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Author Topic: EP107: Eight Episodes  (Read 13434 times)
Russell Nash
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« on: May 24, 2007, 01:53:38 PM »

EP107: Eight Episodes

2007 Hugo Nominee!

By Robert Reed.
Read by MarBelle (of Director’s Notes).
First appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, June 2006.

Eighteen months later, the fledging Web network declared bankruptcy, and a small consortium acquired its assets, including Invasion of a Small World. Eager to recoup their investment, the new owners offered all eight episodes as a quick-and-dirty DVD package. When sales proved somewhat better than predicted, a new version was cobbled together, helped along by a genuine ad budget. The strongest initial sales came from the tiny pool of determined fans—young and well educated, with little preference for nationality or gender. But the scientists in several fields, astronomy and paleontology included, were the ones who created a genuine buzz that eventually put Invasion into the public eye.

Rated PG. Contains some suggestive imagery, references to infidelity, and not very good television.



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!


Referenced Sites:
World Science Fiction Society
Steve’s LiveJournal
« Last Edit: June 01, 2007, 03:21:30 AM by Russell Nash » Logged
Mr. Tweedy
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« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2007, 04:45:21 PM »

I don't think I get this one.  The prose was excelent, and the imaginary TV show was a great device to pull me it, but it seemed like the conclusion was chopped off.  I was surprised when the music played: It didn't seem like the story was over.  There was a nice buildup to what I thought would be the stunning revelation, but instead I'm left wondering just who did make "Invasion" and what that party was trying to achieve.

(I personally like the idea that "Invasion" was an immensely successful hoax and that there are a half-dozen geeks laughing together somewhere at how the world has been fooled into thinking it's gotten an alien message.  Those guys would have pulled off the biggest prank ever, and I imagine they would be hugely satisfied with themselves.)

Now that I write that, it occurs to me that maybe that's the point: I'm supposed to to be left speculating, just like the ficticious viewers of "Invasion" would be.  In that way, I almost become a character in the story.  From that perspective, it's very cool.

Entertaining, at any rate, even if I don't really understand it.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2007, 05:00:58 PM by Mr. Tweedy » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2007, 04:46:23 PM »

Wow, this story rocks. This story is instantly in the top 3 on my EP fave list now.  A great, fun, and well written story.  I loved the reading also, but for some reason I can stop thinking of MarBelle as Cinderalla Tintype (I think that story was made for his voice).
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« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2007, 05:45:21 PM »

Very interesting story.  I like Robert Reed's stuff and I could listen to anything MarBelle narrates.  I think it's interesting that two of the Hugo nominees have to do with film/television although I'm not sure why.  This one reminded me a little bit of "the footage" in William Gibson's Pattern Recognition and the movement that generated online.
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« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2007, 06:30:53 PM »

Occasionally I enjoy an odd approach to a narrative. Every once in a while something other than a first or third person traditional narrative structure makes a story more interesting. I think this was the case here. Its presentation as a sort of an essay on the subject of this show made me pay more attention. I don’t think I would have liked it near as much if it was told from any other perspective.

I also have an affection for stories told in the form of diary entries or letters.
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eytanz
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« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2007, 07:13:25 PM »

This story was enjoyable, but not really exciting - maybe it's just that my expectations were raised really high after the previous two superlative stories, but this one, while good, just didn't feel particularly great.

The reading was excellent, though.
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Simon Painter
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« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2007, 05:36:44 AM »

An interesting one this, some neat ideas in there but they don't really seem fully developed, mostly they're mostly just stated by a few of the characters at the end.

The cancelled cult TV series certainly resonates with me, though, you have to wonder if TV producers are allergic to decent programs  Tongue

I enjoyed this one overall, though I'd say it's probably the weakest of the Hugo entrants we've had so far.

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« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2007, 08:47:15 AM »

When I saw "Robert Reed," all I could think was, wait, the guy from The Brady Bunch? Didn't he pass away in the 90s?

Ah, different Robert Reed.

The story itself I think I understand, but I didn't find it particularly thought-provoking.

The reason for this, I believe, is that nothing is really happening to anyone. There's no-one to relate to, because none of the characters in the story are held up as being real.

The main character is not a person but a TV series.

Had there been a couple of fleshed-out characters in the story whose lives have been touched by the canceled series, the narrative might have had more impact on me.
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« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2007, 11:48:21 AM »

If I hadn't known this was a Hugo nominee, I would never have guessed it. For me this story falls into the same category as songs by Miriah Carrey... I will never understand why they are so popular. Listening to it, it really felt like the review of a good short story more than a complete story. The premise intrigued me, but much too much plain description.

I think Jim's comment hits the nail on the head here - the main character was the series - too abstract for me.

Also the "reveal" near the end that it might have been an Alien AI that wrote the series seemed counter-intuitive.  Why have at least two characters in the series even raise the idea that this was possibly a trick by the aliens to keep humans on Earth?  Reverse-Psycology?
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« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2007, 12:07:05 PM »

It was a story about an idea, almost like a fake documentary, so the way it was presented worked for me, but only as a nice diversion from "regular" stories.  If it had gone on a lot longer, it would have gotten old, but it was just long enough and developed enough to keep my interest.

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eytanz
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« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2007, 10:08:20 AM »

Also the "reveal" near the end that it might have been an Alien AI that wrote the series seemed counter-intuitive.  Why have at least two characters in the series even raise the idea that this was possibly a trick by the aliens to keep humans on Earth?  Reverse-Psycology?

See, I got the opposite reaction - I think it took me about 25 seconds of listening before I realized "oh, it's going to end with the whole series being by actual aliens". The only question was - benevolent aliens or hostile ones?

The way I interpreted the ending was the former. The series was true - there is no way for a civilization to ever leave its home planet. The AI was designed as basically a friendly message from afar - "we can't ever meet, since we're separated by time and insurmountable space, but hey, we're thinking of you". The reason the series raised the possibility that it's all a lie is that that possibility is comforting to many - and the aliens would rather have people think they're evil if that's what it takes for the people to not give up hope - it's not like there will be any consequences.
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slic
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« Reply #11 on: May 26, 2007, 01:25:00 PM »

It was a story about an idea, almost like a fake documentary, so the way it was presented worked for me, but only as a nice diversion from "regular" stories.  If it had gone on a lot longer, it would have gotten old, but it was just long enough and developed enough to keep my interest.
Sure, I got that, but take "This is Spinal Tap" or even more contempory "Death of a President", and they told a story about the idea.  In this case, perhaps the author was too on the mark - it was told in the format of a documentary on a cult phenomenon, Invasion.  The series, it's impact and the mystery behind it.  Just a very dry documentary, with the narrator talking too much.

Interesing premise, eytanz, that the aliens wanted to say hello, but not hurt our feelings.  Sure, that could work.  Just seems a backwards way to do it, and one that didn't really work - why make a crappy series, then?  If it had studied us so well, then it could have done better, no?
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« Reply #12 on: May 26, 2007, 08:45:05 PM »

As a mass communications student, I really liked this story. I liked the presentation of a "first-contact" scenario through an internet television program a la "Sanctuary". I guess I saw this story as a kind of commentary on our lack of patience when it comes to entertainment and how stereotyped media truly is. Dr. Smith is a pudgy guy from India, which would be a total no-no in American media society. How many of us would truly tolerate 53 minutes of a spinning planet? We're programmed by media to see hyperbeauty and extreme action as the norm.

 Also, I did feel that the extraterrestrials of the series weren't that original. Jack McDevitt wrote a really good novel called Infinity Beach, in which the aliens are really tiny. I highly reccomend that book.
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« Reply #13 on: May 26, 2007, 08:57:38 PM »

I think the story had a good premise, though the documentary style with no definitive ending left me a little cold.  Had there been a definitive ending, I'd have been happier.

I think this is definitely one of those stories that's better read than heard.

The points made in the story -- the immense distances between planets, the difficulty of getting from here to there, et al -- were all quite valid, and the debates everyone had about whether it was real or not were interesting from an intellectual standpoint.

Once I found out the ship was the size of two grains of rice, "the invasion fleet was swallowed by a small dog" ran through my head.  (One wonders if the fleet then shot its way out of that dog... I mean, they did have laser cannons or something, yes?)

An interesting concept, but I don't know if I'd've called it one of the best SF stories of the year (as the Hugo nomination seems to contend, being that it is one of the "best" awards for SF writers to get).

I liked Eley's comment at the end about Invasion being on Fox.



There are, what, two more Hugo nominees left in this category?  And one is "How to Talk to Girls at Parties"?  I sure hope I like the other one, because while HTTTGAP was a compelling story, it wasn't amazing or anything IMO.  Maybe I'll like it better when I revisit it with EP.

On the whole alien thing, I firmly believe that if aliens are out there, they'll pass us by, laughing all the way.  40 years of manned spaceflight and all we've accomplished is picking up some rocks and building a tin can that sits in orbit with three people aboard?  *sigh*

Although Dr. Smith's son was absolutely right -- humans are the meanest and most adaptable species out there.  Better for aliens to leave us be, monitor us, and figure out what to do with us once we get out of our star system.  That is, if we don't blow them away, given that spaceflight is (for now and IMO the foreseeable future despite private space initiatives -- get me started on that in another topic please, I'm starting to ramble) controlled by the military.  Anything more powerful than us comes along, they're likely to shoot at it anyway, just to see what happens.

All that being said, Eight Episodes was entertaining enough that I listened to the whole thing while taking a walk with my daughter (she was in her stroller; it's not like I was ignoring her or anything) this morning.
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« Reply #14 on: May 27, 2007, 06:49:28 AM »

I found this story very dull, and didn't enjoy it at all.
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« Reply #15 on: May 27, 2007, 06:44:54 PM »

I liked it and liked the inconclusive ending of both the story and the TV show.  I makes sense to me that a message from aliens would be delivered clumsily and not 100% compensable, also that an event as monumental as this would have a mysterious conspiracy theory surrounding it.  It reminds me of a passage in David Brin's The Uplift War.  The humans ask the more advanced "galactics" about some age old paradox involving free will.  The aliens reply that there are no paradoxes.  Such a question is not even possible in their language.  The aliens of "Invasion" might have thought their message contained no ambiguity.   If aliens do ever give us a message don't you think our first reply would be, "Huh?  Wait.  What do you mean?"

I also thought it was funny that the show was not something so subtle and complex that greedy studio executives killed it.  It was just a bad show. 
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« Reply #16 on: May 27, 2007, 11:02:13 PM »

I liked this story very much, because it was about an idea rather than an action/character.

I like the "breaking down" of popular sci fi beliefs - that aliens are hostile, we don't see them coming, and science/discovery only happens to really good looking people within a short span of time.

It reinforces that human beings are a dirty lot, with a lot of growing up to do, but the beauty is in that simple line "That the biggest invasion is life itself". How can we be lonely with an infinite variety around us?

Having just read Jack McDevitt's "Fifth Day" from the April/May Asimov's, this story really synchs with that notion.

Wonderful. 
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« Reply #17 on: May 28, 2007, 01:41:23 PM »

This story started slow but I ended up liking it quite a bit.  This story belongs to a type of story that says something about being a science fiction fan.  It reminds me when I was talking with a young woman at our office.  She was about 22, and she was praising Babylon 5 and Star Wars and wishing space ships would hurry up and become like those in the shows.  I said I doubted that would happen since travel faster than light is supposed to be impossible and the few mathematical exceptions requires enough energy that we'd have to convert Jupiter sized masses to have enough energy to warp space.  I could see that I had depressed her.  I asked her if she hadn't heard about Einstein and his theories.  She said if space travel couldn't be like the Enterprise then the future would be very depressing.  Over the years I've read other stories that had science fiction fans discovering that reality wasn't going to be like science fiction.  Of course Reed left hope in his story, but the real fascinating concept is:  what if we can't travel to the stars?  That's a great philosophical question to be covered by science fiction.
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« Reply #18 on: May 28, 2007, 04:42:35 PM »

but the real fascinating concept is:  what if we can't travel to the stars?  That's a great philosophical question to be covered by science fiction.

This is an idea that is not explored enough in sci fi.  I'm guessing that is because while an interesting idea... it leads to other more interesting ideas for stories and we end up overlooking the implications of what this means for us as a species. 

As for this story, I feel much the same as others here.  It started slow, and built up till I htought it was a good story.  I don't think it needed a twist or clever ending, as the implications of that the story is telling you are supposed to leave you thinking.  I think a twist ending would take away from that.
I'm not even sure what find of twist could be added that wouldn't feel created or made up.  The different ways people reacted to the news made for the story to have a more real feel to it; even if those reactions were fake computer simulations.

Its a good story, solid, clever and worth it.  I don't have anything bad to say other than it took awhile to get into... and thats not really a bad thing...
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« Reply #19 on: May 29, 2007, 06:08:37 AM »

I just didn't like that at all. Part of the problem for me was MarBelle's delivery, that deadpan style works well when he's narrating wham bam pow stuff like that story he did a few months ago, when it's something that's one stage removed and reading like something between a newspaper report and the Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction, well it sounded a lot like boredom to me.

It reminded me of Mark Danielewski's House of Leaves which ruined what would have been a perfectly adequate haunted house story by mostly telling it with an emotionless, reporting authorial voice. At least this was (a lot) shorter. Although it had some good things to say about the state of televised sci-fi it posed that central question that everyone picked up on, then singularly refused to do anything with it. That's not a story, that's a four a.m. blog post when you're being ridden by the insomnia fairy.
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