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Author Topic: EP488: In Another Life  (Read 10712 times)

eytanz

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on: April 05, 2015, 07:46:11 PM
EP488: In Another Life

By Kelly Sandoval

Read by Carla Doak

---

Waking after a night spent slipping, I reach for Louisa automatically, rolling into the empty space where she belongs. I lick the memory of her from my lips, languid with sex. The alarm shrieks from my bedside table but I’ve gotten good at ignoring it.

We went skating. Louisa wore a purple sweater and, giggling and unsteady, clung to my arm. We kissed on the ice and she pressed herself against me, her frozen fingers sneaking under my coat to stroke my back. It’s her laughter I cling to. These days, I only hear her low, honeyed laugh when I’m slipping. I miss the warmth of it.

But it fades. Even the taste of her fades.

I tell myself it’s all right. That it’s necessary. I’ve got an appointment with my therapist at noon. If I’m still clinging to the night’s slip, he’ll know I haven’t been taking my medication.

No help for it. I drag myself out of bed and hit the alarm. My head pounds and the world blurs along the edges. I’ve slipped for three nights straight and ice skating with Louisa is nothing like sleeping. If I don’t take a day off soon, it’ll start to get dangerous.

My therapist would say it’s already dangerous. But he doesn’t understand what I’ve lost.

I’ve got four houses to show before my appointment, and a lot of coffee to drink to be ready for them. He’ll make a thing of it, if I’m late. He always does.

The hours dribble past, hazy and distant. It’s like I left a shard of myself in my alter and can’t quite get back in step with my timeline. When the charming young couple at house two asks me about financing I try to answer, only to be distracted by the ghost of a red-headed boy rushing past in pursuit of a large gray bunny. The woman selling the house wears her red curls pulled back in a tight bun. She’s childless, though abandoned rabbit hutches sit moldering in the back yard, lowering her property values.

Does she slip, stealing moments with this laughing, clumsy boy?


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



bounceswoosh

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Reply #1 on: April 05, 2015, 08:20:15 PM
Chilling. First, I felt sorry for her ... But then the end changes the story rather drastically.



Ariadnes-thread

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Reply #2 on: April 05, 2015, 10:59:13 PM
I loved this. A well-written, somewhat creepy story. And I was really, really glad that the narrator didn't get rewarded for her stalking and other terrible behavior, as I kept worrying that this would happen by the end. But I was also glad that the portrayal was nuanced and empathetic on all sides, and not simplistically moralizing.



SpareInch

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Reply #3 on: April 06, 2015, 01:26:42 PM
An interesting story, which starts out with addiction, which is selfish in nature, lets us know about the grief which drives that addiction to living in an alternative timeline, and finally leaves us with the Got It All version of the protagonist still being unhappy and preferring yet a third timeline.

(And before I get hauled off to the pillories, I didn't say that addicts are selfish and need more self discipline and willpower, because the problem is not that simple at all. What I mean is that any addiction is about trying to get some form of gratification for yourself, even if you know you're doing it and want to stop.)

I think the last passage of the story did a great job of showing why her GF in the original timeline left her. She seems to think that her partner should automatically want what she wants, and the moment there is any disagreement, then her partner is clearly, to her mind, the only one who could possibly be at fault.

Fresh slush - Shot this morning in the Vale of COW


Zelda

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Reply #4 on: April 07, 2015, 06:02:30 AM
A good story, and terrifying. Clara is a scary, scary stalker Ex. I was very uncomfortable inside her head.



albionmoonlight

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Reply #5 on: April 07, 2015, 01:18:48 PM
This is one where the narration really helped the story.  I think that had I read this on the paper, I would not have gotten the full effect of Carla's creepy vibe.  The way that the stalker tones slowly slipped into her voice was wonderful.



Ariadnes-thread

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Reply #6 on: April 07, 2015, 04:54:32 PM
This is one where the narration really helped the story.  I think that had I read this on the paper, I would not have gotten the full effect of Carla's creepy vibe.  The way that the stalker tones slowly slipped into her voice was wonderful.

Agreed. The narration was really well-done and definitely added to the story.



Just Jeff

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Reply #7 on: April 09, 2015, 04:36:29 AM
Great story, although the ending was not unexpected. Greater reading, which is why I dropped by to comment.



Chairman Goodchild

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Reply #8 on: April 09, 2015, 02:21:51 PM
This is one where the narration really helped the story.  I think that had I read this on the paper, I would not have gotten the full effect of Carla's creepy vibe.  The way that the stalker tones slowly slipped into her voice was wonderful.

Spot on.  This is one of the better readings I've heard on Escape Pod.  One can just hear notes of bargaining and rationalization slip into the narrator's voice.  
And it's a really good story, too.  Everyone has played the great game of If I Only Would Have at some time in their life, and some play it constantly.  And some people do let it destroy them.  

This will be my last post on the forum, but don't worry, I've just merged my consciousness with the alternate me that decided to buy Tesla stock at $50 a share after all.  
« Last Edit: April 09, 2015, 02:52:39 PM by Chairman Goodchild »



Windup

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Reply #9 on: April 10, 2015, 12:11:39 AM
Wow. This story showed me how classic, well-worn tropes can be given new life by brilliant execution.  The writing did a wonderful job of evoking both the creepiness and the despair of the protagonist. I found myself both appreciating just how awful and intrusive her stalking was, while simultaneously appreciating the depth of her pain and wondering exactly how much of her behavior was "voluntary" and how much was the result of emotional forces she really couldn't control. While also realizing that Louisa was absolutely right in fleeing the relationship and cutting Carla out of her life.

While I saw the ending coming, it was sufficiently well-executed that it still packed a punch.

Also, kudos to the narrator for incorporating the nuances that made a good story even better.

"My whole job is in the space between 'should be' and 'is.' It's a big space."


FullMetalAttorney

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Reply #10 on: April 10, 2015, 10:18:12 PM
I don't really care for the "alternate universes coexisting" premise. It just doesn't feel real to me. Even if there are infinite universes and, therefore, theoretically one that's exactly like ours except in one small way (and so on and so on), how would you ever find it? Wouldn't you be more likely to come across one that's completely bonkers? The author also failed to explain how it worked (unless I missed it), so technically not sci-fi, more of a post-modern fantasy (just saying, not that it's important).

The story did remind me of one I read years ago (maybe it was Asimov or Bradbury, because that's all I was reading at the time) where time travel was possible, but the big secret was that you could only go back a few years, and nobody was supposed to do it because they would only live in their regrets.

I also wonder why so many stories lately have to have homosexual relationships in them. As often as they come up on the podcast, it's like somebody's trying way too hard to make a point. It would have worked fine if Louisa was Louis.
« Last Edit: April 10, 2015, 10:20:32 PM by FullMetalAttorney »



SpareInch

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Reply #11 on: April 11, 2015, 12:31:08 PM
I don't really care for the "alternate universes coexisting" premise. It just doesn't feel real to me. Even if there are infinite universes and, therefore, theoretically one that's exactly like ours except in one small way (and so on and so on), how would you ever find it? Wouldn't you be more likely to come across one that's completely bonkers? The author also failed to explain how it worked (unless I missed it), so technically not sci-fi, more of a post-modern fantasy (just saying, not that it's important).

Since SF is fiction which speculates on science, I'd have to disagree with you there. The idea of parallel universes created by differing decisions is derived from the science of Physics.

:)

I also wonder why so many stories lately have to have homosexual relationships in them. As often as they come up on the podcast, it's like somebody's trying way too hard to make a point. It would have worked fine if Louisa was Louis.

Well, I can't speak for the editorial staff, but I have always understood that while they are always keen to hear from minority authors, once a story is in the Slush pile, it is NEVER filtered on the basis of the gender, sexuality, ethnicity,religion, weight, height or hair colour of either the author or any of the characters.

Perhaps it is just that authors of late feel freer to explore same sex relationships? And having felt denied this freedom in the past, perhaps they are now exercising that freedom?

Sorry if that exploration makes you feel uncomfortable.

Fresh slush - Shot this morning in the Vale of COW


SpareInch

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Reply #12 on: April 11, 2015, 12:40:07 PM
The idea of parallel universes created by differing decisions is derived from the science of Physics.

Sorry, could have been clearer there. Parallel Universes are from physics, though I'd have to admit to not knowing the exact state of play regarding which, if any, versions of the Parallel Universe concept are currently considered possible. The idea of creating new universes by making different decisions is, of course, Philosophy, of which Physics (AKA Natural Philosophy) is a branch.

:D

Fresh slush - Shot this morning in the Vale of COW


FullMetalAttorney

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Reply #13 on: April 11, 2015, 05:21:04 PM
The best way parallel universes were explained to me was, I think, in a Radiolab episode. Might have been NDT talking. Basically the idea was, as he explained it, that infinite means infinite, so there is going to be a universe with every possibility, and also (presumably) an infinite number of identical universes to ours. The idea that a new one splits off every time a different possibility happens is, I think, not based on science (though I'm no expert in that), even though it was in a Star Trek: TNG episode.

Anyway, yeah, it is based on theoretical physics, but it still doesn't feel real. Even less real is the idea that one can influence another or contact another in any way. Actually there's a lot about theoretical physics that simply doesn't make intuitive sense. I suppose people who grow up with SF stories based on those ideas might have an easier time with it.

The homosexual relationships thing, well, it is what it is. It just seems they're way overrepresented in fiction these days, and particularly in the stories here. (Of the romantic relationships in the EP stories I've listened to in the last couple of months, my perception is the ratio is nearly 50:50, which is way out of line with my experience of reality.) Maybe people are simply making an effort to achieve some perceived goal of making up for past underrepresentation. Or maybe they're just trying to seem extra-cool and progressive. Or using it as a gimmick.

Anyway, the reason I brought both of those up is they (the premise and the relationship) both felt like gimmicks in this story. But then again, isn't the typical SF story based on a gimmick? I don't know. Just thinking "out loud," as it were.



Windup

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Reply #14 on: April 12, 2015, 02:16:02 AM
I don't really care for the "alternate universes coexisting" premise. It just doesn't feel real to me. Even if there are infinite universes and, therefore, theoretically one that's exactly like ours except in one small way (and so on and so on), how would you ever find it? Wouldn't you be more likely to come across one that's completely bonkers? The author also failed to explain how it worked (unless I missed it), so technically not sci-fi, more of a post-modern fantasy (just saying, not that it's important).

Yeah, the "what is SF?" thing is such a hardy perennial debate around here that I think there's a standing thread someplace to which the mods direct all such discussions that appear in episode feedback. (This is the EA mod equivalent of, "Take it outside."  :) )


The story did remind me of one I read years ago (maybe it was Asimov or Bradbury, because that's all I was reading at the time) where time travel was possible, but the big secret was that you could only go back a few years, and nobody was supposed to do it because they would only live in their regrets.
I think it's The Dead Past by Isaac Asimov. Description: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dead_Past

I also wonder why so many stories lately have to have homosexual relationships in them. As often as they come up on the podcast, it's like somebody's trying way too hard to make a point. It would have worked fine if Louisa was Louis.
I don't think a character "needs a reason to be gay" in a story any more than a person "needs a reason to be gay" in real life.  One of the things that's struck me about same-sex relationships in EA podcasts recently is the degree to which the story isn't about the same-sex relationship -- the story is about something else, the story has a relationship in it, and the relationship happens to be between two people of the same gender. I'd include this one in that category. Those stories have been generally well-received in the comments, but I don't know to what extent, if any, that affects the editorial decision-making process.

Obviously, only the author can explain the choices made in an individual story, but I suspect in many cases we're seeing stories written by authors who have grown up in a world where same-sex couples are a normal part of the landscape, so same-sex couples are part of their story landscapes as well.
« Last Edit: April 12, 2015, 02:43:07 AM by Windup »

"My whole job is in the space between 'should be' and 'is.' It's a big space."


Windup

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Reply #15 on: April 12, 2015, 02:40:48 AM
Anyway, yeah, it is based on theoretical physics, but it still doesn't feel real. Even less real is the idea that one can influence another or contact another in any way. Actually there's a lot about theoretical physics that simply doesn't make intuitive sense. I suppose people who grow up with SF stories based on those ideas might have an easier time with it.
For me, the contact with parallel universes bit was the "OK, work with me, here" aspect of this story -- the part that requires willing suspension of disbelief. I found it convincing, in the sense I that it "felt real" while I was listening. Sounds like it didn't work as well for you. I agree that a great deal depends on your background. There was a story last year that was widely loved, but I found impossible to believe in because I thought the way it depicted the mental state of a person engaged in air combat utterly implausible. And there was another that worked fine for me, but many people with a deeper knowledge of statistics shook their heads at because the story's premise was apparently flawed.

Anyway, the reason I brought both of those up is they (the premise and the relationship) both felt like gimmicks in this story. But then again, isn't the typical SF story based on a gimmick? I don't know. Just thinking "out loud," as it were.
Well, there's definitely a large sub-category of SF for which that's true: the classic "lets change the world by adding this one thing (usually some sort of technology) then fast-forward a bit to see what happens."  The example that sticks out in my mind is Larry Niven's "transfer booth" stories, especially "Flash Crowd" and "The Last Days of the Permanent Floating Riot Club", although that particular form was a staple of an awful lot of Golden Age SF.

I suppose I could see this story as fitting that form -- surveying the impact of being able to explore alternatives by "riding" minds who are living those alternatives. But I saw this one as being much more character/theme driven, with the technology serving mainly to underscore the effects of wallowing in unrealized possibilities rather than moving on with life.
« Last Edit: April 12, 2015, 03:12:30 AM by Windup »

"My whole job is in the space between 'should be' and 'is.' It's a big space."


FullMetalAttorney

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Reply #16 on: April 12, 2015, 02:42:05 AM
I don't think a character "needs a reason to be gay" in a story any more than a person "needs a reason to be gay" in real life.  One of the things that's struck me about same-sex relationships in EA podcasts recently is the degree to which the story isn't about the same-sex relationship -- the story is about something else, the story has a relationship in it, and the relationship happens to be between two people of the same gender. I'd include this one in that category.

I would say this one was very much about the relationship, but I get your meaning. There was the one with the two women and the squid-like alien life forms recently (the story didn't make much of an impact on me, so I don't remember much more than that) which would fit in the "not really about the relationship" thing. But on the other hand, the one with the punk musicians and their mechanical backup, where one of the girls was named Dog, that I thought was largely about the relationship as well. (But I have to admit, I really liked that one. Gritty, with nice use of language.) Sorry I can't seem to remember the titles, and some of them might actually be older since I was listening to a story a day for a couple of months.

Obviously, only the author can explain the choices made in an individual story, but I suspect in many cases we're seeing stories written by authors who have grown up in a world where same-sex couples are a normal part of the landscape, so same-sex couples are part of their story landscapes as well.

Could be. I also think that people notice such relationships a lot more, and the subject is constantly in the news, so they loom larger in the mind and thus become overrepresented in fiction. On a similar note, I was just considering there are only about twice as many Jews as Native Americans in the U.S., but how many Jews do you see on T.V., versus Native Americans? I don't think I need to answer that. Fiction doesn't reflect reality, it reflects a distorted perception of reality.



FullMetalAttorney

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Reply #17 on: April 12, 2015, 02:47:28 AM
There was a story last year that was widely loved, but I found impossible to believe in because I thought the way it depicted the mental state of a person engaged in air combat utterly implausible.

I remember that one. They were in powered suits, defending Chicago from the rest of Illinois. That didn't really bother me, but I get why it bothered you. I just thought of this time I was playing the Sega Genesis puzzle game Columns, years ago, having by leaps and bounds the best game I'd ever played, and I got to the point that it felt like my eyes were directly communicating with my thumbs and bypassing my brain entirely.



bounceswoosh

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Reply #18 on: April 13, 2015, 03:15:34 AM


I also wonder why so many stories lately have to have homosexual relationships in them. As often as they come up on the podcast, it's like somebody's trying way too hard to make a point. It would have worked fine if Louisa was Louis.

And it works fine with Louisa being Louisa. Your comment says more about you than it does about these stories.



matweller

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Reply #19 on: April 13, 2015, 03:40:03 AM
Parallel universe theory is not only real, from what I understand, there are other major scientific theories about black holes and dark matter and such that pretty much hinge on it. That begin said, that doesn't mean that all of/any of the multiverses would start in the same reality. If they were truly infinite, I guess it's not unreasonable to think that some of them would be.

But you're right, it's mind-blowing to think how infinitesimally small the chance would be that you could in any way bridge two of them, much less two in anything close to the same historic reality. But if I couldn't hear a fiction story that asks "what if you could?" that is otherwise well written without getting hung up on that detail, what would be the point of ever listening to fiction? That's the basis for all fiction.



FullMetalAttorney

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Reply #20 on: April 13, 2015, 06:01:35 AM


I also wonder why so many stories lately have to have homosexual relationships in them. As often as they come up on the podcast, it's like somebody's trying way too hard to make a point. It would have worked fine if Louisa was Louis.

And it works fine with Louisa being Louisa. Your comment says more about you than it does about these stories.


Does it? Isn't the implicit social commentary of the author's choices a worthy topic of discussion? The implication of your comment is that one shouldn't remark on the implicit social outlook of a story, even a racist or sexist attitude (such as a story written several decades ago when those attitudes were generally unquestioned). No, I don't suppose that choice was core to the author's story. But the author could have made either choice, and I'm simply commenting on a trend I'm seeing, the prevalence of the trend being out of line with the reality of the world, and wondering why that trend is occurring.



Chairman Goodchild

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Reply #21 on: April 13, 2015, 10:27:07 AM

Perhaps it is just that authors of late feel freer to explore same sex relationships? And having felt denied this freedom in the past, perhaps they are now exercising that freedom?

Sorry if that exploration makes you feel uncomfortable.


And it works fine with Louisa being Louisa. Your comment says more about you than it does about these stories.

I hate to go negative in the forums, but since you started, let's do it.  "Sorry if that exploration makes you feel uncomfortable."  Either you're genuinely sorry or you've made an incredibly condescending passive-aggressive false apology.  


"And it works fine with Louisa being Louisa. Your comment says more about you than it does about these stories."  And what exactly does that say about FullMetalAttorney?  I don't quite understand what it is that you're implying.  I think you should come out and say exactly what you mean so that we can fully appreciate your point.  

Escape Pod does run a disproportionate number of stories with gay characters.  And what I mean by disproportionate is that the percentage of stories featuring gay protagonists is far greater than the percentage of homosexuals or bisexuals in the general population.  If a disproportionate amount of story characters were Portuguese, I would hope that forum members could comment on that without being labeled anti-Portugese. We have a forum member who commented on the prevalence of homosexual characters in Escape Pod stories and I think that's remarkable enough to be mentioned without this passive-aggressive baiting.  

You need to adjust the tone of your posts.  It's making you look bad, and someone should tell you that.  
« Last Edit: April 13, 2015, 10:28:58 AM by Chairman Goodchild »



eytanz

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Reply #22 on: April 13, 2015, 02:00:53 PM
Moderator note
This ends, now.

Everyone, please take a deep internet breath and calm down. If you are unhappy with what someone is posting, please use the report button or PM me, don't engage in personal attacks, explicit or implied.

FullMetalAttorney, Chairman Goodchild - EA's editorial policies are not a valid discussion topic in specific episode threads. If you want to talk about the percentage of homosexual characters in EP's stories, open a thread about it in the "about EP" forum. But you better explain why you think this is noteworthy, and do so in a way that follows the forum rules. If you want to comment about a character's sexuality in the context of a particular story, and can do so without being disrespectful to people of that sexuality, do so in the story thread. But don't mix the two.



SpareInch

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Reply #23 on: April 13, 2015, 02:13:21 PM
Moderator note
This ends, now.

Everyone, please take a deep internet breath and calm down. If you are unhappy with what someone is posting, please use the report button or PM me, don't engage in personal attacks, explicit or implied.

FullMetalAttorney, Chairman Goodchild - EA's editorial policies are not a valid discussion topic in specific episode threads. If you want to talk about the percentage of homosexual characters in EP's stories, open a thread about it in the "about EP" forum. But you better explain why you think this is noteworthy, and do so in a way that follows the forum rules. If you want to comment about a character's sexuality in the context of a particular story, and can do so without being disrespectful to people of that sexuality, do so in the story thread. But don't mix the two.

OK. Sorry, I cross posted with you, but I took the rant straight down.

Fresh slush - Shot this morning in the Vale of COW


FullMetalAttorney

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Reply #24 on: April 13, 2015, 02:47:44 PM
Moderator note
This ends, now.

Everyone, please take a deep internet breath and calm down. If you are unhappy with what someone is posting, please use the report button or PM me, don't engage in personal attacks, explicit or implied.

FullMetalAttorney, Chairman Goodchild - EA's editorial policies are not a valid discussion topic in specific episode threads. If you want to talk about the percentage of homosexual characters in EP's stories, open a thread about it in the "about EP" forum. But you better explain why you think this is noteworthy, and do so in a way that follows the forum rules. If you want to comment about a character's sexuality in the context of a particular story, and can do so without being disrespectful to people of that sexuality, do so in the story thread. But don't mix the two.
Don't suppose this was necessarily a line of inquiry that was necessarily about this particular story, per se, anyway. I'll give that some thought, and, if I feel like I have enough to say on the topic, I'll go there for that discussion.