Author Topic: EP526: The Hunter Captain  (Read 6247 times)

eytanz

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on: March 29, 2016, 10:05:28 PM
EP526: The Hunter Captain

By David John Baker

read by Mat Weller

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“The sign for the survivor’s species is ‘human,'” said Kyber, “although I am unsure of the exact pronunciation.”

Hunter Captain Sra examined the data feed, zooming in on an image of the human’s brain. “Have you discovered anything in her nervous system that might function as a seat of consciousness?” said Sra.

“There is one promising organ. An intersection here, between the two hemispheres of the brain. But we’ve found such things before, in highly developed animals. I see no particular reason for optimism.”

Although he knew it was naive, Sra was optimistic. For once his hunter’s skills might not be needed–if the human was in fact a sentient alien being. Although it meant Explorer Captain Kyber would retain command of the ship, the prospect of true first contact spoke to a dream Sra had cultivated since his infancy.

Sra was old enough to recall an earlier age, when no one believed that the Nampranth were alone. A time before their race journeyed outside the home system–before they found a galaxy infested with intelligent animals and bereft of sentient life.

Already this mission seemed different. Sra had never heard of a more auspicious contact. They’d found the alien ship alone, disabled–apparently by a freak collision with a cosmic string. Its single passenger was recovered still unconscious, its computer’s artificial animal dormant but intact. The animal’s architecture had so far resisted interface with Nampranth computers, but Kyber’s explorers had already learned much from the ship’s markings. It was a perfect opportunity for slow, cautious study before beginning the delicate process of contact.

“When do you plan to revive the human?” Sra said.

“Perhaps very soon. We can’t learn much more from noninvasive scans, especially given the number of cybernetic devices operating within her brain.”


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



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Reply #1 on: March 30, 2016, 08:53:06 PM
Is "The Hunter Captain" a reprint or an Escape Pod original?  I think it's original after some fruitless Googling, but would it be possible for the shownotes to specify when it's original and where it appeared previously if it's a reprint?



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Reply #2 on: March 31, 2016, 02:42:37 PM
It would be if the person that posted the show notes had that information, but I don't. Email Norm.

Could the person who posts the show notes request it from Norm?  My responses from him are very patchy.



Thunderscreech

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Reply #3 on: March 31, 2016, 05:37:38 PM
This was fantastic, but dangit the host touched on the meat of the stuff I'd have tried to contribute otherwise (putting us in the mind of who might otherwise be the antagonist).  Super enjoyable and a joy to listen to.  Thanks!



Tango Alpha Delta

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Reply #4 on: April 01, 2016, 12:47:33 AM
Much love for stories that try to give us a truly alien perspective. And hitting all the right notes along the way.

I agree with Thunderscreech that Alasdair really nailed the high points in his outro. Maybe it's just watching people turn "empathy" turn into something other than the essential core value of humanity in my country over the last couple of decades that makes me sensitive to it here... I appreciated being reminded that it is so central.

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Lionman

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Reply #5 on: April 01, 2016, 02:42:14 AM
Oh, this was such a good story.  I really enjoyed watching Alex give the Hunter Captain chances time and time again to see beyond the the 'social norm' the Nampranth have used, perhaps for generations.  And, in the end, I see that she had indeed planted a seed, or as the outro commented, that irritating grain of sand in the oyster.

I would be very interested to see this story continue on, find out in part two what sorts of other nifty secrets Alex has with her cybernetic implants.  Imagine the surprise she could play by having a EMP implant she can trigger every now and then, in addition to whatever she has to end her own life, she could really provide a great deal of surprise for the scientists on their home world.  And, I imagine she's probably got some sort of beacon under the hood there, so when her ship returns home and reports in her status, along with the details from their passengers, the humans may well want to come get their long lost astronaut.

As we know, humanity has this almost cockroach-like affect in sci-fi universe.  At least I would like to think they'd show up and leave the Hunters wondering why these Intelligent Animals are so unwilling to conform and willing to fight so hard, without reserve or regard for self-preservation.

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biomathics23

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Reply #6 on: April 01, 2016, 04:10:53 AM
I work and teach in bioethics, and this story came right after we covered some of these ideas in class.  It was great to hear the students debate what gives an entity moral standing: quality of life, consciousness, rationality, potentiality, ability to suffer, etc.

Much love for stories that try to give us a truly alien perspective. And hitting all the right notes along the way.

Agreed about the right notes, it was a terrific story, but to me the aliens in this story do not seem all that farther advanced (technologically and mentally) than humans.  They could easily have just been Jones and Gomez in a debate over whether they should give any moral consideration to animals that they otherwise could use willy-nilly for food, research, etc.  At times I was definitely channeling an argument between an omnivore and a vegetarian for whether the fact that animals can feel pain gives them enough moral standing for us to have a duty not to eat them.

But it is conceivable that aliens could exist that are as far ahead of us mentally as we are from rats, or frogs, or earth worms. Part of me cannot help but wonder: what if the aliens in the story are right?  What if we are all just philosophical zombies in some sense, and would not have standing in any real sense in an advanced extraterrestrial community because we are just that underdeveloped in the morally important way?  We might end up as the ones on the dinner plate, pleading only for a quick death.  At least that wish will hopefully be granted.



RC Davison

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Reply #7 on: April 01, 2016, 11:41:50 PM
Excellent story that emphasizes that our interaction with a true alien species may bring with it many concepts and ideals that we humans may not agree with or even understand. (We have a hard enough time trying to get along with each other on this planet, and we're all the same species!)

Fantastic read by Mat!  Very well done.  It added a lot of depth to the story that would not have been there otherwise.


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Reply #8 on: April 02, 2016, 12:07:45 AM
Much love for stories that try to give us a truly alien perspective. And hitting all the right notes along the way.

Agreed about the right notes, it was a terrific story, but to me the aliens in this story do not seem all that farther advanced (technologically and mentally) than humans. 


Just to clarify - I'm only commenting on their "alienness," not their advancement. I think it's almost impossible for humans to write stories that are truly alien without projecting ourselves onto the characters we create, but I love it when authors give it an honest try.

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Anthony Creamer

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Reply #9 on: April 03, 2016, 04:50:02 AM
Loved this



matweller

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Reply #10 on: April 05, 2016, 03:35:28 AM
It would be if the person that posted the show notes had that information, but I don't. Email Norm.

Could the person who posts the show notes request it from Norm?  My responses from him are very patchy.
This story has not been previously published.



Leevi

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Reply #11 on: April 05, 2016, 07:10:25 AM
I really liked this story. Liked enough to come to forums and make a first post in 2,5 years!
Says he and slips back to his deep space listening post.



Jim

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Reply #12 on: April 05, 2016, 12:42:38 PM
Whoo, I'm back! This was a great story. Makes me want to run a space opera tabletop RPG.

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Reply #13 on: April 06, 2016, 05:04:43 PM
I really enjoyed this one.  I found it sadly plausible that a species could make what seem clear to me to be the wrong decision in order to justify their own behavior.  After all, haven't I and my own species done similar things time and time again?  I thought the point of view was interestingly different than my own but also plausible given the conditions the species developed under, skewing the scientific results in order to justify their own necessary behavior.

The badass antagonist (who was perhaps really the protagonist despite not being the POV character?) was suitably enjoyable to watch, being both comparatively superpowered but also making moral choices I could understand more closely.  And I like how in the end she has at least succeeded in helping a few sentients escape and to plant a nugget of doubt in the Hunter Captain.

Considering how everything about the aliens have been overturned, I wonder if the position held by the female aliens will ever be reconsidered also?  We are told that the females are not real people in the same way, but we're told that by the same being that doesn't think humans are sentient, and in our own history we've seen enough cases of women being considered less than men so it's entirely possible that they may be as capable as the alien men.

Or it's also possible that due to differences in alien biology they literally ARE completely different because we only have this story and this POV to judge it by, and we don't get to see the prisoner's opinion about the alien females.  I took his view on the female aliens as fact when I first heard it, but am now thinking that it was put into the story specifically to suggest that the women were being unpersoned in the same way their food sources were--taken that way, it adds significantly to the theme.

Well done.

« Last Edit: April 06, 2016, 05:10:03 PM by Unblinking »



Devoted135

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Reply #14 on: April 21, 2016, 02:41:43 AM
You know how a story can be sooo good, but super duper frustrating at the same time due to the subject material involved? Yeah, that was this one for me. It's actually a testament to how good it was that I wasn't thinking about the writing at all, but completely in the experience of the story.

I was impressed by the human astronaut's strength and moral compass in this situation. She calmly and eloquently presents arguments for how the aliens' worldview is completely bonkers. And in the face of defeat, she still wins a small victory before the end. I may have cried a bit.


[rant]
I couldn't help but think about how recently "scientific knowledge" "knew" that African Americans didn't feel pain the way that Caucasians do. And how even more recently the same thing was thought about newborn humans of any race. And how I just learned today that a mere 100 years ago the United States began a 20ish year occupation of Haiti and part of the justification was that while the African Americans were like children, the Blacks in Haiti were hardly better than animals. I've said it before, but one of the strengths of SF is its ability to reframe tough situations and thereby help us to examine ourselves in a new light.
[/rant]



SF.Fangirl

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Reply #15 on: May 09, 2016, 02:44:53 PM
Second best story in a long time - "Among the Living" being my current #1.

Well done.  The alien POV which accepts no one but their own race as sentient beings (most likely because of guilt) was a unique way to present the story.  The badass human was badass and it was nice that the human representative wasn't being all evil as we often are portrayed as.  In truth humanity has done the same thing the aliens are doing against other humans so it's certainly plausible.



Chuk

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Reply #16 on: June 08, 2016, 04:18:30 PM
I really liked this story -- it definitely is a 'message story' but the well-done alien viewpoint and the interesting events made it still fun to listen to. Good reading, too.

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ZekeSixsmith

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Reply #17 on: June 11, 2016, 04:58:00 PM
I really liked this story. It's interesting to consider what a different biological heritage might mean for an alien society. If a herbivore species became sentient they might have a different relationship to violence. Or what if they reproduce asexually? Or have very distinct stages of life, like a butterfly?
I also liked that the main character didn't renounce their world view by the end, but only had a hint of a doubt.
It's surprising that the existence of intelligent but not conscious species is such a unanomous belief for these aliens though.
I mean for humans similar beliefs have been depressingly common throughout history, but at the same time it's entirely possible to be aware that you have cognitive biases and yet still have them. Their society could have their equivalent of the omnivore vs vego debate. Yes we are eating conscious species, but also, they're tasty.



CryptoMe

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Reply #18 on: November 21, 2017, 06:30:05 AM
Okay, I did enjoy this story (badass human protagonist, need we say more), but I did feel that this had a bit of a heavy-handed vegetarian proselytizing component. BTW, I don't think you need to believe that your food animal doesn't feel pain just to be able to eat it. I do think you need to kill the animal in the most painless (humane?) way possible, which implies that you do, in fact, know it feels pain.