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Author Topic: EP152: The Big Guy  (Read 28507 times)

Russell Nash

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on: April 04, 2008, 12:07:29 PM
EP152: The Big Guy

By Mike Resnick.
Read by Stephen Eley.
First appeared in Jim Baen’s Universe, June 2007.

“Okay,” said Fishbait. He tossed a ball to the Big Guy. “Let’s try a little one-on-one. Ralph, let’s see what you can do against Jacko here.”

The Big Guy took a look at me, his face totally expressionless. I moved forward to lean on him a little, just enough to make contact and see which way he was going to move when he began his drive to the basket, but before I got close enough to touch him he’d already raced by me and stuffed the ball through the hoop.

“Again,” said Fishbait.


Rated R. Contains strong language and testosterone.


Referenced Sites:
Penguicon: April 18-20, 2008
Sex 2.0: April 12, 2008


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Darwinist

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Reply #1 on: April 04, 2008, 01:24:31 PM
Meh.  I'm usually a big fan of Resnik and am a big basketball fan but this one didn't do much for me.  Maybe it was the implausible way the league and other teams reacted to the robo-stud players.  I have a hard time buying that any league would allow the adding of super enhanced players to some teams and not others.  (Except for MLB and steriods, of course ;))  The story just kind of fell flat for me.

I found Steve's intro interesting.  Myself and a couple of my buddies are big sci-fi readers and movie goers and yet are sports fanatics.  We go to a lot of MN Twins and T-Wolves games and get together often to watch basketball, baseball, and football games on the tube.  I guess we're in the minorty group of sci-fi / sports fanatics. 

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.    -  Carl Sagan


CaptNova

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Reply #2 on: April 04, 2008, 02:28:40 PM
I don't mind Sports getting into Sci-fi.  I own the DVD of the 1975 release of the movie Rollerball.  I also like the Anime called Buzzer Beater where aliens dominate Basketball and a human team is trying to show they can compete.  In this story, I thought was cliche about a robot getting emotions.  Like when Lt. Data in Star Trek got his emotion chip.  Also if robots were going to be in sports it would be a bunch of engineering firms trying to outdoing eacy other by fielding teams against each other.



DKT

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Reply #3 on: April 04, 2008, 03:49:18 PM
Meh.  I'm usually a big fan of Resnik and am a big basketball fan but this one didn't do much for me.  Maybe it was the implausible way the league and other teams reacted to the robo-stud players.  I have a hard time buying that any league would allow the adding of super enhanced players to some teams and not others.  (Except for MLB and steriods, of course ;))  The story just kind of fell flat for me.

Hrm.  I think I'm mostly of the same mind as Darwinist.  I love SF and I love basketball.  When I heard about Sigler's The Rookie -- I thought I'd hate it, but I ended up really enjoying it.  There were parts of this story I liked -- that Jacko was refreshingly not a selfish, narcissistic athlete and wanted to do what was best for his team, even if that meant he'd be riding the pine.  Some of the humor made me grin.  And I thought the Big Guy was interesting.  But there were other parts of this story that didn't work for me -- like Darwinist, I had a hard time believing all the athletes on the team were cool with robots taking the limelight.  I can't imagine Kobe Bryant being happy about something like that.  Also, none of the other teammates sounded like basketball players to me (as they did in, say the Rookie -- although to be fair, Sigler had a novel length story to work with there).  They all seemed way too mild-mannered to me.

But it did get me thinking about sports and SF. It seems that writing about sports in short fiction is especially difficult, and I did like the story Resnick came up with here -- whether emotion or a lack of emotion makes a better teammate/athlete.  It was just some of the details surrounding it that threw me off.


Talia

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Reply #4 on: April 04, 2008, 03:52:03 PM
Really enjoyed the story. I'm a fan of Resnick's work in general and was not let down. :) I  found the end rather chilling, actually. He "feels" guilt, but to him its just an experience - just data, of a sort. In a way he's a sociopath.

And a sociopathic experience-craving robot on the loose just can't be good. 

The stuff with his teammates seeming to take it too well didn't really bother me; I guess I felt the focus was meant to be on the robot's "character development" if you will, and that worked for me.



eclipse

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Reply #5 on: April 04, 2008, 04:58:41 PM
i usually love mike resnik. his stories have been some of my favorites on escapepod (although l'alchemista still tops my list). i found this story underwhelming.
i just didn't care if they won or not. and i felt that jacko was ultimately an unbelievable character. we never get to experience his anger at being replaced by a robot. instead we get PC acceptence. it wasn't interesting for me. now...had he written about a team getting replaced by robots and rebelling against it? that would have been interesting.

so this episode inspired a huge sigh of relief for me. both because of the content, but also because i am REALLY tired of the scott sigler hype. i listened to infected and hated it - which is interesting because i loved the rookie. i think ultimately i just can't stand his obvious relish of violence for the sake of violence. i didn't like ancestor either.



Hatton

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Reply #6 on: April 04, 2008, 05:05:37 PM
And a sociopathic experience-craving robot on the loose just can't be good. 

I nominate this for the "quote of the week"!

On my own, it was a bit of a mindless story for me... the cliche' Tin-Man type with the spin that the company "unblocked' the emotions and had the ability to "block" them again.  Though I guess it can't be helped since Mr. Resnick is also the one who brought us "The Sweet, Sad Love Song of Fred and Wilma" (Ep 126).

Wait, what about a double-sequel where Ralph and Wilma meet... hmmm ;) She liked poetry, he craves emotions... I'm sure the Wolverines have a cheerleading squad.


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Chey

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Reply #7 on: April 04, 2008, 06:38:23 PM
It is rare that my listening pleasures coincide, but I was really surprised with how closely today’s story hooked in with a new podcast I’m listening to.  BBC and Open University are doing a fourteen part series on ethics.  (http://www.open2.net/ethicsbites/index.html ) The fifth episode in dealt with the ethics of sport and genetic enhancement.  I was pleased to see Mike Resnick brush some of these questions, though the main thrust of the story was about the Big Guy and not the overall question of whether or not using robots was a step forward or backward for the sport, or for man’s quality of life in general. 

As for the story itself I think it’s going to have to sink in some more before I make a definitive judgment.  I think the foreshadowing of robot armies is chilling, and pretty well covered in Japanese animation.  I agree with Talia in looking at the robot as a sociopath.  What if he had decided after love he needed to experience murderous rage?  That can’t be good either.

And yeah, I highly recommend listening to ethics bites, at least the story on sport enhancement.  It adds a new layer to Resnick’s story.



bolddeceiver

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Reply #8 on: April 04, 2008, 07:44:54 PM
Yeah, on board with the implausibility.  First, I can't see the leagues being into that, like everyone says.  But I think it goes deeper -- I think the audience wouldn't dig it.  Part of the appeal of sports is the (admittedly silly) idea of "if I" (if my son/daughter, etc.) "only were hugely more fit and motivated, that could be me."  Robots would kill that Algeresque illusion much more directly than steroids.  Still a fun story.

Also, brought to mind this year's Scientific American April Fools article (p. 38, v.298 n.4), which had me on the hook the whole time and in the end wishing it was real.  Story of a new sporting event, held some unspecified somewhere with laxer drug laws and such, called the Hyper Games, an event which encourages athletes to go to any means to win -- drugs, surgical enhancement, what not.



stePH

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Reply #9 on: April 05, 2008, 01:15:14 AM
Not a sports fan, but enjoyed the story anyway.

A word on Steve's intro: "What would the Harry Potter books be without Quiddich?"

Answer: slightly shorter, with nothing significant missing.  I always thought Quiddich an absurd game and the matches served little-to-no purpose in the story.

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wintermute

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Reply #10 on: April 05, 2008, 01:22:42 AM
I thought this one was great fun. As some of the others say, the league OKing robots seems implausible, but I didn't really care.

Ralph might just be one of my favourite robots ever, and it ended in exactly the right spot, though a sequel about Ralph's adventures as an emotion junkie in the wild would be fun...

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bikerhikerrdr

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Reply #11 on: April 05, 2008, 02:33:17 AM
That was good, but not up to Resnick's usual standards.  I find robots in stories much more interesting when they aren't just a mirror for humanity but are genuinely different. Also, this story would have been much more interesting if it had started with him losing the game.  Where the hell did he go.  Would he feel any less fascination with animals than with humans... Ralph the robot basketball player and the caribou... now that would be interesting.



bikerhikerrdr

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Reply #12 on: April 05, 2008, 02:51:40 AM
"...l'alchemista still tops my list..."
I've been listening to the early episodes at work this week (I can pretty much do auto-cad in my sleep at this point), and this was one of the great ones.  But, something bugs me; have you noticed how many episodes of escapepod center around a lust for food.  It seems like every third episode is about some gastronomist. Off the top of my head I can think of "l'alchemista", "this my body", and "the girlfriends of dorian grey", but there are lots more.  I can only hope that we've hit the apogee of Eley's food lust with "this my body".  I don't want to go more extreme than that.

I'm new to the forums, so sorry if this has already been covered.



Subneutrino

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Reply #13 on: April 05, 2008, 06:40:17 PM
I'm not a competitive sports fan myself (I prefer to kick my own ass, rather than others'), but it was an intriguing idea for a story.  I didn't have much of a reaction to it though.  I suppose robots getting emotions is pretty well-trod ground for SF (The movie AI is another one, I suppose, on top of Data from Star Trek), and basketball (Canadian Invention, WOOT!) is a pretty pedestrian pursuit, and not exactly the first place they'd think of putting androids if that technology existed.

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ajames

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Reply #14 on: April 05, 2008, 08:01:19 PM
In an odd sort of way, this story more than any other of Mr. Resnik's makes me appreciate just how good of a writer he is. He takes a completely implausible storyline* and several hackneyed conventions with a very predictable outcome, and darned if I didn't still enjoy it! Not many writers could pull that off.

*The posts so far have only touched on the implausibility, in my opinion. These robots are going to take over the military, and they get lent out to basketball clubs, with zero protection/survelliance, because why?? Because they are just a prototype??? Yeah, just like the military to be renting out their weapon prototypes willy-nilly...).



Ocicat

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Reply #15 on: April 06, 2008, 01:47:35 AM
Big thumbs down from me.  I'm certainly one of those SF fans who doesn't like spectator sports, or stories about sports.  And the SF angle of this wasn't near enough to get me past it.  We never got past my suspension of disbelief on many, many levels.  I certainly didn't buy the world, the robot, or the human characters.  As a parable about emotions, there's maybe something there, but not a whole lot.

Actually, I almost never enjoy the Resnick stories, and wish they'd stop coming so often.



DarkKnightJRK

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Reply #16 on: April 06, 2008, 03:44:11 AM
It was pretty good--there were some implausible bits in there, but with some work and maybe more words those could have been resolved. In fact, I think the whole thing would have been better if it was a bit longer--I think someone else said it best that sports probably don't work so well in short fiction. I could see this as a novel or perhaps even a movie script.



Windup

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Reply #17 on: April 06, 2008, 03:59:47 AM

This one left me a bit flat.  I'm not much of a sport junkie, though I do follow some professional cycling.  And surprisingly, the plausability issues didn't bug me, and I'm usually a stickler for that. 

Two main problems for me, both character-related:

There was something about the relationship between the narrator and the robot that didn't click.  Partially, the narrator took being displaced as center with barely a ripple of discontent.  All well and good to be a team player, but this guy was just too good to be true, at least from my vantage point.  Perhaps because of that, the outburst at the end seemed almost contrived. Partially, there "just didn't seem to be any there, there" in terms of the relationship.  I suppose that's understandable when dealing with a machine, but they kept talking like there was.

The robot's emotions also seemed implausible to me.  It was like it was watching itself have emotions, rather than actually experiencing them.  Despite all the jabbering about it, it didn't sound like it was experiencing the "agony of defeat"; more like it was watching someone else. 

In the face of all that detachment, I guess I was pretty detatched, too.

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JoeFitz

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Reply #18 on: April 06, 2008, 07:49:27 PM
Not my favourite episode, but that's hardly much of a knock against it. It did remind me of many supposedly bad SciFi writing cliches like the robot seeking emotions, the "well, Bob" moments and so forth. But those didn't bother me as much as they probably would if the piece itself wasn't so earnest.

It reminded me of the Blernsball (Baseball) from Futurama, to be honest. Made me sad that a sport was pushed into absurdity, but then reflected that likely any sufficiently advanced civilization would introduce so much technology and money into sport as to arguably obscure its original purity and above all its "fun" factor.



ajames

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Reply #19 on: April 06, 2008, 08:30:37 PM
Made me sad that a sport was pushed into absurdity, but then reflected that likely any sufficiently advanced civilization would introduce so much technology and money into sport as to arguably obscure its original purity and above all its "fun" factor.

Too true.



stePH

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Reply #20 on: April 07, 2008, 01:46:20 AM
It reminded me of the Blernsball (Baseball) from Futurama, to be honest. Made me sad that a sport was pushed into absurdity, but then reflected that likely any sufficiently advanced civilization would introduce so much technology and money into sport as to arguably obscure its original purity and above all its "fun" factor.

I'm given to understand that this is the theme of the movie Baseketball (which I haven't seen).

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Tango Alpha Delta

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Reply #21 on: April 07, 2008, 02:52:59 AM
It reminded me of the Blernsball (Baseball) from Futurama, to be honest. Made me sad that a sport was pushed into absurdity, but then reflected that likely any sufficiently advanced civilization would introduce so much technology and money into sport as to arguably obscure its original purity and above all its "fun" factor.

I'm given to understand that this is the theme of the movie Baseketball (which I haven't seen).

Sorry... I had to laugh at the proximity of the phrase "sufficiently advanced civilization" and a mention of "BASEketball"...

(come to think of it, I had to laugh a lot during BASEketball...)

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CGFxColONeill

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Reply #22 on: April 07, 2008, 04:41:48 AM
I enjoied the story even if it was predictable in spots
not the best ep but better than some of the recent ones 

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Planish

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Reply #23 on: April 07, 2008, 06:44:52 AM
Maybe it was the implausible way the league and other teams reacted to the robo-stud players.  I have a hard time buying that any league would allow the adding of super enhanced players to some teams and not others.
Yeah, that was a sticking point for me too.
That, and the notion that a robot would spontaneously decide that it was interested in emotions - et voila - it gets some, just in time to get the plot moving again.

[snip]
I think the audience wouldn't dig it.  Part of the appeal of sports is the (admittedly silly) idea of "if I" (if my son/daughter, etc.) "only were hugely more fit and motivated, that could be me."  Robots would kill that Algeresque illusion much more directly than steroids.
[snip]
The only way robot athletes would work is in deathmatches, à la Battlebots.

Come to think of it, the original Robot Wars (and not the lame British game show) used to have a class for autonomous robots, as opposed to remote-controlled vehicles. That would be even more suitable as a test of robotic fitness. I think they probably dropped that class in later years because the action was too slow.

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Liminal

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Reply #24 on: April 07, 2008, 03:27:43 PM
I'm in total agreement with all those who didn't buy into the idea that the teammates and fans would accept robots so easily into a league. As I was listening, I kept thinking to myself "that's not how people would act/react."

Now, I did find the ending to be interesting, even chilling. That an AI might base its actions on a hunger for emotion, without considering the impact on other peoples lives, and do so out of sheer selfishness is positively, frighteningly . . . well, human.

Why is this thus? What is the reason for this thusness? - Artemus Ward