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Author Topic: EP111: Mayfly  (Read 33567 times)

Russell Nash

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Reply #25 on: June 23, 2007, 10:08:10 AM
I don't think we need to look at the science here at all.  It's not SF it's supernatural.  The one practical point I wanted to bring up (just after I said we should stop doing that) is that with the speed of her metabolism and the amounts she was eating, she'd be spending A huge percentage of her life just sitting on the toilet.

We have a SF podcast, a horror podcast, and soon a fantasy podcast.  Where will future supernatural stories go?  Quite often they go into horror; but if it isn't scary, then what? 

This story was OK.  The reading was excellent, but the story seemed predestined.  She really didn't have any time for anything outside of growing and procreating. 

I'm not disappointed, but this isn't a keeper.  I've heard it once. I'm done. Next!



eytanz

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Reply #26 on: June 23, 2007, 11:44:22 AM
This story was OK.  The reading was excellent, but the story seemed predestined.  She really didn't have any time for anything outside of growing and procreating. 

Well, not quite. There's a bit of change given the sudden shift from single births to twins. The problem for me with that was that it's totally arbitrary - there's no explanation (probably adding one would have bogged down the story anyway), nor does the structure of the story lend itself to discussing the implications much. It was hinted that it's a worldwide phenomenon, hitting all the mayflies at once. It was also strongly hinted that it's going to continue, resulting in exponential growth of the community (the table of numbers growing to over 2000 in 12 steps is quite probably just a powers table for 2). But that's it.

The other problem is that the story seems to be directed at insinuating the growth of the mayfly population as a possible threat - sort of like the ending of "The Watching People". There's an implication that exponentially growing communities of mayflies will overwhelm the human population very, very quickly. But unlike the watching people, where the threat is reinforced by everything in the story, here the entire story ends up demonstrating why exponential growth would not be a problem for humans, but for the mayflies themselves.They will find it much harder to hide once there's thousands of them, they'll be unable to find enough males, and most importantly, the interest on their money supplies will no longer be enough to sustain them (in fact, even the first generation of twins will likely have to start withdrawing more money than they accumulate that week). They'll have to start getting food by other methods, which will lead to widespread starvation, or else they will be pretty notable. Mayfly communities will rapidly become non-self sustaining, unless the sisters start killing each other. And any community with a problem with rampaging mayflies robbing food stores can quite easily exterminate them by just not having sex with them.

So, I'm just not sure about the twin birth as a plot element - it feels to me more like something stuck in there to make the story have more resonance than just "the life of an alien among us - a vignette", but it doesn't feel like the writer thought it through - neither its explanation nor consequences.



Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #27 on: June 23, 2007, 10:13:10 PM
"Where will future supernatural stories go?"

I'm happy to take cross-genre work for the fantasy podcast.

For the record, though, I think "Mayfly" is science fiction.



Russell Nash

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Reply #28 on: June 25, 2007, 05:26:17 AM
"Where will future supernatural stories go?"

I'm happy to take cross-genre work for the fantasy podcast.

For the record, though, I think "Mayfly" is science fiction.

Where's the Science in here.  The closest you can get is that maybe she's the result of some experiment.



caltrop

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Reply #29 on: June 25, 2007, 06:35:44 AM
Heya - I'm a pretty new listener to Escape Pod & I am hooked!  Thanks so much for making my workday go by faster!  I am definitely looking forward to the fantasy podcast as well.

I really liked Mayfly.  I thought it had an interesting concept.  I found the  story arc/character study to be both sweet and sad, for many of the same reasons mentioned in earlier posts by kmmr & sirana.

I couldn't help laughing at the grocery store scene.  Who hasn't run into those people at the store?  I wonder if the whole story had been germinated by that idea - why people buy large quantities of such odd items.  I often speculate about it when I see them stocking up on things like frozen food and detergent.  Now I will probably always see them as "Mayflies", much in the same way I forever think of "Milkmaids" thanks to Clerks. 



Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #30 on: June 25, 2007, 10:46:29 AM
"The closest you can get is that maybe she's the result of some experiment."

Only if you assume earth-default, which I don't see textual support for. There's nothing to suggest in the story (that I recall) that the mayflies aren't an example of parasitic, parallel evolution. There are other creatures in the animal kingdom that mimic one type of animal in order to take advantage of some kind of ecological niche (in this case human culture).

I agree that the story has the feel of fantasy on that sort of ineffable mood/tone level, but I think the aim is SFnal.

[edited for clarity]



Listener

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Reply #31 on: June 25, 2007, 11:01:01 AM
First, responses to the comments of others:

Russell Nash - we had problems like that at my old job with our voice synthesis software.  There's probably an exception list somewhere.  I didn't even recognize it as a word when I heard it, just a jumble of digitized female vocals.

Schark - Me too.  "Just Do It" -- written by and read by the same duo -- got me started listening to EP.

***

I liked the story.  I felt it accomplished what it needed to, which was to let us think on what might happen if a human life was as short as a mayfly's.  When every day is a decade, would you still spend a decade going to Disneyworld or five years at the mall?  How hard must it be to spend a whole year just at the grocery store?  What if you wasted four years in traffic because someone crashed a car into the guardrail?

I enjoyed the reading, but I think it may have been too emotionless.  In my experience, when there's less time available, there's more passion.  Though the fact that the mayflies had a collective thought matrix passed on from generation to generation may have led to May's dispassion with everything.

I try to suspend my scientific knowledge when I read/hear a story, except when it fits.  IMO the point of science fiction is to take what you know and extrapolate.  I know what mayflies are and I have a vague idea of their lifestyle, but it didn't matter to me what created May and her kind.  For the 20something minutes of the story, all that mattered was that May was.  If the author had chosen to explain how she was, or why, I might have cared, but I don't think that was important to the story.

Overall, enjoyable.

Terry Pratchett on mayflies in Reaper Man

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Thaurismunths

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Reply #32 on: June 25, 2007, 01:19:40 PM
I really enjoyed the thought experiment that was this story.
The life of the mayfly was very much like that of a "Normal" person. She spent her whole life trying to make the most of every minute (right down to the stamps), but really didn't get much accomplished over all. She finished a book and watched a couple movies, and had offspring. We really don't get much more accomplished in our lifetimes either (in a very simplistic view).

For those stuck on the Science of this fiction:
You assume that a "data dump" is going in to a static brain, but the mayfly case the brain is growing as the information is going in. This means that the brain is expanding as the memories are uploaded OR the mayflies have a genetic memory and the brain just grows with these memories already a part of it.

The normalizing of her genetics is covered by her desire for a young male with "A slow metabolism" and at risk for heart failure vs. cancer. That suggested that there is some genetic variation and inheritable traits coming from the father even though Mayfly might be the dominant phenotype.

How do you fight a bully that can un-make history?


Russell Nash

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Reply #33 on: June 25, 2007, 05:08:32 PM
Russell Nash - we had problems like that at my old job with our voice synthesis software.  There's probably an exception list somewhere.  I didn't even recognize it as a word when I heard it, just a jumble of digitized female vocals.

Huh?  Please quote the parts of the posts you're talking about, because I had to go back over all of my posts and I only think I know which one you might be talking about.  If it's the "Eleventy-one" Steve clarified in the next post that he did it on purpose to honor Tolkien.  I felt like an idiot for not getting the nod.

"The closest you can get is that maybe she's the result of some experiment."

Only if you assume earth-default, which I don't see textual support for. There's nothing to suggest in the story (that I recall) that the mayflies aren't an example of parasitic, parallel evolution. There are other creatures in the animal kingdom that mimic one type of animal in order to take advantage of some kind of ecological niche (in this case human culture).

I agree that the story has the feel of fantasy on that sort of ineffable mood/tone level, but I think the aim is SFnal.

[edited for clarity]
 

Well, there were postcards from Japan and Germany and at the end a large package from Austria. 

By your definition every supernatural story is SF.  There's absolutely no need for any over catagory.  If it's not a perfectly normal event that happens every day, it's SF.



Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #34 on: June 25, 2007, 05:36:29 PM
I don't know how you're reading my comment to make that leap, Russell.

The question of whether or not the story is fantasy or SF would seem to come down to the question of the mayfly's origin. Since one can imagine a setting that looks just like our earth in which there had evolved mayfly-like creatures, and since the story is at pains elsewhere to establish a realistic mode of narration, I see no reason to invent a supernatural spur.



Listener

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Reply #35 on: June 25, 2007, 05:37:37 PM
Russell Nash - we had problems like that at my old job with our voice synthesis software.  There's probably an exception list somewhere.  I didn't even recognize it as a word when I heard it, just a jumble of digitized female vocals.

Huh?  Please quote the parts of the posts you're talking about, because I had to go back over all of my posts and I only think I know which one you might be talking about.  If it's the "Eleventy-one" Steve clarified in the next post that he did it on purpose to honor Tolkien.  I felt like an idiot for not getting the nod.

I didn't get it either, but then the only Tolkien I've read is LOTR and honestly, it didn't blow me away mostly because the hobbit parts were really boring.  At least to me.  *shrug*

Sorry about the quote thing...

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Holden

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Reply #36 on: June 25, 2007, 05:52:42 PM
I wonder what it would be like to marry one of those beings. It would work out pretty well for the mayfly. Each generation wouldn't have to worry about not finding a mate at the last minute, plus she could go childless for six days if she so chose and have the baby at the last minute and the husband could take care of the baby himself for the one day needed until it is old enough to care for itself.  In addition, the husband could tend to such menial tasks as shopping and writing postcards so each mayfly can more fully enjoy their one week of life.

Just imagine, if you married one of these beings then in a sense you would have a new wife every week. Each progressive generation would have all the memories of the previous ones, so in a sense it's almost the same person, but not entirely. Before marrying a mayfly, the prospective husband should be aware that it does come with the fairly serious drawback of having to deliver a baby in your bedroom once a week for life.



Russell Nash

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Reply #37 on: June 25, 2007, 05:57:17 PM
I don't know how you're reading my comment to make that leap, Russell.

The question of whether or not the story is fantasy or SF would seem to come down to the question of the mayfly's origin. Since one can imagine a setting that looks just like our earth in which there had evolved mayfly-like creatures, and since the story is at pains elsewhere to establish a realistic mode of narration, I see no reason to invent a supernatural spur.

Then I guess I don't understand what you wrote before at all.  To me (and I thought this was the definition) SF uses technology and advanced uses of science to create the framework for a story.

I guess since it might be aliens, it must be SF.

It's funny I'm having this arguement, because I hate genres.  If it's a good story, I don't care what kind it is.  My original intention was that I hope the podcasts don't get too specific and let stories go, because they don't fit.

I wonder what it would be like to marry one of those beings. It would work out pretty well for the mayfly. Each generation wouldn't have to worry about not finding a mate at the last minute, plus she could go childless for six days if she so chose and have the baby at the last minute and the husband could take care of the baby himself for the one day needed until it is old enough to care for itself.  In addition, the husband could tend to such menial tasks as shopping and writing postcards so each mayfly can more fully enjoy their one week of life.

Just imagine, if you married one of these beings then in a sense you would have a new wife every week. Each progressive generation would have all the memories of the previous ones, so in a sense it's almost the same person, but not entirely. Before marrying a mayfly, the prospective husband should be aware that it does come with the fairly serious drawback of having to deliver a baby in your bedroom once a week for life.

ewwwwwwww, can you say incest??



Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #38 on: June 25, 2007, 07:29:07 PM
I didn't mean to imply aliens. I suggested the evolution of parasitic creatures in my earlier comment.



The Word Whore

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Reply #39 on: June 25, 2007, 08:37:47 PM
I wonder what it would be like to marry one of those beings. It would work out pretty well for the mayfly. Each generation wouldn't have to worry about not finding a mate at the last minute, plus she could go childless for six days if she so chose and have the baby at the last minute and the husband could take care of the baby himself for the one day needed until it is old enough to care for itself.  In addition, the husband could tend to such menial tasks as shopping and writing postcards so each mayfly can more fully enjoy their one week of life.

Just imagine, if you married one of these beings then in a sense you would have a new wife every week. Each progressive generation would have all the memories of the previous ones, so in a sense it's almost the same person, but not entirely. Before marrying a mayfly, the prospective husband should be aware that it does come with the fairly serious drawback of having to deliver a baby in your bedroom once a week for life.



Dueling Banjos playing in my head  ;)

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SFEley

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Reply #40 on: June 25, 2007, 09:15:42 PM
I wonder what it would be like to marry one of those beings. It would work out pretty well for the mayfly. Each generation wouldn't have to worry about not finding a mate at the last minute, plus she could go childless for six days if she so chose and have the baby at the last minute and the husband could take care of the baby himself for the one day needed until it is old enough to care for itself.

Good for support, perhaps; bad for genetic diversity.  It wouldn't take many generations for all the defects to come out. 

Now, an open marriage where each mayfly got sperm from wherever she needed to but came home to the same guy...  But that would be an entirely different story.  >8->

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Thaurismunths

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Reply #41 on: June 26, 2007, 12:16:24 PM
I wonder what it would be like to marry one of those beings. It would work out pretty well for the mayfly. Each generation wouldn't have to worry about not finding a mate at the last minute, plus she could go childless for six days if she so chose and have the baby at the last minute and the husband could take care of the baby himself for the one day needed until it is old enough to care for itself.  In addition, the husband could tend to such menial tasks as shopping and writing postcards so each mayfly can more fully enjoy their one week of life.

Just imagine, if you married one of these beings then in a sense you would have a new wife every week. Each progressive generation would have all the memories of the previous ones, so in a sense it's almost the same person, but not entirely. Before marrying a mayfly, the prospective husband should be aware that it does come with the fairly serious drawback of having to deliver a baby in your bedroom once a week for life.

I think an open lesbian relationship, or closed relationship with notable exceptions, would work better. With a female partner, sex, love, and companionship wouldn’t come with the risk of incest.
Both women could work to assure there was a 'willing donor' available, perhaps the less-mortal partner could provide the luxury of being a little more choosy about mates, seeking out men with slow metabolisms who might otherwise not be interested in one-night-stands.

How do you fight a bully that can un-make history?


The Word Whore

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Reply #42 on: June 26, 2007, 05:44:51 PM
I think an open lesbian relationship, or closed relationship with notable exceptions, would work better. With a female partner, sex, love, and companionship wouldn’t come with the risk of incest.
Both women could work to assure there was a 'willing donor' available, perhaps the less-mortal partner could provide the luxury of being a little more choosy about mates, seeking out men with slow metabolisms who might otherwise not be interested in one-night-stands.

I do hope Ms Lindsley is reading...
This would make a delicious sequel  ;)

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eytanz

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Reply #43 on: June 26, 2007, 06:35:55 PM
It would indeed make for a fun sequel.

That said, I'm a bit curious as to why people are trying to pair the Mays up - the story itself doesn't really give any indication that they - well, at least the narrating May - had any desire for any sort of  lasting relationship. It didn't feel to me like the fact that she can't form any such relationship - romantic, friendship, or anything else - bothered her at the least. I have a feeling that she doesn't really share human social instincts to the same degree.

Let alone that, since it was implied that different generations could differ in personality at least to some extent, it may be impractical for another reason - for the POV of the partner, it could well be like dating someone with violent mood swings - one week she's really into you, the next week she dislikes you, then she likes you again, then she's indifferent.



Thaurismunths

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Reply #44 on: June 26, 2007, 06:47:32 PM
...one week she's really into you, the next week she dislikes you, then she likes you again, then she's indifferent.
*Insert snide comment here.* ;)

How do you fight a bully that can un-make history?


The Word Whore

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Reply #45 on: June 26, 2007, 07:08:53 PM
...one week she's really into you, the next week she dislikes you, then she likes you again, then she's indifferent.
*Insert snide comment here.* ;)

<lol>  yes, that pretty much describes every relationship... i.m.l.e.

I did get the sense of longing for a deeper connection (albeit it subtle) during May's encounter with the bartender. However, this is balanced *very appropriately* by 'bred-in' knowledge/understanding/acceptance – no point in (or time for) pining. The survival instinct keeps her grounded and the ultimate focus on self-preservation, kicks in... wins.


« Last Edit: June 26, 2007, 07:26:20 PM by The Word Whore »

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wakela

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Reply #46 on: June 26, 2007, 11:38:55 PM
I liked it.  I could see this story as a kickoff for one of our "survival" threads like the zombies and going back in time.

I would have been interested in more conflict.  All of her problems had pretty easy solutions even getting hit by a car.  What if she had ended up in a hospital?  What if the bartender tracks down her apartment and visits the daughter?

Her life seemed pretty normal...pay bills, go to the store, mail postcards, get laid...  I would think that after generations of mayflies they would develop some kind of hyper-efficiency.  At the very least they would use an online mayfly forum and automatic bill payment.  But then the story is less treasure-every-moment and more boss, gadgety sci-fi.  This and my conflict comment above were probably not the author's intention. 

Was I the only one who was wondering what the word whore was wearing when she read this?  I'm just sayin'...



slic

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Reply #47 on: June 27, 2007, 12:56:31 AM
I enjoyed the story while I was hearing it, but I found that there were more and more little "annoyances" as I thought about it.  The first, most obvious one, was genetic drift/evolution.  How long had the May's been around?  For every one human generation(roughly 30 years), they go through 1560 (about 46,800 human years)- even a small drift would show up quickly.  What about other May's who left it to the last minute and ended up sleeping with some goofball loser - what "bad" genes did they get? What about mixed race babies?  Wouldn't it be slightly noticeable if next week your neighbour suddenly became mullato? 
Second, why would they spread out so far - granted it cuts down on the possible discovery, but if they had overlapping weeks - born on a Monday, born on a Wednesday - like the old nursery rhyme - they could help each other out easily (and it could be platonic - sorry, Thaurismunths).  The idea of communal families isn't new.
Third, how long did it take her to get autobill paying?  Man, I age in a much slower fashion and I got that ages ago!  I'd think they would have developed a multitaking ability generations ago - why wasn't she at least reading the book while on hold?

It really works as a "remember to cherish every day" kinda thing, but the logic falls apart too easily for me to really enjoy it.

I agree with the other comments that the twins ending seemed tacked on, and almost "extra last flip" that didn't tie into the rest of the dance routine.  There was no need for it.

Also, the generational memories got me to thinking that this is less like a Mother/Daughter relationship and more like an accelerated Dr. Who kind of deal.  It's really the same person changing bodies every week - though instead of moulting, it more of an internal transferance.  I get that the story needed to explain how an 11 year knew how to pay bills and cook, etc., but this fundamentally changed the relationship - you're not teaching me, I'm remembering being you.  In effect, the Mayfly is an immortal of sorts.
To maintain a Parent/Child idea perhaps the solution would have been a high speed language of sorts, a way they could only communicate amongst themselves, and it would sound like buzzing to any human listening to it (kinda like the Star Trek episode where Kirk gets "accelerated").
Quick aside - in three postings to this forum today, I've referenced three different ST:TOS episodes - man that was a great series!



Bdoomed

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Reply #48 on: June 27, 2007, 04:03:42 AM
It would indeed make for a fun sequel.

That said, I'm a bit curious as to why people are trying to pair the Mays up - the story itself doesn't really give any indication that they - well, at least the narrating May - had any desire for any sort of  lasting relationship. It didn't feel to me like the fact that she can't form any such relationship - romantic, friendship, or anything else - bothered her at the least. I have a feeling that she doesn't really share human social instincts to the same degree.
I don't think its a lack of human social instincts, rather a matter of how long they live. you cant expect anyone to feel a need for partnership when they are only alive for one week.
this follows Maslow's Hierarchy of needs.  the need for love comes after the need for food, water, sex, and safety.  Being alive for one week, i doubt any of the mayflies have any time to care about love.  They are more concerned with basic survival.  Get pleanty of calcium and protein and vitamins, then procreate, give birth, die.

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


Thaurismunths

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Reply #49 on: June 27, 2007, 03:51:21 PM
I did get the sense of longing for a deeper connection (albeit it subtle) during May's encounter with the bartender. However, this is balanced *very appropriately* by 'bred-in' knowledge/understanding/acceptance – no point in (or time for) pining. The survival instinct keeps her grounded and the ultimate focus on self-preservation, kicks in... wins.
Did you get that from her specualtion about the bartender's past? Something about him not being as young as she thought, and having an 'interesting' personal history?
I can see where the Mayflys would be envious of those with longer lives, but you're right that their biology has its own requirements while time and tide wait for no (wo)man.

I love the irony of the conversations this story has prompted.
Someone mentioned "why didn't she read the book while she was on the phone?" and others bring up the phenotypic impossibilities of it. But it's all a matter of perspective. We humans live about 4000 times longer than the Mayflys. For us that seems impossibly short. "How could they waste SO MUCH time, when they have so precious little? Don't they know they could be doing MORE with their time? Each life is so short, why are they concerned about it? Why don't they use each generation to work towards a common, greater, goal?"
I can only imagine that's what the mountains think when the look down on us. And here we are, sitting in front of our computers, passing judgment on a piece of short fiction when there's cancer to cure. :)

How do you fight a bully that can un-make history?