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Author Topic: EP125: End Game  (Read 29802 times)

wakela

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Reply #50 on: October 02, 2007, 11:16:02 PM
Just didn't think any chessplayer still uses the old Descriptive chess notation (Pawn to King 4 or 1.P-K4) instead of the algebraic chess notation (1.e4). Guess I was wrong ;-)

My theory: chess is used as a metaphor in fiction primarily by non-chessplayers as "mood music".  (This much makes sense.  Even a story written by chessplayers for a chessplaying audience can't make 32...g6 33 Nf6+! meaningful without a diagram.)  To them, the music sounds better with a less geeky notation.  But only non-players could romanticize chess as much.  These are the authors who portray two players locked in a titanic struggle... that immediately collapses with white checkmating black in a single move, that black didn't see coming.  Players never resign, and there's never a sense of a cornered player desperately searching for a way out of a protracted, crushing end-game.

Sorry to be off topic, but this reminded me of the portrayal of poker in movies and TV.  We're supposed to think some guy is a poker genius because he takes the pot with a full house.  A poker genius would take the pot with a pair of deuces.  And I don't even play poker. 



wakela

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Reply #51 on: October 02, 2007, 11:33:46 PM
There was also superfocus in Greg Egan's novel Permutation City.  People had downloaded themselves into a virtual reality and were basically living forever.  One guy programmed his own personality to become obsessed with something random for hundreds of years at a time.  He would spend weeks at in his workshop making thousands and thousands of table legs and no tables.  Then one day he throws them all away and starts practicing the violin.

In this case he absolutely loved working on what he was obsessed with.  The zombie-like nature of the focused in "End Game" implies that they are unhappy, but I've seen my musician friends become unresponsive zombies when they are playing.

In most stories when people are promised that they would be happier if they would just submit to some kind of treatment, we know it's obviously a bad idea.  Like the Borg or Scientologists.  But what if it's not, and how would you know the difference beforehand?  I guess in these two cases the treatment involves surrendering your individuality, which we (westerners, anyway) find abhorrent in itself.   Although they lose much of their personality, the focused in "End Game" still seem to be individuals.

I'm not really arguing in favor of being super focused.  Just throwing these thoughts out there. 



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Reply #52 on: October 03, 2007, 12:46:10 AM

Part of the reason I came to EP was to experience new SF&F. I don't deny that the "core" writers are good - they're in this little circle for a reason. But I'd like to hear more variety when it comes to writers. I honestly thought "Oh crikey, not another lecture on the failings of humanity from Ms Kress" when I saw this week's offering.

So yah...moar varyetee plzktnx.

I agree.  I love seeing a Nancy Kress or Resnick piece is up, but I REALLY get excited when it's a story from someone I've never heard of.  It's exciting to have no idea what I'm in store for, and I like that Steve has good taste so I know it probablly won't be a dud.  In general I think EP brings a good deal of diversity to the table and I love that, but the more new names/styles and ideas the better!



Holden

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Reply #53 on: October 03, 2007, 03:49:13 PM
Great story. Because the condition can make one focus on a subject or task, can it make one focus on a person or an organization? I'm thinking of 'Fatal Attraction' to the extreme, or perhaps a cult that incorporates the drug into its brainwashing procedure.

Regarding chess notation, algebraic notation (e4) is much more commonly used than descriptive notation (P-K4); however descriptive notation is still understood by most chess players, and even preferred by a few. Some chess players slip in and out of algebraic and descriptive notation when describing lines to someone else, much the same way a group of bilinguals may slip in and out of the two languages within a single conversation.

As a chess player, I thought the chess references in the story were well done. The openings referred to were real, and the short discussion of ELO ratings was accurate. I appreciate that the author took the time to make sure the details were correct. Many times chess references are done badly in fiction, with obvious mistakes made such as the board being set up incorrectly.



Roney

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Reply #54 on: October 03, 2007, 06:52:17 PM
Great story. Because the condition can make one focus on a subject or task, can it make one focus on a person or an organization? I'm thinking of 'Fatal Attraction' to the extreme, or perhaps a cult that incorporates the drug into its brainwashing procedure.

To mention Greg Egan twice in one thread, something like this (and its major pitfall) was explored as a minor plot point in his novel Quarantine.

(I usually find that if I have an idea for a science fiction story that seems interesting and novel to me, it doesn't take long to rule it out as already explored better by Asimov, Niven or Egan (in that order).   :( )



Gary

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Reply #55 on: October 04, 2007, 01:52:07 AM
My thanks to Nancy Kress.

Not just because she wrote a thought provoking story with a fresh new twist on the "life improving science -  that gets out of hand and leads to our demise"  theme.

No, I also thank her because she has allowed me to use the following geek signature file and have it hold even the slightest chance of relevancy.

Thanks Ms. Kress.
Oh, and I was always too easily distracted to destroy the world. Somehow, it keeps getting bumped to the very bottom of my to do list. ;)

Gary
 - National Winner, 41st Annual Westinghouse Science Talent Search.



SFEley

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Reply #56 on: October 04, 2007, 02:49:41 AM
Just didn't think any chessplayer still uses the old Descriptive chess notation (Pawn to King 4 or 1.P-K4) instead of the algebraic chess notation (1.e4). Guess I was wrong ;-)

Heh.  Fair enough; I thought you were trying to tell me it wasn't valid or comprehensible.  The reason I said it that way, BTW, was only because it sounded better in the "It's story time..." context than "e2 e4."


Quote
I play d4 (P-Q4), by the way...

Isn't that d5 if you're playing black?

In any case: e4 x d5

ESCAPE POD - The Science Fiction Podcast Magazine


sirana

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Reply #57 on: October 04, 2007, 06:56:12 AM
Quote
I play d4 (P-Q4), by the way...

Isn't that d5 if you're playing black?

In any case: e4 x d5


Ah, I thought you meant to ask what I play as white. But let's make this a game ;-)

You played
1.e4

I play

1. ... c5



sirana

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Reply #58 on: October 04, 2007, 07:34:06 AM
On second thought, let's make this a community game.
I started a thread here

Everybody who is interested can make a move and we'll see what kind of chess game results from this.

And if Steve or anybody else would like to play a correspondence game via the forums against me 1-on-1 I would only be too happy to oblige ;-)



doctorclark

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Reply #59 on: October 04, 2007, 10:05:24 PM
An interesting study on noise (in the signal-noise sense of End Game) in the functioning of the brain came out this summer.  Here's a write-up [http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2007/noisy-brain-0604.html] from MIT.  In behavioral neuroscience, there is a growing body of work supporting the idea that "noise" is actually one of the primary ways neural networks (and the brain) learn.  In this respect, a treatment/drug that cuts the noise would also cut most meaningful brain activity!

Strong, believable characters, and interesting conflicts make this yet another Kress story I thank Steve for selecting.  Also, I don't understand the concerns over repeat-authors on EP: a good story is a good story.  It's not like this is the fourth crap story from a frequently-crappy author.  Why complain about hearing another good story from a good author?



ajames

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Reply #60 on: October 04, 2007, 10:37:05 PM
Wow, that was really good.  And... scary.

I've always been wary of using drugs to try to get people to think "the right way" - be it treating ADHD, or depression, or whatnot.  I recognize that it might be what many people need to function, and I don't hold it against them... it's just that looking at history so many great artwork and other accomplishments were done by people who today would be diagnosed and treated in an attempt to make them like everyone else.  In this story, someone is trying to take normal people and make their brains work in a less normal way - and that's not any better. 

I would argue that those who suffer from depression and other mental illnesses and contribute great works of art or other accomplishments do so in spite of their illness, not because of it. I'm also not so sure that treating mental illnesses is an attempt to make sufferers 'like everyone else'.  I think most of the time it is an attempt to alleviate real suffering caused by a real illness.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2007, 10:53:17 PM by ajames »



ajames

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Reply #61 on: October 04, 2007, 10:50:10 PM
It's always seemed to me that there should be some way of letting autistic people put their unique skills to use.

Some people with autism have put their unique skill to use.  Temple Grandin, for one. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_Grandin 

I also remember reading a book, I believe it was 'Robert Wilson and Friends', that told of the theater/performance artist Robert Wilson and how he incorporated text from a young man with autism [Christopher Knowles] into some of his performances.

There are many other examples.

Fictionally of course there is the wonderful use Tom Cruise's character had Dustin Hoffman's character put his autistic-savant talents to in 'Rain Man', too.



Biscuit

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Reply #62 on: October 04, 2007, 11:19:37 PM
Strong, believable characters, and interesting conflicts make this yet another Kress story I thank Steve for selecting.  Also, I don't understand the concerns over repeat-authors on EP: a good story is a good story.  It's not like this is the fourth crap story from a frequently-crappy author.  Why complain about hearing another good story from a good author?

I agree - Steve chooses very strong writers.

However, my concern is that some writers have...hmmm, the word I'm looking for is not "agenda", more a common theme. They can write good stories within that theme. I've always felt that the best writers take one theme, explore it for one story, then challenge themselves and move on to another theme.

Ms Kress' theme, in all of her stories I've heard and read, is "the end of life as we know it through science gone bad". I'd be pleased to hear other stories from her career that explore other ideas.

Here's an example particular to me - I am a HUGE Anne McCaffrey fan. She will always be my favourite writer - I will always love her Pern and Crystal Singer books. However, I didn't have the same connection to series like the "PTB", "Freedom" and "Acorna" books because there was a feeling of sameness in her themes (female freedom fighters, lost worlds in search of redemption).
« Last Edit: October 04, 2007, 11:23:38 PM by Biscuit »



mt house

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Reply #63 on: October 05, 2007, 04:07:28 AM
When I heard "...wrote ej-es..." my thought was "ugh". But I really liked this one. Not so preachy, a little dark. It would actually be kind of liberating to be "infected" with a one track mind. As a work-at-home illustrator & mom of two elementary school kids, "static" is my constant companion!

OK, after reading through the comments, I had to edit mine. "Nano comes to Clifford Falls" was one of my very favorite EP stories, but I think a lot of that had to do with the narrator. But "ej-es"...
« Last Edit: October 05, 2007, 04:20:11 AM by mt house »



goatkeeper

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Reply #64 on: October 05, 2007, 05:19:27 AM
Ej-es was one of my top 3 fav episodes out of all 120 or so I've heard.  Yay for different opionions!



Czhorat

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Reply #65 on: October 05, 2007, 09:54:33 AM
However, my concern is that some writers have...hmmm, the word I'm looking for is not "agenda", more a common theme. They can write good stories within that theme. I've always felt that the best writers take one theme, explore it for one story, then challenge themselves and move on to another theme.

Ms Kress' theme, in all of her stories I've heard and read, is "the end of life as we know it through science gone bad". I'd be pleased to hear other stories from her career that explore other ideas.

I think most writers have a point of view, and that probably comes across in the themes of their stories. I find that most writers I think of have common themes running through most of their work. I'm not sure that I agree with you about Kress's theme. I see her writing more about the unforseen effects of science - both positive and negative - on society and relationships. I value her writing because she has a very sharp eye for how normal people react to the abnormal and a strong feel for how interpersonal relationships work. While this story is a cautionary tale, I wouldn't necessarilly consider the creation of the Sleepless in her trilogy beginning with Beggars in Spain to be science gone bad per se. I saw it as science with lots of unseen ramifications, on both the pro and con levels. That's just my two cents, of course.
« Last Edit: October 05, 2007, 12:14:08 PM by Russell Nash »

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Anarkey

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Reply #66 on: October 05, 2007, 02:41:54 PM
I think most writers have a point of view, and that probably comes across in the themes of their stories. I find that most writers I think of have common themes running through most of their work. I'm not sure that I agree with you about Kress's theme. I see her writing more about the unforseen effects of science - both positive and negative - on society and relationships. I value her writing because she has a very sharp eye for how normal people react to the abnormal and a strong feel for how interpersonal relationships work. While this story is a cautionary tale, I wouldn't necessarilly consider the creation of the Sleepless in her trilogy beginning with Beggars in Spain to be science gone bad per se. I saw it as science with lots of unseen ramifications, on both the pro and con levels. That's just my two cents, of course.

Czhorat, I'm so glad you said this.  I agree with you: obviously the author has a point of view.  However, often what people see as the theme may have more to do with their own point of view than with the author's.  We all bring ourselves to what we read.  I, like you, did not see "science gone bad" as the overriding theme of either this piece, "Ej-Es", "Nano comes to Clifford Falls" (which I didn't care for, btw) or the one about the sisters (whose title escapes me at the moment).  It's not that I think "science gone bad" isn't a theme in her work, but I don't think it's the overriding message, nor the sharp-sticked point other commenters seem to make of it.  I (like you) was also thinking of Beggars in Spain as a counterexample to people's insistence that Kress' futures are invariably dystopian.

Personally, I see the major theme as "guns don't kill people, people do" only s/guns/techs.  I also see a pattern of unintended consequences as a major recurring motif in her work (a motif that I enjoy in fiction).  I think there's textual evidence for both of my assertions in the work, but I wouldn't presume to say either was Kress' central point when she wrote the pieces.  That's just what I got out of what she wrote. 

As general commentary, I must say I'm a little tired of the autistic/asperger's person as focal character in recent SF, though I've read a number of pieces where it was very well done ("Inappropriate Behavior" by Pat Murphy comes to mind), but I'm assuming it's a phase and this too will pass before it drives me to distraction.  I'm also a bit done with the India/Nepal stuff viewed through the western lens (Ian McDonald comes to mind, though he's not alone in this sandbox), but that's neither here nor there. 

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Anarkey

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Reply #67 on: October 05, 2007, 03:29:46 PM
I agree.  I love seeing a Nancy Kress or Resnick piece is up, but I REALLY get excited when it's a story from someone I've never heard of.  It's exciting to have no idea what I'm in store for, and I like that Steve has good taste so I know it probablly won't be a dud.  In general I think EP brings a good deal of diversity to the table and I love that, but the more new names/styles and ideas the better!

I'd like to second (or third) this sentiment.  Although I love the stories from well-established authors, the ones that really stay with me (and my hard drive) are the ones by people I'd never read before (some people I'd heard good things about, but hadn't gone the extra step of reading their stuff).  Among the authors Escape Pod has introduced me to are: Sarah Prineas, Greg Van Eekhout (though maybe I'd already read his "Tales from the City of Seams" when I heard his "Airedale" here...I can't recall), Samantha Henderson and Sue Burke.  I also discovered some great new authors (such as Rachel Swirsky, Ann Leckie, Cat Rambo and Katherine Sparrow) through the Escape Pod Flash Contest.  I know it's not Escape Pod's stated goal to bring new authors to me, but I love it best when it does.  My amazing new authors itch doesn't get scratched a lot of other places, and I'm happy when it does here, especially since, as goatkeeper says, Steve's picks on less-widely-read authors are more often hits than misses for me.

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startrek.steve

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Reply #68 on: October 05, 2007, 06:53:29 PM
EP125: End Game

By Nancy Kress.
Read by Stephen Eley.
First appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, April 2007.



Really good story, edge of the seat job, kind of reminded me of a Tv SciFi show I saw last year, cant remember the name, about this guy who discovered violence in the world, was a virus, and discovered a cure for it, and dumped the cure in the drinking water everywhere, after a year, he discovered it also caused something like Alzheimers, and the whole world died.



Jhite

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Reply #69 on: October 06, 2007, 12:59:34 AM
The is a well written story.  The plot is believable and the characters seem real.  I think the conversation with Alan while playing chess, although it gives us some depth to the characters, was unnecessary.  I believe, IMHO, that it would have been better to have give more detail at the reunion, maybe even a quick flash back, to them playing chess showing that they had a relationship, but oterwise I don't think that it added enough to the story to have been given the time it was given. 

Otherwise I had no problems with this piece.


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wonderosity

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Reply #70 on: October 06, 2007, 04:16:29 PM
Wow, never thought of the 'down' side of having more focus (something I lack big time.)  Still, I think it would be help me to take a leeetle bitsy blue 'focus' pill  :)
Was also a great story for me, and interesting timing, as I have started to add many 'force focus' type applications to my computer (Macminder, Think, TimeOut, PageAddict, etc).  Sometimes I really would like the option of being distracted *taken away* from me by force...but this adds a new thoughtful twist to that desire.
Thanks again!
-Leif


milo

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Reply #71 on: October 09, 2007, 01:58:15 AM
I enjoyed this one quite a lot. Strong characters, an intriguing premise, and a spooky ending made for a great story. I would have liked more development about how the formula was developed and transmitted, but the brief treatment did not take away from the impact of the story.



goatkeeper

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Reply #72 on: October 09, 2007, 05:35:38 AM
I listened to this story again today on my way to work (because I got bored with Fred/wilma)

I really like this story.  I think it says more about human vs robot qualities than Fred/Wilma.



robertmarkbram

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Reply #73 on: October 11, 2007, 12:20:01 PM
This story was a bit like a chameleon. At first I thought it about a mad scientist who would "tidy up" everyone's brain. Then I thought it was about chess as a metaphor for focus. Then I thought it was about contrasting the relationships of our protagonist with a) his ever more estranged wife and b) his mad scientist friend. Then I thought it was really about chess again, but I was pretty sure that was a ruse. And at last I find that it really is about the mad scientist who would "tidy up" everyone's brain!

The ending was profound. I hated that such gains to our society were to come at such cost!

This story reminds me of The Giving Plague, but I would rather altruism than autistic single minded focus. It also reminds me of Ej-Es: would you rather be smart or happy?

As the story rolled along, I found myself wondering whether the "static" of our thoughts was in some way analogous to a computer OS having multiple concurrent threads. While thinking multiple thoughts at the same time allows us to get distracted, doesn't it also open us up to multiple inputs, any of which could contain the key to our main thought at the time? I am thinking about driving or playing a computer game. We do have a sense of focus, but we need the ability to manage multiple inputs at the same time in order to perform either task well.

Off on another tangent, I find distinct pleasure when I can engage myself separately on two levels at the same time. Driving while running through some programming task in my brain: running both tasks at the same time engages completely different aspects of my concentration and seems to allow both to run smoothly. Physical work while listening to a podcast. Both are engaging tasks by themselves, and both seem to engage completely separate parts of my body, allowing the other to go ahead and do its thing!

Anyway, what was I talking about?
« Last Edit: October 11, 2007, 12:51:54 PM by robertmarkbram »



Unblinking

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Reply #74 on: October 01, 2010, 04:14:19 PM
This one had a lot interesting ideas.  Particularly that huge scientific advancements could be made by these individuals, but they'd be unable to do anything else.  Hyper-specialization to the point that even basic activities like hygiene are left by the wayside in favor of productivity.  Depth over breadth, that is.

These guys kind of reminded me of Leonard of Quirm in Pratchett's Discworld series (very much a Leonardo Da Vinci parallel).  If you lock him in a room with paper and a pen and some supplies, and by lunchtime he'll have some fantastic invention, a new kind of vehicle or something, and then in the margins of the papers he has doodled some kind of super-catapault that can launch larger rocks faster than ever before--"it's all just an exercise on the use of leverage, of course."  he might say.  "It wouldn't be of any real use in real life."

I went to school with some of these guys.  Some engineering students are very much this way.

Unfortunately, I felt it was too similar to Stephen King's "The End of the Whole Mess."  I'm assuming the ideas spawned separately from the zeitgeist, and though they're not identical, they're probably at least fraternal siblings.