Escape Artists

Escape Pod => Episode Comments => Topic started by: Russell Nash on September 10, 2009, 05:23:35 AM

Title: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Russell Nash on September 10, 2009, 05:23:35 AM
EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store (http://escapepod.org/2009/09/10/ep215-mr-penumbras-twenty-four-hour-book-store/)

By Robin Sloan (http://robinsloan.com/).
Read by Stephen Eley.
First appeared at Robin Sloan’s blog (http://robinsloan.com/2009/41/), June 8, 2009.

IT’S 2:02 A.M. ON A COLD SUMMER NIGHT.

I’m sitting in a book store next to a strip club.

Not that kind of book store. The inventory here is incredibly old and impossibly rare. And it has a secret—a secret that I might have just discovered.

I am alone in the store. And then, tap-tap, suddenly I’m not.

And now I’m pretty sure I’m about to snap my laptop shut, run screaming out the front door, and never return.


Rated G. May contain creepy imagery and disturbing data visualizations.


(http://escapepod.org/wp-images/podcast-mini4.gif)
Listen to this week’s Escape Pod! (http://media.rawvoice.com/escapepod/media.libsyn.com/media/escapepod/EP215_MrPenumbra.mp3)
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Robin Sure on September 10, 2009, 07:12:43 PM
Good story, though it feels like it's trying a little hard on the tech side.. But that music is horrifically distracting. Please don't do it again.

Having now listened to all of it, it seems the music shuts up partway into the story, which is nice.

And Alasdair is easily my favourite host, so feel free to head that way.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: zephram on September 11, 2009, 01:30:38 AM
Amazing - Just found this story the other day when I came across Robin's page on Kickstarter, and though "Gosh, that'd make a great story for Escape Pod". Enjoyed the reading, although I too agree that less is more when it comes to narration.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: SFEley on September 11, 2009, 05:58:13 AM
Good story, though it feels like it's trying a little hard on the tech side.. But that music is horrifically distracting. Please don't do it again.

Music?
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Robin Sure on September 11, 2009, 08:26:45 AM
The music carried on, really low, into the first couple of minutes of the story. It felt as if you were still doing the intro while the story started, and I posted that within the same couple of minutes, as it was difficult to concentrate on the story. It shuts up about 4:53.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: oddpod on September 11, 2009, 10:37:40 AM
a fab tail,
going to rob this one silly for an rpg i am runing :-)
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Gia on September 11, 2009, 03:59:37 PM
It reminded me of The Book in the Earth(from Pseudopod last year) in as far as it has a guy working in a book store that sells old, strange books to weirdos in the middle of the night. I have now renewed my ambition to work in a book store that sells old, strange books to weirdos in the middle of the night. ;D Best job ever!

I do like the part about how books equal immortality, but it reminds me about how I sometimes think of all the books that have ever been written and how most will be forgotten in half a century if they don't become a classic or the authors become super famous. *Sigh*
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: amaroman on September 11, 2009, 07:16:35 PM
i loved this story, really got me thinking about books. it was nice to think of books making you live for ever and that in away this is true. it was nice the way the story built as it went on from finding the pattens on the book sales to the pattens in the people that bought the books.
and yes there was music running at the begining of the story and it distracted me from the story a little
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: BrianDeacon on September 11, 2009, 08:22:07 PM
"Why yes, girl with chestnut hair cropped to your chin and a red t-shirt with the word “BAM!” printed in mustard yellow, I am into data visualization."

I loved this.  My favorite EP in a very long time.  He has a really good feel for language that translated well to the spoken word.

Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Praxis on September 11, 2009, 08:57:26 PM
Excellent.
A True (male, or lesbian I suppose) geek's dream story: not only does he happen to meet someone who is also into data visualisation - as one does - but their combined tech-skills provide a paradigm shift for a group of, for want of a better term, adults.

And I agree with Steve about this being fantasy and sci-fi (though the fantasy part is fairly hammered home - the exact method that story=immortality are kept vague but important).

I have to say that the setting of the story - post(ish) recession, the use of Google, modern day - gave the story a slightly creepy feel.  Like those Japanese automatons that are not quite real, and so emphasis how strange they are, this story emphasised it's strangeness by, in most other respects, being exactly like places that exist today.  We really, possibly, might just get a job in a dodgy old bookstore and spend our time dreaming of googly data visualisations.

One part of the story that I wasn't so convinced by was the possibility of someone really creating a mental, or otherwise, plan of the book buying and habits so that it would create a face.  With a computer, speeded up, simulation for sure, but really having the whole process in your head like that.....I dunno.

But I loved it.  And I want to meet more people with BAM! on their t-shirts.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: lmorchard on September 11, 2009, 09:17:25 PM
Good story, though it feels like it's trying a little hard on the tech side.. But that music is horrifically distracting. Please don't do it again.

Music?

For the first 5 min or so of the story, Daikaiju carried on in the background very quietly.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: lmorchard on September 11, 2009, 09:23:09 PM
One of the things I loved in this story was the idealized version of the Google campus.  I've been there a bunch, so when I started hearing about crystal spires and whatnot I did a double take.  But then, I realized that this is all about what everyone probably thinks about when they imagine what it's like at Google. 

It also made me wonder about the whole theme of making something memorable that people carry into the future as immortality. The story changes and gets embellished with every telling, so I wonder how many of those immortal people are exactly the same as they'd been in their mortal lives - or how many of them had survived into the future as embellished versions of themselves?
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: deflective on September 11, 2009, 09:25:58 PM
definitely the most topical episode of ep; i just had a discussion about the controversy around google's book scanning (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/04/technology/internet/04books.html?pagewanted=all) a couple weeks ago.  it's fantastic that an sf podcast can enter the current dialogue.

it sounds like it may take a perfect storm of electronic media to get a story like this published but, please, more of the same!
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: ajames on September 12, 2009, 12:10:44 AM
Loved this - and loved hearing Steve narrate again. Two thumbs up!
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: SFEley on September 12, 2009, 01:28:21 AM
The music carried on, really low, into the first couple of minutes of the story. It felt as if you were still doing the intro while the story started, and I posted that within the same couple of minutes, as it was difficult to concentrate on the story. It shuts up about 4:53.

Argh.  Thank you.  That was an editing flub I'd missed.  Some people claim that there's Soundtrack Pro's envelope tool to blame, but I know it's my own damn fault.

It's fixed now.  Anyone downloading from the blog post after this point will get the corrected version.  I didn't want to inflict a whole new 32 megs on everyone who already had it, but if it's driving you nuts, please do feel free to grab it again.  I'm sorry for the inconvenience, and again, sincere thanks for bringing it to my attention.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: mairlistening on September 12, 2009, 03:33:52 AM
I loved this story, and I might never have heard of it if you hadn't picked it up for EP. So, thanks for that!

The organic crystal Google building: lol.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Talia on September 12, 2009, 06:35:58 PM
This was a lot of fun. One thing though.. maybe someone can explain it to me, because it just went RIGHT over my head..

When Mr. Penumbra was asking the narrator if he'd read any of the books in the store, the narrator's response was along the lines of "Of course not! That's rule number 3! My cousin just moved to Florida because they're closing the state of  Michigan! I follow the rules!"

uh.

Can someone explain that middle part to me? As far as I can tell its a COMPLETE nonsequitor. I don't understand at all.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: SFEley on September 12, 2009, 06:39:42 PM
When Mr. Penumbra was asking the narrator if he'd read any of the books in the store, the narrator's response was along the lines of "Of course not! That's rule number 3! My cousin just moved to Florida because they're closing the state of  Michigan! I follow the rules!"

Michigan is one of the states hit hardest by the current recession.  Mostly because they're so dependent on the auto industry.  The narrator was saying that in this economy, he wasn't going to do anything that might jeopardize his job.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Talia on September 12, 2009, 07:00:27 PM
Ok, that makes sense, thanks. I hadn't been connecting the story with the actual state of the world today at all.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: etchlings on September 13, 2009, 04:14:28 AM
This story is a phenomenal introduction for me to the EscapePod milieu. Thank you for adapting that story to audio!

What a great tale, all told... though I agree with the opinion that the tech stuff is kinda heavy-handed.

Wanna see THAT google campus.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: 600south on September 13, 2009, 05:31:00 AM
I agree with what Steve said: this is most definitely an Escape Pod story.
I really enjoyed it. The characters, the tech, the fantasy Google campus. I'll be looking out for more Robin Sloan stuff.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: cuddlebug on September 13, 2009, 10:56:54 AM
loved, loved, LOVED this story. It has everything the perfect story for Science Fiction fans, book fanatics and internet geeks has to have. Hope it's ok if I put a link to it on my blog. maybe I can recruit a few more people to join the EscapeArtist community and maybe they'll even be inspired to go and 'create something that lasts'.

Title: The book is dead. The book remains dead. And we have killed it.
Post by: NoraReed on September 13, 2009, 11:54:34 AM
It's funny. The life cycle of the book, as we see it here, echoes the life cycle of God in human society. When Nietzsche writes about the death of god (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_is_dead), he says that we have murdered him. In a way, humans have destroyed the most beautiful thing they've ever created.

I'm seeing echoes of this here as well. It seems that one of the ways that we've killed God is by making it no longer necessary to believe in Him. It seems to me that one of the largest reasons so many fundamentalists are against teaching evolution is because evolution makes it no longer necessary for God to exist.

It's the same with computers. Your life may be *enriched* by having books, but you can survive easily without them, with data visualization and videogames and podcast fiction and Kindles, the same way your life may be enriched by a belief in God but you do not need to turn to Him for answers.

The next step, for Nietzsche, is to pursue the übermensch; the next step for our protagonist is to pursue another sort of immortality through technological means.

He talks about how it is doubtful that anyone would be able to run his visualization in six months, which might be true. It seems to me that the way to achieve immortality in a world of ever-changing technology is to create something good enough/popular enough that people keep making it over and over again. There's a reason that The Legend of Zelda games keep getting re-released (http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2006/9/15/) and the Beatles have their music come out on every format available from the record to Rock Band.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: El Barto on September 13, 2009, 07:34:55 PM
I hugely appreciate the warning Steve gave in the intros that this was to be fantasy and not Sci-Fi.  I usually skip stories with that warning but decided to give this one a listen since Steve had such good words to say about it.  I definitely regret it.

Until the story was about two-thirds done I was really loving it.  I loved the mystery and the pacing and the dialogue.  And when the face appeared I was totally mystified, largely because if you had the same character run that visualization a hundred times he would probably choose different colors and icons for each "clue" and that would have led to a totally different "picture."   

I was then quite disappointed when the story turned away from metaphorical mortality born of timeless writing and into actual factual immortality.  That seemed completely ridiculous to me. 

I was hoping that the author would at least invoke a higher power, and say that "cracking the code" pleases the higher power who grants immortality.

Also, it just seemed odd that this group of possibly immortal old men would suddenly give up their entire venture because one guy accidentally met a Google data genius who turned his handwritten scribbles into the perfect data set.  The chances of that happen twice in ten thousand stores seems fantastically remote.

Anyway, I can see how aspiring and professional writers would love the themes in this story, and I am glad it resonated with other people.

Sometimes Escape Pod "colors outside the lines" and I absolutely love the results while others hold their nose.   This time the tables were turned but I will gladly take more occasional experimentation if it continues to lead to some dizzying highs in reasonable proportion to the opposite (for me).

Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Praxis on September 13, 2009, 10:05:10 PM
What's all this about the Google campus *not* having a solar-powered, self-perpetuating, organic crystal data tower??

I mean, if they are going to monopolise any and all books not nailed down, I sure as hell want them to have cool crystal buildings to sit in while they press the buttons.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Talia on September 13, 2009, 11:16:02 PM

Also, it just seemed odd that this group of possibly immortal old men would suddenly give up their entire venture because one guy accidentally met a Google data genius who turned his handwritten scribbles into the perfect data set.  The chances of that happen twice in ten thousand stores seems fantastically remote.

I thought it was implied it wasn't being completely abandoned, just was changing. he did say they were going to meet again.
Title: Immortality
Post by: Jaeger on September 14, 2009, 12:47:21 AM
Best Escape Pod ever?

This made me think about my own genetic immortality project, who is currently five months old and sitting across from me in his high chair trying to figure out why I'm making funny faces at him. This is the best I can hope for until I manage to achieve literary immortality. (If any of my software projects outlive me it'll bode poorly either for the world at large or for me in particular.)
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: shtick on September 14, 2009, 08:06:24 AM

The next step, for Nietzsche, is to pursue the übermensch; the next step for our protagonist is to pursue another sort of immortality through technological means.

He talks about how it is doubtful that anyone would be able to run his visualization in six months, which might be true. It seems to me that the way to achieve immortality in a world of ever-changing technology is to create something good enough/popular enough that people keep making it over and over again. There's a reason that The Legend of Zelda games keep getting re-released (http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2006/9/15/) and the Beatles have their music come out on every format available from the record to Rock Band.
[/quote]

that's exactly what NEITZSCHE was talking about!

i never read the ubermenche stuff, but when he talks about the will to power, he is also talking about the stuff memes have. the will to power that makes evolution (and scientific theory) powerful enough that it scares fundamentalists. this is the will to power that makes monks spend half their lives copying one book. copying. information on the internet survives not because it is preserved, but because it is copied. this was always true, but the speed of copying has replaced the hardness of the copy as the factor which most affects the number of people reached by the information. this story made me exited because it seemed to get at the difference in the system of knowledge transmission facilitated by the book and that facilitated by the internet. books were meant to stick around. they are information in solid form. the internet does not have a solid form, but it is also a giant copy machine. because  copying always involves change, our ability to watch things move through permutations that we have never been able to observe before means that we have learned what everyone who has talked about this here takes as basic. that is, that immortality is not found in stasis, but in change.

and, for myself, i don't have a hard time believing that very long-lived old dudes would be able to work out a way to get a desperate geek to free them from their wetware. cuz neitzsche knew a whole lot about immortality, and change.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: eytanz on September 14, 2009, 08:59:05 AM
I really enjoyed this story, and Steve's words in the outro more or less captured my thoughts perfectly.

As for the economy/Michigan thing - the story seemed to take place in a world where the economic crisis was a more extreme version of the real one (either that, or the narrator was prone to hyperbole on this topic). There certainly is more than one insurance company left, even if the field has narrowed somewhat over the last year.

I was somewhat perplexed by the alternate-reality Google, by the way. It seems to me that if the technology existed to grow a crystal that is both building and solar-powered computer/data storage, or, for that matter, to build a non-destructive book scanner like the one described in the story, then we would have seen more ramifications of it in the world. It's not like this technology was kept secret, if you could just take a bus to the middle of Silicon valley and see it.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: jcisuzu on September 14, 2009, 03:54:54 PM
Loved this story. Different than your average sci-fi, but very good just the same.
Thanks Escape Artists, for continually making me drive in the slow so I can hear as much as much of your stories as possible during my 14 minute commute.  :)

 - jc
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Listener on September 14, 2009, 04:59:26 PM
I wouldn't call this BEP, but it was really good on all counts. I'd probably put it in my top 10.

I think it would've been even stronger if it had ended without the denouement, when Mr. Penumbra said "and your place at the table is not guaranteed"... THAT, in my mind, was the twist ending -- that after everything the MC had done, he still wasn't assured of anything.

Everything else I could say has been said.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: KenK on September 14, 2009, 06:33:00 PM
Kurt Vonnegut (if memory serves) wrote a short story back in the '60s around a similar theme. Author's souls existed in a kind of limbo but became conscious when and if someone read their works. Now the theme is updated for the digital age with Mr. Penumbra. Times and technology change but the trope goes on forever. Very Jungian.

Nice the way the author gets in a "product placement" plug for Google too ;D. Like they needed it, eh?
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Joaquin Escudero Jr on September 14, 2009, 07:22:36 PM
I have to say, I'm glad that I stumbled across this place while searching for something to listen to at work. I have found all the stories to be great, some greater the others of course, but nothing that I would consider a waste of my time.

I like the premise of this story a lot, it's interesting to think that books can bring about actual immortality, though I would think that the quality of the book would have as much to do with how well immortality grasped at you and not the simple act of reading anothers' words. It does make me wonder as to how long the effects last, I mean those the act of reading the writing of another bring that person back to life? Once that new life is achieved how long does one have? I think that the madness with which each customer came in to purchase a book does give the reader a clue.

All in all it was an interesting read, fantasy or not. 
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: deflective on September 14, 2009, 07:31:06 PM
in hindsight, one thing that was missing from this story was some internet research.  what happens when you plug Penumbra, Elzevir, or one of those rare book titles into a search engine?  the attempt just needed a throw-away mention but it's odd that this character didn't try.


I was somewhat perplexed by the alternate-reality Google, by the way. It seems to me that if the technology existed to grow a crystal that is both building and solar-powered computer/data storage, or, for that matter, to build a non-destructive book scanner like the one described in the story, then we would have seen more ramifications of it in the world.

the data crystal buildings was an odd inclusion, it was the only definite sf element and it was completely extraneous to the story.  dunno why it was in there.

the book scanners on the other hand, we already got those.  it sounded like he mixed together a couple (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTk_fhJzyT0) different models (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyQ7rtno0E8).


I mean, if they are going to monopolise any and all books not nailed down...

oh!  don't get me started with this argument again.  google is not monopolizing books.


I'll be looking out for more Robin Sloan stuff.

he's (apparently) got a $7500 advance from donations to write a book (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/robinsloan/robin-writes-a-book-and-you-get-a-copy).  cool concept if it pays out.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: bamugo on September 14, 2009, 09:31:53 PM
Oh My Google!

Such a fun and interesting story. I was enthralled from the beginning. I found it to be a nice blend of fantasy and pseudo-contemporary sci-fi.

I particularly liked the Googly bits. I think Robin Sloan's intention was to create an ever-so-slightly magical world, with a technological overlay. (Magepunk?)

As soon as I'd listened, the first thing I thought was that I absolutely MUST post to the forum about it. So that's a good thing. It gripped me.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: scatterbrain on September 14, 2009, 09:59:22 PM
Ingenius story--very Ballardian(even down to the "crystal" Goolgleplex) just the way I like it, and its hits the spot just right. This truly is the SF story of our time. ;D
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Darwinist on September 15, 2009, 03:31:29 AM
Loved this one.....a cool mystery that held my attention the whole way.  Great stuff.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: BrianDeacon on September 15, 2009, 04:52:34 AM
Any other programming nerds think he was alluding to this with the google crystals?  (He actually uses the word shard, IIRC.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shard_%28database_architecture%29

Ah, this is what I was remembering:
http://googlecode.blogspot.com/2007/08/google-developer-podcast-episode-six.html

Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: deflective on September 15, 2009, 07:50:50 AM
aye , i did.  actually, i thought it was an overt allusion (to database structure & building 43 (http://farm1.static.flickr.com/232/505045569_e5a5faa240.jpg)) until i went back and read the story on the blog.  it was pretty graphic about setting up tents and letting the crystal grow around them to form a building so the allusion gets pretty thin.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: ajames on September 15, 2009, 10:41:35 AM
I'm not changing my two thumbs up rating, but on reflection I do have a few questions.

First, were the only customers to this bookstore open all night in a part of town open all night members of the immortality club? It seems like every night the protagonist would be busy for part of the night telling people that no, it's not that kind of bookstore, no, there are no public restrooms, no, there are no private rooms, no, you can't pass out here, and, please, if you are going to be sick, be sick outside, etc. If I were the protagonist, I'm sure there are some characters I'd be tempted to write about in the journal that weren't immortals.

What about customers who weren't part of the immortality club but came to buy books? What would this do to the pattern? Were there even books that weren't written by the immortality club? If they are all part of the same club, what's the deal with the price (I suppose this might be part of the pattern). What if a book got misfiled?

Just some nagging little questions.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Russell Nash on September 15, 2009, 12:42:46 PM
I get the idea that the price was part of the thing to keep normal people out.  Some schmoe comes in and sees that these obscure book is $1800, he's going to turn around and leave.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: bamugo on September 15, 2009, 08:11:06 PM
In addition to deterring "normals" from making purchases, the high prices may have been a reciprocal way of keeping everyone in the club rich. I'm not a finance wizard, but perhaps they had their own little economy to stimulate?
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Ocicat on September 16, 2009, 12:24:03 AM
Wow, such a meta-story.  Everything in it was about stories, about the way we communicate, about ideas.

One example I haven't heard talked about is how all these books are written about the other books, and the experience of discovering the books.  A lot of genre literature falls into this sort of thing.  How many fantasy books are based on Tolkien's work?  How many more are based on those?  Literature can feed on itself, and become very far removed from life. 
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Phyxis on September 16, 2009, 06:59:40 AM
I'm surprised no one mentioned this so far...


The restaurant in question is actually at 309 Clement St. (not 303 Clement St. as in the story) and is named Burma Superstar http://www.BurmaSuperstar.com/ (http://www.BurmaSuperstar.com/).

Fermented Green Tea Leaf Salad (Lephet Thote /La Pat Dok) is apparently one of their house specialties, importing the Lephet from Burma.

On my list of places to visit the next time I eat up in SF. :-)
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: wakela on September 16, 2009, 07:20:24 AM
This story was a blast.  I loved it that the writer and main character didn't take themselves too seriously, but at the same time weren't silly.  I also liked it that modern data visualization was a central part in a story set in an old used bookstore.   More than one modern fantasy story has been set in a mysterious used bookstore, and these shops are often places of hallowed reverence for SFF fans, so I was braced for sobiety and cliches.  Happily, neither were delivered.  

I thought it was interesting how the author and main charancter went into such detail with the hypothetical situations that you couldn't really be sure whether he did them or not.  Unfortunately, I meant to remember an example, but failed.  

This story made me think of digital pictures and videos that I take.  I take pictures of my kid, load them on to my computer, they are backed up offsite, some I send to my mom (where they are backed up again in my email account, her email account, her PC, her backup service), and some I post on facebook.  I couldn't destroy those pictures if I wanted to even though they are made of impossibly tiny and ephemeral particles.  While pictures taken of me as a child on the other hand, exist in hard paper, and are mounted in heavy books, but these books are among the family's precious treasures.  You curse if you lose your computer in a fire, but you mourn the loss of a photo album.
Title: Quotation! (Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: nicholasbarry on September 16, 2009, 07:39:31 AM
I just can't believe that the most appropriate of all possible quotations wasn't chosen for this episode!  In fact, perhaps the best possible match of stories and quotations of any EP episode so far.  Here's the quote:

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.
Woody Allen
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Russell Nash on September 16, 2009, 08:40:51 AM
The discussion about Google scanning books and its ramifications has been moved here (http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?topic=2863.0).
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: stePH on September 16, 2009, 09:50:22 PM
For the first 5 min or so of the story, Daikaiju carried on in the background very quietly.

Not quietly enough.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Jason M on September 17, 2009, 10:05:57 PM
I would have greatly enjoyed this story had the protagonist been anything more than a sheeple.  "I can't lose this job, there are no jobs."  Yes times are hard, but there are jobs.  You just have to want to find them and be willing to suck it up and not have your dream job.

So yeah, that and the heavy handed "economy bad" message took away from what could have otherwise been an outstanding story.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: jono on September 18, 2009, 02:22:02 AM
The closeness to the present seemed a cheap novelty; however, once the revelation came, it became one of my favorites--right up there with "Cinderella Suicide" and "Now + N, Now -N".  I was hooked with the first sentence, but enthralled with the mystery.

This store hit upon something I've struggled with for the last few years.  The flitting moment of technology.  So often e-mails and voicemails remain unattended to.  And so often calls for information, guidance, or help are ignored via distribution lists.  The personal connection has become so much more important in our technological society.  Sending an e-mail for committee volunteers gets the word out, but walking up to a colleague and discussing the goals and mission of the committee garners so much more support and involvement.  I can twitter all day, but the true connections are with the people I talk to.

In the end this story presents the enigma of our technology:  How do we establish sense and meaning in individuals because delete is too easy of a button to click.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: monkeystuff on September 18, 2009, 04:58:34 AM
ah yes immortality...   but is it really just that? no,  if you try to obtain a form of immortality through preserved information, that information will, over time vanish, weather it's books being replaced by digital memory as in this story, or whatever.  time conquers all.  we are always moving forward and so are all the traces we leave behind.  you can write your life's story in a book and save that book for a long time after your dead, but maybe this story was implying more then just leaving your story behind... could the author be implying that some day it will be possible to move or copy your consciousness into digital form where it will last extremely long, and maybe that is the next evolution in attempted immortality.  but like I said time conquers all.  so theoretically immortality is impossible.  With that being said, I'd just like to add that for me, i don't seek immortality, i just try to enjoy my the time that i do have on this planet and thanks to the Escape Pod, i enjoy life just a little bit more.    thanks for bringing this to the public   

btw i'm new to escape pod,  and think it is one of the best things i've found on the internet to this day

does steve (narrator of EP) read the forums?

oh yeah Daikaiju is great
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Russell Nash on September 18, 2009, 05:07:15 AM
does steve (narrator of EP) read the forums?

Basically everyone involved in the editorial process reads the story threads for their podcasts.  The other threads are hit and miss.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: SFEley on September 18, 2009, 05:28:08 AM
does steve (narrator of EP) read the forums?

I can neither confirm nor deny the allegations.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: thomasowenm on September 18, 2009, 09:33:33 PM
Glad to hear Steve back in top form. 

This story is one that I enjoyed so much I might actually listen to it a second time.  This gives me one of those "I'll remember for the rest of my life" moments whenever I step foot in a library or book store.  Who am I giving a second chance at life by looking at, reading, or buying a book?

Good purchase for EP,  Now who is going to write the screenplay?  and deliver it's next incarnation? 

Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: lowky on September 18, 2009, 11:52:12 PM
Glad to hear Steve back in top form. 

This story is one that I enjoyed so much I might actually listen to it a second time.  This gives me one of those "I'll remember for the rest of my life" moments whenever I step foot in a library or book store.  Who am I giving a second chance at life by looking at, reading, or buying a book?

Good purchase for EP,  Now who is going to write the screenplay?  and deliver it's next incarnation? 



This would make for a cool movie wouldn't it. 
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: MacArthurBug on September 20, 2009, 05:19:33 PM
Googlie goodness! Overall great story. Yeah I had a few disagreements, but more with the MC then anything. I just can't imagine working in a book store and NOT reading any books. Seems so *twitch* wrong
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: heyes on September 21, 2009, 03:43:29 AM
All of you realize, they're not kidding about google...

Excellent story, great reading, very fun.

I sort of pictured the whole thing in my head as some kinda crazy flash animation with little ads popping up on the bottom.  I mean that in a good way.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: thinkingcaveman on September 21, 2009, 07:33:00 PM
I have listened to most of Escape Pod and all of Pseudopod, I think that I have heard various elements of this story in other Escape/Pseudo Pod stories hmm

Have I been listening to long or not closely enough long enough

This is what I listen to Escape Artist Inc for
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Pat on September 22, 2009, 07:09:16 AM
Thanks guys, really enjoyed this episode.  Best geek meets girl and maybe get laid story since Impossible Dearms.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: DKT on September 22, 2009, 04:05:41 PM
I'm surprised no one mentioned this so far...


The restaurant in question is actually at 309 Clement St. (not 303 Clement St. as in the story) and is named Burma Superstar http://www.BurmaSuperstar.com/ (http://www.BurmaSuperstar.com/).

Fermented Green Tea Leaf Salad (Lephet Thote /La Pat Dok) is apparently one of their house specialties, importing the Lephet from Burma.

On my list of places to visit the next time I eat up in SF. :-)

Holy crap. I've actually eaten there. My brother-in-law (who lives in San Francisco) loves the place. Great food.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Listener on September 22, 2009, 04:46:52 PM
Nice the way the author gets in a "product placement" plug for Google too ;D. Like they needed it, eh?

I figure it would've been more conspicuous had something been made up, like they do on TV. All CBS shows use (or used to use) the fake site "FinderSpyder", I guess in the hope that Google would buy ads or product placement. What old media (TV, mostly) has failed to realize is that by making up something you draw more attention to it than if you just use the real product.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Sgarre1 on September 22, 2009, 05:18:55 PM
Eh, I'd old media then, because I'd rather have a fake something (easy to ignore, 555 as an exchange doesn't bug me) than the feeling I'm being hukstered to during every single second I'm alive, including time spent experiencing a creative work. I guess verisimilitude is different for different people, but when I see a known "brand" I don't think, "oh, that makes this seem more real", I think "oh, how much were they paid to put that there?"

different strokes....
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Russell Nash on September 22, 2009, 09:08:30 PM
You're not allowed to use a name or a known brand in a commercial work without permission, satire being an exception.  As soon as you ask for permission, they start wanting script approval and other shit like that. 

CBS' idea of using the same fake thing for all of their shows seems like a good idea to me.  If people hear it enough, it may start to seem real to the viewers.  Then it doesn't stick out so badly.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Goddess Jane on September 23, 2009, 12:53:43 PM
"Google grew it" gotta to love this one!
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Poppydragon on September 24, 2009, 04:40:25 PM
One of my favourites so far...I so want to find a bookshop that looks like that, let alone one that sells books to wierd old blokes in the middle of the night.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: HGE_Ben on September 24, 2009, 08:28:16 PM
Just found this podcast last week, starting with this story, and have been hungrily devouring the back-issues ever since. Thanks for such a great podcast, hadn't realized how much I'd missed good speculative short fiction until I stumbled across this.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: yicheng on September 24, 2009, 09:25:19 PM
I'm going to be a curmudgeon and say that the story ultimately lacks substance beyond the google name-dropping, cute geek girls, and Wired-Magazine-like techno-fetishism.  Not that it wasn't fun, but it's just sort of meh and forgettable.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: RochelleB on September 25, 2009, 01:08:56 PM
A really wonderful story, and perfectly appropriate to Escape Pod. In my view, it's definitely science fiction.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: lunastrixae on September 25, 2009, 07:47:17 PM
I liked this. Not 'change my life' like it, but it was fun. I love how the main character really enjoys the simple task of writing and drawing in 'his book' with quaint paper and pen. It never occurs to him to digitize the logbook at the start, to blog or wiki it. Many of us hold out hope in the age of kindles and ipods that the physical acts of writing and flipping a page are not forgotten.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: clperria on September 26, 2009, 08:59:09 PM
This one is hard to classify, but wether its sci-fi or fantasy... it was an awsome story.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: lowky on September 27, 2009, 01:16:56 PM
This one is hard to classify, but wether its sci-fi or fantasy... it was an awsome story.

Everyone keeps saying Sci-fi or Fantasy, but I saw it more as horror story.  I honestly was expecting some kind of Lovecraftian twist to the story.  The Crazed people by strange and esoteric sounding tomes in the middle of the night.  Seemed much more Eldritch to me than sci-fi, yes there was science in the way of technology, yes google almost seemed like a fantasy castle, but on the whole, it all spoke to me on a more Eldritch level, and when you think about it, the fact that you will die if someone doesn't read what you wrote, right away, is a frightening thought.  Almost as frightening as living forever.  And the mechanations for evil that can happen both intentional and unintentional when your longevity is much more than that of those around you.  You start to want to control things, because you have seen the mistakes that have been made before first hand, then that kind of power/responsibility starts to twist even the best of intentions...

Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: TripleAught on September 28, 2009, 04:27:23 AM
I liked the play on changing technology from analog to digital in discovering how the secret to immortality.

The narrator was likable and his internal monologues added some nice humor.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Bdoomed on October 01, 2009, 09:36:15 PM
This was the first time background music has annoyed me to almost not being able to listen.
In the beginning of this story I could hear the intro music in the background, and the song played all the way through to the end.  Is it always there? Maybe it was just because I was in a quiet room on my headphones that i could hear it? Anyway it really bugged me and I was very relieved when it ended.

As for the story, I haven't yet finished listening to it, but I like it so far! :)
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: CryptoMe on November 10, 2009, 02:43:04 PM
This didn't come up in the forum, so I will mention it...

Elzevir made me think of Elsevier, the big scientific publisher. So, I Googled (how ironic) them out of curiousity. According to Wikipedia, they take their name from an old Dutch publishing house, established in 1580 and named after their founder Lodewijk Elzevir.

I wonder if that's the guy from this story  ;)  Cute little detail if it is.

This is one of the reasons I liked this story. Lots of interesting little details like that.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: DMBlackthorn on January 21, 2010, 03:11:21 AM
Totally Awesome ideas!  The author's concept of immortality rings true with me, with one important difference.  Allow me to elaborate: I am a songwriter, and I also play  tunes from many folk styles.  Some of the songs I play are so old that the author's name has been lost to knowledge - but these songs still live on.  To me, it has always seemed that it is not when the author's name is remembered that they achieve immortality, but when the name is forgotten - but the tune is still remembered.  This is the kind of immortality I strive for - to create a song that will be sung well after my physical body is departed.  Then, that part of my being, my very soul, will be immortal.  As for the rest of me, well it might as well be a part of a dog, a shark, a tree and eventually an obsidian sphere when my bones are but dust that have blown over the edge of the earth and into the mouth of a volcano, merged with other minerals, been compacted by massive geological pressures, cool, and emerge near a post human encampment of pygmy Irish centaurs... but I digress...
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Unblinking on April 26, 2010, 05:34:15 PM
I didn't like this one as much as I felt like I should have.  Some reasons:

1.  Google name-dropping.  Okay, so there's a Google bookscanner, but overall, I thought the inclusion of Google as a major plot point was kind of weak, just name-dropping to get attention.  Likewise the description of the outlandish Google campus was weird, and odd, but didn't really matter in the long run, it just struck me as fluff.

2.  As a software engineer it bugs me when writing computer programs is a vital part of the story, yet it's written like the writer has done no research, not even talking to one software engineer, giving her a copy of the story to read and asking her "Does this sound stupid?"  This plagues me even on fun TV shows like Alias, where they run into a computer security system and say things like "1024 bit encryption?  This is going to be hard.   Really hard.  This could take me all afternoon."

That was the case here.  I groaned when the girl fixes the unexplained bug in his program in the time it takes him to drink a cup of coffee.  Yeah, she's a code geek, but it takes time to get familiar with another person's code and coding style, particularly when he just wrote it himself on the fly and not subject to any kind of code review or coding standard, she's never seen the program nor any of his code before,  .

The foray into data visualization was interesting, until it became clear that what the story meant by data visualization has very little to do with what it means in programming terms.  If you're modeling the pattern of weirdoes grabbing books off the shelf at a bookstore, you do NOT create a 3-D model of the store to model this.  That's just silly.  Especially when she enhanced his program by putting a nice woodgrain on the bookshelves, and the fact that it only looked like a face when viewed from the counter, so he had to move the viewpoint to there.

And the fact that they could find a face by graphing all these weirdo variables, as though those have a single and obvious graphical representation.  It sounded to me like it would just end up as a random set of scribbles, and the set of scribbles would vary widely if someone else had tried to graph the same thing.  If there was an apparent face there, then it's more likely to just be like those visions of the Virgin Mary under overpasses that look to me like any other water stain.

3.  If the problem wasn't meant to be solved by data visualization, what was the point of all the sales to create the visualization?  Did those old dudes REALLY have nothing better to do with their immortality than to choreograph their book-buying and odd-accessory swapping just so some new recruit can have a test?  Considering it's a test that no one but a complete nut-job would ever solve?  These guys really need a hobby!  If that's the only thing I could think of to do with my immortality then I may as well just die at a normal age to give myself some more purpose. 



So... it was an interesting idea, but the nitpicks piled on nitpicks and overall it just didn't work for me.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: kilgore trout on May 01, 2010, 04:15:35 AM
Fabulous, worked on all levels.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: acpracht on October 04, 2012, 08:06:01 PM
I'd just like to take a moment to give my congratulations to Robin Sloan on his recently published novelization of "Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore."
Nearly crapped myself.
Can't wait to listen to the audiobook.
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Ocicat on October 13, 2012, 05:04:29 AM
Excerpt and mini-review of the new novel version of the story on IO9!

Read a chapter from Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, the new fantasy novel everybody’s talking about (http://io9.com/5950422/read-a-chapter-from-mr-penumbras-24+hour-bookstore-the-new-fantasy-novel-everybodys-talking-about)
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Devoted135 on October 13, 2012, 04:45:13 PM
This was among the first 20 episodes of escape pod that I heard, and has proven to be one of the most memorable as well. I'm so excited to read the novelization, it's alrealy on my kindle for an upcoming long flight! :)
Title: Re: EP215: Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store
Post by: Wilson Fowlie on October 31, 2012, 11:38:30 PM
The Canadian tech/life radio show Spark (http://cbc.ca/spark) interviewed Mr. Sloan about the book this week (http://www.cbc.ca/spark/full-interviews/2012/10/31/mr-penumbras-24hour-bookstore/).

Note: The opening intro by the host is very loud and distorted - which is really unusual for them - but don't be put off by that; the sound is much better in the interview proper.