Author Topic: EP764: In the Absence of Instructions to the Contrary  (Read 1770 times)


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on: January 08, 2021, 07:57:25 PM
Escape Pod 764: In the Absence of Instructions to the Contrary

Author: Frank Wu
Narrator: Roderick Aust
Host: Mur Lafferty
Audio Producer: Summer Brooks

This story originally appeared in Analog Magazine in November 2016. It won the AnLab Award for short story.


Karl 3478 sprawled on the beach, partially disassembled, bits of him scattered across mats arrayed on the sand. Diving planes, ducted propellers, 5-way valves and 4-way cables all awaited clean-up, tear-down and re-build.

He was performing a major overhaul on himself for deep-seaworthiness. No poppet or sprocket would escape inspection.

Underwater, Karl was untethered, free. But freedom came with risks. If a vital system failed, no one would rescue him.

Wrapped around Karl’s finger was a black O-ring. One of his smallest but more important parts, it fit into a groove at the end of electronics sleeve III. This little ring, with a little grease, was all that prevented water from rushing into the sleeve, destroying everything inside.

Only a smear of marine-grade silicone grease was necessary. A blob might break off, allowing the water in.

In knowing violation of protocols, Karl squeezed a huge glob of grease onto the tip of a titanium finger.

This he would do – as everything – in full consideration of his love for Adaline.

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Álex Souza

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Reply #1 on: January 12, 2021, 12:03:56 AM
I have mixed feelings about this story.

First scene break felt that it was done too soon. The first chapter tells me that Karl (a robot) would do anything for this Adaline girl, even break protocols, but I wished to see more right at the beginning. (I won't say how this story should have been written, but that's what I look for in every story I read). Another thing was outputting for me was the telling. The author preferred telling over showing and that raised a red flag because it told me that the same would happen for the rest of the story. And it's a long story. 

As the red flags predicted, the story has a lot of telling. The majority of paragraphs are just one short sentence long.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

I keep thinking what was the purpose of that cringeworthy scene with the female squid  :o :o :o It's weird and it doesn't seem to go nowhere, at least at first glance. Was there any symbolism? Maybe a cat bringing a dead cockroach back to the owner? I don't know if I grasped that symbolism right...

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

I mentioned not liking the author's telling, but his showing seems to be even more offsetting: "Poisonous winds were whipping up waters into curled cathedrals. They would have been the perfect Pipeline waves, if anyone were still alive to surf them."  Well...  :o :o :o :o I don't know if the effect got lost in translation but it does feel cringey in English.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
I understand that, by the protagonist's eyes, the ending is not weird; it's the information that he has on his database, and I don't think that he realizes what "weird" means anyways. Nevertheless, I'm having mixed feelings about it all.

I just wanna go pro before AI takes over and the bot dogs from Boston Dynamics kill us all.


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Reply #2 on: June 13, 2021, 10:13:20 PM
I agree with Álex Souza that there were some awkward wording and imagery, and that the story could have been tighter, but I liked the uplifting of octopi ending. To each their own.