Author Topic: EP099: Start the Clock  (Read 26769 times)

Russell Nash

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on: March 29, 2007, 12:32:10 PM
EP099: Start the Clock

By Benjamin Rosenbaum.
Read by Chris Fisher (of The Adult Space Childfree Podcast).
First appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, August 2004.

Frankly, we were excited. This move was what our Pack needed — the four of us, at least, were sure of it. We were all tired of living in the ghetto — we were in three twentieth-century townhouses in Billings, in an “age-mixed” area full of marauding Thirteens and Fourteens and Fifteens. Talk about a people damned by CDAS — when the virus hit them, it had stuck their pituitaries and thyroids like throttles jammed open. It wasn’t just the giantism and health problems caused by a thirty-year overdose on growth hormones, testosterone, estrogen, and androgen. They suffered more from their social problems — criminality, violence, orgies, jealousy — and their endless self-pity.

Okay, Max liked them. And most of the rest of us had been at least entertained by living in the ghetto. At birthday parties, we could always shock the other Packs with our address. But that was when all eight of us were there, before Katrina and Ogbu went south. With eight of us, we’d felt like a full Pack — invincible, strong enough to laugh at anyone.


Rated R. Contains graphic sexual content and children who are a bit too grown up. Literally..


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RichGarner

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Reply #1 on: March 30, 2007, 01:52:05 AM
Maybe I'm a little too conservative... but I was a little disturbed by this story.

I think the concept of stopping the biological clock is unique and interesting, but I'm not sure about stopping it age 14 or 9 or especially 3. And hearing/reading/imagining a conversation between 9 year olds regarding sex just makes me feel all nasty... but not in the good way.

However, I was hooked on the story and I was very interested in finding Abby and hearing about her motives for going stealth.

Also, I would pay BIG money to live in a pirate ship!

"...for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart." -Ecclesiastes 7:2


mt house

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Reply #2 on: March 30, 2007, 08:15:42 AM
This story hit home for me. As a parent of a 7 and a 9, I'm always saying "I just want them to stop where they are, not toddlers, not teenagers...". I guess I should be careful what I wish for! Oh, to be 9 forever, what a great concept! Sort of a darker version of Peter Pan. Once again, great work!



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Reply #3 on: March 30, 2007, 08:19:57 AM
Another good one  :)

I enjoyed this one very much, interesting ideas well told.  Good reading again, as always :)

Something I've been wondering about though, on a slight side-note, is the American rating system.  It's used here for Escape Pod episodes, and I can't follow it at all, what exactly is an 'R' rating? Is that the same as a UK 15 or 18?

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Reply #4 on: March 30, 2007, 08:40:37 AM
   This was excellent :)  I got a similar kick out of this to Cory Doctorow's Down and Out In The Magic Kingdom, the same sort of feeling of being dropped into the middle of a world and slowly finding your way to the edges.  The subtleties of character here are wonderful, with the 'kids' all too aware of what they are but at the same time incapable of acting any other way. 
   What really got me though was how well defined the relationships were.  Without a single 'So tell me, what is a microscope?' style piece of exposition we got a very clear view of a very complex set of relationships, sketched out effectively and subtly.  Add in the central fascinating but more than a little disturbing idea and this is a real winner.  Great story, well read.



RichGarner

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Reply #5 on: March 30, 2007, 03:41:30 PM
The American rating system goes something like this:

G = General Audiences (Families, kids, all ages)
PG = Parental Guidance (Maybe some questionable language and/or violence... parental guidance suggested)
PG13 = Ages 13 and older (Stronger language, violence, sexual content and questionable material)
R = Restricted (Under 17 not allowed without parent or guardian)
x = Adult (Under 17 not allowed)

It works well for this podcast. I'm a faithful Christian and I try to limit the language and sexual content that I digest. This helps me decide what stories I download.

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Simon Painter

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Reply #6 on: March 30, 2007, 03:58:51 PM
Thanks Rich, I'd been wondering about the American system.  I hear it talked about a great deal on the internet, but never really knew where the divsions lay.

It appears to actually be quite a bit more lenient than the UK system, I head of film-makers desparately editing to avoid the X-rating, which is actually less serious than the UK's 18-rating!

One more question (if I'm not getting badly off-topic here?) what does 'unrated' mean? is that the same as the 'Exempt' rating used in the UK for Documentaries and Concerts?

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« Last Edit: March 30, 2007, 04:00:23 PM by madSimonJ »

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RichGarner

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Reply #7 on: March 30, 2007, 04:37:31 PM
Unrated means that it has been been reviewed by the American Picture Association. In my experience, most of the unrated videos tend to be more graphically violent and sexually intense than the R rating would imply. I think most video distributors voluntarily forgo the rating process for fear of getting an X rating... which would prevent their products from being sold in most stores.

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DKT

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Reply #8 on: March 30, 2007, 05:11:36 PM
This story hit home for me. As a parent of a 7 and a 9, I'm always saying "I just want them to stop where they are, not toddlers, not teenagers...". I guess I should be careful what I wish for! Oh, to be 9 forever, what a great concept! Sort of a darker version of Peter Pan. Once again, great work!

You've said it much better than I ever could.  Great story.


DKT

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Reply #9 on: March 30, 2007, 05:15:45 PM
Unrated means that it has been been reviewed by the American Picture Association. In my experience, most of the unrated videos tend to be more graphically violent and sexually intense than the R rating would imply. I think most video distributors voluntarily forgo the rating process for fear of getting an X rating... which would prevent their products from being sold in most stores.

Just to clarify, I think Rich means unrated has not been reviewed by the MPAA. 

On a side-note, there's a documentary out on DVD now about the MPAA called "This Film Is Not Yet Rated," which questions the credibility of the MPAA.  The MPAA rated the documentary NC-17 (which is basically the same thing as an X-rating). 


Jim

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Reply #10 on: March 30, 2007, 05:19:57 PM
I like the allegorical nature of the story, the idea that communities and cultures develop around conditions and disabilities, and that leaving the condition or disability behind can lessen one's connection to that community.

(Life of Brian: "Spare a talent for an old ex-leper?")

I like that the characters react emotionally to a hot-button issue, the way people do in reality, and are conflicted about the implications of their own choices, attitudes, and beliefs.

I wonder if they ended up selling the pirate ship and taking the mansion.

It occurred to me that this story is kind of like Children of Men but in reverse. Instead of no children, there are children who don't grow up at all. What if there were a mix of the two worlds... no new children are born, while hundreds of thousands of existing children stop growing up? Now there's a weird concept. Might be a good Star Trek episode.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2007, 05:23:51 PM by Jim »

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DKT

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Reply #11 on: March 30, 2007, 05:40:46 PM
Quote
It occurred to me that this story is kind of like Children of Men but in reverse. Instead of no children, there are children who don't grow up at all. What if there were a mix of the two worlds... no new children are born, while hundreds of thousands of existing children stop growing up? Now there's a weird concept. Might be a good Star Trek episode.

I like that juxtaposition, Jim.  I hadn't thought of it before but it's a very interesting one. 

Has anyone else read Jonathan Lethem's Gun, With Occassional Music?  I was reminded of the babyheads in that book, but it's been a long time since I read it.


slic

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Reply #12 on: March 30, 2007, 06:09:15 PM
Quote from: Jim
I wonder if they ended up selling the pirate ship and taking the mansion
I'm sure they did - right at the end, she asked the "old Lady" to show them the Mansion instead - though not explictedly stated, I don't think the "old Lady" would have held them to the pirateship contract.



slic

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Reply #13 on: March 30, 2007, 06:18:30 PM
Quote from: madSimonJ
...I head of film-makers desparately editing to avoid the X-rating, which is actually less serious than the UK's 18-rating!
That's true - but mainly because many, many theatres refuse to show NC-17 movies (there American rating system no longer has an X rating - it's NC-17 (no children under 17).
What's really interesting is that movies with massive violence have an easier time than those with sexual content.


On a weird tangent - when I hear NC-17 - I'm always thinking of an X-rated USS Enterprise... :o



davedoty

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Reply #14 on: March 30, 2007, 06:55:51 PM
I can't believe I'm using my first post to discuss the US movie rating system instead of the story....

The MPAA originally undermined their own "X" rating.  They trademarked all of their ratings except "X" so that anyone who used the other ratings without permission could be sued, but anyone could use the "X" rating without permission.  Obviously, a certain industry used the X heavily, and theaters refused to carry any legitimate films with an X because of the stigma.

So, the MPAA deliberately undermined the upper spectrum of the industry, destroying it instead of just labelling it for years.

Ironically, once the "G" movies were clearly rated and became labelled as just kids movies, fewer teens and adults went to see that kind of movie than previously.  So the rating system tended to skew the industry towards the middle, rather than towards the bottom as people sometimes assume.



RichGarner

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Reply #15 on: March 30, 2007, 07:07:06 PM
Unrated means that it has been been reviewed by the American Picture Association. In my experience, most of the unrated videos tend to be more graphically violent and sexually intense than the R rating would imply. I think most video distributors voluntarily forgo the rating process for fear of getting an X rating... which would prevent their products from being sold in most stores.

Just to clarify, I think Rich means unrated has not been reviewed by the MPAA. 



Yes. What you said. Keyboard not cooperating.. brain logic subroutine missing... words misplaced.

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Jim

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Reply #16 on: March 31, 2007, 12:52:55 AM
Clockwork Orange was originally rated "X."

When I lived in Louisville, I used to walk past this old closed-down theater that for some reason had this huge old Clockwork Orange poster in the window, and down in the corner was the original "X" rating.

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Josh

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Reply #17 on: March 31, 2007, 04:51:15 AM
Adult minds in the bodies of children huh? That's kinda the opposite of what it is today, isn't it?



wakela

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Reply #18 on: April 02, 2007, 01:30:43 PM
Really cool story.  The setting is real and complex, a real slice of live that feels like it begins before we start listening and continues after we were done.  I would love to read/hear more stories set in this world.  A lesser writer would have gone for either cute or shocking, but Rosenbaum pulls off both along with scary, funny, serious, and sad.  It's definitely creepy, but I don't feel like I was being manipulated.

My only criticism is that the story feels like it was about the search for the little girl (Abbey?).  It builds up to the moment when they find her.  I understand the rest of the story is necessary for Rosenbaum to say what he wanted to say about family, friends, communities, being different, etc, but it feels like an epilogue that keeps going.  It isn't dull, but I found that I wasn't investing as much of my attention because I thought it would end at any second.

But, still I really enjoyed this one.



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Reply #19 on: April 02, 2007, 02:14:22 PM
Clockwork Orange was originally rated "X."

When I lived in Louisville, I used to walk past this old closed-down theater that for some reason had this huge old Clockwork Orange poster in the window, and down in the corner was the original "X" rating.

Hey!  I still live in Louisville (KY), Which theater? Just curious.  (I'm guessing the Vogue).

On the subject of movie ratings - When they made the Southpark movie, Matt and Trey tried to put in more violence and gore in one of the later scenes than an R would allow.  They failed.  The only thing they were forced to change to get an R rating was to change a penis to a dildo, which they then used as a joke in the movie!  The MPAA is much more concerned about sex than violence.

I also have some issues with R ratings.  It bothers me when I see people taking toddlers to R rated movies. The kind of imagery that is in these movies is too intense for kids that age.

The PG-13 rating was created in the early 80's as a result of the movie "Gremlins." It was rated "PG."  Parents brought their kids to see it, thinking it was another "E.T.", having been made by Steven Speilberg, but were horrified when they started desroying monsters in a blender.  It wasn't intense enough to get an "R", but much more intense than "E.T.".
PG-13 is the ratings goal for the studios. The studios want teenagers in the theater and they can't always get into R rated movies and generally avoid PG movies as being too cutesy. Sometimes you'll get someone that will intentionally go against that, like the Matrix movies, but not too often.

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mummifiedstalin

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Reply #20 on: April 03, 2007, 03:32:25 PM
Really cool story.  The setting is real and complex, a real slice of live that feels like it begins before we start listening and continues after we were done.  I would love to read/hear more stories set in this world.  A lesser writer would have gone for either cute or shocking, but Rosenbaum pulls off both along with scary, funny, serious, and sad.  It's definitely creepy, but I don't feel like I was being manipulated.

My only criticism is that the story feels like it was about the search for the little girl (Abbey?).  It builds up to the moment when they find her.  I understand the rest of the story is necessary for Rosenbaum to say what he wanted to say about family, friends, communities, being different, etc, but it feels like an epilogue that keeps going.  It isn't dull, but I found that I wasn't investing as much of my attention because I thought it would end at any second.

But, still I really enjoyed this one.
I had the opposite reaction. Most of the "action" part (the search for Abbey) felt like an excuse to explore the world as we learn about the 9 year old (Suze?), her documentaries, her friends, the politics, etc. Once she found her and we realized what the real conflict was (wanting to grow up or not), then I got interested. Before that, I wasn't exactly sure what the emotional crux of the story was going to be. It was all "idea" before then. But afterwards, we got the real conflict of how these people were dealing with their world and how Suze was really conflicted about it changing.

On reflection, I actually think most of the bit about the massive surveillance was fun but didn't really fit the rest of the story. It got the plot going and got us to Abbey, but I'm trying to figure out how all the video stuff fits thematically with the (lack of) aging. I mean, it was fun (and it let us see her as a documentary activist), but it seemed like a different sci-fi world from the rest.

I thought the 3-year-old was awesome, though...as a father of a 3 year old, I have to admit that I'm terrified of imagining him with the powers that little girl had. But her presentation was incredible.

Great story.



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Reply #21 on: April 04, 2007, 06:47:46 PM
I love the story but I was taken back by the language. I usually trust that the Escape Pod Classic feed is family safe. Yes, I let my kids listen and this story was not.
Medfordguy



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Reply #22 on: April 04, 2007, 07:23:34 PM

heavy-handed homages = just too much for me

couldn't get beyond them enough to enjoy   :-[


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Reply #23 on: April 04, 2007, 07:55:18 PM
I love the story but I was taken back by the language. I usually trust that the Escape Pod Classic feed is family safe. Yes, I let my kids listen and this story was not.
Medfordguy

You must have missed the shows opening Steve said it was explicit.

That said, did this story have to be explicit?  No not really, the characters could have taken a couple of steps back.  Seemed like the author was ruining an otherwise good story. 

I really liked the way the main character kept falling into child-like attitudes.


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Reply #24 on: April 04, 2007, 11:08:16 PM
Yes there may be an explicit warning but there shouldn't be and explicit story at all on this feed. (by the way, my iTunes does not list this episode as explicit)
According to the Escape Pod Classic website, unlike standard Escape Pod, Classic is "suitable for most ages. For current stories (including some material for mature audiences only) please visit the main Escape Pod site."
Medfordguy



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Reply #25 on: April 04, 2007, 11:54:32 PM
Yes there may be an explicit warning but there shouldn't be and explicit story at all on this feed. (by the way, my iTunes does not list this episode as explicit)
According to the Escape Pod Classic website, unlike standard Escape Pod, Classic is "suitable for most ages. For current stories (including some material for mature audiences only) please visit the main Escape Pod site."
Medfordguy

Are you saying that you received Start The Clock on your Escape Pod Classic feed?  I am subscried to both EP and EPC (using iTunes).  I only got this story on the EP feed, and not the Classic feed.  Are you sure you didn't get the feeds mixed up?

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wakela

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Reply #26 on: April 05, 2007, 12:23:05 AM
Quote
That said, did this story have to be explicit?  No not really, the characters could have taken a couple of steps back.  Seemed like the author was ruining an otherwise good story.
Of course this question is entirely a matter of taste, so the following is just my opinion.
At first I thought the explicit sex description was unnecessary.   I mean, who really doesn't know what's happening.  And if you don't, then you shouldn't be listening to it.  But on the other hand, I think that the brief, graphic description helped support the feeling of the adultness of the children.   It must have been challenging to portray the characters as adults and children at the same time.  I'm thankful that I was spared 40 minutes of aggressively cursing kids for the sake of edginess.

But, if this story went out of EP Classic, it shouldn't have.  And if it doesn't have an explicit warning, it should.  I'm at my work computer (shhhhh, don't tell anyone), so I can't check my itunes. 



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Reply #27 on: April 05, 2007, 03:18:45 AM

heavy-handed homages = just too much for me

couldn't get beyond them enough to enjoy   :-[



What were the homages?  I must've missed them...


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Reply #28 on: April 05, 2007, 02:00:11 PM
What were the homages?  I must've missed them...

The weighty nod to Neverland, for one (admittedly, could be the only true "homage"
-- just would have prefered it to be a bit more subtle)...  a little Nolan/Johnson and
a dash of Golding (possibly unintentional...?)

Don't know why this altered my enjoyment, but it did  :-[

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slic

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Reply #29 on: April 06, 2007, 03:09:03 AM
Yes there may be an explicit warning but there shouldn't be and explicit story at all on this feed. (by the way, my iTunes does not list this episode as explicit)
According to the Escape Pod Classic website, unlike standard Escape Pod, Classic is "suitable for most ages. For current stories (including some material for mature audiences only) please visit the main Escape Pod site."
Medfordguy
Based on a comment for NightFall (ep:100) on the website, I just today found this site:
http://ottolejeune.com/index.php/downloads/P15/
It is mp3 files of a 1950s NBC sci-fi broadcast call X-Minus One.  It's really pretty good all things considered, and as far as it goes for me and my kids, it's totally safe.



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Reply #30 on: April 06, 2007, 03:23:11 PM
Based on a comment for NightFall (ep:100) on the website, I just today found this site:
http://ottolejeune.com/index.php/downloads/P15/
It is mp3 files of a 1950s NBC sci-fi broadcast call X-Minus One.  It's really pretty good all things considered, and as far as it goes for me and my kids, it's totally safe.

Thanks for the site.  I heard the X-Minus One presentation of Nightfall when it was run on the Spaceship Radio podcast.  Unfortunately, Spaceship Radio has been inactive lately.

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Reply #31 on: April 06, 2007, 07:25:12 PM
Based on a comment for NightFall (ep:100) on the website, I just today found this site:
http://ottolejeune.com/index.php/downloads/P15/
It is mp3 files of a 1950s NBC sci-fi broadcast call X-Minus One.  It's really pretty good all things considered, and as far as it goes for me and my kids, it's totally safe.

Thanks for the site.  I heard the X-Minus One presentation of Nightfall when it was run on the Spaceship Radio podcast.  Unfortunately, Spaceship Radio has been inactive lately.

I love X Minus 1. I've been listening to them for years. X Minus 1 is also available here: http://www.archive.org/details/XMinus1_A

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Reply #32 on: April 07, 2007, 07:55:24 PM
This was a fine, fine episode.  I sometimes feel that many of the short stories on Escape Pod could be reworked to excise the SF or fantasy elements without much change, that the SF elements are just backdrop.  This story was a breath of fresh air in that regards.



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Reply #33 on: April 08, 2007, 06:25:45 PM
Please, please respect the non-English listeners. Some of actually us have difficulty understanding what you blurt out at 250 mph. :) I couldn't keep up with what she was reading, just because she was reading it a bit too fast. Spaces are there for a reason, darn it! :) No offense to anyone, but she just isn't suited well for this kind of reading :)

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Reply #34 on: April 11, 2007, 04:51:34 PM
Please, please respect the non-English listeners. Some of actually us have difficulty understanding what you blurt out at 250 mph. :)

That is something I must second, as another non-english.native listener.
Story was very fine, the voice of the reader was very nice and easily understood, but the pace was a bit too fast.


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Reply #35 on: April 19, 2007, 04:46:14 PM
I actually thought the sexuality in this story worked really well because it fit the character.  I imagine that having the choice to move up into puberty would produce some really interesting social consequences, sexual attitudes being one of them.

I really liked the narration of this story too.  She nailed the sort of "committed activist experiencing a few pangs of self-doubt"  tone very well.



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Reply #36 on: June 22, 2007, 03:45:56 AM
What were the homages?  I must've missed them...
The weighty nod to Neverland, for one (admittedly, could be the only true "homage"
-- just would have prefered it to be a bit more subtle)...
For a while there, I thought I must have been the only to think "Peter Pan" as soon as they mentioned the galleon.
So, was the Augmented 3 channeling Tinkerbelle, the Crocodile, or both?  ;)

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Reply #37 on: June 23, 2007, 03:30:26 PM
I really enjoyed these characters. They were well played by the dialog. It reminds me of the "Special Forces/Ghost Brigades" units in
Old Man's War by John Scalzi (TOR, 2004)--genetically grown super soldiers born adult size with all the military knowledge they require to, well, soldier at ages ranging from 3-15. Scalzi sets up these child-soldiers as born with the full knowledge of adults, but with the emotional ages of children. The character plot is very similar to our story. The charactes reminds me of the book Microserfs by Douglas Coupland (HarperCollins, 1995). The childish, outlandish, and youthful vagrancies of over paid and over worked tech workers in the Dot-Com-Boom-Days--adulthood postponed.

There was little room in "Start the Clock" to philosophise on dealing with child-adults, or what it means. That's left to us to discover for our selves. Instead the conflict of one character leaving the fold is emotionally gripping in its simplicity. Well done.

Thanks, I'm enjoying the stories and look forward to the future… ehehe.

Xtian
//reposted with additional options
« Last Edit: June 23, 2007, 03:32:28 PM by xtian »



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Reply #38 on: July 24, 2007, 02:37:20 AM
Maybe I'm a little too conservative... but I was a little disturbed by this story.

I think the concept of stopping the biological clock is unique and interesting, but I'm not sure about stopping it age 14 or 9 or especially 3. And hearing/reading/imagining a conversation between 9 year olds regarding sex just makes me feel all nasty... but not in the good way.

However, I was hooked on the story and I was very interested in finding Abby and hearing about her motives for going stealth.

I mostly agree. I found it more frightening than disturbing. The new monster du-jour (again) these days is the zombie. People inexplicably turning into zombies. This story opens up with that same kind of "I don't know how we got here" vibe, and that's what's scary abou tit. I could definitely see this as a movie, or as a series of short stories connected, but not necessarily linear; like Union Dues.

More Union Dues, please!

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Reply #39 on: October 14, 2010, 05:31:16 PM
This story was great!  It was an excellent example of the author envisioning a complex new world and then just letting me discover it as the plot travels on, instead of just telling us how this situation came to be in a big info-dump.

The premise of being frozen at one age for your entire life was intriguing and terrifying, especially if you were frozen as a teen.  I was pretty happy as a kid, and am pretty happy as an adult, but ye gods I did not care for the teen years.  Being stuck there would really suck.

My favorite part of the story, though, was the 3 who seemed very transhuman.  It seemed like the younger you were, the more likely your parents would take pity on you for being stuck at that age and would compensate with cybernetics. 

I'd love to see this in Anime.