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Author Topic: EP545: Murder or a Duck  (Read 978 times)
eytanz
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« on: October 18, 2016, 06:22:10 AM »

EP545: Murder or a Duck

AUTHOR: Beth Goder
NARRATOR: Amy H. Sturgis
HOST: Alasdair Stuart

---

George called out, “Mrs. Whitman, you have a visitor.”

Mrs. Whitman strode from her workroom, her white hair skipping out of its hairpins. She straightened her work skirt, massaged her bad knee, then hurried down the hall.

“George, what’s happened to the lamp with the blue shade?”

“To which lamp are you referring?” George smoothed down a cravat embroidered with tiny trombones. Improper attire for a butler, but George had never been entirely proper.

Mrs. Whitman examined the sitting room in further depth. The blue lamp was gone, as were the doilies, thank goodness. An elegant table sat between the armchair and green sofa, which was infused with the stuffy smell of potpourri. Behind the sofa hung The Roses of Wiltshire, a painting that Mrs. Whitman had never cared for, despite its lush purples and pinks and reds. And the ficus was there, too, of course.

Mrs. Whitman pulled out a battered notebook. George’s trombone cravat indicated she was in a timeline where he was courting Sonia. A good sign, indeed. Perhaps, after six hundred and two tries, she’d finally landed in a timeline where Mr. Whitman would return home safely.

Consulting her charts, she circled some continuities and crossed out others, referring often to an appendix at the back. The notebook was worn, its blue cover faded. And it was the twelfth one she’d had since starting the project.

George cleared his throat. Mrs. Whitman didn’t even glance up. “You have a visitor,” he said.

“George, I need to ask you a few questions.”

George sighed, but made no comment.

“Has Mr. Whitman returned from his trip?” She always asked this question first, in the hope that George would direct her to the study, where she’d find Mr. Whitman reading a book or knitting socks.

“He’s due back sometime today.”

That was what George always said. Mrs. Whitman had been through it over and over again; she knew it was useless to organize a search until the evening, when everyone else would begin to worry.

Undeterred, Mrs. Whitman asked her control question. “Did you wear your navy suit anywhere this year?”

George raised an eyebrow, but said, “I wore my suit once to the Lacklustres’ evening ball, and again at the horse show for troubled teens.”

If the Lacklustres were holding a ball, then they hadn’t gone bankrupt yet, which meant she was in a timeline where Winston Tuppers hadn’t revealed Mr. Lacklustre’s banking fraud. And the horse show for troubled teens never appeared without a corresponding tea party later in June. Mrs. Whitman flipped busily through her charts.

“Which tea cakes are they selling at the market on Quill Lane? Chocolate? Lavender? Orange and cream?” she asked.

“There is no market on Quill Lane. It was torn down last year,” George said, a rare look of concern on his face. “Are you sure you’re feeling quite all right?”

“Just one more question,” said Mrs. Whitman, making a mark in her notebook. “Is it Sir Henry waiting in the foyer?”

“No,” he said. “Mrs. Lane requests your attention.”

Mrs. Whitman snapped the notebook closed. If Mrs. Lane was visiting, it could only mean one thing. She was either there to kill Mrs. Whitman or sell her a duck.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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Katzentatzen
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« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2016, 07:46:18 AM »

Hearing the newly-humanized robot lady made me wonder if I was in an alternate reality myself. I'm not usually a fan of the "wacky" genre stories, but the image of two proper British ladies trying to kill each other was pretty great.
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The_Hol-Man
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« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2016, 11:11:42 AM »

I was also a bit thrown off by the new robot lady!  Especially since Alasdair so often mentions Robot Lady, so I thought he'd reference the new voice.

I liked this story.  It took a bit for everything to become clear, but it was a fun story and I liked the happy ending.  Though, I wondered one thing, and maybe I was just misinterpreting the story -- it seemed to me like Mrs. Whitman had actually visited multiple timelines, so, since she knew there was the chance that Mrs. Lane was there to kill her, I assumed that she'd already survived multiple murder attempts from her in other timelines.  So when it actually took place I was expecting Mrs. Whitman to be something of a pro at it, whereas it seemed more like it was the first time she'd actually lived through the events.  Did anyone else have a different interpretation of Mrs. Whitman's "mucking about in multiple timelines" that might jibe a bit better?

 --Andy
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acpracht
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« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2016, 02:44:51 PM »

Hi, guys,

To the new "Robot Lady" voice... I had to lol a little that the first two comments were on the change. I had actually wondered whether anyone would notice the switch or not. I clearly should I have known that it would be.

A bit of a "peek behind the kimono" here at Escape Pod, for the curious.

The change is as a result of the finalization of me (Adam) taking over the reins as full producer at Escape Pod rather than co-producer with Mat Weller. (Nothing nefarious here, folks. This is actually a handoff Mat wanted/needed and that we've been working toward for a while).

As a part of the handoff, one of the logistical bits was that I needed to find out: Just where does the Robot Lady text to speech come from anyway.

Turns out it's one of the text to speech options available on Mac computers.

Which just led to one teensy little problem - I don't have a Mac, nor do I have ready access to one on a weekly basis.

Fortunately, there are a lot of other good apps and programs out there for text to speech simulation, and this voice is certainly my favorite and seemed a natural "evolution" from the previous voice.

(Also, fun fact: This is the same voice I've been using for more than a year as my "first screen" of a story when trying to decide which narrator I should send it to).

As for why Alasdair didn't comment... well, it's because he didn't actually know it had changed yet.

That is to say, he didn't necessarily know that it was going to be changing on this particular episode.

The hosts typically record several "endcaps" for multiple episodes at one go at a time and send them to me as the producer.

It's my job to combine those host spots with the story, music, feedback segment and any other promos that might be happening.

So... at the time Alasdair recorded this and sent this along, we still didn't know exactly what day the official handover would be. As a result, he wouldn't have known when to mention the Robot Lady switch for the correct episode.

As for the comments on the story itself, I took it that our protagonist was proficient on how to get out of the sort of potential murder situations she'd run into previously, but this timeline is running differently that any of the others have - namely, the device rigged to shoot her with a chunk of metal.

In any case, she shows us here that her intelligence and ability to think on her feet gets her out of sticky situations. It doesn't surprise me much that she is able to successfully navigate a difficult and novel situation.

Enjoy!

-Adam
EP Producer
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acpracht
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« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2016, 02:45:45 PM »

Hearing the newly-humanized robot lady made me wonder if I was in an alternate reality myself. I'm not usually a fan of the "wacky" genre stories, but the image of two proper British ladies trying to kill each other was pretty great.

Point of order... I don't believe our protagonist was actually trying to kill...
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Katzentatzen
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« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2016, 04:21:40 PM »


[/quote]

Point of order... I don't believe our protagonist was actually trying to kill...
[/quote]

Thank you for replying, Mr Pracht! I made the comment before I had finished the story. Smiley
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adrianh
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« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2016, 02:26:58 PM »

Loved this one. Just the right side of too silly, and the in medias res opening was done superbly.

(and I mourn and raise a glass to Old Robot Lady :-)

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Frank Evans
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« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2016, 08:45:27 AM »

Really enjoyed this.
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acpracht
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« Reply #8 on: October 21, 2016, 08:53:04 AM »


(and I mourn and raise a glass to Old Robot Lady :-)



Hear Hear. Sorry I had to be the one to pull the trigger...
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Myst
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« Reply #9 on: October 24, 2016, 05:41:13 PM »

Woo this one sparkled! Steampunk time travel with art abuse. So much love for this story. I would love to read/hear other stories set in this universe.

Mike
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Gary
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« Reply #10 on: October 26, 2016, 08:59:10 AM »

This one was a lot of FUN!
I felt the timeline stuff was well handled. It demonstrated the possible complexity of such things without getting so convoluted as to mire the story down. A tightrope that does not always get walked as well as I felt it did here!

Side note - I had NO idea that I had become so attached to Robot Lady. I was surprised to realize I actually felt a sense of loss at here absence.  Sad

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arkouda
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« Reply #11 on: October 26, 2016, 02:09:22 PM »

This was so cute! I really want to read more stories in this universe, or with this excellent balance of silliness, generally.
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acpracht
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« Reply #12 on: October 26, 2016, 07:30:39 PM »


Side note - I had NO idea that I had become so attached to Robot Lady. I was surprised to realize I actually felt a sense of loss at here absence.  Sad



Well, here... perhaps this will help.
Having just watched "Ex Machina" today, think of Robot Lady as having upgraded herself (she's not gone! Just transformed!) and left her creator and inquisitor dying stabbed on the floor and trapped to starve to death... respectively....

Wait... that's actually terrible. Don't think that.
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Fenrix
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« Reply #13 on: October 27, 2016, 05:07:39 PM »

Here's hoping Robot Lady's upgrades don't go the route of Data's emotion chip.

The story was delightful all the way through, and the metatextual deconstruction was a wonder to behold.
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Ichneumon
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« Reply #14 on: December 06, 2016, 09:10:10 AM »

Makes me think of a little PG Wodehouse + Douglas Adams + steampunk
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #15 on: December 06, 2016, 10:24:52 AM »

I suspected from first reading the title that I would love the story, and my suspicion proved out.

How fun!  Inventor and parallel world traveler setting out to save her husband's life, and runs into obstacles that both threaten her life and also the sticky etiquettes of high society.


I suspect that people who enjoyed the kind of humor here might also enjoy "The Ladies' Underwater Gardening Society" by Henry Lien that originally ran in Asimov's in June 2015.
http://henrylien.com/the-ladies-aquatic-gardening-society-online/
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acpracht
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« Reply #16 on: December 17, 2016, 02:40:14 PM »

I suspected from first reading the title that I would love the story, and my suspicion proved out.

How fun!  Inventor and parallel world traveler setting out to save her husband's life, and runs into obstacles that both threaten her life and also the sticky etiquettes of high society.


I suspect that people who enjoyed the kind of humor here might also enjoy "The Ladies' Underwater Gardening Society" by Henry Lien that originally ran in Asimov's in June 2015.
http://henrylien.com/the-ladies-aquatic-gardening-society-online/

The comment on the title reminds me... Did you think this was a callback to the classic story "The Lady or the Tiger"? It seems to have some parallel themes.
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Zelda
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« Reply #17 on: December 23, 2016, 02:07:30 AM »

Quote
The comment on the title reminds me... Did you think this was a callback to the classic story "The Lady or the Tiger"? It seems to have some parallel themes. 

I'm inclined to think not. In The Lady or the Tiger both the title and the story are about being faced with an extremely difficult decision. In this story the main character didn't make a choice between murder or a duck, she waited to see which one would arrive because that would give her information.

I interpreted the title as being deliberately absurdist. "Murder" suggests that there are serious elements while "or a Duck" tells us that there will be lighter elements and perhaps even some silliness in the story. When they are combined into "Murder or a Duck" the title, in the friendliest way possible, alerts the reader that the story takes in some other world than ours.

That's how it seems to me anyway.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #18 on: January 26, 2017, 02:46:30 PM »

I too mourn the sudden passing of Robot Lady. The Robot Lady is dead, long live the Robot Lady!

I LOVED this story. I think if I was the protagonist, this is exactly how I would go about finding my husband - right down to the copious taking of notes and testing of hypotheses. Plus, a hint of Wodehouse humor goes a long way to endearing a story to me. Smiley
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acpracht
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« Reply #19 on: January 26, 2017, 04:08:42 PM »

I too mourn the sudden passing of Robot Lady. The Robot Lady is dead, long live the Robot Lady!


Well, if anyone wants to buy me a Mac... Smiley Tongue
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