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Author Topic: EP168: Family Values  (Read 28828 times)

Schreiber

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Reply #25 on: July 27, 2008, 04:21:51 PM
I don't know if I agree that it couldn't have been productively longer, Slic.  I mean there's a built in cliff-hanger with the pregnancy, a virile young political upstart with newfound juice, and an upcoming election to sort through.  It felt as though the author just lost interest and went off to write a lobster alien sex story.



smithmikeg

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Reply #26 on: July 27, 2008, 09:17:54 PM
I guess I depart from the pack; my impressions were exactly the opposite of the usual -- I really dug the story, didn't care for the world-building.  I know, I know, it's really tough to write truly alien aliens, and this was a valiant attempt.  But it fell to two related pitfalls.  First, while in physiology and mechanics these blobs were totally inhuman, and their culture was pretty alien.  But their mental and emotional process were, well, pretty much human.  Maybe there are some universals of what might be expected to develop in communicative sentient beings, but these guys seemed to think pretty human.

What, in your view, is the purpose of fiction?  I think that a wonderful aspect of sci-fi (and fantasy) is that we can explore human ideals, emotions, and thoughts in a way that would seem silly and contrived in contemporary settings with human characters.  I don't see the aliens' "humanity" as a liability.

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bolddeceiver

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Reply #27 on: July 28, 2008, 12:32:01 AM
bold deciever - the story has to be written from a human sense or else we couldn't possibly relate.  This is a mistake some writer's make when writing aliens - if they are too different from our understanding then the reader never relates.  This is clearly shown when people attribute human motivations to their pets and other animals.

I recognize that, but that doesn't make it believable.  I guess my problem here was it wasn't done consistently.  I can take something like Babylon 5 or Star Trek, where the aliens are humans with funny bumps, because the degree of difference is pretty steady.  I can also deal with something like Contact (the book, not the movie) or Gateway (the Heechee in the first book, or in the later book when they became skinny humans with human feelings, the Slush-dwellers and the Assassins) where the aliens' behavior and motivations are so different and unfathomable.  It's harder to deal with sentient jellyfish society revolving around preudosexual transfer of energy (hoeever plausible the measures) in a society of rigidly quantifiable (and possibly emperically verifiable) social hierarchical standing, that just happen to also experience the same emotions as we do in pretty much the exact same way, and also dance and engage in representative government by plebicite.  Teh anthropologist in me says, with such different starting conditions, it's just not believable that so much of their psychology and society would feel just like ours.



slic

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Reply #28 on: July 28, 2008, 12:46:42 AM
I don't know if I agree that it couldn't have been productively longer, Slic.  I mean there's a built in cliff-hanger with the pregnancy, a virile young political upstart with newfound juice, and an upcoming election to sort through.  It felt as though the author just lost interest and went off to write a lobster alien sex story.
Hmmm.  While I do think this story had enough energy to go much longer, I meant that it would have to get alot longer to find another comfortable breaking point.  While the sub-plot around Teacher is unresolved, everything is pretty much answered.  Continuing the TV show analogy - these scene wrapped up, but you couldn't write another scene, you'd need to finish the episode.


And, bold deciever, I guess you've got the same point I sometimes have with a story - some niggly detail that I just can't get past. No worries.



sayeth

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Reply #29 on: July 28, 2008, 01:08:00 AM
Thanks for a short one, Steve. Now I'm all caught up on my Escape Pod.

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ChiliFan

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Reply #30 on: July 28, 2008, 01:29:19 AM
I'm afraid I don't really understand what this story is about, because it was so short, therefore it didn't have enough Worldbuilding! I've listened to it three times now. All I understood was that a female politician was pregnant, the length of the pregnancy depends on how much energy she's got and how many offspring she's carrying and some of them can be held in suspended animation. I don't think this is enough and it obviously wasn't explained what "the children's vote" meant. I didn't know how old the children had to be before they could vote. This, as well as the lack of other details, such as the definition of energy units, really disappointed me. I hope there will never be another story as short as this one on Escapepod in the future!   



eytanz

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Reply #31 on: July 28, 2008, 06:11:37 AM
I don't think this is enough and it obviously wasn't explained what "the children's vote" meant. I didn't know how old the children had to be before they could vote.

Well, since it was claimed that the children are pre-verbal, my assumption was that the only requirement was that they are born. But I'm not sure how giving a specific age would be helpful anyway, since we also don't know how long these creatures take to reach maturity, or, for that matter, how long their years are relative to ours.



deflective

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Reply #32 on: July 28, 2008, 07:23:56 AM
as jellyfish like entities, they probably have a polyp stage they call children. since polyps are anchored (probably to something near the bottom, making sense of 'teacher of muddy waters') their movement would be limited and since jellyfish don't have much in the way of vocal chords their 'verbal' communication might be something more like sign language.

I hope there will never be another story as short as this one on Escapepod in the future!

according to the big list we've already had well over a dozen that were even shorter. maybe it's a trade off for going years without flash fiction.

i found the cross-gender thing strange. i can't think of the last time escape pod had an episode where the reader wasn't the same sex as the main character.



Talia

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Reply #33 on: July 28, 2008, 01:23:24 PM
as jellyfish like entities, they probably have a polyp stage they call children. since polyps are anchored (probably to something near the bottom, making sense of 'teacher of muddy waters') their movement would be limited and since jellyfish don't have much in the way of vocal chords their 'verbal' communication might be something more like sign language.

I hope there will never be another story as short as this one on Escapepod in the future!

according to the big list we've already had well over a dozen that were even shorter. maybe it's a trade off for going years without flash fiction.

i found the cross-gender thing strange. i can't think of the last time escape pod had an episode where the reader wasn't the same sex as the main character.

Well, Steve read episode 155, which had a "female" protagonist, sort of - a robot referred to as "she" anyway.. :)



cryptoengineer

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Reply #34 on: July 28, 2008, 02:01:10 PM
I loved the story. In good short SF, the reader has to scramble
to build the world from hints dropped by the writer. This is a pleasure
denied to readers of mainstream literature.

I'm technically trained, and the energy units issue hit me like a
hammer ('He just said ZETTAjoules?'). It's up there with Han
Solo 'Making the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs', or the
original Battlestar Galactica using 'microns' as time intervals.
Authors who grab cool words from the dictionary should
realize that there's always someone familiar with the actual
meaning.






DKT

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Reply #35 on: July 28, 2008, 06:52:14 PM
This is easily one of my favorite Escape Pods in recent months.  Very fun, I dug the Jane Austen vibe and wit and energy transfer/sex, and it made me laugh in a couple of spots.  I'm also going to have to take a look at more of what this author's written, and I hope we hear more of her stories on Escape Pod.  Alasdair was a great reader for this one. 

Also, I definitely don't mind a few shorter episodes like this one, especially when they're so note perfect.  I guess it could've been longer, as Schreiber suggested, but it would've been a different story, a more epic one, and it could've detracted from the fun tone and pacing this piece has going for it.


Animite

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Reply #36 on: July 29, 2008, 09:35:11 PM
Contrary to the title, this story easily constitutes moral deviance not to mention the universal trait of political corruption found in all alien cultures. The intelligent jelly based races of the cosmos should take action against this senseless affront to their wholesome way of life... ;) ;)

So, seriously, it's sort of odd how the reproductive traits of a species unlike our own are perceived as unoffensive. As humans we gaze with slight embarrassment at documentaries and images as different species participate in the reproductive process and yet the idea doesn't take on real vibrance until the players become those of your own kind. What an odd race of beings we are. 

This was a good story with even spacing. I enjoyed it. 

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Swamp

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Reply #37 on: July 29, 2008, 10:57:06 PM
Contrary to the title, this story easily constitutes moral deviance not to mention the universal trait of political corruption found in all alien cultures. The intelligent jelly based races of the cosmos should take action against this senseless affront to their wholesome way of life... ;) ;)

So, seriously, it's sort of odd how the reproductive traits of a species unlike our own are perceived as unoffensive. As humans we gaze with slight embarrassment at documentaries and images as different species participate in the reproductive process and yet the idea doesn't take on real vibrance until the players become those of your own kind. What an odd race of beings we are. 

This was a good story with even spacing. I enjoyed it. 

I know your objection is somewhat tounge-in-cheek.  However, I felt as I read the story that the energy transfer was not a tautry act of sexual satisfaction, but a necessity for Senator Wu as a mother to care for the embryos she carried.  The teacher told her, "Surely, no one can blame you for being absent from the party in order to procure energy for your young." or something in that vein.  The source of her political power came from her competance as a mother, or at least as a child-bearer.  The story didn't actually say much about nurthuring and rearing the children. 

I kind of like the idea of a political system built around caring for children.  Of course, these alien politics (like all) are also subject to corruption.  It also appears the children were a source of status for the males.  Also, the teacher only gave her the energy to make her look good for the party, and he gave her a super dose of energy to impress her, so it's all about power and position.

Regardless, it is a fascinating world that we are given a glimpse of here.

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deflective

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Reply #38 on: July 30, 2008, 11:17:22 AM
i found the cross-gender thing strange. i can't think of the last time escape pod had an episode where the reader wasn't the same sex as the main character.
Well, Steve read episode 155, which had a "female" protagonist, sort of - a robot referred to as "she" anyway.. :)

ah, i remember that now. i also remember thinking that was odd when i heard it. maybe we'll see more experimentation this way.

I kind of like the idea of a political system built around caring for children.  Of course, these alien politics (like all) are also subject to corruption.  It also appears the children were a source of status for the males.  Also, the teacher only gave her the energy to make her look good for the party, and he gave her a super dose of energy to impress her, so it's all about power and position.

maybe it's similar to the way a strong warrior general would be respected in the roman senate, this society gives political capital to strong breeders. veni, vidi, semini



eytanz

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Reply #39 on: July 30, 2008, 11:21:45 AM
Also, the teacher only gave her the energy to make her look good for the party, and he gave her a super dose of energy to impress her, so it's all about power and position.

Maybe - his motivations are not very explicit in the story. It could be he's just trying to impress his way into her graces for personal reasons, or it could be that he's a very committed supporter doing what he can to help her get elected - most likely a bit of both - or it could be, as I suggested as a possiblity earlier - that he has his own political agenda and he's just trying to use her to get to it. The story didn't let us see much into his mind...



tpi

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Reply #40 on: July 30, 2008, 11:22:42 AM
In a few of last (not in all) escapepod episodes there has been a slight strange "echo" in the soundtrack which makes it harder to understand. this was one of those.  Is there some kind of noise reducting or something in use which causes that?


TwangCat

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Reply #41 on: July 31, 2008, 11:27:01 PM
I'm afraid Steve raised my expectations rather too high with the comparson to Austen.  Sitting in transit I could barely contain my glee anticipating the clever and dramatic characters I love from Jane Austen set in an alien world.  Unfortunately I found that, while like Steve's intro, the stroy raised my expectations it didn't actually fulfill any of them.  The world was interesting, the motivations understandable (and yes I believe alien motivations must be mostly human like in order for us to relate to them) but they didn't go anywhere.  I think I'm going to join Steve in high hopes for future work and possible even further development of this world. 



contra

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Reply #42 on: August 01, 2008, 12:06:23 AM
I liked this story.  It felt like an episode of the west wing... well... in some ways...
>_>

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Void Munashii

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Reply #43 on: August 01, 2008, 12:18:00 AM
I liked this story.  It felt like an episode of the west wing... well... in some ways...
>_>

  With a large gelatinous blob in the role of President Bartlet  ;)

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Russell Nash

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Reply #44 on: August 02, 2008, 07:58:37 PM
This one left me lukewarm. Put another way, it only imparted a little bit of heat--a miserly donation at best.

Edit:
Quote
I fully admit that it's a ridiculous thing to pick on. But I'm a horrible pedant.

I'd say it's about as large a gaffe as Han Solo using parsecs as a measure of speed. IOW, it's worth poking fun of, but not getting upset over.

On one of the DVD commentaries Lucas explained why Parsecs was used.  The way Hyperspace was defined in Star Wars has all ships moving at the same speed in Hyperspace.  The key is planning your route so that you don't fly through a moon, but making it shorter than others would.  Han Solo made the run in 7(?) Parsecs, because he planned the course shorter than anyone else had.



eytanz

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Reply #45 on: August 02, 2008, 08:02:34 PM
This one left me lukewarm. Put another way, it only imparted a little bit of heat--a miserly donation at best.

Edit:
Quote
I fully admit that it's a ridiculous thing to pick on. But I'm a horrible pedant.

I'd say it's about as large a gaffe as Han Solo using parsecs as a measure of speed. IOW, it's worth poking fun of, but not getting upset over.

On one of the DVD commentaries Lucas explained why Parsecs was used.  The way Hyperspace was defined in Star Wars has all ships moving at the same speed in Hyperspace.  The key is planning your route so that you don't fly through a moon, but making it shorter than others would.  Han Solo made the run in 7(?) Parsecs, because he planned the course shorter than anyone else had.

That's just him adding post-hoc justification. It's pretty well documented in various interviews that parsecs were used because, when he wrote the movie, he believed them to be units of time.



Russell Nash

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Reply #46 on: August 03, 2008, 12:13:32 AM
This one left me lukewarm. Put another way, it only imparted a little bit of heat--a miserly donation at best.

Edit:
Quote
I fully admit that it's a ridiculous thing to pick on. But I'm a horrible pedant.

I'd say it's about as large a gaffe as Han Solo using parsecs as a measure of speed. IOW, it's worth poking fun of, but not getting upset over.

On one of the DVD commentaries Lucas explained why Parsecs was used.  The way Hyperspace was defined in Star Wars has all ships moving at the same speed in Hyperspace.  The key is planning your route so that you don't fly through a moon, but making it shorter than others would.  Han Solo made the run in 7(?) Parsecs, because he planned the course shorter than anyone else had.

That's just him adding post-hoc justification. It's pretty well documented in various interviews that parsecs were used because, when he wrote the movie, he believed them to be units of time.

I'm going to be an ass now.  Got A link?  A Physicist friend of mine said the explanation held a bit of water.  Maybe not perfect, but acceptable.  Han does talk about plotting the course in Star Wars.



stePH

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Reply #47 on: August 03, 2008, 05:37:50 AM
This one left me lukewarm. Put another way, it only imparted a little bit of heat--a miserly donation at best.

Edit:
Quote
I fully admit that it's a ridiculous thing to pick on. But I'm a horrible pedant.

I'd say it's about as large a gaffe as Han Solo using parsecs as a measure of speed. IOW, it's worth poking fun of, but not getting upset over.

On one of the DVD commentaries Lucas explained why Parsecs was used.  The way Hyperspace was defined in Star Wars has all ships moving at the same speed in Hyperspace.  The key is planning your route so that you don't fly through a moon, but making it shorter than others would.  Han Solo made the run in 7(?) Parsecs, because he planned the course shorter than anyone else had.

That's just him adding post-hoc justification. It's pretty well documented in various interviews that parsecs were used because, when he wrote the movie, he believed them to be units of time.

I'm going to be an ass now.  Got A link?  A Physicist friend of mine said the explanation held a bit of water.  Maybe not perfect, but acceptable.  Han does talk about plotting the course in Star Wars.

He mentions plotting a course through hyperspace because without the precise calculations they could fly right into a star or bounce too close to a supernova and that would end their trip real quick, wouldn't it?

Lucas in the aforementioned DVD commentary is attempting to retcon his gaffe.  When Han says the Millennium Falcon "made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs" he's talking about time.  Remember, this is in the context of the Falcon being a "fast ship."  She makes "point five past lightspeed."

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eytanz

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Reply #48 on: August 03, 2008, 07:46:50 AM
I'm going to be an ass now.  Got A link?  A Physicist friend of mine said the explanation held a bit of water.  Maybe not perfect, but acceptable.  Han does talk about plotting the course in Star Wars.

I don't have a link to any particular interview; note that I wasn't saying it's a retcon, for the simple reason that the movie dialogue stands as is. What changed was the explanation, which evolved over time. I speculate, though I don't know for sure, that explanation you gave was why Lucas decided to leave it in when he was making the special editions. That doesn't mean that he thought about it back in the 70s.

Also, from the official Star Wars website:

http://www.starwars.com/databank/location/kessel/index.html

Note the bottom section; it doesn't outright say "Lucas made a mistake", but it acknowledges that it doesn't make sense as-is, gives several alternative explanations, and attributes all of them other than "Han was just trying to sound impressive" to sources other than Lucas.



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Reply #49 on: August 03, 2008, 01:26:00 PM
This was a well written story I mean the sentences went together very well, I just felt that the actual overall plot was missing.  Kind of a Meh.