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Author Topic: EP205: Requiem in D-minor (for prions, whale and burning bush)  (Read 14577 times)

Russell Nash

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EP205: Requiem in D-minor (for prions, whale and burning bush)

By Ian McHugh.
Read by Frank Key (of Hooting Yard).
First appeared in Hub #24.

Kevin switched the audio over to the projector. The lecture hall was filled with outdoor noises. Wind hummed softly over the microphone, cattle lowed nearby, a truck accelerated in the distance.

A roan steer staggered around a concreted yard, its mute distress accompanied by clattering hooves and the fleshy slap of its thigh striking the ground when it fell. A new sound was introduced - incongruous, but familiar to Kevin’s audience.

Whale song.

Gradually, the cow’s shaking stilled, until it could stand securely. Its muscles continued to tremble, but not enough to upset its equilibrium while it listened.


Rated PG-13 for violence and mad cow disease.



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« Last Edit: September 10, 2009, 05:26:41 PM by Russell Nash »



Yargling

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Interesting story. The idea that humans aren't the most advanced species on the planet is interesting. That said, it did make me think of one of the Star Trek movies where whales are needed to tell an alien probe to go away.



Listener

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I'll go even further: this story was EXTREMELY evocative of Star Trek -- not just the whales, but also the super-powerful alien telling humans not to leave earth or else (as Q threatened in the pilot of ST:TNG). Since that was forefront in my mind, it kept me from really enjoying the story. The beginning confused me a bit, and it seems as though none of these stories that jump around in time and location and characters really keep my interest. Doing that, I think, makes it hard to make the stories about people. I mean, what is it that Frank was doing that was so illegal? What had he done since his dissertation failed? All I know is that he was apparently the only expert on this phenomenon on the entire planet.

The last sentence was kind of clunky, too.

I don't know that Frank Key was the best choice for narrator, either. He's better with stories that have humor, and this one really didn't.

Overall: meh.

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Zathras

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gave up on this one



deflective

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i quite enjoyed this one.  the jump from scene to scene was tough to follow in the beginning but it was worth sticking through the whole thing.  there are definitely some familiar plot points, i was thinking star trek meets 2001, but the spin was unique enough to be entertaining.

this month's theme seems to be christian myth analogies which, oddly, has interested me more than last month's theme.  i particularly like the image of the christ-whale in this story (suffered for our sins, eat of their flesh to find god).  it was that last sentence that really drove this home for me.



Doom xombie

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whales being more intelligent than humans and humans begin restricted by aliens in some way are topics used in many stories. Also the idea that aliens left something on the moon with a specific trigger is very 2001: A space odyssey to me. I also had trouble with the jumpy beginning.

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deflective

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it's worth noting that the whales aren't necessarily more intelligent in this story (they don't broadcast to the moon), they were just more in line with what the aliens wanted.  it seems like this alien collective wanted races that could communicate telepathically and considered any race that couldn't to be too much of a risk to allow to spread.

not something that any race should accept docilely but there isn't much you can do against the power gap presented.



Doom xombie

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it's worth noting that the whales aren't necessarily more intelligent in this story (they don't broadcast to the moon), they were just more in line with what the aliens wanted.  it seems like this alien collective wanted races that could communicate telepathically and considered any race that couldn't to be too much of a risk to allow to spread.

not something that any race should accept docilely but there isn't much you can do against the power gap presented.

Aw but remember the end where humans evolve into whales? I suppose that doesn't necessarily mean that they are smarter but it does mean we are less advanced than them. Also it wasn't telepathy it was whale song, which is different than telepathy. I think the theme with the whales was that we are still too savage to be allowed to spread. I also wonder how advanced these life forms were, all we see them do is fly at very high speeds, let loose some particles and presumably build a dome. We never see them do much else do we? Maybe they're just creatures that evolved in space and as such possess great speed and perhaps long life spans.

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eytanz

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I haven't finished the story yet - in fact, I'm pretty early in. But I just wanted to say - couldn't the author have at least looked up what a phd dissertation in a us university is? There is no way anyone would ever defend their thesis to a full room - let alone one with undergrads in it - if there was even the slightest chance of it failing. That would be massively embarassing to their supervisors. 



deflective

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changing the entire species to appease an alien standard is still capitulation but, then, that's the point of almost all religion - adapting your nature to suit a greater power.  note that evolution isn't necessarily a forward process, just because one species descends from another doesn't make it more advanced.  here the change is also the result of genetic modification so it isn't really traditional evolution at all (tho that's just getting pedantic).

the aliens destroyed all our space faring capability in one moment.  i think.  i was a little distracted around that part of the story.

the impression i got was that the alien 'consuming' people is a process that would convert telepathic beings (you're right tho, nothing conclusively indicated that whales were telepathic) into energy or thought so they could travel with it.  the process only killed us, maybe transferred information.  the alien was getting information from somewhere.



eytanz

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Having finished the story, let me add my voice to the chorus of mehs. I wasn't thinking of Star Trek while I was listening to this, but otherwise, my reaction was quite similar to Listener's, above.

And I agree, while I generally love Frank Key as a reader, he didn't really fit in well with this one.



stePH

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Did not like.  For all the reasons cited above, plus the thing just didn't make any damn sense.  And for whatever it was Frank was doing illegally, to be just swept aside and ignored, that's like leaving Chekhov's Gun hanging on the wall as the final curtain comes down.

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deflective

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he was genetically modifying humans to accept the prions, it's where the whale people came from.

there are plenty of valid reasons not to like this story but i'm disappointed that a reoccurring reason brought up in this thread is that it's incomplete.  this kind of hard science story that gives you the pieces of the story and leaves it to the reader to put them together is a favourite of mine.  it's a hollywood expectation that someone at some point will spell everything out for you.

i like to hear the more abstract sf but i understand that it hits a smaller audience.



Doom xombie

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he was genetically modifying humans to accept the prions, it's where the whale people came from.

there are plenty of valid reasons not to like this story but i'm disappointed that a reoccurring reason brought up in this thread is that it's incomplete.  this kind of hard science story that gives you the pieces of the story and leaves it to the reader to put them together is a favourite of mine.  it's a hollywood expectation that someone at some point will spell everything out for you.

i like to hear the more abstract sf but i understand that it hits a smaller audience.

Are we sure about that? Another thing to think about is that while it is abstract and it is, for me, fun to piece it together its not exactly easy to do that with audio IMO. It seems to me that in sf if something isn't explained well enough it will seem as though the author didn't put as much thought in to the subject. I assumed that people had simply evolved on their own or with the whale's help. It didn't occur to me that he may have been modifying humans, it was actually pretty far from my mind. For the reasons mentioned it does seem like it might be incomplete if you aren't as cool, or Holmes-ish, as deflective.

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goatkeeper

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I don't think I'm smart enough for this story.  Whales are cool though.



deflective

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rereading my last comment made me wince a little.  editing my posts to the point that they're socially acceptable can take a while, sometimes i just say fuck it and deal with the fallout later.

mainly i'm a little depressed because i've posted on and off for months about including more hard sf in ep's mix and this shows why it probably isn't a good idea.  a really good story that happens to be hard sf is going to do well because, hey, still a really good story (exhalation).  a standard hard sf story, or a mediocre one, isn't going to do nearly so well as the standard character driven story.



stePH

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a standard hard sf story, or a mediocre one, isn't going to do nearly so well as the standard character driven story.

Or, to restate The Cloverfield Defense: "It's about the people!;D

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RKG

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2001+Childhood's End+Whales = fun, if not entirely original, story.

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Elendinn

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First time poster -- I registered primarily because of this story.  Easily one of my favorites.  I seemed to like everything about it that everyone else didn't like.  But I especially liked the notion that transcendence and salvation are but one wildly-implausible idea away.



Talia

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I was a bit lost at the start but the story grew on me. The ending offered a few seeds for thought, too..I was curious (maybe it was said but I wasnt paying enough attention) how much further in the future the human-to-whale-creature-thing came along, and if the human-massacre-ing virus played any role.



Void Munashii

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  This story did not make me think of Star Trek. Instead I thought of Hitchhiker's Guide, and the dolphins, but then anything read by Frank Key makes me think of Douglas Adams for some reason.

  As has been said, this felt incomplete to me; like there should have been more.

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Russell Nash

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First time poster -- I registered primarily because of this story.  Easily one of my favorites.  I seemed to like everything about it that everyone else didn't like.  But I especially liked the notion that transcendence and salvation are but one wildly-implausible idea away.

Welcome, welcome.  Dissenters are appreciated.  It helps keep things interesting.

I got distracted at the end and missed some important bits.  I'm going back and forth on wether I liked it enough to listen to the ending again. 



wakela

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I liked the first part with the prions and whale brain business, but yes the artifact on the moon and the aliens needing the whales yanked me right of this story and put me in other ones. 

So these aliens are the same guys who talked to Moses?  Why didn't they figure out that humans were the advanced species on the planet at that time?  Maybe the Ten Commandments were an attempt to prevent humans from becoming barbaric. 

It disappoints me when aliens show up with very terrestrial beliefs.  It would have been interesting if the aliens had come looking for wasps or lampreys or coelocanths or something else that most of find disgusting.  Or pigs and cows, which most of us find tasty.  But no, they have Save the Whales bumperstickers. 



tpi

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I felt that the story borrowed heavily from Varley's Eight Worlds series. Some background from wiki:

"[The invaders] transcend the limits of four-dimensional spacetime and can manipulate time and space at will. They classify living beings in one of three categories: those such as themselves, who arise in gas giant planets everywhere, cetaceans such as dolphins and whales, and vermin, the last category including all sentient beings other than Invaders and cetaceans. The Invasion of Earth was carried out to protect cetaceans from the effects of human civilization. No humans were directly killed, but instead billions died as the Invaders dismantled all the infrastructure needed to support billions of people on Earth. The human population of Earth, after the Invasion, is about the same as in prehistory, living in tribes without access to technology."


wakela

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I felt that the story borrowed heavily from Varley's Eight Worlds series. Some background from wiki:

"[The invaders] transcend the limits of four-dimensional spacetime and can manipulate time and space at will. They classify living beings in one of three categories: those such as themselves, who arise in gas giant planets everywhere, cetaceans such as dolphins and whales, and vermin, the last category including all sentient beings other than Invaders and cetaceans. The Invasion of Earth was carried out to protect cetaceans from the effects of human civilization. No humans were directly killed, but instead billions died as the Invaders dismantled all the infrastructure needed to support billions of people on Earth. The human population of Earth, after the Invasion, is about the same as in prehistory, living in tribes without access to technology."

I would totally buy aliens coming to Earth to save the whales if I were given that kind of rationale.  But without it I strongly suspect it's because the author thinks whales are groovy.  I think whales are groovy too, but I don't think aliens would.