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Author Topic: EP511: The Lone and Level Sands  (Read 1765 times)
eytanz
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« on: November 22, 2015, 03:15:12 AM »

EP511: The Lone and Level Sands

by Marco Panessa

read by Norm Sherman

---

I don’t know how they found us. Beneath this eternal torrent of dust, our dulled marble shells should be hidden forever; and furthermore, it occurs to me to wonder how they even found this planet. But as the shining ship descends from the stars, my brother and sister and I look on in amazement before turning to one another.

Saphida’s voice is a hoarse whisper, her words echoing down my empty corridors and fading away in the false treasure chambers and dead ends full of traps. She says, “Why do they bother us? We have so much to do.”

“They should bow down in our presence!” Kalesh’s voice shakes dust from my ceilings. “Unworthy, lowly creatures–”

“We never reached other stars.” My voice silences his rage at once. “Whoever they are, they achieved far more than we managed to do. Be quiet. Reserve judgment.”

Beneath a sky of sand and a million years of silence, we await our visitors tall and proud. To my left, Saphida rears in defiance of the stars, her gargantuan funeral runes weathered to illegibility in the constant blast of grit. Her tomb faces the wind in death like she did in life, and she breathes sand as she once breathed the hot foundry air. Every so often a windstorm deposits a pebble or two at her golden gates. Enough time has passed that fifty men could not tunnel their way through to her sealed doors.

To my right, Kalesh broods. A column in his neoclassical portico has fallen down, taking a corniced chunk of marble with it. The lost marble weathered into dust a long time ago. His outlying temples and shrines are all worn away now, like mine and our sister’s. Behind the crumbling façades, the wind has whittled us all down to hemispheres with radii equal to the range of our repair nanorobots. Within this range, they’ve expunged every trace of erosion with fanatical precision. Beyond, there is only the sand. I can hardly see my siblings, a few hundred meters away through the grit.

I am the grandest tomb, as I was the grandest sibling. We three, we kings and a queen. We grew up together, reigned together, bled together, triumphed together. We died separately. But we stand together again in eternal repose.

Look upon my countenance! Did the holy armies of Dakess not tremble before me? Was it not my hand that slew the Forgotten King, and ushered in a thousand years of peace and plenty? Deserve I not the trappings of eternal life, if not the truth of it? My tomb erodes. No, no! The tomb is Isturath; Isturath, I, am the tomb… I erode. The tomb is my body.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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wintermute
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« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2015, 12:29:19 PM »

I listened to this about five minutes after seeing the latest xkcd; Are you guys in cahoots?
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Science means that not all dreams can come true
Not-a-Robot
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Now 100% biological and 3 x more optimism!


« Reply #2 on: November 23, 2015, 04:15:37 AM »

A trippy, far future Ozymandias, I picked up on the insiration right away, so I enjoyed it. Had I not known the poem I would have considered it weird and overwritten, but the prose fit the romanticism of the story's inspiration. 
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mgraves
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« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2015, 12:28:19 PM »

I do believe that this is my first post in the forums, though I've been a listener and supporter since 2010.

Episode 511 was great, but Norm's post-episode quasi-rant was spectacular. In fact, it prompted be to double-down on my monthly contribution.

Great work!

Michael
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Chairman Goodchild
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« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2015, 11:48:19 PM »

I do believe that this is my first post in the forums, though I've been a listener and supporter since 2010.

Episode 511 was great, but Norm's post-episode quasi-rant was spectacular. In fact, it prompted be to double-down on my monthly contribution.

Great work!

Michael


I really liked the episode, and hearing Norm recite Ozymandias at the end was the cherry on top.  And then going on to talk about the heat-death extinction of the universe, that bizzare statue outside of Denver International Airport, and wrapping everything up with a quote by Douglas Adams.

As for the episode, part of me wanted to start in on the science, but I held back.  The episode doesn't lend itself to that, I think, because the story only relies on it for setting, and it's best to take that part on good faith.  

And did anybody else get a Lovecraftian feel from these aliens?  Conical shaped, symetrical with wierd appendages and with a strange aperature on top?  Flailing about and leaving behind mysterious black obelisks?  

Anyway, a solid episode and I enjoyed it much.  I think there was a danger here to the author to insert too much backstory and to bog the action down, but he resists that and doles out information as we need it.  The very beginning of the story I especially liked, as I had initially assumed that the creatures in the tombs were alien and the creatures in the spaceship were humans, but after about a page or two, there's a nice twist right at the beginning.  It really fit right in.
  
I do wonder about Saphida's quote at the beginnning, "Why do they bother us?  We have so much to do."  That never really went anywhere, and left me wondering thruout the story when that was going to be followed up on.  Anyway, that's a minor quibble, and I enjoyed the story.





"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"







Well, it was easy enough to despair when you made a giant monster that destroyed New York City.
« Last Edit: November 29, 2015, 07:07:44 AM by Chairman Goodchild » Logged
exacto
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« Reply #5 on: November 28, 2015, 01:20:35 PM »

A really good work of fiction that hit all of my buttons. Fantastical concept, a lot of the unexpected, story slowly unfolds. And, as someone who didn't listen, just read, and whose poetry knowledge is confined to dirty limericks, I can assure you that I was not lost without having read Ozymandias. Tho I might go back and read it now!
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« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2015, 05:13:00 PM »

I was only vaguely aware of Ozymandias, mostly through secondary riffs on the character through Marvel comics and Watchmen.  I did not find the story hard to follow,  and I though the grandiosity was only fitting for the beings who killed the rest of humanity with their arrogance and paranoia.  If they'd been anything but grandiose in speech, I think I would've found it harder to swallow.

The idea of living tombs protecting their own corpses eternally on an otherwise featureless desert earth is striking and cool. 

What was the significance of the ending with the alien running off?  Was it just a run-of-the-mill tomb robber, came here to smash and grab some loot and scamper off?  While the protagonist was hoping for more of a archaologist of an alien civilization who would end his life while also carrying knowledge of this civilization to the alien's culture?  Did someone else read it differently?
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Devoted135
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« Reply #7 on: December 06, 2015, 10:33:38 PM »

I'm not familiar with Ozymandias, so I took this story at face value. Which was quite high! The three... beings... definitely needed all of that pomp and arrogance to keep going for so long after having destroyed all of the earth. I think anyone lesser would have been crushed under the weight of it.
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Chairman Goodchild
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« Reply #8 on: December 07, 2015, 07:07:41 AM »

What was the significance of the ending with the alien running off?  Was it just a run-of-the-mill tomb robber, came here to smash and grab some loot and scamper off?  While the protagonist was hoping for more of a archaologist of an alien civilization who would end his life while also carrying knowledge of this civilization to the alien's culture?  Did someone else read it differently?


That's the way I interpreted the ending.  Our protagonist was wishing for some grand extinction or miraculous rebirth, and instead all he got was a run-of-the-mill tomb raider just looking for some kind of trinket for profit or glory.   The whole encounter was for nothing, and he's left counting the epochs with his siblings again until the sun swallows the Earth.
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Not-a-Robot
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Now 100% biological and 3 x more optimism!


« Reply #9 on: December 07, 2015, 08:14:13 AM »

What was the significance of the ending with the alien running off?  Was it just a run-of-the-mill tomb robber, came here to smash and grab some loot and scamper off?  While the protagonist was hoping for more of a archaologist of an alien civilization who would end his life while also carrying knowledge of this civilization to the alien's culture?  Did someone else read it differently?


That's the way I interpreted the ending.  Our protagonist was wishing for some grand extinction or miraculous rebirth, and instead all he got was a run-of-the-mill tomb raider just looking for some kind of trinket for profit or glory.   The whole encounter was for nothing, and he's left counting the epochs with his siblings again until the sun swallows the Earth.

Leaving the alien alive is a way of spreading his "greatness" across the universe by word of mouth (forgive the idiom, the alien didn't have a mouth if I remember correctly).  Thats what the protagonist really cares about.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #10 on: December 07, 2015, 11:26:15 AM »

What was the significance of the ending with the alien running off?  Was it just a run-of-the-mill tomb robber, came here to smash and grab some loot and scamper off?  While the protagonist was hoping for more of a archaologist of an alien civilization who would end his life while also carrying knowledge of this civilization to the alien's culture?  Did someone else read it differently?


That's the way I interpreted the ending.  Our protagonist was wishing for some grand extinction or miraculous rebirth, and instead all he got was a run-of-the-mill tomb raider just looking for some kind of trinket for profit or glory.   The whole encounter was for nothing, and he's left counting the epochs with his siblings again until the sun swallows the Earth.

Leaving the alien alive is a way of spreading his "greatness" across the universe by word of mouth (forgive the idiom, the alien didn't have a mouth if I remember correctly).  Thats what the protagonist really cares about.

But I didn't get the impression the tomb raider is going to spread the word at all.  I got the impression it's going to sell the chunk of material, maybe come back to try to raid for more, but I suspect it's not going to spread the word about anything.
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Piet
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« Reply #11 on: October 29, 2016, 11:21:46 PM »

Some tags for this episode:

Perception of Time-Passage Rate
Runaway Nanotech
Technology-Related Apocalypse
Desire for Legacy
Life Extension Through Replication in Artificial Form
Mind Uploading/Transfer
Extinction of Humankind
Lifeless Earth
Alien Study of Human Culture/Artifacts
Surprisingly Unremarkable Aliens
Cosmological Entropy
« Last Edit: October 29, 2016, 11:45:29 PM by Piet » Logged

It's not the destination...it's the glory of the ride.
CryptoMe
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« Reply #12 on: November 08, 2017, 09:12:42 AM »

A trippy, far future Ozymandias.... Had I not known the poem I would have considered it weird and overwritten... 

Okay, I know the poem and still found this story weird and overwritten. And confusing too.
I listened to this right after #510: Them Ships, so this story didn't stand a chance with me. The contrast in writing styles was just too great and I particularly like the writing style of #510 and don't like the writing style of #511. So, this one did not work for me.
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