Author Topic: EP400: Rescue Party  (Read 16661 times)

ElectricPaladin

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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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Windup

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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. 

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Fenrix

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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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Just Jeff

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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.



RC Davison

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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.


Devoted135

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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...



kibitzer

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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! 


kibitzer

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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.

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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!



Unblinking

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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....



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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. :)



CryptoMe

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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.