Author Topic: EP154: Union Dues - Freedom With a Small f  (Read 52772 times)

Planish

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Reply #25 on: April 20, 2008, 07:34:09 AM
Well. I'm starting to warm up to the Union Dues stories. I think I got off to a bad start with Iron Bars and the Glass Jaw followed by Send In the Clowns, neither of which I cared for very much. Still working my way through the Escape Pod archives, and I think I've only got Cleanup in Aisle 5 left to hear.

That being said, the last couple of UD stories that I've listened to (which weren't in EP-chronological order) have caused me to elevate them to the status of "okay", up from "meh".

I seem to be more likely to enjoy the ones with fewer superheros, as in Freedom With a Small f.

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sirana

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Reply #26 on: April 20, 2008, 01:01:12 PM
Liked it very much. I am honestly glad that the series is going in a very dark direction. I always prefered dark comics to the glossy kind. The main character seemed a bit klicheed to me, we don't really get much more than drugaddicted stripper with the Powers thrown in. But it is a still a very sympathetic character and the story had a nice plot.
More please (though maybe not in the all to near future, I understand everybody who doesn't like a specific kind of story and we had a lot of UD-stories in a short period of time).

The closing song was simply GOLD, like Jonathan Coulton at his best. Listenend to it three times in a row.
I would quote the best parts here, but then I'd have to copy the complete lyrics.



eytanz

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Reply #27 on: April 20, 2008, 01:17:22 PM
Yeah, let me second the love for the song. I listened to it on Drabblecast the day before I listened to this EP episode, and I was really delighted the moment Steve mentioned he's playing it again.



Thaurismunths

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Reply #28 on: April 20, 2008, 02:23:32 PM
Yeah, let me second the love for the song. I listened to it on Drabblecast the day before I listened to this EP episode, and I was really delighted the moment Steve mentioned he's playing it again.
Thirded.
Fantastic!

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Atara

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Reply #29 on: April 20, 2008, 03:06:55 PM
I think Union Dues could use some super-villains.
Actually, I think The Union are the super-villains.


That's actually a very astute observation. I keep finding myself thinking "what fecking bastards!" while listening to Union Dues stories, but never made the villain connection. I guess that, as a listener/reader, I was told that the Union and members are the heroes, and I took that at face value. And, all through history, otherwise good people have been convinced to do horrible things by people who thought that they were doing something "right." No one is a villain in their own eyes.

As for this story, I liked it about as well as I've liked the others - that is, pretty well. They aren't my favorite Escape Pod stories, but I don't groan when I see one queued in my podcatcher. I would like to see some other aspects of the Union looked at, though - maybe something about the good that they Union is doing in the world. I think that would set off the horror a bit more when we get another story like this.



sirana

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Reply #30 on: April 20, 2008, 03:27:05 PM
Yeah, let me second the love for the song. I listened to it on Drabblecast the day before I listened to this EP episode, and I was really delighted the moment Steve mentioned he's playing it again.
Thirded.
Fantastic!

Squeeeel. He has a album out. Bought it without listening to the samples.

Later: Finished listening. It's effin hilarious! More like Stephen Lynch than Coulton, but I love it nonetheless. The recording quality is better than Juzt Mizundrstood.
Best songs are Fetus In Your Kitchen, FEMA and Jesus Clones.
And nobody has played it on Audiosurf, so I made the highscore for EVERY SINGLE SONG. (Which is is in no way a challenge to the forum. Just saying... ;-)
« Last Edit: April 20, 2008, 04:22:41 PM by sirana »



qwints

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Reply #31 on: April 20, 2008, 04:36:05 PM
I thought the story was good, but I didn't like it. Talk about dark - the Union driving a member into addiction and prostitution. I like the Union dues stories but this one felt too soon after the last one.

+1 for the song.

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And Nevyrazimov felt better.


wintermute

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Reply #32 on: April 20, 2008, 05:28:45 PM
Definitely one of my favourite UD stories. More details on the dark and not entirely heroic nature of the Union are always good.

I'm not sure how she figured out that a random cop in a strip club would know where the kidnapped baby was, but other than that, it was all good.

Science means that not all dreams can come true


Windup

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Reply #33 on: April 20, 2008, 05:37:00 PM
I think Union Dues could use some super-villains.
Actually, I think The Union are the super-villains.


That's actually a very astute observation. I keep finding myself thinking "what fecking bastards!" while listening to Union Dues stories, but never made the villain connection. I guess that, as a listener/reader, I was told that the Union and members are the heroes, and I took that at face value. And, all through history, otherwise good people have been convinced to do horrible things by people who thought that they were doing something "right." No one is a villain in their own eyes.


Or maybe the Union changed over time.  You can think of any number of organizations or even whole governments that started out with noble intentions and high hopes, only to slowly degenerate into a bunch of thugs intent on nothing more than preserving their own power.  Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe is the most recent widely-publicized example, but there are lots of others. 

"My whole job is in the space between 'should be' and 'is.' It's a big space."


bolddeceiver

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Reply #34 on: April 20, 2008, 06:33:43 PM
Yeah, I always felt like the Union were meant to be seen by the reader as an institution that started with high ideals, and still spouts them, but has gotten far, far from those ideals in practice.  Allegorical, much?

I really like UD stories, and this is no exception.  The story was drowning in unresolved pathos, which can be hard to stomach, but it did it without getting maudlin.

BUT, if you take out the minor superpower scene, the Union Dues  references and label you have a mediocre and cliched undercover cop story.

I may risk sounding like a broken record (cf my comments on Behind the Rules), but what of it?  You could take the whales and the ship out of Moby Dick, and it would be a story about the land.  Sure, storylines run to certain conventions, but that's because those conventions are effective.  Sometimes an undercurrent of corrupt superhero organization is what it takes to make what would otherwise "mediocre and cliched undercover cop story" something interesting.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2008, 06:36:54 PM by bolddeceiver »



Ocicat

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Reply #35 on: April 20, 2008, 06:44:12 PM
I have always sighed when someone describes the Union Dues series as being about "Superheroes".  As far as I'm concerned, there are no superheroes in these stories.  There are superpowered people (metas in DC's parlance) who are dressed up like Superheroes in order to make the public accept them.

This doesn't make them heroes.

I don't know if the series needs villains (other than the Union itself), but I'm always confused by why we haven't seen any supers who haven't joined.  The Union doesn't have some infallible "Cerebro" device to detect all the people with powers.  Some folks must have resisted joining and are out there undercover trying to lead normal lives.  Or even using their powers to their own advantage from time to time...

As to this story itself, it was just okay.  Which is how I react to most UD stories, really.  I enjoyed the dark / underworld atmosphere here, but thought the kidnapping plot was kind of lacking.  And I don't need to be shown that the union is full of bastards who deserve to be taken down, I figured that out back in Iron Bars and the Glass Jaw.  I do want to see that start to pay off, but I fear that may be reserved for the UD Novel that DeRego has mentioned planning.



wintermute

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Reply #36 on: April 20, 2008, 07:10:51 PM
I don't know if the series needs villains (other than the Union itself), but I'm always confused by why we haven't seen any supers who haven't joined.  The Union doesn't have some infallible "Cerebro" device to detect all the people with powers.  Some folks must have resisted joining and are out there undercover trying to lead normal lives.  Or even using their powers to their own advantage from time to time...

As I've said elsewhere, I'm keen to know how supers are treated elsewhere in the world. The Union seems to be an exclusively American organisation, so what happens to supers in Canada, or Europe, or Australia? Do other countries have equally draconian organisations, or do they just require registration and maybe lojacking? Is there an underground railroad smuggling supers from America to Mexico? Do supers even exist, outside of the US?

I think there could be some very interesting stories in there.

Science means that not all dreams can come true


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Reply #37 on: April 21, 2008, 02:23:34 AM
This one was an eye-opening look at just how bleak the life of a superpowered person could be.

I think it took some real guts for J.R. to put this one on paper and submit it, as well as for SFE to buy it.

This one didn't pull any punches, didn't sugarcoat anything, didn't even give us an "up" ending with a glimmer of hope. Just a lonely, frightened young woman sobbing in an apartment that is tantamount to a prison.

The story didn't make me feel happy, but it made me miserable in a wonderful way.

For those people who think that Union Dues doesn't bring anything new to the table, brother, you're sitting at the wrong table.

Good one, J.R., keep 'em comin'.

My imaginary omnipotent friend is more real that your imaginary omnipotent friend.


goatkeeper

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Reply #38 on: April 21, 2008, 03:19:36 AM
I think this story would have been more effective sanz about 700 words.  Dergo is great with detail but it is a bit much here.
Aside from that this was a great story and I really enjoyed it.



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Reply #39 on: April 21, 2008, 04:15:49 AM
This one was an eye-opening look at just how bleak the life of a superpowered person could be.

I think it took some real guts for J.R. to put this one on paper and submit it, as well as for SFE to buy it.

This one didn't pull any punches, didn't sugarcoat anything, didn't even give us an "up" ending with a glimmer of hope. Just a lonely, frightened young woman sobbing in an apartment that is tantamount to a prison.

The story didn't make me feel happy, but it made me miserable in a wonderful way.

For those people who think that Union Dues doesn't bring anything new to the table, brother, you're sitting at the wrong table.

Good one, J.R., keep 'em comin'.

I agree with this psot.

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Chey

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Reply #40 on: April 21, 2008, 11:27:19 AM
I think Union Dues could use some super-villains.
Actually, I think The Union are the super-villains.

[/quote]

The Union is reminding me more and more of the Psy Corp out of Babylon 5.  There is nothing more terrifying than a bureaucracy with access to unlimited power.

As far as Crimson’s drug problem, I found it disturbing, but with her background as an orphan and the drug culture in her work place, I wasn’t too surprised to find she too was partaking.  I didn’t hear how long she was on the streets on her own before the Union discovered her and took her in.

I was caught by her saying, early in the story, that she was dying.  This was never returned to.  Or perhaps it was and I was too busy playing dodge ‘em on the beltway to hear.  Can the supers die from disease or neglect? 

Interesting series.  I’ve listened to the Union Dues stories, Mur’s Playing For Keeps, and Mercedes Lackey/Steve Libby’s The Secret World Chronicles, and am struck by how different each person brings to life basically the same idea.  Supers, good/bad, no one has it easy.

Also, I think the stories are getting more frustrating for me because it feels like the author is heading somewhere BIG.  A large plot arc, major development, a hard left....something, and the drips and drabs on Escape Pod aren't allowing him to feed us the arc properly.  I keep expecting, hoping really, to hear Union Dues has moved over to Podiobooks and is coming out in a longer, more book like form.

(edited due to short term memory issues.  What was I saying again?)
« Last Edit: April 21, 2008, 11:39:33 AM by Chey »



Listener

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Reply #41 on: April 21, 2008, 12:22:26 PM
I've not listened to the story yet, but I just want to reference this post from the EP153 thread...
http://forum.escapeartists.info/index.php?topic=1501.msg24347#msg24347
I am apparently prescient.

Heh.  If it helps any, I had not read your comment when I scheduled this story.

As for lesser-known authors, I'm sympathetic to your viewpoint here.  But we're about to go into our Hugo run, so it's going to be at least a few more weeks.  (And you're guaranteed to get one more Resnick story in the next month, too.  He was Hugo-nominated.  My hands are tied.)  >8->



No worries.  I was joking around.

At least if it's Hugo-nominated, it'll probably be better than standard Resnick.  (Which isn't usually bad.)

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Listener

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Reply #42 on: April 21, 2008, 12:33:51 PM
I liked this one better than the previous. 

The title threw me a little -- Crimson has the freedom to do what she wants as long as she also does what the Union wants, and I get that.  But... I dunno, I'm not any good with titles myself.

The comment from "Michael King" is funny to me because in about eight hours, he'll be sitting at the desk next to mine.  (We work in the same department at the same TV station.)

Contrariwise to what others are saying, I don't think we need a supervillain in the Unionverse.  (See what I did there? :) )  If the Union had a supervillain to rally against, they would by nature have to be the good guys, and the Union itself... not so much.  The people, yes; the organization, no.

The references to money, more than anything, really brought the story home.  The last time I had to use a laundromat, I spent $5 total on all my laundry, and that was like six or seven loads through washer and dryer.  The cost of pizza and soda, not so out-of-line.  Does laundry really cost that much these days?

I think the author did a great job of getting into this character's head, especially her misery.  I might have appreciated a short paragraph about how she decided to start using coke.  Drinking is an easy one to fall into, but coke?  Coke takes effort.  And it's illegal.

For a short time I thought Crimson would be a vigilante.  Then I thought the Union would disavow any knowledge of her existence and sacrifice her for the greater good.  Which they did, but not in the way I expected.

A nice touch: how Alex Nova dehumanized her in the limo by not referring to her by her real name, just her Union name and her stripper name.  The Union is a dehumanizing organization, which is part of what makes them that much more evil.  And not just that low-grade evil that rubs off on everyone who touches it.  You know, like British Rail.  (Thank you, Terry Pratchett and perhaps Neil Gaiman; I don't remember if that's from Good Omens or a Discworld book.)

My favorite Union story was probably "Clowns", but this one is close to #2, if not already there.

I think we need a Union story that hearkens back to "Clowns", to the Union interacting with themselves, instead of one Union member out there in the world.

Whoever said "one every six months is good, one every six weeks not so much", I agree with.  They're not serialized enough, I think, to justify such a quick reappearance.  Unless there really isn't anything good out there that can trump U.D., in which case, I understand the selection, but that in itself depresses me.

Finally... deep down, I know JRD is just ITCHING to write the "Union members go on strike/rebel against the Union/take it down" story.  If it's not written already.  Maybe that'll be the novel... or the green-screen movie shot by Areakt/Rob Caves productions...

(CFL bulb appears above head.)

PS: I liked the reader.  Use her again please.

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gelee

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Reply #43 on: April 21, 2008, 05:34:56 PM
Another great piece from Jeff.  I can understand why some people don't enjoy the UD stories, and why this one in particular is getting hit so hard.  Super-hero pieces usually leave me cold.  I find them simplistic, two-dimensional, and utterly over the top.  The UD stories are, I think, the most realistic imagining of what a world with super-heroes might really be like.  This is challenging fiction, not *POW!* *BIFF!* *UMF!* stuff.  "Superfreinds" a la "Gattaca."  So I guess I'm not tired of UD yet.



contra

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Reply #44 on: April 21, 2008, 05:53:05 PM
I like Union Dues at hte best of times.  Its like an old friend.... keeps coming back, I have a good time and it leaves.

I don't know if the universe needs a supervillian... it would been to undermine the point of the universe.  They are propaganda spreading glory hogs who are only really to protect themselves from the people father than protect everyone else.

This story didn't really fit in that same vein for me.  I still liked it, and it didn't have the normal ending where you know for sure things are going to get better from now on.  The Union experimenting with giving heroes secret identities?  I'm not sure why... unless they want to put heroes back into the genetral population... but then they wouldn't be able to control them on the same level.  Ah wait... the hypnotic suggestions.  Hmm....
Meh.  I liked it enough and it made me think enough to come here and comment.  That the previous few stories haven't.  I don't know.  I didn't not like them... and I had nothing negative to say about them... but I liked this one.


And I keep playing that damn song at the end...
So when the compilation 'music to eat brains to' coming out wiuth all this awesome zombie music people are making?
>_>

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DKT

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Reply #45 on: April 21, 2008, 06:51:27 PM
For me, this UD story was the most compulsive listen of the bunch.  It sucked me right in and didn't let go until Daikaiju fired up the closing music.  I felt like there were a couple times I had to stretch my suspension of disbelief (that was a hell of a hunch) but the writing was so strong, it really wasn't that hard.  I thought it was some of the best writing in the Unionverse  ;).  Well played.

I don't remember anyone else saying anything about the narration, but I thought Nuri's reading absolutely nailed it.  It sounded completely natural and perfectly paced. 


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Reply #46 on: April 21, 2008, 07:30:04 PM
Yeah, let me second the love for the song. I listened to it on Drabblecast the day before I listened to this EP episode, and I was really delighted the moment Steve mentioned he's playing it again.
Thirded.
Fantastic!

Where's a link for the song?  It was the only song to have made my laugh out loud driving to work over the last 6 months.  Its a share worthy classic in my mind.

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Darwinist

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Reply #47 on: April 21, 2008, 08:00:46 PM

Where's a link for the song?  It was the only song to have made my laugh out loud driving to work over the last 6 months.  Its a share worthy classic in my mind.

Check out the Drabblecast website.   

http://web.mac.com/normsherman/iWeb/Site/Podcast/Podcast.html
« Last Edit: April 21, 2008, 08:03:59 PM by Darwinist »

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Roney

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Reply #48 on: April 21, 2008, 09:23:45 PM
I don't remember anyone else saying anything about the narration, but I thought Nuri's reading absolutely nailed it.  It sounded completely natural and perfectly paced. 

Definitely.  I thought this was an above-average Union Dues story anyway, but the reading really sold it.

Some of the previous stories have elaborated on aspects of the Union that didn't seem surprising for a bureaucracy out of control.  To me this was the first unpredictable development.  Beyond the PR and the self-preservation of any large organization, what are the people at the top, the ones with discretionary power, running for their special ops?  And this special op was an interesting one.

Other than that, I liked the parallel lack of glamour in the portrayal of two professions (stripper and superheroine) that like to glamorize themselves.  I also liked the fact that the various parallels (of which there do seem to be many: really, Union members are on a par with strippers in this universe) weren't laboured.  As usual with Union Dues, I found I cared about what happened to the viewpoint character by the end.

Less positively, either there were continuity gaps in the plot or gaps in my attention (I'd have said the latter but other posters' comments mentioned the same things), and it could probably have lost a few words.  These didn't bother me as much as they might have.



gelee

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Reply #49 on: April 22, 2008, 02:08:58 PM
Other than that, I liked the parallel lack of glamour in the portrayal of two professions (stripper and superheroine) that like to glamorize themselves.  I also liked the fact that the various parallels (of which there do seem to be many: really, Union members are on a par with strippers in this universe) weren't laboured.  As usual with Union Dues, I found I cared about what happened to the viewpoint character by the end.
Neat insight.  I missed it in the first time through.