Author Topic: EP346: Hawksbill Station  (Read 17995 times)

eytanz

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on: May 27, 2012, 08:36:54 AM
EP346: Hawksbill Station

By Robert Silverberg

Read by Paul Tevis

Originally appeared in Galaxy Magazine

---

Barrett was the uncrowned King of Hawksbill Station. He had been there the longest; he had suffered the most; he had the deepest inner resources of strength. Before his accident, he had been able to whip any man in the place. Now he was a cripple, but he still had that aura of power that gave him command. When there were problems at the Station, they were brought to Barrett. That was axiomatic. He was the king.

He ruled over quite a kingdom, too. In effect it was the whole world, pole to pole, meridian to meridian. For what it was worth. It wasn’t worth very much.

Now it was raining again. Barrett shrugged himself to his feet in the quick, easy gesture that cost him an infinite amount of carefully concealed agony, and shuffled to the door of his hut. Rain made him impatient:. the pounding of those great greasy drops against the corrugated tin roof was enough even to drive a Jim Barrett loony. He nudged the door open. Standing in the doorway, Barrett looked out over his kingdom.

Barren rock, nearly to the horizon. A shield of raw dolomite going on and on. Raindrops danced and bounced on that continental slab of rock. No trees. No grass. Behind Barrett’s hut lay the sea, gray and vast. The sky was gray too, even when it wasn’t raining.

He hobbled out into the rain. Manipulating his crutch was getting to be a simple matter for him now. He leaned comfortably, letting his crushed left foot dangle. A rockslide had pinned him last year during a trip to the edge of the Inland Sea. Back home, Barrett would have been fitted with prosthetics and that would have been the end of it: a new ankle, a new instep, refurbished ligaments and tendons. But home was a billion years away, and home there’s no returning.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



Cattfish

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Reply #1 on: May 27, 2012, 04:36:05 PM
Pretty good story, but I thought it may have done better at a shorter length. 



Kaa

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Reply #2 on: May 27, 2012, 08:17:52 PM
Loved, loved, LOVED this one.

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Zedonius

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Reply #3 on: May 29, 2012, 04:35:58 AM
I'll be honest, I was doing some household chores while listening to this, so I missed some of the story. That said, I really liked this piece, especially the "quiet moments" where the inmates and workers at Hawksbill just exist in Precambria. That really set the mood for the piece, and I'll admit that, for a moment, I was actually wanting to be a part of the story. Be someplace quiet. Fish the antediluvian oceans. Be separated from everyone. I guess 60-70 hour work weeks will do that. Anyways, thanks a lot for another fun piece of fiction!

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schizoTypal

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Reply #4 on: May 29, 2012, 04:47:51 AM
@Cattfish - I actually got really excited when Mur told me this was going to be a long one! And I wasn't disappointed at all. I can see how you might think of it as a bad thing, but I feel like the story warranted that much text.

@Zedonius - I completely agree with your sentiment about the "quiet moments." Even though that sounds like it must be a bad thing, this story genuinely benefits from having moments that don't actually progress a story, but more seem to add to a feeling. These people are living in the cambrian epoch for a long time, and it gets the feeling of large expanses of time passing.

I found this story touching on a number of different levels. A description of a gruff, powerful, large, intimidating man... taking care of all the others who had lost their minds, as gently as you could possibly ask. A group of exiles living together the very best they can manage. The ending actually seemed possibly unnecessary to me, and I would almost preferred an endingless literary "fade to black". Rather than feeling any sense of completion.

This is one of my favorite so far on Escape Pod.



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Reply #5 on: May 29, 2012, 04:38:31 PM
I enjoyed this quite a lot, which surprised me since I almost never like stories that are this length.  Usually they just seem incredibly bloated and filled with fluff, but I didn't feel that way about this story at all.  Like others, I felt that the quiet moments were very fitting for the content:  the main aspect of the setting is that there's not much to do but sit and think and so rushing through that would've made the whole thing feel less real.

When they first found clues that the visitor could move forward in time, I figured that he really would, but it makes sense for these people who have given up on returning to society for this reason to regard this as lunacy, so that was an effective way to convey the dramatic irony.



schizoTypal

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Reply #6 on: May 29, 2012, 06:10:11 PM
I enjoyed this quite a lot, which surprised me since I almost never like stories that are this length.  Usually they just seem incredibly bloated and filled with fluff, but I didn't feel that way about this story at all.  Like others, I felt that the quiet moments were very fitting for the content:  the main aspect of the setting is that there's not much to do but sit and think and so rushing through that would've made the whole thing feel less real.
It felt to me like the author hit the nail right on the head with the illusion of time passing so slowly. The fact that it was broken into chapters and read with the numbers aloud really added to the monotonous feeling of the over-all story. It's hard to word that in a way that sounds as positive as it is.

When they first found clues that the visitor could move forward in time, I figured that he really would, but it makes sense for these people who have given up on returning to society for this reason to regard this as lunacy, so that was an effective way to convey the dramatic irony.
This is the part where it seems like the author is making a sociopolitical commentary. The way that imprisonment changes a person, and how after a long period of time there's simply no "rehabilitation," possible. There's no going back. We've seen this in reality a number of different ways; not the least of which being the existence of Australia. You can also take a look into various sociological and anthropological studies to find that people will fit their surroundings, whether or not that's a "good" thing. A moral man in a backwardly immoral society will follow the law of the land, not the law of where he's from. Insanity is always defined by the differential between the subject and his surroundings.



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Reply #7 on: May 29, 2012, 10:32:13 PM
I do not remember when or where I read this story first. I think it was a paperback, YEARS ago (1978, I googled it). Loved it then, love it now. Timeless story about time travel (and I do not like time travel stories for the most part, think they are fundamentally flawed). Good story, ending was a bit week. Felt like Silverberg either got tired of it/needed to finish it/ got distracted and came back to finish it.
I felt that Paul's reading of this story was spot on.

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schizoTypal

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Reply #8 on: May 30, 2012, 09:00:27 PM
I do not remember when or where I read this story first. I think it was a paperback, YEARS ago (1978, I googled it). Loved it then, love it now. Timeless story about time travel (and I do not like time travel stories for the most part, think they are fundamentally flawed). Good story, ending was a bit week. Felt like Silverberg either got tired of it/needed to finish it/ got distracted and came back to finish it.
I felt that Paul's reading of this story was spot on.

I'm curious as to what you think the fundamental flaw of a time-travel based story is. I've always liked them, and they seem right at home in the land of SciFi in general with entirely fictional science, normally based on slightly possible and highly improbable scenarios.



Thomas

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Reply #9 on: May 31, 2012, 04:07:46 AM
I'm curious as to what you think the fundamental flaw of a time-travel based story is. I've always liked them, and they seem right at home in the land of SciFi in general with entirely fictional science, normally based on slightly possible and highly improbable scenarios.

In most time travel stories (MIB 3, for example) people go back on time to change things. to kill some one, to have something happen or not happen, have something happen is a different way, etc. the way i see it, what has happened has happened, we cannot change it. to change it we create a either a paradox were the need to time travel does not exists so the person/persons do not go back and don't change anything. so the future isn't change so they go back in time to change things and the cycle continues. OR they create an alternative universe (ala the new Star Trek) and OUR time line does not change. things change in the alternative time line. As you can tell, my believe in what is possible or not possible in time travel does not prevent me from enjoying a good story, time travel based or not. Time Quake by Vonnegut is my favorite Vonnegut story. Singularity by Bill DeSmedt (Podiobooks.com) is another excellent story that involves time travel. Borrowed time (podiobooks,com) deals with time travel in an interesting manner.

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schizoTypal

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Reply #10 on: May 31, 2012, 06:57:04 AM
I'm curious as to what you think the fundamental flaw of a time-travel based story is. I've always liked them, and they seem right at home in the land of SciFi in general with entirely fictional science, normally based on slightly possible and highly improbable scenarios.

In most time travel stories (MIB 3, for example) people go back on time to change things. to kill some one, to have something happen or not happen, have something happen is a different way, etc. the way i see it, what has happened has happened, we cannot change it. to change it we create a either a paradox were the need to time travel does not exists so the person/persons do not go back and don't change anything. so the future isn't change so they go back in time to change things and the cycle continues. OR they create an alternative universe (ala the new Star Trek) and OUR time line does not change. things change in the alternative time line. As you can tell, my believe in what is possible or not possible in time travel does not prevent me from enjoying a good story, time travel based or not. Time Quake by Vonnegut is my favorite Vonnegut story. Singularity by Bill DeSmedt (Podiobooks.com) is another excellent story that involves time travel. Borrowed time (podiobooks,com) deals with time travel in an interesting manner.

In general, I know the physics behind any given type of event and I do have the nagging "That's not how that would happen..." in the back of my mind. But, I've also found that stories that are written well enough from a literary standpoint can give me a convincing enough state of suspended disbelief that I no longer care if what I'm reading is possible - in the universe it's taking place, it surely is! So I believe what I'm saying is that I agree entirely.



EckInBlack

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Reply #11 on: May 31, 2012, 09:39:31 AM
Well only the second time I've felt compelled to come comment and what can I say? You managed to find a story I'd never read by one of my all-time favourite authors. Brilliantly read, lovely pacing, I may need to find another 2 hours driving to do just to enjoy it again!
More classic authors please (as well as the newer ones).........



Talia

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Reply #12 on: May 31, 2012, 12:24:42 PM
Huh. I've never read much Silverburg, and the last story of his to run here wasn't to my tastes, so I was a bit hesitant to tackle the story, particularly considering its length (though longer stories generally don't bother me). Turns out I really enjoyed it and didn't even notice how long it was, I was so engrossed in the doings of this little community. The story does a good job of describing the little world they made for themselves and the types of problems that might emerge in such an isolated setup.

I am surprised a policeman was sent back rather than a psychologist, but that might have been a product of the times the story was written in. Otherwise (excepting the year dates named, obviously. I'm pretty sure there was no time-traveling in 2005 :D), there was little to date the tale.

I am also glad Barrett didn't snap and kill Han in a power play, which is where I thought the story was going when he began expressing fears about losing control over his colony.



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Reply #13 on: May 31, 2012, 12:55:41 PM
HOLY CRAP ON TOAST that was a long story.

I normally enjoy a good, slow build... but not in audio. In audio, my mind wanders, or I get bored. The story did manage to keep my attention, but it was tough -- and it took three commutes to hear the whole thing. With a podcast backlog like I have, that's just too much sometimes.

Having read a lot of older SF from authors like Silverberg and Heinlein, I found it easy to put my mind in a place where Silverberg was coming from. However, I mostly saw it as a semi-adventure story cloaked in politically-satirist thinking (all the discussions about political parties, protest groups, and economic theories), except without any actual adventure. I think in the end the pace was just too slow to satisfy me.

Plus, I just didn't like Jim Barrett. He talked a lot but didn't really DO very much except keep things status quo -- which, I guess, as the first among equals in a prison colony in the Cambrian age, is all you can do.

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Reply #14 on: May 31, 2012, 01:23:04 PM
I forgot to mention too, that I found it very strange for this future government to send political dissidents into a time before our species evolved.  You think these guys can wreak havoc on our present, why would you trust them with the pre-human planet?  Seemed like a pretty dumb idea to me.



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Reply #15 on: May 31, 2012, 01:26:26 PM
I forgot to mention too, that I found it very strange for this future government to send political dissidents into a time before our species evolved.  You think these guys can wreak havoc on our present, why would you trust them with the pre-human planet?  Seemed like a pretty dumb idea to me.

That kept bugging me, as well. I guess the magic that keeps paradoxes from happening (a billionth descendent kills great-to-the-billionth grandma) is what kept them from destroying life on Earth as we know it.

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Talia

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Reply #16 on: May 31, 2012, 01:37:54 PM
I forgot to mention too, that I found it very strange for this future government to send political dissidents into a time before our species evolved.  You think these guys can wreak havoc on our present, why would you trust them with the pre-human planet?  Seemed like a pretty dumb idea to me.

You control what access to technology they have, and their population (they can't breed). Doesn't necessarily seem all that risky to me (except in regards to the whole "step on a butterfly, change the entire fate of mankind" theory of time travel, which was vaguely suggested here but not really explored).



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Reply #17 on: May 31, 2012, 02:43:38 PM
I forgot to mention too, that I found it very strange for this future government to send political dissidents into a time before our species evolved.  You think these guys can wreak havoc on our present, why would you trust them with the pre-human planet?  Seemed like a pretty dumb idea to me.

You control what access to technology they have, and their population (they can't breed). Doesn't necessarily seem all that risky to me (except in regards to the whole "step on a butterfly, change the entire fate of mankind" theory of time travel, which was vaguely suggested here but not really explored).

IIRC, there was a brief mention (easy to miss in a 90-plus-minute story) of how scientists discovered that the existence of humans one billion years ago wouldn't cause any problems with the timeline.

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flashedarling

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Reply #18 on: May 31, 2012, 04:26:27 PM
I liked the story, even with its length. It provided a nice contemplative stroll through a setting I got to enjoy all day.

I got the impression from the story that this universe was one where you can't change the past. Anything that you do already has happened. The universe is self-protected against paradox.

There was one thing that bothered me though. Would the pre-cambrian atmosphere even be breathable to humans?



Cutter McKay

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Reply #19 on: May 31, 2012, 04:32:44 PM
The best word I can find to describe this story, I think, is "comfortable". Yes, it was long, yes it was slow paced, but Silverberg did a masterful job at pulling me into the Precambrian world and then just letting me sit there and experience a slice of these inmates' lives. And what I saw/heard/experienced was both interesting and entertaining. Not entertaining in the same sense as a Hollywood action flick or comedy, but I found myself thoroughly enjoying the setting, the characters, the many minor conflicts from food gathering to slow-onset psychosis. By definition, this was entertaining as an "agreeable occupation for the mind".

The time travel flaw I saw in the story was the understanding that time "Up Front" moves at the same pace as in the past. Well, technically it does, yes, in the sense that one day equals one day. But with time travel, when you can send something back to any time, it's silly to think that someone who just came from the future would have to come from say, 2029, because it's been 20 years since the station was set up. Yet all the inmates still think of time as having progressed from the moment they arrived at the station. I'm finding this idea harder to articulate than I thought. I hope that made sense to someone.

Anyway, although I did enjoy the story in full, with all of its tangents and side stories, I do wonder if a story of this length would get published today. With the push for authors to cut anything not relevant to the main plot, I think Silverberg would be hard pressed to get say, Asimov's or Analogue to pick it up without having to do a significant amount of trimming. That being said, I'm glad it was written back in a time when longer stories were more tolerated because there isn't any aspect of this story I would want to see cut.


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Reply #20 on: May 31, 2012, 10:21:51 PM
I normally enjoy a good, slow build... but not in audio. In audio, my mind wanders, or I get bored. The story did manage to keep my attention, but it was tough -- and it took three commutes to hear the whole thing. With a podcast backlog like I have, that's just too much sometimes.

Yeah, I'm usually like that too.

Luckily I listened to this one by a campfire on a clear night, so it could have gone on forever as far as I was concerned.

Like other people have said, the length contributed to the mood, and the mood was the saving grace with this one. The characters weren't that interesting, and there were holes in the plot (like who needs time travel when you've got Guantanamo?) but I enjoyed it all the same.




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Reply #21 on: June 01, 2012, 01:40:27 PM
I loved this one. With all the abuse of the time travel mechanic (I'm looking at you, Star Trek), it's easy to view the whole idea in sci-fi as hokey, but this story did it perfectly. It was a genuinely interesting plot device and great world-building. To the question of why a government would take the chance of sending humans so far into the past ... well, the likelihood of such a station in the deep past surviving to influence the timeline is incredibly, incredibly low, especially given that there aren't any women, and therefore no babies (no "nature finds a way!" bullshit here). Any natural disaster that damaged the hammer would have meant a rather swift collapse for the station, and it's several mass extinctions and hundreds of millions of years from the first terrestrial vertebrates.

Anyway, I loved the idea, loved the characters, and loved the ending. I'm a big fan of longer stories too, and this one comfortably filled the time. Really great.



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Reply #22 on: June 01, 2012, 02:04:14 PM
I really, really dug this one. It was like a less depressing version of that Twilight Zone episode, the one with the lost space colonists that gave me nightmares for about five God-damned years. I know there were many holes in the time-travel logic - and their atmospheric history was a bit off - but it was really interesting to see a story with the opposite problem. In most time travel stories, I'm annoyed when the human continuum is somehow "special" and "protected" - as if the typical atheistic science fiction universe cares what happens to a bunch of particles, even if those particles happen to be in the shape of a human being of historical importance! In this story, though, the message wasn't "human history is so important that it can't be messed with through time travel," but more "individual humans are so inconsequential that we can dump a hundred of them in the pre-cambrian and it won't hurt anything." This was much more my speed.

Another thing I loved was the characters. They were extremely well-written. I enjoyed watching the fault-lines in their personality expand - especially the fault lines in our narrator - as they tried to deal with a life of isolation and irrelevance.

Finally, the politics of this story were hilarious. The prescience! The "fake libertarians" who took over and then began limiting civil liberties in the name of "safety." Sweet mother of lizards! When was this story written? Are we sure the author didn't have a time machine?

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Reply #23 on: June 01, 2012, 02:07:10 PM
I like Cutter's description of this story being "comfortable." It was like a perfectly broken in comforter, and I'm jealous of Balu being able to listen to it by a campfire. :)

There were so many nice details that one can't really go into all of them, so I'll just choose one that I don't think has been addressed yet. I loved the final scene where Barrett realizes that he doesn't want to go back "up front" after all. He tries so hard to be casual and make his argument from a logical rather than emotional stance, but at the same time is able to take a step back and realize how transparent he must seem. His characterization as alpha-strong, yet fragile and empathetic was really well done, and had me practically tearing up for him! I hope they send back the medical help needed for his foot soon...



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Reply #24 on: June 04, 2012, 04:53:49 AM
I wish more modern stories were built like this classic - stories about people facing new circumstances due to a previously unexplored scientific concept.   It feels like too many SciFi authors these days have been whipped into thinking they need to build elaborate worlds with complex interpersonal relationships -- and the actual science is relegated to the shadows.

Hawksbill Station by contrast had it all, and I especially liked that Silverberg mostly avoided the entire question that is central to so many SciFi time travel stories nowadays -- namely whether changes in the past create branching universes, changes in the past are meaningless because "they already happened" and thus free will is somewhat of an illusion, or does the universe somehow always try to "balance things out."   Here, as others have pointed out, they sent a handful of guys back with no women, and the spot where they were living would be under the ocean for millions of years.

The one major plot flaw that glared at me after thinking about the story is, once the spy reported what he found, why would the folks "up front" not send him or others further back -- to rescue the political prisoners sooner -- before many of them snapped?




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Reply #25 on: June 04, 2012, 01:38:36 PM
why would the folks "up front" not send him or others further back -- to rescue the political prisoners sooner -- before many of them snapped?

You answered your own question: because it hadn't "already happened." If they had rescued them years earlier, then they would have recollected them being rescued years earlier. They didn't, so...they couldn't. Or simply didn't. Either way.

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Reply #26 on: June 04, 2012, 02:47:02 PM
I liked this story, even though the end was a forgone conclusion.
As soon as he said that "to the east was what would become the Atlantic Ocean" I knew we were dealing with stranded time travelers. And that they would become unstranded. Because of the simple fact that no archeological or paleontological evidence of their stay exists.
I was happy to hear that the protagonist was giving out hints along the way, for people to pick up:
  • Mentioning the trilobite land excursion
  • The discussion on the fact that there would be no evidence of their stay
So now it's just a matter of letting the story unfold at its own pace and reveal the ending to those who hadn't figured it out yet.
So no conflict or plot twist for me, but still a nice piece of literature.

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Reply #27 on: June 05, 2012, 02:57:16 PM
There was one thing that bothered me though. Would the pre-cambrian atmosphere even be breathable to humans?

I had the same question, he stated there were no land based plants or animals, didn't he? That would mean a pretty low oxygen level



Kaa

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Reply #28 on: June 05, 2012, 03:28:01 PM
There was one thing that bothered me though. Would the pre-cambrian atmosphere even be breathable to humans?

I had the same question, he stated there were no land based plants or animals, didn't he? That would mean a pretty low oxygen level

Not necessarily. Even today, most of our oxygen comes from phytoplankton, if I recall correctly.

At any rate, according to Wikipedia, the early Cambrian atmosphere would have had about 63% of the oxygen of our present-day atmosphere. However, the first trilobites didn't appear until about halfway through the Lower Cambrian. To get to the monsters that were referenced in the story, it would have had to have been considerably later than that. It was also quite cold during most of the Cambrian, and started warming up toward the end of the period. So perhaps combining the sparse details given in the story, we can conclude that it had to be warm with a breathable atmosphere and monster-sized trilobites: late (or Upper) Cambrian.

By the Ordovician Period (the one right after the Cambrian), the oxygen content had risen to 68% of today's level.

But humans have adapted to high altitudes, and I'll bet there is somewhere on earth where people live today that has the equivalent "oxygen content" (I know all air is 23% oxygen; but with less pressure, it seems like it would have about the same effect as though the air contained less oxygen). At the top of Mt. Everest, for example, you get about 1/3 of the amount of oxygen you do at sea level. Someone is sure to know a place where it's about 63%.

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Reply #29 on: June 06, 2012, 03:23:10 AM
I really, really enjoyed this story.  It definitely had a much slower pace than my usual fare, but I enjoyed the slower pace as it allowed the author to really delve into his characters and flesh them out.  The pace seemed quite appropriate to the location/time of the story and seemed to heighten the whole mood. While a number of people have complained about the length, I found myself wanting more and would happily read a whole novel based on this concept and characters.  The one flaw I found, in the story, was the end.  While I anticipated the outcome of the story early on that isn't what bothered me.  What annoyed me was how quickly the author wrapped it up, almost like he ran out of things to say and just needed it finished or wasn't quite sure how to end it.  Overall, though, I thought this was an excellent story and am excited to search out more of this author's works.



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Reply #30 on: June 08, 2012, 03:57:42 PM
Wow. I've fallen behind.

Two points:

1) I personally find the length of story is not proportional to my enjoyment or involvement with it. This story held my attention because of a clear line of narrative which engaged me. It was fairly easy to understand what was going on but not immediately, and I cared about the characters.

2) the simple fact of the matter is we don't know what the effects of time travel would be on the "future". My suggestion is to go back and try and change something and see what happens. If it does.

Let me know how that works out.  ;)



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Reply #31 on: June 08, 2012, 05:08:03 PM
2) the simple fact of the matter is we don't know what the effects of time travel would be on the "future". My suggestion is to go back and try and change something and see what happens. If it does.

The presence of the Coke bottle/can/whatever in "The Eckener Alternative" was a neat little nod to that idea.

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Coolbreeze44105

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Reply #32 on: June 10, 2012, 04:06:41 PM
 ;D

Loved that all the characters of the story were Left-wing loonies consigned to prison (as it should be). Also loved the way that the main Left-wing looney character became so enamoured of his institutionalied lifestyle that he refused to leave when his sentence was commuted by the Left-wing looney government.

This is also predictable as with many Left-wingnuts. They become so in love with their institutionalized prison that escape or even release is an impossible let down for them. After all, isn't prison the ideal Left-wing scenario: Government provided food, shelter, uniform clothing, healthcare, and education all in a protected environment with absolute gun control, gay rights, and thought control? Sounds like a typical Commie Pinko "Occupy Wallstreeter's" paradise to me.



Talia

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Reply #33 on: June 10, 2012, 08:39:11 PM
Just a reminder of the Rules of the forums.


Please be respectful of others. Thanks.




Myrealana

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Reply #34 on: June 12, 2012, 02:05:17 PM
I listen to EP on my 25-30 minute commute. As such, a story of this length took a full day, plus the next morning's drive, plus a little while at work when I should have been paying attention to currency conversion rates instead of Robert Silverberg's version of the past and future.

It was worth it. I really enjoyed this story. I was completely caught up with Barrett. In between shifts of listening, I, too, wondered what could be up with Han, and at the end couldn't just turn it off and wait eight hours for the final reveal. The sheer boredom driving men mad is a given, but the ways in which they cracked were interesting and added to my enjoyment of the story as a whole. Once Han's opinion of Barrett was revealed, I found myself wondering how reliable his POV really was. Wasn't it possible he was cracking too?

What I find most remarkable is how the story takes place both in the far flung past, but also in the near future, and how believable both of those worlds were.

No wonder Silverberg is a master

"You don't fix faith. Faith fixes you." - Shepherd Book


Thomas

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Reply #35 on: June 12, 2012, 02:53:33 PM
I really enjoyed this story. I was completely caught up with Barrett. In between shifts of listening, I, too, wondered what could be up with Han, and at the end couldn't just turn it off and wait eight hours for the final reveal. The sheer boredom driving men mad is a given, but the ways in which they cracked were interesting and added to my enjoyment of the story as a whole. Once Han's opinion of Barrett was revealed, I found myself wondering how reliable his POV really was. Wasn't it possible he was cracking too?

What I find most remarkable is how the story takes place both in the far flung past, but also in the near future, and how believable both of those worlds were.

No wonder Silverberg is a master

I had previously read this story, it stuck with me. Even though I knew what was to happen, I was still held captive to this story. In my remembering of this tale, I had embellished it. I was expecting more detail than I heard. I also had forgotten more than I had realized. The "anvil" and other details of the device, how the station got set up, etc. But Silverberg is, as you said, a master and knows how to tell a tale that stands the test of time. (pun intended)

Enjoy and be nice to each other, because "WE" is all we got.


timprov

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Reply #36 on: June 13, 2012, 11:56:37 AM
I love reading, or listening too, stories from the the pulp era of Science Fiction.  There are some authors who just know how much detail to give, what to leave out, what to leave the imagination and this story didn't seem to have one wasted scene or description. I find some of today's work to be overwritten with scenes that don't seem to serve a purpose or overlong descriptions of items and places that feel more like they belong a travelog than a story.  A true master knows not to waste anything and, even though this was a long story, it felt like it was just the right length with a fantastic beginning, middle and end. 

Even in failure there can be Nobility! But failing to try brings only shame!
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SF.Fangirl

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Reply #37 on: June 14, 2012, 01:59:40 AM
Great choice for a sci fi classic.  It was really pulpy.   :D    I enjoyed it and didn't mind the unusually long length.  In fact I appreciated the length even though it took me at least two commutes to get through it.

I did catch on very early that the new guy was a plant evaluating them for return; although, I pegged him as an academic/psychologist.  (I figure a cop would have done a better job of fitting in while undercover.)



Devoted135

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Reply #38 on: June 14, 2012, 01:59:51 PM
I did catch on very early that the new guy was a plant evaluating them for return; although, I pegged him as an academic/psychologist.  (I figure a cop would have done a better job of fitting in while undercover.)


I also thought he was a psychologist! I would hope that a cop wouldn't be as clueless/bad at blending in as Han was...



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #39 on: June 14, 2012, 03:42:43 PM
I did catch on very early that the new guy was a plant evaluating them for return; although, I pegged him as an academic/psychologist.  (I figure a cop would have done a better job of fitting in while undercover.)


I also thought he was a psychologist! I would hope that a cop wouldn't be as clueless/bad at blending in as Han was...
That depends. Beat cops are pretty bad at it.
I'd think that a psychologist, a person trained in the way people think, would blend better.

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Unblinking

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Reply #40 on: June 15, 2012, 04:47:18 PM
The one major plot flaw that glared at me after thinking about the story is, once the spy reported what he found, why would the folks "up front" not send him or others further back -- to rescue the political prisoners sooner -- before many of them snapped?

That seemed to entirely make sense based on their description of time travel.

To reach a particular point in time, there needs to be an anchoring station at both ends of the time tunnel.  If the other end is not anchored, then things passing through will end up more or less in the right place and time, but with some random swings.

In this case, once both ends were established, then you can think of the two time-periods moving in step with each other.  If one year passes at my end, one year also passes at the other end.  So the time tunnel doesn't lead to a fixed destination time (which would be impractical anyway because everything you sent through would arrive simultaneously) but to a time which is at a fixed interval from this end's time.

So it took some time for the political climate to change.  During that duration, as much time has passed at Hawksbill.  At that point, the new regime decides to send somebody.  They have three choices:
1.  Build a new time tunnel beginning, which may be prohibitively expensive, and just send a person through without the end established.  I would not want to be that guy because they could end up centuries off target too early or too late, might end up appearing a mile in the air and falling to their death, etc.  When they built Hawksbill they sent all the parts through this way, knowing that some would be lost, but sending people that way would be too cavalier.
2.  Build a new time tunnel beginning AND the destination at the other end, but aim for an earlier destination.  If the timeline is fixed, then you already know that you failed at this because there is no other station.  If the timeline is not fixed, then at the very least there would be very unpredictable results by trying to build the two stations instead of just the one.
3.  Send someone through the established time tunnel to the same station.  This requires no extra building expense, and although it is dangerous in that they don't know how the people at the Station will react, at least they're not just chucking a person through to a random variation of the desired destination to a probable death.

So, I don't think there would be any other reasonable way to approach it.



Scatcatpdx

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Reply #41 on: June 15, 2012, 08:45:29 PM
I like this one. Something I never care for in left tilting political tinged SF is how they push and brow beat their political ideas into the story. It almost like putting  the ideas or making aware of one's political pet project over good story telling. This is fan example were good story that transcends ones political view.



childoftyranny

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Reply #42 on: June 22, 2012, 07:51:54 PM
This was a fun listen, one thing I particularly enjoyed was exactly how being political-partisan was just what people where, its was they thought about, discussed designed things as but that was the point, in fact it was almost a point in passing, since there were political prisoners of a certain regime they were all kind of the same and it was almost a point of joking between them, even if they had been deadly serious about it up front.



CryptoMe

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Reply #43 on: July 05, 2012, 02:53:38 AM
I did enjoy the story, but being a planetary geologist, there were a few science gaffs that kept bugging me.

1) The Cambrian period only started 540 million years ago, and (as someone already pointed out) trilobites first appeared about 525 million years ago. So, Hawksbill Station can not have been set up 1 billion years in the past, as was repeated several times in the story.

2) Most of the bombardment that formed the Moon's craters was done by 3.6 billion years ago, so the Moon's surface could not have been featureless 1 billion years ago.

Now, my first thought was that this story was written a while ago; maybe that was the state of knowledge on these subjects at the time. But, according to Wikipedia, the story was written in 1967. By then, the start of the Cambrian period was known to be well under one billion years and probably less than 600 million years ago. Also, by that point, it was fairly certain that the Moon's craters were caused by impacts (the last dregs of the Solar System's accretion disk striking the planets) and not volcanoes. So, I am kind of disappointed that Silverberg didn't get these details right.

But, I am sure almost no-one else noticed. And I did enjoy the story otherwise.

 



Listener

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Reply #44 on: July 05, 2012, 12:32:18 PM
I did enjoy the story, but being a planetary geologist, there were a few science gaffs that kept bugging me.

In other news, one of EP's listeners is a planetary geologist. I just thought I'd call attention to that, because... well, it makes my work as an advertising designer seem pretty small-time, for one thing.

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CryptoMe

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Reply #45 on: July 05, 2012, 06:43:08 PM
I did enjoy the story, but being a planetary geologist, there were a few science gaffs that kept bugging me.

In other news, one of EP's listeners is a planetary geologist. I just thought I'd call attention to that, because... well, it makes my work as an advertising designer seem pretty small-time, for one thing.

LOL!
Advertising designer seems pretty cool to me. Your work influences millions!! And you are a published author too. My work, I'm lucky if 3 people read it ;)



TheFunkeyGibbon

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Reply #46 on: July 06, 2012, 03:59:37 PM
I loved this story. It showed to me that the best Sci-Fi is more about the Fi than the Sci. The concept here is an amazing idea but it works because that is a framework for the real story which is about humans and how they deal with extreme situations, like being stranded so far in the past.



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Reply #47 on: July 17, 2012, 07:47:53 PM
I did enjoy the story, but being a planetary geologist, there were a few science gaffs that kept bugging me.

But, I am sure almost no-one else noticed. And I did enjoy the story otherwise.

I'm not a planetary geologist, and both of those things struck me as wrong. I didn't have the hard dates that you mention(3.6 billion and 525 million) but I knew that during the time of the trilobites, the moon would have craters and look just about like it did today, minus some bright Copernican craters.  It didn't hurt the story for me, as those were just side-referential mentions to point out that "This is not today's Earth". 

The cow says "Mooooooooo"


CryptoMe

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Reply #48 on: July 19, 2012, 06:29:30 AM
I did enjoy the story, but being a planetary geologist, there were a few science gaffs that kept bugging me.

But, I am sure almost no-one else noticed. And I did enjoy the story otherwise.

I'm not a planetary geologist, and both of those things struck me as wrong. I didn't have the hard dates that you mention(3.6 billion and 525 million) but I knew that during the time of the trilobites, the moon would have craters and look just about like it did today, minus some bright Copernican craters.  It didn't hurt the story for me, as those were just side-referential mentions to point out that "This is not today's Earth". 

Yay! So glad to hear I was not the only one ;).



Umbrageofsnow

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Reply #49 on: August 16, 2012, 06:52:10 PM

Now, my first thought was that this story was written a while ago; maybe that was the state of knowledge on these subjects at the time. But, according to Wikipedia, the story was written in 1967. By then, the start of the Cambrian period was known to be well under one billion years and probably less than 600 million years ago. Also, by that point, it was fairly certain that the Moon's craters were caused by impacts (the last dregs of the Solar System's accretion disk striking the planets) and not volcanoes. So, I am kind of disappointed that Silverberg didn't get these details right.


I was thrilled in reading this comment by the thoroughness to check the "Science Marches On" explanation before declaring that Silverberg didn't do the research. Sadly it turns out that Silverberg didn't do the research, but it was nice of you to give him the benefit of the doubt. Reading the EscapeArtists forums, I could almost believe the internet was civilized.

I was surprised by how much I liked this story. At the length it is, and being late 60s SF by an author who I admittedly haven't read much of, but don't think of as being generally my cup of tea, I was expecting to hate it and switch off half an hour in. I somehow got through the whole hour and a half or whatever without noticing how much time had passed. The writing just really grabbed me in a way most very long stories never do. And thinking back, I can't remember enough things happening to account for the length, it was just so much world building, but done very smoothly and interestingly. It all really added to the sense of place and gave a nice feel to the story.

I can't believe I'm saying this, as I'm usually among the first to get angry over inaccurate science, bad math/logic, unintentional anachronism or incompatible timelines in stories, but I honestly think the story is better for getting some of the details wrong about the moon and the geology of the world. You need to have some kind of big life in the oceans to feed the people besides supply drops, to get the feel the story is going for and to make the drops not a regular thing, but the world needs to be sufficiently alien. Not saying our friendly neighborhood planetary geologist couldn't have come up with accurate alien descriptions of a cambrian-world, but I don't begrudge Silverberg this one, thinking about it, although I'm surprised that I don't.  Maybe it helps that it isn't a field I know much of anything about.



hardware

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Reply #50 on: August 24, 2012, 04:10:04 PM
Great story, liked how it mirrored Solschenitzyns stories about dissident intellectuals in communist Soviet, and the almost tender portrait of these weary men determined to create a somewhat bearable life in a truly fringe environment. It's nice with a story that doesn't adhere to closely to the Hollywood dramaturgy. As a non-geologist, I didn't care too much about the temporarily misplaced geological markers, specially since they were not really essential to the main points of the story in my eyes.