Author Topic: EP182: The Story of the Late Mr. Elvesham  (Read 16927 times)

Russell Nash

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on: November 02, 2008, 10:56:32 AM
EP182: The Story of the Late Mr. Elvesham

By H.G. Wells.
Read by Alasdair Stuart (of Pseudopod).

“I must tell you, then, that I am an old man, a very old man.” He paused momentarily. “And it happens that I have money that I must presently be leaving, and never a child have I to leave it to.” I thought of the confidence trick, and resolved I would be on the alert for the vestiges of my five hundred pounds. He proceeded to enlarge on his loneliness, and the trouble he had to find a proper disposition of his money. “I have weighed this plan and that plan, charities, institutions, and scholarships, and libraries, and I have come to this conclusion at last,”–he fixed his eyes on my face,–”that I will find some young fellow, ambitious, pure-minded, and poor, healthy in body and healthy in mind, and, in short, make him my heir, give him all that I have.” He repeated, “Give him all that I have. So that he will suddenly be lifted out of all the trouble and struggle in which his sympathies have been educated, to freedom and influence.”

I tried to seem disinterested. With a transparent hypocrisy I said, “And you want my help, my professional services maybe, to find that person.”

He smiled, and looked at me over his cigarette, and I laughed at his quiet exposure of my modest pretence.

Rated PG. Kids, don’t do drugs. Also, some profanity in the outro.

Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!


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Reply #1 on: November 02, 2008, 12:41:28 PM
A good story with excellent reading.  I believe this was my first exposure to the story.  Yes, it has become trope, but to hear the origins of that trope was pretty damn cool.

Steve's outro was very powerful.  I'm glad he responded and let us know why he ran the piece.  I hadn't looked at it that way.  As for the negative feedback, I hadn't thought it was that over the top.  I went back and read them again and saw a bit of it in the forums, but more on the blog.

That being said, Steve really ticked me off this week.  I was ready to quote Marcus myself when Steve stole my thunder.  Guess I was at least on the right track though.   ;)


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Reply #2 on: November 02, 2008, 07:14:32 PM
Great story, well written. It is hard, when you read these trope-creating classics, to divorce them from their successors - even if I hadn't already read the story, I wouldn't have been able to hear this story with the shock and surprise it must have elicited in some of its readers with the direction its plot took. Still, it was very effective.

I do wonder at the ending - was the powder really poison, or was it indeed switch-back potion, causing death just because of the death of the other body? I guess it's up to us to decide...


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Reply #3 on: November 02, 2008, 09:50:02 PM
"Use every man after his [just] desert, and who shall 'scape whipping?" ... Shakespeare

Yes, better not hope for fairness.

Though I still do.


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Reply #4 on: November 03, 2008, 01:07:47 AM
Really great choice, really great reading, really great commentary.  Pure escape pod joy.

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Reply #5 on: November 03, 2008, 03:14:22 AM
I liked the story... it's been done so many times with so many twists but that's why it's a classic right?


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Reply #6 on: November 03, 2008, 03:17:41 AM
always fun to revisit the classics.

this set me to thinking of another story in the trope. a company was advertising that it was offering excitement and adventure to anyone brave enough to accept their offer. you walked in blind and, after signing documents that absolved the company from legal responsibility, you switched bodies with someone. the other person would have paid for the switch and may have some sort of terminal illness. as an added bonus the way that they got the money may have left them wanted by the law.

sound familiar to anyone? i've been trying to place the title and it's niggling.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2008, 05:37:27 AM by deflective »


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Reply #7 on: November 03, 2008, 05:17:45 AM

Like most here, I'm sure, I've been exposed to so many of this trope-creator's descendants that I saw the switch coming just a few minutes in. And I agree that the experience of the "first readers" is lost to us.  But it was great to hear the original.  Good pick, Steve.  And well read.

The end quote reminded me of something I heard once about the Bible: "Proverbs and the historical books are mostly about explaining how God should be fair; Psalms is mostly about complaining that He isn't; and the New Testament is about saying we should be grateful for that fact."

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


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Reply #8 on: November 04, 2008, 09:33:12 PM
First, since I'm new here, I have to say thanks to Steve and everyone involved in [Escape/Pseudo]Pod[Castle].  I've been a listener from the beginning and am glad to see audio dramas doing well in this form.  I grew up on the likes of the CBS Radio Mystery Theater, but I'm dating myself.

Lots of good stuff on this podcast on a regular basis.  If there wasn't I wouldn't have stuck around for all 182 episodes.

That said, though I see a number of comments praising the reading, I have to disagree.  For some reason, maybe it's age, I had an incredibly difficult time following the narration.  It seemed unnaturally fast.  So much so, that I finally just gave up about half way through and skipped to the outro.

Sorry.  It didn't do it for me.

Of course, though Wells broke lots of new ground in speculative fiction, I was never a fan of his writing style, which may have had something do do with my (and it is my) problem in following along and enjoying this one thoroughly.


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Reply #9 on: November 05, 2008, 01:19:48 AM
Great story, well written. It is hard, when you read these trope-creating classics, to divorce them from their successors - even if I hadn't already read the story, I wouldn't have been able to hear this story with the shock and surprise it must have elicited in some of its readers with the direction its plot took. Still, it was very effective.

Fortunately, I was able to thoroughly enjoy this story despite having seen a B-movie on the same theme with Pamela Anderson many (well, maybe 10) years ago.

And Steve, very powerful outtro and very well done - I am continually impressed at how well you put together ideas and express them. I wasn't following the boards very closely at all when this story came out, so I missed much of what was said, but I do remember wondering why exactly you ran the story when you did. Now it makes perfect sense and I wonder how I manage to muddle through my life with that incredibly dense mass I call a brain.


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Reply #10 on: November 05, 2008, 02:20:18 AM
I'm afraid I couldn't listen to this one.  Something about the recording: there's a sort of high-pitched whistle on certain syllables ("s" is especially bad) that makes it painful to listen to on my iPhone.  It's not quite as bad (though still noticeable) on my computer, so I'll see if I can't give it a go later.


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Reply #11 on: November 05, 2008, 08:13:08 AM
That said, though I see a number of comments praising the reading, I have to disagree.  For some reason, maybe it's age, I had an incredibly difficult time following the narration. 

I was hesitant to post this, as everyone was praising the reading (I thought it was just me), but I must agree to this. At places reading was very fast, sometimes it was too loud, and some letters were very grating to the ears.
As english isn't my first laguage( as you can probably guess), I am usually very sensitive to the quality of the reading.


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Reply #12 on: November 05, 2008, 01:10:28 PM
First of all, re the outro and feedback: Fuckin' A, Mr Eley.

As to the story itself, I know I've read it, or a virtual clone, sometime in my childhood. I knew the basic plot as soon as the will was mentioned, and knew that there would be strict medicals, and that Eden's handwriting would be different enough that he couldn't sign Elvesham's name, and that Mr Elvesham would end up run over by a cab. But other than that, I couldn't recall the detail.

So it was fascinating to rediscover this story, and to discover that it was a Wells. This is definitely a keeper.

Science means that not all dreams can come true


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Reply #13 on: November 05, 2008, 02:36:32 PM
's good! Really liked this one.

Oh, great and mighty Alasdair, Orator Maleficent, He of the Silvered Tongue, guide this humble fangirl past jumping up and down and squeeing upon hearing the greatness of Thy voice.
Oh mighty Mur the Magnificent. I am not worthy.


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Reply #14 on: November 05, 2008, 09:38:02 PM
Oh, the Classic. One of my favorite flavours of science fiction, after the Dry Sarcastic with Witty Swirl.
Mr. Wells' last words were, reputedly, "Go away, I'm alright." Talk about reality not mirroring fiction.'ve got three metric seconds.


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Reply #15 on: November 05, 2008, 10:17:40 PM
Steve, I admire your handling of last week's comments in the closing.  Bravo.

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Reply #16 on: November 06, 2008, 02:23:32 AM
Goodness, but it's refreshing to hear just how well the classic stuff holds up after all these years. Despite Wells' plodding kind of storytelling, it was a lot of fun. And the ending twist actually made my hair stand up for a minute.


However, the reader's squeaky s's drove me a little batty until I learned to listen past them.


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Reply #17 on: November 06, 2008, 11:34:11 AM
Loved the story :)
Loved the reading :)

Glad the kids weren't in the car during the outro.  Steve should make a warning before dropping the f-bomb. :o


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Reply #18 on: November 06, 2008, 09:47:21 PM
Mad props to Steve for "I don't give a fuck about the politics." ;D

As for the sign off ... "Be good to others.  And have fun."  Are you Bill, or Ted?  Because that sounds an awful lot like "Be excellent to each other.  And party on, dudes!"  ;D ;D

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Reply #19 on: November 07, 2008, 11:20:25 PM
I loved this one, reminded me why I love SF. I remember reading War of the Worlds what I was at school and being bowled over. 30 years and a couple of hundred books later I'm still reading\listening the same stuff.

The outro was inspired, your comments were spot on. I totally agree with the why's and wherefors that made you decide on the story for the date in question.

Thanks for all your time and effort for this wonderfull podcast, you make my drive home from work something to look forward to at least once a week.


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Reply #20 on: November 08, 2008, 02:31:25 AM
Always nice to hear another classic thrown into the mix. And as a regular Pseudopod listener I'm pretty used to Alasdair's voice and recording equipment, neither of which pose a problem for me, so I had no problem with this recording either.

The highlights of the story for me were when it dawned on the main character that this creature might have hopped through centuries by stealing other people's bodies (gave me an extra chill) and the ending, which reminded me that we can extend our lives through technology as much as possible, but death is always as close as the nearest speeding car (or horse carriage in this case).

finally, to Steve's outro: well said, I agree 100%.


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Reply #21 on: November 08, 2008, 03:12:24 PM
This is a fun story.  I enjoyed it very much.


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Reply #22 on: November 09, 2008, 03:43:35 AM
I've been listening to(and enjoying) EscapePod for a while now, though this is my first posting in the forum.  This story wasn't a winner with me.  Stories in this genre are plentiful and rarely have a twist.  Listening to classics is always cool, but I keep coming back to EscapePod for new/modern stuff.

What DID pique my interest was the outro...I sort of agree with Steve's points...but that tone of voice might be of better use when in character.  This outro felt like a scolding...and since it comes to me directly through my earbuds, well, it almost felt sort of personal.  The outro left a bad taste in my mouth and seemed a little out of character for this kind of podcast.


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Reply #23 on: November 10, 2008, 05:54:09 PM
Man but do I love the classic stories, thanks a TON for running this one.  My download had a single repeat in the audio but otherwise the listening was just fine.

As for the outro... I think there is something to be said for the comments on all the EscapeArtists podcasts - that is the fact that not only are they allowed and encouraged, they are addressed if needed.  If it weren't for the comments, PodCastle would not know that they need to give warnings for their shows.  If not for the comments, audio glitches might not be caught.  If not for the comments, the folks at EA would not know what the audience liked and disliked, what to look for and who to get for readings.

Steve started something wonderful when he created EscapePod.  I've been a subscriber to the RSS feed almost from the beginning, before the evolution of EscapeArtists.  I have listened to every EP episode and almost every PC show.  I laugh at Steve's "Geek dad" stories because my son is the same age as Steve's kid and I find someone I can commiserate with.  To hear him say, in a voice I have almost never heard him use, "I don't give a f**k about the politics," shook me.

Because of my political beliefs I try hard to take entertainment for entertainment's sake.  I like to listen to songs by the Dixie Chicks, laugh at jokes by Lewis Black and read and listen to stories by a slew of authors.  When I do, I don't give two shakes of a rattlesnake's tail about their political stand.  If they try to sneak it in to their works, I either try to understand their point of view or ignore it.  If I didn't do that, I'd either have a heart of stone or be hiding under the server desk.

Where am I going with this?  I don't know - I know that the comments that were posted for EP:175 hurt someone who I consider a friend, and that in turn hurts me.  I think Steve's closing remarks today say it all - "until then, be good to people, and have fun."

Normal is just a setting on the washing machine.

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Reply #24 on: November 11, 2008, 06:00:14 PM
Pretty good story, though I guess we all knew where it was going. Robert Sheckley had a lot of fun with this idea in 'Mindswap' (1966) in which a cheap holiday (via mindswap) lands the hapless protagonist in the body of a wanted alien master criminal.

I'd have preferred a slower reading, and I also found the ring-modulation effect on the sibilant consonants annoying.