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Author Topic: EP110: Frankie the Spook  (Read 25386 times)

Russell Nash

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on: June 14, 2007, 02:04:05 PM
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!



eytanz

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Reply #1 on: June 14, 2007, 03:54:53 PM
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.



Simon Painter

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Reply #2 on: June 14, 2007, 05:28:38 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
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Bdoomed

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Reply #3 on: June 14, 2007, 06:22:00 PM
:) 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!

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


DKT

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Reply #4 on: June 14, 2007, 06:26:57 PM
I had a good time listening to this one.  "Limpware" made me chuckle out loud at work.


VBurn

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Reply #5 on: June 14, 2007, 09:48:46 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.



mike-resnick

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Reply #6 on: June 14, 2007, 11:48:55 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



Russell Nash

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Reply #7 on: June 15, 2007, 07:44:15 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.



madjo

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Reply #8 on: June 15, 2007, 09:04:04 AM
Intriguing idea of a ghostwriter for Shakespeare... of course that's just utter bs! (in case Francis Bacon is reading this :P 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". :) (I know a few programs that fits that title)



Listener

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Reply #9 on: June 15, 2007, 12:07:27 PM
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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Swamp

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Reply #10 on: June 15, 2007, 03:55:31 PM
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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Mr. Tweedy

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Reply #11 on: June 15, 2007, 07:21:10 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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SFEley

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Reply #12 on: June 16, 2007, 12:36:53 AM
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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slic

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Reply #13 on: June 16, 2007, 03:10:57 AM
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.



ajames

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Reply #14 on: June 17, 2007, 11:53:22 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.



Djerrid

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Reply #15 on: June 17, 2007, 03:56:40 PM
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?



Russell Nash

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Reply #16 on: June 18, 2007, 07:14:32 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.



Kaa

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Reply #17 on: June 18, 2007, 06:28:52 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." :)

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Dwango

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Reply #18 on: June 18, 2007, 09:44:54 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.  :)



SFEley

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Reply #19 on: June 19, 2007, 01:49:25 AM
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?")

ESCAPE POD - The Science Fiction Podcast Magazine


Thaurismunths

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Reply #20 on: June 19, 2007, 12:03:02 PM
The intro struck a cord with me. I'm kind of a fringe SF/geek who has many hardcore, card-carrying friends. Something I've seen come up often are people who have read a few too many SF and are trying to live their lives as though they were one of those heroes. They buy fantasy weapons they can't use and believe that your life should be lived to uphold a single ideal. The most popular and comprehensive ideal seems to be *HONOR*, and that with enough *HONOR* or the right kind of *HONOR* life, love, and happiness will be yours. *HONOR* comes from slaying dragons, righting wrongs, saving the damsel/planet, or beating the unbeatable odds. That's what the Hero does. Unfortunately there isn't much in fiction (that I've seen) that highlights the heroism, dedication, and honorability of doing a good day's work, paying your bills on time, putting your kid through college, and saving for retirement. That's what "Farmer #6082" does, and although he never gets a sword of power to pass on to his son, he won't get caught changing a diaper while wearing a broadsword and loincloth.

The story was good, and "limpware" was a great line, but since we have the author here I thought I'd ask:
Mr. Resnic, have you updated this story since you wrote it 17 years ago?
17 years ago my family didn't have a PC, and I'm not entirely sure I'd ever heard of E-mail. How did you come up with putting the bards in a box?

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Jonathan C. Gillespie

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Reply #21 on: June 19, 2007, 12:12:42 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.

Don't you dare.  You couldn't have picked a better week to run this intro.  I completely picked up on where you were coming from, and I found it very helpful.

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eytanz

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Reply #22 on: June 19, 2007, 12:35:04 PM
Mr. Resnic, have you updated this story since you wrote it 17 years ago?

17 years ago? That was 1990. In 1990, I was 13, and I already owned my third computer (sequentially, not at the same time), and my father had what must have been his fourth or fifth. I was subscribed to popular computer magazines, which at the time were all very new and excited about the possibilities of the future.

1990 was eight years after the release of Tron, four years after the release of Short Circuit. It was five years after the release of Weird Science, which is also found on the premise that people can just create life on a computer, and that that life will be entirely human in its disposition and psychology but superhuman in its abilities, and that its creator will apparently have no direct control over it - not because he lost control, but apparently because the way you program computers is to tell them to do something ("Assemble Francis Bacon!") and leave all the details up to it.

I'm curious if Mike Resnic feels the same or I'm totally off-base, but for me this is a story that was far more likely to have been written - as is - in the late 80s than today.



FNH

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Reply #23 on: June 19, 2007, 07:40:44 PM
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.

I heard that she's hired an infinite number of monkeys...


SFEley

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Reply #24 on: June 19, 2007, 08:11:24 PM
Don't you dare.  You couldn't have picked a better week to run this intro.  I completely picked up on where you were coming from, and I found it very helpful.

Thanks, but no, seriously, dude.  In my personal context, I was wrong.  What I said in the intro may not have been wrong in itself, but identifying what was going on as that sort of problem was a mistake.

(And yeah, this is probably getting too personal for the story comments thread, so I'll shut up about it now before I have to move myself to another board.)  >8->

ESCAPE POD - The Science Fiction Podcast Magazine