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Author Topic: EP519: Artemis Rising – In Their Image  (Read 4637 times)
eytanz
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« on: February 04, 2016, 05:28:09 PM »

EP519: Artemis Rising – In Their Image

By Abra Staffin-Wiebe

read by Diane Severson

with guest host Mur Lafferty

---

When I stepped off the shuttle and breathed in the dry grass scent of Trade City, I was still confident I could launch the first human church on Landry’s World. My fellow passengers had been politely non-interested when I explained the mission my church had sent me on. A few had shaken their heads as they glided away. I thought maybe they objected to a female preacher. Or maybe it was because I’m an ex-marine. I’m an “ex-” a lot of things: ex-marine, ex-atheist, ex-drunk, ex-wife, and ex-mother–that last because I was a poor enough mother that when my kids grew up, they washed their hands of me.

The heavier gravity made my normal stride more of a shuffle, but my spirits were high as I walked to meet the young woman waiting for me. After all, I was here at the request of Amber Sands Mining, the major human employer on the planet. The indigenous government had approved; they even volunteered the labor to build my church. My denomination’s elders were delighted to have finally found a mission suitable for an ex-marine with other-world experience.

My guide held a sign saying, “Preacher.” She bestowed a chipper smile on me when I approached. “Welcome to Landry’s World! I’ll take you directly to the church so that you can get started.”

As I fell into step beside her, I said, “It seems odd that a planet with indigenous life is named after the captain who discovered it. Discovered isn’t quite the right term, either, is it?”

“Landry’s purpose in life was to find and name this world, and the Teddies honor that.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Teddies?”

“Oh, dear. I hope you didn’t memorize their long-form name! You don’t need to worry about that. We need to say that in the welcome packet.”

I remembered the images that had come with my briefing. The locals of Landry’s World were seven feet tall, ursine, and covered in bright pink fur. “Wait. You’re telling me that this place is populated by pink teddy bears?” I asked incredulously.

She grinned. “Yup. Here’s the road. Watch your step. I thought we could walk instead of taking the transit tube.”

The golden sand between the borders of the road appeared identical to the sand that stretched into the distance on either side. “What’s the difference?”

“Everything in its place.”

“And what’s your place? When you’re not shepherding green recruits, I mean?”

“This is my place.”

“Of course, but this can’t take up all your time. I meant, what else do you do? What are your plans for the future?”

“This is what I do,” she answered stiffly.

A few failed attempts at conversation later, I let silence fall between us until she stopped in front of a crystalline three-story castle. Sunlight danced across jutting, sharp-edged planes of glass. A Teddy the color of raspberry sherbet rose from the shadow of the building. I’d been so dazzled that I hadn’t even noticed him.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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BoojumsRCool
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« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2016, 06:52:31 PM »

This one hit close to home with me. I have been without work for the past week and this is an experience that I have not had before (hence my frequent posting) and I am finding the experience a tad bit unsettling. I am first going to say that the story didn't go where I thought it would, with the main character being killed or something equally horrible happening to her. Full disclosure I have also been listening to some Lovecraftian audio dramas. The progression of the story and the main character was good with enough of a back story to have everything makes sense, though the pink teddy bears threw me a little and took a bit of effort to get past. When the end came and Mur was wrapping up I was thinking about the story, and what purpose and expectations really mean. Thanks again Escape Pod. 
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Thunderscreech
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« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2016, 08:36:48 PM »

This is the best story I've heard on Escape Pod in a long while.  This is not a criticism of the rest, this episode (both the story and perfect narration) was just that fantastic.

I wish I could contribute more to the conversation than brays of praise, but here we are.

This goes in my bin of eps with which to lure new listeners onboard.  "Come listen", I'll sing to my friends, "because today's the day you get to hear about a very special teddy bear's picnic…"
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wintermute
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« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2016, 09:53:50 PM »

I really liked this. It would be terrifying to have your life reduced to what an alien would comprehend as your purpose.

Also, how the hell can someone's purpose be to starve? I really want to hear that story.
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SpareInch
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« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2016, 10:38:06 AM »

What a great story about social pigeonholing. I could write stuff about how  much that happens in real life, but it would come over as preachy, and one of the (other) great things about this story is that it isn't preachy.

I loved the way that the Teddy philosophy makes sense to them, and even to us in a way, and I can well imagine the arguments that could arise on the subject of Specialisation Vs Generalisation.

Also, how the hell can someone's purpose be to starve? I really want to hear that story.

Well, he had no income and didn't have the decency to request an assisted suicide. Ergo, it must be his purpose to starve. I kind of expected the starving Teddy to become her first convert, to be honest, but I guess missionary work just isn't that simple. Especially when the host government decides that charity work can't be done by a priest. That part was a beautifully crafted bit of weird.
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Not-a-Robot
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« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2016, 05:53:26 PM »

This one really didn't connect with me (there's always one...).  I found the visuals of the ursine race to be a bit too absurd for the story content.  I get what the author was going for (bears have incredible senses of smell ergo use scent to communicate emotion...) but it all came off as a bit silly.  

P.S.  It's his purpose to starve could be seen as a commentary on certain types of economies.  The super rich cannot exist with out super poor, therefore it is the purpose of many people to starve.  
« Last Edit: February 09, 2016, 05:33:42 AM by Not-a-Robot » Logged
Chairman Goodchild
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« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2016, 03:46:03 AM »

This one really didn't connect with me (there's always one...).

I had trouble with this one, too.  I found the narrator to be way too emotionally distant and complacent in this story.  She's suitably shocked and horrified when she finds out that the Teddy Bear religion is practicing human... er sentient Teddy Bear sacrifice and encouraging ritual starvation to death.  But she takes that knowledge and does nothing with it.  This is the kind of thing that she should probably go ahead and tell someone about.  Like her church elders.  Or the Earth government, which might be interested that a number of humans are joining a religion that encourages ritual murder and suicide.  But she doesn't do that, and the story ends with her making peace with this other religion that kills people.  That's not a very good ending for a story about a minister.  

And to add jaywalking charges to murder and arson, I didn't like the part where she walked into a restaurant and made quite a scene directly asking patrons for their leftovers and lying about having a delivery for the Lowertown residents, rather than quietly and respectfully approaching the owner like she should have done.  I can imagine a deleted scene in this story where the restaurant owner has the chef quickly make something so that the minister lady will get out and stop bothering his customers.  

I don't think this minister is cut out for her job at all.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2016, 04:15:40 AM by Chairman Goodchild » Logged
Thunderscreech
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« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2016, 02:17:48 PM »

His purpose is to starve because Da Bearsss subscribe to the Just World hypothesis (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just-world_hypothesis).  Each Bear finds the purpose they're meant to because their processing through the wheel takes into account their successes and failures as failures as  individuals developing into their final form.

Da Bearsss believe in Karma so if anything good happens to one, it's because that was a good bear.  If a Bear starves....   then that it its purpose.  

Karma Bears from Space rocked.  The thing is, they're not really space bears, are they?  We see them on Facebook and in forums every day in any medium that's talking about things like homelessness, poverty, or any of the other thousands of discussions where the alternative is acknowledging the possibility that someone may be in a bad place because of factors beyond their control.
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Fenrix
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« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2016, 04:15:57 PM »

I was ok with the aliens being identified as teddies. Part of this was because I found this story resonant with Speaker for the Dead. That novel won All The Things while calling the other two sentient races Buggers and Piggies.

I really liked that this explored religion while being respectful while also not being didactic. And it managed to do this while never forgetting to be a story. 
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« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2016, 11:56:37 AM »

I was ok with the aliens being identified as teddies. Part of this was because I found this story resonant with Speaker for the Dead. That novel won All The Things while calling the other two sentient races Buggers and Piggies.

I really liked that this explored religion while being respectful while also not being didactic. And it managed to do this while never forgetting to be a story. 

Dammit Fenrix, you beat me to it.  I thought I might be the first one to mention Speaker for the Dead which this reminded me strongly of, in a good way.  Not a big stretch, considering the focus on earth religions clashing with the belief system of cutesy but dangerous alien species.

I love Speaker for the Dead a whole lot.  And any similarity here I did not see as a bad thing.



Anyway, I loved this story a lot.  Partly on the subject of social pigeonholing, but in large part because it's hard to really examine what religion is doing objectively without an outside source commenting "Hey, uh, you just murdered that guy.  Isn't that bad?"  "No, no, he asked to be murdered and this totally makes sense in our belief system".  And, hopefully, examining this in an internally consistent alien religion can encourage us to consider what our religions may make us do and whether those things are objectively good or just good due to our belief system that not everyone shares.

I am honestly very glad that I don't believe the teddy religious, as interesting as the concept is of worshipping a god who doesn't yet exist and to whom all intelligent creatures will be components.  Can you imagine how stressful it is to believe that anyone who's shirking responsibility is personally responsible for delaying the existence of your deity and maybe preventing it at all?  Have you ever tried to manage even a middling-sized group of employees and keep them all sufficiently productive indefinitely?  Good luck.  And even better luck trying to do that with ALL intelligent creatures, including ones from other planets--you may as well just come to grips with the fact that if that is necessary for God to be born... then God ain't gonna be born.  (in other words, if I were a teddy, I would be obligated to arrange my funeral because lines of thinking like this are only going to postpone God even further)


Anyway, loved Loved LOVED it.  Thank you, Abra Staffin-Wiebe for writing it, and EP staff for publishing it.

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Fenrix
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« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2016, 12:04:32 PM »

I was ok with the aliens being identified as teddies. Part of this was because I found this story resonant with Speaker for the Dead. That novel won All The Things while calling the other two sentient races Buggers and Piggies.

I really liked that this explored religion while being respectful while also not being didactic. And it managed to do this while never forgetting to be a story. 

Dammit Fenrix, you beat me to it.  I thought I might be the first one to mention Speaker for the Dead which this reminded me strongly of, in a good way.  Not a big stretch, considering the focus on earth religions clashing with the belief system of cutesy but dangerous alien species.

I love Speaker for the Dead a whole lot.  And any similarity here I did not see as a bad thing.


I'm surprised I was the first to mention it. Anyone who liked this story would be well served to go pick up that novel. I like that this story nailed a couple of the major themes of SFTD in a very compact space.
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matweller
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« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2016, 12:57:02 PM »

I'm a fan of all of the Ender books, and Speaker... is probably my #2 favorite for all of the reasons you describe. And because I think Speaker for the Dead would be a fantastic and worthwhile job for someone in our society. And I want to do it.
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Not-a-Robot
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« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2016, 04:43:50 PM »

I agree on The Speaker for the Dead vibe.  There are definately many parallels (especially the sacrifice).  I am also okay with the aliens being called teddies.  The overall themes were good.

It was just the visual, I was sort of picturing Care Bears and wonder of the evolutionary purpose of bright colored fur (maybe the teddies are poisonous?) and emotion smells so strong that off planet species can clearly deliniate them...

Why would they even need strong oral and visual communication if thier olifactory communication is so vivid?  Which, by the way, might be a great dynamic for a seperate story.  A species that communicates (almost) entirely through smells.

Anyways, (I don't want to sound like a jerk) what I am trying to say, is that the biologist in me got distracted by the shiny bears, and it pulled me away from the story...
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2016, 05:53:53 PM »

Why would they even need strong oral and visual communication if thier olifactory communication is so vivid?  Which, by the way, might be a great dynamic for a seperate story.  A species that communicates (almost) entirely through smells.

Not knowing the environment they evolved in, I have no idea.  But I don't see why a species can't have more than one functional sense.  Dogs can hear very well and see very well and see quite well for some criteria (colorblind but can see better in the dark than we can). 

I don't think it said the teddies had particularly sharpened other senses, the sense of smell was implied by the prevalence of that.  Having more functional senses gives an evolutionary advantage--sight is useful over longer distances than smell and might be more effective in a tight pack of teddies where the smells would mix and mingle.  Because of their body chemistry they might be able to produce only a limited set of scents and that would limit the rate of communication if you have to wait for the last smell to dissipate, especially if the smells are more reflexive than conscious (which is the sense that I got). 

I got the impression that the smells were more like a facial expression than speech.  We humans can read a lot of information from facial expressions, and can read that information faster and from a further distance and in a more noisier space than we can speak, but facial expressions are at least somewhat involuntary and there's a limit to the information one can convey--try explain how to take the integral under a curve or explain how to bake cookies or explain what you liked or didn't like about the new Star Wars movie using only facial expressions.

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Ocicat
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« Reply #14 on: February 17, 2016, 01:34:55 PM »

[Moderator note]

Messages that discussed the merits of Artemis Rising and not this story have been moved to Artemis Rising Discussion
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Lionman
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« Reply #15 on: February 17, 2016, 02:29:08 PM »

[Moderator note]

Messages that discussed the merits of Artemis Rising and not this story have been moved to Artemis Rising Discussion

Thanks!  I didn't know that thread was there!  I appreciate it.
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biomathics23
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« Reply #16 on: February 17, 2016, 06:54:15 PM »

I found the narrator to be way too emotionally distant and complacent in this story.  She's suitably shocked and horrified when she finds out that the Teddy Bear religion is practicing human... er sentient Teddy Bear sacrifice and encouraging ritual starvation to death.  But she takes that knowledge and does nothing with it.  This is the kind of thing that she should probably go ahead and tell someone about.  Like her church elders.  Or the Earth government, which might be interested that a number of humans are joining a religion that encourages ritual murder and suicide.  But she doesn't do that, and the story ends with her making peace with this other religion that kills people.  That's not a very good ending for a story about a minister.  

And to add jaywalking charges to murder and arson, I didn't like the part where she walked into a restaurant and made quite a scene directly asking patrons for their leftovers and lying about having a delivery for the Lowertown residents, rather than quietly and respectfully approaching the owner like she should have done.  I can imagine a deleted scene in this story where the restaurant owner has the chef quickly make something so that the minister lady will get out and stop bothering his customers.  

I don't think this minister is cut out for her job at all.

Completely agreed, but also for several other reasons.  This minister took several weeks to do more than merely preach to the token set of individuals that showed up.  Her superiors had to tell her about the other religion, and that she should go to it. (Yes, there is some indication that the other inhabitants kept this from her, but really, did she make no effort to get to know the local culture?  Heck, there are mentions of drunks stumbling into her services, she could at least ask them for the lay of the land.)

Also, that her immediate response to learning that the Teddies (and converted humans) had their own set of beliefs was not "Huh, I should get to know a lot more about these people if I want to have any chance of actually having a fruitful interaction with them," but instead "My profession called me to love my enemies instead of shoot at them, so how could I fight the Teddies’ doctrine?"  After one sermon, and before learning of the ritual killings, she had a black and white response: they are wrong, I must fight their beliefs, I cannot shoot them, how to stop them from their ignorant sinfulness? 

...which is fine, given her ex-marine background and newness to the preacher gig (what kind of training did she get anyway?), but from that point on, her character does not evolve at all.  She simply tries a few things, sees what works, and never questions her own view of the situation: I am right and they are wrong.  Her profession as she lives it is one of competing with native beliefs instead of connecting with the natives themselves.

Not to say I have not seen/had such preachers myself, but all those same charges--not being interested in other perspectives, believing oneself to have the totality of information necessary to the salvation of others, seeking to impose a traditional order with oneself at the head upon those that do not welcome it--can be levied at male hierarchical religions, including the throwaway reference at the beginning (the persons who might be objecting to a female preacher).  Her perspective with regard to religion is similar enough to that of the conquistadors and colonialists to give pause; no she didn't try to subjugate, enslave, or otherwise deny the "humanity" of them, but they are ignorant if noble pagans to be saved from themselves.

For me the spectrum of sensitivity to aliens with regard to religion runs from Blish's A Case of Conscience to Russell's The Sparrow; this one felt much closer to the former.  Which is to say as engaging as it was, as much as I enjoyed the premise and denouement, at the end I wanted much more from the preacher than I got.

On the plus side, I did appreciate the Saul reference at the end.  "Apostle to the Teddies" has a nice ring to it.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #17 on: February 18, 2016, 10:11:33 AM »

Quote
but they are ignorant if noble pagans to be saved from themselves.

I guess that didn't bother me so much in this specific case because the teddies were ritually killing each other because of their belief system.  Maybe it's wrong to try to steer them away from that, but I don't think being taking a strong stance that murder is bad is a reprehensible one.

And, at the end of the day, she is working for an organization that survives by propogating its belief system, and the organization does that by encouraging its members to push that belief system on others.  I can't say that I love that, but it is a realistic part of her superiors' expectations of her occupational function.

That's my take on it anyway.  Smiley
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Thunderscreech
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« Reply #18 on: February 18, 2016, 11:32:25 AM »

Quote
but I don't think being taking a strong stance that murder is bad is a reprehensible one.
If the followers are dying in accordance with their will (for instance, the in-story killing we see), is it really murder?  Sounded like people were only killed at their own request, at least within the narrative.
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matweller
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« Reply #19 on: February 18, 2016, 11:54:18 AM »

Quote
but I don't think being taking a strong stance that murder is bad is a reprehensible one.
If the followers are dying in accordance with their will (for instance, the in-story killing we see), is it really murder?  Sounded like people were only killed at their own request, at least within the narrative.
That's one of my favorite ST:TNG episodes -- the race that self terminates at age 60 regardless of circumstances. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Half_a_Life_(Star_Trek:_The_Next_Generation)
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