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Author Topic: EP152: The Big Guy  (Read 28508 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:
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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.



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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.



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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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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.

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stront

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Reply #25 on: April 07, 2008, 06:43:37 PM
Definitely the weakest story I have heard so far on Escape Pod.  The whole robot-emotions thing had been done to death years ago.

Poor show.



birdless

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Reply #26 on: April 07, 2008, 08:45:00 PM
Implausible (for all the reasons already stated), but I wasn't expecting to like this story from the get-go, but I found it somewhat entertaining, and really the redeeming point for the whole story was the concept that emotions make you play better. I totally buy that concept. And if it makes you play better… well, there's a lot of ground for thought and discussion.



gelee

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Reply #27 on: April 07, 2008, 09:08:05 PM
This one really didn't do much for me.  Maybe I need to check my nerd credentials, but I just don't dig robots, though I am a sports fan.  I couldn't buy the idea of a bunch of atheletes blandly accepting a mechanical teammate, no questions asked, especially if it involved the benching of a valuable and respected team member.  Speaking from personal experiance, I just don't get that part.  It made me wonder if Mr. Resnick had any personal experiance with team sports.
There were other issues, (How does a non-organic entity generate emotions?  Why are decision-making and emotions interdependent?  Wouldn't a pro-level coach be good enough not to use the same speech over and over again?), but the above killed this one right out of the gate for me.



Dwango

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Reply #28 on: April 07, 2008, 09:40:43 PM
I'm am a sports fan, though mostly to one sport, professional football.  I follow the Skins pretty closly, and identify with their ups and downs.  I did not like this story much.

I think one problem is that it did not feel real, to quote my own emotions.  It partially had to do with the lack of emotion the fans and players had to working with the robot.  Except the narrator's final outburst, it appears the robot had more emotion than anyone else.  Yet, even those emotions felt fake.  The robot appeared to emulate emotions, but not really experience them.  He did not even question why he did not want to get rid of the negative emotions.  It seemed like he'd be smart enough to have learned that negative emotions are rarely exquisite or enjoyed.  I'd think he would question why he enjoyed those emotions, not disdain them.

I also think it had to do with the mind-numbing bridge from the season beginning to the play-offs.  I did not like the way it was so quickly glossed over as a narrative, though I understand why it was done.  Not much time to cover a season.  But I can't help but thinking it could have been handled better.



wakela

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Reply #29 on: April 07, 2008, 11:35:31 PM
I usually don't like Resnick stories.  I didn't not like this one, but I didn't really like it either.  Robots and emotions is very well-worn ground.   I noticed that Jordan was not mentioned in the list of Basketball greats, so that dates the story in a time when maybe robots and emotions was a more interesting topic.  But after Star Trek's Data, I don't get anything out of them.




glucoseboy

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Reply #30 on: April 08, 2008, 03:50:22 AM
The story started off strong for me, but quickly deteriorated into cliche'd predictability.  Saw the ending coming a mile away.

Too similar to the classic Twilight Zone episode "The Mighty Casey"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mighty_Casey

Where another robot athlete throws the game because of human emotion.

(and what's with the names?? Jocko?? Fishbait, Scooter?
« Last Edit: April 08, 2008, 03:52:06 AM by glucoseboy »



wherethewild

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Reply #31 on: April 08, 2008, 10:09:43 AM
Naja... slightly whatever to me. I'm not a huge fan of Resnick myself (am I going to get lynched here for that? Normally his storylines just don't flick my switch). I found this one a rehash of other "robots finding their warm and fuzzies" stories, and, like many other commentors, found the reaction of the team and the public unbelievable. It was just a little bit too constructed to show off an already overdone idea.

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Listener

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Reply #32 on: April 08, 2008, 11:23:38 AM
I didn't really care for the story.  It felt like a Resnick story -- that is, it isn't really all that surprising when the twist comes, and you kind of probably predicted it anyway.  There were too many adverbs (or, at least, I kept hearing them).  I realize that the editorial staff of EP is a fan of Mike Resnick, or at least likes the way he writes, but this may not have been the best story of his to post.  I didn't have a problem with the science or the implausibility factor others have referenced; I just didn't care too much for the telling.

As for the reading... I realize the POV was a 6'10 basketball player, but the narrator's voice was more kitschy and annoying than anything else.  Ralph's voice was good though.

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Reply #33 on: April 08, 2008, 06:04:21 PM
I wonder if this story was an homage to Asimov's classic "Three Laws" short stories.  For those of you who haven't read these stories (shame on you!  ;) ), here's a brief rundown of their general template along with my reasoning:

  • Present a world in which robots have the Three Laws (basically, they do what they're told and don't hurt people):
    Although not explicit in the story, I think this was implied.  Pre-emotions Ralph (The Big Guy) was polite, did exactly what he was told, and showed no signs of being aggressive towards people, even when being fouled in basketball games.
  • Present a robot who has a modified form of the Three Laws (i.e., they can break the rules):
    Clearly, modifying Ralph to give him emotions-- and apparently also free will-- fulfilled this step! He was able to disobey orders (running away, playing poorly in basketball) and able to hurt people (he fouled). 
  • Explore the Rammifications of that modification:
    As mentioned in the last bullet, we see Ralph disobeying.  Moreover, we see that by giving robots emotions they are motivated to disobey in order to experience some emotions, which is a very interesting consequence of the modification.

If my thoughts make sense and The Big Guy was indeed intended to be a "Three Laws" story, then I think it pulled off the template pretty well.  It was nice to hear a new spin (robots in basketball) on a familiar concept.

I wonder if it's a coincidence that there was a seemingly unimportant line in the story about Ralph being able to eat with people that was eerily similar to this line from "The Caves of Steel", an Asimov robot detective book, said by Daneel Olivaw, a robot:
"...Yes I can perform the mechanical operations of chewing and swallowing.  My capacity is, of course, quite limited, and I would have to remove the ingested material from what you might call my stomach sooner or later."
(Daneel even offers a human the food later on because he didn't digest it)
« Last Edit: April 08, 2008, 06:07:35 PM by bryanw »



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Reply #34 on: April 08, 2008, 06:30:46 PM
To me, it seems Resnick needed a situation where Ralph could cause powerful emotions in himself and others.  By choosing basketball, it seems like a quickie crutch to resolve this.  Ignoring the obvious reaction someone would feel being replaced and then asked to essentially train your replacement and the whole massive effect of allowing robots into professional sports really does weaken the piece.  Jacko's assumsion that Ralph will learn his lesson when some girl breaks his 'heart' after he just destroyed the dreams of an entire team doesn't come off as thought out.

And if you were to buy a presumeably multi-million dollar robot, wouldn't you expect a GPS unit to come standard?



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Reply #35 on: April 08, 2008, 09:30:52 PM
I didn't really like this story. Certainly the implausibility of the plot was a problem, but I just didn't care about any of the characters. 

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Reply #36 on: April 08, 2008, 09:57:09 PM
To me, it seems Resnick needed a situation where Ralph could cause powerful emotions in himself and others.  By choosing basketball, it seems like a quickie crutch to resolve this.

Agreed.  I think a lot of the points that have caused people problems come from plausible world-building being sacrificed for the sake of making a point.  It's a short story, not a novel, so I expect it to have one focus rather than several, but when every character and technology exists merely to guide the plot forward in its tidy channel, it's bound to feel a bit flat.

Having said that, I rather enjoyed it, although that may be as much a factor of my lowered expectations.  I was having to take so much of the basketball jargon on trust ("4 blorples, 7 squorks and 59 whibbens would be a record, would it?  Ah-ha, then the game must be going well!"  (As an aside: honestly, you Americans and your obsession with statistics in sport!  Can't you just watch the damn games?)) that I think I found it easier to gloss over some of the other bits that didn't make much sense.  Still, it was fun, an easy listen, and I didn't find the flaws grating.



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Reply #37 on: April 08, 2008, 10:02:07 PM
Having said that, I rather enjoyed it, although that may be as much a factor of my lowered expectations.  I was having to take so much of the basketball jargon on trust ("4 blorples, 7 squorks and 59 whibbens would be a record, would it?  Ah-ha, then the game must be going well!"  (As an aside: honestly, you Americans and your obsession with statistics in sport!  Can't you just watch the damn games?)) that I think I found it easier to gloss over some of the other bits that didn't make much sense.  Still, it was fun, an easy listen, and I didn't find the flaws grating.

I've always seen the use of statistics in that sense as a crutch for people to see/know/explain they've seen something extraordinary. It's a lot easier to explain/understand a 93-yard return for a touchdown or a no-hitter than it is to accurately portray what has actually happened in a game. It's been somewhat mollified by ESPN and the other sources of video showing what could only previously be told, but I think it still lingers pretty heavily.

Plus, number-crunching estimates for the next season is something to do during the off-season.

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Reply #38 on: April 08, 2008, 11:21:33 PM
I wonder if this story was an homage to Asimov's classic "Three Laws" short stories.  For those of you who haven't read these stories (shame on you!  ;) ), here's a brief rundown of their general template along with my reasoning:

  • Present a world in which robots have the Three Laws (basically, they do what they're told and don't hurt people):
    Although not explicit in the story, I think this was implied.  Pre-emotions Ralph (The Big Guy) was polite, did exactly what he was told, and showed no signs of being aggressive towards people, even when being fouled in basketball games.
  • Present a robot who has a modified form of the Three Laws (i.e., they can break the rules):
    Clearly, modifying Ralph to give him emotions-- and apparently also free will-- fulfilled this step! He was able to disobey orders (running away, playing poorly in basketball) and able to hurt people (he fouled). 
  • Explore the Rammifications of that modification:
    As mentioned in the last bullet, we see Ralph disobeying.  Moreover, we see that by giving robots emotions they are motivated to disobey in order to experience some emotions, which is a very interesting consequence of the modification.

If my thoughts make sense and The Big Guy was indeed intended to be a "Three Laws" story, then I think it pulled off the template pretty well.  It was nice to hear a new spin (robots in basketball) on a familiar concept.

I wonder if it's a coincidence that there was a seemingly unimportant line in the story about Ralph being able to eat with people that was eerily similar to this line from "The Caves of Steel", an Asimov robot detective book, said by Daneel Olivaw, a robot:
"...Yes I can perform the mechanical operations of chewing and swallowing.  My capacity is, of course, quite limited, and I would have to remove the ingested material from what you might call my stomach sooner or later."
(Daneel even offers a human the food later on because he didn't digest it)


I am glad to see I was not the only one who saw the Asimov references in this story
and ya I agree with the people said about the story not making much sence but I found it fairly easy to suspend my disbelief
maybe it is just cause I enjoy robot stories in many forms
not to say it was a great story just that it was not bad 

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Reply #39 on: April 08, 2008, 11:42:51 PM
Mike Resnick delivered a story that was pretty predictable, yet told so well that I found myself enjoying it anyway. 

Which is a better hallmark of a tale-teller than original ideas any day.

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Reply #40 on: April 09, 2008, 02:04:35 AM
Having said that, I rather enjoyed it, although that may be as much a factor of my lowered expectations.  I was having to take so much of the basketball jargon on trust ("4 blorples, 7 squorks and 59 whibbens would be a record, would it?  Ah-ha, then the game must be going well!"  (As an aside: honestly, you Americans and your obsession with statistics in sport!  Can't you just watch the damn games?)) that I think I found it easier to gloss over some of the other bits that didn't make much sense.  Still, it was fun, an easy listen, and I didn't find the flaws grating.

I've always seen the use of statistics in that sense as a crutch for people to see/know/explain they've seen something extraordinary. It's a lot easier to explain/understand a 93-yard return for a touchdown or a no-hitter than it is to accurately portray what has actually happened in a game. It's been somewhat mollified by ESPN and the other sources of video showing what could only previously be told, but I think it still lingers pretty heavily.

Plus, number-crunching estimates for the next season is something to do during the off-season.

It is getting pathetic, especially in Major League Baseball.  With the advent of PC's and Bill James, instant situational stats are available to managers for any occaision.   Our big dumb Twins manager will often say in the press something like this:  "I'm going to sit Joe Mauer because he's 3 for 15 lifetime against this pitcher on grass at night and instead I'll play this other guy who is 4 for 8 lifetime against this pitcher under the same circumstances."  Ridiculous.  Throw your best guys out there and play the game.

You can't watch a game in any sport now days without being bombarded with a million stupid graphics on screen telling you all kinds of irrelevant information. 

I did like the hoops jargon in the story but not the rest.  And by the way Steve, good timing with the Final Four this weekend. 

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Reply #41 on: April 09, 2008, 08:17:44 PM

I wonder if it's a coincidence that there was a seemingly unimportant line in the story about Ralph being able to eat with people that was eerily similar to this line from "The Caves of Steel", an Asimov robot detective book, said by Daneel Olivaw, a robot:
"...Yes I can perform the mechanical operations of chewing and swallowing.  My capacity is, of course, quite limited, and I would have to remove the ingested material from what you might call my stomach sooner or later."
(Daneel even offers a human the food later on because he didn't digest it)


Yes! I caught that one too. Plus one for the geek-o-meter!  ;)



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Reply #42 on: April 10, 2008, 12:40:19 AM

I wonder if it's a coincidence that there was a seemingly unimportant line in the story about Ralph being able to eat with people that was eerily similar to this line from "The Caves of Steel", an Asimov robot detective book, said by Daneel Olivaw, a robot:
"...Yes I can perform the mechanical operations of chewing and swallowing.  My capacity is, of course, quite limited, and I would have to remove the ingested material from what you might call my stomach sooner or later."
(Daneel even offers a human the food later on because he didn't digest it)


Yes! I caught that one too. Plus one for the geek-o-meter!  ;)

Ditto
Then I thought I was being silly, because it would be logical enough that you would want a robot to be able to eat socially that anyone would have come up with this idea.  Funny that so many of us remembered the same book.



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Reply #43 on: April 10, 2008, 02:34:07 AM
I am solidly in the camp of geeks that have absolutely no interest in sports.  Although it didn't feel too much like you really needed to be a sports fan to get something out of it, the whole subject is such a yawner for me that it really detracted from the whole thing for me.

Given that I was looking at the story through not-rose-colored glasses, I am suspicious of how I could evaluate the story aside from that.  But my gut is that it was still a B/B- story.  My sports yawn curved it way lower than that.

As for hackneyed... the worst one for me wasn't any of the SF cliches... it was the missed free throws.

I certainly am glad to see anything pop up that explores the edges of the genre... this just wasn't my cup of tea.



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Reply #44 on: April 10, 2008, 11:10:31 AM
(As an aside: honestly, you Americans and your obsession with statistics in sport!  Can't you just watch the damn games?))


This may be off track, but...  why is it that we obsess over sport statistics, but we're still (generally) so bad at mathematics?

As for me, personally, I don't generally care for sports much, either.  I like baseball, and enjoy watching soccer (sorry, non-Americans... but that's what we call it) and lacrosse, but only in small doses.  Having robots injected into any sport would be pointless, in my opinion, because the whole point of the contest is to see how well human beings can do against each other.  I just can't say I'd stop watching... because I'm not watching now!

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Reply #45 on: April 10, 2008, 02:16:05 PM
Really enjoyed the story.  Sure robots exploring emotions has been done to death but that's no reason to dismiss new and interesting perspectives on it.  Good reading from Steve also.



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Reply #46 on: April 10, 2008, 09:49:21 PM

Having robots injected into any sport would be pointless, in my opinion, because the whole point of the contest is to see how well human beings can do against each other


I agree, but not so much because of comparison to other humans, but because for me what's impressive about sports is the display of courage, heart, willingness to suffer, teamwork <insert your favorite endurance sports cliche here>. 

If you had a robotic cyclist climbing Alpe d'Huez and Phil Liggett intoned -- "He's digging down deep..." Into what?  Reserve battery power?  It's impressive when Lance Armstrong (or any other great champion) does it, because you can recognize that he's pouring out energy through sheer force of will in circumstances where any rational person would lay down by the side of the road and take a nap.  But a machine?  Why not just drive to the top and be done with it?

If all that was totally opaque to non-cyclists, sorry... 

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Reply #47 on: April 11, 2008, 04:21:48 AM
So Windup... how do you explain drag racing?

I would TOTALLY watch robotic basketball, if all the players were robots.  If they were self-directed robots, even better.  And I'd be right there listening to the interview with the lead programmer at halftime.



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Reply #48 on: April 11, 2008, 04:47:05 AM
i found this story entertaining.  I had a feeling he missed those shots for a reason.

however i too found it incredibly implausible that anyone would let some teams have overwhelming advantages over others.  They could have skipped the whole season and just went to the finals.

as for sf fan and sports, i dont love sports, i dont hate them, and id just as soon play a game of football as i would watch a movie.  I dont take interest in following teams and player stats and i dont know anyone's name, but i do enjoy watching a good game from time to time.  it is odd how most sf fans do not take to sports as readily, im glad Steve brought up the topic.

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


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Reply #49 on: April 11, 2008, 04:48:58 AM
So Windup... how do you explain drag racing?
i would go with the team's willpower and ingenuity in making a great machine to do the best it can do.  the driver is merely a daredevil to preform the task.  its not so much a physical effort as it is a mental effort to overcome the physical limits.

same with nascar.  its a combination of the team's willpower and the driver's skill

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


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Reply #50 on: April 11, 2008, 04:50:58 AM

So Windup... how do you explain drag racing?


You'd have to ask someone who watches drag racing.  

I'm not sure I'd consider it a sport -- which is not to say that some people don't find it entertaining or that there isn't any skill involved. The machines clearly display a high level of ingenuity that some people can appreciate.  But I do say it's fundamentally different than what we get from football, soccer, cycling, polo, etc.  And much less popular, I might add.  

<<Insert by reference long-winded and inconclusive agrument over the precise definition of "sport.">>


I would TOTALLY watch robotic basketball, if all the players were robots.  If they were self-directed robots, even better.  And I'd be right there listening to the interview with the lead programmer at halftime.


Out of curiousity, do you watch basketball now?  Or do you follow any other sport?  

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with being fascinated by machinery; I'm just saying that's a different group, or at least a very different motivation, than the traditional sports fanbase.  
« Last Edit: April 11, 2008, 04:54:01 AM by Windup »

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Reply #51 on: April 11, 2008, 11:10:56 PM

I wonder if it's a coincidence that there was a seemingly unimportant line in the story about Ralph being able to eat with people that was eerily similar to this line from "The Caves of Steel", an Asimov robot detective book, said by Daneel Olivaw, a robot:
"...Yes I can perform the mechanical operations of chewing and swallowing.  My capacity is, of course, quite limited, and I would have to remove the ingested material from what you might call my stomach sooner or later."
(Daneel even offers a human the food later on because he didn't digest it)


Yes! I caught that one too. Plus one for the geek-o-meter!  ;)

Ditto
Then I thought I was being silly, because it would be logical enough that you would want a robot to be able to eat socially that anyone would have come up with this idea.  Funny that so many of us remembered the same book.


Don't know about you, but when I started to get interested in SF, I didn't really have any friends who were into it like me. So I had to look for 'the good stuff' by myself. And I ended up with Asimov almost straight away, if only because of his fame. It's probably like that for a lot of people.

On the other hand, it is funny that something as futile as eating would stand out (I read the Asimov novel at least 15 years ago). Proves how good it was, eh? I mean, I saw I Am Legend tonight and I doubt any recollection will remain by, let's say, next tuesday..... ;)



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Reply #52 on: April 12, 2008, 12:27:19 AM

So Windup... how do you explain drag racing?

...But I do say it's fundamentally different than what we get from football, soccer, cycling, polo, etc.  And much less popular, I might add. 


I would TOTALLY watch robotic basketball, if all the players were robots.  If they were self-directed robots, even better.  And I'd be right there listening to the interview with the lead programmer at halftime.


Out of curiousity, do you watch basketball now?  Or do you follow any other sport? 

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with being fascinated by machinery; I'm just saying that's a different group, or at least a very different motivation, than the traditional sports fanbase. 

I follow all kinds of robotic sports.  Back when "Battlebots" was on TV, I never missed it.  I cheered the challengers and booed the returning champions as if they were sentient creatures.  I debated the relative merits of flippers vs. wedges vs. spinners with my friends.

Same with "Robot Wars" which I actually thought was a better show, especially with Craig Charles, who was the best presenter by far in my opinion.  I especially liked the concept of the "House Robots" because they basically could mount weapons beyond what the competitors could mount, and really put the hurt on.  The British engineers were real characters, too.

Robot combat has a good deal of human skill involved... not only in the design and engineering, but "driving" the machine as well.  Of course, if those machines were self-directed, you take the "driving" skill out and replace it with "programming"... but the sport is not much changed.

Sadly, there's not much left of robot sports on TV.  I hope it eventually comes back.



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Reply #53 on: April 12, 2008, 02:57:38 AM

Robot combat has a good deal of human skill involved... not only in the design and engineering, but "driving" the machine as well.  Of course, if those machines were self-directed, you take the "driving" skill out and replace it with "programming"... but the sport is not much changed.


I'm not saying that there isn't any human skill involved with the design or "driving" of robots, just that it's a different order of skills than the ones that sports fans generally turn out to see.  "Programming" is even further removed from that skill set. 

And, as your lament over the demise of "robot sports" on TV seems to indicate, the group that's interested in the robot-related skills is much smaller than the group that follows most major sports.

Which, gets us back to TAD's original point -- I don't think most basketball fans would take well to having human players replaced by robots. 

(Hey TAD, get in here and defend your own assertions...  All I did was agree...)

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Reply #54 on: April 12, 2008, 05:15:53 PM
So Windup... how do you explain drag racing?

I'm always amazed that the racers don't trip on their feather boas and stiletto heels....


I would TOTALLY watch robotic basketball, if all the players were robots.  If they were self-directed robots, even better.  And I'd be right there listening to the interview with the lead programmer at halftime.
...

Robot combat has a good deal of human skill involved... not only in the design and engineering, but "driving" the machine as well.  Of course, if those machines were self-directed, you take the "driving" skill out and replace it with "programming"... but the sport is not much changed.


I'm not saying that there isn't any human skill involved with the design or "driving" of robots, just that it's a different order of skills than the ones that sports fans generally turn out to see.  "Programming" is even further removed from that skill set. 

And, as your lament over the demise of "robot sports" on TV seems to indicate, the group that's interested in the robot-related skills is much smaller than the group that follows most major sports.

Which, gets us back to TAD's original point -- I don't think most basketball fans would take well to having human players replaced by robots. 

(Hey TAD, get in here and defend your own assertions...  All I did was agree...)


Taking Nobilis's fine defence (or defense... I can't remember which dialect I speak any more) of robot sports into account, I would have to say I'd probably be MORE interested in watching sports if the teams were made up of robotic players.  Well, most sports, anyway.

I wouldn't see any point in having humans compete against robots, for some of the reasons outlined so eloquently above.  Robots lack the "heart" that provides most of the drama; and building in design flaws or handicaps for the sake of making it *possible* for humans to compete would feel as much like cheating as, say, using steroids.

EXCEPT for baseball... I suspect there are enough variable built into the average baseball game to make the outcome between a human team and a team with robots an open question.

(See... I'm payin' attention!)

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Reply #55 on: April 14, 2008, 03:57:17 PM
I liked the story, it was nice



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Reply #56 on: April 22, 2008, 08:27:34 PM
Thinking about this story again (and in the context of PodCastle starting), I'm reminded of Isaac Asimov saying that he always aspired to the writing of Fantasy but found it much more difficult than Science Fiction.  [Sorry: that's paraphrased to the extent of misquoting but I don't have the source to hand.]  I always interpreted this as meaning that you can distract a reader of SF from the deficiences (of plot or character or prose) of a story with a sufficiently cool idea, and his bibliography attests that Asimov was never short of cool ideas.  Whereas Fantasy is SF without a safety net, and needs a much more rounded depiction of a make-believe world to carry the story.

By staking itself on one idea, "The Big Guy" lived or died by how cool you found it.  (By "idea" I mean "physically superior robot is more interested in emotions, to inhuman extremes".)  If this is something that you think is always interesting to explore, or at least can bear study from a slightly different angle, then the story's OK.  If you think it's been done to death or too closely follows a previous treatment, it's pointless and frustrating.  But take away the central idea and there's nothing left at all.  In Fantasy you'd feel the emptiness so acutely that the story would never make it past the slush pile; in SF there's kinda something there in the technology-meets-today theme that makes it worth consideration.

I still like the story, and EP does (and should) lean towards the fun stuff, but good SF is better than this.



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Reply #57 on: April 25, 2008, 09:47:25 AM
Ok, I'm a latecomer to this story - I just found it difficult to prioritize listening to it very highly over the last few weeks, so it sat on my iPod for a while - but now that I've got around to it, I agree with the "well told, but not very interesting, and feels over-constructed" sentiment I've been getting from other posts on this thread.

One thing that bothered me that hasn't been getting much attention is how implausible this story is - not in the setup (which was discussed above) but in the way the characters react. Strangely for a story about emotions, no-one seems to really have much of those regarding the robot - none of the players seems to resent the robot, or worry about eventually losing their job when all-robot teams become popular, or treat the robot in any way other than as if it's totally natural there suddenly is one on the team. Also, after a whole season of seeing him play perfect games, no-one - not the team members, not the coach, not the media - realizes he threw the last two shots?

Oh well.



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Reply #58 on: April 26, 2008, 02:21:14 PM
Ok, I'm a latecomer to this story - I just found it difficult to prioritize listening to it very highly over the last few weeks, so it sat on my iPod for a while - but now that I've got around to it, I agree with the "well told, but not very interesting, and feels over-constructed" sentiment I've been getting from other posts on this thread.

One thing that bothered me that hasn't been getting much attention is how implausible this story is - not in the setup (which was discussed above) but in the way the characters react. Strangely for a story about emotions, no-one seems to really have much of those regarding the robot - none of the players seems to resent the robot, or worry about eventually losing their job when all-robot teams become popular, or treat the robot in any way other than as if it's totally natural there suddenly is one on the team. Also, after a whole season of seeing him play perfect games, no-one - not the team members, not the coach, not the media - realizes he threw the last two shots?

Oh well.

Everyone was just bored, because... be honest, who wants to see basketball played "perfectly" all the time?

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Reply #59 on: May 11, 2008, 12:39:03 AM
Given this episode's intro and the direction the comments have headed towards ... I figured it was an appropriate time to chime in.  :)

I wondered across Escape Pod when episode 13 had just come out (The Once and Future Dentist) and have been addicted every since. I've been a Sci-Fi geek since I was in the third grade and now I like NASCAR so much ... I co-host a NASCAR podcast.

So I represent the segment of the population that cocks it's head to on side and says "Huh? What's the big deal?" anytime someone questions combining sports and sci-fi.

That being said ... this was not my favorite story by Mr. Resnick. Knowing how regulated professional sports are ... the premise that a pro-sports league would allow robots (especially to allow just some teams to have them) was distracting.

From that aspect, you might enjoy this story more if you AREN'T a sports fan.

Also, the whole "Wanting the whole experience" thing made the ending pretty obvious.


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Reply #60 on: May 14, 2008, 02:07:11 AM
I'm fairly new to Pseudo and Escape Pod, and I heard this one just today. Maybe it's just my horror writing mind at work, but when Ralph says he wants to experience love and losing love, I wondered how he was going to manage it when he decided that the love part was over and it was time to lose it. He can't change the emotions of another person easily, so wouldn't his robot logic tell him he just has to "lose" the whole person? In a quick and easy way?



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Reply #61 on: October 20, 2008, 10:02:22 PM
This story was okay. Apparently Mike Resnick is ridiculously prolific in outlets besides Escape Pod as well, but what I've seen so far is just...okay. Maybe I'm expecting too much from sci-fi to change my life or make me laugh, but... Fred and Wilma was pretty good. I liked that Ralph threw the last game just to see what it felt like, and it was better than him just doing awesome and that being the whole story, but it didn't have much of an emotional impact. It was okay.

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Reply #62 on: March 23, 2010, 04:56:05 PM
Not great.  I rarely like sports stories.  There only seem to be a few permutations a sports story is expected to go, and anything that doesn't try to take it somewhere new doesn't mark itself as very memorable.  If it had been a more original spec component, maybe that could've carried it, but the robot finding emotions has been done so many times it does little to add freshness.  I listened to it about 2/3 of the way through and then stopped.

As others pointed out, the fact that the league, the fans, and the players were so willing to accept robo additions to just a few teams made it hard to suspend disbelief as well.  I don't expect every speculative element to be possible in our world, of course, but I do hope for internal consistency.

Resnick has raised the bar of expectations with most of his previous stories, and this one couldn't compare.  I know Resnick can do better than this, Barnaby in Exile being a case in point.