Author Topic: EP504: End of the World Community College  (Read 3996 times)

eytanz

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EP504: End of the World Community College
« on: September 23, 2015, 05:19:12 AM »
EP504: End of the World Community College

By Sandra McDonald

Read by Joel Kenyon

This story was originally published in Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine in the July/August 2014 issue.

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Vision
The End of the World Community College (EWCC) strives to assist the residents of Port Clinton and surrounding areas with all of their educational needs, including farming, construction trades, radiation decontamination, emergency medicine, fine arts, and artisanal bread-making. Dean Hendershot’s parents once owned a bakery. He treasures the sourdough starter that has been passed down through his family for three generations. Students who complete their courses of study are automatically gifted with a delicious loaf of fresh bread. Unless, of course, your name is Abdul Howard.

Tuition
Paper currency is useless, but the Registrar gladly accepts silver coins, diamond jewelry, gold teeth, and unexpired medicine. Fresh food, canned food, charged batteries, ammunition, livestock, and freeze-dried coffee are also welcomed with open arms. EWCC does not offer financial aid. Despite these desperate times, please do not attempt to rob the Registrar. He and his assistants carry pistols and mace at all times.

Your professors will gladly barter for additional lessons. Professor Shawl constantly needs cat food, Professor Ohara manages a yarn bank, and Professor Pfister collects pornographic material. In the old days Dean Hendershot would not have hired Pfister, but it is hard to find good math teachers and Pfister generously loans out his magazines upon request. Colonel Fisher, our ROTC director, trades exclusively for knives. The sharper the better. He does not read Professor Pfister’s porn.

Registration
Enrollment dates are ongoing. Please apply in person at the Registrar’s Office during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Refrain from appearing late at night at the Registrar’s house and pounding on his door in a drunken stupor, lamenting the loss of the old world and all its convenient ways. In his former life, the Registrar managed a hardware store in Sandusky, providing the very best bait, groceries, and ammunition to tourists on Lake Erie. He is an excellent shot.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!

Ryan H

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Re: EP504: End of the World Community College
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2015, 12:01:49 PM »
I liked the structure of this story, and the way it evolved from an informational presentation (with some pretty great humor) into something more as it went along. However, something didn't sit right with me about the presentation.  I might have to give it another listen, but I think I found the music too distracting. I was hoping it would fade as the tale progressed.
« Last Edit: September 24, 2015, 12:14:40 PM by Ryan H »

bounceswoosh

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Re:
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2015, 09:23:22 PM »
Loved it when I read it the first time. Loved it again in narrated form.

SpareInch

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Re: EP504: End of the World Community College
« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2015, 07:46:41 AM »
It might seem odd, or perhaps not, but I found myself reminded of The War of The Worlds by this one. It was the way the community is being led by the college dean, rather than the guy with the acknowledged military experience. That made me thingk of Wells's narrator in War of the Worlds, and how, without the narrators leadership, The Artilleryman drifts into a sort of inertia.

I was also reminded, rather more obviously, of the assertion of every survival expert I ever heard of, which is that if any group of people are put in an extreme situation, one of two things happens. Either one strong, capable leader emerges and takes charge, or everybody's chances take a nosedive. Despite the humour, the truth of this piece was definitely its strongest suit.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2015, 07:49:01 AM by SpareInch »
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Unblinking

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Re: EP504: End of the World Community College
« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2015, 09:57:44 AM »
This was darkly fun.  Lots of neat details.  Early on it did cross my mind that "Abdul" was too stereotypical a name for an explosives-making fomenter of dischord, but I appreciate that as the story went on we discover that "fomenter of dischord" means an advocate of democracy fighting against what he perceives as a dictatorship.

Overall, I thought it went on longer than it needed to.  I think it would've made a powerful flash fiction that never let up until it was over, but thought at it's current length the central gimmick wore off before it was finished.

Warren

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Re: EP504: End of the World Community College
« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2015, 07:35:08 PM »
I liked the idea, and as individual elements the execution, but felt that it dragged on too long. It would have been terrific serialized, or as grace notes to a larger, coherent story - or if through the use of particular themes that repeated and built I could have seen a story developing. If such a story was developed, I didn't see it, perhaps because I'd basically given up, buried under too long a stretch of variations on similar jokes. Good jokes, mind, but for me they palled after a while.

Zelda

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Re: EP504: End of the World Community College
« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2015, 12:59:46 AM »
I enjoyed this story very much. I found the idea of a future in which every possible disaster has happened very entertaining. I liked the way the story was structured. I didn't see the revelation that only troublemakers were interested in democracy coming. I think it wrapped the story up in an interesting way.

hardware

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Re: EP504: End of the World Community College
« Reply #7 on: October 05, 2015, 06:37:06 AM »
It had some fun ideas but had problem growing beyond that for me - not quite psychologically real enough to really grip me, nor really funny enough to have me enthralled. I liked the concept of the sourdough being the heart of the whole enterprise though. It is a good metaphor for a college in itself.

Moritz

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Re: EP504: End of the World Community College
« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2015, 03:17:39 AM »
The humor didn't quite work for me (sometimes a bit too much "in your face") and I thought the funny parts would have better fit into a shorter piece. Nevertheless, I liked the details about the setting that came across and how that got fleshed out more and more throughout the story.

Early on it did cross my mind that "Abdul" was too stereotypical a name for an explosives-making fomenter of dischord, but I appreciate that as the story went on we discover that "fomenter of dischord" means an advocate of democracy fighting against what he perceives as a dictatorship.

Same here, with the extra annoyance that "Abdul" is not a name, it's part of a name. Like someone named Michael and you name him "el" for some reason. I have a friend named "Abdullahi" who is sometimes called "Abdul" for short, but not in school records, because Abdul is not his name.

eytanz

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Re: EP504: End of the World Community College
« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2015, 09:44:14 AM »
Same here, with the extra annoyance that "Abdul" is not a name, it's part of a name. Like someone named Michael and you name him "el" for some reason. I have a friend named "Abdullahi" who is sometimes called "Abdul" for short, but not in school records, because Abdul is not his name.

Abdul is a name, there are plenty of people for whom that is the complete name. There are also people for whom it is part of a name. Your post is as if the story made reference to someone named "John" and you say that "John" is not a name because some people are called "Johnathan". Or that "Leigh" is not a name because some people are called "Ashleigh".

Moritz

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Re: EP504: End of the World Community College
« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2015, 09:58:17 AM »
Same here, with the extra annoyance that "Abdul" is not a name, it's part of a name. Like someone named Michael and you name him "el" for some reason. I have a friend named "Abdullahi" who is sometimes called "Abdul" for short, but not in school records, because Abdul is not his name.

Abdul is a name, there are plenty of people for whom that is the complete name. There are also people for whom it is part of a name. Your post is as if the story made reference to someone named "John" and you say that "John" is not a name because some people are called "Johnathan". Or that "Leigh" is not a name because some people are called "Ashleigh".

It's extremely rare as a full name and it's used quite often as a "wrong short form" by people who don't know how the name works, thus if in Western literature someone writes "Abdul", I assume they didn't do their homework. For me it feels like making up a fake Chinese name like Cho Chang in Harry Potter.

eytanz

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Re: EP504: End of the World Community College
« Reply #11 on: October 14, 2015, 10:11:59 AM »
I think it's true that it's mostly a part of a longer name, but it is also an independent name. Looking at enrollment lists, the university I work in currently has 3 students named Abdul (one spells his name Abdool), compared to four named Abdullah, three named Abdullaziz, and two named Abdulrahman, and a few other variants represented by a single student. Now, I'm not saying that a university in the north of England represents a good demographic pool on which to test the frequency of Arabic names, but I do think that is a good indication that while Abdul is less frequent than the sum total of longer variants, it's probably not extremely rare, either.

In Israel, where I grew up and had a lot more interaction with Arabic speakers, I knew several people who called themselves Abdul. Does that mean that that was their full legal name or an abbreviated version they called themselves, I don't know. But it wasn't ascribed to them by a Westerner.

Not-a-Robot

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Re: EP504: End of the World Community College
« Reply #12 on: October 16, 2015, 05:10:10 PM »
I liked the structure of this story, and the way it evolved from an informational presentation (with some pretty great humor) into something more as it went along. However, something didn't sit right with me about the presentation.  I might have to give it another listen, but I think I found the music too distracting. I was hoping it would fade as the tale progressed.

I had the opposite feeling, the story wasn't my type of humor, but the music and reading really made it pleasant listening.

Chicken Ghost

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Re: EP504: End of the World Community College
« Reply #13 on: October 16, 2015, 08:50:11 PM »
I think I would have liked it better if it had settled on one end for the world.

Myrealana

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Re: EP504: End of the World Community College
« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2015, 02:24:47 PM »
I loved how it started out as something silly--how ridiculous to have a community college after the world has effectively ended in every way imaginable--then gradually revealed itself to be something far more sinister.
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Kolin Gates

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Re: EP504: End of the World Community College
« Reply #15 on: October 21, 2015, 03:48:36 PM »
This was a fun story, couched in what I (incorrectly) assumed would be a boring presentation device. I’m with Not-a-Robot on the fact that the music and reading added a lot to the piece. Good stuff author and narrator!

A small flash I’ve written about the comments:

“Hello Abdul.”
“Hello Abdullaziz, how are you today?”
“Oh, just fine, thank you.”
“Abdul, did you hear about the people on EA Forums who are criticizing the use of the name Abdul by a fiction writer in a recent story?”
“I did not hear of that, how interesting. What is their justification?”
“They say that it might be a stereotypical name for the character, one even said that Abdul is not a name at all but just short for longer names.”
“That’s interesting, seeing as I am named Abdul. Why is the name of the character an issue?”
“Apparently he is a revolutionary who is fighting for freedom against forces of dictatorial control in a post-apocalyptic world.”
“Sounds like a good guy.”
“My thoughts too! I think Abdul would be a great choice for such a man.”
“I wonder why these people found it offensive or questionable?”
“Maybe one of them is named Abdul?”
“Maybe so.”
« Last Edit: October 22, 2015, 04:19:41 AM by Kolin Gates »

SpareInch

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Re: EP504: End of the World Community College
« Reply #16 on: October 22, 2015, 03:52:34 AM »
You know, I can't buy the Leftist bit there. It is actually pretty clear from the story that in broad terms, The Dean is maintaining a fairly liberal regime,. There was no condemnation of the Trans characters mentioned in the story, for one thing. But under the circumstances, free democracy is not necessarily the best way forward. Some of the other things mentioned could even be interpreted as Conservative, such as the ban on certain types of female clothing. In the main, I saw the regime in this story as more similar to Churchill's Government of National Unity in the 1940s. And as a Conservative MP and a descendant of the first Duke of Marlborough, I don't think I would call old Winnie a Leftist. ;)
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Kolin Gates

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Re: EP504: End of the World Community College
« Reply #17 on: October 22, 2015, 04:18:04 AM »
You know, I can't buy the Leftist bit there. It is actually pretty clear from the story that in broad terms, The Dean is maintaining a fairly liberal regime,. There was no condemnation of the Trans characters mentioned in the story, for one thing. But under the circumstances, free democracy is not necessarily the best way forward. Some of the other things mentioned could even be interpreted as Conservative, such as the ban on certain types of female clothing. In the main, I saw the regime in this story as more similar to Churchill's Government of National Unity in the 1940s. And as a Conservative MP and a descendant of the first Duke of Marlborough, I don't think I would call old Winnie a Leftist. ;)

That's a really good point. I might need to revise Abdul's dialogue there to be a more generic control. It kind of goes both ways depending on how you look at it. Left or right, the extremes look pretty similar.

Devoted135

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Re: EP504: End of the World Community College
« Reply #18 on: November 05, 2015, 10:55:12 PM »
I was pretty skeptical about this one at first, but I enjoyed how the story gradually emerged from the unusual format.

I know that the name Abdul was chosen specifically to create the "turn" (he was actually fighting for democracy!), but it feels pretty manipulative. :-\

CryptoMe

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Re: EP504: End of the World Community College
« Reply #19 on: October 31, 2017, 01:22:12 PM »
I thought this was hilarious!!

Like some other posters, my first thought was "Great gimmick for a flash fiction piece, but how are they going to sustain this for a full episode?" As the piece unfolded, with more and more detail given and a better view into the world, I changed my mind. The author managed to not just keep the style going (because by the end, it was no longer a gimmick, but a style), but to make it work and add layers of complexity to this world.

I liked it. A lot!