Author Topic: EP363: Flowing Shapes  (Read 15510 times)


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Reply #25 on: October 06, 2012, 10:40:58 AM
Given that homosexual behavior has been observed in animals that split off from humans well before we were even primates (or even mammals)...

I was going to say something clever about sending the uber-religious Conservatives in the US off to persecute those animals instead of other humans, but then I remembered that they don't believe in evolution either, so they've got a convenient blind spot.

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Reply #26 on: October 08, 2012, 08:45:21 PM
Well, I enjoyed that. It had pace and character of a good story, and even the breaking down of the story in parts that mimic the method of the shape-shifters helped.

My comment would be about the focus on the individual; I would generally question if it is possible to change society just by change the individual, which puts me in the awkward position of disagreeing with the quote by Gandhi - Oops! But seriously, I would like to know what Domo does next. Does he go and try to find peace and fulfilment outside the temple by hiding within society, or does he try to change intolerant society? A good story like this could do with a bit more... closure.

Apart from that, I liked it very much.


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Reply #27 on: October 08, 2012, 09:42:27 PM
This story was a little too 'on the nose' for me. I found myself being much more interested in the alien biology (cephalopods are one of my favorite terrestrial groups) than the alien politics. I could accept the fact that an alien culture (even one with a shapeshifting subculture) would have taboos against same sex relations, but 'it is not biologically viable' just wasn't an acceptable explanation for me. In a story that put so much emphasis on what seemed to be an alien mystic cult, 'because science' seemed a clunky and insufficient way to explain that taboo and didn't actually give us any insight into the alien culture. Because we didn't get any real explanation from the alien side of things, there wasn't much left to elevate the story beyond a palette swap of human intolerance and so it fell rather flat for me. Normally I love Rajan Khanna's work and sci-fi and politics can be two great tastes that taste great together, but I think the ratio for this story was a bit off.


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Reply #28 on: October 10, 2012, 01:51:47 PM

I find it hard to believe that a species of space shifters would have so strong taboo against homosexuality. One would imagine that the physicality would be considerable less important than for humans.

My impression was that the aliens were objecting to cross-species mating, not homosexuality. (i.e. had either Paul or the alien been female, it would still have been an issue) Though of course this had become a stand-in by that point of the story.

While I agree with you about the problem at the end, it was quite clear to me earlier in the story that they DO have a strong taboo about homosexuality. But I'm also not sure it's fair to call them "a species of shape shifters" (that was what you meant tpi, right?) They are a race *capable* of shape shifting, but it's clear it is a special discipline, not something everyone does.

My memory agrees that not all of the aliens shift shapes, so it's quite possible that I misinterpreted their feelings about homosexuality. However, didn't Paul's alien helper admit that it was practiced anyway?

He said it was practiced within the monastery (or whatever), and that the taboo was much, much stronger on the outside. Very strictly banned.


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Reply #29 on: November 01, 2012, 04:44:31 PM
I liked this one well enough.  I liked the shapeshifting aliens, and the description of the religious practice they did to do what they do.  I particularly liked when the main character had the revelation that he has shifted himself around different people, which is a human trait I was aware of but the way it was conveyed made it a very interesting metaphor.

I don't find it implausible that the aliens have taboos against homosexuality.

I don't find it implausible that humans do either.  American culture and some other cultures are moving towards being more accepting of homosexuality, but I don't think that's true globally for all cultures.  Also acceptance of any given thing can come and go.  As cultures and religions and social mores morph over the centuries, it's possible that things we accept now will be less accepted later.  I would rather that homosexuality be accepted as just another trait of a person, but just because I'd prefer that doesn't make it true.  And not all SF has to be based on predicting a plausible future, but rather it is just a form that allows us to loosen the bonds of reality and explore concepts and themes without the limitation.


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Reply #30 on: November 03, 2012, 09:34:34 PM
I guess my main reaction was, "Ew, gross alien sex"


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Reply #31 on: November 11, 2012, 09:26:06 PM
Late to the party... because for some odd reason this episode didn't automatically download, so I was unaware of this story until I heard the podcast in which this one was reviewed.

Whatever the merits/flaws of the story, can I just say I find it a GOOD thing when gay characters are depicted; and are described in the same human terms as any other human.

To all the critics replying above who were annoyed by the "homosexual agenda" I can only say - too freakin' bad.  I've lived with invisibility for so long that it is an amazing breath of fresh air to have a story that reflects MY experience.  Too preachy for you?  Too freakin' bad.  This story describes too many of my decades with breathtaking emotional accuracy.  Want to know what it's like to have NO reflection of yourself in any mirror held up to humanity?  That everyone else's song gets sung but never yours?  And you're annoyed that we got a mention?  Too freakin' bad.

Sure, I get the whole aliens weren't alien enough, was this really the right metaphor... but ya know - I'm grateful for the acknowledgment.

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Reply #32 on: December 17, 2012, 06:16:53 PM
Like everyone else said, this was an allegory, and not only that, it was allegory upon hamfisted allegory. I too was a little disappointed at first that it wasn't about Paul Tan achieving shape-shifting.
I would say on the whole, the story was about shifting one's perspective. I knew Damo would be resistant to change, and the irony that while he worked stretched his body, he couldn't stretch his mind to see another POV. His attempt shapeshift to a new perspective after discovering Paul Tan's with the other Synan was pretty poignant.

However, I was also disappointed in Paul Tan, but not for the reasons everyone else has mentioned. I was quite touched at how the teachings of Wan She was influencing him--particularly him talking about changing himself to fit what he thought his partners wanted. I really wanted him to find that base identity for himself. However, when he was caught with the other Synan, I found myself sympathizing with Damo, not him.

For the most part, Damo has this thing against the "aliens" (humans) who only seem curious about Synan because of their shape-shifting nature. This can be easily seen through other ethnic cultures, flocking to Japan, for instance, because you're only interested in the "anime culture" and not seeing Japanese as a whole unique culture in itself. Apparently, Damo has had enough dealings with humans to be suspicious of their motives--after all, he did lose his lover to them (and I find it interesting that the lover wound up on earth working in a brothel). The reasons Damo brought up to Paul, to me, were quite valid, "You humans are only titillated by what we are...He can change himself to fit your idea. What can you do for him?"

Paul Tan's reasons on the other hand felt false to me. "But I love him!" Really? That's all? At the risk of calling myself a prude, here he is at a religious temple, where students are learning Wan She, and he hopped into bed with the Synan after only two weeks. Two weeks! Really? The least he could have done was lock the damn door! (But then again, I can't remember if this was a place where they felt no need to lock the doors, or if it was actually the Synan who came onto Paul Tan. Who knows.) Paul Tan came across to me as a guy who only lives through his emotions. He has no consideration for his environment or for others.
I especially felt that when Damo goes to the other Synan and asked if he loved Paul, and the Synan responded, "I was starting to..." not, "I did love him." which told me that the Synan was more attracted by the ideas Paul brought up, not Paul himself. If this affair had been allowed to continue on, I get the feeling the Synan would lose interest, and Paul, too caught up in his emotions, would be heartbroken. Paul, in effect, appeared to be repeating the same mistake that he did his previous lover.

I think if Paul have been seriously committed to learning Wan She, even to the point of holding off on relationships to work on himself, He and Damo would have grown quite close--I think, even to the point where Damo would indeed be open to interspecies relationships. As the story pointed out, such things take time. But Paul Tan was only interested in his own needs and couldn't look outside himself; Damo tried, but he couldn't maintain it. A lose/lose situation for all.

Dang. This story struck me in ways I couldn't imagine. I actually relistened to it, but this time from a secular/Christian perspective, and found it worked just as well for an allegory of seeing ancient teachings with new eyes and applying those principles to change the world, or at least change rigid thinking, one person at a time. I don't think I like this story, but spiritually, it really affected me.

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Reply #33 on: February 15, 2013, 09:45:02 PM
I had high hopes for this one, especially with the thought of Norm trying to shapeshift into a megalodon. I've really liked Rajan's other stories. But once I made the determination that this is was going to be a Very Special Episode I just skipped it. There wasn't quite enough in addition to the message to keep me engaged, and I didn't feel like a sermon this morning on my way to work.

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Reply #34 on: February 15, 2013, 11:38:21 PM
Call me unimaginative, just don't call me late for dinner, but the combination of sex and shape-shifting made this seem like unauthorized Dune face dancer porn.


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Reply #35 on: March 29, 2013, 10:24:53 PM
I seem to say things like aliens that aren't particularly alien don't bother me very much, and perhaps I need to think about that more often, perhaps it should. I don't feel like it detracted from this story, I admit I was more interested in shape-shifting water-aliens than there homophobia and its taboos. I find myself agreeing that his leaving so quickly and in many ways so easily at the end felt very "happy ending," in a way that seems at odds with the plodding life-long learning that the entire alien religious sect was built on.  I can't help but find the idea interesting as transformations are a huge a weakness of mine, I really love them, in many ways I prefer the physical variety to the mental/spiritual variety, maybe that arises from the latter often being kind of "so there."