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Author Topic: EP110: Frankie the Spook  (Read 14488 times)
Russell Nash
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« on: June 14, 2007, 09:04:05 AM »

EP110: Frankie the Spook

By Mike Resnick.
Read by Stephen Eley.

Marvin leaned forward and squinted at Bacon’s image on his computer screen. “Will you do it?”

“Will the greatest writer in the history of the human race ghostwrite your pitiful little novel?” sneered Bacon. “Absolutely not.”

“But you ghosted for Shakespeare!” protested Marvin. “That’s why I had my computer assemble you.”

“Marvin, go write limpware and leave me alone.”

“It’s called software.”


Rated PG. Rated PG. Contains some coarse language and imagery, and potentially offensive literary theories.



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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eytanz
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« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2007, 10:54:53 AM »

Not one of my favorites - it was amusing, but it was basically a silly joke stretched out and played with one-dimensional characters. I could easily see this as an SNL skit with barely any modification.
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Simon Painter
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« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2007, 12:28:38 PM »

I'm afraid this one gets a big 'meh' from me.  It's not that there's anything especially bad about it (characterisation, plot and theme are all present and correct) but there's nothing especially good about it.  There's only really one joke in the whole thing that's spread over the whole story, and it's not an especially funny one.

The most interesting idea, historical figures being trapped as programs by hackers, is pretty much incidental.  It might have been far more interesting to other historical characters appear (especially if Shakespeare himself were included).

To be honest, this story has a simplicity of style and content that would best lend itself to being a Kid's story, this is especially apparent since it follows last week's Squonk the Apprentice.

It did entertain me while I was at work, though, and I can't ask for much more of a story than that.  I don't think I'll be listening to it again any time soon, though.

Simon Painter
Shropshire, UK
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« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2007, 01:22:00 PM »

Smiley im not even halfway through this story and I am really liking it.  It is, in my opinion, very amusing.  Its not especially amazing like some other stories *cough*Nightfall*cough* but im enjoying the reading!
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« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2007, 01:26:57 PM »

I had a good time listening to this one.  "Limpware" made me chuckle out loud at work.
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VBurn
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« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2007, 04:48:46 PM »

I would like to hear the story of the poor hacker who assemble Bill Shakespeare only to find out he could not write a lick.
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mike-resnick
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« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2007, 06:48:55 PM »

There is something about this story that makes people want to perform it. After its initial sale, I resold it to 9 other countries, and a few more times in the US, which is pretty much par for the course, and I thought that was the end of it. But then the University of Michigan asked my permission to adapt is as a play (which I gave them), and I -knew- that was the last I'd hear about "Frankie the Spook". Then a Polish theatre group got permission to adapt it, and their production won the Warsaw Arts Festival. Two science fiction conventions have adapted it. And last month, 17 years after it first appeared and long after I was dead certain everyone had forgotten it, I sold Polish radio rights to it. I freely admit that it's just a piece of fluff, but for reasons that elude me it's a piece of fluff that refuses to die.

-- Mike Resnick
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Russell Nash
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« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2007, 02:44:15 AM »

There is something about this story that makes people want to perform it. After its initial sale, I resold it to 9 other countries, and a few more times in the US, which is pretty much par for the course, and I thought that was the end of it. But then the University of Michigan asked my permission to adapt is as a play (which I gave them), and I -knew- that was the last I'd hear about "Frankie the Spook". Then a Polish theatre group got permission to adapt it, and their production won the Warsaw Arts Festival. Two science fiction conventions have adapted it. And last month, 17 years after it first appeared and long after I was dead certain everyone had forgotten it, I sold Polish radio rights to it. I freely admit that it's just a piece of fluff, but for reasons that elude me it's a piece of fluff that refuses to die.

-- Mike Resnick

It's just a really fun piece of fluff.  I had this going while I was stuck during something stupid and dirty.  It kept me amused and smiling even when I wanted to curse at what I was doing.
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madjo
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« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2007, 04:04:04 AM »

Intriguing idea of a ghostwriter for Shakespeare... of course that's just utter bs! (in case Francis Bacon is reading this Tongue just to rile him up)

I enjoyed the story, though it wasn't one of the greatest. It was a fun way to pass my commute.
And yeah "limpware" is a funny description of "software". Smiley (I know a few programs that fits that title)
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« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2007, 07:07:27 AM »

As I often prefer to write about people and let the situations sort themselves out, I appreciated the give-and-take.  The fact that the whole story was basically several conversations with only incidental scene-setting appealed to me. 

The punch at the end was a good one, though the moment Marvin met Fritz, I had a feeling it was coming.  But then, figuring out the ending and then seeing if you're right is something we all do, whether we're reading a story or watching TV or a movie -- hell, last night my wife and I were watching an episode of Smallville and trying to figure out how Lois's memory was going to be modified to forget Clark's superpowers yet again.

The idea of a software programmer building a simulacrum of Francis Bacon -- or anyone -- is interesting, but given that it would take a monstrous computer to handle the sheer amount of synaptic connections in a human brain (at least, the last time I read something about it), one wonders how Marvin had enough time to program that.  I guess that's where his advance went.

In the reading, I noticed the adverbs attached to the dialogue tags (he said indignantly) mostly because I try to eliminate those in my own writing, emulating more of a Frank-Herbert-in-the-5th-and-6th-Dune-Books style of dialogue.  I realize they're there because when you're reading a story the author's trying to tell you what the characters are feeling, but when a story is read to you, usually the actor reading it can convey the emotions without them.  But in the interest of completeness, you wouldn't want to omit the author's words.  That's just a general pet peeve about reading stories out loud, I guess.

Overall, though, I liked the story.
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« Reply #10 on: June 15, 2007, 10:55:31 AM »

This was a very fun story.  I love stories that are heavy on dialogue and this one definitely qualifies.  I can see why it is so easily adapted to a play.  It sounded like Steve had fun reading it too.
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« Reply #11 on: June 15, 2007, 02:21:10 PM »

I'm surprised no one else has thought of this, but this story is surely most harrowing depiction of hell outside of Dante himself!  Alas, poor bacon!

I guess I'm on safe ground if I stand with the author of the story: Fun fluff.  A decent joke and enough to entertain, but not great.

Sorry if this seems like sycophancy, but the thing that really struck me most was Steve's intro.  Wise words, and words that I, at least, can certainly apply to myself.  I have definitely tendency to obsess on one goal or one issue to the exclusion of others, so that an activity I enjoy or a subject that interests me can become a burden instead of a pleasure.  I can think of myself as a character in a story about me achieving all these great goals, and the many deviations from that story become frustrating.  But I might never reach most of those goals and not all of them are as important as I might think.  It's important to appreciate the things in life now and not think of them as merely stepping-stones to a future that might never occur.  That's a set-up for many levels of disappointment.

Good insights and well-stated, Steve.
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« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2007, 07:36:53 PM »

Good insights and well-stated, Steve.

Thanks, Mr. Tweedy.  I have to confess I feel it was a mistake.  In the context in which I intended it (some personal relationship stuff) I was completely and drastically wrong.  And now I'm kicking myself hard.

So it really is good to know that it was useful to other people in other ways.
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« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2007, 10:10:57 PM »

It's insightful to hear a professional author say he knows when he's written a piece of fluff.  I'm sure it's the same in all professions, I write code, and there are times when it's sharp and clever, and others where it's just run of the mill, get-my-cheque kind of thing.  It's something of a relief to know that "art" doesn't always have to awe-inspiring.
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ajames
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« Reply #14 on: June 17, 2007, 06:53:22 AM »

When I listened to this, it seemed to me that Steve had fun reading this, Mr. Resnick had fun writing it, and I had fun listening to it.  All in all not a bad way to spend 30 minutes or so.

And Steve, as someone who has more than once done something in personal relationships intended one way, only to have them backfire badly [and who hasn't?], I feel your pain. 

But I too was impressed with your words of wisdom.
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Djerrid
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« Reply #15 on: June 17, 2007, 10:56:40 AM »

Sorry Resnick, this was definitely the weakest piece I've heard from you (I loved everything else of yours that Escape Pod featured.) Although the other commentators are right in saying that it's good to write a fluff piece just for the hell of it. But there was an interesting concept you had; No matter how good someone's creative work is, it will always be seen through the lens of other works or one's previous work. Can you imagine the expectations for JK Rowling after she's moved beyond Harry Potter?
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Russell Nash
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« Reply #16 on: June 18, 2007, 02:14:32 AM »

Can you imagine the expectations for JK Rowling after she's moved beyond Harry Potter?

I think she'll just lie on top of a huge mountain of money and not worry about it.
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Kaa
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« Reply #17 on: June 18, 2007, 01:28:52 PM »

I think she'll just lie on top of a huge mountain of money and not worry about it.
I'd say the word shouldn't be "lie" but "bask." Smiley
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Dwango
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« Reply #18 on: June 18, 2007, 04:44:54 PM »

I found the piece rather amusing and the reading well suited to Eley's voicing for added humour.

It was deeper than fluff since it referenced the existing arguments for authorship of Shakespeare's works.
The "Will the greatest writer in the history of the human race ghostwrite your pitiful little novel?" obviously references sonnet 136:

Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will,
And Will to boot, and Will in overplus;
More than enough am I that vex thee still,
To thy sweet will making addition thus. (the italics and capitalisation are those of the original text)

Used by both sides of the Bacon/Shakespeare argument to prove and disprove Shakespeare's authoring of his works.

Of course, I could be analyzing this too much.  Smiley
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SFEley
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« Reply #19 on: June 18, 2007, 08:49:25 PM »

The "Will the greatest writer in the history of the human race ghostwrite your pitiful little novel?" obviously references sonnet 136:

Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will,
And Will to boot, and Will in overplus;
More than enough am I that vex thee still,
To thy sweet will making addition thus. (the italics and capitalisation are those of the original text)

That's Sonnet 135, actually.  136 is also full of 'Will' puns, but 135 is much dirtier, especially if one of my English teachers was right that 'will' was an Elizabethan euphemism.

("Wilt thou, whose will is large and spacious,
Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?")
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