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Author Topic: EP112: The Giving Plague  (Read 40295 times)

Mr. Tweedy

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Reply #20 on: July 02, 2007, 03:15:36 PM
Isn't he a bad man?  He does good at first only to earn praise and fame for himself, and later out of a semi-rational craving for control.  His motives are never anything other than greed and the desire for power.

His good deeds were compelled by external forces.  Murder came from his own heart.

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Dex

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Reply #21 on: July 02, 2007, 03:46:07 PM
Isn't he a bad man?  He does good at first only to earn praise and fame for himself, and later out of a semi-rational craving for control.  His motives are never anything other than greed and the desire for power.

His good deeds were compelled by external forces.  Murder came from his own heart.

While an unexpressed thought (i.e. action or verbal) could be classified as good or bad; it is only the expression of that thought that can been seen and judged as good or bad.  If we didn't know th narrator's thoughts some of his actions might be judged as good and others just peculiar (not wanting blood transfusions).

This is an important aspect in today's media and image intensive world.  It is important to listen to what people say but more important to watch what they do.



Mr. Tweedy

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Reply #22 on: July 02, 2007, 04:43:33 PM
But we do know the narrator's thoughts.  If we only observed him from the outside, we would see only virtuous actions, but we get a privileged perspective and can see his mind.

This is an important aspect in today's media and image intensive world.  It is important to listen to what people say but more important to watch what they do.

Always!

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eytanz

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Reply #23 on: July 02, 2007, 04:58:03 PM
But we don't really know the narrator's thoughts. We know what the narrator, in hindsight, admits to thinking. That's not the same thing. I think that the narrator is a man ashamed of the good he's done, who would prefer to be condemned for the evil he thought, to the point where he exaggerates the latter and obscures the former. Re-read (or listen to) the last part. He's not gaining anything by helping people - even if that was his motivation starting out, he's moved long beyond it. He deeply cares about them. He's just too grumpy to admit it, because he feels that admitting it would lose his individuality.

As for the murder, I think it's telling that he had the means to perform the murder arranged but just happened to never get around to it. Sure, there were excuses, but I think the real reason is that he couldn't really go through with it.

What the narrator is is a proud man with an inferiority complex. He feels that he can't measure up as a doctor, but has to distinguish himself regardless. In a world where altruism and selflessness is the norm, the only way he can set himself apart is by insisting that he is selfish. Maybe he started out that way, back when there was no true crisis and the conflict between him and his partner was the real conflict. But when he became the person in charge, he rose to the occasion. As the story states quite blatently, he left his tower and went down to the streets, caring for the sick and wounded and ministering to them. The story is in that way a redemption arc, with the twist being that the redeemed man doesn't want to admit it.

This is also my response to the following point by 7by12:

Quote
Irony: Dr. Jonathan Sullivan criticises Spiderman 3 for making evil something alien and external (rightly so), then narrates a fiction piece that (possibly) does the same for good.

Yes, the piece externalizes good to some degree - but it also contrasts external good with internal good. To paraphrase Shakespeare, some men are born good, some men achieve goodness, and some have goodness thrust upon them. Les may have been of the first category, and most of humanity were of the third category, by means of ALAS. But the narrator was of the second category - a good man who did not start out that way, but at the end of the story (assuming that he indeed doesn't have ALAS) gives of himself, out of his own free will, and the good he does far exceeds the evil he planned.



7by12

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Reply #24 on: July 02, 2007, 05:07:05 PM
I admit I had to look up "unreliable narrator." I based my post on that definition. Of course, I may still look like I don't know what I'm talking about, something I often admit. Hopefully, my opinion in this case is not like my bellybutton.

And eytanz is right, there is clearly a distinction in the story between ALAS virtue and our anti-hero's virtue, leading to my opinion that our narrator is not unreliable. Him admitting he is a "bad man" and still able do good is one of the things that most endears him to me, but I have always has a soft spot for an unsympathetic character.
« Last Edit: July 02, 2007, 05:15:37 PM by 7by12 »



Mr. Tweedy

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Reply #25 on: July 02, 2007, 06:22:29 PM
But we don't really know the narrator's thoughts [...] The story is in that way a redemption arc, with the twist being that the redeemed man doesn't want to admit it.

That is a fascinating analysis.  Since you're right, we don't really know the narrator's thoughts, just what he wanted to have heard.

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wherethewild

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Reply #26 on: July 02, 2007, 07:16:23 PM
I had to log in here just to see when it was written. I was wondering why SARS wasn´t mentioned, but 1988 explains that!

I liked it. I found the science was pretty good -sounded like someone knew about biology (unlike the bloody writers of Matrix "a single celled amino acid", puhlease!) and it didn´t read/sound like an author trying to show off that they´ve done a little bit of research and learnt some new vocab (certain Robin Cook stories spring to mind). I´m with Dex in that science fiction that has real fictionalised science in it is more interesting to me than "just" stuff on other worlds or the nanobot fairy dust (as someone else called it elsewhere on the forums).

I didn´t realise he was talking to me as the virus until halfway through, which was a bit jarring. I´m not sure if it was clarified earlier on, I was doing other stuff while listening so I might have missed it.

Anyway, I liked it a lot!

The Great N-sh whispers in my ear, and he's talking about you.


7by12

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Reply #27 on: July 02, 2007, 07:36:06 PM
I didn´t realise he was talking to me as the virus until halfway through, which was a bit jarring.

Wooah, did I miss something that huge? Guess I better go listen again. I, too, listen while doing other things. The narrator is the virus? Or did I misunderstand the post?



eytanz

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Reply #28 on: July 02, 2007, 07:46:09 PM
The narrator isn't the virus. He's narrating *to* the virus.



7by12

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Reply #29 on: July 02, 2007, 07:48:32 PM
Doh! One and a half years as a stay at home Dad and my cognitive abilities are slipping... maybe participating here will help.



Mr. Tweedy

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Reply #30 on: July 02, 2007, 07:59:28 PM
That's why I participate here.  I seriously feel smarter since I started posting a reading stuff on this forum.  Workplace conversation is insipid and mediocre.  "Did you see ____ on TV last night?"  Conversation here is a lot more substantive.

Hear my very very short story on The Drabblecast!


Simon

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Reply #31 on: July 03, 2007, 10:44:42 PM
Ok, I loved this...  But then that was a given really.

I've loved Brin's writing ever since I first read The Postman, and consider him pretty much my favourite SF writer of the eighties (River Of Time is stompingly good - on mention of which, if he ever offers EP rights to "Thor meets Captain America" please buy it.. Buy it right NOW!).   Card is fantastic, but Brin pips him on sanity grounds.

So when I first guessed that EP was going to get a Brin (I believe there was a hint way back in October that "A major 4 letter name eighties writer is on the cards") I've been looking forward to this.  And finally she comes.

I can immediately see why you bought it.  I mean, this story rocks and its got a good concept that works well.  But it isn't an easy audio experience either.  By EP standards this piece is LONG, and the chapter structure breaks up the arcing in a way that doesn't work too well in a one listen experience.  The exposition scene between the two main characters really drags in audio (on mention of which, as a man who considers The West End my second home and loved all that local regional geography thrown in, please pronounce Leicester Square as Lesster Square) but its fascinating and absolutely essential... Its just a lot of content for audio, where you expect the punch now, rather than a novella which can get away with really going in to some of its themes.  This isn't to say Sullydog didn't do a good job, he really did...  But exposition is so much harder to pull off in audio.


Anyway, enough about that because I think its strengths outweigh its audio weaknesses.  The plot is fantastic, and I spent the whole story trying to spot when he got infected, but I am still unsure whether he was, and I for one enjoyed the conclusion...  But yes, unless you read it as "his life after being deliberately infected by less" its a difficult one to maintain interest with.  I personally like a good anti-hero narrator so I can cope with the other reading too.

But yeah.. Fantastic..  I'll keep throwing enthusiasm at it...

More Brin!



Loz

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Reply #32 on: July 04, 2007, 06:12:46 PM
I enjoyed the story, but I think it's Sully's narration that does the trick for me, and his English accent wasn't too bad  ;)



BlairHippo

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Reply #33 on: July 04, 2007, 07:59:47 PM
I enjoyed it.  I thought the execution was a tad repetitive (okay, okay, the virus is very subtle and sneaky and clever and we've heard that already so could we please move on?), but overall it worked for me.

And I did like how the protagonist seemed at times hell-bent on being a Bad Guy but circumstances kept forcing him to (successfully) play the hero.  He'll wear that white hat, but he doesn't have to like it, goddammitalltohell.   ;)



wakela

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Reply #34 on: July 04, 2007, 11:33:32 PM
Drat!  Too late to the discussion and not smart enough to come up with anything new.  Still I wanted to throw my vote of "awesome story" onto the heap.

Most of the story discussions on EP are:
 -this was / was not a good story
 -this was / was not real science fiction
 -the science of the story was / was not plausible believable

It's the mark of a good story that the discussion about "Giving Plague" has been about the motivations/state of mind, etc of the narrator.



BSWeichsel

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Reply #35 on: July 05, 2007, 03:03:01 PM
Not much to say as just finishing a course in anatomy as well as just interested about viruses I truly enjoyed the does of reality, and for the most part I think the science was correct.

But another thing I love was they got into the philosophy of science which i think to many people forget about.

Loved it One of the best for this year. I've already listened to it 4 times.

Since it began, who have you killed? You wouldn't be alive now if you hadn't killed somebody.


Djerrid

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Reply #36 on: July 06, 2007, 03:58:39 AM
I thought this was a great story on many different levels. I don't know of any other sci-fi story that takes on Dawkins' concept of "The Selfish Gene" as a philosophical debate on free will. To fight against the determinism of biology in order to be the master of ones own fate, even if you choose to be evil. Then to voluntarily choose to do good even if is against ones evil nature... If he is selfish and evil at heart but not in action, is he still evil and selfish? I was picturing Micheal Douglas in 'Wall Street' preaching "Ambition is good."

The science was also well done and this piece would be a fun introduction to the concept of viral and bacterial symbiosis. The stretch between being "full" of blood and altruism is a bit much (an STD that makes its host tend towards promiscuity is more realistic) and finding a Mars virus perfectly formed to exploit human biology is as far fetched as Jeff Goldbloom uploading a virus into an alien computer system using Windows XP, but I'm just picking his nits.

Actually, there already is a pathogen that alters humans' personality.  It is called Toxoplasmosis and its regular host is cats and rats. When the rodents are infected they become more active, less cautious and less afraid of cat odor, and therefore more likely to be eaten by a cat.  The disease is then passed on through the cats' feses which is then nibbled on by the rodents. Humans then get it from their close contact with their cats which makes woman http://human-infections.suite101.com/article.cfm/toxoplasma_gondii_and_behavior "seem to become more intelligent, outgoing, conscientious, sexually promiscuous, and kind" while having the opposite effect on men. (There's a good Pseudopod submission if I've ever seen one.  ;))

One last thought: I'd have to agree with Dex in that I enjoy the sci-fi that puts more emphasis on the sci. You can go to any other genre to get your character development, flowery descriptions and witty dialog. But only science fiction has the power to test the limits of ones understanding of the observable universe against the boundless reaches of ones imagination.



Zathras

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Reply #37 on: July 06, 2007, 06:23:45 PM
My first post.


I thought the story was just OK, but I think 7by12's picture is hilariously disturbing.  I can't stop looking at it.   Meow! 



Dex

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Reply #38 on: July 07, 2007, 12:00:03 AM
One last thought: I'd have to agree with Dex in that I enjoy the sci-fi that puts more emphasis on the sci. You can go to any other genre to get your character development, flowery descriptions and witty dialog. But only science fiction has the power to test the limits of ones understanding of the observable universe against the boundless reaches of ones imagination.

First, good insights on the the story.
Second, if we don't ask for quality SF we will not get it.



robertmarkbram

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Reply #39 on: July 07, 2007, 09:29:44 AM
I did not enjoy this story.

I have to say that this story didn't work for me.  As opposed to Dex, I don't care so much about the science aspect as long as it's a really good story.  I guess my emphasis would be science fiction.  I almost tuned out after the first chapter of this one.  It seemed like just science speculation without any narrative drive, and I never felt like the story really kicked in.  It just kind of dragged along for too long and didn't really go anywhere.

Schark expressed my feelings best, both about "science fiction" and the direction of the story.

I appreciate the a lot of points made here already, particularly 7by12's point about irony  and Djerrid reminding me of just how twisted virally, bacterially pathogeny things really are - which is well reflected in the story.

I didn't enjoy the Dr. Jonathon Sullivan's narration; it seemed almost monotonous. My attention was drifting during the exposition of just how twisted the virally, bacterially pathogeny things really are, and - all apologies to David Brin - I just couldn't bring myself to care about the narrator. I didn't understand that the you in the story was the ALAS virus until the end of the story, but I am not sure that device added anything to the tale i.e. I don't particularly feel guilty that I personally make everyone act in a more altruistic fashion. :)

One more thing: the ALAS virus was all about affecting behaviour, while the narrator himself was acting in a most peculiar, directed (psychotic?) way. Ever since his announcement that the wanted to murder his colleague, I couldn't help thinking that the narrator must have been under the influence of some anti ALAS!

Rob
:)