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Author Topic: EP717: Listening  (Read 928 times)


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on: February 02, 2020, 05:16:02 PM
Escape Pod 717: Listening

Author: Bob DeRosa
Narrator: Abra Staffin-Wiebe
Host: S.B. Divya
Audio Producer: Adam Pracht

Listening is an Escape Pod original.


At exactly nine in the morning, Karen tapped the green box on her tablet screen and said, “Hello, my name is Karen. I’m listening.”

After a pause, a young woman said, “I’ve never done this before.”

“Whatever’s on your mind, feel free to share.

“Okay,” said the young woman. “I uh…my landlord’s raising my rent again. And…I have two kids and I work two jobs and their father…he’s just never around, y’know?

There was another pause, and Karen knew the young woman was trying not to cry. Still, the tears came. “And I don’t know what to do about it. I usually ask my mother for help but she’s not doing so good herself…”

Karen leaned back in her chair and settled in for the call. Her cubicle was small, but comfortable. A small desk held her tablet on a stand that was connected to the wireless headset she wore every day. The floor she worked on was a sea of identical cubicles. Every morning, Karen would enter the lobby of the unmarked corporate high-rise with the rest of her co-workers at the Listening offices. No one stood out. No pink hair or hipster beards, no sexy dresses or flashy ties. The plainness of the employees’ appearance matched their demeanor. There were no wishes of good mornings or smiles of greeting.

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Reply #1 on: February 06, 2020, 05:57:29 AM
This was a very cool first I thought it was going to be like the Matrix...then it changed. I found I could relate strongly to the piece because I've done my time in the horrible, lifeless place that is a call center, and I've had that boss. I also wondered about the old lady sitting there knitting or the janitor who cleans up everyone's messes. This should be a 123 so someone can listen to you. Enjoyed it!


  • Palmer
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Reply #2 on: March 24, 2020, 07:22:49 PM
Especially with the way the story opened, with the first caller being someone whose problems were all caused or exacerbated by capitalist exploitation and poverty, I thought that this story was going to be a condemnation of the obnoxious practice of the state trying to solve problems caused by a lack of social services by throwing money at private companies offering mass-market "revolution" via untested technologies that turn out to just be shitty apps. It seemed self-evident from the beginning that the listening service was a virtually useless substitution for the lack of accessible mental health care.
So I was disappointed when the arc of the story merely traced the main character's dim realization that "hey...maybe just strangers listening really ISN'T enough...and maybe I feel bad because nobody listens to ME" and that her own social isolation was at least partially remedied by quitting her job and just...going to her husband and asking him to listen to her.
But at first I thought it was a story painting a picture of a believable dystopia from the perspective of a character who starts off immersed and accepting of its false premises, like Fahrenheit 451, so I was willing to cut it some slack. It was the author's notes that really soured me on this story, by confirming that, no, the point really was a cliche, uninformed commentary on isolation in the age of social media, more hamfisted than even Hideo Kojima's intent in Death Stranding.
"Social media makes us more connected than ever...but also drives us apart" is right up their with "Millenials are killing..." in terms of clueless takes. "Teenagers don't spend hours on the phone anymore." I'm sorry, but what the fuck, have you seen a teenager in the past twenty years? Who do you thinking they're texting and snapping and talking to on discord? Often it's their IRL friends. Other times its distant Teenagers use asynchronous and remote communication because every year they have longer school hours, more homework, more extracurriculars, and more pressure to attain high academic achievement as college becomes more expensive and more necessary to secure a subsistence level living.
There's a lot of science on loneliness. It's past time for science fiction to merely "raise questions" about it - good stories about isolation should now look beyond. We need "The Ones Who Stay and Fight", not "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas".


  • Hipparch
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Reply #3 on: June 17, 2020, 03:18:01 AM
I enjoyed this story, but I, too, felt unsatisfied by the lack of meat in the message and the resolution.