Author Topic: EP590: Four Seasons in the Forest of Your Mind  (Read 4214 times)


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on: August 26, 2017, 12:57:43 AM
EP590: Four Seasons in the Forest of Your Mind

AUTHOR: Caroline M. Yoachim
NARRATOR: Stephanie Morris
HOST: Tina Connolly



My tree is a pyramidal cell in the prefrontal cortex of your brain.

There are millions of us here, in the forest of your brain, each with our own region to tend.  My region is a single tree, for I am newly born, just as you are.  It is a lovely tree, with a long axonal root and majestic dendritic branches that reach outward to receive the signals of other neurons.  Like you, the tree is in a springtime state of frenetic growth, reaching its delicate tendrils to nearby cells and more distant targets.  The Omnitude has given me a simple task, a message that comes to me via the entanglement: Save this tree.

The tree is one of billions, floating in a sea of cerebrospinal fluid and held in place by star-shaped glial cells.  Capillaries weave through the cells, rivers of blood pulsing in time with the beat of your heart.  Neurotransmitters strike the branches of my tree like chemical rain, but the roots do not pass the signal onward.  The pathway is weak and must be strengthened.

An elder tends a tree that connects to mine.  I recognize the elder’s status by the complexity of spines protruding from the sphere of its outer surface.  I have two spines, two points of entanglement.  The elder has hundreds, perhaps thousands.  It knows a greater portion of the Omnitude, the gestalt consciousness, the sum of all our entanglements.  I am smaller than a neuronal tree, but the Omnitude is a network of trillions of individuals, encompassing the entire planet.  Alone we are small, but together we are vast.

Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!


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Reply #1 on: August 30, 2017, 02:19:14 PM
Well, this was terrifying. The image of the tower at the end made me shudder. I sincerely hope that everyone on the orbiting ship is dead already.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2017, 02:22:50 PM by Katzentatzen »

"To understand a cat you must realize that he has his own gifts, his own viewpoint, even his own morality."


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Reply #2 on: September 06, 2017, 12:39:49 PM
It took me a while to get into this story, but I'm glad I stuck with it.  It was a nice take on the reverse of an alien invasion.

Chicken Ghost

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Reply #3 on: September 06, 2017, 02:21:01 PM
At first, I was thinking this was some metaphor for the processes at the intersection of neurology and psychology or something along those lines.  Honestly, I think it would have been a more interesting story if that had been the case.  Still pretty good. 

And just in case anyone happened to miss the (intentional, I presume) parallel:


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Reply #4 on: October 23, 2017, 05:39:29 PM
The separation/combination of entities made this one confusing to me in the beginning. I/you/we/the Omnitude? I don't really understand why all of the humans had to be integrated into the towers at the end, instead of breeding and continuing to be controlled.
I agree with Katzentaten, from my human perspective that was a pretty gross and horrific ending. I wonder if the Omnitude can recognize or empathize with how horrible it is from the other species perspectives?
Chicken Ghost, it reminded me more of a Toxoplasma gondii infection. I remember another EA story about an interstellar version of Toxoplasmosis that caused humans to desire to travel to the stars, but i don't remember which episode it was...


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Reply #5 on: November 29, 2017, 11:55:04 PM
This story is based on the idea of the human brain hosting microscopic components of a powerful integrated alien mind called the Omnitude that can shape the thoughts of the host's brain and also has ambitions to use such manipulated brains to help it expand through the galaxy. Amazing!

Parts of the story are written in the second person, where the Omnitude describes the POV of the person whose perceptions are being shaped by the alien entities that are manipulating its brain, and in turn this description is identified with by the reader. Wow, that's deep! The way this story describes the physical mechanisms that produce thought brings to mind Ted Chiang's brilliant 2008 Hugo-winning story Exhalation ( EP194).

The depth of the story is enhanced by the way the life cycle of a single colonist is traced, with emphasis on progressive neural stages and perceptions associated with childhood, adulthood, and senescence.

One thing that is missing is an explanation of how the Omnitude achieves integration without having to resort to woo-woo telepathy. Could it be that the matter constituting the planet, as well as the living beings on the planet, are all physically interconnected to provide a bridge that enables the integration of the Omnitude? Does it involve some sort of EM communication network? The story is so good that it deserves more thorough consideration of this matter.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2017, 12:08:17 AM by Piet »

It's not the's the glory of the ride.


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Reply #6 on: December 14, 2017, 05:17:25 PM
This one didn't work for me. I had a tough time getting into it because of all the different POV's being presented in the beginning (as Ichneumon pointed out). It was very confusing. I did understand the horror at the end (alien assimilation and expansion), but by that point, I wasn't really all that invested and found I didn't really care....