Author Topic: EP509: Broken  (Read 6178 times)


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on: November 03, 2015, 12:58:18 PM
EP509: Broken

By Jason Kimble

Read by Mat Weller


My favorite part about skimming is that I’m not broken when I do it. It doesn’t matter that I don’t have levels, that I’m on or off, because that’s how everything’s supposed to be when you’re in the hypernet. Even if I’m not supposed to be in the hypernet.

I’m only able to skim because Kaipo left my interface node on. That was the day he told me I could call him Kaipo instead of Dr. Singh. His eyes are different than mine, but that’s not because of the Skew, and even if it is I wouldn’t care, because they’re pretty and dark and they twinkle a little bit when he smiles. We’d had sex twice when he told me I could call him Kaipo if we’re alone. Sex is almost as good as skimming, only it doesn’t last as long, and sometimes I’m stinky afterwards, which I’m not a fan of. Sometimes Kaipo smells like pumpkin, which I’m totally a fan of.


“Hi, Heady,” I say, rolling onto my side on the bed to look at her. I frown, which I know because the muscles at my jawbone ache a little when I frown. “Did you hear all that?”

Heady raises an eyebrow and purses her lips. Heady’s my big sister. Like, really big. Eight and a half feet big. That’s what the Skew did to her, blew her up bigger than life, but I think it suits her. She’s not as tough as she looks to most people, though. She’s totally as tough as she looks to me right now.

“Sorry,” I say, sitting up. “Sometimes I get confused about outside and inside my head.” That’s what the Skew did to me: broke my head. You can see that when I cut my hair or trim my beard, because the hairs change colors each time. Other people tell me it’s silly, but I like it. I can never decide if I like red or blue or green or purple or yellow more, and this way I get to have them all, and all’s better than some.

Heady sighs.

“Don’t worry, Sy,” she says, because Sy’s my name. “You never have to apologize to me.”

She smiles, and the muscles in my cheeks tense up so I know I’m smiling, too. She’s a good big sister, Heady. Even if she’s not real.

Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!


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Reply #1 on: November 06, 2015, 03:10:22 PM
The lack of detail makes this story.  We don't really know what the Skew is, and we don't really know where they are, though we get some idea from the details.  I'm not really sure why Sy is in the ward, though it's obvious something happened and we won't find out what.  This is the best example of show, don't tell, and it makes me want to know more about this world, fill in the blanks from the tantalizing morsel we are given.

Heady is the best part, because it is hard to know if she was real at any time.  Is Sy saying goodbye to a part of himself that was damaged in the Skew, or is there a real sister who left him?  She definitely is a part of Sy at the end, with all the emotional angst that could only come from Sy.  And what happened to her if she was real?  Did she choose to not come back or was she unable?  Again, keeping the details private and hidden makes them all the more fascinating.

But Kaipo, I am not a fan.  What a horrible, manipulative doctor.  He acts like he cares and then take advantage of his power over Sy.  Poor Sy doesn't realize how taken advantage of he was by Kaipo, and has sympathy for the situation he is leaving him in.  That Sy could walk out of there and make that tough decision to go it alone is a resilience I envy.  It sucks to be alone, but its better for Sy to find people that will actually care about him.  Confidence and Self-Reliance, I'm a big fan!

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Reply #2 on: November 07, 2015, 04:21:21 AM
Since Sy has a version of his sister that exists only in his head, can we call her, "Head Heady"?


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Reply #3 on: November 09, 2015, 03:21:40 PM
I generally liked it.  I especially liked the bit about the locks and how the story made them genuinely likeable.

For most of the story I was trying to pick apart what the Skew was, and what exactly it meant.  The two most prominent examples are the protagonist and his sister, but since his sister might or might not be imaginary that made it very hard for me to tell whether she actually had the Skew, whether she was actually 8 feet tall at any point.  I think she wasn't?  But then I'm left with even less information about the Skew. 

I felt bad for his situation, and I'm glad he managed to work his way out. 

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Reply #4 on: November 10, 2015, 08:14:20 AM
My theory is that Skew is some kind of disease that messes with people in different manners. At one point I think the story explicitly called it a disease.
What I really like about this story is how Sy is not being treated, but being taught how to hide his symptoms. Because society really sucks when it comes to dealing with mental illness. He's clearly close to one end of the autism spectrum, but that's okay. He doesn't mind, his sister doesn't mind and Kaipo doesn't mind. All he needs to do is learn how to hide it from everybody else. And failing that, go somewhere where there is no "everyone else".

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Reply #5 on: November 15, 2015, 03:32:24 AM
It was cool to have a main character on the autistic spectrum again. I liked his relationship with his sister, though I agree that's it's perfectly ambiguous whether she ever actually existed. I think my favorite part of the story was his description of how he slowly but surely built the framework for his escape. The story only gave us hints, but I have a feeling that he'll be better off on his own.


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Reply #6 on: November 20, 2015, 04:51:51 PM
I liked it, for it's lack of exposition, for it's use of repetition and developed style and for it's way of making the whole cyberpunk metaphor somehow fresh again without resorting to nostalgia. 


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Reply #7 on: December 02, 2015, 05:59:34 PM
Loved the cyberpunk in this. Reminded me pleasantly of the otaku in Shadowrun.

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Reply #8 on: December 03, 2015, 02:03:09 AM
I could listen to the podcasts all the time! I really liked it.

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Reply #9 on: October 29, 2016, 09:33:26 PM
This story uses a somewhat unreliable narrator to develop ideas about life in an asteroid space colony, a disease with odd effects, delusion, genius, sexuality, psychotherapy in virtual reality, and manipulation of security protocols within complex computer networks.

To clarify some details, a plot summary may be helpful. Spoilers ahead.

The protagonist, Sy, appears to be autistic and is being held in a mental institution on an asteroid. The characters in the story have been affected to some degree or other by a disease called Skew, which manifests itself in various physical or mental alterations. The story has very little exposition, requiring the reader to make sense of an assorted jumble of clues about Sy's circumstances.

Sy appears to be an anomaly, having been born into a population rendered largely sterile by the Skew. The unlikeliness of his existence is compounded by the fact that he may have a sister whom he refers to as Heady, although this sister may be nothing more than a creation of his imagination. Sy thrives in the world of things, whereas Heady is skilled in dealing with people. Sy is being treated by Dr. Singh, a psychiatrist who, besides treating Sy, is open to sexual involvement with his patient. Additional characters include security investigators Pointy Teeth and Bone knuckles, who want to know more about Sy's unusual capabilities and are instrumental in having him committed for the crime of unauthorized hypernet access.

Sy has a hypernet interface node that has been turned off.  Dr. Singh turns Sy's node on for psychotherapy sessions in a virtual environment. Sy uses seduction to distract Dr. Singh, enabling him to successfully bypass security restrictions. After that Sy is in his element, slowly getting to know the network security protocols of the hospital in which he is imprisoned. When he eventually learns how to control the locks, he is able to escape.
« Last Edit: October 30, 2016, 01:44:02 AM by Piet »

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Reply #10 on: November 07, 2017, 01:47:25 PM
I am ambivalent about this story. On the one hand, I loved the philosophical exploration by the main character, on the other hand, the lack of detail really, really did not work for me (I can't emphasize this enough!). Also, the doctor taking sexual advantage of his patient was very disturbing.

By the way, I completely disagree with Piet that:
Sy uses seduction to distract Dr. Singh...
I don't think Sy is socially astute enough for such manipulation.


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Reply #11 on: November 30, 2022, 04:48:22 PM
It's always interesting to go back and read what you wrote about a "flashback" story after you heard it the first time.

My opinions this time around haven't changed much. The lack of details didn't seem to bother me as much this time around and I would really like to hear more from this universe.