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Author Topic: EP528: Divided By Zero  (Read 7836 times)

eytanz

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on: April 26, 2016, 08:01:07 PM
EP528: Divided By Zero

By Samantha Murray

read by Ibba Armancas

---

As a child I already knew that there were different kinds of infinity.

When I asked my mother whom she loved the most–me or my brother–she would pause and then say she loved the both of us.

How much did she love us? I wanted to know. And she’d say she loved me an infinite amount and my brother an infinite amount too.

From this I knew implicitly that two infinities did not have to be the same size.

As a child I knew this although I had no words for it. It was what drove me to ask the question. I knew also that I was waiting for her not to pause.

She always did. Every time.

Secure in his answer, my brother never asked the question. I was the lesser infinity; that of whole numbers perhaps, while his was of real and irrational numbers, which could be complex, and transcendental.

My brother won awards and prizes, was tall and athletic while I could not use my legs, but this is not why his infinity was infinitely bigger and infinitely better than mine. I’m sure people wondered how anyone could fail to love my brother when he was so brave and shining–but I think they have the causality backwards. Everybody loved him and he took all of that love inside himself until he could not help but glow like a nebula pinpricked with stars.

#

My lover indicates the space between our two bodies. She moves so that the space is gone, my skin flush against hers, no gaps. “Is this not enough for you?”

I let her words fall away into silence, receding from us, shifting into red.

She knows, as I know, that it is not.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



Tango Alpha Delta

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Reply #1 on: April 27, 2016, 12:28:57 PM
New author with a cool idea about how mathematics and our imaginations might both carry us across the stars and destroy us.
New narrator, well matched to carry off the reading.
Tina friggin' Connolly, one of my favorite voices to hear on my podcasts (whether she's reading for Escape Artists or Drabblecast, or hosting her own show).

Yep - it's Escape Pod.

As for the story, well, it was short but sweet. It had me thinking about some of the discussions I've read recently about what we do and don't know about Standard Model physics, and how simply discovering a particle of dark matter or detecting dark energy could both confirm and upend everything we think we know about our universe. I can only hope we'll be lucky enough to figure out how to use something like an "underspace" to get around instead of being outright destroyed by it or finding out that we're in the Hinterlands.

I wouldn't oversimplify my description of this story, either - one thread I picked up on was the notion that the brother, who had always succeeded at things, might not have been as capable of handling the transition of going through that underspace as his sister, who was just as brilliant, but had to battle her way around obstacles her whole life. That speaks to both her disability, and (without making it an overt theme) her gender - which, I have to agree, would have made this an outstanding Artemis Rising story.

Short, sweet, deft, and deep.

This Wiki Won't Wrangle Itself!

I finally published my book - Tad's Happy Funtime is on Amazon!


Not-a-Robot

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Reply #2 on: April 27, 2016, 01:34:12 PM
I really liked this one. I thought that there was no need to explore the techology anymore than the author did. The writing here was delicious.



eytanz

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Reply #3 on: April 27, 2016, 07:42:08 PM
Let's see...

Woman Author
Woman Narrator
Woman Hosting the podcast

Yup, it's an Artemis Rising show!

Good argument for a third Artemis Rising here - clearly, it's still a noteworthy anomaly when the author, narrator and host are all female, so EA must work harder to make sure it's just as normal as the episodes where there's a male author, narrator and host.



adrianh

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Reply #4 on: April 27, 2016, 11:42:25 PM
Good argument for a third Artemis Rising here - clearly, it's still a noteworthy anomaly when the author, narrator and host are all female, so EA must work harder to make sure it's just as normal as the episodes where there's a male author, narrator and host.

Was just about to point that out — but you beat me to it!

As for the story…

There's an awful lot packed into such a small package. Sibling rivalry. The cruelty that can happen in families — both deliberate and accidental. Grieving. Body image issues. The value of diversity in ways of thinking (that was my reading of why the narrator succeeded while her brother failed — she doesn't just "Let the magic happen"). Fame. Forgiveness — of others and of ourselves. And maybe a smidgen of hope and redemption.

Maybe packed a little too tightly to do the ideas justice. Especially with an audio story where I don't really have the opportunity to pause a beat and reflect. I got a lot more out of it on a second reading of the text. The narration didn't quite work for me  — especially the accelerated text during the jump where I had to go to the written text to understand what was said — but I can see how tricky that part is to transfer to audio.

(I'm also a little deaf which, y'know, doesn't help ;–)

So while I liked the story as a whole, I wish I could have spent a bit more time with the characters to flesh out those themes a little bit more.



CosmicAC

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Reply #5 on: April 28, 2016, 02:56:53 PM
I am uncertain about the aim of this story. And what was her "big secret" and the stuff about old computers? Was any of that important for the story telling? Is she loving her brother? What is this artifical hate for him at the beginning then? I am wondering if the emotional part of the story is just there to have, well have an emotional part. Why did she succeed while her brother failed? The heroin does not improve our understanding of the technique or shows a skill her brother does not. Was he too shiny and smart? And what about all that self-pity of her? We are given premises after premises and expect to care. The success at the end does not feel earned and the "revalation" of the heroin feels self centered.

Other then that, the premise is very nice, might have developed to something if this would have some longer story, but it just ends when we learn that they made the experiment work. Maybe the story is incomplete. Does Samantha plan on extending it?

I am however now interested in the other story mentioned, the one with the AI which can only speak a sentence once. Could you post a link to it or give us the title? I am really hocked for that one now!!!
« Last Edit: April 28, 2016, 02:59:48 PM by CosmicAC »



Not-a-Robot

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Reply #6 on: April 28, 2016, 06:37:18 PM
I am uncertain about the aim of this story. And what was her "big secret" and the stuff about old computers? Was any of that important for the story telling? Is she loving her brother? What is this artifical hate for him at the beginning then? I am wondering if the emotional part of the story is just there to have, well have an emotional part.


The emotional parts are the story.



Frank Evans

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Reply #7 on: April 28, 2016, 08:06:50 PM
I've been having a hard time putting together my thoughts on this one. On the whole, I think this is well written, almost poetic in places, with some intriguing ideas and a strong emotional undercurrent. Usually that would be a recipe for at least a solid B for me. But for some reason I found the whole less than the sum of its parts.

I want to be careful here, because I don't like criticizing someone's work when I think there are a lot of positives and I can't point to many negatives, but I came away from this story dissatisfied. It seemed to me to be too much a collection of paragraphs and ideas as opposed to a complete story. However, one of the reasons I like Escape Pod (and the rest of the Escape Artists offering) so much is that I'm constantly exposed to writing styles and narrative structures that I never would have looked at on my own and I think this story qualifies under that umbrella. It just didn't land with me as solidly as it might have with others.



eytanz

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Reply #8 on: April 29, 2016, 03:00:37 PM
Posts discussing the relation between this story and Artemis Rising have been moved to the Artemis Rising Discussion thread here:

http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?topic=9267.60

If you wish to continue that discussion, feel free to do so in that thread, not this one.



Dwango

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Reply #9 on: April 29, 2016, 06:32:05 PM
Too me, the story lacked subtlety.  The overall idea was too obvious and hammered on.  You knew the brother got more and had life easy, but the sister had to deal with multiple issues.  And it was obvious she was going to overcome her brother.  The emotional sentiment got lost to me under the weight of the parable which could have been refined more.  Her brother was supposed to be likeable where he was hateable.  She hated and yet loved her brother, but only after he failed.  His failure defined her relationship with him.  Frankly, they almost had no personal relationship discernible in the story.  I think a bit more relationship between the two, a heart felt conversation, an understanding, some closeness, would have hit home their difficult relationship, instead of the distant view of their relationship through the Mother's view and the world's view.   This was a thought stream meant to be poetic, but I just didn't get into it.  I think the part of the quickly read text shows that some stories are better read than heard, though I thought the narrator did an excellent job.  I get the brother and sister were both math problems as such, but a good equation can be a simple and elegant phrase, and the story might have worked better being more of that.  Sorry, not my favorite differential equation.



Father Beast

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Reply #10 on: April 30, 2016, 12:26:51 PM

The emotional parts are the story.

If so, then it's not a good story. there is no progression, no growth. Just a self destructive feeling that only can end badly.



Not-a-Robot

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Reply #11 on: April 30, 2016, 04:02:34 PM

The emotional parts are the story.

If so, then it's not a good story.

My my, aren't you just incendiary. That would be your opinion. Personally, I thought it was one of the best stories this year.   



Not-a-Robot

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Reply #12 on: April 30, 2016, 04:28:46 PM

there is no progression, no growth. Just a self destructive feeling that only can end badly.
I thought there was progression, but even if there wasn't, the same could be said of Kafka...  
« Last Edit: May 01, 2016, 09:28:28 AM by Not-a-Robot »



adrianh

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Reply #13 on: April 30, 2016, 08:11:38 PM
I'm curious that a couple of commentators read the story as the sister hating her brother. I didn't get that feeling at all. And re-reading the story again I still can't see it.

Rivalry maybe. Envy maybe. Sadness maybe. Distance maybe. But hatred? That's an awfully strong emotion that doesn't come across to me in the story at all.



acpracht

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Reply #14 on: May 03, 2016, 06:10:58 PM
As an assistant producer, I suppose I probably shouldn't reply on the forums, necessarily. (Forgive me, Norm, for I have sinned).

However, I am, and probably always will be, something of a "Papa Bear" when it comes to the narrators I work with. So when a critique is directed directly at their work, I will say: I respect and welcome such feedback (how will we improve, after all?), but I probably will also respond to it.

Understand: In many cases I've worked with these narrators for years. They're highly professional, have worked for me at rates far lower than what they're worth (at times, for free), and are some of the most creative and innovative narrators I've ever had the pleasure to work with (that goes especially for Ibba and Trendane Sparks this week. They've been reliable go-to narrators for me for years).

I'm not ashamed to say that both have frequently left me weeping with their narrations.

That said...

I get what you're saying about the sped-up section of "Divided by Zero." I'm sure it was hard to follow and and struck the ear strangely if you weren't prepared for it.

That said, it's likely my favorite audio effect I've heard this year on Escape Pod (and, I'll add, was all the better because I didn't give Ibba direction toward that end).

Also, when you see that portion on the page, it's difficult to follow and gives you a particular feeling of bewilderment as the words all hit you "at once."

Ibba's audio effect, imho, is the perfect audio translation of that visual effect.

In other words, the actual content of that section was far less important to me than the impressionistic effect and feeling that it conveys - that is, what does it feel like to drop into this underspace where feeling and sensation hit you with a confusing simtinatiety? (that a word? Is now...)

It actually gave me goosebumps, especially the rising pitch and tempo, followed by the sudden cutoff and a moment of complete silence. I actually felt like I'd traveled through this underspace with just a few effects. Isn't that worth a bit of difficulty? How dull would it have been if Ibba had just read that at the same careful pace as everything else (my answer: Very.)

And, if you really care about the specific content, that's what the back button on your podcast player is for (not to mention a speed control if, like me, you use an app like BeyondPod).

Get used to some occasional audio effects like this, folks, now that I'm here.
 
I think that when they're used appropriately and carefully, they add greater artistry and interest to this craft of audio fiction.

If you don't like it... I guess - tough?

But do keep the feedback coming. :)

Thanks!

-Adam



adrianh

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Reply #15 on: May 03, 2016, 07:35:55 PM

Understand: In many cases I've worked with these narrators for years. They're highly professional, have worked for me at rates far lower than what they're worth (at times, for free), and are some of the most creative and innovative narrators I've ever had the pleasure to work with (that goes especially for Ibba and Trendane Sparks this week. They've been reliable go-to narrators for me for years).


My apologies if my comment came across implying a lack of professionalism — that certainly wasn't my intent.

What I was trying to put across was that this particular interpretation didn't really work for this particular listener, slightly dodgy hearing and all ;-)


I get what you're saying about the sped-up section of "Divided by Zero." I'm sure it was hard to follow and and struck the ear strangely if you weren't prepared for it.

That said, it's likely my favorite audio effect I've heard this year on Escape Pod (and, I'll add, was all the better because I didn't give Ibba direction toward that end).

Also, when you see that portion on the page, it's difficult to follow and gives you a particular feeling of bewilderment as the words all hit you "at once."

Ibba's audio effect, imho, is the perfect audio translation of that visual effect.

In other words, the actual content of that section was far less important to me than the impressionistic effect and feeling that it conveys - that is, what does it feel like to drop into this underspace where feeling and sensation hit you with a confusing simtinatiety? (that a word? Is now...)


That's a perfectly reasonable interpretation. However, personally, the audio gave me a different sense of bewilderment from when I came back and re-read the story text online.

With the written text the authorial intent seemed clear to me. I can see that block of text was deliberately dense. But because of the nature of the written page I can take as long as I like to unpack that text with zero effort. The contemporaneous nature of underspace is made even more explicit to me as a reader since I have to spend time expanding out the mass of feeling and emotion that happens in that instant of story.

With the audio what I got was "something fast happened that I cannot understand". And, as I read it anyway, what the author was going for was simultaneous / mixed up — not fast. But reasonably people can differ on interpretation of course.

It actually gave me goosebumps, especially the rising pitch and tempo, followed by the sudden cutoff and a moment of complete silence. I actually felt like I'd traveled through this underspace with just a few effects. Isn't that worth a bit of difficulty? How dull would it have been if Ibba had just read that at the same careful pace as everything else (my answer: Very.)


I agree it would have been terribly dull and an awful decision.

I'm fairly sure that they are not the only two alternatives though ;-)


And, if you really care about the specific content, that's what the back button on your podcast player is for (not to mention a speed control if, like me, you use an app like BeyondPod).



This is probably not what you intended, but this was kind of what I heard when I read the above:

"Hi. We printed this section in light grey 4pt text to get across the author's intent of a whispered conversation. I know you don't have perfect vision, but if you really care about the specific content that's what 80 watt light bulbs and magnifying glasses are for".

Caring about the content of stories is the reason I read/listen. It would all be a bit pointless otherwise! And while I am very happy to expend mental effort on the stories, I'm less happy to spend it in the process of reading itself. If nothing else finding the magnifying glass and digging out the 80 watt bulbs take me somewhat out of the flow ;-)

(I did use the back button. Several times… and then I went back and found the text online so I could figure out what was said. )



Get used to some occasional audio effects like this, folks, now that I'm here.
 
I think that when they're used appropriately and carefully, they add greater artistry and interest to this craft of audio fiction.

If you don't like it... I guess - tough?

But do keep the feedback coming. :)


Will do ;-)



matweller

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Reply #16 on: May 03, 2016, 08:52:02 PM
I don't think you need to sweat it. Not everything hits for everybody all the time. That's doesn't make the performer or the audience bad, it just missed that one connection. There are two other SciFi shows I don't listen to because I don't care for the host and/or narrator. I don't hate them, and I assume they wouldn't put me very high on their revenge lists, I just don't enjoy their styles. Fortunately, we vary hosts and narrators enough to avoid that issue if it even was one. And adrianh was appropriate about how he expressed it. If it was a chorus of belligerent jagoffs, it would have been worth addressing.

In this case, we'll get another chance next week. I've tortured adrianh much worse with my reading and my production in the time we've both been here and he keeps coming back. Sleep well, Adam. There will be trolls, my friend. Trolls aplenty. But they be not here.

FWIW, I thought it was the ideal execution of the author's intent and didn't give it a moment's pause.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2016, 08:54:41 PM by matweller »



acpracht

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Reply #17 on: May 04, 2016, 12:44:33 AM
Hey, Adrianh,

Nor was it my intent to imply you were being trollish (quite the opposite, in fact), nor to in any way diminish your critique of the interpretation, nor to in any way insult or be demeaning to anyone's difficulty with hearing.

I think your analogy to tiny, gray written type is probably an apt one. Though (if I may counter) you do occasionally get an e e cummings or Mark Z. Danielewski (author of "House of Leaves") where the way something is written - and, often, a bizzare/difficult to read typeface - are a part of the artistry.

I suppose I was only thinking about how that could be conveyed in audio and not considering that EP might have listeners who may need the audio equivalent of a "large print" edition.

I thank you for helping me to see this in a different light, and it will certainly something that I take into greater consideration and try to strike a better balance with it (or come up with a creative solution).

-Adam



Unblinking

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Reply #18 on: May 04, 2016, 02:26:04 PM
Hmm....  I liked a lot of the parts of this story for their mathy sensibilities, right from the first section talking about the comparison of infinities which I remember being interesting but confusing in school.  (i.e. the limit of x as x approaches infinity  and the limit of x^2 as x approaches infinity are both infinity, but one could say the second is larger than the first)

In the end it felt kindof truncated, I felt like it needed more of something but I'm not entirely sure what.  It felt incomplete in some way I'm not sure how to define.


During the fast section, pretty much all I was processing was "Wow, she can talk really coherently really fast I wonder if she can actually talk that fast or if she talked at a normal speed and sped it up post-production, yeah that's probably it, because wow, and if it wasn't sped up in post production she should apply for a job narrating Micro Machines commercials"  Which,  if that was the effect you were going for, then yay?  :P


The "you can rewind and listen again" advice isn't super helpful, at least in my case. My hearing is pretty average so that's not an issue.  But I listen to podcasts while I'm doing other things.  Most often commuting, sometimes while doing household chores.  Driving in rush hour traffic, am I going to fiddle with the iPod controls to rewind a short section to listen again?  Probably not.  If I've got my hands in dishwater, am I going to stop washing dishes, dry my hands, and fiddle with the controls?  Probably not.  So unless I really have a burning desire to find out what I missed I'll probably just not and see if I can pick it up from context. If I can't pick it up from context, then I'll probably just not know whatever that part was trying to tell me.




Dwango

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Reply #19 on: May 04, 2016, 02:40:54 PM
I'm curious that a couple of commentators read the story as the sister hating her brother. I didn't get that feeling at all. And re-reading the story again I still can't see it.

Rivalry maybe. Envy maybe. Sadness maybe. Distance maybe. But hatred? That's an awfully strong emotion that doesn't come across to me in the story at all.

Maybe hatred is too strong a word.  More like resentment?  The story focused heavily on the negative dynamic of the relationship, so it might have lightened it some to have some interaction between them to create a better idea of their connection.  The fact that they didn't really have any interaction speaks volumes in itself, I would think.  Being a single myself, I'm not sure about those kind of relationships though, so I am not the best to judge.



SF.Fangirl

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Reply #20 on: May 09, 2016, 02:58:35 PM

The "you can rewind and listen again" advice isn't super helpful,

I agree 100%.  I would wager the majority of people listening are not sitting down listening with their device in their hands ready to rewind.  I do that less than 1% of the time I listen to podcast or audiobooks.

I just ask that the EP staff keep that in mind when selecting stories and audio effects.  Listeners need to be able to get it the first time through.  And I think some perfectly great stories don't lend themselves to audio.

Overall I enjoyed this story, but it was transitory - sibling rivalry/parental love/sister the only one left alive at the end.  If there was something deep and explanatory in the rushed words during the jump, I missed it.



Lionman

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Reply #21 on: May 09, 2016, 08:01:43 PM
One of the things I came away from this story was how it really spoke to the relationship between siblings.  I felt like it spoke to the idea that sometimes we're both always in competition with our sibling(s) but also ..somewhat incomplete without them.  Or, the need to finish what they started, to complete the work that no merely has one begun, but both, as a family have started.  A sort of duty that the family would uphold.

How many families out there still have folks go into the same line of work as their parents or grandparents or siblings?

Failure is an event, not a person.


bounceswoosh

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Reply #22 on: May 22, 2016, 04:34:19 PM

I think your analogy to tiny, gray written type is probably an apt one. Though (if I may counter) you do occasionally get an e e cummings or Mark Z. Danielewski (author of "House of Leaves") where the way something is written - and, often, a bizzare/difficult to read typeface - are a part of the artistry.

FWIW, the sped up section worked great for me. "House of Leaves," on the other hand, I abandoned half way through - and I almost never quit a book once I've started it.

Different strokes for different folks ...



Devoted135

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Reply #23 on: May 26, 2016, 02:02:29 AM
This was a pretty good story, though opening with a discussion of infinity and love typically sets the bar of my expectations higher than the story can live up to. I think my favorite part was the implication that the narrator is actually more suited to making this journey because she is neuro-atypical. Like, her brother may have naturally excelled at classical tests of success (the American high school, frex), but success in one area is by no means a guarantee of success elsewhere.



Zelda

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Reply #24 on: May 27, 2016, 05:34:06 AM
This was a pretty good story, though opening with a discussion of infinity and love typically sets the bar of my expectations higher than the story can live up to. I think my favorite part was the implication that the narrator is actually more suited to making this journey because she is neuro-atypical. Like, her brother may have naturally excelled at classical tests of success (the American high school, frex), but success in one area is by no means a guarantee of success elsewhere.

Yes. I don't know if the narrator is neuro-typical or neuro-atypical but her distinguishing characteristic seems to be her inability to feel truly connected to other people. She believes her mother loves her less than her brother though we don't see any objective evidence of that. She never feels close enough to anyone, not even her girlfriend. But in Underspace she loses that feeling of being apart. I think there was something about her need that made her capable of succesfully navagating through U-space.

I liked the speeded up section of the narration. It worked for me.