Author Topic: EP535: Bluejay  (Read 4379 times)

eytanz

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EP535: Bluejay
« on: July 29, 2016, 05:52:06 AM »
EP535: Bluejay

By Edward Ashton

read by Josh Roseman

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Micah steps from the shuttle and onto the tarmac, eyes slitted against the hard north wind that whips across the empty runway. The sky is a flat, leaden gray, with high thin clouds too light for snow, but too thick to let the sun come through as anything more than a vague, diffuse glow near the southern horizon. Micah hunches his shoulders against the bitter cold, ducks his chin to his chest, and pulls his coat tight around him. He hesitates, glances up at the desolate stand of dead trees at the far end of the runway, then walks slowly toward the terminal building.

A sense of uneasiness, which has lurked deep in his belly since he boarded the shuttle, grows steadily as it becomes increasingly clear that he’s alone here. He hadn’t expected an honor guard, but he’d expected… something. As he reaches the terminal entrance, he looks back to see the shuttle wheel around and accelerate back down the runway. He pauses with his hand on the door. He can see through the glass that a half-dozen bodies are sprawled on the floor inside, perfectly preserved. He takes a deep breath in, then lets it out slowly as he enters the building. The scream of the shuttle’s engines fades as the door swings shut behind him.

As he climbs the frozen escalator to the arrivals lounge, Micah remembers the last time he passed through this airport. It was years ago, and he’d been on his way to visit a distant cousin in the North Country. He remembers stopping for a drink before heading to the rental car counter, intending to stay only long enough to take the edge off before a four hour drive, but instead spending most of the afternoon drinking crappy domestic beer and trading double entendres with the bartender. She was tall and lean and blonde, not young, but not yet old either, and her smile caught and held him long after he should have been on the road.

She’s dead now, of course. Lake Ontario was the epicenter. When the strike came, it was twelve thousand miles in any direction from here to safety.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!

Father Beast

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Re: EP535: Bluejay
« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2016, 10:40:55 AM »
Yup, having a working model does help.

Also reference "The Doctor Dances" episode of Doctor Who.

adrianh

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Re: EP535: Bluejay
« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2016, 03:16:52 PM »
I just loved the "Oh shit! There was somebody here!" wiping out of half of the planet by the wormhole gamma ray burst! That was super! The idea of the alien super race trying to figure out how to compensate for that minor whoopsie was a hell of a framing device.

However the rest of the story, while pleasant enough, didn't provide quite enough meat to hang off that idea for my tastes.

The love story was a little to sketchy for me to believe in. Schoolgirl crush resulting in everybody happily falling into bed with each other just wasn't believable to me. Even in the end-of-the-world-ish setting.

I've read the aliens-didn't-know-what-we-looked-like-and-rebuilt-me-wrong story a few times before. The idea is good, but this time it seemed a little harder to believe considering how advanced the aliens were, the fact that there were live humans still around, plus dead and live examples of similar biologies, plus the extant knowledge base of humanity laying around in the infrastructure of the world. Having the aliens be smart enough to resurrect a human, and install a mind-to-mind communication infrastructure — and yet not be smart enough to resurrect them correctly seemed odd in that setting.

So I ended up a more interested in the background details (why exactly are the aliens tidying up all the animals?) that the main character's arcs. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Jethro's belt

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Re: EP535: Bluejay
« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2016, 07:08:46 PM »
Loved the idea of collateral damage from an alien road trip or galactic off-ramp construction (not exactly sure there) and I was along for the ride and enjoying it until thrown clear of the story at the very end. I don't have a clue what actually happened during the story blackout period. My best theory is Micah went into the box second and they are now both something different.   

Kconv

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Re: EP535: Bluejay
« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2016, 05:56:10 PM »
I got the vibe of the menagerie from star trek original series from this.

They put me back together, but didnt have a model to work on.

But two things dont ring quite right on this, they had the intact bodies, a gamma ray burst would kill off people but it wouldnt actually destroy the body. A gamma ray burst close enough and powerful enough to destroy the body would probably strip away the atmosphere.

So it would be like trying to put back together a piece of electronics that had stopped functioning, you would have the idea. You would need to get what isnt working, working again. Certainly hard but not impossible and there were living humans on the southern half that could be used as models. But the author needed to save that for the protagonist, so he could sacrifice himself to restore what was lost.

It did work from a story telling perspective of finding something that was once thought lost though.

TheArchivist

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Re: EP535: Bluejay
« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2016, 04:49:37 PM »
I got the vibe of the menagerie from star trek original series from this.

They put me back together, but didnt have a model to work on.
Absolutely. Even the wording chosen was too close for comfort/coincidence. But where the Star Trek story had a very small crew all smashed to pieces (so the aliens got the shape wrong) this plot left far too much intact biology for it to be truly believable that the aliens got it wrong.

All of which matters not one jot if the story moves the reader, makes important points, tugs the heart strings... does something significant. But I got to the end without feeling that, and then I got confused by that "story blackout" that threw Jethro's belt.

Still, quite enjoyed the ride.

bounceswoosh

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Re: EP535: Bluejay
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2016, 04:20:00 PM »
Having possibly a fridge door moment: wait a minute, there are more humans alive than her and the dude, aren't there? And they're on the other side of the earth? Aren't they in Canberra (Australia)? This whole "whoops, guess we can't put a human back together!" thing seems ultra silly.

If I were dying of starvation and body parts not being put together right, I could see myself waxing nostalgic for a high school crush, I suppose. Anything short of that and it would be pretty nuts.

But those nitpicks aside, actually, I very much enjoyed the story as I was reading it. I liked the bluejay metaphor.

Thunderscreech

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Re: EP535: Bluejay
« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2016, 05:08:33 PM »
Having possibly a fridge door moment: wait a minute, there are more humans alive than her and the dude, aren't there? And they're on the other side of the earth? Aren't they in Canberra (Australia)? This whole "whoops, guess we can't put a human back together!" thing seems ultra silly.
There's no guarantee that it's the A-Team in charge here.  Even in her story, it's a young child picking up the injured animal and trying to nurse it back to life.  The adults typically don't because either they know the futility or can think ahead to the longer-term outlook in a way that escapes a child.

Maybe that's an important part of this story.  How do we know that it's the adults trying to fix this bluejay?  Consequently, the resources available or time or attentionspan available might not be what it takes to get a living human to use as a reference. 

bounceswoosh

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Re: EP535: Bluejay
« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2016, 07:11:12 PM »
Having possibly a fridge door moment: wait a minute, there are more humans alive than her and the dude, aren't there? And they're on the other side of the earth? Aren't they in Canberra (Australia)? This whole "whoops, guess we can't put a human back together!" thing seems ultra silly.
There's no guarantee that it's the A-Team in charge here.  Even in her story, it's a young child picking up the injured animal and trying to nurse it back to life.  The adults typically don't because either they know the futility or can think ahead to the longer-term outlook in a way that escapes a child.

Maybe that's an important part of this story.  How do we know that it's the adults trying to fix this bluejay?  Consequently, the resources available or time or attentionspan available might not be what it takes to get a living human to use as a reference. 

Well, *that's* depressing.

Yes, good point.

TheArchivist

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Re: EP535: Bluejay
« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2016, 12:03:39 PM »
Maybe that's an important part of this story.  How do we know that it's the adults trying to fix this bluejay?  Consequently, the resources available or time or attentionspan available might not be what it takes to get a living human to use as a reference. 
Hmm... maybe. Does feel a little like special pleading, though.

Thunderscreech

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Re: EP535: Bluejay
« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2016, 12:44:40 PM »
Maybe that's an important part of this story.  How do we know that it's the adults trying to fix this bluejay?  Consequently, the resources available or time or attentionspan available might not be what it takes to get a living human to use as a reference. 
Hmm... maybe. Does feel a little like special pleading, though.

Special Pleading fallacy, eg "argument in which the speaker deliberately ignores aspects that are unfavorable to their point of view."?

I wasn't trying to push a point of view, I was trying to participate in the conversation by spitballing an idea in response to bounceswoosh.  :(

Arachnophile

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Re: EP535: Bluejay
« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2016, 11:54:00 AM »
Howdy.  Author here, just poking my nose in to give a bit of my reasoning. The "couldn't get things to work right" bit had to do with the interactions between the body and the flora in our digestive system, which I thought might be difficult for outsiders to parse out considering that we've been thinking about it for a long time and we still don't fully understand it. Of course, what was in my head doesn't count - only what made it onto the page, and clearly I didn't get that across.

Arachnophile

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Re: EP535: Bluejay
« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2016, 11:56:52 AM »
Also, believe it or not, I've never seen "The Menagerie." When I saw those comments I googled it, and yeah, there are definitely some striking similarities. Weird. I may have just absorbed something from the zeitgeist, I guess.

bounceswoosh

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Re: EP535: Bluejay
« Reply #13 on: August 12, 2016, 02:57:01 PM »
It's always nice to hear from the author! Thanks, Arachnophile! I liked your story.

adrianh

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Re: EP535: Bluejay
« Reply #14 on: August 12, 2016, 09:19:22 PM »
The "couldn't get things to work right" bit had to do with the interactions between the body and the flora in our digestive system, which I thought might be difficult for outsiders to parse out considering that we've been thinking about it for a long time and we still don't fully understand it.

Oh. I like that.

Unblinking

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Re: EP535: Bluejay
« Reply #15 on: August 23, 2016, 02:49:08 PM »
I like the premise of "whoopsie, we opened the gate a little too close and killed half your planet" and that got me thinking about, say, how long it would take bacteria to spread back over the northern hemisphere and plants and animals.  Probably bacteria and plankton in the water, and then things that eat plankton, and then things that eat things that eat plankton, and then probably the land would lag significantly behind that--though once bacteria got back up there it would have tons of stuff to eat, with all the corpses lying about. 

I... kind of found the premise more interesting than the story though, I guess?  I didn't feel a connection to the main story the way I did with examining that premise.

The "couldn't get things to work right" bit had to do with the interactions between the body and the flora in our digestive system, which I thought might be difficult for outsiders to parse out considering that we've been thinking about it for a long time and we still don't fully understand it.

Oh. I like that.

That is a cool detail.  Our digestion system would not work without the bacterial colonies in our gut, and trying to examine a dead human for that might not make it obvious, and trying to examine a live human might not go well.


Devoted135

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Re: EP535: Bluejay
« Reply #16 on: October 15, 2016, 02:22:42 AM »
Aw man, I love the idea behind this and am sad it didn't quite translate on the page for me. Thanks, author, for stopping by to share that inspiration though!

FireTurtle

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Re: EP535: Bluejay
« Reply #17 on: October 18, 2016, 08:11:18 PM »
Howdy.  Author here, just poking my nose in to give a bit of my reasoning. The "couldn't get things to work right" bit had to do with the interactions between the body and the flora in our digestive system, which I thought might be difficult for outsiders to parse out considering that we've been thinking about it for a long time and we still don't fully understand it. Of course, what was in my head doesn't count - only what made it onto the page, and clearly I didn't get that across.

Coming in way to late to be heard, but I originally assumed (somehow) that the reason everyone died was that their mitochondria were destroyed along with all the bacteria. In retrospect this makes little sense since they were dead anyways but has interesting applications for resurrection.

On an unrelated note, was no one else bothered by the appearance of food and CHEESE in an environment devoid of all animal life? It really bothered me more than I care to admit. If they could replicate yeast (bread for sandwiches) surely human bodies arent that big an upgrade?
“My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it.”
Ursula K. LeGuin

acpracht

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Re: EP535: Bluejay
« Reply #18 on: November 03, 2016, 06:34:46 PM »

On an unrelated note, was no one else bothered by the appearance of food and CHEESE in an environment devoid of all animal life? It really bothered me more than I care to admit. If they could replicate yeast (bread for sandwiches) surely human bodies arent that big an upgrade?

I get your point and also agree with it to an extent, but I'm not quite on board that the jump from single-celled, eukaryotes in yeast to complex human bodies is not "that big an upgrade."

Consider that it took evolution billions of years to make that change, for starters. For an alien species - even an advanced one - to get to that point in the space of a few months would be particularly astounding.

Secondly, consider that on a world that can support life, single-celled organisms of some kind are probably going to be the "first stop" on the way to more complex forms of life. So they've probably seen some sort of organism that, if not identical to yeast or bacteria, is probably remarkably similar.

After that point, though, I think it's quite likely that evolution could diverge widely from the path it took on earth, making it that much harder for them to understand the workings of the human body.

CryptoMe

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Re: EP535: Bluejay
« Reply #19 on: November 27, 2017, 08:10:01 PM »
I also really loved the premise of "oops, we killed half your population" on the aliens part, but wasn't all that thrilled with the story. Thanks to Thunderscreech for the perspective that, this being a stupid accident, it may not be the "A-team" here trying to fix things. For me, that adds a lot to the story. And as always, thanks to the Author for popping in to give their perspective. I always enjoy that, always!
« Last Edit: November 28, 2017, 02:58:20 PM by CryptoMe »