Author Topic: EP400: Rescue Party  (Read 16657 times)

eytanz

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on: June 18, 2013, 11:40:19 AM
EP400: Rescue Party

By Arthur C. Clarke

Performed by Norm Sherman

--

Who was to blame? For three days Alveron’s thoughts had come back to that question, and still he had found no answer. A creature of a less civilized or a less sensitive race would never have let it torture his mind, and would have satisfied himself with the assurance that no one could be responsible for the working of fate. But Alveron and his kind had been lords of the Universe since the dawn of history, since that far distant age when the Time Barrier  had been folded round the cosmos by the unknown powers that lay beyond the Beginning. To them had been given all knowledge–and with infinite knowledge went infinite responsibility. If there were mistakes and errors in the administration of the galaxy, the fault lay on the heads of Alveron and his people. And this was no mere mistake: it was one of the greatest tragedies in history.
The crew still knew nothing. Even Rugon, his closest friend and the ship’s deputy captain, had been told only part of the truth. But now the doomed worlds lay less than a billion miles ahead. In a few hours, they would be landing on the third planet.
Once again Alveron read the message from Base; then, with a flick of a tentacle that no human eye could have followed, he pressed the “General Attention” button. Throughout the mile-long cylinder that was the Galactic Survey Ship S9000, creatures of many races laid down their work to listen to the words of their captain.
“I know you have all been wondering,” began Alveron, “why we were ordered to abandon our survey and to proceed at such an acceleration to this region of space. Some of you may realize what this acceleration means. Our ship is on its last voyage: the generators have already been running for sixty hours at Ultimate Overload. We will be very lucky if we return to Base under our own power.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



matweller

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Reply #1 on: June 18, 2013, 01:18:18 PM
I just added this to the episode post on EscapePod.org and wanted to make sure it was shared here so important people got the much deserved credit. It was very late when I wrapped this all up last night and I did the post quickly to make sure it would be here for you when dawn hit the East coast in the US.

Quote
Read by Norm Sherman
Performed by Graeme Dunlop as Alveron; Steve Eley as Rugon; Nathaniel Lee as Orostron; Mur Lafferty as Hansur; Paul Haring as Klarten; Alasdair Stewart as Alarkane; Dave Thompson as The Paladorian; Ben Philips as T’sinadree; Jeremiah Tolbert as Tork-a-lee

All sound effects used in this episode were found at FreeSound.org on the pages of the following users: hdesbois; swiftoid; jobro; Syphon64; doubletrigger; cognito perceptu; FreqMan; ReadeOnly; csengeri
- See more at: http://escapepod.org/2013/06/18/ep400-rescue-party/
« Last Edit: June 18, 2013, 02:14:48 PM by matweller »



flintknapper

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Reply #2 on: June 18, 2013, 05:08:07 PM
Wow! Great voice cast, but I will be honest. If not for Norm pointing out who did who, I would not even recognize most of them. I assume they were using some digital speech effects on some if not all of the voices.

Loved it. The story is like a relic of our past. The outlook is very much inline with the world's outlook at the time it was written and the technology makes you smile. Aliens come to save us only to find out we are doing fine and don't need saving... I feel warm and fuzzy.

Fortunately there is a cure for that, bring on the next pseudopod episode!
 



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #3 on: June 18, 2013, 05:20:19 PM
Wow, early Clarke.
I kept going back and forth between "This is why I love his books" and "why are the aliens measuring things in conventional measurements (miles, light years, minutes, hours...)"?
Excellent full cast performance, definitely worth waiting forth. Thank you to everybody who worked very hard on this, especially to ant-battling Mat. Just so you guys know, we appreciate it, we really do. Despite snarky comments.

Isn't it convenient that we have ten fingers, so we can celebrate the 400th episode. How weird would it be if we had 8 fingers? Then we'd celebrate the 256th episode. (Us computer geeks celebrated it anyway, don't worry).

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matweller

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Reply #4 on: June 18, 2013, 07:25:07 PM
If we had 8 fingers, would this actually be episode 498? Wait...no...548? Grrrr...base-8 is not natural thinking to me...in a base-8 system, would counting go "...6-7-8-11-12-13..." and "...86-87-88-101-102..."?

Regardless...

Norm was actually a bit worried about the voices all being more similar with the processing, and this was my comment in an email to him:
Quote
Yeah, I was a little antsy about processing the voices all the same, but I like the campy feel of it with an old story, and I also like the fact that bringing them closer together makes differentiating them more a function of each speaker's mannerisms. I predict the passive listeners may be annoyed by it, but the ones that focus on the story will enjoy the story for what it is and maybe also get some fun out of trying to figure out who is who.
My vision behind it (beyond the campy-throwbackishness, I mean, so many robots and aliens in fiction are portrayed as having monotoned, higher-pitched voices) was that they were different races that would likely be able to communicate through some kind of machine, and that machine might process them all similarly.

I kept going back and forth between "This is why I love his books" and "why are the aliens measuring things in conventional measurements (miles, light years, minutes, hours...)"?
I think part of the fun of this one is realizing how dated and narrow-minded yet visionary this story is simultaneously. It grabbed me when I read, "...he pressed the “General Attention” button." These aliens travel galaxies and find our technologies savage for the most part, yet they still have buttons? Probably with labels over them made with one of these friggin' things:

(My apologies to anyone under 30 that has never seen one of those. I'm old.)
« Last Edit: June 18, 2013, 07:36:22 PM by matweller »



silber

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Reply #5 on: June 18, 2013, 08:02:30 PM
Happy 400th escapepod!
Loved this.  After listening to "The Star" by Clarke on Drabblecast, it's amazing they are by the same author.

While I appreciate the effort with the vocal effects, I thinkt it would have been cooler without them.  It was probably a lot of work getting all that cast involved but I couldn't tell Mur from Steve from Dave etc.  I just pictured a bunch ofLiliputians.



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #6 on: June 18, 2013, 08:13:51 PM
If we had 8 fingers, would this actually be episode 498? Wait...no...548? Grrrr...base-8 is not natural thinking to me...in a base-8 system, would counting go "...6-7-8-11-12-13..." and "...86-87-88-101-102..."?

It's like this: 400=4*10^2 therefore 256=4*8^2
Not real base 8 math, just marking the same milestone, not the same episode.

I think part of the fun of this one is realizing how dated and narrow-minded yet visionary this story is simultaneously. It grabbed me when I read, "...he pressed the “General Attention” button." These aliens travel galaxies and find our technologies savage for the most part, yet they still have buttons? Probably with labels over them made with one of these friggin' things:
(My apologies to anyone under 30 that has never seen one of those. I'm old.)

Yeah, that was a lot of fun.
And for the record, I am under 30 and I know a label maker when I see one. Heck, I've even used one a few times, and an older model than that one.

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Francejackal

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Reply #7 on: June 19, 2013, 03:41:38 AM
It's funny, Alisdair's voice is just one of those that you can pick out no matter what. Also I think Norm Sherman really is up there with Wayne June when it comes to narration (for entirely different reasons of course) I have a tendency to frown when I hear 'Golden Age Sci-Fi' but I think this is a gem. Just the right amount of edge, mystery and intriguing speculation to keep me hooked. I also think the whole cognitive estrangement thing you find in these sort of stories is a bit irksome, it gets a little tedious after a while. It's not too heavy here, but it is one of those things that often makes me cringe away from this type of fiction.



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Reply #8 on: June 19, 2013, 11:04:51 AM
Congrats on 400, and thanks to all of you for doing an awesome job despite the snarkiness we've all been guilty of at one time or another.  Like I tell my kids, we might bicker, buy I still love ya!

Now onto the feedback.

Arthur C. Clark was a fine choice to celebrate the quadricentepisodial.  I did find the voice effects a little irksome at the start, but when I saw how it complimented the atomic age feel of the piece, I lightened up.  You just had to appreciate the story for what it represented.  Listening to this, you can't NOT know that it was written by a human.  The aliens aren't alien at all.  I'm picturing the lot of you (readers) sporting silver jumpsuits with  large, green paper mache alien heads.

I wasn't feeling a lot of tension regarding the rescue of the three aliens, cuz you just knew it was a given.  But I can appreciate how it demonstrates just how timeless and universal it to get in over your head, regardless of your place on the technological ladder.  When the two aliens sat sending out their farewells, I was picturing two humans doing the same thing on smartphones.

That's about all.  I could ramble more, but I won't.  I'll just say thanks to everyone one more time.


tpi

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Reply #9 on: June 19, 2013, 12:04:48 PM
would counting go "...6-7-8-11-12-13..." and "...86-87-88-101-102..."?


No. Those would be base 9, and omiting 10/100. Base 8 counting would go 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-10-11-12-13-14-15-16-17-20   and 76-77-100-101



matweller

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Reply #10 on: June 19, 2013, 12:40:58 PM
would counting go "...6-7-8-11-12-13..." and "...86-87-88-101-102..."?


No. Those would be base 9, and omiting 10/100. Base 8 counting would go 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-10-11-12-13-14-15-16-17-20   and 76-77-100-101


That does make more sense, thanks! I'm about 14 years away from math class or any math much harder than basic algebra, so I'm a bit rusty. Besides, I don't think I ever had a math class or text that addressed base-X systems with anything more than a passing mention.



timprov

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Reply #11 on: June 19, 2013, 06:13:49 PM
Quote
These aliens travel galaxies and find our technologies savage for the most part, yet they still have buttons?

The room full of punch cards made me smile.  I often wonder if an old Science Fiction pro like Clarke was in awe at how things actually turned out with the technology he tried to see from the 40's and 50's. 

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Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #12 on: June 19, 2013, 06:36:21 PM
Quote
These aliens travel galaxies and find our technologies savage for the most part, yet they still have buttons?

The room full of punch cards made me smile.  I often wonder if an old Science Fiction pro like Clarke was in awe at how things actually turned out with the technology he tried to see from the 40's and 50's. 

My favorite is when you read through Asimov's REF series (Robots, Empire and Foundation). Asimov does not stress the mundane technology very much in his stories, but the hints are there. The people at USR, particularly our favorite robopsychologist, don't use computers. They have computer technicians who do that for them. Elijah Bailey never uses a computer, but if memory serves he does send requests to the city's/police's computer center. At the beginning of the Foundation the people on Terminus are actually forced into miniaturizing their technology and think outside the box due to lack of resources. For 20,000 years nobody has ever tried to do that, until Foundation. And it ultimately ends with Golan Trevize using his brain via contact points on a desktop surface to control a shipboard computer.
For the record, Caves of Steel was the first book with Elijah Bailey, and it appeared in 1953. The Foundation short stories were originally written between 1942 and 1950. 20,000 years separate those stories, but they show the same level of technology. Foundation's Edge (where we first meet Golan) appeared in 1982, after the microchip.
Interestingly enough, Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation were written in the 1988 and 1993 (respectively). So by that time Asimov had seen a lot of technological improvement, and it shows in those two books. The apparent discontinuity of tech level is explained by the collapse of civilization across the galaxy, and fits very nicely with the overarching plot, but it is still very interesting to see.

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flintknapper

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Reply #13 on: June 19, 2013, 07:20:29 PM
Maybe it is the anthropologist in me, but I could see an ethnohistorian studying how past views of the future inform upon a specific culture's societal outlooks. Perhaps someone already has... I would be curious if anyone knows.



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Reply #14 on: June 19, 2013, 07:29:52 PM
Maybe it is the anthropologist in me, but I could see an ethnohistorian studying how past views of the future inform upon a specific culture's societal outlooks. Perhaps someone already has... I would be curious if anyone knows.

I think I might have read something similar on comic books, specifically superhero comic books. This was several years ago and the only thing I remember is the blond, blue-eyed Captain America supersoldier here to save the day, originally conceived during the second world war. Hardly a coincidence.

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benjaminjb

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Reply #15 on: June 19, 2013, 08:14:18 PM
Congrats on reaching 400--it was a fun ride with voices that I couldn't really identify unless I concentrated.

Maybe it is the anthropologist in me, but I could see an ethnohistorian studying how past views of the future inform upon a specific culture's societal outlooks. Perhaps someone already has... I would be curious if anyone knows.

I'm a little confused about the scope of this question. I mean, when you say "past view of the future," I think you're including something like "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," Jonathan Edwards's 1741 sermon on how Hell is in your (personal) future or, heck, the Book of Revelation--but maybe you don't want to. I'm not just trolling by bringing up religious imagery vis-a-vis views of the future; I think we could make a strong argument for the relationship of imagining other worlds/imagining the next world. But like I said, I don't think that's what you mean.

But do you mean something like "Star Trek: TOS gave us a recognizable form for cellphones"? Or something like "with its negative view of the monster, Frankenstein--along with religious movements and the Romantic movement that deemphasized the mechanical and the physical--set the stage for our persistant technophobia"?

(And let's keep in mind the problems of considering culture as a homogenous monolith. Especially when we're talking about sf, which has had a certain Anglo-American bent but also a certain internationalism.) [end soapbox]

But I am curious what you mean / how this story made you think of this question.



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Reply #16 on: June 19, 2013, 10:04:50 PM
Great job, guys - I really enjoyed it and the production on the voices was outstanding - lots of fun, a solid story and even an uplifting ending with a nicely ambiguous last line!



flintknapper

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Reply #17 on: June 19, 2013, 10:17:38 PM
Fair question Ben. I guess I am thinking about how this story deals with the fall of earth coming from natural instead of man-made disasters, how the problem is solved by man's ever increasing use of technology, and how man as a species is self-reliant impressing even those technologically superior. These are in line with a late 40s and early 50s mindset before the harsh realities of nuclear holocaust and the counter culture of the 1960s.

I would even go so far as to say Clarke's mention of de-urbanization demonstrates his own negative views of urban centers in the late 1940s. He was not alone in this view. Many believed this. Replace the fantastic elements from his story and you have a really fascinating time in western culture. In 1946, at the time of his writing, he is watching a mass migration out of inner cities by the middle and upper class to the suburbs.

I hope that makes some sense as to what I was thinking... but maybe not. It is late in the day.




Windup

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Reply #18 on: June 20, 2013, 01:50:15 AM

I really enjoyed this as a "period piece," like "Gun for Dinosaur." 

I noticed the punch cards and the vacuum tubes, but the anachronistic element that jumped out at me was very early in the story.  We have a star-faring, nearly-omniscient species, which is apparently still organized as a hierarchical bureaucracy, and its first concern when explaining the impending disaster is: "It's not our organization's fault!!"   :o

Though admittedly, unlike the punchcards and vacuum tubes, we have yet to prove we can get past that...

I'm also not sure I completely agree with Norm's assessment of the story as an "optimistic" work.  Some of the foreshadowing between the aliens at the end suggests that the encounter between humanity and the star-faring species did not have an entirely happy outcome.  At least that's how I heard it...

BUT, no question that it was a great story and a worthy production for EP400.  Thanks, to all involved...

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kibitzer

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Reply #19 on: June 20, 2013, 03:47:53 AM
The aliens aren't alien at all.  I'm picturing the lot of you (readers) sporting silver jumpsuits with  large, green paper mache alien heads.

Fun fact: Matt actually sent each of us a large green paper-mache alien head to wear whilst narrating. That's what made this one special to narrate.


DKT

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Reply #20 on: June 20, 2013, 04:41:40 AM
The aliens aren't alien at all.  I'm picturing the lot of you (readers) sporting silver jumpsuits with  large, green paper mache alien heads.

Fun fact: Matt actually sent each of us a large green paper-mache alien head to wear whilst narrating. That's what made this one special to narrate.

He wha-!?!?!

HOW COME I DIDN'T GET ONE OF THOSE!?!?!?!?! >:(

Seriously, though - it was a blast to help out. And I can't say how much I appreciated being asked to be an all-knowing group consciousness (albeit an emotionless one) for a change  :D


kibitzer

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Reply #21 on: June 20, 2013, 06:15:44 AM
He wha-!?!?!

HOW COME I DIDN'T GET ONE OF THOSE!?!?!?!?! >:(

Ooops. Looks like I've let the "cat" out of the bag.



PotatoKnight

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Reply #22 on: June 21, 2013, 04:17:54 PM
It's interesting to hear Clarke discussed on the subject of (in)accuracy of predictions. I feel like Clarke's stories stand out from his contemporaries as having a notably clearer view of the world that was coming, at least on the issues I find most interesting. Golden age and New Wave age SF stories have a tendency to imagine vast technological changes with little consideration as to the social changes that accompany them. So you end up with stories about suburbanites with husbands who shuffle off to an ill-defined office leaving their homemaker wives, except their new gadgets are time distortion fields instead of color televisions. Or stories go the other way and present societies so different it is hard to recognize them as human.

Clarke wasn't perfect, but he saw that the genders were going to become more equal. His stories don't necessarily reflect that equity in terms of choice of protagonists, but gender-equity of the future is usually noted in the stories. In this story, the fact that the great manufacturing centers of the midcentury were going to depopulate sounds quite precient.  In 1946, when this story was published, the population of Detroit was about 1.8 million. Today it is 713,000.  It wasn't the helecopter that did it, and social inequalities keep it from being quite the pretty process Clarke suggests, but his vision of cities that tied to physical manufacturing being left comparatively empty by the march of society is very real. In another generation or two, information technology might put us close to the rural-technological society Clarke envisions.

At the same time, Clarke's humans are very recognizable. Scientists in Rendevous with Rama squabble about pet theories and the advanced space fleet that exists at the beginning of the story only exists as an after-the-fact reaction to an earthly disaster. It is easy to assume that technological progress will just happen inevitably, but Clarke got that huge investments require huge motivations. As in this story, Clarke, unlike many or most classic SF authors, recognized that people and governments need a reason to invest the enormous resources into space.

I don't think it is SF's job to accurately predict the future and obviously Clarke doesn't. But I think the strength of his stories is that he asks the right questions. What would make people launch themselves into the void? What will human societies and relationships look like as transportation technology continues to advance? What would a higher stage of consciousness mean? The questions he asks makes him better at seeing the future of people and the technology they create and that creates them, but more importantly makes him a great storyteller.



Just Jeff

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Reply #23 on: June 21, 2013, 05:06:57 PM
I'm not much for the classics, but I love this one. Still can't decide if the last line is great or a groaner.

Fortunately I was in a position to easily adjust the volume on this one. Usually ensemble productions get deleted before I get too far into them. The only problem I had with this one was the burst of noise when they discovered the transmission. It hurt my ears.



matweller

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Reply #24 on: June 21, 2013, 05:15:46 PM
The only problem I had with this one was the burst of noise when they discovered the transmission. It hurt my ears.

I thought about not doing that, but it hurt them too -- I was bringing you into the story. :P



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Reply #25 on: June 21, 2013, 06:11:20 PM
Full disclosure time: this story is why I am who I am. That's right. Science-teaching, spec-fic-writing, miniatures wargaming me. I was a lonely high school student (Bronx Science ftw!), and my school library had piles and piles of Analogs and Aasimovs, and in one of those, I found this story. I read it over and over again and it did things to me. I was never the same.

Oh, man, I love everything about this story. I love its optimism, I love its pacing and its craft, I love the space opera setting that it invokes, I love the circumstances of Humanity's introduction to this world, and I love the story yet to come that it implies. I love its vision.

Now, I'm a little more grown up than I was when I first read it, and there are things that annoy me. Yes, this story plays extremely fast and loose with astrophysics and sociology. I would kind have liked to read this story as written by Carl Sagan instead - same optimism, better science. Yes, the vision of mankind as intrinsically superior rankles a little. I like to imagine that it turns out that humans aren't better than the aliens, just faster, and our technology has all sorts of idiosyncratic gaps.

But I digress.

What matters is that for me, this story is the soul of science fiction. Show me the future, with all its complications and challenges. Show me a future worth living into. Show me my grandchildren standing astride the galaxy. In return, I will give you all my heart and all my hope, forever and ever, amen.

Additionally, the reading was exquisite. You guys really captured the complicated benevolence of these alien saviors, their petty rivalries and differences, and at the same time, their overarching kindness and heroism. I was impressed, and enjoyed it a great deal.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2013, 06:13:26 PM by ElectricPaladin »

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Reply #26 on: June 22, 2013, 04:41:50 AM

I don't think it is SF's job to accurately predict the future and obviously Clarke doesn't.


I agree with you completely on that.  One of the things that makes SF important to me is its ability to point to a place down the road where certain societal assumptions are taking you and asking, "Do you like that place you seem to be going?"  Or, alternately, throwing out a vision of a possible future and saying, "This is where you could go!"  And of course, considering an issue from a fresh perspective by taking it out of its current social context. (I just recently learned that H.G. Wells War of the Worlds was Well's way of talking about British colonial behavior in India.) 

Whether those possibilities are realized or not -- or if it's even possible to realize them -- is beside the point.  The issues raised by War of the Worlds are real and important, even though it turns out there are no Martians with interplanetary cannon and heat rays. 

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


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Reply #27 on: June 22, 2013, 01:47:59 PM
Fun story with a lot of interesting bits to consider and turn over. Nicely done, y'all.

I am of two minds with the voice production. While I appreciate the intent, it seemed to make the story more campy and less Escape Artists. You went to a lot of trouble to get a deep EA cast, and then stripped out a lot of the impact of that very EA cast by masking the individuals.

On the flip side, since I've listened to at least half the EA back catalog at this point, I enjoyed the minigame of picking out the readers. I got most of them right via their distinctive style, but some of the readers got lost. Alasdair was definitely still Alasdair, and I loved the alien from Australia.

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Reply #28 on: June 22, 2013, 07:28:36 PM
The only problem I had with this one was the burst of noise when they discovered the transmission. It hurt my ears.

I thought about not doing that, but it hurt them too -- I was bringing you into the story. :P

Then I'm glad none of the crew were mangled or killed. That would have been...inconvenient.



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Reply #29 on: June 22, 2013, 11:56:08 PM
Great story and great production! 

It was interesting to hear the story based on the science they knew back then.  It seems dated, but when put into context it was very "state-of-the-art".  But, what amazed me even more were elements of the story that would later become part of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek empire.  The logical and calculating Paladorians that would seem to be the stoic Vulcan race that we learned about from Mr. Spock. The Paladorians even had a Borg-like collective nature where they could link all the individuals together to tackle challenges that one individual could not cope with.  The multi-species population for the star ship that was exploring the galaxy, and that they belonged to a "Federation". The kicker to me was the line: "The engineers, as usual, made a tremendous fuss. Again as usual, they did the job in half the time they had dismissed as being absolutely impossible."  Scotty surely subscribed to that philosophy!

I would be amazed if Roddenberry didn't read this sometime along his path to producing Star Trek.


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Reply #30 on: June 23, 2013, 01:20:01 AM
Hooray! Happy 400th, Escape Pod!

My classic sci fi being woefully lacking, I really enjoyed hearing a story from one of the "greats." You guys really outdid yourselves, and I really appreciate all of the hard work that went into it! I managed to pick out Steve, Alasdair, and Graeme through the voice distortion. :) Actually, I think that having some sort of distortion on the voices was perfect for this story, no complaints here. :)

I love how unapologetically optimistic this story is. All of earth's resources were effectively invested in a fleet of colony ships onto which every single person peacefully boarded without any instances of looting at all? Amazing. ;D Nowadays this story would have the aliens arriving to find that mass panic has caused all but a small group of survivors to tear each other to pieces well ahead of the supernova. Yet, there's that faintly ominous last line to contend with as well...



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Reply #31 on: June 25, 2013, 03:53:20 AM
The only problem I had with this one was the burst of noise when they discovered the transmission. It hurt my ears.

I thought about not doing that, but it hurt them too -- I was bringing you into the story. :P

Then I'm glad none of the crew were mangled or killed. That would have been...inconvenient.

LIKE! 


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Reply #32 on: June 25, 2013, 03:54:26 AM
I don't think it is SF's job to accurately predict the future and obviously Clarke doesn't. But I think the strength of his stories is that he asks the right questions. What would make people launch themselves into the void? What will human societies and relationships look like as transportation technology continues to advance? What would a higher stage of consciousness mean? The questions he asks makes him better at seeing the future of people and the technology they create and that creates them, but more importantly makes him a great storyteller.

A very nicely reasoned piece. Thanks!


stumo

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Reply #33 on: June 25, 2013, 09:41:25 PM
I am of two minds with the voice production. While I appreciate the intent, it seemed to make the story more campy and less Escape Artists. You went to a lot of trouble to get a deep EA cast, and then stripped out a lot of the impact of that very EA cast by masking the individuals.

I must admit that was my feeling too - I'd have far preferred it if the voices hadn't been masked.

However, great episode! A really interesting story in itself, and very cool to see how styles have changed.

 (I've been listening since EP 100, but not posted before).



Peevester

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Reply #34 on: June 26, 2013, 07:12:28 PM
The fact that Clarke's characters were often made of cardboard doesn't matter when it's told this well, and stories like this are why he's one of the masters of the genre.

I read this decades ago, and I *still* got chills hearing it when the search party got stuck in the subway. Great choice for #400, guys!

The room full of punch cards made me smile.

Me too - just saying "file cabinets" and "planetary archive" in the same sentence makes you laugh nowadays. On the other hand, a few hundred feet of cabinets full of classic 80 column cards (cough, "Hollerith Analyzer" cards) would encode a LOT of data. I wouldn't want to be the operator who was supposed to find and collate the right ones, though.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2013, 07:20:54 PM by Peevester »



evrgrn_monster

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Reply #35 on: June 27, 2013, 03:41:44 AM
Holy cow, I had soooooooooo much fun with this one. I agree with the masses that the voice modulation may not have been the best choice, especially since the aliens were supposed to be from different systems. Maybe one of the aliens having the effect would have been good, but all of them having it seemed to dilute the effect. However, the performances were great, so that is honestly a very minor complaint from me.

As far as story goes, this is actually the first Clarke piece I have ever heard/read and I was blown away. I've been on a bit of a Philip K Dick kick, and I think this story was absolutely what I needed. It was just really sweet; the exploring aliens, their motivations, the logical way they saved their comrades. All of it was just so well put together. You could not have picked a better piece for #400. This is never coming off of my iPod.

(Also, that last line? Loved it!)



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Reply #36 on: June 27, 2013, 11:57:14 AM

As far as story goes, this is actually the first Clarke piece I have ever heard/read and I was blown away. I've been on a bit of a Philip K Dick kick, and I think this story was absolutely what I needed. It was just really sweet; the exploring aliens, their motivations, the logical way they saved their comrades. All of it was just so well put together. You could not have picked a better piece for #400. This is never coming off of my iPod.

(Also, that last line? Loved it!)



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Rain

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Reply #37 on: June 29, 2013, 05:08:00 PM
I don't normally like stories that are fully voiced, as i often think it feels like a gimmick, and having a single person do everything just sounds better, but i really enjoyed this story, even though i didn't quite understand the last line.

As for the punch cards i can see i was totally mistaken, at first i thought it was some sort of alternate earth, where the technology level didn't develop further, but later on as we saw advanced technology, i just kinda figured that the aliens had gone into a museum, and they were just seeing stuff on display. I never considered what year the story was written in..



FireTurtle

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Reply #38 on: June 30, 2013, 08:30:55 PM
Well done, Escapepodians! What a 400! Love, love , loved it. Vintage sci-fi has so many more nuances when viewed from the lens of the future realized.

Count me in for a titter when the punch cards were broken out. Awwww, how cute! And loving the aliens reading the analog signal the first time and saying "its television". Also adorable.  The breakaway nostalgia-land favorite for me was the "can-do-it" human spirit. We don't cower in holes and wait to burn up, no sir. We build ourselves a super advanced set of rocket ships and rescue everyone. Not the rich and powerful and the lottery winners, EVERYONE. Because we are the kick-ass, innovative and mother-ducking humans of awesomeness. Watch out Universe because we are On the Way!

Anyway, not much more to add. It was a fun romp down into the humming subway bowels of what-might-have-been. Thanks for the ride.

“My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it.”
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El Barto

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Reply #39 on: July 01, 2013, 02:11:50 AM
I loved the story, loved hearing all the voices (from our collective past), and I loved reading all the comments here in the forum.  (I had the same thought about Star Trek.)

Congrats and thank you to all who made 400 possible!



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Reply #40 on: July 01, 2013, 01:00:29 PM
I enjoyed this story as a bit of Golden Age era SF.  Wasn't particularly meaty, but didn't have to be, and it's fun to see some early Clarke.

I loved to see the full cast, but I thought that the voice alterations almost entirely defeated the point of that.  We get Steve Eley back to read--Steve Eley--and I can barely tell which character he played.   :(  The voice alterations were a reasonable choice for this story.  The full cast was a good choice for this story.  But the two of them together kind of ruined the full castiness of it for me.  


And loving the aliens reading the analog signal the first time and saying "its television".

If I had my way, analog TV would come back instead of the digital crap that's being broadcast right now.  The problem with digital is the Cliff Effect of digital broadcasts.  That is, where analog signals degrade gradually, digital signals look great until they suddenly become incomprehensible.  This is especially a problem when a storm hits in the middle of the night and I just want to check the local news for tornado warnings--the only time that TV reception is an urgent matter, and of course the storm inevitably F's with the signal enough so that I can't see what the warnings are.  While, with analog, I'd get some static in the video and audio but I could generally still see/hear enough to tell what the situation is.  The digital signals (here at least) are so friggin touchy that a slight cloud cover can make some some stations not come in.  *sigh* I miss analog TV.


Yes, the vision of mankind as intrinsically superior rankles a little.

That's what I thought was being implied to begin with, but the final line's open interpretations changes that a bit to my mind.  I get the impression that humans develop very fast, but perhaps too fast for their own good, in the same way that humans in a very short period of time developed the war technology that could very well have killed every person on the planet many times over in nuclear war.  Speed comes at the cost of volatility, and though we may overtake other alien species, wewill probably destroy themselves in the process--the problem from the alien's point of view is that we will inevitably destroy others as we go.

So, to me anyway, the assumption of mankin's superiority wasn't as clear in this one as it was in many Golden Age SF.



matweller

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Reply #41 on: July 01, 2013, 07:44:58 PM
Agreed. I didn't hear it as human superiority and much as human destructive -- or at least contaminating -- force.



evrgrn_monster

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Reply #42 on: July 02, 2013, 01:37:13 AM
Agreed. I didn't hear it as human superiority and much as human destructive -- or at least contaminating -- force.

I also agree. It seems like the entire story is about the natural benevolence of the aliens, coming to save a people they haven't even met. Self preservation wasn't even important in the face of the greater good, which, to me, is the behavior of a superior species. Those with domination in mind will eventually fall, even if they rise up and are mighty for a time.


InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #43 on: July 03, 2013, 03:32:58 AM
I know I'm late to the party, but you all did an excellent job on a full-cast recording (even if some of you were auto-tuned out of recognition). Happy 400th!

As for the story, I didn't feel the humans were so much superior as extinct (being extinct does not equal superior), and gave the story an elegiac quality. It's interesting that the narrative is driven by the aliens' clock to perform a rescue, not ours. And I'll wager the reading audience at the time of publication was relieved that is was Earth in the far future and not after a nuclear war.

As for the successful predictive abilities of Science Fiction... I think it's time we said it out loud: it's almost NEVER right. And that's ok. SF isn't supposed to be predictive, but as others mentioned, cautionary, indicative, and, yes, even inspirational. This touches a sore spot with me, because recently I've seen the reason why more fantasy that science fiction is written/published is that it's impossible these days to accurately predict the future, because it's changing too fast. As though this stopped people from writing science fiction during the height of the Space Race.

But it's important to remember that the second word is "fiction". Not prediction.



Devoted135

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Reply #44 on: July 04, 2013, 06:51:58 PM
Noticed that the kindle edition of "The Songs of Distant Earth", by Arthur C. Clarke is currently one of amazon's daily deals. Picked it up for $1.99. :) Obviously, this post will quickly become obsolete and yet may still offer food for thought in days to come, much like many of science fiction's best offerings. ;)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00AHKJFM2/ref=amb_link_378541262_8?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=0ZYXBZ42RT0WC9VSR3YW&pf_rd_t=1401&pf_rd_p=1578073682&pf_rd_i=1000677541



InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #45 on: July 04, 2013, 10:14:53 PM
Noticed that the kindle edition of "The Songs of Distant Earth", by Arthur C. Clarke is currently one of amazon's daily deals. Picked it up for $1.99. :) Obviously, this post will quickly become obsolete and yet may still offer food for thought in days to come, much like many of science fiction's best offerings. ;)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00AHKJFM2/ref=amb_link_378541262_8?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=0ZYXBZ42RT0WC9VSR3YW&pf_rd_t=1401&pf_rd_p=1578073682&pf_rd_i=1000677541


But good to keep your eyes open. They've been discounting Clarke a lot recently at the Big River....



PrimerofinTheSequel

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Reply #46 on: July 08, 2013, 12:26:26 AM
Enjoyed this a bunch.

Wonderful full cast reading.

I could not match any of the characters with the well-known voice artists.  Well done!!!



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Reply #47 on: July 12, 2013, 05:08:59 PM
I'm surprised by all the "Couldn't recognize who it was" comments.  I thought it was pretty easy, myself, though I don't know Paul or Ben's voice well enough to differentiate them.  But Mur(only woman), Alisdair(British), Steve(strong enunciation, especially on "t" sounds), Dave(very "rounded" accent/cadence, for lack of a better word, Graeme(Australian), Nathaniel(more of a "sawtooth" cadence) were distinct.  And it was great to hear them all in a large cast, they are all great narrators. 

I also loved the story, simply because it was a very eloquently told Golden Age sci-fi tale.  No real antagonist other than time and physics, distinct races and individual alien characters, a reasonable view of the future given the technology of the time, just really great stuff.  ACC always tells good tales, it was excellent to hear one of his earlier stories. 

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Reply #48 on: August 15, 2013, 02:55:46 PM
I really enjoyed this one. It was nice to read a story about truly benevolent aliens for once. I guess, in a way, they were too human-like in their thinking to be all that alien, but I didn't care, it worked for me, and would have left me feeling happy and good if it wasn't for the sinister last line.

That's not a criticism, exactly. I guess I'm just bummed out that it twisted the whole feeling of the piece in a decidedly more negative direction. Also, it leaves me going - ".... so WHAT HAPPENED?" darnit! I guess that'd be a whole different story, though. :)



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Reply #49 on: October 27, 2013, 06:53:32 PM
I'm one of those people who couldn't put voices to faces. But, I also think that was a good thing, because it kept me in the story. No one likes watching a movie where you keep thinking about the other roles a character's actor has played. Far too distracting. So for me, that was a good thing for the sake of the story.

Which I liked by the way. Didn't love it, but did like it.



hardware

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Reply #50 on: January 07, 2014, 10:20:21 AM
This was a real pleasure. It is a real thoughtful look at humanity from the outside, and a deserved classic. And I enjoyed hearing the entire gang.