Author Topic: EP307: Soulmates  (Read 25147 times)


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on: August 26, 2011, 07:17:42 PM
EP307: Soulmates

by Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn

Read by Dave Thompson


Have you ever killed someone you love – I mean, really love?

I did.

I did it as surely as if I’d fired a bullet into her brain, and the fact that it was perfectly legal, that everyone at the hospital told me I’d done a humane thing by giving them permission to pull the plug, didn’t make me feel any better. I’d lived with Kathy for twenty-six years, been married to her for all but the first ten months. We’d been through a lot together: two miscarriages, a bankruptcy, a trial separation twelve years ago – and then the car crash. They said she’d be a vegetable, that she’d never think or walk or even move again. I let her hang on for almost two months, until the insurance started running out, and then I killed her.

Rated appropriate for teens and up due to language, alcohol dependence, and discussing death of loved ones.

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Reply #1 on: August 27, 2011, 04:29:45 PM
Sorry, I had C3PO in my head the whole time. I'll come back when I can be sensible  :D

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Reply #2 on: August 28, 2011, 02:56:03 AM
good story, well played.

Although the ending was predictable, it was told on a delightful way. made me care about the characters.

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Nice follow up to Midnight Blue. a bit darker, but still very much fun. It gave me something to mull over while enjoying the story as it unfurled.

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Reply #3 on: August 28, 2011, 01:02:00 PM
Wow. I had always taken the description of science fiction as "fictional literature that uses technology within the story to make the reader reflect upon themselves" with a grain of salt. Probably because I always had a taste for scifi that displayed interesting uses of interesting technology in interesting environments and never applied the themes within the stories to myself. This one has definitely changed my view of the genre while at the same time still being fun. Righteous pickins!

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Reply #4 on: August 29, 2011, 07:31:50 AM
This story was awesome and having just recently watched Time of Eve, it made a little extra impact.

At what point can you no longer tell the difference between man and machine.

In a lot ways the roles got reversed at some points in the story, the human was acting like a machine just going through the motions from one day to the next. While the machine was acting more human than many humans.

Good work on this one.


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Reply #5 on: August 29, 2011, 10:46:45 AM
Great story. I really enjoyed it and I think it's a great example of the definition of a "fun" SF story where the subject matter itself isn't fun at all. That said had it had a different, darker ending maybe the "fun" epithet wouldn't come so easily to my lips.

The story raises some interesting points about what it is to be human (great observation by Kconv about the role reversal too) but also about what we can/should do to keep someone alive. As someone from the UK with its National Health Service the talk about insurance running out as a factor in the decision to terminate Kathy stuck out for me.

Finally on the subject of soulmates I was put in mind of the excellent song by Tim Minchin called "If I didn't have you."

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Reply #6 on: August 29, 2011, 07:53:24 PM
Written from the quarters of Captain (none given)

This is what I read/listen to sci-fi and fantasy for. People (normal people who are faced with some sort of challenge and react in normal human ways) face some futuristic or fantastic scenario and realize why we do what we do. Exploring why humanity does what it does, whether as individuals or as groups (clubs, towns, civilizations, whatever), is an important function of art and literature especially (or maybe I'm just biased on that.)

It was fun, but thoughtful and I really cared about what happened to Gary. Mose was an awesome character as well because of how he essentially learned how to care about Gary. That's also an amazing power of these sorts of stories: non-human characters behaving like humans so that once again we see why and how we do the things we do everyday.

Suffice to say, it was a great story.

"The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart." -- Maya Angelou


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Reply #7 on: August 29, 2011, 11:21:10 PM
I'm not going to cry. I'm not going to cry. I'm not going to cry.



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Reply #8 on: August 30, 2011, 01:51:27 PM
As with "Paper Menagerie" on PC, I felt this story tried a little too overtly to get emotional resonance.

As with several other Resnick stories, the MC has this totally reasonable and intelligent internal monologue that doesn't always fit with the character. I don't think we know enough about Gary's history to know what his INT stat is.

I also felt bait-and-switched with the hemming and hawing over Moz's decision not to terminate the other robot. I'm sure I'm one of about 90% of the listeners who thought "Moz is talking about himself". Then it turned out he wasn't, and I felt cheated.

Not my favorite story by this author.

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Reply #9 on: August 30, 2011, 03:59:13 PM
The hits just keep on coming.

I really like robots.  And I like robots trying to grasp the concepts of emotions and morallity.  It's been done before (and can be done badly) but I think Mr. Resnick did a fabulous job with it.  I also like emotional stories and characters who go through redemption.  It's also been done before (and done badly), but again, I think Mr. Resnick hit the right buttons for me in this story.  Also a lot of good exploration of what it means to be human and the ethics of our choices.

I would say this is probably my favorite Resnick robot story that's played here on EP.

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Reply #10 on: August 30, 2011, 04:36:12 PM
I spent a lot of this story alternating between actively and audibly yelling at Gary for not phrasing answers the way I would have and just simply being annoyed that I was listening to a philosophy class exercise on the difference between people and AI. I mean seriously, he's apparently a reasonably intelligent guy, and yet he takes forever to figure out that these ideas he's putting into Moz's head could cause trouble? Not to mention that name: Moz/Moses. So unfortunately, much like the recent UD story, I felt like most of the narrative was a soapbox and the story was simply window dressing to get the ideas into our ears.

The difficult thing is that I actually liked the overarching storyline: Guy is broken up about the loss of his Love, guy stumbles into a new and surprising situation that manages to pull him out of his self-destructive funk, guy and *insert mechanism here* run away to start over. Though to be honest, I doubt Gary and Moz are going to get very far.


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Reply #11 on: August 30, 2011, 04:48:14 PM
I'm not going to cry. I'm not going to cry. I'm not going to cry.


Damn you, indeed, Resnick. Lovely story to listen to whilst driving the long commute to work.

I am an aspiring writer. It's stories like this that occasionally make me want to just chuck it all because I feel like I'm never going to reach this level. I get over it after a couple of hours and keep writing, but wow. Just once, I'd like Resnick to write a story that's so fall-down-funny that I laugh until I cry instead of bypassing "Go" and proceeding directly to lacrimal overflow.

The only real complaint I have is that I thought Dave read this just a trifle too fast. It felt...hurried. I can understand with it being a gargantuan hour-long episode even when read in a hurry, but...I'd kind of like to savor a story like this one that has a slower pace instead of feeling rushed.

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Reply #12 on: August 30, 2011, 05:05:44 PM
The first time around in Asimov's, this made no real impact -- in fact, so much so that I was several minutes in before I realized it sounded familiar. The second time around, it honestly kind of annoyed me.  The main character's drama was a little too pat, as was its resolution (merely repeatedly pointing out that a depressive alcoholic's behavior and thought patters are irrational isn't really effective therapy -- the universe does a pretty good job of that on its own and that doesn't snap that person out of it).  The ridiculously-humanlike-if-selectively-naive robot was cliched and unbelievable, and the idea of a machine intelligence "overcoming its programming" always gets my hackles up. (It's a meaningless concept; to do so implies that there is something going on besides the execution of its programming, which doesn't make any sense; it's like saying "I overcame my brain" -- might work in a broad, metaphorical sense but certainly not literally meaningful.)

Also, next week could we maybe get a story that's not about how broken widowers are?  Some of us are well-adjusted and healthy members of society who don't need friendly robots or passive-aggressive stalkerish BFFs to fix us.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2011, 07:17:29 PM by bolddeceiver »


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Reply #13 on: August 30, 2011, 05:47:42 PM
Just once, I'd like Resnick to write a story that's so fall-down-funny that I laugh until I cry instead of bypassing "Go" and proceeding directly to lacrimal overflow.

I'd suggest episodes 94 and 108 of the Dunesteef. Two Resnick stories featuring the same character that are likely to have you at least chuckling, and possibly outright guffawing. :)


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Reply #14 on: August 30, 2011, 07:44:33 PM
I _really_ enjoyed the reading of this one.  Rarely does a voice match a story as well (to my tastes) as this one.  Spot on, A-quality work.

I liked the story too, of course, but folks have already hit on the various aspects of that above.  :)


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Reply #15 on: August 31, 2011, 05:16:55 AM
Wow. Listening to this AND "Radio Nowhere" back-to-back was a BAD idea. Death and grief, with a side of guilt smothered in survivor-guilt sauce! Everybody dance!

At least this was a bit more light-hearted and thinky than "Radio Nowhere", and I had far less of a desire to dope-slap the protagonist.

I also like the fact that our narrator was a "regular Joe", not some Susan Calvin cybernetics expert. It made all more - pardon the expression - human.


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Reply #16 on: August 31, 2011, 01:55:46 PM
I'm afraid this time around, the story didn't pull at my heart-strings as much as Resnick's last work with the paper tiger; the experience was much more tangible with feeling like an outcast, reconciling yourself with your mother.  However, I must say that I did like how the story shifted gears at the end, how it resolved, how the main character came to realizations about himself.

The moral to this tail: When you're in a robotic factory and the power goes out, if you don't have a light, just sit down where you are and wait it out.  (Of course, that wouldn't have made nearly as interesting a story, would it?)

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Reply #17 on: August 31, 2011, 08:41:38 PM
I'm afraid this time around, the story didn't pull at my heart-strings as much as Resnick's last work with the paper tiger

Do you mean The Paper Menagerie that ran on PodCastle? 'Cause that was by Ken Liu.

If that's not what you meant, then please disregard this message. :)

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Reply #18 on: September 02, 2011, 03:48:04 PM
I liked this one simply because it belongs in the pages of "I, Robot".  Very much an Asimovan robot story.  The characters were not that deep, the action not that exciting, but the concepts are very interesting and detailed.  Also, like many Asimov stories, this is a socratic debate between a human and a robot, which I always enjoy.  Finally, the use of Moz' designation of MOZ123 as his name is very Asimovan as well. 

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Reply #19 on: September 03, 2011, 11:34:15 AM
I always like a good robot story.
In this case, while the developments that Moz the robot goes through are pretty well-trodden, it's the way they echo in Gary the Human that makes the difference. He too is 'breaking his programming' - freed from the depression, drug dependency, and wage slavery that bound his life to a tiny circuit.

I agree with Listener that this transformation didn't necessarily come across in the dialogue though - Gary didn't really 'sound' any different at the beginning than the end, but was equally responsive, cogent, philosophical, and self-aware throughout. I suppose you don't spend a few decades working around robots without picking up a bucket load of ideas though.


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Reply #20 on: September 04, 2011, 07:29:33 AM
I enjoyed this one. Part of that enjoyment was that it could have gone any direction at any time. While the ending wasn't a complete surprise, in that it logically followed the narrative, neither was it predictable. And it was an actual, satisfying, ending.

I still think Gary narrowly missed sparking a robot revolution, but hey, there's still time. And there are probably a few other troubleshooting bots out there who have started thinking for themselves. The future is wide open.

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Reply #21 on: September 06, 2011, 04:35:04 PM
I didn't care much for this one.  It covered well-trodden ground and, to me, it didn't really cover it in new or interesting ways.  There have been so many great stories of this type by Asimov, PK Dick, and others that a new one needs to be really special to excel. 

The ridiculously-humanlike-if-selectively-naive robot was cliched and unbelievable, and the idea of a machine intelligence "overcoming its programming" always gets my hackles up. (It's a meaningless concept; to do so implies that there is something going on besides the execution of its programming, which doesn't make any sense; it's like saying "I overcame my brain" -- might work in a broad, metaphorical sense but certainly not literally meaningful.)

I wholeheartedly agree.  Maybe it's just because I write code for a living.  Sure some programs may be more adaptable than others, but that's a feature of the program, not overcoming programming.  Code written to be flexible can be flexible within its bounds.  Code not written to be flexible cannot be.

And I was very skeptical that a robot programmed to deal with assembly line malfunctions would be capable of analyzing drinking problems, depression, and other human conditions.


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Reply #22 on: September 06, 2011, 06:18:08 PM
I made it about halfway through this one. I just couldn't take the preposterous and cliche pseudo-Asimovian tale of a heartwarming robot who helps a human realize his humanity. Making it worse was the narrator, who sounded like he was falling asleep, or in the process of waking up. It was putting me to sleep, in any case.


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Reply #23 on: September 06, 2011, 08:09:49 PM
I was expecting Gary to accidentally start the Robot Rebellion against humans. The description of the place when Moe was fixing the broken robot especially made me feel that. Instead of "Kill all faulty meatbags!" we got a nice ending. Bit sappy ending, but I suppose not every robot story needs to end with the buggers turning against us.

Technically Moe didn't overcome his programming, supposing that Asimov's laws are being followed in that place, as it was following those laws perfectly.

Three Laws of Robotics
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Either the laws don't exist in the story or they checked the robot's head after the accident and found something that was wrong.


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Reply #24 on: September 06, 2011, 08:29:39 PM
YASMRRS. It was okay for what it was.

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