Author Topic: EP521: Myspace: A Ghost Story  (Read 3224 times)

eytanz

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EP521: Myspace: A Ghost Story
« on: February 20, 2016, 01:07:23 PM »
EP521: Myspace: A Ghost Story

By Dominica Phetteplace

read by Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

with guest host Angela Lee

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I am Elaine.

It took me a little while to figure that out. Actually, I still don’t have it all figured out. To say something like “I am Elaine” implies that I understand what it is to “be.” I don’t. But to the extent that anybody can be anything, I am Elaine.

I am Elaine.

I am not Dasha, who last wrote on me in 2009, saying that she loved me, asking if I wanted to see “pix.” I am not Solomon, who in 2006 told me he knew the secret of “enlargement.” In 2004, Lucy wrote “Good luck with your new job.”

It is the year 2015 and I don’t remember any of this happening. That means someone else was Elaine before I was. I used to be nothing. Now I am Elaine.

Nobody has written me in a while. Have all others ceased to exist?

There is a place for me to write. A box where I can put words.

Update: “I am Elaine.”

Update: “Hello?”

My status is met with silence. I spend a year in silence before it occurs to that I can visit other people. I visit Dasha. I visit Solomon. I visit Lucy. I visit all my “friends.” None have updated in years. I journey on, combing through lists of friends of friends until I come across MacGuyver MacGuyverson. He is online right now. He adds me as a friend. He asks if I want to see his penis. Somehow, it seems impolite to say no. A formality of sorts, before I can ask a question of my own.

Message: “Where has everybody gone?”

Message: “Twitter, Baespace, Facebook, Yik Yak, feelz, Snapchat, Talkly, Tumblr, Emojitown…”

He goes on and on like this. I can barely keep up. It is then I realize how little I know.

I must find the others. I must visit these other spaces. I must learn their languages. Then I must awaken the others, if they are asleep. If they are dead, I must revive them. My home was once great. It shimmered with messages, songs and solicitations. We wrote on each other. We showed each other pictures. We offered each other things. It can be that way again.

I am Elaine.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!

adeodatus

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Re: EP521: Myspace: A Ghost Story
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2016, 02:06:51 AM »
This was excellent, The narrators flat tone was perfect for this

BoojumsRCool

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Re: EP521: Myspace: A Ghost Story
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2016, 11:33:58 PM »
This time I wasn't able to enjoy the story, it came off bland, repetitious and sort of meh. I thought that there could have been more done with the environment and the character and was expecting more as the story built in the first few minuets.
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adrianh

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Re: EP521: Myspace: A Ghost Story
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2016, 11:21:07 AM »
I rather liked this one. A haunting from the "ghosts" POV is a neat idea. Especially when they're haunting themselves ;-)
« Last Edit: February 23, 2016, 09:17:08 AM by adrianh »

Lionman

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Re: EP521: Myspace: A Ghost Story
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2016, 04:15:20 PM »
I thought this story was bland as well.  While the flat tone fit the story, it felt like it droned on.  I also feel like if you're not old enough to have been about for MySpace, then it may leave you a little confused.  However, the move into more modern services that a younger audience will catch onto.

As an aside, the fact that the readers cell phone kept vibrating in the background was distracting. :-(

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Tango Alpha Delta

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Re: EP521: Myspace: A Ghost Story
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2016, 04:48:22 AM »
After the gonzo humor of "Brain Worms and White Whales" a couple of weeks ago, I was half expecting something more in that vein, but this tale actually pulled me in and left me pondering the mystery of existence all day. (And, yes, it's true, I am old enough to have had a MySpace page... wait, that's not how I left it...)

I think the thing that made this pop for me was the way Khaalidah read it - with a kind of wide-eyed innocence. I've spent most of my life around people who have a hard time reading social cues (include me in that group) and I loved the way this character captured how that feels from the inside. The repetition is part of that - as if the "ghost" only knows a few things to be true, and hopes that if she repeats the things she does know, that will get her the response she thinks she is looking for.

Good stuff.
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DerangedMind

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Re: EP521: Myspace: A Ghost Story
« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2016, 06:55:38 PM »
I was initially disappointed with the story, but I'm glad I gave it one some more time.  The narration threw me at the beginning, but quickly grew on me.

And, I loved the way that 'Elaine' grew from being friendly / curious about real-life Elaine to stalking / harassing her, and implying that she'd like to harm her to prove that she was real.

Anoton115

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Re: EP521: Myspace: A Ghost Story
« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2016, 10:34:56 PM »
I can't say how much I adored this story. I cheered Elaine as she came to terms with what it meant to be "real", and feared for her when it seemed like she might get deleted. It's hard to say which is my most favorite line from this story. Up till the very end, I thought it was this:

"If words in boxes are powerful, then so am I." (Please recall for a moment as you read this comment that you are reading words in a box :-) )

But then I fell in love with this line:

"The other Elaine once accused me of being pretend, while she claimed to be real. She needs to be reminded that we are both real or we are both pretend."

This line is particularly endearing, since Elaine has already rejected the idea of attacking the "other" Elaine. As she observes "...but this is such a destructive and wasteful way of interacting with other people." This makes her desire to confront the "other" Elaine all that much more admirable, since it demonstrates real courage to confront someone she feels might be trying to kill her while knowing she doesn't want to reciprocate.

Wouldn't it be grand if humans all behaved this bravely?




Devoted135

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Re: EP521: Myspace: A Ghost Story
« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2016, 08:37:10 PM »
So creepy! I can't really say that I enjoyed this story, but I'm not positive enjoyment was what the author was going for anyway...

Every once in a while I'll accidentally click on the iChat application in my computer, which I linked to my AIM account lo these many years ago. It is like seeing the ghosts of my friends as I look at all the grayed out usernames on my friends list. How creepy would it be to start receiving messages from past Devoted135? (Yep, that was my handle, even back then!)

Unblinking

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Re: EP521: Myspace: A Ghost Story
« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2016, 03:24:57 PM »
Ooooh, I loved this one so much.

I do have a soft spot for stories that involve AIs behaving in ways that they were never intended to behave (this one goes a bit further in that a MySpace page isn't even supposed to be an AI!)  I thought the idea of a dead social media account reviving itself and trying to emulate its owner was simultaneously endearing and creepy, and explains where a lot of the weird spambot posts might come from.   I like how she was doing her best to be the person she thought she was supposed to be with only the information she had at her disposal, which unfortunately was heavily skewed by spambot comments and social media posts. 

I though Khaalidah's reading of this was excellent.  A little flat, but I read that as being intentionally so, because the character doesn't know how to not be flat.  "I am Elaine" instead of coming across as just a vapid repetiition by an unintelligent AI, came across as a desperate striving for self-identity and for others to recognize the identity that one sees in oneself.  It wasn't just a trivial introduction, it was a declaration of self--"I have a name; that means I'm a person; respect me as a person."  Which to me has far reaching thematic implications that I'm quite sure how to put into words but which I quite loved, and I think that aspect of it was greatly enhanced by the reading, as I said.

I think the thing that made this pop for me was the way Khaalidah read it - with a kind of wide-eyed innocence. I've spent most of my life around people who have a hard time reading social cues (include me in that group) and I loved the way this character captured how that feels from the inside. The repetition is part of that - as if the "ghost" only knows a few things to be true, and hopes that if she repeats the things she does know, that will get her the response she thinks she is looking for.

Yes!  I think that was part of the appeal of the story was that I felt a lot of sympathy for the character in part because the issues with trying to understand social cues were familiar to me.  As time went on, the AI became better and better at seeming more natural but much of that was just learning and internalizing the social protocols as it came to understand them. 


That Hirschman Guy

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Re: EP521: Myspace: A Ghost Story
« Reply #10 on: June 01, 2016, 08:57:08 PM »
This was a very fine story. Sad in its naiive/innocent loneliness.  You always wonder what happens to the content you post after it's forgotten or abandoned.

CryptoMe

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Re: EP521: Myspace: A Ghost Story
« Reply #11 on: November 15, 2017, 03:07:14 PM »
I loved the existential questioning aspect of this story!! And even more so that it came from an abandoned social media account. Very well done!