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Author Topic: EP108: Kin  (Read 15489 times)

Russell Nash

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on: May 31, 2007, 08:02:09 PM
EP108: Kin

2007 Hugo Nominee!

By Bruce McAllister.
Read by Stephen Eley.
First appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, February 2006.

The alien and the boy, who was twelve, sat in the windowless room high above the city that afternoon. The boy talked and the alien listened.

The boy was ordinary—the genes of three continents in his features, his clothes cut in the style of all boys in the vast housing project called LAX. The alien was something else, awful to behold; and though the boy knew it was rude, he did not look up as he talked.

He wanted the alien to kill a man, he said. It was that simple.

Rated PG. Contains implied violence and morally complex themes.

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Reply #1 on: May 31, 2007, 08:36:27 PM
Fantastic tale. I remember how much I loved this when I read it last year. The initial scene where Kim and The Alien reminded me of a scene from The Magnificent Seven when Chris and Vin (Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen) approach O'Reilly (Charles Bronson) cutting wood for his breakfast.

Chris: There's a job for six men, watching over a village, south of the border.
O'Reilly: How big's the opposition?
Chris: Thirty guns.
O'Reilly: I admire your notion of fair odds, mister.
Vin - You faced bigger odds in the Travis County war.
O'Relly - They paid me $600 for that one.
Chris - You cost a lot.
O'Reilly - Yeah, I cost a alot.
Chris - The pay is $20.
O'Reilly - Right now $20 is a lot.

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Reply #2 on: June 03, 2007, 07:22:15 AM
I liked the story. I can't wait for the sequel, in which he goes back for his 10 year high school reunion and finds out he has to do a hit on his high school sweethearts father  :D

Russell Nash

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Reply #3 on: June 03, 2007, 11:05:27 AM
Hitmen and kids is such a strange idea, but it's given us some great stories.  The first things off the top of my head are movies, but I think we can get a pretty long list going here.

1) Leon, The Professional
2) Shane  (He's a gunslinger, Same difference)
3) Witness (He's a cop, but to the Amish it's the same thing)


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Reply #4 on: June 03, 2007, 06:03:34 PM
nice tail

card carying dislexic and  gramatical revolushonery

Russell Nash

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Reply #5 on: June 03, 2007, 07:29:49 PM
nice tail

Last time I said that she slapped me.


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Reply #6 on: June 04, 2007, 03:47:27 PM
I enjoyed this story.  Of the stories I've heard Eley read, I have to say this was probably the best, chiefly because of the way he portrayed the alien.  Don't know if he used some sort of filtering or effect on the MP3 or if that's all natural, but the cadence was very good.

As for the rest, I don't know if there was an adequate trail of breadcrumbs to explain that the alien was leaving Kim his tools of the trade.  Also, I don't know that more clues were needed to point toward the comment of "what we and the other four races did to [his race]".  I would have liked a few.

The alien reminded me of the aliens in ID4.  I wonder if this was intentional.

I think this story worked because the main plot is something we can relate to: the fear of overpopulation and the kind of control the government will have to exert to keep it from happening.  IIRC some countries already have a rule on how many children law-abiding parents can have. 

That actually brings up something not technically sci-fi related -- the laws that control birth are aimed at everyone, but only the people who wouldn't necessarily have a lot of children to begin with are the ones who obey.  In the beginning of the film "Idiocracy", we see the dumbass reproducing over and over while the intelligensia have "valid" reasons not to have a kid yet.  I don't know where I'm going with that comment, but I kind of get the feeling it applies to Kim and his family's situation.

Overall, I enjoyed this story.

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Reply #7 on: June 04, 2007, 04:32:36 PM
China, at least, does forced abortion and has for many years.  Here's a recent article on it:  (You've got to be a subsriber to read the whole thing, but the first couple paragraphs give the gist.)  I've seen several articles about it over the years, although our mainstream media is usually too caught up in celebrity gossip and partisan mudslinging to notice actual atrocities going on in the world.  I mean, really, who cares about people being butchered in some far-off corner of the world when obscure radio hosts are saying "ho?"  Journalists have to prioritize.

I liked this story for a couple of reasons.

First because the alien was very cool: Scary and gross while at the same time sensitive and intelligent.  It reminded me of the alien in Alien, with all its slimy, pointy menace, but it had feelings and morals to balance its lethal nature.  Good character.

Second, the premise of a powerless child earning the respect of a powerful figure is also cool.  The kid earns the alien's friendship, and even a place in his family, simply by taking the time to learn about and understand him.  This shows the great importance and power of wisdom: A tiny push in the right spot can be more powerful than a bomb going off in the wrong one.  Taking the time to understand a situation is very important, and the importance of educting oneself cannot be overstated.  This story is a simple illustration of that principle, that a few wise words are better than a million ignorant ones.

Third, it was well-written and entertaining.  Good prose.

Fourth, Steve is a good reader.  As Listenener commented, the alien voice was good.

Lastly, because it spoke to the issue of abortion.  I really appreciate that even the viscious assassin alien saw an unborn life as worth protecting, and the value of that life as more important than society's rules.

Another good contender for the Hugo award.  I'm impressed by the diversity or these stories and by their intellectual depth.  Great stuff.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2007, 06:27:43 PM by Mr. Tweedy »

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Reply #8 on: June 05, 2007, 07:09:00 AM
This was a Great! story.

 Thank you for bring this to us.


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Reply #9 on: June 06, 2007, 12:04:15 PM
I didn't really care for the story. Not because of its abortion overtones, which is a subject I have conflicting viewpoints about, but because it seemed too minor. This story didn't make me think, didn't make me wonder, didn't stir my imagination, and didn't make me look at anything in a new way. It was an mildly entertaining story, no more than that.

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Reply #10 on: June 06, 2007, 12:41:34 PM
...the viscious assassin alien saw an unborn life as worth protecting...

I took it as the alien's only reason for saving the unborn child was he developed a weird sort of kinship with the boy and it was the boy's wish to have a sister.  I don't think the alien had any feeling one way or the other for the unborn child beyond that of the boy's need.

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Reply #11 on: June 06, 2007, 01:35:19 PM
...the viscious assassin alien saw an unborn life as worth protecting...

I took it as the alien's only reason for saving the unborn child was he developed a weird sort of kinship with the boy and it was the boy's wish to have a sister.  I don't think the alien had any feeling one way or the other for the unborn child beyond that of the boy's need.

You could interpret it in different ways.  No, the story wasn't pro-life, as such.  The daughter being saved is presented as a good thing, although the reason why it's good isn't exactly specified.  I still like the way the issue was treated, though.

I'm not going to post anymore on this topic.  I don't want to distract others from commenting on the story itself.

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Reply #12 on: June 06, 2007, 03:47:05 PM
The daughter being saved is presented as a good thing, although the reason why it's good isn't exactly specified.  I still like the way the issue was treated, though.

I think the reason it was portrayed as thus was because the family in the story really wanted to have a second child but the government would not allow it.  To me, it read as much of a pro-choice story as it did pro-life -- the point was that the government did not have the right to tell this woman what to do with her body.  If she wanted to have another child, that should be her choice.  Not some bureaucracy's.

This story also reminded me some of the the Professional too, except it didn't have as much sparkling violence, Natalie Portman, or Gary Oldman. 


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Reply #13 on: June 06, 2007, 11:56:38 PM
I disliked this story enough to get an account.

I must say I'm really tired of seeing the 'magic of breeding' plot device over and over. Whether it's the reason man expands to other planets (too many stories to count), the impetus for a dark controlling government (as in this story and many others), or artifical reproduction replaces bump-and-grind for some reason (way too popular lately), or the threat to mankind from some alien race ('The Mote in God's Eye' and many others), I'm just really tired of seeing it.  There's a very simple solution to the problem.

Moreover, this particular story irritated me because of the "I'm so special" mindset.  They are willing to murder some guy who (presumably, were he not a one-dimensional boogey-man) has a life, family, friends, etc for his 'sister' which is nothing more than a placeholder he's built in his head the way most people have 'husband', 'wife', and 'good job' with no idea what they REALLY want.  What about all the other little boys who want a sister?  How about we breed until we've killed off every other animal on the planet and all subsist on blue-green algae?

What about those of us out there who might want to have a child but feel that 6.5B humans is more than enough already and because some people are having 3 or 5 or 10.  We feel it irresponsible to make an exception for ourselves and add to the problem selfish thinking like that in this story has created?

Finally, before I get off my soapbox, may I note the traditional gender roles in this story.  Big brother protects little sister.  The genders could be a fluke of course, but MANY cultures today STILL practice abortion and infanticide for female babies who would be first-born, and most couples will claim they want two babies, one male, one female, in that order.  The writer makes no attempts to question our notions of anything.  All of the characters are one-dimensional and static and it reads as nothing more than a very thinly-veiled parable about OMG how evil China is.  Even the boy's name and the image of the good son studying hard probably pulls enough race stereotypes for most americans to take that leap.  Though come to think of it, you may have inadvertently made this more plain by the timing as the anniversary of Tiennem's Square was June 4th.

Could we have more science fiction that is either A) about science or B) fiction?  Laws made to deal with selfish and irresponsible people who think they're special is all too real for me.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2007, 12:01:33 AM by DigitalVG »


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Reply #14 on: June 07, 2007, 04:31:50 AM
Huh... I wonder why I totally missed the "big bad gubbiment gonna kill an innocent girl" angle. For me the story was not at all about a planned society it was about a killer reconnecting with someone who was not a killer. It seemed to me what was important was the assassin found a family, and had regained some of what it had lost. And the boy discovered his true calling as well. I suppose other conflicts could have been chosen to bring the two together, but the whole planned parenthood seemed like a convenient plot device to me and the very real relationship between the killer and the boy was resonated with me. The killer and boy struck me as such lonely solitary figures that their mutual bonding was the big payoff.


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Reply #15 on: June 07, 2007, 06:30:45 PM
I thought this story was good.  Typical Killer-with-a-heart type stuff yet bound into the SciFi genre in an untypical way, that is, the cross species connection.



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Reply #16 on: June 07, 2007, 08:27:19 PM
Fascinating stuff. 

I had many of the same reactions as DigitalVG did, however I was instead blown away by this story.  The SF angles was so well written and the characters so nicely drawn that it accomplished the thing that I believe fiction is really for:  it made me think about the motivations and desires of those who hold opinions and values entirely different from my own.


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Reply #17 on: June 08, 2007, 09:09:12 AM
The way I saw it, the whole abortion thing was just a device.  Much of SF is based on the belief of massive over-population in the future.  The mandatory limits on childbirth is considered inevitable in many of these worlds.  It simply accomplished the goal of giving the boy something to fight for.

How many things would a boy go to these lengths for?  The doing it to protect his mother is done to death, had a stake put through it's heart, been decapitated, burned on a pyre, and the remains have been buried and salted.

In a longer work something else could have been worked out or we could have been given more back story.  Maybe rich people can buy a license to have an extra kid, so it's a case of discrimination or something.

The real story is how the kid gets into this assassins'* head.  I don't think it's going to win the Hugo, but I put it in my "keeper" playlist.

*That word has to have one of the highest s-ratios in the English Language.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2007, 10:49:37 AM by Russell Nash »


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Reply #18 on: June 09, 2007, 05:52:13 AM
I believe that most of those that have commented on this story, have been blinded by the abortion issue.  This story wasn't about abortion, it was about a young Boy who love his parents and unborn sister.  His compassion for his sister, his parents and aliens drove the plot.  The story explains why the abortion was necessary, although it may not be justification.   The alien hitman recognized the boys compassion for the beings around him, including the hitman himself. The author exposes an underlining truth about humanity, our selfishness. The author shows us that when we are thinking of others, those same people will think of us.

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Reply #19 on: June 10, 2007, 03:31:48 PM
I'm afraid this one just rates as 'OK' for me.

As has already been said, I don't think that abortion is an issue in this story, it's just a detail that gives the kid a reason to want the hit, it could probably have been changed to something else without altering the story in any significant manner.

I'd say that the main focus is the relationship between the kid and the alien.  Unfortunately, though, this isn't really explored in any sort of depth.  Basically this kid has learned a little about the alien culture, which leads the alien to be so impressed that he not only does what the kid wants for free, but leaves everything to him in his will?!?  It is mentioned that the Alien has no family, and perhaps more could have been made of his sense of isolation, that would at least have added more depth into the relationship.

The other issue I had was the prose style.  This guy really loves the sound of his own keyboard, doesn't he :P throughout the story he seems to operate on the principle that taking a dozen words to say something is preferable to 4!

Overall, it's an entertaining story, but inconsequential and rather thinly plotted.  I enjoyed listening to it, but however did it get nominated for an award?

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Reply #20 on: June 16, 2007, 03:35:29 AM
I liked it.  It was less smaltzy than "Impossible Dreams", so it gets first place of the four Hugo stories I've heard here.

I side with Mr. Tweedy about "the premise of a powerless child earning the respect of a powerful figure is also cool.  The kid earns the alien's friendship, and even a place in his family, simply by taking the time to learn about and understand him." Said it better than I would have.

I do have my nitpicks though:
Perhaps the author didn't have enough space, but I was more interested in the kid's Visions - they were commented on, appeared to be prothetic, but never explored. 

While I disagree with DigitalVG about the thrust of the story, he/she was correct about the civil servant being "a one-dimensional boogey-man".  The author spent too much time telling us about the view from the tower and the clothes the guy wore that should have been spent on the character himself, or even explaining why Earthers were stuck on the planet - the one line about "Too expensive" seemed poorly thought trough - obviously we have alien tourists.

While I thought "The Watching People" ended too early, in this case, I thought the wrap-up at the end was unneeded. 


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Reply #21 on: July 07, 2007, 11:58:24 AM
Mr. Tweedy said a lot of what I wanted to say: the alien was great but it was the relationship between the kid and the alien that held the real force in the story.

I kept imagining the movie sequel: where the alien manages to come back and spend some time with the kid before he got popped on Glory: they go out to see a few movies, the boy shows the alien how to kick a football, the alien shows the boy how to snipe a mark from two kilometers away, not forgetting to take away the bullet casings...

The ending was tantalising.

...and for the time being (though only that) these things mattered more to him than Saturn’s great moon and the marvelous weapons waiting patiently for him there.

The suggestion that soon he would come into "the family business" so to speak, makes me want to know more about how he grows up. He learned enough about the aliens to know their ways, and he was determined enough to ask for an assassination, but is that enough to want to start killing for a living? Something else happens to him along the way.. :)

One more thing: this story reminded me a bit of Bobba and Jango Fett.. again, it's all about the family business!


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Reply #22 on: July 20, 2007, 05:44:56 AM
     I liked this story. it reminded me fondly of my childhood.

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Reply #23 on: September 06, 2007, 03:50:50 PM
Enjoyable.  It felt like a combination of "Enemy Mine" and "Gattica".

What I loved was that optimistic sci-fi conceit that if you take the time to really understand an alien culture, you can achieve miracles.


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Reply #24 on: February 10, 2008, 10:09:07 PM
Still catching up on my EP backlog... and lovin' it:

I enjoyed the story, initially, but there were a couple of lingering logical problems with it. 

First is timing.  Obviously, the boy had devoted a lot of time to studying the culture and history of the alien (Antelou?) before his mother found out she was pregnant; likewise, it would have taken a great deal of time for a kid that age to puzzle out a note in an alien lanuage, and track down 98 representatives of that species (assuming they would all understand one language/dialect... but that's a linguist's quibble for another day).  But my point is, something would have motivated this kid to get to know and contact the Antelou before the apparent motivator of having an unborn-sibling-threatened-with-bureaucratic-doom came along.

I also had an issue with the portrayal of the victim, Ortega-Miasma (or whatever his name was) as some kind of governmental functionary.  The way he was described sounded more like an exec of a Fortune 500 company rather than a bureaucrat overseeing a governmental-baby-killing organization.  Now, if he headed a company contracted to enforce these policies, that seems like a special kind of evil; maybe he would be worth sending an alien assassin after, sister-fetus or no sister-fetus.  (Planned Parenthood, now managed by the good folks at Halliburton.)  But if he was high enough up in a governmental org to merit a private heli and a fancy suitcoat, then he would probably be high enough up to make a real security headache for the boy's family, and to get the Antelou deported.  In fact, I'd wager it would be easier for him to do that than it would be for him to find the case in question and intercede on behalf of the kid who had sent a living death machine to shake him down.

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