone waiting in line for terminals or prepping punchcards.



Devoted135

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Reply #14 on: October 23, 2014, 12:46:40 AM
Another formerly horse-obsessed girl here. :) Though for me it was more elementary school than junior high...

I liked this story and how she was apparently the only one on Mars who cared that much about horses. It made sense to me that there weren't pet horses or the like since the story pointed out early on that the beetles were pretty much the only "animal" to actually thrive on Mars so far. I must admit I was a little thrown by how willing she was to bend/break the rules but I suppose that shouldn't have been too surprising. ::)



Unblinking

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Reply #15 on: October 23, 2014, 01:41:04 PM
Another formerly horse-obsessed girl here. :) Though for me it was more elementary school than junior high...

I liked this story and how she was apparently the only one on Mars who cared that much about horses. It made sense to me that there weren't pet horses or the like since the story pointed out early on that the beetles were pretty much the only "animal" to actually thrive on Mars so far. I must admit I was a little thrown by how willing she was to bend/break the rules but I suppose that shouldn't have been too surprising. ::)

She wouldn't have broken the rules for just anything.  But for horses...



Fenrix

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Reply #16 on: October 23, 2014, 03:10:31 PM
Something I took from this story is the value of appreciating what came before and sharing that appreciation with others. The protagonist is sharing horses with her fellow colonists. The author is sharing Roy Rogers with us. There's a lot of stuff that would be easy to lose to time. We should all take a few minutes every day to pursue something like this. Do some research. Stop to actually read one of those historical markers. Add a primary source reference to wikipedia.


I especially love that this story gives Trigger the opportunity to lower again in a handsome curtsy, albeit post-mortem, as the protagonist herself sets out to do. Sci-fi horsey stories are great! There was a good one in Ep. 285, Jaiden's Weaver by Mary Robinette Kowal although that was Spiders rather than Horses as I recall. Spiders, Horses...same thing just different numbers of legs. There are other differences I'm sure but these are immaterial.


I'm glad I wasn't the only one who was pleasantly reminded of Jaiden's Weaver. Folks who liked this story should absolutely dig back in the archives for a delightful story of a girl and her teddy bear spider.

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Devoted135

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Reply #17 on: October 23, 2014, 09:49:01 PM
Another formerly horse-obsessed girl here. :) Though for me it was more elementary school than junior high...

I liked this story and how she was apparently the only one on Mars who cared that much about horses. It made sense to me that there weren't pet horses or the like since the story pointed out early on that the beetles were pretty much the only "animal" to actually thrive on Mars so far. I must admit I was a little thrown by how willing she was to bend/break the rules but I suppose that shouldn't have been too surprising. ::)

She wouldn't have broken the rules for just anything.  But for horses...

Haha, it's true. I guess you have to have priorities... :D



Chairman Goodchild

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Reply #18 on: October 24, 2014, 02:14:58 PM
No one is going to comment on the narrator looking exactly like Felicia Day?  And the author being a hot redhead as well? 
« Last Edit: October 24, 2014, 02:16:43 PM by Chairman Goodchild »



Varda

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Reply #19 on: October 24, 2014, 02:31:55 PM
No one is going to comment on the narrator looking exactly like Felicia Day?  And the author being a hot redhead as well? 

Well, since this is an audio fiction podcast and not a beauty pageant, and since neither the author nor the narrator has invited comments on their physical appearance... no, we're not.

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Warren

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Reply #20 on: October 24, 2014, 05:40:47 PM
No one is going to comment on the narrator looking exactly like Felicia Day?  And the author being a hot redhead as well? 
Aside from the obvious inappropriateness, that's not even really how audio podcasts work.



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #21 on: October 26, 2014, 03:18:46 PM
I don't really have anything to add, except to the discussion of how easy it seemed for a 12 year old girl to build a robot horse.
My suspension of disbelief broke a couple of times when she was talking/thinking about it, as well as when a bunch of six graders were assigned a 1000 word writing assignment. The longest thing I ever wrote in sixth grade was a book report and it maybe spanned half that. But then I came up with a similar thought to Unblinking's comment. Maybe there were tools available, and also classes were probably much more advanced. I learned calculus in high school, my parents didn't learn it until college. Take an average schoolboy (or girl) from the 18th century and put them in a classroom today and they'd be totally lost.
What bothered me more was her apparent maturity. I have two little sisters, and I remember what they were like around that age. Horse obsessed? Possibly. Grown up enough to plan heists, to weigh the moral and ethical implications of it, to adhere so fervently to a belief that would create an ends to justify the means? To have grandiose plans to educate an entire colony of people? Sorry, not buying that.

On a lighter note, I loved the gritty realism of the setting. The world building in this story was truly first rate.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2014, 03:32:39 PM by Max e^{i pi} »

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ElectricPaladin

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Reply #22 on: October 26, 2014, 03:24:07 PM
...as well as when a bunch of six graders were assigned a 1000 word writing assignment. The longest thing I ever wrote in sixth grade was a book report and it maybe spanned half that...

We push those little critters a lot harder in these days!

What bothered me more was her apparent maturity. I have two little sisters, and I remember what they were like around that age. Horse obsessed? Possibly. Grown up enough to plan heists, to weigh the moral and ethical implications of it, to adhere so fervently to a belief that would create an ends to justify the means? To have grandiose plans to educate an entire colony of people? Sorry, not buying that.

That didn't bother me. Part of it was meant to reflect the advancements of her time. It's definitely true that a lot of what kids play with today was the cutting edge military or industrial technology of fifty years ago - why shouldn't this trend continue in the future? And part of it was meant to reflect the character. I work with kids, and I've met brilliant kids, driven kids, passionate kids... they're rare, but they're also very interesting, definitely story material.a

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Unblinking

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Reply #23 on: October 27, 2014, 01:30:33 PM
as well as when a bunch of six graders were assigned a 1000 word writing assignment. The longest thing I ever wrote in sixth grade was a book report and it maybe spanned half that.

Ha!  Conversely I thought that 1000 words was so short as to be unbelievably short.  Granted it's been a while since I was in 6th grade, but even at the time I think I could've had that finished and polished in a half hour's work. 

That didn't bother me. Part of it was meant to reflect the advancements of her time. It's definitely true that a lot of what kids play with today was the cutting edge military or industrial technology of fifty years ago - why shouldn't this trend continue in the future? And part of it was meant to reflect the character. I work with kids, and I've met brilliant kids, driven kids, passionate kids... they're rare, but they're also very interesting, definitely story material.a

Yeah, there are definitely kids with the drive to make this happen.  They're the exception, maybe, but a story's not likely to choose to follow the kid in her class who did nothing but play the future equivalent of Angry Birds all day.



SpareInch

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Reply #24 on: October 27, 2014, 06:44:08 PM
Sorry, Max, but we're all talking about you behind your back. LOL

I don't really have anything to add, except to the discussion of how easy it seemed for a 12 year old girl to build a robot horse.
My suspension of disbelief broke a couple of times when she was talking/thinking about it,

I just put it down to being able to order a kit, to be honest. Maybe just a digital pattern with the alloy components coming out of some sort of next generation 3D printer.

Which would be pretty cool, you have to admit :D

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